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~ Written by Viki Rife

My friend planted 100 tulip bulbs in her yard last fall. She couldn’t even remember where they were all planted! They lay under snow all winter, then under the mud, until they came up and started to bloom. The entire area was awash with color! A blessed view for anyone staying home all day in quarantine.

As she described her investment, I was struck by the similarities to what I’m observing and experiencing during this pandemic. Those who have invested in spending time with God seem to be more resilient. Each truth about God that was lying under the surface has started to spring up to bring comfort and blessing. The more they planted, the more they’re reaping.

As the Charis Fellowship discusses our handling of the pandemic, we’ve talked about three stages. The first is the blizzard that causes us all to hunker down. The blizzard will be followed by winter, a time of venturing out occasionally. But then will come a new spring of opportunities. The more we invest now in our relationship with God, the stronger we will be and the more ready to bless others with truth.

Keep planting, dear friends! We never know how God will use it.

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~ 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

Not knowing how God will provide for my needs is one of the hardest things for me to handle. I am, after all, a control freak. The only thing worse is not knowing when he will provide. I’ve never enjoyed learning how to rely on God’s unpredictable provision, but he’s given me a lifetime of circumstances which prove he always does.

One of my earliest memories of God making me wait was when my parents informed me and my two siblings we were moving to Alaska. They didn’t have answers for any of my anxiety-driven questions. Where would we live? Did Dad have a job? Did they know who I’d become friends with? How could we afford the move?

Throughout the entire 12-day drive to Alaska, I had more than enough time to remind God I hated not being comfortable. I just wanted proof my family would be okay. Any time I voiced my concerns to my mom, she would smile and promise me God would provide exactly what we needed. We were moving out of obedience to God, and that was enough.

God did provide us a home, but not until hours after we arrived in Soldotna, Alaska. Looking back on that memory, it’s obvious why he waited. He waited so I would learn—even at the young age of nine—just how faithful and powerful he is in my most uncomfortable seasons.

As a whole, our nation has had to redefine what it means to be provided for and have enough. It’s hard, uncomfortable, and the future is unknown, but the proof of God providing for his children is always evident.

He provides what we need, when we need it. Look for him in the unknown. I promise you, he’s still there.

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~ Written By Viki Rife

My friend called me in a panic. “Are you okay?” she blurted as soon as I answered. “Why didn’t you answer my text? We have to take care of this now.”

I scrolled through my texts. Sure enough, there was the message, and it really was important. But my phone had been going off all day, people had stopped in with questions, and somehow the message got lost in everything else I was hearing.

All too often, I fear, the same thing happens in my relationship with God. I can get so busy serving Him, listening to all the voices clamoring, that I can’t really hear Him.

That’s why contemplative prayer has been so important in my life. Contemplative prayer for us as Christians is not like eastern religions or New Age, requiring us to empty our minds. Instead, it involves filling our minds with God, and only with Him. It’s meditating on Him and His Word in ways that can provide a conduit for us to think in tune with His thoughts.

Scientists say that the more we think about something, the deeper certain grooves become in our brain. This then causes our thoughts to quickly follow the “rut” that developed those grooves. Negative thoughts deepen negative grooves. Positive thoughts deepen (or develop) positive grooves. According to one author, just twelve minutes of contemplative prayer a day will produce, within eight weeks, groove changes that are visible in brain scans.

While human science is just now discovering these physical evidences, our Creator has known all along what is needed to transform our thinking. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus. If that isn’t something you are currently doing, may I challenge you for the next two months to set an alarm for twelve minutes of thinking about God and who He is. This is not a time to ask, but to receive what He wants you to know. Start with key verses that help you focus on who He is.

At the end of the two months, assess the value of this practice. You never know how your mind will be renewed!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Is it just me, or is the world more filled with anger than it used to be? I am finding out it isn’t just my perception. For example, Carey Nieuwhof in a recent blog listed ten changes that have happened in the past decade. One especially jumped out at me:

“We seem to be a lot angrier and more polarized.”

He points out that anger seems to get you noticed, and we’ve discovered that hate generates more clicks than love.

We can’t change the whole world, but what can we do to stand against this current that is so damaging to our stability and well-being? In the first place, may I suggest we evaluate the information we receive and not jump on the anger bandwagon. Let’s each take seriously the admonishment to be “slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 2:19-20, italics mine).

What would it look like to deliberately choose to examine our anger in light of God’s perspective? What if we consulted with Him about how to handle situations that fuel anger? We might be surprised at the wisdom He gives us to instead defuse attitudes that have been causing division.

While there are times we need to legitimately address and deal with wrongs, let’s make sure we have our facts. How many times have I been incensed over a Facebook post only to find, upon checking, that it’s only telling one side of the story? We must become people of integrity if we want to be a light in the darkening world. Let’s resolve to make this our decade, as believers, of allowing wisdom rather than anger to prevail.

If you want to read to read the original blog, you can find it here.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I ran into him in the doctor’s waiting room. I was a young mom bringing in yet another sick child. “Jack” was several decades older. I had taught his children some years ago; recently I’d heard he was terminally ill. He updated me on his family and asked about mine. Then he started to talk about some mutual friends.

“I hear they’re starting their own business,” he said. “I’ve begged them not to do it.”

He must have seen the surprised look on my face. He explained, “I’ve seen what this particular industry does to you. I understand the draw of financial success, but I also understand what it will take to make a success of it. They have young children, and I can guarantee someday they’ll regret giving up this precious time with them.”

For the next 20 minutes he talked wistfully about the regrets he carried at this stage in his life. “I was too busy for my family. My kids didn’t really have a father. My wife didn’t have a husband. I was so determined to make a success of it.”

He sighed. “I did! My wife will be fine financially. But I have failed in what mattered the most: investing in my own heart and in the hearts of my family and those around me. I was a Christian, but didn’t have time to invest in my own spiritual growth, let alone in that of others. I have very little to show when I stand before the Lord. It grieves me deeply.”

The nurse called him and Jack started toward the exam rooms. Then, very deliberately, he turned and added, “I’ve put off the significance of Mark 8:36: ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ I can’t undo it.”

I think of him whenever I hear that verse. It has especially been on my mind in the context of the Soul Care class we offer in various parts of the country. The care of our souls is the wisest investment God calls us to make as humans, but so often we push it to the background or think we can save it for later. But the time to invest is now!

If you are interested in more information about the Soul Care class, or if you would like your church to host it, go to www.ignite3126.org

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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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