Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 4: An Irrevocable and Coming Kingdom

Welcome to Day 4 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.

Recently, I was so struck by the childlike faith of Corrie ten Boom in an old interview. She reminded me that God’s peace – a joining of all broken parts into a whole in Jesus- is birthed in the confession of our weakness and sin, as we invite Jesus to meet us in our need and to fill us with Himself. 

As she was put in solitary confinement for four months, she noticed her discouragement growing, so what did she do? She simply confessed her sin of discouragement and asked Jesus to help her. And He did. 

Each time she came afresh in her confessions of sin and weakness, Christ met her and filled her with fresh hope, faith and peace. She explained how until that time in isolation, she hadn’t really gotten to know Jesus, but that during that time He invited her to let Him become her hiding place, a hiding place that sustained her through the many trials still awaiting her in a concentration camp thereafter.

As I listened, my heart was both convicted and blessed. It made me see how recently I have become discouraged, and how in not confessing it, I have stopped coming with my whole heart before God. But as I simply confessed my own sins of discouragement and unbelief, in response to Corrie ten Boom confessing hers, something so precious unfolded. God lifted the accusations of the enemy I didn’t even realize I was believing, as He showered me in His affections.

He did so, by reminding me of one time after another, where He had set me apart in the past to hide me in Himself and to have me walk into His purposes for my life that were so much greater than I had wanted to settle for.

It’s then, I knelt back down to pick up the Promises He had only recently spoken over me, just before He had set me apart once again. Promises I had let go of, as I clung to the enemy’s accusations, even as what He had spoken over me has amazingly begun to unfold before me.

It’s then, I realized that I just could not believe that He would indeed do what He has promised me, because what He has promised me requires a miracle and my complete surrender. I just couldn’t believe that His love for me and my loved ones could go that very deep. But just like our God, what Scripture did He drop into my inbox, as He uncovered my doubts:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” MATTHEW 16:15-17 NIV

If you’ve been following along with us, you will have noted that I had only just published a piece quoting this verse. But what I didn’t tell you is that it is also part of another book – Celebrate Jesus: His Veil Fills the Temple – that God had asked me to write 4 years ago about my Prodigal journey home that I finished, in its first draft, a few days ago.

This is a book I didn’t want to write, but a book He knew would heal me in the writing. Why? Because He showed me that His wounds have paid my ransom. That the cost I wasn’t willing to pay to walk into His purposes for my life, as I denied Him at every turn just like the disciple Peter, He paid for me. So that like Peter, I would come to deep down know I am my Beloved’s and He is mine – and that nothing could ever take away His hand upon my life and upon all those He has called according to His purposes.

From the outset I was called, chosen and destined to walk into the purposes of my God. For, His purposes for us – His children – are irrevocable. Not even our repeated denials of Him can ever undo what God has already finished at the Cross.

Just like Aaron and Moses discovered, when some of their brothers in the LORD became jealous of the undeserved favor God was pouring out upon them, I too discovered, as I wrote this new book, that God does not change His mind about those on whom He has chosen to pour out His favor and those whom He has called according to His purposes. And He will not stand by silent, when the enemy attempts to shut us down with his accusations. Christ will avenge His elect in the budding of a staff. Why? To reveal that that staff that has always been leading and guiding us has in fact never ever been our own, but His.

And this is a staff that leads us – and others through us – into the valley of the shadow of death, not to harm us, but to awaken us unto new life, as we join Christ in His death and resurrection. For, our Savior longs to open our hearts more and more to see by faith and to walk into His irrevocable calling upon our lives – to above all seek first the Kingdom of our God and His righteousness.

Perhaps, like me, you grew up singing this beautiful hymn:

It was one my Dad chose for my Mum’s funeral in 2014. And of the many old hymns, it is this one that came to mind, as I sat writing to you. For, O what peace [I] often forfeit,
O what needless pain [I] bear,
all because [I] do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

And yet, even still, our faithful God has never ever left my side. My whole life. Instead, He has kept extending His hand toward me, calling (Matthew 11:28, KJV):

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

And it’s now, I can see my Dad’s prayerful longing for me as a Prodigal being fulfilled in my life. He penned a letter to me speaking of God’s calling upon our lives requiring two vital ingredients – mercy and the courage to do hard things. He told me He could see I had the first in great measure and that He understood that the second was a difficult one.

But now I know that second one, just as the first, is impossible for man. But, as Jesus reminds us in His Word: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27, KJV). For, we serve a mighty God who does what He promises. Nothing can undo what He has already finished upon the Cross for us all.

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 I have become prideful, denying that it was always the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

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). He leads us to take up our Cross and follow Him.

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, as He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion, confessing their own weakness and sin also, that I began to see that it is His Spirit in me that is drawing me and others 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 set yourself up as an idol for others to bow before. How dare you glorify yourself and not Me.” 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 and the resulting division in my heart, I spiraled into shame. I clothed myself in the enemy’s accusations and reverted to fighting back in the flesh. 

I began hiding in self-righteousness, so I could again “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. And 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 began to let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

But, God ever so patiently just kept taking me in and out of these places I longed to go. He never took away my free will, but rather, restored it to me so that through my falling down and His catching of me, I would learn to trust Him and seek His leading. Through each new place He took me, He compelled me to surrender my idols, one by one, and to take back my self-control in Him, so I could bring free will offerings before Him. 

Free-will offerings rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear 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 this Jesus who is patient, who is kind. This Jesus who does not envy, who does not boast, who is not proud. This Son of God who does not dishonor others, who is not self-seeking, who is not easily angered, who keeps no record of wrongs. This God who does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. This Messiah who always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And to know that I can always trust His judgment that is sent to heal me and to reveal His heart of flesh that is beating inside of me even now.

He has patiently yielded me to His good and perfect 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. 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, that in my desire to belong to that place, I was hiding His beautiful light. I was keeping my mouth shut, when He was calling me to open it wide to declare His Name. I was continually retreating behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain acceptable. In denying His Name and the finished work of the Cross, I caused division in my heart, a division that triggered trauma in me, leading me to speak up and to go and bear fruit that abides.

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 honor to show me that I am no victim, but a victor in Christ Jesus, 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 truth, as pride rises in me. 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. 

It has always been Jesus yielding me in surrender to His will. Now, I know my Heavenly Papa was not ashamed of me in each breaking, but oh so proud of me for taking up my Cross to follow Him.

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 striving. They and I will see Jesus most in my repentance: in Christ’s holiness transforming me 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 more and more visible in me.

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 trust Jesus and to deep down know that He has already walked before us and that He will never ever forsake us.

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 into the good soil of His heart for me, to join Christ in His death and resurrection that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

I now see the beautiful fruit 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 labor of love in me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness in me, to yield a harvest of peace in me. And the suffering I am bearing in my body, as my heart begins to reveal the impact of the trauma triggers, is proof to me that I am filling up in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. So that I may declare the glory of Him who has called me out of darkness into His glorious light.

Jesus has proven to me that He will never leave or forsake us, but remain with us, lifting off our every fear and our every burden of sin, loss and pain, as He leads us to die to ourself and live unto Him. A living and breathing that causes us to flourish, as we become who He has created us to be.

Our Emmanuel is with us, always. He is our portion, our eternal inheritance as sons and daughters of the Most High King. As we delight in Him, may He continue to lift off the chaff of our old self to reveal Himself: the true desires of our heart. May we receive Jesus: the only One worthy of our praise.

Philippians 4:8 KJV Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

As you read the Scripture below aloud, what word or phrase lingers? 

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why it lingers and what God our Father wants us to see, know or do in response to His Word to us.

John 12:24 (KJVVerily, 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, will you take a moment with me to ask God to search and know our hearts that He may reveal which Promises from His Word are failing to take root in our hearts because we have been placing our faith in something or someone other than Him – and not allowing Him to sow that seed into His steadfast heart of love inside of us.

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

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

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

Luke 11:34 NIV 

This branch is from my Flowering Almond bush:

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

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

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

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

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

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

What do I know of that kind of uselessness?

How would I have borne that kind of suffering?

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

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

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

He Giveth More Grace (lyrics)

—Annie Johnson Flint

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord Jesus,  

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

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

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

Amen.     

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

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