Banks of the Red Sea

Where are you today? Are you holding up during one of the worst seasons of your life? Are hopes and dreams and desires finding themselves to look completely impossible? Is everything you thought God would give you by now or you thought He promised looking to be the last possible thing that could happen right now? If so, you are at the banks of the Red Sea.

Nearly everyone knows the story of how God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, but few know all the massive details that went into this miracle. See, after a long season of negotiations the Pharaoh of Egypt finally allowed the Israelites to go free. Over two million of them headed out for the Promised Land of Canaan, but after such a victory there was another issue up around the river bend. (Pocahontas reference).

Exodus 14:1-4 shares, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.”

What this means is that the original planned route was altered so that it would become more difficult, but God was setting them up for a miracle. Pharaoh’s heart was heated and he decided not to just let over two million slaves leave, not after all the plagues Egypt had seen trying to hold on to them so firmly. Moses led the caravan of these two million people and they found themselves at the banks of the Red Sea. Now, the Red Sea is no tiny pond one can wade through or hop over; it is a massive body of water. To make matters more difficult, an entire army of hotheaded Egyptians were on their tails. The Israelites had been all grown up as slaves, so they had no idea how to fight an army. They saw the choices before them to drown or die by the sword. They felt abandoned.

How often are we too metaphorically in this spot? Where it seems there is no possible way out or option in which we come out the other side? At times we may even find ourselves screaming at God for He was the One Who led us down this marked path and now everything is in disarray. Perhaps we saw the first leg of success and rejoiced in His faithfulness just to turn around and everything looks ten times worse than before. You are not the first ones to feel such feelings. The Israelites even asked if the sole reason God brought them out to the desert was because there was more room for graves out there? But God wasn’t finished yet.

Moses was the leader of this group at the time, and he took orders from God. Moses knew God, He had seen His power and His sovereignty in his life, so he knew there would be a way out. He assured the Israelites to, “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (v. 13-14). Then God came through. Just as everything looked as hopeless as ever, God came through. He told Moses to merely lift his arm and then before their eyes the Red Sea parted.

The entire group of two million people walked across not in mud, but on dry land. On each side was a skyscraper of water as they passed through the waters. Then as the Egyptians attempted to cross, the waters fell upon them and they were wiped out. God took care of each and every single one. He kept true to His word that not only would the Israelites see Who God was, but so would the Egyptians. God protects His own.

God is never changing, His character remains steadfast forever, as is true in the New Testament and today as well. Jesus says in John 13:7, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but one day you will.” We can also see in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We may not get the Red Sea parting each and every single time, but we can know that He will indeed work all things together for our good and His purpose and glory. How beautiful is that?

I write this yes as a blog, but also as a reminder to myself. Last week I found myself weeping at the banks of the Red Sea. Feeling confused and lost on this journey He has asked me to trust and follow Him in, but I realize that He came through for people who trusted and followed Him before, and He will do it again. 1 Samuel 15:29 says, “God is not a man that He should lie or change His mind,” and we can hold on to that promise. He is Who He says He is, and just as His eye is on a mere sparrow, His eye is on us too.

By: Cally Logan

A Choice to be Fruit Bearers

John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you.

At the beginning of the summer I planted my very first tomato plant in a pot and put it on my back deck. I was thrilled because one of my favorite summer foods is a good homegrown tomato!

I watered the plant pretty well at first, but it was raining so much I decide to let God water it and take care of the plant for me… As sweet as that sounds, it is just a fluffy phrase for laziness. The day came mid-June and my tomato plant had produced the first tomato of the summer! I was so excited and pulled it off and ate it. The tomato was ok, not the best, but I was satisfied with it.

As the month went by, I began to notice the plant looked like death. It became yellow in appearance with shriveled up leaves, I did not know what to do. I replanted it in the pot because it was beginning to fall over. Over time the plant grew worse and I continued to rely on the rain. Now, here I am in August with an semi-dead tomato plant which only produced one fruit in 3 months.

I got two take aways from this.

1: The Dry Season – Sometimes we are following the Lord and there are seasons in our lives where we do not see the evidence of the fruit. However, we are to press through and lean into the Lord knowing He sees our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7)

2: The Lazy Christian – Sometimes we accept Jesus’ work on the cross and then leave Him there. We simply ignore the call to carry His cross in our lives. (Matthew 16:24) Instead of investing in a relationship and responding to Him, we avoid intimacy and expect our lives to bear fruit; when indeed if we are not getting spiritually fed from God and His Word, we have nothing to give.

I do not know if you can relate to either one of these metaphors, but I know that there have been times in my life when I have related to both. The fact is, my tomato plant out back is not too far gone, I can go fight for it to thrive and produce fruit. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms to respond to His call and if you are in the midst of a dry season, remember He has not left you and the rain will come. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

In Christ,

Emma Danzey
Founder of Polished Conference Ministries
Worship Artist | Songwriter | Girls Ministry Leader

www.emmadanzey.com

VBS 2017 – Maker Fun Factory Created by God – Built for a Purpose

Lately, I’ve been struggling to understand my purpose and my worth, striving to find these things in God rather than other people or what the world has to offer. So this week at VBS I have been especially touched by the messages presented to the young kids through bible stories, videos about kids in other places, science experiments, games focused on teamwork, and even discussing the daily bible points with my crew at snack time. I love to see how they can look at pretty much anything and talk about how it reminds them of God. Now I see why we must have faith like little children in order to enter the kingdom of God. Each day I have tried to summarize what we talked about, what was most important to me, and the Bible points with the verses.

Day 1

Bible Point: God is for you! (WOW GOD!)

Key Bible Verse: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Bible Story: Rahab believes in God’s mighty power. (Joshua 1-2)

 At the end of the first day I was literally just like- WOW GOD! The message that was given through the story of Rahab is so incredibly powerful. Even though the kids don’t quite understand that God took a prostitute who would not be valued at all by the world’s standards and chose her to save His people, her story really sunk into my heart. God took someone who would have probably never been invited to church and He chose her to SAVE HIS PEOPLE. He used her to assure the Israelites of His ability to use them to destroy Jericho.   Not only did He just use her, then He allowed her entire family to be saved because of her faith. This story shows that if we have faith in God, He will use us for His perfect purposes.

It was interesting to see the kids try and grasp the key Bible Verse of the day: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” A question. Not really a statement. But it gives hope and also kind of challenges the kids to think about how powerful God is. He is for us and there is no one who can stand in His way. What a great first day. I felt tugs at my soul to spend more time searching for God, trusting Him for everything, and cast aside anything that is not truth that the world throws at me. On this note, the second day provided a greater assurance that God is my hope and salvation and on my side.

Day 2

Bible Point: God is always with you.

Key Bible Verse: “The Lord your God is always with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Bible Story: God is with Gideon. (Judges 6:11-7:25)

 God is always with you. Just think about it. This morning as one of the leaders opened VBS with a devotion for the leaders she reminded us not to think of God watching over us in a stalking way, waiting and watching for us to do something wrong, but in a loving way that he knows every part of us- every longing of our heart, every tear that we cry, every time that we feel alone. And He is here for each of us in every single one of those moments. And no matter what we do He will never leave us. Ever. So many people in the Bible made mistakes, often disobeying or disrespecting God, but He has never given up on us. He continues to love us.

I love that we sing the song Love Come Down in VBS. We often sing this song in youth because it is fun and upbeat, something that makes people want to get excited. But the message behind it is powerful. God sent His one and only son. Here to the earth to love us, serve us, and then save us. No one has ever done anything to deserve love like the love God has for me and for you. This story of redemption and love is not just for the youth or moms & dads who take their children to church though. This message is one that the kids need to understand. They truly see God in everything and I love to see how they are thinking about how much God loves and cares for them.

Day 3

Bible Point: God will always love you.

Key Bible Verse: “Your unfailing love will last forever.” (Psalm 89:2)

Bible Story: Jesus dies and comes back to life. (Luke 22: 66-24:12)

This day was the big hitter of the week. Day 3 was the day that the Gospel was plainly explained to the children through the redeeming story of Jesus dying on the cross. It was neat to watch the kids who know the story take something new out of it and see other kids understand this story for the first time. During the Bible story, the kids were all given a small heart and could write a sin they wanted to take to Jesus or just their name. Then they placed their hearts on a large wooden cross. It was so amazing to see these young kids grasping that they live in a broken world, but when they recognize that they can take anything to Jesus.

God will always love you. God has always loved you and He will never stop. No matter what you do. Jesus came to earth and died just so that He could always love you. He created us to love us. You Forgive Me. This song focuses on how we make the wrong choices, but God meets us where we are and not only does he forgive us but he also knows, loves, and continues to care for us.

 

Day 4

Bible Point: God made you for a reason.

Key Bible Verse: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Bible Story: Abigail brings peace. (1 Samuel 25) 

The last day of VBS was kind of sad. I loved my little group of girls that seemed to grow by one each day. However, ending with “God Made You For a Reason” was awesome. The kids learned that they are created for a purpose. They have friends who they can show the love of Jesus. They have brothers and sisters who they can show the love of Jesus.

Personally I saw how God used me and how He used all the volunteers that week to show the love of Jesus to the kids. To show them that God is for them, He will never leave them or stop loving them. And even as everyone of my seven girls said they wanted to grow up to be bakers, I saw a glimpse of how God will use them in the not so distant future: to confidently lead their friends, to quietly befriend the kids who are left behind, to sweetly show love to their teachers through obedience, and to fervently follow God with all their precious little hearts.

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I am so thankful for this week. It is always such a privilege to pour into the lives of seven young girls and I hope seeds were planted in their hearts that will continue to thrive as their relationship with Christ grows.

By: Sarah Jeanne

Should I Date a Non-believer?

One of the hardest questions single believers will face is whether or not they should date a non-believer. It is not an easily answered question, and as with all relationships, the human aspects of the heart weigh heavily on the decision.

The Bible actually addresses this very subject, 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” Though dating is not marriage, it is the precursor of marriage and in mature relationships rests on the back of the mind. Any dating relationship neglecting to think about marriage really has very shallow intents, and in many ways is a waste of time for both parties, but that is another discussion for another time. But the concept of “teaming up” is important to recognize. Your future spouse should be your best teammate, but if your teammate isn’t even playing the same sport as you, chances are your team will fall apart.

Not all unbelievers are bad people whatsoever, nor are they beyond finding a relationship with God, but that is not your job in dating them. So many people have convinced themselves in “missionary dating” where they hope that in dating a non-believer they will have an influence on that person and they will come to faith. Though this has seen success in some cases, it is rarely the norm. Jesus did not call His followers to go and date the unsaved, but He did call them to befriend and minister to them. This can all be done outside of a romantic relationship and if anything adding romance to the equation would only take away from the intent to bring the person into a relationship with Christ.

A simple answer of, “don’t do it” does not take away the desire in the heart. Often times it can even be a tool of temptation against a believer to compromise their beliefs and go for what they can see and what is easily accessible. We live in an instant gratification seeking world, and to have a tangible and easy relationship at hand can often be extremely hard to give up.

In a moment of a personal story firsthand, I found myself in this exact spot with a man I honestly had come to love. We never had dated, rather, had been close friends for many years. Each time I thought something would begin, it seemed an obstacle arose and I eventually gave up and moved on, for it was not a relationship where God had planted the seed to endure. I was about to move across the country to Minnesota when I was asked to dinner by this friend. Being a very blonde girl at heart, I thought it was just dinner and not a date, but I was very wrong. He and I are both mature adults and both in a season of life where marriage is more of the intent of relationships than just summer crushes, and he implied his desire to marry. More closely, what a good wife and mother I would be. I was sitting there with literally everything a girl wants to hear of how lovely, smart, kind, and wonderful she is and all but a ring offered with a horrendous catch in hand. I knew he didn’t love God, and I knew God didn’t want this for me.

The real root of it all is if someone does not love God first and most, they cannot love you properly. God is love, so if a person does not know the Highest form of love, they cannot know how to love truly and fully. CS Lewis said, “To love you as I should, I must worship God as Creator. When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”

What Lewis was getting at was that in order to love to the highest expression of love and love correctly, we must love through Christ. If the person you are considering does not even believe in God, he does not know that love. You cannot share what you do not have, so lacking that most important aspect will only lead to heartache, disappointment, and downfall.

This is not to say that a Christian man will be perfect, he is still a human, but he will have that accountability backing him. He will know that as a husband he is called to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5) which means even to the point of death loving her.

How my story ended was I went back to my car and screamed at God. I sobbed all the way home and threw a little fit. Real mature, eh? But the fleshy parts of me had wanted to be with him so badly, it was a literal battle between my spirit and flesh. I prayed and as He is prone to doing, God answered in the Word. My Bible literally opened to 2 Corinthians 6 and I read the verse that contained my answer so clearly. It took time, prayer, and the Holy Spirit to help my flesh let go of what it wanted to cling to, for I did love him, just not through God. God is gracious and I can firsthand attest that He will help when we ask.

In choosing to not “team up” with a non-believer, we sacrifice to God. What we sacrifice begins as the desires of the flesh and the instant gratification that comes from having something right away, but what we gain is worth far more. What we gain is protection from a sliding door path of eventual frustration, heartache, and feeling unfulfilled. What we gain is time back for not wasting time on our own follies. What we gain is looking to God to lead us in the right path for our lives. The man of your dreams may not come the day after you sacrifice the relationship with a non-believer, but God will. God will direct your path and make it straight, even when you don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5-6). God will not leave you disappointed, “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23), and He will bless you ahead.

What if you have already found yourself on the flip side of this instant relationship and very burned? There is hope for you too, just like there is hope for me. For God promises perhaps the greatest promise of the Bible, Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Take it to God and wait for an answer. He will give you the best route, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17.

He will not disappoint you, and He will bless you for trusting Him over your own flesh. It won’t be easy, but in the end it will be worth it.

By: Cally Logan

 

But it Hurts…

Pain, it ails us with physical sensations of throbbing, aching, swelling, bruising, itching, bleeding, and brokenness.

Pain, it wounds our hearts and we walk around carrying heavy burdens inside, crying, questioning, hurting, lonely, and unhappy.

Pain, it stabs our souls like thorn in our flesh and pokes at us day and night until our spirits grow weary and our souls cry out.

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Our hurts are real and they come in many different ways: physical, emotional and spiritual. Why do we go through hard times? Have we done something wrong? Is God not good? Has the Lord forgotten about us?

These are all common questions to ask when a trial comes your way. Right now, I am dealing with a little bit of all three forms of pain in my personal life and it is a bitter cup to take, but I do not want to miss the Savior’s sweetness in the midst of the sour. The flesh in me wants to say, “But it hurts Lord?” But the Spirit of God in me wants to respond in a way that honors Christ and receives the hidden pearl He has for me.

 

1: Why do I go through hard times?

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We will have trouble in this world. God says it in His word, so why are we surprised when we suffer? Sin has infiltrated our once perfect world and we do not have the privilege of perfection, which is why we needed Jesus.

(Note: Sometimes our suffering is from the sinful nature of the earth, other times it is a trial allowed by God to strengthen our faith, and then there are times when we sin and have consequences.)

2: Have I done something wrong?

Although some of the time our pain comes from our own poor decisions, (i.e. failing a test we didn’t study for) most often we are suffering and carrying our crosses because life is hard and full of sin. If someone gets cancer it does not mean he did anything to deserve it. If a car hits someone it was not because he was being punished.

Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

3: Is God not Good?

Psalm 100:5 says, For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

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God’s word is the ultimate truth and He says that He is good. In fact He is perfect and cannot change because it is out of His character (Hebrews 13:8)

4: Has the Lord forgotten about me?

Isaiah 49:15 says, ““Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

You are unforgettable to God! The Lord who created you in your inmost being knew you before you were created and will always know and love you. Do not be afraid to share your heart to the God who sees you! (Genesis 16:13)

I do not know your pain, but God does. I pray today that you claim victory through the blood of Jesus and know that your Savior is greater than your circumstance. Our troubles may be great, but our Lord is greater. Our sorrow may be strong, but our God is stronger. The lies may be grand, but the truth of Scripture is grander and remains forever.

By: Emma Danzey

www.emmadanzey.com

Mean People

You might ask yourself, Why are some girls so mean?

Mean may be too severe a word. Perhaps these are more appropriate words to use:

Oblivious.

Rude.

Distracted.

Selfish.

Busy.

Worried.

Jealous.

Judgmental.

Maybe now you wonder if you have been “the mean girl.” I’ve wondered the very same thing about myself. And having had “meanness” done to me, I’m more aware of how it hurts. I never intentionally want to do that.

What can Christian teens do to show we care? Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  1. When there are several of you planning lunch in the presence of another person, invite them too. Don’t assume they have other plans. They may have. For most, just the thought of feeling included is enough.
  2. A smile is powerful and will make a huge difference. If you make eye contact with another person, simply smile. A smile says, “I like you or I accept you.” When you turn away after making eye contact a person feels unworthy, unaccepted, or judged.
  3. Don’t worry if she doesn’t smile back. You do your part. And don’t be offended. Some girls are shy. If this girl is someone you see from time to time, keep smiling. I have a few close friends who are shy. If I had stopped after my first smile or attempt to get to know them, we wouldn’t have become friends. So don’t give up.
  4. If you are a leader at summer camp or the one in charge at the pool, be prepared to greet those whom work under you. Greet them all with a “hello” or a smile. Otherwise you appear to be in a click and may be named a snob.
  5. When you approach your friend but she’s engaged in another conversation, say hello and smile to the other person she’s talking too also. When you only talk to your one friend, the other person appears to go unnoticed.

 

Be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

By: Debbie Presnell

www.debbiepresnell.com

Are You on a Dangerous Path?

“How can I teach younger women to love their bodies when I struggle to do so myself on a regular basis?” I thought this as I shared with my friend how I never feel good enough. A lot of times women think that body image is talked about WAY too much at women’s conferences, teen girl bible studies, and events. However, it is one area that seems to be affecting and influences more people than ever before.

Below is information from the American Addiction Center:

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia, which is the common name of the disorder anorexia nervosa, is a condition where people see themselves as being overweight, or want to control the shape and size of a specific body part, even when they are extremely thin. In its chronic form, it can manifest as an intense fear of gaining weight or an extreme obsession over the shape of the body, to the point that people stop eating, exercise excessively, and take other action to avoid gaining weight.

This results in those with anorexia:

  • Having a low weight for their body type and height
  • Actively avoiding efforts to gain and maintain a healthy weight
  • Developing an unhealthy relationship with food
  • Limiting food intake and eating a regulated range of food types
  • Inducing vomiting after meals, if anorexia occurs alongside bulimia

http://americanaddictioncenters.org/anorexia-treatment/facts-statistics/

I do not know if you personally struggle with any or all of the above, but I know in my own life that I do. I never have thought that I have anorexia, but I do believe that I have tendencies and mentalities that could lead there if I am not careful.

So how do we handle this? What do we do with this information?

We need to create a game plan. No one plays a sport or goes to was without a plan of action. Plus, when we put on the helmet of salvation we know that our battle is not against the flesh, but against the powers of darkness and hell. (Ephesians 6:12)

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PLAN OF ACTION:

1 – Identify your weakness: It is vital to pray and ask God to search your heart and know your thoughts, to see if there is any offensive way in you, so He can lead you down His path of life everlasting. (Psalm 139:23) We cannot fight a battle we do not believe exists.

2 – Find Truths to Cover Lies: Seek out scriptures that will encourage you and cover the lies of the enemy in weak moments. Write these down on notecards; memorize them by hiding God’s word in your heart! (Psalm 119:11)

3 – Get Accountability: Talk to someone (preferably a mentor) who you trust to share your struggle with, who can encourage you and hold you accountable. It is beneficial to have someone who will sharpen you in your identity and your faith. (Proverbs 27:17)

 

I hope that you are motivated to look deep within yourself and see what you struggle with in your personal daily life. Maybe it is not body image? However, we all have issues. Thankfully we are loved and encouraged by the God who sees us and loves us abundantly. We never walk alone. We were made in His image and are all on journeys of embracing our true identities in Jesus.

 

In Christ,

Emma Danzey

www.emmadanzey.com

Actions Over Words

I was a nervous 20 year old preparing to step out on the stage and share my first original songs live in front of a crowd, I remember looking out into the audience and seeing my best friends from college on the front row who drove 3 1/2 hours to support me.

In Daniel 3, the scriptures talk about King Nebuchadnezzar who demanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow before his false gods. These brave men not only declared that God was the only one worthy of worship, they remained standing and acted on their faith. They could have chickened out when the king threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace, but their actions spoke loudly as they were willing to perish for their one true God. It ended up that there were four men inside of the furnace. (The fourth was God Himself standing with them in the fire) And miraculously, not one of them had a single burn. Their faith was tested and proved true, the king even proclaimed the Lord as the only God.

In American History, white people in the south during the civil war said that they cared about the African Americans, yet still kept slaves and did not do anything about the injustice. During these times in 1856, Abraham Lincoln said, “Actions speak louder than words.” I have been reflecting on this statement a lot lately. Someone can tell you they love you, but it means so much more when that person shows you.

God didn’t just say that He loved us, He sent Jesus as the manifestation of His love. (1 Timothy 3:16) He didn’t just tell the world He would save them; He died on the cross and rose! This was an action that spoke louder than words. (John 3:16-17) In fact, His decisions still have a ripple effect on generation to generation! Jesus’ words may have been few during His crucifixion, but His acts sent the loudest message of redemption.

Now don’t get me wrong, words are important too, we should use what we say to encourage and inspire others. What we say impacts the world, but how much more does it mean when we get to show others the love of Jesus? Our efforts do not go unnoticed when we sacrifice our time and energies.

How can you be there for others today? How can you choose to act on love?

By: Emma Danzey

www.emmadanzey.com