“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
“You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-27 ESV
In the wandering years of my prodigal sons, God led me to hold onto these verses from the book of Joel. He lifted my eyes to look for the promises that He was speaking, and He asked me to hold tightly to Him when nothing I saw looked like restoration. Some days the grieving threatened to swallow me when I lowered my eyes and looked at the present.
As I sat over my sewing machine, I wove my tears and my prayers along with those burdens. Joining fabrics as the machine whirred along, tearing stitches as the seam-ripper found out mistakes, and re-placing those errant pattern pieces only served to remind me of the process of our lives here on this earth.
How could You ask me to love more, to pray more? I have nothing left to give, I’ve given all I could, Lord.
Ah, but He wasn’t asking for my striving. No, He was asking for my hand in His. He was asking for my trust in His promises. He is the only One who could redeem those years that seemed to have been wasted. For in His heart, nothing is wasted. Everything that we have offered to Him, everything burned up on the altar, is making way for His great plan of redemption.
Those years of interceding at my sewing machine were accomplishing something far greater than just a hand-crafted item. He was joining my suffering with the suffering of those for whom I was interceding. Weaving our lives together through the stitches of prayer, an unbreakable bond was being formed. But I could not see it at the time.
It wasn’t until decades later as I found myself sorting and de-cluttering all of those scraps of fabric, left over from each project, that the years suddenly fell into a much larger pattern. Boxes and boxes of fabric, neatly folded and waiting for my next project had lain dormant through my increasing disability of chronic illness. I found myself asking the Lord the same kinds of questions from the vantage point of looking back over the years.
How could You ask me to love more, to pray more, when my hands were stilled from doing anything? I gave all that I could, but I never finished all the projects that I thought You had for me.
Ah, but He had never asked for my striving. He had only asked for my hand in His, joining in HIS heart of loving. What became of those “wasted” years of my sons’ wandering? He remade them, and used them for His new gifts. He took what the enemy had meant for harm, and is using it for good.
And what became of all of those “wasted” years of my fabrics lying in the closet? He remade my prayers into gifts that are eternal. He has been using these later years for new gifts of Holy Spirit intercessions.
And then He said, “Pass it along! Let the next generation of sewers be blessed as you pray one last time over the fabrics from your closet. A prayer closet stitched with love.”
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Oh Dear Heart are you grieving The years of the locust and the cutter worm? While the storms ravaged the crops Did you sit in the ruins? Was there even a remnant of TRUST That remained?
Listen to the words He is speaking Here in this place of the AFTER. While the rains water the ground Hear the tune of the mist. Can you see the silver in the clouds That linger?
Our Sovereign will not waste one drop From the deluge of the flood. While He waits for the full harvest He sees the seed remaining. Will you trust His redemption That awaits?
He will restore and He will redeem From all the waste places. You will find His Glory there In the places of His testing. Can you taste the sweetness That rises?
The shame and the pain He does lift From the barren heart places. As you look back over the years See the way He has made. Can you live in the Faithfulness That transforms?
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Job 19:25
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:13
Dear Holy Father,
Thank You for the love that You have showered over us, and over the ones we love. Thank You that Redemption has always been Your plan. Even when we have covered ourselves in the dust of our running, You have made the way for us to return and to rest in Your cleansing. Lord, help us to hold onto the promises You have spoken to us.
When we have no strength left to believe, would You help our unbelief? And when we return to striving, would You cleanse our hearts once again and show us Your own outstretched hand before us? Would You open a glimpse into Glory’s reign and show us the salvation of many that You intend to bring?
We praise You for Your marvelous grace, even here where all we feel are the wastelands of our pain. Thank You that You have called us back into Your faithful heart, into the fullness of Your redemption.
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 affirmthat 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 goodnessand 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.”