As Jesus followers, we have an incredible force at our finger tips that, I have realized as of late, is extremely taken for granted. We have personal access to the one who dictates our very breath, found in the (slightly "Christian-esed ") power if prayer. A reoccurring lesson that God was helping me understand on my recent trip to South Africa is that of me having this overwhelming tool in my very own arsenal, yet hardly using it.
He revealed to me that when I was stuck on the sidelines while my Parable teammates were performing dramas, I should have been praying. He healed me from my illness, and blessed me in that healing by bringing our team in South Africa and my loved ones back home together for unity in prayer. He informed me that though Satan sometimes has access to our flesh and our environment, he can never intervene in our ability to pray.
Since I have been home, I have been facing various decision-making opportunities that we often come across living in the world but not of the world. I have been desperately seeking his peace, and striving to follow his guidance, though I haven't had an enormous amount of success with either of these endeavors. Among a few glimpses of his peace, I have been bombarded by anxiety and fear. As of tonight, I have realized WHY I seem to have fallen short in my pursuit for absolute peace. He tells me: "Do not be anxious, my child. Come to me, thank me for my goodness, and ask me for the yearnings of your heart. I will protect your heart and ease your mind. This anxiety and worry is not a burden you must bear. Rejoice! Take part of my overwhelming joy!"
I have been asking to rest in his peace, I just hadn't quite figured out how to find it yet :) Now it is a matter of seizing the power of prayer, and allowing his peace to come! Join me?
sacrifice: "surrender of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim"
gift: "to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation"
A gift is different than a sacrifice. A simple and somewhat obvious conclusion, yes, but is it one that we take the time to really and fully grasp? A gift is a voluntary act of merely handing something over to the other party involved, while a SACRIFICE includes letting go of something highly valued for the sake of that other person. I've recently come to understand the somewhat painful revelation that I have been giving my life to the Lord, but not sacrificing it to him. In only offering my life as a gift, I was able to 'secretly' hold onto the parts of it that I valued the most. In the gentle, yet firm way that only the Father can, he pulled back the veil and revealed how I had been deceiving myself and refusing to enter into the fullness of life that he has for me.
Growing up with a wonderful family and stable home, I was never really exposed to a sacrifice visible to the naked eye. I had what I needed and didn't need to make any sacrifices to 'get by.' The closest I got to knowing sacrifice was giving up the name brand shoes for a similar pair that was half the price, due to my ever frugal mother. :) I would read Matthew 16:24-25 (Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.) but I never truly comprehended the extent of what Jesus meant. Sure, I would give up my life to follow my Savior, but sacrifice everything? There must be some fine print at the bottom allowing us to keep a hold of the things we really cherished... As ridiculous as that sounds, it is exactly how I was choosing to live my life for the last 20 years. I was managing just fine too, until God tried a different approach (apparently his blatant statement in Matthew wasn't quite direct enough hah). He recently has asked me to surrender my heart fully to him. That includes everyone I love on this earth, in other words-those I hold dearest, and what I attribute the highest value to in my life. Prying my white-knuckled fingers off the edges of my heart was no easy task, and the pain that accompanied this endeavor was just short of excruciating. Even with my gentle and loving Father walking beside me, encouraging me to continue through this painful process, it was still 20 years of holding tightly that I was trying to release. But He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world..these things that I treasured so dearly, are still of this world and do not hold the eternal value of his salvation. Relationships and fellow children of the King are beautiful gifts that we should cherish throughout our lifetime, but they should never come before our Creator in our hearts!
It made sense that God was asking me to surrender my heart. He doesn't ask us for just the parts of us that are easy to toss aside, he wants what means most to us because it means the most to him as well. When we sacrifice, it is releasing those things that we deeply value, not what we could easily live without. The beauty of it all, is that once we have surrendered and made the sacrifice that he asks of it, we are wonderfully rewarded for it. Though a sacrifice is made with no motivation of compensation, our Father rejoices in being able to bless his children.
Sacrifice brings deeper intimacy, new levels of beauty, and a further knowledge of the love and grace of our God. Nothing on this earth, even those we hold the most dear, can compare to an increase in our growth with Jesus.
As I look over my teenage career, I have wondered numerous times what kept me from straying down the path of "rebellion" that so many of my peers chose. Odds were against me as a majority of teenagers these days dabble (those last 4 words make me sound 3 times my age...) in something that disagrees with the morals their parents ingrained within them throughout their childhood-such as partying, drugs, sex, etc. But not me, I was dubbed the "Goody-Two-Shoes" at an early age and most definitely lived up to my name. Taking it even a step further, those times that I did drastically "slip-up" caused me a seemingly great deal more conviction and agony than that of my friends if they were to make the same mistake. Why? There were certainly times that I wanted to break out of the stereotype that I had been confined to, but the opportunity never seemed to fully present itself. Obviously, I can see now that God was protecting me, saving my innocence and preserving my purity. I assumed that He would incorporate that into my testimony to be used further down the road, possibly in giving hope to young girls that it is possible to refrain from giving into peer pressure or something along those lines. I figured He knew what He was doing and I should leave it at that.
Recently God decided to give me a little insight, and to show me that I didn't exactly have it right. I learned that he has placed upon me a calling of integrity. Which explains much of why I felt pressure through the years to live above the standard; those in authority recognized that calling and did their part in obedience to help me steward it. But oh the irony-I am one who has always struggled with living a performance oriented life, and have only recently come to understand that God's grace, love and faithfulness towards me is NOT dependent on my abilities. Isn't it just like Him to anoint me with a calling of integrity, something that could so easily shift into a measurement of performance? But he has intended for it to be pure and holy, and nothing of my own works. It is more of a smack in Satan's face, as He turns a weakness of mine into a beautiful strength.
Now I am learning not to fight what he has ordained me for. Yes, it comes with greater expectations and higher standards, but also a greater portion of his strength. He abundantly makes up for our lacking. All he asks is trust. I trust that He knows me, and the path that he has paved for me is in perfect concordance with who He created me to be.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. 6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
though they have been deserted for many generations.
5 Foreigners will be your servants.
They will feed your flocks
and plow your fields
and tend your vineyards.
6 You will be called priests of the Lord,
ministers of our God.
You will feed on the treasures of the nations
and boast in their riches.
7 Instead of shame and dishonor,
you will enjoy a double share of honor.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice.
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized
and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
the Lord has blessed.”
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels.
11 The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere.
Lately I have been coming before the Lord, asking him to reveal my calling, my giftings, my purpose.
He has already shared the burdens of his heart for the poor with me, but I am aching to know specifically how he wants to use me. What has he molded into me, Britni Steiling, that will be used to further his glory, his love and his Kingdom? I long to know the power that is resting within me, that accompanies his Spirit residing in me. I want to see action, I want to know purpose, I want to get out there and GO! (One thing is for sure, patience is not a virtue that he has given me in abundance hah). My mind is bombarded with questions of potential gifts that I may have but am not acting on. Healing? Prophecy? Faith?
His answer demonstrates his constant, solid character: "Quiet, my child. Rest, my child." Then the passage above, Isaiah 61, came to mind. I have read these verses time and time again, and everytime I do, they resonate so strongly. Oh Jesus, he is so very patient with his children. Here is my calling, here is what my heart is burning to do! I have been called to fight justice. Because of the grace and redemption he has shown me, I will comfort the brokenhearted, proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. I will bring joyous news that gives reason to dance. I will share a Savior who leases those into torment to run into freedom! I will plant gardens, establish roots, and watch flowers bloom!
So, it may not be found in the lists of 'Spiritual Gifts' found in Ephesians or Corinthians or Romans...but God has called me to bring Justice, and with the power of his Holy Spirit moving before, behind, and through me, justice will be brought! Whoever said God was conventional anyway? This is what I know that I have been created to do in the here and now, so let's see some action :)
We cannot walk in the direction of the world AND in the direction at the same time, plain and simple. But why? It seems easy enough to have one foot on each path..a little precarious at times but nothing outside of our ability. Well, He explained to me that the paths are going in complete and total opposite directions. Therefore, if we try to follow both, we will end up going absolutely NOWHERE. The feeling of seemingly going nowhere is familiar to all of us at some point through out our lives, but in this scenario, we are literally not moving. What a waste! And as long as we continue to settle for even putting a pinky toe in the wrong direction, we will continue to gain absolutely no distance.
Now, I found myself with a quite a few toes straying in the direction of the world (interesting mental image..hah) and I asked my Jesus how to begin traveling his path. I want to not only be following the direction my Lord has laid out for me, I want to be sprinting in that direction! But how do I get turned around? His answer was simple (our God is truly not one of confusion!)
Ezekiel 18:31-32 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
The path of the world inevitably leads to death, but the beautiful journey with the Lord is one of life, and its result is that of life eternal! Yes, please :)
The Lord also recently gave me a vision of him chasing after us, his children. He pursues us, passionately, and never tires of running. He longs to hold us in His arms and SHOW us how much he truly cherishes every ounce of us. However, it's a little awkward to hug someone from behind. Granted, it's pretty cute when boyfriends or husbands walk up and give their girls a little surprise squeeze from behind, but what God has in mind is more like a big, giant bear-hug. In order to fully encounter him, fall in his arms and be enveloped by his grace, we have to turn around. He will continue chasing us, but he asks the littlest effort in return, turning around! In doing so, we will find ourselves instantly captured in his warm and consuming embracing.
Getting practical again, what does turning around consist of? REPENTANCE! He doesn't make it too difficult, all he requires is an obedient and willing heart of repentance.
"You keep bringing me sacrifices to ease your mind but it's your heart that I want." -Kristene Mueller - "Mercy"
- ▼ 2009 (14)