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Well spent days in Africa

The road less traveled took me to the sewage-lined streets of Diepsloot, South Africa. There I learned that loving is the new black, and that a lion lives in the heart of every brave person. Rats ran the same streets the bare-foot children did, and disease was rampant, occupying the body of virtually everyone we met. But, come to find out, these people had nothing but grace and big welcome smiles to offer us strangers. It was there, among the hungry-for-love Africans, that I found more joy than ever before.

Nearly 280,000 people live within the 1.5 to 2 mile radius we ministered in. Of these 280,000, my group of 10 planted 301 seeds, sharing the Gospel with 301 people. The angels rejoiced as a whopping 153 of them committed their lives to Jesus.

Our hand’s became the Lord’s hands as a crippled woman walked and a blind woman saw again. Our whispers became shouts as we prayed not just for all, but for each.

I sat in the dirt with countless women, each one sharing in the same struggles. Not just one or two, but all of them lived in shacks the size of a garden shed or smaller. The shacks were built from wood, scrap metal and cardboard, pieced together like a puzzle. Electricity was a mighty scarce thing. Instead, open fires took the place of stoves, and there was no such thing as a hot shower. Dishes and laundry were done in buckets with water so cold it literally stung your fingers. This is what these people called home. This is how they lived survived.

But the women, oh the strong women of Africa. There was nothing more humbling than being seated at the feet of a woman bearing the hardships one bears in Diepsloot. Holding her hand and trusting that maybe for a second she felt all the hope she’d been robbed of. Sitting together, soaked in sweat-mixed tears, audibly crying out to the Lord. And as we cried, scripture says He bent down, leaning in to hear us. I write with Precious and Privilege and Agnus in mind. Nancy, Chio, Jo Ann, Gladys, Winnie, each one paving the way to greatness.

Africa is the swing of a hand caught by another, much smaller than yours. A baby in one arm, a child on the back, one on your shoulders, two pulling on your shirt, a few on your legs — you just never knew what kind of a balancing act you were walking into.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never been gifted with kids. So here I am, swamped with an innumerable amount of children, stiffly patting them on the back, trying my hardest to show them the love they are just so deprived of. Their noses dripped and their open sores were only growing. Most had ringworm, if not something worse. In that moment my heart softened as I thought of God’s love for us. Each of us, dirty and tarnished, are beyond loved by the Lord. And although we’re all “infected” by our own kind of ringworm, He still yearns for us, quick to pick us up with His grace.

I can’t express the state my heart was in. It was truly broken in a way that taught me my heart had never actually experienced heart break. But in the same hours, I sincerely fell in love too many times to count. I went with the intentions to change the hearts of the Africans, when in reality, I was the one that left with a heart change.

“It’s hard to reconcile the challenges they face, with the joy I see in them. The images spilling out of my television showed only misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstances define happiness in places that despair should thrive. I find adults dancing and singing. Children playing soccer with a ball of tied trash. Relationships and faith provide joy. My new reality… my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart. I no longer want to need the ‘next thing’ to have joy. Africa does need our efforts and partnership, but for me, I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

So here I am, back at home, but I’m not so sure that home is a place that’ll ever be the same again.

 

 

 

 

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The Gospel Of Grace

Sometimes it feels like the minute the word “grace” comes up, people put their defenses up. People steer clear of those “Grace Preachers”. Many think that “grace and the law have to be balanced”. Another controversial topic is the topic of reigning in life, kind of tying in with grace. Satan puts obstacles around the gospel of grace, aware that when we receive grace, we begin to reign in life. The Bible says the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The Devil wants to see you at the lowest of lows, broke and broken. He doesn’t want to see us enjoying life. He doesn’t want us reigning. He strategizes how to prevent us from receiving grace and righteousness, a gift from God. Satan uses controversies as a way to surround God’s truth. Pastor Joseph Prince says, “You can always tell how powerful a truth is by the number of controversies the devil surrounds it with.” 

Jesus died on the cross, and crushed Satan. Satan has no power anymore, Satan has only lies. Same goes for the world we live in. The world doesn’t have the truth, but instead it’s filled with pretty lies on how to live life fed to us by the devil. As believers, we have the truth. But sometimes we distribute the truth in a casual fiction way. This truth is something to shout about. Glory to God for all the love He shows. Be bold, believers. Jesus is the one truth, He is the one way, and He is the only thing capable of setting us free. Present people with the real, pure truth. What good is a watered down Gospel?

When God began restoring the truth of prosperity, guards were put up once again, calling it heresy. Churches back off of prosperity teachings because they’re so controversial. Does it not matter that the Bible declared that Jesus became poor on the cross so that we might be prosperous? 

You take your sick child to a doctor. You try to get the best education for your child. So on and so forth. Don’t you do these things out of love for your child? So that they can be blessed, healthy, and live a prosperous life? Do you think that your heavenly Father would want any less for you? God blesses you not because you are good, but because He is good. We have His undeserved favor, given to us not because of our works, but because of His grace. If we were given grace based on our actions, it would no longer be undeserved favor, but it would instead be based on the system of the law. Deserved favor. There is the the old covenant of law, and a new covenant of grace. Law is deserved favor – When we obey the commandments perfectly, we’ll be blessed. GRACE is undeserved favor – Jesus obeyed God perfectly, and we’ll be blessed by believing in Him. Which covenant are you under? God made a new covenant, a covenant of grace, and for a good reason.

The Lord wants us receiving the abundance of grace, to have the abundance of grace is to have the abundance of Jesus! 

John 1:17 – For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Grace came as a person! Jesus is grace, and grace is Jesus. The Word declares that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. Grace is the truth that will set us free, not the law. If the devil can keep you under the law, he can keep you defeated. 

There is no “Prosperity Gospel”. There is one gospel, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for reading, be blessed.

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Bittersweet and Ever-Changing

I believe there’s a time in everyone’s life where we get caught up in this tangled mess of confusion, and each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once. I believe we all come to a point where we feel life and living are too much to bare, and all this urgency we have inside to make things right within ourselves becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters we’re facing. Our thoughts become jumbled and we see things more as a fog. We have to squint to see through the obscurities in our way. We have to try extra hard to see things the way they were before. Doubt corrupts our mind, tainting our views on ourselves and what we’re capable of. We can’t tell right from wrong, or what’s the end or only the beginning of a memoir. This seemingly never ending brawl within us finally gets us where it should: on our knees in surrender. This fight is good, in the way that childbirth is good, and grief is good, and defeat is good. It hurts, and it’s tough, but joy comes in the morning. (For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.) Psalm 30:5  The desperation welling up inside is longing for a hope that will ease the suffering we face in this moment, this moment of vulnerability. And in that moment, we abandon our struggles at the altar, or the bathroom floor, or wherever we put a halt to life and break down. We cry out to the ceiling, knowing what lies far beyond it. We pray for all the heavy burden to be lifted off our weak shoulders, because when compared to our Maker, we’re just these minuscule beings with little understanding of the world. Our loving King comes to our rescue just as He said He would, lifting off the weight of this world. And my friends, if you’ve not yet been caught up in a tangled mess of confusion, where each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once, don’t think for a minute that God won’t be there to deliver you. When you feel life and living is too much to bare, and all the urgency you have to make things right within yourself becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters you’re facing, break through the dark night and dance your way into the joyful morning. Don’t try and do it on your own, but rather call on your gracious Father in Heaven. Remember the life that you find hard to live hasn’t run it’s full course yet, and God has much more planned for you. Call on God to be the light that guides you through the fog of chaos. Call on God for truth to cast aside any doubts. Appreciate growing in the bitter you face, and all the while be overwhelmed by the sweetness of His love. We need some “bittersweet” in our life to grow. Sweet is great, and I think we’d all agree we want more of the sweet than we do the bitter, but bittersweet is courageous. The bittersweet in life is ultimately beautiful and valiant and bewildering. When put together it’s something much more deep and life-altering. And although we all reach these heavy-ladened times, we’re blessed with a divine God to carry us out.

Thank you, and God bless each of you.

-Sara

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The Holy Spirit

Before Christ left earth, He spoke to His disciples and said, “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement… When he, the Sprit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7-8, 13) If we imagine what that was like to the disciples, I’m sure we’d all agree they were appalled that Jesus leaving was for their own good. What could make you feel better, more encouraged and safer than having Jesus Christ psychically by your side through everything? Wouldn’t it be easier, or more enjoyable to have Jesus walking next to us rather than the seemingly ambiguous Holy Sprit dwelling inside of us? Our take on the Holy Sprit can be too miniscule. Francis Chan says, “The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church.” 

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This World Has Nothing

I had another topic in mind for this post, but I really felt God leading me to talk about worldly things. First off, when I say ‘worldly’, I mean things of this world, “stuff”, ect. This is something I’ve always struggled with, and I believe we all have at some point. It’s so easy to get caught up in society. We focus so much on what we want, want, want, rather than what we need… which is more of Jesus. 

The Bible say in 1 John 2:15-17, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

That’s a tough verse to take in, what a challenge. God wants us to want Him, not worldly things. We can gain the whole world, but if we don’t have Jesus, what do we really have? At the end of the day our salvation determines what we really have. I could have millions of dollars, live in a mansion, be famous, drive a nice car, I could have all the worldly things, but if I didn’t have Jesus, when my life came to an end, I’d have nothing but a burning pit in Hell. The world has literally nothing for us, this isn’t our home. Consider this life a test, because in a way it is. Heaven or Hell is our home, the life we live now just determines where we’ll go. We’re really here to save as many people as we can. Our main mission is to minister and witness to those without Christ, and those with as well.

Romans 12:2 tells us, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. I love this because it’s so straight forward. Don’t be conformed, but be transformed. The way I take that, is don’t let the world change you, but rather let Christ change you. As we let God change our minds and hearts, we stop craving the worldly desires like sex, alcohol, drugs, ect. We crave Jesus and not the world. 

The book of Amos is about caring for those that are poor and weak. Amos told the leaders and the rich of his time that God wasn’t pleased with their self-obsession. We can’t live immoral and greedy lives so life is comfortable for us. We’re on God’s time, we have to use the days here on earth to love, be kind, and show other’s God through ourselves. 

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

We have to walk on the edge of this world, not of it. We have to love and be God fearing. 

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Heaven or Hell

As I listened to Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath earlier, it really hit me that literally every person on this earth is going somewhere after this life. I’ve always known this, but it really smacked me in the face today. Every person I’ve ever come across, my mom, my dad, my friends, my friend’s mom and dad, my doctor, my teachers, the crossing guards, everyone you see on t.v., ect. Many of those celebrities have it all, but if they don’t have Christ, what do they really have? They have all these worldly things, but nothing waiting for them after this life other than a pit of fire. We think we have the rest of our lives to go out and witness, but we aren’t even promised a tomorrow. We hear that so much, but if you think about it, and really let that sink in, you realize we don’t have much time at all. 7 billion people, all going to Heaven or Hell. We have to reach them as soon as we get an opportunity to, because they aren’t promised a tomorrow either. It’s time to get out of our comfortable shells and go out of our comfort zone to lead someone to Jesus. Nothing in this life will matter if it isn’t about loving God and the people He has made. Not now, or ever.  It’s pretty awesome to know theres a Kingdom waiting for us all. It’s even greater to know theres a God waiting to welcome us, and pour out His love as we enter. We don’t want people to miss out on that, it’s hard to wrap my mind around people burning in Hell for an eternity because someone didn’t make sure they heard the gospel. If someone doesn’t choose Jesus, then we pray for them. That is our duty, we’re called for this. We must be His hands and feet. We have to love, we have to give, we have to witness. I pray today that we can each lead our communities, our states, our countries, our world, to Christ. That we can all convince people of His love and mercy. I pray that people realize the power of the cross, and choose to accept Jesus as their savior.

 

Thank you, God bless you. Be a witness.