“¡Hola!” de Nicaragua

Helloooo, dear readers!! I’m a little short on time, but I must tell you about this amazing time with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua! Words cannot even begin to express this mission trip experience, so I’m hoping the pictures will help me out in this quick post…

IMG_0412The picture above is of Matagalpa- a city about 20 mins from where we are staying (Sébaco, Nicaragua).  You would not believe the hill/mountain that we had to drive up in order to get this view!  It was breath-taking…

calle This is a picture of a street in Sébaco.  All of the houses are so beautifully painted with bright colors!  Below is a picture of my new cat-friend named “Iman” (ee-mahn).  For the first view nights, I’ve been staying at this lovely home with some of the most-kind hearted and god-fearing people–Roger and Ana María.  They have been just like another family to Nick, and they have been so gracious in welcoming me into the family, as well.  Praise God for their hospitality and love.  I’ll write more about them later… 🙂

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IMG_0299This is an old church that sits on top of a big hill on the outskirts of Sébaco… so beautiful

IMG_0313This was our view when walking down the hill and back to the house.

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IMG_0356The streets in town are sooo busy and full of cars, bicycles, “moto-taxis”, and even bikes that have a covered bench constructed on the front to take passengers to their desired destination…

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In the picture below is our friend, Josue… He is precious!!! Nick and I have had so much fun playing with him and his brother, Rámer.

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IMG_0470While I wish I could write more, tomorrow is the big day!  Over one thousand people will be coming here tomorrow in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ACIBEN (Christian Association of Baptist Churches in Nicaragua).  It’s hard to imagine, but I cannot wait to see everyone coming to celebrate and give praises to the Lord our God for His provision and guidance of ACIBEN, the pastors, and even the church members.  Through baptisms, baby dedications, marriages, sermons, worship sessions, and a big lunch of rice, beans, and chicken, to God be the glory tomorrow and forever more!  Please be praying for Him to reveal even more truth about Himself through the words that the pastors have prepared, even for Nick as he translates tomorrow for our dear friend Kevin–the pastor at Crossbridge Christian Church in Senatobia, MS–who will be speaking tomorrow, also.

IMG_0466 - Version 2Even now, I write on behalf of both Nick and myself to say thank you for your thoughts and prayers for this trip to Nicaragua.  I’ll try to write again soon with more info about the trip and all that we’ve been doing, especially to give updates about how tomorrow goes!  Then after that, all of the training sessions for the pastors and the pastors’ wives will begin!  What a wonderful time that will be to study and drink deeply of the Scriptures with these fellow brothers and sisters of Christ’s body that stretches across all of the nations.  Until the next time I can write to you, please continue to pray for our hearts to continue growing with the desire to seek God and His kingdom first, and for His work to be done here on earth as it is in heaven…

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“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known to his deeds among the peoples!  Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!  Seek the Lord and his strength continually!  Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

— Psalm 105: 1-6 —

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Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

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The woman of Bethany, you and me

What would you do for Jesus?

Before answering that question, picture this: After a long day of teaching and going about town, imagine Jesus and the disciples reclining at a table together.   Unannounced, a woman that heard where Jesus was enters the house and pours a bottle of perfumed ointment that cost 300 days of labor (300 denari) on Jesus’s head.

Let’s think about the cost of that bottle of ointment in this way… With minimum wage now at $7.25 /hr, a work day being 8 hr long, and multiply that by 300 days… For us, that would be similar to pouring $17,400* on Jesus’s head and “only” having his shiny hair to prove it!  No extra mouths were fed, no new ministries were started, no church fund for mission trips was increased, etc.

The disciples are in an outrage and scold the woman!  They talk of what they could have done for the poor with the cost of that bottle.  In their minds–and probably in ours too– her use of that precious and costly resource was not the most practical, effective, nor successful.   But here’s what Jesus said to the disciples, what he still says to you and me:

“Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).

For that lady in Bethany, Jesus was worth everything to her, and she did what she could with what she had.  She didn’t know God’s purpose for her actions at that time–that she was preparing Jesus’s body for burial.  On the other hand, she knew Jesus could heal the sick and feed the poor, and He didn’t need her money to do that.  In this way, her faith was simple, yet it was strong.  She brought him her heart, her devotion, and revealed her trust in God, knowing that He would provide for her needs and the needs of others.

The truth is that I’m still trying to understand that last verse…how wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the whole, wide world–whether in the Amazon rainforest, a house church in Africa, a secret meeting in China, a classroom on a college campus in your state, or your family’s own dinner table–this woman’s actions are being told.  Maybe it deals with her part in preparing him for burial and then he was resurrected, or maybe it’s because of the love that she showed for him… But what is amazing to consider is this: faith in, hope of and love for Jesus will endure beyond our actions, even beyond our name.  We never learn the name of that lady in Bethany.  But even 2,000 years later, we hear of her outrageous love for Jesus and know that it’s being multiplied throughout the Body of Christ as more and more with that same, radical love for Jesus spread the Gospel across the globe.

So my question today is this:  How does the story of the lady in Bethany (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:2-5) affect you and me today?  Knowing what Jesus thought of that woman’s actions, what do we think he would say about our actions?  Lastly and most importantly, what is Jesus worth to you and to me and how does His worth in our lives compel us to live?

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

 

 

NOTES:

*(that’s not actually what 300 denari would cost today, but it’s just a comparative term…)

The offering of empty hands

from : http://morganbeebe.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/empty-my-hands/

If obedience requires sacrifice, how is it that our sacrifices don’t necessarily prove our obedience?

Not much time is needed to answer this question based on my own life experiences.  During Lent one year, I decided to give up chocolate.  I figured that I could go ahead and knock out two birds with one stone!  I could partake in the suffering of Christ and lose some of my sweet tooth at the same time; it would maybe even get three birds if I lost weight while I was at it, too.  But let’s look at my attitude and motivation.  Was giving up chocolate for 40 days a way to pursue God or my body image?…  Who was glorified through that sacrifice: me or God?

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The Message

For those of us who have been relying on the rituals of religion, this is a very frightening realization!  After all, it just proves that God is not fooled by our empty actions or our empty offerings.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

– Isaiah 66:1-2 –

As the last post discussed, obedience does require sacrifice because we must give up things that keep us from obeying God.  In this way, all of those sacrifices are made with the intention of drawing us closer to God and into the center of His presence and love.  In this pursuit of God fueled by love from and for Him, there is no room for selfish ambition….

 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1).

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him” (Isaiah 55:7)

Are you ready to return to the Lord with the greatest sacrifice?  Are you willing to admit that all you have to bring are empty hands?  Then come, come to the Lord…

Obedience & Sacrifice: The Motivation of Love

Jesus praying - gethsemane

The very foundation of Christianity is based on obedience and sacrifice.  In the garden before being arrested, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus knew that God had placed him on the earth with a specific purpose, and He was obedient, even to the point of death.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed…”

Isaiah 53:5

It’s easy to put Jesus on a pedestal, right?  We can look up to him as our sacrifice, just like the serpent on Moses’s staff in the wilderness and say, “Yes, he is the only way by which I’m saved!” (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15).  But what next?  It’s necessary to remember that we could never add to the cross… none of our actions will ever make us more worthy of God’s grace.  But here’s a question that those who have looked on Christ as their Savior need to consider:

“What next?”

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

John 15:20

Those are the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples!  Even though they were spoken two thousand years ago, they are just as true for us today.  We are no greater than our Teacher.  If we are to live a life that is hidden in Him, then our lives must also take on that requirement of obedience and sacrifice.  However, sacrifice and obedience must not be used to prove ourselves through the ability to deny the flesh… As we draw closer to Christ and become more and more hidden in Him, we’ll find that obedience and sacrifice come naturally for another reason:

love.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.”

1 John 5:1-3

In other words, once we’ve been saved through Jesus Christ, then we can love God.  When we love God, we will love His children, and when we love God, we will love His word.  When we love His word, we will delight to follow it. When we delight to obey God’s word, we will draw closer to Him, love His children, and–in all of this–become more like Christ.

And when we become more like Christ, we will grow in love for our Father.  We will delight even more in obedience to Him, even when it costs us the most painful sacrifices.  Nothing–not even the loss of worldly success, separation from family and friends, or even death–will keep us from following and serving the One that has already buried us in death and raised us to walk in newness of life to walk with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).

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Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?  Have you been raised to walk in newness of life, not for the flesh, but for godliness and to grow closer and closer to God?  Then ask yourself, “What does it look like to obey God’s word, to love His children, and become more and more like Christ?  What must I do in order for this to be true of my life?  What must I sacrifice?”  If you have not yet believed–even if you think you have but your actions do not prove a faith in Jesus that alone saves–what is holding you back?

To God alone be all the glory.  May He abound more and more in your life, and may the motivation of His love that He first gave us fuel your every action, spark your every thought, and determine your decisions today and every day.

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature