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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sunday Snippets: Rahab, Woman of Faith

Hebrews 11:31 "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."

I hesitate to start writing about Rahab, because her story is honestly almost my favorite in The Bible, and I don't know if I'll be able to stop once I begin. The first thing that amazes me about her is that she believed in God when she knew almost nothing about Him. Literally, all that she knew about God, (as far as we know), was that He had parted the Red Sea, and that He had helped the Israelites to defeat the great kings Sihon and Og. That's it. I mean, yes those are incredible things that God did, but to turn to a foreign God with her whole heart, when she had only heard a few stories about Him through word-of-mouth? That is some unbelievable faith.

Secondly, she didn't just believe God and then do nothing...she acted out her new found faith by risking her very life to shelter the spies from Israel. As of yet, Israel had done nothing for her except arrive in the land and threaten to destroy her city. And yet, Rahab trusted that God knew what He was doing, and that in His mercy, He could rescue her and her family from destruction. She humbly asked the spies to make her a promise: whoever was in her house with her at the time Jericho was overthrown, would be saved. As a sign, she kept the scarlet rope hanging in the window. We know the story...when the walls of Jericho came down, only Rahab and those with her escaped with their lives. 

One of the biggest things I love about this story, though, is what happened after that. Rahab could have simply been glad to have survived, hung around Jericho, perhaps started to rebuild her life, but no. She chose to join herself to the people who had, from afar, introduced her to the God she now served. Do you realize how difficult it must have been for her, those first few months or even years? She knew nothing of Israelite customs, laws, or beliefs, except the core faith in the One True God. She was an outsider, and not only that, she was a harlot. In essence, she was the epitome of what the Israelites would have turned away from in disgust. And yet, through God's grace, she did not let her past life define her! Though there were still consequences from it, she did not let that stop her from being used of God. Rahab eventually married an Israelite leader named Salmon. They had a son named Boaz, who married Ruth and had Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David. So from Rahab's great-great-grandson came the line that went down through the generations, preserved by God, to Jesus, the Saviour of the world. I can guarantee you, if you had asked anyone in Israel if a woman like Rahab could be used of God to bring the Messiah to earth, they would have laughed at you. And yet, her legacy of unwavering faith still lives today! Wow. I thank God for the incredible example of Rahab, and I pray that I will be as filled with faith in God as she was!
P.S. For those of you who enjoy reading, there is a book about Rahab called "Pearl in the Sand" by Tessa Afshar. I HIGHLY recommend it!! Obviously we know only little about her life, but Ms. Afshar did an amazing job of speculating without going out of the confines of what COULD have happened. :) 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Finding Joy in the Small Things

Psalm 68:19 "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah."

Today my family and I went to the park for a bit in the afternoon. We played catch, Frisbee, kicked a playground ball around, sent baby Miriam down the slide over and over, and generally had a really good time. :) One thing happened while we were there that I thought was so cool. We had been playing with a nice Frisbee I got my dad for his birthday last week, and somehow one of the youngest boys took it over to some other kids and left it somewhere where they had been. We really did not want to lose that thing after having only used it a couple of times, but we really couldn't find it anywhere. We were thinking that the other people had possibly walked off with it or something. I started walking all over this huge grassy area, and as I went I prayed, "Lord, I know this isn't really important, but I would really love it if you would help me to find that Frisbee." And about 20 seconds later, there it was! :) That was just something little that The Lord chose to do for me, but it really made me happy...I love it when He proves, yet again, that He does care about the things we care about! 

You know what hit me, though? I honestly believe it must grieve The Lord when He sends all these hundreds of "small" blessings into our lives every single day without fail, and we never really acknowledge or thank Him for them. What are some things that make you really happy, just little everyday things, that you take for granted? I'll list a few of mine:

  • A good cup of Espresso. Approximately twice as strong as most people I know like it, and half as strong as my parents like it. ;)
  • My mug. It's just a cheap mug I got one day from Big Lots...It has an orange "M" on it, and orange and blue flowers/birds. But I LOVE that mug!
  • Taking a nap when I'm really tired.
  • A pretty view. I saw some amazing views just this morning when I went hiking with my brother.
  • My baby sister saying "Uh-Oh" whenever anyone drops something. :)
  • Playing a song on the piano that I know well.
  • Getting a letter or package in the mail.
  • Listening to music with headphones.
  • Driving by myself with the windows down, singing. (It's the only time I can go all out and no one will care, ok? :D Look out, high notes, I'm coming for you. Haha!)
  • Playing a game with the family and/or friends.

Ok, so tell me: is any of the stuff I just listed necessary to my life? Nope. If I never did any of that again, my life would not end. However. Those little things are what can turn a blah, mediocre day into a fun, special day. And yet, as I drink my cup of awesome homemade espresso, or sit down to play the piano, do I usually thank The Lord for it? No. Hardly ever, in fact. That's really convicting to me! Why should I only thank Him for the "big" things, when it's those little things that make ordinary days special? (Not saying we shouldn't give thanks for the big things as well. That should go without saying.)

I really want to take more time this week to thank God for all the small blessings He pours out into my life. As the verse at the beginning of this post puts it, He LOADS us with benefits! Let's try to put more effort into noticing and praising Him for all of those benefits! I hope you all have a lovely weekend! :)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sunday Snippets: Climbing Mountains

Psalm 94:17-18 "Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, my foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up."

Today I went to visit a friend who has a mountain behind her house! :) Not just a hill, but an actual, huge mountain. Those of you who have seen the mountains in the Wenatchee/Cashmere area know what I'm talking about. 

I have really no mountain climbing experience, but I do have a rather over developed sense of adventure, so I convinced my poor friend to go to the top with me. :P (She normally leaves that to her brother. I now know why.) Anyhoo, we at first only planned on going up to a rock outcropping, but once we got there, we decided to be explorers and press onward. It was one of the most strenuous hikes I've ever done! We got all the way to several hundred yards from the top, when it got truly unsafe to go on...there were sheer rock slopes covered in loose dirt that would simply catapult you down the mountain face if you stepped on them. :P Anyway, we were very thrilled that we got that far, and even more thrilled that we were able to eventually get back down without the aid of a search and rescue team and/or helicopter! I want to share a couple of things I noticed today while on the mountain that I think can carry over into everyday life, as we "climb mountains"; a.k.a. try to reach goals, conquer fears or difficulties, or gain victory over certain sins.

1. The farther you get, the more rewarding it is.
As you get further and further up the mountainside, the view gets more and more spectacular. By the time Jenny and I got to the top, it looked like we were in a plane; we could see all the shapes and colors of the patchwork of orchards, forests, mountains, and houses beneath us. The more you trust God and press forward by faith, the more you will want to keep going as you see His provision.
2. The farther you get, the more difficult it is. 
This may seem contradictory to my last point; hang with me, because it really isn't. ;) The higher up we got, at least on this mountain, the steeper and more difficult the terrain was. Add to that the thinner air up higher, and it gets pretty fatiguing. The more you strive to live for God, the more Satan is going to try to drag you back down. You can't let your guard down as you near the fact, you must increase your vigilance!
3. Sometimes pretty things can be a distraction and hindrance.
As we climbed, we saw hundreds and thousands of clumps of wildflowers. While they were absolutely breathtaking, they seriously impeded our progress on the way down, because they obstructed our view of footholds, and were actually really slippery themselves. If we turn away from striving after Godliness to look at the world and what it has to offer, it is not going to help us get the victory! Worldly things can block your view of what God's next step for you is, as well as stop you from following Him altogether.
4. Sometimes a change of direction is necessary.
I mentioned the dangerous rocky areas one point during our climb, (as I had taken the role of trail blazer at that particular time), I tried to climb up a sloping rock face instead of going around, but ended up just slipping around and scaring myself when I couldn't find solid footing again. This affected the rest of our climb because we realized we needed to avoid the rocks completely. It would have been much shorter to go up the rocks, but also much more or both of us could have been hurt. Sometimes in life God turns us away from something that we think we need or want, in order to protect us from danger. If we push past His warning signs in our life, we are in a grave position...being out of God's will is never a good place to be. If God changes your direction, don't always take it as a bad thing. He is leading you towards what is best for you.

Though this ended up being a little long for a Sunday Snippet, I hope my analogies made some measure of sense to you all. ;) Have a wonderful day in The Lord's House, and a great week to come! Keep pushing to reach the mountain tops! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

An Open Letter To Those Going on a Missions Trip (By a non-expert)

As the weather turns warmer, and spring begins to turn towards summertime, many people start to get really excited/nervous/frantic about what they'll pack...why? Because it's missions trip season! :) Obviously we are not like the Mormons, where every young person is positively required to go on a "mission". Definitely not. However, I do know a lot of young people who either have been on one or more missions trips, or will be at some point in the near future. My good friend, Kimberly, is currently in Thailand, having spent the last few days there, and the previous 3 weeks or so in Burma. I have other friends who just got back from a 10 day trip to England. 

As far as myself, I have been on a 2 week trip to Southern Mexico in 2012, and a 10 day trip to Samoa (not American Samoa) in 2014. Both trips were absolutely incredible growing experiences for me, and I wouldn't trade the memories made for anything! 

However. We all know that along with trips like this come shall I say it...potholes in the road, if you will. There is usually a fly in the sandwich, a situation or experience that you really wish had not had a part in the trip. Lots of folks would say, "Oh, those things happen, it's all just part of the experience!". And in a way, that's true, BUT...from my small experience, at least 95% of these "mishaps" really could have been avoided! The vast majority of them were due to either a lack of character in certain members of the team, or just a lack of thinking through actions before doing them. And I definitely include myself in that statement. So without further ado, here is my personal list of things you really, really should try to do and NOT do when on a missions trip.

#1. Cut the griping.
Seriously, pretty much nothing else will ruin a trip for everyone faster than whiny group members. On our trip to Samoa, the 5 other girls in my group and myself made a pact with each other: if we catch a team member complaining or whining, we will call them out on it, and ask them to say something about _____ (the thing they were complaining about) that is good. Actual example:
Me: "That taro root at lunch honestly tasted like...dirt." 
Abby: "Mykaela! What did you LIKE about the food today?"
Me: "Well, I did really enjoy the curried goat, even though I didn't expect to!"
There you go...make it a point to either say something positive, or zip it. :)

#2. Listen to and respect your team leader(s). 
This one is so, SO important!! If multiple people (or even one person!) on a trip are ignoring and/or disregarding the authority of the leader, it can have devastating effects! And NOT just on them, but every single person in the team, as well as the people you are trying to minister to. The leaders are sacrificing and working hard to make the trip work smoothly, and the least you can do is be cooperative! Even if you don't understand a rule or a request, please do respectfully follow it. You'll be really glad you did.

#3. Spend time with the people you are serving!
You can hang out with your friends from church anytime at all. But that young lady over there that looks like she needs a friend? You will most likely never again have the opportunity to show Christ's love to her. That's why you go on a missions trip, after all...don't squander the precious opportunities you have with the people you came to help out!

#4. Don't go into boy/girl relationship drama.
Seriously. Just don't. You have NO. IDEA. how absolutely ridiculous of an idea this is. Not to mention how much damage you can do. Don't get into it with your team members, and don't get into it with the national people. Be God-honoring in every single word, action, and look. 

#5. Spend time with the national kids.
This is similar to #3, but really....some of the memories I treasure the most from my missions trips are the times I sat down with a group of kids and just talked or played with them. They have such a different outlook on life than adults, which is why it's so awesome to spend time with both! If you see some kids who look like they wouldn't mind if a weirdo from America came over and joined their game, then go for it! ;) I promise it will be worth your while.

#6. If you get sick, be strong.
I understand that there are a lot of factors that play into going to a foreign country, or even a different part of your own country! Health is one of them, and unfortunately sickness can hit pretty hard on a missions trip, when stress levels are usually fairly high, you probably aren't drinking quite enough, new foods, drinks and air are all affecting can be tough. That being said, if you do get really sick, make an effort to stay positive, and not be a baby about it. ;) It happens, and of course you shouldn't feel bad about catching something, but your best to be strong, not complain, and do what you can not to be a huge burden to those who are responsible for you. Be grateful for those who help you out, take care of you, etc. They are taking time out of the trip to do so.

So there you have it! My personal-opinon list of really good and bad courses of action on a missions trip! I am certainly not an expert, and the list is not all-inclusive, but I hope my experiences can help you out in some way. :) God bless you as you serve Him, whether at home or abroad!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sunday Snippets: Sharing What You Have for God's Glory

1 Peter 4:9 "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."

Hebrews 13:16 "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

My post for today is about sharing the resources you have in order to bring glory to God. As a few of you know, I recently went on a trip out of state for about a week (Just got back a couple of hours ago, actually). We had an AMAZING time, meeting new people, fellowshipping, listening to great messages at a conference, etc. The biggest blessing while we were there though, for me at least, was the time we spent with the family who housed us. They absolutely bent over backwards to be hospitable to us. Now, to them, it may or may not have seemed like a big deal, but to us?? We were SO overwhelmed by their kindness!!! It was most definitely huge blessing to us!! 

Anyway, this got me thinking about how I use the resources God's given me to be a blessing to others. Think for a moment about different people in the Bible who were hospitable and generous. One example is Philemon. God's Word tells us that he and his family had a church meeting in their home. We know he was fairly well off, but even so...having lots of people come to your house for a meeting multiple times a week, (possibly even every day!), is no piece of cake! He was obviously very dedicated to serving The Lord through his hospitality. However, another example is the widow of Zarephath in Elijah's day. The first time she met him, she literally gave Elijah a little bread and water. Bread made with flour and oil, probably pretty flat and tasteless. But in both these instances, whether big or small, God honored and blessed the sacrifice of the givers! Isn't that so cool? God notices when you share your blessings, no matter whether it's a big thing, or seemingly insignificant.

Let's try to think this week about how we can be a blessing to others, even if our resources are relatively limited. If you are trying your best to serve The King through your kindness to others, He WILL honor that and reward you for it, whether here and now, or in the life to come. Let's find a way to reach out to someone in Christ's name!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sunday Snippets: The Masterpiece

Isaiah 64:8 "But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand."

Imagine with me for a moment...You are very good at creating beautiful and striking art of some kind. Maybe sculpting, maybe painting; but whatever it is, it's amazing every time. Imagine you are working on a painting, for example, and this particular work of art you've been slaving over for nearly a year. Day after day you swirl the colors and patterns together, forming a piece of beauty that will bring tears to the eyes of those who see it.'ve just finished your incredible masterpiece, when the painting itself speaks to you. "I REALLY don't like the way you painted these sections", it complains, "I can't even stand to think of someone looking at that part of me that you made!" As you survey once more the lovely painting, perfect in every detail, your heart sinks. The painting doesn't appreciate your labor of love!

Obviously this is just a story I made up. However...can you see a bit of an application here? God is the Master Potter. His works that he does in and through us are unparalleled. And yet do we complain about this or that? Do we gripe to God that so-and-so has that awesome talent...and we don't? Or maybe you are very self conscious about something physical. Maybe you have big feet, or ears that stick out, or you don't like the shape or size of your nose. Are we, as God's masterpieces that he knit together in our mother's wombs, complaining about what He's done?! Do we criticize, by our thoughtless whining, God's perfect plan in forming us exactly how He did? Wow. This is such a convicting thought! As children of the Most High God, our identity ought to be in Him, and in His Son's atoning work on the cross for us. Let's not ever forget that God made each and every one of us to be a beautiful masterpiece to show His love to the lost world! Let's not ever rise up against our dear Father in ungratitude for how He's chosen to form us and our attributes. The Potter knows best!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Peace Through Christ's Blood

Lately I've been getting really into hand lettering, and just thought I'd share one of my latest projects. :) It's one of my first completely freestyle lettering projects (without looking at others' ideas for inspiration). 

I love this verse from Colossians...the picture is only the first part. The whole verse says, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Colossians 1:20) Isn't that so amazing? Through the blood of Jesus Christ, all of humanity can be saved, if they choose to be! Notice where it says "things in heaven"? Think about how many thousands and thousands of people who are in heaven with The Lord at this very moment...because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross! Down through the ages, people have either looked forward to, or back to, that one pivotal turning point in human history: the saving death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. I am so thankful to Him, aren't you? 

I can't wait to get to heaven and see ALL of those believers together in one place!! Won't it be so incredible to see our loved ones singing God's praises right alongside the saints from ancient times? Can you imagine meeting the very first man and woman created, or the apostles themselves? Wow! Most incredible and wonderful of all, though, will be meeting our precious Saviour, who through His blood has reconciled us to Himself. Let's remember to thank Him this week for His amazing grace. Praise The Lord!!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sunday Snippets: The Promise of The King

Isaiah 14:24, 27 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? 

Ecclesiastes 8:4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?

In both these passages, it talks about the promise, or the word, of God--the King of Kings. When God makes a promise, it's beyond impossible for Him to break it. There's not even a tiny fraction of a chance that He will go back on His Word once given. Isn't that amazing? There are no "unforeseen circumstances" that would cause Him to have to break His Word, He knows the future for eternity to come! There are no developments that could arise that would cause it...again, He knows what is coming. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty incredible. And sobering as well, depending on how you look at it.

There is an old children's song called, "Every Promise in The Book is Mine". You know what? I really don't like that song. There are some promises in God's Word that I thank and praise His name are NOT meant for me! He has promised that "the wicked shall be turned into hell." (Psalm 9:17) Not one I want to claim. He has promised that "the wicked is driven away in his wickedness." (Proverbs 14:32) Also frightening. 

However, while there are promises that I'm glad were not made for me, what about the promises that were--the ones I can confidently claim? Well, He says that though my sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18) He promises that "he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Romans 8:11) He promised, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9) He promised that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1)  Lastly, He promised that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed"! (Romans 13:11b)  

All of these promises, and hundreds of others, God gives to those who believe on His name!! All of these precious words are meant for us...we can claim them through the shed blood of Jesus Christ!

There have been a couple of times in my life where I've been through long seasons of constant doubts and fears. That is a heart wrenchingly difficult place to be. But when I truly realized how perfect and unwavering the promises of God are, He brought me out of that doubt! Praise The Lord! If you are struggling with this, talk to your pastor or your parents about it. There will never be a better time than now to get your doubt laid to rest! 

This week, let's trust the Word of our King with loving confidence instead of living in doubt and fear. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?