Empathy is what we need!

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We all need Empathy

What better way to represent our Lord and serve others than with the gift of empathy?

Christ is the 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.

We find several examples of empathy in action in the Bible. Jesus was always sensitive to the plight of others. Matthew tells us how Jesus, “when he saw the crowds, . . . had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). On another occasion, Jesus observed a widow about to bury her only son. Sensing her pain (the NLT says that Jesus’ “heart overflowed with compassion”), He approached the funeral procession and resurrected the young man (Luke 7:11-16). Having lived a human life, our Lord can and does empathize with all of our weaknesses (see Hebrews 4:15).

The word compassion describes the deep mercy of God. God is the very best at empathy: “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He personally feels the pain of His people: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8,). How comforting it is to know that God records all our tears and all our struggles! How good to remember God’s invitation to cast all our cares upon Him, “because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)!

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 King. 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 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?

I Am The Women Sitting beside You In Church

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Church leaders say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.

I hope and pray that all readers will pray about what they can do to help bring change to domestic violence happening in your church.. Whether you are in church leadership or part of the church. We can all do our part. No one should have to endure what many women have endured.  Psalm 91.4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” 

I pray that with the light shining on this issue, that there is a great opportunity for the church to better reflect what Jesus Christ calls us to be. May we listen to the Holy Spirit and may we listen and believe the women who seek help. 

I’m a normal friendly person, who loves the Lord with all my heart. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know I’m a survivor of abuse. Until this year, I probably won’t have told you because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. But I was sitting next to you in church. Watching your happy family with tears in my eye’s. Feeling like I failed. Like my husband was right – that I used his imperfections (i.e.abuse) as an excuse to run away. Don’t I know that God hates divorce? Don’t I believe in forgiveness, grace, second chances? In love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs? In faithfulness, perseverance, and sacrificial servant love? I do, I really do!  I never threw my vows away, I just wanted to be safe and my husband to repent and change.  I desired reconciliation with all my heart and he knew that.

But, All I knew when I left was I could not do marriage on his terms anymore. I could not live with the fear pervading my body when he walked through our front door. Holding my breath, placating, saying whatever he needed me to, to make the anger go away.  And now I wore the double sided guilt. That somehow the abuse was my fault, and that I should’ve seen, should’ve known, should’ve protected my children. Oh the guilt, of the damage I have let come to them.

The reaction and blame shifting of some Christians after I chose to separate has added insult to injury. I was desperate for help, any help.  I sought refuse at a church in my new area that I loved, until my ex-husband wrote a letter to the pastor that in his words was “vile and hateful” and they asked me to leave.  Me leave??  I thought the letter would have shown them how abusive he was, but instead he said “we cannot get in the middle of this.”  Here I was, alone and now leaving the second church that I loved.

Some Christian leaders responded with compassion and a desire to do better at caring for survivors of domestic violence, some have cried foul and wanted to point the finger elsewhere: “What about that group? It doesn’t happen at my church! They have an agenda! Abuse has no place in the church! The stats weren’t reported improperly! Regular church goers are least likely to abuse!” etc etc etc.

Frankly, they’ve missed the point. Stories of violence in the church, like mine, actually happen. In my opinion, One story is one too many.

Here’s the response I wish I’d heard from all Christians:

These stories are heartbreaking.

What can we as a church do?

Do we believe the women who come forward, even if their violent husbands claim to be Christians and are regular churchgoers or are on staff, or do we disbelieve/dismiss/blame them/tell them to go home and learn to submit?

Just as my husband would lock me in rooms to teach me submission.  “Your problem is you won’t obey me. The Bible says you must obey me and you refuse,” he yelled. “You are a failure as a wife, as a Christian, as a mother.  For years, I believed that God wanted me to submit to my husband, and I did my best, bending to his will, despite the pain I was in.

The church needs to hear the wake up call, and proactively investigate claims and check the attitudes, beliefs, practices and structures of each church to discover if there is any inadvertent complicity or unhelpful misunderstandings that contribute here. One woman or child facing violence in the church is one too many.

Here are some questions for the Church:

Why have there been so few sermons on domestic violence? Why do so many women report that their ministers tell them to stay in violent marriages?

Is the stigma surrounding divorce still too great, and unforgiving? Is this also a problem for the men who are abused by their wives — a minority but nonetheless an important group?

And if the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, why is it that the victims are the ones who leave churches while the perpetrators remain?

“Often people say it is the guilt of going against the church teaching that leads them to stay in relationships well beyond a time they should leave because they are trying to please the church as well as please their partners … they often feel they will have to choose between the church or violence.

We have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and the teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

I hope that my story can shed more light on the issue of domestic violence so that effective strategies can be developed to address it. I also hope my story is of some consolation to others who are or have been affected by domestic violence. To those who care about this issue, I propose that it is not enough to address domestic violence as a problem in itself for often it is only the first layer of abuse. The second and subsequent layers of abuse are the unconscionable responses of people who are mandated to help and don’t. There is a phenomenon in which victims of domestic violence are often ignored and/or blamed and the actions of the perpetrators are denied and/or covered up. It is tragic enough that these layers of abuse occur in the wider community but when they occur as pervasively as they do in Christian contexts we need to ask some serious questions of our culture and leadership.

D.L. Moody

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D.L. Moody was born 180 years ago today. 1837-1899 A great man of Faith

“I want to tell you why I like the gospel. It is because it has been the best news I have ever heard”

The reputation of Dwight L. Moody had been well established prior to his death in 1899. Although the famous evangelist was only sixty-two years old when he died, he had already preached the gospel to more than 100 million people. This energetic and widely admired preacher with seemingly unbounded passion to see souls come to faith held the distinction of having preached to more people than anyone in history.

Raised on a farm in Massachusetts, he moved first to Boston, where he converted to evangelical Christianity in 1856, and then to Chicago, where he prospered in business. He gave up business in 1860 and engaged in missionary work with the YMCA.

He founded Moody Church and preached in the slums, emphasizing literal interpretation of the Bible and the need to prepare for the Second Coming. In 1870 he teamed up with the hymn writer Ira D. Sankey, and they began a series of highly popular revival tours in Britain and the U.S. Moody founded the Northfield School (1879), the Mount Hermon School (1881), and the Chicago Bible Institute (1889; now the Moody Bible Institute)

To read more on the story of D.L. Moody:  http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Profile_DL_Moody_Dorsett_page_1

 

 

What We As Christians Show The World

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We are living in amazing times. We are seeing the Bible unfolding right in front of our eyes.  We have been appointed and raised up for such a time as this!  Christ could come at any moment. I believe that with all my heart—not because of what I hear on the news, but because of what I read in Scripture.  I believe that we are the generation that will see His return.

This made me start thinking about the divisions that exist in the world today. I guess in some ways I have been naive in regards to how the world views Christianity and Christians. I recently had a conversation (on social media) with someone that has a very negative image of us. His opinion was that there is a deep-seated political hatred, racism, and bigotry hidden behind the guise of Christianity. This broke my heart and led me to reflect on the things I post and comment on. People are watching and listening to everything we say and do. How can we ministry to people in love, if we come off callous, judgemental and unforgiving.

Christians, we need to remember that we are Christians first. We represent Jesus and his church. When we speak, it should reflect the priorities and character of our Lord and Savior.  We are his ambassadors and sometimes the only Jesus people will ever see.  This concern means that we need to take extra care to consider the words we speak in person as well as online.

I love this statement from crossroads church; I think it is worth considering:

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” People who have experienced grace should speak in a way that exhibits grace. Often, we post the first thing that comes to our minds about an issue, don’t read it to see how it sounds, and end up bringing shame upon Christ and his church through our hasty speech. Venting opinions that are not thought out and that insult others is a sign of tremendous foolishness, demonstrates a lack of love for our neighbors, and does not bring honor to Jesus.
Before you post something, read it three or four times. Take a screenshot of it and send it to a friend. Is it kind? Is it accurate? Is it designed for the good of others? Will it negatively impact how other people think of Jesus?    excerpt from Crossroads church.

Time is short and the day of the Lord coming for His Church is drawing near.  The questions we should ask ourselves is this:  Are we prepared?  Are we gathering or are we scattering? We know that Christ is the Great Gatherer, and if we do not gather (his people) with Him, He tells us that we are scattering (his people), In other words, we work against Him. The only way we can help Him gather (his people) is by winning souls and fishing for men.  We need to redeem the time.  We all have a limited time on this earth, which should be fully devoted to God and His service.

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). 

He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters  Matthew 12:30

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary[] and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples,“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  Matthew 9 35-38

I don’t know about you, but I want to be found faithful.  I want to be like Isaiah, with my heart saying “Here I am Lord send me!”

  I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am. Send me.”  Isaiah 6:8

The real question, however, is this: Are you ready for Christ’s return? You can be, by turning to Him and putting your faith and trust in Him. Don’t take His warnings lightly, but commit your life without delay to Jesus Christ.

If you have not given your life to Jesus, please consider doing it now:  https://thejoyfulchristianministry.com/2017/01/26/prayer-of-salvation/

Consuming Fire

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We should worship God with reverence because He is a consuming fire!  Hmmm.

Ever wonder what that means? Is it His Holiness? Does this warn of judgment? Is this an expression of his purity? Yes, YES, YES! You see, God is Holy and pure and righteous. Our imperfections, flaws, failures, and sins stand out glaringly in comparison to His perfection. Yet rather than destroying us with His Holy fire. He can make us new and clean and so much more than what we once were. So not only can we draw near to Him because of Jesus, we can stay near Him as we live Jesus’ life in our world (see Hebrews 13). That, my friend, is reverential worship at its finest!

If you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ I plead with you to do so today before it is too late.

He is the only way to eternal life. Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of your sins, He did this out of His love for you so that you can spend eternity in heaven with Him by simply accepting the free gift of salvation that He is offering, (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 5:24, John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, Romans 3:25).

Prayer for salvation:

“God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross at Calvary, and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord.  Come into my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.”

 

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

Living In A Hurting World

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For the second night in a row the news showed the images of a video showing a young disabled man from Chicago being tortured and beaten.  I don’t know about you, but the state of our broken world has me lying awake at night. Heartbroken over the condition of our country where something like this can happen. Grieving over the loss of his innocence and the pain and fear he must have experienced.  Horrified by the attackers lack of remorse and saddened by the idea that hate and evil has won out.

It’s 2017, and injustice, oppression and racism is rampant, causing innocent people to fear for their lives just because of the color of their skin.  Sometimes, I feel powerless. I feel overwhelmed. I feel afraid. When I watch the news and social media I see such total disregard for human life, I am slapped in the face with the reality that the world we live in is a fallen, broken, hurting, and dangerous one.  We can see it in the innocent blood that is spilled. We see it everyday in the angry political  exchanges on television and in our own Facebook news feed.  We see it in the well meaning Christians who do not know what our God asks of us because they do not open up their Bible. We see it in those who do not know God and instead seek answers from other people they deem wise.

We live in a world that needs Jesus, We need not look any farther than the scriptures to know how God responded to pain while on this earth. Jesus spent much of His life among suffering people, hurting people and His response to them shows us how God feels about pain. He always responded to hurting people with sadness and grief. When Jesus’ friend died, He wept. I am confident that Jesus wept over that young man being tortured and hurt.

We need to diligently pray for that young man.  We need to Pray for hurting families and broken communities that have had their children ripped from them by senseless violence. Pray for those who protect us along with their families that have suffered loss. Pray for churches to minister to the hurting. Pray for people not to lose heart. And, yes, pray for Jesus to come back and set this broken world right.

In our day-to-day experiences of life, we have opportunities to learn to be like Jesus, to choose to be patient, to be considerate, to feed the poor, to help others, to pray. On the job and in our homes, Jesus has something to say about what we do.

We will experience problems in life whether or not we follow Jesus. Our choice is not whether to have problems, but whether we learn from those problems. Do we react to them the way Jesus would, or do we become bitter and seek revenge and hate? We learn more about love when we love people who are hard to love; we learn more about forgiveness when people sin against us. Our character is shaped more like Jesus not so much in good times, but in difficult times. We do not always understand why God allows people to suffer. We may not see any good in it, or any lesson to learn. But God assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We may not know how—we just have to trust him.

We can begin with teaching our children to love as Christ loves, we need to teach our children that every life is precious and valued. We don’t need to paint for them a picture of a country with a history of inequality, but talk to them about the progress that still needs to be made. We need to never stop teaching them not to be hateful or mean, but to stand up for those who fall victim to hate and bullying.  Allow them to be colorblind.  My kids use to love this little song O be careful little ears what you hear, be careful little ears what you hear, There’s a Father up above, And He’s looking down in love,So, be careful little ears what you hear.  Unfortunately, they become racist from the words they here at home and school.  We need to diligently protect them from the ways of the world.

Most important we need to pray with them for those that are hurting and be intentional about how we can actively make a difference in the lives of others.

Dear God,

Some days feel too hard. We’re hurting. Struggling. Fighting fear and worry at every turn. Thank you in the midst of it all, you haven’t left us to fend for ourselves. Forgive us for doubting you are there. Forgive us for thinking you’ve forgotten. Forgive us for believing we somehow know the better way.

You are fully trustworthy. You are All Powerful. You are Able. You are Lord over every situation no matter how difficult it may seem. You are Healer and will never waste the grief we carry today. You will use all things for good in some way. Anything is possible with you. Nothing is too difficult for you.

We pray for those who grieve today. We ask for your comfort to surround those who weep. We pray for the peace of your presence to cover our minds and thoughts, as you remind us, the enemy can never steal us out of your hands. He never has the final say over our lives. We are kept safe in your presence forever, whether in life or in death.

We thank you that your ways are higher than our ways and your thoughts are bigger than our thoughts.

We lay it all down at your feet, every burden, every care. Believing that is the safest place for it to be.

We love you Lord, we need your fresh grace.

In the Powerful Name of Jesus,

Amen.