Open Hands and Hearts . . . in Jesus

Such deep deep mercy Christ has for us. I was just so sunk in that mirey clay today, when Jesus said to me: read John 6. I cried – verses 35-40 are my life verses – and again His Promise never to let me go (MSG version), never to cast me out (most other versions) and never to lose me so reassured my heart, but somehow what spoke so deeply to my heart today was verse 21 (HCSB) – that:

at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading

I think the disciples were tired of waiting. It was late and getting dark, and so they headed to Capernaum – without Jesus. I wonder if they felt forsaken by Jesus, who had gone off alone (to get away from those who wished to crown him King and most likely to seek His Father’s face in prayer). I wonder if that’s also why they left without Him.

Perhaps their hearts were hardened in pain and distrust at waiting and Jesus not showing up “in time” (according to their human fathoming). But just look at what GRACE meets them in their weakness – even as they have gone on ahead without their Savior in their own strength and understanding, believing they had to now fend for themselves – a storm that stops them, a Savior who walks toward them on the churning sea (of accusations) and who turns that churning sea of wrath into a sea of mercy:

at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading

So, it’s not that they were headed the wrong direction, it’s that they were going about it the wrong way (method). Their human understanding told them:

– there is just NO more time to rest (hey, it’s kinda dark, you know, shouldn’t we be heading home by now, Jesus? Where are YOU?!)

– I guess now we have to travel on alone, in our own strength now, because Jesus is not back yet.

Their human thinking – most likely fed by their human and fleshly weaknesses of pride, unbelief, weariness, distrust and impatience – meant they were now traveling in their own strength, weary and discouraged, without their beloved Jesus at their side. So, what does Jesus do to show them who their Father is and what He is like? Does He let them carry on weary and discouraged in their own strength and without Him? Or does He set about to punish them for their weakness and sinful striving?

No! He – who controls the wind, let’s the sea begin to churn. He raises up a barrier – which incidentally is an alternate meaning of the Word “sufficient” from God’s Word to Paul, when he asked God to remove the thorn of Satan in his side. God refused to, saying to Paul: “my grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So what if that churning sea was in fact God’s way of making sure the disciples wouldn’t get to shore alone, discouraged and weary – but with Him, encouraged and empowered by Him.

He takes away their transgression (of abandoning Him and going it alone), wiping away their fear of punishment, by meeting them in mercy. He walks toward them, stills their fear, in so doing leads them to invite Him into the boat with them. And if that wasn’t enough, He completes the journey for them (no more weary striving, thank You, Jesus!). In all of this I hear Him say to us today:

I know your hearts. I know you love me. I know just how weary and discouraged and afraid you are. And I want you to know I am not upset, disappointed in you or angry at you but FULL of compassion for you- because I have felt and feel everything you do too and more – and yet sinned not. I did what you never could – I rested in My Papa, in His timing and in His will – for you. So that now, through the Cross and My Spirit breath in you, you might walk in Me – in the Way, the Truth and the Life – as I reveal My all-sufficient grace for you and all.

Yes, as my brother Peter said: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

And there is my verse I prayed this morning – from a place of weariness, discouragement and pride. And look what my Jesus did – He lifted up the warm bread of His Word (Himself) for me in thanks to His Father, broke His Body on that Cross for me to feed Himself to me – filling my heart with the truth, the life and my good and perfect way to walk.

Jesus has done it for us – gone to His Papa, where He now intercedes before His Father – our Father – on our behalf for ever more. He now meets us in every place our hearts are troubled and become hardened in sin, fear and pain.

I could cry because in my discouragement today Jesus reminded me of my dream from last night. It left me so in awe. I suddenly saw how my very wrestling is in fact Christ’s intercession. My heart aches for my loved ones to know Him, and I saw this unfolding in the dream, and yet now I see that Christ’s heart in me aches not just for my loved ones to know Him, but for me to know Him too – in and through all the intercession.

In my own wrestling with unbelief, I am finding Jesus over and over standing up for me to declare His faith for me. Whenever I have wanted to throw in the towel in my discouragement, He has taken ahold of my heart and my pen – leading me to wrestle with Him, even when I haven’t felt like it. And there His Voice has arisen for me. And that’s what I saw happening in my dream- for my loved ones too.

In every prideful, self-led, weary and discouraged prayer, where like the disciples I have gone on alone, without Jesus, God has purposely permitted Satan to stir up a STORM – as Satan has accused me of not being worthy of Jesus showing up “on time” for me and my loved ones, as Satan has pointed out my past as proof of God’s need to now punish me, by deserting me. But every time that very storm of accusations has only raised up a barrier to usher me into the all-sufficient grace of my Jesus, as Jesus has come walking toward me on that churning water saying: “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”. Yes, every storm – every thorn in my side – has been sent to stop me from going it alone, weary and discouraged, believing Jesus has left me to fend for myself.

For, Jesus keeps taking what the enemy sends to hurt me, to root me ever deeper in His love and His grace. He sets Himself before me through His Word and leads me to take a hold of His hand, to invite Him into the boat with me and to let Him complete my and my loved ones’ journey, through His all-sufficient doing for us at the Cross. It is He who is leading me and my loved ones successfully across to the other side, as He makes Himself known to us and through us to one another.

Now may we all see Jesus continue to meet us in our wrestling, whatever multi-colored trials surround us today and in the days to come – just as He has promised us He will. May we see Him prove Himself in us, as He reveals His glory.

John 6: 16 – 21 (HCSB) 16 When(R) evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.(S) Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles,[c] they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid.

20 But He said to them, “It is I.[d](T) Don’t be afraid!” 21 Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.

Thank You, thank You, thank You, Jesus, for Your everlasting love for us ALL:

Coming Forth As Gold

A few days ago, I prayed through James 1:2-3 and was intrigued by the additional possible meanings of each Word recorded in an online Bible lexicon (sources:, 

“Let your leading thought (consider), one piece at a time (all), be an awareness of God’s grace (joy), when you are totally surrounded (encounter) by many colored (various) testings (trials), coming to know through personal experience (knowing) that the being found genuine (testing) of God’s persuasion in you (faith) brings to a decisive conclusion (produces) your by God-enabled remaining under the challenges allotted (endurance).”

What continually strikes me, each day I sit to pray through Scripture and look up the Words in the online Bible lexicon, is how the translations we have chosen focus so much on human effort, when the underlying meaning of the Words I look up always emphasize God’s doing for us and His proving of Himself in us, for us and through us.

This morning, I found my faith failing me. I felt depressed, hemmed in on every side by trials that just proved my weakness, my inability to press through and make things happen that are beyond my control. I felt like giving up, but also heard that little still Voice inside me calling me to come rest with Him.

So, I lay down in bed for an hour to give my physical and spiritual heart rest. I woke to find this verse in my inbox:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” MATTHEW 7:13-14 NIV

I suddenly remembered the verse I had been praying a few days earlier in James (1:2-3) and found my heart rejoicing, realizing this narrow way I was being pressed into was God’s Way for me and He was inviting me to let go of my faith in myself and my ability, to rest in His. So, I grabbed my bike, with my husband’s and children’s blessing, to head to the forest nearby.

I trusted God to help me through the incessant chest pain and pressure and shortness of breath I have been experiencing daily since a bike ride on Monday. Feeling abandoned by medical professionals who I have trusted to help me, God helped me remember this isn’t His abandonment of me and that my desire to come away with Him to pray, was His desire for me too.

As I biked, the Words “come forth as gold” came to my mind. Turns out they are words spoken by Job as he too was hemmed in on every side by painful trials of physical and emotional affliction. As those around him, rather than helping him, were making things worse, even telling him he must have brought all the calamity upon himself, Job cried out (Job 23:10 KJV):

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

As I looked up the Word “know”, I again discovered the Word “yada”- to know one another as Adam knew Eve, conceiving a child from that intimate union. And the Word “gold” could also mean “oil”. Does it remind you of what it reminded me too?

And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. Matthew 25:8-10 ESV

So, these trials that are burning away my faith in my own ability to stand by faith are in fact bringing forth oil: God’s Holy Spirit power for me and in me, as He calls me into knowing Him more and more intimately.

When I wanted to give up as my weakness and inability was exposed, the Father’s still small Voice called me:

“Come away with Me, Anna, and let Me prove My ability and power for you and to you. Let me show you the truth of My Promise to you through my beloved Peter:

1 Peter 1:6-7 HCSB
You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Yes, YOUR faith perishes through the fire, but that’s only so MY SON’S faith and HIS persuasion of you to believe and trust Me may be revealed in and through you. So that the trust of JESUS may be revealed in you. Rememember what I told you: “There’s life in the womb”.

Oh yes! All those places the way becomes narrow and impossible for us to walk through is where more of Jesus is being birthed in us: His life, His breath, His faith for us. Praise Him!!! He is LORD alone!!

And that reminds me WHO our narrow gate and door truly is – JESUS working in us, for us and through us to lift up our weary and discouraged hearts in praise:

New International Version

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

New Living Translation

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

English Standard Version

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:9

There are many reasons us humans give for not believing in God, and I face them daily in my own heart also – but now I see that when it comes down to it, all that’s needed is the Spirit’s touch. There’s no reason or logic that can stand against the power of His holy touch upon us …that’s how He brought me, His lost lamb, home too those 8 years ago.

It was walking the hills around Wanaka in New Zealand, looking out onto the glistening lake and surrounded by mountains every side. I felt the power of God descend upon me with such incredible peace, right when my heart was shattered into a thousand pieces, having just heard Mum had two to three months to live. In one moment God cut through all the accusations and lies of my accuser to wrap me in the truth of His love for me.

Gates of Praise
A poem by Anna Louise Smit

I am your light and your salvation
I am your glory within
Call your walls: salvation
Your gates: praise.

I am your glory within
Swing wide you heavenly gates
Your gates: praise
Let the King of Glory come in.

Swing wide you heavenly gates
Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope
Let the King of Glory come in
Light shines in darkness.

Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope
I am a wall of fire around you
Light shines in darkness
I am the Lifter of your head.

I am a wall of fire around you
Call your walls: salvation
I am the lifter of your head
I am your light and your salvation.

Psalm 24: 9 (ESV)

Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

1 Chronicles 16:28 (ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!

Psalm 22:3 (ESV)

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Isaiah 60:18 (ESV)

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.

Zechariah 9:12 (ESV)

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Isaiah 62:1 (ESV)

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,

and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,

until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

and her salvation as a burning torch.

John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (MSG)

6 It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 7 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us.