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Archive for the ‘Heaven’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was just a teenager when I started losing everything. While friends were learning how to drive, getting their first kiss and dreaming about college, my life was filled with hospitals. At first it wasn’t that horrible: I got out of school early on appointment days, and got to sleep as much as I wanted. Epilepsy was hard, but it wasn’t impossible.

But then, the seizures drastically increased. I was taken out of school, my circle of friends became nearly nonexistent, and my life goal was to survive multiple brain surgeries and be able to tell people my name.

My family was comforted by the song, “Give Me Jesus.”  I had little else to lose as a 15-year-old who was confined by the cage of her own body. Singing, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus” was heartfelt yet simple. Why would I want to cling to this world? All I wanted was Jesus!

Decades later, I think back on that time of desperation and I smile. God gave me abundantly more than I could ever ask or hope. As my medical baseline became more and more normal, I started falling in love with this world simply because I now expected to live. Proudly proclaiming that Jesus is all I ever wanted got harder.

My heart started mumbling, “You can have all this world, but make sure I have my comfort. Don’t even think about touching my loved ones. You can have all this world, but make sure I’m in control, with a little slice of Jesus because he’s still a great idea.”

In reality, stating, “Give me Jesus” is so much more than vocalizing our stance as devoted christians. It’s a declaration of divine trust. “No matter what happens, Lord, I only need you.”

What would happen if we allowed ourselves to live fully submerged in that trust?

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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 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 Samantha Freds

For the past few years I have asked God to give me a word for the year. One word to study and to grow in throughout the year. There’s nothing distinctly biblical about the practice but I’ve found it to be very formative. Whenever I hear my word I am reminded that God is interested in transforming me.

The first time I tried this I started praying in September for what word God would have me focus on in the next year. I was tempted to choose something like “intentional” so that I would be reminded to try harder and be more disciplined in my spiritual journey. I had big plans for the year! My Heavenly Father knew me better than that.

The word He kept putting in front of me was “dependent.” So, I spent a year being reminded to stay connected to the Vine – to depend on Him for everything. It was a year of uncertainty. I quit my job, moved to a new town and went back to school to start on a completely different vocational path. My life felt out of my control and I had to learn to depend on Jesus (something I will always be learning).

This year my word is “present.” I don’t know exactly what’s in store, but I chose the word because I’ve sensed for awhile that I need to be more present. More aware of the hurting, needy people God places in my path. Willing to allow interruptions to distract from my to-do list. Perceptive of the fact that God is always present in my life. Content with the current. For the next 52 weeks I am committed to learning how to be present.

Will you join me in that endeavor? Has God placed a different word and direction on your life?

May you be blessed in the coming year by the presence of the Most High God.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I’ve read the words hundreds of times. But yesterday, I saw 1 Corinthians 2:8 for the first time:

“…the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…”

Every five-year-old who grew up in a Gospel-teaching church knows Christ was crucified because of the ignorance and sin of humanity. But what would the outcome have been if they had understood the mystery of God’s wisdom?

Obviously, the Son of God would not have died. But, if He hadn’t been crucified, would we ever receive the gift of redemption, and the glory of eternal life? No, we wouldn’t.

Sometimes, I run into the Throne Room and scream, “I’m too blind, too broken, and too immature to understand what You’re doing, Jehovah! This isn’t working. Use someone else. Use someone who isn’t as off-the-mark as I am, okay? I’m messing You up.”

But then, in the gentleness I’ve only ever experienced at the hands of my God, He whispers to my heart, “You are not sinful enough to dethrone My glory, Child. Humanity was too blind to see the wisdom of my Son, yet I used even that darkest night of His crucifixion to bring about the gift of life.”

I serve the God whose power is never erased because of sin or death. Oh, what a Savior!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” my friend told me. She had recently turned 50 and was struggling a bit with what that milestone means. One day, she found a co-worker in tears. When my friend asked what was wrong, the co-worker blurted out, “I’m turning 25 next week. Half my life will be over!” My friend added with a slight grin, “I’m thinking maybe I should just give up and go climb in my grave.”

Our society fights the idea of aging. How much do we spend each year trying to get rid of wrinkles, hide gray hairs, and fend off any evidence of the passing years? Where does this fear of personal aging (and of other people knowing it) come from?

As God’s people, we’re called to have a different perspective from that of the world. Our time stay on this earth is for a reason, but is our purpose about seeking the Fountain of Youth? Absolutely not! Instead, we should be focusing on using our time to invest in God’s kingdom.

A friend celebrated her birthday on Facebook this way: “Thank you for the birthday wishes. I’m so grateful that I’ve completed another year on earth and am that much closer to my heavenly home.”

That’s how I want to live!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Despite living in Indiana for over five years, I still find cornfields intriguing. After a childhood in Alaska, any produce which can grow well fascinates me. On a trip from Indiana to Ohio recently, my fascination with corn kept me quite content on the otherwise mundane and boring drive on Highway 30.

As we entered Ohio, a animated raven on the edge of a cornfield caught my eye. He bounced around contentedly in a muddy puddle, obviously very happy with his circumstances. It seemed he had no idea there was better water just a flight away, or that he might find a few stray kernels of corn if he looked beyond his little mud bath.

The sight made me chuckle; but I had to wonder. How many times does God observe us doing something similar to the oblivious raven in the cornfield? We find ourselves in bearable circumstances, get comfortable, and forget to look around to see if God has provided something even better. We settle with the convenient, rather than wait on the Lord for what is ultimately beneficial.

We’re not ravens. Let’s not be content playing in the mud of this world when just beyond God may have something much better.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

It wasn’t until I was fifty years old that I discovered a shocking truth. I wasn’t my grandfather’s favorite grandchild.

Up until that moment, I had assumed our special times together were unique. Surely no one else spent hours sitting with him on the riverbank watching leaves float by, or on a park bench writing poetry to share with each other. Surely I was the only one who took walks with him through the nearby cemetery and made up stories for him about the people buried there.

I left California for college at 17 and settled in Indiana. It wasn’t until my uncle passed away and different ones of the cousins helped their elderly parents travel to the funeral that I had the joy of sitting with cousins and reminiscing. As they mentioned childhood memories, the truth hit me. They had special, tailored-to-them experiences with Grandpa, too. I was not the favorite grandchild.

It only shocked and disappointed me for a moment. Then I was overwhelmed with a wave of gratitude. Here I was, sitting with the few other people in the world who had enjoyed the beautiful experience of being valued by this amazing man I had loved so much. All I could think was, “This is what family is about.” We shared a bond that no one else could fully understand.

Since that day, there have been times when friends and I were sharing what God was doing in our lives and I got that same feeling, “This is what family is about.” The only way to explain the feeling is the word “Heaven.”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Reading Nancy Drew with a flashlight under the covers after bedtime in fifth grade. Keeping an Agatha Christie book in the bathroom to sneak a quick peek when I was potty-training toddlers. I can’t help it; mysteries have always reached out and grabbed me. Do you feel it, too? There’s something about things that don’t fit together just right that calls our minds to investigate and make sense of them. And, oh, the joy of figuring it out before the author reveals it!

Maybe that’s why this mystery called Life gets so frustrating. We see it as our job to be the detectives, to solve the mystery. But the deeper we go, the more threads of the mystery appear. Each thread could be followed into infinity. Each clue could take a lifetime to examine. 

We need to learn to be at peace with living in mystery. We need to give ourselves permission to enjoy the journey of discovery. We know the story will be worth it—the Author is our best friend. He assures us that the ending will be amazing beyond our wildest dreams. Enjoy exploring your mystery, but don’t assume you have found all the answers. Our Author is far too clever for us to figure out. He wants to keep the suspense so He can reveal the surprise ending Himself. 

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