Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 7: Sovereign

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a story + poem as a final free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment with His own, in and through her weakness.

Several years ago, I found my heart turned to bitterness, much like Naomi did, after her husband and sons died and she decided to return to her homeland. But as I layed my bitterness before the LORD in a poem, as I sat with the name Naomi had given herself, God exchanged my bitterness for joy, just as He did for Naomi.

Sovereign

Gather, You tell me
Gather, my broken dreams?
Gather, my heart broke in two?
Gather, all I've poured and emptied out?
Gather, here my broken self?

What do I gather?
When all I have is broken
Shattered?
Mara, she said to call her
Mara is the word I'd choose
A bitter hand dealt.

Gather, You tell me
Gather, Your tears here for me wept?
Gather, Your heart here broke for me?
Gather, all You've poured and emptied?
Gather, Word made flesh?



But not till much later, did I see that this place of desolation I found myself in, came about because of God’s jealous love for me and my family. For, He refused to allow my heart to remain divided in its affections, just as He refused to allow Naomi’s heart to remain divided also.

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that Naomi had moved to Moab with her family during a drought. Rather than trust God to provide for them, they had chosen to seek refuge outside of the safe boundaries God had given them to dwell inside of. When things got tough, rather than wait upon the LORD, they took matters into their own hands. And yet, even there, God remained faithful to His covenant of love.

All those years later, as tragedy struck and Naomi was left bereaved, she decided to return to the land of her faith, and Ruth decided to accompany her. What Naomi saw as God dealing her a bitter hand, was in fact God’s plan of redemption at work.

He was leading her to return to her first Love, where this time, in her place of great need, she would listen for the LORD’s Voice and not the enemy’s. There, God directed her to send her daughter-in-law into the hands of Boaz: her kinsman redeemer. A man of God who would provide bountifully for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Boaz foreshadows our own kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ. For, Jesus Christ has redeemed our family line, through His own blood. He has purchased us back from the enemy, freeing us from our bondage to sin and death.

In my place of desolation, I came face to face with my Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who showed me that my loss was in fact my gain. In that place of great loss my true sinful heart was exposed for all to see, so that my God could reveal His true heart of love and mercy toward us all.

I deserved judgment, not mercy. My idolatrous affections and numbing my pain in sin deserved God’s wrath. But just as in the case of Naomi, God honored the deeper desires of my heart, He had planted there. Desires to love Him from my whole heart.

And so, He took away my idols, one by one, leaving me bereft. But in that place, as I bemoaned His bitter hand, He arose to declare me His and to redeem my Prodigal journey.

Just like Naomi, I had once fled my God’s safe boundaries, choosing to fend for myself, after deciding in a time of drought – when God appeared not to be answering my cries – that my God had abandoned me and those I loved. I descended upon my Prodigal journey that would take me to the other side of the world.

After opening my eyes to a newborn faith (incidentally exactly when my childhood cries to God in prayer were answered, more than twenty years later), God took me back into similar situations of rejection that I had found myself in as a child, as I obeyed my God’s calling to speak up and to confess my weakness and sins openly.

Just as when I was little, I wanted to bow before man to be loved and accepted. Or I wanted to try to “persuade” those before me to “see the truth”, turning to fleshly means of fighting. I see-sawed between the two. But each time, after a period of asking me to stay and persevere in His truth and grace, as He continually cleansed me of all unrighteousness, God commanded me to depart under a new authority: His.

What I didn’t see until after several of these breakings and losses, is that my losses were in fact my gains. For, through each loss I went through, God was restoring more of my heart to Him. He was restoring my first Love for Him and redeeming the years the locusts had eaten.

Now I know that the droughts we walk through, when it appears our prayers are falling on deaf ears, are God’s gift to us. God’s gift sent to uncover our own sinful and divided hearts to cleanse and restore them unto Him. He was never ashamed of me in that place of the enemy’s attack. For, He allowed these attacks to expose my idolatrous and divided heart, so He could invite me to enter into His wholeness: to exchange my faith in my idols of self and man for a faith in Him alone.

Now, I know why He gave me a very specific Scripture-based prayer to pray repeatedly over myself, right after I came home to Him: a prayer I still pray today: “Father, teach me to walk in the light of Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might fear Your Name above all else.”

Like Paul, I too have now discovered, and am still discovering daily, that all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my LORD and being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Now, I too can sing: “It is God for me.”:

Each time Jesus purposely led me into a death and resurrection. He led me to face the sinful nature of my own heart and my inability to save myself and others. And then, in each death, as He asked me to leave and He closed the doors behind me, He gave me His heart of love and mercy. He wrote His Word deeper and deeper upon my heart.

I have become as dead to the people and communities He commanded me to leave, but alive to Him and His Word of love and mercy toward me and toward them. God is turning my bitter into sweet in and through my weakness.

He is answering His tearful intercession for me through my mother, all those years ago. Those answers are coming through my weakness and God’s grace to me: not through anything I have done to deserve it. They are coming through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the trauma triggers shaking my body in each place of idolatry have alerted me to the division occurring in my heart. These triggers have led me into stilling to hear and obey the Voice of God, to take steps to heal and guard my heart.

What the enemy sent to steal, kill and destroy me and my family, God is turning into good, to bring deliverance, healing and abundant life in Him. Praise Him!

It's then I see You
There beside me strong
Hand in mine
Walking to the Cross

Your Body broken
Shame and mocking
On You laid
Pierced and bled in pain
In the tomb You lay.

Till Your heavens
Darkness rent
Curtain raised,
Now in two
I hear You rip.

Christ, You raise
My broken life
In the breaking
Of Your Body
From the tomb
New life unwrap.

Your songs releasing
Now my human soul
Awakening
Your Living Word
Declaring me
Whole.

Embraced in love
Steeled in truth
Sent in Grace's
Own true Breath
Into Your world
That's yearning
For You:

I AM mercy's hands
And mercy's feet.


Broken,
You make whole again
Dark,
You shine my night to Light
Tears,
You cup and pour to Joy aflame
Fear,
You still in Perfect Peace
My feet,
On righteous path
You tread
Sure and steadfast
Held.

Gather, You tell me.
YES I shall gather
The tears You wept for me
The heart You broke for me
All You've poured
And emptied into me
I shall now receive:

The Word
Made flesh.

Garden of My Lord
Enclosed and sealed
For a time such as this
Your spring has broken
Your fountains I hear
Crashing, pouring.

For, Your love and mercy
You've gathered
Now to rush and pour
Sovereign
For Your own delight
In me.

For, wondrous
Are Your works
My soul knows it
Very well.

Praise You, Jesus!


“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (Song of Songs 4:12).


May we all rest in the love and mercy of our Creator today. May we come to know and taste, more and more, that our smallness and weakness is not our shame to carry, but ordained of God to draw us ever deeper into knowing Him and being known by Him, that we might declare the wonders of His works:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 6: Heaven is Singing

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a story + prayer + poem as a free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment of herself with His own. She also invites us into a time of prayer and reflection.

They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Exodus 38:8 NIV

The Lord had asked His people to bring many items and offer them to be used for the building of His holy dwelling place among them. When He asked for items of bronze to be given, there were women serving who gave some of their most precious items. For you see, they had used their bronze mirrors during those days of wandering in the wilderness, showing them daily glimpses of how their faces were portrayed. 

This Scripture tells us that the women who served the Lord and His people gave away their only way to view themselves. And how did the priests make use of those precious bits of their daily lives? The molten bronze was fashioned into the basin where the priests cleansed themselves before they offered the sacrifices that would bring God’s holiness to His people.

The way that those women viewed themselves and those around them was transformed as the bronze was melted, poured, and pounded into the vessel made for cleansing. Now the image seen was that of the priests bowing and washing before the holy sacrifices were made. 

Are you seeing the beautiful symbolism yet? 

The surrender of those women was not lost on me, as the Lord asked me to ponder my own way of looking at myself and those around me. I found myself weeping as the Lord brought His true mirror before me, and showed me the difference between what He sees when He looks at me, and how I have viewed myself. 

Has my mirror been melted, poured, and pounded into the Lord’s cleansed and true vessel of seeing yet?

Or have I clung to the wilderness way of seeing, judging my image by my own faulty standards?

Years ago, as a young teenager, God had spoken beautiful words into my heart and over my life as I read the story of the young teen Jeremiah:

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  Jeremiah 1:4-9 NIV 

I longed to follow after the Lord, and to speak the words that He would give me to share. But not long after God had spoken the words of Jeremiah to me, I heard a phrase uttered, “Oh, that person is just too heavenly minded to be any earthly good!”  And something burrowed itself down into my soul. I heard myself asking God:

“Is that me, God? Is that why my words are not heard?  It MUST be me.”  

I tucked away my own stories of God’s faithfulness, preferring instead to listen to all the other great stories around me. In the very beginning of my journey, I listened to a lie about myself, and let that lie take root. And judgment quickly clouded my vision.

Years later I heard more words uttered, and I let that lie take root even deeper, until the Lord began to shake it loose, and show it for what it truly was. He let the light of His truth shine directly into the darkened corner of my heart.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Psalm 85:10

He cleansed my eyes with the water of His mercy, and showed me His way of seeing not only myself, but those around me who had also given in to the lie. His mercy washes us clean from our bitterness, and brings us the only way to see clearly: through HIS own righteousness.

If your own eyes have been looking in a bronze mirror, and you have found yourself questioning a lie that has been spoken over you, can you ask the Lord to kindle His flame and shine His light on your heart?  What does HE see when He looks at you?  Jesus refines and He washes with a holiness that brings us His Truth and Life. Can you let Him wash away the judgments and lies that have rooted in your own heart?

Dear Father,

We come before you now, humbled by the awesome strength and glory that You dwell in. And Father, we are awed that You would love us so much, that You would open the way for us to dwell with You through Your precious Son’s sacrifice.

Will You forgive us for the pride that we have fought so hard to hold onto? And will You continue to lift the blinders off of our eyes, to show us the true cleansing that You have for us? 

What a blessed fellowship You have granted to us: to be carried by You through every day, to be in sweet communion with You, through Your own Blessed Holy Spirit.  We praise You for the true way of seeing that You have granted to us through Your merciful love gifted to us. Thank you for the song that You are singing as You declare us beautiful in Your holiness.

In the Precious Name of Your son, Jesus, we pray, Amen.”

As we now sit with the poem Bettie penned, as the LORD cleansed and opened her eyes, may the LORD now also cleanse and open our own eyes. May we too hear heaven singing:

lie slithered along the floor where
my heart
followed along
questioning
hsss
sound of darkness
i let it stay
did not
bid it go
hardly knew when
it came to live
but always
hsss
sound of darkness
questioning who i
thought
i
was
then hidden words
found utterance
not
by
me
another had let the darkness
settle
on
his
heart too
hsss
now lies swirled over
head
joined entwined in darkness
bitter root
twisting weed grew
around my
shady corners
soul barren
deeps
YAWEH!
a flame kindled
where
slithering scattered
hissing tried to
cling
LORD of light shining
lies fled when
truth sounded song
fluttered
love won secret heart
drew in beautiful
intimacy restoring
true heart no
bitter root
HEAVEN IS SINGING

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 4: He Will Carry Us

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering of bronze. Her story and poem show us how the LORD exchanged her human judgment with His freeing judgment and her prayer invites us into thanksgiving.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.  Luke 15:1-6

As I listened to the verses being read aloud, my heart started pounding more rapidly. I heard the words, but I saw myself in the story. As Jesus put that lost one on his shoulders and began to walk home, something broke loose in me. It was what I had been longing for almost every night within this chronic illness wandering: to be lifted and carried away from the thorns.

Over these past years, since my chronic illness diagnoses, I have met my Savior, my Shepherd, in more intimate ways than I ever could have imagined. He called me beautiful when I found myself so ugly. He called me chosen when I found myself separated and cut-off. He called me by His own royal name when all I could hear was minimizing and neglect. He called me His daughter, and I hid in His embrace.

But when I listened to the story of that one lost sheep, I realized that even after those many precious words He had spoken to me, I have still felt tangled in thorns and separated from where I was supposed to be. I have still rebelled at the thought that this place of weakness could be the very place that He knew I would be in. When I have looked longingly back at the place of my own strength, I have not acknowledged that this place of tangled thorns has been the place designed for precious carrying by Him. For if the thorns had never tangled me, I would never have felt the amazing intimacy of His arms when all of my own physical strength had been utterly depleted.

The Thornbush

I see the thorn-bush set in my path
And I ponder the way ahead
Can I make my way cleanly around
Or must I offer my arms to be torn in the passing?

I look for tools to cut away the brambles
And I find them waiting for my use
Can I gather the branches without snagging
Or must I give over my hands to be bloodied in the holding?

I hear a voice calling me to lay down the struggle
And I see the Gardener watching me
Can I pause long enough to allow for His help
Or will I willfully stomp my feet in the tearing of pain?

It is HIS garden after all that offers this path
And I find the journey ahead planned by Him
Can I see the beauty in the thorn-bush here
The eternal weight of glory being given in this suffering?

The eternal weight of glory being given in this suffering?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

And then God highlighted another set of Scripture verses, and I pondered them for weeks, leaving the windows open in my search browser so that I would see them every time I opened the internet. But when I thought about my Lord carrying that lone, bleating sheep over the rutted pathways, I suddenly saw such a beautiful picture in these verses where He had me pause:

Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6 NIV

Jesus weeps over each of us lambs. We are the ones for whom He has planted such deep seeds. We are the harvest, we are the sheaves He is singing over as He carries us so close to His heart, right over His shoulders.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7 NIV

And when I am finally brought to those places where all my strength is found only in Him, I am part of His seed sowing AND His harvest. I am one of those who are called “they” in these passages, part of the singers flooded with His springs of water, dancing in His pools of strength.

Have you glimpsed those tangled thorns capturing your strength? I would love to pray with you today as we allow our Shepherd to come after us, to pick us up, and to place us over His own shoulders.

Dear Lord Jesus,

We come to You today, admitting that we have been Your lost lamb, so tangled in thorns that we have no strength of our own left. Forgive us for looking back longingly, trying to find our own way out of the piercing. Would You help us to look up to You and find Your arms so sufficient for us?

Thank You for the seeds You have sown in our hearts. Thank You for the harvest that You are reaping even now, as You lift us and place us close to Your heart. 

Help us to drink deeply of Your springs of life-giving water. Help us to sing with You through the valleys transformed by YOUR strength.

We praise You for Your deep love that is even now working for us an eternal weight of glory, right here in this place of suffering. We worship You, our Blessed Savior, Good Shepherd, and Loving Lord.

In Your name, we pray,

Amen.

Photo: From Anna Smit’s private collection.

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 3: A New Heart

Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward a free will offering forged in the fires of affliction, as Jesus arose to defend His dwelling place with His judgment in mercy.

My Prodigal wandering began, when I began to believe that my God could indeed not have chosen someone like me: someone too young, too sinful, too needy and too broken. I agreed with the enemy’s twisting of Scripture and began to read God’s precious Word, no longer as an invitation to know my Jesus and His mercy more and more, but as evidence that I was doomed for hell.

So one day, when I had committed a sin I abhorred and was deeply ashamed of, I was certain that this was it. That now all I could do was bide my time till God did away with me completely.

Outwardly not much changed. I still attended church. I still played the good girl. But inside my spirit was crushed and my heart aching to be known by God.

Years later, on the day we buried my Mum, I learnt that she had noticed the change in me all those years earlier. My Mum was heartbroken by how her once exuberant and confident girl had retreated into herself. All those years ago when I felt so abandoned in my sin, my Mum began praying with her best friend for God to give me my confidence back.

Now all these years later, her prayers are being answered. For, my Savior is stripping away my confidence in myself and man that stole, killed and destroyed so much in my life. He is now rebuilding my confidence in Him alone.

What I didn’t know, as I sung this beautiful song as a teenager, with tears streaming:

and with such a deep longing for Jesus to rescue me, is that He was in fact already kneeling down to take me into His arms and carry me home, so close to His heart. He had heard my cry.

And now, I can hear and feel that new heart of His beating inside of me.

All these years later, as I sat singing that same song again, now with tears streaming in deep thankfulness to my God, I noticed something about the lyrics I hadn’t before:

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands … Nothing compares to the Promise I have in you.

I realized that I am the work of my God’s hands and that the very Promise of salvation was beating inside of me even then, all those years ago. For, though my sins of reading pornographic literature and masturbation were grave, my God’s mercy was so much more. While Satan convinced me that my God had now turned away from me for good, I now know my God’s heart was not hardened toward me, as mine was toward Him. No! His heart broke in compassion for His hurting child.

Jesus saw deep into my heart. Just as He did for King David in his sin, He caught my every tear in His bottle – even though those very tears were caused by my sin – and He turned what the enemy meant for evil into good. For, through my Prodigal journey, Jesus answered the deepest longings of my heart that I never realized He had heard me whisper as a little eleven year old.

And what were those longings? Those longings of His heart in me were to truly know His grace, the very meaning of my name Anna, the name my mother was led to give me from the womb:

The final birthday card my Mum penned with her shaking hands, less than two months before she went to be with Jesus, overcoming the evil of brain cancer with the blood of Jesus and her word of testimony.

Yes! In our prodigal wandering our God bottles our every tear. I now know that long before I began to run, He began praying for me. Just as He did for Peter, He interceded for me before His Father that my faith would not fail, and so that when I returned to Him after denying His Name, I could strengthen my brethren with my testimony to His glory and grace.

Just look at the life of Saul turned Paul and you will be reminded of what our God’s mercy is capable of. Oh may that mercy flow richly through us to anoint others to be saved, just as it did through Stephen as he was stoned to death at the direction of the very one whom he poured out God’s mercy upon.

May the persecution and affliction we walk through at the hands of our enemy only testify to the judgment our Savior bore for us that we might now declare not a judgment of condemnation against ourselves or others but a judgment of mercy.

For, God’s judgment toward us is not one of wrath because His wrath has already been satisfied at the Cross:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

Our God’s judgment toward us is one of mercy because He is a God who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations for those who love Him. Because when we are faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot disown Himself in us. Because our God always finishes what He has begun. And because our God has set eternity in the heart of man to make all things beautiful in His time.

Many years later, I again walked through vicious attacks from the enemy, just as I had as a little girl. But this time, as I stepped out in faith and obedience to my Savior’s call and my own heart failed me, I cried out to Jesus for His heart. And He answered me:

A New Heart

Who you are
Is not all that
You couldn't ever be
It never was
And never ever once
Will be.

Who you are is written
On the palm of My own
True hand
The hand that shaped
And formed you.

Fearfully and wonderfully
Have I made your frame
To hold the very Heart
That bled and died and rose again
To beat within your very own.

I ask not that you hold so tight
I ask not that you strive
I ask not that you try so very hard
To be what beats within you even now.

All I ask is that you
Come
Sit at My feet
Pour all out
That hides behind
That wall of shame.

Cast it out, that it may die
Death to all that holds you
Captive, even now
Not to who you are
But to who those lying tongues
Would have you be.

Rise and shine instead
In all My Light of Grace
That beckons from behind
That wall
No more.

Into My loving arms that wait
To each beat of flowing truth
That girds you now in who
You truly are in Me
Forgiven, held and pure
That’s who You are in Me
And evermore will be.

As I laid each accusation of condemnation before Him, He declared His judgment against me as annulled at the Cross. He asked me to hear and heed the new heart beating inside of me. And that heart declared me:

Forgiven, held and pure
That’s who You are in Me
And evermore will be.

And so, I clasped His hand to depart the old I once believed to be true to enter the new with Him. Now, my faith is no longer in myself or others. It’s in Christ and Christ alone. I now come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need. I confess my sins freely before God and man. I now lift up my soul to Jesus because I trust Him to save me, moment by moment.

Now, I know that it is precisely my broken heart and crushed spirit that compells my precious Jesus to draw near to me to save me. And so, I cry out to Him, who hears my every cry and bottles my every tear:

Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
    or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
For thus says the Lord:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
    and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children. Isaiah 49:24-25 (ESV)

He heard my mother’s pleas. He saved her child and He’s still doing so daily, as this child of His heart is now learning to lean all her weight upon Him. Praise Him for HIS gracious Words to us. For, they are indeed like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and healing to the body.

Worthy is HE alone of all honor, glory and praise:

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 2: A New Offering

Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem the LORD spoke to her heart, as she felt like she had nothing left to give. She was judging her circumstances with her human understanding. God invited her to see and embrace His judgment of her situation and to celebrate His refining work in her.

May God speak to you through it too, encouraging your heart in those places you feel you have nothing left to give. May God cleanse each one of our eyes to see what He sees.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 (ESV)

A New Offering

Oh my heart
So worn, so torn
Emptied of all tears
No more to give.

Kneeling here
At these Your feet
What do I have
To offer You, My Lord.

"My child" I hear
A gentle Voice within
"Here at My feet
You have given all
An offering of poverty
But more than
Ever before.

"Shed here your clothes
Of old
And let me clothe you
In the new
A living Hope
An inheritance imperishable
Now your crown.

"Behold, the new has come
Shed here the old
Arise now in the morning sun
Shining ever brighter
Till the full light of day.

"I have not left you orphaned here
My breath to you I give
To carry, lead and guide
Sending out
My Light and Truth ahead.

"Behold then, open here your eyes
Do you not perceive it?
My way in the wilderness?
My rivers in the desert?

"My righteousness within
I have forged
Behold the jealous fires
Of My love
The dross of all your
Prideful striving
I have consumed
My rivers of peace
To bring.

"Drink of my living water
Let your weary heart
Now rest
On everlasting arms beneath
My grapes to harvest
No longer just in one,
But in each and every season.

"My rivers shall now
Stream freely
Washing all devouring
And destroying tongues
Away.

"My chosen and anointed child
Watch your delight
Now grow, abound
For, My Spirit shall now reveal
A flood of beauty
All your buried desires
I am breaking open
To fulfill.

"Promises of covenant
True and pure
You shall now declare
No longer in trembling
Fear of man
But in trembling awe
Of your Maker
Your Husband and LORD.

"See now my Word of life
Not empty return
But accomplished
In leaves of beauty
And abiding fruit
In the soil
Of My heart for you
Now flourish."

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 58:9 (AMP)

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” Luke 24: 1-4 (NKJV)

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Bronze Judgment

Welcome to Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing an introductory post on the free will offering of bronze, including a prayer she penned together with Bettie and a link to a Michael W. Smith song.

Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze;  Exodus 35:5

The bronze from the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. Exodus 38:29 NIV

The site Bible History tells us:

“The main use for bronze was in the tabernacle furniture within the outer court, in the places where exceptional strength and heat resistance was important. Bronze has a melting point of 1,985 degrees. Since the altar was a place where intense heat was present it was overlaid with bronze.

Ex 27:1-2 You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide–the altar shall be square–and its height shall be three cubits. You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. NKJV”

Source: bible-history.com

Interestingly, it was also used for the large brazen reservoir or molten sea, where the water was stored, in which the priests washed their hands and feet. This took over the role of the laver of the tabernacle. “It rested on 12 brazen (bronze) oxen, facing in four groups the four quarters of heaven.” (SEA, THE MOLTEN; SEA, THE BRAZEN, W. Shaw Caldecott).

Bronze is also used in Scripture to refer to what is strong, lasting and enduring:

The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. Deuteronomy 28:23 

His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Daniel 10:6

His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. Revelation 1:15

“Then I will make you to this people

A fortified wall of bronze;

And though they fight against you,

They will not prevail over you;

For I am with you to save you

And deliver you,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 15:20

But it is also used to describe man’s stubbornness, pride, idolatry and corruption:

All of them are stubbornly rebellious,

Going about as a talebearer.

They are bronze and iron;

They, all of them, are corrupt.

Jeremiah 6:28

“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, Isaiah 45:2

Interestingly the old temple, with its strong, brazen sea, bronze furniture and bronze-covered altar, was of course destroyed. Through the power of the Cross our human offerings, that have been corrupted by rebelliousness, stubbornness and idolatry are now also being destroyed. For Christ is now purifying us through the trials we face, that we might bring forward new free will offerings of bronze in Him, offerings unpolluted by the world’s judgment.

In Christ bearing the judgment for our sins, we can now endure the refining fires on this earth. Empowered by the Living Word, rather than turning to idolatry, stubbornness and pride, we now learn, through Christ’s loving discipline, to lay down the judgment of the world for Christ’s. We learn to see ourselves and others through His eyes.

Christ then exchanges our false judgment of situations, self and man, with His pure and unadulterated judgment. As Scripture puts it:

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:14 (KJV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 (ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55: 8 – 9 (ESV)

And so, contained in the free will offering brought forward by the Israelites was the Promise of the Cross. Now, we can rest in the Promise: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9, ESV). Praise God!

As you gather here with us for the 7 days of chapter 2 of Part 2, Bettie and I invite you to join us in bringing forward your own free will offerings of bronze through Christ Jesus.  But before we begin let’s pray:

Dear Abba Father,

We confess that we have allowed our hearts to be crushed beneath the weight of this world’s judgment. We confess that there have been times we have gotten so weary, because our sins are ever before us. Forgive us.

Father, we invite you now, and moment by moment, to wash our conscience clean with the water of Your Holy Word that we might see as You see. Renew us with the Life that only Your Holy Spirit can bring to us. 

Father, we praise and thank You that through Your Son You are even now yielding us to the transforming work of Your living Word, so that our minds might be renewed to test and approve what Your will is– Your good, pleasing and perfect will. Thank You that You are empowering us to shed the judgment of this world to receive the pure and unadulterated judgment of Your holy and righteous Son, Jesus. Thank You that You came into this world, not to condemn it, but to seek and save the lost.

We are so hungry for the freedom that only the blood of Your Son Jesus can bring.  Thank You that Your Son has borne the judgment that should have been ours, so that we can now live in the overflow of Your cleansing mercy.  As we walk through the fiery trials You have sent to purify us, thank You that You are shedding our pride, striving and idolatry, that we might rest ever more in Your pure judgment.

As our hearts ache and we become weary, help us to bring forward the free will offerings of bronze in Christ Jesus. Help us to lay before You the Promises that declare that Your Son has borne the judgment for all our sins in the past, present and future.

Set us free, in Your prompting and empowering, to abide in Your pure and unadulterated Word that we may flourish, and bless others to flourish also, in the abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus.

In the Precious Name of Jesus we come before you now. 

Amen.

May this song overwhelm you in the love and tender mercy of our God. Come let us arise to declare Him LORD of all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip each one of us with everything good that we may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 12:20-21, ESV

Day 1: A Tree of Life

Day 2: A New Offering

Day 3: A New Heart

Day 4: He Will Carry You

Day 5: Trust

Day 6: Heaven is Singing

Day 7: Sovereign

Part 1: The Bread of Life

Welcome to Part 1 of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine. In the coming weeks, we will be resting in The Bread of Life (Jesus). In each chapter of this part, we will invite Jesus to feed and sustain us through His fresh, warm, living and active Word. Today, you will find the introduction to part 1 and next week, we will publish chapter 1 (which includes an opening prayer, poems and devotionals: material to sit with each day of the week).

Have you also noticed how our God longs for us to receive His fresh warm bread – Scriptures filled with His Spirit breath? How He longs for us to lay down those cold stones (Scriptures wielded in part by the enemy as accusations against us) that we have clung to as God’s condemnation of us?

When we walk through trauma or chronic illness, we are all too aware of our weakness and failings, and our accuser loves to turn that against us. And this sneaky accuser uses God’s precious Word to do so. Let’s take a look at how he did so with the disciple Peter.

But before we do so, let’s put ourselves in Peter’s shoes. He tries to stop his Savior from being captured, as he cuts the soldier’s ear off. And yet Jesus rebukes Satan in him, as he does so. Peter judges the situation from his present understanding, rather than from God’s eternal understanding.

Peter doesn’t fathom God’s plans, as many of us struggle to do when things “go wrong”, when we lean into our limited human and fleshly perspective. For, though God has put eternity into our hearts, not one of us can “find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesisstes 3:11, ESV).

Then, as Peter tries to draw near to Jesus, in his weakness of fear and pride, after deeply traumatic events, he bows to his idols and denies his very own Savior. And then that Savior of his is hung on a Cross.

Now, let’s look at what the enemy does with Jesus’ own words. Just after Peter denies Jesus for the third time, the cock crows three times, and Peter remembers only part of the prophecy Jesus had spoken over him (that he would deny Him three times before the cock crows), as Jesus looks him in the eyes. In response, Peter cries “bitter tears”, rooted in self, condemnation and shame. The Word used for “bitter” is described by Strong’s Concordance as having a usage of: “bitter, acrid, malignant” (see: Strong’s Greek 4089).

But now watch what Jesus does with the accusations of the enemy, that have led to these bitter tears. Just watch how Jesus takes cold stones – the words of Jesus devoid of the person of Jesus and devoid of the Holy Spirit’s breath – and turns them into fresh, warm bread.

First, He invites Peter to breakfast, together with the other disciples. He includes Peter, showing him that he belongs to Him. Then, He gives Peter fresh bread rolls and cooks the fish Peter has just caught over a charcoal fire. He lovingly feeds Peter, reminding Peter that every good gift comes from above and he takes one of the places Peter denied Jesus- the fire – and redeems it. Then, three times He asks Peter if Peter loves Him. He invites Peter to affirm that in Peter’s every single denial, and failing, the love of God remained so strongly present in him.

We also see how when Jesus asks him if he loves Him the first time and phrases it as: “Do you love me more than these?”, Peter is no longer able to place himself above the other disciples, as one who loves Jesus more than others. Jesus appears to be lifting off the heavy weight Peter had taken upon himself to prove his worthiness for the great calling of God on his life, by phrasing the question this way.

Peter, this time doesn’t respond with bitter tears of shame, but with deep grief, after Jesus’ third question. The Word (lypéō) used to describe his grief is, according to HELPS Word-studies the same Word that is used in Genesis 3:16 for the pain of child birth (see: https://biblehub.com/greek/3076.htm). This emotion, unlike shame, is no longer rooted in pride and self, but in relationship.

Peter is grieved that Jesus would even have to ask Peter if he loves Him. Of course, Jesus knows Peter does and that he has never stopped loving Jesus, but asking him this question turns Peter away from sitting in pride and shame, to affirming that the ever present love of Christ at work in us always remains. It reminds us all that nothing can ever separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Word for Peter’s grief is connected to the pain of child birth either. For, we can see how in this very moment Peter begins to birth the Promise Jesus spoke over him, at the very beginning of their friendship (Matthew 16:18 ESV):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus appears to be, at Peter’s invitation, lifting the weight of this great calling off of Peter’s shoulders and placing it on His own. Simon is becoming Peter: the little rock, bowing to his true Rock and Redeemer, Christ, upon which the church is still being built today.

Bitterness – an emotion rooted in pride, fear and self – is replaced by grief -an emotion rooted in love and the other. Peter no longer thinks he should have been able to stand in his own strength (a thought rooted in self and pride). He realizes that he couldn’t and it grieves his heart that he has hurt his Savior. Jesus of course always knew this, but wanted Peter to experience it for himself, to understand that he needed his Savior to deliver him from sin and death.

This labor pain is something we all experience. For, we all experience the pain of giving birth to our Promise – Christ – the hope of glory in us. EVERY time we realize we can’t do the will of Christ in our weakness is a new opportunity to shed self and pride and to enter into the work of the Cross.

Each painful conviction is a moment for new life to be born in us, God’s invitation to be perfected in His power right in the midst of our weakness, as this song so beautifully puts it. No, Jesus is not ashamed of us in our need. It’s why He came:

As Isaiah 66:9 (ERV) puts it: In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” The Lord says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.

Christ invites us to renew our minds in His mind, by feeding on the Bread of Life – the living Word that He speaks to us, from moment to moment. He continually invites us to shed our fleshly and worldly perspective, to listen to and obey the law of love – Jesus.

Just as He did the disciples, Jesus constantly invites us to let go of established religious laws and traditions, in the name of love and mercy. The adulteress should have been stoned to death, according to man’s interpretation of the Word of God. But, Jesus speaks a better Word: for mercy triumphs over judgment.

When Jesus lets her go free and invites her to sin no more, He also invites her to put her faith in Him, rather than herself, just as Jesus invited Peter to do. By entrusting themself to Jesus, they were no longer under the law, just as we aren’t, when we give our hearts to Jesus. For, we are then in a relationship with our Messiah, who has fulfilled the law for us and is ever at work in us, by His Spirit, moving us to repentance. Or as Romans 7: 6 & 17 (ESV) puts it:

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code […] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

And when we give our hearts to Jesus, as Peter did, we also no longer desire to sin because we don’t want to break our Savior’s heart. But where sin does show itself in us, when we do what we do not want to do, Jesus moves to convict us of our sin and of His righteousness, and we quickly put the sin present in us to death. Godly sorrow leads us to a repentance (a change of our minds) without regret.

This growing relationship of trust and faith is evidenced in how quickly Peter is convicted and led to repentance by Paul’s rebuke. He no longer sits in shame, as he did after his denials, but convicted of his hypocrisy and Christ’s righteousness in him, Peter quickly leaves the religious leaders he had been sitting with, who were keeping people caged in the law.

He allows God to set him apart as a follower of Jesus, facing persecution and death on a cross in doing so. The relationship of love and trust that Jesus has built up with him, breaks Peter’s fear of man and idol worship, piece by piece, as Peter renews his mind in the Bread of Life. Peter doesn’t hear Paul’s voice in that rebuke, he hears and recognizes the Voice of Jesus in Paul.

Peter chose to follow the Son of God whose saving power he had now intimately experienced. Now, he knew he could trust Jesus, no matter the earthly consequences or the religious rules Jesus asked him to break in the name of love and mercy. He knew that: “He who calls [us] is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV). Peter knew that in his weakness (the fear of man and pride), Christ would continue to empower him to follow Him and sanctify him in doing so.

In the three affirmations of Christ’s ever present love, I believe Jesus shows Peter that the prophecy He spoke was never meant to condemn him. Rather, it was Christ’s invitation to Peter to clasp His outstretched hand of mercy and to see the birth of the Promise spoken over him.

For, with each command to feed His lambs and sheep, Christ reminds Peter that, as Romans 11:29 (ESV) declares “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”. All we have to do is take God’s hand of mercy in our weakness and trust Him at His Word. For, when our God promises something, HE is faithful to complete it (Luke 22:32, ESV):

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see the sifting by the enemy was only ever allowed to bring Peter to his knees in his weakness, so that Christ’s power might take over and empower him to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for his life. A plan and purpose he could never ever have carried out in his own strength.

Just watch Peter, after he has been through even more humbling, through Paul’s mouth. See how it is no longer Peter laboring here. No! It is Christ interceding in and through Peter, as Jesus speaks His Word through Peter to heal, restore and redeem His beloved children:

Acts 3:6-9 (KJV) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Jesus already knew Peter’s weakness intimately, long before He chose and called Peter for His purposes. Jesus knew that it is in this weakness that He could humble and empower Peter. Just as Jesus also knows each of our weaknesses intimately. Even before we were born He already planned out exactly how He would use the enemy’s sifting to humble us also and yield us to His beautiful will in and through our weakness.

No, not one of us is exempt from this humbling, as it is God’s beautiful way of lifting the weight of our calling off of our shoulders, so that we might rest in His labor of love and mercy. This is how we are born again in Spirit breath.

Jesus took upon Himself all our weakness, sin and failure, so He could nail it to the Cross. So that He could restore us to Himself and grow our trust in Him through an intimate experience of His love and mercy. As Paul puts it:

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Through the life of Peter, Jesus reminds us that (Isaiah 55:11, ESV):

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

You see, it’s never been about us and what we could do for Jesus. It’s always been about the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ and HIS labor of love in and through us.

As more and more is stripped away from us, Jesus uncovers our secret weapon – the fresh, warm Bread of Life – He has already put in our mouths for such a time as this. For, He – Jesus – is that Bread of Life.

In the coming weeks, may God uncover the warm, fresh bread He has already placed in our mouths. May every Bible passage the enemy has ever wielded against us to steal, kill and destroy, now be returned to us in Spirit breath, in the fullness of who Christ is, to heal, restore and redeem. May mercy triumph over judgment.

May God use what the enemy meant to harm us and others to bring more and more life in and through us. May God persuade us through intimate experiences of His goodness and mercy, in relationship with Him, to humble ourselves in our weakness, again and again, that we may rest in His beautiful labor of intercession in and through us.

May Jesus arise and shine in and through us, as we bow the knee to hear our Abba Father declare: “Beloved, You are Mine.”

Chapter 1: A Dwelling Place

Chapter 2: Clothed in Fine White Linen