May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Holiday seasons are funny. For some, they bring such a wonderful time of gratitude for all that they have. Not things, but people really. Family. For others, they highlight things that are missing. Not just things, but people as well. People who are missed. People who may never have been there, like parents or spouses prayed for but not yet met. For all the joy of the season, there can be a real space for sadness and even a bit of despair. Goodness, I remember vividly as a child when we first had a chimney. Finally, Santa had a way in! Crisis averted!
For Christians, this is a season where we turn to traditional giving outlets to share some Christmas joy. It’s a great plan. Keep it up.
However, for 2019, we want to toss out a challenge to think bigger. We want to think even beyond the gift trees at the mall needing a requested present. (Again, still do those OF COURSE!)
Do you have a family in your church? Your neighborhood? Your work? A family who cares for children in foster care? A single parent? Friends without family in town? Friends from other countries? Elderly neighbors missing family and friends? I bet you could find at least one in one of these categories just on your street alone.
So, open your eyes. Put your “God Goggles” on to catch His vision.
Foster care parents take in children who need love during the holidays. Reach out to them. Find out how you can help around the house. Maybe it’s babysitting? Maybe it’s gifts? Maybe it’s wrapping presents? Maybe it’s something special that you can provide that I can’t even imagine not knowing your talents!
And guess what?
Single parents need those things too! My husband traveled excessively for work this year. He was gone for back to back full weeks month over month. Ay-ay-ay. It was beyond trying to parent alone—to not have that person to run to the CVS for cough medicine in the middle of the night. I have an amazing support group in Tulsa with my family. My parents don’t know they’re too old to dance and play in the floor, while they entertain my highly energetic and sometimes slightly high maintenance daughter. Goodness. They help so much!
Not everybody has those kinds of life savers to throw a rope. Single parents could use a break. Offer them one. An evening where they could go shopping without spying little eyes could be invaluable. Tossing in a Visa gift card could make that event a bit more enjoyable!
Stop to invite a single friend or an elderly person over for the whole “magic in the eyes of a child” kind of thing. Invite them to join your family for Christmas lights at Rhema. Put them between the car seat and the door for a crazy night of Christmas light touring they won’t soon forget. There’s just so much fun to be shared!
People aren’t connected in the way we used to be. It used to be that everyone sort of just knew what was going on in others’ lives. Maybe it was the party line my grandparents had back in the day. I don’t know. I just know there are a lot of people who will never ask you for help. They might even be afraid that if they asked, you might ask for something from them later. Right? You know that thought process. These kinds of people will answer “Fine.” when asked how they are. They will smile to keep your attention off of their coffee stained shirt. Sure. They will make it without you, but I bet they could make it SO MUCH BETTER with you.
So grab your “God Goggles” and #GoDoBe in the ways you always do and in ways you had never thought of before.
Written By: R.A. Goodnight
“ . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into this freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Romans 8:21 NLT
Liberty has been a topic of importance since the earliest days of this country. Quotes such as “Give me liberty or give me death,” as well as the quote in our title have garnered much attention through the years. I would wager the true source of life, liberty and happiness have become misunderstood, especially with our current generations. Or maybe, less misunderstood and more misappropriated.
This month liberty will be our focus. As Christians, how much importance should we place upon liberty? Does the Bible give any direction in relation to this topic? In our next issue, we will focus on happiness. Everyone wants to be happy, but how can we truly be happy? In the final piece in the series, we will focus on life and how liberty and happiness, as we’ve defined them, play a pivotal role.
What is Liberty?
We start our discussion with a secular definition of liberty. Oxford dictionary defines liberty as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” As implied in the definition, liberty would be synonymous with freedom and antonymous with oppression.
Although I agree with this definition, I believe it is fatally incomplete. This definition leaves out the spiritual requirements necessary to becoming a truly liberated soul. Examples of spiritual liberty would include liberation from sin and death, oppressions that none of us can free another from except through Christ. Due to this additional element, it would be important for us to introduce the biblical narrative into our discussion as it addresses both the secular aspects of liberty along with the spiritual aspects.
Is Liberty in the Bible?
The idea of liberty is central to the entire narrative of the Bible. In a previous article, I asked the question, “What was the theme of the Bible?” We answered with, “The King and His Kingdom.” It helps us to understand the Bible better if we read it in the context of its theme. Accordingly, it is of equal importance if we answered two related questions: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why was the Bible written,’ or even better, ‘to whom was it written’?
Many people answer these two questions with a simple response, “It was written for us so we know what God wants.” This is true (even though I would respond to you with “What does God want?”), but this answer is also incomplete. A more accurate answer is:
The Bible was written for the oppressed—the whom.
The Bible was written to explain to the oppressed how their liberation would come—the why.
Combining these ideas together at a higher level, the oppressed (the whom) will be liberated (the why) by The King and His Kingdom (the overall theme of the Bible).
And as a bonus, we also answered “What does God want?” He wants you to be free, to be liberated. To help you see how that can happen, He wrote you twenty-seven letters collectively referred to as the Bible.
Now we begin to understand the Bible in its “symphonic harmony,” if you will—from Genesis to Revelation—and its meaning for us as a whole: We are oppressed and God has a plan to liberate us.
From Oppression to Liberation
The creation account (Genesis 1-2) tells us that, in the beginning, all of creation existed in a state of liberty. Everything God created was good and all creation worked in harmony with each other for the benefit of the other, but we then see the fall occur. The serpent, through a lie, introduces oppression into human existence. And, as we move through biblical history, we see oppression compound as the human family grows. Examples of such oppression would be the Israelites as slaves to Egypt, their exile in Babylon, and their existence under Roman dominion and pharisaic rule.
More important to our conversation is how we see God react to that oppression with provisions to liberate His people. In the beginning, immediately after the fall, He issues the first Messianic Prophecy—the coming liberation from sin and death. (Genesis 3:15) Later, we see him use Moses and Aaron to free the nation from slavery. He uses Cyrus to free them from Babylonian captivity. Eventually, He sends His son in fulfillment of that first prophecy.
Beyond the liberation of his chosen nation, God shows his desire for the liberation of individuals as well. After God forms Israel into a nation, He gave them laws to help suppress individual oppression from occurring in Israelite society. For example, He commanded the provision for the jubilee year. Through this provision, everyone’s debts were forgiven them every 50th year or upon the death of the high priest (foreshadowing Christ). What a wise provision to help maintain a level of equality throughout the nation. Other examples of such laws were:
The provision of gleaning (leaving some crops for the poor) (Leviticus 19:9,10)
The treatment of immigrants—those that were allowed into the land (Exodus 22:21)
Letting the land lie fallow (Exodus 23:10,11)
Sacrificial provisions for those with less money (Leviticus 5:7-11)
This same pattern is carried forward to the Christian congregations and observed in first century Christian’s dealings with those in need, those affected by natural disasters and how they treated those who were orphans and widows. Lastly, in the Bible’s finale, we see ultimate liberty restored to all through the events of Revelation.
The pattern is clear, and God has not changed. (Malachi 3:6 NIV “I the Lord do not change . . .”) He wants you to be free and political, economic and spiritual liberty will be among the grand achievements of God’s Kingdom. But, that is future state. What mark then, should this understanding have on us today? How can we enjoy a degree of liberty now?
Christians and Liberty Today
Satan stands in opposition to any form of liberty. Oppression is his tool. This is why we see today’s liberties coming under attack at an accelerated rate. The Bible reminds us that Satan has the ability to transform himself into an angel of light, the ability to deceive those who are not looking for his tactics. We have seen him use this tactic before. “You will not die,” he said, “ . . . you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5 NIV) But this was not true. He transformed the truth; he became an “angel of light” and deceived the first human pair into a decision that led to their oppression.
Today, this same oppression tactic is alive and well. It could be disguised in the form of women’s rights, (it’s your right to get rid of that inconvenient child in you) modern views on sexuality (have sex with whomever you want) or the acceptance that religious beliefs are actually hateful (Christians must hate homosexuals because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman). In some forms, these rights and freedom bring about very oppressive ideas. If we choose these, they do not free us, but bind us to the negative consequences of those decisions. This bondage is not what God wants for us.
So, what can we do?
God’s call encourages us to stand strong and to reject the “wisdom” of this world. First, we should free ourselves from our own oppressive beliefs and vices with which we bind ourselves. Remember, some of what you are seeing suggested on the news is likely a tool of oppression used by Satan himself. Next we should carry God’s view of liberty to those we meet. He appeals to awake and mature Christians to take a stand and tear down the belief systems that are oppressing our women and children. He calls us to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, fight for those that are less fortunate than us. Be an agent of God’s Kingdom and work to liberate as many as we can from the grip of this backwards world. Hold fast to our hope that soon “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
“Serve the king…protect the people. Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.”
Godfrey of Ibelin – Kingdom of Heaven
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. firstname.lastname@example.org @omegaleagueman
Written by Andrea Stephens
Generosity. The giving of good things to others freely and abundantly out of a heart of genuine kindness. Generosity is something we are challenged by during this season of thankfulness and gift giving. It affords us the opportunity to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Have you ever met someone who is generous? Not just someone who repeatedly tells the story of her one-time over the top act of kindness. I mean someone who lives it. Someone who sees what they own, what they earn, what they do with their time, and their words of encouragement as tools to use to bless the lives of others. Someone who has experienced the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive and can attest that giving increases their own well-being and happiness (Acts 20:35). Someone who’s heart has been so touched by the love of God that it overflows toward others in a consistent, almost natural way.
Several years ago, I met Marge. She was an older lady, a widow, the mother of two adult sons who were inattentive to their mother. Her life had not been easy but her disposition was one of gratitude, a key to generous living. She could be heard thanking the Lord for this or that and giving Him credit for all the good in her life; Marge had well learned Jesus’ command to love the Lord with everything within her and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). I got to watch up close as she would hear about a need and find a way to meet it. Mr. Avery had been laid off and his family needed groceries; Suzette didn’t have a winter coat and the temperature kept dropping; Karen was in the throes of chemotherapy and just couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving dinner as usual. Marge had three bags of groceries delivered to the Avery’s, took Suzette shopping, and shared her festive meal so Karen could rest. The majority of her most generous giving was done anonymously so that the credit went to God alone. Even as someone who became one of her close friends, I didn’t know all the giving she was up to, yet that smile on her face let me know that she and Jesus were up to something good. Together, they were on an adventure that brought energizing joy, contentment and purpose to her life.
Her example taught me that I, too, could possess the quality of generosity. Generosity is not about how much you possess, or how much money you make. It’s about the condition of your heart, your mindset, your willingness to put it into action. Caring, sharing, and giving because it blesses the Lord, blesses the recipient, and blesses you.
Sometimes our generosity is an act of obedience to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. A friend tells the story of having lunch at one of her favorite restaurants—the kind with country style cooking. When she was getting ready to leave, the Holy Spirit whispered to her/impressed upon her to leave her waitress a $20 tip. She admits that her first reaction was what, $20? After all this wasn’t one of her regular waitresses but a new person she didn’t even know, a person with a pink streak in her hair. Well, she knew the thought hadn’t come from her. So, she had a decision to make. Should she trust the impression or pass it off as a ridiculous thought?
Obedience won. She tucked the money along the side of her plate and left the restaurant. The next week she returned to that restaurant for lunch. While scanning the menu she heard someone say, “Hey, you’re the lady that left me that awesome tip last week.” She looked up to see the waitress with the pink streak in her hair. She smiled. “I was having such a bad day. Several customers had been mean and no one was tipping. In fact, I had just been alone in the walk-in freezer crying and asking the Lord to help me. Then I came out and there was your tip. Thank you so much.”
Wow. Who knew her obedience was actually the answer to someone’s prayer? My friend was doubly blessed. She had followed what the Lord lead her to do and she had impacted another life with her generosity.
Of course, the greatest example of generosity was done by God, our Heavenly Father, when He choose to send His Son, Jesus, to earth as a human baby who would one day sacrificially give His life to save the world from the wrath of sin and restore all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. When Jesus gave His life for you and me, it was the greatest demonstration of love being the motivation for generosity. First, God loved the world which resulted in the giving of Jesus (John 3:16). Then Jesus loved His Father so much that He obediently went to the cross to die for the world His Father loved (Matt 26:36-44). Yes, Jesus loved us, but His motivation came from the love he had for God.
To complete this demonstration of love, Jesus rose from the grave having defeated death and paying our sin debt so that we can live forgiven, free, and forever reconciled to our Heavenly Father. This alone, gives each of us reason to be grateful and to show our love for God by loving others. Life can be hard, messy, and disappointing. Yet when we intentionally keep our focus on the generosity of God toward us, we will recognize our blessings and be motivated to bless others.
How can we become more generous women? First, study God’s Word. The more we know His love, the more we will love Him (and the more we will want to obey Him). January will be a great time to get in on a local Bible study. Check out these studies for women: Bible Study Fellowship held at Asbury Church on Thursday mornings and Community Bible Study held at Evergreen Baptist Church on Wednesday mornings. Second, practice an attitude of gratitude. Challenge yourself to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Get in the habit of telling others when you are grateful for them. Third, just start being generous. Yes, begin paying attention to how and when you can be generous to those around you—whether it is someone you know or a seemingly random person God puts in your path. As you do these things, your desire to be more generous will grow. Your joy will increase. You will become a natural at it!
Written by Teresa Goodnight
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
I know. I couldn’t help the reference with the holidays coming, but our fruitiness is pretty important. Our CORE is a pretty good indicator of our status with Christ. Makes sense. God tells us that the closer we get to Him, the more the Holy Spirit will produce these kinds of fruits within us:
God tells us “There is no law against these things!” Makes sense. Why would there need to be a law against such things? I know no one complaining at the Thanksgiving table—“Kenzi, she’s just too loving. I always feel like she is just joyful or something. It’s really aggravating me. When things aren’t going her way, she’s peaceful. It’s like she thinks that no matter what happens, everything is going to be ok. She’s kind when I think she should be boiling over. It’s like she’s full of goodness or something. I mean her faithfulness and gentleness anger me. I wish she wasn’t so stinkin’ self-controlled. I just don’t like to be around people like her.”
It’s so silly—it’s difficult to write (and probably read). I just don’t hear people complaining about people filled with the Spirit. In fact, I’m more likely to step back and challenge myself when I’m around such people. There’s no one in my life who would naturally call me self-controlled. Gentleness isn’t exactly on my type A personality trait list either. I want it to be. In fact, when I spend more time with God, it actually starts to creep into me. I notice it. Then, when life gets busy and I get off track. It’s gone. Type A me, me, me is right back in action wondering if anyone noticed I was next in line and not the person they waited on ahead of me. As I wonder in my head how they missed me, I stand there annoyed I’m having to wait longer, fighting rushing up to get my turn that was due. It’s not just self-control I’m lacking there. It’s patience. It’s love. It’s goodness. It’s certainly gentleness. All not happening. ARGH!
So, why can’t I keep producing the fruit I want? Many times, it’s because I AM PRODUCING THAT FRUIT. When I’m just doing it on my own, it won’t last. It doesn’t have the sticking power that a fruit of the Spirit does. People can sense you aren’t even happy with what you are trying to force yourself to do, but when it’s just growing out of you—it has its own life and power, God’s Holy Spirit’s power.
It’s not that I shouldn’t try to be good. We should all try of course. It’s just that there is a different power source behind the actions when we are plugged into Christ. When I’m reading God’s word, spending time in prayer about it—all of a sudden, the fruit just starts growing in me. Sure, I’m participating. I’m there letting the seed be planted with God’s word. I’m listening to God as I pray, letting the Spirit water me like a garden if you will. Then I’m out there operating in the sunshine watching it grow inside me. It really is a very different crop though. One is born out of pushing myself to do it myself. The other is truly born of the Spirit. It actually can feel a bit effortless at times. In fact, it can even surprise you that it’s just happening. I know it has me. (Mainly because I know it is NOT my natural instinct. Hey. Don’t judge. LOL)
My daughter is addicted to a dumplin’/carrot kid’s meal at the Cracker Barrel (Please stay with the no judging theme here. Ha! ). She’s a picky eater. Anyway. One day, we had a waitress who was just downright grumpy with us. Anything we asked seemed like an enormous drain on her. I wanted to throw down a bit of righteous indignation that a paying customer feels they deserve to throw when things aren’t going well. I own that mode when needed (Sadly!). However, we had been challenged at church to be a bit different. The seed had been planted just the service before. It was watered with some Biblical teaching and addressed in prayer. So, without even having to debate it, which still baffles me, we left a $100 tip. It wasn’t because we made ourselves do it. It really flowed right out of us. We left being thankful that God had turned us that direction in that moment.
Several weeks later, my daughter and I went back to the Cracker Barrel. Honestly, I didn’t remember the waitress, but she remembered us. (Don’t even know how she knew it was us, because you pay at the front desk at CB!). Anyway, she came over and talked about what a horrible day she was having that day. She talked with me about some of her trials. She knew she had been pretty awful to us. She was so thankful to us for being generous on her really bad day. I had to tell her—I think God wanted you to have that encouragement. He must have known you needed it. We do NOT do that all the time. We have done that only when we feel a tug that feels from the Spirit and we just respond immediately. It’s difficult to put into words, but it is just different. I’m sure you’ve felt that tug.
So how fruity are you? Are you working on any kind of spiritual fruit crop at all? Do you have some artificial, genetically modified fruit crop that looks a bit like real fruit out of “I oughtas or I shoulds” or are you plugged into the Holy Spirit and watching God grow something amazing in you that you know couldn’t be produced without Him? Again, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put for the effort, but I’m telling you—there’s something different when the Holy Spirit is growing it in you. There just is.
So, I think we should throw down the holiday fruitcake challenge for this season. Let’s spend some time with God to be as fruity as we can be going into holiday time with our family and friends. See what happens!
Let’s read and study Galatians 5.
Look up a definition of the words Paul used like love, patience, etc. day by day.
Pray about at least one of them daily.
Pray that God will bring you opportunities to display them and that He will grow them in you like a harvest!
We’d love to get some notes from you over the holidays with any stories of God producing a bountiful crop in your life through His Spirit! Be blessed, but more than that, BE A BLESSING!
What does a SUPER Lost World Need? A Savior.
Goodness. America feels upside down and torn apart. Admittedly this country has made more than its fair share of mistakes growing up. So have I. One of the best parts of who we become grows out of the grace God gives us for those mistakes. At our worst, at our best, or somewhere in the middle—God loves us, sent His son to die for us, and offers forgiveness that knows no limits. So, in these times of social media wars, families divided over our political state, and hearts that fully reject God’s Word, His grace and even ours, how do we love? Like God did.
God being under attack isn’t anything new although it feels a bit new to our generation. In fact, although we focus on the amazing birth of our savior in this season, we must also remember He too came into a very tumultuous world. There was a hunt to find where the Messiah would be born—to destroy Him. The horrible taxes drove Mary and Joseph to travel when she was with child to get them paid. There was no room for a woman giving birth at the inn? Really? Would noone give their room? The owners? Even through the hunt, the lack of common decency, God still saw fit to send His son. He was born in a barn. He would die on a cross at the hand of the very people He came to save.
Why? Because then and now, the world still needed a savior. That’s how God loves.
This is not our home. It’s not. No matter how “blessed” we feel with all the frills even America offers, at the core of every human being, it remains true: THE WORLD IS STILL VERY MUCH IN NEED OF A SAVIOR. You have the answer to a broken and hurting world living inside of you. Breathing His Spirit into you. His grace covers you. You are grounded in Christ. In this season, #GoDoBE Christ wherever you find the opportunity. America is crying out desperately for a savior, reminding us of the real reason why Jesus was born. Give the gift of a savior with God this season. It just may change someone’s eternal life.
Written By: R.A. Goodnight
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
It was late, around 1 a.m., when I was ripped from my dreams. As consciousness returned to me, I recognized the sound of our home alarm screaming in the night. I looked to my right and, through the glow of the television, I could tell by Teresa’s eyes that she hadn’t triggered the alarm system. As my feet hit the floor, I grabbed an HK pistol from the bed side safe and chambered a round. Teresa grabbed our infant daughter dialing 911 and headed for the closet, while I stepped outside the bedroom and closed the door behind me. Until the police arrived, almost twenty minutes later, I stood between an unidentified threat and the safety of my family. (BTW—That’s 20 minutes IN THE CITY for the police to arrive).
I look forward to the day when firearms have no place in our world; to when we each live securely in our own homes and have no need to know the ways of war. (Isaiah 32:18; Isaiah 2:4 NIV) But today is not that day. In the current environment in which we live, I have been thankful more than once to possess a means with which to defend my family or myself.
Regardless, we cannot deny that such rights do get abused. The country has been terrorized by many tragedies over the last few years, even the last few weeks. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I received a phone call telling me I had been separated from my daughter or wife due to a violent act fueled by another’s disorder or hate. My innermost being cries out for those who have had to live that nightmare. And, in the middle of the tears, the pain and the regret perhaps we find ourselves questioning and searching for solutions. But, hidden amid the chaos and fear, there are cleverly disguised traps in some of the solutions being proposed.
The “Red Flag Laws” that have gained support should raise red flags themselves for any who value their freedoms, regardless of our opinions on firearms. These proposed laws, should they become law, will pave the way for the abuse of many of our liberties, not just our second amendment rights. The basic idea proposed is simple: If an individual believes another person is capable of acts of violence and owns firearms, the concerned individual can petition to a judge. If the judge agrees, law enforcement will be dispatched to the accused’s place of residence to confiscate any firearms. Many believe that this is a reasonable idea.
Why do I suggest that we be concerned?
I believe many individuals reason such laws would never have an effect upon them, as these laws are only for those who intend harm toward themselves or others. But think for a moment on how intent is being established under these laws. If you offended someone, if a social media post was misinterpreted or if your religious persuasions were deemed hateful, an opposing individual could raise a red flag against you, even if you didn’t own a firearm. “So what?” some have responded. “A judge would be able to tell the difference. So, these laws have no way of being abused.” Do we really believe that?
Consider this. For the last two years we have seen the country waste millions of dollars on legal action attempting to prove that our current elected leaders committed treason. How did all of this begin? The opposing party convinced a judge of alleged guilt, based upon lies and motivated by hate. If similar laws can be used against the highest office in the land, why would we believe ourselves to be immune from such tactics?
What effect could such laws have upon our other protected rights? Consider these:
The first amendment protects our right to religious beliefs. It protects our right to think, believe, speak or write ideas as we choose. Red Flag laws pave the way for those beliefs, ideas and words to be weaponized against us. This is already happening at an enhanced rate toward Christian beliefs and these laws will only make that easier.
The second amendment is obvious. A citizen of this country has a protected right to own a firearm, unless they have forfeited such right through proven and convicted criminal activity. Your religious beliefs and expressions of your Christian faith do not constitute criminal activity, even though many would like to change that.
The fourth amendment protects private individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. How reasonable would such laws be if activated only by the word of another?
Similarly, the fifth amendment ensures that our property (in this case a firearm) cannot be confiscated without just compensation. It also protects our right to due process. Due process would demand that any claim be proven prior to confiscation.
The tenth amendment states that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states or the people. The power to confiscate personal firearms has not been granted to the United States via the Constitution. To the contrary, it is restricted from it. The states are given the authority on how they would choose to deal with the reoccurring issue of private firearms ownership.
Let me be clear on this point: This article is not about firearms. Ownership and use of firearms are subjects that each Christian needs to decide upon for themselves. What this article is about is our awareness, our ability to look beyond the clamor and see dangers that threaten other fundamental liberties that we will not compromise on. Freedoms such as religion, speech, press and due process. When did these ever become negotiable? It is about giving authority to men over aspects of our lives, where they do not have any authority (constitutionally or spiritually), nor should they.
Even if not a firearm owner, why would we trade our liberty to think, believe and worship without immediate fear of retaliation at the promise of security provided by men—a questionable promise in of itself? It is a high price to pay for something they cannot even guarantee. In the end, we risk losing both. No additional security paid for with our liberties and, once you give them up, they are difficult if not impossible to get back without a fight.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Thankfully, I have heard two of our state representatives express grave concern for the dangers these laws pose. Both Congressmen Kevin Hern and Congressman Markwayne Mullin have expressed similar concerns should such laws be officially proposed. They have both stated they will not support them. Congressmen Mullin shared a nice podcast addressing why he would not support them and you can listen to it on Soundcloud (link below). In his podcast he asks some very thought-provoking questions. For example, “So how can a judge, by asking a few questions make the determination that a male or female is not fit to bear arms without due process? We can’t.”
We thank both of these Congressmen for their continued cautious support to protect our freedoms.
In the meantime, let’s pay attention and listen to what is being said (or not said). We certainly can’t just go by what we see and hear on television. There are many important aspects of our daily life hanging in the balance. These kinds of proposals require extensive research and thought. They are not to be taken lightly, because sometimes the very essence of the law is in what is NOT said rather than what is written.
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. email@example.com @omegaleagueman
WILMORE, KY—Asbury Seminary Tulsa allows pastors, leaders and laity to pursue a theological education without uprooting their life and ministry. Along with the Master of Divinity degree, the Seminary offers master’s degrees in ministry and leadership.
Asbury offers a hybrid degree option so students can study online while staying on mission. With the hybrid format, students in the Tulsa and Midwest region can experience the convenience of online learning with meaningful in-class sessions just two to three days during the term of the course. This course structure gives students full access to the “Asbury Experience” in a rich, theological community. The Tulsa site is made possible by a partnership with Asbury United Methodist Church.
Asbury Theological Seminary was founded in 1923 by H.C. Morrison with a class of three students and an audacious seal that said, “The Whole Bible for the Whole World.” Its mission is to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world. Almost 100 years later, the Seminary has nearly 11,000 graduates serving in every time zone around the world through social justice initiatives, government, art, mission organizations, education and the church.
To schedule a site visit, check out asbury.to/visit. For more information about the Asbury Seminary-Tulsa site, email Tulsa site coordinator Allison Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 918.392.4590.
Student Who Recently Selected Asbury:
Asbury’s M.A in Leadership Studies balances between both continuing my studies from a spiritual and secular point of view. The M.A. in Leadership path I chose will give me skills I can put to direct use in my secular career, as I lead people across cultures, countries and beliefs. I looked at many other colleges– secular colleges as well as Christian colleges. Most of them only focus on one direction or the other. Either you will get a good secular education or a good Christian education. I was looking for a program that gave me both. Asbury definitely filled that need.
I wanted to study Bible truths to make my personal ministry and my responsibilities inside the church more effective. There are more and more differences inside mainstream Christian organizations. I believe generational gaps, cultural differences, as well as a decline in formal discipleship programs are to blame. A divided church was not the model Christ left us. There was only one church, the Church. Even spiritually, when dealing with a group of diversified individuals, leadership skills help navigate across differences. Asbury’s M.A. in Leadership program equips graduates with skills to lead and effect change across and increasing complex culture.
In addition, I wanted a college with a wholesome environment, where I would study with like-minded individuals. I liked the hybrid models we discussed. I needed a program that gave me the ability to do studies online on my own schedule. The blend between classroom time and independent study time is perfect. I think this is a good balance for the working adult who is also trying to pursue a degree.
I think Asbury’s program fits perfectly with all aspects of my life—professionally and spiritually.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
In the July issue, I shared a story about nearsighted children. Dr. Chenoweth had my full attention, explaining how he could stop most nearsightedness for children in its tracks with CRT, potentially preventing eye diseases later in life that could lead to blindness. I was so amazed, I started asking parents who had children with glasses, “Are they nearsighted?” I’m not kidding. I did it across Epcot, Hollywood, and the Magic Kingdom. I wanted everyone to hear the good news. Then God kicked me in the shins. HARD.
Why in the world do I not have that same gusto (if not greater of course) for sharing Christ with people? When you have such incredible news—you just can’t HELP it. Right? You want to share it. I am not sure I ever have had that same gusto for telling folks about Christ. Why? I mean preventing potential blindness is big news. Don’t get me wrong. You should check out the July issue. But really? Knowing Jesus makes an eternal difference. Every single day people lose their life without knowing Jesus. Every single day, they are destined to be separated from God for eternity. How in the world is THAT life altering news not coming out of my lips with everyone I met? I have the information that could save their soul for crying out loud.
I used to stop at booths in the mall with the Campus Crusade Four Spiritual Laws booklet in tote. I USED to know sharing Jesus was THE most important thing I could ever share with anyone. If you’re reading this magazine, you likely already know Christ. (If you don’t—we need to talk!) So, you would agree what God did for us sending His son—it was a bit monumental. Life changing. It restores man to a relationship with our heavenly Father.
Why doesn’t it flow into my conversation with such zesty purpose as it did with the news about protecting a kid’s vision?
What in the whole big world is more important than sharing the life-altering, eternal redemption found in how He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?
Judging by my life?
I considered myself a spiritually charged evangelist when I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). It’s an organization built around Jesus’ basic ministry: You go share Christ. You bring in the new believers. You teach them. Then, you challenge them to go out and do the same. Discipleship 101.
I wasn’t as good as CRU founder, Dr. Bill Bright, at getting someone into a meaningful conversation about Christ, but I was learning. Watching. Trying to get better. It was an active pursuit while I was in college and while I was on staff. It mattered. Then somewhere along the way, it didn’t. It faded? Maybe having a job and other responsibilities took away my focus? Whatever it was—it faded until it was so close to non-existent, it simply moved from my priorities—from my heart.
Really, you have to wonder. How did a CORE message from Christ get pushed out from our daily duties as His followers? I can tell you for me, it was not a difficult push. I believe in reaching people for Christ. However, it was much, MUCH easier to slip into a complacent mode. In fact, I slipped so much that I can’t tell you when I personally shared Christ with someone in a one-on-one situation aside from mission’s trips. I can’t. It’s not that I’m shy. I’ve sold large multi-million dollar deals to the largest telecom giants out there. I can talk to a wall. It comes straight down from my grandfather to my mother in my DNA. I mean, come on—I’m asking strangers about their kid’s eye condition on the other side of the country. My limits aren’t exactly pressing me in.
You know what I think? I think I slowly shifted my focus onto things of this world. I spent my time like other things mattered more. I just kinda let the “Good News” of life everlasting, salvation from sins, and finding a way to live a more meaningful life under God’s grace and out of shame fall out of the front of my mind. Maybe Satan, the oh so powerful distractor, snuck in through a tiny crack and repurposed my focus? Seems like his game. He is quite the master. Regardless of how it happened—I’m still in control of it. It is still off track, but I’m repenting, confessing and hopping back onto God’s path. I can tell you this: It was NOT going to get back on track unless I purposefully moved it back.
The Great Commission is a direct command in its simplest form. The last Jesus shared before heading to Heaven. I guess it might have been important from his perspective?
Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
Have you let the passion for the things that matter most disappear? Let them get pushed behind everything else?
A Look Back at The Call
One thing Jesus did was to focus His teaching on the things that mattered. He didn’t waste time. He knew He didn’t have much time to train His disciples if they were to be the instruments for spreading the news of His death, burial, and resurrection. He poured into them. He lived out the “Great Commission” by example and then challenged them to repeat the process.
It didn’t take years in the church to train His disciples. He spent about 3 years with them. However, they were certainly a part of His ministry as they were being trained through doing life together. They were reaching people with Him. Some of the best training parts in the Bible are Jesus’ ministry days shared by the disciples. (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John). The New Testament shares the teachings as the disciples themselves learned more and guided new believers to keep them in line with Jesus’s teachings.
How long have you known Christ? Been in the church? Been receiving from head pastors teaching into your life? It’s quite likely you are more than well trained.
I suspect most reading are not super new believers. I bet many, like myself, have known Christ for decades, but somehow missed that following His command to go and make disciples wasn’t really optional. It’s certainly not a call for just the pastors of the church. In fact, I could (I will) write an entire article on the role of pastors in the Church. We put a large burden upon their shoulders they were never meant to carry alone.
Jesus called the 12 disciples because He needed to train up a group, who could share the good news. He trained the 12, who got to experience His teaching. Those 12, who after Judas betrayed Him became 11, did exactly what Jesus called them to do. Spiritual multiplication. In fact, through their obedience and of course God’s Holy Spirit, therein lies the path for how you and I came to know Christ. They are our spiritual forefathers.
So if I’m not doing it and you’re not doing it, then who in the world is reaching, teaching and training the next generation for Christ? Just the pastors? I need to break it to you. That kind of teaching does not fall on just the pastors of the Church to pursue. Goodness. They’ve been pouring into most of us for decades. They are probably worn out waiting for us to rise up and take on our role alongside of them.
It’s something we can do with Bible studies—Discipleship 101. We teach the basics of the faith (saved by grace, not works, nothing we can do to earn it) kind of stuff. Then, we take the new believers into the world and show them how to teach those studies. We show them how to share Christ. The greatest lessons are by example as much as by teaching from the Bible. In fact, I would put forth that the Millennial generation is constantly searching for people who do what they say. They want examples to follow.
We all aren’t called to use the Four Spiritual Laws kind of method. However, we should understand the Gospel enough and employ SOME sort of method. We should re-engage (or engage for the first time) with our God-given purpose shared by Jesus—to go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them, and setting them up to go and do the same. We should live a life that makes them want what they see we have—like peace that passes all understanding, love that gives when it’s not easy, and grace for when we miss the mark by a landslide.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20 (NLT)
If you are wondering: The time is NOW.
At the moment, Americans aren’t at risk of losing our lives for sharing Christ. We still live in a free country (for now). Others are not so lucky. I felt the fear while on a missions trip in China. I saw the guns in the hotel lobby. I knew to be careful what I shared. Here in America though, we are free to have those conversations without much fear of harmful persecution. There, they can be put in prison for having a Bible study in their home.
So, I challenge you, as I’m challenging myself, with Jesus’ command to go. Let’s get back to our CORE purpose. Let’s see what that kind of focus can do in our lives and in other’s lives. It’s a message that can change the world one lost soul at a time.
Not Equipped? Need a Refresher?
Don’t let it stop you! You are not alone. Come with us. If you aren’t in a situation to get the basics of our faith from your church for discipleship purposes—reach out to us. We will help plug you into a church. You can email me at email@example.com for more information.
Don’t Know Christ? Let’s get that introduction started. Just send me an email and we can help you understand that we are all lost—every one of us, until we choose a relationship with God. That relationship is made possible by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. He died in our place for our mistakes. He takes away our shame and our guilt. He raises us to new life with God when we claim that gift in a prayer to Him. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can just read these few sentences to Him. He just needs our hearts.
“God—I know I’ve messed up. I can’t get to you without Jesus so you came to me. You sent him for me. He paid for my sins. I accept that payment. I can be born again as a new creation with you. In Jesus name I pray—Amen!”
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Guarding the City Gates: City Elders Call to Action Christian leaders. Standing on the Bible. Standing at the city gates. Uniting across all 77 counties in Oklahoma. Uniting counties across the country. Re-establishing the role of the Church in civil government. Protecting us from anti-Christian agendas plaguing our country. They are coming. City Elders is to be a national network of Christian leaders governing the city gates establishing the Kingdom of God.
Do I have your attention yet? It’s not just time to get ready. It’s time to answer the call.
In just one gathering of the City Elders, I was ready to go. Everything I heard was everything I longed to hear from anyone in the Church right now. Anyone. From guest speaker Congressman Kevin Hern to his counterpart Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, they spoke Biblical truths, prayed with authority, and challenged the audience to stand on God’s word and to stop being silent.
I was overwhelmed with excitement. The City Elders President, Jesse “Leon” Rodgers, had not even started to speak. I’ve been watching our freedoms erode in our silence; Christians are pressed into corners finding no ground to stand on. Most don’t even want to stand. The persecution has been heating up in America. It’s been slow enough to desensitize us as the heat was rising; fast enough that we started to boil over in the pot with our freedoms going down in flames.
When did we allow liberal agendas to enter our school shaping the minds of our children? When did believing in God’s word make you subject to discrimination from operating your business in a city or airport? When did Christian religious beliefs become grounds for blocking your businesses like Chick Fil A? When?
God gifted citizens of this country with inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are rights deemed given by God to human beings. However, we are consenting to give them away. We just sit in our rocking chairs in silence. We lost a biblically based education system originally created at the hands of our forefathers. We let our guard down. We watched it slip away with barely a mention from most pulpits. It feels like the guards, who were to be at the city gates, were on a break for the last few decades. We let the walls around the cities God gave us fall down.
Before Jesse took the podium, he aired a video recounting some of the exact battles lost along the way in this war for our freedom in America. In it, Jesse shared those fires lighting us up towards this boiling point when prayer and the word of God were removed from our schools. He flashed blazes of heat from when the courts stripped away the sanctity of life with Roe V. Wade. Flames whipped around us as the sanctity of marriage was abolished in our courts. He spoke of states targeting the purity and innocence of our children to be trained in the LGBT community. One by one, he highlighted the combustions leading us toward destruction.
Then, the video shared how government funded public education is now the sanctuary for secular humanism and evolution—maybe the best secret weapon being used. Honestly, it was a bit like watching him paint an explosive, verbal erosion of morality in America. It was a battle plan connected in its core to remove God from our country. Completely.
In it, Jesse also shared the staggering statistic that over 80% of the children of evangelicals walk away from Christ in their first year of college. We shared this concern in our April issue, interviewing Dr. Everett Piper, former President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, (available online at communityspiritmagazine.com or on Issuu).
The premise was really this: If we want this country to remain free, then we must stand up and unify with a Kingdom purpose.
Why would Christians “Guard the Gates?”
Maybe you are asking why this freedom should really matter to the Church. Why should you think about getting off of your sofa, tossing your weekly commercial free Netflix binge? Well, that same freedom allows us to share Christ and follow the Great Commission. It allows us to worship. To pray. To gather together in His name in His churches. In other countries, we know people are imprisoned or killed for telling someone about Jesus. They face the same kinds of punishments for gathering to worship or to pray. Freedom should matter to the Church maybe more than any other people group out there, if we have any interest in worshiping our God and bringing people into His Kingdom.
Jesse took to the podium and shared, “The premise behind the City Elders is based on the Biblical pattern of the fortified cities of Israel, who guarded and governed the cities at the city gates. These leaders were the first line of defense against attacks or intrusions of any kind. Their responsibility was the protection of the inhabitants of the city, including their families.” Jesse continued, “It’s a Biblical role that we, as the Church, have let go of. We really have forgotten to keep up with our defenses.” I listened as deeply as I’ve listened to anything in a long time. I knew he was right. I saw the walls down myself. I saw them crumbling before me even in the last decade. There was nothing I could do, but hang my head with others in the room, recognizing my own part in letting those walls be torn away.
Jesse went on, “City Elders are proven Christian leaders from sectors of the Church, business community, and civil government, who when they convene constitute the spiritual governing council of the cities or a community. They are local leaders whose lives are guided by Biblical principles, Judeo Christian values, and who are committed to the exaltation of Christ Jesus and the practice of His Lordship in every sphere of life. Their mission is to govern the gates spiritually, politically, and economically so that life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted and families can flourish.”
If God doesn’t speak to you in that message, I just didn’t use the right font or something. I couldn’t hold back my spirit wanting to applaud for the God who was calling us to rise up together and defend our cities. Our freedom. Our right to worship Him. To follow Him. It was incredibly overwhelming as I contemplated my part in the destruction (from my silence) and my potential to possibly be used by God to right the wrong. With my four-year old daughter’s future at stake—my heart was burdened with the need to tell our readers about the hope God was providing. The calling God was instigating in spirits across the city in the hearts He dwells in. My hope? That you too would hear God’s call to support this group in whatever way God specifically might call you.
Unity with Kingdom Purpose
As a “Watchman on the Wall,” Jesse has had plenty of exposure in the political realm, making a mark for both religious freedom and the sanctity of marriage, family and life. During the election in 2016, Jesse told then candidate Trump, “While you’re focused on building the wall, the economy, the military and decentralizing education, there is a corollary to what you are going to be doing politically that the Church must be doing. The Church must get our spiritual walls back up. 9/11 showed us that the walls around America are down. So, we have to start righting the foundation and building again.” The City Elders are taking up that call to rebuild it. They are going into our counties to recruit those called by God to be a part, whether as leaders or supporters.
Jesse shared he believes, “Education is key, as well as pure discipleship. There’s got to be a brand new system of discipleship implemented. The Sunday School systems have broken down. Now, we put our children in children’s Church and there’s not the substance oriented foundational teaching that’s going on. It’s piecemealed instead of systematic didactic teaching.” Jesse went on, “What’s happened is America has become biblically illiterate. The stats show it. We’re having to start at the foundation. Foundationally, we are talking about government, divine order. I believe that we are going to participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing in reestablishing the government of God in the earth, bringing the Church together and bringing civil government into one Kingdom context.”
Jesse stressed, “This effort is not about being just multi-denominational. It has a Kingdom context in the Church’s role in relation to civil government and how the Kingdom of God operates.” Jesse added, “Unity movements have failed in the past because they were unity for the sake of unity, just for the sake of the Church. The purpose for the unification of the Church is a Kingdom impact. So, the Church must have a Kingdom context for it to have its significance, purpose, motive, goal, and Modus Operandi in check.” Jesse continued, “The Kingdom context is civil government, the Church and the family. There’s more to it but these are the fundamental institutions that are divinely ordained and have their origin in God himself.”
God’s Leaders on their Knees
Jesse recently attended the national pastor’s conference in Washington D.C. with other members of the City Elders, as well as hundreds of pastors from across the country. They all reported gaining an understanding of today’s political and policy issues we are facing. Jesse said, “The best part of the conference was that the prayer was just so powerful. God’s leaders gathered together and praying in Washington D.C. to redirect our nation back to God.”
While in this particular City Elders meeting that day, Congressman Hern burst into the room. He had been across the street interviewing on the radio about the devastating floods. God prompted him to head to the Doubletree, where he knew the City Elders were gathered, and request prayer for our city and for these people whose lives were upside down. Those kinds of leaders, requesting those kinds of prayers, agreeing with us that God is in control both in Heaven and on Earth—we need more of those.
While in D.C., Jesse ran into Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education. Jesse shared, “She is possibly the most important figure in the Trump administration for the purpose of the restoration of education. Education is the number one issue. Abortion is critical. All of the agenda and points of battle are important, but education is the foundational issue, because the secularization of America is the result of a secular humanist education system. So, to have a Godly, praying woman in that post, working with President Trump is key.” Jesse then added, “We will be inviting her to Oklahoma. We will have a symposium on the reformation of education before the year is over.” Again, those kinds of leaders, praying, seeking God for His direction to lead our nation back to Him. Those are what we need.
Jesse also mentioned with excitement, “Congressman Hern and Congressman Mullen are going to help us invite President Trump to Oklahoma. We are going to invite 3,141 county seats from across the nation to converge on Tulsa to cast the vision of City Elders being established in all counties across the nation. At some point that meeting will take place—either this year or next.”
In closing, Jesse said, “The City Elders are here to rise up in Christ, guard the city gates, and protect our freedom and families. We are rising up to say ‘You will not bring these things against Christ into my city. Not on my watch.”
Jesse “Leon” Rodgers and his lovely wife, Tammy, have served as pastors, evangelists, resident missionaries in South East Asia and as Bible College instructors. He is a graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary where he received his post-graduate degree. Jesse is the chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. and the Founder of “City Elders” a Reformation Model of City Governance. His unique role with the Family Research Council has positioned him to influence government officials from the local municipalities to the White House. He is a sought-after conference speaker, with a heart to teach others to reign in this life, by the power and authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve gave up their freedom. They had it all. Everything. With one choice, God took it all away from them. Generations to come sought to gain it back only to have those who had it no longer appreciate it. In many cases, they worshipped false Gods and turned their back on the God who had provided the freedom. In Exodus, in the story of Moses, the Israelites had God’s power leading the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. They trembled in fear when they saw the Egyptians coming. These are the same people being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Then, God splits the Red Sea, gets them to the other side, and closes the sea back upon the Egyptians pursuing them. You would think they would be thanking God for their freedom over and over. For a short time they did. But, when they were crossing the desert and found no food, they were once again pining to be slaves in Egypt. God gave them manna, flatbread, they found each morning to feed and nourish them. Did that calm them into worship? Yeah, ok. I think it lasted like 5 minutes.
Just a short time after all of these things, when Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, where were they? Worshiping false Gods made of gold that they crafted while he was up there getting direction from God. We are taught these stories from the pulpit.
We shake our heads in disbelief that they could so quickly forget God and what He did for them. But, here we are. We’ve prepared our children so little that Satan trips up 80% of them in their freshman year? Abortion is so horrible, we’d just like to not talk about it? How long will our weakened platform of freedom remain in tact? How long will God allow us to be like the Egyptians worshiping our false God’s of our relaxed and slightly selfish lives, while we ignore the state of our union? It’s really difficult to say. That said, looking at Biblical references, I fear we might not be too far from the end of His rope.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
My four-year old daughter was in awe of Captain Marvel. The show was much too old for her, but I had wanted to take my 17-year old niece to inspire her. When I described the show over the Bluetooth in the car—my kiddo insisted it was a movie for her. I decided to comply and took them both.
I’m not a superhero junkie, but Captain Marvel exemplifies an oppressed person with amazing power. Because she was convinced by the world she lived in that she was less than she was, her strength was buried by lies. She was imprisoned by rules crafted to control her, as well as emotional manipulation used to dominate her. When she finally realized the truth and shed the deception, she set free the strength and power suppressed inside of her. When she did, the whole theater about flew out of our seats with excitement.
Does her power being minimized by her world remind you of anything today? Are you seeing Christians being pressed back into a corner? Told our beliefs in the Bible aren’t correct? Told we need to modify the Bible to fit the culture today? Sound familiar at all?
This morning at the City Elders meeting, I heard a description of who we are meant to be as the Body of Christ, the capital “C” Church. It painted quite a picture. Being in the midst of some of the most devastating floods our state has known—we can see firsthand the power of the force of water. I can see it in the movement of the risen rivers. Their immense forces were set free a bit, but still controlled by the flood gates and levies. We were reminded that when the river starts to show its real power, we are forced to step back and get out of the way.
However, imagine the waters from all of the rivers and lakes rising so that you could no longer identify the origination point of the water. Imagine those smaller entities flowing together as a massive, powerful force, sweeping across the land. The power of those waters would be definitive as a body but really unidentifiable as a specific source. They would just be the massive floodwaters—full of strength, unleashing their power.
The question at the meeting? What if the Body of Christ approached God’s work for the Kingdom with such united strength and power that it could only be credited to that capital “C” Church? (as opposed to church x or y or denomination a or b).
It’s a concept that seems a bit foreign to us, as the size of communities has grown to give thousands of smaller church groups their own form of a “kingdom” inside of the Kingdom. However, looking at the Bible, we read the smaller church groups addressed from the same leadership of the Church. They were all very much a part of the Capital “C” Church but were grouped together to spread the word and to disciple as smaller groups. Since there were fewer of these smaller groups in the disciples’ time, it was much easier for them to know in their core that they were part of the larger unified Body of Christ. The Bible clearly points to the disciples and Paul as those charged with leading that capital “C” Church. Paul went from church to church with guidance and direction, which was put into the Bible to give that same guidance to each of our churches today.
The Bible is full of books written specifically to the churches by the governing authorities put in place by God. My favorite, Romans, was written to the churches in Rome by Paul. Peter writes his book First Peter, as a letter to the Jewish Christians who are spread around the Roman Empire. First and Second Corinthians; Paul writes to the churches he planted in Corinth. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians are all written directly to churches or groups of churches in a geographic area. It was quite clear these churches were very much a part of the Body of Christ. They were teaching and training while being a part of the bigger picture. They were growing the Kingdom of Christ and not just their specific churches. These letters were also assembled into the Bible, God’s word. That alone gives that stronger unification as their role was in the capital “C” Church.
As instructed, that Church spread throughout the world doing exactly what God instructed them to do.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
Lip Service to the Capital “C” Church
With those smaller entities growing (some quite massively) in size and being separated by greater distances, the sense of simply being a local governing entity of a group of Christ’s followers became lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong. We like to say it. We speak of being a part of the bigger capital “C” Church, but we honestly move about in our own affairs with very little time to pull our thoughts out to the original Kingdom entity created in the New Testament. The result? The separation of church and church and The Church.
Sure, there are different worship styles, prayer styles, preferred worship times, places, and spaces but at the end of the day, all of the Christian churches are the Body of Christ. We are united, as one, on God’s word. We are inseparable by the adoption as the Children of God through the sacrifice God made of His Son Jesus Christ for the WHOLE world.
We are all sinners saved by grace. People who have messed up in one way or another and were separated from God by those mistakes. People who have accepted that Jesus Christ died and rose again, paying the price for our mistakes. By accepting his gift, we all became united as Children of God, the Body of Christ. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, full of power, full of might, to advance for the Kingdom of God. Together, we are HIS capital “C” Church.
No Division in the End
It’s certainly not going to be a divided house in heaven. God’s Kingdom will most definitely unite, but what if God is waiting on us to come together now? What if we went back to the roots of THE Church to find the position of “our” church in that Kingdom? Wow. We would transform into THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ. We would operate in such a way that we know the Gates of Hell (the powers) could not prevail against us—just as Christ said they would not. We would be a mighty force sweeping across this land, coming into the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us. There would be no levy, no flood gate, and no dam that could stop us. Not one. Can you even imagine it?
Back to the Avengers
I’ll circle back to the Captain Marvel story to bring it all together. She finally found who she was and came into her incredible power bursting out of the control of those who tried to put her in a box.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)
More than we might ask or think? There is so much power promised to the children of God in just those 6 verses than we can even imagine? Hmmm. As we cower back, we slip into a comfortable place giving away our freedom, surrendering our God-given powers. We have yet to break free and rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who will not be shoved into a corner. With all of the thousands of churches around the world, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remember who we are. We are the children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. With that identity comes great power–”more than we might ask or think.” Can you imagine every church finding God’s power inside of us? What would that even look like? I can imagine quite a bit. So MORE than that?
So, hold on.
Imagine even greater things with me.
After all, God says it’s more than we can even think of. As incredible as Captain Marvel’s day of awakening was–in the last Avengers, I can draw a parallel to the Body of Christ, the Church that might blow you away like it did me. In the end of the movie, each of the hundreds of superheroes realized they were not meant to do this battle alone. They couldn’t win. They discovered a plan set in motion long before they knew there would even be a war of such great proportion.
The bigger, more popular hero guys we know and love were losing the battle. It was nearing the end. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with a force of might—“they” showed up. “They” being the rest of the united heroes in the land. They combined in their fullest forms and power to defeat their ultimate enemy. You could see each one playing a critical part. When they converged—there was that mighty feeling that this war was over. The enemy would be defeated. You just knew.
Rest assured, I’ve read Revelation. God will unite us as a mighty force with heaven and earth in the end. What a day that will be. However, what I read in the Bible calls us to remember that unification and who we are today. I don’t think we’re supposed to wait. We are in the battle right now. On some fronts, in our great country, we are losing, but my heart almost explodes with excitement to think of what a force we could become if we united as the Church of God. Can you imagine? United, with His power working in us that is more powerful than we might ask or think? did you read what I just thought of? More powerful than even that???
It would far surpass any unification of the bodies of waters into a massive force. It would eclipse any show of power in the Avengers. I can’t sit still even as I’m typing this as the excitement of just a hint of God’s power rises up inside of me. That power by the way–it is already inside of any of us following Christ. It’s just sitting there, masked by confusion, deception. It’s shackled by chains put on by others or even by ourselves in some ways. Satan has us in some sort of trance with the things of this life, but it is RIGHT THERE. Whatever way you want to think about it–it’s right there. It’s RIGHT THERE WAITING. God is waiting.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)
“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10 New Living Translation (NLT)
May each church find its strength. May it rise up to take it’s part in the Kingdom, God’s capital “C” Church, the “Body of Christ,” whichever name He gives for that unity that you want to use. Because, when we do come together, when we do put our stake in the ground and draw our line in the sand, we will come into that Kingdom of God as His Children and the Gates of Hell WILL simply NOT PREVAIL against us. They won’t win.
What are we waiting for? #GoDoBe
Written by R.A. Goodnight
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free…” Galations 5:1 (NLT)
At this time of year, Americans celebrate the secular freedoms that were won at a great price, as well as the birth of The United States of America. Since 1776 until now, we give honor to all who gave, as well as for what they have achieved.
It is of no doubt that our secular freedoms are of great importance. But our spiritual freedom should not be overlooked, as it far surpasses the freedoms we have at home. I would summarize the overall theme of The Bible as ‘The King and His Kingdom’. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals to us who The King will be, how The Kingdom will be established and what it will accomplish for us. And in two words, what it will achieve is ultimate freedom–freedom from sin and death, freedom from slavery to supernatural forces from which only one man had the power to save us. And, the same as our secular freedom, our spiritual freedom came with great sacrifice; it came at the cost of another’s blood.
Understanding what it took to redeem us, we should use our lives to show that we value the price that was paid. How can we do this? One way is found in our opening verse. There It states, “Now make sure that you stay free.” What did Paul mean when he wrote those words?
HOW TO STAY FREE
In Romans chapter six, Paul helps us see the relationship between God’s grace through Christ sacrifice, sin and spiritual freedom. In verse 14 he tells us, “Sin is no longer your master…Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14 NLT) How great our God is for providing us a release from the power of sin in our lives. But there is a catch. Even though freedom has been provided for us, it is up to us to avail ourselves of it. Paul goes on to say, “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free…does that mean that we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin…or you can choose to obey God.” (Romans 6:15, 16 NLT) God wants us to be free; He took the first step by providing the path to freedom. But it is up to each of us to become and remain free by choosing to accept Christ and obey God and not our sinful tendencies.
It is interesting that Paul uses the words “make sure” that we stay free in Galatians 5:1. We don’t just trip into freedom. As Paul helps us see in the spiritual sense, freedom is a choice. It requires action from us to ensure our freedom remains intact. When we make active decisions in our life that protect us from temptation, we are “making sure” that we stay in the freedom God has given us. Freedom is not passive; it requires us to be deliberate in our life choices.
THE FREEDOM KILLER
In a world controlled by Satan, there are many sin’s that can compromise our freedom and enslave us as men. Today, one of the biggest freedom killers among men is addiction to pornography. Notice some of the recent statistics regarding pornography use among Christian men:
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)
• 57% of pastors say they have struggled
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)
• 64% of youth pastors say
they have struggled
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)
• 45% of Christians admit pornography is a problem in their home
(Focus On The Family – https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/pornography-and-virtual-infidelity/virtual-infidelity-and-marriage)
• 16% of those Christians say they are trying to quit but have been unable
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)
How can we consider ourselves free if we are unable to break free from something that entangles us? What steps can we take to become free or to remain free?
WAYS TO MAKE SURE
One of the first steps to help gain control of any addiction is to identify your trigger. If you have ever been able to speak with someone battling an addiction, most will tell you of some external trigger that causes them to struggle with their addiction. Some examples of such triggers could be:
• Marital problems
• Even boredom
Once you have identified your trigger(s), you can begin addressing the underlying issues driving you toward your addiction. For example, if boredom is your trigger (common to younger Christian men) then find something wholesome to do with your time. Volunteer in your church, take up a hobby or even fill your down time with prayer or Bible study. Fill the voids and remove the boredom. The same tactic would apply with other triggers. Find a wholesome ‘de-stresser’, talk with someone about the depression or focus on your marriage with your spouse as opposed to fueling the problems with an addiction. The addiction is a symptom; address the underlying reasons behind the symptom.
An accountability partner can be of immense value as well. A fellow Christian man, someone whom you can talk to and be honest with, can be a powerful ally when temptations are high. When feelings of stress or guilt occur, talking to another man in Christ can help you get through those moments when we may feel weak. Technology can also serve as an accountability partner. Software such as Covenant Eyes helps provide support while we take control of the addiction.
Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Philippians 4:6 (NLT) advises us, “In every situation, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God.” Take your struggles to Him and identify them by name in our prayers. Remember, we can accomplish all things through Christ. (Philippians 4:13)
THE IMPORTANCE OF REMAINING FREE
Losing our freedom will eventually lead to spiritual inactivity or even death. Along the way, it will limit our effectiveness at helping anybody else attain freedom in Christ. How can we lead others to freedom if we ourselves are a slave to sin?
Accordingly, for those of us in leadership positions, it is important for ourselves and for those we lead that we remain free. As husbands and fathers, how can we help our children or our families through trials and assaults on their freedom if we are choosing to be a slave to sin?
Stay aware; pay attention to our choices and make sure that you stay free. Honor the sacrifice that was given for us, and do not lose sight of others we can help if we ourselves are free. Never forget, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. firstname.lastname@example.org