Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Africa Advent: Free from Fear

One of my favorite stories in Scripture would be in Exodus 14. The great escape.



God’s people suffered many years, serving Pharaoh, sweating, bleeding and dying at his hands. God heard their cries and He sent Moses to release the people from bondage. So many aspects of this story capture my attention. God calling the unqualified servant. Water turns to blood. Each plague, unique and powerful. Fire pouring from the sky. Literal darkness. The Passover. The pillar of cloud and fire leading the people. And finally, crossing the Red Sea.  

But being in Africa I stop and pause on Exodus 7:10-12, the very first plea to free the people. God told Moses to have Aaron throw down his staff and it would become a serpent, so they would know God’s power. But then Pharaoh called the sorcerers and by “their secret arts” they also turned their staffs into serpents.

“…But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”

Here in Africa there’s a lot of African Traditional Religion (ATR). There’s animism and witchcraft. There’s a lot of “secret arts” that hold these people in fear and bondage.

I spoke with one teenage girl. I shared with her the story of Jesus and the many miracles he performed. Jesus had power over nature, death, sickness and demons. It wasn’t when Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, or calmed the storm that caught her attention, but when he cast out the demons.

Her eyes lit up and her mouth dropped open. “Wow…” she gasped. I said, “Yeah.” Confused and interested, I asked, “Are there demons here?” She nodded and said, “Yes. Out there.” She nodded towards the whole township.



I see the power of God all around me breaking the bondage of fear and freeing the people from the “secret arts.” They find liberation and freedom in a God who’s power will “swallow” up the darkness they live in. A Jesus who came to cast out demons and to break the chains of fear.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Africa Advent: Forgiveness

Forgiveness isn’t easy.



I sat in a shack in the middle of a township in Johannesburg listening to Joseph explain his story of forgiveness. In the darkest shadows of the night, men came and killed Joseph’s father when he was just a boy. Joseph stood near by hiding because his father told him to run. The killers took off and Joseph approached his father’s lifeless body. His life completely changed.

My heart swelled and my eyes burned. “I forgive them. I want them to know… It would be the happiest day of my life if I could meet my father’s killers and forgive them face-to-face.”

He paused for a long time.

The Gospel is about forgiveness. How could we not? “If you don’t forgive. You are no better than the person who is killing.”

Joseph reminded me of another Joseph from the bible. Young. Forgiving. Faithful. Enduring.



***

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

And through the preservation of Joseph’s people came One who’d make all the sad things come untrue. He wouldn’t just forgive the wrongs of present, but of future and past and it wouldn’t be just a few people, it’d be the world.

*Photos by Heather K. Moss

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Africa Advent: The Sacrifice

God gave Abraham a son. 


Then He told him to sacrifice his only son

***

Isaac said to his father, “My father!” Abraham said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7)

Can you imagine what Abraham felt in that moment? God promised Abraham a son and God promised that through Isaac he’d have many children. God asked him to sacrifice Isaac…

The Scriptures say in Hebrews 11:19, “He considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Abraham believed so fully that even in death God would fulfill His promise to Abraham by raising his son back to life. I want that faith. The faith that doesn’t waver in Christ. The faith that says, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Through Abraham's bloodline would come the ultimate sacrifice—God’s only son.

***
In that moment Abraham turned to his son Isaac and said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” He did. Not just this once but for all eternity.


*All photos by Heather K. Moss

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