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  • Declare Your Independence

    Declare Your Independence

    How will you spend Independence Day this year? I hope you enjoy celebrating our incredible freedoms! Be sure to thank God for His hand of blessing on our country and for the people who have sacrificed in generations past and present to protect those freedoms.

    I’d like to encourage you to take it one step further — declare your independence in the war that is raging in the spiritual realm. Satan desires to keep us chained to our sins, our pasts, our doubts and our insecurities. He feeds into our fears and weaknesses, telling us that we aren’t good enough…that we don’t deserve God’s grace…that God isn’t in control.

    So how can you combat this enemy?

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  • Selfless Images in a Selfie World

    Selfless Images in a Selfie World

    I love all the patriotic images and stories that are shared each Memorial Day…acts of bravery…acts of heroism…acts of selflessness.

    Many are heartbreaking stories — family and friends who will forever mourn their loved one. Some stories are tragic but inspiring — wounded service members whose lives will never be “easy” or “normal” again, but they put on a brave face and move forward one a day at a time, one step at a time.

    One thing all of the stories have in common?

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  • Grace that Amazes

    Grace that Amazes

    I have a few very close friends who are each going through some dark times — one lost a baby in the womb, one lost an adult child suddenly and unexpectedly, one lost a grandparent they were close to, one was practically living at a hospital with a very sick child, and one got the dreaded news that her sweet mom has stage 4 cancer and went home from the hospital with hospice. These are not just difficult times for these friends…these are “life will never be the same again” times.

    Needless to say, my heart has been very heavy the last several weeks, and God and I have had a lot of tough talks. It’s been a pretty consistent message from Him, but I haven’t accepted it well until today. I keep wanting to DO something to help these dear friends, but there’s really very little I can tangibly do. I cannot fix any of these situations. I cannot change their grief. I can only grieve with them and pray for them, which is difficult to accept. God, in His patience, kept trying to tell me, “My grace is sufficient” and I kept saying, “Yes, but…”

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  • Dive Deep

    One man. One Savior.
    Two encounters. Two responses.

    Encounter One:
    In Matthew 14, Jesus sends His disciples in a boat to the other side after having fed the 5,000 with five loves of bread and two fish. He then goes off by Himself to pray through the evening. Right before dawn breaks, Jesus walks on the water to their boat which is being rocked by the waves and wind. At first the disciples are terrified because they think that He’s a ghost, but Jesus immediately puts their fears at ease and tells them to take courage and not be afraid for “it is I.”

    How does Peter respond?

    He calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

    You know the rest of the story…Peter walked on the water until the wind and the waves took his eyes off his Savior. Then he began to sink.

    Encounter Two:
    In John 21, Peter was in a fishing boat with John and a few other disciples. They fished all night but caught nothing. Early the next morning, Jesus called out to them from the shore (though they did not recognize Him) and told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat. They did and caught so many fish that they were unable to haul in the net! As a result, John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

    How does Peter respond?

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  • When Plans Fail, Dreams Die, and Your World Crumbles

    I love the disciple Peter. I love his passion, his love for the Lord, and his devotion and loyalty. Sometimes he speaks or acts without thinking, but it’s usually with good intentions. He’s all in. 100% in…and then some!

    As I’ve been studying Jesus’ final days, I keep trying to imagine myself in the picture…witnessing His teaching, watching the confused faces of the disciples as they attempted to process His final warnings, sitting at the table with them as they partake of their final supper with Jesus. You can almost feel the weight of the air as He warns them that Judas would betray Him and that they all would deny Him. Their shocked gasps and desperate denials fill the silence. “Surely not I, Lord,” they each whimper in their sadness.

    And then we have Peter. In typical fashion, he confidently tells Jesus that even if all the other 11 desert Him, he would never leave Him. He can’t imagine any circumstances that would make Him walk away. But, he’s about to face the unimaginable.

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  • Are you a Queen or a Princess?

    Are you a Queen or a Princess?

    A close friend of mine has a precious 6-year-old girl with beautiful red curls that bounce freely when she runs.  She is normally so full of life, energy, and the giggles, always wearing a big smile that overflows from her kind heart. 

    But about a month ago, she came down with a serious, painful infection.  This vivacious little girl suddenly was very, very sick.  The doctors kept “draining” the infection, but they were not able to find the source so it just kept appearing.  Because of the infection and multiple surgeries in the past month, she hasn’t been able to walk — you can imagine how quickly that gets old for a rambunctious little one like that!  

    After about two weeks in bed, she had the following conversation with her father:

    daughter: I’m ready to be a princess again.

    father: You are already my princess.

    daughter: No, I’m a queen right now.

    father: Why are you a queen and not a princess right now?

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  • Sweet Relief

    Sweet Relief

    As I’ve been watching the news this week, there has been a lot of focus on the world-record powerball lottery. It’s been interesting to hear the responses of people who were standing in line to purchase tickets when asked, “What would you do with the money?” The answers varied — new car, new house, quit job, pay for college, etc. Some were more emotional (provide better healthcare for a sick child), and others were “over the rainbow” dreams (things you don’t need but would purchase “just because you can”). One common theme I noticed in most of the answers: the need for relief. Relief from a bad job, relief from car repairs, relief from taking care of a sick child, relief from the burden of debt, relief from pain, relief from budget restrictions, relief from hectic schedules and daily routines, etc. People were clinging to the hope of instantaneous relief.

    I wonder if the human side of Jesus longed for that same relief when He was in the wilderness fasting and facing temptation from Satan. He was hungry and tired…vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Satan offered to meet His physical needs quickly…to give Him relief…to put Him in a position of power without going through the horrific circumstances of the cross. Satan offered Jesus what he thought was the end goal: to rule and reign, if only Jesus would deny His Father.

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  • Walking the Hall of Fame

    As I was watching Wimbledon this weekend, one commercial in particular captured my attention. It was a Rolex ad starring Roger Federer walking through white hallways with pictures and videos of past champions on the walls. It was powerful — the words expressing the “impossible achievement, grace under pressure, battles endured, champions crowned, and records broken.” (You can watch the Rolex commercial by clicking here.)

    As I pondered this ad, another image came to mind: that of Christian legends in our lifetime (like Billy Graham, for example) walking through such a hall with images of stories told in Hebrews 11, the REAL Hall of Fame. Can you picture that?

    Imagine for a moment what it would be like to see pictures or video of those great men and women who endured battles, showed grace under incredible pressure and achieved things that can only be explained as supernatural. What did they all have in common? Their faith — the kind of faith that compelled them to act, despite the unseen, and to trust in their Father.

    What else did they have in common? They were faithful to the end and they didn’t receive the things promised to them. They understood their “crown” was awaiting them in heaven because this was not their home. Therefore, they clung to the hope of what would be in eternity and chose to trust. As a result, their stories will forever be captured in God’s eternal Word as examples for us to follow.

    One last thought struck me with this commercial — Federer walked through the hall with a quiet confidence. He knew he belonged there because of his accomplishments. He has earned the right to have his picture on the wall. After all, he is one of the greatest players in the history of tennis — and he’s still competing!

    In contrast, we don’t belong in the Real Hall of Fame because of our own accomplishments. No, those who achieve spiritual greatness are aware that it is only by the Spirit living through them and enabling them to exercise their gift of faith, all for the glory of God.

    Do you regularly exercise your faith gift? Athletes don’t just show up for tournaments. They spend years preparing and perfecting their game through grueling competition so they can win the ultimate prize — the championship. Paul understood this and encouraged us to press on for the eternal prize for which God calls us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14).

    As you go about your life this week, ask God to give you the self-discipline needed to exercise the gift of faith He has placed in you. Allow Him to stretch you and mold you, and keep the eternal perspective that this is not our home…we are only passing through!

    - Jennifer Hicks

    “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    Comments: 0

  • Transformational Power

    I walked into the kitchen this morning, got the bread out, put 2 slices into the toaster oven, and started the timer. I heard the rhythmic tic-toc ash1. I prepared the rest of my breakfast, followed by the “ding” that indicated my toast was ready.

    But as I pulled it out, I was surprised to discover that not only had it not toasted — it wasn’t even warm! I groaned in frustration, assuming that the heating element in the toaster oven was broken and would have to be replaced…

    …until I noticed the cord on the side! I had forgotten to plug it in! I wasn’t aware of the problem because it sounded like it was working!

    I couldn’t help but think of the parallel application in my own life. Am I plugged into the power source? Does His refining fire truly transform me or does the “tic toc” of moral routine mislead those around me by falsely implying progress?

    What about you? Are you plugged into His power? Is there evidence of transformation in your life?

    What are some ways we can remain plugged into God’s power? Please share your thoughts below!

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5, NIV

    - Jennifer Hicks

    Comments: 0

  • When Believers Remain Silent

    There He is, hanging from a cross…His face so badly bruised and beaten that you hardly recognize Him. You hear the insults hurled at Him by those around you and find yourself slowly shrinking toward the back of the crowd, afraid that the mob will turn their attention on you. You know what is happening is wrong. You want to walk away, but can’t. You want to find the courage to defend Him, but can’t. Your heart is tormented by the struggle between righteousness and fear, between courage and intimidation.

    Was it only one week ago that you watched as a very different crowd jubilantly welcomed their King as He rode into town on a donkey? They called Him the Son of David, sent in the name of the Lord. Where are those people now? Surely one of them will have the courage to speak out. You look around at the faces of the crowd, hopeful someone else will defend Him. But all you hear is silence from those who believe. Many have already fled. Others look on from a distance, like you. But none proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God.

    The light is gone now and darkness has descended. How could that be? It’s only noon. The crowd is growing more restless. They continue to taunt Him and hurl insults at Him. Finally, Jesus cries out in a loud voice, takes one last breath, and gives up His spirit.

    Suddenly, the earth begins to shake. The boulder nearby splits in half and you grab the shoulder of the person next to you to maintain your balance. The crowd begins to grow anxious, terrified of what is going on. And then you recall Jesus’ words during His triumphal entry just a week prior: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Suddenly you are filled with shame and sorrow. Because the believers had been silent, the very rocks themselves had cried out. The man standing next to you shakes his head and exclaims, “Surely this was the Son of God.”

    Can you picture it? Can you imagine yourself in the crowd? Would you have had the courage to speak out and proclaim Jesus to be Lord? What about in your current circumstances? …in your unbelieving family? …at your job where your coworkers mock Christianity? …among your friends who watch movies that are not edifying or worse yet, take the name of Jesus in vain?

    Jesus has already overcome the grave — we are victorious through Him! Why, then, do we live timidly? Why are we silent? What do we have to fear?

    It won’t necessarily be easy, but God will give us strength to face our fears. As Jesus told His disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, NIV). Speaking out requires eternal perspective and supernatural courage. But if we remain silent, the rocks will cry out.

    - Jennifer Hicks

    Comments: 0

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