My grandfather didn’t stand a chance when he met my grandmother. Beautiful, witty, and charming, he fell for her so hard, it was the “clunk” heard round the world. They had both been raised in Orthodox Jewish families, only to come in early adulthood to the saving knowledge of “that one”—the Name that could not be voiced in Jewish circles—Jesus Christ.
Before they met, Grandma attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago as a Jewish Studies major. After one year, she was forced to leave college to work full time to support her impoverished family, never to return to her beloved MBI. Grandma was heartbroken.
Enter my grandfather. Although Hebrew Christians were scarce pickings in those days, Grandma determined she would marry none other than a Jewish believer, so God provided my grandfather, a gruff but lovable optometrist who had left his native Germany before the Holocaust to study medicine in America. The couple married and settled in Massachusetts, where Grandpa struggled to make his optometry practice a success, while Grandma put her dreams of becoming a professional artist on hold to run the office for him.
The couple had three children (two girls and one boy), two of whom professed faith in Jesus, as did their children and their children’s children. However, just as with the many Gentile kids who grew up in the church, the zeal for the Lord that began with my grandparents didn’t fizzle down to every professing member of our family. I’m ashamed to admit I was one of them—a follower of Yeshua ("Jesus" in Hebrew) in name only—holding onto an inherited faith and an early childhood confession for my assurance, but living a life entirely void of the fruits of repentance.
Upon graduating high school, I followed in the footsteps of my mother and grandmother and attended Moody. I thought I was saved, but it was a superficial head knowledge with no heart change or love for God. I cared more for the things of this world than the things of God.
After a year and a half, I left MBI, disillusioned and confused. Shortly thereafter, I joined the military, but quickly realized it was not for me. After serving my enlistment, I returned to Moody, now confident of the direction my life should take. I enrolled as a music major, with the goal of becoming a Christian recording artist. I wrote songs, practiced my voice and guitar, and dreamed of stardom, but none of it was to the glory of God. Interestingly, while I excelled in my music courses, I was just squeaking by in theology and Bible. My favorite book of the Bible today—the epistle of Romans—was pure puzzlement to me back then, for a reprobate mind cannot understand the things of God.
Even as I struggled to understand why my spiritual life felt powerless and empty, my personal life had became very full. I met David, my college sweetheart and love of my life, at Moody. A “fine ole’ English gentleman” to the core, David was the kindest man I have ever known. Unfortunately, my grandmother didn’t live to meet him, but Grandpa did and gave us his blessing before he died, even though David was not Jewish. After my graduation, we married and settled down to a happy life of pseudo-spirituality.
Fast forward more than a decade, and I was still dreaming of showbiz and making my mark in the world. David and I were very much in love, and we longed to start a family. We prayed for children, to no avail. One night in April 2001, I had a dream.
I was standing in an open-air market that sold bolts of colorful fabric, and I was holding a piece of flame-red raw silk with gold threads woven into it. At once, the dream changed. I was in a stark grey office, the only light streaming in through a bay window over a small group of people onto my late grandparents. My grandmother addressed me in a fierce tone she had never used in real life. It was a voice of Biblical authority. She said:
“Sarah (my birth name), you’re pregnant!
And you’re going to have a girl.
And you will call her Aviva.”
Instantly, I was back in the sunny marketplace again, holding that piece of cloth, as if I had never left. I was certain this dream was something special. You see, my entire life I had dreamed in color, but for the first time I dreamed in black and white. It was a dream within a dream, a clue from above. It was as if God was saying: “We interrupt this dream to bring you this very important message.”
Naturally, when I told David my dream, we presumed God was promising us our long-awaited baby, and we rejoiced. We looked up the meaning of “Aviva” in a baby-name book. It was of Hebrew origin and meant “joyful spring.” But seven years went by, and after a devastating miscarriage and costly IVF treatments, there was still no child. Our fertility doctor had the sad task of informing us we would never be able to have children. I confess, as heartbreaking as that news was to hear, even more upsetting was the unanswered question: “who is Aviva?” My heart ached for this remarkable daughter God had promised us, a child we would never have.
Well, it turned out the dream had nothing to do with children. It was about me. Desperate for its meaning and furious at a deity I didn’t fully believe in, I shouted at Him: “God, you gave me the dream! You gave it. I demand You answer it!” Cheeky talk to the Almighty, I admit, but we Jews are famous for yelling at God.
Well, be careful what you bellow for, because three weeks later, God answered in a big way. I was surfing YouTube, when I noticed a video featuring Oprah Winfrey, claiming Jesus was not the only way to Heaven. I knew that wasn’t true. A verse from my MBI days popped into my head. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” I was shocked. Oprah, too, had grown up in the church. How could she believe such a lie?
That video led to one devastating revelation after another concerning what was really going on in the world and with the people and leaders I thought I could trust. For over two hours, video after eye-opening video flashed before my eyes, covering topics such as the New World Order, Global Governance, the North American Union, and the VeriChip (a rice-sized RFID tracking microchip inserted under the skin). Best locations for implantation? Under the hand or forehead.
I was horror struck. The technology for the Mark of the Beast, spoken of in Revelation 13, already existed! My thoughts traveled to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24 regarding what would happen on Earth preceding His return and during the seven-year Tribulation. There would be wars and rumors of wars, famines and plagues, lawlessness, and earthquakes in various places. Just like the birth pangs of a pregnant woman, all these signs would steadily intensify in size, frequency, and loss of life.
It was May 13, 2008, one day after a devastating earthquake had struck China. Weeks before, there had been a huge flood in Myanmar, and before that Hurricane Katrina, and prior to that the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. Prophecy was coming true.
I sat there in shock. Nevertheless, a tiny thrill of comprehension was beginning to stir in the depths of my soul as the Holy Spirit prodded my heart. What was I going to do with what I had learned? I had all the information I needed. It was decision time—somehow I knew that—and suddenly the truth was as clear as dark and light. I cried out in jubilation:
“God, it’s all true! It’s all true!
You really exist!
And the Bible is true, reliable, I can put my faith in it.
And Jesus is who He says He is.”
At once, I was filled with an indescribably powerful joy that drove away any fear! I didn’t know it then, but that brief declaration was my salvation prayer. Why didn’t I ask Jesus for forgiveness or salvation, you ask? Not because I didn’t want to be saved, but because I thought I already was.
You see, I was familiar with the Gospel from early childhood. I knew I was a sinner, incapable of saving myself. I knew God sent His Son Jesus—born of a virgin—to suffer and die on the cross in my place, that He was buried, and rose three days’ later to conquer sin and death and give me eternal life. Trouble was, I had never genuinely believed it. This time I did—with all my heart and soul—because I realized if Jesus was right about prophecy, He had to be right about the Gospel too.
After I spoke those simple words of faith to God, I knew something had changed in me. Unlike my neat little salvation prayers of the past, I had never felt so happy, peaceful, or confident about anything. Repentance means to “change your mind,” and I had. I had stepped onto a new path, and Yeshua was walking right beside me. I was a new creation, full of joy and purpose.
Within days came the initial signs of transformation—a true love for God and a longing for my Savior’s return. Before salvation I remember asking God, “If I’m a Christian, why do I feel helpless to overcome sin?” The Scriptures revealed the answer—because I didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in me. Now I did. I still sinned, mind you, but God was changing me bit by bit. For the first time, I began sharing my testimony and the Gospel, my newfound compassion for the lost eclipsing my apprehension. I forsook longstanding sins. I went from being pro-choice to pro-life within weeks. I saw the world completely differently; it was no longer my friend. My former showbiz goals seemed foolish and futile. God had turned my eyes away from worthless things.
Yet, I couldn’t let the dream go. I knew in my heart it was from above, and I continued to seek its meaning. At first, I believed I had experienced some sort of reawakening that day, a re-dedication to the Lord. It took another year of studying what genuine salvation looks like to realize that May 13, 2008 was my Born-Again birthday, and that there was another meaning to the name “Aviva” besides “springtime.”
It means “renewal, rebirth.”
Suddenly, the dream became crystal clear. God had sent me a warning all those years before. It was: “You know the Gospel, but you do not believe it. Wake up before it’s too late. With the simple faith of a child, accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior. You MUST be born again!” I was full of joy! Not only had I been saved and sealed for Heaven, but God had finally provided an answer to the dream—His dream.
The following year was a milestone for me and David. On February 11, 2010, after much prayer and discussion, I legally changed my name from Sarah to Aviva Sarah, so I would never forget what God had done for me. Now whenever I say my name, I proclaim that I am a “reborn princess.” What a wonderful opening for sharing the Gospel!
And in August 2010, after asking God to allow me to serve Him in ministry, He answered by providing me with the concept for a Christian fiction book series, set in the 2040s, that warns the sleeping church to “wake up!” I lived for twenty-eight years in deception and depression, thinking I was saved when I wasn’t. My heart breaks to think of anyone standing before Jesus on Judgment Day, and saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and drive out demons in your name, and perform many miracles?” And instead of being welcomed into Heaven on their good deeds, they will hear the horrific reply: “Depart from me. I never knew you.” May it never be!
Every man, woman, and child must decide in this life. What are we going to believe about salvation? Can we do or say anything to earn God’s favor? No! We humans can never earn our way to Heaven. Our imperfections cannot please The Perfect One. And why should we try, when Jesus has done it for us! There is only one Name by which we can be saved. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through the Son.
Now and again, I admit I still examine myself against the Scriptures to see if I am in the faith, especially when I am disgusted by my own sin or feel like a spiritual baby. Shouldn’t I be more like Jesus by now? But then I remind myself that my good works are performed out of love for God and not to make myself “more saved.” I cannot save myself; I cannot keep myself. My soul is kept in the atoning, cleansing blood of the Passover Lamb who died for me and paid the full penalty for my sins on the tree, and nothing can pluck me out of His hand, not even my own sins. I am His, and He is mine, and I will love and live with Yeshua forever. This world and its ways are passing away. I seek a continuing city, an eternal Home Sweet Home.
Has salvation made my life easier? Quite the opposite! Yet, it is infinitely richer. Sometimes I wonder. If God had not given me a dream tailor made for me, would I have ever realized my need for salvation? Why would I go looking for something I thought I already had?
I am eternally grateful that God never gave up on me, patiently drawing me to Him. Because of His tender mercies, one day I will join with people and angels in singing praises to my Redeemer. I will walk with Yeshua by the living waters that stream from the throne of God, and tell my Beloved how grateful I am for second chances.
Will you join me?
Now I’d like to hear from YOU.
Have any of you, like myself, had an unconventional salvation experience? Have you been brought up in the church but found faith in Jesus much later in life? Has God drawn you to Himself through dreams? How has God changed your life since becoming born again? Out of interest, are there any other Jewish believers in Jesus out there? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.