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Archive for the ‘Boundaries’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend and I rang for the elevator and were relieved to find no one was in it. Playing in the elevator was one of our favorite entertainments through the long weeks aboard the ship taking us to South America. Unexpectedly, my eight-year-old sister dashed around the corner and slipped in right behind us. As we turned to remonstrate with her that she wasn’t invited, a man with a little girl in his arms came running up, and we groaned inwardly even as we held the door for him as we had been trained. It wasn’t nearly as much fun when there were others in the elevator, especially adults or tattletale younger siblings.

As we descended to the next floor, suddenly the lights went out. The elevator jerked to a grinding halt. In the complete darkness, my ten-year-old brain started to fabricate an explanation. The night before I had been careful not to break any rules, but…

You see, our parents had told us we could not go into areas that weren’t reserved for our “tourist” class. However, the floor below us was showing a movie that evening, and it looked intriguing. It was about the sinking of the Titanic. My friend and I figured out that if we sat with our feet hanging through the railing at the top of the stairs on our floor, we could see just enough to watch the movie. At the time, my story-loving heart thought it was thrilling. Now I found myself associating loss of power with a doomed ship. Terror began to descend on me. What if the ship were sinking and we would go down trapped in the elevator, with no hope of getting out to try to swim to the surface?

I’ve always wondered if the man who was with us had also seen the movie. He began to yell something in Japanese, desperately shouting up the shaft of the pitch-dark elevator. His little girl started crying, and my sister dug her fingernails into my arm. I started confessing my sins to God as quickly as I could, bargaining with him to get me out of the predicament.

It was at that moment I ran into one of the great moral dilemmas of my life: Had I disobeyed by watching the movie? I knew my parents had to approve movies I watched in the movie room on our deck, but did it apply to a different deck? I hadn’t physically gone down there, so I had remained obedient, right? Suddenly, my conscience overrode my perspective on myself as a non rule-breaker. I might not have broken the letter of the law, but I realized I had broken the spirit of the law.

In the 45 minutes it took for the ship’s mechanics to rescue us, I experienced a huge change in my heart. I began to realize that just staying within the boundaries isn’t enough. I have to examine my motives and consider the reasons why the rules are made. That understanding has shaped my perspective on what the Old Testament law was about. People found ways to get around the rules. We have an advantage in that God has written his laws on our hearts and minds.

Praise God, we don’t follow rules, but His Spirit.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The trail sits across the road from my childhood home. Like countless other trails in the forests of Alaska, it remains hidden in plain sight. Only those who’ve wandered off the beaten path know it exists. Depending on how deeply into the trail you wander, you may even forget there’s a busy road and populous neighborhood 200 yards away.

It’s gorgeous. It’s simple. I’ve always been scared of it.

For some unknown reason, the trail represents my deepest trauma. As a young adult, just looking towards the trail gave me unrelenting anxiety, fear, anger, and panic. The fear of reliving the source of my trauma—whatever it was—guarded my feet from walking through the trail’s beauty for over a decade.

I recently had the chance to pass by the trail for the first time in several years. Initially, each step away from the safety of the sidewalk was hesitant and cautious. I couldn’t stop glancing around me, ready to confront danger. Why am I doing this? I thought angrily as my heart started to race.

A critter scurried by my feet, distracting me from my fear. As if for the first time, I noticed how the sun plays with the leaves on the trees. I saw the life thriving around me. In what had once represented spiritual death, I could finally see life. I could finally see Jesus.

Freedom and redemption don’t always feel “good.” But when we focus on Jesus and let Him be the center of our stories, he turns ashes into beauty and makes our ashes beautiful. If redemption feels hard, press into him anyway. In his perfect timing, he will be all you can see.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The past few weeks have been hard as we’ve watched racial tensions escalate around our country. There are no words to express the range of emotions we are all experiencing. It seems like everyone has ideas about how the situation should be handled.

As we deal with our grief over this broken world, we cannot afford to let our differences of opinion divide us. We need to recognize together that there is only one solution for the injustices we see. Better laws won’t fix the situation. Politicians can’t fix it. Education can’t fix it. Nothing on earth can keep human beings from hating one another. Nothing except the love of Jesus.

I’ve been deeply convicted that before pointing a finger, I need to examine the extent to which I’m going out of my way to show the love of Jesus. Does my “holiness” really lead to God’s righteousness? Through the prophet Isaiah God explained to his people the purpose of the special days of fasting to honor him: “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

The next few verses give hope: “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and he will say ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:8-9a).

As daughters of the King, let’s agree to actively seek ways to worship God with our actions. May they know we are followers of Christ by our love for each other and the world during this difficult time.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been struggling with a deep desire of the heart that, in all honesty, is yet unmet. While praying faithfully I have waited impatiently. I know my perspective is limited, but I can’t understand the why in the waiting. It feels unsafe to hope.

Has God ever given you a Bible verse at just the right moment? Maybe you were scrolling through Facebook and there it was, pretty script and all. Have you been doing your daily reading and the words practically leapt off the page at you? I had a similar experience with these words several months ago:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Since the day I read those words, Romans 12:12 has played over and over in my head. It has almost become a personal mantra. One day, a few months ago (before social distancing was a thing), I was walking through Target when I saw a canvas with a Bible verse on it. Sure enough, it read, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It was the last one available one.

That verse now hangs on the wall in my kitchen. I read it every day. And while I know God was speaking directly to my situation when He gave me that verse, the words have taken on a greater meaning in light of the pandemic. Just yesterday I realized God was preparing my heart for this time of uncertainty and isolation with that verse.

I am amazed by the provision and providence of the Almighty God. I am still waiting and praying as faithfully as I can for my heart’s desire. But I know that in these overlapping seasons of waiting, God is good.

Because of who he is, I can be joyful in hope.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I knew I could have done better. I walked off the stage, mentally chiding myself for choosing worship songs which had been played so often I could lead them in my sleep.

There’s a theory among worship leaders that if a song is more than five years old, it’s inadvisable to use it in worship sets anymore. The average copyright year of the songs we sang this particular Sunday had been 2002.

That fact alone bothered me more than it should have. I heard the enemy whisper, “You aren’t effective anymore. Stop trying. You’re failing.” I spent the rest of the service mentally fighting lies with Biblical truth, but peace still felt unobtainable.

As the service ended, a friend tapped me on the shoulder. With tears in her eyes, she explained how one of the songs—one of the oldest, in fact!—had been exactly what she needed to hear. She took it as confirmation that God was with her in her current struggles.

I heard God whisper to my heart, “It’s never about you, your leadership ideas or your theories, Child. It’s about being willing to let Me color outside the lines of your expectations in order to bring glory to Myself.

“Remember, I can use anything; even the things you consider ineffective.”

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~ 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.

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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

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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~ 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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