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Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

~ Written by Samantha Freds

Have you ever awakened during the night while traveling wondering where you were? For a quick moment you forgot you were staying in a hotel or someone’s guest room and panicked, heart racing, while your eyes adjusted to unfamiliar surroundings.

Maybe you’ve looked around lately and had the same reaction. The news headlines are horrifying. The movies are provocative or violent or both. The music is vulgar. The Christian flag has been replaced by the rainbow. Where am I? How did we get here?

It seems like every arena of life has experienced this drift away from God: government, education, the family and yes, even the church. Our money still says, “In God We Trust.” But it sure doesn’t feel like our nation even knows who God is anymore. And it is easy to burn with righteous anger over what has been lost. We used to pray in school. Families used to share meals at the dinner table. Sundays used to be about fellowship with God, the community and family. Where are you, God?

Daniel found himself in a similar situation in 600 BC. He and his people were taken into exile by the powerful Babylonian empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. They were suddenly in a foreign place with foreign people, pagan gods and secular worldviews. It must have felt like God had abandoned Daniel and his people.

Here is how Daniel handled the situation. First, he prayed. He fervently and faithfully prayed to the one true God. Second, he looked for opportunities to be set apart for God’s purposes without being defiant and disrespectful. Daniel was recognized for his excellence even in serving the pagan king he found himself subject to. Lastly, Daniel waited. He knew his God was still in control, and he waited on Him.

That is the hope we have today in our context. God is still in control. Even if it feels like He is letting our nation and our world fall apart, He is still in control. His ultimate plan will not be thwarted by any earthly authority or agenda. Praise God!

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~Written by Samantha Freds

I wanted to write about how we, as Christians, should have eyes like our Heavenly Father to see the world around us. It seemed fitting right after Father’s Day, but the words were not coming. I quickly realized why. I have been struggling with discontentment lately, and I doubt I’m alone. I needed to be real and raw this week.

Contentment. I don’t even like the word. It seems so nondescript. It’s not happy or sad, excited or melancholy. It’s not one extreme or another. Contentment is about being satisfied wherever you are. But, what if I don’t like where I am? How do I find contentment if my circumstances were supposed to be different by now?

Does God really expect us to be content if we are underpaid and under-appreciated at our jobs? Or if we are still waiting for marriage or for children while all our friends are enjoying both? How can we possibly be content after the latest diagnosis?

I think God does want us to be content in all circumstances, but I’m not pulling any punches. I started by saying I’m struggling with areas of discontentment, so I don’t pretend to have the answer. I am distinctly aware that even if I received all the things I thought I deserved or wanted, it would not be long before I was back to feeling discontent. That seems to be the nature of this life between two gardens.

I don’t take lightly the reasons for my own discontentment, and I certainly don’t mean to say “just get over it.” Here is the verse I keep coming back to: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). And the very next verse promises that the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will be ours.

Later in the same chapter, Paul says he has learned the secret to being content in all circumstances: God. No, seriously. It’s not a Sunday school answer and I’m not a simpleton. Discontentment is real, but the only way out of it is to give thanks to God for everything we do have.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Whose favorite household item is a sponge? Probably no one’s. That little yellow rectangle is a reminder of all the cleaning to be done, not to mention all the dishes in the sink! We use sponges for a while, then throw them out without thinking twice. What if I told you there is a deep theological lesson in a sponge?

The purpose of a sponge is to absorb and transport water. Sounds simple enough. Soak up. Pour out. It follows, then, that a sponge full of water is only serving half its purpose. In fact, if left full between uses, the sponge starts to harbor bacteria. On the other hand, a sponge out of water for too long becomes dry, hard, and useless.

The Christian life is like that sponge. We need to absorb living water. The water of the Word gives us life. But, like the sponge, if we stay in the water we aren’t serving our purpose. We are at risk of harboring pride. We are called to share the Living Water with the dry, dirty, hurting world around us. But, if we do not return to the source of Living Water we burn out. Doing for God begins to take priority over being with God. We need to learn the balance.

I call this the “Soak up—Pour out” rule. While some seasons may require us to hold water as we survive the heat of this life, those times are exceptions to the “Soak up–Pour out” rule.

I encourage you today to set up two columns. Under the heading “Soak Up,” list the ways you absorb living water throughout the week – quiet time with the Lord, church services, Bible studies, life-giving conversations with a friend, etc. Then list the areas where you are pouring out under the second column. Things like work, taking care of family, and volunteering at church will fill up the “Pour Out” column. The result doesn’t have to be a perfect perfectly equal columns, but we should be looking for a healthy balance.

If you are feeling dry today—go to the Source and spend some time soaking up living water!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Mommy, please don’t let them do this. Mommy, I’m scared. Mommy? Why?!” I was three years old, and I was undergoing even more medical testing. Because I was so young, the MRI came with tightly-wrapped gauze and a foam wall surrounding my head to ensure I didn’t move during the excruciatingly-long test. I had worked myself into a horrible migraine and anxiety attack, and I wanted the test to be over now.

In my childish perspective, I was incredibly confused why my parents just sat there—obviously upset, but still doing nothing. I was in pain. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a good, cooperative little girl anymore. Why didn’t they rescue me? What was wrong with them?

What I didn’t understand was, though the test was painful, what was behind the pain would be worth every ounce of my discomfort. The test results gave my medical team a better understanding of the issues which plagued my body. Mom and Dad knew the end goal, and they had come to a heartbreaking but necessary decision. My temporary pain was acceptable pain.

I’ve come to understand as an adult that my loving and attentive God watches my life in much the same way. We live in a fallen world where life experiences bring agonizing pain, confusion and despair. It’s easy to look at my Heavenly Father and scream, “Abba? Why?! Why are You allowing this? Can’t You see I’m nearly shattered? Aren’t you supposed to be good?”

But He knows something I don’t. He knows the end goal. He knows just what I need to become more like His Son.

In the end, I can almost hear Him whisper with tears in His eyes, “Child, this pain is temporary. Hang in there. The end result will be worth every second of your pain.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was six the first time my great grandfather handed me a polishing rag. He stood me in front of his silver collection and stated proudly, “You can help me make these beauties shine again.” I was responsible for a silver horse that had most assuredly seen better days, but my “Gramps” treated it with such treasured respect, I knew it had to be special.

He never told me the stories behind his collection. Born into a poor family and with only a 2nd grade education to his name, I can only imagine how priceless his three-tiered display case felt to him. As we worked together on his silver, he’d occasionally chuckle as he wiped grime off a certain piece, but the stories stayed safely in his mind.

That afternoon, sitting near one of my spiritual giants, I got a better glimpse of what it meant to first serve out of love. Even at six, I thought polishing silver was a waste of time. Yet I didn’t find myself asking hundreds of questions as to why I had to help. Gramps wanted to spend time with me, and polishing silver was important to him, so therefore, it became important to me. I didn’t need to know why. I knew Gramps and that was enough.

What would happen if I lived my life with Christ in the same way? I find myself peppering God with endless questions when He asks me to do something. I want to understand before I say yes. But too often, when that is my initial response, I miss out on sharing Jesus’ joy. What if I trusted Jesus enough to trust there was beauty in His presence, even when the task feels mundane?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

You know the feeling. You’re dashing out the door at the last minute and discover your car has a flat tire. You’re cleaning for house guests and there’s a power outage, leaving you with no water, much less the ability to run the vacuum.

It’s especially hard for those of us who are planners. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get all my ducks in a row. Not that I can claim that I’ve been very successful at it. In fact, most of the time it seems like God is determined to prevent me from ever managing to achieve that goal.

Few things can make me angrier than having my plans interrupted. God has been pointing out to me that the anger is actually evidence my schedule has been an idol most of my life. Furthermore, He’s shown me that my need to be on top of things is, in part, a way to get love and approval.

The other day He hit me with a verse out of Jonah that has convicted me deeply: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8—ESV).

There’s no need to waste energy and get emotionally worked up. I need to let go of my idols so I can truly experience His steadfast love.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“I understand.” It’s a two-word sentiment meant to comfort and console, but it often doesn’t. When facing heartbreaking trauma, loss, or a new medical hurdle, the last thing you want to hear is, “I understand.” Those words are always uttered in well-intentioned ways, but I’ve caught myself mentally mumbling, “How could you understand?! You have no idea what it’s like to feel pain like this!”

A while back, I asked God to help me learn how to keep my thoughts to myself when sitting with a grieving friend. Instead of looking their grief in the eye and telling them I understand, I’ve started praying, “God, I want to understand, but I don’t. Help them know you bear their pain just as deeply, and your consoling love brings healing once they’re ready for it.”

Most humans don’t grieve well. We are even worse at witnessing the grief of someone they love. But what a breathtaking assurance—we can hand them to the God Who really does understand heartbreak, loss, and trauma! We serve a God who is not afraid to grieve, because He understands it better than any of us could ever imagine.

Isn’t it awe-inspiring to know we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who humbles Himself enough to come alongside us in our pain? Isn’t it amazing that when we hear Him whisper to our grieving hearts, “I understand, Child,” He really does?

Oh, the glory of serving a Savior who meets us in our valleys just as easily as He celebrates us on the mountain tops!

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