Welcome to Chapter 2 of Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil. Please note Bettie and Anna are taking a ten day break from Arise and Shine, as Anna follows the Lord’s prompting to publish Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil.
Memories are funny things. Sweet memories linger. Scents of summer’s breath, Grandma’s perfume, Granddad’s soapy bristle as he leans in to give you a tender “peck” on the cheek. But then there are the memories seared into the brain. Locked away, too painful to linger. Hidden deep.
And yet Jesus came “to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name” (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For me, this gift came in the return of a piercing silence, in the lingering pain He began to draw to the surface, that I had known so well as a little girl.
As that little girl, God first called me to partake in His suffering. He set me apart from those I loved most, choosing me to stand with Him to intercede for the healing of His Body. Unlike Jesus, who was so secure in His Heavenly Father’s calling that he was unphased by his earthly parents’ rebuke for going about His Father’s business at the Temple, I bowed before my parents as if they were God.
Now, I look back and see that even before then, God was beginning to set me apart unto Himself. I remember watching the news just before my twelfth birthday, and hearing of the death of a little toddler at the hands of two preteen boys. I ran into my room, closed the door and poured out my heart before the LORD in prayer. But as I prayed for this little boy’s grieving parents, God compelled me to begin praying for the perpetrators and their parents.
Moments before I had found myself praying through deep guttural groans for the victims and yet now, those groans rising and tears pouring out of me were for the very ones who had committed the atrocity and those who had raised them. I remember being so shocked, as it was never my intention to pray for those I was revolted by. But this was no longer the fleshly me praying, but Jesus who had taken over. He began interceding through me, through the Spirit of God in me, and leading me to repentance in the process.
Sadly, I didn’t recognize God’s preparation of my heart. I didn’t recognize His desire to lead me into prayer, not just for my little adopted brother, who He compelled me to speak up for, but for my parents also in their struggle to parent him in love and grace. If I had given Christ my pain, instead of numbing it in sin, I believe I would have heard His call to me and bowed my knees before Him. I would have heard Him call me into the unity of His Spirit and His Body, seeing His face reflected in myself and each one of my family members.
He was bestowing upon me the honor to rejoice in my sufferings for the sake of not just my little brother, but my parents also, and to fill up in my flesh what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. He was purposely working through human rejection to uproot the idols choking His life in me, that He might reroot me in the good soil of His love and affections for me and for His Body.
Now, I know that when all I could hear and feel was that piercing silence as a little girl, the Holy Spirit was in fact speaking with, to and in me (cf John 14:17) all that time. But in choosing to listen to the enemy’s accusations, and exchanging love for fear, I turned away in sin, closing my ears to God’s everpresent Voice.
Now, I know that Christ chose me to intercede for His Body and to walk in the light of His love and truth. And thanks to His perseverance, I can now testify, with great joy and thankfulness, that I am beginning, by His grace, to walk out this purpose He ordained for me.
Interestingly, as an eleven year old, Christ not only began to intercede through me in a noticeable way, He also uncovered a deep yearning in my heart to know His grace. The very grace I am now drawing deeply from to live out God’s purpose for me.
As that little eleven year old, I remember listening to a young mother share her testimony with me. She spoke of her longing for her kids to grow up “safe” in the faith like I had. Yet, as she said that, I found myself longing to know the grace of Jesus, like she did.
God honored this yearning He planted in me, through His rescue of my Prodigal heart. He uncovered and drew my desperately sick heart unto Himself, through powerful and quiet revelations of His love, kindness and compassion for me.
Interestingly, my mother called me Anna from the womb because she was the one to immediately recognize Jesus in the Temple. Little did I realize that openly recognizing the life of Jesus at work in the least of these would not make me very popular and that I would need to draw deeply from God’s grace: the very meaning of my name: Anna.
In my pride and fear of man, I bowed before my idols, even as a returning Prodigal. Through the life of Peter, who bowed before the religious leaders upon his own restoration, God reminded me that He perfects His power in our weakness, as we learn to draw on and rest in His grace through each rebuke He sends our way. It is His loving discipline that teaches us to abide in the vine – to be rooted in His love – that we might reap abiding and abundant fruit.
Like Peter, I am learning to humble myself, only through Christ’s humbling of me. Slowly but surely, the Word hidden in my heart as a little girl is beginning to reap the fruit for which it was sent, as God is leading me to repentance and opening my ears to His Voice, through the power of His Holy Spirit:
John 14:26 (KJV) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
No, not one Word of our faithful God ever returns void. It is Christ – the Word made flesh – who gives us life, exchanging our heart of stone for a heart of flesh, as He opens our ears to hear and obey His Word of love, truth and grace. For, Christ died, rose again and ascended unto heaven to give us something even better than His physical presence with us: the indwelling of His Spirit within us. Why? So that we might hear and hearken to every Word He speaks to us, intimately and personally.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 (ESV) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
As I lost my life, bowing before men and giving away my free will, God moved to restore my life in Him. Ever since He has been laboring to open my eyes that I might see by faith and not by sight. He has been restoring my free will that I had unknowingly placed in the hands of those I idolized. He has continually prompted me to set myself apart unto Him that I might die to my idols of self and man.
He has been rooting me in His love, empowering me to humble myself under His mighty hand, to receive His sword of life. As Proverbs 29:2 (ESV) puts it: “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.” Praise God for that man of understanding and knowledge: Jesus Christ, who has become my salvation.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.””” EXODUS 15:2 (NIV)
Now, I know this Word made flesh, our Jesus Christ of understanding and knowledge, came not to bring peace as the world knows it, but the sword of life that He may bring true peace to us all, in Him alone.
Romans 11:29-32 (ESV) puts it like this: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”
Come let us bow before Him in awe. For, He who calls [us] is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24)! He will open the ears of the deaf. Just watch our loved ones come running into His waiting arms, as they hear and heed His call of love and mercy! Just watch Him make us One, as we all hearken to His Voice.
Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil
Can you remember how Christ set you apart in His choosing of you? Can you remember the pain of that consecration?
Now, ask the LORD to help you remember particular ways your Prodigal loved ones were set apart unto Him as children. In what ways did they face rejection from those they loved and trusted most? And what could that reveal about God’s irrevocable call upon their lives?
How could God be using their Prodigal journey to prepare their hearts to walk into His purpose for their lives? How could He be honoring a deeper desire He planted within them as little children?
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.
Matthew 10:34 – 39 (ESV) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.