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~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.

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~ 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.

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~Written by Cassie Rayl

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve failed someone you love. There’s nothing more confusing than realizing you feel like you’ve failed them because their moral standards don’t line up with yours. What you see as boundaries, they see as betrayal. What you see as God-honoring, they see as judgmental.

It’s a lonely spot to find ourselves in. It’s often traumatizing. Even if it’s only one person who turns against us as believers in Jesus, it’s tempting to feel as if everyone we care about is against us.

I grew up being told God was on my side because I put my trust in Him. As any child would, I felt invincible living in that truth. If God is for me, who can be against me?

Easy answer: No one!

What I didn’t grasp as a child, I deeply understand the older I become. God is—truly and completely—for me. However, that doesn’t mean adversity in human relationships disappears. There are still people who mock, persecute, and even hate me for being a Christian. There are seasons in my life when I feel as if I let people down because our moral compasses are different and those individuals are entirely against me.

In those moments, it doesn’t feel like God is upholding His promise.

It’s hard to not wonder whether I misunderstood God’s promise to be “for me.” But then I have to remember His promise wasn’t promising my ease, comfort, or happiness in relationships. Rather, God’s promise to be “for me” is declaring to the world that His view of me—my redemption and my identity—is more powerful than what anyone else says about me.

The truth is, His view is the only one which matters, and that view never changes.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Have you ever awakened during the night while traveling wondering where you were? For a quick moment you forgot you were staying in a hotel or someone’s guest room and panicked, heart racing, while your eyes adjusted to unfamiliar surroundings.

Maybe you’ve looked around lately and had the same reaction. The news headlines are horrifying. The movies are provocative or violent or both. The music is vulgar. The Christian flag has been replaced by the rainbow. Where am I? How did we get here?

It seems like every arena of life has experienced this drift away from God: government, education, the family and yes, even the church. Our money still says, “In God We Trust.” But it sure doesn’t feel like our nation even knows who God is anymore. And it is easy to burn with righteous anger over what has been lost. We used to pray in school. Families used to share meals at the dinner table. Sundays used to be about fellowship with God, the community and family. Where are you, God?

Daniel found himself in a similar situation in 600 BC. He and his people were taken into exile by the powerful Babylonian empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. They were suddenly in a foreign place with foreign people, pagan gods and secular worldviews. It must have felt like God had abandoned Daniel and his people.

Here is how Daniel handled the situation. First, he prayed. He fervently and faithfully prayed to the one true God. Second, he looked for opportunities to be set apart for God’s purposes without being defiant and disrespectful. Daniel was recognized for his excellence even in serving the pagan king he found himself subject to. Lastly, Daniel waited. He knew his God was still in control, and he waited on Him.

That is the hope we have today in our context. God is still in control. Even if it feels like He is letting our nation and our world fall apart, He is still in control. His ultimate plan will not be thwarted by any earthly authority or agenda. Praise God!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Joy seems to elude me more these days. If I’m blessed enough to truly feel joyful, it tends to fade depending on my circumstances. Fighting for joy never used to be a daily battle, but it’s certainly become one.

“What am I doing wrong, Jesus? What has changed? Why is joy so hard?” I prayed in desperation one day. Honestly, I was at the end of my rope, and didn’t expect an answer. Life’s stresses seemed too large, too real, and too time-consuming to truly fix my “joy problem.”

But God has a way of taking my skepticism like a holy challenge to show up when I least expect Him to do so. As I sat pondering the question I had just thrown at the Heavens, I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “You’re looking for the wrong thing, Child. You’re looking to be fulfilled in yourself. Look for fulfillment in Me.

“Instead of looking for how a circumstance benefits or impacts you, look for how it brings glory to Me. Learn to look at everything in your life as a way to showcase My love to the world, rather than thinking every scenario I allow is all about you.

“You will only secure joy in your heart when you realize I am the cause of your joy, and I never change. Cling to Me—rather than yourself—in all things. See what happens. Joy gets easier to hold onto that way.”

I’m still learning what this means. But I’ve come to the point of understanding that my joy comes from the Lord, which means to embody joy, I must focus on the Joy Giver above all else. The more I focus on Him, the deeper my joy becomes no matter what my life entails.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I almost never got what I wanted when I was a little girl. Birthdays, Christmases, random special occasions—they all brought gifts (some of them were fantastic!), but they were rarely what I really wanted. The gifts were well thought out, but I remember thinking more than once, “My siblings got what they wanted, why didn’t I?”

It wasn’t until adulthood that I brought it up with my mom and I understood why. Apparently, I had never told her I wanted a Suzy Homemaker Oven, a specific instrument or special trinket. I remember believing as a child that if I needed a toy, my parents would just know. Otherwise, I didn’t need to be so selfish as to ask them outright to give me what I wanted.

“Why didn’t you just ask?” My mom asked when I told her the truth. I didn’t ask because I was afraid I’d disappoint her. At times, she knew exactly what I wanted, ended up getting it for me, but would have enjoyed hearing what I thought about the gift first.

Although the memory makes me chuckle now, I can’t help but see a correlation between myself as a kid and myself as an adult in front of the Father. His patience is never-ending with me. Often, though, when anxiety, fear, or misunderstanding keeps me silent from truly telling Him what I want, I can hear Him whisper, “Child, why don’t you just ask? Can we talk about it?”

He doesn’t always give me what I want. He doesn’t give me exactly what I want when I want it. But I’m learning it’s okay to climb up on His lap and just ask Him because I trust Him. Whatever the outcome, those conversations increase my intimacy with the Father. Simply because I asked.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Whose favorite household item is a sponge? Probably no one’s. That little yellow rectangle is a reminder of all the cleaning to be done, not to mention all the dishes in the sink! We use sponges for a while, then throw them out without thinking twice. What if I told you there is a deep theological lesson in a sponge?

The purpose of a sponge is to absorb and transport water. Sounds simple enough. Soak up. Pour out. It follows, then, that a sponge full of water is only serving half its purpose. In fact, if left full between uses, the sponge starts to harbor bacteria. On the other hand, a sponge out of water for too long becomes dry, hard, and useless.

The Christian life is like that sponge. We need to absorb living water. The water of the Word gives us life. But, like the sponge, if we stay in the water we aren’t serving our purpose. We are at risk of harboring pride. We are called to share the Living Water with the dry, dirty, hurting world around us. But, if we do not return to the source of Living Water we burn out. Doing for God begins to take priority over being with God. We need to learn the balance.

I call this the “Soak up—Pour out” rule. While some seasons may require us to hold water as we survive the heat of this life, those times are exceptions to the “Soak up–Pour out” rule.

I encourage you today to set up two columns. Under the heading “Soak Up,” list the ways you absorb living water throughout the week – quiet time with the Lord, church services, Bible studies, life-giving conversations with a friend, etc. Then list the areas where you are pouring out under the second column. Things like work, taking care of family, and volunteering at church will fill up the “Pour Out” column. The result doesn’t have to be a perfect perfectly equal columns, but we should be looking for a healthy balance.

If you are feeling dry today—go to the Source and spend some time soaking up living water!

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