Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 2: Blossoms of Peace in His Time

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony 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.

Interestingly, sifting seed involves blowing it up into the air to remove the head (also called chaff) and to have it immediately drop to the ground. And this isn’t a one-time process. As I began to look more closely at this process and the prophecy Jesus spoke over Peter of allowing Satan to sift – or winnow – him like wheat, I began to see the hidden blessing Jesus wanted me to uncover in my own experiences of being sifted like wheat.

I now see how the Holy Spirit has lifted me up into positions of authority, when I, by the grace of God at work in me, have followed the law of God. But then the sins of pride and idolatry have been exposed in me, as I have denied, through my words and deeds, that it was always in fact the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

In my pride and idolatry, I began to see myself as the head and as oh so deserving of all the gifts for “all I have had to suffer through and give up”, turning my back on the greatest gift of all- Jesus and His love for me – compared to whom all else is rubbish. But praise God, He has never allowed me to stay in that position of pride, just as He didn’t allow Peter either.

He has repeatedly humbled me, repeatedly removing the chaff of self, as He has pressed my knees to the ground to die to myself and to sow unto the Spirit. As John 12:24 (ESV) puts it:

Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Now, I know that the seed in us is JESUS. It is He, who bowed low on the ground for us in Gethsemane, to drink the cup to take upon Him our sin and affliction, and to die on that Cross to save us. The chaff is our old self. But as Christ humbles us, yielding us to the Father’s will through HIS sacrifice, He cracks open our hardened hearts to lift off the old us (the chaff) to reveal Himself in us (the seed).

When I came back to faith, I believed I was called to and could draw others to Christ by my good example. So, God repeatedly invited me into situations that exposed my need for His grace and healing. It’s then, He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion. As they began to confess their own weakness and sin in response, I began to see that it has been my open confessions of sin and weakness that has been drawing not just me, but them also, closer and closer to Jesus.

Sadly, after my symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder disappeared, I glorified my healing, my church friends and the steps I had taken to get to that place of healing. I even began to believe God had called me to show others “how to heal”. So, in His kindness to me, God brought new trauma triggers to bring me to my knees, to expose my desperately deceitful heart and to remind me who my only Savior, Rock and portion is.

It was like He was asking me: “Anna, are you telling me you can teach people how to heal themselves?! How dare you nullify the very grace I have poured out in abundance upon you again and again. It was never you, your steps or your church friends doing the healing.” Oh how deeply humbling it was for me, as God led me to confess my sins, one after another, and to speak of His love and grace for me in my weakness and need.

But when God called me to leave my church, rescuing me from the spiritual abuse I was experiencing, I spiraled into shame. I returned to clothing myself in the enemy’s accusations and to fighting back in anger, as I reverted back to self-righteousness, so I could “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. Or I sought honor and approval in the world – via jobs – to compensate for the humiliation I felt, in having nothing left to “do” and “prove my worth”, as I let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

So, God just kept taking me in and out of places I longed to go, never taking away my free will, but rather, restoring it unto me. For, in each place, He compelled me to surrender my idols, one by one and to take back my self-control, so I could now bring free will offerings before Him, rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear, self-condemnation and shame. In giving me what I thought I wanted and needed, He in fact uncovered the true desires of my heart to know Him.

To know that Jesus is patient, that Jesus is kind. That Jesus does not envy, That Jesus does not boast, that Jesus is not proud. That Jesus does not dishonor others, that Jesus is not self-seeking, that Jesus is not easily angered, that Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. That Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. That Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. To know that I can always trust His judgment that is sent to heal and restore me unto Himself.

Yes, Jesus has patiently yielded me to His will, feeding me His pure and unadulterated Word to root me in the truth of His love for me, and to lead me to repentance. And He has showered me in His pride, every time I have humbled myself in obedience beneath His mighty hand.

I remember after God compelled me to leave one employer after only a month, how He woke me up to go downstairs in the middle of the night to pray for my former boss, who had deeply wounded my pride in things he had said to me upon my departure.

As I bowed low on the floor to pray, in response to God’s prompting, God’s love, compassion and mercy just began to pour out of me for this man, and I literally felt oil pour out on my head and the hand of Jesus rest upon my head. It was such an incredible experience. 

And yet even then, as I shared about this all with a church-going friend that I wanted to like me, I boasted in my own strength and goodness. I put myself on a pedestal for praying for my enemy: when it was in fact GOD who had brought that surrender in me.

I wanted her to approve of me, and I wanted to belong to her church community, I had started sporadically attending. But God later showed me, to belong to that place, I would have had to deny His very Presence in me and to hide His beautiful light. I would have had to stop speaking the truth in love, to stop boasting in my weakness and to stop confessing my sins freely. I would have had to wear a mask of self-righteousness to be acceptable.

A few days later I sat bemoaning that employer yet again before unbelieving friends of ours. I was seeking to save face after once again being jobless, when God had only just showered me in such honor to show me that I am no victim, but a vessel of His love and grace, not sent to glorify myself in the world, but Him, in my humility.

I hadn’t learnt the lesson God had wanted to teach me through all of this: Psalm 16:2 “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Yet, beautifully, one of those present said something that so deeply convicted my heart in response that God led me to repentance through it.

No, there is NOT one ounce of goodness in me apart from God. But that is the beautiful and freeing thing to realize, isn’t it? I can never, in fact, be holy apart from Christ. Oh I still have moments I forget this beautiful, beautiful truth, as I choose pride above humility. But praise God He always rises to defend me – to compel me to clothe myself in His holiness that is mine in Christ Jesus, as I bow low in repentance. 

Yes, it has always been Jesus yielding me in surrender and yet oh how I have put myself on a pedestal for it and shamed others in doing so. May God forgive me. Now, I know my Heavenly Papa was not ashamed of me, but oh so proud of my open confessions of weakness and sin, even as it turned those I idolized and wanted to like me, against me. 

For, that is in fact what shines the face of Jesus upon others in their own weakness. Upon those whose hearts have been tilled to receive the truth and grace of God. No, those who long to know Jesus won’t ever find Him in my self-righteousness, in my pedestal living, nor in me puffing myself up in my positions in ministry or the workforce, and my “good works”. They and I will see Jesus most in our repentance: in Christ’s holiness transforming each one of us from glory to glory.

All along, I have always been in the hand of God. And yet sadly, I was constantly seeking church leaders, church friends, various self-help programmes (Christian and non-Christian) and worldly or church standing to “rescue me” and lift away the shame I felt at my weakness and sin being “put on display”. All along Christ was inviting me to become less that He might become my all.

I didn’t deep down know in my heart that God has always had me safely in His hand – even all those years I walked as a Prodigal, believing Jesus had abandoned me. Now, I know that all of this humbling was sent to teach me – and others through me – to lean into the righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that became mine, the moment I gave my heart to Him as a little four-year old girl. A righteousness that the enemy can never take from me. For, “In him [I] also, when [I] heard the word of truth, the gospel of [my] salvation, and believed in him, [was] sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV).

Praise God, that each place He sent me, He lifted me up to winnow the beautiful golden seeds of His Word in me. Lifting off the chaff of my prideful old self, the heavier seeds of glory dropped to the ground to die and be buried that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

I now see the beautiful fruits of repentance He has been growing in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I can now see and praise God for the blossoming staff of His leading in my life and heart. 

To the world my life (and my ailing health) looks like a failure, but I now know to God, my “failures” are proof of His workmanship – His love and grace at work in and through me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness to yield His harvest of peace in and through me.

Chapter 2: Day 7 – Gates of Praise

Welcome to Day 7 of Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem filled with Scriptures and the Scriptures that inspired it.

Gates of Praise


I am your light and your salvation
I am your glory within
Call your walls: salvation
Your gates: praise.

I am your glory within
Swing wide you heavenly gates
Your gates: praise
Let the King of Glory come in.

Swing wide you heavenly gates
Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope
Let the King of Glory come in
Light shines in darkness.

Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope
I am a wall of fire around you
Light shines in darkness
I am the Lifter of your head.

I am a wall of fire around you
Call your walls: salvation
I am the lifter of your head
I am your light and your salvation.



Psalm 24: 9 (ESV)

Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.


1 Chronicles 16:28 (ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!


Psalm 22:3 (ESV)

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.


Isaiah 60:18 (ESV)

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.


Zechariah 9:12 (ESV)

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.


Isaiah 62:1 (ESV)

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,

and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,

until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

and her salvation as a burning torch.


John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (MSG)

6 It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 7 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us.

Chapter 2: Day 6 – Eternity Glowing

Welcome to Day 6 of Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem.

ETERNITY GLOWING

On Rock
He teaches
Me to build
With human hands
I go to work
Believing
My self-righteous works
The Rock
Must build.

And so
He sends me forth
In waters deep
Storms now come
My human rock
To shipwreck
Break
On foreign shores.

I sift the debris
Eyes laid low
Yearning now
My rock of old
To clasp
But on foreign shores
This rock of old
Now lies
Shattered, broke
Undone, I cry.


But in my weeping
My Father bows my knees
Each missing grain to see
Now bathed in Light
My tears are washing
Hidden treasures
In shifting sands
Laid bare
Eternity
Now glowing.

My Abba Father's Promises
As gifts in weakness
Now laid bare
Hidden treasures
An abundance
Out of the seas
My God
Is drawing out.


Let waters
Rise
Let storms now
Come
Let sand here
Shift
My God's Promises
Shall then
In Spirit rise to
Glow.


Rejected by humans
But chosen by my God
And precious to Him
Each missing grain
Sparkles bright
Each jewel
In shifting sands
I see unveiled.


His living stone
My Father builds
Into a Holy Temple
In the Father, Son
And Holy Spirit - One
A holy priest
I now come
Offering
Spiritual sacrifices
Acceptable to God
Through my LORD and Savior
Jesus Christ
Alone.


Deuteronomy 33:18-19
Of Zebulun he said, "Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, And, Issachar, in your tents. "They will call peoples to the mountain; There they will offer righteous sacrifices; For they will draw out the abundance of the seas, And the hidden treasures of the sand."

Isaiah 61:11 (AMP)
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will [most certainly] cause righteousness and justice and praise
To spring up before all the nations [through the power of His word].

Thread of Glory

This post is co-written by Anna Smit and Bettie Gilbert. My dear friend and spiritual Mom, Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor for prayer, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise. This post is an edited version (thanks to the new eyes Christ has given us since) of a newsletter we once sent out to families and friends of prodigals that subscribed to the now closed blog Beloved Prodigal. The poem is read by our dear friend Julia Putzke whose blog can be found at Crippled at Your Table.

Do you ever feel that the waiting process is a waste of time, or a time when nothing is being accomplished?  There are times when we, Bettie and Anna, feel that way—when we can do nothing in and of ourselves to bring about any change.  But it is precisely for this waiting time – when we can do nothing in and of ourselves- that our Lord has designed a beautiful promise. A Promise that Christ unveils inside of us, right when we are forced to concede the failure of our own strength.

He has hidden this Promise within the offerings that He asked His children to bring for the building of the very first Tabernacle.  

“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: 6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread;”  Exodus 35:5-6

Interestingly, if we look at the root meaning of the expression “wait for”, we discover God’s gift threaded into our waiting. For we find “wait for” in Isaiah 64:4 means:

Brown-Driver-Briggs

  1. [קָוָה] verb wait for (probably originally twist, stretch, then of tension of enduring, waiting: Assyrian ‡ûû II, I. wait, ‡û, cord; Arabic  be strong,  strength, also strand of rope; Syriac  endure, remain, await,  threads, so ᵑ7 קַוִּיןspider’s threads, web); —

(Source: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6960.htm)

Now, let´s read Isaiah 64:1-4 together, to see this waiting in its context, to see the strong desire God births in us for His glory and renown to be made known in the waiting:

1 “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”  

 

Now, let’s recall the blue, or indigo, thread the Spirit of God compelled the people of Israel to give as a free will offering for the Temple curtain. As we “wait for” our God to act, are we not then also prompted through the Spirit of God to bring this thread – our hope of glory – Jesus Christ Himself – who lives in us, forward as our free will offering? For, this blue thread became a part of the curtain in the Temple, and who is that curtain now? Hebrews 10:20 (ESV) tells us that that curtain of access into the holy of holies is Jesus. We have been given unlimited free access to our God “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh,” the flesh of Jesus Christ that was crucified for us.

As we wait, and our hearts ache at our own lack of control to make things happen, does this Jesus not cause our hearts to yield to Him through this suffering? Does He not compel us to bring forward that blue thread – our hope of glory in Him- so that we may be bound more tightly to His Promises through the tension of His enduring work in us?

For, it is Christ in us who causes us to pour out our hearts, who causes us to “eagerly look for” His presence in our own life and the lives of those we are praying for. It is the Spirit of the living God in us, who causes us to yield to the will of the Father for this time of waiting. No, although it may feel like it, we aren’t just idly waiting for God to act. Christ – our thread of glory – is laboring in us and through us.

Bettie has a poem that she wrote during a time of waiting. As you listen to our dear friend Julia Putzke read it, may God speak to you and encourage you through it in your own place of waiting today and in the time to come:

INDIGO

By Bettie Gilbert

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Ancient Priests knew the sight

Their garments awash

The curtains the walls

All touched and woven

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Hebrew children settled in

Their lands and their towns

But daily remembered

Tassles lifting their gaze

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Shepherds on that Holy Night

With their sheep standing near

Saw the darkness fall in

Heard the Angels bright song

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The bowed down woman pressed in

To reach for HIS robe

The only One able

To reach through her pain

As Indigo from the sky.

 

And I in this season of dark

Wait for the flash

Of a bird so brilliant

It sparkles like sapphire

As Indigo from the sky.

 

But my heart is still longing

In a pain of my own

For a flash of dear Hope

From Heaven so pure

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Do you see, even in this poem by Bettie, how the Spirit of God is at work in us in our places of waiting? How He causes us to release our burdens of unbelief, doubt, fear and grief. His intercession in and through us is binding us tightly to the hope of glory – to Himself. As He helps us come to Him with all these burdens we cannot carry, He takes over. For, as Paul reminds us, true prayer is done in communion, where the Spirit of God takes over to pray through us. But how can that Spirit even take over, unless our flesh is crucified, unless our own strength and ability is taken from us? Unless our weakness gives glory to God, as He perfects His power in that place?

Oh but we know this process of weaving is not without pain. Bettie has been dealing with a physical kind of pain in her joints that feels like a rubber band or a rope is being twisted tighter and tighter around her painful bones.  It reminded her of this pain that our hearts feel as they wait.  

Sometimes it truly feels like a rope is twisting the pain tighter and tighter around our hearts, and that we will fall from the pain of the waiting, doesn’t it? And this is in fact true. We are being bound so tightly it hurts and we will fall, but only into the waiting thread of our LORD – our hope of glory, as the thread of our own strength is broken.

For that pain and our falling is in fact Jesus turning the waiting around for us. For, He catches us as our own strength fails us, so that He can then bind us to a cord not of our own making, but one of eternal hope. This new thread being woven around us and our loved ones is not dependent upon our strength, but purely and wholly upon the strength of the living Word of God – Christ in us.

In that painful place of waiting, Jesus lifts the weight of our sin and suffering off of us, to  yield us to His enduring strength. And that strength releases joy, hope and faith in us: free gifts of the Spirit. God not only strengthens those we are praying for in Spirit, but also our own faith in Him and His steadfast character of love, compassion and mercy toward us in our own weakness and frailty.

He reminds us that even now, as He labors in us on earth, we are already seated in heavenly places with Him, at the right hand of the Father. He reminds us to live for the joy set before us: a healed, whole and united Body of Christ, the Bride married to her Groom. To live from a place of victory, and not defeat.

That pain we feel is in fact proof of our heavenly inheritance to come. For, our earthly tents are groaning for heaven – it is the birth pains Paul speaks of. For, we are giving birth to an eternal weight of glory that only our heavenly bodies can bear. And for that birthing to happen, there also has to be a shedding of the old thread, for the weaving of the new to occur.

As our own strength fails us here on earth, and our earthly tents fade away more and more, it’s then Christ’s strength takes over more and more. His hands wrap around us to carry us and our loved ones to the throne of grace. He intercedes for us before His Father.

It is then we are revived in Christ’s faith, discovering as Jesus proclaimed: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). It’s then we come to know, more and more, that we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Let us end by looking at Isaiah 40: 25 – 31 (ESV):

25 To whom then will you compare me,

    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

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.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

    and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

    they shall walk and not faint.

In the waiting with this Word, can you ask Jesus to lift your eyes up to Heaven? Can you ask Jesus to give you His eyes? Can you ask Him to help you see the thread of glory – Christ- He is weaving in your and your loved ones’ lives?  

Write out your thoughts as a prayer to the Lord. Is there anything He is asking you to let go of?  What is He wanting you to see, think, hear, say or do in His strength and direction?

Never forget: “the LORD is faithful. He will establish [you and your loved ones] and guard [you and them] against the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Let’s pray.

Father God, thank You for bringing us together to honor Your Name. In the pain and suffering of watching our loved ones go through trials and being unable to support them ourselves, we ask that You would bring comfort and hope to our hearts. Soothe our aching bodies and hearts with Your Word. Give us an intimate experience of Your steadfast, merciful and holy love toward us and our loved ones.

We thank You that no matter what we walk through, You have promised to surround us, just as the mountains surround Jerusalem (Psalm 125:2). We thank You that even now Your justice, truth and mercy surround us all, binding us to Yourself.

Lean our full weight upon Jesus. Give us Your eyes, so that we may recognize how You are at work in even the tiniest details of our and our loved ones’ lives. Yield us to Your will, opening our clenched tight fingers to release the weight that is not ours to carry, so that we may receive Your peace.

Father, I ask you to bless each one of us with divine encounters this very week. Encounters that show us Your faithfulness and prove that Your hand upholds us and our loved ones, as our own strength fails us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.