Saturday, 31 March 2018

Oh Death, Where is your Sting?




I remember that morning well. We had just barely slept for a few brief hours before we were called back to see her. We were exhausted as we walked down the hospital corridors to her room. I took a deep breath, opened the door and went in...alone.

The morning sunlight danced beautifully around her room. It was quiet and soothing. I walked cautiously to the side of her bed unsure if I was ready to see her. Just two short hours before, my mom had taken her last breath. Her journey with us ended...or so it felt at the time.

Death was not new to me. In fact, death had become so commonplace in my life that I surprised myself by my reaction to this particular one. She wasn’t even my first “major” death as they call it (whoever "they" are). But this one took me on a journey.

Where exactly had she gone? She clearly wasn’t with me in the room anymore, only her vacant, warm shell remained. She still smelled like mom, still felt like mom I noted as I buried my face in her neck inhaling deeply. I noted the freckle on her jawline as I mentally tried to absorb every detail of her so as not to forget later. It was the same freckle I fell asleep looking at as she used to rock me when I was young.

But where was mom? 

My Christian upbringing told me that she was in Heaven. I never once doubted that. 

Everyone kept saying, “She’s with the Lord now.” I believed that too.

“She’s gone home,” said another. Yup. Got it.

But where was home? 

Oh Heaven, how my human brain has grappled with who you are! But as time went on, a few truths began to sink in: 

1. Heaven is not a floating destination in the clouds. It is real. It is concrete. Mom’s feet were not floating around somewhere. They were walking on the very real soil of Heaven. Although I’ve never been to Australia, I know it is real and people are doing things similar to where I live. Heaven is no different, although it is most perfect and free from sin, it is still as real as the countries of earth.

2. Heaven is not so different from here that it will be unrecognizable. There are trees and flowers, instruments and music, a climate, things to do, places to live, and people (some we know and others we do not). The same Creator who made earth also made Heaven. We will recognize many of the same features. 

3. Memories from earth are not erased in Heaven. Our minds don’t suddenly develop a sort of "earth amnesia" where everything we did here simply slips from our minds. We will know abundantly more than we do now, but we will not forget the people and memories. My mom was not present with us, but she had not ceased thinking about me.

4. I want to go there one day. Perhaps this was the greatest truth that began to sink in. Death lost its sting with the death of my mom. Heaven was no longer the scary unknown anymore, but a real place with people I love waiting for me.

5. The message of the empty tomb not only set me free from the fear of death, but made me long for the day when I enter into Heaven.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Philippians 1:21-23 ESV

Oh the glorious empty tomb! The reminder that Jesus set me free from the very fear that I had been packing. Death won’t stop me from my freedom! Sickness won’t stop me from my freedom! My own sinful nature has been washed cleaned and I am free!

One day I will have my turn. I will take my final breath this side of Heaven and step into the arms of my Saviour eternally. My feet placed on solid soil in the perfection of Heaven, where the light of God shines so brightly the sun will no longer be needed. I am here today, that much I know. But, the promise of my eternity is deeply embedded in my soul as the Holy Spirit reminds me of what is to come. I long for that day!

May you be reminded this Easter weekend, that Jesus paid the price for us to be able to enter a very real, very perfect Heaven. It is not a story of long ago and far away, it is fact pertaining to YOUR future. A future where not only Heaven will become real as you view it, but so will the embrace of God Almighty as He opens his arms and welcomes you in. 

“O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

How You can Find Stability in an Unstable World (Audio clip)


In a world of instability and inconsistency we are beginning to see the effects of what that looks like as it creeps through the doors of the Church. Many of us are feeling uneasy about the future, and church somehow doesn't quite feel "safe" anymore. We all feel it, but what can we do about it?

Instead of pointing fingers, it is time to begin to look inwards to see what we can do before our younger generations (and us too) walk away from faith in the Almighty God. 

Click here to listen to my sermon from February 24, 2018 where I address the state of the unstable Church, and how YOU can make a difference.

Links to Barna studies used in the sermon can be found here:

"Five Factors Changing Women's Relationships with Churches"

"Meet Those who 'Love Jesus, but not the Church'"

"Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z"

Love,
Sarah

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

A Powerful Prayer Prayed for You



I sat on the edge of the stage stairs overwhelmed by what I was witnessing. The presence of God in the room was so intense you could almost physically feel His hands at work. We were experiencing a revival within the community as women repented, and rededicated their lives to God declaring they were "all in" for Him. Deep emotional wounds were being healed, burdens were being laid down. 

I was one of the women who was praying for the ladies at the front of the sanctuary as they needed it. I could feel the weariness of the last few days creeping in. I allowed my legs (and eyes) a much needed break as I sat down. 

I was one of the speakers at the conference, and at the last minute God redirected my sermon to something entirely different as He needed to show up in a mighty way. And He most certainly didn’t disappoint! 

As I sat there breathing, praying, absorbing, I felt hands on my knees. I opened my eyes expecting someone requesting prayer, but instead I saw an elderly woman shuffling closer to me on her knees. Had she fallen and needed help? I was startled and not sure what to do. She climbed up close to my face and pulled me in tight, her soft grandmotherly skin pressed against my cheek. Then she began to speak...

Her sweet voice was as soft as her skin, but brewing from deep within was the strength of God’s authority as she prayed over me. She thanked God for a new generation that was rising up who would be fearless for God.

What happened next utterly ripped my world in pieces and simultaneously built it back with tenfold strength.

She gave a grand commission for my generation to take the next generation and raise them as hers had once done for us. Hers was a generation whose bodies are growing weary. She was passing the responsibilities of living boldly, and walking righteously in our faith onto a younger generation whose feet are still able to run with every step, and whose arms can still wage war on the battlefield. 

In an instant there was a passing of a baton from one tired relay runner to a fresh one ready for a sprint. Her stretch of the race was coming to a close and she prayed for us as we grab the baton to run the next stretch before we too pass the baton sometime down the road.

This is the time my friends. The sermon God replaced my meager portion with was one of an “all in” type of a cry to his people. 

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 
(Joshua 24:14-15 emphasis mine)

Choose this day, whom you will serve. The gods of the world, of the one and only Yahweh.

The commission I received was not just for me, it was for all of you. There is a world outside our doors hungry for a message of hope. A generation younger than yours who is desperate to see what faith in action in looks like. Our children are watching intently to see how we will respond and carry ourselves if we say we have Christ in our lives. There is little room for error, and the stakes are high. Eternity is a long time to pay for the mistakes of not getting it right.

Whether you have children or not, it is up to us as the Church to walk beside a younger generation and strengthen them as they find their footing within God’s kingdom. It is a most high calling, and not one to be taken lightly.

Will you carry the next generation on your shoulders until they are firmly planted on the Rock? Will you join me as we draw our swords and shields to defend their young spirits from the darts of the enemy? Will you speak with boldness rooted in the word of God even when it does not win the approval of those around you, seeking only for the approval of God himself?

Are YOU all in?

Love,
Sarah

photo credit: Raul Petri @ Unsplash