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Archive for the ‘New Year’ Category

~ 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 Viki Rife

Three days before Christmas, as I prepared for my morning devotions, I sat and just cried instead. It was the third anniversary of my father’s death, and we lost my mom this year as the shadow of Covid-19 kept us from ministering to her as we would have liked.

Through my tears, I finally was able to open my Bible to the bookmark where I had left off. I read:

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10).

It was a timely reminder of the joy my parents are experiencing and what I hope to experience some day. However, more than comfort, it gave me resolve for the upcoming year.

For many of us, 2020 is the year we’d like to forget. The fact that 2021 is starting under the same cloud has been weighing on me. But courage says that whether we are in our body or away from it, we make it our aim to please God. That’s all I have to do: seek to please him every day, even when the media is assaulting me with threatening headlines or my body is experiencing symptoms that could be Covid. Seek to please him whatever happens in 2021.

How would the world change if we truly walked by faith, not sight, and sought to just please God? So many anxious, fearful moments would be avoided! So much anger and bitterness would be dissolved.

Please God. Just seek to please God. May that be our focus for this new year!

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~Written by Cassie Rayl

Christianity is uncomfortable. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past year with a vengeance it would be just that. I haven’t stuck around Jesus and his standards to be comfortable. If ease was truly what I sought in 2019, I’ve followed the wrong God.

I used to share such thoughts with confidence and be surrounded by knowledgeable nods and knowing smiles. This past year, more than ever before, I found myself around people who acted disgusted that I had stayed with Christ. After all, in their minds, I could blame this Jesus for everything our family had been through, so why stay?

During one conversation where a friend asked me why I still believed following Christ was a good idea, all I could say through the tears was, “Because He’s everything, and I trust Him.”

Our culture is slowly becoming less and less “Jesus friendly.” If we as the Body of Christ can’t cement in our hearts why we trust Him, and if we can’t purpose in our minds just how much we are willing to give Christ no matter our circumstances, standing strong will only become harder.

In 2020, let’s strive to stand with purpose in allegiance to the only One Who is always enough. The world needs the light of Christ more than ever.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog about keeping wonder in Christmas, I had no idea that a new kind of wonder awaited our family this season. The morning of December 22, my father slipped away from us into his Father’s waiting arms.

Christmas will never be the same for us. Yes, we grieve, and most likely there will be some grieving each year at this time. There is a big hole in our hearts. But overriding the pain is a confidence that the baby in a manger came to defeat death.

The hole is not forever. Our dear daddy—pastor, missionary, school administrator, chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, and all-around lover of God—was a work of grace. He is now experiencing the wonder of Heaven. And even in the pain, we are experiencing the wonder of peace that passes understanding.

Our family is entering a new season of life as the new year begins. You might be, too. May we all spend this new year focusing on the wonder of God’s amazing grace at work within us. Have a wonder-full year!

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~ Written by Rosa Munoz 

My life is full of new beginnings. In January 1983 I came to the USA, a new country, with great expectations of new adventures with my husband Hector Melendez. We had very little financial resources and connections. We had left our family and friends in our native land, Puerto Rico. Immigrating to a new country, culture, place, and environment was exciting but challenging.

I remembered praying and telling God, “I will look to you, follow your will with all my heart and mind. Oh! my Heavenly Father, my Lord all the days of my life.” The Bible reminds us about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:21-24. His hope, faithfulness, goodness and provision have been evident throughout the 34 years of my life here in the USA.

We started out in Miami, Florida, for seven years. I experienced growth in a different aspect of my life. We then moved to Tampa in 1990. We had hoped for a baby, but it wasn’t until September 1992 that our miracle baby, Matthew, came to us. We rejoiced in God’s faithfulness in giving us a child.

A year later, my husband died in a car accident. I began a new, different life as a young widow with my little one-year-old in Tampa. Once again I waited on God, looking to Him and relying on His faithfulness, hope and provision. My focus became seeking God’s direction for taking care of my little boy and pleasing Him. I praise God for the godly women He brought to my life and the prayer partners who strengthened and helped me to grow daily in Jesus Christ. I was learning that I was not alone.

The next summer I met a widower, Jesus Munoz, with three children. He had been through similar life experiences through losing his wife in a car accident. God was preparing a new beginning for our lives. After four years of friendship and God’s perfect timing we married in July of 1998. This brought on another new beginning as we embarked on blending two families, church planting and leadership development. It has been a great gift to our lives. I have been richly blessed to meditate on my memories of new beginnings and remember that God is faithful. Our hope is in Him.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I ran across a list of instructions for the one million individuals who plan to crowd into Time Square to watch the ball drop. A huge amount of the list is dedicated to safety tips. It sounds like it’s a bit risky to make the attempt.

Some play it safer—all over the world one billion more are expected to watch electronically as this annual phenomenon takes place. Each person watching is looking for excitement, something to give them a few hours of satisfaction. In past years I’ve been struck, as I watched from my safe living room, by the emptiness in the eyes of some of the participants, despite their raucous laughter.

I can’t help but think of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” I find myself hoping, “Maybe 2017 is the year we will see this fulfilled.”

Sadly, this will not be a party time for everyone who sees Him come. There will be fear and weeping by those who do not know Him. The ball drop in Times Square will seem completely insignificant compared to this event. Are we prepared? How fervently are we praying for those who will miss out on the joy of His coming? How willing are we to share boldly what Christ has done for us before it’s too late? My resolution this year is to take more risks to help people see what really matters. Will you join me in making this a priority? 

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