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 prepared 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 mid-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
If you would like us to pray for you or would like to contact GEM Ministry about a subject of interest, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
Can you hear the longing of God for His people to draw near to Him in the passage above? This was said to the children of Israel thousands of years ago, yet God continues His tireless attempts to draw us away from sin and to Himself.
Every sin has a consequence. Every decision has an outcome. He longs for us to stay away from the evil clutches of sin and draw near to His presence.
Ask yourself these questions:
Today, make the decision to draw away from sin, honor God with your life, and obey His commandments.
"Obedience is love fulfilling every command. It is love expressing itself."
- E.M. Bounds
Oh Lord, empty my heart of all sinful desires and fill me with a longing for You. I submit myself to Your authority and give up my ways to obey You.
"To be little with God is to be little for God." - E.M. Bounds
During this trip the Lord was really impressing on my heart to focus more on spending quality time with Him and interceding for the broken and the lost. We must spend more time with Him if we wish to do great things for Him.
As we spent more time working and praying together I felt that the rest of the team had the same burden as well. Even if it was only to close my eyes, take a breath, and remove myself from distractions for a moment to praise my Savior and thank Him for loving me then it was time well spent. You never know how a whispered prayer has the power to transform your day.
As we continued to prepare for the last part of the trip, this was my prayer...
Lord, May we all have a burden to pray, mourn, and fast for our people who are in captivity. Spiritual bondage is the most miserable. May my heart be full of Christ's compassionate love. May our prayers be filled with an anguish for the lost and spiritually dead.
In preparation for Bongdong English Camp we felt more limitations than at Taein Camp. We felt a few obstacles when it came to presenting the Gospel to the children but we were able to take advantage of every opportunity we had to share Christ to the children of atheists, Buddhists, and more.
A popular saying in South Korea is, "If it happens it happens." so we learned that no matter how detailed of a schedule we had mapped out as long as the main event occurred then it was OK. This took some getting used to but we just went along with the flow.
Since we never knew if our Bible hour would be shortened or cut out completely several of us took the time to tell Bible stories during our English classes, encourage discussion on Biblical topics, or just take the time to tell them of Jesus. One day in Morgan's class he took an hour to talk about the Flood, the result of sin, and salvation. Towards the end he had been challenged by an atheist boy but took the time to kneel down and speak to him one on one. By the time he finished one or two boys had tears in their eyes.
Ruth and I spent a few classes going over the Bible Story from the day before to our PreK-Kindergarten Class. Many times we felt the language barrier so strong and it seemed as if we could make no progress with English or the Gospel but we continued to smile, teach, and laugh with the children. We knew that God was still able to work in their hearts and pray that He continues to do so.
Lord, may our simple teaching style be enough to bring a searching soul to You!
We had up to 40-50 children every day during the Bongdong Camp so it was always bursting with energy (and sometimes chaos!) when they were all together. One of my favorite parts was teaching the songs to the kids. We taught them how to say the words, what they meant, and why we praise the Lord.
We sang the songs, Building up the Temple, Father Abraham, He Made the Whole World in His Hands, Hallelujah-Praise Ye the Lord, and my all-time favorite Making Melodies in my Heart! It didn't matter how silly I felt doing the crazy action songs, I knew that they needed to understand that we were willing to get to their level and lay aside our pride in order to reach out to them.
Our mission doesn't end in South Korea but continues when we go home. The following verse was the text of one of the devotions I shared with the group and it continues to remind me where our help and strength comes from...
Through God we shall do valiantly.
We ought not to focus so much on what we are able to do but on how we are able to do it. "Through God..."
Yet, not only are we able to accomplish tasks through God but we are promised it will be done valiantly! Now, THAT is awesome!
Thanks for taking the time to read about our experiences. Feel free to leave thoughts or comments. You can also check out blogs from our previous trips here...
"For our God is a consuming fire..." (Hebrews 12:29)
This thought was foremost in my mind as we made final preparations for our trip. To be honest, I have to admit that I was not mentally or spiritually prepared for this trip as the months turned into weeks. Life was busy and my concentration was into trying to make sure my lessons were put together for the English camps. Then, the Sunday before we left our pastor preached a powerful message from this text. My heart was set on fire. I was finally ready. My spirit was burning with the passion I knew I would need for this trip.
My worries and fears were burned up and I was trusting in the Lord to do whatever He desired to do... IN us and THROUGH us. The following was the prayer I wrote in my journal:
Lord, May your Spirit be welcomed wherever we dwell and transform hearts, including our own. May my mouth be ready to sing your praises, speak of Your goodness, and glorify Your name. Thank you for counting me worthY to do Your work.
The journey took about 2 - 2 & 1/2 days. Once we arrived, we were able to do some site-seeing in Seoul before meeting up with the last of our group at the airport. Then began our 3 hour bus ride to the church. I fell fast asleep until I was awakened by Morgan, who asked me if my phone was going off. Me? My phone doesn't even have service! But, I checked it anyway and sure enough it was a random alarm. It had been going off for about 10 minutes and no one knew whose it was. The entire bus, full of Koreans, was beginning to get angry because apparently it had awakened everyone but me, it was annoyingly loud, and it was 1 am! Big oops!
We finally arrived around 2 am (Saturday - July 30), slept a few hours, then began to make preparations for the camp in Taein the following week.
The camp in Taein seemed to be disappointment at first, then a series of miraculous events. In Korea, we come to the conclusion that when a schedule is set you must be prepared for anything and everything to change it around.
One of my favorite things about this trip was the daily devotions we had as a group in the morning and the spontaneous prayer meetings we had a few evenings. Even if we had to meet at 6:30 or 8 am, we determined to have this time of devotion, prayer, and exhortation. Many times, if not every time, they lasted at least an hour. We felt the Lord's presence numerous times and received the strength that was needed for that day.
Before the Taein Camp even began we were praying for 2 people in particular that Morgan was desperately hoping would be able to come. One was Darius, a young boy around 8 years old, who had captured the hearts of the group (especially Morgan's) the previous year. The other was Grace, a girl of about 13 years, who was visibly depressed and rarely smiled. They had a burden to see her set free from whatever was oppressing her. As Monday drew closer, Darius and Grace were names that were consistently mentioned in our prayers and they were the first ones to enter the door on Monday!!! Hallelujah!
Due to circumstances beyond our control we only had 6-9 children that faithfully participated in the first camp, but we were determined to continue the camp as if there were 30 or so in attendance. We prayed just as hard, sang just as loud, and played just as long as if it was a camp overflowing with children. We felt such a burden for these children and their country. There is such a spiritual oppression. It's hard to describe in so few words but it does exist.
What I loved about Taein Camp is that we visibly saw a difference in the children, including Grace, from when they first came until the last altar call. There were times that all we did was play water games (it was SOOOOOO hot!) and have a fun time with them. These children spend all of their time in school, on their phones, or doing homework that they don't get much of a fun childhood like many of us have had. So we were unashamed to spend 2-3 hours chasing them around with water balloons or a water hose, then spending an hour telling them about a God that loves them, a concept most of them could hardly comprehend. We may never know the impact of the small work we accomplished in Taein the first week, but we believe the Lord will continue to allow the seed to take root in the hearts of these precious children.
(...to be continued)
South Korea. I never dreamed that I would have the privilege of travelling there for a mission trip. Now, here I am flying home from one of the best trips I've ever taken, with many new fond memories. God is so good! One of my favorite attributes of God is He can make what's worthless into something priceless, He can take what's old and make it brand new, He can take what's useless and make it useful and He can take the worst of situations and work out His perfect will.
Through this trip, God has reminded me over and over that I'm not extra special because I'm a preacher's kid but it's only by His grace that I've had such opportunities. I'm no better than the most wretched sinner without God's grace. Because of that very thought, I've had great hope and confidence in what God would do in the lives of people who know nothing about Jesus' gospel.
Now with all that being said , let me tell you what God has done just in the past two weeks. When we first left the states to travel to South Korea, I was very anxious and somewhat nervous. I was very unfamiliar with the culture, I was really skeptical about the food, and I'd never taught English -let alone in non-English speaking country. I felt so incapable and just knew I would fail in one way or another and I didn't want to let the team down. I hoped and prayed that the feeling would go away by the time we arrived but it didn't. The feeling seemed like it would never go away but, one morning in group devotions, there was a message in tongues. I don't remember the entire interpretation but I do remember this. God said,"I will empower EACH of you..." When I heard that, a rush of peace flowed over me and I began to praise God. He let me know that I wasn't excluded and that He would give me the strength to accomplish the tasks that seemed impossible.
We were able to host two English day camps with a VBS in the last hour of each day. It was a lot of work but the team pulled together and worked in unity. We all had an equal vision, not so much that we teach the children perfect grammar and pronunciation but that they would hear the Gospel and would come to know Jesus. At times it was a literal battle against the enemies of darkness. When that happened we would call on Jesus to fight for us and He always came through. He is so faithful! Many, many children and adults were affected by what was taught. I know that God will continue to work on each heart even while we're gone!
I thought I went to South Korea to teach but I'm completely convinced that God used this trip to teach me as well. He taught me that I'm not the only person in the world, that He loves us all equally, that He doesn't always choose the most "qualified" person, that hard work and sacrifice is worth it for just one soul to find Christ, that His will always prevails, and SO much more. There is so much more I could say but this blog would be a mile long. Thank you all for your prayers and support! They definitely played a huge role in the success of this trip. Lastly, thank You God for allowing me to work with such wonderful people with a heart for You and for the impact You made on the Korean people through us.
Planning Your Daily Devotional Time
Have you established a habit of having a time of daily devotions? If you haven't then now is the perfect time to start!
Prayer and devotions are a very important part of the day. Especially on those crazy and busy days. We fail to recognize that we need more of a spiritual boost than a burst of energy that comes from a blast of caffeine.
Below we will give you a few steps to begin planning your daily devotional time. It is better to get into the habit of it now when life is not so full of responsibility, crammed schedules, and such. You might want to get a pen and paper handy!
1. Establish a definite time.
Determine which time frame works for you. If you tend to find extra time before bed where you spend an hour or two on your phone or reading a book then try to set aside that time to fit a devotion in.
I know some have a hard time getting up early and focusing on a time of reading or studying, but if that is the best time of day to seek spiritual refreshment and encouragement then try it out!
Personally, that's my best time of day. I give myself an hour or 2 before work to make myself a cup of coffee (a must have!), find a quiet place to read a devotional book or a plan on the YouVersion Bible App. I have a study Bible to also go along with any Scripture references than is given in the devotional to do a little bit of indepth study.
Always keep a notebook handy in case questions or thoughts come flowing from your reading or studying! The mornings are generally a good time as well because it's the first part of the day and the rest of the day can be spent meditating or remembering what you have learned/read about that morning. It can greatly affect your attitudes and emotions for the day!
Psalm 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
2. Choose a definite place.
Find a place where you can get alone without any distractions. Make this a special time between you and God.
Do you have a certain place in your room, your house, or even outdoors where you like to just sit and enjoy quiet solitude? What about taking a walk on a beautiful day listening to an audio Bible or sermon?
3. Goal and content of devotional time.
Are there any battles you currently face? Have you gone to the Bible yet for a source of strength or encouragement?
Try looking up words or phrases that go along with your current struggles or feelings.
Do you struggle with loneliness? Or fear? What about worthlessness?
I've struggled with all of those and have found great sources of hope and encouragement in the Psalms and throughout the Bible by looking up words that went along with those feelings.
Here are a few examples:
Isaiah 41:10 - Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
1 Peter 5:7 - Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Find a good concordance or use the search tool in your Bible app to find verses to help you with the battles you're facing.
Write it down.
Meditate on it.
Don't let your struggles bring you down.Pray the promises of God. Let God's Word fill you with peace.
Written by: Sonia E. Vargas
What suggestions would you give about planning a personal devotion? Do you need help on finding ways to make this a habit in your life? Feel free to contact us or comment with any questions, suggestions, or thoughts.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
So many times after a great experience, it seems that we feel the effects of being in God's presence, but it seems to slowly fade. It's not that his presence has left, but because we depend on that one experience to get us through. For example, are you still full from last week's food or do you still live off yesterday's breakfast? Just like we cannot depend on last week's meal or nourishment to give us strength, we cannot survive spiritually depending on last month's or last week's or even yesterday's experience.
When you go so long without a refreshing, weakness begins to overtake you. You lack the strength you want to had. When we get to the point where our prayers feel weak, or it seems that we can't feel God as strong as we did last week, you must realize that we cannot live on our own strength. We will fight. We will fall. We will fail.
"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord , the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding." - Isaiah 40:28
God's strength never fails.
When are dependents allies in the Almighty; when our hearts and our hopes are renewed in Christ; we will be carried above our difficulties.
"As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord ? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect." - Psalms 18:30-32
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" - Psalms 27:1
Did this post make you think of God's strength and our dependency on Him? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
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 23 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.