As I re-read this today, I saw the Ukraine before me and the countless children and adults walking through such horror, just as Romanians did under Ceaucescu’s brutal reign of horror. And so I longed to share this with you again. May God reveal His light to those shrouded in the darkness covering the Ukraine today, bringing palpable experiences of His nearness, love and compassion – and may He also reveal that same nearness, love and compassion to those being oppressed and persecuted in Russia for standing in the light and sowing seeds of justice into their nation. Thank You Jesus that the darkness cannot overcome Your light of love, hope, truth and mercy.
Welcome to Part 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the free will offering of fire and salt.
When we read of the old system of sacrifices in Leviticus, we find the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice already reflected in the commands given to the Israelites in relation to salt and fire:
You (A)shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the (B)salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; (C)with all your offerings you shall offer salt.Leviticus 2:13 (ESV)
Do you know how that old covenant was guaranteed? Not by man upholding his side, but by God putting Abraham to sleep, so that the covenant might be ratified within the trinity, so that our God might carry the weight of our sin and pain upon His own shoulders, inviting us into a light yoke, freed from the slavery of fear and condemnation.
Do you, like me recognize Jesus in this? For, as John 1:1 (ESV) tells us: In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus died for us, so that all men might come unto Him to be saved of their sin and the penalty of sin – death. Even though every single one of us has fallen short of the glory of God, our loving Father declares to us:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
And that’s why, He will not allow us to ever boast in anything other than Him. So, when we try to do that, when we try to hide the light of His love and grace, in our fear, He sends out His wind. He blows upon the fire of His Word in us, until we cannot help but release the salt of His covenant of love, truth and grace into the world:
For everyone will be salted with fire.[a]Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”Mark 9:49-50 (ESV) [a]Some manuscripts add and every sacrifice will be salted with salt
As I sat with all of this, God brought an old piece I had written to mind, asking me to lift it up to Him afresh, but this time with the salt of His Word. So, here you go, Jesus: this is for You and Your beloved Body. I will no longer hide my light but release the fire burning within me.
I still remember the excitement, the tears, the shouts for joy. A wall falling. A people reunited. A dictator executed. A people freed. I was eight years old and sitting in a West German classroom, the daughter of New Zealand missionaries in a time God’s miraculous power swept across the world and into my presence.
Weeks later I’d be accompanying my family into Romania and meeting believers who welcomed us with such warmth and love. The joy of the LORD – their acknowledgement of God’s grace in their lives – was palpable in our midst, as we sung in that enormous church, men one side, women with their heads covered on another. In incredible heartache and persecution the Romanian church had exploded in number, as a suffering and dying people were drawn like a magnet to the Living Hope that is Christ Jesus.
As I prayed through Isaiah 53:3-12, my eyes rested on verse 3:
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
and I wept. Because I saw how we, God’s children, have been walking in our Savior’s footsteps. But also because I was convicted that unlike my Savior and my Romanian brothers and sisters, I had chosen to clothe myself in lies, believing myself:
smitten by God, and afflicted.”
I had carried my mental illness born in the wake of trauma, as a punishment, as something that defines my standing before God. But as I rested on:
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows”
I remembered the visions God gifted me in therapy. Visions of His presence in my most traumatic memories. Visions of His loving face, of His Words of truth piercing my hardened heart that had been locked tight in shame, unable to process, to grieve what was taken from me.
Of Him encouraging me to kick, scream, flail and cry for all that I had walked through. Of Him telling me He too is angry. And I then saw how walking to His Cross, He carried what was done to me. He carried my loss, my grief and my sorrow. And He also carried my sinful turning away, those moments I chose to clothe myself in lies.
He never ever left me, not even for a moment. Not even as I turned my back on Him for more than twenty long years. Yes:
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”
At His Cross He wept and cried: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He forgave me.
“yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
And by His grace, He is now empowering me also, just as He did my brothers and sisters in Romania, to arise and shine in the truth. To esteem Him, by wrapping myself in the truth and grace of the Cross and by releasing the fire and salt of His Word from my lips, unafraid and unashamed of His grace for every single one of us – His beloved children.
“by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,”
For, as Jeremiah 20:9 says: “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” And neither can I hoarde what God has given unto me, even when man tells me God’s love and grace cannot save a Prodigal from their own sin.
For, I know my God to be sovereign over all and NO ONE can snatch God’s children out of His hands. NO ONE can undo what He has done at the Cross for us. And that God is worthy of all our praise, as we declare the Promises of His Word in great expectation! Open ye gates and let the King of Glory come in:
From my own life story and the story of Joseph in the Bible, I know that every attack waged against us is only positioning us, where our God wants us to be. So that as our eyes open in the light of His love and grace for us, we will shine His love and grace into places His church would never have otherwise gone: to those who are so yearning to know the love and grace of Jesus.
Not one page of our life story is outside of God’s sovereign plan for us. Every last page is written in His book of life. For, He is perfecting His power in our weakness, so that all will one day know from the rising of the sun to its setting that the Name of the LORD is to be praised!
No, mental and physical affliction do not define us. The Cross alone defines us. In the power of the Cross at work in us, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. For “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, in the hand of the One who lives and breathes in us. The One who has wrought justice at the Cross. The One who is now restoring all that the enemy thought he had stolen, killed and destroyed in and through our weakness.
The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little adopted brother. These children, now adults healing from trauma, are scattered around the world for God’s appointed purposes: that they might declare the glory of the One who has called them out of darkness into His glorious light.
As our God heals them of their trauma and sin and draws them into His love and grace, they are becoming His light of love and grace in this world. They are drawing others to Christ, as He draws them to Himself. What the enemy meant for evil, our God always meant for good. Look for it. He is arising through the least of these.
Yes, our God is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise! Nothing. Not one broken piece is separated from His perfect love in Christ Jesus, in whom every broken piece of our hearts finds its whole.
We, the esteemed and chosen men, women and children of God, filled with joy, ones toward whom God has turned His face are invited to let our incense – the prayers of our Savior in us – arise. For, our Father longs to draw many more children unto glory through the power of His Son’s blood and His living testimony at work in us.
May we, who have known the horror of abuse, just like our Savior, stand with tears in our eyes. Not for our own pain, which our Messiah has redeemed at the Cross. But like Jesus, for the very ones who have wounded and afflicted us, blinded by their sin and pain.
May we rise in the strength of our Savior’s heart and blood in us, to cry: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And may we walk forgiven and free of all our sin, fear and shame into the light. May we forgive, just as God has forgiven us.
Oh what an indescribable gift flows from the Cross. A place of deep suffering for our loving Savior. For us. For every single fibre of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls. Our confession of weakness and sin does not put our God to shame. It glorifies the work of His Son in us, who is taking us from glory to glory, until He reveals Himself fully in and through us.
Oh may He make us those who do not hide the light of His love and grace, but shine it brightly for all to see, as the fire and salt of His Word pour out of our mouths. For, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1 John 1:5, ESV). Praise Him!
Will you join me as I sing with my brothers and sisters in Timisoara? Timisoara is one of the towns in Romania I visited with my parents and siblings as an 8 and 9 year old to deliver aid:
And will you also join me, as I end in prayer (Ephesians 3: 14 – 21, ESV)?
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom wevery family3 in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to xthe riches of his glory yhe may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit zin your inner being, 17 aso that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being brooted and cgrounded in love, 18 may have strength to dcomprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and eheight and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ fthat surpasses knowledge, that gyou may be filled with all hthe fullness of God.
20 iNow to jhim who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, kaccording to the power at work within us, 21 lto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.