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As I can I want to offer a fresh word of encouragement sharing from my experience how our Father God meets us in the middle of loving and living out our faith to draw others to freedom. The road to freedom can seem long and hard not unlike the experiences of those living as refugees from war torn nations, those walking out of years of abuse and pain in broken relationships, those facing the reality check that comes with unplanned pregnancy, and the great journey to healing from trauma. I fully believe we are offered so much more than we ever experience as Christ followers. We settle for a life in bondage to the elemental nature of this world and continue to live as Hagar when in fact we are daughters of Sarah.
Galatians 4:3131 So, brothers [and sisters], we are children not of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
33 “But a man from Shomron who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.
34 So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
When you are backpacing or rock climbing there are times when you cannot see the next step, you lose your way or you get hurt. If you are part of a group there is someone to come look for you, to talk you through the next step or lend you a hand, redirect your steps or care for an injury. Journeying through life with the purpose of helping those who are hurting, lost or stuck requires more than one person.
I have been part of several ministry teams and experienced the dichotomoy of those who handle walking into darkness by shutting off emotion, focusing on outcomes and the success of a program; and on the other side, those so emeshed in the hurt and pain that they get stuck there and it is one ongoing ministry time without a clear end goal or time to breathe. There is a middle in all this, there is a space where we allow ourselves to be moved by compassion with a purpose and an end goal...to meet an immediate need and set up a plan and opportunity for next steps and ultimately opportunity to hear, to see and to know Jesus because, in Him is the freedom, the hope and the purpose for being drawn out of the pain and hurt. If we individually evaluate where we are at on this spectrum and yield to Him our tendency for no emotion or all emotion we together can use these sides of our giftings and personalities to really provide hope and help and do it together. If we are willing to make room for each other, we make room for those we are pulling up.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (CJB)
23 Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other.
And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.
11 After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction.“By his knowing [pain and sacrifice],my righteous servant makes many righteous;it is for their sins that he suffers.12 Therefore I will assign him a share with the great,he will divide the spoil with the mighty,for having exposed himself to deathand being counted among the sinners,while actually bearing the sin of manyand interceding for the offenders.”
I have spent the last few years sharing about working with women facing unplanned pregnancy and how to do life together, about walking out of abuse and trauma, and the realities of sex trafficking around us and the process of learning life again. I often share a small story of an encounter I have experienced but there are so many details that are so intimate that I cannot share. Living and walking with women from hard places has led to many vulnerable and intimate encounters. Hearing their story in an interview is only the beginning and often this entails sharing intimate and hard things. If they choose to live in the program there are many unscripted moments; side by side conversations late at night, memories stirred over a meal, an unexpected trip to the ER, a late night knock on the door when plagued with nightmares, a one-on-one bible study session or process through the pain of an abortion or another painful moment, a teaching moment with their child, the long process of labor and delivery, intimate involvement in family court, wading through their reality and feeling and experiencing their pain...
These women have become part of my DNA and I have come to realize that these intimate, vunlerable moments were a priviledge to experience and they too met me in vulnerable, intimate places. They saw me in the middle of the night, after a frustrating moment with my husband, dealing with disobedient children, following a barage of phone calls or visitors and all that is entailed in doing life in a fish bowl. This intimate "knowing" is for more than sharing a story for a cause, it is for more than even their experiencing a life following Godly principles and rules, it is an intimate knowing that I now carry with me. The first client to the 100+ that I know in this way...each one branded on my heart ,much I imagine, as I am on the palm of Christ. I have this glimpse of who each of these women are and who they were made to be...I have seen and heard and walked with them through pain, anger, grief, heartache, disappointment, and everything under the sun.
I now have this pressing need to continue to hold them out to Christ. I can continue to lift them to Jesus not just from a nominal place focused on the sin (abortion, sex trafficking, drug addiction, abuse) but from a place of knowing intimately each one and what and who the enemy is. This priviledge can get lost in the middle of the battles and the day to day. It is a very real gift and honor to know another person this way. Christ carries us to the Father and cries out on our behalf and we too are called to do so for each other... and no less for the ones who "knowing" us and "knowing" them are not walking in freedom, are not choosing to live life fully....I must continue to press in, to intercede to bring them before my God for I carry an intimate knowledge and authority that comes with love. My heart cry is that through knowing and walking in this pain and remembering that Jesus has gone before me on this path that He is the one who can bear the sin and bring each one to life.
May you carry the intimate knowing you have of other to the cross! May you count it a priviledge and joy to intercede!
May you know that there is a way through these hard places!
23 Above everything else, guard your heart;for it is the source of life’s consequences.
2 Therefore, if you have any encouragement for me from your being in union with the Messiah, any comfort flowing from love, any fellowship with me in the Spirit, or any compassion and sympathy, 2 then complete my joy by having a common purpose and a common love, by being one in heart and mind. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or vanity; but, in humility, regard each other as better than yourselves — 4 look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own.
I have had the honor of walking with several ministry teams over the years, all coming together to bring healing, hope and restoration to vulnerable and hurting people; from living with teens in a court-ordered wilderness program, adults with developmental disabilities, teen moms during pregnancy and single parenting, women healing from abortion, women coming out of addiction, domestic violence and sex trafficking...Each of these teams and settings were unique and the level of ministry and philosophical approach was different. What was common, regardless of the secular or religious nature of the program, was how the level of care given to the team and the awareness of each team member to each other greatly affected everyone's ability to do their job well. Working with those coming out of hard backgrounds, seeing grief, heartache, trauma and abuse takes a phenomenal amount of work to "guard your heart" and it is my observation that only when the Holy Spirit is allowed to move, operate and minister among the team will everyone make it through with a whole heart and greater love for each other focused on the mission and purpose they started with.
Sometimes I think we get so focused on a cause, on helping someone out of their pain we easily let down our guard to the slowly growing wall of protection that we put up against the Spirit of God and it looks and feels like a wall that keeps others out. We begin to operate as a social service with the creeping cry of justice over mercy, retribution over forgiveness, and law over grace. We harden our hearts to each other as the ones serving and carelessly bruise and batter the ones meant to be help mates and friends. The raw and ugly of this world is not something the human heart can encounter without getting hurt, and so many times the ones coming to help end up just as, if not more, bruised, battered and rejected than those they are called to love and serve. If we are to see change that comes from the heart, we need to ask Jesus to open our eyes to those serving with us to love and protect the lost, the broken and the hurting. If we are to succeed at keeping our motives pure, operating in the Love of God then we cannot close ourselves off to His Spirit even when He is revealing our weakness, our need and our hurt. I pray that you will also see those walking with you as the ones you are called to serve, to love and to protect.
May you remain tenderhearted! May you move in common purpose and love with those you are working with! May you be one in heart and mind!
12 Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to let us alone, we’ll just go on being slaves for the Egyptians? It would be better for us to be the Egyptians’ slaves than to die in the desert!” 13 Moshe answered the people, “Stop being so fearful! Remain steady, and you will see how Adonai is going to save you. He will do it today — today you have seen the Egyptians, but you will never see them again! 14 Adonai will do battle for you. Just calm yourselves down!”
Sitting here today I am grateful for this quiet moment to put my thoughts into words, to share with you the tender, loving, grace of our heavenly father. I am grateful for today. It took me forty-four years plus a few months to get to today! A day when I have faced the complaints in my heart and been overcome by the desire to go back, to remain in the comfortable and the known and concurrently experienced the victories of Adonai saving me. I have experienced the let down of seeing another obstacle in the way and felt the pressure from the enemy behind me. I have been through the days of fear, anxiety and intensity ....the days of practicing calming down and choosing rest when everything in me wants to turn and run, to hide or to fight or to quit.
Today I can say I am seeing the fruit of remaining steady. I can say I truly believe that it is not better to be a slave to fear, torment, and it is possible to no longer live under the illegitimate headship of the enemy. I believe that today, He, Adonai, my heavenly Father does fight my battles and I can experience the victory when I choose to return, to rest, to be quiet and to trust.
I desire so much to share with you the truth of these words and for you to release yourselves into His hands...for even though you may be called to walk out life with others who seem more desperate, lost or hurt and are not seeing fruit and perhaps the enemy is whispering doubt in your ears that they will or can ever change...you will only be able to give others true hope by living fully given over to this truth that "Adonai will do battle for you." He is able and has already, through Jesus death and resurrection, overcome all forms of death. Thoughts, abuses, discouragement, fear, pain...when we yield the path to Him, though we may experience hurt and suffer with those we are called to serve, it is only temporary, and ultimately we can know that all the lies of the enemy will be reversed. The fight and battle of taking back what was meant for us and pushing ahead into His promises opens the way for others to follow.
Ephesians 3:20-21 The Passion Translation (TPT)
20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
21 Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!
25 Yes, indeed! I tell you that there is coming a time — in fact, it’s already here — when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life.
There are many points where I struggle in sharing life with others. Still after 14 years I get frustrated when I can feel the restlessness of change coming. At certain points when the rhythmn of days or needs of others impacts my routine...there are so many details of how I think things should be and challenges to communicate expectations and accept differences. I was challenged recently with a simple question "what does the gospel mean to you". I honestly had to stop and had no answer. I have been moved by compassion, motivated by the tasks in front of me, praying for salavation and hope for others...but the simple truth that God so loved the world he gave His only son...The simple truth that is really why I am here and what I am called to. To live out that love...
I realized that some of the struggle in doing life with others is working through how I face and respond to the places that are unredeemed...in myself and in others. I realized I should not stop recognizing the need to live out and share Jesus. He is calling out through me to bring the dead to life. So, "what does the gospel mean to me" it means love. It means recognizing that the work of sharing the gospel is not a once and done thing spoken only in words or through a message on Sunday...it is living out and being open to be the voice of Jesus to speak love, to act in love and to pause when I am leading from a place of frustration or the natural selfishness I feel over use of time, sharing space and giving up the way I think things should be. The love that motivated Jesus to die on the cross for the sole purpose of seeing me "come to life", that is the message of the gospel and that is the love I want to live.
May you know the hope of the gospel! May you recognize the voice of Jesus calling to you!
May you be infused and encouraged with the love that died to bring you life!
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