Q&A Continued from 'The One Movement' Launch Event Nov. 3-4, 2017

So now that The One Movement Launch Conference is over, the question is, “How do we take this message of unity back into our churches?” 

 For some of us the passion for unity has been life-long and definitely part of who we are and why we are.  For others of us a fresh fire has been lit; we have been awakened to the deep passion that our Savior has for oneness in His Body and that He prayed so fervently (as recorded in John 17:20-23) would be the hallmark of those who would follow Him.

 I have a dear friend, Helena Barrington, who once wrote a very prophetic song entitled, “In our Time.”  The lyrics of the chorus are very profound to me: 

         “Every generation, demands a demonstration

         Of the church of Jesus Christ, relevant to its time.

         We are determined to be that demonstration

         In our time, yes in our time.”

The question then becomes, ‘What should the church look like?’  We need to see with Jesus’ eyes.  Jesus sees a church that demonstrates His love toward God, toward ourselves, toward our friends, toward our neighbors, toward both ‘the lovely’ and ‘the unlovely’.  He even expects us to demonstrate His love toward our enemies!  The bottom line is that Jesus makes it clear that the Father places a high, high value on relationships, and He expects us to as well.  This doesn’t mean that everyone is supposed to be ‘lovey-dovey’ all the time, but that even when relationships are broken, we are called to do all we can to repair the breakage. (Matthew 18) He says that there is ‘no greater love than for one to lay down his life for a friend’.  Jesus sees a powerful Church: one that is outside its walls winning souls; casting out demons; having signs and wonders accompany believers, looking like the early church did in the book of Acts; a church standing for the righteousness of God no matter the cost, with the Kingdom of God as its priority. 

In answer to the question of what do we do to take the message of racial unity back into our churches, I want to say that I do not believe that every church service or every church must absolutely become multi-ethnic.  That is not the point.  The point is that we must become “Kingdom-minded.”  The Kingdom of God involves ALL people.  Jesus came to earth to pay the penalty for sin for ALL people.  Every person that exists is created in the image of God.  Diversity is God’s design, not ours.  There is something of His glory reflected in every part of His design, and when we reject another on the basis of their outward appearance, their social, financial status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, education level, or any other temporal status, we forfeit a portion of God’s glory. Our homes, our lives, our churches, and our hearts must be for ALL people if we are after the heart of God.  That would make our heart one heart with His!

When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, His priorities were evident for us. His prayer began and ended with the Kingdom in mind, knowing our Father is the King!  Think of His disciples; they were a pretty diverse group.  There were fishermen, a tax collector, a revolutionary, and a betrayer. Jesus gathered a seemingly random group of ordinary men with not much in common. They didn’t even know how to pray. They weren’t all even saved.   What we do learn in John 17 is that the Father gave Him those guys and Jesus accepted them, although many if not all of the church ‘leaders’ of the day would have rejected them.   

The first thing that must happen for unity in the Body to occur is simple: Begin by praying.  Unless we begin with prayer, I believe our efforts at best will be artificial and short-lived. Jesus left His comfort zone with the Father’s vision in mind, purposing only to do the Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Pray that you too will be willing, no matter the cost, to do the Father’s will.

 Pray with the Lord’s vision in mind. His vision was, “That they may be one...” Ask the Father to give you His heart.  Ask Him what your part is in His plan. (James 1:5).   Search the Scriptures.  Some passages that might be helpful include: Genesis 1:26, 27; Genesis 11:1; 2 Chronicles 5:11–14; Psalm 133; John 1:1; John 4; John 17:24.  Look at the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  What happens when the people are one? God blessed those who were in the vicinity with major revival.  Read the 2nd chapter of Acts and look again at all the nations represented on that day as having heard the gospel in their own languages.  3000 souls were saved AND the church was increased daily! That’s major revival!

 Recognizing that you do have a choice to accept or reject God’s heart and His desire for unity (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5), examine your own heart to determine whether you are truly open to change.  Are you willing to go and visit a church where the majority-- if not the total congregation-- is of another culture?  Do you have friends, prayer partners, or neighbors who don’t look like you?  Did you meet and exchange contact information with someone at The One Movement event that you could follow up with to get to know better? Are you willing to make the investment of time, effort, and energy to go to future events that ‘The One Movement’ and other organizations host that will be designed to build relationships with others who may be of an ethnicity that is not your own?

 Ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you any areas where your heart doesn’t match His heart on this matter.  (Ps. 139:23-24) Jesus had no problems relating to people of other cultures.  He hung with whomever the Father sent him to be with, regardless of what others had to say about Him.  The religious leaders in Christ’s time were so arrogant that they eliminated anyone from their presence who was not a disease-free, ‘sin-free’, verifiable Hebrew male.  They criticized anyone who violated their standard, even Jesus, accusing Him constantly. They looked down upon women, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans, lepers, the poor, and any others they deemed less worthy than they were.  In sharp contrast-- and against the ‘rules’ of the religious leaders--Jesus cleansed a leper, talked with a Samaritan woman, defended a prostitute, ate with tax collectors, and hung out with the poor, lowly and ‘undesirables’.  Consider your circle of friends outside of the church, perhaps those on your Facebook page.  Are all of them of the same ethnicity as you as far as you know?  Do you want to make ‘room’ in your life for more diversity and are you willing to possibly be ‘inconvenienced’ to do so? Are you equipped to share the message of diversity with some of your friends who may not quite ‘get it’ yet?

 Set up a time to talk with your pastor to understand his or her perspective on the matter of cultural unity and diversity.  Is he or she open and willing to lead the way by extending a vision for cultural diversity and unity in the Christian church beyond the walls of religion and church tradition through a series of messages, followed by some action on the part of your congregation?  Are people of other hues welcome in your services?  Would a guest minister of a darker or whiter hue, or a woman be allowed to speak to your congregation?  You need to know if your church is ready to embrace God’s plan for unity. 

GRACISM task force

 

 Unfortunately not everyone is ready for the unity the Lord longs to see. It so happens that a local pastor recently shared with me that one Sunday he was off and decided to visit a church within walking distance from his home.  When he walked into the church, heads turned and he got negative stares. Later a neighbor who was appalled at the behavior of her congregation shared with the pastor that some had asked the question, “What was he doing here?”  What would anyone be doing in a church on a Sunday morning?  The title alone of an article I recently posted on the GRACISM Task Force Facebook page is unfortunately indicative of some churches even today: “After I Adopted 2 Black Babies, I Realized My Church Was Full of Racists.”

 If it seems there are racists in our midsts, it means there is an opportunity for spiritual growth if we will pursue God’s agenda for love and unity in His church. Many people simply don’t know how to work through the issues that seemingly divide us. This is the task of the GRACISM Task Force that I initiated. We want to go into churches and hold workshops with small groups to help them process the conflicts in order to foster unity. We know this is God’s will, and know that Jesus is on our side as we pursue oneness in His Body. Jesus not only prayed for oneness among His followers before He went to the cross, as recorded in John 17, but He still lives to intercede and prays for unity among us. (Hebrews 7:25) If anyone can get through to the Father, it is the Son.   Dr. Tony Evans preached a message I heard on spiritual warfare in which he stated that the enemy of our souls knows the importance of unity and he is united against the Church of God.  He further stated that we’ve got to recognize that God will command His blessing when we abandon worshipping our ‘own ways’ and worship Him alone. We are to join with God in praying for and actively pursuing the oneness He desires in His Body for a unified Church is God’s goal, and when we become one through Him we will be the most powerful force on earth.  I believe we’ve begun to sow seeds of unity through ‘The One Movement’, through ‘Amen to Action’, and through other movements; now we must cultivate the soil so that the power of God can come rushing in and bring the revival that we and Jesus long to see. 

 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26, 28

 Toni Turner, MA, NCC

Toni grew up in a multi ethnic environment. Her neighborhood was multi- ethnic. Her elementary and high schools were in an international setting. As an undergrad she even attended a historical Black College, which was multi-ethnic, with students and faculty. Her only uni-ethnic experience outside of her immediate family of origin was in the denominational church in which she grew up. Toni writes: “In the Bible, I see a vision of the Lord which includes every tribe,nation and tongue. Jesus prayed and continues to pray for our unity. Racism and division should not be named within the true Body of Christ. I choose to align and intentionally work toward that vision — ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’, so that the power of God will shine through His children.”

Toni grew up in a multi ethnic environment. Her neighborhood was multi- ethnic. Her elementary and high schools were in an international setting. As an undergrad she even attended a historical Black College, which was multi-ethnic, with students and faculty. Her only uni-ethnic experience outside of her immediate family of origin was in the denominational church in which she grew up. Toni writes: “In the Bible, I see a vision of the Lord which includes every tribe,nation and tongue. Jesus prayed and continues to pray for our unity. Racism and division should not be named within the true Body of Christ. I choose to align and intentionally work toward that vision — ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’, so that the power of God will shine through His children.”

Toni grew up in a multi ethnic environment. Her neighborhood was multi- ethnic. Her elementary and high schools were in an international setting. As an undergrad she even attended a historical Black College, which was multi-ethnic, with students and faculty. Her only uni-ethnic experience outside of her immediate family of origin was in the denominational church in which she grew up. Toni writes: “In the Bible, I see a vision of the Lord which includes every tribe,nation and tongue. Jesus prayed and continues to pray for our unity. Racism and division should not be named within the true Body of Christ. I choose to align and intentionally work toward that vision — ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’, so that the power of God will shine through His children.”

Christmas: Illuminating the Need for a Solid Foundation

Christmas is my favorite time of the year-- as I’m sure is true with many of you. I love the music, the lights, the decorations, the special foods, all of the traditions, and most of all gathering with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord! One of our family’s favorite traditions for the pat 24 years has been putting up our 14-foot artificial Christmas tree on which we string over 3500 lights and hang up almost1000 ornaments.  This year, however, our tradition almost came to a halt.

 My husband Craig went to our Christmas closet where we store all of our many Christmas decorations. He had brought out the garland that I hang on our stairway, our numerous snowmen, countless angels, the village that goes on our mantel, and a plethora of nativities. He had brought up the first of two boxes of branches that we individually fluff each year and place into the main stem that goes into our Christmas tree stand. We started getting ready for the major ordeal of our tree decorating—a process which takes around 12-15 hours-- and begins with my fluffing each branch, involves his inserting the branches into the tree stem and then stringing lights on each individual branch, and then comes my favorite part-- hanging up of the ornaments. Each ornament holds a special meaning to me as they represent a friendship, a special family vacation or memory, or a past Christmas. As I hang each ornament—which come in an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and conditions, fragile ‘costly’ ones as well as treasured homemade ones from our four children, I am reminded that just as each ornament holds a special and unique place in my heart, every person God has created is uniquely made in His image and is precious to Him, regardless of their shape, size, color, or perceived worth to others.

I was getting ready to start fluffing branches and was anticipating the end result of our tree decorating when I looked around our family room and noticed that the tree stand that gets bolted into the two I-beams which altogether form the vital foundational support to the tree was missing. My husband and I both knew we couldn’t do anything else without the tree stand since the stem of the tree must first go into the stand before any of the branches can be inserted. Without branches, there could be no lights or ornaments. Everything else we had out was virtually useless without the tree stand as its solid foundation.

Our unique and heavy-duty tree stand

Our unique and heavy-duty tree stand

My husband immediately went back to search again in the closet, as well as every other possible place—and even seemingly impossible places that it could be because we knew we could not  'build' our tree without the stand. However, his search was unproductive. We were both befuddled because we always put everything in the same spot—the storage closet-- and everything else we needed for the tree and our Christmas decorations was there except the crucially important stand.  Then my husband remembered that because of flooding in our basement last Christmas, we had to have everything in our basement moved out and put into a storage facility while the necessary reconstruction occurred. So he called the company that had moved everything out and stored our belongings. The head of the company said he didn’t hold out much hope but he would look for it and call us by day’s end. We didn’t hear back from him that day, and as the planner in the family I began considering our options.

Since our tree is very unique: very large, extremely heavy, and ‘old-fashioned’ in that individual branches are inserted into the stem, I knew it would be a challenge-- if not impossible-- to find another stand for it. I looked on Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and several other websites and saw nothing that even came close to the dimensions and weight of our stand. My husband reached out to where we had purchased it but they said they didn’t have any more trees like ours and hadn’t for many years. Trees I saw that appeared to be of the same quality as ours would cost over $2500—something we definitely didn’t have the money or desire to spend.  I must admit that I was somewhat distraught thinking that this family tradition of ours was looking like it was coming to an end, particularly because our missionary daughter who is particularly enamored with traditions had just informed us that she was unexpectedly going to be able to come home for Christmas. I wanted this to be such a special Christmas for her, as we have no way of knowing the next time she’ll be home for the holidays.

 Knowing we were without the foundational support for the tree and that nothing could be done without it, I said a prayer and asked the Lord to reveal to us where the stand could be or to miraculously give us an idea for a substitute stand.

Shortly thereafter my husband received a call from the man at the storage company who said that much to his surprise they had found our one-of-a kind tree stand! We were overjoyed! Our prayers were answered! Once he brought it to us, we began the process of our traditional tree erecting and decorating.

Out of this ‘almost loss’, came several great blessings:

·      God reaffirmed my belief that He cares about that which concerns us, whether a ‘big’ or ‘small’ prayer concern; He is always faithful to hear the cries of His children!

·      The Lord brought to my remembrance the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or ‘prodigal’ son found in Luke 15. My husband and I were overjoyed that what was priceless to us and had been lost was now found, and I knew that the man who had our stand was also overjoyed to be a part of making us joyful that our Christmas tradition would continue. I was convicted to be more fervent in sharing the gospel with others, knowing that our joy in the return of our tree stand pales in comparison to the joy Jesus and all of heaven experiences when a lost soul discovers the truth of God’s great love and realizes that all of their ‘wellsprings’ are found in Him!

·      I realized that just as our unique tree stand is the foundation piece to our tree and without it the branches, tree lights, and ornaments are truly meaningless, Jesus is the foundation of my life and without Him I am and can do nothing (John 15:5); my life is meaningless and built on sinking sand without Him as my foundational Rock. (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 7:24-27)

·      As I pondered the reality of Jesus as the foundation of my life, the Lord brought to my remembrance the Ephesians passage below, as well as the wonderful hymn ‘The Church’ that I remembered singing so often in the church of my childhood. Both the scripture and song reminded me that just as the individual branches on my tree are joined together by the same stem and same foundation to make my Christmas tree a thing of beauty, we as His church are all joined together ‘as one’, built upon Jesus as our foundation, a ‘holy temple in the Lord’, beautiful to Him. While we are in the process of ‘building’ our Christmas tree, an onlooker could see it and think we are foolish to think it will every amount to anything beautiful, but my husband and I know what the finished product will look like so we persevere till the last branch is added and the tree is ready, completely finished. Similarly, many may look as the hymn states with ‘scornful wonder’ at the Church that is ‘sore oppressed’,  ‘by schisms rent asunder’, and ‘by heresies distressed’ and wonder how the Church can ever prevail, but Jesus is not discouraged because as the Alpha and Omega Who knows the ‘beginning and the end’, He knows that His Church is ‘altogether lovely’ (Song of Songs 4:7) and will be His radiant ‘Bride’ when the Father says He is ready for Him to return to take us home ‘on high’. What hope, courage, and peace we can have knowing one day as His beautiful, completed Bride we will rule and reign with Him ‘forever and ever’! So this Christmas, we can rejoice knowing that our sure foundation is Jesus and His Kingdom—and therefore ours as His ‘branches’ and His Bride-- shall ‘stand’ secure, and unlike even the best of Christmas traditions, will have no end!

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  Ephesians 2:19-21 ESV

The tree in the process of being completed; 

The tree in the process of being completed; 

The finished tree!

The finished tree!

                                             The Church

                                           The church's one Foundation
                                           is Jesus Christ her Lord;
                                           she is His new creation,
                                           by water and the Word;
                                           from heav'n He came and sought her
                                           to be His holy bride;
                                           with His own blood He bought her,
                                           and for her life He died.

                                           Elect from ev'ry nation,
                                           yet one o'er all the earth,
                                           her charter of salvation,
                                           one Lord, one faith, one birth;
                                           one holy Name she blesses,
                                           partakes one holy food,
                                           and to one hope she presses,
                                           with ev'ry grace endued.

                                          Tho' with a scornful wonder,
                                          men see her sore oppressed,
                                          by schisms rent asunder,
                                          by heresies distressed,
                                          yet saints their watch are keeping,
                                          their cry goes up, "How long?"
                                          And soon the night of weeping
                                          shall be the morn of song.

                                           The church shall never perish!
                                           Her dear Lord, to defend,
                                           to guide, sustain, and cherish,
                                           is with her to the end;
                                           tho' there be those that hate her
                                           and false sons in her pale,
                                           against the foe or traitor
                                           she ever shall prevail.

                                           'Mid toil and tribulation,
                                            and tumult of her war,
                                            she waits the consummation
                                            of peace for evermore;
                                            till with the vision glorious
                                            her longing eyes are blest,
                                            and the great church victorious
                                            shall be the church at rest.

                                           Yet she on earth hath union
                                           with God the Three in One,
                                           and mystic sweet communion
                                           with those whose rest is won.
                                           O happy ones and holy!
                                           Lord, give us grace that we,
                                           like them, the meek and lowly,
                                           on high may dwell with Thee.

                           Lyrics by Samuel John Stone, who lived from 1839-1900

Blog Written by Julie Van Gorp

Q&A Continued from 'The One Movement' Launch Event in Pittsburgh, PA - Nov. 2017

Question from an attendee of the Nov. 2017 'The One Movement Launch Event':

"For the family that relocated to the city - have you ever experienced prejudice from your own race?  If so, what types of things have been said?"

Answer from one of the panelist, Julie McCabe (bio below):

"Since terms such as prejudice and race can be highly subjective, allow me to define my understanding of these concepts before I answer.  Prejudice is defined as a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience,” while race is “a group of people with a common physical feature or features.”  In light of this, it is a common reality to regularly encounter prejudicial comments when choosing to live in an environment where one looks different than the majority culture.  And these “opinions without experience” have come from many people regardless of their race.

Since the question addressed “my own race,” I will answer that specifically here.  Most comments that I deal with are founded on hearsay.  We live in a neighborhood that is featured on the news for it’s high crime rate, so our safety is often questioned.  With seemingly good intentions, people will ask, “should you really be putting your children at such risk?”  We have also encountered friends who refused to visit us or allow their children to play here with our children due to their fear of our neighborhood … although to my knowledge they have spent no time here.  Other people conjecture that living in low-income, high-crime communities is a poor use of personal resources.  People have said, “But you’re on the wrong side of the tracks” or “I love you guys but you’re crazy.”

These comments are simply opinions based on limited perspectives.  Without the experience of living in such a different environment, one can only believe what they have been told.  There is no authentic foundation from which to draw a more educated understanding of truth."

Answered by: Julie McCabe

Julie McCabe, alongside her husband Bryan and their two daughters, relocated into the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2009 after working in and with the community through a local school mentoring program since 2006. Since this transition, she has studied urban ministry in cross cultural contexts with at risk populations while living it out on a daily basis. “Fun and flexible” is their family motto. “Without relational investment, intentional investigation and authentic reflection, I might never have realized that my heart needed transformation regarding racial reconciliation and unity. I was oblivious until my vantage point changed ...”

Julie McCabe, alongside her husband Bryan and their two daughters, relocated into the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2009 after working in and with the community through a local school mentoring program since 2006. Since this transition, she has studied urban ministry in cross cultural contexts with at risk populations while living it out on a daily basis. “Fun and flexible” is their family motto. “Without relational investment, intentional investigation and authentic reflection, I might never have realized that my heart needed transformation regarding racial reconciliation and unity. I was oblivious until my vantage point changed ...”

How Do We Thank God?

Happy Thanksgiving!  We are so thankful for you and pray that this Thanksgiving is a sweet time of sharing and making memories with loved ones.  

At Thanksgiving dinner our family will share 3 things that we are thankful for as a way to hear the hearts of our family members.  As I was reading the Bible this week I came across these verses in Hebrews below and it was something I realized that I have never thanked God for: a kingdom that cannot be shaken!    

Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Bold added for emphasis).

How do we thank God?

 

 

Offer to God acceptable worship with reverence & awe - This type of worship takes into account God’s holiness and his position as a judge to whom alone worship is due. (ESV study Bible) 

When we live in a way that pleases God we are worshipping Him with our lives.  Below you can see the verses that follow the passages above which list ways in which we may make an ‘offering’  or sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

Sacrifices Pleasing to God - Hebrews 13:1-9 ESV

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;

I will not fear;

what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.”

The world systems and sinful mankind can only provide that which is irregular, trembles, can easily fall, brings confusion and the mixing of logic and all kinds of ‘truth’; making nations; economies; families; and our entire lives unsteady.  It is in Jesus alone that we find our rock, the solid ground, the firm foundation , the One who is truth and testifies to the truth; the One who never changes, and it is in His name that we pray and we thank Him today for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for an everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

12 Ideas To Foster Unity in the Body of Christ

As I was putting my bags of groceries into the trunk of my car on Monday my cart started to roll away when a middle-aged African American woman stopped it for me. My smile was automatic as I thanked her for her caring act. She said to me, ‘We need some kindness in this dark world.’ I responded, ‘Yes, we sure do, and I so appreciate you helping me! Do you happen to know Jesus?’ ‘Yes!’ she replied with a big smile. That was the start of a sweet conversation my newly discovered ‘sister’ Pam and I had about the need for us to show Christ-like love to one another to make the world a better place and to point people to Jesus, the Source of our light. We both left that parking lot full of joy knowing that we were one in the Lord!

What is it going to take to bring about the unity in the Body of Christ that the Lord longs for, and that will be such a blessing to us who are His? There are some ‘big’ things we may need and wish to do, but I believe there are many ‘small’ things we can do that will make a big difference too. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it will provide some ideas for you as a starting point.

To bring about unity in the Body of Christ will require agape love, and love necessarily involves sacrifice. It likely will require you getting out of your comfort zone; speaking up when you might prefer to remain silent; perhaps traveling to a different part of the city than you ordinarily frequent; giving of time in what I am sure is an already full schedule. But we have been called by God to live in unity so that the world will know Him and His love for them; we can be assured that whatever the cost to us, the rewards will be more than worth it!

1. Pray! Pray that you will have the Lord’s eyes to see people, His ears to hear them, His heart of love to respond to them, and the courage and boldness to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and ‘die to your will’ and be consumed by doing the will of your Father in Heaven. Pray that you will be clothed in humility and prefer others over yourself; that all prejudice and pride will be rooted out of you; that you will have an ‘unoffendable’ heart; that you will forgive others and not allow a root of bitterness and resentment to arise in your heart when others misunderstand or treat you in a way that does not reflect the love of God for you. Pray for the Body of Christ to come into unity and ‘be one as Jesus and the Father are one’ and to open you eyes to opportunities where you can foster that unity.

2. Confront--in a spirit of love--acquaintances, friends, or family if they tell off-color, discriminatory ‘jokes’ or make derogatory comments about an ethnic group, people of another denomination, or say or do anything else that might divide the Body of Christ, breed animosity, or in any way harm the people that God loves, whom He has created, and whom He died to save!

3. Refrain from using ‘us’ and ‘them’ statements that stereotype and polarize people from different ethnic groups, cultures, and denominations. Be careful when you listen to the media that you do not make judgments about people groups; lift people up in prayer rather than labeling or criticizing those with whom you may disagree on issues. Remember, only God has the corner on truth! Seek to listen and understand those whose lifestyles and worldviews may be different from yours. Keep in mind you have FAR more in common with other people than you do differences! Look for ways to celebrate all that God’s people have in common—and also celebrate the differences that make us all wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of our Father in Heaven.

4. Stand up for righteousness and come alongside those people who experience discriminatory or unfair treatment, even if it costs you. For example, if a youth in your child’s school or on their sports team or a co-worker is called a racial slur and you are aware of it, go to the proper authority and make it clear that you consider such behavior and name-calling unacceptable and intolerable.

5. Smile at all people, and especially at people of a different ethnicity or culture from yours so they will sense the love of Christ in the warmth of your response to them. Look for ways to connect with them--such as with a sincere compliment or in other ways to assist or affirm them—so that you can brighten their day and extend to them the grace and love of God. You may receive the kind of blessing I did when I met my sister in Christ Pam who stopped my roll-away cart in the parking lot, or perhaps you will have the blessing of sharing the love of Jesus with someone who doesn’t yet know Him.

6. Seek out opportunities to get to know and better understand someone of a different ethnic group than yours. Invite a co-worker, a neighbor, a member of your church or bible study, someone from your gym, a family from your child’s sports team, etc. who is of a different ethnic group than you over for coffee, dinner, or other social occasion so you can dialog with them for the purpose of gaining increased understanding of one another and to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.

13-people-at-table-orig.jpg

7.  Host a home-based Bible study that intentionally includes women from other ethnicities and church denominations. Or start a service project with people from diverse backgrounds where you can interact and get to know one another while you serve other community residents together, perhaps a service project like Habitat for Humanity.

8. Attend community and religious events where you know there will be diversity of ethnicities and denominations. Look for opportunities there to fellowship with others who may not look, act, or think like you.

9. Invite international students (perhaps ones who attend a local university/college) to your home to get to know them and to build a relationship with them so that you can share the love of Christ with them. Take in an international student for a semester or a year to expand yours and your families’ understanding of people from other cultures.

10. Volunteer with a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters; the Fresh Air Fund or the Pittsburgh Project in Pittsburgh; the Dream Center in Atlanta or the Atlanta Youth Project or Atlanta Youth Adademy; or a similar community service organization in your city that mentors under-resourced youth and adults. Volunteer with a summer camp program—like Pine Valley Camp in Pittsburgh—that has as diverse group of attendees.

11. Volunteer to serve and feed the homeless and hungry. If you live in Pittsburgh you may wish to participate in the city-wide 'Amen to Action' event being held Friday, November 24 from 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence convention center where they need 2500 volunteers to pack one million ‘Meals of Hope’. In Atlanta, there are numerous opportunities to minister as well, including The Atlanta Mission and 7 Bridges to Recovery. Wherever you live, I am sure there are established ministries where you could volunteer and be a blessing to others in need. 

12.  Read books and watch programs/movies to help you better understand others’ cultures/situations. Suggested reading on the subject that may challenge as well as inform you include: One Race One Blood by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware; What God Says about Race by Donald O. Clay Jr.; Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil; Same Kind of Different as Me (a book and a recently released movie) and What Difference Do It Make? both by Ron Hall and Denver Moore; Race Matters by Cornel West; Gracism by David A. Anderson; Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith; Uncle Sam’s Plantation by Star Parker.

We are interested in hearing your suggestions as well, so please feel free  go to True View Ministries’ Facebook page and under The One Movement Event give us your suggestions. Praying all of us will be committed to being about our Heavenly Father’s ‘business’ and seek to be one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

 

 

 

Those Uncomfortable Talks: Moving Past the Pause By Anne Kerr of TrueNorth Freedom Project

Talking about sexual things is uncomfortable. I know. As a child, I looked at the porn I found, yet couldn’t tell anyone. In college, I fit the description of a “good” Christian yet crossed many boundaries sexually. My closest friends had no idea, and I carried a lot of shame. As my own kids grew, we had a few talks about sex. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t enough.

Most parents aren’t comfortable talking about sexuality. They pause, and in the silence, the sexualized culture rushes in. 

 Sexuality is God-given and one of the most common aspects of our being! Everyone is sexual. This isn’t the same as saying everyone’s ready for sex. At a deep level, even molecularly, we are all sexual beings from birth, male or female. A boy has a penis and experiences erections, a girl has a vagina and can feel arousal, but do we ever talk about that?

We discuss other body issues like skin and eyes and keeping them healthy. We teach kids to bathe. But when it comes to private parts and related issues, we Pause. It can feel uncomfortable. We learned to be reserved.

Many realize the importance of early and regular talks about bodies and sex. We all encountered something sexual early on without having a framework for it. Maybe you saw a more developed peer or a friend showed you porn. Maybe it was more harmful like inappropriate touch or exposure. Perhaps a sexualized scene in a book or a magazine ad felt arousing. In an instant, your light, innocent heart became heavy with shame, and sexuality became taboo.

Now you have little ones, and you want to lead them. But you pause, hearing excuses; “I have no idea what to say.” “I’m no expert on all this.” “I don’t want to make them curious about something they might be too young for.”

Did your first sexual encounter catch you off guard? Your loved ones will have similar experiences.

Did you make mistakes sexually? Most of us did, and your kids will.

Did you have someone to talk with about sexuality? Most of us didn’t, but your loved ones can.

Will it be easy to become a safe place for your loved ones? Maybe not, but it will be worth it, and God is on your side.

We have an enemy working to derail us in our sexuality. We are inundated with overt and subliminal sexual messages. Cartoon characters have shapely bodies, wear revealing clothing, and are targeted to young children. Viewers internalize messaging that may be contrary to your values. Children, teens, and adults may see pornography that is simultaneously exciting and shameful. These images can’t just be wiped away. Don’t think your kids would never look at porn. Remember things you did that your parents still don’t know about? ALL kids can fall prey to these temptations, and adults can too. We are sexual beings living in a sexualized world. You cannot protect your loved ones from every harm or temptation.

These questions can help you move beyond Pause:

How well was wholesome sexuality modeled for me?

Most of us received limited information about sex or learned about it via unhealthy means. You can learn the wholesomeness of it and forge a new way for your family. God redeems our past and equips us. Check out Authentic Intimacy, or God’s Design for Sex Series.

How did my experiences affect my understanding of sex or sexuality?

Are there wounds, past sexual sin, or areas of weakness God may want to redeem? We all have some level of sexual brokenness. Consider a Christian counselor, perhaps someone who specializes in trauma care or sexual addiction.

Are current sin patterns keeping me from living authentically?

God’s best for us is to live fully known and fully loved. His perfect love helps us live authentically. Bringing our sin into the light, confessing to others, repenting, and working to restore broken relationships are markers of an authentic life being conformed to the image of Jesus. Find a more mature Christian to speak with as a starting point, someone who will call you up into your holy identity in Christ. Satan’s power begins to diminish as we bring our sin into the light and God’s healing grace transforms us. Read my husband’s five-part blog series here.

How have I modeled healthy sexuality? Does it go beyond simply what not to do?

In terms of sexuality, we need identification as much as information. Remember confusion from your early experiences? Have you asked your children about feelings associated with things they’ve seen? Even a lingerie ad can be arousing. God wired the brain to respond to sexual things in various ways at every age. A friend’s seven-year-old had seen porn and said this: “It makes your penis hard!” Yes, it does! And porn might give a girl a funny feeling in her vagina. It can feel good, but children aren’t ready physically or emotionally for sex. Parents can help kids separate the good feelings from what is best for them and give them a plan for when they encounter something sexual. Teach about God-honoring sex and that porn is the opposite of that.

Could God have more for me?

Satan works to bring couples together sexually before marriage then keep them apart after. Sex is a sacred gift for marriage, bonding couples at a deep level. Science proves this. Brain chemicals released during sex bind us with the object of the encounter and remind us of pleasurable feelings associated with sex. This happens naturally in God-honoring sex or counterfeit sex. Begin to talk more authentically with your spouse, repent of past mistakes, and ask God to redeem this aspect of your marriage. A Celebration of Sex, shares biblical truth and practical application. Find other resources here.

Sexuality is precious, but also fragile and easily marred in a broken world. We need a guide. Become a trusted source of information for your kids and work to create a shame-free home where you can talk about anything, and prayerfully move beyond the Pause.

 

 

 

Talking with Your Teen About Porn: Is Today’s Porn Harmless? Part 2of 2 

Do I really need to talk to my son? It seems like viewing porn is pretty harmless and just a normal part of being male these days. Isn’t this just a phase most boys (or young people) go through?

Although it is certainly normal to be curious and interested, the average young male today will not “casually” view pornography without being seriously impacted by what he consumes. There are several reasons for this and therefore several reasons parents need to be talking with their kids about pornography. Here are third and fourth considerations as you weigh the “harmlessness” of porn.

 

1.     Professionals in the field of sexual addiction explain how today’s pornography is very, very different from the images created thirty or forty years ago. The pornography that is accessible today to any child with internet access is incredibly violent, degrading, and destructive. The accurate name for today’s pornography is actually “gonzo” or “gorno” – it is a combination of gore and pornography – and it champions and celebrates brutal sexual violence. Even if an individual does not initially seek out this type of pornography, within approximately 8 minutes of first exposure, gonzo porn will likely be viewed, even if accidentally.

 

Addictions, by nature, create tolerance, and demand something new, more graphic, and more intense to produce the same high. A common refrain among porn viewers is that they find themselves aroused by imagery they never would have imagined enjoying when they first began consuming porn. If you need further information about just how destructive and horrendous the content of pornography is today, there are informational resources available. Unfortunately, it is impossible to grasp the extreme nature of the sexual violence without feeling somewhat emotionally violated yourself, so I won’t post those resources here.

 

Here’s the fourth consideration as you weigh the “harmlessness” of porn:

 

2.     Once interest is piqued, it’s difficult to stop viewing because Internet pornography offers unlimited access to sexually stimulating content, within the context of an anonymous and affordable environment.2 In fact, in our current age of constant access to wireless technology, where the Internet is increasingly porn-saturated, in order to not view sexually explicit content, deliberate protective measures must be taken. It’s no longer necessary for a person to intentionally seek out pornography; nowadays, pornography will come to you. “One study reports that 93% of boys are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18.”3 The accessibility, affordability, and anonymity of Internet porn, combined with the reward cycle, make it the perfect storm for creating a powerful addiction.

 

Check out additional blogs at GROWCounseling.com on

Talking with Your Teen About Porn: Overcoming the Barriers (when you want to talk with your teen about porn use)

Talking with your Teen About Porn: Preparing Yourself for the Conversation

Talking with your Teen About Porn: Having the Conversation(s)

 

A few great books that address the above themes more thoroughly are:

1.     Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Mail Brain by Dr. William Struthers

2.     The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography by Wendy Maltz and Larry Maltz

3.     Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children by Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. and Freda McKissic Bush

 

A few free Downloads:

1.     Covenant Eyes: “Your Brain on Porn”

2.     Covenant Eyes: “Parenting the Internet Generation”

3.     Covenant Eyes: “Protecting Your Family Online: A How-To Guide for Parents”

 

Matthew 5:28
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Talking with Your Teen About Porn: Is Today’s Porn Harmless? Part 1 of 2  

Do I really need to talk to my son? It seems like viewing porn is pretty harmless and just a normal part of being male these days.  Isn’t this just a phase most boys (or young people) go through?

 

Yes, the male brain is wired for visual stimulation. So, yes, it is normal for boys (and men) to be aroused by and interested in the sexual imagery available through pornography.  Dr. William Struthers’ book “Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain” offers a fantastic explanation of how the male brain is designed to be captivated by the sight of the female’s body, without the typical “boys will be boys” (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) excuse-making our society condones. 1

 

Although it is normal to be curious and interested, the average young male today will not “casually” view pornography without being seriously impacted by what he consumes. There are several reasons for this and therefore several reasons parents need to be talking with their kids about pornography.

 

1.     The adolescent brain is in a critical stage of development. Extensive literature points to the negative impact pornography has on young people, developmentally.

 

The brain stores our first sexual experiences with a chemical stamp that makes them incredibly powerful. For example, most people can easily recall (in vivid detail) their “first love,” their first encounter with pornography, or their first sexual experience. This serves us well, where our first experiences are healthy, and where our first sexual relationship is with our spouse – bonding us to that person with a powerful chemical attachment. It can create real difficulty where our first experiences are unhealthy or harmful.

 

The arousal template (what a person finds arousing) is significantly impacted by and strengthened by early sexual experiences. So, whatever a young person is experiencing sexually (whether it is healthy or unhealthy) – is then paired with sexual arousal. The result is often that the brain easily grows attached to that stimulus. So, whatever your teen is experiencing and aroused by is also shaping what he (or she) will tend to desire. Repetition reinforces these patterns of arousal.

 

Although it is certainly normal to be curious and interested, the average young male today will not “casually” view pornography without being seriously impacted by what he consumes. There are several reasons for this and therefore several reasons parents need to be talking with their kids about pornography. Here’s a second reason that viewing porn might not be harmless.

 

2.     Advanced brain imaging scans now show us that viewing pornography creates a neurochemical high in the brain that compares closest to the high of using Heroin. The pleasure centers of the brain are impacted, neurochemicals are firing (ie., norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, endogenous opiates), and connections are made that reinforce the desire to repeat the behavior.4

The chemical high of arousal, pleasure, and euphoria serves to reinforce the false message that porn is an easy escape from anything dull, boring, or unwanted. Porn temporarily masks the pain of loneliness, rejection, fear, worry, loss, stress, or anxiety. This neurochemical reward cycle makes it easy to create a life-dominating habit.

"I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman." Job 31:1 NIV

Written by Mindy Pierce, LPC

Lessons About God from... Kittens

We recently got two adorable feral—alias ‘wild’—8 week old kittens from an animal rescue.  Every day kittens, cats, and dogs are euthanized because there are too many of them and not enough people to take them into their homes so we choose to get our pets from rescue organizations.

Although I had been on the hunt only for a male companion that resembled our resident Siamese/Ragdoll three-year old female cat, once my husband and I saw this brother-sister duo we didn’t have the heart to separate them. Now, the proud owners of a cat and two kittens, I guess we are officially ‘cat people’.  I recognize that you may be one of those who hates cats, or at best tolerates them; I confess I used to be solely a dog lover but have become a ‘cat lover’ convert. Even if cats aren’t your favorite pet, I think you too can learn something about the way we humans relate to God from taking a glimpse at my kittens’ lives.

Our new kittens Murphy and Marnie initially were rather skittish around us because they were used to limited human contact. When I would walk into a room they would scatter due to fear of me. Or, sometimes they were just ‘doing their own thing’ and didn’t seem to want to be bothered with me. However, that all changed whenever I would bring them their food. Then they would emerge from their hiding spots with a single focus and start wolfing down their food.

As I observed them, I immediately thought that their behavior with me all too often mirrors the way I and other Christians relate to the Lord.  We want God nearby when He can meet our needs, like the way the kittens clamor for me when I am bringing them food. Otherwise, we often ignore Him because we are pursuing our own selfish interests. Like my kittens that sometimes just walk away from me even while I am calling their names, we can get so preoccupied with our own agendas that we too just ‘walk away from God’. Or, sometimes, like my kittens that scamper away in fright--even though all I want to do is to give them love-- we succumb to our fears and dart away from God rather than draw near to Him when we are frightened. I remember assuring my kittens when they would run away that I loved them, I would never hurt them, and that my only desire was to be good to them. But just as that fell on their ‘deaf’ ears, too often we are ‘deaf’ to God’s words of assurance to us in the Bible that He does indeed love us and only desires the best for us. And just as my kittens’ initial fear of me kept them at a distance from me so therefore I wasn’t able to demonstrate and shower them with the love I longed to give to them, our fear of God all too often stands in the way of our having the intimacy with God that we were created to enjoy and that He longs to have with us.

There was one time in particular that really brought home to me how much we need to trust our Heavenly Father even when we don’t understand His ways, even when He restrains us and maybe even takes away from us the very thing that we think we have to have. In order to make sure my young kittens received the food that they needed, I had to feed them in a room separated from my cat who otherwise would chow down all of their kitten food. So I would put them in my master bathroom, close the door to keep my other cat out of the room, and then put down their food. Ordinarily I picked up the food plate immediately after they ate but one day I had to leave the house before they finished eating and I didn’t return for several hours. By the time I returned and walked into the room I saw that there was an invasion—an army of tiny ants had descended on their remaining wet food and had marched their way into their dry food too! My immediate thought was to protect my kittens from eating any ants, so first I removed the source of the problem—I took away the tainted food and threw it out. My kittens looked at me with an expression of, ‘How can you take away what we most want?!’

Next, I started smashing the ants with my foot, thinking the whole time that those tiny ants didn’t stand a chance against me even though they vastly outnumbered me. It was nothing for me to eliminate the ‘enemies’ who sought to corrupt my kittens’ food source.  I immediately thought how like God Who easily is able to defeat all of our enemies! Like me stomping out those ants, those who rise against God’s children do not stand a chance against Him!

I knew I also had to remove the source of the ants’ entry into the room and I also knew I had to make sure my kittens were nowhere around when I sprayed an ant killing spray at the source. So I picked up the kittens and placed them in the small toilet closet in my bathroom. As I ran to get some ant spray they meowed incessantly from their small, closed quarters. I imagine they couldn’t understand why I would take away their highly treasured food and then lock them up in such a confining place. I wished I could’ve explained to them that it was all for their safety and out of loving concern for them, but obviously they couldn’t comprehend that. Once I had sprayed the source of the ant’s entry, I cleaned up not only the dead ants, but scrubbed the tile thoroughly to make sure there was not a trace of the pesticide that could hurt them. It made me think how often we look to God without understanding that when He removes something from us that we treasure—perhaps a loved one, a job, our health, a friend, our status—that He only has our good in mind, and that sometimes He is even protecting us from harm. He also knows that we can’t comprehend all of His ways because they are so much higher than our understanding, just as I couldn’t explain to my kittens what I was doing and why. God just desires that we trust that at all times He is at work to do what is best for us, even when we don’t understand or agree with His ways.

My reason for wanting a kitten was twofold: (1) as a companion for my other cat, for I know that cats are social creatures and they do better when they are with another cat than when they live alone (2) the primary reason is as an empty nester of 4 grown children, I wanted something alive in our home to nurture and to pour my love into, and we are gone too much to make having a dog again practical. So that is why we ended up bringing Murphy and Marnie into our home…to be a companion for our cat Maggie, and mainly for my husband and me to enjoy the pleasure of a relationship with them. And isn’t that like God? He created us because He longs for a relationship with us!  And when we are apathetic, indifferent or fearful of Him we miss the very purpose for which we were brought into this world, just as my kittens can miss the whole reason we adopted them into our home. And He also created us for ‘Body life’. God knows that we all do better when we are in fellowship with others and do not try to go ‘solo’ in this life. In fact, as I delight in watching my kittens tussle together and cuddle side-by-side, I am reminded of the joy that God has in seeing His children in fellowship with one another, loving one another as He has loved us. I especially love when the kittens choose to come near to me, demonstrating that they have developed a trust in me, allowing me to love on them—the main reason we chose to rescue them and bring them into our home. And as they come to me, I rejoice in knowing that I give even far greater joy to my Lord and Master Jesus when I choose to draw near to Him so that He can shower me--the one He rescued from certain death—with His amazing love!

Are you allowing indifference, apathy or fear to separate you from God?  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8 Remember always that God longs to have an intimate relationship with you; that is why He created you, sent Jesus to give His life for you, and brought you into His household when you accepted Him as your Savior!

 Do you trust Him to always be at work for your good and the glory of His name, even when you don’t understand His far superior ways? (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 8:28)

 Are you trying to go this life alone, or are you availing yourself of the sweet companionship that is found in living in fellowship with the Body of Christ, which also gives such joy to your Heavenly Father? Oh Lord, may we put our trust in You, draw near to You, and draw near to others who can support us in our journey on earth!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

Freedom!

I enjoy gathering with family and friends for food, fellowship and fireworks on the 4th of July holiday, and I imagine you do too. As I participate in the festivities, I’m reminded that our founding fathers and their families paid a tremendous price in order for us to enjoy the freedoms we have in this great nation, freedoms that we all too often take for granted. Although they had security as far as the world measures it, each of the signers of the declaration valued liberty more than their belongings, even their lives. They pledged the following to one another:

“For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Many people are unaware of the sacrifices they did in fact make. The British captured five of the signers during the war, including Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton, and George Walton was wounded as well as captured. Richard Stockton was captured and never recovered from his incarceration by British Loyalists and he died in 1781. John Adams received a letter from Thomas McKean who wrote that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy - compelled to remove my family five times in a few months." The British captured two of Abraham Clark’s sons during the war.

The homes and property of eleven signers were destroyed. Francis Lewis's home was demolished and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, and they were never repaid.

The reality is that freedom is never free.  There is always a cost.  And as much as I am grateful—and I truly am-- for the sacrifices of our founding fathers who were willing to give up their property, their safety and security, and even their lives to establish our nation, I am far more grateful to Jesus Who was willing to lay down His life to secure the greatest treasure I will ever have--freedom from the power and penalty of sin. And that was the costliest purchase ever made. My freedom—and yours—could only be bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Our Heavenly Father had to be willing to sacrifice the life of His blameless, Beloved Son Jesus in order to redeem my life and yours. If you ever wonder how valuable you are, remember the great price that God was willing to pay for you and your freedom! You are treasured by Him! He was willing to exchange a perfect life for your sinful one in order that you could be set free from your sin.

My husband and I are going through a challenging period in our lives right now that has made me keenly aware that because I know and trust in Jesus, I have been set free from all fear! When we received what many, if not most people in the world would have considered devastating news, we immediately reminded ourselves that although it may have caught us by surprise, it certainly did not catch Our God ‘who is able to work all things together for our good and for His glory’ by surprise. God is still on His throne; He is Sovereign over our circumstances, and we trust completely in His good and loving nature and know He not only WILL NOT fail us, but He CANNOT fail us as we look to Him and lean upon Him rather than our own understanding.

(Proverbs 3:5-7)

Despite our circumstances, my husband and I are flooded with peace…the peace that truly ‘surpasses all human understanding’. (Philippians 4:7) How can we be filled with peace, and even have joyful anticipation thinking what the future may bring? Because we are resting in the sure knowledge that ‘our redeemer lives’, and we firmly believe that He IS always at work-- regardless of our circumstances or our understanding-- to bring about our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28) It is one thing to believe those words with your head, it is another thing altogether to be in the midst of the storm and know beyond a doubt that you believe them with all of your heart! What a joy it is to know we have been set free from fear! Free because our trust is in the One Who was willing to give His very life to purchase our freedom!  If Jesus was willing to give us His very life, is there anything good He will ever withhold from us? (Romans 8:32)

So as you celebrate the 4th of July this year, I hope you will thank God for our founding fathers who valued liberty more than security so that you can have the liberties you enjoy in our country today.  And I especially hope you will take the time to thank Jesus for being willing to give up all of the glories of heaven to come to earth to be born a man and give His life in exchange for yours, so that you can have ‘peace on earth’ and spend eternity with the One Who was willing to pay the price for your everlasting freedom! Let us walk and rejoice in the freedom that Jesus has purchased for us!

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I am surrounded

By the arms of the father

I am surrounded

By songs of deliverance

We've been liberated

From our bondage

We're the sons and the daughters

Let us sing our freedom

 Lyrics above from No Longer Slaves by Bethel

 

Written by Julie Van Gorp