Part 3: Chapter 1 – Day 2: The Jealous Flames of Love

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of incense through a devotional testimony, including a poem and prayer.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)

At my baptism, after a long Prodigal journey home, I promised God I would follow Him anywhere, whatever the cost. Little did I realize where He would lead me, mere weeks later. 

Strapped to the altar again
In this obedience
I dread
I'm tethered and taut.

Pouring confession
Of sin and fears
Of horrid pain
In seeping wounds.

Burying myself deep
In shame I cringe
At who I believe I am
A mess, laid bare.

As I began to step out in faith, the enemy hurled accusations at me. As I reached out, confessing my weakness and sins openly before Christian leaders, the enemy worked through them to affirm my old identity. 

What I didn’t yet see was that God was allowing every attack, every rejection and every back turning toward me, for my good. For, every stripping was permitted to humble me in my pride. Tenderly and patiently, Jesus has been laboring in me to uproot my faith in myself and in man, to replant my longings and affections in the good and soft soil of His heart. 

But in my pouring out
You lift my eyes to truth
My striving dies
Your Face to see.

Eyes of love
My face in light cascade
My weak and feeble frame
In warmth You bathe.

The tears now flow
Released in streams
My heart unburdened,
Bare.

Oh no
Not broken mess
But Christ in me
The Eagle freed.

Your Voice
Upon this altar cries
"Sin and shame
Are not your name.

"For not you
But I have chosen
And appointed you
To go and bear much fruit.

"Now go: depart under
A new authority
Be cleansed to see
The pure as pure."

Even as I have repeatedly stumbled in my pride, returning to bow before my idols and muddying my vision (Proverbs 25:26), God has not left my side. Christ has continually moved in to avenge His elect, lovingly training me in righteousness. He has been like He commanded Hosea to be unto Gomer. He has refused to let me go.

He has separated me from my idols, hemmed me in on all sides and showered me in kindness to lead me to repentance. He has been taking the truth of my redemption, my “buying back”, from my head to my heart (Hebrews 10:16). Piece by piece.

Where sacrifice 
Of pain
On altar strapped
To die, I see.

You lift my gaze
To see
Your face
In mine.

In the fear of losing my precious Savior, I followed Him where I, at first, didn’t want to go. For, what He has asked me to do has so often directly contradicted what I think is “right” and “good”. 

But it’s then, in dying to my own thinking and plans to obey His will that I have discovered that He has in fact been taking me where my heart has truly longed to go: deeper and deeper into His searching and knowing. I now know the jealous flames of His love, and the stripping of His Word, have been sent, not to destroy me, but to circumcise my heart and open my eyes to His never-forsaking Presence with me.

All along, He has been leading me into receiving His reputation (Shem) in my humbling, His Name of power and majesty (Yah) in my weakness and His light (nihe’ra) of truth, love and grace in the darkness of my sin and hiding. 

Shem yah nihe'ra 
Your renown, Your Name
Your gold glowing
You're shining bright in me.

No longer I
But Christ in me I see
Your burning coals
My heart and lips have freed.

A JOY
My heart explodes
A waterfall of grace
Splashing on my face

Lifting the weight of my sin, pain and sorrow, through all the stripping and burning, He has been inviting me to celebrate His life and breath at work in me. To believe Him when He says that it is no longer I but He – Christ- who lives in me. To believe Him when He sees that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and that I may come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need.

My broken walls
You have rebuilt
Salvation and deliverance
Are in You.

Hemmed in
Your nail-pierced hands
Your palm
Upon my head.

No, I shall not lie
In a bed of shame
But rise to follow You
Into the light.

It is not me, but CHRIST who is yielding up my fleshly desires for His life giving breath. Just like Paul, I can now say (2 Corinthians 1: 9-10 ESV): “Indeed, [I] felt that [I] had received the sentence of death. But that was to make [me] rely not on [myself] but on God who raises the dead. He delivered [me] from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver [me]. On him [I] have set [my] hope that he will deliver [me] again.” 

Those first few sheddings of the old came through horrific trauma triggers. But precisely the gravity of each attack showed me the deep desire of my God to wake me up from my slumber and to set me free. As I cried out to Him, He upheld me and revealed His desire for me to live and move and have my being in Him alone.

At every turn, as I have stumbled and fallen, as I have turned back toward the old, believing in the enemy’s accusations of condemnation against me, above God’s holy Word to me, Christ has defended me. 

He has lifted me up out of the muck and mire of pride, bitterness and self, to set me upon the Rock of His precious Word to me. He has flamed alive His Word in my heart, cauterizing the wounds of each stripping and then pouring out a balm of comfort by His Holy Spirit to restore my body, heart and soul to my First Love – to bring unity in the Sword’s dividing.

For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50 (ESV)

Recently, He even gave me such a beautiful picture of this process on my finger. I had cut my fingernail too close to the skin and it had become infected and in that infection extra “wild flesh” began to grow because my body began to see the new nail growing as an intruder, triggering an overactive immune system. 

The doctor prescribed a nitrate pen to burn away the “wild flesh” in daily applications, scraping away the loosening “wild flesh” after a week, and then cauterizing the open wound in a fresh burning to avoid new infections. Then, she prescribed a cortisone cream designed to reduce inflammation and the skin’s natural cell division to gently remove the final layers of skin that didn’t belong there.

Now, I see the Great Physician’s loving care in His repeated burning, stripping, burning and balming of my heart in His Word to me. That I am still alive today, when all I wanted was to die through the painful stripping and burning, is a testament to His tender mercies poured out on me and the intercession of His Son rising in and for me. Now, I know the flame of His love isn’t sent to burn and consume us, but to flame alive His Word in our heart and to consume the dross of our idolatry and pride.

As a child, I counted up the cost of following Christ and turned my back on Him, believing He had turned His back on me. Now, hidden in the righteousness of Christ, I have counted up the cost anew, and declare Him worthy of all praise. For I can now say, along with Paul, that all else is rubbish, compared to the surpassing wealth of knowing Christ in His death and resurrection. For His Presence is heaven to me.

No! I will not die
But live to tell
What You: the LORD
Have done.

My lips
You've set apart
From a new heart
Blessings to bestow.

My lamp is shining brightly
On salvation's hill
For I live by faith not in myself
But in the Son of God.

In the One who loved me
And gave Himself for me
Who called me out of darkness
Into His glorious light.

Praise now so often pours forth from my lips and tears stream down my face, as I recognize and acknowledge how God has been showering me in a mercy I do not deserve. 

Oh how my heart now longs for Him to burn ever more brightly in me. I long for Jesus to burn away all dross in me, to make me holy as He is holy. 

And I know He is honoring this yearning that He has sown deep within me. He just keeps exposing and uncovering more and more sin. Burning away more and more dross, so that His sweet incense may be released ever more in and through me.

Do you recognize that longing for holiness in your own heart also, and how it has waned at times also? Do you recognize the struggle to embrace the stripping and flame, as God’s love for you? Will you join me in a prayer of thanksgiving and repentance? Come, let’s praise our Father for His Promise to fulfill the longings He has planted in us. For, He is the strength of our hearts, when our own hearts fail us.

Father, thank You that You are for us and not against us. Thank You for the jealous flames of Your love burning away the dross in us, to draw us ever closer to You. Thank You for the cleansing waters of Your love washing over us, for carrying away our sin and our shame. 

Thank You for sending precious Jesus to be our salvation, our Rock and Redeemer and the Lifter of our head. Thank You that You have promised never to leave or forsake us. Forgive us for all the times we have agreed with the enemy’s accusation that You have abandoned us. We come out of agreement with that now. 

Forgive us also for every time we have clung to the accusations of the enemy against us, rather than coming boldly before the throne of grace in our time of need. We come before You now, just as we are, without one plea, asking You to cleanse us of all unrighteousness by the blood of the pure and spotless Lamb: Your Son, Jesus. 

Thank You for searching and knowing our hearts, for continually leading us to a godly sorrow in repentance – in the changing of our minds – without regret. Thank You for exposing every accusation, every sin, every idol in the stripping for Your fire to consume it. Thank You for restoring unto us the joy of our salvation and for choosing not to take away Your Holy Spirit from us.

Thank You for the stripping back You have ordained, not to harm us, but to heal us: to exchange our heart of stone for Your tender heart of flesh. Thank You for Your sweet mercy, Your longsuffering and compassion toward us. Thank You for the blessing of Your sweet Presence in the flames.

Thank You that though our flesh is so very weak, YOUR Spirit in us is so very strong. Thank You for, again and again, leading us to deny our flesh and sow into the Spirit. Thank You for giving us a hunger and thirst for Your Word that nothing else will ever be able to satisfy our hunger and thirst, but You. Thank You for filling us with Your Son: with an all-consuming fire to love, honor and obey You at all costs.

Thank You for leading us to pour out our hearts to You, to give You our pain and our deepest longings, to bring our whole heart to You. Thank You for teaching us to lay all down before You, for opening our eyes and ears to Your pure Word rising in us. Thank You that strong in You, we shall resist the devil, causing him to flee from us

Father, thank You, that hidden in the righteousness of Christ, we can count it all joy, when we meet trials of various kinds, for we know that the testing of our faith is producing steadfastness in us. Thank You that steadfastness shall have its full effect in us, that in You we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Thank You for the gift of Your Presence in every humbling, for leading us to release everything and everyone into Your hands to receive You.

Thank You that we are born again into a living hope, with an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us. Thank You for teaching us to rejoice in this truth, though now for a little while, we have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of our faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Thank You for causing us to humble ourselves before You, that others are now beginning to see, no longer us, but the light of Jesus and His face shining upon them. Thank You that You have drawn us – Your royal priesthood – out of darkness into Your glorious light. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.

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)

Chapter 1: Day 3 – The Unveiling of the Great I AM

Welcome to Day 3 of Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine, a poem and devotional written by Anna Louise Smit (revised & edited version of an old blog post, Defender True).

Do you hear those voices too?
The ones that tell you
You're not enough
You'll never change
All you do is make things worse?

Do you hear the voice that follows then?
The one that tells you
Defend yourself
Hold on tight
To who you wish you were
Lest he rips it from your weary
Tight-clenched hands

Or the one that pushes you
To lie there in that bed
A bed that covers you in blankets
Grief, despair and loathing cruel
Chaining you to who
You believe you truly are
Lost
Forevermore.

Now, stop
And still
Feel Christ's hand
Clasping yours
Earthquake shaking
And flaming fire
Are but shaking off the old
And burning all the dross
To reveal
His gold in you.

Do you hear Him too?
Glorious Truth
Kissing the kind, sweet
Gentle Voice of
Grace.

Feel those
Rushing waters pure
Pouring now
Upon your shoulders hunched
Let them wash away
What's not of you
All that's died
Upon the Cross
To now reveal instead
The lavish gift
Of Christ.

Hear His gentle
Tender Voice
Unveiling
The many gifts
Hidden in
His heart
For you.

Beloved
Chosen
Holy
Pure
Purposed
True
You are His
Masterpiece.

Created anew
In Christ Jesus
You shall perform
The good works
HE
Has long
Prepared for
You.

Unashamed
Confident
Sinking in
His royal cloak
Be strengthened
Your feet firmly planted
Appointed, upon the Rock
Now rise and stand
As new.

Let Christ reveal
His arms stretched high
His unclenched hands
His heart, mind, Body
Worshipping
In Spirit and truth
His love flowing
From you.


No, no lying tongue
Has power there
Where Jesus stills
Our hearts to hear
The Voice of truth
Kissing
Grace.

For God Himself
Has cast these columns
This Temple
Not of human hands
But with His own
He establishes
He strengthens
For, He alone
Is the Great
I AM.

Our One and Only
Slayer of all sin
Stiller of all accusations
Defender True.

Have you ever noticed that as we begin to step out in faith, choosing to trust God in the midst of our great weakness, that the enemy comes out roaring? He will do his best to turn our eyes toward our weakness, telling us we are not enough, we are never going to change and we are only making things worse, by walking in the very path God is taking us down. 

When my accuser has poured in accusations of “not enough”, “never going to change” and “only making things worse”, I have often responded in one of two ways. Either, I have become defensive, pridefully putting on a mask of self-righteousness, so I am not set apart from those around me. Or, I have sunk into despair and become depressed, as I have begun to believe that it is up to me to “be enough”, “always change for the better” and “always make things better”, rather than up to my God to transform me from glory to glory.

But as these accusations have hailed down on me and I have retreated into my cave – either my mask or my bed of suffering – my God hasn’t turned His back on me. No! In His great compassion, He has drawn ever nearer to me. Just like He did with the prophet Elijah, who faced repeated persecution for doing the will of God.

Just like He did for Elijah, He has lovingly sheltered, fed and placed His hand upon me in my cave. And when He has strengthened me to trust Him afresh, He has invited me to join Him outside of my cave. There, comforted by His Presence, He has invited me to listen to and feel the earthquake and fire of His purifying truth. It’s then I have realized that His anger is not directed at me, but at the accuser of my soul who has attempted to steal, kill and destroy.

It’s then I have begun to see how all along He has been moving to defend me – His dwelling place. I realize He has allowed the enemy’s sifting, but only to shake off and burn away all that doesn’t define me.

Then, as this realization has dawned in me, He has stilled my heart to hear the gentle whisper of His restorative and redemptive grace. He has humbled me to see and rest, not in my own strength or perfection, but in the perfect power of His beautiful Word.

And then, clothed in His affirming love, He has called me back to continue the task He first gave me. He has given me the next concrete steps to take and filled me with fresh faith, so that I am no longer striving in fear and shame, but resting in His labor of love through me.

God continually helps me. He helps me to face and process past trauma. He helps me to lay down my idol of responsibility and to bring Him my deep, deep pain. As the triggers come in waves and I see those babies rocking to and fro before me in the orphanages, as an eight and nine year old, God invites me into His arms.

As I watch fellow believers I love and trust, again and again, turn away, punish and condemn children in their weakness and need for Him, He invites me to trust Him. To trust Him that even now, He is working, even as the Scriptures and stories He has had me share appear to fall on deaf ears.

He invites me to remember my own and my family’s story. To remember that in His time He brought those tears of repentance from the Word I spoke as a little girl. He reminds me that as He drew my Mum into His arms in her own weakness and need, through the ravages of cancer, how she turned to embrace the now grown man, she hadn’t understood as a little traumatized boy. How her heart broke in two, as she finally recognized the root of his rebellion. And how the Spirit breath filling her to overflowing poured out upon me also, to draw me into the light of God’s love for me, in my own sin and need, too.

He reminds me that I am no longer that little girl caught in lies. He reminds me that the Word I speak in His Name is not my responsibility to perform and complete, but His alone. He reminds me that when people turn against me and see me as the enemy, I can rest in His love and acceptance and release them into His love and care, rather than clinging to them and embracing the accusations the enemy flings at me.

He helps me see how my own, my Mum’s story and my little adopted brother’s are in fact so similar. How all each one of us truly needed was Him. And He reminds me of all the ways He saw and extended compassion and mercy to my Mum, my little brother and I in our weakness and need, through the many years of our blindness and rebellion. How when no one else saw our need, HE always did. How He cupped our every tear and how nothing was ever wasted. How even now, with my Mum in heaven, He is still turning our ashes into beauty.

He reminds me that I am not without Him – my everpresent help in trouble – who has promised to never leave or forsake me, nor those my heart breaks for. And WITH Christ, my advocate and my atoning sacrifice, I begin to realize I am more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood Christ shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. So, each of us can lay the accusations at His feet to arise in His mercy for us. We can surrender all and walk into the love of God that sets us free to love Him and each other from His whole heart.

Yes! Christ is in fact only making things more and more beautiful, through the blood He shed for us and His testimony at work in and through each one of usEven, when we can’t see it, He is working still.

Something that I have found helpful through all the accusations that have been flung at me (internally and externally), is to take pen to paper and write down everything I am thinking and feeling, no matter how ugly it is and then, as David did throughout the Psalms. Then, with everything down on paper, I still, just as David also did, to listen for God’s response to me, through His living Word.

I have discovered that in the pouring out, the earthquake and fire of God’s Word move to shake off the old and burn away all impurity in me. It is then, after Christ has lifted these burdens, I am able to hear and receive His gentle and lowly heart moving in kindness toward me to affirm His purity inside of me.

Christ reminds me that He has already paid the price for the wages of my sin, that He has cleansed me by His blood from my sin. Washing me in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds me that I am not defined by the impurity He is shaking off me and burning away, and that I can walk into the new awaiting me – through His blood – to sin no more.

Oh how I continually need God to remind me that it His kindness that leads me to repentance (Romans 2:4). That as the earthquake shakes me, it only does so to expose and strip anything that doesn’t belong in me and the fire only rages to burn away the dross in me to reveal the gold of Christ in me. I need God to remind me that the earthquake and fire are uncovering my true identity in Christ, as I sit at the water gate to be refreshed in His living Word. As He washes me in the Word, He reminds me that I am already clean by the Word He has spoken to me.

If you too, recognize yourself in my struggles, will you join me in prayer, today? I would be so blessed to hold your hand and come together boldly before Jesus and His throne of grace in our time of need:

Thank You, LORD, that in my imperfection, You offer me Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to me in my weakness and need.

Thank You that You know exactly what I have been through and are still going through (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). Thank You that You know just how much my heart yearns to do Your will. Thank You that unlike man, You will never turn Your back on me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Oh Father, thank You for taking man’s rejection of me and using it to grow me in Your love, truth and mercy.

Thank You that “Those who look to [You] are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV). LORD, when I get discouraged by the accusations thrown at me, help me to cast all my burdens at Your feet. Help me to pour out my heart, allowing You to uncover anything wicked that does not belong in me. Purify and cleanse me of my sin and restore me unto yourself, comforting me and quieting me in your love and mercy toward me.

Help me to remember that: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18). Help me to remain ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1: 6 NIV). 

Forgive me for hiding my sin and pain from You in fear. Forgive me for trying to defend myself, for allowing the enemy to make me believe it is my perfection and my strength that will save me and others, rather than Yours. Forgive me for my pride, for trusting in my own limited understanding, rather than inviting You to show me what You see.

Thank You for pursuing me into my cave and moving in compassion and kindness toward me, to free me from my sin, pain, unforgiveness and bitternessThank You for continually reminding me who You truly are, for giving me an undivided heart, rooted in Your love and mercy for us all.

LORD, I turn to You now, confessing my idol worship – the worship of my own strength and the worship of others’ opinions – to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for me, that Your power is perfected in my weakness here (2 Corinthians 12:9). Forgive me for not coming to You as I am. For not entrusting my whole heart to You.

Forgive me for not believing in Your power to deliver me and others in our need. I come to You now, just as I am. Hold me. Continue to unravel me and wash me in Your love, truth and mercy. Continue to lift away every accusation of the enemy. Continue to convict me of my sin and Your righteousness and lead me to changes of mind and a godly sorrow without regret.

Thank You, LORD, that You are my Defender True and will always shepherd me in love, kindness, truth and grace. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen.

As you now sit at the feet of Jesus with me, may this song bless your heart, just as it is mine too. It was published in October 2013, right before my Mum was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and right before God began to open my Prodigal eyes to His undying love and compassion for me, in my weakness. And now, more than seven years later, as I am even more aware of my weakness, He is continuing to open my eyes to His saving power, as I daily lift up my heart and life afresh to Him. Oh how we need You, Jesus! Come, LORD Jesus, come!

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

Steps of Love

Something broke inside of me and I slipped into a deep depression. I wrote:

Some months ago one judgmental remark from someone put me into a tailspin and brought me face to face with painful memories of past abuse. At first I disassociated from my feelings. I didn’t want to feel at all, because it hurt too much. I continued on in life like a robot. But I became more and more depressed until one day something inside me broke. I sobbed and cried, “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so sick of being strong for everyone around me…”

It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of turmoil, gulping up water. In my mind Jesus was standing above the surface looking down at me and shaking his head. “Hopeless case, that one…” I felt so forsaken of God. His promises seemed bogus, and I could not grasp a single one.

The weight of depression stomped me down, down, down…

Roaring In

Shame-slapping Scowls

Stormy Emotions

Stomping Down

Sinking Me

I couldn’t have made it that dark day without the grace of God. By the end of the day my heart was still heavy, but the care and compassion loved ones gave me lifted me up to see a pinpoint of hope. And the next day, God had a pleasant surprise for  me.

“I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

My husband suggested I take my writing pad and go to the Falls. He knew nature often relaxes and comforts me. It helps me to remember God still has all things in His control. I sat on a rock and watched the water rush over the red rock formations. I let the sound of it sooth my weary soul. I imagined the wind as the breath of God kissing my face and telling me I will make it through this.

When I walked along the paths and around the Art Barn, I stopped in awe. There in front of me written in chalk down the front of the steps was a message that still impacts me today. “I will love you every step of the way. ♥” I knew it was God speaking directly to my despairing heart.

Then I remembered a song – “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe.

“Wish it could be easy

Why is life so messy?

Why is pain a part of us?

There are days I feel like

Nothing ever goes right

Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here

You’re real

I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts

Even when it’s hard

Even when it all just falls apart

I will run to You

‘Cause I know that You are

Lover of my soul

Healer of my scars

You steady my heart.”

Sometimes God sends the greatest comforts out of the deepest valleys, doesn’t He? My heart still felt wounded, but I knew I could run to Jesus and He would pull me up again out of the pit and set my feet upon the Rock.

“He reached down and drew me from the deep,

dark hole where I was stranded,

mired in the muck and clay.

With a gentle hand, He pulled me out

To set me down safely on a warm rock;

He held me until I was steady enough

to continue the journey again.”

Psalm 40:2 Voice

That toxic shame still often pierces the core of who I am and screams, “You’re worthless. How can someone like you ever make a positive difference? You don’t deserve comfort. You don’t deserve to be accepted. ”

Panic still creeps in and shouts, “Watch out! You’re going to be hurt again. Reinforce that wall.”

Healing is a process though, right? I have learned that many struggle with inadequacy, shame, and fear of trusting. And I know there are others who also do but remain silent onlookers. And that’s ok. 

All of us have a story to tell, and there is not one story that is less important than another. There is not one hurt that is less painful than anyone else’s. Every story counts. Every. Single. One. So don’t let that bug bite you and tell you, “Your burdens are not as bad as someone else’s.” I know by experience that can stifle the grieving process. Every hurt needs grieving in order to start healing.

Remember! You are so special to God! You have been created uniquely for a special purpose only you can fill. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed His life for you. His arms are wide open with welcome, longing for you to run into them. Yes, life can be messy. Yes, it can hurt so much and be so hard. But He cares about broken hearts and delights to heal them.

Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes life can hurt so much and be so hard, but You have promised You care about our broken hearts and You delight to heal us. When shame poisons our perspective, please help us to see that in You, we are beautiful and valuable. When we feel like we’re drowning in the storms of life, please help us to reach up and grasp Your hand ever reaching out to us. Your hand of unfailing love and compassion. Please break all the chains that still bind us and keep us from dancing in Your victory for us. Heal us ever more deeply! Thank You for Your unconditional love and powerful grace!

This post is excerpted from Trudy Den Hoed’s blog post: https://freedtofly.me/2016/05/03/depression-and-deliverance/

which was first published in 2016.

Trudy’s passion is to encourage others there is hope in Jesus and His love in the midst of loss, heartache, and trauma. Jesus has become the needed oxygen for her soul as she continues on a lifelong journey of healing from past abuse. She lives in the midwestern United States and is grateful to be blessed with a loving husband and precious children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Someone Listens

A Poem by Lisa Enqvist
 
Moving
Parting
Something new
Waits beyond the mountains
I refuse to hear
I refuse to see
Another world
Cannot replace
all that I am
losing
Someone listens, nods and smiles
Understands my pain
Torn up roots and broken branches
heal
and grow again
 
 
 
This poem was written by Lisa Enqvist in 1962, describing the power of Christ’s listening ear, in her aunt Göta Wallenius (born 13.3.1913 and died 12.2.2003). Lisa said her aunt helped her survive, just by listening.
 
Göta Wallenius
 
Father, thank You that You always hear our hearts. Thank You for sending Göta Wallenius to sit next to Lisa and listen to her aching heart. Thank You for binding up and healing Lisa’s broken branches and for replanting her torn up roots into Your heart and affections for her. Thank You for letting her poem fall on my own freshly pruned branches and dangling roots. Thank You for reminding me of how you once sent a Finnish woman my way also to clasp my hands, invite me to share my story and weep with me.
 
Father, let this Word fall on other freshly pruned hearts and dangling roots also. Replant our dangling roots into the good soil of Your heart and loving affections for us. Show us how each uprooting and pruning is growing our delight in You and uncovering Your true heart and affections in us. Grow bountiful leaves of healing and abiding fruit from the branches you have cut back. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.
 
 
 
 
Join us tomorrow for a beautiful short story by Lisa about tree roots.
 
Author Bio

As a teenager, Lisa Enqvist decided she would never be a missionary, never return to her father’s Gospel ship “Ebeneser,” never marry a missionary, never have kids who might feel as rootless as she was. And, she prayed, “Please, God, don’t ever send me to India.” But God knew Lisa better than she knew herself and gave her what her heart truly desired: all the things she asked Him not to give her, healing her heart more and more through the process.

Lisa is a co-founder of a Children’s Home in Thailand. She grew up in China and Sri Lanka as a missionary kid. She now lives with her husband in a small town on the West Coast of Finland. She and her husband adopted four Amerasian children in Thailand. They have given Lisa and her husband Håkan eleven grandkids. 

Today, Lisa writes personal and family stories based on saved letters, documents, and personal memories. Since receiving her mother’s old letters in 1983, she has written four memoir books in Swedish and one in English: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged her since writing her first book. 

Lisa is a registered pediatric nurse. Her earlier writing experience consisted of newsletters to sponsors of children at the Bethany Children’s Home and regular letters to family and friends scattered around the world. She has saved numerous family letters.

She attended several Swedish writer’s seminars in Finland. After reverting to English in 2011, she completed a course in writing for children and youth at the Institute for Children’s Literature and a Memoir Writing Course at Creative Writing Now. She also wrote articles for FaithWriters Challenge. 

She is a member of Everything Memoir Private Group and West Coast Christian Writers. She has attended two Online conferences with the WCCW.

Her book MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids, is available from: 

https://booklocker.com/books/8211.html

https://www.amazon.com/MISSIONARY-MOTHER-Around-World

and other online bookstores.

Lisa blogs at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/