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Archive for the ‘Characteristic’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

It started when I went back to a town I had lived in during high school and decided to track down a favorite teacher. She welcomed me warmly and led me through the living room into her “sitting room.” My jaw dropped. The huge room was a floor-to-ceiling library, with a curving stair leading to a reading loft high up among the books. I think it was inspired by the library in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady.”

A reading addict like me has trouble resisting the temptation to ignore everything else and start browsing the shelves. Even as we chatted, I found my eyes wandering. What amazing opportunities were tucked along those walls! I wouldn’t even know where to start.

That memory shows me such a picture of our relationship with God. Opening His Word is like being let loose in a library full of rich treasures. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much to know about Him that we couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We might choose to explore one aspect of Him one day, or for a month, then we check out other subjects about Him that expand our understanding of Him even more.

Yes, at times relationship with an all-knowing God can seem overwhelming. But the more we explore, the more we discover of His amazing character and how He wants to speak to our hearts.

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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 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 Cassie Rayl

With a child-sized Superman cape over his shoulders, the little boy hero walks the streets of Birmingham handing out McDonald’s chicken sandwiches to the homeless. At four years old, he recently learned the meaning behind the word “homeless.” He told his daddy he wants all his allowance to go towards buying sandwiches so he can “show love” to the people in need in his hometown.

Watching the news story about Austin made me tear up for several reasons. First off, he’s adorable. Second, my family has been closely impacted by the trial of homelessness, so I take Austin’s joy of being a Good Samaritan personally.

But most importantly, I’m in awe of his childlike faith and his confidence that he can impact the world for the better.

He obviously doesn’t care that his monthly allowance only buys a handful of sandwiches. He doesn’t approach only the “acceptable” people on the streets. He doesn’t stop to weigh a person’s potential success rate before helping them. He and his daddy walk through Birmingham giving out food until there is no food left—simply because Austin wants to show love to the best of his ability.

What if we as adults had that type of faith? What if we served the “least of these” simply to show them love, with no ulterior motive?

Would Christ be easier to see and His love feel more tangible?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I wish someone would make sure the children were quiet,” she said in exasperation. “This is church, after all.” I smiled at the woman’s complaint. I, too, was raised to believe children were to be seen and not heard — especially while sitting in a pew!

Despite being raised to cringe at noise during a church service, nowadays I can’t help but chuckle at the unabashed squeals, the stage-whispered questions, or unrelenting cries of the youngest generation. They don’t really seem to care what other people think of their behavior. The Bible calls us to have childlike faith. What’s more childlike than making your presence known before Jesus whether you’re laughing, screaming, joyful, scared, confused, or impatient?

Every time I hear the squawk of a kiddo, I’m reminded of Jesus commanding the disciples to let the children come to Him (Mark 10:14). He didn’t specify the children had to be on their best behavior, or in a good mood. He just told them to come—end of story.

What would happen to our faith journeys if we came to Him as uninhibited as children do?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl 

It was a heartbreaking and tumultuous time. I found comfort in a weekly walk to a babbling brook at the foot of a mountain. When it seemed as if everyone was against me, seeing God’s peaceful yet constant stream of water made me breathe more slowly, think more clearly, and let God speak words my heart couldn’t hear otherwise. Within those moments, I was reminded of God’s gentleness, peace, and quiet creativity.

Recently, almost a decade later, I stood before the majestic Niagara Falls in Canada and laughed joyously at the roaring water and the mist that hit my face. There was nothing peaceful and quiet about being a stone’s throw away from such a breathtaking display of God’s creation! But still, in a quiet moment with my husband next to me, I felt God’s power and His gentle but confident and loving voice whisper, “I’m still here. I will never leave you.”

The God of the roaring Niagara Falls is the same God of the babbling, peaceful brook. When we need Him to instill peace in the midst of our turmoil, He can. When we can step away from our circumstances and glory in His power and faithfulness, He’s in those moments as well. In every season, in every circumstance, He is exactly what we need when we need it.

No wonder we call Him Savior!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I ran across a list of instructions for the one million individuals who plan to crowd into Time Square to watch the ball drop. A huge amount of the list is dedicated to safety tips. It sounds like it’s a bit risky to make the attempt.

Some play it safer—all over the world one billion more are expected to watch electronically as this annual phenomenon takes place. Each person watching is looking for excitement, something to give them a few hours of satisfaction. In past years I’ve been struck, as I watched from my safe living room, by the emptiness in the eyes of some of the participants, despite their raucous laughter.

I can’t help but think of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” I find myself hoping, “Maybe 2017 is the year we will see this fulfilled.”

Sadly, this will not be a party time for everyone who sees Him come. There will be fear and weeping by those who do not know Him. The ball drop in Times Square will seem completely insignificant compared to this event. Are we prepared? How fervently are we praying for those who will miss out on the joy of His coming? How willing are we to share boldly what Christ has done for us before it’s too late? My resolution this year is to take more risks to help people see what really matters. Will you join me in making this a priority? 

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