Play to Win

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

My youngest daughter, Sofie, is a fast and fearless little girl who loves sports. All sports. And like most young athletes, Sofie likes to win. Recently, she and I saw a t-shirt that made us giggle. It said—I play to have fun, but I win anyway.

“That is totally me, Mom!” Sofie laughed.

I smiled at my little athlete and agreed, “You do play to win, sweet girl.”

She was still talking about the shirt as we drove home from our errands and it led us to an interesting conversation about Christ. As she was talking about how much fun it is when her team wins a game, I glanced at her in my rear view mirror and took a moment to plant seeds of truth in my daughter’s young heart.

“Sofie, isn’t it amazing that we have a Savior that also plays to win?” I asked.

“What do you mean, Mom?” she asked.

Now that I had her attention, I stated my case carefully and quickly. She is, after all, only eight years old, and her attention span is short. My window of opportunity was small and fleeting. So, I took my moment and continued, “Christ took our sins to the Cross and conquered death. Through Him, we have victory. Jesus wins!”

A big smile came over my little girl’s face as she listened to my words. “Yep! Jesus wins alright!” She said brightly.

Jesus wins! We are told, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV). Unfortunately, many of us forget that simple truth when the game of life appears lost. Still, we must remember things are not as they might seem. As Christ followers, we must not lose heart.

The Cross is our Savior’s reminder that victory lies in Jesus Christ. When all was lost, and we were bound by sin, Christ willfully took our sin to Calvary and declared victory by His sacrifice alone.

That doesn’t mean that things will always turn out the way we want. We live in a sinful world and life’s journey can be treacherous. There are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. We simply are not calling the plays! Still, as believers, we have hope and victory because our Savior plays to win.

Regardless of the fight in which you find yourself. Despite how messy your circumstances appear. No matter how defeated you may feel. All is not lost. For Christ has declared victory in your life.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58 NIV).

Indeed, we have victory in Jesus Christ. So, let us lift our hearts and our heads towards our Savior. The game is not over and we are not defeated. Together, with Christ, let’s play to win—and don’t forget to have fun!

The Ransom

January 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

My husband and I love to snuggle up and watch movies. It’s one of our hobbies together. Our friends tease us that we have seen every movie that has ever been made. Despite our best efforts, I am sure we have missed a few. One movie I have been thinking about a lot the past couple of weeks is the movie “Ransom.”

Imagine your child has been kidnapped. That is the gist of this 1996 thriller starring Mel Gibson. I know. It’s a nightmare none of us wants to consider. But hang with me for just a bit. Picture it now. You precious son or daughter, lost to you, can be purchased back…for a ransom. That’s what God did for you, His child, through Christ.

Scripture teaches us “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Furthermore, “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1Timothy 2:5-7). Because of sin, all mankind has been captured by an enemy who seeks our destruction. After all, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Because of the fall of man, we are all born into sin. We are told “for this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:14-16). You have been ransomed.

When I consider the fact that my Heavenly Father sent me a ransom in Christ, before I even took a breath, I am filled with wonder. Truly, His great love is too big for me to fully comprehend. But when I filter these events through a parental lens, I see more clearly. For if one of my precious children were taken from me, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to bring them home. My kids are precious to me and worth any ransom. That is who you are to God.

God, The Father, saw his children captive to sin and sent a ransom in Jesus Christ. I could not free myself. Not with good deeds. Not with charity. Not with social justice. Neither can you. Only Christ can free us from the captivity of sin. Through Christ alone, the ransom was paid in full. My ransom. Your ransom. He is the ransom for us all.

Molded by the Potter

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

Living in north Texas, winter is rainy and cold. Not Iowa cold where the wind chill takes your breath away. Here, it is more of a damp cold that makes you want to hide under a blanket. On those dreary wet days, the kids have no choice but to entertain themselves inside. One of their favorite rainy day distractions used to be Play-Doh. Even now, my girls like to play bakery and mash the colorful clay into pretend cakes and cookies for imaginary customers. For hours, they sit together at the kitchen table, molding and shaping their Play-Doh into creations from their own imagination. And if their design isn’t the masterpiece they envisioned, they simply pound it down and start again.

The Bible tells us we are like clay. In Job, scripture says, “I am the same as you in God’s sight; I too am a piece of clay.” (Job 22:6) We are constantly being molded either into the likeness of Christ or into the image of the world. One leads to peace, the other to peril. One leads to joy, the other despair. One leads to restoration, the other to ruin. When we choose to spend time with God, we allow Him to shape us into the creation he imagined before our conception. Scripture explains “yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Not long ago, I spoke with a woman who had forgotten that she is “the worko f a potter’s hands”. (Lamentations 4:2) Bitter from disappointment, the woman explained that her life had not turned out the way she had planned. Through the years, she had grown distrustful of the LORD. Rather than clinging to God and allowing Him to mold her life into something meaningful and beautiful, she instead chose to embrace the false securities of the world. In her discouragement, this young woman’s heart had grown cold towards God.

My heart broke when I took in the hopelessness of her words. She was so sure she was right about the LORD, although my eyes of faith could see clearly what she could not. She insisted her past circumstances offered her all the “proof” she was seeking. In her present state, she is blind to all that God has done for her. She only sees her pain. Consequently, there was little I could say to change her mind. Instead, I chose to hear her out. Then I took her before the Lord in prayer. I am not close to this woman, and I have no idea where her heart stands today, but I know the LORD isn’t finished with her. In time, He shall shape this beautiful woman’s life as it best seems to Him. (Jeremiah 18:4)

As a mother of faith, her story is one that I keep close to my heart. Truly, it is a reminder of how important it is for me to mold the hearts of my children for God. I long for them to be clay in the potter’s hands all of their days. For, in His hands, the hands which gave them life, their future is secure, no matter how their circumstances appear. Troubles are momentary. However, God is eternal. Regardless of the political or financial climate of today or the deteriorating condition of the world, my children will know His peace if they rest in the hands of the potter.

We are told that in this life, trouble would surely find us. After all, we are born with a sinful nature into a fallen world. All of creation is groaning in peril. Trouble is a certainty will all must face. Still, God is with us in our troubles and He is working everything for good. (Romans 8:28) If we are wise, we will be mindful that even in our troubles, God is molding and shaping us into the image of Christ. For the LORD declares, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand” (Jeremiah 18:6).

A Beautiful Mess

November 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

I am a do it myself kind of gal. In many parts of my life, I simply decide that God needs a little help and I opt to “give him a hand”.  Inevitably, that is precisely when life really starts to get messy.

With my limited perspective, things inevitably get tangled, and before long my situation look ugly. Discouraged and overwhelmed, I must then hand it all back to God and ask Him to fix my mess. Sometimes I picture God, shaking His holy head and nudging Jesus as He says, “Watch this. When will she ever learn? She is such a mess maker!”

Thankfully, my mess is nothing compared my God’s love for me.
He forgives my sin.
Comforts me in my pain.
Assures me all is well.
For He is not shaken by my mess.
In fact, one day this mess shall become beautiful.

Despite my mess, God sees the best in me. Where others see failure, the LORD sees potential. When He looks upon my mess, He sees His Son. Jesus took my mess to the Cross. And because of Christ’s great sacrifice, I can boldly approach the throne and present myself to God. Mess and all.

Even though I will never be worthy, He draws me near with assurance. For “the Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8 NIV). Since I am His child, the LORD willingly takes my mess. Then, God uses it for His glory.

Grandma’s Words

October 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

“You’ve always been strong-willed.” Grandma’s words stung as my wounded heart wilted for a moment. Searching for understanding, I shared my dismay at her characterization of me, her oldest grandchild, and asked her to explain. “It’s not a bad thing,” she clarified. “Ever since you were a little girl, you knew what you believed. And once your mind is set, it will not be swayed. You are strong. I have never worried that you would lose your way.”

It was one of the last conversations I had with my Grandmother this side of Heaven. Months later, she lost her battle with cancer and God took her home to be in His presence.  For years, when I reflected on our exchange, my heart hurt just a little. At the time, I wasn’t sure she knew me at all.  After all, I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t know which way to go. Life for me, a young woman in her twenties, was filled with uncertainties. In fact, most of the time the world made me want to retreat into hiding. Still, as I have grown, I have come to realize my Grandma saw me with faith filled eyes. She saw the me that was yet to be. And she had faith that God would lead me on my way.

Now, many years later, my heart smiles when I recall our last exchange. Though she is not here to teach my children, my Grandmother is part of the legacy I am growing in them. Today, as I raise up Godly children in a world hostile to absolute truth, I understand what my Grandma saw in me. For regardless of what political arguments may grip our nation, I am determined to raise my children God’s way. After all, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).

For me, the right path was easy to find, for I had my Grandmother to walk it with me. She read me God’s word. Took me to Sunday School. She even paid for me to attend the church camp where I received Christ as my Lord and Savior.  But even more than that, she prayed for me and believed that God would finished what He had started in me even after she was gone.

Truly, my Grandma knew the right path when she saw it. She passed it on to me, and now I am teaching my own children to follow it as well. It’s the path of Christ and it leads to eternal life in God’s holy presence. To be sure, she would recognize the same spunky spirit in my own children that she saw in me. Those apples seem to have fallen right next to the tree! When I gaze upon them and teach them His ways, I recognize the strength looking back at me. It is the same look that lit the eyes of a little girl my Grandma understood quite well. For she knew me better than I knew myself, and she believed that God was faithful to His promises.

On my behalf, she claimed the promise that when we “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is older he shall not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). It’s a truth that endures for sons. For daughters. For granddaughters. And now, when I reflect on the words of my Grandmother, a knowing smile comes over my heart.

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