Welcome to Chapter 7 of Part 7 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna and Bettie are introducing you to The New Covenant of Love, the final chapter of our book – God’s gift to us.
Who would have thought that our Savior would come to earth, not to LORD it over us?
Who would have thought He would come not to take His beloved children back by force?
Not to scream and kill to enforce His Way, or even to show us how to be “good” kids?
Not to condemn and punish us, or demand we stick to a long list of rules?
Who would have thought that He would come to be the refugee, scorned as the illegitimate son, rejected by His own?
Who would have thought He would be seen as being posssessed by the devil for opening ears, eyes, minds and hearts to love?
Who would have thought that He would come to sit and break bread with sinners and hearken His ear to the unclean, the weak, ill and abused and become One with them?
Who would have thought He came to suffer humiliation upon humiliation, to take upon Him every one of our human afflictions?
Who would have thought that the Son of God came to be separated from His very own Father that He might join each and every one of us in our suffering?
Who would have thought He would come to die on a cruel Cross, extending mercy to a murderer hanging next to Him?
Who would have thought He came to take the place of Barrabus, that He might give us Gentiles life too?
Who would have thought He came to immerse us from head to toe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, by shedding His own blood on a cruel and seemingly senseless Cross?
Who would have thought He would become the law fulfilled to lift the heavy burden of the law from our shoulders?
Who would have thought His own heart would stop beating to rise again – not just all those years ago, but in us even today?
Who would have thought He could exchange our numbed, stone cold human hearts with a new heart, beating in tune to the Father’s pure and unblemished sacrifice of love?
Oh yes, our God works in mysterious Ways:
And because He knew we wouldn’t have thought this or wrapped our minds around what He was up to from the very beginning, He gave us the hope of glory. The Father gave us Jesus, His very own Son, the living and active Word, through the Holy Spirit. The bread of life, the living water, the oil of anointing, the fire and salt of the Word, the sword of life, the breath of God and blood of Christ that has been shed abroad into our hearts.
So, that in the profession of our faith, God might ever remind us, piece by piece as He unfolds Himself in us, on those most painful days:
“You don’t yet understand what I am doing, but one day you will.”
So, that one day, we shall look back and see Jesus in every Cross He set before us. In every face we looked into. In every place He had us join Him in His suffering, so that one day we shall see and know Him, for who He truly is.
No, not just in part, but
– fully, wholly and completely –
We shall look upon Him, and be changed in an instant into
the New Covenant of Love
the living and breathing, mysterious and majestic heart, tabernacle, Holy Temple, home, dwelling place and embodiment of Christ. The Love of a King.
Oh Papa open our eyes and ears and minds and hearts to see You not just in the one before us now, but in every single face that walks this earth, thirsty and hungry for Love. In our past and present and future glorify Your Son in us. Unveil Jesus in us all that we – Your Body made One – might bend our knees in awe to confess You LORD of all. In Jesus’ mighty, sovereign, holy Name, Amen.
May God open our eyes to see His face shining upon us today:
Welcome to Day 7 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna and Bettie are bringing forward the final free will offering of The Mercy Seat.
In Fearfully and Wonderfully, Dr Paul Brand talks about touch, and his experience with one of his leprosy patients (Kindle location 1196):
‘No, doctor. He says he is crying because you put your hand around his shoulder. Until he came here no one had touched him for many years.’
And Bettie and I cried too. Just to think how important touch is to the body/Body. And so Bettie went to find the Scripture of Jesus touching the man with leprosy, and finally had strength to make another journal page. It flows along with more thoughts, “Am I so willing?” ….
And as Bettie and Anna shared their hearts and prayers with each other, Anna was reminded of this Scripture:
John 10: 2-5, 16 (ESV) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
It made Anna see that Jesus purposely leads His sheep out the gate that He might call other sheep that are not of this fold back through the gate TOGETHER with the sheep He has already led out – who are now also no longer alone.
Does this remind you of another passage also? Just look at this:
In Isaiah 40:5 the glory of God being revealed means literally His heavy weight and burden will be carried away into exile. This made Anna think of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 22:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Look at that “both bad and good”. It’s not our righteousness but Christ’s that gains us entry to the wedding feast. The only thing God asks of us, is the right dress – FAITH in Christ’s righteousness for us – not at all in our own goodness, but HIS alone.
In John 5:8, when Jesus speaks to the man who has been waiting 38 years to be healed, guess what “pick up” your mat means? “Elevate, raise up, lift up, carry off and remove sin“. What struck Anna is that this man was called to elevate and lift up the Word of Jesus that tells us that we are already clean. And how was he to lift up this Word? By breaking the religious boundaries and thinking of his time to obey Jesus and His living and active Word.
And this is what will have enabled the now healed man to fulfill the command of Jesus to sin no more. Oh trust me, this human just like us will have messed up again, but in that moment Jesus taught him what sinning no more truly means: lifting up Jesus and His Word to us and walking into it – moment by moment, each day anew. And what does Jesus – our Word fulfilled tell us through Paul (the former religious leader who had kept others bound in spiritual abuse and even had Christians killed):
“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
Elevating the Word God speaks to us and the finished work of the Cross is what carries away and removes our sin. And this ironically so often means we must do something or say something that even our own religious leaders do not agree with, so that we might LOVE others, as Jesus loves us.
Just look at the root of this man’s lameness: look at how it is described –
HELPS Word-studies Cognate: 769 asthéneia – properly, without strength (negating the root sthenos, “strength”). See 772 (asthenēs).
769 /asthéneia (“weakness, sickness”) refers to an ailment that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. 769 (asthéneia) focuses on the handicaps that go with the weakness.
[769 (asthéneia) expresses the weakening influences of the illness or a particular problem, especially as someone becomes wrongly (overly) dependent.]
Lying on that mat, we believe we need those who have condemned us in our frailty and need, those who have deemed us (the physically and mentally ill) as unclean and disqualified from God’s service, to lift us up. But no! We only need Jesus – the Father’s love for us that was poured out at the Cross and His Word to us (John 8:10-11):
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
That Jesus stretches out His hand toward us and touches us in our frailty, in our sinking into condemnation and shame, as we return to that which is stealing from us, killing us and destroying us, believing that is our divine lot. Even as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ affirm Satan’s lies and deem us unclean and unworthy of serving in our communities of faith, as triggers of trauma expose our inner cup for cleaning and our need for the mercy and compassion of Jesus.
It truly is idolatry (respecting man’s word and traditions above God’s living and active Word) that has us lying down on our mats of condemnation and shame, and falling asleep to Christ’s finished work for us.
Bettie asked herself: “Am I willing” to touch the untouchables? But what Bettie didn’t see is that she already has: countless times. You see, Anna was that untouchable. When so many other believers retreated from Anna as if she had the plague, when Anna chose to speak up and leave her church and online Christian communities, after the spiritual abuse she suffered, it was Bettie who stood by Anna and reached out. As Anna walked through horrific triggers of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bettie continually showered Anna in encouragement from afar. It was the Holy Spirit speaking through Bettie who helped give Anna her voice back in Christ and His righteousness for her.
Bettie prayed with Anna via Skype, even as the time-difference and Bettie’s ailing health made that extra hard for her. Bettie read and replied to Anna’s long and many emails from a genuine heart of compassion, even as her hands ached from the debilitating impact of arthritis. Even through deeply painful flares, Bettie has reached out to send Anna worship songs and Scriptures that God has placed on her heart. She has shared her own heartbreaking stories of church breakings, of speaking up and meeting rejection. She has confessed her own weakness and sins freely with Anna and in the process God has lifted away so much condemnation and shame from Anna’s shoulders.
Yes, even in winter, the light of God breaks through:
Winter By Bettie Gilbert
Your mercy Here in the changes Some things depart
But other things stay.
Can I sit with Your mercy here While some things die
And seeds are dormant?
The whipping wind Squall like memories Your mercy here
Can I see through the haze?
Even in winter The sun breaks thru Your mercy
As Anna shared what she had compiled for today’s post with Bettie, Bettie replied:
So very beautiful, and just tears in my eyes, dear Anna. But I also want to say that you were & are the merciful touch of Jesus for me too. After so long of feeling that my own stories didn’t matter, that I needed to minimize what was happening in me, you were the voice of Jesus asking me questions and calling me out of my silence. His ways are so perfect, weaving us and touching us through each other!
Yes, Jesus has been restoring us both, making us strong, firm and steadfast in Him through our breaking and suffering. Through His touch upon us, through His love pouring out of other broken and suffering souls, who have been willing to stoop down, reach out and touch a fellow untouchable in Jesus’ Name. Through Jesus setting the mercy seat before us in the presence of our enemies: the Body of Christ that was broken to make us One.
Thank You, Jesus, for leading us out of the gate to call others in. Thank You for making suffering members of Your broken Body more than willing to be Your touch of mercy in our lives. Thank You for making Your love and Presence known to us – the untouchables – even from the other side of the world. Thank You for affirming our calling, our appointing and our belonging in Christ through Your Body that was broken and led out to make us united and whole in You. Keep reminding us through each other that we are ,Your new creation, fearfully and wonderfully made by You, justified by faith alone, and that in our weakness Your power is perfected daily. And now lead us out to others You intend to now call in through the gate of salvation, through us and with us. Arise and shine in and through us. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Welcome to Day 6 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna is bringing forward the sixth free will offering of The Mercy Seat.
In his third and final denial, Peter replied in the negative to the question: “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Peter declared that the very man whose brother’s ear he had only just cut off, couldn’t have seen him, Peter, there in that garden with Jesus.
Now, Jesus had healed the man’s ear that Peter had cut off. The Messiah had healed the very man who came to take him away to die. And all the while, Peter had continued to believe with his human faculties that Jesus could never have come into this world, call a multitude unto Himself, only to be led away to die.
Now, this very man before Peter reminded Peter of the events that were threatening to break not only Peter’s heart, but also the box he had put Jesus into and the box he had put himself into. A box of “suffering no more” for Jesus and His followers, that he was still unwilling to let go of, as he vehemently denied being there in that garden of blood-sweated tears. And a box of self-righteous goodness for himself, as he vehemently denied having any part in the ear-cutting. Peter’s idols stood tall. Coping-mechanisms refused to bow, as the world around him began to crumble. Peter clung to lies to try to silence the truth of his own fallibility, not understanding the gift of Christ’s mercy and completion for Him.
Interestingly, we know that Peter had fallen asleep on his watch, just as the other disciples had. He was present in that garden and yet not, because ultimately his own strength had left him in the lurch. In his last ditch effort to “save” Jesus upon awaking, Peter’s passion (led by his flesh) was exposed: his weakness of wearing his heart on his sleeve. A heart that at this point was still beating to the tune of fleshly desires – desires leading Peter into imprudent and rash behavior.
When we reflect on these events, it’s interesting to remember that when God made a covenant with His people in the Old Testament, He did so as Abraham lay in a deep sleep (Genesis 15). The covenant was never ratified by Abraham, only by God. The responsibility for its fulfillment thus lay fully in God’s hands. Likewise, the new covenant of grace, sealed by the blood of Christ, could not be earnt by man, it was and still is a free and unmerited gift from God to us all.
What if Peter’s weaknesses – his lack of physical strength to stay awake and wearing his heart on his sleeve – were in fact weaknesses given unto Peter as gifts. Gifts destined to lean him into the Cross and be given back to Him as strengths. What if the pointed question: “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” was purposed to reveal the true state of Peter’s divided heart, his weakness and inability to stand firm in his own strength?
What if this uncovering was destined to unveil the hidden heart of Jesus in Peter? For it is in being forced to confess his weakness and imperfection that Peter’s heart is opened to receive (and give away) the mercy and grace of God.
This mercy and grace was poured out in abundant measure, through a baptism of fire in the Holy Spirit. It is then the Holy Spirit took over, leading Peter daily into Christ’s death and resurrection and transforming him to look more and more like Jesus. And led by this Spirit of God, Peter’s life would reveal the Son of God’s united heart of perfect love.
Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation — the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new! 2 Corinthians (2 Co) 5:17 CJB
When I now look at Peter in that courtyard facing his accuser, I see Jesus standing beside Peter saying: just watch how I am going to redeem this very moment for good to reveal My Spirit’s power in and for you. Jesus always knew Peter’s weakness and how He could harness it for good. For, as Christ raises Peter to his irrevocable calling, it is precisely these two weaknesses that become his greatest assets.
As Peter’s strength is dashed to smithereens, Christ’s power takes over to heal bodies, hearts and minds through the very shadow of Peter’s body. For, Peter’s heart is now filled with the Living Word of God, as the Holy Spirit teaches him to beat in tune to the heart of Jesus. Now, wearing his new heart of pure gold – Jesus – more and more on his sleeve, Christ’s love and peace becomes palpably present everywhere Peter walks. God transforms imprudence into prudence and anger into humble mercy and compassion. And even today, everywhere Peter’s testimony to Jesus is shared we are abundantly blessed, which literally means we are strengthened in the Lord.
Likewise, I am now watching God harness my weaknesses for good. Like Peter once did, I tried to be “strong” and “good” for Jesus. As a little girl I quickly met my weakness and imperfection, and like Peter chose to deny Jesus in my fear of man and unwillingness to admit my sin and my need. Until, as a teenager, I couldn’t take the hypocrisy anymore and fled “God” – only to discover years later, when God opened my eyes, that I had in fact been fleeing the idol I had created of him.
Since God opened my eyes to see, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and my heart condition have been smashing my physical, mental and emotional strength to smithereens. God is continually reminding me that He alone is the strength of my heart and the only goodness in me.
He has purposely been lifting away the burdens of human “strength” and human “goodness” from my shoulders. In their place, He is revealing His power, goodness, mercy and grace for me and through me. He is burning away all in my life and heart that is not built upon the foundation of His blood and rebuilding me in the light of His glory and grace.
He is showing me daily that my lack of human strength and my inability to be good in and of myself is what leads me to the Cross, that Christ’s compassion, mercy and goodness might come alive in me. As the worldly and hypocritical self-righteous foundation I have built for myself (and even my family) over the years, is now being stripped away piece by piece, God is revealing the firm foundation of Jesus and His Word in my heart and beneath my feet. By His mercy and grace, God is hearkening His ear inside of me to listen for and obey the promptings of the Father through the Holy Spirit, day by day and moment by moment.
The second weakness God has been harnessing for good, just as He did for Peter, is wearing my heart on my sleeve. What I failed to see, as did Peter in cutting off the soldier’s ear, was the hidden affliction of my opposition. Unlike Jesus, Peter and I did not (at first) weep for the numbed and hardened hearts of those who opposed Jesus in us, nor the heartbreaking consequences they would face for their sinful actions and their dire need for the compassion and mercy of Jesus.
Ironically, as I began to soak in my accuser’s lies, I worshipped my idols of self and man, belittling and cutting down the beauty and purity of my God’s heart speaking so boldly in and through me and forsook the call to prayer. In my sin, my own heart became numb and hardened to the Word of God – both as a child and later as a returned Prodigal too. But Jesus has since even turned this into good, using it all to help me better identify with those who reject Jesus in me.
After Christ’s Words of restoration and redemption, Peter too returned to sit amongst the religious leaders, just as I did at first, as a returned Prodigal. These leaders rejected the Word of God. Yet even knowing all we did, Peter and I at first let go of Christ’s command to speak up, separate ourselves from the yeast and lift away the heavy burden of restrictive traditions and cleansing ceremonies from our suffering brethren in doing so. We denied the Living Word that declared:
John 15:3 (ESV) Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Why? In my case, it was my idolatry of religious leaders, as I struggled to believe God’s Word to me, above the word of those in religious authority over me. And it was my unwillingness to face the pain of rejection and loss all over again. But praise God, Christ harnessed my weakness of wearing my heart on my sleeve for good.
Again, just as a child, I couldn’t help but speak up. This time God used the triggers of trauma and my previous experience of His mercy to me, to compel me to pray. As I cried out to God, again and again, God gave me the wisdom, discernment and strength I needed to change my mind, confess my sins and weakness openly and to walk into and rest in His will for me.
Through this repeated experience of opposition and my weakness and need, God has freed and is freeing me still to wear my heart on my sleeve before Him also. He is causing me to come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need to receive His mercy and grace. In my weakness, Jesus is drawing me deeper and deeper into His love for me, hearkening His ear in me to hear and obey the Father.
A very wise, 28-year-old, summed up so beautifully what both Peter and I learnt as God exposed our weaknesses through suffering. Stephen Wright, the son of my dear friend Gayl, suffered so much through debilitating physical and mental affliction. Now he is in heaven, but his living testimony to the mercy of Jesus still speaks to us today. Stephen reminds us:
“The beast inside us screams for justice. It can’t take humiliation, it can’t take being falsely accused, or misjudged. Above all, it can’t admit its own weaknesses. But when the beast is let loose, and you fight tooth and claw for your own dignity, you lose what dignity you had. If the beast loses the fight you are humiliated tenfold. If the beast wins the fight you become nothing more than the monster you believed your accusers to be, feeding the endless cycle of crushing and being crushed. When the beast is loosed, someone will always have to suffer.
Leave it be … Suffer the humiliation, admit to yourself your own shortcomings. Then recall the words of Jesus,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Peter and Stephen learnt, and I am still learning daily, that in the dying of our flesh, Jesus arises in power in us, for us and through us. Now, Stephen Wright and the apostle Peter are glorying fully in that resurrection power – fully healed and whole. Thank You, Jesus!
Clothed in Christ’s blessed and pure humility, I am now daily entering into His death and His resurrection. For, I am seated, even now, in heavenly places on that blessed mercy seat, where Christ’s pure and holy works of faith, His resurrection power and His mercy and grace are being unveiled in me daily. For, my faithful God is arising with healing in His wings, overshadowing me in His mercy. He is shedding the old me to reveal the new – Christ in me – as He perfects His power right here in my weakness.