This past Sunday I spoke briefly about some of the local organizations that we support. Here is some information on those organizations.
Each campus at NewPointe has a local missions budget that allows us to support and partner with local organizations and help people in our community. Here in Millersburg we have a partner relationship with several organizations. Some we support monthly with a financial contribution and some we work with by providing volunteers, promotion of their services and fundraisers.
We work with organizations that are well run, that help people in need and that are Christ centered.
The three organizations we support financially on a monthly basis are:
We support and promote these organizations as we are able, through one-time donations, volunteers, promotion and participation with events they organize:
I want to encourage you to be generous and give to NewPointe so that we can continue to support these organizations or give directly to them. If you have any questions you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships. Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic. Much of this post is based on her research.
One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame. Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement. However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow. So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others. Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.
In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it. This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own. It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them. It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up. It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.
Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental. Most of us are judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame. We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves. We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.
Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally. Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.
When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation. It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole. Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened. When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. There is a big difference.
When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage. To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions. It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.
However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable. When we are vulnerable we are our true self. We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy. The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all of that and the person loves you even more.
So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective. Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together. Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life. Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame. When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.
Empathy is critical to emotional health. This is the ability to discern emotions in others and then experience, within ourselves, the same emotion. This is much different than sympathy, which is the mental awareness of what another person is going through.
Developing the ability to empathize is important if you want to improve your relationships and get healthy emotionally. Why is it important to be healthy emotionally. Well, I believe that our emotions play a big part in our physical and spiritual health as well. Emotions live inside us and if painful emotions are living inside you they eventually come out in behavior, thoughts and attitude. Unresolved emotions can lead to physical illness and mental damage as well. It also affects your relationship with God.
Emotions should not control us, we should understand and control our emotions. We should not try to shut off our emotions or hide them, that is why empathy is so important. It helps us to connect with and understand other people much better.
To develop empathy we must learn to listen and observe words, sounds and body language. Jesus was amazingly empathetic. He was moved with compassion as he discerned the needs and pain of others. Read Mathew 9:36 and 20:34.
When we can empathize with someone three things will happen:
1. The other person will feel that someone cares for them and is willing to enter into their emotional world.
2. They feel like someone understands them.
3. They feel that it’s ok to be emotional and express emotions, in other words, my emotions are legitimate.
All emotions can be grouped into two categories: Potentially painful and potentially positive. The Bible teaches us how to attune or empathize to these two groups of emotions. In Romans 12:15 it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”
When someone is sad, we often think it is important to try to cheer them up. That is our natural response, but what is actually most helpful is to be sad with that person. Seems odd, but that is what empathy is. The people around us will feel blessed when we allow and encourage them to express their positive or painful emotions and we either rejoice or mourn with them.
This life skill of empathy is a game-changer for relating to other people. This skill allows you to connect with people in a way that helps them feel safe and valued. They will actually feel better after talking with you than before. It also helps you to better understand why people do what they do.
As a mentor and a pastor this skill has helped me to help other people. When people cannot process their emotions with someone they end up in a downward spiral that leads to destruction of relationships, and their physical well being. It often causes them to feel distant from God as well. To stay healthy emotionally a person must be able to process and express their emotions to God and other people.
As a leader, spouse, parent, boss, employee, sibling or friend, the ability to empathize will improve your relationships and deepen them as well. Learning this skill takes time, effort and patience. Paying attention to the details, asking the right questions and sometimes just being silent and feeling the emotion the other person is feeling. This can be hard work and frustrating at times, but in the long run empathy leads to better emotional health for you and those around you.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
My takeaway from that verse is that Christians need to be doing more not less to help those in need. There are two kinds of responses people can make to this verse.
I guess there could be a third response of I have thought about helping the poor, but just don’t know how.
A word of caution to the people with response number two. There can be mixed emotions and motives behind wanting to help the poor. Here are some possible motives:
The danger is to unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that we use to fulfill our own need to accomplish something good. Really the answer for all three responses is that we need to be reminded of the Gospel every day. We are all broken and poor in some way. It may not be financially, but it might be relationally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. We need to be reminded that Jesus paid it all and covers all our sins and short comings. So we are not on this earth to fix ourselves or other people, we are here to love God and love other people.
Our approach to helping poor people should be to love them. Taking the time to build relationships, to listen to their story and really care about them. It means taking a longer term approach with people instead of a quick fix like paying a bill for them, or buying them groceries once. Often times we like to swoop in and help someone out and then never interact with them again. That usually confirms to that person that they are poor and feeds the shame they feel. It does not help that person heal emotionally or to mend broken relationships or build new healthy relationships.
Here are five principles we can use in our approach to giving:
In order to really help someone we need to understand if they need relief, rehabilitation or development. In many situations, relief is not needed, but rehabilitation or development is needed. Relief should go to the severely disabled, some elderly that cannot care for themselves, the very young, orphaned children, mentally ill homeless and victims of natural disaster. Most others may want relief, but need rehabilitation and development.
Most people are poor because of broken relationships. Development looks to help restore and to build healthy relationships. This takes time, patience and work. We should not do things for people that they can do for themselves. When we step in and do things for people they can do for themselves we send a message to them that they are incompetent, hopeless and helpless. Instead we should work with them to help them improve their lives. This is the helping in truth part from the opening Scripture.
This holiday season, I want to encourage you to think long-term if you want to help someone in need. If you are not willing to do that, then it would be better to not get involved. You can still help by giving to organizations that have this approach. Here are some organizations that my church supports. NewPointe Community Church also has this approach of mentoring and working long-term with people to help make big changes in their lives. We might help them financially along the way, but it is part of a plan for helping them grow and change.
I read this today in Michael Hyatt’s Blog and thought it would be worth sharing. This is a different way of looking at the world around us. I have been challenged lately to love people better. Jesus told us to love others like we love ourselves. I am not sure I can say that I do that every day. So here is a prayer for me and for you:
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to our children and the poor.
I hope that was as inspiring and challenging to you as it was for me. I want to challenge you to start praying that prayer and asking God to make you uncomfortable. Compassion and love for people is not a feeling, it is an action – Go make a difference!
Are you empathetic? That is a question I have had to ask myself lately. I have been studying this quality called empathy and have been challenged to work on improving this competency in myself.
Here are several definitions of empathy:
“A motivation oriented towards the other” – Daniel Batson
“To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person” – R. R. Greenson
So empathy is to feel what another person feels and to be able to express that emotion yourself. This is a competency that when developed helps you to tune into the other person’s thoughts and feelings. The basic ability to recognize emotions is for most people something you learn as a child. It is almost an unconscious thing you do. Yet it is something that you can improve at and learn to increase accuracy and intensity.
Most people are more able and willing to empathize with people they like or know well. We tend to empathize best with the people closest to us. The more contact we have with someone the more likely we will be in tune with their emotions, unless of course we are not developing this competency.
Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is more about feelings and sympathy is more about actions. You sympathize when you express how sorry or happy you are for them. If you are a highly empathetic person, you are most likely also sympathetic, but a person that is sympathetic and not empathetic can come across as shallow and will not connect emotionally. Their actions or words comes across as more of a conditioned response than a compassionate understanding.
Empathy has some benefits:
So how do you improve your empathy quotient? Here are a few things to consider:
Of course empathy does not happen if you don’t care about people. Selfish people don’t empathize well. Many leaders struggle with this as well, because they are highly motivated and goal oriented. Empathy takes time and you almost need to go in slow motion to really empathize with someone. If you see the other person as a project, you cannot empathize well.
The best way to increase your ability to empathize with someone is to spend time meditating on God’s word. Meditation has been proven to increase your ability to focus and pay attention. So if you lack the ability to focus or pay attention, then extended times of meditation on God’s word could help you break through some big walls in your life.
To check your empathy Quotient click here
I learned a lesson again the other day. I was feeling tired and down, my wife calls it being in a funk. Whatever it was I did not have my normal energy and drive. I was working out consistently and doing a lot of projects around the house, so I was physically worn down a little. But I was also low emotionally. I did not want to be around people and just wanted to be by myself. The part that I learned was on the spiritual side.
You see I had allowed myself to drift spiritually. I had not been praying as much and had not spent time alone with God getting recharged and refocused. I was trying to do everything on my own and I was worn out.
Well Friday came along and I had a couple of hospital visits to make. Part of my job as a pastor is to call on people that are in the hospital. I have others that help with this, but they were not available, so I had to go do it. So after I lunch I headed up to Canton. I did not know either of these folks, but they came to our church and had family that attended as well. So I start to pray as I drove up to Canton. As I prayed I felt myself getting stronger emotionally and spiritually and I actually got some new energy. I was not all the way back and was hoping this would be a quick trip though.
The first stop was to a lady that was waiting for heart surgery. She was by herself in the room and I was able to talk with her, pray with her and serve her communion. I could tell that she was so glad that I came. She could not hear very good, but her eyes told me how much it meant to her. She thanked me several times.
Next stop was another hospital and a guy that just had five bypasses on his heart. When I finally found his room he was sitting in a chair with his wife across the room. I spoke with him and heard how things had gone and how he was doing. I prayed for him and told him the best gift he can give his family is to know for sure where he will spend eternity. I encouraged them to come to Church when he was feeling better and they said they would. I could tell they both were so appreciative of the time I spent with them.
Then as I was leaving something strange happened. A lady was walking down the same hallway as I was and started talking to me. She was not sure how to get out of the hospital, so I told I was leaving and she could walk with me. As we got to the elevator she started telling me about her husband and how he had just had emergency surgery and it was worse than the thought. She was obviously under a lot of stress and as I listened to her I knew I was supposed to pray for her.
When we got outside she said I hope your situation is better than mine. I said I was just visiting someone from my church. She looked at me and asked if I would pray for her. I told her I would love to and we stood outside the hospital and prayed. I tried to encourage her as we walked to our cars and when I got in my car, I realized that is why I was supposed to do those visitations. God needed someone to encourage and pray for that woman and I was available.
So here is the lesson that I learned. Usually when we start to feel down and out and lose energy we assume it’s just a physical or emotional issue. I think it is only partly that. I think it is a spiritual issue. I believe we have an enemy that is trying to kill and destroy people. That funk I was in was partly a spiritual battle and I could have easily lost an opportunity to minister to some people in need. The next time you are feeling down, start praying and asking God for direction on how you can minister to someone in need. When you do that, it will bring great energy and fulfillment. Going and serving and helping people in need can help bring you back up.
When we start to fade away from God we can quickly lose focus and purpose. We start to do things in our own strength and get into all kinds of stress. When we plug into His power and strength we can do much more. Be encouraged, God loves us and wants to use us as His instruments in loving other people.
Last week I made the comment that “Your calling is often connected to what troubles you deeply and how you have been hurt in the past.” Here is what I mean by that.
In the book of Nehemiah, in the first chapter it talks about Nehemiah asking about how the Jews that had returned to rebuild Jerusalem were doing. When they reported that things were not going well and that it looked like the city was not making any progress, this was his response: “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-heaven.”
For William Wilberforce it was slavery. He devoted most of his life to seeing it ended in England. For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it was the injustice that oppressed and persecuted African-Americans.
If you want to discover your calling, start praying about what troubles you deeply. What do you cry about? What makes your heart break? If it is helping the poor, then spend some time around those in poverty. If it is helping single moms, then start meeting with some single moms. If it is divorce, then get involved with some people that have been hurt through divorce. Allow your heart to be moved and shaped into action.
Larry Crabb said this – “The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things.”
Nehemiah was passionate about the persecution of his Jewish brothers and had a vision for rebuilding a city. When God gives you a burden, it is usually an indication this could be your calling. If you have a burden for something, do what Nehemiah did. First he fasted and prayed and wept. He spent time with God, but he also dove into it. He put together plans, checklist and material that it would take to accomplish the goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He prepared himself so that when an opportunity came along to make a difference he was ready.
As you pray about what is troubling to you start to research how you can get involved. Talk to others that have a similar burden. Check out organizations that are working on whatever issue you are drawn to. For example it may be human trafficking that has been troubling you. There are some great organizations that are passionate about this cause. Go to their website, send some emails, make some phone calls. Start praying for those organizations. Here is one you can check out International Justice Mission
Maybe you don’t have a burden. That’s OK, I am sure you have some hurts from your past. Another way you can discover your calling is to examine where you have been. I believe there is purpose in your past. Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” When your pain threshold was tested and your endurance was stretched to the breaking point, that is where God works to bring good. Things like Divorce, abuse, death, alcoholism, cancer, depression, job loss, bankruptcy, eating disorders, miscarriages, abortion, affairs, marriage struggles all bring great pain and great opportunity. The great opportunity is that these things can bring about great change in us if we work with God to heal and become healthy. Once we are on our way to recovery, we can then begin to help others that are not as far along as we are.
The great ministry opportunity comes because now you understand the pain someone else is going through. You can listen with empathy and know what is helpful and what is not helpful. You know how to pray for that person, encourage that person and come alongside them through their dark time.
Max Lucado said this “God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at age thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it’s in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. So does God.” We are God’s instruments, his desire is for us to be in good enough shape to help someone else that is bent or broken. He does the work, but he uses us as his instruments.
So to find your calling look to what troubles you deeply or how you have been hurt in the past. Start by praying, fasting, and planning. Taking action is the key, when God opens the door we need the courage to take a step of faith, to take a risk and pursue your calling.
The reason you and I exist is to first have a relationship with God and then to make a difference in other peoples lives. To do that we first must work on ourselves and get as healthy as we can. But don’t wait until you “have it all together” or you will never actually do anything meaningful. God is calling you to himself and to a ministry.
Proverbs 22:9 says “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”
Serving & helping others helps us to grow spiritually, improves our relationships and blesses us. If that is true, why don’t we serve others more often? Why aren’t we more generous with our time & resources?
Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Biloxi MS shortly after hurricane Katrina hit. I was with a team of 40 people that worked together for a week to help everyone we could. My main job was to find work for our volunteers to do. I would walk from home to home asking how we could help. I got leads from the local church we were staying at as well. We worked hard everyday until it was too dark to work. Some groups worked into the night. WE got up early ready to make a difference; we cleaned up yards, cut up trees, built fences, repaired walls, floors, roofs, doors and even put up a mailbox. We touched many lives that week, we grew in our faith, developed new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We were exhausted, but we all felt blessed more than we could express. Since then I have gone back several times and even gone to the Middle East on mission trips.
On my way back home from that trip I kept thinking; why do we need to go on a mission trip to help and serve people. What would happen if we took that mentality of helping and serving people in need home with us? Could we take the same attitude of serving we had on that trip and apply it in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities we live in?
Most of us don’t serve others as often as we would like to because we are too busy. We miss opportunities because we are so caught up in our daily schedules and habits. When we stop long enough to go on a mission trip our focus changes. We take our eyes of ourselves and our comfort and put it on other people that are hurting and in need of help. We feel amazing, useful, we feel like our life has meaning & purpose.
What if every day could be like that? What if we all would approach this next week like we were on a mission trip? A trip that would take you to your workplace, your family and friends, your neighborhood, your grocery store, your bank, your church, your small group.
How could you serve the people you come into contact with this week? Maybe it’s just a smile and taking the time to listen to someone. It could be doing a random act of kindness like paying for someone’s meal. Maybe it’s playing longer with your kids or doing the dishes every night. Maybe it’s volunteering at your church. Get creative, look for opportunities to serve people and watch your attitude change. I promise you that the more you serve and volunteer the more you will grow spiritually, the better your relationships will get and the more you will feel blessed.
Compassion has a way of turning peoples heads. The level of compassion to help the people of Haiti has been amazing. In times of crisis most people are willing to step up and try to help make a difference. The efforts in Haiti have been amazing as we continue to hear stories of people giving their time, talents and treasure to help. I am sure we will hear some truly amazing stories in the months ahead.
Jesus said this about the church, “You are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Jesus was saying that there is one force in this world that can shed life giving light on a dark and hurting world. Who was in Haiti before this tragedy? Many churches and Christian organizations were there trying to make a difference in peoples lives. The church is made up of people that are called by Jesus to love other people. That love for people is the motivator for churches to reach out and help people. That is why there were people on the ground with the people of Haiti trying to encourage and equip them.
So here is the question, how bright is your light shining. Is your bulb wattage at 25? 40? 60? or 150?
Showing compassion to the world is what we were called to do. We are not called to judge this world, but to love those in this world just like Jesus did. When we show unconditional love to a broken world it gets people’s attention. True compassion is unusual. Acts of compassion are not just giving money, although money is often needed. Compassion is helping people in need through relief, rehabilitation and development. If we never get to developing people, we are not showing true compassion. Relief is often the first step, but the real compassion comes in rehabilitation and development. That takes time and energy to help people become what God intended them to be.
Here are three reasons we should get involved personally in acts of compassion.
Being compassionate requires action. If you just think about helping, cry about a tragedy or talk about how awful something is, you are not compassionate. Compassion happens when something is done to help another person in need. When you do that little extra to show love and respect for a less fortunate person. I hope that everyone that reads this Blog post will pray for God to give them an opportunity to show compassion in a real way this week.