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Give Me A Word

~ Written by Samantha Freds

For the past few years I have asked God to give me a word for the year. One word to study and to grow in throughout the year. There’s nothing distinctly biblical about the practice but I’ve found it to be very formative. Whenever I hear my word I am reminded that God is interested in transforming me.

The first time I tried this I started praying in September for what word God would have me focus on in the next year. I was tempted to choose something like “intentional” so that I would be reminded to try harder and be more disciplined in my spiritual journey. I had big plans for the year! My Heavenly Father knew me better than that.

The word He kept putting in front of me was “dependent.” So, I spent a year being reminded to stay connected to the Vine – to depend on Him for everything. It was a year of uncertainty. I quit my job, moved to a new town and went back to school to start on a completely different vocational path. My life felt out of my control and I had to learn to depend on Jesus (something I will always be learning).

This year my word is “present.” I don’t know exactly what’s in store, but I chose the word because I’ve sensed for awhile that I need to be more present. More aware of the hurting, needy people God places in my path. Willing to allow interruptions to distract from my to-do list. Perceptive of the fact that God is always present in my life. Content with the current. For the next 52 weeks I am committed to learning how to be present.

Will you join me in that endeavor? Has God placed a different word and direction on your life?

May you be blessed in the coming year by the presence of the Most High God.

~ Written by Viki Rife

Is it just me, or is the world more filled with anger than it used to be? I am finding out it isn’t just my perception. For example, Carey Nieuwhof in a recent blog listed ten changes that have happened in the past decade. One especially jumped out at me:

“We seem to be a lot angrier and more polarized.”

He points out that anger seems to get you noticed, and we’ve discovered that hate generates more clicks than love.

We can’t change the whole world, but what can we do to stand against this current that is so damaging to our stability and well-being? In the first place, may I suggest we evaluate the information we receive and not jump on the anger bandwagon. Let’s each take seriously the admonishment to be “slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 2:19-20, italics mine).

What would it look like to deliberately choose to examine our anger in light of God’s perspective? What if we consulted with Him about how to handle situations that fuel anger? We might be surprised at the wisdom He gives us to instead defuse attitudes that have been causing division.

While there are times we need to legitimately address and deal with wrongs, let’s make sure we have our facts. How many times have I been incensed over a Facebook post only to find, upon checking, that it’s only telling one side of the story? We must become people of integrity if we want to be a light in the darkening world. Let’s resolve to make this our decade, as believers, of allowing wisdom rather than anger to prevail.

If you want to read to read the original blog, you can find it here.

~Written by Cassie Rayl

Christianity is uncomfortable. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past year with a vengeance it would be just that. I haven’t stuck around Jesus and his standards to be comfortable. If ease was truly what I sought in 2019, I’ve followed the wrong God.

I used to share such thoughts with confidence and be surrounded by knowledgeable nods and knowing smiles. This past year, more than ever before, I found myself around people who acted disgusted that I had stayed with Christ. After all, in their minds, I could blame this Jesus for everything our family had been through, so why stay?

During one conversation where a friend asked me why I still believed following Christ was a good idea, all I could say through the tears was, “Because He’s everything, and I trust Him.”

Our culture is slowly becoming less and less “Jesus friendly.” If we as the Body of Christ can’t cement in our hearts why we trust Him, and if we can’t purpose in our minds just how much we are willing to give Christ no matter our circumstances, standing strong will only become harder.

In 2020, let’s strive to stand with purpose in allegiance to the only One Who is always enough. The world needs the light of Christ more than ever.

~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

~ Written by Lorena Oplinger

Many purchases have been made based on emotional reasons.” This is what I’ve learned as a retail sales associate. The way we choose to spend our money reflects not only who we are but also what we lack.

In a recent sermon, my pastor explained that our lack of self-control in buying things is more than a behavior. “Shopaholics buy things in order to fill the emptiness in their hearts,” he stated. The pleasure we feel when we buy certain items, eat certain food, or do certain activities is created by our brain, a powerful machine that it releases its own dopamine. This chemical substance makes us feel better and happier.

People are desperate to be accepted, included, and welcomed. Everybody wants to feel part of something, but when someone experiences rejection, exclusion, and/or discrimination, he or she will always find other ways to compensate for the gap produced in his or her heart.

Purchasing something of value gives us a false sense of identity. We have become a Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas society. We don’t mind paying twice the value for brand items if they represent a high social status.

My job requires me to provide the best service experience to those who come to me, but my call as a Christian is to share the Good News of Christ in an emotionally empty world.

I would love for them to know that happiness is free.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The news didn’t bring me joy. I was more than angry—I was incensed! A man was being nationally applauded for a good deed in his community. However, I knew he was more evil than good, more manipulative than gracious, and more selfish than considerate.

 First good deed in sixty years, I bet! I muttered under my breath as I read the article. The guy didn’t know me from Eve, but I had briefly connected with one of his victims, and that was—in my mind—all I needed to justify my (short-sighted) fury.

 As I added fiery accusations to the mental fight I was picking with the guy, I heard the Spirit whisper, “But child, what if he’s found Me?”

 The simplicity of the question stopped me in my tracks. Jesus came to set sinners free…even the sinners who we never thought would want freedom in the first place. No sin is too great, no lifestyle too deplorable to receive His grace.

 Christmas is the season we spend more time than normal meditating on the coming of our Savior. Oh, what a celebration! But Christ’s coming is equally that of the Great Reconciler, and though it’s something I celebrate, it’s also a great challenge to my soul.

 Has Christ’s coming truly changed my heart? Have I made room in the Throne Room for everyone Christ loves, or merely those I like?

 Am I doing my part to to keep Christ’s love in Christmas?

~ Written by Samantha Freds

There are few things I enjoy more this time of year than puzzles. I love piecing together a beautiful landscape or a colorful scene. I find it relaxing yet challenging. I relish the satisfaction of tracking down that one piece I have been looking for. Recently, I’ve discovered what I believe to be a near-perfect combination of favorite things: fuzzy socks, a cup of hot coffee, and a puzzle.

My love for puzzles goes back to my childhood. My mom and I used to do them together when the weather forced us to stay inside. It was my mom who taught me proper puzzle strategy. First, you must separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces. Next, you put the outside together so you have a boundary to work within. Then you lay out all the middle pieces and put the box away.

Mom always encouraged me to not look at the picture on the box because she thought that was cheating. I, on the other hand, called it using my resources!

Fortunately, Mom had a very different strategy when it came to life. She encouraged both her kids to return to God’s puzzle box as often as possible. Just like puzzle creators provide a guide, our Creator gave us a guidebook for life. And just like the picture helps direct my efforts when I get stuck working on a certain section of a puzzle, the Bible is the life-giving direction I so desperately need.

I’ve been in a bit of a valley lately – a dry season spiritually. So I write to remind myself of the beauty of the Word of God. I so desperately need it to guide my life!

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

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