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Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

~ 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 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 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 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

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 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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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When I look at her, I see myself. Her anger used to be my anger. Her fear used to be my fear. Her sin used to be my sin. Last but not least, when I watch how the bondage impacts her, it’s almost as if I can feel the shackles of my own Christ-less life. She and I are so much alike.

She and I are also very different. My bitterness scared me, so I prayed. My fear crippled me, so I ran to the only One who could heal me. My sin broke relationships, so I asked the Spirit to give me courage to start the journey back to restoration. That journey nearly broke me, it was so long.

But Christ, hope, and truth made redemption my greatest gift. As I stand and watch my loved one sink deeper away from redemption, I can’t decide whether to bestow empathy or lose my patience. Why did I find freedom and she didn’t? Why did God wipe my eyes clean but not hers?

Believing in God’s goodness while observing a prodigal is probably the hardest thing my heart has ever experienced. How long before God brings this lost sheep back? How long before He lets this burden from my heart lessen? Why is He taking so long? Doesn’t God realize the sooner the better is the best approach to things like this?

But then I have to remember this person is God’s creation and her story is not the only story in the world. God is behind the scenes weaving a tapestry I’ll never begin to understand, but I can sometimes see its beauty as God reveals His zealous desire for every “lost sheep” to be found. I may understand this precious person’s struggle, but God understands her heart and has an intimate knowledge of how long she needs before coming Home.

Now and forever, that truth will be sufficient as I rest in God’s goodness.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I’ve seen hate before, but I could hardly believe the corrosive language pouring across my computer screen. The writer was venting on social media about the individual who had been nominated for the Supreme Court.

I’m not the possessor of evidence to qualify me to judge who is right and who is wrong in the debate over what someone did or didn’t do in the past. So I was surprised to see this person not only claim to already know who was in the wrong, but use very strong language to tear that individual’s character in every way possible.

While I’ve come to expect this “guilty until proven innocent” judgmentalism from non-believers, I never expected to see such hate streaming across social media from a person who claims to be in ministry for Christ. Especially surprising was the fact that the individual posting this tirade has complained to me often about being judged by others who don’t have all the facts. So why was this okay?

Brothers and sisters, we are called to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). We are citizens first of heaven, so our involvement in earthly politics needs to be run through the filter of what Christ desires from His followers. We are not called to broadcast a message of hate to the world. There’s plenty of that already. We are called to be reconcilers, not dividers.

Let’s show that we believe in grace by offering it to others, whoever they may be.

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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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~ Written by Viki Rife

Don’t use a GPS to get to my house. You won’t make it there. Despite their amazing ability to track where you are, Global Positioning Systems will claim that you have arrived about a half mile before you actually reach our place.

Believe me, I’m not criticizing. I remember all too well the days of navigating LA freeways with a map in hand. I’d take my eyes off the road, finally find my place on the map, look up to check the road and lose my place on the map. It was just as dangerous as texting while driving.

So my recent trip to California felt like a breeze. My favorite feature of my GPS is the fact that it tells you ahead of time which lane to get into so you’re ready for the next exit. And I absolutely love its ability to redirect after I’ve taken a wrong turn.

It got me started thinking about how much I appreciate our spiritual GPS: God’s Purpose Secured. God has a purpose for me, and all I need to do is pay attention and follow directions. 

Even when He tells me to get into a lane I don’t want to be in, He is positioning me for whatever exits He wants me to take that will lead to arriving at His purpose for me. And He never gives up on me when I take a wrong turn. Praise God, He will fulfill His purposes for me. And He won’t stop until He brings me safely to my destination.

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