Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
April 2018, Cover Story, Feature Story

Purpose in the Pain, Troy and Tracy Duhon Step Out in Faith for World Impact

PURPOSE IN THE PAIN:

Troy and Tracy Duhon step out in
faith for world impact.

Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
Troy and Tracy Duhon
God’s Not Dead 3 opened nationwide March 30. Photo to the right shows Tracy and Abigail Duhon playing with kids in a village in Gambia, the location of an orphanage constructed by Giving Hope.

Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine - Gambia Orphanage

“Be careful what you pray for – God might send a Cajun car dealer,” laughs Troy Duhon. He shakes his head as he recounts the way God is using a rebellious pastor’s son to spread the gospel through the burgeoning Christian movie business, build orphanages around the world, and address human trafficking, hunger and prison re-entry from his base in New Orleans.

As executive producer of the “God’s Not Dead” series, Duhon works to equip Christians – especially young adults – to address conflicting ideas during the volatile high school and college years. The latest film, “God’s Not Dead 3,” is scheduled for release by Pure Flix this Easter season.

Duhon was sitting on a movie set in Los Angeles when he was struck by the idea. “We have a daughter (Abigail) who’s an aspiring actress, so she auditioned for a film and got the role. Because she’s a minor, parents have to go,” he said. Then, he received a phone call from a friend, Dr. Rice Broocks, author of the book, God’s Not Dead.

“He’s telling me that 65% of faith-based kids will walk away from Christianity because they can’t defend the gospel. And I’m like – that’s crazy,” he said. “All of a sudden I got hit by the Holy Spirit and I’m like, really, God, me do a movie? I’ve never done a movie in my life.”

Duhon approached David A.R. White, co-founder and managing partner of Pure Flix. “He looks at me and says, “Are you for real?” And 31 days later we signed the contract. Now, up to 40 million people have seen the film.”

The Duhons are part of a movement to take the Christian film industry to a new level. “When you do a film called “God’s Not Dead” there’s a very small market of people that are going to go to it. You’re entertaining Christians,” he said. “But when you take a story like “Hacksaw Ridge” (directed by Mel Gibson), you’re able to tell someone a story without preaching.” “Hacksaw Ridge” depicts the faith struggle of WWII medic Desmond T. Doss.

“We’re creating a new model to evangelize,” Duhon said. That includes the idea of producing horror films – popular among Millennials – with a faith resolution. “You can give them a finish that says there’s a Creator, and his name is God. I don’t care what devil you served, God will redeem you and forgive you,” Duhon said. They are also working to provide the story of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and stories of people who have faced hard circumstances because of their faith.

Duhon said personal tragedy often pulls someone away from faith: the loss of someone close, a broken heart, a profound disappointment. For others, it is a creeping realization that Christianity prompts questions – and they don’t have answers.

But with a faith animated by their own search for struggles, the Duhon family was uniquely equipped to embrace these issues head-on. Their own painful reality – similar to the tragedy experienced by the professor in “God’s Not Dead” – brought a stronger faith and deeper commitment to serve. But it was an agonizing process that Troy and Tracy share to encourage faith through crisis.

After giving birth to two healthy children, Joshua and Abigail, Tracy looked forward to a third baby in 2004. But she was told that the baby would not even survive her pregnancy. In faith, the Duhon family and members of their church prayed through scripture and trusted God for a miracle. But Baby Jonathan died on the day he was born. Tracy and Troy were devastated.

“You could have taken anything in this world from me – anything but my children,” Tracy said. She felt that God had let her down. “We did not receive our miracle the way that we believed.” But Tracy said God was working out a different plan – one that took shape with wave after wave of trauma.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded four of the car dealerships in their New Orleans-based business. Some 1,200 cars were under water. Troy set up a relief center for the community in his Honda store. Soon, they were servicing 1,200 cars per day. “What was incredible wasn’t the number of cars, it was the joy of watching our employees give back,” Troy explained. “And from that moment on, I made a decision that it was never going to be about how many cars I sold, it was going to be about how many people that I could bless.”

Then, tragedy struck again. In May 2006, their son, Joseph, was born and lived only seven hours. “Losing one child was pain enough, and then it happened a second time. Truly you’re going to doubt your faith,” Troy said. Depression set in, along with self-doubt: was there something in his past that caused present pain?

“It was way too much for a mama to walk through. I was totally broken,” Tracy said. “And one day in the shower I cried out to the Lord, screamed, yelled at him, ‘Why don’t you just take away this pain?’” Then, she sensed God’s direction; as she emotionally released her baby boys to him, she began to move forward. “I chose to obey one day at a time. He asked me to be faithful with what is in my hand, and at the time it was Joshua, six years old, and Abigail, three years old, looking up at me. Joshua said, ‘I’m going to keep kissing you ‘til you stop crying, Mama.’”

“You begin to try to justify or rationalize without knowing that God truly has a plan and a purpose,” Troy said. “Because if those events hadn’t happened, I don’t see myself here today adopting, building orphanages and doing the things I’m doing.”

“My pain became my purpose,” he said. “I told Tracy, ‘Baby, you’re going to be the mother of many before we go to heaven. I will build 20 orphanages – that’s my goal.’” In the meantime, Tracy gave birth to another daughter, Avah, now age 6, and they gained a daughter through adoption. Anna, now age five, was brought home from China in 2012.

“The extravagant love of God loved me back to life – gave me a passion,” Tracy said. There are three lessons she passes along to others. First, there is purpose in your pain and you must choose to let it go. Then, you must tell yourself and others that God has not failed you. Finally, you must recognize that there is hope, and while you’re waiting on your miracle, become a miracle for someone else. “God gave me the word Hope, and he told me never to let go of it. And H.O.P.E. became Helping Other People Every day.”

Gradually, God began to reveal their purpose: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25: 35, 36). The Giving Hope Foundation began to take shape. They commit a small portion of each vehicle sale to the foundation’s work.

Through their non-profit, the Duhons established Hope for a Home to help families with international adoptions. They built orphanages in Honduras, India and Africa, and plan a ribbon cutting for the orphanage in Moscow, Russia in July. Through a partnership with the New Orleans Mission, they have built the Giving Hope Retreat Center to serve men and women who face the challenges of addiction, mental illness and physical or sexual abuse. A Women’s Pavilion provides 100 rooms to battered women, victims of human trafficking and formerly homeless women. Giving Hope also works with inmates released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola through the New Orleans Mission.

Another branch of Giving Hope – H.A.T.E., Hope Against Trafficking Everywhere – educates and provides rescue and recovery for victims of human trafficking, the fastest growing crime in the world, with an average age of 11 to 14-year-old girls and boys.

Giving Hope operates a full-staff kitchen that cooks 1,000 hot meals every day in one of their car dealerships. Their food pantry partners with Winn-Dixie, Wal-Mart and Second Harvesters to provide some 2.5 million pounds of food a year.

“So, I’m here to tell you today: God did not fail me, he has not failed you,” Tracy said. “His word came to pass in our life. But it came to pass much greater and much different than I had imagined.”

Their pastor told them, “The miracle of your sons living would have been incredible, but the miracle is that you and Troy are holding hands, walking back in church, moving forward, trusting God, because people can relate to your pain. They need to see someone who dared to believe and move forward and trust God again – that he can take it and turn it around.” 

For more information: givinghopenola.org.

Abigail, Tracy, Josh, Troy, Annahstasia and Avah
Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
Left; Tracy with a native at Hope House in India. Right, Troy and Josh with dedication plaque for Honduras Hope House.

Susan Brown began her career in radio news. she was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds Master’s Degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional institute for Women.

April 2018, Word from the WORD

Forgiveness by Latangela Fay

Our ‘Word of the Word’ Forgiveness

By LaTangela Fay

It comes from the tips of our tongues, but how do we know when it truly comes from the heart?

I’ve wrestled with my pen and pad while searching for what I felt would be the perfect article on “forgiveness.” After hundreds of crumpled sheets of paper and do-overs, I prayed a little harder and asked God to help me encourage you to let go of that burden that is weighing you down: hurt, anger, neglect, abuse, betrayal… any and all rush of emotions you are feeling because you are holding on to a disappointment that has shifted your gears.

We need the level of forgiveness that will allow us to see the lesson that was attached to that string of misfortune, the one that left us with a grief. It takes a prayerful heart and a level of spiritual maturity to reach the level of forgiveness that will allow us to find peace even in the midst of that particular storm.

Sometimes, it is easier to identify that grudge we are holding against someone else, but when was the last time you used the power of forgiveness towards yourself? There comes a time when occurrences become more familiar than not, and we find that we are drawing the same energy, patterns and results because we refuse to allow ourselves to eliminate the common denominator that very well may be holding us back: the guilt we hold against ourselves. Let it go. It is a new day and the stronghold that held you yesterday should hold less power over your life today.

Ephesians 4:31, 32:

Verse 31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

32) “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is the ultimate gift. Not only to others, but to yourself … and from God to us. If our heavenly Father sees fit to render forgiveness, let us follow closer to His teachings and strive to be more like Him day by day.

 

Latangela Fay is an award winning radio and media personality, author, songwriter, and production director at Cumulous Media. She is also a consultant and contributor to Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. 

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Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine - Kilben and Daniel
April 2018, Man Up for LIFE

Man Up And Forgive Us Our Debts….

And Forgive Us Our Debts…

LaFont poses with his sons and sons-in-law.
Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine - Kilben and Daniel
Daniel LaFont says he is proud of his brother Kilben, whose life was transformed by faith.

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Most of you may recognize this scripture from what is commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. Although the prayer covered several areas that Jesus wanted us to focus on, I found it interesting to note that after the prayer He stated the following in verses 14 and 15: “For if you forgive man for their transgressions, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

 As I read this again, I noted a big focus on “But.” Jesus went on to teach on a number of things, but He discussed forgiveness first. Although the Gospel is filled with the message of love, it starts with forgiveness. Jesus tells us our Father in heaven will forgive us, IF we forgive those who have offended us. And he requires that we forgive unconditionally — no list of conditions, circumstances, rules or “buts.”

Easy to teach, easy to preach, but “ouch,” what a difficult thing to do when you are the one who has been offended. How many times do we hear, “Oh but you do not understand what they did to me” or “But you don’t know how long this has been going on.”

I admired the courage of the disciple Stephen, who is credited as being the first martyr for Christ in the book of Acts. As he was being stoned for being a believer in Christ, he shouted out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7: 60) The first time I read this I remember thinking – could I be as courageous and forgiving as Stephen? Honestly, at that time in my life the answer was probably no.

At the Last Supper, Jesus and the original 12 Apostles were gathered to celebrate the upcoming Passover. As part of Jewish tradition, they would have washed themselves beforehand and a basin would have been present for the washing of their feet by a servant. But Jesus did something very unusual. He hung up his tunic and clothed himself with a towel, as a servant would do, and proceeded to wash the feet of the Apostles. He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, whom He knew would betray Him later that same night. What an act of true humility and forgiveness by the Lord of Lords!

But we do not have to just look at the Bible for great examples of true unconditional forgiveness. Look at the tragic 2015 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nineteen-year-old Chris Singleton, whose mother was killed, shared a message of forgiveness a day later. Felicia Sanders, who survived the shooting and also lost her mother, prayed for God to have mercy on the shooter. Both said their lives would never be the same, but that they needed to extend forgiveness just as Christ would. This example of unconditional forgiveness is the message of Christ.

As most of us know, while Jesus was being crucified, He said to His executioners and tormentors, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). Someone once told me that crucifixion was easy for Jesus because He knew He would be coming back to life again. So I asked him — if he knew he was going to come back to life, would he be willing to let someone nail his hands and feet to a cross and put thorns in His head, after first being whipped and beaten to a pulp? The immediate answer was no. This person was my brother, Kilben LaFont, who later, by God’s grace and forgiveness, became a preacher for which I am very proud.

This was not an overnight change. My brother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for years. A drunk driving incident cost him dearly … he broke his back in an accident resulting in two steel rods in his back. Charity Hospital referred to him as the walking miracle. He could walk, but was in pain for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, after he was back on his feet, the drinking and driving continued and he was sentenced to one year in jail, which he later professed saved his life. He accepted Christ and upon his release, we allowed him to move on to our property under some strict conditions. He joined our church and renounced drinking. It was a long path to redemption, but with a repentant heart, he proved that he was a new creation in Christ.

He worked with people who were released from prison, as well as several ministries helping people get free of drugs and alcohol. He preached the message of salvation to all he met. He was eventually ordained as an associate pastor in a local African-American church. I believe it was through forgiveness by Christ and his family, which allowed this miraculous transformation to take place. He was called home to be with the Lord four years ago, but he blesses me still.

I once heard that having a heart of unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Unforgiveness robs you of your peace. It really does not affect the offender. Forgiveness does not mean you have to trust the offender or be friends with them. Forgiveness is a gift. Trust and friendship is earned.

The Apostle Paul summed it up best in Colossians 3: 12-13. “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

Always remember that it is God’s desire to love and forgive His people.

April 2018, BRCLM Lagniappe

Gene Mills: An ‘Advocate of Hope’

Gene Mills: An ‘Advocate of Hope’

Gene Mills is a husband, father, ordained minister, and president of Louisiana Family Forum, here he receives the Advocate of Hope Award from Craig DeRoche
Governor John Bel Edwards signed the 10-bill justice reform package into law on June 15, 2017.

His modesty prevents him from taking credit, but Gene Mills was recently awarded the 2017 Advocate of Hope Award for his part in Louisiana’s recent criminal justice reform package. As president of Louisiana Family Forum, Mills was instrumental in bringing together several groups to help change the system, including victims of crime, correctional officers, lawmakers and faith leaders.

“All I did was call attention to the good work that was already taking place,” Mills said.

In fact, the state Legislature created a task force in 2015 to come up with recommendations to reduce the prison population which is well over 40,000. For years, Louisiana has held the unfortunate reputation as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country. Many of the issues that created the problem have been addressed in the 10-bill package that Governor John Bel Edward signed last June.

The new law aims to offer alternatives to prison time for non-violent offenders, expand parole eligibility, reduce prison terms, and provide support for inmates transitioning into society, among other initiatives. The reforms are expected to cut the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next 10 years.

Mills’ award was presented by Prison Fellowship in January at the Charles Colson Hope Awards ceremony. In a press release, Prison Fellowship noted that the reforms would not have been possible without Mills’ leadership, integrity and passion, or without the Christian worldview expressed by the Louisiana Family Forum team.

“We are proud to have the partnership and friendship of Gene Mills,” said Craig DeRoche, Senior VP of Advocacy and Public Policy at Prison Fellowship. “He exhibits a passion for biblical principles of justice that is rare and valuable.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise agrees. “Gene has committed his life to ministering and helping improve the lives of others,” Scalise said after the award was announced. “His deep faith and selfless dedication are inspiring, and I am proud to call him a friend.”

Mills said the reason for his involvement is simple. “Scripture tells us to tend to the needs of the less fortunate,” he said. “Grace has been extended to each of us. Now, within the criminal justice system, we must intentionally extend that same grace to prisoners … it is extraordinary how many inmates are able to turn their lives around.”

About the Advocate of Hope Award
The Charles Colson Hope Awards recognize people who have faithfully and courageously worked to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship 40 years ago, was a passionate advocate for incarcerated men and women, and their families, sharing his faith in the Gospel and honoring the God-given value and potential of each person. His impact on prison ministry, prison culture, and prison reform has been broad and lasting.

April 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s Perspective: Forgiveness, Healing, and the Resurrection by Rev. Charles DeGravelles

Forgiveness, Healing and the Resurrection
By the Rev. Charles deGravelles

Charles DeGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

People are crammed into every corner of the room. They spill through the open door into the street. Some have pushed into the crowded room only to listen and be lifted in spirit; after all, the Teacher’s words make all things seem possible. But by now, everyone has heard that the Master can, with a word or a touch, cure any condition or infirmity, and many have come with a secret prayer for healing—for themselves or someone they love. Among those on the street is a paralyzed man who nurtures in his heart such a hope. The two friends who carry him on a stretcher, determined to make this happen, somehow get him onto the roof and, after removing some of the thatching, lower him to the feet of Jesus.

The paralyzed man, his friends, and all who have watched this astonishing sight are disappointed by what Jesus says: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Where is the healing in this, they think? Others are offended: “Only God can forgive sins. Does this man think he is God?” (Luke 5:18-25.)

As always, Jesus’ words are a lesson about the Kingdom of God and what it takes to live in it. Forgiveness, the Master is teaching, is an indispensable part of the true healing required to live in God’s Kingdom. It is a deep healing of the soul that transcends the physical. He teaches this lesson over and over again. His answer to Peter’s question – how many times should we forgive – may seem cryptic, “seventy times seven, but what he means is we should forgive a limitless number of times. In the parable Jesus uses to explain this difficult lesson, a king generously forgives the great debt of a man who then refuses to forgive a much lesser debt owed to him (Matthew 18:21-35). The point? God, who sees and loves us as we are, forgives our innumerable shortcomings and expects us to do the same with one another. Lest we think Jesus is exaggerating the importance of forgiveness, among his dying words on the cross are forgiveness for those who condemned, tortured and killed him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34).

In over twenty-five years of ministry—in prisons and in the “free” world—I’ve witnessed the pain, turmoil and despair that we can cause one another, and I’ve also seen many times, even in the most extreme situations, the miracle of healing that forgiveness brings. I’ve experienced it in my own life and that of my family.

Some denominations, including my own, use the season of Lent these days before Easter as a time for deep reflection and self-sacrifice. For some, it is a time of “giving up” something that, in however small a way, reminds us of what Jesus suffered and gave up for us. As we walk with Jesus through his most difficult days, we may want to reflect on where, in our own lives, forgiveness may be called for. Instead of (or, if you like, in addition to) making a vow to give up chocolate or soft drinks or meat, why not make an honest assessment of your shortcomings that may have caused others pain, and also the resentments, angers, or grudges towards others that you are carrying. Ask for God’s forgiveness and for help in forgiving others. The resurrection of Easter will be for you, as it was for the paralyzed man who picked up his mat and walked, a time of healing and new life.

Charles deGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church. A long-time prison minister, he helped found The Chapel of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal congregation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and was a spiritual mentor to a death row inmate there. He is a graphic artist, composer and writer whose biography of the LSU football legend, Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run (LSU Press), won the Louisiana Library Association best book of 2015. He and his wife, Angela, are the proud parents of three and grandparents of two.

April 2018, Publisher's Letter

Publisher’s Letter, April 2018

Pub letter April 2018 – Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy anniversary to us!

Seems like just yesterday I was looking for people who believed strongly enough in the concept of a local Christian magazine to buy an ad for their church or business. And guess what? God went ahead of me and softened the hearts of just enough “Founding Advertisers” to launch our first magazine in April 2015.

Prior to that, I had to design a business plan. After seeking several rounds of approval through those I consider to be “wise counsel,” I moved forward with the idea that Good News and personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness would help change our city one story at a time.

After being the jack-of-all-trades those first few months, a team of wonderful people with great talent began to join my efforts. Suddenly, I had people coming along side me, using their gifts and talents, joining the vision of bringing Unity to the Body of Christ in our Capitol City. Many volunteered countless hours to help us learn and grow each month.

Since that time, we have published 36 editions! I can hardly believe it. I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy. Quite the contrary. When you go into ministry, you go into battle. Yet God has been faithful to provide just what we needed right when we needed it. While there have been obstacles and roadblocks, He has seen us through each barrier.

You will notice changes this month: some new looks, a couple of new teammates and our favorite of all, a new printer! One of my goals from the beginning was to use all local people. But for printing we had to look out of state for the type of press required. However, since the flood, Baton Rouge Press has installed new equipment, and starting this month we are keeping our business right here at home. We are excited to partner with them.

You are in for a treat this month! With Easter and a theme of forgiveness, you’ll be encouraged when you read our feature story about Troy and Tracy Duhon. Did you know the “God’s Not Dead” series was birthed here in Louisiana? There are good things happening in our city and state, and we are thankful to have the fabulous job of sharing the positive side of our city. Many other inspiring stories will encourage you to go deeper in your faith, think about the freedom of forgiveness and help us learn to Trust God more with our lives.

Happy Easter, He is Risen! Matthew 28:6 says, “He is not here, He has risen, just as He said.” His miraculous resurrection is for each of us. Not only to forgive us for our sins, but to be renewed with His life in us. John 14:20 says that He will live in us! What a transformational truth.

If you haven’t yet, invite Jesus into your life. Let him lead you into a life of purpose, wisdom and eternal salvation. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, He will meet you where you are. Don’t wait until you “have it all together.” None of us will ever be worthy of His presence. But God sent his only Son so that we may experience the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Join us in changing the world, one story at a time. Happy Easter!

Beth with team interviewing March feature Kirk Cameron
Beth with members of Radio Bible Courses, Ltd.
Beth with Founding Advertiser Karl Weber of PBC Industrial Supplies, Inc.
Beth with BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight
Beth with Alonzo Young, February Feature story
Beth with Founding Advertiser Bill Peters of Peters Wealth Advisors, LLC
Beth with East Baton Rouge Library team Mary Stein and Kayla Perkins
April 2018, BRCLM Lagniappe

Confession … Good for the Soul

Confession … Good for the Soul

by Rachele Smith

If you’ve ever hurt a loved one or caused a friendship to fail, then you know the emotions that can surface when you ask for forgiveness.

Feelings like pain, sorrow and even the inner conflict between humility and pride are all too common. But the act of forgiveness can wash away those feelings, and when expressed with a contrite heart, it can ultimately help a relationship become whole again. Forgiveness also works the same way in a relationship with God.

As humans, we are imperfect, and when failings occur and our actions, or sometimes, our inability to act, pulls us away from God, asking for forgiveness can make the relationship whole again.

“We never lose our relationship with God. That’s important to understand. But what reconciliation (confession) does is bring you back to that peace (with God),” said Father Charlie Landry, pastor of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in St. Gabriel.

In the Catholic Church, confession or asking for forgiveness is one of the church’s seven sacraments, or outward signs of the faith. It involves privately admitting one’s sins to a priest and then receiving absolution (forgiveness) for those sins.

For non-Catholics, however, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be confusing. Traditionally, it was received in a confessional or behind a screen, but today, Catholics have the option to meet face-to-face with a priest.

Father Landry explained that while confession involves a personal examination of self, the priest’s presence is important because it reflects the ecclesiastical community of the church. “As Christians and as Catholic Christians, the sense of what Jesus left us is that we are a community,” he said, pointing to the Apostle Paul, who said in 1 Corinthians that even though we are different parts, we represent one body of Christ.

And as one body, when one member of the community offends or hurts another, the entire community is affected, Father Landry said. “It’s like a sore on your arm. You know the sore is there, but your whole body feels the pain and is affected by it,” he said, adding that through reconciliation, everyone, or all parts of the body of Christ, can come back to peace and wholeness in the church.

Confessing to a priest also allows spiritual directing and can help bring understanding to what is causing a sin, said Father Landry.

“Have you ever tried to dig up a dandelion? If you don’t get the root, it will come back again and again. But to get that root, you have to dig deep. That’s where spiritual directing can help, so you can find out the cause (of certain behaviors) and how you can make a change,” he said.

Spiritual directing can also guide those penitents who struggle to forgive themselves.

But what if a person isn’t really sorry for hurting someone else? Is a contrite heart needed for confession and ultimately forgiveness? Father Landry said it is necessary, especially in any loving relationship. With true contrition, the bond strengthens, and even though humans may worry about being hurt again, with God’s forgiveness, there is no worry.

“I kind of look at confession as God cleaning the slate,” he said, adding that our free will may at times take us out of our relationship with God, but God is always waiting for us to reconcile. “The beauty of reconciliation is when you sin, you know you can come back and receive the grace of reconciliation and continue living the salvation of Jesus.”

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April 2018, Learning For Life

Churches Take First Step Towards Radical Healing

Churches take first steps towards racial healing

Pastor Gerrit Dawson of First Presbyterian Church and Adraine and Albert White of Abounding Love Ministries.

Two years ago, the city of Baton Rouge simmered with racial tension after Alton Sterling, a black man, was shot and killed by two white police officers. The shooting made national headlines and set off weeks of unrest. Barely a week later, Gavin Eugene Long ambushed and shot six police officers, killing three.

In this climate of fear and violence, pastors throughout the city were comforting their congregations and urging people to stand united rather than divided. But the hurt and anger flowed along racial lines, and finding common ground was easier said than done.

Pastors Gerrit Dawson and Albert White, already longtime friends, took a leap of faith and decided that racial healing had to start somewhere and it might as well start with them.

Dawson is the senior pastor at the mostly white First Presbyterian Church in downtown Baton Rouge. White is pastor at Abounding Love Ministries, a mostly black congregation in the northern part of the city. Their friendship had led them to partner with each other for vacation Bible schools, Habitat for Humanity projects, and Bible studies. But the two congregations had never really mixed with each other on a personal or social level. And that seemed like a logical next step.

Their first step was to identify congregants who were willing to participate. Then “matches” were made among black and white families, who took turns visiting each other’s homes, sharing meals, and getting to know one another. Those first meetings had their awkward moments, but many friendships have been formed and the feedback from both sides has been positive and encouraging.

“In the beginning, some people worried that they would be uncomfortable in someone else’s home or that they wouldn’t know what to talk about,” said Pastor Gerrit, “but in fact, once they engaged with each other, it was easy … because after all, both had Christ in common.”

They called their campaign 50 on 50 because they hoped to enlist 50 families from each church, but because of the smaller size of Abounding Love Ministries, 20 was a reasonable compromise. Looking back, says Pastor Albert, the project almost didn’t happen.

“For the announcement (and very first night) of the program, we invited the First Presbyterian group to our service at Abounding Love,” he said. “But that was the night the city started flooding so we had to cancel. Then our church flooded, and of course, the people at First Presbyterian came and helped us over the next few weeks. So we ended up developing relationships even before the program started.”

While the First Presbyterian volunteers were helping to restore the Abounding Love facility, Pastor Gerrit invited White’s congregation to the First Presbyterian services for the next few weeks. That invitation led to history in the making.

“My wife Adraine gave a sermon there,” Pastor Albert said. “It was the very first time an African-American woman had done so in that church. And I gave communion to the congregation along with their elders. That was another first.”

The home visits have expanded to include field trips, outings, and serious discussions. “We all got together and went to Donaldsonville to visit the River Road African-American Museum,” said Pastor Gerrit. “It was an amazing experience, and afterward, we went out to eat and had a heart-to-heart discussion about slavery and its impact on all of us, black and white, even today.”

“That trip was something that many of our white friends would never have done on their own,” said Pastor Albert. “But it was truly special to share an experience like that together.”

Today, the affection between the two pastors has flowed to their congregants, who have learned how to look beyond the color of each other’s skin and really see the person inside. Now, among the two churches, new friends ask about each other’s families, their health, their needs.

“We are all valuable,” said Pastor Albert. “We all have something to offer … and we are all so much alike. We just need to encourage each other to step outside of our comfort zones whenever we can.”

For more information about Abounding Love Ministries, go to aboundinginhim.org, or call (225) 356-4441. For more information about First Presbyterian Church, go to fpcbr.org, or call (225) 387-0617.

Bishop Ronald for Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
April 2018, Faith Life

THE BLESSING OF FORGIVENESS

THE BLESSING OF FORGIVENESS

Bishop Ronald for Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
Bishop Ronald Hardy, Sr. is the Pastor of Faith, Hope and Love Worship Centers of Baton Rouge and St. Francisville, Louisiana

Today, I want to inspire you to open your heart to experience t

he blessing of forgiveness. The

word blessing is defined as a beneficial thing for which one i

s grateful, something that brings

well-being. It is important to understand that forgiveness is

for our well-being. The Lord knows

what is best for us. This is why He commands us to forgive.

There are some key benefits or advantages to forgiveness.

So, why is this so important to

know? Because it may seem like you are coming up on the sh

ort end of the stick when you

operate in the spirit of forgiveness, but you are not.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to the church at Co

rinth in II Corinthians 2:10-11:

To

whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it

, for your

sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are

not ignorant of his devices.

”Today, I want to inspire you to open your heart to experience t

he blessing of forgiveness. The

word blessing is defined as a beneficial thing for which one i

s grateful, something that brings

well-being. It is important to understand that forgiveness is

for our well-being. The Lord knows

what is best for us. This is why He commands us to forgive.

There are some key benefits or advantages to forgiveness.

So, why is this so important to

know? Because it may seem like you are coming up on the sh

ort end of the stick when you

operate in the spirit of forgiveness, but you are not.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to the church at Co

rinth in II Corinthians 2:10-11:

To

whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it

, for your

sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are

not ignorant of his devices.

”Today, I want to inspire you to open your heart to experience t

he blessing of forgiveness. The

word blessing is defined as a beneficial thing for which one i

s grateful, something that brings

well-being. It is important to understand that forgiveness is

for our well-being. The Lord knows

what is best for us. This is why He commands us to forgive.

There are some key benefits or advantages to forgiveness.

So, why is this so important to

know? Because it may seem like you are coming up on the sh

ort end of the stick when you

operate in the spirit of forgiveness, but you are no

There are some key benefits or advantages to forgiveness. So, why is this so important to know? Because it may seem like you are coming up on the short end of the stick when you operate in the spirit of forgiveness, but you are not.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to the church at Corinth in II Corinthians 2:10-11: “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

You see, unforgiveness allows Satan to get the advantage over us.  However, forgiveness allows us to get the advantage over him. So, you should never feel that you are coming up on the short end of the stick when you operate in true forgiveness. So, let’s look at some of the Blessings of Forgiveness.

 Ephesians 4:30-32 says, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Forgiveness allows us to experience freedom to properly move forward in life. You must forgive, so you can put the past behind you. As long as your past is before you, it will block you from properly seeing your future, and it will also hinder you from embracing your present.

You see, unforgiveness keeps us emotionally trapped, which can result in different types of unhealthy emotions like bitterness, rage or anger. Bitterness is a smoldering resentment or wrath that produces rage. Rage is the heat of passion in the moment of anger. Anger is a more internally deep form of hostility or clamor[1]. You cannot allow yourself to stay trapped in these emotions, because it will rob you of God’s best for your life. Forgiveness is the key to getting free from these emotions. It is time for you to experience a freedom in your life through the Blessing of Forgiveness.

The second Blessing of Forgiveness is that it allows us to experience a new beginning. God’s open display of forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, opens the door for a new beginning. Colossians 1:14 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” It is through His forgiveness that we are able to have a new-found relationship with Him.

            Forgiveness will always leave the door open for a possible “new start” in your relationship with the individual that you are forgiving. It is the key to leaving the door open for a possibility of another chance with that individual. However, please remember that forgiveness does not mean that you should continue to put yourself in the same position to be mistreated again. Forgiveness means that you are not holding any resentment, hatred or wishing any ill will towards that particular individual.

            Let me share a story with you about a new beginning. A young couple in my church was about to have their first child, which caused the wife to think about her husband’s situation with his father. The husband knew of his father, but he did not have his father’s last name. The wife wanted her husband to have his biological father’s last name, because she did not want their daughter to grow up carrying a last name that was not her true identity.  So, she asked her husband to talk to his biological father about signing his birth certificate, so he could have the same last name as his biological father. This would allow him to pass his biological father’s last name to his daughter.

Initially, he did not want to ask his father, because his father was not involved in his life. She continued to be persistent, but he still refused to do it.  Eventually, he got his hands on the book that I wrote, “Where is Daddy?” After reading the book, he shared with his wife that he would follow through with her request if his father would first read the book.

            So, they sent the book to his father. His father’s wife called and told him that his father was brought to tears while he read the book. So, he and his father decided to meet. They both expressed their feelings, and because he was willing to forgive his father for not being there for him while he was growing up, they were able to experience a new beginning in their relationship. The name was changed on the husband’s birth certificate, which allowed their newborn child to carry her true identity. The father and son have a good relationship now, because of the Blessing of Forgiveness. As I stated earlier, forgiveness opens the door for a new beginning.

            The last thing that I want to share is that forgiveness keeps us in good standing with our Heavenly Father. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So, if you have been struggling with forgiveness, it is time for you to forgive, so that you can walk in your new-found freedom.

            You might be saying that the individual does not deserve my forgiveness. That is exactly right. Forgiveness is not something that is earned or deserved. Forgiveness is something freely given. I have been confronted with this many times in my life. It hasn’t always been easy, but I had to choose to forgive. Forgiveness is an act of your own will. If you can see the blessing in forgiveness, then maybe it will become a little easier to forgive.


[1] Clamor: the cry of strife or contention; out of control and, lastly, evil speaking in the form of slander.

 

Bishop Ronald Hardy, Sr. is the Pastor of Faith, Hope and Love Worship Centers of Baton Rouge and St. Francisville, Louisiana a multifaceted ministry touching the lives of many. He is a preacher, teacher, prophet and author. God has given Bishop Hardy a Ministry of Restoration.

Bishop Hardy has authored two books, one that will enrich marriage entitled, “A Loke Like This”  and the other one “Where Is Daddy?” A book that brings restoration to the hearts of fathers and the fatherless. He also authors the Daily Word, a Monday-Friday devotional that helps people navigate through their daily life. This daily Word can be viewed on the face book page of Faith, Hope and Love Worship Center.

Bishop Hardy is married to Robbin Hardy and they have four living children and seven grandchildren.

April 2018

Creative Life With Danni Downing

Purposeful painting touches the lives of others

Danni Downing – Artist


Q:  When did you first discover you were an artist?
A: Thirteen years ago, I was invited to an art class given by Merriann Hornsby, and it was there I realized I had a love for the impressionists. Merriann has a gift for color and I will always carry with me what I learned from her. Her teaching style was very warm and engaging which is what I needed to build my confidence and develop my own style and techniques. I am forever grateful to her for jump starting my creative journey.

Q: How would you describe your artist statement?
A: I paint to put a smile on someone’s face. It is that simple. Every time I begin a new painting, my first thought is always: what will make someone happy? Will this painting bring joy to the person seeing it?

Q: Do you feel that painting is a spiritual gift?
A: Yes, absolutely. I believe every artist draws their imagination deep from their soul. Before I begin a painting, I pray and ask the Lord for direction and I want the completed painting to touch someone’s deepest need, to give peace, joy, contentment and hope. I am always amazed at the Lord’s direction because literally someone’s name may come to my mind and I will hear the Lord say, “….. needs this painting Danni.” I cannot tell you how many times I will give a painting to someone and he or she will say, “Danni, how did you know this is what I needed?” I am always tickled to hear those words and I am reminded that painting is a gift.

Q: You were a featured artist at White Light Night in November. How was that experience?
A: Yes, at the midnight hour, I decided to set up at Calandro’s and showcase my art. I really did not hesitate to participate because I believe in stepping out in faith. I had an amazing night. People came up to me the entire evening and I ended up selling three paintings and handed out all of my art business cards. I loved being among fellow artists and was inspired by the talented artists that were set up near me. I am excited about participating in more art festivals like the annual Mid City Arts festival. I have to say Calandro’s is a hot spot too because hundreds of people came through there that evening to not only see the art, but to hear the music and enjoy sampling appetizers and wine. It is like a mini arts festival.

 Q: Where can people find your artwork?
A: Currently, I sell most of my work via Facebook. I simply post my paintings on Facebook and people will message me in order to purchase it. I am hoping to find new places to showcase my work.

Q: Do you have a favorite scripture of book of the Bible?
A:  Psalm 73:25 is my favorite verse in the Bible. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Q:  Share anything you would like our readers to know about your journey.
A: Well, about two years ago, I discovered Sharon Furrate Bailey’s artwork on Facebook. I was drawn to her style of art and we became friends when I mentioned I would go by and see her at Calandro’s for White Light Night. So I went to see her and we hung out most of the evening. I told her I was one of her biggest fans. We began painting together at her studio not long after we met. Her dad is a retired architect and he designed her studio. Our friendship grew and we even teamed up to teach classes for the Mental Health Association of Baton Rouge. We also helped with their annual fundraiser Beat The Odds, which was held March 8 at The Lod Cook Center.

Q: What would you like readers to know about you as a person?
A: I grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from Baton Rouge High School in 1974. In 1979, I married Paul Downing and have three beautiful and accomplished children — Amy, Heather, and Paul Jr. I am a retired flight attendant from Express Jet Airlines where I flew for 14 years. I am now pursuing a career in real estate and I am very excited about this new venture. However, I will continue to paint to touch the lives of others through this artistic gift.

 

 

Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharon@brclm.com.

April 2018, Millennial Life

Millennial Life, By Jessica LeBlanc

Millennial Life, Forgiveness

By Jessica LeBlanc

Forgiveness can be a sensitive topic of conversation for some. Let’s face it. One of the hardest things a person can do is forgive. It’s unheard of to the natural man. It doesn’t make sense. It goes against human nature. But still, Jesus requires this of His followers. To forgive is woven into the fabric of who God is. When Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross, His request was for God the Father to forgive His persecutors. How amazing is that?

We are commanded to forgive even when they’re not sorry, even when we’re betrayed. Betrayal can come in varying degrees and many different forms.

When I was in high school, I had just gotten a prestigious honor to be the emcee at a national convention for an organization. I was over the moon! I had worked really hard for that honor and was thankful for the position. Chosen out of dozens of applicants from around the country to represent was a great reward. Anyway, I was on a team with several other high school students that was being led by three adults. Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was the odd girl out. Over the course of the convention (which spanned several days) I was consistently attacked. For example, I was deliberately given the wrong time for an important meeting, ostracized from the other kids and made to feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there…by the adults. Of course, I called home crying, explaining what was happening. My parents counseled me to let my chaperone know what was going on with the national leaders. I did, and my chaperone corroborated my story and acknowledged that what was happening to me, at the hands of adults no less, was wrong. Back in my hotel room, I cried and cried because I felt all alone. And I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to intentionally try to sabotage me.

But even in that situation God showed me that I really wasn’t alone. He was with me the entire time. Every time I was attacked in some sort of way, He always came back and reassured me of His protection. Although my forgiveness journey did not start and end at that convention, it was the beginning of a lifelong lesson on forgiveness that would come up time and time again in other situations God allowed me to face. It was my first major lesson in Forgiveness that would prove to help me in adulthood when I had to forgive someone for even more. Circumstances may change, but the process of forgiving remains the same.

Because I was a child, it was very difficult for me to process being attacked by adults versus those who are my peers. It made the cut deeper. But the Bible says to pray for our enemies.

I prayed for them many times after that. Forgiveness is not a single act that takes place on a specific day. It’s a process. Regardless of what was done to you, God commands us to forgive and pray for those who misuse and abuse us. We are to love our enemies. But that doesn’t mean put ourselves in harm’s way and willingly become a victim of bad treatment. We are to forgive just as Christ forgives us. Colossians 3:13 says “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Although it’s a process, it’s also a commandment. As children of God, He expects certain behavior from us and forgiving is expected. So, whatever you may be facing right now or whoever you may have to forgive (even if it’s yourself) just know that healing and peace is on the other side of your obedience.

Jessica LeBlanc is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated journalist who was named one of the top student television news reporters in the country by College Broadcasters in 2011. While in college, she traveled abroad to Europe and wrote political and human interests stories for UPIU.com (an extension of United Press International). Upon graduation from Southeastern Louisiana University, she began working at WBRZ News 2 in Baton Rouge as a multimedia journalist and later an as anchor. Originally from New Orleans, she spends her free time working on her blog Moments with Jess, reading, taking on various speaking engagements and spending time with her family.

April 2018, Faith Life

Lost at Sea with Deborah Quan

Lost at sea

Deborah stood silently looking over the water, tears slowly gliding down her face. Her hands trembled as she read the letter one last time. Taking a deep breath, she tore the paper into pieces. And then let it go. The words, now scattered, descended into the sea.

The decision had been made. Deborah had chosen to forgive him — for all the hurt feelings she experienced as a child of divorce, for the disappointment of promises not kept, for the ache of missing his presence, for the resentment of responsibilities taken on too young. For all of it. Her head knew about forgiveness, but the pastor’s message that Sunday seemed to be speaking directly to her heart. It was time to absolve her father of mistakes from the past.

Part of Deborah wondered how the wound was still there. It had been, seemingly, a lifetime ago. She was a child of only nine years the day he left. Standing at the ironing board, she heard him tell her mother, “You’re not going to be able to raise these girls without them getting into trouble.” Whatever context that statement may have meant between her parents did not matter. She made up her mind immediately to prove him wrong. She would not get into trouble.

True to her word, Deborah took on the indoor responsibilities at home while her sister took care of the outdoors. They pitched in, allowing their mother to go to work, for the first time since they could remember. Occasional conversations with Dad, now living in a different state with a different wife, felt awkward and strained. Deborah leaned heavily on her faith. She and her sister continued going to church, more frequently than she likes to recall, without their heartbroken mother.

Still underlined in her childhood Bible is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It is a popular verse, often taken out of context, but not for Deborah. While her young heart may not have realized the significance, she found herself in a type of exile, separated from the home she loved. In fact, over time, she followed the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites. She married, had children, and built a home and a life for herself hundreds of miles away. And just as God promised the Israelites, His word rang true for Deborah. His good plans were fulfilled and she was brought home. The restoration that Deborah longed for with her father was yet to come.

She had tried to maneuver it herself, but after making a phone call, all that would remain was an empty feeling. The surface contact was there, but the depth of love that every daughter longs for with her father always felt forced. Her father had met her children and remained a part of her life throughout the 17 years she was married. He  encouraged her the best he could when her husband died of emphysema, even letting  his granddaughter live with him during part of that difficult season. But her heart still had an empty segment carved out for the relationship she longed to have with her father.

Years later, after Deborah’s children were grown and she had moved to Florida, her father came to her college graduation. It was during this time in her life, as an adult, that she heard the pastor speak and wrote the heartfelt letter that never got mailed. Despite her effort, not much changed after that day. Seven years passed. Deborah earned her master’s degree and married a wonderful man named Denny. Life went on.

Four years into her marriage, Deborah received a call from her sister. She needed help with their aging mother. Deborah and Denny left Florida the next day, headed for Dallas.  Deborah knew her father and his wife were also living in the area, but she did not expect the visit to be so emotional. When they walked into the room, her father wept.  It was the first time he met Denny, and he liked him right away. Her father had changed. He was happy. He had re-committed his life to Christ.

The next day, while mom remained in the hospital post-surgery, the rest of the family gathered around the kitchen table. There was something different about this conversation. It was honest and heartfelt. They all seemed to know they were not together on this day by accident – this was a divine time orchestrated for their good. Deborah had not felt like an actual part of the family for so long. She did not want her heart to go another minute without forgiveness. She asked for it and gave it freely. Hugs and tears filled the room as the restoration was for them all – not just Deborah and her father. As a family — a newly bonded family — they grabbed hands and prayed.

Things changed that night. “The Holy Spirit was so thick in the room,” Deborah recalls, tears forming in the corner of eyes. Her heart admittedly came to another understanding too, one she had struggled with for years. “I realized that it didn’t matter who initiates the contact, it is about the relationship.” And this one, that she had longed for since childhood, was finally fulfilled. She had been brought home and restored. The unforgiveness – she had let it go – like unspoken words lost at sea.

Deborah Quan
Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
Deborah’s Childhood bible and mother’s handkerchief
Baton Rouge April 2018 Denny
Deborah’s father

Sharon Holeman for Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True Stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her Glory and Inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and The Art Institute of Houston. She is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

April 2018

Trivia for Fun, Biblical Biography, and What does it mean?

Trivia


TRIVIA for FUN
Who asked Pontius Pilate for Jesus’s body after the crucifixion?

  1. Peter
  2. Mary Magdalene
  3. Nicodemus
  4. Joseph of Arimathea

Answer: D) Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man and an ardent follower of Christ, asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, he removed Christ from the cross, prepared His body for burial and laid Him to rest in a well-hidden tomb. Three days later, Christ rose from the grave and revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene.

Biblical Biography

Joseph
The Book of Genesis offers a particularly strong illustration of the importance of compassion. It tells the story of Joseph, a man who famously chose forgiveness over revenge.

Joseph was an interpreter of dreams, and was the favorite of his father’s 12 sons. His brothers were deeply jealous of him, and, after several years of quiet resentment, they sold him into slavery in Egypt, telling their father he was dead. Joseph faced a great deal of persecution at the hands of the Egyptians, and very nearly lost his life. But through it all, he held fast to his integrity and remained faithful to God. After several years in bondage, Joseph gained favor with his captors, and became the second most powerful man in Egypt.

At the same time, his family fled to Egypt to escape a famine in their homeland. Instead of turning his brothers away, Joseph welcomed them into his home and promised them security. If Joseph could show compassion to the men who stole his freedom and left him for dead, shouldn’t we be able to forgive the people who treat us badly? Jesus has granted each of us divine mercy, and it’s our responsibility to share that mercy with others.

(Cutline) Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt.

What Does it Mean?

Forgiveness
The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
In Ephesians 4:32, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” The act of forgiveness goes against our basic human instincts, but we are called to cast resentment aside and follow the example of Jesus. He died on the cross to free each of us from our transgressions, and we should pardon those who sin against us.

Compassion

Sympathetic pity or concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
Christ spent his time on earth showing compassion to those who needed it most. He dined with thieves, ministered to prostitutes and laid hands on the fatally ill. Jesus never turned anyone away because of their sin or situation, but instead, touched them with patience and love.

Resurrection
The process of being restored to life.
The Christian faith is based on the belief that Jesus died for the sins of mankind, was buried and rose from the dead three days later. His resurrection represents the greatest sacrifice the universe has ever known. The Easter Season is dedicated to Christ’s restoration to life, and reminds us to celebrate His victory over death.

April 2018, Family Life

The Love of the Father – Earthly and Divine by Robert Maxie

The Love of the Father… Earthly and divine

Robert and Aminga Maxie
Robert and Aminga Maxie spend time with their children Kianna, Robert Jr., Olivia, Elijah, and Jon’Benet

By: Robert Maxie

It was in February of 2014 that I woke up from a dream with an urgent need to call my father. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed his number, and to my surprise he picked up the phone on the first ring. I tried making small talk but it was mostly silent. My father and I have never been close. Years of physical abuse, alcoholism, and domestic violence made it very hard for me to build any type of relationship with him. Finally, he asked me what I wanted and I replied “a better relationship.” I told him I loved him and just wanted his love as well. After I finished speaking, there was an awkward silence. Finally, he said, “I think our relationship is just fine.” His cold reply hurt, but I did what I felt God wanted me to do. So I had peace.

In May I received a voicemail from my mother asking me to call home as soon as possible. She stated that Dad awoke that morning unable to see and she was taking him to the doctor. We would later find out that he had brain cancer that was very aggressive. Within a month, he was in hospice. I flew home to see him knowing that this would be my last time. My father, who was always so huge in my eyes, looked frail and worn. The brain tumor had taken his sight completely and he was quickly losing normal functioning. My mom announced my presence, saying, “Your son is here.” At that moment, my father looked up as if he could see me and said, “I have no son.” My mother quickly stated that he didn’t know what he was saying … those were my father’s last words to me.

My father passed away on July 1, and on that day I was discharged from the Navy and started preparing to move back to Louisiana. Within a week, we were home, moving into a new house and preparing for my father’s funeral. Everything happened so fast there was no time to grieve and I don’t remember even crying — until one evening when my mom called and asked me how I was doing. I said I was fine and she replied, “You do know your father loved you?” Within seconds, I was on the floor crying and screaming, “No I don’t.”

I heard those words in my head every day — “I don’t have a son.” I felt like Esau standing at the bed of Isaac, saying, “Would you just bless me!” In my mind I know my father was sick and probably didn’t know what he was saying, but for the last four years the enemy has had a field day attacking my mind with thought after thought and with lie after lie. I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression and no one knew I was suffering.

One day I just got tired of letting the enemy torment my mind, and instead of focusing on what my earthly father did or did not do, I would instead focus on my heavenly father and his unconditional love for me. He never denies me and he calls me son. For so long I felt like an orphan and I began reading and talking about the heart of God the father and what he says about me. I allowed Jesus into those father wounds so he could heal me. I needed God to remove the fear of rejection from my heart. The pain was killing me slowly and making me become bitter.

(Galatians 4:5-7) “To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father. So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

He called me a son! He is my perfect father. I spent years looking for a father figure only to continually end up hurt and disappointed. But God has been there the whole time waiting for me to forgive and to let go of the pain of the past. It doesn’t matter the size of the wound … I learned that a person never finds healing until we forgive.

Today I choose to remember the best about my earthly father because I know that in his own way, he did love me and he did the best he could with what he had. But my identity comes from God and every day I feel his love and acceptance. So as I raise my three boys, I tell them every day how much I love them, but more importantly, I want them to know how much God loves them. I want them to know that I am human and I will make mistakes — but God will never leave them nor forsake them. He loves them unconditionally and that will never change.

(1 John 3:1) “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”