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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Warfare’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for fox pups. A mother fox uses our barn every few years to raise her litter. When I watch these furry little balls of energy playing on the lawn by the barn, my heart melts. I love how the first time the mother brings them out, they have to leap high with each step just to get through the grass. I love watching them wrestle with each other, tumbling over and over as they roll down the hill. I hold my breath when a car whizzes down our road, hoping they don’t run in front of it.

As I enjoy and protect the young foxes, however, I manage to deliberately forget they won’t be cute balls of fur for very long. A time will come when I’ll hear a neighbor complaining about losing their free-range chickens. Or, as happened a few years ago, we’ll wake up to find the remains of a fawn in our yard. Cute, fluffy little foxes become sly and wily big foxes who can do a lot of damage. I know the foxes don’t belong in our neighborhood, but I overlook that knowledge and let them stay in our barn.

Unfortunately, I often view my pet sins as innocent bouncy balls of fur, instead of foreseeing their sneaky, deadly outcomes. I give them a safe place to grow, and I even enjoy their antics for a season, until they are big and strong enough to bring consequences into my life. They are so hard to get rid of once they’ve taken over! Lately I’ve been using the fox metaphor to keep reminding myself: “This seems like a tiny, innocuous sin, but someday it will get the best of you. Don’t let it stay in your barn. It has no place in your life.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The furnace had the potential to erase their faith instantly when you think about it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego stood up for their faith in Yahweh. Their reward for doing so was to be thrown into a furnace so hot, it melted flesh and turned bone to dust.

Were these three men anything like me, I wonder? Did they proclaim their faith, confront the threat of death by fiery inferno, and then silently pray God would deliver them before the flames truly touched their skin? Wouldn’t that be just as powerful a divine plan as making His followers actually burn?

But that’s not what happened. The men were still conscious when they were tossed into the flame. They had made their allegiance to Yahweh clear, but I wonder if, even for a split second, they felt the heat on their faces and wondered if their faith was worth the burden.

In Daniel 3:24-25, we see a glimpse of the divine reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego weren’t rescued. King Nebuchadnezzar—the man who had ordered the men’s deaths—had to see how his power stacked up against Yahweh’s power. He had to see the flames. He had to see the trial take place. Only after he observed those things did he come to realize that Yahweh was truly God and worthy of worship.

More often than not, our own trials—our own fiery furnace—is so the world can see God at work in an undeniable way. No matter how hot the flames get, it is so the world can say with undeniable certainty, “God was with you in that fire.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

No one told us bonding with our son would feel impossible during pregnancy. Our first pregnancy resulted in our daughter being stillborn. To say we were cautious and hesitant to invest in our second child’s development would be an understatement. We wanted to be excited for our son, who we decided to name Judah, but what if he wasn’t placed in our arms, either?

Talking to Judah throughout the pregnancy often felt hollow as I battled deep anxiety and fear. Often the joy would be ripped away and replaced by immense sorrow with the thought, “What if we bury our son like we buried our daughter? What if we never get to witness the look of recognition on his face when he hears our voices?”

I forced myself to sing hymns out loud, telling myself I was singing to Judah as a compromise. If I couldn’t pour into him by bonding with him through motherly chatter, at least he could learn my voice some other way. I spent the entirety of my pregnancy begging Jesus to let that be enough, fearing it would be inadequate.

My husband, Peter, struggled just as I did. Only in the last weeks of my pregnancy could he bring himself to nickname Judah. He said very little, but what he did say always made our little boy flip in my womb in excitement over hearing his daddy. Still, I worried Judah hadn’t heard his dad enough to know his voice if and when he was placed in our arms alive and thriving.

I had no reason to worry. Judah made his arrival a month early and miraculously strong. There was one moment in the NICU, I’ll never forget. Judah was uncomfortable and scared, and though he would breathe more easily when I sang over him, he wasn’t calming down. The instant Peter leaned over Judah’s crib and said, “Hey, little dude, it’s okay,” Judah opened his eyes, stopped crying and just studied his daddy. He knew that voice, and he knew that voice was grounded by love.

Watching that interaction reminded me of my own spiritual journey with the Father. I don’t always feel like I hear God enough. I sometimes feel as if it’s been so long since I’ve heard him, I wonder if I’ll recognize his voice when I do. Yet the moment I do hear my Heavenly Father, the moment I can focus on his presence, all I hear is love. In the end, all I know is the Father wants me where I belong: In his arms listening as he declares his love for me.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been struggling with a deep desire of the heart that, in all honesty, is yet unmet. While praying faithfully I have waited impatiently. I know my perspective is limited, but I can’t understand the why in the waiting. It feels unsafe to hope.

Has God ever given you a Bible verse at just the right moment? Maybe you were scrolling through Facebook and there it was, pretty script and all. Have you been doing your daily reading and the words practically leapt off the page at you? I had a similar experience with these words several months ago:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Since the day I read those words, Romans 12:12 has played over and over in my head. It has almost become a personal mantra. One day, a few months ago (before social distancing was a thing), I was walking through Target when I saw a canvas with a Bible verse on it. Sure enough, it read, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It was the last one available one.

That verse now hangs on the wall in my kitchen. I read it every day. And while I know God was speaking directly to my situation when He gave me that verse, the words have taken on a greater meaning in light of the pandemic. Just yesterday I realized God was preparing my heart for this time of uncertainty and isolation with that verse.

I am amazed by the provision and providence of the Almighty God. I am still waiting and praying as faithfully as I can for my heart’s desire. But I know that in these overlapping seasons of waiting, God is good.

Because of who he is, I can be joyful in hope.

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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 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 Samantha Freds

I’m sure we made a peculiar sight—six adults following two small puppies around the yard. My sister-in-law had brought her new pets to meet the family. As they explored their new scenery, their wobbly little legs could hardly go fast enough to keep up with their curiosity.

All of a sudden, one of the pups made a quick dash towards the pool. Before anyone could stop her, she jumped in! (I should add that it’s winter, so the little thing landed in the frigid foot-and-a-half of water on top of the pool cover.)

Within seconds, my father-in-law swooped in and grabbed the puppy out of the water. She was unharmed, but frightened and shivering. Mere moments later, though, the little thing was running around again as if nothing had happened.

I can’t count how many times my Heavenly Father has swooped in and saved me from danger like that. Not to mention the countless times He undoubtedly spared me from hardship I didn’t even know was lurking in the shadows.

But, I forget the danger just as quickly as that little puppy did at the pool.

If I’m honest, I constantly struggle to really trust God with my whole life. I’m convinced that part of this struggle is due to my puppy memory. When I forget all the things God has done, how he has provided and what he has saved me from, I jeopardize my trust in Him. What better season than Lent to practice remembrance! Instead of skipping right to the joy of Easter morning, we can spend the next six weeks pausing to remember the trustworthiness of God.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I’ve been thinking of Jonah. His experience, described in the book that carries his name, is brief and pointed. He receives instructions from God but chooses to run away and disobey Him. God intervenes and sends a storm. Eventually Jonah is thrown overboard. He is on the brink of death when God intervenes again and saves his life by sending a large fish to swallow him. Jonah remains in the fish for three days and three nights.

It would appear that this near-death experience, coupled with the quiet dark of the three day stay in the fish, was transformative for Jonah. While in the belly of the fish Jonah cries out to God. So the next time God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah obeys. If we stop reading there. it’s a beautiful story of second chances!

Unfortunately, there is more to the story. Jonah doesn’t celebrate when the people of Nineveh turning from their evil ways. He does not understand the Lord’s compassion and completely misses the parallels in his own story to that of the people of Nineveh.

Jonah’s experiences on the boat, in the stormy seas and in belly of the fish were transformative for one area of his life–his willingness to obey God. But the story ends with an obvious need for further transformation. This is why I relate to his story. I wish I could say that the transformative experiences in my life were long-lasting and all-encompassing. But that simply is not the case.

Still, I am encouraged by this truth: he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Even when it seems like I am learning the same lessons over and over, I can be confident that God hasn’t given up on me! He is patient with my shortcomings and gentle with my rough spots. His plans are unhindered by my imperfections and his love for me is unconditional!

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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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