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~Written by Viki Rife

If you haven’t yet seen Overcomer, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But for me personally, the most challenging part of the movie is when John Harrison stops in to visit Thomas Hill. Hill observes, “You said you would pray for me. Did you?” Harrison has to admit he didn’t.

Many years ago I made a commitment to always follow through after telling someone I would pray for them. You know what? It’s really hard to do! When your own life is swirling with unexpected issues, and when there are many people you run into who need prayer, it’s sometimes hard to find the energy and focus to follow through.

Of course you can stop and pray with them right then and there. That has a lot of value. I’m asking the Lord, however, to give me the courage and persistence to pray more for the people I encounter, and to remind me to pray when I’ve made a promise.

A Christian leader I once had the privilege to interview shared with me that his life goal was to fulfill the instructions of Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”(NIV) If all God’s people devoted themselves to pray for those around them, how might our world change? May devotion to prayer be the deepest longing of our hearts.

~Written by Samantha Freds

Do you know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Both tools measure temperature but while a thermometer adjusts to the temperature around it, a thermostat sets the temperature. The difference is simple, but if applied to how we act in a room full of people it can be convicting.

During the four years I worked at a GM manufacturing plant, I behaved like a thermometer. I used the language my coworkers used, told the jokes they told, and let the environment affect my attitude. While I held firm to some convictions, maintaining my “Christian” identity, I tried to fit in any way I could.

Too often I still act like a thermometer and adjust to my surroundings. Not completely changing who I am, but certainly hiding some aspects while accenting others. I’ve heard integrity defined as “how you live your life when nobody is watching.” But what about when only my church friends aren’t watching? Do I talk differently at church than I do at home? Or at work?

The apostle Paul had something to say about this. In his letter to the Romans he wrote, “do not conform to the patterns of this world.” Don’t be like a thermometer, constantly adjusting to the patterns of the world around you. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Be like a thermostat, “able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I want to be a thermostat! I want to learn to set the temperature of whatever room I am in instead of being changed by it.

~ Written By Viki Rife

“Mommy will go to the hospital and be there for several nights, then come home with our new baby,” I told my two-year-old daughter enthusiastically. She had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of “her baby,” but it was the first time I had explained to her that I had to go away for a while. My goal was to break the hard parts of the experience into small sections for her to digest.

“Will I go with you?” she asked. I explained that she would be at Grandma’s for a while, and then Daddy would pick her up and bring her home.

A look of horror swept over her face. “But what will I eat?” she asked plaintively.

I had to laugh. Cooking was not a part of my husband’s skill set. But I have to admit, there was a side of me that thought: I’m her mother. Doesn’t she even trust me to take care of her? Have I ever left her to figure out how to get her needs met? Doesn’t she realize that isn’t her job?

She looked so forlorn, I had to stop and take her seriously. I explained that Daddy could fix her cereal and toast, and that he could make hot dogs, too. She still looked rather doubtful.

I was reminded of that incident recently when my mind was in a turmoil over a rough situation. I had become so obsessed with solving the problem (which actually had no solution I could control) that the foundation of my world was shaking. At one point of desperation, I sensed God asking me: “Who told you that you’re responsible for fixing this? I certainly didn’t.”

The memory of my daughter’s distressed face flashed through my mind. “I’m doing the same thing to God,” I thought. Then I remembered the rest of the story.

When the time came for me to go to the hospital, we dropped our daughter off at my parents’ house. We allowed Grandma to break the news to her that she would be able to spend the night, as we had planned to do all along. Our daughter was overjoyed. “Grandma knows what I like to eat,” she reassured me as we left. My solution to her problem was much more satisfying than she could have imagined.

Now when I start feeling like it’s my responsibility to solve problems that are out of my control, I try to remind myself, “God has it figured out. Maybe I’ll end up at His version of Grandma’s house!”

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“What if you were born like this for someone else?” A friend once asked me that question as I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t think I was strong enough to live a disabled life anymore. I’d been run ragged with terrifying changes to my diagnoses, the medically overwhelming theory of “pre-mature death,” and an overarching soul desire to just be myself, rather than being caged by my body’s inabilities.

I was angry. But my friend ignored that, and pointed me back to the Throne Room, so I could ask The Architect of my life what He really wanted from me. I was gently reminded of the prayer I used to pray like it was a broken record, “May I know You, and become like You.” How do we know Christ if we do not first understand the need for Him?

After we understand our need for Him, isn’t it enthralling to realize that He doesn’t correct our physical inadequacies nearly as quickly as He changes our character and our hearts? What if we’re given trials, limitations, and seasons of doubt not because God “has it out for us,” but because He knows we want to become like His Son, and in order to do that, we must take our eyes off ourselves and simply need Him and lean on Him?

Isn’t it true that what we call weakness, He calls glory? What if, instead of trying to “fix our weakness,” we truly accepted the fact that our weaknesses exist so that God can be seen, and therefore, our legacy as His faithful followers can remain eternally strong?

Oh, may that be our heart’s desire!

Give Them Jesus

~ Written by Samantha Freds

She had been caught in the act. She was dragged from the situation, the shameful, adulterous situation, and put in front of the crowd. The law was clear; her punishment would be death by stoning. Quite frankly, she deserved it. She was a cheater! But, Jesus was there that day.

In fact, this little incident was really about Him anyway. Jesus was there and He gave her mercy when she deserved death. Then He gave the crowd something else. He gave them truth. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Quietly, one by one, they all left knowing the truth of their own sin.

To the crowd He gave truth and to the adulterer He gave mercy. Why? The crowd was made up of teachers of the law, the Pharisees, and those who had been listening to Jesus preach. They knew better. Jesus made this same move all throughout His ministry. He gave truth to those who knew better and mercy to those who didn’t.

But we want it the other way around. We want to yell truth at the people who live lives of sin and depravity and we want the mercy all to ourselves. But there is no truth for the world without Jesus. The people of the world have no reason to be formed by the truth until they have been transformed by Jesus. Here’s the key to that passage in John 8: Jesus told the woman, “go and sin no more.” He didn’t condone her sin, but he led with mercy.

He always leads with mercy. And we have to lead with Jesus.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The doctor came into the exam room in his typical enthusiastic flurry of activity. Without a moment’s notice, he reviewed my chart, chuckled to himself and said, “Well, you’re free to go. You’re totally healthy now that we’ve figured out your treatment. Come back in six months?”

I rushed to explain to him how I wasn’t comfortable with how my blood pressure and heart rate were making me feel. He smiled kindly and said, “I’m afraid that’s not the issue, Ma’am. Your vitals are healthier than they should be for someone in your situation. What you’re feeling is what everyone feels when they’re healthy. You’ve just never experienced it. You’ll get used to it over time.”

I find myself handling my journey to spiritual redemption in much the same way. God whittles away at sin patterns and ungodly thoughts, and I panic because my heart and mind seem different, so something must be wrong, right?

But, just like the doctor, Jesus grins and says, “No. This change is actually good for you. You’ll get used to it over time.” It’s okay to struggle through seasons of our redemption journey. But in His wisdom, God’s right next to us showing us the beauty of what it means to be whole in Him, even if it doesn’t seem normal.

~ Written by Viki Rife

The past ten days or so have shaken us as a nation as we watch news of one mass shooting after another. We’re horrified, and the outcry for gun control is becoming louder in the wake of such tragedies.

As politicians, pundits and the population debate gun control, there’s a huge factor that no one seems to be paying much attention to. Something has changed about us as a society.

I remember as a child that my siblings and myself, as well as most of our friends, were taught never, ever to point a toy gun at a human being (an exception was made if we had an approved water-gun fight). My dad explained that even the act of pointing a toy gun at a person might cause our brain to start thinking it was okay. If he saw us start to do so, he’d quickly warn, “Don’t even think of it!”

Fast forward to when our children were growing up and video games became the rage. All of a sudden, children were playing games in which the objective was to shoot an opponent. Our son once saved his money and, without consulting us, purchased a video game in which blood splattered everywhere as you shot your enemy for points. We confiscated the game. For a long time he resented our meddling with a possession he had bought with his hard-earned money.

Now that he’s a dad, however, he has actually thanked us for that move. He believes it protected him during a very vulnerable time in his life, and has even commented that he realizes the condition of his heart at the time was leading him into dangerous territory. He says giving up violent games was one of the best things that could have happened to him!

The problem with guns is about more than the weapon itself—it is a reflection of what is happening in a human soul. Before we waste time arguing about gun control, let’s talk about violence control—in video games, in movies and TV shows, and in the home. That’s where the heart of the matter lies. Our job is to direct our children’s hearts as they are shaping their worldview so that using a gun against someone isn’t even a consideration.

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