Tag: Christ

Christmas Devotions: Jealousy

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became enraged. He sent men to kill all the children in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from the age of two and under, according to the time he had learned from the wise men.
~The Apostle Matthew, Matthew 2:16

King Herod was Jealous of Jesus. His goal was to keep the power that he had as king and Jesus was a threat to that goal. The wise men describe Jesus as the Continue reading “Christmas Devotions: Jealousy”

Episode 10: Wound Transformed

I am ready to burn out for God. I am ready to endure any hardship, if by any means I might save some. The longing of my heart is to make known my glorious Redeemer to those who have never heard.
-William Burns

There is a longing in the Christian’s heart that simply can not be fulfilled on this side of Heaven. It is born not of appetites, philosophies or theologies but of brokenness. The terrible sin-induced rift between God and Man has wounded us beyond comprehension. When we come to the Healer and begin our new lives as followers of Christ our wound begins to heal but a portion of it is transformed. Now instead of the sting of our own separation we become aware of the plight of those who have not yet found salvation. The ache of our hearts transforms from a selfish pain to a motivated desire to see as many as will respond to the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The longing of our hearts are to make known our glorious Redeemer to those who do not yet know.

 

May we never feel relieved of our holy longing to reach those who are lost and dying in their sin with the redemption and healing that can only be found in Christ Jesus!

 

Programing note!

We are happy to post Christmas Devotions this year! Starting on November 25th and every day until Christmas we will post a podcast devotoin. These daily podcasts  can be found on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. In addition to our podcasts a written version of each devotion plus bonus material will be posted here each day. Let’s prepare our hearts for Christmas together this year!

Blessings, 98A2B3E1-F362-49C6-A0F3-68ED1665662ETimothy, Angelita, Tim, Esperanza, Ezequiel, Elias, and Adelena

Would you consider joining our support network? We need your help! Donations large and small, one time and continuing are very much needed and appreciated! Click here to  go to our giving portal. 

Podcast 5: The Safe Dictates of Common Sense?

 

I go out as a missionary not that I may follow the dictates of common sense, but that I may obey the command of Christ.
-James Gilmour

Answering the call of love has nothing to do with common sense or self preservation. Promises flow easily from pulpits these days. “Come God has a wonderful plan for your life, a plan to prosper you.” The message is easy to listen to and enticing. It is seductively sweet like honey. But what happens when the bee stings, when we run headlong into suffering? Is there healing in the empty promise of the preacher? Our hopes are better served if we turn to the Word of God for guidance, for healing, for resolve. The psalmist calls out “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Let us build our faith on the sure foundation of trust in our Lord, and let us grow in faith by acknowledging Him. Only then will we be free from our own understanding and safe from the false expectations of the prosperity preacher.

May the safe dictates of common sense never interfere with the dangerous thrill of obeying the command of Christ!

Blessings, 80043A40-76C2-43CC-B0CE-426E5CD252F8The Downings

To find out more about our ministry please click here!

From Preble County to Quito’s Red Light District.

During our recent Caring Partners International medical mission trip we had an unexpected connection with one of our visitors. Donna Cox and Timothy graduated from the same rural high school. They had both been educated at Preble Shawnee where the largest social club was the Future Farmers of America followed by 4H. Rural values and rural focus were the norms. It was in that rural crucible that God prepared both of them to help address big city problems. Timothy now lives in the greater Quito, Ecuador metropolis where he helps prepare pastors and church leaders to serve in that significant city and beyond. Donna, a licensed professional counselor with a private counseling practice in Dayton, Ohio spends much of her time in adult entertainment clubs ministering to the entertainers who work there. Far away from 4H presentations at the Preble County fair and the farm smells of the Preble Counthy Pork Festival both Donna and Timothy find themselves drawn to different big cities.

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Yes, pig racing is fun!

As we ate lunch one day during the CPI trip Donna approached us with an idea. She said: “I have an odd request. Can we tour Quito’s red light district today?” The request was a bit odd. But we soon found out that in addition to her own ministry interest in such places, a Sister from the Comite del Pueblo church has a passion for the same kind of ministry!

It was a pure joy to hear Donna and her Ecuadorian counterpart discuss the particular kind of ministry passion that they share. What an encouragement for our Sister to meet someone involved in the very ministry that God had laid on her heart!

 

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We have a quick question for you in light of the common churchcentric view of ministry that is so prevalent today. Where are you going? Where is your church going? Biblically we really are called to go to all people everywhere not simply to invite some into our churches. Are you going? Your witness is very important in the place you live, in the places you feel comfortable, in the uncomfortable places and even to the ends of the Earth! Where are you going? To whom are you going?

Our encouragement for you today is to follow the incarnational ministry pattern of Jesus. Don’t play it safe, He didn’t. He surrounded himself with some of the most religious people but he also intentionally called people to himself in whom no one would expect the Holy One of God to have interest. Even among His closest followers, His Disciples He welcomed people who were natural enemies, a tax collector and a zealot alike. One thing that every follower of Christ has in common is our Savior the one thing that all people everywhere have in common is a need for our Savior.

If you are a follower of Christ you are privileged to have a godly treasure inside you. You also have a responsibility to give that treasure of God’s grace to those around you who have not yet experienced the love of God as you have. So, no matter if you find yourself in the animal barns of the Preble county fairgrounds in Eaton, Ohio, the dressing room of an adult entertainment club or anywhere in between, go unto all the world and share the Good news of Jesus Christ our Savior with everyone you meet!

To learn more about Donna’s ministry, One Heart, click here.

Blessings,0BF17C06-4474-4B44-B23A-0A44A60E0E23The Downings

 

 

Episode one: The Missionary Gift

Not every believer has the missionary gift, but every Christian is called to some kind of involvement in missions. We are called to advance the gospel in some way and to participate in the fulfilling of God’s purposes in our generation.
-David Shibley

In Acts chapter one Jesus tells his original disciples that at the advent of the Holy Spirit, they will be witnesses of his resurrection in four spheres of their lives. They were to bare witness in Jerusalem, the place they lived, Judiea, the place they felt most comfortable, Samaria, where they would be uncomfortable and forced to deal the their own prejudices, and to the ends of the Earth, a place that would require increasing effort to reach. These same spheres of witness exist for us- the current generation of Christ’s disciples. We are responsible to ensure that the message of Christ’s resurrection is proclaimed in all four spheres. Jesus did not come to make bad people good or sick people well, although he does do that, ultimately Jesus makes dead people live!
May the message of the resurrection be our witness and may we never neglect the spheres of witness that we have been granted.

 

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The Downings

(to find out more about us please click here).

 

The Service of Shadows (Experience Continued)

We have always loved the experience that holy week offers.  When we were in pastoral ministry we always tried to offer unique worship experiences during this time.  Our absolute favorite services of the year were the Service of Shadows held on Good Friday followed by the Resurrection celebration on Easter Sunday.  The Service of Shadows was a reflective time designed to help us embrace the horror of Good Friday’s events.  We sometimes forget that the gift of time has cleansed the brutality of that day.  The original Disciples of Christ did not have the benefit of knowing the light of Easter.  They saw the love, unity and fellowship of Maunday Thursday rapidly gave way to a very different experience on Good Friday.  An experience of shock and fear, of loss and betrayal.  The Service of Shadows was designed to be a progressively dark service which ended in complete gloom.  The heaviness of the service brought the worshiper into deep feelings of disrepair much like the feelings elicited by the events of the first Good Friday.

The drama of the service was quite simple.  It was held in a room that was completely dark (this took some doing, covering the windows and even the cracks between the doors). The only light in the room were nine candles that were arranged and lit in the front.  The candles were all black wax candles except for the white candle (which represented Christ) in the middle.  No music greeted the worshipers only dim light and a pensive atmosphere.  A series of signs explaining the nights events were placed in the foyer for people to read before going into the darkened sanctuary.  After the people had gathered in silence and the sanctuary doors were shut the readers who were dressed in black would walk solemnly to the front and take there places on the stage.  The air would fill with expectation as the first reader slowly approached the candles.  The reader would then read a scripture and blow out a candle, slowly making their way back to their seat.  The congregation would then be given time to reflect on what was just read to them before the process was repeated until the eight black candles were extinguished.  The sanctuary would fill with the stale smoke from the smothering candles and each reading plunged the congregation a little further into darkness.  Then the last scripture would be read.  This scripture was always about the death of Christ.  After the last reading all of the readers would solemnly walk out of the sanctuary carrying the lit white candle.  They would walk slowly like a funeral procession until they reached the doors and left with the candle.  This would plunge the congregation into complete darkness and disrepair.  After about thirty seconds a loud crash would be heard and the sanctuary doors would be opened.  The people would be escorted out by row and left to silently depart and nurse their feelings of loss and sadness until we met again on Easter Sunday to wash the darkness away.  The astute worshiper would notice that all of the candles form Good Friday where present in the Resurrection service.  The Christ candle would be lit and placed prominently for all to see.  Around the triumphant Christ candle were the broken pieces of the black candles.  Christ has broken death!

We miss being able to put together meaningful worship experiences like the Service of Shadows.  If you would like to have your own reflective reading here is the order of service for one recent year.  We suggest you find a serine spot and in your own Bible read the scripture below slowly and out loud.  Take time to be pensive and try to place yourself in the place of the first Disciples.  Embrace the pain of Good Friday and explore the depth of your grief until hope washes away your sadness on Resurrection Sunday!

 

Welcome to the Service of Shadows

Tonight you will experience the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in a truly gripping way.  As you enter the sanctuary this evening allow your senses to be filled with the sights and sounds of the tragedy of Good Friday.  Tonight’s service is meant to be felt, not enjoyed.  Our sincere hope is that the hopelessness of the Crucifixion will dominate your thoughts until it is washed away by hope at our Resurrection service on Easter morning.

Gathering in Silence

As you enter into the sanctuary tonight please do so in silent reverence.  Meditate on the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice. Reflect on the Scripture as it is read aloud.  Allow the sights and sounds of the Crucifixion to grip your heart.  Try not to speak, try to immerse yourself in the experience.

 

The Experience of Shadows

Betrayal

Matthew 26:20-25

The Shadow of Betrayal is Cast.

 

Desertion

Matthew 26:31-35

The Shadow of Desertion is Cast.

 

Lethargy

Mark 14:32-41

The Shadow of Lethargy is Cast.

 

Violence

Matthew 26:47-52

The Shadow of Violence is Cast.

 

Denial

Luke 22:54-62

The Shadow of Denial is Cast.

 

Cynicism

John 18:33-38

The Shadow of Cynicism is Cast.

 

Irresponsibility

Matthew 27:20-26

The Shadow of Irresponsibility is Cast.

 

Mockery

Mark 14:32-41

The Shadow of Mockery is Cast.

 

Death

Matthew 27:51-54

The Shadow of Death is Cast.

Leaving in Silence

As you depart the service of shadows please do so in silent reverence.  Allow the weight of what you have just experienced to permeate your heart and mind.  Dwell on this experience; let it consume your thoughts until the shadows are dispelled at the service of light on Easter Sunday morning.

Please remain seated until you are led out of the sanctuary by an usher.

May God watch and keep you in this somber time.

In His Grip,

The Downings

Anywhere, Anytime, Anything

I am willing to go anywhere, at anytime, to do anything for Jesus.  -Luther Wishard

These words flowed from the lips of Luther Wishard in 1878 as he gave himself over to the mission of Christ.  As he leaned up against the Haystack Prayer Meeting monument in Williamstown, Massachusetts he prayed, “Lord, do it again. Where water once flowed, let it flow again.”  History informed his prayer.  Years earlier in 1806 five students from near by Williams College met in that very spot to pray and discuss the spiritual needs of the people of Asia.  The students had met in Sloan’s meadow and were in mid-discussion when a thunderstorm interrupted their meeting and caused them to seek shelter inside of one the haystacks that doted the meadow.  While the students enjoyed their shelter, their discussion faded and they began to pray intensely for the people of Asia.  The rain eventually dissipated but a river began to flow that day.  A great missionary river of prayer, people and resources began to flow into foreign lands.  Today, many scholars call the Haystack Prayer Meeting a seminal moment for American missions.

When Luther prayed God did indeed answer.  Luther became the first full time staff member of a new ministry called the Young Christian Men’s Association.  His mission field was not on foreign soil but the streets of large urban areas in his own country.

God is calling.  Will you be willing to go anywhere, at anytime, and do anything for Jesus?  Our family prayer is that we would see Christ clearly and follow him closely.  We are willing to give up here, right now and follow Christ to Ecuador.  Will you seek him today?  He may be calling you to follow him into foreign lands, or he may be calling to you to follow him into the familiar surroundings of your homeland.  It is not a matter of if he is calling, it is a matter of if you will follow him.

May you see Christ clearly and may you follow him closely!

In His Grip,

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The Downings

(If you would like to partner with us in our calling simply click on the family photo above and you will be taken to our donation page.)

Presents, A Christmas Eve Reflection

The following is taken from Christmas Devotions.

When the wise men saw the star they shouted joyfully. As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

~The Apostle Matthew 2:10-11

The wise men brought Jesus gifts which were filled with meaning. They brought gold, a gift fit for a king. The gold was also very useful for the family as they fled to Egypt to save Jesus’ life. We may not have gold but we can make Christ the king of our lives!

The wise men also gave a perfume called frankincense to Jesus. Frankincense was used by priests to worship God in the temple. This gift points to the fact that Jesus would be our priest, the one who would stand in the gap between the Holy God and sinful humanity. Frankincense points to our redemption, our salvation.

The third gift was myrrh. Myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial. It seems like an odd gift for a child but in light of the mission of Christ this gift makes perfect sense. The way our redemption was purchased is through the atoning death of Jesus. He took our sin and shame and died because of it. Then three days later he defeated the consequence of our sin, he rose from the grave. The resurrection narrative tells us that Mary and some other women tried to anoint the body of Jesus with myrrh on the third day after his crucifixion. The expensive myrrh that they were going to use was most likely the same myrrh that the wise men gave to Jesus.

The beauty of this last gift was that it was never used. Jesus died to purchase us life but before the myrrh could be used he rose to give us hope!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you join the family of God, that you live because of Christ’s work on the cross and that you live in the hope of his resurrection. If we follow him in life and in death we will follow him in his resurrection as well!

Have a blessed Christmas,

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Timothy, Angelita, Timothy 2, Esperanza, Ezequiel, & Elias
Missionaries elect to Ecuador