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

What We Think About God

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What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

This is the opening sentence in Tozer’s  The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s also one of the most important, profound sentences that I have ever read.  I find myself needing to read and re-read it in order to grasp it. Tozer is telling us a great truth that everything we believe, everything we do, every sin with which we struggle, every attempt to understand who we are and what it means to be a Christian is rooted in our thoughts about God.

Your view of God affects everything you think, feel and do. Think about it, it affects your prayer life and is the key influencer of all of your thoughts and actions.  Once I was able to see what God was really like, my heart changed, I began to have a deeper walk with Him, able to trust more and in turn began to change my heart.

What about you? Are the things you think about God true to who He is? Don’t answer too quickly.   We MUST remember this, whatever you know about God is so minute compared to what there is to know of Him; He is INFINITE.

What do you think about God?  Food for thought.

I want to encourage you TODAY to seek Him out in a new way and allow Him to change the most important thing about you.  Amen

Overcoming Discouragement

 

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Today, I am struggling with discouragement, wondering what my role is and what the Lord desires of me.  Something I have been fervently praying for has ended with a closed door and left me with a wounded heart.  In seasons of struggle, heart ache, and discouragement, we can be tempted to look back and remember the feelings we used to have when we felt closer to God or when life seemed promising.

Can you relate to this part of Psalm 42: “My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?”

If you work in any kind of ministry, you may have had like me, some dark nights when you were tempted to quit. I’ve been there, I am there!,  but I have also, learned along the way that some of the greatest growth opportunities can come when you face discouragement, heartache and failure head-on. These things usually make me want to throw up my hands and walk away in defeat, but I am also learning that this is exactly what Satan wants. Instead of throwing in the towel, I’m learning to recognize these challenges for what they are: great opportunities to grow and for the lord to mold me into the person He desires me to be.

I have learned that every area of ministry is going to have its discouraging moments. Chances are you took the opportunity because you wanted to make a difference to encourage, and you felt called to do so. It is in these times that Satan will try at every turn to make you feel like what you are doing doesn’t matter, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you should quit.

It is important to remember that you are not alone! In the midst of every emotion, there is one thing you can count on. God cares and is with you! God cares deeply about every emotion swirling around in our hearts.  If you are on the mountaintop and feeling like things couldn’t be better, God cares for you and is with you! If you are currently experiencing hurt, struggling with disappointment in ministry, remember this, God cares and is always with you!  He’s close to you when you cry, when you feel all alone. He’s close to you when you wonder how you’ll move forward. Pour out your pain to God, and move towards Him. The best news is, especially for me! emotions are fleeting. We can choose how we direct our thoughts and energy. Instead of nursing our pain, we can find freedom in choosing to cling to our hope in God.

Choose worship, In these difficult times I love to listen to worship music and experience a fresh encounter with Christ. Music always ministers to me and in a way humbles me. Even when it feels like miles of wasteland stretch between us and God, we must remember Him. Remember His goodness. Remember His mercy. Remember His forgiveness. Remember you are His child. Remember His incredible love for us.  Amen!

Father help us to recognize Your love in EVERYTHING that goes on. Father you know our situation? You know the prayers that go up? You know the way Satan has been attacking. Father might you come into our  life in a powerful way, and show that all this going on is the refining of pure gold. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Matthew 25:1

21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

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?

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.

The Lord Will Rescue Us

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The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials. 2 Peter 2:9
We all face trials of many kinds. No one is spared from the storms of life. Some of these trials seem unending, it’s as if there is a huge mountain in your way and you are trapped on all sides, unable to move even an inch. But remember we serve a God whose hand made the heaven and the earth and nothing is too hard for Him.
– He is mighty to save
– No mountain is bigger than Him
– God knows when and how to deliver you.
We always want to know HOW God will do it. Let us leave the questions to Him and let’s trust Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us through the trials and tribulations we are experiencing in our lives. Sometimes we feel alienated and alone, and we faithfully ask for your help. Guide us Lord through these storms of life, and help us to always remember that you alone are the way, the truth and the light. Stay with us, Strengthen us Lord, You have promised to keep us in perfect peace when our mind and heart are fixed upon You.  Help us to wholeheartedly seek You and rely on Your Holy Word so that we will experience perfect peace.  It is in this spiritual attitude that we will fully trust You to work out the problems that greatly concern us. You have overcome the world and You will also help us to overcome our troubles.  Amen.