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Well spent days in Africa

The road less traveled took me to the sewage-lined streets of Diepsloot, South Africa. There I learned that loving is the new black, and that a lion lives in the heart of every brave person. Rats ran the same streets the bare-foot children did, and disease was rampant, occupying the body of virtually everyone we met. But, come to find out, these people had nothing but grace and big welcome smiles to offer us strangers. It was there, among the hungry-for-love Africans, that I found more joy than ever before.

Nearly 280,000 people live within the 1.5 to 2 mile radius we ministered in. Of these 280,000, my group of 10 planted 301 seeds, sharing the Gospel with 301 people. The angels rejoiced as a whopping 153 of them committed their lives to Jesus.

Our hand’s became the Lord’s hands as a crippled woman walked and a blind woman saw again. Our whispers became shouts as we prayed not just for all, but for each.

I sat in the dirt with countless women, each one sharing in the same struggles. Not just one or two, but all of them lived in shacks the size of a garden shed or smaller. The shacks were built from wood, scrap metal and cardboard, pieced together like a puzzle. Electricity was a mighty scarce thing. Instead, open fires took the place of stoves, and there was no such thing as a hot shower. Dishes and laundry were done in buckets with water so cold it literally stung your fingers. This is what these people called home. This is how they lived survived.

But the women, oh the strong women of Africa. There was nothing more humbling than being seated at the feet of a woman bearing the hardships one bears in Diepsloot. Holding her hand and trusting that maybe for a second she felt all the hope she’d been robbed of. Sitting together, soaked in sweat-mixed tears, audibly crying out to the Lord. And as we cried, scripture says He bent down, leaning in to hear us. I write with Precious and Privilege and Agnus in mind. Nancy, Chio, Jo Ann, Gladys, Winnie, each one paving the way to greatness.

Africa is the swing of a hand caught by another, much smaller than yours. A baby in one arm, a child on the back, one on your shoulders, two pulling on your shirt, a few on your legs — you just never knew what kind of a balancing act you were walking into.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never been gifted with kids. So here I am, swamped with an innumerable amount of children, stiffly patting them on the back, trying my hardest to show them the love they are just so deprived of. Their noses dripped and their open sores were only growing. Most had ringworm, if not something worse. In that moment my heart softened as I thought of God’s love for us. Each of us, dirty and tarnished, are beyond loved by the Lord. And although we’re all “infected” by our own kind of ringworm, He still yearns for us, quick to pick us up with His grace.

I can’t express the state my heart was in. It was truly broken in a way that taught me my heart had never actually experienced heart break. But in the same hours, I sincerely fell in love too many times to count. I went with the intentions to change the hearts of the Africans, when in reality, I was the one that left with a heart change.

“It’s hard to reconcile the challenges they face, with the joy I see in them. The images spilling out of my television showed only misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstances define happiness in places that despair should thrive. I find adults dancing and singing. Children playing soccer with a ball of tied trash. Relationships and faith provide joy. My new reality… my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart. I no longer want to need the ‘next thing’ to have joy. Africa does need our efforts and partnership, but for me, I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

So here I am, back at home, but I’m not so sure that home is a place that’ll ever be the same again.

 

 

 

 

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For Justice & Equity

Some days my prayers are quiet whispers, while other days my prayers are silent and merely directed thoughts. Here lately, my prayers have been shouts of plea for justice and equity. I find myself in good company as I reflect on Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.

“He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke 22:44

I pray for 200+ Nigerian girls that are unaccounted for, going night after night without a momma to tuck them in. I pray for the families of 118 people who lost their lives in the Jos explosions, the 30 killed in Borno, the 20 killed by a gunmen, the 10 killed by Boko Haram’s attackers. I pray for the one carrying dirty water for miles with jigger infested feet. I pray for Margaret, who was mutilated by the LRA. I pray for young Monesha, who is found in the brothels of the Red Light District. 

As the Lord reveals more and more of His plans for me, I rely on Him to teach me contentment in my waiting. I know I’m being sent, but not today. While I can’t be in Africa or Thailand at this very moment, I’m reminded that my Father walks among every nation doing far more than I ever could. Although I’m not yet physically in the lands set out for me, my prayers are there, and that’s all that’s needed when we have a God as mighty as ours at work. My peace is found in that.


 

Lord, I thank You for Your sacrifice, for the life You gave up in order to give life to each of us. I pray that this generation becomes a generation of world changers, only finding their strength in You. Lead us with Your strong hands down the path that You have paved for us. Anoint us with Your Holy Spirit, and equip us with the means to deliver the Gospel to every nation, and to every person, young and old. Teach us not only to raise up workers for this plentiful harvest, but to advance the Kingdom for Your glory in all that we do. Let our love look like Yours, Father. Thank You for your gracious plans. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

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Love rendition

So easily I forget the freedom that lies right in front of me. So easily I fight to unlock the shackles I bear, overlooking the key that Jesus has freely given to me. I say “freely”, but that freedom was bought at such a high price. I forget that the water He gives quenches every thirst. I forget that His ear is bent to hear me. My faith shakes, and my heart breaks, and every day, from dawn to dusk, my God stands faithful and waiting. On the bright side of brokenness, lies Jesus.

I wish I could say my Bible was worn at the seams. I wish I could say I don’t continuously hit the snooze button, making excuses to sleep through my morning quiet time with the Lord. My head doesn’t bow in prayer as often as it should, and my hands hang at my sides while they should be lifted in praise. I let myself get swallowed up by the world, kind of like Jonah getting swallowed by the whale, only on much drier terms.

Most days my heart cries for order.

Recently I found myself stuck in a rut. A deep rut, similar to a pot hole after an ice storm. I got lost in the comparison game, only to come out as the loser. Days were long, and nights longer. The pot hole became a sink hole. As I spent a couple days restlessly battling the chaos within me, I gave in and handed my greed over to God. I said, “Father, I’m exhausted. I’m selfish and jealous for so many things.” And I was. I had a calloused heart for a good week, trying to make jealousy a prettier trait than it is. Despite my efforts, there just wasn’t any justifying my feelings. I ran to Jesus, and called His Name. I remembered the freedom in front of me. I remembered that chains are broken and shackles fall to our feet when we call upon our gentle Father. With these realizations, God plucked me out of the rut, and paved over the pot hole. With closed eyes and folded hands, I called on Him, only minutes before How He Loves came on my Pandora station. The first line, “He is jealous for me,” echoed in my ears, resonating with a new meaning. I had heard this song before, too many times to count, but this time I heard Jesus, not David Crowder. “I am jealous for you,” He whispered, “I long for you.” Oh, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

He is jealous for me. The Maker of everything in sight, the One who hung the stars and carved the mountains, is jealous for me. I am cherished and I am pursued by a Love that outdoes all the rest. I am enveloped in His grace, sealed tight like a love letter sent to free a debtor. I imagine God peeling and sticking a stamp to the corner of a grace-filled envelope, before putting the flag up on the mailbox. Heaven’s mailroom must be filled to the brim with envelopes of the same sort. Although I’d like to picture it that way, grace is stamped with Christ’s blood, something far more precious. 

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Undying Love

I’m continually wrecked as I read the raw story of Gomer and Hosea. Hosea was a prophet in the old testament, Gomer was a harlot. God viewed Israel as His wife, but Israel, being split into 2 kingdoms, left Him jealous for His people. In simple terms, the southern kingdom was faithful, but the northern was swallowed in sin. The thing that grieved the heart of God more than anything else was the sin of idolatry, and the people of the northern kingdom worshipped other gods. In the same way Israel was unfaithful to God, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea.

Gomer was robbed of joy by men day in and day out, always being quick to hand over her body to any who would take it. She was sold like an animal before being treated the same way. Men would buy expensive material things in order to lure her in, and then take advantage of her. I’m reminded by her, that this kind of life is still lived, and God continues to love us with a steadfast love. I’m reminded that the same Satan that set out to deceive her, is the same Satan that sets out to deceive us in the very same ways.

God told Hosea to find a woman of unfaithfulness, to claim her as his, and that’s exactly what he did. He took Gomer, this broken and used, only half-living woman, and put a ring on her finger. He pursued her, he loved her, he cherished her wholeheartedly. His obedience leaves me humbled by his faithfulness and willing heart. What a man. What a man that he would 1.) obey God and 2.) serve and love a woman who’s interest lied elsewhere. Gomer abandoned him and fled yet again to another lover, who put her up for auction. Hosea was the one to buy her, and continued to chase after her with a longing to bring her back to him. His devotion was poured out solely on her, as Christ’s love is poured out on each of us in the same manner. Even in His judgement, God wants to give us every opportunity to come back to Him. 

Christ bought us. Christ payed for us, and still we flee to other worldly things, captivated by deceit. But still He delights in us, still He sings and rejoices over us! Grace welcomes us back with open arms, because we read that, “His mercies are new every morning.” Here, I’m reminded that I am Gomer continually running to sin, and God is my Hosea, tenderly calling me back. Keep calling, Lord. 

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The Gospel Of Grace

Sometimes it feels like the minute the word “grace” comes up, people put their defenses up. People steer clear of those “Grace Preachers”. Many think that “grace and the law have to be balanced”. Another controversial topic is the topic of reigning in life, kind of tying in with grace. Satan puts obstacles around the gospel of grace, aware that when we receive grace, we begin to reign in life. The Bible says the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The Devil wants to see you at the lowest of lows, broke and broken. He doesn’t want to see us enjoying life. He doesn’t want us reigning. He strategizes how to prevent us from receiving grace and righteousness, a gift from God. Satan uses controversies as a way to surround God’s truth. Pastor Joseph Prince says, “You can always tell how powerful a truth is by the number of controversies the devil surrounds it with.” 

Jesus died on the cross, and crushed Satan. Satan has no power anymore, Satan has only lies. Same goes for the world we live in. The world doesn’t have the truth, but instead it’s filled with pretty lies on how to live life fed to us by the devil. As believers, we have the truth. But sometimes we distribute the truth in a casual fiction way. This truth is something to shout about. Glory to God for all the love He shows. Be bold, believers. Jesus is the one truth, He is the one way, and He is the only thing capable of setting us free. Present people with the real, pure truth. What good is a watered down Gospel?

When God began restoring the truth of prosperity, guards were put up once again, calling it heresy. Churches back off of prosperity teachings because they’re so controversial. Does it not matter that the Bible declared that Jesus became poor on the cross so that we might be prosperous? 

You take your sick child to a doctor. You try to get the best education for your child. So on and so forth. Don’t you do these things out of love for your child? So that they can be blessed, healthy, and live a prosperous life? Do you think that your heavenly Father would want any less for you? God blesses you not because you are good, but because He is good. We have His undeserved favor, given to us not because of our works, but because of His grace. If we were given grace based on our actions, it would no longer be undeserved favor, but it would instead be based on the system of the law. Deserved favor. There is the the old covenant of law, and a new covenant of grace. Law is deserved favor – When we obey the commandments perfectly, we’ll be blessed. GRACE is undeserved favor – Jesus obeyed God perfectly, and we’ll be blessed by believing in Him. Which covenant are you under? God made a new covenant, a covenant of grace, and for a good reason.

The Lord wants us receiving the abundance of grace, to have the abundance of grace is to have the abundance of Jesus! 

John 1:17 – For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Grace came as a person! Jesus is grace, and grace is Jesus. The Word declares that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. Grace is the truth that will set us free, not the law. If the devil can keep you under the law, he can keep you defeated. 

There is no “Prosperity Gospel”. There is one gospel, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for reading, be blessed.

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Bittersweet and Ever-Changing

I believe there’s a time in everyone’s life where we get caught up in this tangled mess of confusion, and each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once. I believe we all come to a point where we feel life and living are too much to bare, and all this urgency we have inside to make things right within ourselves becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters we’re facing. Our thoughts become jumbled and we see things more as a fog. We have to squint to see through the obscurities in our way. We have to try extra hard to see things the way they were before. Doubt corrupts our mind, tainting our views on ourselves and what we’re capable of. We can’t tell right from wrong, or what’s the end or only the beginning of a memoir. This seemingly never ending brawl within us finally gets us where it should: on our knees in surrender. This fight is good, in the way that childbirth is good, and grief is good, and defeat is good. It hurts, and it’s tough, but joy comes in the morning. (For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.) Psalm 30:5  The desperation welling up inside is longing for a hope that will ease the suffering we face in this moment, this moment of vulnerability. And in that moment, we abandon our struggles at the altar, or the bathroom floor, or wherever we put a halt to life and break down. We cry out to the ceiling, knowing what lies far beyond it. We pray for all the heavy burden to be lifted off our weak shoulders, because when compared to our Maker, we’re just these minuscule beings with little understanding of the world. Our loving King comes to our rescue just as He said He would, lifting off the weight of this world. And my friends, if you’ve not yet been caught up in a tangled mess of confusion, where each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once, don’t think for a minute that God won’t be there to deliver you. When you feel life and living is too much to bare, and all the urgency you have to make things right within yourself becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters you’re facing, break through the dark night and dance your way into the joyful morning. Don’t try and do it on your own, but rather call on your gracious Father in Heaven. Remember the life that you find hard to live hasn’t run it’s full course yet, and God has much more planned for you. Call on God to be the light that guides you through the fog of chaos. Call on God for truth to cast aside any doubts. Appreciate growing in the bitter you face, and all the while be overwhelmed by the sweetness of His love. We need some “bittersweet” in our life to grow. Sweet is great, and I think we’d all agree we want more of the sweet than we do the bitter, but bittersweet is courageous. The bittersweet in life is ultimately beautiful and valiant and bewildering. When put together it’s something much more deep and life-altering. And although we all reach these heavy-ladened times, we’re blessed with a divine God to carry us out.

Thank you, and God bless each of you.

-Sara

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The Finished Work of Christ

“Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory. They receive God’s approval freely by an act of His kindness through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free from sin.” Romans 3:23-24

 I think one of the biggest things that people tend to overlook is the last three words that Christ said on the Cross: “It is finished.” The work of Jesus Christ is done. Sin is dead; it has no power over us. Death is destroyed. Christ did all of the work on that cross, your chains were broken many, many years ago. You’re already free. It’s a matter of learning to walk in the confidence of your freedom. The battle is convincing your mind how free you are and seeing the beauty of grace. Because let me tell you, the chains have been broken already. You’re free to walk without heavy burdens; you don’t have to be a slave to sin. I really love Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” I really recommend reading Romans and absorbing all of the truth in it. Romans was written by the apostle Paul around AD 57. It took place in Corinth when Paul was on a missionary trip. This book was written to the church in Rome.

 There is guilt, and then there is conviction. Guilt does in no way come from God, but conviction does. Conviction is completely different from guilt. When we read Romans we learn that not one person can get God’s love by never messing up or sinning. “Everyone has turned away, everyone is rotten to the core, and no one does any good.” (Romans 3:10-12) Paul makes it clear in Romans that through confession and repentance, we can be free from any guilt. If you think you’re still guilty once you’ve confessed your sin, you’re only believing a lie. Jesus is our savior. He saves us from sin. He saves us from guilt. Jesus Christ came to set us free, not keep us tied down to guilt. The one who has confessed and turned from sin is no longer guilty.

 If there is a place in your life filled with guilt rather than conviction, recognize it’s a lie. If you’ve accepted Jesus as the ransom for your guilt, you aren’t guilty. Paul wanted the Romans to know they were saved by grace but still called to be holy. Same applies for us! God bless you, thanks for reading.