Welcome to Day 5 of Part 5‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the fifth free will offering of goatskin (no outward attraction).
Is God currently calling you, like me, to something, where all you can see is the lack of human rapport you have? What if our inability to outwardly attract others to Him, is precisely God’s design?
Put yourself in Moses’ shoes, knowing all we do today about the traumatic impact of being separated from your birth mother at the young age he was. “Studies have shown that PTSD actually does affect the functions of the brains in multiple ways. The three areas of the brain that are impacted the most are the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. These areas all play a part in regulating emotions and responding to fear.” (Source: https://highlandspringsclinic.org/blog/can-emotional-trauma-cause-brain-damage/). Likewise, trauma has been directly linked to various chronic, physical illnesses. I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if the heart trouble I am currently being treated for, is directly linked to the trauma I have walked through in the past.
And yet, it is precisely when traumatized Moses is living in the desert, after having fled in the wake of his impulsive and sinful actions (no doubt directly connected to his inability to regulate his emotions) that God seeks Moses out and calls him for His purposes. Moses had sought revenge for his people, killing a man who he had watched cruelly beat his own people, and then he was forced to flee for his own life.
11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.
Exodus 2:11-15 (ESV)
At perhaps the lowest point in his life, when he definitely didn’t feel confident in his (Prodigal) reputation, his ability or his rapport with his people, God called him. It is from this place of weakness and knowing his inability to outwardly attract and lead his people, that God calls and builds Moses up to become a hero of faith.
So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the Israelites and that He had looked [with compassion] on their suffering, then they bowed their heads and worshiped [the Lord]. EXODUS 4: 31 AMP
I believe that as Jochebed laid Moses in that basket she lovingly wove to protect him and keep him warm, God was already preparing Moses for the calling upon his life. As Moses’ mother placed her trust in the sword of life, as the sword of death threatened to kill her child, God already saw how He would use the trauma of this separation (pruning) to strip Moses of his confidence in his own ability and the rapport of man. And isn’t it when we hit rock-bottom, being stripped of all our confidence in our own ability and man’s rapport, that we become as clay in the Potter’s hands, trusting His intentions and design?
Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
Isaiah 45:11 (ESV)
Do you see how God always takes what the enemy meant for evil and turns it into good?
Recently, my Dad discovered, as he did research for his soon-to-be-published book on heroes of the resistance during World War II, that there was a common thread in many of their life stories. Yes, they were all believers, but there was something else that connected them. What was that? Childhood trauma. What if trauma is actually the burial ground for pride and the birthing ground for confidence in God?
Father, today, we bring before You Your calling upon our lives. We confess that all we can see is our lack of human rapport and ability. But we thank You for stripping our confidence in our own reputation, our own ability and our own rapport with people.
We praise You for Your Son in us. We praise You for Your holy Word to us and join You now in declaring that the plans and purposes You have for us shall come to pass because not one Word of Yours ever returns void.
Thank You that it is not by might, nor by power but only by Your Spirit that Your work can be done in and through us. Thank You that our past impulsive and sinful reactions do not define our today or our tomorrow, only You do!
Thank You for showing Moses and King David in their own impulsive and sinful reactions that You are not a God who condemns us in our sin, but that You are a compassionate and righteous judge, who turns what the enemy meant for evil into good. Thank You for using trauma to strip our confidence in ourselves and to grow our confidence and trust in You: in Your grace and Your ability to perform miracles in and through us. Thank You that when we are afraid, we too can put our trust in You, casting all our cares upon You, so that we too might become bold warriors of faith and grace.
In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
“Lord, keep me close to Your heart,” she said in her daily prayer, “so that I see things as it were more and more from Your point of view.” . . . “Child, it is not as much what happens, but how we take it that is important. God is watching to see whether we allow the problems to defeat us, or whether we will go through them in His strength, being made stronger for the next problem and ultimately for the final end battle.”
p.85 & 109, The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pamela Rosewell Moore
Is God currently calling you, like me, to something, where all you can see is the lack of human rapport you have? What if our inability to outwardly attract others to Him, is precisely God’s design?
9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? 10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’” 11 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? 12 I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. 13 I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward,” says the Lord of hosts.
Welcome to Day 4 of Part 5‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the fourth free will offering of goatskin (no outward attraction).
A phantom pain Still pierces Gnawing my resolve Though dead to sin My past still calls me Lie down in shame To mocking tongues Telling me I'm captive To what's no more.
I shift and fidget Nervously I use my tongue To defend myself And those I love Yes, I subdue The phantom's pain But only now behold Not freedom's portion But fear and shame My lot becoming.
I've wrapped myself In changing Worth of man Mocking Never-changing Perfect Love In me.
But then I see The One Who silent stood So safe, secure In His Father's love He walked toward The Cross For me.
The One who For the joy Set before Him Bore my sin On a Cross Esteeming not Its shame But declaring In His surrender The weight of glory: That love Conquers all.
Stripped naked And there pierced He chose to die That I might not Stay chained To fear and shame But tethered to His love and mercy: Go free.
So, I take up My Cross Dying to the old To rise anew To life everlasting Joining Christ In His death And resurrection.
I look upon this King All our sins See covered pure In grace's veil He's borne our sin And all our pain Perfecting us In weakness That I might now Walk free.
Yes! I am free To clothe myself In the Good News Of the Cross To run, unashamed And unafraid To boast in the grace That sets us free To die to sin And live unto Christ.
So, I yield to love In silent witness strong The Word in me Securing My righteous path Yielding me To join Christ In His death and Resurrection Set free.
To no longer walk Away from this world In seeking the living Among the dead But to follow Christ Into the world To be sanctified daily In my Living Word To recognize Each one He's sent me As not of this world But His.
May I now become Who Christ Always created me To be His grace Chosen from the womb Into this aching world To go To immediately recognize Jesus - our Messiah - In the least of these.
May I now ever declare In my own weakness boasting Christ's Perfect Love Conquers
Welcome to Day 2 of Part 5‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the second free will offering of goatskin (no outward attraction).
Caught Between two w/Words The religion I know
And the Son Of God I hear Beckoning.
I wrestle With the Alpha And Omega Who asks me To surrender
The letter of the Law I know For the Living Word's Searching And knowing.
But what can I do But open the door To my Lord's knocking To sup with Him?
Where can I go But to the only One Who has the Word Of life?
So I surrender My known To be known Fully and wholly
By the only True God Who stills My heart To know
The world And all who dwell Therein are His.
I yield to my King The cup of suffering To my lips now take And drink
In communion The Living Word To my Father In thanksgiving lifting
I break The bread And take Eat.
I fill my heart With the Law fulfilled Who calls for me
To join Him In His suffering To know Him In His death and resurrection.
My sovereign God Who walks me To the tomb To show me what He already sees:
"Unwrap him now And let him loose" I hear my Savior Calling.
His work Of surrender Just invites me Into
More JOY Before us laid Than we could ever Think of, ask for Or imagine.
For, Christ's blood Was shed For this:
To reconcile All things to Him Whether on earth Or heaven
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 5 – 8 (ESV)
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
John 13:8 (ESV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Welcome to Day 1 of Part 5‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is bringing forward the first free will offering of goatskin (no outward attraction).
I woke up from the dream with a start. I was supposed to be praying, after all! But as the images from the dream replayed themselves in my mind, I realized that God had gifted me with thoughts from Him.
In the dream I found myself down in a deep ditch. Above me I could hear the sound of cars whizzing past on the roadway just on the other side of the ditch. A panic began to swell in my heart.
How would I ever be able to go as fast as those cars above me? I could not get out of the ditch, and I certainly did not have the strength to go beyond a slow, steady plod. And then I heard the voice of the Lord behind me, calling me to follow Him.
The panic now rose to desperation as I cried out, “But God, I can’t follow you! All of the cars are going too fast! I cannot begin to maintain a speed like that and catch up to them and to You.”
The answer I heard stilled all my fears: “You will not miss my will for you. I don’t require you to keep pace with anyone other than myself. And I am aware of your weak and slower pace. You can follow me just as you are.”
Most days I am keenly aware of how the pace of my life has changed. And most days I see nothing attractive in this slower pace. But there are times when the Lord steps into my weakness and shows me another side to this life that I might call so unattractive. He is the One who brings a beauty in this place that seems awful and painful. And He is bringing to me an aspect of HIS will that I would not see from any other perspective.
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” Isaiah 53:1-3
On the outside looking in
My days appear so drab
Nothing attractive and nothing
To win a second glance
Or even a cheer.
On other days when the pain
Brings a swelling
The drab becomes ugly
The gait takes a turn
To the dark side of exclusion.
But on the inside looking out
My heart cries can’t be heard
By a world rushing through
Spinning on with life
Neglectful of the weak.
Where is the beauty in a life
Squandered by slowness
Pushed down to days
Spent alone and with fear
With days seeming vain?
Come, follow me!
Come, take up your cross!
Come, taste true Love!
I hear a voice calling through haze
From One also rejected
Who counted the loss of this world
Nothing to gain my one soul
To win Eternity’s prize.
Who for the Joy set before Him
Endured the Cross,
Yet we esteemed Him
Stricken by God
For my pain He died.
What if the slowness
The weak and lame places
have become the road
Where Holy dwells?
What if I offered my
arms up to Him
Who bore my disgrace
And found His arms aching
for others also to hold?
I will therefore all the more gladly
come with Him outside the city
to see with His eyes
and hear with His ears
To share this love
above all others.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5
“Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:13-14
Welcome to Part 5‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the freewill offering of goatskin. She considers the humility of our Savior, whose own outward unattractiveness, as He walked this earth, reminds us to be still and know the inward beauty of His Spirit in ourselves and others. And Bettie and Anna invite you to join them, as they close in prayer and as they add their own freewill offerings of goatskin, in Christ Jesus, in the coming days.
As you read along, Anna would love for you to consider these questions:
In what ways have you ever felt outwardly unattractive, in your weakness? How has God’s pruning work in your life been opening your eyes to the beauty of Christ hidden in yourself and in others?
Luke 22:14 ESV ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’
The very breaking apart God had declared as His gift to me, I first saw as my shame, wondering what would have happened if I had stood confidently in His love. Wondering if those in authority over me would have been able to receive the Word of God, if I had stood firmly in Him.
I was filled with regrets, for my confession of the sins of idolatry and pride did not reflect a changing of my mind. I was not grounded in godly sorrow and humility. Over and over again, I asked God to forgive me, ironically believing in my pride that I “should have” known better and done better. It was as if I believed that God would return me to that which He had purposefully broken me apart from, if I did enough penance.
But as God returned me to something I had written, more than two years later, I was suddenly overcome by His gentle, piece by piece leading and discipline of my heart over the years. This time, as I looked back at His pruning, I was humbly convicted of my sins, of my weakness and need, and of God’s power. I was deeply moved by His kindness to me, and how He had protected me in my blindness of sin.
This time, as I confessed my sins anew, in deep awe and humility, I found myself asking Him to cleanse me by His blood, so that I would deep down know that the old has gone and the new has come. As I did so, I found myself lifting up this Scripture:
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
Joel 2:25 (ESV)
And in that lifting up, a flood of memories came over me. In the past few years since His pruning, in telling my own story of how God has been healing my heart, others around me have opened up to tell me their stories.
I recalled how, as I listened to them share of the lack of compassion shown toward them or their loved ones in their weakness and need, my heart had ached for them to know God’s love for them. But I also remembered how in that deep yearning for them to know this truth, God had shown me that He was already affirming them in the truth, as I sat with them and just listened to their stories.
For, in my listening and in my weeping in their presence, God was affirming them as His. He was stripping the enemy’s accusations against them and proving His undying love and mercy for them and their loved ones.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight
1 Peter 3:3-4
I was God’s gift to those I listened to, but they were also God’s gift of family and home to me, in a time I desperately needed to know I was seen and loved.
Now I see how, through His pruning, God has been opening my eyes to recognize the gift of His inward beauty shining inside of me, in my outward unattractiveness, as my weakness and need lies exposed, for all to see. As I recognized and affirmed the beauty of His Spirit in those before me, I now see how He was recognizing and affirming the beauty of His Spirit in me.
Now, I know how to answer those who keep asking me if I have found a new church. I can tell them that I have already found my church. For, God has purposely stripped this PK (pastor’s kid) and MK (missionary kid) of her idol of church, leading me “outside the camp” to heal me and to heal my long lost brothers and sisters in Christ.
God is redefining church family, ministry and fellowship for me. He is closing the door on what I knew each of these to be. Through His living and abiding Word, He is opening the door to His much higher and bigger thoughts and purposes for me. Now, I know that He is revealing the healing of His Body in the breaking of bread.
Beautifully the word for mercy and compassion in Hebrew comes from the word “womb” and so when we speak of God’s compassion we literally speak of the love a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Isn’t that beautiful?!
In what ways have you ever felt outwardly unattractive, in your weakness? How has God’s pruning work in your life been opening your eyes to the beauty of Christ hidden in yourself and in others?
Dear Lord Jesus,
We come before You now and confess that we have not always seen your beauty. We counted You stricken and afflicted by God. We have looked the other way, instead of towards You in ourselves and each other.
But now that You are opening our eyes, we are beginning to behold with wonder Your true Grace. You are altogether lovely, and there is nothing lacking in You.
May You continue to transform our hearts and minds, as we look upon You. Still us to recognize the inward beauty of Your Holy Spirit’s Presence in us and with us. We long to be made more like You. In Your precious Name, Jesus, we pray.
Welcome to Part 5 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the Sword of Life – the living and abiding Word of God. Bettie and Anna look forward to sharing the chapters for this new part with you soon, which we will add to the bottom of this post.
Jesus – our sword of life – is given to us to train us in righteousness, slice through the enemy’s accusations and make us One in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He teaches us to see with the eyes of heaven and to judge situations in His wisdom and discernment, loving others as He loves us.
Exodus 28: 29 – 30 (ESV) So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.
More than just bearing the judgment for our sins upon His heart, as the High Priest once did, He took those sins upon Him fully, going to the Cross to annul the charges against us and to take up residence in our hearts. All, so that we might learn and be empowered – through His moment by moment revelations of the Word – to join Him in His suffering, laying down our lives for each other, to see His Kingdom come.
So, now, we don’t have to physically go to a High Priest for guidance: that High Priest lives inside of us.
Numbers 27:21 (ESV) And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.”
Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
But how does this sword “[pierce] to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and [discern] the thoughts and intentions of the heart”? Once, as I walked in the forest, God stilled my heart to notice how the pruning of trees can help us better understand the sword’s function in our lives.
Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off? That is a tree wound.
Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.
WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?
As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees. Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut off weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also cuts off or prunes back healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, and does not become top-heavy.
Jesus tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts off weak and dying branches, and even prunes back healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him. In His Word, He puts it like this:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15: 1 – 8 (NIV)
So, strangely, by cutting and wounding the tree, or vine, Jesus is healing it. And interestingly, God’s Word also tells us that it is by Christ’sstripes (His wounding) that we (His Body) are healed. Do you, like I, see how in that wounding God is in fact inviting us to join Him in His suffering, to carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of love toward each other. Or as Paul puts it:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
Colossians 1:24 (ESV)
And yet, even in that burden He invites us to carry, He also beautifully reminds us that He is the Vine and we are the branches. So, when that wounding comes, through His pruning, He longs for us to remember that He has already carried our sin and pain, and the sins of others toward us and their pain, to the Cross, so that we, and they, don’t have to carry its weight. He invites us into the light yoke of His love, as He teaches us, through the pain of the pruning, to abide in Him.
You see, that tree, or vine, is the Body of Christ. It is all of us, His children (branches), learning to grow and flourish in the role God has ordained for us, with Christ at our head. God teaches us, through His pruning, to let the mind of Christ – His thoughts and plans – richly dwell in us and determine our thoughts, plans, actions and speech. For, He knows that then we will produce fruit that abides in love (Jesus and life) and not fear (the enemy and death).
Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. Sometimes, it may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life or slowing us down, right when everything is starting to take off. But He is in fact rooting us more deeply in Himself. For, as He cuts off and prunes back branches in our lives, He only does so, so that what we produce abides (remains eternally), flourishes and is completed in Him.
Through it all, He stops us from abiding in pride and fear, and from living from our own strength. He doesn’t want us taking over responsibilities that are His alone to carry, because He knows that in doing so, we will become weary of doing good and lose heart. So, He wields His Sword of Life to hem us in and lead us back out into a spacious place in Him.
Through His loving gardening of our hearts and lives, Jesus is awakening more and more of the new and soft heart of love in us. And that new heart beating inside of us is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Because that heart of love is Jesus inside of us.
GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING
Jesus carried our sin disease, so that He could not just show us sympathy, but empathy. So that in coming to our aid, He could do so intimately knowing what we are going through as human beings and what we need most in each moment to heal and be made whole. After all, He tells us that we love Him because He first loved us. So, it’s as He opens our own hearts to His love that we can love others well.
In His Word, Jesus reminds us, that we – His people – are perishing because of our lack of vision. When people hurt us or our loved ones, we can see the hurt (sin) they are doing, but unlike Jesus, wecannot see what is at the root of their actions. We cannot see into their hearts and, therefore, do not feel the compassion, Jesus feels for them.
But when Jesus took upon Him our sin and walked to the Cross to break the curse of sin upon us, He did so weeping for the very ones crucifying Him. Why? Because He did not look with His physical, perishing eyes. He looked with His spiritual, eternal eyes of life.
Jesus carried our sin and the sin of those hurting us, to the Cross. He annulled every single charge against us and those hurting us, so that now, where the law tells us to accuse and condemn each other, He can help us to instead seek His face, that His love and grace may flow out of us. So that He can extend the mercy He showed us at the Cross to others through us.
But we cannot do this if we look at each other using our human vision. We need Christ’s eternal, enduring, moment – by – moment vision to know how to respond, when others sin against us or our loved ones. As His Word puts it, it is in recognizing Christ, through our personal relationship with Him that we are given everything we need, piece by piece, for life and godliness to flow out of us and bless others that others may know the glory and the valor of Christ.
And what Jesus has to say about one person in their sin, is not always what He has to say in regard to another – even where two people appear to be caught in the same exact sin. Just look at how Jesus treated Zacchaeus and how He treated the money lenders in the Temple.
In the case of sinful Zacchaeus, who was longing for love and acceptance, He invited Himself over for dinner. In the case of the sinful money lenders, who were using God’s house to steal from the poor, He angrily overturned their tables and chased them out of the Temple. Jesus saw into each of their hearts and knew what was needed most in the moment.
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Isaiah 11:4 (ESV)
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE
But can I tell you a secret? I often forget that God wants to help me, when my own heart or body is hurting. Instead of coming to Jesus in my weakness and need, I try to “fix” the situation in my own fleshly “wisdom” – even sometimes believing I am following God’s will. I start trying to do the “right thing”, rather than inviting Jesus to show me the right Way, by revealing His Word to me, through the Holy Spirit. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so tired, so angry, so full of grief or so grumpy.
But praise God, He is so very patient and merciful to us through our life-long process of learning to abide in Him. And He longs for us to understand that it is His responsibility to train us and others in righteousness and not our own.
This is where His sword of life comes in. As Jesus puts it in His Word:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 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. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 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. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10: 34 – 39 (ESV)
He in fact uses this sword to separate us from each other, so that He can put us back together in Himself. Having been human Himself, He knows the temptation we face to idolize each other and yet, unlike us, He didn’t do so. He remained rooted in the Father’s love for Him, which enabled Him to do hard things in great love. But knowing our flesh, He also knows the best antidote: death and resurrection:
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:11 (ESV)
And that’s where that pruning comes in. He cuts off the branches (people) that aren’t bearing any abiding fruit in our lives and He prunes back the branches (people) in our lives that are bearing abiding fruit in our lives, so that we may become even more fruitful, as God releases their responsibility more and more to grow our dependence on Him, rather than on people.
As He removes people from our lives that are not bearing any fruit, it is also His Way of opening our eyes to see what we could not see, when they were still present in our lives. By separating us, He also heals the division in our own hearts, a division often rooted in the sins of idol worship and/or pride.
But through this cutting off, He also makes room for new relationships. For, that sword of life does not just take away people, but it also cuts through the accusations of the enemy. And in so doing it awakens us to the Spirit’s leading to follow our Savior “outside the camp” to places and people we would have otherwise never have gone.
Through His Sword of Life, Christ awakens us to the power of salvation flowing in and out of us, as we learn to live more and more by faith and not physical sight. It’s then we begin to recognize Jesus all around us, offering Him food and drink, visiting Him in prison, as we begin to break bread with those we would have previously been too distracted to even notice or too prideful to sit amongst.
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
For, as Jesus reminds us (Matthew 25:40, ESV): “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ And His brothers are all around us – it just takes the spiritual eyes of Jesus to see that, as He opens our eyes to the personal, generational and family Promises contained in His Word. He knows who are His own and yet, sometimes we can be too blinded by looking at what we can physically see to recognize the heart of Jesus waiting to be awakened in those set before us.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV)
Other times, people may actually be continuing to bear fruit in our lives – the fruit of love, perserverance, self-control and kindness for example – as we continue to abide in His Word through the pain of their rebellion. In that case, the LORD may prune back the relationship, ensuring that we are given the space to grow in our relationship with Him first and foremost, so that we may also grow in God’s love and understanding for them, as He loves us.
Or He may prune back healthy relationships that are bearing much fruit in our lives, to grow our dependence upon Him above man. An example I can think of is Corrie ten Boom’s time in an isolation cell, when she was arrested by the Nazi occupiers of the Netherlands. I remember reading somewhere that Tante Corrie spoke of that time as a time God awakened her heart to an intimate relationship with Him.
What she had learnt from her parents’ and others’ example and the Word they sowed into her heart came alive in her, as she repeatedly cried out to God and He met her in such kindness and compassion, in a really personal and intimate way. Little did she know how she would later need that strong bond through the horrors of the concentration camp, and after losing her whole immediate family by 1946.
In the loss of her whole family, the sword of life (the Word of God) became ever more precious to her because she knew her God to be faithful to His every Promise to her. She had tried and tested His Word through the fires of affliction and He had shone forth as gold in and through her and others. She knew without a doubt that her earthly loss was her heavenly gain and the knowledge of the cloud of witnesses cheering her on no doubt spurred her on greatly.
Then, often shortly before taking us to heaven, He may prune back our relationships through illness for example, so that what He has sown through us on earth may be broken open unto new life in His Spirit, in multiplied ways. I watched that unfold in my mother’s final days and after her departure for heaven.
And I read about it in The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, by Pamela Rosewell Moore. As Corrie was room-bound by her multiple strokes, and her speech was taken from her, her spiritual discernment became sharper than ever, noticeable through her intercession. Additionally, the videos taken of her shortly before her illness went out into the world, touching and awakening so many souls to the Good News – and they still do today.
But not only that, as her earthly tent perished God gave her the glimpse of His glory she had prayed for. He gave her the privilege of joining Him in His suffering, as she experienced damage to her brain that locked her up in her perishing body, just like the intellectually disabled she had ministered to as a young woman, so many years earlier. But He also gave her the joy of being set free to soar in the Spirit, as she was overcome by the peace of her LORD that overflowed into the lives of those around her, caring for her.
JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE
But what if we have called out to God and He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.”
Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also. As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out because the situation that hurt my heart the most didn’t go away. Fear – the enemy – told me God had abandoned me and yet love – God – was always there. When I thought I was waiting for God to act – He was in fact waiting on me to take His hand, so that He could show me what He saw with His spiritual seeing.
If I had done so, I could have received His pruning. I could have recognized that He was wanting to exchange my faith and trust in man and self, for a newborn faith and trust in Him alone. But beautifully, even as I let go of my faith and trust in Him, He didn’t let go of me. He continued to labor in and through me, until in His timing, when He had set me where He wanted me, He opened my eyes to see by faith and not by sight.
I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.
When all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, more than twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give each and every one of us – and others through us. He perfected His power in our weakness and is continuing to do so – using what the enemy meant for evil, for good.
JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE
Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, and all that scares or worries you through the pruning of His sword of life? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer and His precious, cleansing convictions?
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Can I pray for us all today?
Father, when we are hurting from all the pruning, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and that it is by Your stripes that we are healed.
Help us to come to You with our pain. Help us to release the pain and receive Your comfort. Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never ever forsakes us, or our loved ones. Slice through the accusations of the enemy that we might slow down to hear Your call and to recognize Your invitation to take Your hand that You might show us what You see.
Help us to recognize and draw near to You in each other. We long to join You in Your death and resurrection to shine our light brightly into this dark and aching world. Cleanse our eyes, oh LORD and open our ears.
Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).
Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. When we become weary, will You help us to come to You afresh, just as we are? Will you help us to receive Your love, through the pruning of Your mighty Sword of Life, Your living and abiding Word.
We also invite You to uncover any hidden wounds in us and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and to wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every pruning. Help us to continually humble ourselves under Your mighty hand.
When we forget You are with us and for us and begin to live in our own strength, will You bring hymns and Scriptures to our mind and heart that convict us of the truth? Empower us, as you did Tante Corrie, and my Mum, to release all that is perishing into Your mighty hands, that we might gain You – all that is unfading and eternal – in return.
Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.
It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”
Romans 1:16-17 MSG
Home, my home It's in my feet standing here Within your gates, Jerusalem Rejoicing in my Savior's call.
Peace, secure we pray You lead us Hands to hold Knees to bow.
Home, our home It's in our feet standing here Within your gates, Jerusalem Rejoicing in our Savior's call.
Our Lord Our King Our All Tribes together pressed as One.
Home, our home You went before Our place you saved in blood, For joy set before You here.
Jakin: You establish us Boaz: in Your strength we rest Pillars, Yours, uphold us On foundation true.
Holy and pleasing Righteous and pure We've come to praise Our Lord and King, our Home.
Revelations 21:2 (ESV) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Galatians 2:19-21 (ESV) 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[a] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Footnotes: Galatians 2:21 Or justification
John 17:20-23 (NIV) 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Romans 12: 1 - 5 (NIV)
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others
1 Corinthians 12: 22 (ESV)
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
Do you remember how Jesus gave Peter a dream, as Peter sought him in prayer and fasting (Acts 10:9-16)?:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
This was a dream that turned his world upside down. What did that dream show him? That Christ had fulfilled the law for man, not only to free them from their striving to fulfill it, but also so that they (the Jews) would no longer have to withdraw from what was once unclean, to remain clean themselves. Now God was giving them a Way, through Christ, to break bread with the Gentiles, who ate unclean food and were unclean themselves, the world over, so that these Gentiles could come to know God and His righteous covering, also.
And yet, what was Peter’s response to this beautiful invitation? He went to sit amongst his Jewish brothers and sisters, who continued to require his and others’ adherence to the law’s requirement not to eat “unclean” food and not to fellowship with those who did. He feared man’s word above God’s.
As I reflect on this story, I see my own story before me. You see, when God opened my eyes to a newborn faith in Him, after more than twenty years wandering in my sin as a Prodigal child, I too returned to sit amongst those calling what is clean, impure. Even though I disagreed with them internally, my decision to return to sit in their midst, as they continued to reject God’s Word, was me bowing to man’s word above God’s.
But praise God, just as He sent Paul to rebuke Peter in his sin, God also rebuked me in my sin. He spoke His Word to my heart also (Galatians 2:17-21, ESV):
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
As I read through the book my (now former) church uses, my spirit was deeply perturbed. I saw how the author had taken Scriptures out of context, feeding people worldly wisdom as the Gospel and condemning people in their weakness and need, as unclean.
It spoke of man reaching a “freedom” on earth, devoid of weakness. And where weakness and illness was present in people, it taught that this was proof of unclean spirits or evil being present in these believers, who had given their heart to Jesus. It saw weakness and illness as being caused by curses that needed to be broken, by believers following the steps outlined in the book.
Suddenly, all the Scriptures God had been feeding me to give to my pastor made sense. God’s heart broke for His children. He saw that the very place they went to, to meet with Him and experience the freedom that is theirs in Christ Jesus, that they were meeting with the enemy, believing that enemy to be Him. They were being encouraged to live unto the law, rather than dying to the law to live unto Christ, that their Savior might live in and through them to fulfill the law through them.
I could see my pastors’ desire was to bless their congregation, and not to harm them. But sadly, they could not see God’s heart at work in me, as I came to one of my pastors with those Scriptures (before knowing what God was saying) and then later, to the other pastor, with what God had shown me, in my exit talk.
As I shared God’s Word with him and showed him how the course denies the finished work of the Cross, he told me something like: “yes, but this method works. I have done this in my own life and it has helped me so much.” And sadly, as I listened to his reasoning, I found myself saying something like: “yes, maybe it’s not all bad.” And this even though I had watched the course strip the confidence of a friend of mine in the love of Jesus for her.
After leaving my church in obedience to God, I felt bad for speaking up and like I had been in the wrong for doing so. I yo-yoed between standing in the truth and clothing myself in the enemy’s accusations that I was “divisive” and “unforgiving” for obeying God’s commands to me to leave and cut all ties.
After a while, I began attending my friend’s new church. This church was pastored by a man, whose wife (whom I knew from Bible studies held in my home) I had sought out with my concerns about the teaching, when I was still attending my old church. I had trusted her and her husband because her husband had come in as a guest speaker to give a sermon on the very Scriptures God had had me sharing with my pastor.
And yet, sadly, he, like my pastors, did not see my desire to bless my pastors and my church, but rather, questioned my decision to investigate the matter. He said he trusted his friend’s judgment. And now I attended his church and my friend’s, even knowing that they both disagreed with my decision to speak up.
Why? I believed the enemy’s accusations against me that my not having a church to attend or call my “home” proved that I didn’t belong to God. I longed for the love, approval and acceptance of fellow believers to affirm God’s love for me and to still my fears. But God longed for me to let His perfect love for me, and for those He asked me to surrender, cast out all my fear.
John 13:34 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
He wanted me to put my trust in Him and to learn to see with heaven’s eyes that I might love others, just as He has loved and still loves me – in truth and grace. And so, He commanded me to confront them, which He knew would lead to our parting.
That same fearful Peter, who like me sat amongst those who denied the Living Word of God, would one day stand in their midst, no longer as one of them, but as an apostle of Jesus, preaching the Good News to them. A Good News built upon nothing but the blood of the lamb. And many would repent and receive Jesus as LORD.
Jesus gave Peter back something so much more precious. A heavenly joining and unbroken fellowship with his brothers and sisters into eternity. And it is in this heavenly hope that Jesus is growing my heart now also. He is lifting my eyes up to see His blue thread weaving in every prayer He gives me to pray and every Word He compels me to speak.
Now, as I remember the story of the two disciples walking with Jesus to Emmaus and not recognizing Him until He broke the bread before them, I see the incredible gift of that broken bread. As God breaks us – His Body – apart, His heart breaks for us in our sin. But He also rejoices in what He sees coming: our eyes opening to recognize Him – and the Good News of His death and resurrection – in our midst.
Through the breaking of His Body, Christ destroys our idols and our false teaching, to restore us all to a true, eternal and enduring fellowship with Him and with each other, through Him. He weaves us in the blue (eternal) thread of His Body that was broken to give us peace with God and peace with each other – in and through Him.
Yes, I believe all things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. It took more than twenty years for me to see the fruit of the Word I spoke as a little girl that turned man’s back on me. But oh how beautiful that repentance and restoration was when it came and oh how it broke my idols in two and filled me with compassion for those who had turned me aside.
Now, I know that God makes all things beautiful in His sovereign timing because He sees what I cannot and He knows what I do not. His thoughts and purposes are so much higher and more amazing than mine. One day I will see it all before me – whether here or from the cloud of witnesses.