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Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

Have you have ever seen salmon during spawning season? Thousands of salmon struggle against the current to reach their destination of calm pools where they can lay their eggs. In their pursuit of survival they end up fighting against their own kind.

This past year I have felt like a salmon. First it was masks or no masks, then it was this president or that president, and now it is vaccine or no vaccine. I always admired salmon for their strength and determination, but I never wanted to be one.

I am not alone in all the mixed feelings and thoughts swirling around from the impact of the last year. People talk about a new normal, but aren’t we all reaching for the old one? Although we may get back to our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly trips, will relationships will get back to the old normal?

I want to be human again. I want to have a simple conversation without conflicting opinions on this or that. I want to talk about what is important like how are you, and how are you managing it? Because that is the real matter at hand.

The last year has unveiled diversity of thought. I find it hard to rest easy re-emerging into friendships because we are no longer focused on common ground. I don’t want to be so shallow as to cut off relationships of those who think differently than myself. I love my people with an undying passion.

The truth is we are called to be like salmon. We are called to go against the flow of this world. We are not; however, called to fight amongst ourselves.

Lord, help us keep our eyes on you through the strong currents.

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~Written by Viki Rife

It was a small thing; it was a huge thing. Although my friend told me the story decades ago, it still burns in my bones.

When my friend was growing up in Cuba, his parents offered a Good News gospel-sharing club for the children in their neighborhood. One boy who often came was a troublemaker. He and his brothers disrupted the group, sassed the adults, and made life unpleasant for everyone. Finally, my friend’s parents told the boys they weren’t allowed to come onto their property.

Every week after that, the boy and his brothers would be waiting outside the fence to my friend’s family farm. As the other kids trudged down the dirt path, the banished boys would pelt them with stones and sticks. They had been a problem when they were attended but were even more of a problem when forbidden to come!

I’ve always wondered what might have happened if some of the adults involved had taken the main troublemaker, if not the others, under their wing. What if some man had offered to take the boy fishing, away from the kids he felt he could bully? What if someone had taken an interest in him and shown him there was a better way to spend his life? What if he had seen someone show him the unconditional love of Jesus?

You see, that boy’s name was Fidel Castro. If you know much about world history, you know the cruelty visited on the Cuban people by this dictator. I know friends who had to live under his regime and were able to escape, but who still bear physical and emotional scars.

Might the history of Fidel Castro have been different if someone who loved Jesus had reached out and shown that love? Because I don’t know, I am committed to reaching out to hard-to-love people with the love of Christ.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Our New Year didn’t come in the way I had hoped. Although our plans hadn’t been huge, New Year’s was potentially the last holiday my husband, Peter, and I had before our son, Judah, arrives in early April. Ideas of games, movies, junk food and laughter were all I had thought about for days.

Instead, there were bowls strategically placed between the bathrooms so  I would be prepared any time my nausea hit. Peter militantly checked my blood pressure, managed my new medications, and gently understood when sleeping seemed better than looking at his face. As miserable as I was, I giggled every time Judah kicked my ribs.

Relief was on the horizon, though. My medical team had jumped into action, and as soon as my body adapted to new medications, I’d be okay. Still, I wasn’t focused on Jesus, joy, or Judah. I was adamantly focused on how God hadn’t given me what I wanted for the New Year.

At some point in my pity party, I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Will you sing me a song? Will you bring in the New Year praising me anyway? You’re obviously miserable. Will you actually let me help you refocus? Or would you rather just hear yourself complain?”

The songs started out quite begrudgingly, let me tell you. Honestly, I started singing out of mere obedience. Before I knew it, though, I wasn’t focusing on my discomfort, missed plans, or even my fears over my health or the health of our son. I was just singing to the Man who first called me Beloved. My thirty-minute, possibly-off-tune worship session ended in joy simply because God had shifted my perspective from myself to Him.

I’m fairly certain we’re all realizing that the strike of midnight on January 1st didn’t make our lives a bed of roses. As Christ has continually challenged me, I extend that same challenge to you: When your heart is filled with what you don’t have and what you can’t control in this new year, praise God anyway.

Even in times of uncertainty, focusing on our First Love is always the answer to finding freedom and living in joy.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Earlier this summer, the hydrangea plant in the landscaping around my house started sprouting an odd-looking stem. When I first saw it I thought, “That’s a weed, I should pull it up.” But then I started to look closer and suddenly wasn’t sure exactly what it was. The leaves, though a darker color, looked like the rest of the plant. They all had jagged edges. I lifted the leaves to trace the stems to the roots and I could not separate the stems of this thing from the flower. I thought, “Let’s just see what happens. I don’t remember what it looked like last year.” So I left it.

Before long, the weed completely took over! You could hardly see the hydrangea under the looming weed. And it took everything my husband had to wrestle it out of there. We attacked the root with a shovel and took turns twisting and pulling until finally he was able to yank it out.  When he did, we realized that the root of the weed had grown about a foot directly into the roots—the foundation—of the flower.

That is exactly what happens in our thought life when we do not take captive the thoughts that threaten us, threaten our identity, security and freedom in Christ, the reality of who we are because of Him. It’s what happens when we let thoughts run wild about other people. When we compare ourselves to them or make quick judgments about them.

It’s what happens when concerns and worries about our circumstances plant themselves so strongly in our minds they threaten to steal our joy. And it is certainly what happens when our thoughts tempt us toward all kinds of destructive habits and attitudes. Even while everything on the outside still seems to blend in, that pesky little thought is burrowing its way into our very core.

We don’t have to be held hostage by our thoughts. Instead, we can tell them the truth about who God says we are in Him!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I  have thick skin when facing personal suffering, but when I have to watch others suffer, I’m easily rattled. As I recently read the latest statistics impacting our globe, I could only pray one thing. “Jesus, what is the purpose of this season?”

I sat in silence as I pondered the question, trying desperately to hear Biblical truth over the roar of global unknowns. At some point, I heard the Spirit whisper, “When you want people to see my power, what do you talk about?”

I immediately realized that, though suffering is hard to experience, it is that same suffering which opens the door for me to talk about Jesus. Throughout my life, in seasons of deep unknowns and seemingly-unending hardship, God’s faithfulness takes the main stage, despite my circumstances.

Maybe this season of nearly-global lockdown is our opportunity, as a united Body of Christ, to collectively proclaim, “He’s been faithful before, and he’ll be faithful again!”

So, how about you? In the decades to come, when talking about this season, what stories will you tell to highlight the God of love whose faithfulness superseded our season of global suffering?

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Disrupted plans and uncertain futures, broken routines and unwelcome interruptions, hourly updates with no end in sight… these are a few of my not so favorite things!

It’s a cute scene. The one where Julie Andrew’s character comforts the children with a song about her favorite things. All of a sudden the storm raging outside doesn’t seem so scary.

But we have something far better to cling to in times of uncertainty and fear.

The Bible tells us that God is our ever-present help in trouble. He is greater than the one reeking havoc in the world and He will never leave us!

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” Psalm 138:7.

God’s Word is full of truth we can cling to, and He desires to fill us with peace beyond our understanding. Maybe this is just the interruption we need to pause the hustle and rest in Him.
May we be women of peace and quiet confidence in the One who is always in control.

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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 Viki Rife

I think it was the biscuits that were the final straw. I had been rushing around trying to get dinner ready so we could head off in our different directions for evening meetings. I was running late, and I knew the young woman I was mentoring had only a short time to spend with me. It had been hard enough to find one hour to meet.

It had been a hard day, and I was working myself up to a stroke. Then I smelled the biscuits burning. At that moment a verse I had read earlier in my devotions came to me in my Father’s gentle voice: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I need to ask myself throughout the day: “Can I cook this meal for His glory?” “Can I drive to my appointment sensibly for His glory?” “Can I be patient with my neighbor for His glory?” “Can I get up for His glory and go to bed for His glory?”

Of course, the context of this verse is talking about idolatry and abuses of communion. But at that moment, I realized that my efforts, frustrating as they seemed to me, were something that needed to be done, and I could fall apart, or I could do it joyfully for God’s glory.

How I handle the most frustrating times in my life are my greatest opportunity to demonstrate the glory of my Lord. It’s how I handle things like burnt biscuits that shows me whether I truly care about honoring Him.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I asked God to keep you alive as proof that He exists.”

The young man’s words were filled with emotion as he told me of his recent spiritual battle. Praying for my survival while undergoing multiple brain surgeries seemed like high enough stakes to bet on. His mental game had been simple.

Childhood friend dies: Christianity was pointless. She lives: He’d try surrender out; see if he liked it.

Hearing Cody’s declaration as a 16-year-old myself was a weight no shoulders should ever carry. Regardless, I heard my Master whisper, “You prayed for release from this life around the same time he prayed for proof that I exist. His search for me is thin, but your life gave him a reason to at least look for Me. Your pain isn’t pointless. You’ve no idea what I’m planning on doing with you both!”

Nearly two decades later, God brings me back to that moment on a consistent basis. At the time, I had been so angry at my Jesus for apparently not hearing my prayer for Heaven. However, I had no idea He was using my seemingly unanswered prayer, and my journey through it, to glorify Himself in the life of someone who needed Him to do big things.

Surrender isn’t always beautiful. But it is, in fact, always for the same purpose: To let the world know our God is real, and He is faithful to make Himself known to those who call on Him.

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~ Written by Lorena Oplinger

Many purchases have been made based on emotional reasons.” This is what I’ve learned as a retail sales associate. The way we choose to spend our money reflects not only who we are but also what we lack.

In a recent sermon, my pastor explained that our lack of self-control in buying things is more than a behavior. “Shopaholics buy things in order to fill the emptiness in their hearts,” he stated. The pleasure we feel when we buy certain items, eat certain food, or do certain activities is created by our brain, a powerful machine that it releases its own dopamine. This chemical substance makes us feel better and happier.

People are desperate to be accepted, included, and welcomed. Everybody wants to feel part of something, but when someone experiences rejection, exclusion, and/or discrimination, he or she will always find other ways to compensate for the gap produced in his or her heart.

Purchasing something of value gives us a false sense of identity. We have become a Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas society. We don’t mind paying twice the value for brand items if they represent a high social status.

My job requires me to provide the best service experience to those who come to me, but my call as a Christian is to share the Good News of Christ in an emotionally empty world.

I would love for them to know that happiness is free.

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