Author Archives: Sarah

Passage: Revelation 17-18

Scripture:

“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (Rev. 17:14)(NIV).

Application:

“The Beginning and The End.”

I am struck by the humble intensity of this verse – a lamb overcoming the powers of evil. There is a meekness and a fire here that only God is capable of. He is sovereign. He will destroy every form of evil in His time. He will judge the living and the dead, and will make reparations for what has been lost. Revelation is full of fire and intensity. But the Lamb’s tender love for us motivates His actions throughout the Bible, and for all eternity. He is the same here, at the Bible’s end, as He was in the beginning, when He reached out from the cosmos to create us in His image.

Observation:

I started this Biblical journey in Genesis: Christianity’s prologue, describing the downfall of mankind and his separation from God after the events in the Garden of Eden. I am ending it in Revelation: Christianity’s quixotic epilogue, in which God and man are reconciled through Christ. And so the beginning and the end reveal the Bible’s single, interminable thread: God loves us. He has pursued us for millennia, given us miracles and wonders, pillars of smoke and seas split open, His own Son, and the Holy Spirit as our counselor, because He loves us. Revelation is the marriage of the Church (us!) and it’s Creator. Ultimately, the Bible is a love story. And here, in Revelation, is our happily-ever-after.

Prayer:

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your un-ending pursuit of me. Let me live my life worthy of Your love until that exalted day in which I meet you face to face.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Rev. 22:20-21).

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Passage: Hebrews 11-13

Scripture:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see….And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6)(NIV)

“Therefore…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)(NIV)

Observation:

“The Bottom Line and the Finish Line”

You’ll have to forgive me for the length of the foregoing scripture selections. But the book of Hebrews really is Christianity’s bottom line. Hebrews is the case for Christ – presenting in great detail why Christ’s new covenant with us through His sacrifice for our sins is better than the old covenant between God and the Jews. Hebrews sets a standard for living – detailing with perfect theological history how the patriarchs and Biblical giants “pleased God” by living righteous, faith-filled lives – by pursing Him at all costs. Hebrews challenges us that faith in Christ is worth the risk.

Application:

Faith. That funny little noun that is also my life’s most challenging verb. I can say (and do, often) that I have faith. Feeling faithful, acting faithfully, that’s another matter altogether. My mom said once that she wants a pair of running shoes engraved on her tombstone, with Hebrews 12:1-3 etched beneath it. She wants people to know she “ran the good race.” Because really, running is what we’re doing. Every one of us is going to hit that finish line. Some, triumphantly; some, dragging their “feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb. 12:12) across it. But “God ha[s] planned something better for us” (Heb. 11:39). And so the running is both a benefit onto itself – the very act of living in faith builds character – and a means to an end: the great prize of eternal life. As I’ve so often written before, there is nothing sugar-coated about Christianity. It is not for the faint of heart. But a belief in God against all odds, our certainty in Him who we cannot see – presses us on.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, give me marathon legs. Help me to throw off “everything that hinders” (Heb. 12:1) in my daily life – my doubt and anxiety, my pettiness and greed, my anger and resentment – and live life with my eyes fixed on You (Heb. 12:2). You are the greatest prize imaginable. And believing in You means pleasing You. It means living for You. It means a commitment to You, no matter the price. Press me onward toward a triumphant, faithful crossing of that finish line. I relish an eternity with You. And my sneakers off. Amen.

– Sarah

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Galatians 1-3

Scripture

“We …know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Gal. 2:15-16)(NIV)

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” (Gal. 3:23-25)(NIV)

Application

“The Magna Charta and Other Mysteries.”

If ever there were a blueprint for freedom in Christ, Galatians is it.  The book has been called the “Magna Charta of Christian liberties” and its core message is one of emancipation from the constraints of the law, written by one of the biggest (former) legalists who ever lived.  In this book, Paul reminds the churches in Galatia that he was “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” until he was set apart by God and called by grace to preach the message of salvation (Gal. 1:14-15). Paul, a former Pharisee who once tortured Christians for breaking with Jewish law, makes clear that Christ came to break down walls – not to erect them.  He writes that God gives us His Spirit and works miracles among us not because we observe the law, but because we believe what we have heard about its Author (Gal. 3:5).  It is here that the message of salvation takes on its greatest air of mystery and wonder: faith in Christ alone, not anyone’s set of laws (Gal. 2:16) opens the door to acceptance by God.

Observation

I feel a strong connection to the book of Galatians.  Perhaps because I spent my formative years in ecclesiastical and educational environments that put undue emphasis on the “legalities” of the Christian faith.  There were the tee-totalers and the caffeine-eschewers, the don’t dancers and the holy (not rock-n) rollers.  This heavy-handed law-keeping made for a lot of grace-less living.  Now, I am not advocating an amoral free-for-all.  After all, the Gospel is not something that “man made up” (Gal. 1:11), and there are consequences for sin.  But if righteousness can be gained through the law alone, then Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21)!  For what precious mystery is there in keeping fast to a dusty set of edicts?  When God transcends space and time to inhabit our plane and give His life for ours, asking only that we accept His sacrifice, there is wonder indeed.       

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I need to ask myself: am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God? (Gal. 1:10) Is my faithful law-keeping an effort to show you my commitment to your commandments, or an effort to keep up with my neighbors in the pew? I must remember that you do not judge by external appearance (Gal. 2:6); your interest is in the condition of our hearts – and our devotion to You.  Remind me often of the freedom I have in Christ your Son (Gal. 2:4), and make my life a testament to the wonderful, mysterious liberty of living as one of Your own.  Amen.

– Sarah

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Passage: Acts 23-25

Scripture:

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” (Acts 23:11)(NIV)

Observation:

“Courage under fire”

The book of Acts is all about courage.  Thanks to its author Luke, Acts read like a fast-paced novel, complete with riots, courtroom drama and prison breaks.  It is the tale of a church living dangerously, and among all its characters, Paul stands out to me as the penultimate tough-guy.  Up against kings, political rulers, religious leaders and lynch mobs, his life was frequently on the line.  And yet he could not be silenced.  This passage provides an explanation why: here, the Lord has bodily appeared to Paul and tells him to “take courage,” that he “must testify.”  Not, “it’s going to be tough” – because Paul already knows it will be; not, “I know you can do it” – because Paul already knows He does; but simply – “take courage, and go.” 

Application:

Political journalist Theodore White once wrote, “To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.”  I concur.  It’s probably why I find ways to hide my yellow belly among the ranks of “better theologically qualified” and deftly change the subject when I feel an unseen finger tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that it might be a good time to speak up already.  Yet I long to be courageous.  And I can be.  I already have the only tool required for courage: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In truth, I will likely never face portentous political opposition or certain death.  My faithful expressions might make for awkward social pauses at best, and for my intense unpopularity at worst.  I thank God that Paul – the world’s most successful missionary – wasn’t as full of diffident excuses as I am.  I thank God that he was consistently brave in his proclamation of the Gospel.  What a different world we might be living in if he hadn’t been.   

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I am too-often comfortable in my silent Christianity.  I would do well to remember that I am commanded to be Your witness “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  I used to pray that you would take away my fear.  I pray now that you help me find a way through it.  Make me brave in my witness for Your name’s sake, and give me courage under fire.  Amen.

– Sarah

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Passage: John 6-8

Scripture:

“The Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.’  Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.  But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going…But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.  In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.’” (John 8:13-14, 16-17)(NIV)

“But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.’” (John 8:23-24)(NIV)

Application:

“Proof of Life”

John is different from the other Gospels.  In its presentation of Christ’s life, it is deliberate and highly selective in its recitations.  The entire book reads less like a biography, and more like a well-reasoned legal argument with carefully chosen elements of proof: signs and witness testimony.  In fact, John’s use of the word “signs” (in place of “miracles”) evinces his desire to point to something.  For Jesus used these supernatural acts not to dazzle audiences or garner applause, but to teach about His very nature and Whom He was representing.  In this passage, the man on “trial” before the Pharisees – Christ himself – takes the stand.  He testifies that He is the Son of God.  He even simplifies the work of Christendom by stating: “‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6: 29).  The acceptance of this proof – our belief that Jesus is who He says He is – is what gives us life.

Observation:

C.S. Lewis, once an atheist who described himself “as very angry with God for not existing,” (in Surprised by Joy, p. 28), made a conversion to Christianity at age 33.  It was a hard-fought theological battle, after which he described himself as perhaps “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”  Having made the leap of faith and accepting the proof offered to him in the Gospels, Lewis later crafted an answer to those willing to dismiss Jesus as simply a good “moral teacher,” but not the Son of God:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, p. 43)


Christ’s invitation is clear: “‘I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life’” (John 6:47).  He offered his disciples, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the thronging masses the same proof He offers us today: the promise of His divinity and the availability of salvation.  He gave his flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51), and rose again to prove once and finally, that He was who He claimed to be.  His proof is the key to our everlasting life.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I cannot read John and believe anything but what your Son said: that He was sent by You to offer salvation to anyone willing to take hold of that great gift.  His miracles displayed it, His words fulfilled it, His passion illustrated it, and His Scriptural references corroborated it.  To me, He was no lunatic or liar, not merely a “good man” or a “deceiver” (John 7:12).  He was who He claimed to be, with a gift available to me and all else who would simply believe.  Thank you for loving us enough to become one of us, and speak in a way we could truly understand.  Thank for offering us proof that we could indeed have eternal life.  Amen.

– Sarah

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Luke 1

Scripture:

“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’” Luke 1:35-37 (NIV)

Application:

“Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.”

It’s my girlfriend’s birthday tonight. For those of us time-worn and bleary-eyed moms awash in runny noses and a ubiquity of primary-colored cartoon characters, a night out with girlfriends has set off a hum of anticipation that’s precipitated no fewer than six emails between us today. We are geared up, keyed up, ready for what’s to come. We can feel it: tonight’s gonna be a good night.

This, to me, is how the beginning of Luke feels. Like no other Gospel author, Luke sets his telling of the events of Christ’s appearance against the roll of a literary timpani. A righteous priest and a terrified teenager are told they will be parents. Yet one is well beyond child bearing age. The other is a virgin. But there’s nothing like a story set against impossible odds to coax us to the edge of our seats.

Observation:

The entire first chapter of Luke is full of surprises. This is a part of God’s nature that I love the best – the part that delights in catching us unaware, in showing us how very wonderful His plans for us can be. Here in Luke, Elizabeth’s unborn child recognizes the unborn Savior in his presence. A mute priest finally speaks. A virgin girl receives a message from the Most High and conceives the King of Kings. The neighbors are “filled with awe” (Luke 1:65). For truly, nothing is impossible with God. And the knowledge of His often-surprising power, the ultimate certainty of all His plans reminds us of how good things with Him will always be.

Prayer:

Lord, let me live every day with the excitement that comes from knowing you are near me. Make my life a reflection of your exhilarating designs and wonderful constructs.  Each hour of my life unfolds to reveal yet another step in the surprising and delightful path you’ve marked out for me – your most humble servant (Luke 1:48). It’s gonna be a good life.  Amen.

Sarah

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Passage: Matthew 13-14

Scripture:

“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’  ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  (Matthew 14:27-33)(NIV) 

Application:

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”

I might get a number of you to agree that the Old Testament is a more challenging literary work than the New.  For me, it was sometimes a struggle to find principles for daily application among long genealogies and Levitical regulations. Not so with the New Testament.  It took me some time to narrow down just one particular scripture among the many that leapt off the page in this passage.  The excitement in these pages is palpable – the Messiah, the one promised for so long, is finally here!  And He has so much to say to those willing to listen.  But in this passage, it was Jesus’ interaction with Peter I kept coming back to, and not what Jesus said, but what He did.   

Just a few short months ago, I was, myself sailing on the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Lake of Gennesaret), a place so beautiful that the first century historian Flavius Josephus called it “the ambition of nature.”  Even as I write this, I remember the wind and trying to keep the baby out of the whipping spray.  The lake, deep and azure and rimmed by the hills of the Jordan Valley on all sides, came up at us in bold waves, and our captains laughed under a snapping Israeli flag as we tried to keep hats and bags together on the tossing deck.  But the sun was burning hot and bright, and the sky was unmarked by clouds.  And we were headed to shore.

But Peter – ah, Peter.  His encounter with the Lake was different.  It must be said that at eight miles wide, 13 miles long and about 140 feet deep, Galilee isn’t your typical lake.  And this particular boat ride wasn’t a jaunty tourist cruise.  It was dark and windy, and from the gloom appeared a man on the water looking very much like an apparition, and headed straight for Peter.  What prompted Jesus to come to the disciples during the “fourth watch of the night” (translation – the very wee hours), we do not know.  Perhaps it was because He knew, before even His disciples did, that they were going to need Him.  Maybe He sensed their rising anxiety as the wind increased.  For whatever reason Jesus began His walk across the water, one thing is certain: He came ready to stretch out His hand.         

Observation:

As I read the Bible, I’m continually struck by the familiarity of the personalities of its characters.  I love Peter – full of eagerness to take the first, faith-filled step, but losing heart when he realizes just how difficult the thing is that the Lord has asked of him.  I’m also one to plunge in (albeit a little more deliberately).  But on many an occasion, I’ve chickened out when I realize the odds are stacked against me.  I, like Peter, would also have started to sink – I can guarantee it – because I often forget that if God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31)?  I often forget that the Lord wants to help me, that He delights in giving me the help I ask for in His name (John 15:16).  Indeed, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), and He wants to take our hand when we need Him most.  In this passage, I can see the relief on Peter’s face as he clasps the outstretched hand of Jesus; I can see the smile on Jesus’ face telling Peter, “It’s okay.  I’ve got you.”  What precious comfort it is to know that His outstretched hand is available to all of us.     

Prayer:

Lord, it is so easy to lost sight of you when things go dark.  Remind me always that your desire is for my welfare and not my destruction (Jeremiah 29:11), and that it pleases You greatly to help me when I need it most.  Even when the wind howls so I cannot hear You, and the waves crash so I cannot see You, remind me that Your hand is outstretched to guide me.  Thank You for loving and saving this sinking girl.  Amen.

– Sarah

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