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Forsaking the Past

I came to know the Lord in my mid-twenties. This means that I lived long enough prior to Christ to have made a substantial number of mistakes. Truth be told, I’ve made significant mistakes since coming to the Lord as well. The fact is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”

Recently, someone in my life has been going out of their way to remind me of my prior indiscretions. Admittedly, this has taken quite a toll on me. When I first became saved, I felt the weight of those early sins lift off me. I experienced the incredible cleansing that came with repenting of my sins and being baptized in His precious name. I was blessed with an amazing renewal through the infilling of His Spirit and the chains of those transgressions fell as I embraced the freedom of forgiveness. I believed the Bible when it says, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I truly felt that Scripture become real in my life.

Psalms 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

Yet after being repeatedly reminded of my past, I found myself ruminating over dead sins, old guilt, and shame. More than just thinking about them I’ve been feeling dirty, worthless, and broken. I’ve been obsessing about the fact that I can’t fix it. No matter what I do, I can’t go back and undo the mistakes I made in the past. I can’t undo the sin, I can’t fix it!

Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…”

Make no mistake; we have an enemy of our souls! Satan would like nothing more than for us to become shackled to our past. The enemy knows we don’t have the power to change the past and he will try to continually condemn us for it because he wants us to feel hopeless. Feeling hopeless is a very dangerous place to be. When we feel hopeless, we can lose our vision and give up. If I can’t change the past, what good is it to try to live holy? I can’t change what happened so I might as continue in them. That kind of thinking is a lie from the pit of hell!

Micah 7:19 – “…He will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

It’s true that I can’t change the past, but as far as God is concerned that past no longer exists. The Word is clear, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”(Hebrews 8:12). When I was baptized in Jesus’ name I was cleansed of my past sins. The bible says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). What an incredible gift from God! I couldn’t fix it, so God fixed it for me!

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”

When we dwell on the past, we are limiting our future and essentially making the blood of Jesus of no affect in our lives. I think it probably grieves God to see His children dwelling on sins that He has already forgiven. It indicates that we don’t trust Him enough to truly believe that His Word is true!

Isaiah 43:18 – “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

What kind of future would the newly converted Paul have had if he had been unable to let go of his past mistakes? Paul, the man who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, was a man with a past! He persecuted Christians and was complicit in murder. If he had dwelled on his past mistakes it would have paralyzed him and kept him from operating effectively in God’s will.

Ephesians 1:7 – “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in the third chapter of Philippians where Paul penned the words, “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” When the enemy whispers memories of your past into your ear, rebuke him, rebuke the thought, and rebuke the intention behind the thought. Don’t allow those things to get in your spirit. Instead focus on Jesus. Turn your eyes to the One who freed you from all your past mistakes and the bondage of sin. Praise Him for His unending mercy and unfathomable forgiveness.

Philippines 3:13 – “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

I will remind our readers as I remind myself: you are not your past; you are a new creature in Christ! God never intended for us to live in the past. It’s one of the reasons we needed the new birth experience. We serve a mighty God who is not intimidated by our failures, but instead provided a way to remove them from the record. He is worthy of all our praise!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

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Jesus

In You I find my place of rest.
In You I find my source of renewing.
In You I find the strength to go on.
Because You are my hope.
You are my love.

-Rebekah L.

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

unto-us-a-child-is-born

It’s Christmas Eve. I pray all of our readers are happy and blessed. I know this time of year is not the easiest for many people. The media is aglow with perfect families sitting by their perfect fireplaces around the perfect Christmas tree and perfectly loving each other whilst giving the perfect gifts. Reality is a whole lot messier. There is no family that perfectly embodies the perfection of commercialized Christmas.

There is only one person who has ever walked this earth that has earned the description of perfect. His name is Jesus. There is no other name. So for a moment I ask you not to consider all the things you still have to do to make your holiday go smoothly. For a few minutes I ask you not to think of the things you lack, the family you wish you had, or the gifts you would like to be able to give. Instead, Remember what all of this hubbub is supposed to be about. It is truly amazing that God chose to robe Himself in flesh in order to save mankind. We are incredibly loved and blessed.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas to you all!!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

PS. I didn’t realize the similarities between this and Rebekah M’s last post until I had written this. 🙂

Feeling Forgotten

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Never! Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.’” -Isaiah 49:14-16

Recently I have been feeling forgotten. Forgotten by friends, family, coworkers. Even God. There are days where I literally feel invisible. I feel like a toddler who only knows how to get attention by acting out. Negative attention is the only thing I seem to be capable of bringing to myself these days and I’m not quite sure why.

I keep having these situations happen where discussions and decisions are taking place around me, but no one remembers to include me in them. Every single day this week I was left out of something I thought I was going to be included in. I can’t help wondering if there will ever be someone in my life who will think to ask me what I want or what my thoughts are. People don’t consult me for their plans (and they shouldn’t need to), but will I ever factor into someone else’s plan?

It’s happened so many times over the last few weeks that I’m seriously questioning my own value. Why do people keep forgetting me? Will I ever matter to anyone? People tell me I matter to them, but if that is true, why am I so easily forgotten? Sometimes they are kind enough to apologize and attempt to fix it after the fact, but they don’t realize it isn’t the actual plan that upsets me; it’s that I was forgotten. Left out. Invisible. Again. You can include me in the plan afterwards, but you can’t fix the fact that I wasn’t important enough to even be considered. And most of the time I know it wasn’t intentional so I can’t even be upset with them over it. That’s almost worse. If they did it on purpose that would mean they at least thought of me, but I’m not even a blip on their radar. No one ever makes plans with me, they make plans for me, or rather they make plans for themselves and if I want to barge in maybe I can crash their plans, but I have to force myself in the midst of them or I am left out. I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted so most of the time that means not participating. Even at work. Even in my own family. Even at church. I’m just so incredibly invisible.

It shouldn’t bother me so much. Why do I need to be recognized or included? I don’t. I have all that I need in Him. I’m trying to hold on to this: the Lord has not forgotten me. Sometimes I feel like He has, but that is not Truth. The Bible tells me that He will never leave me or forsake me. He knows the number of hairs on my head. He has called me by name. He has plans to prosper me. He sees every tear. He knows every fear. He provides for every need. He is with me.

I am not forgotten. And neither are you.

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

The Filthy Mattress

mattress

Every day on my lunch break I take a walk. I find it’s good to interrupt my otherwise sedentary desk job with a little blood circulation and fresh air. There is a strip mall just down the road from my company so I usually walk to it and go around the back of the plaza before looping around front and back up the street to resume work.

A couple of weeks ago as I was walking around the back of these buildings I saw that someone had thrown a mattress out behind one of the stores. It appeared to be clean and fresh – it looked brand new!  On that particular day, it was warm and sunny with an ever so slight breeze. As I walked by the mattress, it looked so enticing. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to just lie on a comfy mattress and watch the clouds drift by as the sun warmed my face in the cool breeze? It seemed like the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful weather and rest and relax. Of course not knowing where the mattress came from, I didn’t entertain the thought for long.

Day by day, as my walk took me by this mattress, I began to notice changes. After just a day it started collecting stray dirt kicked up by the wind, and falling leaves from a nearby maple tree. Within a few days, the corners started darkening slightly. After a day of rain, I noticed it had lingering water stains after everything around it had dried. It wasn’t long before the wet, dirty mattress became a breeding ground for all kinds of critters. The edges of the once bright mattress became black with mold and fungus. At some point, an animal evidently ripped a hole in the center and made off with some of the stuffing, the remainders of which lay strewn about the ground beside it. The once enticing mattress quickly fell into a state of filth and decay.

As I walked by this mattress for perhaps the dozenth time, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “This is what neglect will do”.  You see, the mattress hadn’t done anything “wrong”; it simply sat there as mattresses have a tendency to do. In terms of time, it was still new; only a couple of weeks had passed. But in terms of quality, it was far from what we would describe as “new”. Indeed it now presents itself as used and worn out. Worse than that, it is soiled and repulsive. The problem is that it was neglected and left unprotected in the elements. On that first day, the elements had been friendly and inviting and did not seem to pose a threat to its integrity, but in short-order they destroyed the defenseless mattress. Had the mattress remained inside where it would have been shielded from the wind, dirt, rain, and critters, it likely would have lasted for years. Without protection, it lasted only days.

In that moment the Lord reminded me that it is imperative that I remain under the umbrella of His protection. It might be tempting to go out into the world to find some kind of relaxation, but it is an illusion. What looks inviting at first glance can quickly destroy us if we don’t have the proper guards in place. We must guard our hearts and minds. We must take heed where we go and what we leave exposed to the elements. The Bible asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)? So let us strive not to neglect the things of the Lord. Let us hold them precious and protect them. As we embrace the teachings and safeguards that the Lord has put in place to protect us, He is providing us with shelter and demonstrating His unfailing love.

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

Perspective

Tonight I am in a fog. Why? Well, ultimately it’s because God is doing some great things in the church I came from before I moved here, and He is doing some great things in me. He has completely lit a fire under me and I don’t want it to ever go out. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the fog part later.

The season I’m in has been months in the making. There is a very sick little girl that my old church has been praying for, which is perhaps a blog post for another day (a long one). Through a whole variety of things, God has shown us that He has some very specific and miraculous plans for her, and He wants us to stand with Him to carry them out. The time for that to happen is near, and so it is a time to press into God deeply. Nothing less than the purity of His truth and power will suffice.

While we have been waiting on that, God’s been growing us. Through a series of seemingly unconnected visions, dreams, and even random gifts, He has brought us to a season of tearing down high places within our hearts and churches, and again pressing in. And actually, He used me to reveal the connecting thread that brought us into this phase of deep growth in Him, which is awesome. It wasn’t an obvious connection and drew on prior knowledge that I had, that made God’s message clear when it was combined with this stuff that was happening. But I never would have spoken up (because it didn’t seem relevant), if my prayer partner literally the night before hadn’t had a word for me about speaking boldly no matter what I felt. So I listened to the word she delivered, spoke out, and it turned out to be right on the money. God is awesome in the ways He uses us. This is perhaps another long blog post for another day. My boldness has been increasing in leaps and bounds lately, and I’ve spoken out about a lot of things God has told me when I previously might not have had the confidence to do so, but this grew my boldness even more. Yay!

Anyway, the underlying thread of everything is that we are in a season to press into Jesus, to passionately and radically pursue Him. I like the sound of it already.

In an effort to ‘press in’, I have been fasting a bit more regularly. My typical fasting pattern is to abstain from food for a 24-hr period. Since this season seems like it calls for a more prolonged endeavor, I have gotten creative. I am fasting sugar. Detoxing from it, really. I know, I know. It’s a health fad. It’s a trendy kickoff to a trendy diet. Truth be told, I couldn’t care less about the trend. It is also something that my body is currently dependent on, and to me that is all that matters. I want my body to run the way it was created to run and to be dependent on nothing except for Jesus Christ Himself. It’s my physical manifestation of pressing in. The problem with detoxing from sugar is that you go through a mini withdrawal, and you get sort of sick for about a week. I am on Day 2, hence my brain fog. I’m also fairly convinced that someone drove into my bedroom with a Mack truck and ran over me while I slept, and then magically glued my walls back together. How they did it, I will never know, but I am definitely feeling the effects!

It has been interesting, to be spiritually on fire and physically foggy. I am pressing in, which is the whole point, and both reaching and expecting breakthrough. I am grateful for the season, because I am growing in leaps and bounds and am expectant that God will deliver on what He’s told me. I’m even grateful for the fog because it forces me to really focus to hone in on the spirit, and to depend on His help to get even mundane tasks done. I’m mostly grateful that God has given me some perspective on where I’m at, and where He’s headed both with me and the Body as a whole.  I can’t wait to see what He does!

God bless!

~Rebekah A

If Ye Be Christ’s

I am currently in Taiwan, but I’m going to share my exciting story of what God did the other day when I was still in China! God is so amazing!! It was so hard to restrain myself from writing about it, but because of the way woman reacted, I felt it best to be a little cautious and not share what happened until I left. I was probably just being paranoid, but you hear all these stories of the Communist Party reading outgoing emails and blog posts so I decided not to take any chances.

Anyway, from the moment I stepped off the plane in the Philippines I had not had a minute to myself. Literally every moment has been spent with my co-workers or my host family, or my students, or the villagers. For an introvert who lives by themselves and is used to a lot of alone time, it’s a little difficult to always be “on”. I needed a few minutes to clear my head and unwind so when we finally got some downtime, I decided to take a walk. On my way out the door, something told me to grab my bag. I realize now that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I had intended on pretty much just walking a straight line so that I wouldn’t get lost, but when I got to a fork  in the road I heard a voice tell me to go left. It was not a literal voice that I heard with my ear. I just heard it like a thought in my head, but it was the voice of my Chinese teacher (from my dreams)! Immediately, I remembered the lessons where he coached me to move left, or move right, or step back etc. without hesitation. Obedience. So I went left. I walked a ways further, and again I felt a prompting to take another left. So I did. Then I felt to just walk straight for awhile.

After a bit, I walked by a woman sitting on a bench. She called out to me, “Mei guo ren, mei guo ren” (American, American). I just ignored her because this has happened several times simply because people are surprised to see Westerners. But then she called out in English saying, “Miss?” I stopped. She spoke in a very thick accent so I had to strain to understand, but she said, “Miss, you are missionary or you are here for company?” I was surprised by the question, but just said, “I’m here with my company.” She looked really disappointed and just said, “oh, okay.” I started to walk away, but something about the disappointment in her voice stopped me. I turned  back and asked why she wanted to know. She said, “Your God told me to come to wait on the bench until the missionary come.” At this I was taken aback. The Spirit had also prompted me to go there by taking those left turns. I sat next to her on the bench. I figured she must have some Christian understanding because she used the word missionary. She also seemed to associate this word with Americans since she called out to me. And she said “Your God”. This woman didn’t know anything about me so to say “Your God” was interesting to me. It’s exactly the way that my ex-boyfriend used to refer to God before he came to know Him for himself. I asked her if there was something she wanted to know. She said, “Yes, did American take their God from Jewish God? There was a man Abraham. And Jewish God promise him a lot of children and promise him he inherit what God have, right? Why Americans think they can have this God when they not from Abraham. Doesn’t the Jewish God make this promise to Abraham’s family?” I realized this was a very important question because she wasn’t really asking me about Americans. She wanted to understand how the rights and privileges of a child of God got extended to gentiles. Somehow, somewhere she had some teaching, but it was incomplete. She was longing to be part of God’s family, but if Americans didn’t really have a right to this God, then logically she wouldn’t either.

I had a bible in my bag. I wanted to take it out and show her some things, but teaching the bible outside the government sanctioned Three Self Church is illegal. Granted, persecution is nothing like it used to be, but an American will be arrested (and likely deported) if they bring their bible out and publicly start sharing it. It is fine to bring your bible into the country for personal reasons, but you can’t share it with others. But then I had an idea! I pulled out my phone. I have an offline version of the Bible in English and Chinese on my phone. If someone were to see her looking at a phone, they wouldn’t think anything of it. I started scrolling through Galatians. I knew what I was looking for was in that book, but I wasn’t sure what the exact verse was. Finally, I found it. Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” I read it in English and then switched it to the Chinese to let her read it for herself. I apologized that I only had a version with traditional characters. She excitedly told me that she knows how to read traditional Chinese.  I explained, “If you belong to Christ –to Jesus, then God sees you as a descendant of Abraham and you get all the same privileges and blessings. Anyone; American, French, Korean, Chinese, anyone can be a seed of Abraham. They just have to belong to Christ. I told her that belonging to Jesus is where the real blessing lies. “The point is not to belong to Abraham, it’s to belong to Jesus because He is the only who can save us.” I asked her if she belonged to Jesus. She looked around nervously and began almost to whisper. She said she had started going to a church in a friend’s house. She continued looking around nervously. She said the problem is that they only have a small portion of the bible and the part they have talks about Abraham and so she thought maybe we stole the Jewish God. She said, “I know they sell bibles in the city, but they are government bibles and people here can’t afford to go to the city and buy them anyway so we just read about Abraham over and over.”

Suddenly I knew why I was there! When my ex-boyfriend sent me my Chinese/English bible, he actually sent me two bibles. One is the Chinese/English parallel and the second one was a Chinese/Pinyin parallel bible. He thought that would be helpful to me because I could see how the characters were pronounced if I came across one I had never seen. The trouble is that knowing how to pronounce a character does absolutely no good if you don’t know what the character means. Therefore, since that bible didn’t have any English, it wasn’t of much use to me. My Chinese is not nearly good enough to not have an English translation so I never use that bible.  When I was packing for this trip, on a whim I threw that Bible (along with my regular bible) in my bag. I thought I might have an opportunity to witness to someone in Taiwan and then we’d both have a Bible to look at. It didn’t occur to me that this would happen in China because of the Traditional characters. But actually a Chinese/pinyin Bible is perfect for someone in China because in China they learn pinyin in school. If she came across a traditional character that she didn’t know, she could look at the pinyin, and through context would probably be able to figure out what simplified character it represented.

I hesitatingly told the woman I had something for her.  As I was reaching in my bag, she said, “no no, you don’t need to give me anything”, but when I pulled out the Bible and handed it to her, her eyes got wide. She snatched it and hid it under her shirt. Then she looked around to make sure no one was watching and pulled it back out. She held it to her face. She kissed it! Then she clutched it tightly to her chest holding it in her arms. She quickly hid it under her shirt again. With tears in her eyes she said, “oh meiguoren, I knew you’d come.” We talked for just a few more minutes. I briefly told her about the book of Acts and that she should be baptized in Jesus name. She said she’d study the whole bible and share it with the church.

She told me how when she was a kid her grandmother had forced her to learn the traditional version of every simplified character she learned in school. She’d spend hours writing out the simplified characters and then her grandmother would make her spend hours more writing out the same characters in traditional form. She said she had resented it at the time, but now she knew it was all worth it. Then she admonished me not to tell anyone in China that I had given her the Bible. She was quite nervous the whole time which made me pretty nervous too, but I was sure that God was in it!

Now that I’m safely in Taiwan I felt to share this amazing testimony. We seriously have no idea what a privilege it is to have Bibles so readily available to us. Watching the way this woman held the Word of God was a reminder to me of how precious the Word of God truly is! Pray for this woman and her church!