Consumer TO Contributor

The first excerpt that follows is from the Limitless life book by Derwin L Gray. This is week four in my Bible study and this excerpt got my attention and motivated me to write this post.

Consumerism is an enemy that acts like acid. It eats away at everything it touches. Consumerism is fueled by an epidemic in America called “the Empty Self,” a term coined by psychologist Philip Cushman, PhD, of the California School of Professional Psychology.1 Our tendency for excessive consumption is fed by a void we feel, a hole that we are trying desperately to fill with stuff. Let me share with you four characteristics of “the Empty Self” from J. P. Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle.2

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Empty Self : Is Infantile
Seeks to be made happy by food, entertainment and consumer goods.

Introspection time. I thought I no longer was a consumer. Why? Well I gave up my excessive shopping habits a long time ago. The pictures above are a little insight as to where my money goes. That is where my heart is, for the rural orphaned children in my hometown (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa).

I willing give money to this project and where ever else it is needed. Friends need only tell me that they are in financial difficulties and I will help. I support my brother by paying for his studies and living expenses. As well as support my mum who is unemployed so I cover her living expenses. If I see someone on the street begging… I will open up my wallet and give. Tithing at church is never an issue, offerings and love gifts as well. My mum has to just call and tell me about someone struggling and I ask for their bank details to make a transfer. I never say no to any service that needs to be rendered at church. I stepped up and became a leader for the children’s ministry at church, delved into other areas of ministry in service to the Lord’s kingdom. All is needed is someone to approach me and ask…

I do and say all of this without pride for I believe I am a steward of The Lord, everything I have belongs to Him, the money and my abilities to serve. I used to give before but I admit it was with resentment, not anymore with Christ at the forefront of my every action in giving.

Then I consider the other empty self characteristics and I know I still carry the LABEL : CONSUMER

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Empty Self : Is Narcissistic

Esteem admiration from others…
It’s so easy to get caught up in a Social Media Networking world. Mine is Facebook. No I don’t take selfies, no I don’t post status updates often but I regularly check this application. When I do happen to post something, I enjoy the responses from my family and friends over my pictures…like of my daughter. I’m a proud mummy or when I lost 30 kilos after my pregnancy, I kept giving updates about my successes. I never thought about it now until I read this chapter from Limitless Life that this is consumer behavior and pride was rearing it’s ugly head in this form of interaction. I realize I need to stay in check about my behavior. Why? Because it’s easy to let the devil get a stronghold in this area of my life.

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Empty Self: Is individualistic

An example of individualistic behavior is people going to a church that meets their needs. Like listening to a sermon or enjoying the worship music. Nothing wrong with that but it’s only those sermons and music things that allow them to feel better. If needs are not met, they go in search of one that fulfills their needs.

I have to admit that our church is small and dynamic as it’s an English speaking church for an international crowd who desire a place to worship…and at one point our worship team became non-existent simply because people moved back home to their countries. When a new team was formed, the music was horrific, out of tune and they kept making mistakes. Instead of being thankful for the people stepping up to volunteer to get something going, here I was being critical and cringed at every mistake made. Instead of encouraging I was belittling. Thankfully I realized this and started changing my attitude for it’s all about The Lord. Once you start becoming grateful and thanking the team for their efforts, they invest more time and effort in practicing.

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Empty Selves : Are Passive

An excerpt from Limitless Life :
People with the empty self are fixed on living their lives through the risks, challenges, and adventures of others. Perhaps this is why reality shows have taken off in popularity in recent years. The empty self is passive in the sense that he or she would rather do nothing and let life zip right by than to actually participate in life in a meaningful way.

I am not into television, I watch just one program, a cooking show every evening at 7pm. But I fallen short here too, on certain occasions where I get so involved in a show or tv series, that I follow it and get caught up in it all. Like the talent shows. Never thought about it till I read this, I hero worship people and make them idols. Ironic that one of the shows actually are labelled with the word idol. I’m referring to the “American Idol” Real eye opener for me.

To end this post, this final excerpt is appropriate.
When you signed up to follow Jesus, He branded your soul with a new label: “Contributor.” This is who you are in Christ. This is your new identity. It’s now time to walk in your divine birthright.

Praying that all in Christ will walk in this divine birthright.

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John 1:12 Verse Map

Our OBS small group tasked us with the exercise over the weekend, and well, I had fun with it until my almost three year old decided to get artistic with my paper and pen version of the verse mapping…she drew lines all over my work whilst I was looking up Bible verses.

Verse mapping entails the following…You simply dissect the verse, words pop out at you that make you consider other verses. You expound on it by looking up the verses. You scribble, you use colors, you bolden words…or you can just do it like me with visual aids of photos instead of the pen and paper version. So for this week’s verse here is my take on it.

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BELIEF (first word expounded) is…FAITH in ACTION
This verse sticks out when it comes to expounding on FAITH…
Directed to doubting Thomas
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have BELIEVED; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have BELIEVED.” John 20:29

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ACCEPT (second word expounded)… receiving something. In this case it’s Christ’s gift of Salvation.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

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RIGHT (third word expounded)…
The verse that follows reinforces everything mapped above…grace, salvation through Christ and us being accepted into the family of God.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5

What a blessing to be chosen in advance…ironic isn’t it… my mapping this verse shows that God has mapped each and everyone of our lives…ultimate destination…into the family of God.

Damaged Goods TO Trophy of Grace

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I still vividly remember the night I fell down on my knees, my hands clasped together in prayer, my face awash with tears asking, pleading, downright begging God to remove me from the situation I was in. I can’t remember the words I said but I do remember the feelings that coursed through my body. Feelings of helplessness, fear, hurt…the searing pain that wants you to end it all… to be released from the agony of suffering. Label : DAMAGED GOODS

I believe God had brought me to that point of complete helplessness. A place where there was no one else I could turn to, except Him.

I could blame the dreary circumstances of my life that I had no control over…

– living in a country where you are made to feel inferior simply because of the color of your skin
– comparing myself with others and never quite fitting in because my parents couldn’t buy us stuff simply because they could never afford it.

But that would be a lie…the mess that brought me to my knees in prayer was caused by the circumstances I created. What we lacked in material stuff my parents made up for it by showering us with love. I sat under the Word and attended church and I knew right from wrong, yet it was I who chose to rebel. I who chose to seek comfort in the world. However, I have to admit that I never completely understood the gospel. (I never understood the grace concept and having a relationship with God. Instead it was religion: just following the rules and I was tired of being good).

Still in my teens and freshly out of school.

I decided to have many boyfriends.
I decided to go clubbing every weekend.
I decided to experiment and consume far too much alcohol.
I decided to smoke weed that one time (thankfully I never got hooked on the stuff).
I decided to pierce my tongue, my lower lip…my belly button. (It was like creating the new me)

I simply wanted to fit in with the ‘in crowd’ to be noticed, to be accepted. A feeling of just belonging…

If that was not messy enough, I ended up introducing one of the loser boyfriends to my family. My life changed drastically one night when he arrived drunk and found out he wasn’t the only guy in my life. In my room, he fired a single bullet to his chest. I didn’t even know he owned a fire arm. He survived and I was so riddled with guilt because he had no one… his mum had died a couple of months before we met… he lived alone, so I moved in and lived with him after he came out of the hospital. I was shackled in a loveless relationship, blaming myself for his actions. I later realized that I was not the reason for him shooting himself…I simply was a trigger that set off all of his many other issues. He still drank excessively, acted like a moron whilst I paid the bills and kept that home running. Young, stupid mistake…I decided to leave, and move on especially after the loss of my dad was far too much to bear. I remembered him calling one night and saying he would shoot himself again. I was so fed up, my reply was, “this time please do it right or I will do it for you”. He never did make a second attempt…he just wanted to see if I would return as he was manipulating the whole relationship from the start.

You would think that I would have learnt a lesson, but no, Sabrina was now making up for lost time and so the dating continued, the partying and drinking.

Till I got hooked up with loser number two. His mum was running a drug business. He was contributing to it by helping her, yet I moved in with him. They seemed like normal everyday people but behind the scenes, peoples lives were being ruined at their hands, yet I chose to ignore it. Eventually we had a fallout, and it was exactly before a drug bust that resulted in his mum and her dealers being imprisioned.

During the time I stayed with him, I continued to work my normal job, live my life but that job too was falling apart. The company business was closing down, they soon would be bankrupt and I hadn’t been paid for months. My life was in absolute shambles. I was broke, back home with my mum…it was an awful depressive time…this is when I fell to my knees and turned to God…

I felt like the Samaritan woman at the well. Scarred, used, and an outcast, desperately needing love…a gift of living water!

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However trophy moments were around the corner. My sister was praying for me, she sent out my CV and I got a job in Johannesburg. She took me in, took me back to church and my life started improving. I then met my husband… we married, we moved to Germany and now there is happiness.

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Boy, was this a hard post…got through it and thankful for The Lord intervening and watching over me whilst I meddled in the world and messed around with all the wrong people. Things could have gone so wrong, I could have been shot by loser number 1 or I could have been in jail because of loser number 2. I call them losers but the truth of it all, I was the biggest loser, till Christ took my damaged life and transformed it. I was a trophy all along in His grace filled eyes.

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Mess to Masterpiece

Chapter three opens with Chiens story, one toxic mess…and so I decided to share my own story…

Here is an extract from the Limitless Life, a book by Derwin Gray that prompted me to write this post about messes…

According to the Jesus Story, God was there and was using Chien’s messy circumstances to draw Chien to Himself. Every ounce of fear, pain, and brokenness Chien experienced, Jesus experienced too—on the cross. All pain, all hopelessness, and all suffering for all time for every person was absorbed into Jesus at Calvary. No wonder Jesus said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).

I’m South African. If you are unfamiliar with the struggles of my country then let me give you a short description. I lived during the apartheid era. Where non whites were oppressed and made to feel anything but worthy. The label : INFERIOR was carved deep into my soul most of my life…but I now see clearly that all my circumstances allowed me to be moulded into God’s Master piece. I was clay in the Potters hands, each circumstance created a dent in me but the end result is priceless.

I’m of Indian descent. My great grandfather and his family were enslaved and shipped over to South Africa to work in the sugar cane plantations. They lived in extreme poverty, working for a pittance. All the basic human necessities that we live with now were absent. My mother had to carry water over long distances from a river to provide drinking water as well as the other uses for bathing and cleaning. Electricity was not running through their mud huts. Her life was hard, she didn’t have the fanciness of choosing a dress or shoes for the day. Having a dress that was not worn out and having your feet shod with shoes meant you had more than enough. To make matters worse the money that her dad earned was spent on alcohol and he abused my grandmother. My mum escaped the madness and fled…ended up working as a maid for good people who took her in and considered her their daughter. They also arranged her marriage to my father. (Yes, traditional Indian customs of arranged marriages were carried over to South Africa)

My three siblings and I are the products of that marriage union. We lived under better circumstances than my mother. My father worked hard and provided for his family. Our house was small but in Africa it’s a palace in comparison to what others live in. We lived in the designated Indian areas. I attended an all Indian school and we conformed to the white government ruling. Unlike the black population we followed Mahatma Gandhi’s “Satyagraha” passive resistance movement. This movement evolved in my hometown Pietermaritzburg before I was born and I am grateful for it. Indians fought but it was all done in non violence…a fight to block discriminatory legislation by the Natal Parliament which sought to disenfranchise Indians. Gandhi made huge changes with the ‘truth force’ by simply marching through restricted areas and getting arrested thereby flooding prisons and going on work strikes. After General Smuts finally approved certain laws that at least gave us some standing, we became a peaceful community once again. However we still eked out an existence in silence, straining under the burden of an oppressive government.

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I hated it… all the crime, constantly living I fear. We were never allowed to leave the confines of our homes and walk freely through streets. You were always looking over your shoulder. Why? Because you could get raped and murdered and then be dumped in a bush somewhere. You could die from someone trying to steal your bread money on your way to the supermarket. We walked together in numbers, whether it was to school and back. We kept dogs, not as pets but as body guards. We had burglar guards over our windows and doors, in actuality, we made our homes prisons. Crime escalated to such an extent, you actually became immune to stories of hijackings, rape cases, break in’s. It became the norm…

I remember my life as a kid…it was always hand me downs from my sisters. We rarely got anything new. When my dad got his bonus at year end that’s when we got something pretty to wear, instead of presents under a Christmas tree. I also remember times of hardship especially when my fathers terminal polycystic kidneys had him on early retirement. Life got hard, putting a meal on the table was difficult. However I remember my mum, when in excess she gave stuff away to others in need. We always had our homes filled with family (even her mother and abusive father). We didn’t need to have a guest room, a knock on the door and my mum would take them in and put out a bed anywhere. We had them sleeping on floors in our tiny bedrooms. You never questioned it being any other way, you just accepted it.

My life is riddled with so many struggles where toxic feelings emerged. Bitterness, hatred, anger, feelings of inadequacy that I never amount to anything and that this was my plight in life…life became messy! I never felt “good enough”. I never had nice clothes. I was always comparing myself with others. However I was always reminded that someone else had it worse and to stop feeling sorry for myself. Even if my school shoes started to wear out from use and were getting holes…I had to make it last till the year was out. It didn’t matter if my school uniform was discolored as it was second hand or hand me downs from my sisters, you had to make it last. No fancy clothes and wearing the latest styles…if you could afford it, well good for you, if you didn’t, like my family, you just got what was needed. If you complained, you were reminded that in comparison to your parents, you had it so good so keep quiet and stop sulking. The one constant was my mum making sure we attended church. Irrespective of what was happening at home, we got dressed and sat under the Word.

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I still carried those toxic feelings through my schooling and later when I started working. Things got whole lot worse from my own mistakes after that and the circumstances I created, trying to get accepted by joining the wrong crowd of people and trying to make up for the lack when growing up.

When I was at my lowest I cried to God and he met me at my point of need. I was financially struggling and the relationships I made were keeping me in shackles. I met my husband after leaving Pietermaritzburg and starting a job in Johannesburg. Falling in love and being accepted with no color barriers was truly amazing especially in a country where you are shunned and it was taboo to engage in inter-racial relationships. Moving here to Germany and living in a predominantly white community…still amazes me sometimes.

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Another extract….from Limitless Life

So, where is God in the midst of this messy world that messes up our lives? He is orchestrating His universe with wisdom and care, not from a remote planet, but right next to us, suffering as we suffer. He is bringing about His purposes through the decisions we make and through every circumstance.

I have stopped being selfish and feeling sorry for myself. I support my siblings in need, my mum after my dad died and other family members. I also support the struggling communities back in my hometown. I could buy stylish clothes and shoes and follow the latest fashion trends (which is what I so wanted when I was growing up and I admit I did do it for a while) but now I rather invest it wisely after all everything belongs to The Lord. My life taught me to help others with their messy lives.

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Pictures from above were from the birthday celebration of my daughter Leah. There was no birthday party last year for her…the monies were sent to Pietermaritzburg to help with the projects. I never had a birthday party as my parents couldn’t afford it. I pray that when she comes to an age of understanding that she decides she wants to have it done this way every year.

To wrap it up I’m in total agreement with what Derwin says…there are no surprises with God…He knew where and what needed to happen in my life to get me to this point. I had to walk through the many messes to get to where I am now. I encourage you sister in The Lord to use your life’s messes to bring Him glory!

Changed & Transformed

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Wendy Blight…the author of “Living so that…” is a Bible study that I am currently doing. She is taking me on a deep spiritual journey where the Word is saturating my being. The information that I am receiving and the spiritual insight obtained from the Word are precious little nuggets of gold that I am using to fill up my spiritual bank account.

I am in a happy place…and communicating with my Heavenly Father on a daily basis. Not out of duty, but simply because I want to know Him better. Every week the study takes us through different #so that’s’

Chapter 1: Jesus came so that…
Chapter 2: God spoke so that…
Chapter 3: Praying so that….

Each week there is a memory verse. I remember as youth I was required to memorise Bible verses and I fell out of the habit when I grew older and life consumed the place of a God….His Word. I love that I am back in a place where I am doing it again. The difference then and now…is that I crave to do it. I desire the scripture and see it for what it is, an absolute necessity…it is nourishment for my soul. Man cannot live on bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of a God.

During these three weeks…I have not only been reading a lot of scripture and when I mean a lot…it definitely is a lot. It’s a Study that requires you to be in the Bible constantly…referencing and cross referencing as well as a whole lot of introspection.   I am getting convicted by the a Word and I am making changes and praying that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide me always.

I am blogging…simply because the study has a blog hop each week and I want to be an active participant. I missed the last two weeks. 😦 Not a writer but I wanted to blog it so that I can mark some of the learning tools that I am using and in doing so show how I have incorporated these tools in my life.

For example making personalized encouragement Bible verses boxes for three of the ladies who assist me with children’s ministry. I have enjoyed personalizing those verses with their names, cutting and folding them and placing them in the boxes. Whilst doing it, praying for each one individually. I loved going through their Facebook pictures and finding a pic that I really like that showed their true beauty so that I could print it out and attach it the the boxes as well as writing them a note at the back of it as to what they mean to me. Encouragement…we all need that…I need it too and therefore I loved this idea so much. This Friday at a dinner invite that I made to all of them, I will be passing it on.

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The other tool was prayer triggers. This is amazing…I asked two of my friends to pass me something they liked so every time I saw it I could bring them to remembrance and pray for them. This I have already applied and it is working beautifully.One of these friends loves nature, trees and plants. The weather here in Germany is getting better, trees blossoming with life and it is the perfect trigger to keep her in prayer. In my apartment, added a pot plant to the kitchen window sill to remind me of her when I am not outdoors.

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We are only half way through this study but I see the transformation occurring in my life. Approaching the Word and praying is to get closer to God. Jesus came and made this possible. I can boldly enter the throne room of grace and ask…but also come through with an attitude of humbleness and thankfulness. Wow…do you ever think about that…that you can just step into God’s presence and make your needs known? Do you understand the gravity of what you are doing? It blows me away…just pondering on that thought alone.

Change is happening and for the better. I am embracing the new me…the Christ in me and for those who are reading this, I challenge you to do the same. Get out of your comfort zone. There is power that you have free access to, the very same power that raised Christ from the dead, use it!

Your sister in Christ
Sabrina

My Testimony

  I’m “Saved”…for those who are not part of the body of Christ…here follows a description.

I have accepted that Jesus Christ died on the cross, taking on my sins and redeeming me to God. I have undergone water baptism and I am now a new creation in Christ which means I now have the gift of eternal life. I firmly believe the Bible and what it says “that there is no other way but through Christ” that one can be saved and entitled to eternal life.

A short back ground of my life. I married Alexander and moved to Germany five years ago…he is not saved. We struggled in the beginning of our relationship…in that it was hard for me to follow the biblical principles that say a wife should submit to her husband especially when his belief system was inclined very much towards atheism. After a year of fighting and reasoning with my husband, the futility of it all dawned on me and I became a praying wife instead.

In that time God was faithful…blessing me in everything…financially stable, conceiving after trying for more than two years. I saw the power of prayer, whenever I need something I was down on my knees and would get everyone to pray for me as well. I make my needs known for the church doesn’t look down on you…pity you but rather they encourage and build you up and offer you up in prayer. The results are astounding. Trying to conceive the second time proved difficult and this is when I turned to the power of prayer yet again. Last year as the festive season was upon us, I got a positive on a pregnancy test. Everything was perfect…I felt blessed beyond measure. However Christ’s words ring in my head “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” My one prayer request was still unanswered, “Lord when will Alex come to you?” and I knew that I had to wait…five years of praying and enduring problems that come up when your husband is not a believer can wear you down at times but as Paul said ‘perservere’…little did I know that my answer to prayer would come in a distressing situation.

When 2014 arrived…I decided it was time to buckle down and get closer to God that meant getting into the Word of God. I signed up for online Bible courses through WBS (World Bible School) as a two year old does not give me the opportunity to attend bible studies in the evenings that is offered through the church I attend. Also a friend via Facebook contacted me…she had cancer and wanted me to include her in prayer and I did every day. Little did I know that God was passing me the support structure to face a cancer mountain that would come my way.

You hear about cancer…you pray for others with it…but it’s completely different when it comes home, when it’s right in your face endangering the life of your husband. Alex got diagnosed with cancer. At first I broke down as I watched my husband undergo painful tests in an attempt to find out what it was, where it spread and how bad it was. Unable to eat, in less than a month he became nothing but skin and bones. I watched him tear up in the early hours of the morning when the pain was too much to bear even with strong pain killers and we had to call on the ambulance services to rush him to the hospital. I felt my world crumbling…pregnant, stressed out and unable to stop crying.

Shortly after that when worrying accomplished nothing and when left alone with your thoughts, it wreaks nothing but havoc and leaves you sleepless, tired and all run out of energy. I then contacted believing friends and family to ask them to pray for me.

I prayed more for Alex’s salvation (and many other rallied with me in prayer here as well) than that of his physical well being for I know that we are all appointed once to die and then the judgment and I wanted Alex to be saved before he met our Maker.

My friend who has cancer and undergoing chemo (whom I was praying for started encouraging me and praying with me). She sent me a message that blew me away and I quote her here…“Cancer is just a name my friend…it shall bow down to Jesus. Please note that even though people mean well, u guys don’t need sympathy & pity. Prayer is d most powerful weapon together with ur faith. Lets win this war. Victory is ours Amen!”

At that moment, I pulled myself together…the tears stopped and the peace of God that passes all understanding took over. I became a warrior and was not interested in getting in contact with people that was going to say ‘Oh I am sorry’…I ignored messages from everyone and focused on responding to believers who were praying for me. My inbox was then flooded with encouraging bible messages and prayer spread like wild fire all over the world. Brothers and sisters in the Lord put forward my prayer request to the churches they were attending. (From Africa to Europe across to Asia, the US and Britain prayers were being offered on our behalf to the Lord).

I visited Alex at the hospital and was quite clear in that he needed to reconsider what I have been telling him over the years…that his atheistic beliefs was nonsense and that Christ was waiting. A few days later he was discharged. He came home (this was two days before surgery was scheduled) and told me that he was ready for the Lord. I felt like dancing even though we had cancer in our lives. I couldn’t get near him that evening due to all the radiation fluid he had to consume for one of his many tests. The next day we said the sinners prayer and I read to him the bible verse from John 3:16…For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whoever believes him will not perish but have eternal life” I was then able to hold him and it was good to see the relief in his eyes through the tears.

The WBS online courses encouraged me so much, the lessons carried me through, instead of sitting and worrying, I was eating up the word of God and getting stronger. The lessons with regards to praying without fear and without doubt moved me and I knew that Alex had already won the battle right then and there. I was singing worship songs and rejoicing already.

Alex underwent surgery last week Wednesday. He told me the night before, there was no stress, no worry, just peace and I knew that Christ was already working in him. Wednesday after 8,5 hours of operating time…a difficult but successful procedure (all tumors gone), my husband has been cleared of cancer. The surgeons laser treated him during the operation and they are so confident that they have it all that no further treatment is required.

This is the power of God…I serve an awesome God, one that will never leave nor forsake me. I now await news of my friend and how she too will be a conqueror through Jesus Christ. I look forward to seeing her testimony soon as this is what is required of us Christians, giving God all the glory.

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