Precious Faith, Precious Promises, Precious Blood  

by Mary Beth on November 14, 2018

    

If you haven’t noticed, I have a growing respect and loyalty for Africa. My experiences in Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan, have improved my understanding of how their communities developed into strong, positive culture identities. I am thankful for the unforgettable opportunities with my sisters of faith in these African countries, where I’ve absorbed and gained valuable life experiences, as well as expanded my global awareness. Each visit I encountered answered prayer and a deeper love for women in their individual cultures, admiring their resilient faith, and close-knit communities. These experiences impacted and refreshed my personal faith, witness, and future travels internationally. As I reflect, several fond memories stand out to me.

They passionately, beautifully worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Together, we engaged in worship that involved our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Early morning devotions invited vibrant, worshipful dancing and laughter. How refreshing to enjoy God in their traditional style and culture. At one point, we marched around the room while clapping, jumping, and shouting glory to God. I learned not only to wake my soul, but also to speak to my soul and call forth vitality in worship for his pleasure. Praise be to our LORD, the God of all hope! It was necessary for them to be courageous, bold, and steadfast in their ordinary days, and their worship was equally unwavering. Through their exuberance, they prove that salvation in and through Christ is the beginning not the end of life, especially as the enemy is relentless to pesterand tauntus, to bully our convictions and weighus down with doubts.

The Word of God is their anchor, hope, and treasure—together. In Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks, Thomas Brooks writes,“Three things are called precious in the Scriptures: ‘precious faith (2 Peter 1:1); ‘precious promises’ (verse 4); ‘precious blood’ (1 Peter 1:19). Well may grace be called the Divine nature, for as God brings light out of darkness, comfort out of sorrow, riches out of poverty, glory out of shame, so does grace bring day out of night, and sweet out of bitter, and plenty out of poverty, and glory out of shame. It turns encounters into gold, pebbles into pearls, sickness into health, and wants into abundance, having nothing and yet possessing all things.”

Whenever God grants us the ability to hear and witness how he transforms a heart to hold a precious faith, in his precious promises, all through the precious blood of Christ, it’s awe-inspiring. What an honor together,to trust God in faith, dive into the holy Scriptures, and to stand on the blood of Christ with my sisters and new friends of diverse backgrounds. As different as we have been individually created to be, together we run to our hope and rest in Christ. Together we encourage one another to persevere in faith. Together we embrace, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”  2 Peter 1: 3-9.

The Holy Spirit moves mightily in their midst to lead them in applying the Bible. Immediately after the women concluded their morning worship and Bible study, they rushed out the door eager to witness to their friends and families the convictions they learned from our study in the Word of God. They promptly acted intentionally, willing to give away what they freely received. How the women seriously appropriated the message and ministry of reconciliation was unforgettable.

It was powerful for me to witness their joyful disposition, especially because of the remarkable fact that most, if not all, of the women arrived on foot, then again in the hot afternoon sun repeated the walk back to their villages. This experience was a fresh wind of motivation into my heart and prayer to witness at home locally and globally to the nations. I need to be purposeful to give away what I have so freely receive. If I’m sincere, the opportunity to offer spiritual insight or doctrinal theology confronts my daily idol of comfort. I’ve learned to actually enjoy an open door for evangelism and apologetics.

Although times are changing at a rapid pace in our American culture of moral reformation, God and his ways are immutable. This is what I witnessed in other cultures as well. Against all hope, women moved forward in audacity, confidence, and joy in the Lord.

The women use their artistic gifts.Throughout the separate communities and countries, women displayed their handiwork in huts, grocery stores, airports, tiny shopping centers, and stands. Handmade jewelry, bags, wooden items, and so on, abound for any interest and age. In Kenya, a team created a factory to fire local hand-painted jewelry made of clay. The company employs widows to complete most of the daily work, and to sell their own jewelry at the company’s store next door. The jewelry store is filled with beautiful clay creations of numerous colors, sizes, and styles. It was meaningful to tour the jewelry company and acknowledge the women enjoying their work. It also benefits them for Americans to purchase jewelry made in Africa online.

In the rural parts of Africa, many live in primitive manmade huts, but their hospitality is rich.The huts are built of natural materials: the roofs are made of grass or thatch, and the walls are made of clay or mud bricks. It was a humbling experience to be invited into their well-built huts to meet and enjoy their families. I often encountered dark walls of clay, gravel flooring, and maybe a chair in the corner. Yet their joy is deep, sincere, and their faith is robust.

On one visit with a local pastor and his wife, they graciously invited us into their sturdy hut for tea and prayer. Together holding hands with our prayers and trust to God, we pleaded with them for God to help the men in their small church, who were absent due to persecution from their own families. What an honor and strengthening experience to join with our brothers and sisters in other cultures and backgrounds to pray before our Creator God, who hears, knows, and sees all as we live, move and have our being.

Brokenness brings us together.Women were drawn together from very different journeys to share similar struggles in family patterns of addictions, abuse, and marriage reconciliation. Often with limited resources, they waited long years of trusting God to keep his promises. Sometimes due to severe suffering and trials, God’s character, sovereignty, and justice are desperately needed in soul care.

We traveled to help a local church in Kenya establish a recovery ministry within their community. What encouragement to minister together and learn what ministry looks like for their culture. We encouraged one another with shared stories of mutual relational struggles and family experiences in being human, yet affirmed the value, acceptance, and approval of being created in God’s image as our greatest significance. In America, we have a wealth of resources for addictions, abuse, and soul care needs. Although the Internet is accessible, many countries do not have biblical counselors and resources readily available.

So being in these other cultures, helped me understand how to address brokenness in our own culture. When we share our brokenness with one another, it helps drop barriers and false identities that make it difficult to connect otherwise. We approach one another from our different backgrounds and cultures, yet by being vulnerable and open, brokenness helps remove comparison, competitiveness, and protectiveness. If we’re honest, we understand the human condition is deeply broken and depraved. Being in Africa, helped me realize once again how grateful we are to God for the gospel of Christ. The gospel speaks into the already and not yet. The Holy Spirit comforts us and reminds us of biblical truth to set us free. Along with my African friends, I’ve remembered that this is our only hope and stay: to apply our exquisite faith, and to trust the precious promises and blood of Christ.

In July 2018, Redbud Writers Guild posted my article: “Precious Faith, Precious Promises, Precious Blood” Learning from Other Cultures.

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Confession and Repentance: Out of Darkness

by Mary Beth on November 8, 2018

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 “In our human nature, we’re masters of self-deceit.” R. C. Sproul

It is not natural for us as human beings to be open with our struggles and sufferings.
We have an innate propensity to hide.

A healthy and mature gospel community,

walks in open, godly confession and repentance.

Such attitudes and acts continue throughout our lives as Christians.

We have the charge and honor to bear each other’s burdens in the darkest of times.

~Confession and repentance are never out of season.

In struggling with sin,

an invisible veil of confusion can cover our hearts and minds.

But through faith and persistence,

our hearts can break through barriers of shame to the beginning stages

of confession and repentance, towards healing and restoration.

We are all in need of the Spirit’s provision to renounce individual sin.

~Confession is a grace aided by guidance.

Genuine repentance involves a godly sorrow for specific and general sins.

In Rosaria Butterfield’s successful book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,

she communicates a powerful and bold witness to the Spirit’s fruit from her unbelieving heart and lifestyle of sexual sin.

From a prominent professor teaching a secular worldview-

to a believer growing in Christ, Butterfield articulates the process of the

“hard edges and dark valleys” in her painful confessions and changed lifestyle.

The process of freedom she “experienced in coming face-to-face with the living God”

led her to say, “How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important.” 

Wow, I absolutely love this statement!

Rosaria’s honesty and vulnerability in this area will challenge all Christ followers to such ruthless trust in God.

In a self-centered society of worldly priorities and shallow success,

it is refreshing to see a sincere confession accompanied by godly sorrow and genuine repentance.

~Repentance, like faith, is beyond an intellectual understanding.

We need the holy Scriptures to show us sin is wrong,

as well our need to God’s direction and guidance.

 
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow,
and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4

We turn to Christ for salvation from our sin, yet we also turn from our sin.

The gospel of grace helps us do this.

In our repenting, we must ask ourselves if we are making a genuine commitment to forsake sin.

To be open with our struggles and suffering, is a call to come out of the darkness.
Out of hiding and into the light.
“…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with ne another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   1 John 1:5-9 & John 1:9-11 

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Hospitality Around the World in Mfangano Island

by Mary Beth on July 11, 2018

To reflect on hospitality around the world,

what comes to mind is how the Word of God is celebrated among the Nations.

The Suba people reside on Mfangano Island, Africa.

Only six years ago, 2013, they received the New Testament in their own heart language!

We will always remember our sisters and brothers living on Mfangano Island,

as one of the first Seed Company translation projects.

It took longer than expected and cost more more than anticipated,

yet the results are nothing short of a God thing!

Our photo below with Nahptali Mattah, myself and my husband Scott,

as we celebrated our partnership in the Word of God for the Nations.

We met with Nahptali Mattah, former head of the Suba project to celebrate,

 “Gethsemane Gardens”, 

the orphanage he and his wife started for the, “least of the least.”

The orphanage cares for young children who have been abandoned,

abused or encountered AIDS, and left behind.

A historical victory for this Island,

that sings praise to God for His healing hand holistically through the Word of God,

to the Suba families and throughout their wide-ranging culture and village communities.

God’s Word has spread throughout the entire Island!

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Next to the orphanage they built a museum,

to honor the history of God’s hand in transformation in and throughout the Suba people,

and further to other tribes on Mfangano Island.

Within the museum, their story is vividly expressed from the first pioneers,

the arrival of the Word of God through their people, and

how this transformation led to the transformation

 of their hand-crafted boats throughout each village.

The Suba people previously believed the boats carried evil spirits,

until the power of God’s Word and the Spirit of God

powerfully changed their hearts and tribal communities.

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The Suba people had the boats not only repainted but reprinted,

BTL:  Bible Transition Literacy on each side of the boat.

Now they believe each hand-crafted boat carries the Spirit of God,

to additional tribes on the Island in need of hearing the Word of God in their own heart language!

How is it possible to show hospitality around the world?

What better way than through the Word of God that powerfully divides every area of our hearts, homes, and communities?

Consider supporting Bible translation projects,

as they aim to reach difficult remote areas around the world, like Mfangano Island.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,

through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

 

 

May this young girl mature to be all that God created her to be in life,

through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

May she hide God’s Word in her heart.

Our God of all hope can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work in us for His glory!

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