Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 7: Beauty for Ashes

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.

Through His beautiful leading, Christ has been rooting me and grounding me ever deeper in the all-consuming love of the Father (Ephesians 3). God is growing me up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16). Slowly, by the grace of God, I am learning to let the living law – Christ – be my perfection and completion, as I learn to surrender the responsibility that is not mine to carry.

Recently, just before God commanded me to depart somewhere He had sent me, an older woman spoke of my sharing sometimes being like fire, meaning it as a rebuke. This came only a few hours before another woman had encouraged me to stop bowing before my idols and to continue to speak what God had been compelling me to speak. So, as the older woman spoke of that fire coming from my mouth as something to be corrected in me, I took it to God. He asked me to humbly thank her for her honesty and then to depart.

What I didn’t tell her, is that as I took her rebuke to the feet of Jesus, He returned it to me as a gift. He showed me that that fire was not evil in me, but His holiness burning in me. He showed me how He desired to burn the dross, not just in her, but the dross of pride and idolatry in me too. For, He knew of all those present, I most respected her word. So, He purposely allowed me to face her open rejection, for being His mouthpiece. He gave me the privilege of loving her as He loves us all: in truth and grace.

Fire departed from her and others’ mouths there also, and by the grace of God I was able to receive that fire as a precious gift from Him. Each child of His in that place changed my mind in one way or another. They filled me with such compassion and understanding for people in my past that I had failed to see and love as Jesus sees and loves us all in our weakness and need. I began to understand in a deeper way why and how my loved ones had turned to sin to numb their pain.

I realized that we were in fact not so very different from one another. For, each one of us had just been so longing for the healing comfort of our God in our pain, as we watched those we so loved turn away from us in their inability to love us and receive us as God does. Ironically we couldn’t see that in numbing our pain, rather than acknowledging our weakness and pouring out our pain out at the feet of Jesus in prayer, we too began to walk a path of rebellion and to turn away those we loved most.

And it was because of God’s fire flaming in our midst that I was freed to confess a past sin of mine in public for the very first time, as the shackles of shame and condemnation fell off of me. God gave me the honor of glorying in His embrace in their midst and to thank Him for the gifts He poured out upon me in that place, as I departed.

Now, I see how that fire of His in that place was just like the fire in the burning bush before Moses: the holy fire of God’s Word, setting Moses apart unto Himself and burning away the dross of his sin and shame, turning the ground Moses stood upon, into holy ground. 

No longer did Moses remain a fugitive after taking the law into his own hands to try and save his people. No, because of that burning bush, Moses heard the Voice of His God. He bowed his knees and walked into a new life, set apart unto His Maker. The Word of God, through whom His people would be freed from their slavery and, a generation later, led into the Promised Land.

As John 12:24-25 (ESV) puts it:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Thanks to the gift God gave me as a freshly returned Prodigal to intercede for my pastor in his weakness and need, and many others since, my own weakness and need has been repeatedly exposed. Through each trigger of trauma, in all the intercession and iron sharpening iron, my God has been lifting the enemy’s accusations and causing me to arise in His holiness. He has clothed me in His justice, that was wrought at the Cross, and led me out to become His cloak and crown of justice to others, in their weakness and need.

He has been leading me to throw off the old of pleasing and hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness. He has been rerooting me in His love: “so that [I] may no longer be [a] [child], tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV).

When I first began praying for my pastor and my church as a freshly returned Prodigal child, God gave me this Word as a Promise, as trauma triggers began to shake me (Ezekiel 3:8, ESV):

I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”

Now, looking back on the past four years, I can see that God has been fulfilling this Promise to me. He has placed the helmet of salvation upon my head, so that when the sparks fly as iron sharpens iron, I no longer take it as proof that God has rejected me. 

I receive it as proof that God is in our midst, leading us all to repentance. I now know that He is giving us beauty for the ashes of our dross that He is consuming by the fire departing from His mouth. I am learning to embrace those flames as His desire to fashion me into His image, by His transforming power. 

He is strengthening me to (Romans 12:2, ESV): “not be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of [my] mind, that by testing I may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Praise God that His mercies are new every morning. Each time I have wanted to return to the old He has purposely cut off, or I have wanted to put myself on a pedestal of self-righteousness by slandering those I have left behind, God has opened my ears to receive His Word of truth and grace. 

He has rebuked the sin in me and called me to walk in His holiness, to declare before Him: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment…O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:4, 15-17 ESV).

He has continually rescued me, softening my hardened heart and teaching me to draw upon His love and affections for me. He has led me to deny myself, to take up my Cross and to follow Him. And, through His living Word and the precious Spirit-led sharing of people like Bettie, who He wove into my life right before my first church breaking, He has repeatedly lifted my pain and exchanged my sackcloth of mourning for a headdress of praise. He has caused me to arise in His wholesome Word of truth and grace with fresh hope, filling me with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of His Holy breath.

Praise God, Christ’s fire of holiness is flaming us each alive. For, it is our Jesus, who compells us through His living Word to throw off all that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. It is He who empowers us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, to fix our eyes on Him, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him, our Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Oh let us ever consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that we might not grow weary and lose heart.

Through each physical departure, my God has been teaching me to depart my own fleshly thinking (that has told me to stay and fight in the flesh or to stay and bow to my idols to be loved and accepted) to instead die to myself and live unto Jesus. Interestingly, literally to “go” and bear fruit means “properly, to lead away under someone’s authority (mission, objective).” Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus is leading us out under His authority to fulfill His mission – the Great Commission.

Interestingly “unwholesome” talk literally means “overripe” and “rotten”. So, when Jesus calls us to leave somewhere, where His Word is not being received, it is so that we can leave behind His ripe and uncorrupted fruit that it may build up those we leave behind in Jesus, in His perfecting. Rather than clinging to the Word He is prompting us to share in fear of man’s rejection and letting our accuser divide our hearts and corrupt the pure and unadultered Word in us.

As we hide ourselves in Him, allowing His Word to hedge us in, we can wait upon God in trust, knowing the battle is not ours, but His.

Psalm 119:114 (KJV) Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

Yes! All Promises are Yes and Amen in our Jesus! The perfect Jesus, who our Heavenly Father sent into our hearts, through His Holy Spirit that we might not dim our light, Jesus – the Word fulfilled – but shine Him brightly into the world that not we, but He may call many Sons unto glory.

Come (Isaiah 40:26):

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is missing.

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 1: He Gives Us More Grace

Welcome to Day 1 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering in praise of God opening her eyes to see by faith. By God’s grace, her eyes open to the Promise contained in the budding of her almond tree, in the midst of great pain and affliction. She also invites us to join her in a time of thanksgiving and prayer.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

Luke 11:34 NIV 

This branch is from my Flowering Almond bush:

It has had its share of suffering and disease. At one point, several years ago, I considered removing the whole bush because it continued to die back and shed more leaves than what it was gaining. But the patient gardener in me decided to give it another chance, and pruned away the dead branches one more time. I would have missed out on these beautiful blooms if I had focused solely on the diseased portion of the plant.

And so it is in my own life. Where are my eyes choosing to focus? Where is the light within them?

This week a friend sent me a song, and because it was a reworking of a hymn that was one of my favorites, I went on a search to find the original. In so doing, as often happens with me, the history of the hymn drew my attention just as much as the song itself. Maybe you have heard of Annie Johnson Flint, poet and hymn writer from the early 1900’s? 

Before this search, I had known she lived a life of suffering, and I had known her beautiful work came from a fountain of grace within her.  What I had not known was that her disease was one with which I am well acquainted:

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

But she suffered in the years when there was no relief for pain, and no medicine to halt the crippling effects. Where I might suffer some pain and weakness, and some residual tendon damage, she suffered the full effects of a horrible disfigurement and pain beyond compare. As the disease progressed, she was forced to type out her poems using only her bent knuckles, because her joints had swollen and twisted to a point of uselessness.

What do I know of that kind of uselessness?

How would I have borne that kind of suffering?

In these days of stillness, as the Lord brings fresh convictions to me daily, I know that my heart has so far yet to travel. For you see, Annie Johnson Flint had let the Lord bring the true Light to her eyes.  When the darkness of a cruel disease could have crippled her heart, she chose to let the Light of Christ permeate her soul and body. She chose to let that Light redeem her suffering, and bring forth encouragement that would bless others who were facing darkness.

She chose 
Acceptance in the 
Pruning from her own 
Master Gardener and embraced 
HIS Light in the very place of her suffering.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” Philippians 1:29 NIV 

He Giveth More Grace (lyrics)

—Annie Johnson Flint

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; To added affliction He addeth His mercy; To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father’s full giving is only begun. 

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure. His pow’r has no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”

Would you join me in pausing to meditate on the suffering that our Lord bore for us, and join me in prayer?

Dear Lord Jesus,  

I thank you for the suffering that you bore for me. I rejoice in the salvation and grace that you won for me there.

And, now I ask that you would purify my eyes to see the light in my days and the Grace within my own suffering.

May I let you bring Joy from Pain and Beauty from Ashes, And may the Love you have granted sink deep into my soul, body, mind and spirit.

Amen.     

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This post was first published four years ago at: https://bettiegsraseasons.com/2017/03/30/he-gives-us-more-grace/ Since then, Bettie’s health has deteriorated significantly and yet the beauty and life of Christ is flourishing in and through her more and more, as she comforts others with the comfort the LORD is pouring out upon her.