This post is a little bit late for the new year, but we aren’t even two weeks into this thing yet so why not? First, let me clarify that I am not against making new year’s goals/resolutions. In fact, I make several myself. I’ve heard this phrase going around a lot recently, though. I’ve seen Instagram and Facebook posts talking about how you’re a whole new person since 12 am January first. I’ve also seen the posts about how people don’t change overnight. However, my opinion is somewhere in the middle. Let me explain what I mean.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but why? Is it because of the gifts? Time with family? The food? We all have different parts of this season that we love, yet sometimes we can forget about the reason we’re celebrating in the first place. I’ve heard the story of the first Christmas my whole life, but it has become more alive to me this year than ever before. It’s not that I’ve been wrapped up in all the gifts and food and everything else in the Christmas season besides Jesus. I just didn’t take the time to stop and think about all that happened that night that Jesus was born.
Let’s take a moment to think about it together. Think about how hard it would have been living at that time. There had just been 400 years of silence from God. Israel was used to prophets who relayed God’s words to the people. How hard must it have been to long to hear the words, “thus saith the Lord,” but year after year they never came. Now after 400 years, an angel of the Lord appeared unto Zacharias. The angel told him that Elisabeth would have a son, and they were to call his name John. Zacharias was also told that John would prepare the way for the Lord to come. Then, Zacharias asked the angel for a sign to confirm all that he was told. Could you blame him? After 400 years of silence, the last thing anyone expected was a visitation from an angel. Zacharias got his sign, but somehow, I doubt it was what he was expecting. The angle made him not able to speak until all that was told him came to pass.
While Zacharias and Elisabeth were waiting for the arrival of their son, the angel Gabriel came bearing a new message. Except this time, he was sent to Mary. Gabriel told Mary that she was going to bear a son, too. Only her son would be called Jesus, Emmanuel, meaning God with us. At this point, Mary must have been scared to death. Mary was a virgin. She was engaged to Joseph, but they weren’t married yet. Under the laws of their nation, Mary could have been put to death if anyone suspected she had committed adultery. The angel also told Mary that her cousin Elisabeth was expecting a son, so Mary decided to visit Elisabeth. Before Mary could say a word, Elisabeth called her blessed and “the mother of my Lord.” Oh, the excitement that must have filled Mary’s heart! Not only had Gabriel appeared unto her, but now her cousin had confirmed his words.
Now jump ahead in time. Mary is almost ready to have her baby when they get the news that they must return to their hometown to pay taxes. As Joseph and Mary begin their journey, Mary goes into labor. Reading Luke 2:6-7 makes the story seem rather simple. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” The verses tell the story in so few words it’s like it all happened so fast. However, it was much more drawn out and difficult than it seems. Imagine you’re in Joseph’s shoes. Your wife is about to give birth to her first child on the back of a donkey. You begin to franticly search for a place to stay, but everyone turns you away. Despair is trying to grip you, but you must stay calm for Mary’s sake. Finally, you settle in a stable. It’s your last resort, and it will have to do. You know that feeling we get as kids when we’re anxiously awaiting to open gifts? We’re full of excitement and wonder! Well, multiply that by 10 and you’ll begin to understand how Joseph felt that night. And his anxiousness was over something a lot more important than a gift.
In the stable that night, the greatest gift of all was born. He is Emmanuel. This is probably my favorite name for Christ, for it shows just how faithful and loving He is. He is God with us. The God that’s with us in the midst of joy or pain. The Faithful Father who never leaves us even when we reject Him. Just think, long before you were born, before you knew you needed a Savior, even while you knew you needed to be saved but resisted it, He loved you enough to be born in a stable. He knew what you would do. He knew what it would cost to save you. He knew He would pay the ultimate price just so many could turn away and reject Him. He did it all anyway. You can’t get any more loving, kind, faithful, or amazing than that! This Christmas let’s not fail to take time to reflect on these things. If you really want, you can find a whole lot more in the first couple chapters of Luke, too.
What do you do when you feel like you are the least talented person in the world? That’s how I’ve felt my whole life, but my perspective quickly changed from a comment made by a close friend of mine. She told me, “You have a lot of talents. They may not be the talents you want, but you still have talents.” She went on to point out a couple of my talents. I’ve had people tell me I was talented before. People I really respected and looked up to. Yet I never could see it or convince myself to believe it.
What my friend told me was right. It boils down to this: I wanted to have the talents I saw all my friends had. Mostly, I wanted to be a fantastic singer. I’m not. I can carry a tune and sing on key, but I can’t find the harmony parts or do fancy runs. I’m an average singer at best, but you know what? That’s okay. For the first time in my life I stopped and realized that it is okay for me to have different talents. I love writing, drawing, graphic design, cooking, and even baking. These are things I’m good at. Am I the best? No way! But God gave me the ability to do these things and a love for them for a reason. I’m not bragging when I write this. I want you to think outside the box. What talents has God given you that you have been overlooking? Maybe you can’t sing or play an instrument. Maybe you’re horrible at art. But maybe you’re an amazing seamstress. Maybe you’re a natural at talking in front of or to others. I know someone who is a natural at counseling people. That’s a God-given talent.
"I am a failure!"
That phrase used to taunt me as a teenager and still attempts to scream through my mind these past few months.
Have you heard the same self-accusation lately?
There were times that I felt empty, utterly useless, or that I am not doing "enough". I realized in those moments that I was making comparisons of myself to those I considered successful and achievers of great things.
Was I being lazy? Definitely not. I can stay pretty busy, too busy sometimes.
I was comparing my abilities, accomplishments, social status, and physical appearances to those who are achieving wonderful goals and changing lives through amazing ministries.
"What am I doing with my life?" I would ask myself. I am still trying to find my place in a new community, teach developmentally delayed children, and strive to be qualified to direct a ministry that is teaching English in a community still foreign to me.
Will I ever "feel" qualified? Probably not. But will I do my best to work in the places God has led me to with the strength and abilities He has granted me? You betcha!
Have you ever "felt" fully qualified for a task or new responsibility that is thrust upon you? To be qualified does not mean that one has to be perfect or extraordinary. Isn't that a relief?!
At this time every year we almost always take a mental note to reevaluate our life and perhaps make new commitments. Maybe you even take a pen and paper in hand to write put some goals or changes you would like to make in your life.
Whether you are 10, 20, or even 30, we all are faced with the question of how we are to fulfill the will of God. We desire to know His calling on our lives. If you are know what God's will is for your life we want to encourage you not to resist. Don't just tolerate it. And don't merely endure it. Embrace it! There's nothing more safer or satisfying than being in the center of His will.
Listen to the prayer of Betty Stan, a missionary to China, martyred at age 27...
"Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes, and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships. All of the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will for my life at any cost, for to me to live is Christ. Amen." Open your arms but more importantly, open your heart to Him in 2019.
“Answers are always nice...” But often the situation comes with no answer, what then?
Is there a plan “B”? Do you just stand there like a deer caught in the head lights? Do you panic? Do you give up? Do you stand there dumbfounded? Does your Faith become shaken? What do you do????? We are a people of answers - not the unknown. Oftentimes we in essence “demand” results to our question marks.
For example, LIFE. Sometimes life just happens and things just shatter into a million pieces. I know that’s a broad statement. But, insert what your current situation is in to that “life” statement. What do you do? How do you react? Who or what do you turn too? Who do you become?
It’s not the answers that’s necessarily needed. Although answers to our struggles are nice indeed. It is the learning how to maneuver through the struggles that we must learn and become content with. Answers will not always be there, matter of fact answers to our situation don’t always come. In a perfect world, yes. But, we live in a fallen world. So learning how to maneuver through pressures is the key. 99% of the time the answers are found when you turn around and look back, reflection. The saying goes, “Looking back is always 20/20 vision”. Until you reach that opportune moment to review and reflect, consistency in moving forward with no direct answer is at times the road we often have to travel with contentment. As the song lyrics read, “...as I look back on the road I’ve traveled. I’ve seen so many times how He’s carried me through...”
Answers come, but remember answers come often in the aftermath when everything has cleared. Timing is everything and most importantly God’s timing. And whether or not we would like to admit it. God provides answers but typically those answers are provided when God knows we are ready to hear them. Like I said, timing is everything - nothing is happen stance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To EVERYTHING there IS A SEASON, and A TIME to every purpose under the heaven:”
Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.”
Be encouraged my friend. Remember the mile markers (the testimonials) of the past events in your life God has brought you through successfully - key word successfully. Know that this unknown moment and time in your life will become a testimony viewed with understanding to come. In the overwhelming unknown moments remind yourself, “reflection of God’s goodness brings hope to the questions marks”, remember that.
"Good morning. This is an announcement for passengers flying to Chicago. The flight has been delayed due to weather conditions. We apologize for any inconvenience."
"Good afternoon. All passengers of Flight 847 to Dallas. The departure gate has been changed to 11A. Also, there will be a slight departure delay due to inclement weather outside. The ground crew is in the process of de-icing the wings in preparation for departure."
Does this sound familiar? Have you been among the crowd of eager listeners awaiting the call for boarding only to hear that your flight is delayed again, and again, and yet again?
Well, I've flown domestically and internationally many times in the past few years and have never experienced delays such as I did during my recent travels to Cambodia and Thailand. I've had mission trips scheduled in the dead of winter and lost sleep over the fears that flights would be cancelled, only to have them go off without a single delay. This time, however, there seemed to be delay after delay after delay.
We received our first snow of the season as I was flying out so I expected a bit of a delay but the de-icing of the plane seemed to take a long time and was setting many people on edge who had close connections in Chicago. On my connecting flight from Chicago, we were all settled in our seats when our pilot announced that she requested to refuel so we would have more than enough to get us to our destination (good thing, right?). That was another 45 minute delay which caused for more grumbling.
There wasn't much for me to worry about since our destination was where I would be for the night to meet up with my friend who would be travelling with me the rest of the way. However, I did feel sorry for those around me who sat on the edge of their seats with flight tickets in hand in anticipation of any changes in their connection. Worry was plainly written on their faces as the delay announcements seemed to never end.
We live in a world with instant access to almost anything... from food, to cash, to talking with a friend in another country. We expect things to be done swiftly and perfectly at the snap of a finger. When it doesn't happen that way we file a complaint, post a bad review, or ask for the manager.
How many of us approach God with the same expectation? We want our prayers answered... in an instant. When it comes to our requests we want answers immediately. Don't we?
Have you been praying for something and find you are still waiting for an answer?
Let's look at some examples in the Bible.
At times we see God's Express Service, those moments when miracles were performed in an instant and requests were answered immediately.
Have you been praying for something and find you are still waiting for an answer?
Then there are times of God's Divine Delays. Here are some Biblical examples:
Let's face it. No one likes to wait. Sometimes our ugly side comes out when we are forced to wait. Think of the modern drive-thru. We want it fresh. We want it hot. We want it NOW!
We really have high expectations and become upset or depressed when those expectations are not met.
There's a truth that I must share with you. Just because we do not immediately hear an answer does not mean that God has forgotten us.
Delays make more sense when we realize that He takes extra care and more time for those things that are more valuable... like us, His children!
Delays make us pray longer, more often, and more fervently. At least that is what I have learned. These delays brings our true character out. I've discovered the ugly and more valuable characteristics in myself during the waiting seasons in my life.
So, what is revealed in us when God doesn't respond immediately?
What can we learn in the middle of all that waiting?
What lessons await us during each delay?
Pray... "Though I don't understand, I know You're doing ALL things for my good."
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
Written by: Sonia E. Vargas
Comment below with your experiences in the delayed seasons of life and what you have learned from those experiences.
Hello! It's just me, Sonia. An average girl with the same dreams and passions as most of you. However, I recently had an opportunity to witness the fight against human trafficking in Asia, which fueled a passion I did not realize I had. A group of strangers from several states in the US got together to catch the vision of Destiny Rescue. We met so many amazing people along the way who have given up careers and/or retirement to join in this fight. We started out as a random group of strangers but through many times of prayer, devotions, hands-on activities, and meaningful conversations we became like family.
As I was going through the photos our group had taken over the past 2 weeks I kept returning to this particular picture.
Isn't she precious?! This picture puts a smile on my face because you can just feel the joy flowing from this little girl. Notice, she doesn't have an iPad in her hand. No name brand clothes. Not even shoes or socks on her feet. She did not beg for the latest toy. She may not even own a toy. I am sure her home only boasted of dirt floors and bamboo for walls. But that smile!
A group of strangers came in to this village with silly games and huge water balloons but it was enough to bring laughter and joyful chaos for an hour to a group of 30 children.
Before leaving, we stood on the edge of the property overlooking the mountains in the distance. We were then informed that the farthest mountains were from a neighboring country where drug and human traffickers would roam through the jungles and raid these defenseless villages.
Of course, I felt a sadness overwhelm me until we were told that this particular village is no longer vulnerable because it's been receiving support and help from DR and other ministries.
What a difference that makes for these children and their families!
Many times we enter a place with the zeal and passion that exclaims, "I'm going to save the world!" And that's great... but when you understand the hardness of the work it's enough to spend your energy, resources, and life for those few that could then impact a multitude. One child. One village. One community.
Who will you start with today?
Click here to learn more about Destiny Rescue and their work.
I'm sitting in a boat riding along a river in Thailand thinking over these past few days. If you know me well, I'm terrified of heights and deep water. A classmate of mine drowned while on a missions trip a few years back. To this day I can't get myself to stop the fear from gripping my heart when I stand near or get inside a rickety vessel that is supposed to get me to my next destination. I make myself to dwell on other things and the fact that only God knows when my end will come.
I'm so appreciative of those back home and around the world who has sent me support and prayers for this trip. It's unlike any other I've ever been on. Unique in its own way. And during a time where I am prayerfully considering what steps I am to take next. The unknown lies ahead but I will walk in faith believing that God has my best interests in mind.
Our time in Asia has been a time of soul-searching. A time of building relationships with people from different parts of the country. And for me, moments of deep sorrow.
Last night, we visited the Prevention home where high-risk girls or siblings of those that have been rescued live. Before heading out, I was suddenly gripped by a crushing sorrow. I felt as if I was about to cry but had no idea why. I know these girls don't seek pity, whether rescued or protected, but my heart was breaking for them. By the end of the night that sorrow had strengthened me to feel a hope and joy for these girls because they have been given a chance to become something without being forced into the same atmosphere as their friend, parent or sister.
There are people that are working tirelessly to provide a home and a safe life for them. Before we left for the hotel we all gathered around in a circle with each person that was present at the home to pray over. My heart was so full knowing that God has a wonderful plan for each of these precious souls. I can still see their smiling and happy faces. I can hear their silly giggles. What a marvelous work I am able to witness!
I've experienced moments of deep sorrow many times this year without understanding the true reason but then I ask if I just need to pay attention to what God is trying to speak to my heart. What if I am to feel a brokenness over something in order to bring healing to an individual? Then so be it.
We've heard amazing stories of grace. We've met passionate people who've committed their lives in rescuing and restoring trafficked girls.
I've created friendships with a few of the girls that work at Destiny Cafe who have been rescued, restored, and are now making a life for themselves.
I've played alongside some of the happiest human beings who have been witness or thrown into the darkness of sex trafficking. Yet, I cannot see their past. I only see a hopeful and wonderful future.Their love for God and life are evident.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that this sorrow has been used to strengthen me. Let the tears flow and heal the soul.
I came to Cambodia with an open heart and mind, hoping that God would allow me to see what He wants me to see. One thing I truly appreciate is that our itinerary includes devotions every morning. Honestly, I arrived knowing very little about the country except for the research I did about the genocide that transpired here after I heard that we would be visiting the museum.
It was a long, long journey but we finally arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday, November 11.
The next morning, after breakfast and a moving devotion from our leader, we took a tour of the killing fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. 1975-1979 were horror filled years for the country of Cambodia. In both of these tours we were given headsets to listen to an audio recording of each section or memorial, along with a pamphlet and a map. It was a very somber place. Each person you passed walking along the trails or through the rooms had expressions of anguish, sorrow, and/or anger. Every city had been emptied out and taken to the killing fields (there were over 300) to be executed in an inhumane fashion or sent to a prison to be brutally tortured. The killing fields displayed areas where mass graves were found (up to 400+ victims), as well as clothes and bones that have washed up over time. One of the hardest areas for me to visit was a tree where Khmer Rouge soldiers would smash the heads of babies and small children. In the pictures you will see strings and bands hanging on the tree or wrapped around the rods of the mass graves. These are thousands of bracelets or necklaces that people have left behind.
Located in the middle of the center stands a memorial stupa where skulls were displayed. I viewed it from a distance as my heart near felt ready to burst already and my team was finishing up.
Many of us are very familiar of the Holocaust; the history, the victims' stories, the concentration camps, and so on. Yet, walking through these places in the country where it took place in my parents' lifetime, then looking into the eyes of Cambodians knowing that nearly every single one has been affected by this atrocity.
The Genocide Museum was at Tual Sleng, which was the secret center of a network of nearly 200 prisons where people were tortured. Out of 12,000-20,000 people that were held here only 12 of them have been confirmed survivors. Does that not just boggle your mind?!
This country is still recovering from the genocide. Most of the population is around 30 years old. Many struggle to even put food on the table. It will take a long time to go over more details but this is why so many girls end up in establishments where they are bought for a night, used, and strongly encouraged by the family to help put food on the table or assist in overcoming huge financial burdens. Destiny Rescue has been making great strides in working to rescue girls from these places, with the average age being 15-17. These girls are taught vocational skills that then enable them to go back into their own community and find a respectable job or even start their own business. We visited 3 different projects and became the models for the girls to practice their newly found skills, such as dyeing or styling hair, manicures, pedicures, facials, and more. We sat down with them and worked on puzzles, participated in card games that seemed to make no sense, and played badminton. Something so simple could mean so much to each of these precious girls. We saw them not as victims with a broken past but as beauties with a purposeful destiny.
This trip is different in that we've not prepared sermons or lessons to share with the girls. We didn't build a glorious building or paint classrooms. We are here with the purpose to encourage the staff that are working in each of these projects, witness the amazing work of Destiny Rescue, and take part in the empowerment of these girls in any way we can. They come to know the love of God through their redemption, and many receive salvation in the process.
As we've met the staff at each project we have come across former teachers, doctors, professors, and more who have left their life behind to fulfill a call to respond to the cries of Cambodia. As a local DR volunteer shared, "We are not here to save the world", we can all agree that we can do our part to reach one at a time. Sometimes we see great things happen quickly and other times changes take place in slow motion. In either scenario, God is indeed working. Let Him use you. Let Him love through you. Let Him shine through you
Have you ever responded to a request with a "yes" only to wonder if you will regret that decision? What if you are asked to do something you are not comfortable doing?
Perhaps that's why we seem to hold back a part of ourselves from God. Sometimes to truly surrender is to be willing to go to lengths that we would never consider.
God's grace has already freed us from the hold of sin so why not give Him permission to do as He desires through us? When we fall in love with Jesus we would not be so hesitant to surrender our dreams, our desires, and our hearts.
Are you afraid of telling God that you are willing to do ANYTHING for Him only to have Him call you to some remote village in Africa? What if He sends you down the street to tell your drug addicted neighbor that there is hope for his life?
Sometimes your "yes" means staying put and serving your local community.
Sometimes it means taking the Gospel to the lost on the other side of the world.
Perhaps it's both.
No matter where God places you on the map there are desperate souls searching for hope.
Just say "yes" and allow God to place you.
Is there something you feel God is tugging on your heart about but there is a fear or worry about what it might cost you or take you? Feel free to comment about it below...
Where do you see yourself Spiritually in 5 years?
With the High School and College Graduations coming around the corner it got me to think back to when I graduated High School. People like to ask that infamous question,
“So, where do you see yourself in 5 years now that you’re a graduate?”.
You stand there caught a tad bit off guard because you haven’t really thought 5 years ahead quite yet. You’re still working out the details. But the future is bright and right now you feel a sense of freedom (from the classroom and studies) so one step at a time.
As I pondered about the young lives graduating, ready to adventure out into that vast thing we call “life”. I began to think of the day I got Saved. You’re thinking, ok? Totally different topics here...(puzzled look).
I began to think where I use to be Spiritually and where I am now. Then, I began to think where will I be Spiritually-wise in 5 years? Kind of a thought provoking question, right?
So let me ask YOU, “Where will you be Spiritually in 5 years?”
Do you have goals of what you’d like to accomplish in your Christian Walk?
Here are some general ideas:
Do you need more Christian oriented friends? Become more involved at your church or find a good church to attend.
Do you need more ideas on how to grow Spiritually, talk with your pastor and pick his brain. There are SO many things to do to grow spiritually. So much to exhaust, yet we utilize so little of our abilities and resources to do so. There is ALWAYS room for improvements in every area of our lives. No matter how long you’ve been a Christian there is always ways to enhance oneself Spiritually.
So, do you challenge yourself as a Christian? Do you seek to progress?
As the children’s song goes, “Read your Bible and Pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow. But if you don’t read your Bible and forget to pray then you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink...”
A Children’s song, yes, but with much truth to be found with in its simple lyrics.
If you ran into a person who knew you when you first got saved and then say 5 years elapsed and you ran into that very same person again. Would that person see a change in you? Would they see spiritual growth at all?
Think About it...
So let me ask you, “Where do you see yourself Spiritually in 5 years?”
“Is where you are at now Spiritually where you imagined yourself to be 5 years ago?”
Think About it...
Written by: Chrissy Gruell
Upon recent events that have taken place in the lives of people I know and love, I have been compelled to write about a very important topic among today's society... Relationships.
The first matter of business I am going to address is targeted toward the “single” crowd. More specifically this is geared toward those who feel like they're not complete until they have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Someone who makes them feel that they can finally “fit in” with everyone else. The ones who silently watch other couples interact with each other and feel a sense of jealousy rise up inside. I'm here to warn you …
Stop this wishful thinking of fairy tales and fantasies that are only getting your hopes up. You could very well be setting yourself up for heartache! Being single is honestly not all that bad, especially when you are single for the right reasons. By “the right reasons” I mean that you have chosen to wait on the right one to come along and not just chase after anyone who comes along that seem to have surface attributes that catch your attention at a glance. There is a process to these things; a protocol, if you will.
Maybe you haven't thought about what your life will be like 10 years from now.
But what about in 5 years?
Often times, when we think of an active Christian, we think of titles like Evangelist, Missionary, Youth Leader, or Pastor, etc... but not every Christian falls into these categories. Does that mean that Christians who do not have a title do not have a purpose/ministry other than going to church and taking up space?
As Christians we are all automatically called to ministry. We normally associate ministry with titles but it is so much more than that. I want the Holy Ghost to ignite in each of us a fresh passion to do what we can right now where God has us.
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
God may have called you to a particular vocation but that does not mean you should be inactive while you wait.
But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
God will lead you through different places in your life to prepare you and mold you for what He wants you to do and be. Sometimes He alters your plans to bring about His perfect plan.
Remember... Joseph was a slave before he became second in command in Egypt, Moses had to learn to lead a flock before He could lead God's chosen people out of bondage, and David had to learn to care for his father's sheep before he could rule as king of Israel.
THE REALITY IS THAT THE LORD NEVER CALLS THE QUALIFIED; HE QUALIFIES THE CALLED.
- HENRY T. BLACKABY
Some questions to ask yourself...
Missed opportunities often happen when we fill our mind with so much of the world that we do not give any thought for the Great Commission. If you want to do something for God but you are too afraid, make it your prayer that God would move you with so much compassion for the lost that you cannot help but do something!
Written by Kristyn Johnson
Read Nehemiah 6:1-9
Reading throughout the book of Nehemiah as he takes on this enormous task we see this Sanballat guy popping up in several places, being a bully to Nehemiah and the Israelites. They’re upset that Israel is working at building its wall. They are doing all they can to distract them from doing their work and attempting to frighten them with threats. This is how Nehemiah responds:
Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Nehemiah admits that they were afraid, but he didn’t run. 5 times they come against him with the same attack. 5 times he responds with the same answer. His confidence in God does not waver. Instead he prays,
"O God, strengthen my hands."
This is a great example of how to respond to trouble. When the whisper of the enemy screams in your ear that the best thing to do is to give up. When he attempts to persuade you that it’s not worth the fight, that you’ll never accomplish anything, that you will never succeed as a minister, then that’s when we must also declare: “O God, strengthen my hands”!
Strength is never gained without struggle. Why do you think we sweat after a run or have sore muscles after a rough workout?
"Will they fortify themselves?"
This question is asked by one of Nehemiah’s pesky enemies, Sanballat.
Nehemiah 4:2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
The word "fortify" means to make stronger; toughen; defend; protect.
The word "fortify" means to make stronger; toughen; defend; protect.
Doesn't this sound like a tactic of the devil: to mock, to ridicule, to destroy all hope? He knows that by the power of Christ we can be made stronger in spite of weaknesses. Do you think he’s going to sit back and allow us grow stronger this without a fight? Think again. This is accomplished through prayer, fasting, sacrifice, or surrender. Or all of it. It’s not gained by sitting on a pew waiting for that unshakable faith we read about to hit us in the face. Remember, Nehemiah was busy doing the Lord’s work when the enemy came against him. His first recognition was one we all forget. He knew where his strength came from.
Pray the prayer of Nehemiah - "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." when you lack the strength, the resolve, the determination, and the vision to continue your journey of faith.
Psalm 18:32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
Are those worry lines furrowing your brow?
Has the brightness of your smile grown dim?
What is making the joy in your heart to lose its power?
Could it be that you have been visited by the greatest stealer of our joy (a.k.a. "the Joy Thief")?
Worry is not only fruitless, but it steals our joy.
We are often guilty of spending so much time worrying over so many things that our out of our control. Yet, the act of worrying itself will not cure or resolve anything. It only takes away from the joy and contentment we are entitled to have during our trying circumstances and troubles.
There is good news; there IS an essential cure for worry - prayer.
Through prayer our trust is renewed in God's faithfulness (Matthew 6:25-34). He invites us to cast ALL of our anxieties and problems on Him, because He cares (1 Peter 5:7).
Through prayer we receive the peace of God, which comes to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).
Through prayer we receive the strength needed to do what is required of us to do (Philippians 4:13).
Through prayer we can rest assured that God does work all things for our good (Philippians 4:11).
Do not let fear and worry bind you with their relentless shackles but bring yourself before the God of peace and hope. Give Him your troubles and sorrows. Restore your joy.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Let's be honest here. Obviously, the hours leading up to the Crucifixion seemed anything but "good" to the followers and disciples of Christ. And to the common Bible reader it seems like it wasn't even a good day for Christ. Read the chapters describing this dramatic story and you will probably come to the same conclusion.
Following a triumphant and exciting entrance into Jerusalem (John 12:12-13) he was confronted by many skeptics, experienced physical agony in prayer (Luke 22:39-44), betrayed by one of his own followers, and died after an excruciating experience. All within ONE week!
The word excruciating actually comes from a Latin word excruciare, which means, to crucify. It literally means, unbearably painful, or extreme agony. This word originates from the torture experienced in crucifixion.
That really puts the pain and disappointments that we experience into perspective, doesn't it?
So what makes Good Friday good today?
Now we are are probably aware that in order for Christ to have Resurrected on Sunday the Crucifixion couldn't have taken place on Friday, but we won't get into all those details right now.
We observe it on Friday; we call it Good Friday. So, again, what makes it so Good?! The simple reason is that Christ came for the Cross. He didn't deserve it. He told His disciples that He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) He lovingly did for you and me. To save us. To keep us from experiencing eternal death, which would also be excruciating.
I love how Oswald Chambers describes what Jesus did on the cross:
"The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God." - Oswald Chambers
Understandably, Christ's disciples didn't understand the good that came out of the Crucifixion until they saw Him resurrected a few days later but we can reflect on the selfless act of love that was performed for us. Oh, what love! What grace! We are redeemed by the sufferings of Christ. THAT is what makes Good Friday so SO good!
"No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like the scene on Calvary.
What impact has the Cross made on you today?
Written by: Sonia E. Vargas
What is God to you?
To some, God is … a daily vitamin. They are satisfied with 1 or 2 routine intakes.
To many, He is … a curse word.
To others, He is … a lucky charm; merely something to keep handy in case of bad luck or circumstances.
To the believer, He is (or at least He ought to be)… a Lifeline.
Is God your “Backup” or “Lifeline”?
· Definition: that which takes the place of another
· Definition: support that enables an individual to survive or to continue doing something, often by providing an essential connection
To experiment, why don’t you take a deep breath, and hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
For 15 minutes!
No? Why not?
You have plenty of air in you. But only to last for a few moments, right? Why? Because what was enough for that moment wasn’t enough.
Isn’t that how we treat God?
We take or accept what is needed for the moment
He is Enough… for the moment.
He is Enough… to survive.
When do you go beyond surviving to living as a Christian???
When God becomes your Lifeline.
When He is your absolute reliance to live.
When the God that is Enough becomes Everything.
The Lord is the strength of my life.
When God becomes your Everything, everything changes.
Your view changes, your attitude changes, your life changes.
As an example, God’s Word was David’s life source. He was often found reading, writing, or singing God’s Word. Is it no surprise that he became Israel’s hero? His well-known story took place because He made God Everything.
The smooth stones were not enough. If that were the case, anyone else could’ve been the hero.
David isn’t known for merely being a survivor. He’s known for being a conqueror.
He went beyond enough.
Because he had faith in his Lifeline, he conquered.
Are you satisfied with being a
Valentine’s Day often reminds us of love notes, red roses, hearts, and CHOCOLATE…What is the real purpose of Valentine’s Day though? Where did these traditions come from?
Actually, the original story is far from pleasurable and “romantic.” It all began when a wicked Roman emperor named Claudius, around mid- 200s A.D., declared an edict that marriage was no longer permitted among young people. He believed that families hindered the effectiveness of his army. He thought that commitment to a wife and children would cause his men to be more loyal to their families than the Roman Empire. This edict in particular stirred up a God-fearing priest named Valentine. Valentine still believed that marriage and family were sacred and should be protected. He did not protest or trash the emperor’s home, but instead held secret wedding ceremonies until he was caught and thrown into prison. Valentine suffered much torture and- long story short- eventually became a martyr to his cause. It was not until many years after his death that he was officially recognized as Saint Valentine and had an official holiday named after him. February 14 was set aside by Christians to commemorate his life and dedication to preserving the traditional family. (However, it was originally a pagan Roman holiday for their god of love,Cupido, or Cupid as we know it.) Just like most holidays though, it has been heavily commercialized. Love is not all candy hearts and roses. It is not just a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Sometimes you might have to suffer for love, true love, that is, just like Saint Valentine and even Jesus Christ.
I am inspired by the original Valentine story because marriage and family are under attack today. Not in the same way but the underlying enemy is the same- Satan. Satan hates God and everything about Him. Satan hates marriage and family because they are God’s ordinances that beautifully reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church. With gay relationships, couples living together outside of marriage, abortion, and such things running rampant in our society and trying to destroy those holy ordinances, I thought I would go by Valentine’s example. I will not protest or hurt anyone that disagrees with me, but I will stand up and unashamedly live what I believe. If I get persecuted, I will take it with patience by God’s grace and to His glory. I hope you will choose to do the same.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Enjoy your flowers and candy… or lack there of. :)
Written by: Kristyn Johnson
This time of year there's many expectations and emotions about love, or what we believe is love.
There's a big push and promotion for those warm, fuzzy feelings one gets when they are assured of having a special someone in their life. The stores certainly make good use of the amount of items they sell with big read hearts or short poems about that special "Valentine". Or maybe it's just a day where we've made a habit of giving everyone in our lives a pre-written, valentine card with cheezy sayings about love, whether you really like them or not. Right?
Valentine's Day is here again - a day when many people exchange cards, candy, gifts, or flowers with their special "valentine". It's also called "A day of romance". Did you know that Valentine's Day is originally a day to remember a Roman Priest called Valentine?
It actually began as a time of blood and imprisonment. In the 5th century, the Roman Emperor, Claudius, placed a ban of marriage among young people because he wanted more soldiers for his army and believed that they fought better unmarried. Valentine was a priest who believed that marriage was very sacred between a man and a woman for life so then attempted to perform marriages in secret. He was caught, thrown in prison, tortured, then was sentenced to death by beheadment. (Read more on the story here...)
Now, doesn't that give you those warm, fuzzy feelings?!
When we were in school, everyone was our valentine according to our little folded cards with the heart stickers. As you grow older, you secretly (or not so secretly:)) desire to be cherished and chosen by a special "valentine". It's natural, it's normal, but I know how difficult it can be to be satisfied with your relationship status no matter how old, or young, you may be.
It makes it even harder when you watch your friends and coworkers receive lovely flowers, boxes of delicious flowers, showered by beautiful gifts or sought after by a handsome man. There you stand empty handed and wonder, "When will it happen to me?".
Then something occured to me during one of those pity-party moments, "Is it all about love, or is it all bout me?" Did my dissatisfaction have to do with a lack of love or a lack of attention?
Love is necessary for salvation.
God SO loved...
Without the love that God had for us, we would have no hope of eternal life, no hope of freedom from sin's bondage. Without the love that God has for us, we are miserable and feel an empty void in our hearts.
Love has been cheapened.
People take their ideas and expectations of love from movies, romance novels, and wordy cards that show up mostly around V-Day. You can proclaim love to multiple people to attempt to find your true love but mostly what it leads to is emotional entanglements, false hopes, and bruised hearts.
Love is also dangerous.
Love is not a path you can casually walk through. If our heart is naturally wicked, should we always trust it? (Read Jeremiah 17:9) Nothing disgusted me more than seeing a girl do all in her power to get the attention of a man in an effort to win his heart. It doesn't work that way.
First of all, let me say it is NOT up to us women to do the "wooing" or "chasing". Your character will win his heart unless he's only seeking a pretty face. Your character is developed IN your heart (1 Peter 3:4-5) You must prayerfully step your way through, not hurriedly. Even the wisest man in the world (Solomon) was stumped on this issue and he had how many women? 300 mistresses & 700 wives! Talk about stress and never-ending drama!
When it comes time to choose your spouse, begin in prayer. Then seek advice of your pastor and parents over your peers. Listen to the warnings if they are given because we can be so easily blinded by emotions. It is dangerous to fall into the pressure of finding out what society's version of love is. You don't have to have a boyfriend to be considered beautiful or cherished. If you have to stand alone among your peers to remain pure, stand strong. You may end up being the only one NOT living in regret.
GEM Lesson given by Sonia E. Vargas
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25
This verse precedes the book of Ruth, which opens with the introduction of a man who did exactly what the last part of this verse describes. Elimilech clearly decided that God was not King in his home or his heart. (Read Ruth 1) He had no earthly king and he certainly did not trust the Lord to be his king. He did whatever he saw fit. What Elimilech felt like doing, he did. Yet, it not only affected him but his entire family.
This sounds so familiar, especially in our day. Take a moment to think of how often we have done the same and consider the many people around us who continue to do just that - rule their own lives. Only chaos follows that kind of monarchy. Instead of living with God as our King, we continue to do what is right in our own eyes, and ignore His guidelines.
Let's think: When we find ourselves in a tough situation, do we stop and consult God or do what we see fit? Do we take the time to pursue God's Word or seek His face on the matter?
Our decisions determine whether we've truly placed Him on the throne of our heart and submit to Him as King or if we've been sitting on that throne ourselves. He makes a much better King that we can ever hope to be.
How much better would my life be, would yours be, if we just got off the throne and let Him take over?
Written by: Sonia E. Vargas
My favorite Christmas carol this year is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It’s not the tune you choose at a party or while you decorate; it doesn’t even sound very cheerful. It’s a sobering tune, the kind that make you listen to the lyrics.
The reason why it happened to catch my attention this year is because I recently had done study in Genesis and some of the Old Testament. Because of the study I was able to relate to the words and realize just how true and important they are. I just love songs whose lyrics are full of Biblical truth.
I decided to do some research to find out the history of the song and the author. It was originally penned in Latin by an unknown monk about 800 A.D. in Europe, during a time when the Bible was not a regular household item. What is so amazing is that the hymn is full of accurate Biblical terms and prophecies! It was rediscovered in the 19th century by John Mason Neale, an Anglican priest. Neale was a very intelligent man. He could write and speak over twenty different languages and easily translated the song into English. The more than twelve-hundred year old hymn lives on today, still accurate, and still touching he hearts of many with its lyrics of hope for people everywhere.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
Written by: Kristyn Johnson
One Saturday morning, as I was preparing to run errands and fulfill the day's tasks I got on my knees and was instantly burdened with a prayer for a specific group of girls.
Single Girl, I prayed for you.
I prayed for us, because I am right there with you.
I am now in my late twenties, but I still remember the battle that raged in my heart when emotions of insecurity, loneliness, worthlessness, and fear would attempt to take over. Those feelings tried to suffocate me when friend after friend would either announce their new boyfriend or engagement.
I've been in that group of girls when the discussion would turn to subjects like boys and relationships. They would talk about which one was SO cute, the notes they had passed to a certain boy, the one they held hands with, and the list goes on and on.
Those giggly girl talks, along with the princess movies, fiction novels, and the numerous inquiries of well-meaning adults leave us wondering...
Does Singleness = Worthlessness?
I'm here to tell you...
Having a guy by your side does not determine your worth!
This is such a hard lesson to grasp as a teen girl, I know, but that's why I was so burdened to pray... for you, for myself, for every single girl out there struggling to find her purpose in this world.
Single Girl, I prayed that you, and I, would do the following in these precious years that our Father has given us:
Indeed, these years you are living as a single are precious. 10-15 years from now you will look back and reminisce about the wonderful things you were able to accomplish or regret about the time that was wasted away by wishing for your future to take shape.
Casting all your care upon him;
We serve a God that truly cares!
Feeling lonely, forgotten, worthless, fearful, incapable, or insecure? Take it to the One Who cares. Hand over the pen that is writing your story and allow Him to write not only your love story, but your life story. Trust me, it will be so much more satisfying!
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
Check out these other articles on the topic of singleness...
5 Reasons to Cherish Singleness
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Written by: Sonia E. Vargas
Our society has adopted the ideal that enough just isn't enough. The goal is to strive to receive or accomplish whatever makes them happy. Yet, once they've achieved it, "everything" just isn't enough. The soul is still barren. The heart remaines unsatisfied.
Very few come to realize that the key to their satisfaction lies in the heart of God. To know His heart is to know satisfaction. To know His will is to know His heart. To seek His face is to know His will. "When GOD becomes your Everything, everything changes!"
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory. - Phil. 4:19
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. - Eph. 3:20
Discontentment demonstrates our lack of faith and satisfaction of God's provision! You will never be truly happy until you are content. If you struggle with contentment, find an older and wiser woman as your mentor, read God's Word, and pray.
Sonia E. Vargas
Sonia's desire and hope is to write for the purpose of inspiring this generation, especially young woman.
Hannah Helm is a fun and outgoing young woman who loves to bring laughter and joy to anyone she comes in contact with. She is 24 years old and is a leader of Girl's Exalting the Master Ministry.
Paula is a passionate follower of Christ and loves to encourage others around her to do the same. She is 27 years old and is currently attending Free Gospel Bible Institute. She was a part of the Guatemala GEM team in 2014.
Kristyn is a sweet and gentle young lady from Trinity Holiness Tabernacle. She is 19 years old and is currently attending Free Gospel Bible Institute. She plays the piano and sings beautifully. She was a part of the Guatemala GEM team in 2014 and Honduras team in 2016.