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Archive for the ‘Pursuit’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

Curiously looking for information on the Third Temple project being discussed in Israel, I stumbled across a Jewish discussion forum. The debate involved the question of whether or not animal sacrifices would be a part of the new Temple. Many argued that animal sacrifices were cruel, bloody, disgusting, barbaric, and unthinkable; they didn’t belong in this enlightened age. Others added reminders that such sacrifices were a law of Jehovah himself given to Moses, so they were still necessary.

A participant in the discussion then made a comment that gripped my heart. He said, “I think that when the Messiah comes, as great as he’s supposed to be, he’ll have the intelligence to come up with some ingenious plan for eliminating the animal sacrifices while still satisfying Jehovah’s demands.”

Doesn’t that make your heart ache and rejoice at the same time? My heart aches because this person is so close to the truth yet does not recognize that the Messiah has already come. But I rejoice because it is such a real-to-life description of what Jesus did. He did indeed come up with an ingenious plan—to sacrifice Himself to satisfy God’s demands.

As we celebrate this holy week, may we be aware of the brilliant solution God provided that frees us from the ugliness of the eternal consequences of our sin.

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~Written by Tabby McMonagle

“For God’s sake, come undone,” said no one ever. But what if it is exactly what we need to do in order to see God? Personally, I have been trying to hold it together for years now. Not until this past year, when I have come completely undone, have I been able to surrender the control I thought I had.

Growing up I felt like the message I heard was, “Keep it together. Be strong. You’ll figure it out. Keep trying.” All good ideas, but none of them encouraged me to rely on anyone but myself. If I could will it, I could do it.

What a different reality I face today than what I was prepared for! Things don’t always go my way. My good deeds and hard work don’t always get me what I want.

The biggest disappointment was no matter how much faith I could muster, the answers to my prayers were still in God’s hands. They depended on His approval not my persuasion or the faith I brought. In fact, I learned my faith is a gift from God; nothing I do can get me more of it.

How I want to grasp at control. I want to know what happens next. The unknown of my circumstances has me at my wits’ end. My mind, my body; all of it is undone. I told a friend I could probably walk on water, I feel so weak. The Bible says when we are weak He is strong. In the very depths of my heart, the despair I have in understanding I have no control over anything in my life, or in anyone else’s, has me to the very end of myself. I have to put God as my only hope.

When we take life, and all it has to offer, and break it down, the only thing that matters is saving souls for Christ. It has nothing to do with our moment in history but it has everything to do with God’s plans. It is then we realize that we need to come undone. So, for God’s sake, come undone. We need a new perspective. We need God’s perspective.

I am not there yet. I am still sifting through the ashes of what is left of my control issues. I don’t want to look for anything to salvage; I want only to move forward with God’s help. I want to rely on Him; not what I have to offer but what He can do with me as I am. I don’t want to hear, “For God’s sake, keep it together.” For God’s sake, I pray I come undone.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I sat in dumbfounded wonder as I listened to my friend sing Amazing Grace. His tenor voice was crisp and soulful; every word pierced the gymnasium with resounding clarity. He had the audience in tears almost instantly. I’d always known he could sing.

He was singing Amazing Grace with apparent conviction, yet I knew he proudly held the title “Atheist.”

When I asked him about it afterwards, he shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I was asked to sing. I sang. They’re just words.” It was obvious the song hadn’t impacted him. Its truth hadn’t changed him. He was just going through the motions in order to receive applause and recognition—nothing more.

Inasmuch as I wanted to lecture him for his hypocrisy, the words stuck in my throat as I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart, “Haven’t you treated Me in the same way before?” My attitude of judgment disappeared and turned into a moment of repentance as I realized I, too, have done “Christian things” for personal gain at times.

Do we live in such a way Jesus can see our genuine pursuit of Him? Or do we, like my friend, see Christianity as nothing more than words?

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

In the eight months we’d been married, prayer had never been a harder task. Words were said, expectations weren’t met, and feelings were hurt. After a long discussion, I kissed my husband on the cheek, walked away from him, and went on a walk alone. The moment the door closed behind me, I whispered desperately, “Please, Jesus. Please help me pray for my husband.”

The reality was, I knew I couldn’t pray for him in my own strength. Every prayer I’d initiated ended in self-pitied anger, complaints, and the good ole, “If you’d change him, Lord, this wouldn’t be so hard.” I wasn’t praying for my husband. I was licking my wounds.

Words eventually dried up, and I stopped in my tracks. I starting singing hymns I had learned as a child. I sang songs like Rock of Ages, Glorious Day, and Create in Me a Clean Heart. As my tears dried, I somehow went from focusing on the hurt between my husband and I, and started focusing on my Savior.

After a while, the songs faded, and I was able to pray. “Lord, I’m hurting. Make me more like Jesus anyway. What do you need to change in me so I can encourage Peter to become more like you, too?” The following season of prayer was more about restoring my brokenness at the foot of the cross, rather than fixing Peter’s humanity.

Sometimes, the greatest hurdle standing in our way of interceding for our spouses is ourselves. When those days come, there isn’t a self-help book out there that can truly fix that issue. Our only option is to run to the Father, and ask Him to change our hearts so we can love as deeply as He does.

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~ Written by Cassie Harris

I shrieked when I saw it. The temperature was bearable! For the last week, Indiana had been seeing temperatures which would make even Alaskans cringe. I was getting tired of feeling as if I was having an asthma attack just because I stepped outside to get to my car. But finally. My phone boasted the truth:

It was warm enough to snow.

When I stepped out my front door, I was met with a wintery wind. Still, I celebrated the relative warmth. I then promptly turned around to get my hat and gloves. Sure, it was warm. It wasn’t that warm.

I can sometimes treat my spiritual growth the same way I treat the weather. I see some type of breakthrough in a sin cycle and I want to act as if that simple crack in the rock means the mountain of sin is no longer there. I celebrate the shift in action for a day, maybe a week, before I’m met with sin’s blustery reality.

Yes, because of Christ, I saw victory in my ungodly habits, but I’m still a sinner.

I have a choice. I can either stand in the “wintery winds” of my sinfulness and eventually die of hopelessness. Or, I can turn around and look at my Savior and allow Him to give me what I need to be prepared for what lies before me spiritually.

Just like the weather warming up, our sanctification is a process. Allow God to be a part of that process. He is not shocked when the winds of life take our breath away.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“Don’t settle for what you alone can make of yourself.” 

This is the motto for FGBC leaders as they gather in various regions for annual Focus retreats. At the Southwest retreat this week, the question was asked of seasoned leaders, “What was the best advice you ever received? What was the worst?”

One of the “worst” pieces of advice to pastors that seemed to resonate with everyone was, “Don’t get too close to your people; it will open you to getting hurt.” Having grown up in a pastor’s home, I deeply understand the sentiment behind it. There’s enough pain in life without being wounded by your own sheep. And I’ve seen deep wounds.

There’s a problem with that approach, though. It just isn’t biblical. Paul speaks many times in his epistles about how dear the believers are to him. He looks forward to being with them so they can encourage him as he encourages them. We are to build one another up—you can’t do that if you’re using a ten-foot pole! Building God’s church is a hands-on, stone-on-stone effort. Leaders must model the kinds of relationships they expect to see among their followers. They must remember that they, too, are only another stone in God’s building.

The discussion left me with two prayers:

1. Lord, help me draw close to your people, even the ones who hurt me.

2. Lord, help me bless those who lead me, not tear them down.

I hope those are your prayers, too. Together, we can help each other make more of ourselves.

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

(Erin Shuler is spending the month of January ministering at Sonrise Orphanage in Uganda. She is a sophomore at Grace College.)

There are too many little hands!

Everywhere I go there are little smiling faces looking up at me. They either want to hold my hand or beg to be picked up and held. I am a complete stranger. My skin is a different color. I speak a different language. I come from a different background. But for some reason, these children trust me. They love me and they want to be with me.

While I settle into living in Uganda, going on a walk is a daily activity. As I’m walking, my hands and my heart are full. I have a child (or two or three) holding on to each hand and they don’t let go. But there are too many children. I can’t hold all their hands at once. As they are shoving and fighting over my hands, I have to calm several screaming or crying children because someone else stole my hand from them. I wish I could pick them all up and hold them forever. But I know I will never be able to do such a thing.

My heart is overflowing with love for these children. I wish they all had a family member who could give them the attention they crave and deserve. I wish being held, hugged, and having their hand held was a normal daily activity for them. They have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Yet despite their past and their current circumstances, you will never encounter a happier or more loving child than these.

I am incredibly thankful there is Someone who can, and is, holding on to these children and will never let them go. There is Someone who loves them more than I ever could. Someone whose hand is holding not only these children but the entire world. God desires to hold everyone’s hand.

When I am not enough for these children, He is. He is walking hand-in-hand with me, helping me up when I get knocked down. He comforts me when I get hurt, and is always there when and where I need Him. His hands are enough. I can let go and rest in His capable embrace because He has everything under control.

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