Personal Reflections from our Team
The Beauty of Brokenness
I came to believe in Christ’s work for me at the young age of seven. The presence of the Lord was with me from that time all through my youth, guarding my heart, convicting me of sin, and leading me to make choices that honored Him.
However, when I was 18 the Lord began to do a deeper work of conviction, causing me to see (for what seemed like the first time) the true depth of my sin and the selfish motivations of my heart. I was a “really good Christian” on the outside. Any onlooker would have seen my service at church, my role as a worship leader, my strong moral convictions, and my bold faith as evidence of that.
Beyond the surface, I was a girl who had not fully surrendered her own dreams and plans. The conviction of the Lord at that time in my life pinpointed the ways that I was clinging to my own desires and dreams, pursuing, praying, and longing for the fulfillment of them more than seeking to understand the will of my Father. If I got what I wanted from the Lord, I was joyful and thankful. But if I didn’t, I quickly became disillusioned and frustrated. The depth of my understanding of God’s Word was, as I discovered, quite shallow. My own happiness was the focus, which was ultimately leading to a deep unhappiness and restlessness in my spirit.
Praise the Lord for the work of true repentance that He started in that eighteenth year of my life. I recall the moment that I truly repented of my sins. At the end of a church service, I responded to an altar call to surrender my life. It was hard, at the time, to come forward before all of my friends and youth leaders, who would have thought of me as a “strong Christian” and fall on my knees, weeping and broken. But the cry of my heart for more of Christ and less of me was stronger than any pride I had.
I received the gift of true repentance as I saw the depth of my depravity and my deep need for Christ to take His rightful place on the throne of my life. That moment, coupled with those earlier foundational years of my life, started a journey of deeper growth in God’s Word, a deepening love for Jesus, and a love story with my Savior that has woven its way into every fiber of my life. I have never been the same, praise God!
Standing Strong Amidst Testing
My thoughts swirled with how rapidly my life had changed. I was around 15 at the time. And I felt as though the moment I gave my whole heart to Jesus it invited the attention of the enemy into my life to test the mettle of my decision. The months following my surrender to Christ were not laden with sunshine, bunny rabbits, and other forestial creatures to draw me closer to Jesus in sweet communion. It resembled more of a battle field … completely devoid of bunny rabbits.
By God’s grace during that season, I began living out the total abandonment that Jesus asks of those who follow Him. (See Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:62, and Luke 14:26–27.) And while it was difficult … it forged a beautiful strength within my soul. The peace that came from knowing I was following Him down the Narrow Way was all-surpassing as I faced pressure from without for the decisions I was making for Jesus within.
Looking back, I wouldn’t trade the trials of that season for one sunshine-laden second. Those trials cultivated an intimacy with Christ, a love for studying the Word, and a trust in God’s mighty, unchangeable character that would not have developed under softer surroundings. If you discover that things are coming against you after you fully surrender or reconsecrate an area of your life to Jesus Christ, do not be surprised or doubt whether or not you are on the right path. From one sister to another, stand strong in your position in Christ, rise up in the authority of Christ’s name, push back the advances of the enemy of your soul, and maintain a full surrender as you depend upon Jesus for your every need. He will be faithful. And rest assured … the sunshine is coming.
Accepted in the Beloved
I came to faith in Christ at a young age and have always been a “rule follower.” Because of that combination, it was hard for me to see my sinfulness. And yet, when I did sin, I always felt the need to pay penance and work to “restore” myself to God’s favor. I was usually nervous to come before the Lord, wondering if I was doing enough to please Him.
It was during my late teens and early twenties when God began to transform this mindset. Not only did He reveal just how deep my sin ran, but He also revealed just how great His love was (and is) for me. There was such freedom found in truly grasping that it is not by anything I have done that I am saved, but by believing in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf. What joy there is in knowing I can rest in God’s love and that His acceptance of me is not based on my own merits! And, I’ve discovered that when obedience to God is driven by love, it makes following Him a true delight.
By ANNIE WESCHE
Overcoming Through Christ
I grew up in a Christ-centered home where reverence for the Word of God, faithfulness in prayer, and joyfully serving the Lord were laid as strong foundations. At a young age I gave my heart to Jesus and was eager to please Him. But around the age of 13 God led me to understand that our “family faith” or my parents’ walk with Christ wasn’t enough — I needed to cultivate my own personal walk with Jesus. I eagerly consecrated my life to the One who had died for me and began pursuing Him wholeheartedly!
My walk with the Lord flourished in the years that followed, but there were still things in my life that needed to be overcome. And God, being the good Father that He is, began to lovingly draw each one to the surface. One such struggle was a deep battle with fear and anxiety. It held such a grip on my life, influencing decisions and clouding many of my days with worry. At the age of 18, God’s sweet conviction showed me that I wasn’t taking Him at His Word — I wasn’t truly living in the reality of what the Gospel has accomplished or in light of His unfailing character. I was at a significant turning point of faith. I could choose to remain under the grip of anxiety and fear (and absolutely miserable) or I could believe the great and precious promises given in Joshua 1:9, Psalm 27:1, Psalm 34:4, Psalm 46:1, Proverbs 3:5–6, Proverbs 29:25, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 41:10, and so many more! By God’s tender grace, I repented of living constantly in fear rather than trusting in Him, and asked for His deliverance from those strongholds in my life. Unspeakable joy filled my heart that day as I cried out, “I trust You, Jesus. I believe You! Thank You for all You have done on my behalf to set me free!”
It took time to retrain my thoughts and heart to live in faith rather than be led by fear and anxiety, and every day I still must choose to believe God’s Word over the fears, concerns, or worries that may arise. But the Gospel — the Good News of Jesus’ given life for mine, His shed blood that has covered the debt of all my sin, and His indwelling Life which gives me the power and grace to overcome — is truly transforming! With immeasurable gratitude I have never returned to that place of bondage to fear that was once so horribly familiar. And as I continue to follow my Savior and grow in the treasured knowledge of Him, His loving refinement and overcoming work continues to astound, humble, and thrill this saved sinner’s heart!
By MANDY SAELER
Finding Great Treasure
A young voice rang from the kitchen, “Mom, I’m thirsty. Can I have something to drink?” From the other room, her melodic voice responded with a simple reply, “Get a drink of water, honey.” The evidence of disappointment sounded in the young voice with a murmur, “But it doesn’t taste like anything…”
If walls could talk, the walls of my childhood home would replay this scenario time and again! One of us children would express our thirst, and when we were directed to get water from the tap, our response would quite predictably be one of complaint. Water. It wasn’t what we wanted … it didn’t taste like “anything.” We wanted something sweet … something special … something exciting. Naturally, our young and naive hearts pushed away what was most essential.
As an adult (and one who, not only enjoys, but prefers drinking water), I can only shake my head with a smile. Only an oblivious child would push away the truly satisfying and essential for subpar soda or chocolate milk. And yet, I have to wonder, how often does the human heart offer the same question and response?
Our hearts cry out, “I’m dry … I’m thirsty!” With arms open wide, Jesus invites us with welcome, “Come to Me and I will let you drink from the rivers of living water.”* And yet, the hardened human heart responds, “But I don’t want water. It doesn’t taste like anything!” Without realizing what we are pushing away, we resist the Source that offers true vitality, satisfies the longing soul, and imparts the greatest treasure known to humankind.
Simply put, desiring the water of the Word doesn’t come naturally to the hearts of men and women.
Having grown up in a family of faithful church attendees, I learned that reading the Bible was an important part of Christian protocol. Carefully carrying my Bible to church every Sunday was the right thing to do, as was saying my prayers before bed at night. In my younger years, I didn’t know what it was like to thirst for the Word of God — to truly desire it. I merely drank by the instruction of others, meanwhile wondering in my own heart, “…but it doesn’t taste like anything.”
Time passed and in my teenaged years, my heart broke before the Lord. The weight of my wrongdoing hung heavily upon my shoulders and I was desperate for His rescue and renewal of my heart. He saved me, remade me, and set me free. And as an immediate response, what I’d been taught for many years finally resonated … get a drink of water.
I went to the fountain, the very Word of God, and drank deeply. For the first time in my life, it wasn’t flat, flavorless water … it was refreshing, living water … and it spoke to me. Amazingly, I found that the more I drank, the more I wanted to drink of this water. It revealed my sin and yet rescued me from its grip. It pierced my heart and yet mended it in the deepest place. And like a bright ray of shining light, it pointed me to Jesus and it showed me how to walk a different way by His grace.
When God’s Word came alive to me, I was launched into a season of formative growth in my spiritual life. It was then that the disciplines I’d been taught as a child in church, like reading my Bible, praying, and sharing Jesus with others, suddenly began to make sense. I committed to seeking God and reading Scripture … and it wasn’t a dutiful item I crossed off of my “Christian checklist” each day. These were the most meaningful moments of my entire day! His Word became my delight and His presence changed me little by little … and He continues to delight and change my heart to this very day!
I am humbled by the miraculous way that God so radically changed my heart in my young teenaged years. A heart that once loved the things that were opposed to Him was transformed to share in the joyous exultation of the Psalmist, “I rejoice in your word as one who finds great treasure!” (See Psalm 119:162.)
Through the ebbing and flowing of the years since, I can still attest: God’s Word is a treasure! And His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, is the Supreme Treasure in all the world … and in the world to come!