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Archive for the ‘Battle’ Category

~ Written by Samantha Freds

You know what it’s like to face a giant. The broken relationship you can’t mend; the bill you can’t pay, the habit you can’t quit. Some opponents just seem too strong, some obstacles too monstrous, some problems too complex, and some situations too painful for hope of victory.

The young shepherd boy, David, once stood in the shadow of a literal giant—the champion of the Philistine army. Goliath was over nine feet tall. His coat of armor weighed almost as much as I do! The fact that he stood arrogantly on the battlefield that day was proof that he’d never lost. No one had ever faced Goliath and lived to tell about it.

Cue David. David was confident he would defeat the giant, even without the armor of a soldier. If we pause and read the story of David and Goliath with fresh ears, David’s confidence is crazy! He is only a young shepherd. While David spent years walking the hills with his sheep, Goliath was training for battle. Then we read why David was so confident:

The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” David had seen God’s hand of protection and provision before. Goliath was not the first giant David had faced. He wouldn’t be the last. When David stood in the Goliath’s shadow, he remembered the giants God had already given him victory over.

God is bigger than any giant His people face.

God reminded the Israelites over and over, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, who rescued you from the bondage of slavery.” God wants us to remember who He is and what He has done.

By remembering that, we can be confident in Him when we face our own spiritual giants.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I understand Thomas the doubting disciple all too well.

Thomas was the only disciple not present when Jesus appeared after His resurrection. As Thomas’ fellow disciples tried their hardest to convince him their Savior lived, Thomas stuck to his unbelief. He saw with his own eyes the death of his Lord. He heard the mourners. He saw the look of grief in the eyes of Jesus’ mother.

In a moment of passion, Thomas firmly exclaims to his friends, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Where others see shameful doubt, I see precious honesty. Thomas wanted to believe, but what he understood of the world wouldn’t allow him to do so. And in a moment of grief and vulnerability he laid out very plainly what he needed before he could believe.

A few verses later, we witness Jesus meeting Thomas in his doubt, looking deeply into his eyes and saying, “Put your finger in the nail scars, and your hand on My side. Now will you believe?” (Paraphrased)

All too often, we focus on the fact that Thomas should have believed without seeing. But what about focusing on the mercy of the all-powerful God who did not quench the questions which stood between Thomas and complete belief?

This Resurrection season, let God meet you in your doubt. He has the answers. Your doubt doesn’t shock Him. He has what it will take for you to believe.

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~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.

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~ 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.

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~ 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?

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~ Written by Lorena Oplinger

My brother Kevin is 15. He looks like a typical healthy teenager. When Kevin was four, however, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.

Kevin was a healthy baby boy. He was born without any complications. However, during the early stages of his physical and mental development, something inside his brain began to change. In preschool his teachers started noticing some distinctive behaviors and attitudes in him. Kevin was having a hard time understanding and following their instructions. His learning and communication abilities decreased gradually to the point he could no longer keep up with his classmates.

I never saw my parents so heartbroken. It was painful for my mom to absorb the news and accept my brother’s medical condition would prevent him from reaching his full potential. It is hard for many moms, including mine, to embrace the challenges of raising kids with disabilities.

There are times when we just can’t explain or understand why things happen the way they do. But regardless, God’s grace is so abundant! He has shown us his grace by giving my parents the peace, patience, and persistence to endure this challenge for the past 11 years.

Kevin struggles with anxiety, stress, mood changes, and some other behavioral issues produced by social environments. He is also experiencing the physical and emotional changes caused by puberty. He is a very smart boy and is becoming more self-aware of his medical condition. A couple of days ago, he told my parents that he is asking God to make him normal because he wants to be like the other boys. He doesn’t want to deal with mental or psychological issues any more. My parents are surprised to see that Kevin is now communicating his feelings, desires, and thoughts; something he never did before.

My parents are strong believers, and for them this is a huge sign of hope from God. My mom even said, “I know that God is working in Kevin’s life. He is answering my prayers!”

My family has realized both the blessing and challenge of raising a child with disabilities. Through this, they have learned God has a plan and purpose for all of us. Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture and understand why things happen the way we least expect. Perhaps we only need to recognize that God is sending us undercover blessings.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s hard to process the thoughts that have accompanied the much-publicized comment by Dr. John MacArthur when asked what words he associates with women’s Bible study leader Beth Moore. His response was “Go home.” This response has filled me more with grief than with anger. After 50 years in leadership, this brother seems to be working in the opposite direction from Christ’s prayer that His followers would love each other and be united as the Godhead is.

Some of my concerns include:

1. I believe most confidently that God has called me to help women and girls deepen their understanding of and obedience to Christ. Why else would Titus 2:3-5 instruct that the older women should be taught to train the younger women? The clear call to show them how to love their husbands and children requires a rich understanding of doctrinal truth in order to learn to love appropriately. It makes no sense to try in any way to restrict women from immersing themselves, both brain and heart, in exploring God’s Word to increase their understanding of Him.

2. Nothing healthy is accomplished for Christ when a believer shows disdain for another believer. It may be possible that MacArthur has concluded that she is not a believer, but even in that case, he has demonstrated public contempt for another human being created in God’s image. Believers and non-believers alike are only confused and frustrated with that kind of behavior from a well-known leader.

3. MacArthur seems to assume that it would be impossible for God to ever raise up a woman like Deborah again. He apparently has concluded he knows God’s rules and can discredit the calling of anyone who doesn’t follow those rules. It’s similar to the smug attitude that led the Pharisees to reject Jesus, whom they concluded was breaking God’s laws.

4. In this era of people viewing Christians as hateful and intolerant, John MacArthur has unfortunately proved their point in a matter that belies even the beliefs of other Christians. The rest of Titus 2:3-5 talks about the importance of women’s behavior not maligning the Word of God, but I believe men, too, can cause God’s Word to be maligned.

While I don’t claim to be a Beth Moore groupie, I am very appreciative of her gracious response. She reminded all of us that her job is to do what God has called her to do. Just because another member of the body of Christ says, essentially, that our ministry is worthless does not mean God sees us that way.

My greatest wish is that those who have varying views on the role of women would not consider it their job to prevent women from following God’s call. Rather, church leaders should invest their energies in helping each woman God has called them to shepherd discover her role in God’s great plan for humanity.

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~Written by Samantha Freds

A few weeks ago, my brother and I visited my parents on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We had hoped to enjoy some outdoor activities before the summer was behind us, but Indiana weather had other ideas. Not wanting to spend the entire day on the couch, the four of us ventured over to the gym at my dad’s church.

We played a little basketball and threw a few rounds of corn hole before Dad disappeared into a storage closet. He soon reappeared, bringing more dodgeballs than I have ever seen in one location. An all-out war ensued. It was every one for themselves, and not even Mom was off-limits. Spontaneous dodgeball makes for an exciting afternoon!

It wasn’t until later that evening I saw a spiritual lesson hidden in that simple game.

Most people use one of two tactics when they play dodgeball. Some players try to catch any ball thrown at them while dodging the ones otherwise too risky to catch. Others continuously hold on to a ball at all times so they can block anything thrown at them. I prefer the second tactic. Unfortunately, that is also the way I often approach temptation.

I stay in the game, trying to make a block at the last second.

But while dodging and blocking may be an effective dodgeball tactic, it isn’t the way we are told to handle temptation. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray they would not even be led into temptation. And Paul told the Corinthians God would provide a way out when they encountered it.

Essentially, we need to use a flight, not fight, response to temptation!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Out of all twelve disciples, I’m the most like Peter, I think.

In John 6, Jesus asks his followers, “Are you going to leave me, too?” Peter pipes up with an interesting mix of conviction and frustration replying, “Where else would we go? You have the words of life.” My heart lurches in empathy at Peter’s attitude. To leave Christ means leaving life itself, but would I have ever guessed how difficult pursuing Life himself would be?

Probably not.

Again in Mark 10, Jesus tells the disciples a parable of a rich man; explaining that no one can come to Christ on their own. Peter again, somewhat argumentatively, protests, “We’ve left everything for you!” Translation: “What, Master? What else can we leave to be worthy of gaining Heaven? We’ve left family, jobs, expectations, security, all of it.

“What. Else. Do. You. Want?”

It’s easy to focus on where I fall short as a follower of Jesus. I wish I trusted him, loved him, and hoped in him more fully. But despite my attempts, I find myself weeping like Peter does after he denies Jesus, muttering, “Jesus? Why do you love me? Why do you want me?”

But it’s then I realize I’m putting the focus on the wrong Person in these snapshots of my life. I’m not the main character; Christ is. It’s not about my lack of faith; it’s about His faithfulness. It’s not about my lack of trust; it’s about his insurmountable love which accepts me where I am.

I may be the most like Peter, but Peter and I know the same Jesus. And that’s what matters.

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~Written by Samantha Freds

I grew up under the impression that to be a good Christian I had to develop a daily routine of “quiet time” with God. This period of time should consist of personal Bible reading and prayer. It should last for no less than thirty minutes, but a full hour or more would be admirable. Furthermore, it would be best if my “quiet time” was in the morning, otherwise I was telling God that He wasn’t as important as whatever else I chose to start my day with. Maybe you can relate?

Now, I’m not denying the importance of daily connection with God. We do need to spend time in the Word! I even see the value in intentional connection in the morning. It’s a good way to set the tone for the day. But I think the idea that everyone has to connect to God through quiet, morning Bible reading is unfair. God created each of us uniquely and He is not limited by our traditional ways of relating to Him.

Gary Thomas wrote a book called Secret Pathways where he presents nine modes of connection with God. Several of them lend themselves to the expectations engrained in me as a child. But several others break the mold in a very powerful way. Some individuals connect to God most naturally by taking a walk outside – admiring the little details of creation and the Creator. Other people find connection by caring for a person in need or by fighting injustice. Still others find connection with God through the liturgical traditions and rituals of the church.

These things count! There is no “right” way to connect to God. In fact, Jesus demonstrated many different ways of connecting to the Heavenly Father during his earthly ministry. He spent time in quiet prayer, he fed thousands, healed hundreds, studied the Scriptures and cleared the temple, to name a few.

May you be freed to connect to God in a variety of ways.

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