Category: GOD

Written by Teresa Goodnight

UGH! I jumped right into salvation by grace, faith generating actions, and was ready to dive in further for March. Then it hit me. If I wanted to start at the CORE…the true basis for everything we know and believe as Christians, then the obvious place to start is with the Bible. What do we believe about it and why? It’s a topic I can’t dive into super deeply in a magazine article. However, even when you scratch the surface—it’s a useful write-up to help give you a place to start. 

At Community Spirit, we hold true to the Bible being the inspired and inerrant word of God. So, what does that mean? Simply put: God gave it to us, and it has no errors in it. It is THE word of God. It is THE authority for every aspect of our Christianity. If the Bible isn’t as God said in passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 “breathed out by God” then the validity of all the Scriptures comes into question. The Bible is too clear that it is God’s word to pick and choose what parts we want to believe. Either we believe it or we do not. When someone starts referencing their “thoughts,” as a Christian, but cannot back those thoughts with God’s word—throw a RED FLAG. I cannot count the number of conversations I have been in or overheard where people were spouting off their personal opinions about Christianity but presenting them as if they were what we believe as Christians. Opinions are everywhere, but when it comes to Christianity, they need to be fact-based, Biblically certified statements. When opinions are shared as if they are factual Christian statements, simply put, it leads people astray.

Truth is, God did not leave room for us to go through the Bible to pick and choose what we want to believe inside His word. Either we believe it is HIS word or we believe it is not. When we decide to selectively follow what works for us, it becomes our own brand of spirituality and likely not anything anyone should label as Christianity. (That’s a whole other topic for another article, another day). 

Wikipedia defines the inerrancy of the scripture fairly well–“Divine authority. For a believer in biblical inerrancy, Holy Scripture is the Word of God, and carries the full authority of God. Every single statement of the Bible calls for instant and unqualified acceptance. Every doctrine of the Bible is the teaching of God and therefore requires full agreement.”

Why is this doctrine important? It’s simple. Christianity itself is based on the inspired, inerrant word of God. It is our authority. It is what God has to say about the matter. It is useful to guide, teach, and correct us if we lose our way. It is not something we can pick and choose a few philosophical items we think are universally applicable and call it Christianity. If we base our faith on anything else…anything…then we’re not actually following Christ. We’re simply following our version of what becomes our own religion.

Nature itself, in all its complexities, tells us so much about God if we look around. We can learn quite a bit. However, it is really an incredible gift to have God’s word to reference and hear His voice in what He speaks to us. If we aren’t basing our beliefs on the word of God, then we have navigated away from Christianity. God gave us many privileges and the ability to choose what we believe or say. However, nowhere did He offer us the freedom to change His word. In fact, He specifically warns against it. Altering His word has direct consequences on our faith and even potential consequences spelled out in different areas in scripture (Revelation 22:19). 

We live in a time where more and more people speaking on behalf of the Church, Christianity and God without using any reference to scripture to back it up – or ‘adapting’ scripture to suit their argument. These same people are confusing the message of Christ and causing a problem with the CORE of who we are as Christians. When you study the teachings of Christ, He constantly sent people back to scripture–usually quoting the Old Testament, as he was a master student of the Bible.

The Moody Bible Institute summarizes it well on their web:

“The Bible is verbally inspired. This means that the words of the Bible, not just the ideas, were inspired. What is more, this is true of not just some, but all the words of the Bible. As a result, the Bible is free from error in what it says. Moody Bible Institute believes strongly in the factual, verbal, historical inerrancy of the Bible. That is, the Bible, in its original documents, is free from error in what it says about geography, history and science as well as in what it says about God. Its authority extends to all matters about which the Bible speaks. 7 It is the supreme source of our knowledge of God and of the salvation provided through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 It is our indispensable resource for daily living. 9 Even though the Bible is God’s revelation, it must still be interpreted. Interpretation has to do with our reception and understanding of that which God revealed and recorded. 10 Revelation is a divine act. Interpretation is a human responsibility. Divine inspiration guarantees the truthfulness of God’s word but not the accuracy of our interpretation. The Bible is infallible in all it affirms to be true and therefore absolutely reliable. We, however, may be fallible in our interpretation of the Bible.”

1 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21 

2 1 Corinthians 2:11–16

3 Psalm 19:1

4 Romans 1:19, 20

5 2 Timothy 3:16,17

6 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Corinthians 2:12–13

7 Matthew 5:18; John 10:35

8 John 5:39–47

9 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Peter 2:2

10 John 16:13

So, what does this mean for us today? We should take everything we believe/hear about God/Christianity through the filter of His word. Double-check scripture references when given. Request them when they are not given. For us to develop a healthy relationship with God and walk with him, we want our relationship built on His inerrant truths in the Bible–not our human wisdom or the wisdom offered by the world. He left us everything we need to know Him in truth. That truth is the truth that will set us free.

Scripture is inspired, breathed out by God:

2 Timothy 3:16 ESV “All Scripture is God-breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”

Scripture is living, piercing: 

Hebrews 4:12 ESV “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Scripture needs nothing added: 

Proverbs 30:6 ESV “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Scripture should have nothing taken away:

Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”

Examine what others say WITH scripture: 

Acts 17:11 ESV “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”


Written by Teresa Goodnight

In James 2:18 in the New Living Translation (NLT), James writes “’Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith BY my good deeds.’” Before that, James also writes the verse we’re often more familiar with “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James goes on to say “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Last month, we talked about how we are all sinners—and through faith in Jesus, all of us can be saved. It’s sort of a ground zero building block to be a Christian. However, this rather basic building block of faith is something many are confused on out of the gate. First, it is important to remember before we go any further—“God saved you by his GRACE when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is NOT a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2 8-9 NLT). So sin comes first. Grace from God comes next. Faith in God and his gift of grace would simply be the step to follow. Then, as our hearts change—gratitude for that grace we love to have slathered all over us leads us to actions—actions of love because He first loved us. 

I say simply, but faith itself can feel like a mystery. God gives us some clear definitions. He specifically tells us how much we need—faith of a child (Psalms 116:6), small as a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). Then, if you want to think it through a little further, He actually tells us what kinds of actions we will be compelled to take if we truly have faith. These actions are NOT required to have faith in God; however, if you have faith in God, your heart and God’s Holy Spirit inside of you will compel you to these types of actions. To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it. I can imagine the families of patients with the disease beating down this doctor’s door saying “You say you have it. Prove it. Give it to us.” If the doctor continued to do nothing but talk, the families would depart calling the doctor a hypocrite or a liar—someone who says one thing with his mouth but does nothing about it with his actions. Pure puffery—all talk and no action.

Hebrews 11 is one of the best chapters to read on faith. There is a list of God’s people and their actions based on things they could not see. Plus, these actions came with outcomes they hoped in and believed God would honor. The chapter starts, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Oftentimes, we equate this kind of faith with simply doing good to others. In our minds, giving a thanksgiving meal once a year through our church or a toy through Toys for Tots for Christmas might be some of our best examples of faith in action. Those are on the list of generous things to do of course. However, for those in Hebrews, you see faith in action with excruciatingly difficult outcomes involving the lives of those taking action. 

Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Some examples of this faith are Noah, who built a boat to board animals on a sunny day. Ok, maybe it was cloudy, but no one saw an earth-wide flood coming requiring such massive efforts. God spoke. Noah obeyed. Abraham left his home and took his family to a place he didn’t know—a stranger in a foreign country. Sarah, his wife, through mustard seed style faith (I mean, come on! How much could Sarah have knowing she was well past the age of childbearing?) bore Abraham the son of the promise of God, Isaac. Hebrews goes on to say many of these people died without even seeing the things promised—they just saw them from a distance and really believed they were coming. Their actions were based on promises from a God they could not see and many hopeful results that were impossibly far from tangible. These people were even looking forward to a Messiah, who would come to rescue them. They believed. They hoped. They had faith. That faith led them to action. 

Hebrews talks further about Moses’ parents’ faith. They risked being killed, hiding him until they could no longer do so. Then, they found a way to send him in a basket they crafted to float down a river in front of an Egyptian princess—hoping He was as special as they believed, and God would somehow intervene. He did. That alone is more faith than I can even imagine trying to have. His family waited decades while Moses had to realize who his people were—and a few decades more for him to discover God’s calling to lead the Israelites out of the captivity. Their captivity lasted generations. They prayed. They waited. They clung to God’s faithfulness with their remaining faith.

Moses’ tale included another sacrifice–revoking all the earthly pleasures he had being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to eventually lead his people out of captivity (a calling he didn’t yet know). By faith Moses led those same people through the Red Sea when God parted it. Can you even imagine? “Hey guys. Let’s go this way.” It had to require more faith than I really know to take those steps. Then, those same steps led to the death of the Egyptians chasing them as the parted waters merged. Those were steps of faith in action without knowing the outcome—but believing in God. They were difficult for all involved, but they chose to follow God. 

Paul, the writer of Hebrews, goes on to tell us of more incredible feats of faith—and how some saw imprisonment, torture, and even death. Some lived in caves and holes in the ground, wandered deserts—taking their faith to the extreme, as they refused to revoke following Jesus. These people didn’t just say they believed. They lived it. Some even died for it.

Isn’t that God? Instead of defining faith for us with simply words—God shows us faith by the incredible faith-filled actions of these people. Their faith has left a legacy to impact generations to come. Interesting. Seems I’ve heard that concept somewhere before? Show me your faith BY your good deeds? (James 2:18).

So what does that look like for us today? I think it looks a little different for each of us. It’s based on circumstances in your life, gifts God has given you (spiritual gifts, financial gifts, parenting gifts, etc.). To stick with the cover theme as an example, it COULD look like fostering or adopting a child in this state where about 8,500 kids are looking for a home. The faith part MIGHT be that you don’t know how it will turn out. Maybe it scares you to bring someone into your home? Maybe you aren’t sure how you would find the time? Maybe you like your life as it is and don’t want to risk messing it up?

 Another example? Parents who take on a second job to send their children to a Christian based school—because they believe God put on their heart that a Christian education for their children is the right choice for their family. For Community Spirit Magazine, it was purchasing the magazine not knowing what God would do with it, but knowing we wanted to touch the city for Christ and be part of His plan to motivate the Body of Christ (the “C”hurch) to action. It’s a bit of a battle in our hearts to press forward some days—but to think of God using us in His plan to change lives, to change one life? It’s worth pushing on.

What faith-based action does God have for you? It’s not the same for everyone. It’s between you and God. A faith-based choice would be answering urges from God’s Holy Spirit working inside of you to take action without possibly understanding how it will turn out. We CAN know we serve a God who does not leave us alone where He leads us (or where he doesn’t for that matter). Faith lived out is about following God’s prompt to action in our hearts, based on an understanding of who He is and what He seeks from us. The most basic thing he seeks? Jesus said it like this: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Living out your faith, can certainly be as small as daily choices like deleting a Candy Crush (or dare I say Facebook/Instagram/Twitter) from your phone to free up time for reading the YouVersion Bible app on your phone. It’s not like you can see how much stronger you would be in your faith if you read the Bible as much as you invested time in those items, but isn’t that faith? Taking action? Hoping and believing God will bless you for following Him? Don’t these actions really prove our faith more than our words? 

I cannot tell you exactly where that faith-based action move might be for you. I can just tell you what it MIGHT look like and send you off to be on the lookout for it. Whatever you do though, don’t be the doctor with the cure…talking and puffing about, but not having actions showing anything to be true. That won’t help anyone—certainly not an unbeliever.

These choices—actions based on faith, small or grand, they are the CORE of our faith. They are our legacy, our witness. Without them, it could be proof that some of us are just full of hot “Christian” air.

#GoDoBe

To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it. 



Written By Ingrid B. Skarstad Williams

Reminisce with me for a moment. When you were a kid, did you have a bike? Did you clip playing cards on your bicycle wheels?  Wasn’t that cool? If you don’t know the joy of turning your bike into an imaginary motorcycle with just a clothespin and a card, I’ll explain.

We would bend a playing card at one end around the bike frame by the wheel, then pin it so the other end reached into the spokes (Clothespins were in abundant supply then. We dried laundry on outdoor clotheslines back in my childhood days. Nowadays it seems like clothespins are more like crafting supplies!). When the wheel turned, the spokes flipped the card. The sound made it seem like the bike roared to life as a Harley Davidson!

Some kids got fancy and pinned several cards on their wheels. Oh the magic of making noise! The louder and more interesting the sound, the more we enjoyed it. Then again, it seems like anything that made noise was fun!

But as an adult, the fun doesn’t last when the clatter of living haunts your days (and nights). Every deadline and responsibility is like another card clipped to your wheels—slappety-slap-slap-slapping to demand your attention. They multiply. Even one new event on the calendar can create an array of to-do’s to conquer.

The growing list of what you should be doing gets noisy. The “shoulds” hit the spokes every time you move forward. The faster you move, the louder they get. That’s a lot of noise! No wonder we have the saying, “Stop the world—I want to get off!”

What’s the answer? I reflect back on sentiments I expressed nearly a decade ago. It was written during days that seemed to hold everything but peace.

Thankfully much has changed, and some of it because of the big lessons in that small moment. I still reflect on that picture of my son on his Big Wheel. It reminds me that no matter how hard I listen for God’s voice, if I don’t stop the noise, I won’t hear Him.

God Is Right Here

God has our answers—all of them. He is ever present. He is very near. And He is not silent. He wants us to know His ways, His plan, His purpose, and His peace. So if we need to get quiet to hear our Father’s voice in our lives, it seems to me that it would be of utmost importance to create stillness.

How do we do that? The myriad of answers could be dizzying, but I will share one that is simple and visual: stop the noise and listen. It’s visual to me because I can still see my son riding in circles, loud and unlistening. But there’s more to that little story. After a while of not hearing his father’s responses, my son became a little more frantic. The original sing-song, “Daddy, where are you?” escalated with punctuated frustration. “DADDY! (clackety-gaspy-clack) WHERE (clickety-demandy-click) ARE (clitter-clatter-sobby-click-clack) YO-O-O-O-O-O-U?”

Days are a blur. 

I race through trying (and failing) to do everything that cries out for attention.

I am reminded of a day when my son was racing in circles on his Big Wheel in the basement.

        Those things are LOUD! And he was doing a good job of stirring up the noise.

Above the clatter of the wheels, I could hear him yelling over and over

        in rhythm with the wheels, “DADDY! WHERE ARE YOU?” 

His father answered every time from the floor above,

        but there was no way he could hear him over the noise he was creating. 

The picture seems a lot like me when life is so busy that I feel like I’m running in circles.

        And I am!

I’m making so much “noise” in my life that I can’t hear the answer to my heart’s cry …

        whether it is to know where my Father is, recognize my purpose, feel connected,

                    or simply taste the sweet relief of peace.

How simple would it be to stop for a moment and ask those questions in silence? 

Maybe more simple than I realize.

God has not been silent.

I have not been quiet.


Written by Pastor Alex Himaya

Years ago, I did a sermon series we called F.A.Q, which stood for Frequently Asked Questions.  During the series I asked lay people to submit questions for me to answer and to preach on. The first question I read was, “Why have I never heard you preach on orphan care?” My initial thought was, “Wow. This is going to be much harder than I thought!” My response was to sit down and re-read the entire bible. I marked every time God’s heart was revealed. My journey was literally
life changing and gave birth to an international adoption ministry called ADOPT(ED).

As I read the bible, I came across four things that He speaks of over and over and He values.

4 things God values

1.  God values: Marriage and Family.

The bible begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve and instructions to leave, cleave and become one. The Bible ends with another marriage between Jesus and the church and the marriage supper of the Lamb. God told us to address him “our father” or “daddy”.  Marriage and family are valued by God. It is how He chose to help us understand how to relate to Him.

2.  God values: Children.

Psalm 127:3 (NLT) states, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him.” Gift, reward, blessing, inheritance. But our culture and world sees them as a wait, cost, burden, inconvenience. What do you think when you see a family with 6 kids? Be honest!

 The bible teaches that God values children. In Mark 10:13-16 (NLT) people were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Then He took the children in His arms, and placed His hands on them & blessed them.”

There is another time that the disciples were admonished related to children. In Luke 9:46-48 (NLT), an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had Him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me also welcomes My Father, who sent Me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” God values Children. John 1:12 (NLT) states, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

3.  God values:  Orphans.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NLT) states, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures orphans and widows receive justice.” Over and over in scripture we see that God has great compassion for orphans and fatherless children.

Exodus 22:22 (NIV)  “Do not take advantage the widow or an orphan. If you do, and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

Psalm 27:10 (NIV)  “Though my father & mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

Psalm 68:5 (NIV)  “a Father to the fatherless…is God,”

John 14:18 (NIV)  “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

4.  God values:  Adoption.

Psalm 68:5-6 (NLT) states, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Have you considered the fact that Jesus was adopted? Yes, Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph, adopted Him. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew traces the bloodline of Jesus not through his biological mother, Mary, but through his adoptive father, Joseph. Even though one might easily pass over this fact as insignificant, this detail reveals something amazing about God’s nature. God does not make mistakes, and He certainly doesn’t need a back-up plan. Through this footnote in history we see that for Jesus, adoption wasn’t plan B.

The first century church opposed abortion, child abandonment, deviant prostitution, human sacrifice and suicide. Their high view of life led to the rescue of many children. The church did more than just oppose the actions. They took those children in and adopted them, hospitals, education, economic reform and provided whatever they needed. I wonder. What would happen if just five percent of 400,000 churches in America established adoption ministries? How many millions would be adopted? 

May the stigma of “I am adopted” become non-existent in our church and reversed. The number of children worldwide without families to love and care for them is overwhelming. It’s easy to forget that each/every one of these children is precious to the Savior. I am convinced that Christians should be leading the international dialogue about our responsibility to provide a home and a family for those who have none. I believe that as adopted children in God’s family, believers should be the first to reach out to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

Yet many are unaware of the great need, or of God’s call on the church to be actively involved in helping the fatherless.

At theChurchat, we have a ministry we call ADOPT(ED). ADOPT(ED) is an educating and exhorting ministry dedicated to supporting and helping the fatherless and connecting those children with loving, Bible believing families. I want us to challenge the heart, head and hands of believers. http://www.thechurch.at/adopted

Just because there are orphans doesn’t mean every Christian needs to adopt. But we all need to be involved – Adopting, Praying, Funding, or Supporting. I don’t know for whom it is God’s will to adopt, but I am confident that adoption is not a second best choice and it’s not just for couples coping with infertility. It’s not a last resort and it is certainly not Plan B.

God only works with one plan, and that is His divine plan, established before the foundation of the world. Just as He predestined the birth child’s existence, He also predestined the path of the child by adoption. Perhaps God is calling you to change a precious little one’s life today. What an awesome opportunity you and I have to reach the world for Christ, one home, and one child at a time.

#GoDoBe

If you read this article and felt God was calling you to be His child,
to be adopted into His family, please send us a note at info@communityspiritmagazine.com and we can help connect you to a local church to help you in your next steps as a believer. What an incredible choice!  Welcome to the family of God.


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Biology, the study of the human body. Anthropology, the study of humankind. 

Carson Lowe started Biological Anthropology not thinking much more about what to expect than that he was taking a basic course in college. After all, in this age of where we are to accept anything and everything, you would expect a college course to be fair and balanced. Right?   

“The professor started the first week in a 250 person class in a big auditorium talking about deities, creationism, and about a creator blatantly saying ‘There is no creator.  There is no deity,’” said Carson.  Carson said the professor went on, “He explained there is really just no God that created us. My fraternity brother and I looked at each other like ‘Did he just say that? Did he call us out that way?’”  

“We had never been told that as a ‘fact’ by an authority figure we were supposed to trust. It just threw me,” said Carson. He followed, “They are so quick to say not to offend anyone with genders or whatever the social issue is—and I’m sitting there as a Christian wondering where the balance is. I wanted to stand up on my table and ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ but the professor was kind of a jerk. He was pretty cold. You could tell he wanted an argument. He would spout off information that was just not true and how there just couldn’t be a God as if he were an authority with facts to back up his beliefs.”  

Carson first found himself wondering if the guy had ever seen the Grand Canyon or the ocean. He said, “God is so evident in everything around if you look at the complexity of life, but it was a little rattling to experience that kind of forceful declaration from a professor. Then, he continues that tone for the whole semester.” Carson stayed in the class, but was constantly in awe of the hard-pressed nature of the anti-deity rhetoric he taught. Carson said, “I don’t know exactly how God created what He created, but I do know He did it. So it was something to hear this guy just speaking against it with some kind of authority like he could possibly know.”  

Carson’s foundation with his Christian education at Mingo Valley Christian laid the groundwork to keep him centered during a time of attack. Carson explained his Christian education was spread throughout his tenure, but it was really ramped up with Nate Madden, his Bible teacher. During the college class, Mr. Madden’s lessons came rushing back to him. Carson said, “Mr. Madden taught a theology/world views class his senior year. It was basically about understanding your faith, what it is you are saying, and what it is you believe in. We even had classes in years past with him about what other world religions believe.” Carson felt he had been prepared to face this kind of pressure although he didn’t really realize it at the time it was happening. He said, “Mr. Madden taught us exactly what we needed for moments like this. In the class, it was really getting a hold on what I believe and then understanding what others believe so that I can have that conversation with actual knowledge.” 

Carson believed those years and years of preparation with Mr. Madden made such a difference. Carson said, “Those classes really sparked questions I had thought about before that had gone unanswered until the class. The training inspired me to learn more and to pursue my faith as my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they enabled me to be able to stand on my own two feet when talking about my faith–and in a way that wouldn’t have happened in the church and certainly would not happen in a public school.”  

It was “years and years and years” of doing school with Mr. Madden and the other teachers at Mingo Valley Christian that Carson felt prepared him for what he was facing.  Carson said “Mingo Valley went into deep theology for high school. You wouldn’t believe it. I would come home and have these complex conversations with my parents.  Sometimes, I was even explaining some of it to them just because the theology was advanced stuff.” Carson explained they were really diving into Calvinism for one. Then, his teachers would dive into some of the harder questions about the Christian faith, things he felt they would never get into in church.

Carson continued, “I didn’t realize it while I was there. I really didn’t. I was a bit arrogant in high school and I’m probably still a little bit arrogant. I was just going through that information, but I was retaining it, holding onto it, and then in college I was really clinging to it.” 

So I just analyzed everything I was taking in. It was all just surprising to me. I remember getting out of that class and wanting to give Mr. Madden a call and tell him like “DUDE! You prepped me for today. I fought something off today and I’m happy about it.” 

Carson continued, “When you hear that from an authority figure, you want to just believe it. I’m a trusting person, some might tease I’m a bit gullible, but when someone tells me something I am not very skeptical. I tend to believe what people tell me for the most part.” Then Carson explained, “In my faith, when it comes to people discussing theology and people discussing God, I have learned to keep my guard up in ways I don’t do in other areas of my life. I got that from Mingo Valley Christian, which is a very hard thing to do. Even when I hear a pastor talk about the Gospel, even when I’m sitting in my church, I’m fact checking and making sure ‘Is this guy preaching truth?’ and taking it to the Bible. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but really it’s because it’s my duty to stay true to scripture above all else.”

It’s amazing to me how much my Christian education from Mingo Valley has played a part in me keeping true with the Gospel. It built the groundwork for me basically to be able to run.  

Carson spoke highly of friends in several private Christian schools around Tulsa, confirming how incredibly lucky we are in Tulsa to have so many options. Each one has a different appeal—a different way of being a fit for your child. Large, small, Montessori style or a specific denomination you prefer–we are truly blessed.

To wrap up, I asked Carson what he felt like was his main message to the Christian community. Carson immediately replied passionately.

“Honestly I can say this wholeheartedly, that Mingo Valley Christian, or really just Christian education, as a whole, may have been the single most beneficial thing for my faith that I have had in my life.

That’s a bold statement considering I go to a good church. I’m in a Christian fraternity. I’m doing all these communities that are about the gospel, but none of them prepared me for the Christian faith more than Mingo Valley, or just Christian education has done.

“And, truth be told, I don’t understand if you have the resources to do it—I do not know why you wouldn’t regardless of what school. I think as a Christian parent, if you can, it’s almost foolish not to do it. You should do it.”

Written by R.A. Goodnight

Before His ascension into Heaven Jesus spoke these words to the small group of followers that had gathered with Him, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19,20). In these final words he gave three directives: Make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey his commandments. Especially in today’s times, we should not downplay the importance of the responsibilities Christ put upon as – not as individual Christians nor as the collective Church.  This concept especially holds true for the Christians’ commission to make disciples. Let’s unpack these statements further.

Pew Research statistics indicate that the overall Church is in decline.  The number of the Baby Boomer generation in the church is decreasing due to age.  So much that the population of Gen X has now caught up (and surpassed in some polls) the number of Boomers.  This isn’t due to large growth in the Gen X age range.  It’s simply that some of the Boomer population have graduated on to Heaven.  While growth in the Gen X range is slowing, we are simultaneously seeing a decline in numbers from the newest generation – the Millennials.  

Here is a direct quote from the study: 

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

The study attempted to dig a little deeper to identify why we see decreasing numbers in Millennials.  The highest sighted reason (49%) for a new one to stop pursuing their relationship with Christ was that they no longer believed.  When asked why, many stated it was due to “doubts and questions about The Bible that are going unanswered.”  I pray that the previous statement resonates inside each of us.  How are their questions going unanswered if each of us have a commission to answer their questions in the disciple making process?  Yes, this data helps demonstrate the importance of Christ’s commission to make new disciples. There is an implication that the body of Christ is potentially not as focused on living out the Great Commission. 

AtheistAgnosticNothing In Particular
I question a lot of religious
teaching
77%71%51%
I don’t believe in God89%37%21%
Religion is irrelevant to me63%40%28%
I don’t like the position
churches take on social/
political issues
54%48%47%
I don’t like religious
organizations
49%51%34%
I don’t like religious leaders37%42%31%

This trend has not gone unnoticed by the main stream media either. On September 9th, Fox News did an article sighting the same research study I have above. Recognizing the potential gap, what can each of us do to help bring others to Christ? For this article let’s focus on two ways. The first is to simply get involved. Secondly, we need to be effective teachers.  How can we do this though?

Let’s look at a less-studied disciple maker from the New Testament, Philip.  Philip was so effective he has been known as ‘Philip the Evangelizer.’ In Acts 8:30 we see Philip beginning a conversation with a new believer.  The scriptures tell us, “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.”  As a first step Philip simply takes a personal interest and proactively approaches the man.  This simple approach can be effective for us as well.  Do you remember when you first came to Christ?  It can be hard to ask questions or identify ourselves as new disciples.  It can be more difficult for a new Christian to know what questions they even need to ask.  If we take the initiative and approach them not only could it help the new follower overcome any feelings of anxiety, but it also reinforces that we are invested in their success as a Christian.  It’s important for a new believer to know we care about them personally and are there to help them.  If you care first, it many times opens doors to people’s hearts and minds.  This also emulates God’s attitude toward all of us. (Rom. 5:8)

What does Philip do next?  He asks of the man, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  This individual responds, “How can I…unless someone explains it to me?” (vs. 31). By using an effective question Philip now knows the direction he needs to move the conversation in.  Questions can help us determine what this person might be thinking or how well they are understanding what they are being taught.  It can help us identify concerns or doubts they might have.  Questions are so powerful that Jesus would ask his disciples questions over lecturing as a form of teaching.  Notice some of the questions Jesus used to draw his followers out: 

• Who do the crowds say that I am? (Luke 9:18)

• Who do you say that I am? (Luke 9:20)

• Why are you anxious? (Matt. 6:27,28)

• Do you believe? (Matt.9:28)

• Why did you doubt? (Matt. 14:31)

• What do you want me to do for you? (Matt. 20:32)

• And many, many more

By asking questions Christ could determine their internal motives, level of comprehension, as well as what was on their minds.  Questions are a powerful tool to draw people out and get them involved in the conversation.  Questions and genuine personal interest go hand in hand with being effective in sharing Christ with someone else.

In the story, the Ethiopian basically explains he knows the prophesy, but he didn’t understand it.  Now that Philip understands his audience, he continues to share. “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35). As his third tactic, Philip took it upon himself to help teach this individual the good news about Jesus.  Yes, he personally got involved.  He did not leave it up to the local congregation of believers or the next Christian that the man might encounter.  He started sharing the good news himself.

In today’s culture the importance of teaching about Christ and handing down the information we have been taught has slowly been overlooked.  Part of your being a disciple is your personal participation in the making of new disciples.  Disciple making is an effort that each of us should be playing a part in.  The responsibility of individuals in the disciple making process is further highlighted in the scriptures.  The writer of the letters to the Corinthians states, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…For we are co-workers in God’s service.” (1 Cor. 3:6, 9). The scriptures effectively point out that individuals are employed by God to go and make disciples.  And in this case two of them working together made an effective disciple making team.  Because of their attention to this important assignment the scripture tells us that their efforts were blessed as God made the seeds they planted in others grow.  

Once these spiritual seeds have grown and the new follower accepts Christ our work needs to continue.  New followers need help to develop into mature Christians.  They need someone to explain The Bible, as the Ethiopian stated to Philip.  Many of us grew up in the church and the lessons make sense because we’ve been taught them from an early age.  For a new believer, it’s not as easy to wrap your mind around many truths contained in scripture.  For example, why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?  What is a ransom and why did Christ have to die for our sins?  A critical part in the spiritual maturing process is to understand why we believe what we believe and how to (eventually) teach this to others.   

Let’s reflect on Christ’s example again and see how he developed his new followers.  We know he made disciples as he chose the Twelve.  The scriptures specifically mention 72 others he developed into followers as well (Luke 10:1, 2). Beyond this it is reasonable to believe that more became His disciples than only the 84 just mentioned.  But what did Jesus do with these once they became his disciples?  He furthered their training and then sent them forth to make more disciples themselves (Mark 6:7). In order for them to go and make disciples, they had to be well taught. They had to be capable of defending their faith and sharing it with others.  Yes, Christ did not just make disciples.  He made well trained disciple makers.  Had He not trained them on how to go, to share, to teach – the first century Christian church might not have seen the rapid expansion that it experienced.  What if Peter had been unable to speak to the crowd at Pentecost?  Because of the training he received as a disciple the scriptures tell us “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts. 2:14-40).

Each of us likely enjoy that moment in Church when we see the hands go up of people accepting Christ.  But what happens to them after that moment is over, after they walk out the door that Sunday and back into their lives?  Are we helping them, developing them into the fullness of Christ?  The success of a new follower of Christ depends upon a teaching regimen focused on the new believer.  It helps them become firm in the foundations of Christ.  We must take an active interest in these individuals we celebrate so happily the day they raise their hands.  As Philip and Christ did, we must welcome them and get them paired with a mature Christian or into a small study group of believers.  This method is the best way to help ensure that their questions and concerns are being answered.  Additionally, by pairing them with established disciples they can be shown how to do personal study as well as the importance of prayer.  All of this will help encourage and strengthen them as they progress toward the next step of baptism.  Some of us have been Christians so long we have long forgotten the complexity of this seemingly simple path.

We are at a point in history where we established believers need to take personal responsibility in explaining to new followers what it means to be a Christian.  We need to show them from scripture why we believe and why it’s true.  Faith may be the confidence in realties unseen, but this does not mean that faith is blind (Heb. 11:1). How did Christ help build people’s faith?  He pointed people to The Bible, showing them from scripture why they should believe.  In many of his answers he would say “for it is written” or “have you not read”.  By effectively using scripture we can provide new believers with forensic reasons to have faith in what they are being taught (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Each of us can play a part in providing them with satisfying answers to relive any doubt.  Remember this, if we do not answer new believers questions the world will try to fill them with their ‘answers’.

All of us, individuals and as Churches, have a place in the disciple making process. Christ told his followers that the harvest was plentiful, but the workers are few (Matt.9:37). How true this is.  Today more than ever we need workers in God’s harvest field helping bring disciples to Christ.  What a privilege to be living at this time when there are so many to still come to Christ!  Get involved! Come be a fellow disciple maker alongside Christ.  It is an important part of your personal growth as well as the growth of those we teach.

References: Pew Research Center Poll 

Fox News https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/young-christians-are-leaving-the-church-heres-why


Core: Back to the Basics.

Back to the basics. We all know it’s where we should start when things seem kind of crazy or we seem kind of lost. So, to kick off the year, we’re going to do a series on the basics of what we believe as Christians. The hope is to strengthen you to Go. Do. Be. 

No one we know will get into heaven just
by being nice.

SIN AND GRACE

Why are sin and grace important? We all talk about each but we tend to speak about both lightly. Sometimes I wish we could use other words to spark our hearts as we have grown a little callous to the brilliant basics of our faith. In Romans, Paul takes us through our foundation with two main items we need to be crystal clear on for starting at ground zero. 

“for ALL have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God”

Romans 3:23.

ALL HAVE SINNED, ALL CAN RECEIVE GRACE 

As individuals, in order to understand our need for Christ, we must recognize who we truly are. Truly, who all of us are is the real bottom of the stack. The Bible is painfully clear, “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Regardless of how many times we say it, the verse simply doesn’t resonate with some.

NONE of us deserve to go to heaven. There is no shortcut here. If you are alive, you have sinned. Somehow. Regardless of how—without Jesus Christ, you will not see heaven when you die. There’s no “Oh, he was a good person. He didn’t follow Jesus, but I’m sure he’s in a better place.” The Bible is very clear.  For many, we want to believe something better than reality, because it troubles us to think God would punish people so harshly.  Funny enough, we all want justice when someone wrongs us, but for some reason, we do not seem to think God deserves that same justice.  

Without Christ, we are all destined for an eternity apart from God, apart from all things good, apart from love, apart from happiness. All things. The Bible calls this place hell. It’s tough to read. We don’t like to believe it. We think for some reason that our God is so kind that He just wouldn’t let this happen. However, it’s critically important to understanding the whole basis of the Christian faith. We all deserve separation from God. No one we know will be get into heaven just by being nice. The only ticket through those pearly gates is salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s not up for debate across the Christian denominations. “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6.

Let’s break it down further in a quick history synopsis. God made Adam and Eve without sin. He only forbade one thing…the thing they decided to do. As such, sin was born into the world and every human being was born into sin, as we originated from Adam. Through one man sin was born and passed to every generation. Your nice neighbor, your everyday criminal—all born into the same status–sinful.  The degrees of separation from God are not set on how far apart you are from Him.  Regardless of the distance, it’s one solution for all.  The consequences of the sins might play out differently in our lives, but our status is either FORGIVEN or NOT FORGIVEN. 

Fast forward. Jesus dies on the cross. A sinless man, born of the Holy Spirit and MARY, sacrificed himself for us and was raised again to life. This sacrifice paid the price for the sin that started with Adam. Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day.  He was the sacrifice.  We, as Christians, have accepted that payment. Freely given. Freely received. As such, we are now born a second time through Jesus Christ. Thus, the term “born again.” 

If someone does not accept Christ that person will not be entering into any kind of heaven. (and no, there aren’t multiple heavens. Just one.). They have only been born once—into sin. Being born again is incredibly critical once you understand where sin started in the human race. Sadly, if we are born, we cannot avoid being a sinner. If we don’t accept Christ as our savior, our punishment and the justice served is to spend eternity separated from God (Hell). 

Once you understand the destination set at birth for everyone (as we all know we have sinned at least once in line with our sinful ancestry), then it really evokes two big thoughts:

How do I avoid this punishment and how do I tell others? 

ENTER GRACE

When we truly understand our status without Jesus, that’s where grace rings truest. It’s a gift we are offered that we do not deserve.  This is where we see God’s issuance of judgment with the gift of the payment. 

It’s justice wrapped in complete love. 

Grace is also where we see God’s amazing love for us. “For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  

The Bible makes grace very clear—it’s not something you earn, but it is a gift from God.  It’s not about how many little old ladies you have walked across the street. It’s not about how many you haven’t (although we can talk about how faith generates action later this year!).  It’s simply about accepting what God has done for you.  You were a sinner.  You deserved punishment.  Hell.  Jesus died on the cross. He was raised on the third day.  He paid a debt only He was fit to pay for us. Part one–we all deserve to be punished. Part two–the grace God extends to us is He provided the payment for that sin. Both just AND loving.  

For the record, that’s exactly why we’re called to GO. (Matthew 28:19). If we understand who we are (sinners) and we understand we deserve Hell (justice for sin),  then our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude for the grace God showed us by sending Jesus to pay the price for us.  This position of a grace saved grateful Christian paired with our love for our family and friends should motivate us to share with them the same AMAZING grace we have already received. I’m baffled at how lulled into sleep we can be when it comes to sharing Christ with others. Once we realize where we were, what we deserved, and where we were headed before someone shared Christ with us—how do we look anyone in the eye without wanting to help set them free as well? 

So returning to this CORE belief of sin and grace is where we start. We simply need reminded of where we were before Jesus and his AMAZING GRACE that made us right with God.  I would challenge you to spend some time in prayer and reflection with God on these really heavy concepts.  They are paramount to living a life worthy of our Lord and Savior. They could also be the foundation you need to build an incredible ministry in your life for Christ. If you know what you deserved… if you know what He did for you… how can you NOT share it with others? If by chance you are reading this article and you find yourself KNOWING you are sinful and wanting to accept God’s grace, I simply invite you to pray this prayer:  God, I am sitting here understanding who I am and what I deserve. I’m in awe of your grace through your son Jesus Christ. You sent Him to die on the cross for my sinful self. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and I accept the gift of salvation from you through Jesus. It’s in your son Jesus’  holy name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, we welcome you to head to our website for information on what to do next to start following Jesus. Being forgiven is step one. Getting involved in a church/Bible Study is really step 2.
Email us at whatsnext@communityspiritmagazine.com