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~Written by Viki Rife

If you haven’t yet seen Overcomer, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But for me personally, the most challenging part of the movie is when John Harrison stops in to visit Thomas Hill. Hill observes, “You said you would pray for me. Did you?” Harrison has to admit he didn’t.

Many years ago I made a commitment to always follow through after telling someone I would pray for them. You know what? It’s really hard to do! When your own life is swirling with unexpected issues, and when there are many people you run into who need prayer, it’s sometimes hard to find the energy and focus to follow through.

Of course you can stop and pray with them right then and there. That has a lot of value. I’m asking the Lord, however, to give me the courage and persistence to pray more for the people I encounter, and to remind me to pray when I’ve made a promise.

A Christian leader I once had the privilege to interview shared with me that his life goal was to fulfill the instructions of Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”(NIV) If all God’s people devoted themselves to pray for those around them, how might our world change? May devotion to prayer be the deepest longing of our hearts.

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~Written by Samantha Freds

Do you know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Both tools measure temperature but while a thermometer adjusts to the temperature around it, a thermostat sets the temperature. The difference is simple, but if applied to how we act in a room full of people it can be convicting.

During the four years I worked at a GM manufacturing plant, I behaved like a thermometer. I used the language my coworkers used, told the jokes they told, and let the environment affect my attitude. While I held firm to some convictions, maintaining my “Christian” identity, I tried to fit in any way I could.

Too often I still act like a thermometer and adjust to my surroundings. Not completely changing who I am, but certainly hiding some aspects while accenting others. I’ve heard integrity defined as “how you live your life when nobody is watching.” But what about when only my church friends aren’t watching? Do I talk differently at church than I do at home? Or at work?

The apostle Paul had something to say about this. In his letter to the Romans he wrote, “do not conform to the patterns of this world.” Don’t be like a thermometer, constantly adjusting to the patterns of the world around you. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Be like a thermostat, “able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I want to be a thermostat! I want to learn to set the temperature of whatever room I am in instead of being changed by it.

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~ Written By Viki Rife

“Mommy will go to the hospital and be there for several nights, then come home with our new baby,” I told my two-year-old daughter enthusiastically. She had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of “her baby,” but it was the first time I had explained to her that I had to go away for a while. My goal was to break the hard parts of the experience into small sections for her to digest.

“Will I go with you?” she asked. I explained that she would be at Grandma’s for a while, and then Daddy would pick her up and bring her home.

A look of horror swept over her face. “But what will I eat?” she asked plaintively.

I had to laugh. Cooking was not a part of my husband’s skill set. But I have to admit, there was a side of me that thought: I’m her mother. Doesn’t she even trust me to take care of her? Have I ever left her to figure out how to get her needs met? Doesn’t she realize that isn’t her job?

She looked so forlorn, I had to stop and take her seriously. I explained that Daddy could fix her cereal and toast, and that he could make hot dogs, too. She still looked rather doubtful.

I was reminded of that incident recently when my mind was in a turmoil over a rough situation. I had become so obsessed with solving the problem (which actually had no solution I could control) that the foundation of my world was shaking. At one point of desperation, I sensed God asking me: “Who told you that you’re responsible for fixing this? I certainly didn’t.”

The memory of my daughter’s distressed face flashed through my mind. “I’m doing the same thing to God,” I thought. Then I remembered the rest of the story.

When the time came for me to go to the hospital, we dropped our daughter off at my parents’ house. We allowed Grandma to break the news to her that she would be able to spend the night, as we had planned to do all along. Our daughter was overjoyed. “Grandma knows what I like to eat,” she reassured me as we left. My solution to her problem was much more satisfying than she could have imagined.

Now when I start feeling like it’s my responsibility to solve problems that are out of my control, I try to remind myself, “God has it figured out. Maybe I’ll end up at His version of Grandma’s house!”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“What if you were born like this for someone else?” A friend once asked me that question as I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t think I was strong enough to live a disabled life anymore. I’d been run ragged with terrifying changes to my diagnoses, the medically overwhelming theory of “pre-mature death,” and an overarching soul desire to just be myself, rather than being caged by my body’s inabilities.

I was angry. But my friend ignored that, and pointed me back to the Throne Room, so I could ask The Architect of my life what He really wanted from me. I was gently reminded of the prayer I used to pray like it was a broken record, “May I know You, and become like You.” How do we know Christ if we do not first understand the need for Him?

After we understand our need for Him, isn’t it enthralling to realize that He doesn’t correct our physical inadequacies nearly as quickly as He changes our character and our hearts? What if we’re given trials, limitations, and seasons of doubt not because God “has it out for us,” but because He knows we want to become like His Son, and in order to do that, we must take our eyes off ourselves and simply need Him and lean on Him?

Isn’t it true that what we call weakness, He calls glory? What if, instead of trying to “fix our weakness,” we truly accepted the fact that our weaknesses exist so that God can be seen, and therefore, our legacy as His faithful followers can remain eternally strong?

Oh, may that be our heart’s desire!

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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 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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