Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.
Through each trigger of trauma, God is compelling my body – the Temple of His Holy Spirit- to groan for what only Christ can give me: Himself. Slowly, by the grace of God, I am learning to let the living law – Christ – fulfill what apart from Him, I just cannot do.
I am learning to speak the truth in love, to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Recently, just before God commanded me to depart somewhere He had sent me, an older woman spoke of my sharing sometimes being like fire, meaning it as a rebuke. This came only a few hours before another woman had encouraged me to stop bowing before my idols and to continue to speak what God had been compelling me to speak. So, as the older woman spoke of that fire coming from my mouth as something to be corrected in me, I took it to God. He asked me to humbly thank her for her honesty and then to depart.
What I didn’t tell her, is that as I took her rebuke to the feet of Jesus, He returned it to me as a gift. He showed me that that fire was not evil in me, but His holiness burning in me. He showed me how He desired to burn the dross, not just in her, but the dross of pride and idolatry in me too. For, He knew of all those present, I most respected her word. So, He purposely allowed me to face her open rejection, for being His mouthpiece. He gave me the privilege of loving her as He loves us all: in truth and grace.
Fire departed from her and others’ mouths there also, and by the grace of God I was able to receive that fire as a precious gift from Him. Each child of His in that place changed my mind in one way or another. They filled me with such compassion and understanding for people in my past that I had failed to see and love as Jesus sees and loves each one of us in our weakness and need, whether that weakness and need is visible or not.
And it was because of God’s fire flaming in our midst that I was freed to confess a past sin of mine in public for the very first time, as the shackles of shame and condemnation fell off of me. God gave me the honor of glorying in His embrace in their midst and to thank Him for the gifts He poured out upon me in that place, as I departed.
Now, I see how that fire of His in that place was just like the fire in the burning bush before Moses: the holy fire of God’s Word, setting Moses apart unto Himself and burning away the dross of his sin and shame, turning the ground Moses stood upon, into holy ground.
No longer did Moses remain a fugitive after taking the law into his own hands to try and save his people. No, because of that burning bush, Moses heard the Voice of His God. He bowed his knees and walked into a new life, set apart unto His Maker. The Word of God, through whom His people would be freed from their slavery and a generation later, upon the death of Moses, be led into the Promised Land.
As John 12:24-25 (ESV) puts it:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Thanks to the gift God gave me as a freshly returned Prodigal to intercede for my pastor in his weakness and need, and many others since, my own weakness and need has been repeatedly exposed. Through each trigger of trauma, in all the intercession and iron sharpening iron, my God has been lifting the enemy’s accusations and causing me to arise in His holiness.
He has been leading me to throw off the old of pleasing and hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness, to instead speak the truth in love and to confess my sins and weakness freely before my brothers and sisters in Christ. He has been rerooting me in His love: “so that [I] may no longer be [a] [child], tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV).
When I first began praying for my pastor and my church as a freshly returned Prodigal child, God gave me this Word as a Promise, as trauma triggers began to shake me (Ezekiel 3:8, ESV):
I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
Now, looking back on the past four years, I can see that God has been fulfilling this Promise to me. He has placed the helmet of salvation upon my head, so that when the sparks fly as iron sharpens iron, I no longer take it as proof that God has rejected me.
I receive it as proof that God is in our midst, leading us all to repentance. I now know that He is giving us beauty for the ashes of our dross that He is consuming by the fire departing from His mouth. I am learning to embrace those flames as His desire to fashion me into His image, by His transforming power.
He is strengthening me to (Romans 12:2, ESV): “not be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of [my] mind, that by testing I may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
At first, after every breaking, I have spiraled into shame. I have focused on the sins I committed in each place – sins I have openly confessed before my brothers and sisters – even as God has called me to bow my knees and humbly accept His victory at the Cross and His rescue of me from sin and death. I have even tried, in various ways, to go back and undo what God has worked in me and through me. I have received the enemy’s accusations as God’s, rather than walking into the forgiveness of my sins and the clean slate God has given me.
But praise God that His mercies are new every morning. Each time I have wanted to return to the old He has purposely cut off, or I have wanted to put myself on a pedestal of self-righteousness by slandering those I have left behind, God has opened my ears to receive His Word of truth and grace. He has rebuked the sin in me and called me to walk in His holiness, to declare before Him: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment…O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:4, 15-17 ESV).
He has continually rescued me, softening my hardened heart and teaching me to draw upon His love and affections for me. He has led me to deny myself, to take up my Cross and to follow Him. And, through the precious Spirit-led sharing of Bettie, who He wove into my life right before my first church breaking, He has repeatedly lifted my pain and exchanged my sackcloth of mourning for a garment of praise.
Praise God, Christ’s fire of holiness is flaming me alive. Jesus is compelling me through His living Word to me to throw off all that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me. He is empowering me to run with perseverance the race marked out for me, to fix my eyes on Him, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. For the joy set before him my Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Oh let us ever consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that we might not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Through each physical departure, my God has been teaching me to depart my own thinking (that has told me to stay and fight in the flesh or to stay and bow to my idols to be loved and accepted) to instead die to myself and live unto Jesus. Interestingly, literally to “go” and bear fruit that abides means to “depart under a new authority”. Isn’t that beautiful?
And, by faith, I also believe God is bringing this same beautiful resurrection life in Him for each person He has led me to intercede for and depart from. For, just as my pastor spoke over me: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in [us all] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV). And He who is faithful, will do it! For all Promises are Yes and Amen in my Jesus!