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Archive for the ‘empathy’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

The chatty young cashier and I joked about the kinds of things people have been stockpiling and having to wear masks. Then as she handed me my receipt she said seriously, with fear behind her eyes, “Some people say these are signs the world is about to end.” She watched me, apparently waiting for a response from me. Just then the bagger asked a question, and she turned to take care of the matter. I had missed my chance.

The question has haunted me, though. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to expect the end of the world without the framework the Bible gives us. It just so happened that I had been reading in Luke about the final week of Jesus. As I read Chapter 21, I was struck by the contrast between the way the cashier seems to view “the end” and how God calls us to respond.

Jesus talks about people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world (vs. 26). For his followers, however, he offers these words of encouragement:

“And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified” (vs. 9).

“This will be your opportunity to witness” (vs. 13).

“By your endurance you will gain your lives” (vs. 19).

“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (vs. 28).

What a different perspective he calls his own to have! He then adds this caution: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life [I wonder if that includes toilet paper], and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

Is the world about to end? We don’t know the day or hour, but we have some pretty clear instructions on how to respond! Praise God, we have nothing to fear if we keep his perspective. Let’s use our opportunities to share the hope we have.

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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 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

If you haven’t yet seen Overcomer, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But for me personally, the most challenging part of the movie is when John Harrison stops in to visit Thomas Hill. Hill observes, “You said you would pray for me. Did you?” Harrison has to admit he didn’t.

Many years ago I made a commitment to always follow through after telling someone I would pray for them. You know what? It’s really hard to do! When your own life is swirling with unexpected issues, and when there are many people you run into who need prayer, it’s sometimes hard to find the energy and focus to follow through.

Of course you can stop and pray with them right then and there. That has a lot of value. I’m asking the Lord, however, to give me the courage and persistence to pray more for the people I encounter, and to remind me to pray when I’ve made a promise.

A Christian leader I once had the privilege to interview shared with me that his life goal was to fulfill the instructions of Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”(NIV) If all God’s people devoted themselves to pray for those around them, how might our world change? May devotion to prayer be the deepest longing of our hearts.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“What if you were born like this for someone else?” A friend once asked me that question as I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t think I was strong enough to live a disabled life anymore. I’d been run ragged with terrifying changes to my diagnoses, the medically overwhelming theory of “pre-mature death,” and an overarching soul desire to just be myself, rather than being caged by my body’s inabilities.

I was angry. But my friend ignored that, and pointed me back to the Throne Room, so I could ask The Architect of my life what He really wanted from me. I was gently reminded of the prayer I used to pray like it was a broken record, “May I know You, and become like You.” How do we know Christ if we do not first understand the need for Him?

After we understand our need for Him, isn’t it enthralling to realize that He doesn’t correct our physical inadequacies nearly as quickly as He changes our character and our hearts? What if we’re given trials, limitations, and seasons of doubt not because God “has it out for us,” but because He knows we want to become like His Son, and in order to do that, we must take our eyes off ourselves and simply need Him and lean on Him?

Isn’t it true that what we call weakness, He calls glory? What if, instead of trying to “fix our weakness,” we truly accepted the fact that our weaknesses exist so that God can be seen, and therefore, our legacy as His faithful followers can remain eternally strong?

Oh, may that be our heart’s desire!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The past ten days or so have shaken us as a nation as we watch news of one mass shooting after another. We’re horrified, and the outcry for gun control is becoming louder in the wake of such tragedies.

As politicians, pundits and the population debate gun control, there’s a huge factor that no one seems to be paying much attention to. Something has changed about us as a society.

I remember as a child that my siblings and myself, as well as most of our friends, were taught never, ever to point a toy gun at a human being (an exception was made if we had an approved water-gun fight). My dad explained that even the act of pointing a toy gun at a person might cause our brain to start thinking it was okay. If he saw us start to do so, he’d quickly warn, “Don’t even think of it!”

Fast forward to when our children were growing up and video games became the rage. All of a sudden, children were playing games in which the objective was to shoot an opponent. Our son once saved his money and, without consulting us, purchased a video game in which blood splattered everywhere as you shot your enemy for points. We confiscated the game. For a long time he resented our meddling with a possession he had bought with his hard-earned money.

Now that he’s a dad, however, he has actually thanked us for that move. He believes it protected him during a very vulnerable time in his life, and has even commented that he realizes the condition of his heart at the time was leading him into dangerous territory. He says giving up violent games was one of the best things that could have happened to him!

The problem with guns is about more than the weapon itself—it is a reflection of what is happening in a human soul. Before we waste time arguing about gun control, let’s talk about violence control—in video games, in movies and TV shows, and in the home. That’s where the heart of the matter lies. Our job is to direct our children’s hearts as they are shaping their worldview so that using a gun against someone isn’t even a consideration.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Do you think it’s okay that my Jesus isn’t White?” The question startled me, but not because I thought her question was out of line. When I asked her to tell me more, my friend fought back tears as she explained what she meant.

“I’ve been taught the Bible all my life. I have a theology degree. But the Jesus I see in all the books is White. When I think of Jesus, His skin isn’t white, He’s not afraid of dancing, and He speaks my Native language. Do you think that’s wrong?”

Her struggle to understand isn’t rare. But as I thought back through the Gospels, I saw one very strong correlation. Whomever Jesus was sitting with at the time, He found common ground. To the fisherman, He became a fisherman. To the leper, He allowed Himself to be touched so the leper felt accepted. With the Rabbi, He shared common knowledge. To the uneducated, He simply showed them love and reminded them of their worth.

Jesus is the God Who fully commits Himself to love and join together with all people and all cultures. How beautiful to be reminded that God unites us within our differences—even our different cultures—rather than despite them.

May we allow ourselves to learn from each other’s different perspectives of Jesus!

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