Friday, December 18, 2015

Strings of Christmas Lights

One week … only seven days left before Christmas. People are scurrying to get last minute details in place including late decorating around their yards. 

A few weeks ago we attended the community tree lighting ceremony and afterwards we drove around looking at all the light displays.  Not many had their lights up, and the houses that decorated didn’t do that much. 

There was one particular place though that was so beautiful with thousands of Christmas lights strung out across three acres.  When we stopped to take in the visual wonderland, we were met by Santa and Mrs. Claus.  It was then I knew it was time to share the story of Sarah and her strings of Christmas lights. 

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Now Lord? 

The convention would be all day and on a Saturday.  Even though we’d have to travel several hours to get there and drive home in the wee hours of the morning, I couldn’t miss this opportunity. 

It had been many years (around 2001) since I first began praying for her. Now I’d get to meet my sister in Christ face-to-face and learn more about Sarah’s journey of faith. 

For months I’ve been sitting on this story of meeting Sarah. After our union I couldn’t wait to jump on sharing our time together. In my spirit I knew it wasn’t the time, but that was then and this is now. 

China to America 

Sarah Liu & Dr. Fu missions China Aid
Sarah is a beautiful petite woman who carries herself regally. If you saw her it would be hard to believe the events that transpired in what she refers to as her “journey of faith.”  One might question how this small figure endured the things she said happened to her in China.
I first learned of Sarah in a prayer letter from the Voice of the Martyrs (VOTM) Christian ministry for the Persecuted Church.  Sarah was one of those people you read about who had been tortured and persecuted for her faith because she believed in Jesus Christ as her Savior. 

Living in America it might be hard to imagine not being able to worship or believe in God openly.  We have had the privilege of going to church, attending religious functions and purchasing Christian literature (including Bibles) practically everywhere in our country.  This is another reason I had to meet this wonderfully courageous individual who stayed in faith, believing God to deliver her no matter what she encountered. 

To Each His or Her Own 

Each of us had different reasons for attending the conference. My husband is very savvy when it comes to Biblical end time events and teachings. He wanted to hear Dr. Hormoz Shariat (president of Iran Alive Ministries) speak. He was scheduled in the morning session.   

I came to meet Sarah Liu because of her tremendous story.  Of course she was the last on the agenda.  Very good planning for the conference, however I’m not sure the hundreds of people that attended realized this. 

On Our Way 

Due to the long drive we needed to rent a vehicle with cruise control.  My husband would be driving the distance.  His right leg (the one they used to harvest veins for his heart surgery) couldn’t take the drive for that many hours, so the cruise control would relieve some of the pressure and relax his leg. 

Having to make stops along the way we arrived after the meet and greet session.  That was okay with us because we knew we could do that later.  

When we first got there the place was jam packed. The parking lot was so full they had attendants directing cars to an open spot.   

Without hesitation we quickly made our way into the main auditorium. Getting settled in our seats with our conference packets, we sat at the college type session and I took out my writing journal. We took notes, but on different points of interest.

As we were about to adjourn for the first break I took some photographs.  Then I learned there was a “no photograph” policy.  Ooops!  No worries. No one said anything, so we’re good. 

Time to Make My Move 

While people were gathering at all the booths for the conference I made my way through the lines the opposite way. Now I didn’t do it on purpose, but not being the tallest person on the planet I couldn’t see where I was going.  God just worked it out in my favor. 

Grabbing a book here and a CD there, my husband was somewhere in the middle of the room looking for me.  This is one reason he likes it when I wear bright colors … so he can find me in the crowd.  One day I’ll have to share with you how he almost lost me in a crowd of 300,000 people in the Charles River “Esplanade” (… seriously, it’s a park people!) in Boston, Massachusetts.  Back to the story. 

With my arms full I unloaded my treasures into his capable hands and eyed a table that had plastic bags.  Grateful for the find I went back on my hunt, but this time it was for Sarah’s booth.   

I would zero in on my target … but the pastry table jumped into my path.  Well there was no way avoiding it, so I asked hubby to see what he could scout out for us while I talked to Sarah. 

When I reached her display table there were only a few people browsing to see what it was, but no one was really talking to her.  Surely this was a sign from God.  There was another woman behind the table assisting Sarah and it was she I approached for permission to speak with Miss Liu, not knowing how much English Sarah understood. 

We weren’t one minute into the conversation when Sarah and I made eye contact.  I introduced myself and rattled off a few questions that I felt would help her feel more comfortable to open up to me.  Fifteen minutes later the break was almost over and the area was practically empty.  Not wanting to miss another speaker I left her company with a free CD of her journey, her phone number, email and address.   

Anyone Hungry? 

It was lunch time and we were given the option of eating in their cafeteria or dining out in the town.  Having checked out their menu there wasn’t anything vegetarian I could munch on to tide me over until dinner, so we would need to fend for ourselves. 

Before we left I told my husband I felt I needed to talk to Sarah once more, so we made our way back to her booth.  When I got to her table no one was there, not even Sarah. I thought I had missed her. 

As I turned around I saw her at another booth eating lunch and chatting with the attendees at that booth.  She wasn't sitting down but sort of balancing her plate while talking.
Sarah saw me and came back to the table where we talked again for a short time.  Neither one of us having time for a long drawn out conversation, our questions were to the point and quick. 

I picked up one of her books; it was actually her second book entitled “Sarah’s Journey of Faith” and told Sarah that I wanted to share her story in an article if she would let me.  A few details were worked out and while saying our farewells I started to ask for a photo of us together. Something stopped me and I felt in my spirit it wouldn’t be safe for her.  

Holy Hugs 

Handing Sarah my information our meeting had come to an end.  Being a natural hugger, I scooped her in my arms and squeezed Sarah as if she was my own sister, not wanting to let her go. This really isn’t something that I should have done understanding her native culture (in China it is forbidden for people to touch showing emotion), but as a Christian it is also my spiritual nature to give a Holy hug to my family in the Lord. 

With my arms wrapped around her tiny frame I wondered if I was hurting her, and if my embrace covered a body scarred from the torture she received.  Sarah gladly accepted my hug and responded with the Light of Jesus in her smile.  Right then her life’s story flashed before my eyes and I could feel the spirit of God on her with tremendous favor. 

from Sarah's Trail of Blood video
During her six years in prison, Sarah has spoken of the favor she received from God, those of “The Way” (the Body of Christ) and unbelievers (even in prison).  Her testimony is one of a person who has learned to forgive those who persecuted her, just as Jesus did on the cross.

Her life verse for those times was to recite what Jesus said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (from Luke 23:34) 

Although at the time of her first imprisonment she was a new Christian, Sarah was a beacon of light in sharing the message of Jesus, the Cross and Salvation to the people of China.  Her testimony is more than the story of a woman who had been beaten, tortured and persecuted because of her faith in Jesus.  It is a model of how the church should be living in this world if others are to believe what we tell them we believe. 

When people see or hear Sarah, they know she is the real deal, because nothing she does is about her.  Every word she shares is that we are to be the voice of Jesus in this world, just as she is a voice for the unvoiced Christians in prison. 

“Christ” - mas Lights 

People constantly pump Sarah with questions about what it was like to be in prison or in a labor camp at such a young age.  They ask how she was treated … what is it like in the underground church … why didn’t you have a Bible of your own … or what did the Chinese government really do to you physically? etc…   

I could read about those things; instead I asked Sarah what she really wanted us to know.  “The cross … it’s all about the cross of Jesus." she declared.

Sarah talks about the privilege of taking up her cross and following Jesus, because of what Jesus did for her.   

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38 NKJV) 

When things got rough, she prayed. When situations got tough, Sarah fasted and prayed even though she was practically starving. She believed in the power of the Holy Spirit for favor in each situation. 

(Christ the Power and Wisdom of God) “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) 

She remembered what the Bible says according to 2 Timothy 3:12, when the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians, “… all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 

Her faith to literally believe in the promises of God allowed tremendous favor to open doors that no man could close. 

In my heart I’ve known Sarah for almost twenty years even though we met in 2015. I love this woman not because of her strength in surviving such terrible treatment, but because through that tragedy she has remained the brightest light for Jesus among a string of believers no matter where she was placed.  That is still true to this day. 

Strings of Lights at Christmas 

While hanging our holiday lights I pictured each bulb as one believer.  On that strand Sarah shined the brightest.  I thought about the kinds of Christmas lights that are designed to stay lit even if others didn’t.  Then I asked myself this question (actually it was prompting from the Holy Spirit): 

“If your (meaning myself) light isn’t shining, will the rest go out around you?” How effective have you been in shining the Light of Jesus to a dark world? 

While in prison Sarah wasn’t the only Light of Jesus in those labor camps, yet people relied on her staying strong and bright.  She led the way for others and was the beacon of hope for those around her who needed to survive as well.  

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world …” (Philippians 2:14-15 NKJV) 

She did not B.A.R. hop (as we learned means becoming bitter, angry and resentful Christians) due to circumstances, but stayed “lit” as in energized with power from the Holy Spirit to walk out her journey of faith. 

When Sarah was released from prison she immediately returned to preaching the gospel, which should have landed her right back in prison if it weren’t for one thing.  Sarah found favor and was chosen to be the one who would “go and tell” the message of the persecuted church. She would be their voice and share what the Body of Christ needed to do by faith. Her missionary journey made way for her to escape to America, knowing she could not return to China and to her family. 

It is time for the Light of Jesus in this world to become brighter than ever, by being united strings of light to a lost and dark world.  When one string of lights is connected to another what happens? It makes the area even brighter; darkness has to run and hide.  

Imagine the Body of Christ as a humongous string of Christmas lights that connects from one end of the universe to the other. How much light would it take to overpower darkness?  

What if there was only one string of lights … what if you were the only light lit on that strand?  Would the Light of Jesus in you be strong enough to make a difference? 

What if there were fifty lights on that strand representing fifty believers and the one light that wasn’t lit was you?  How would that make you feel?   

We may be the lights on the “string”, but it’s the cord of faith in Jesus that ties us together and the power of the Holy Spirit makes us shine for Him. 

“For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of Light.” (Ephesians 5:8 NKJV)  

This Week’s Challenge:
Be a “Christ” - mas Light  

Sarah’s story isn’t a message to make believer’s feel ashamed or bad, but to bring awareness that being persecuted for your faith is happening to your own family in Christ.  Her testimony is also to let persecuted Christians know they are not alone when it comes to standing up for what we believe. 

Our challenge this week is really one for the heart.  I’d like you to seriously look at a string of Christmas lights.  If it’s not the time you celebrate Christmas or even if you don’t celebrate it at all, somewhere locate Christmas lights for you to examine. 

Take a good look at each bulb.  Notice its uniqueness, brightness and function. Think of every bulb representing an individual in the Body of Christ. 

Where are you on that strand?  Are you on an end leading the others?  Perhaps you are in the middle as an encourager to those around you?  Has your life shined for Jesus by remaining a Light for Him or has it gone dark amongst the Lights around you? 

Let us be a Light for Jesus not only at Christmas, but throughout the entire year.  Like Sarah, she focused on what Jesus did when He found Himself in undesirable situations. She concentrated on His love for her, and that gave her strength to endure when she felt like she could bear no more.

I Gotta Know … 

You may ask why I waited to share this story now at Christmas time.  It is my desire that you never look at Christmas in the same “light” again after reading this. 

While Sarah was in labor prison camps her duties required her to make Christmas lights for America.  Could the very strings of Christmas lights you have hanging on your trees, around your property and home be one that came from her very hands? 

Sarah is free, but there are thousands of persecuted Christian’s in prison camps all over the world still assembling more strings of Christmas lights.  Don’t get mad and abandon putting up lights. Instead, put up more to remind yourself of what it cost a Christian that made them. 

As you celebrate the birth and life of our Savior, please be mindful there are “Christ” – mas Lights shining bright behind physical bars.   

“For so the Lord has commanded us:
I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be
for salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:37 NKJV)  

Let your “CHRIST” – mas Light shine in the darkness! 

Be sure to read the rest of my story with Sarah on Favored Reviews, as I share more about Sarah’s Journey of Faith and her book. 

Merry Christmas Everyone!
If this article has encouraged or helped you please consider sharing it by using the social media icons provided at the end of this post. 
Until next time, Christmas favor came to Earth through Jesus! 

“My favor cannot be imprisoned.”
Jesus Christ 

Note: The words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.
Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

What’s New This Week: Click on book or link.
From Water to Fire: The Prison Years
by Sarah Liu 

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Maybe you don’t know the Living God that I know, but would like to have this kind of favor in your life also.  Click on the above tab “Tell Me” for more information on becoming a child of the Savior.

Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy. 
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Bible Gateway
Image credit: Google Images or Dreamstime Creative Common License if not specified.
Image:  Nativity Lights at Rhema Bible College  Cross  Christmas Lights Amazon
Disclaimer Notes: Results may vary due to lack of belief.