2

Big Dreams, Bigger God

Later, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: Upon the servants, upon the handmaids, I will pour out my Spirit. Joel 2:28-29

Scripture says in Genesis, “Joseph dreamed a dream.” It doesn’t say if he drank hot chocolate before bed, making the odds of dreaming a little greater. It doesn’t say what he read before bedtime or what he was thinking about when he fell asleep. It simply says, “Joseph dreamed a dream.”

I am a Joseph. I am a dreamer. I believe my dreams are God-orchestrated, and I believe that there is mighty, mighty power in a dream, just as there is in the name of Jesus. For Joseph it was power over the murderous plot of his brothers who threw him into a well. It was power over the slave traders as he was found in the desert. It was power over injustice and inhuman treatment as he stood naked in the auction of a slave market. It was power over a prison sentence claiming the rest of his years. I believe there is no limitation to the power of a dream.

I dream big enough for the both of us, but I serve a big God, too. I know that the dreams in me were bred by my Creator, who spoke the universe into existence. This dream of mine is bigger than the opposition of the world around me, and not for a minute will I lay it aside because of my own human inadequacy. The Lord is looking for men and women to wake up and say, just like Joseph did, “World, I had a dream.”

Every book is the dream God placed in the heart of a writer. Every home is the dream God placed in the heart of a designer. Every garden is the dream God placed in the heart of a landscaper.

To the house of Jesse, traveled a prophet. God was after a man whose heart was vast enough to carry an entire nation. Jesse brought every last son before Him, each one with a face fit to be a king’s. Each one talented, each one handsome, but each one rejected by God. Then came David, a boy who lived beneath an open canopy, in a field with his sheep. This son was different, living not confined by walls, but under every one of Heaven’s stars. Similar to Abraham, I’m sure he counted stars and stayed up late to fall asleep beneath them. I’m sure he woke up early, just in time for the glimpse of grace that the sunrise offers. I can’t imagine the view he must’ve had. He was different in the way he was strong, drawing his strength from the Man he knew lived inside of him. The prophet saw him and the extent of his heart. “Here is one after God’s heart, here is one who thinks God’s thoughts and dreams His dreams.” I love the way Tommy Reid, a favorite pastor of mine, sums up the way the prophet sees David. He says, “He had never read one of David’s songs or heard him play his harp. All he knew was that he looked beyond the suntanned skin and saw a heart big enough to contain God’s dreams.”

And He made from one, all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation. So that they may seek God and find Him there, although He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:26-28

I delight in this. I can’t tell you the peace that this bit of Truth brings me. Please, read those few verses again. He has determined our allotted periods of time and fixed boundaries of our habitation, so that we may seek and FIND Him. He has created fixed boundaries. “There is a fixed, determined place where we are called to seamlessly move in Him and He in us.”

My dream was always that of a typical little girl. I’d always hoped I’d have a yard full of horses and a house full of puppies someday. Something like that. I had my heart set on being a marine biologist, or whatever allowed me to ride on the back’s of dolphins or hold starfish in my palms.

And then by the grace of God, the world of missions woke me up, and my dreams, to most ears, sound crazier now than my original dreams of Arabian horses and deep-sea dives.

It’s among the mud huts, the dirty water, the always-dusty bare feet, the rice and beans, that I have found my calling. It’s there that I seamlessly move in Him and He in me. Africa is my fixed boundary. That’s where I seek Him the most, that’s where I find Him the most. I now dream of banana trees in my front yard, not horses. Of African children running through the house, not puppies. Of riding on the back of pikis, not dolphins. I dream of holding small hands again, not starfish. I dream of saying Jesus to the one who has never heard His Name. I dream of fetching water, of walking the trek to the market. I dream of blind eyes opening, deaf ears hearing, of seeing my Heavenly Father touch someone for the first time. I dream of meals multiplied until every hungry stomach in the village is filled until it’s full. I dream of revelations every single day.

Every dream is the Lord pouring His spirit into us, just as He says He will in Joel. He’ll find us, as He did David, with our “world-changer” hearts.

Yes, I am Joseph. I am David. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am a dreamer.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

5

The Cost of Following Jesus – ISIS and America

Islamic terrorists in Iraq are beheading children and burying people alive, and it won’t stop there. They have a message for America: “We’re coming for you.” -CBN News

 

Following the path to Jesus often leads to persecution. Growing up in a culture where freedoms and choices are plentiful, makes that a hard pill to swallow for some. We’re free to gather in worship, we’re free to pray, we’re free to praise and sing to the Heavens all we please. While we very well may be ridiculed, hardly ever are we arrested for our faith.

 

Luke 21:10-19     Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other. There will be great earthquakes, and in many places, people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky. Before all of this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your meeting places and put in jail. Because of Me, you will be placed on trial before kings and governors. But this will be your chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or to say that you are wrong. You will be betrayed by your own family and friends. Some of you will even be killed. Because of Me, you will be hated by everyone. But don’t worry! You will be saved by being faithful to Me.”

 

I’m continuously watching videos and reading articles about ISIS and the persecution in Qaraqosh and Bartilla. I watch these Islamic terrorists run Christians out of their homes, cut off their limbs, and blow up their bodies. They flee while they can to Erbil, most with nothing more than the clothes on their back. If they don’t convert, they are killed, each one of them, from baby, to mother, to old man. They’re burning churches and cleaning out the belongings of the victims, leaving them with nothing. No ID, no travel documentation, no clothes, no money, nothing. They’re shot, tossed on the ground, and run over with machinery, as their families are made to watch. They’re pleading for the United States and the United Nations to come stand by them.

What am I doing for my faith?

Meanwhile, as thousands upon thousands are dying for their faith, here in America, churches care more about the lighting on the stage. They’re having basketball courts put in, flat screens installed, and pool tables set up. On the other side of the globe, children are being taken, raped and beheaded for their faith, while we worry about raising our hands during Sunday morning worship. We ask ourselves what the person next to us will think if we pray out loud or clap in excitement for the Lord. Frankly, I think we all need a heart check. Yes, persecution in the US is few and far between, but are we ready to fight the good fight?

Jesus made plain the consequences that would come with following Him. He warned us all through Scripture what would take place in the lives of believers. It happened to Peter, John, Paul, James, and countless others. Why it still comes as a surprise to me, is beyond me. Even though it’s anticipated, it’s not any more acceptable. 

Have mercy, Lord, on those who are mistreated. Keep them strong and rescue them from death.

Recently I read a story about a man named Dmetri, who fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus during the communist reign in Russia. He began opening his home to others, giving them a place to come and worship. People swarmed to read the Bible and sing songs that testified their faith. So many people came, the government noticed, and Dmetri was fired from his job. Steadfast, he continued preaching to others that came and gathered. One night, during a church session, officers broke in and took him, just as Luke said would happen in meeting places. They slapped him around and said, “We warned you, and warned you! And I will not warn you again! If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you.” When the officer made his way to the door, a small grandmother put her life out there, and waved a finger in his face. She declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive!” Two days later, the officer died of a heart attack. After 150 people showed up at the next meeting, Dmetri was thrown into jail for 17 years. The prisoners and guards couldn’t break him as he continuously sang the same song to Jesus every day. They laughed and cursed, sometimes throwing waste at him. He snuck paper to his cell and wrote Bible verses on them, sticking them to concrete pillars as “praise offerings” to God. For 17 years he was beaten, but never stopped. The guards finally decided to execute him, but as they carried him away, 1500 inmates raised their hands and began singing the same song Dmetri had sung every day for those 17 years. The officers stepped back in horror and questioned him, demanding to know who he really was. He proudly declared, “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is his name!” He was then released.

When persecution comes, when your road becomes long, and your hallelujah tired, hold tight to Luke’s Scripture. 

 

This is a chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or tell you that you’re wrong.

Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. Shout loudly. Spend wisely. Read avidly. Live responsibly. Give Lavishly. Travel meaningfully. Think Biblically. Study purposefully. Volunteer. Pray continually. 

 

 

1

Passports, TOMS and all things delightful

With 113 days left until I embark on my mission trip to South Africa, I’m here to update you on all the delights that consume my day. In the midst of every due date and lost paper, I’m still finding myself lost in God’s peace and patient heart. This journey has been documented in such beautiful words and pleasing-to-the-ear phrases, but I assure you, I’ve spent many nights awake in the wee hours of the morning, in hopes of gaining back composure lost. I’m reminded, what feels like too often, that there’s money to raise, shots to get, papers to fill out, people to call, and flights to book. Mail gets lost and calls go unanswered, while deadlines come far quicker than I can mark another X on the calendar. Papers don’t print and my To-Do list seems to grow faster than my list of things accomplished. 

Today, I’m thankful and my heart is swelling up with a new kind of gratitude. I’m thankful for those lost papers and flights to book. I’m thankful for the dwindling calendar and a printer that won’t do it’s job when I need it to most. The lost papers can be replaced, the flights to book only mean I’m one step closer to my precious, coffee colored friends in Africa, whom I find myself longing for every hour of the day. The things that throw a wrench in my day the most only remind me that we have a God whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Philippians 4:6 is God telling me, “My child, do not be anxious about anything, present to Me your troubles.” Yet I still find myself coming up with an excuse as to how something won’t get done, or how a required task will go unnoticed until it’s too late. And then my ever faithful Father steps in once again, and speaks truth into the doubt-filled void I’ve tried to fight with my own strength too many times to count. 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But the Lord said, ‘My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by My power.‘ So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.” My heart sings that last line, “So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.” Yes Lord, be my strength.

My heart feels a new kind of anguish as I lay in bed every single night. I mean my heart literally aches as I sit knee-deep in books on poverty-stricken people that the world has deemed unworthy. I look into my overcrowded refrigerator and my stomach churns as I think of physically starving African children 8,000 miles out of my reach. I’ve grown to recognize that maybe, just maybe, I need those desperate people more than they need me. My knees find their place on the floor at my bed-side, and restless I pray. I pray for Geetha, a 19 year old Dalit, who lives on the streets of India with memories of abuse and the sex industry she was once sold into. So hard, I pray. I lift up the many little boys in northern Africa who are taught to kill or who face death themselves. This is the kind of hurt that feels good. This is the kind of hurt that reminds me Jesus resides in my heart, and that the anguish He allows me to feel is being used to fuel the fire He has set inside me. The fire is raging, raging in such a life-altering way that while I pray for rest from this pain, I crave more. I crave more fuel on the fire, I crave more compelling statistics, I crave more Jesus. I’m thankful that rest has been given to me through Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” How restoring it is that my prayers do work in the place of where my physical presence cannot be because of God’s goodness. 

Meanwhile, my heart finds so much joy in my freshly pressed passport and worn out TOMS. There’s an odd excitement in knowing that my passport will soon be filled with stamps from the countries God is sending me to. What are now my white-soled TOMS will return to the states red from the rich African soil, and old clothes will find new owners in the bare-skinned kiddos that God will find fit to bless me with. My Bible will come back home with me with heavily marked up pages to prove the great Source of my renewed soul. And I sure can’t wait. 

3

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. 

0

Warm Heart

I’m weary and restless, stirring at the thought of the world’s bony children and bare feet. Somehow, these things warm my heart. Those who have nothing are dressed with smiles and filled with joy, finding contentment in another day to live. They rejoice and give thanks, always finding something to delight in. I see them and I’m reminded of, “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. Oh Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 

I’m itching to share good news, to hold the coffee colored hands of an African child and tell them how wanted and valued and special they are. I want to skin my knees playing with those little boisterous beings, and then collapse on cool ground to soak in God’s goodness. I want to spend my hours drawing water, laughing as I drench myself trying to carry it back. Oh yes, these things warm my heart. 

“When have you ever read a story of God’s great work that made a lot of sense, a story that didn’t seem a little over the top, a little impossible? Not often. Radical, extraordinary love just doesn’t make sense in a fallen world; that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it is the very nature of God.” – Katie Davis

I feel this unexplainable urge, this push and prod, to move to Africa and do these things. To share good news and to hold hands. To play with children and soak in God’s goodness. Serving, laughing and loving. Somehow I know that God, who resides in this heart of mine, is the source of it all. This growing love I feel towards people I’ve yet to meet is surely God ushering me into a life of discipleship. “Go,” He whispers. And go I will, running fast and free to Him, to Africa, to a life on the other side of the sea. “In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” – Bob Goff

 

2

Keeping Firm Faith

Hello again, friends. Recently, someone asked me how I stayed firm in my faith. They asked if I ever had doubts. Not only am I writing this for her, but I’m hoping the rest of you reading can benefit. As humans, we’re going to have doubts. There will be times when we’re all tempted by doubt in some form, and that doesn’t make you any less of a Christian. Really, I think doubts build faith. Honest doubt means we’re looking for an answer, or seeking to understand this awesome God we have.

  1. Prayer – One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my faith have been caused by prayer. I started praying more, and giving God more than just the twenty minutes of “before bed” prayer I had been giving Him for so long. The kind of prayer where you’re half awake, half asleep, praying unorganized thoughts and drifting in and out of sleep. I’d pray in the shower, thank God for a new day, and pray for the day before me. Before I leave the house for school, I usually struggle to be on time. I’m not a morning person, and I hit snooze one too many times. I find myself throwing on clothes, frantically trying to find my other shoe, or a book I can’t leave without. I started praying in those situations of desperation. I kid you not, God so often reveals to me what I’m looking for before I even finish my prayer. I began praying at school, I’d look around the room and pray for each person. So on and so forth, I furthered my time spent in prayer. I felt God so much more than before, leading me to realize how crucial prayer is in a relationship with Him.
  2. Recognizing His Creations – It’s quite obvious how complex life is. In Genesis we learn of God’s creations. The Lord created Heaven and earth, water, ground, light, darkness, animals, humans, all life. Here’s a few facts to put you even more in awe of God’s works: In 24 hours your heart beats103,689 times, your blood travels 168,000,000 miles, and you exercise 7,000,000 brain cells. Snakes are immune to their own poison. Your average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it. Camels have three eyelids to protect their eyes from blowing sand. Your heart generates enough pressure as it pumps blood through your body that it could squirt blood up to 30 feet. “Have you ever thought about how diverse and creative God is? He didn’t have to make hundred of different kinds of bananas, but He did. He didn’t have to put 3,000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon jungle, but He did. God didn’t have to create so many kinds of laughter.” – Francis Chan
  3. Scripture – I know that to most of you, reading the Bible is a given. I know to others of you, it’s a struggle that is easy to put off. To so many people, myself included, the Bible is a hard book to understand. I’ve found that praying for understanding before I read helps. If you come across a chapter you don’t understand, sometimes looking online can be helpful. There are many Christian bloggers that explain different parts of the Bible. If you’re having a difficult time getting the gist of a chapter, a lot of newer Bibles have little notes off to the side to help you. I like to recommend the God Girl Bible to young women, I love it! If I’m not mistaking I believe the same company makes one for younger men as well. If you have a Christian book store near by, try asking someone who works there to recommend a Bible that would be best for you! 
  4. Resistance – Replace the things in your life that tempt or distract you with Godly things.  For example, get rid of Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, ect. and replace it with Christian music. And you might say, “I can’t, I love rap too much.” Well great! There are plenty of Christian rappers. (Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Tedashii) If explicit music is all you’re listening to, explicit thoughts will consume you. Instead of R rated movies, try a Christian movie. Believe it or not, there’s so many Godly movies that could spark anyone’s interest. Documentaries, comedies, action films, ect. Look on Netflix, at the library, online, or at a Christian book store. The possibilities are endless! Bottom line is, start replacing the things that tear you away from God, with things that draw you closer to Him.

Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

 

Thank you for reading, if you have any questions, email me at sarawhitesell@rocketmail.com. I’d love to help you figure out what Bible, music artist, movie, ect. would be in your best interest. Let me know what you thought, I enjoy your feedback. God bless.