Part 7: Chapter 6 – Day 4: The One

Welcome to Day 4 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna is bringing forward the fourth free will offering of The Mercy Seat.

How long
Oh how long
LORD
Must we
Wait?

Years pass
Hearts ever
Aching
Where is mercy's
Cloak?

The woman with the issue of blood must have wondered this. Eighteen years of suffering and no end in sight. All doctors leaving her bereft, not just of help, but also of all her material wealth. And yet, her hands still stretched out that day afresh, as Jesus walked before her.

Have you ever considered that her healing was in fact not an isolated affair but a communal one? Why else would God wait so long to intervene? Have you ever considered that His Word to this precious soul was not just intended for the one who put her faith in Jesus?

Jesus stopping led to a religious leader's little girl dying (and being resurrected). Jesus stopping led to man's disapproval of an "unrighteous" woman, and Christ's proving of His righteousness as the trump card.

I believe Jesus was not just stopping to heal one suffering woman, but many more through her (including us today). I believe He was tilling the soil of the self-righteous present, preparing them for a harvest of true righteousness in His death and resurrection. And I believe He was and is speaking mercy over other hidden lamps present.

Women who need(ed) to hear Jesus call an outcast, rejected, "unclean", diseased woman: daughter of the Most High King. Women who needed to know they are not forgotten of God, but chosen and appointed for such a time as this. Not to sit in a corner, believing themselves unworthy, but to arise and shine in the light of their Maker's worthiness, who has not forsaken the works of His hands.

Mercy's cloak
Is even now
Stretching
Ever wider.

A coat
Of many colors
Not just given
For one.

But destined
To be
Unraveled
To weave

A greater
Mystery
Of mercy's blood
Shed for all.

To declare
The rejected: chosen
The diseased: healed
The broken: whole.

To prove
The forsaken: appointed
Of God to call
The forsaken: appointed

And chosen
To secure
The reward for
Christ's suffering

Not just
For the one
But for each
And every One.

My Mama waited twenty years to understand her adopted son and to see her daughter come home to Jesus. My little brother waited twenty years for my Mum to stretch out her hands in mercy. I waited twenty years before seeing God answer my little girl prayers for this to unfold and to be born again in my faith.

But in those twenty years, Jesus loved the lost home through the tears of my Mama for my little brother and I. And Jesus gave the voiceless a voice through His compassion pouring out of my little brother and I. And now His courage is being awakened in my little brother and I - as my Mama watches on from the cloud of witnesses.

Even as we don't see God's mercy for us, we become God's mercy to others. He never stops working and moving. Because not one Word of His ever returns void and mercy is a:

Communal Word
A family
Of God
Becoming

Mercy's cloak
Not for one
But for
The One.

Let us take heart:

For our good God is right here with us, beating in our chest:

Part 7: Chapter 6 – Day 3: You Make Us Willing

Welcome to Day 3 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Bettie and Anna are bringing forward our third free will offering of The Mercy Seat, complementing their own jointly written poem with a poem penned by Christina Georgina Rossetti that is now available in the public domain. We also offer up a jointly written prayer, a collage Bettie made and a worship song of thanksgiving for God’s mercy to us. God bless you all richly.

You Make Us Willing
By Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit

Is there no one here to speak for me?
She had cried out in her shame.
Buried beneath a sin so deep
With no way to escape
The judgment poured down on her.

But Jesus stepped into the crowd
Bent down on the sand
And waited, waited for her
Accusers
Those without sin to cast the stones.

Woman, He asked,
Where are your accusers now?
None stood here without sin.
Neither do I accuse you then.
Freedom became her theme.

Another woman bore a shame
She knew her part in the sinning game
But saw in Jesus’ eyes
Forgiveness calling her out
Mercy drawing her in.

From the depth of her freedom
Came a Love stronger than shame
For ONE had pled her case.
An offering for mercy’s sake
Of much she was forgiven.

Alabaster jar broken open
Fragrance filled the judging room
A washing clean had happened
Worship spilled the tears there
As Love was finally free.

Jesus pled our case
Jesus spoke up for us
Who could not speak

Are we so willing to speak?
Are we so willing to forgive?
Are we so willing to bring in?

Oh thank You, Jesus!
Our Prince of Peace
Our light in the darkness
YOU make us willing!

You are our shield and portion
The Word upon our heart and lips
Our mercy in forgiveness flowing
The gates of salvation open wide
Jesus bringing in.
What Would I Give?

By Christina Georgina Rossetti

What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through,
Instead of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do;
Hard and cold and small, of all hearts the worst of all.

What would I give for words, if only words would come;
But now in its misery my spirit has fallen dumb:
O, merry friends, go your way, I have never a word to say.

What would I give for tears, not smiles but scalding tears,
To wash the black mark clean, and to thaw the frost of years,
To wash the stain ingrain and to make me clean again.

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

Luke 5: 18-25 (NIV)

Lord thaw our hearts and call us into Your doorway where You are waiting to overflow such mercy! Prepare and wake up our hearts from numbness and slumber that You might arise and shine in and through us. Make us Your doorway of mercy to others and a Voice for the voiceless. Take off our self-protective covering that Your blood alone may overshadow us and speak for us.

Thank You that Your mercy living in us – Your blood shed for us – cannot be hoarded. Thank You that You are breaking us – Your sacred and anointed vessels- open that You might reveal Your communal and family blessing. Flow now as oil in and through us freely and out upon the heads of those You have woven us together with.

Thank You that You are even now, weaving us all together in mercy, making us all One in Your righteous judgment – in Your perfect love that is flowing from Your royal throne of grace and shall endure forever and ever.

Thank You that when we are weak, You are strong. Thank You that You who are in us are stronger than he who is in the world. Prove us Yours, oh LORD. Keep us Yours. Never let us go. Let Your ear in us hearken to hear and Your Voice be set free to speak in and through us. In Your precious Name we pray, Amen!

Part 7: Chapter 6 – Day 2: Behold Jesus: The Mercy Seat of our God

Welcome to Day 2 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna is bringing forward our second free will offering of The Mercy Seat.

What does it mean to come boldly before the throne of grace in our time of need? As a teenager, I thought that coming boldly was conditional and that I didn’t meet the conditions. As a returned Prodigal I began attending a church that taught something very similar. The course they taught interpreted physical and mental illness as punishments born of curses we had called upon ourselves in our sin, and as God removing His Presence from us in our “cursed” state, instead of recognizing the power of the blood that has lifted the curse of sin and death:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:13-15, ESV

The book they used prescribed ritual-like steps of cleansing required to restore us to God and His service. Steps ironically “supported” by Bible passages taken out of context and wielded without the Holy Spirit’s leading to try and steal, kill and destroy (just as the devil tried to do with Bible passages he wielded against Jesus in the desert).

Sadly, my old self, my church’s leaders and fellow church members failed to understand what Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, has so beautifully come to realize and live out:

“If I have any tenacity or strength at all, it is recognizing what a treasure trove I have in my weakness, because that is the very thing that drives me to the cross of Jesus Christ, every single day.”

Source: https://www.jesuscalling.com/podcast/lifeline-drowning-hurts-joni-eareckson-tada-dedee-greg-lhamon/

A few days ago, I was re-reading a chapter in my in 2016 self-published book Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering (which is no longer available for sale) and it brought this beautiful life-giving truth of the mercy seat to me afresh. I have been struggling with my new heart condition that has me some days just not wanting to get up out of bed. But God reminded me through the words He had me record about 6 years ago now, that His compassion flows for me in that place and that all I have to do is come. All I have to do is to behold His face and He will lift away my heavy burden, filling me with renewed strength, hope, faith and joy for my day.

It is just like Peter and John on the hill in Gesthemene with Jesus, who moments before were overcome with exhaustion, heavy with sleep. As they looked upon God’s glory descending in their midst they became fully awake and alert, overcome no longer with exhaustion but with the Presence of God.

And so I longed to share these old words from my book with you too. May God’s encouragement to me bless you too, as it has me afresh, leading you, just like me, to come boldly to sit on that mercy seat – in the arms of Jesus – in your time of need today.

Oh may we all behold the glory of God descending in our midst, waking us up to His love, His power and His incredible mercy for us each day anew. May God open our hearts to listen, not to the words of our accuser pushing us little children who are so in need of our Heavenly Papa away, but to Jesus, our mercy seat (Matthew 19:14, NIV):

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Never forget what our Abba Father told the disciples about this Jesus and His Word of mercy (Luke 9:35, AMP):

“This is My beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen and obey and yield to Him!”

BEHOLD

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity, with our large family (my parents had six children), usually spread out between the South and North Island of New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands congregating in one city. It was a wonderful week together, but my heart, mind and soul is also yearning for rest.

This morning, I successfully stepped out of bed without waking my youngest and have been able to read, sit, reflect and wonder at God’s creation. We are currently staying in one of the most beautiful places in the world with my little sister, surrounded by majestic mountains. And yet, my mind has been in overdrive, blinded to that which lies before me.

This morning I read further in A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy and it reminded me of my experience, when God’s powerful Presence broke open my heart, as I surveyed His creation in utter wonder. It was as if the mountains, lake and skies oozed His Presence and as if they enveloped me in Love.

Psalm 143: 4 – 6 (The Message)

I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
    my heart heavy, like lead.
I remembered the old days,
    went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,
Stretched out my hands to you,
    as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.

That’s why if someone were to ask me why I believe what I do, I cannot tell them by talking in terms of the intellect because for me all human reasoning cannot fully fathom the God who has been revealing Himself to me. Just as A. W. Tozer shares in Knowledge of the Holy (Reformed Church Publications, 2013), p. 17:

“We think more loftily of God,” says Michael de Molinos, “by knowing that He is incomprehensible, and above our understanding, than by conceiving Him under any image, and creative beauty, according to our rude understanding.”

It is when I still to look for Him, that I see Him everywhere and in seeing Him everywhere, both my heart and mind open in wonder. The thoughts that had clouded my mind moments ago, dissipate. The ache that had been numbed into oblivion, rises. And thus I join Anselm in his prayer (Knowledge of the Holy, Reformed Church Publications, 2013, p. 18):

“Let me seek Thee in longing,” pleaded Anselm, “let me long for thee in seeking; let me find thee in love, and love thee in finding.”

as my heart begins to yearn after that which my mind cannot decipher, a God who is (Knowledge of the Holy, Reformed Church Publications, 2013, p. 10):

Darkness to the intellect                 

But sunshine to the heart.

Yes, it is good to seek Him with our intellect, to study Him with our minds, but that study can only stretch so far. Our incomprehensible, majestic, holy God is beyond all human fathoming.

And for me, that thought stirs a knee-bending wonder, eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart full of yearning.

Jeremiah 23: 23-24 (The Message)

“Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree—
    “and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide out in a corner
    where I can’t see him?”
        God’s Decree.
“Am I not present everywhere,
    whether seen or unseen?”
        God’s Decree.

Oh yes! Our God will hold us fast, using what the enemy sent to harm us to remind us of the power of the Cross. The power of our Savior’s blood flowing for us to daily lift the weight of our sin and pain and renew our strength that we too might take up our Cross and follow Jesus into abundant life and power perfected in weakness.

Every morning afresh, our King of Kings is meeting me in my weakness, proving Himself as the strength of my heart, as I come to Him just as I am.

He is showing me that He knows me, sees me and loves me and rather than withdrawing His Presence from me when I fall into sin in my weakness, He is the God who draws near to me in that moment. Not just to free me from my sin, but to shower me in grace gifts throughout the day just to remind me He hasn’t left me.

So that next time that same temptation to sin comes calling, I will remember I am not alone and can call on God’s strength to arise and shine in the light of Christ’s love for me. God is proving to me afresh that my weakness is not a punishment, but a gift sent to draw me ever deeper into His love and mercy for me and for all.

Be encouraged with me today: our cold stone heart, bound by sin and pain has been rolled away. For, we now have the life breath and soft heart of Jesus available to us and that Jesus has delivered us – the mercy seat proves it to us daily. Oh let us come boldly before the throne of grace in our time of need.