Love Never Ends

 

I have decided to only publish this week’s blog in audio format. I sensed the importance of us (me also) needing to “hear” the testimony and the Word of our Lord to be transformed by it. This week I invite you to listen to the story of how Jesus came to rescue and carry me, His lost sheep, home, while contemplating His hand upon your own life too. At the end you are invited to listen to a reading of Scripture. Through the reading, I invite our Heavenly Father to soak us all in His Word and to slow our hearts to listen to and obey His fresh and very personal Word to us.

Here a few quotes to encourage you to listen for yourself:

I feel the nearness of a God I do not know. Here is a gentle, compassionate Father stooping down to wrap me in Himself. A God who sees my heaving heart beneath, all the waves of pain and fear and shame I cannot breathe. And He breathes for me: “I see you. I know you. I love you.” . . .

These monthly installments of my testimony are not just God’s answer to this deeper desire He gave me, but His answer to all of us. To all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives.

 

May your hearts be blessed!

 

 

My Mum and I in Salzburg, the year I gave my heart to the LORD and also the year my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, with four little kids in tow, to share the love of Jesus with those the LORD called them to.

 

May these Scriptures and songs encourage your heart today, drawing you into the Presence of the God who is love, never-ending Love:

 

 

2 Samuel 7: 22 – 23 KJV

For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.

Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

 

 

 

Love Abides

 

 

Have you ever experienced the sting of rejection? If you are human, then most likely you will have. Perhaps like me, you too have received man’s rejection as God’s rejection. As a little girl, I internalized lies about myself in the sting of human rejection. These were lies that deeply wounded the core of my being. I stopped looking at Jesus. Instead I bowed to my idols and walked in the sin of pride and unbelief, giving birth to the accuser’s fruit of pain and shame.

I defined myself as a failure and as one unworthy of God’s love. I believed myself to be rejected by the very One who died to give me life. And then, as my pain and shame just grew and grew, rather than speak up and cry out to God, I kept silent. I found refuge in hidden sin, numbing the ever-growing pain and shame whose presence I fervently denied. I tried to keep up the appearance of righteousness, parading my self-righteousness, until I finally couldn’t take my double life anymore. I fled the hypocrisy I so loathed. I became a Prodigal, no longer just in my heart, but also in my public actions. I ran because I believed myself too far gone for the grace of God.

Since God brought me home to Him, He has taken me back into similar situations of rejection all over again, not to harm me, but to bless me. Each time, He has gently showed me that I have a choice to arise in Him to new life, freed of the lies in my open confession and repentance, or to slink back and hide in the dark. Sometimes I have trusted Him, at other times, I have not: choosing to tell lies and deny the truth of the living Word to be approved of and remain acceptable to those around me. But through it all He has continued to lovingly and patiently lead me forward, as I have fallen and gotten back up again, in His strength.

Part of God’s training in righteousness, has involved following His uncomfortable prompting to open my mouth. He has compelled me to speak openly of the wounding being inflicted and the truth and grace being denied me and others, rather than staying in the dark to be the “good girl”. In my doing so, He has also invited me to allow Him to unravel my heart and search and know me, seeing if there be any wickedness in me: not to condemn me, but to free me from its hold. 

His gentle, yet firm training has also required me to depart from religious communities and friendships that defined me according to my past or according to the sins and weakness I was openly confessing before them. For, God has wanted me to deep down know that He has created me to flourish in godly community, where I and others are seen and loved in the light of His love, compassion and grace for us.

CHRIST is doing in me what I could never do in and of myself. He is shifting my focus from man’s approval to His approval. He’s uprooting more and more things I have chosen to put my trust in, to reroot my trust in His love and grace for me and His love and grace for others. The very love that abides in me – Jesus Himself- is teaching me to abide in love myself. 

Jesus has lovingly shown me how my fleshly focus is so much on the here and now. For example, if He tells me to do something and it doesn’t produce the result I expect or in my timing, my flesh causes me to think: “See, Anna, God doesn’t love you.” But it’s in that sting of rejection in response to the accuser’s lies, Jesus is teaching me to step back, get real silent before Him and listen for HIS Word to me.

Oh yes, I still struggle with the accusations of the enemy. I hear his lies that tell me God could never love or work through someone like me, who keeps messing up and falling back into fleshly thinking. This always happens just after I have openly confessed my sins and have turned toward the light of Jesus. The enemy then hisses at me to hide myself and retreat in the shame of who I am, but it’s then God reminds me to arise and shine in the light and truth of who HE is inside of me. 

Patiently, with me falling and getting back up again, my loving heavenly Father is teaching me to declare myself covered by the blood of Jesus, to resist the accusations of the enemy, so that he will flee from me. My Abba Father keeps reminding me that the open confession of my sin and weakness is in fact proof that I am His child, His child who hides herself in nothing but His beautiful righteousness.

It is then I place my trust in my Savior, the man of sorrows, who walked toward us, His children – the joy set before Him – to shed His very own blood for me and for you. And though I may look foolish to this world, and to my ego, in God’s strength and prompting, I am learning to take up my Cross, lay down my fleshly life and ego, to arise in Jesus: my Alpha and Omega, the One who was and is and is to come.

Christ longs for me and for you too, to walk forward into His irrevocable purposes. Purposes that compel us to arise from the tomb of our sin into Christ’s resurrection life. Purposes that call us to share what the Good News truly means with those who, just like us, are facing the cruel accusations of the enemy. For it is not that we are strong and mighty, it is that the Word in us is unwrapping strength and might in us:

 

I pray that as you read (listen to) this poem God inspired me to write after I sat with the story of Lazarus, that you too will feel the light of Jesus rising upon your face and see His resurrection life being unwrapped, moment by moment, in and through you.

 

UNWRAP HER HERE

 

Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

But, My child 

This death 

Is death 

To flesh alone.

 

In slumber 

Has he but laid you there.

You, my Lazarus 

Wrapped in sacred linen there.

 

Yes all 

That he has purposed 

To steal, kill, destroy

I have purposed

For Life.

 

Here is where I call

Arise and come

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose.

 

For I have spoken 

So they 

Might know my Father 

Sent me here.

 

Anyone who walks 

In daylight 

Does not stumble 

Plenty of light from the sun

No glory here to see. 

 

 But you, My child

You walk the night, 

And here’s where eyes will open

Not just your own, 

But many more.

 

 The people who walked in darkness 

Have seen a great light; 

Those who dwelt in a dark land, 

The light has shone upon them.

 

 Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

 But Life has now entered My death 

Gone here the old 

The new has come

Ugly to beautiful 

Broken to whole 

Poor unto rich:

 

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose

Hallelujah 

Christ has risen

 

He has risen indeed!

 

 

John 11:14-15 ESV

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:44 ESV

And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

When the Body of our LORD was laid upon that Cross, He didn’t stay there. Wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb, just like Lazarus, Christ’s Body would be raised unto glory three days later. Death could not hold the Body of Christ. And today also, death cannot hold us – the Body of Christ – either.

Oh yes, we may be led into what seems like a tomb and it really is a tomb too. But in that tomb Jesus will open our eyes to see the newness arising, to see His lordship over us and others, to see HIM at the head of HIS chosen, beloved and resurrected Body. 

Can you now see, with me, what Jesus means with 2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV: “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.” It’s in fact when the accuser comes calling that Jesus is inviting us to die to ourselves and to live unto Him. He longs to reveal the power of His abiding love – His living Word in us. 

It’s then we discover that our worth is not in the applause of man, but in the worthiness we find at the foot of the Cross, in the surrender of our all for Christ’s all:

 

John 8:12 ESV 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Will you join me as I come before our Father in prayer, today?

Thank You, Abba Father, that the love and life of Your Son abides in us. Thank You that even though we did not choose You, You chose and appointed us to go and bear fruit that abides (John 15:6). Thank You that even now, Your Spirit is touching our spirit to affirm who we truly are: Your beloved children.

Thank You that it pleases You, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. Thank You that You have made foolish the wisdom of the world to glorify Your Son in us and through us (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21).

For, You have chosen to shed Your love abroad in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), a love that abides and remains in us, even in our own unfaithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank You that because You have given us Your Son – the Word made flesh – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall come to know You, our Abba Father, more and more. Thank You that we shall see the reward of Your Son’s suffering on the Cross.

We shall watch in awe as You turn our hearts to love, where we first hated. To extend mercy, where we first held tight to pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and shame. We shall watch in awe as Your compassion flows from our hearts and hands and feet, because we have come to know Your compassion for us, at the foot of the Cross.

Thank You that we are Your chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Your special possession, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Thank You that we are always being given over to death for Your sake, so that Your life also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). 

Forgive me, Father, for every moment I have denied the abiding love of Your Son in me. Forgive me for agreeing with the accusations of the enemy and birthing the fruit of unrighteousness. Forgive me for clinging to the tomb of my sin and not seeing and taking a hold of Your outstretched hand of kindness and grace. 

Forgive me for counting my weakness and missing of the mark as proof of my eternal damnation and as a reason for others to see me as less-than, rather than as an invitation to grow in Your truth and grace. Forgive me for not stilling to hear and obey Your Word in me and to me. Forgive me for bowing to my pride and to my accuser. Forgive me for not believing in, declaring and living out the truth of Your abiding love in me.

When the enemy tries to silence us and speak of the stench of our grave clothes, help us, oh Father, to arise in the truth of Your mercy and grace, not only for us, but also for those the enemy is accusing us through. Help us not to turn away in shame, or to turn toward others in anger, as the accusations come, but embolden us to let You unwrap our grave clothes, right there, as we confess our sins and our weakness, before You and before others, openly and freely. Unwrap Your Son in us, Shalom Adonai! Our rock, our shield and the lifter of our head.

Thank You that we, the people who walk in darkness have indeed seen a great light; thank You that we who live in a dark land, have seen Your light shine upon us (Matthew 4:16). When You lead us to the Cross, help us to bow our knees in prayer and to clasp Your hand – the hand of Your healed and whole Body. Help us to arise and put on our new clothes of love, faith and hope. Thank You that You say blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Therefore, we shall suffer according to Your will and entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Love Bears All Things

 

When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.

1 John 3:1 (ESV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

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.

A photo I took in our local forest

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 do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.

Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?

Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most?
That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.

GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING

But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.

So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.

He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then His pure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE

But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.

But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school:
https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8

When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.

Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.

JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER

Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.

Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.

Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for even more good things to grow in our hearts and our lives.

He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE

But what if we have called out to God, but 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. 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.

You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.

And 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, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.

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, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?

Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?

Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Can I pray for us all today?

Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, 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 heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain. Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.

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. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?

We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and 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 wound.

When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?

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.

POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.

About the Steward

This blog is my way of giving back just some of the precious kindness, love, compassion, comfort and mercy my God has shown me. I am only its steward. Its content and direction are ultimately in God’s hands. Below you can find a snippet of my testimony, but a new chapter of my life testimony will also be published every second week of the month on this blog.

My name is Anna Smit. I first gave my life to Jesus as a four-year-old. My Dad recorded the moment in his diary, of how I wept in repentance at my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart with no prompting from them as parents. I remember my early days in Germany, as the eldest daughter of New Zealand missionaries, filled with love: with the life and presence of Jesus. 

Tragically, as a preteen and teen, walking through trauma back in New Zealand, I hardened my heart in sin. I believed the many lies spoken over me by my accuser. From then on, I went through life believing that God had abandoned me as someone who was inherently mismade. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me. 

Yet, now, I can look back and see the hand of God lovingly guiding me, protecting me and keeping me all those years I believed He had abandoned me and was out to hurt me. Every place I moved to, He remained with me, surrounding me with people who loved me, as He loves me: in truth and grace.

When my Mum was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer in 2013, God’s peace descended in power upon me. At the time, I was a mother of two young children (1 and 3 years old), living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and visiting my very ill mother in New Zealand. I wasn’t looking for God, but He came running for me.  

I felt that same palpable peace again upon my Mum, in her final weeks. I was absolutely astounded at the beauty and kindness of this God, I obviously didn’t know. His kindness toward me and the peace He covered me and my Mum in, compelled me to begin to seek Him and His Word afresh, like never before.

Since that moment, He has been opening my eyes to see myself and others through His eyes. He has been moving to slay each lie of the enemy through the power of His Word to me. He has been healing me from the trauma I walked through as a little girl.

He has been doing all this, not by sheltering me from trials and heartache, but taking me through them. He has repeatedly exposed me to triggers of past trauma, not to hurt me, but to uncover the enemy’s schemes against me and to heal me from the inside out. 

But He only began this process after almost a year of sheltering me in His love. He built me up on the solid foundation of Jesus, equipping me to resist the devil, so he would flee from me. He fed me His pure Word, began to root my faith in His character and presence in my midst, and (re)connected me with His Body of believers from around the world, who prayed me and loved me through the many trials to come. 

After building me up on the foundation of Jesus, He repeatedly led me into places of darkness to shine His light on the darkness in my own heart, to separate me from it and define me as His. In each of those places, I watched Him draw others into the light also, through the open repentance and boasting in my weakness He birthed in me. 

Now, through the many breakings, He has opened my eyes to see that I was not created to agree with the enemy’s lies and to lie down in a bed of shame. I now know He has created me, and you too, to arise. To depart under a new authority, yoked to Him alone. 

May you be blessed in this place. May you feel the warmth of His love, the light of His truth and the cloak of His grace wrap around you and rest upon you in this place.