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Archive for the ‘Barriers’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It was the first potted plant I tried to grow, and it had thrived so well I was beginning to hope it meant I had a green thumb. Then one day I noticed that some of the leaves were turning dark. They got drier and drier. I tried watering more. Nothing helped.

When I pointed it out to a more experienced gardener, she said it needed to be repotted. “Bring it over to my house,” she told me. “I have the perfect pot for it.”

I helped prepare the soil and she removed the plant from its pot and placed it in the new one. Then she produced a big tool that looked like a combination of a knife and a saw. I stared aghast as she started to slice at the roots all around my plant.

“What are you doing?” I cried. She smiled reassuringly. “This plant is rootbound. The roots have wrapped around themselves, and if you don’t cut them so they attempt to grow in a new direction, they will never go deeper.

Have you ever felt like God was doing that—sawing away at the roots that have sustained you? I do. He frequently tears up old assumptions about who He is and what life is supposed to be about. He destroys my comfortable ways of doing things.

When that happens, I need to do what plants do and expand my roots into the rich soil He has provided. He’s acting out of love, because He knows I need to go deeper into His nourishing truth.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When I look at her, I see myself. Her anger used to be my anger. Her fear used to be my fear. Her sin used to be my sin. Last but not least, when I watch how the bondage impacts her, it’s almost as if I can feel the shackles of my own Christ-less life. She and I are so much alike.

She and I are also very different. My bitterness scared me, so I prayed. My fear crippled me, so I ran to the only One who could heal me. My sin broke relationships, so I asked the Spirit to give me courage to start the journey back to restoration. That journey nearly broke me, it was so long.

But Christ, hope, and truth made redemption my greatest gift. As I stand and watch my loved one sink deeper away from redemption, I can’t decide whether to bestow empathy or lose my patience. Why did I find freedom and she didn’t? Why did God wipe my eyes clean but not hers?

Believing in God’s goodness while observing a prodigal is probably the hardest thing my heart has ever experienced. How long before God brings this lost sheep back? How long before He lets this burden from my heart lessen? Why is He taking so long? Doesn’t God realize the sooner the better is the best approach to things like this?

But then I have to remember this person is God’s creation and her story is not the only story in the world. God is behind the scenes weaving a tapestry I’ll never begin to understand, but I can sometimes see its beauty as God reveals His zealous desire for every “lost sheep” to be found. I may understand this precious person’s struggle, but God understands her heart and has an intimate knowledge of how long she needs before coming Home.

Now and forever, that truth will be sufficient as I rest in God’s goodness.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding,” the mechanic said, laughing nervously. “Keep the receipt until your account agrees with the actual price of your alternator and you’ve been refunded. Again, I’m sorry.”

I chuckled silently as I mentally reminded myself I would have made the same mistake had I been in his shoes.

“It’s okay, Sir. We trust you.” I smiled warmly, trying to put the gentle man at ease. But instead of bringing peace, I obviously confused him.

“Trust? Trust me? Why would you trust me? You don’t even know me!” He exclaimed in shock.

“I don’t need to trust you,” I said gently. “I trust a God who happens to be bigger than you. Knowing Him makes this perfectly fine.”

He smiled and nodded in response, with a certain gleam in his eye. I recognized that look all too well. He wanted to call me foolish, naïve, stupid, awkward or all of the above. But he knew he couldn’t verbalize such insults.

The reality is, when it comes to proclaiming Jesus, I’ve come to accept that the world thinks less of me. What they consider an insult is actually a small reminder to my soul that Christ really has changed me and made me like Himself.

So, Christian, when was the last time those around you called you a fool for Christ? Did it make you smile? It certainly makes Jesus smile.

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~Written by Viki Rife

I used to be frustrated by what I thought of as “The Great Divide.” It seemed to me growing up that Christians were divided into two categories: those who were “in ministry,” and those who were “not in ministry.” And the ones “in ministry” were viewed as being at a much higher level spiritually than those “not in ministry.”

Sometimes it was baffling. Why were those “not in ministry” sometimes much nicer to others than those “in ministry”? Why did I know so many people “in ministry” who were dissatisfied with their lives?

Lately, I’ve begun to see a whole new perspective on what it means to be in ministry. “In ministry” is a matter of how we view life. I can teach a class and be very proud of the praise I get, but if my purpose isn’t to see God get the glory, it isn’t really ministry. I can help someone out, but if I complain and feel taken advantage of, it’s not ministry.

On the other hand, when I spend time encouraging someone who needs to talk, I’m “in ministry.” When I transport someone who needs a ride, I’m “in ministry,” if I’m doing it as unto the Lord. When I smile and affirm the harried customer service representative at the airport when flights are being cancelled and tempers are high, I’m “in ministry.”

By my new definition, whenever I see the people around me through the eyes of Jesus and act accordingly, I’m “in ministry.” Let’s stop accepting labels that describe titles and occupations. It’s our attitude that determines whether or not we belong to the “in ministry” camp.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I sat in dumbfounded wonder as I listened to my friend sing Amazing Grace. His tenor voice was crisp and soulful; every word pierced the gymnasium with resounding clarity. He had the audience in tears almost instantly. I’d always known he could sing.

He was singing Amazing Grace with apparent conviction, yet I knew he proudly held the title “Atheist.”

When I asked him about it afterwards, he shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I was asked to sing. I sang. They’re just words.” It was obvious the song hadn’t impacted him. Its truth hadn’t changed him. He was just going through the motions in order to receive applause and recognition—nothing more.

Inasmuch as I wanted to lecture him for his hypocrisy, the words stuck in my throat as I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Haven’t you treated Me in the same way before?” My attitude of judgment disappeared and turned into a moment of repentance as I realized I, too, have done “Christian things” for personal gain at times.

Do we live in such a way Jesus can see our genuine pursuit of Him? Or do we, like my friend, see Christianity as nothing more than words?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was spiritually dry. For weeks, I would sit with my Bible open, reading its words, yet comprehending nothing. I’d open to a blank page in my prayer journal and struggle to write anything beyond, “Hi, Jesus.” Some days, even writing those two words took an amount of energy my mind and spirit didn’t have.

At one of my lowest points, someone asked me what I was learning through my personal time in the Word. Because I didn’t want to be a discouragement to my friend, I simply told her I was learning patience. Understandably so, she assumed I meant patience in regards to normal newly-married things.

I wasn’t sure how to tell her I was learning patience in waiting for God to show up in an otherwise seemingly endless spiritual desert.

Coming to Christ through my distress was difficult. Late one night I whispered, “I don’t feel like coming to You, Jesus, but I’m here. I’m not here out of desire, but I’m here out of obedience. Right now, that’s all I have to give You.”

It wasn’t an easy fix. My dry season had left my heart so parched, joy wasn’t immediate. But Christ honored my obedience to come to Him, and slowly revived my joy.

Obedience can often feel like a sacrifice—especially when we don’t understand every aspect of that obedience. Yet God honors the sacrifices of our hearts, even the sacrifices which were made in a spiritual desert.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s kind of mind-blowing. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Increase our faith!” Great request!

He affirmed its value by saying, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

Then He launched into a discussion about a servant out plowing the field or keeping sheep. When the servant comes in, does his master offer to serve him? No. The master tells him to prepare and serve him a meal, and then the servant can sit down and eat.

Then Jesus says, “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?” Of course, the answer is that he doesn’t owe the servant a “thank you” for doing his job. Jesus concludes by saying, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Could it be that the two concepts tie together? Could it be that an understanding of God’s authority helps us gain perspective and increase our trust in Him? Those who are looking for glory or appreciation for themselves will not have the faith to accomplish the great deeds they dream of. Only those who are humble enough to fully accept God’s Lordship will have a faith that grows.

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