Lifestyle

4 Keys to a Lifestyle of Giving

30 July, 2015
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Handbag over one shoulder, three-year-old on the other hip, I gazed at the admission prices for the zoo – Taronga Zoo – probably the most beautiful zoo in the world with to-die-for views of Sydney Harbour. It was a crisp winters morning with clear blue sky. A great day for walking the kids through giraffes, penguins and big cats. 
My husband was leading us toward the ticket booth when a man approached. Ben had seen him following our family from the bus. The stranger held out his hand and said, “I have two free child admission tickets to the zoo. Would you like them?”

I began to explain that our youngest son was under four and would receive free admission anyway. “I just read it on the sign over there,” I pointed.
He didn’t seem to hear me and continued, “I came all the way here today to give these tickets away.
I stopped talking. The weight of his words slowly sinking in.
“Yes. Thank you so much. You are very kind.” 
And with that the stranger handed us the tickets and disappeared. He slipped into the crowd of passers by, most of whom were making their way into the zoo, but he wandered the other way.
And we stood in stunned silence for a few moments attempting to grasp what happened.
Mark 12:41 opens with Jesus sitting near the collection box in the Temple. I am sure many wealthy people paraded their offerings in grandiose style. Though Jesus observed many lavish displays, the one that caught His attention was two small coins from a poor widow. 

Mark 12:43-44 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” 

That day at Taronga zoo, I felt like Jesus. I felt like I observed a poor man who had very little, but somehow he knew the power of giving. He knew if he gave what he had, God would give back to him. So he went out of his way, got on a bus and came to the zoo. To give.
From this seemingly meaningless encounter, I have learnt a few things:
1. There is no such thing as a random act of kindness. 
They were very “in” a few years ago. Society implored us to do more random acts of kindness. But kindness is not random. It is intentional. Human nature is selfish. So kindness has to be planned. Sure, you will be randomly kind from time to time, but if you wait for the urge to be kind, you won’t be kind all that often. 
Planning to be kind will be inconvenient. You might have to take a day off work – without pay – to be kind. You may have to drive for an hour to pick someone up and bring him to church. You may have to get on a bus with a couple of free tickets and hand them to strangers. But it will not happen randomly. Kindness takes planning. 
2. You always have something to give. 
You may think you have nothing to give. But you do. 
You may even have a couple of free vouchers sitting around your house that you will never use.
But someone else will.
Someone would be very thankful for them.
Give.
It may not be convenient to give. You will have to approach a stranger. You will have to drive out of your ordinary route or hop on a bus. But go out of your way and bless someone else. Because you always have something to give.


3. When you give, Jesus makes note. 
He especially makes note of sacrificial, out of the ordinary giving. Even if it is small. Even if you think it is insignificant. It does not escape Jesus’ notice. He sees what you do and faith says He rewards those who seek Him.

4. There is a Bigger Picture.
Since that day at the zoo I think about our stranger often. I think about his go-out-of-the-way kindness. And you know what I do?
I pray for him.
I pray blessing upon him.
I have done so every day since our encounter.
I don’t know the end of the story for the man who blessed us at Taronga, like we don’t know the end of the story for the widow. But I know Jesus. And I know His heart. If my heart was moved by a free ticket to the zoo, Jesus is moved by every offering.
And He will provide. 
Blessing. Favour. Provision. Debt cancelation. More.
He blesses your offering. 
And he has blessed the man who went out of his way to give us free tickets. 
Bless you, kind sir. God bless you.

Faith

The Widow’s Offering – a Fictional Account

23 July, 2015
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It was a cold night in Jerusalem. Eliana wrapped her shawl a little tighter across her chest. It was less than a month after Sukkot. If this was a sign of things to come it would be a cold winter. Eliana shuddered to think whether she would survive. Her stomach grumbled, as if to agree with her mind’s conclusion. She had nothing to eat tonight. She had no money to pay for food.

But the joy of the afternoon kept Eliana full to overflowing. She was so thankful to the Lord for His blessings. His leading to the temple allowed her to glimpse of her child and grandchild. Though Daniel may deny her existence, the Lord faithfully brought her in proximity of her grandchild.

Eliana walked briskly toward her home outside Jerusalem’s walls. There was no wood or kindling for a fire tonight. Perhaps clouds would blanket the city and the temperature would not dip so low.

She hummed a song of praise, still jubilant as she recalled the beauty of her granddaughter. She was growing into a stunning young woman. And most importantly, a woman with a heart for God. For all her father’s faults and selfishness, Miriam was pure and untainted. Her piercing eyes portrayed grace and sincerity.

Shortness of breath set in as Eliana made her way up the steep slope toward her home. As she spied her dwelling she could not help but think of the abode she was more acquainted to. She recalled the lavish home she shared with her husband. The home where her son lived with his family. The son who stole her inheritance. And while he frequented the Temple robed in finery, she stumbled through Solomon’s courts in poverty.

The wind ripped through her clothing and chilled Eliana to the bone. She hoped tomorrow she would find work in the household of Saul. He often felt pity for Eliana and found chores she could handle. He would often send her home with fire wood and a hearty meal in her stomach. Yes, it was his home she would look to when daylight broke.

Eliana made her way to the door. She pushed it open and saw movement in the shadows. It was then she noticed a figure sitting nearby.

“Can I help you?” Eliana uttered. Though with limited means, she was always quick to help.

“Eliana wife of Joseph?” The hooded man asked.

Eliana had not been called the wife of Joseph for many years. When he ceased to exist, it was though she did as well.

“Yes,” she remarked. “That is my name.”

“You were at the Temple earlier today, were you not?”

Eliana wondered where this line of questioning was going? Was he a messenger from Daniel, sent to threaten her for being so close to his daughter?

“Yes, I was. I went to praise my God for His goodness.”

“And this is your house?”

Eliana took a moment to reply.

“I would like to know your name and who has sent you before I answer further questions.” Eliana had been hurt by freely giving too much information before. She now knew never to trust anyone, even your own son.

“Forgive me, Eliana. I mean no harm,” the man announced as he removed the hood from his head allowing his face to be seen. Eliana did not let her guard down too fast.

“I have been sent by a man. Some call him Rabbi. He is my,” the man paused and stroked his beard searching for the right word, “friend. He is my friend and teacher. My name is Judas. I have come with a gift. May I come in?”

Eliana hesitated. She still knew nothing of this man or his friend. And her home rarely welcomed visitors. It was not fitted for the occasion. Nor could she offer warmth. It was then she noticed Judas’ makeshift seat was a pile of firewood. Enough to see her through several evenings.

“I’ll build a fire and explain everything,” he promised.

So at her beckoning, Judas followed Eliana inside a hole in the side of a hill she called home. The cave was once a tomb for the family who owned the land – a family who once served her husband. They felt pity on her situation and allowed her the grace of living in the space. They knew she would pass on to another life before they had need of it.

Judas made a fire and while still small, its warmth was felt in her small living space.

Judas unwrapped a loaf and bread and offered it to Eliana. She broke off a small piece and chewed with caution. It melted with her first bite. She had not eaten bread as fresh for a long time.

Judas cleared his throat and began. “I am sent here tonight with a gift. My friend noticed you in the Temple today and asked me to bring the gift to you in the cover of darkness. He does not wish for acknowledgement or thanks for His gift. His agenda is to bring a faithful servant of the Most High justice and happiness.
Eliana wondered at Judas’ words. Whatever could they mean?

“Your gift comes in three parts. First there is this,” and Judas handed her a deed for land.

Eliana gasped.

“The land is not far from here. It has a home and small garden. I will take you there tomorrow.”

Judas paused, aware Eliana needed space to comprehend what was happening.

“It is not as grand as the home you used to occupy, I am told, but it is adequate.”

Staring in disbelief, Eliana nodded.

“The next gift is a servant who will work for you until she is no longer needed. Her wages and accommodation are taken care of. And finally, there is this.” Judas unwrapped a flask of perfume. She knew the bottle. Knew where the fragrance originated. She was well aware of its worth. A half year’s wages.

But more than that. Livelihood.

Eliana could sell the perfume and turn it into a business that would enable her to live comfortably for the rest of her life. As the wife of a merchant she knew how to generate an income. All she needed was a start.

Tears spilled from her eyes. Who would do this? How could a stranger be so generous when her friends and family turned their backs? Who was this man?

Wiping the tears from her face she responded, “I am overwhelmed. This is too much. Who would do this for me?”

“My friend has a rare quality. He sees the heart of a person like no other. He has seen your heart. He knows your injustice. He saw you at the Temple today. He saw you give all you had. We all did. And it touched His heart. He is making it right.

Eliana thought back to her afternoon in the Temple. All she could remember was the angelic face of her granddaughter.

“Where can I find your friend and Rabbi? I would like to thank Him.”

“He asks that you keep this gesture quiet. I will not speak of it to a soul as long as I live. This is how my Rabbi does things. Let me assure you, Rabbi knows your heart. He has received your thanks. I will return in the morning to show you to your new residence and to assist you with whatever you require. I leave you to rest. We have much to do in the morning.”

Judas ducked his head and retreated into the cool night.

But for the first time in a long time, Eliana was warm. Inside and out.

Based on Mark 12:38-44 and John 13:29.

Books

Essential Summer (or Winter) Reading

16 July, 2015
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It all started with a book you know. Before I wrote a weekly blog I wrote books. I wrote two books before blogging was a thing and got on the blog bandwagon after the fact. I mean, as an author, you should have a blog, right?

There are probably many of you who read my blog yet have never read my books. And you should. Because if you like the blog, you’ll love the books. And if they don’t fit your current situation, you probably know someone who would benefit from them.

All my books are for sale on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and more. You can buy a book yourself or gift one for a friend, so there are no excuses!

Here’s a rundown of the books by Sarah Coleman thus far.

Single Christian Female: the book that started it all. What you’ll read is an honest and open look at what it means to follow God even when things don’t appear to be turning out the way you planned. And of course, there is a happily ever after (written eight years later).

Make Yourself Amazing will challenge you to grow in character and how you love others. If you need motivation and advise on how to be a better you, Make Yourself Amazing is he book to read.

Expecting Daily Pregnancy Devotion is the book I went looking for when I was pregnant yet couldn’t find. So I did what every writer would do – I wrote it. Expecting is 280 days of faith and hope for your baby. Whether you worry about your baby or struggle with infertility, this book is for you.

Unveiled: What the Bible says about Women is a collection of essays explaining what the Bible really says about women. It’s a quick, cheap read at just 99c.

What next? I’m glad you asked. I’m working on the sequel to Single Christian Female, Married Christian Female. While the world is looking to redefine marriage, I chronicle my journey as a Bible-believing wife. It will be released later this year and I’ll be looking for your help in getting the word out about it. I can’t wait!

So happy summer to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, and blessed reading.

Motivation

Bieber, Jesus and Me

9 July, 2015
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Australian media were dumbfounded. Why would Justin Bieber fly all the way to Australia to attend church? Why didn’t he perform? Wasn’t his presence a big deal? It wasn’t.
Because some 30,000 people were not coming to see a celebrity, we were interested in the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We came to meet with Jesus. 

Who cares about Justin Bieber when the presence of God fills the room?

And it did, last week at Hillsong Conference.

In a previous post I wrote that I would attempt to post sermon notes from sessions at Hillsong if the schedule wasn’t too demanding. Well, it was. And posting to my blog at conference was just too crazy in between running after the family and trying to digest it all.

But I have come good on my promises. I posted session notes – a week late – from three of my favourite sessions with John Maxwell, Rick Warren and Carl Lentz a little earlier in the week. You can read them below. The sessions were inspirational. I hope you understand my notes.

The theme for the conference was Speak, God; we’re listening. The overall message God spoke throughout the conference was urgency to reach the lost. I was challenged to strategically work my unsaved list and drop God-thoughts in daily conversations with others. 

Today I leave you with some of my favourite quotes from other sessions. Chris Caine, Judah Smith and Jentezen Franklin were all incredible.

The Great Commission is for everyone not just the navy seals of the church. – Christine Caine

I can not stop bad people from doing bad things, but I can inspire good people to do more good things. – Christine Caine

We live in an age of non-stop noise. Do you get quiet enough to hear God? We Facebook more than we seek His face. We txt more than we study the text. Do you disconnect from the weapons of mass distraction long enough? – Jentezen Franklin

Hope you enjoyed my snapshot of Hillsong Conference. I’ll be back to the regular blog next week.

[Photo is Martin Smith singing “God’s Great Dance Floor.” It was amazing.]

Motivation

Hillsong Conference Notes – Carl Lentz

8 July, 2015
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God is not a God of behaviour modification but soul transformation.
How is your soul?3 John 1:1-11
We all long in our soul for peace and fulfilment.Our world has no idea how to find this peace.

It can be wrong in the world but well in your soul. Sick in body, but well in your soul. We cannot avoid the condition of our soul. Our society is designed to distract people from the condition of their soul.
Three things that happen when it is well with your soul.

1. We change the environment, the environment does not change us.

If you don’t know what you stand for the world will tell you.

Do not acclimate to dysfunction.

We need to be different. Protect your soul. 

Negativity, criticism, we stop caring about what we should and start caring about what we shouldn’t. 
2. You give God the benefit of the doubt.

Unhealthy souls are waiting to be wounded.

“I pray all may go well with you.”

Waiting for God to bless your life, or are you waiting to be hurt?

I still want to be shocked by negative news.

Be conscious of the theme of your soul because it will become the theme of your life.

I want to know what God can do with my soul.
 3. They get help when hurting.

Unhealthy souls try to do it on their own.

If you have a need, you should be needing Jesus. The more broken you are, the more you need Jesus.

The longer you walk with Jesus the more you should realise your need for Him.

I can’t breathe without Jesus. 

Motivation

Hillsong Conference Notes – Rick Warren

7 July, 2015
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Tune in to the voice of God.
My sheep hear my voice. Hearing Gods voice means you are His children.

It protects from mistakes (Job 33)

1. Start with an attitude of submission.

Exodus 4 What is in your hand? The second most important question in life.

Something that was dead comes alive. Then it dies again.

God never does miracles to show off.

God knows what is in your hand. He wants to know if you know what is in your hand.

The staff represents:

Identity – It represents who Moses is. 

Income – Wealth was in the number of animals someone had. 

Influence – Staff is used to move sheep.

Lay down your identity, income and influence. Give it to Me, and I will make it come alive. Every time you pick it up it will die. 
From this time it is not called a staff, but the Rod of God. 
Take your identity, influence and income and lay it down, and God will make it come alive.
It all starts with Moses hearing the voice of God. It starts with his submission.
Prerequisites for hearing God:

1. I must believe God cares about the details of my life.

2. God wants to answer my questions.

James 1:5-6

God does not shut His storehouse until you shut your mouth.
How do you hear from God?

Habakkuk 2:1-2 (TEV)

1. Withdraw – get alone.

2. Wait – calm thoughts and emotions. (Psalm 46 Be still and know I am God.)

3. Read the WordStop waiting for a voice start looking for a verse.

Also, God speaks in mental pictures. 

4. Write – write insights God gives.

5. Review – test imporessions God says to you. 
6 ways to test an impression

1. Is it consistent with the Bible? The Word of God lasts forever.

2. Will it make me more like Christ? 2 Cor 10:5

3. Does my church family confirm it? If it is true, it is not new.

You will always find someone to tell you what you want to hear. But church family will tell you what you need to hear. When in doubt, check it out.

4. Is it consistent with how God shaped me? Eph 2:10. Look at how God wired you. God is not schizophrenic.

5. Is it convicting rather than condemning? Satan is the accuser. Conviction is because God loves you. Condemnation says you are worthless.

6. Do I sense God’s peace? If you feel pressured, feel like running, it’s not God. Satan drives you.

Motivation

Hillsong Conference Notes – John Maxwell

6 July, 2015
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Matthew 5:13-16
Shake the salt and shine the light.

1. Most lost people do not have a correct picture of God.

2. All lost people need unconditional love. – People would rather correct you than connect with you.

3. Most lost people will not come to the church for help. – It is not on their radar. So what are we going to do? We need to connect on their level.

4. Most Christians don’t connect strategiecly with the lost.
The rule of five.

You don’t have to swing the ax all day, just do it everyday.

Intentional. – you swing at your dream.

Practical. – you need the right resource.

Focus. – you just hit one tree. 

Action. – the ax won’t swing itself.

Consistent. – do it everyday.
The rule of five is all about behaviour. 5 things everyday essentials.

1. Connect and care for lost people.

Before you lead people, you have to find people.

Jesus was a great connector.

2. Pray everyday for the opportunity to share my faith.

3. Intentially drop positive God thoughts with people.

Get salty with people. Make them thirsty.

4. Add value to people to gain their respect.

Exceed expectations. 

5. Strategically work my lost people list.

Don’t rely on the church to do the work Jesus asked you to do.