The moment God can’t wait to show me

Do you ever daydream about what it will be like to meet Jesus face to face? About what he’ll look like, and how you’ll react, and how you’ll feel?

Sometimes I do.

Do you think God does? I mean, does he imagine what it will be like to meet me?

I found myself pondering this question the other day, and what I got out of it is gold. Full of creative license, yes, but I still think true to God’s character, and therefore gold.happy-boy-1434104

See, God doesn’t have to imagine it. He’s outside time, so he can see it. He can visit that moment whenever he wants, and you know what? I bet he absolutely cannot wait to show it to me.

I mean, God knows me. He knows me inside out, but I bet he’s just chafing at the bit for me to know him. I reckon he’s like a parent, who just bought the most epic present for their kid, and who can’t wait to see their face on Christmas morning.

I think it fills him with the most bubbling joy. Just even the thought of how, in that moment, all my pain and sadness and the weight of this life will suddenly be blown away and that I, with one look into his face, will be consumed with the deepest fulfillment and most tremendous joy just because I’m meeting him… I think he gets the biggest kick out of that.

I bet he can’t wait to show it to me.

What is the key to a successful ministry?

walk-of-fame-star_23-2147513560When we ask ourselves this question, we often ask it in the context of a success and fame driven world. While as Christians, we may not be wondering ‘how can I be great,’ but we often as not are wondering ‘how can my ministry be successful?’ or ‘How can I do great things for God?’

I’m not sure these are bad questions to ask, but as I was praying through this recently for my own life, I sensed God give me clarity on how to achieve success: I need to redefine the goal.

In my life, God must be the prize, not ministry success. The goal is to seek Him more; love Him more; find more joy in Him.

As I pursue God, I may find that he uses me for some great, joyous purpose. He may give me what the world defines as ‘success,’ but if He doesn’t? Who cares? I’ve already attained the greatest treasure.

Run the race so as to attain the prize, but don’t forget that He is the prize.

So… I wrote a book.

UntitledSome of you have been faithful followers of my blog for a couple of years now, and you may have noticed that my posts have become a bit less frequent over the last year.

It’s because I was writing a book.

It has been my absolute privilege to have co-authored the book PURE LOVE – Pursuing Purity in a Sex-Obsessed World with my senior pastor, Timon Bengtson.

We are so excited to be able to present the Christian community with this resource that takes an honest, biblical look at many aspects of our sexuality and that calls Christians to a radical standard of purity.

As a high school teacher I am so passionate about helping to inspire and equip the next generations to live out their calling to not only glorify God with their bodies, but also to be freed from the enslavement of sexual sin to discover the joy-filled life that God has for them.12071576_10153360242288143_1168645822_n

If you live in Australia and would like me to personally post you a (signed or unsigned) copy of the book, I can do so for AU$20.30.

If you live overseas and would like a copy, you can purchase it on Amazon or Book Depository or download it from Kindle.

Would love to hear from any of you who would like to read it or have already read it!

God bless you as you seek to exalt Him in all areas of your lives.

Love Sarah

The Gift of Death

The gift of death is, paradoxically, the gift of life.

One of my beautiful students asked me the other day, why God would create such beautiful people, only to let them die.

garden_of_edenIt’s a fair question, but it’s one limited by lack of information, because if we understand the fullness of the Bible, we can understand the gift of death.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were free to eat from the Tree of Life. They were going to live forever in the bliss and beauty of what God had created.

The right to eat from the Tree of Life was only taken from them after they sinned. Because living forever under the curse of sin was never God’s plan for anyone.

Adam and Eve both died a physical death, but it was not a tragic one. Physical death was one of the gifts that God gave them, along with the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son, in order for them to enter into eternal life.

Death can be a great tragedy, but only when it takes a person who refuses to accept God’s gift of life. For those who have life, it is the beautiful gateway out of an existence marred by sin.

Why did God require such strange things to be offered to Him?

straws--straw_19-126743I was reading the other day in the Old Testament about some of the offerings the Israelites were required to bring before God. Not just animals, but bread and olive oil and incense and all sorts of seemingly trivial things. I found myself wondering: ‘Why on earth did God want them to bring bread with olive oil?’

I’m sure there’s a deep theological answer about its significance and symbolism, but just as I was pondering it I was suddenly hit by something profound: it’s not that hard to make bread.

God had many reasons for instituting the sacrificial system. The minute details that had to be executed with perfection emphasized God’s holiness, but I also found within his decrees an amazing degree of grace. His requirements were detailed, but they were all doable.

It didn’t require great skill or wisdom. You didn’t have to be the smartest or the bravest, you just had to obey and be faithful.

God could have required his followers to scale the highest mountain or walk through fire to demonstrate their devotion to Him, but he’s not that kind of God.

He’s the kind of God who sees that we are dust, but wants us anyway. He does not require more than we can give, and He sacrificed himself because He knew that the blood of bulls and goats would never be enough.

He is full of grace, right down to the bread and oil.

As if you yourselves were suffering

1623617_10152579606750590_2673355775065316097_nThe world has been looking on in horror at the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq.

The blatant arrogance of IS has shocked us as they’ve flaunted their brutality through the media.

As Christians we can feel helpless. We want to show our support, but beyond changing our profile pictures to the ‘N’ symbol, or donating money to humanitarian aid, there’s little we can do. Except pray. We can pray.

Times like this remind me of Hebrews 13:3, a verse that never fails to challenge me.

“Continue to remember those in prison [for the sake of Jesus] as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

We should be praying for them, as if it were us suffering along with them. As if we were there. Suddenly my sense of urgency increases.

It can be hard to know what to pray, but a friend of mine the other day prayed something that really struck me. We can (and should) pray for these horrors to stop; for the Christians’ safety and protection, but we can also pray for something else:

That they would stand strong to the end, and that they would die with honour, in a way befitting their Lord. That they would glorify their Redeemer in their last breath, confident that they will pass straight into His presence.

Rubbish Christians Post on Facebook

UntitledI came across this the other day. I honestly can’t remember who posted it, (if it was you, I’m sorry) and I have no doubt the person meant well, but I really believe this stuff has got to stop.

It seems that Christians get far too caught up in liking and re-posting things that sound good, with little thought to whether or not they are true. Under the illusion that we are making a stand for what we believe in, we find ourselves merely propagating the idea that our faith is a house of straw that will be blown down with the first winds of reason.

As Christians, we are in possession of the greatest, deepest and purest redemptive truth the world has ever seen, and yet somehow we manage to reduce it to this sickening fluff.

How is it that the epic triumph of Jesus over evil can become glorified chain mail with a caricature devil and a spiritualised guilt trip?

Before you let yourself be guilted into ‘passing it on,’ ask yourself this: Does it do our saviour justice, and is it scriptural truth?

Because I can guarantee you this, the true army of God has the Word of God as its sword, and not some feel-good anecdote.

What fault do I find in God?

318183_420720264625633_89298623_nLast week I was reading in Jeremiah and was struck by this verse in chapter 2 where God asks: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?”

I found myself asking the same question. When I stray far from God, what fault is it that I find in Him?

Is it that he’s not exciting enough? – No, He soars on the wings of the wind and consuming fire comes from his mouth.

Is it that He’s not fulfilling enough? – No, He fills the deepest parts of my soul and brings me peace.

Is it that He’s not near enough? – No, He is in me and with me during every second of the day.

I can come to only one conclusion: He is not sinful enough.

His heart does not desire what mine does. My heart desires things that He hates, and I turn my back on Him in order to pursue them.

So what charge can I hold against my God? Only this: that He is good, and my flesh revolts against it.

What I learnt at my first Passover

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Last night was Passover. The full moon shone on me as I drove across the city to the home of a man I’d never met. A friend of mine had invited me to come and share Passover with a group of her Israeli friends, and I happily accepted.

As I drove, I felt the weight of what I was about to do. I was about to participate in a ceremony that has been passed down generation after generation for thousands of years; a ceremony instituted by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a feast steeped in tradition, but not just any tradition, tradition that is close to my heart because of the people who carry it and the God who gave it.

When I arrived, I was (strangely) expecting Australians with a bit of Jewish heritage. I got Israelis. I was instantly captivated by the elegantly set table, and the babble of Hebrew language around me. They were fabulously friendly, and quickly welcomed me, an outsider, into their circle.

Close to 9pm everyone had arrived and we sat around the long table and began the Passover feast. For the first half hour, we didn’t eat. We read in Hebrew from a book (reading right to left) that fortunately had English translations. Sometimes they asked me to read it for them in English and then exclaimed in delight over and over about how good my English was and how great it sounded.

Sometimes they sang the lines in Hebrew, quite disharmoniously, and everyone would laugh and argue and say ‘stop, it’s my turn!’ It was quite clear at times that they had no idea what they were doing, but we ploughed on until finally we were allowed to eat something. First a stick of celery (bitter herbs- not sure of the connection) and then some unleavened bread with raw Chinese cabbage and a ball of what tasted like walnuts mixed with dates and spices.

After the first lot of formalities were finished (we’d passed wine, dipped wine, broken bread, hidden bread, sung and read, all with a good amount of laughter and shouting) we could finally eat the meal. There was fish in a buttery garlic sauce, and eggplant with tahini. We ate potato salad, tuna salad and green salad, and some kind of mince wrapped in onions. We ate and talked and ate and argued and eventually everyone was full. Some people went outside to smoke and others started to clean up. The rest of the ceremony was forgotten as people lay on couches and ate fruit. The rest of the ‘cups’ were never drunk, and the hidden bread was never found. And that was that.

I’m pretty sure that as far as Passovers go, mine wasn’t particularly ‘Kosher.’ But I did learn a couple of things:

First, I’d somehow always imagined that everyone in every other religion was devout. I knew it wasn’t strictly true, but I’d kind of believed that Christianity was really the only one that had multitudes of people who claimed it by name, but really had no idea what it was about.

These people were certainly Jewish. They had Jewish mothers and Israeli citizenship, but I didn’t get the impression that they really understood what they were doing. They knew I was a Christian and assumed I had been born that way and were confused when I said that my belief system was basically Jewish except that I believed that Jesus was the Messiah. I’m not convinced that some of them realized that they were waiting for a Messiah.

The second thing I learnt was that Jesus was so much more the Messiah than I’d ever realized before.
The Jews are (supposed) to drink 4 cups at Passover. The first is called the Cup of Sanctification, the second the Cup of Judgement or Deliverance the third the Cup of Redemption and the fourth, the Cup of Restoration.
When Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples, he came to the third cup and said ‘This is my blood.’ His blood was our redemption. He then said that he would no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until he drank it with his disciples in His father’s kingdom. He didn’t drink the fourth cup. Restoration was still to come.

At the beginning of the Passover ceremony, three pieces of unleavened bread are taken. The middle one is broken in two. Half is placed back between the original two, and the other half is wrapped up and hidden away somewhere in the house, for the children to find later. While this may be a somewhat strange ritual for the Jew, for the Christian the depth of the meaning is amazing. When Jesus broke the bread he said ‘This is my body.’ He is the second piece of bread between three, broken and hidden away.

My experience of Passover is limited to a rather unorthodox rendition of the feast. It didn’t have the weight of tradition and sanctity that I was expecting, but to me it was profound.

I may disagree with them on my most fundamental of beliefs, but I have a deep respect for these Jewish people, who, sometimes without even knowing it, have faithfully passed on and preserved the laws and traditions of the God who led them out of Egypt. These are the same people, and the same God, who brought forth our Messiah, so that we, irrespective of race, may be brought into the family of God. May they one day see their Saviour for who He truly is: Their Passover lamb, the broken bread and the cup of redemption.

Before you call me legalistic… do you even know what it means?

Grunge-Under-Construction-SignboardThe word ‘legalism’ seems to get thrown around in the church with alarming frequency. Having been a “good Christian girl” (heavy on the inverted commas there) all my life, I’ve certainly come under the heavy fire of legalist accusation in my time.

What really distresses me about the over-use of this word, is how drastically wrong we’ve got it. See, the majority of the time, all you’ve got to do to be called legalistic is stick your neck out as someone who actually tries to live by the teachings of the Bible.

It doesn’t take much digging to see that much of our Church culture has redefined legalism this way: “You choose to adhere more closely to what the Bible says than I do, therefore, you probably think you’re more righteous than me, therefore, you must be legalistic.”

There are plenty of issues with that way of thinking, but one of the scariest is how it’s labelled. Because legalism is actually a really big deal.

The dictionary defines it, in a theological sense, as ‘the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.’

To accuse someone of legalism is to accuse them of trying to earn their salvation apart from grace.

I’d say that’s just about the heaviest charge you can lay against a Christian, because, if it’s true, it mean’s they’re probably not a Christian at all.

So, before we throw the word around based on preferences, we should probably know what it means.