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Archive for the ‘encouragement’ Category

~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 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 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 Cassie Rayl

The doctor came into the exam room in his typical enthusiastic flurry of activity. Without a moment’s notice, he reviewed my chart, chuckled to himself and said, “Well, you’re free to go. You’re totally healthy now that we’ve figured out your treatment. Come back in six months?”

I rushed to explain to him how I wasn’t comfortable with how my blood pressure and heart rate were making me feel. He smiled kindly and said, “I’m afraid that’s not the issue, Ma’am. Your vitals are healthier than they should be for someone in your situation. What you’re feeling is what everyone feels when they’re healthy. You’ve just never experienced it. You’ll get used to it over time.”

I find myself handling my journey to spiritual redemption in much the same way. God whittles away at sin patterns and ungodly thoughts, and I panic because my heart and mind seem different, so something must be wrong, right?

But, just like the doctor, Jesus grins and says, “No. This change is actually good for you. You’ll get used to it over time.” It’s okay to struggle through seasons of our redemption journey. But in His wisdom, God’s right next to us showing us the beauty of what it means to be whole in Him, even if it doesn’t seem normal.

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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 Samantha Freds

I used to like the game of limbo. In junior high gym class (long before I knew what back pain was) I enjoyed the challenge of bending backward just enough to get my whole body under the bar without touching it.

I enjoyed the music and the cheers of the onlookers as slowly but surely I passed from one side to the other. I especially liked that one moment of staring up at the bar from my awkward bent position right before I stood up on the other side.

Recently, I’ve realized I don’t like limbo anymore. (And not just because I can’t bend when I was younger.) The game has become a metaphor for my life. Except I always feel like I am in that last moment of transition from one side of the bar to the other – awkwardly bent, staring up at the unknown, unable to fully see what lies on the other side.

It started in high school as I looked forward to the transition to college. Then it was the transition from college to “real” adulthood. Then I looked forward to married life. The pattern continued with job changes or moves; you name it. Now I’m back in school wondering what it will be like on the other side of my degree.

The transitions just keep coming. I’m starting to realize they always will!

Everything is transitory. We are always transitioning from one phase of life to another. But that doesn’t mean we have to keep playing limbo! Too much of our lives is spent looking forward to—or worrying about—the future. And as a result, we may be missing the here and now God has given us.

So I’m stepping out of the limbo line. I’m not going to take my next turn. What about you?

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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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