Archive | June, 2013

“Death makes life feel like death” a little piece of my testimony and how Jesus rescued me from the slavery of the fear of death

27 Jun

FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE ME

 

Sufferings will come to us very much in our lives, first and foremost for the fact that we live in a world that is cursed, fallen and dying.  Death surrounds us everywhere in every place, not just when we attend a funeral or stand next to a cemetery, but death reigns in our mortal bodies day and night.  I remember coming to that conclusion as a teenager, before I knew Jesus.  I remember after the violent death of my mother, looking around at everyone and at creation and a terrifying reality had stricken me, and it was this: everything and everyone was dying all the time.  People are dying, animals are dying, the leaves on the trees are dying, the beautiful flowers will die and all the beauty in this world, and in us, will have a wretched end.  The end of us is a dead body buried in the ground…away from everything that is familiar.  This was so terrifying to me but I knew it was the reality of everything that has life.

 

I learned that death was everywhere and was and is, a part of us.  Even old age is simply slow death.  It was scary.  But the thing is, as common and inescapable as death was/is, it just didn’t seem natural.  Maybe we are tempted to think that the more common something is, the more natural and good it must be, but no, that is a lie that I thought before I knew Jesus.  But why, oh why was the most common thing in the world so unnatural and even terrifying?

 

Some people tell me that they are not scared to die, a lot of these people are atheists.  If that is true, then what gives you the impulse to fight away death?  If someone came into your house, stormed into your living room and began to shoot everyone in sight, what would give you the impulse to duck, hide, protect others etc?  What gives you this impulse and why would you grieve over those in your living room who died right before your eyes if death is good and normal? Or if there is a tornado hitting your house, why do you hide? What gives you the desire to save your life? There is something about death that stings and bites and shreds our lives apart like nothing in this world can.  People all around the world are scared to die, for death is our enemy. There is a slavery that accompanies this and I have tasted this slavery before.  Death is so unnatural and it is not good.

 

I remember the days that I thought about these things long and hard before I knew Jesus.  “What gives me the impulse to fight death if it is simply natural?  Who put that inside of me?  Why do people die?  It is so normal yet so unnatural and terrifying.”  I was 18 years old and homeless.  I stayed up many nights, sitting in the town park, under the stars with a bottle of whiskey and many tears, thinking and thinking and thinking….Of course, there was no real answer and that terrified me even more.  I hated death but there was no way to escape it.

 

So yeah, I had many long nights of tears, whiskey and fear.  I was terrified of life, because I was terrified of death and the fear of death choked the life right out of me.  I was a slave to the fear of death.  Now that does not mean that I was thinking in absolute paranoia that I was going to die, that’s not what fear of death means.  Rather, the fear of death and the hatred of it brings an aimlessness, hopelessness and depression in life.  So much so, that before I knew Jesus, I concluded that life was meaningless and the reality of death makes it that way.  Death makes life feel like death.  Death makes life hopeless and pointless.  Of course, most people are in denial of that and the denial is written all over them.  It consumes their actions and feeds the false self-confidence that they have built up their whole lives.  But, all self-confidence and achievements will die right along with our dead bodies and in just a few generations, we will be forgotten….just like the beautiful flowers that cover the fields…we admire their beauty but in 10 years from now, no one will know or hear about that specific flower that we adored.  We aren’t much different than that….the bible talks a lot about this.

 

Before I knew Jesus, I realized that we were all on our way to the grave.  I will never forget one time when my friends and I decided to play hacky sack in a very old grave yard in the middle of a beautiful, southern Indiana forest.  Why we chose to play hacky sack there?  Ha!  I don’t know, we were really weird but we did it nonetheless.  As we were playing hacky sack, I noticed how the ground was sunken in around the coffins.  It revealed the exact shape and sizes of the old coffins that were deep under the ground.  I just tried to ignore it and enjoy our fun and goofy game of hacky sack but I just could not.  The sight of it was so scary and haunting.  Sort of like life….death is there, so close that its inseparable but we just try to ignore it and carry on with our goofiness and fun…but it is never completely possible, for it is buried deep in our consciences.  Well, after about 30 minutes of playing hacky sack, I just could not take it anymore, I had to stop.  I informed my friends that the graveyard was “just freaking me out” and that I had to leave.  They were pretty cool about it and agreed that it was kind of creepy.

 

Leading us out of the forest and onto the gravel road, we walked on a little path that passed right by a very large and beautiful field that for some reason, I did not notice on the way to the graveyard.  The field was so beautiful, I just had to stop and stare.  I saw a sea of purple and pink flowers, and above the flowers were a cloud of yellow butterflies.  The sun was shining on it, perfecting the beautiful colors that I saw. 

 

“What is this beautiful sight doing here next to this ugly and scary graveyard?”  I thought to myself. I looked up into the sky that was leaking the beautiful sunlight, I thought to myself, “Is there something beautiful, like this, that can happen after death?  Can death be good?  Is there a god?  Where would he be and who is he?”  I walked on, pondering this deep thought.  I was 18 years old at that time…only about 9 months before the Author of life revealed Himself to me…giving me the life that is really life.

 

The whispers of God…He is whispering to all people, whom He, Himself created, “come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light and you will find rest for your souls.”  I believe that God was whispering to me that day when I saw that beautiful field next to the graveyard…”Come to me, Leah, come to me and live.”  Of course, my heart was arrogant, stubborn and literally darkened by Satan so I could not properly hear it.  But I heard a whisper of some sort of hope, the whisper of God.

 

I believe that people hear the whispers of God all the time, but because they are stubborn, arrogant and are blinded by Satan, they cannot properly hear it.  (They will get angry at even reading that!)  Their own stubbornness refuses the voice of God’s prophets, the prophets who plead, bleed and weep with and for those who live in the fear of the slavery of death.  People are stubborn and have layers upon layers of arrogance and woundedness (the pain that accompanies life).  The layers are so thick and hard, that is takes the miraculous fire of God to melt it.  The arrogance becomes blinding and all consuming…dictating and perverting the thoughts of everyone, leading into the dark pit and lie of self-dependence.  Maybe when we think of an arrogant person, we think of someone who believes that “they are better than everyone else.”  But to me, that’s not arrogance.  Arrogance is the belief that, “I am doing okay without God.”  To me, that is arrogance.  Arrogance is a form of idolatry and the worship of oneself. 

 

I used to be this way and I know what it is like.  I know what it is like to be so arrogant, stubborn and self-willed beyond description.  It consumed me.  Yet, I was a broken human being who lived in an unspoken fear every day…and I was a slave to that fear; arrogance and false belief in myself were my way out of it.  It was the fear of death that brought fear and darkness to everything else.  Maybe this sounds depressing, but God used this very thing to lead me to Himself.  He used this depressed and morbid mindset to bring me to my knees and to hunger and thirst for the food and water that really sustains me…the living water who is Jesus Christ, the One who created my soul.

 

Living without Jesus is like coasting upon an abyss of danger, uncertainty, darkness, hopelessness and loneliness.  Of course, I didn’t quite realize this until I was set free from it and I felt the true love of God for the first time.  Feeling God’s love for me was like coming home, coming home to safety, life, joy, completeness and death to confusion and loneliness.  Jesus came to my rescue quickly with utmost urgency, almost as if He had been waiting, and waiting, and waiting to be with me and envelope me completely in His perfect and satisfying love…and maybe He really was waiting to do that very thing….maybe He is waiting for that still for all people…I do not doubt otherwise. 

 

Do you hear the whispers of God?  Do you reject Him again and again and again because you want to continue in what you have always known?  You cling to the familiar patterns of your life, but there is more to you than this!  Oh, there is so much more!  Jesus will set you free from the slavery of being lost.  But, most people do not fully know or want to recognize that they are slaves.  However, if someone is a slave their entire lives, then they may not know anything different.  And they will not know that they had been a slave until they are set free.  

 

Jesus came to my rescue and set me free from all that tormented me my whole life.  He came and gave me a victory that is deeper than the eyes can see, for He came deep inside of me, into the very deepest part of me and He set me free.  He set me free from my agonies, my fears, my addiction to sin and rebellion.  He set me free.  His Word brought life to my bones and fed a hunger in me that I didn’t know existed.  He transformed me, showed me His love that is so different from the love of any person, and He made me a whole human being.  He transformed me, He took my hatred away and destroyed, demolished and put to death, the fear of death in me.  

 

I learned to deny myself, to pray, to fast, to be disciplined in reading the bible, and God blessed me with a boldness that is beyond my wildest dreams.  I used to have a very bad stuttering problem and I only liked to talk when I was not sober, but God gave me abilities and powers that I did not have before. He gave me the ability to be holy, pure and bold, very bold.  He put something in me that felt like a fire, a fire that was satisfied and grew the more that I prayed, read His Word and told people about Him.  I knew that God’s love for me was like a Father’s love…protecting, leading, guiding, providing for me and simply enjoying my presence.  God is invisible, yet I love Him.  I could feel the presence of God for the first time and it completed me.

 

I fell in love with Christians.  For the first time, my eyes were open to see that Christians were people of light, not darkness.  Their love was so different from other people and I learned that they are my family, and that we all love the same heavenly Father.  The more I talked about my Father, the more courage, love and passion He gave me and my desire to preach the Good News increased…and increased…and increased and it has never stopped!

 

I have since traveled around the world, and into prisons, onto the streets, into the homes of the broken simply to tell people about my wonderful heavenly Father.  I want everyone to hear about Him.  I understand that Jesus died for all people and that He is worthy to receive their adoration, admiration and absolute devotion and love.  This was revealed to me by God, not by any human being.  God must reveal Himself to us in order for us to understand Him.  We cannot force ourselves to understand Him.

 

God filled me with His Holy Spirit and He was the fire that I felt.  God made His permanent home in me, which gave me the power to overcome my difficult life…my addictions…myself….this world.  I learned to forgive people and love them , no matter what.  Jesus has taught me everything I know.  He is everything that I am and all that I have. 

 

I know that most of the world hates Him because Jesus is the Light of the world and people often love darkness more. For many who live in the darkness, the darkness feels like light and light feels like darkness. I remember that.

I want to be with Him forever…and the good news is, I will be with him forever.

 

What once made me a slave is something that I now look forward to: death.  I actually look forward to dying because it simply means that my work here is finished and that I get to go home. 

 

I want to sum up my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus in these words:

 

This is taken from the bible, from the book of Hebrews chapter 2, verses 14-15.  What written in parenthesis is from me and is not written in the bible.  I simply wrote was is in parenthesis for clarification.

 

“Since therefore the children (us) share in flesh and blood, He Himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power over death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

 

The truth is, death isn’t natural and God did not originally create us to die, that’s why it feels so scary, unnatural and just not good. When God made the world, He created people to live with Him forever and never die. Death exists as a result of sin, because when God made the first human beings, Adam and Eve, they rebelled against God and therefore, He cursed them, (they knew ahead of time that they should not do that. God warned them specifically) and therefore, death came into the world. The wages of sin is death. God is holy and cannot change, but He has redeemed what was broken through Jesus Christ.

I now live in Kenya, with my husband, and we spend our lives preaching for the One we love, for the One who is worthy.  God has enabled our mouths and enabling us to declare His mysteries and to do it with bold assurance. 

 

But most of all, all I really want to do, is to say, thank you Jesus.  You shed your blood for me, now, I want to shed my blood for you just to say thank you.  I want to lose my life in this world for you, just to say thank you.  I want to serve people whom the world does not love, just to say thank you.  I want to forgive my enemies and deliberately serve them, just to say thank you.  I want to go to the nations and boldly tell people about you, just to say thank you.  I want to die to myself, carry my cross every day, just to say thank you Jesus.  For my life is simply a thanksgiving offering to you, for you have done it, you have died for all people, yes, even me.  My life is a debt of continual love to you, Jesus, and I will never be able to fully explain what you’ve done in me and for me.  You are worthy Jesus, and no matter what I may do for you, how much I suffer, how much I am beaten for you….it will never, never, never  come even close to what you’ve done for me.  You have become my best friend, my Lord, my lover, my everything and I love you forever.  Jesus, I love you, for you saved me from death and destruction and enabled me to live with you forever.  For this, I just want to say thank you with my mouth and with how I live my life.  All I really want to say to this world and to the heavens, is this: THANK YOU JESUS.