Welcome to Day 6 of Part 3‘s Chapter 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward our 6th free will offering for Chapter 4: The Golden Lampstand- The Lamb of God. She is sharing part of her personal testimony of her Prodigal journey home – the second chapter of Celebrate Jesus: His Veil Fills the Temple – and invites you to join her in interceding in the Spirit of God for our Prodigal loved ones and the restoration of the Body of Christ.
Matthew 16:17 (ESV) And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
My father recorded the confession of my faith as a four year-old in his diary. I was overcome by my sin and wept in repentance, asking Jesus into my heart. My Dad remarked that it came completely unprompted by them as parents in any way. For, just as with Peter, it was not my earthly parents who had called me, but my Heavenly Father.
I remember those early days in Germany, as the eldest daughter of New Zealand missionaries, filled with love: with the life and presence of Jesus. Tragically, as a preteen and teen, who had returned to her country of birth, I began to believe the enemy’s accusations that God had abandoned me and someone I loved.
I saw no physical evidence that He had heard my repeated cries in prayer, as I thumbed the pages of His Word with tears streaming. So, trusting in the seen above the unseen, I began to turn away from Jesus, piece by piece.
I stopped reading God’s Word that I had begun to receive, no longer in the Spirit of love and truth, but in a spirit of fear. For, I rested in self and pride, condemning myself for the lack of physical change I could see in response to my prayers, rather than laying my desires at the feet of Jesus for Him to give me His Spirit-led prayers. Gradually, I turned to sinful distractions to numb the pain of the separation I felt from my God.
Even so, God’s Spirit poured out upon me at various times, leading me to repentance. I remember crying and crying, confessing one sin after another before God and others. But then, one day, I committed the sin of masturbation that I was too ashamed to confess to anyone.
From then on, I went through life believing that I was too far gone for God to save me. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me. I was biding my time until He would get rid of me completely.
And yet, strangely, deep down there was also always this deep, deep yearning for someone to just reach out to me – to uncover my secret sin and bring me home. I even plucked up the courage to visit churches overseas, but each time walked away believing I didn’t matter enough to God for someone to reach out to me.
Then, one day, someone plucked up the courage to give me a book about Jesus, years after my own Dad had tried to reach my heart, by giving me The Message version Bible and a letter I didn’t open until I came home to Jesus. But at that point, all those years later, when I had given up on Christians, rather than it exciting me, it angered me. It made me feel unseen and like I was her little project. This, despite the sweet friendship that we had for the year she lived in the same town. Amazingly, as a returned Prodigal, I would later hear from her that I had been such a gift to her in a really difficult year of her life, just as she had been God’s sweet gift to me.
What I now know looking back is that God wanted me to realize that the only One who truly sees me, loves me, knows me and has the power to save me is – Jesus. Now, I am so thankful to the LORD for not giving me what I thought I needed – man’s saving – and for instead giving me what His beautiful heart in me most longed after: His saving. Now, I can look back and see that God in fact never ever left me. Not even one day of my life.
His hands lovingly guided me, protected me and kept me all those years I believed He had abandoned me and was out to hurt me. Every place I moved to, He remained with me, surrounding me with people in whom I now recognize His love for me: including the young woman who gave me that book.
I will never forget those last few weeks with my Mum. Not just because God opened my eyes to see, but because I was given the privilege of watching my Mum humble herself before God and man. So many confessions of sin and weakness she shared with me return to me at such perfect moments now, leading me to repentance and encouraging me to continue boasting in my weakness.
God led my Mum to such rest and peace in Him, as the Holy Spirit prompted her to clothe herself in the imperishable. The more her body wasted away, the more I could feel God’s Spirit upon her in a palpable way. My Mum has left me a powerful legacy, not in her own strength and perfection, but in Christ’s perfecting work that I witnessed within her. For, the Golden Lampstand – the Lamb of God – shone ever brighter in our midst, the more my mother’s body faded away. He arose in power in her weakness.
It’s interesting for me to reflect on my last conversations with my Mum. In one conversation, she was deeply grieved that there was no time left for the many “projects” that were incomplete. These projects were people whose stories broke her heart. She even tried to encourage me to take over one of her “projects”. But as she did so, I found my mouth opening to say: “But you can still pray, Mum.”
In all my years as a Prodigal, I had often found myself praying – not for myself (who in my pride I deemed irredeemable), but for others, who were gravely ill or in need. Now, I know that was the Spirit of God leading me in the intercession of Jesus. Just as the Spirit of God prompted me to remind my Mum of how God perfects His power in and through us: in our weakness. In our inability to complete what breaks our heart the most, as we lift up our broken hearts to Him, He moves in power to bring every broken piece into His heart of wholeness
Incidentally, that Bible and letter my Dad gave me, as his heart broke, became God’s gift to me too, many years later. When I began to walk through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that Bible and the prophetic Scriptures my Dad penned returned to me as light streaming into the darkness in my heart and revealing the light of God within me. God perfected His power in my Dad’s weakness and inability to save me.
Beautifully, during those last months with my Mum, God also answered those first tear-filled, Spirit-led prayers I had lifted up to Him as that little girl, thumbing His Word. More than twenty years later, my mother stretched out her hands in grace toward my little brother, and he responded in kind. I didn’t see that at the time, but I now know God wanted me to take notice and to deep down know that no prayer we lift up in Him ever goes unanswered.
My Savior is now giving me a hunger and thirst to know Him, as I seek His face. I wake up hearing Him call to me and He continually interrupts my plans to lead me into His. He is teaching me to slow, recognize and savor His Presence with me.
He is patiently leading me, piece by piece, to shed my pride, my striving and my worship of man for an intimate relationship with Him. Much repentance is flowing, as my heart aches to walk in His holy Way. I am slowly (re)awakening to the childlike awe and wonder of Him I had growing up as a little girl, before I let sin blind me to God’s love for me and others.
Do you remember the day you gave your heart to the LORD? Recall the joy of this day. Recall the Promise of this day.
Before we dig into God’s Word together, will you join me in listening to this song and recalling all the ways God has continued to save us through the years?
Let’s ask the LORD to speak to us from the birthing of this joy in us and His Promise to us so long ago, as we read the Scripture below, aloud. What word or phrase lingers? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why it lingers and what God our Father wants us to see, know or do in response to His Word to us.
Romans 8:30 ESV And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
This is how you will be saved—not by your works, not by your weeping, not even by your praying, but by thus resting on the Lord! It is true that you will work and you will’weep. And you will pray and holy deeds will, I trust, be abundant in your life. But, in order to be saved you have simply to come to Jesus and to rest on Him! Can you not do that? If you cannot, I will tell you why. It is not because you are too weak, but because you are too strong! It is strength that keeps a man from resting! It is weariness that makes him recline. The more faint and feeble he is, the more readily does he lean upon another. It is your strength that will destroy you—it is your supposed goodness that will ruin you—it is your own works that will be your destruction! Come now, and lean wholly and alone upon that almighty Savior whose heart was pierced for you, and then it shall be well with you!Messages to Sinners and Saints(No. 2985). A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 1906. DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, OCTOBER 10, 1875.