God’s Word, Our Playbook

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All my life, I have loved sports, I love playing it and watching it on T.V.  I loved being active and enjoyed spending time with my teammates.  I grew up playing softball and if I must say myself, I was pretty good.  Why?  Because I loved the game, I practiced it, I studied it, I was dedicated to being the best I could be. I learned to take criticism and direction from my coach, we learned what position we would play and what was expected of us.  We studied our opponents and what we needed to do to overcome them.

I guess that is why I always thought of God’s Word (Bible) as my playbook for life.  Have you ever thought about that?

I like to think of our lives as believers, being like a football player.  When a football player is looking to be recruited his two priorities are; to be on a winning team and playing for a good coach.  He is looking for one that will motivate and inspire.  First off, he needs to learn the team’s playbook, because this will become the most important part of his life. This book contains a set of codes and directions for each play, so that they all know exactly what to do when the quarterback calls the play, where their positions will be, and if executed right, how to make a successful play.  Therefore having a winning season.

God has given us a playbook, His scriptures.  God’s playbook will teach us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  He has given us everything we need! It gives us the confidence to not only know our opponent, but how to defeat him with an expectation of success and victory.   Just as the football player looks to his “coach” for direction and inspiration, so should we look to our Heavenly Father.  He gave us the instruction and lovingly inspires each play.  He knows exactly what position suits us best and how to use the gifts he’s developing in us.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3 5-6

God has not given us His word to just reflect on, we are called to know His word.  We are to live by His word.  Just as with a football players playbook, God’s word should be our number one priority!  But you will never know God’s playbook, much less what to do with it, until you know the One who wrote it.  So, study Him, know Him and talk to Him daily, moment by moment.

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11 18,19 

I want to encourage you to make it a habit to read your playbook (the Bible).  Think of the Holy Spirit as our “quarterback” the ultimate play caller.   He has the perfect vantage point and will whisper His thoughts (plays) into your head, giving us the perfect play for that specific moment.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left Isaiah 30:21

Allow God to take the Scriptures we have studied and bring them forth out of our memory, and remind us of what we need to do in each situation. Make it a habit of calling upon the Lord for everything you do and know with confidence He will faithfully provide it. Time is short, don’t wait until 4th down before you ask Him!

The best part is; With God’s playbook we know we will end with a winning season….As Greg Laurie say’s “I know how it ends and it ends real good”  Praise the Lord..We are Victorious in Christ!  Doesn’t that make you want to join this winning team!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 24-27

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Father, thank You for Your Word.  Thank You for the perfect play when I call upon You.  I seek Your will for my life this day Lord.  Show me what You want me to know as I read Your Word, and as I meditate upon Your Word.  Continue to lead me in all aspects of my life so I may glorify Your Son.  In Jesus’ precious name, amen…

God Bless, Cheryl Downum

Be His Hands and Feet

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The one thing I know for sure is, God has a plan for you, and every time he allows you to go through trials and difficulties, he is building you up to launch His calling for your life.  He is making you stronger, and adding a depth to your character that only God can give.  He is giving you compassion and empathy for people in situations similar to yours, and someday He will use your tough experiences to help others.  Be ready for that day, and remember that His power is the greatest in our times of weakness.  Think about it what a privilege it is to partner with our Lord Jesus Christ to comfort His people in distress.

I do believe that while God can use any method He wants to comfort us, restore us, and make us strong, He uses the people that He puts in our lives – divine appointments as I like to call them – to be His healing hands and feet on earth.  I remember the night my son passed away and the nurses surrounding us, holding us and one praying for us.  During his entire last hospital stay we were never without some sort of comfort from the staff.  I believe that the Lord sent those nurses and a Christian Doctor to comfort us at a time when we needed them most.

We all have our own unique stories in which God has comforted us in a trial, sent angels (without wings) to be His hands and feet, to comfort us and used them to draw us closer to Him.

Empathy Is Important For Christians

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The one thing that I am learning is that as Christians we need empathy.  Why?  The reason is simple, so we can share in the suffering and pain of our friends and fellow Christians.

I have found in my life that the Lord often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad to our deepest calling.  It is because of the hardships the Lord has allowed in my life, I’m able to feel more than sympathy and give my friends the gift of empathy. It’s a hard-won, precious gift.

The definition of empathy according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the “feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s place when you have no point of reference. But as God allows certain experiences in our lives, we don’t have to imagine empathy because we feel it automatically; it is a gift we can give a hurting person.

My second child Casey passed away from congenital heart disease.  The pain of losing my son is something I carry with me always. I know what it is to live with pain — emotional and physical. It is from that hardship (among others), I am able to draw from a deep well of empathy.

I was talking with a new friend the other day, and she started sharing how she lost a daughter a few years ago. The hurt she felt was still so raw that she started crying. Tears came to my eyes as I shared that I knew exactly how she felt, because I had gone through the same thing. I explained my feelings of loss, how there will always be a hole in my life where Casey should be no matter how much time has passed. How I often think of how old he would be now and how the pain deepens on important days like his birthday, when he would have graduated from high school etc.. Yet I know my son is with the Lord, and it is only sad for those of us left behind. My friend nodded through her tears and said no one ever understands how she feels. Empathy is a bridge of understanding; through my own loss I could share in hers.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  We are taught as Christians to share our friends emotional experiences. I am drawn to the action words of this statement. It doesn’t say, “Feel bad for those who are mourning.” It says we need to literally cry with them. Have the same emotion they are having — with a passion — one that brings forth tears. This is a powerful teaching Paul is trying to get across to the church in Rome and ultimately to all Christians. We are all called to show grace and love to hurting people, even when we can only guess at how they feel, but the true depth of empathy is achieved through experience.

Christ was our ultimate example of empathy. He literally put himself in our place when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. So when God allows us to go through a hardship, we should consider it a privilege to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered and use our experience to bless others.

It takes a brave person to pray for empathy, braver than me, but God allows experiences in my life that “teach” me this gift. Trials in our lives have many purposes; it took a long time of walking with the Lord and studying His Word for me to discover the lessons hidden in my own hardships and sufferings. They are often for our growth: to teach us reliance on God, to draw us back or closer to our Savior, or to give us empathy for our neighbor.

As Christians, we have a higher calling. We have been bought at a price and are no longer our own, but humble servants to our Heavenly Father. The greatest commandments are to love our Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls, and to love others as ourselves. In a world rampant with selfishness, vanity, bullying and greed, God offers us a better way. We are after all His hands and feet, and what better way to represent our Lord and serve others than with the gift of empathy?

Word Of God

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I remember being a new Christian and wondering “How can Jesus and the Bible both be the Word of God?”  As my walk with the Lord grew I began to realize some really important truths:

That the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Jesus showed us a link between the written Word of God and Himself, in that He is the subject of the written Word, it is His biography: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

I learned that the phrase “word of God” means more than the printed words on a page. God is a communicator and has been speaking to us since the beginning. He speaks through His creation (Psalm 19:1), through ancient prophets (Hosea 12:10; Hebrews 1:1), through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 16:6), through Scripture (Hebrews 4:12), and through the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:9). We can learn to know God better by seeking to hear Him ( and really listen) in every way that He speaks.  Isn’t that good news!   All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

(Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV) “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. {12} Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. {13} And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Prayer Journal

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This year in 2017 I’ve been taking steps to be more intentional about my prayer life.  One of my goals is to develop a regular prayer time. While I usually wake up around 5:30 for daily Bible reading, I haven’t found a good way to work prayer into this time. Some days I’ll pray for 5 minutes prior to my reading; some days I’ll pray for 30 minutes afterward. Sometimes I pray over a list of people; most times my prayers are random, sporadic, and rambling So,

I have started a prayer journal.

I have put in the date of my request then write it out.  I try to leave space in between so that I can add requests as they come to me.

I also have pages based on events or things I want to see God do and praises.  I pray for my family every day and then work through the additional pages as time permits and God brings them to mind.

Once it is answered, I highlight the prayer request so I can see very clearly all God is doing. On those days when I feel discouraged, I can scan over all that is highlighted and with assurance see God is at work!

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Walk Humbly

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God’s Word says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

To “Walk humbly” is a heart’s attitude toward God.   God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities.  Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

Have you ever thought about this? Doing justice is having empathy and concern for those who are left out, unwanted, abused, and oppressed. Loving kindness is being considerate, compassionate, thoughtful, and actively working and looking for the good of others. Walking humbly with God is seeing God and yourself from the right perspective, being thankful for His grace.

Today, when it seems that religious faith is seen by the world as negative and even bigoted, I hope you will consider God’s Word. Only one person in all of history has lived up to this standard, and that was Jesus Christ. He alone was just and kind and walked with His Father, God. He can help you live out life today as a demonstration of what true faith is. Why not try it?  We are sometimes the only Jesus people see.

Love More Judge Less

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As Christians, we need to love more and Judge less, allow the Holy Spirit to change a person. As this scripture shows us Peter expects our love to be a certain kind of love – an earnest love. The fact that Peter has to use an adverb after his command to love shows us there are different intensities of love. If we have to be told to love earnestly, it must be possible to love non-earnestly. Earnest means serious, sincere or deep. So Peter wants us to take our responsibility to love seriously, not flippantly and not judgmentally. He wants us to be sincere, not manipulative. And he wants our love to be deep and intense, not shallow and hollow.

How important is earnest love? So important that Peter says we should be loving one another earnestly – above all. More important than anything else in this world is our love for one another. Naturally we think of our obligation to love God as more important than our love for one another, and that’s understandable. However, if we love God, we will love one another. They go hand in hand, because the Spirit that puts the love for God in our hearts also puts a love for one another in our hearts.

As Christians, sometimes I feel we are alienating people, people need truth and love. One without the other leads to a warped Gospel. The truth spoken without love is harsh, hurtful and causes people to raise their walls, close their ears, and walk away. Love spoken without truth easily turns into a prosperity gospel, or an “all roads lead to heaven” approach. Our default is to lead with truth, but too often we forget to follow up with love. Jesus gave us many great examples of how he lead with love and followed up with truth – the adulteress woman, the Samaritan woman, consorting with tax collectors, etc. Mark 2 tells us that Jesus dined with thieves and other disreputable sinners. He knew these people needed the Truth, and he knew that what they were doing was wrong. But he also knew that they were looked down upon and scorned by the world already. They heard every single day how they were not good enough. Jesus knew that if he was going to make a difference, he should show them how much he cared and gain their trust and respect. Then the truth he followed up with would hold weight in their lives…We need to offer people hope.  Love first allow Jesus to do the rest.