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    Hebrews 5:12-14 (KJV) "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

    Proverbs 27:17 (KJV) "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

    "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11

    Every testimony of Jesus Christ working in someone's life is a life changing event that is supernaturally charged to change a person from A to Z & all for Christ's glory & honor to be showcased. It is a privelege to share a fantastic lifechanging testimony from Kari Stamper, here with you today sharing 'My Journey Through The Wilderness'/

    When I was 24 years old, I made a decision to follow Christ. Without any reason to believe that He could help me, I reached out by faith and accepted the fact that I could no longer help myself. As you can imagine, at this age I was quite arrogant and relentless. I was full of ideas, full of ambition, and fully convinced that personal initiative was the key to success.

    Not only was I completely wrong about my beliefs, but I was also impaired in my quest to achieve such a goal. Because I started the journey without any of the necessary tools for retrieving what I was so desperate to find.

    As a victim of abuse, and a loveless young woman, I was also concealing a very deep root of shame. If you've never struggled with shame, it's impossible to understand how debilitating it can be. I wasn't just alone, I was certain that I was supposed to be alone. My childhood experiences taught me to believe that I was not worthy to be loved. And so love was never going to be mine. I had accepted that. And everything that I did in my life, flowed from that acceptance. You can't ever know the torment of a heart that realizes, that it can never have the one thing that will make life mean something. Hope for love would have changed everything. But it was unavailable. So, I moved on, wrecking ball style.

    Death may as well have come to me swiftly. As far as I was concerned, I was already dead inside. I had lived my life as a heathen. What was the point? Nobody cared about me, so I cared about nobody. Many Christians today would have sooner seen me burn than to tell me the Good News. I really wanted there to be some good news. But instead I got a stipulated promise. It's great news if you're good enough. And then, you can actually be loved by God. Wait, what?! If I'm good enough? I know this one. I've seen it already. I already had this kind of love. But I never actually saw it, because I was never good enough. I couldn't afford to pay to experience it.

    I gave my life to find something that didn't exist. And now it seemed even Jesus couldn't help me. If this is all that there is then what's the point?

    I entered into my relationship with Jesus just as I was. A hot mess. I devoured the Bible every day. I was starving. Went to church as often as the doors were open. Being taught to read the Word and DO IT. Failed at being good over and over again. Constant shame was always the result. Although none of these hindrances pervaded His love for me, I was still unable to see it. Believing I needed to earn it, and so I read and learned of Him in bondage. Clearly, I had all but destitute my life by this time.

    On top of it all, sitting smugly, was my blinding situation. I was living with my boyfriend of seven years. He and I had met in the topless bar that I worked at. No help there. Apparently I was never considered marriage material throughout this abusive relationship. We had a son together, three years old. He had become the light of my life, and was the only thing keeping me from leaving these last three years. I had quit dancing, because I now knew that it was wrong.

    I desperately wanted free of my living situation for the same reason, but could see no way out. I had no money, obviously because I had quit my job. And even if I could somehow afford to leave, I was 900 miles away from the nearest source of help. My whole family was over three states away. And I knew, I would certainly lose custody of my son if I traveled across state lines. As there was already a custody agreement in place.

    I was trapped. And the only way out meant that I was going to lose the only good thing in my life. My son. I struggled to understand. Because miraculously, God provided the money. My live-in boyfriend threw it in my face, along with the suggestion to get out, hop a bus and go move in with my parents. He even told me to take my child with me. It was a miracle! Or so I thought.
    I wasted no time. Seven years of my life, I crammed into one suitcase. I called a cab and ran from my Sodom & Gomorrah, and I didn't look back. But it hunted me down six months later to take one final piece of me. The only love that I had ever known. The one that gouged me for years, and still bleeds today. It took my son. Carried him off in the back of a sheriff's car while I was at work. My ex wanted me back. This was the card that he played to ensure it. Six months with Jesus, I had spent digging to know just what He was all about. Misguided by teachings along the way, still, I believed that He had saved me. Delivered me and my son from the life of corruption and decay that we were in. And now, a choice. All I had to do to be reunited with my child, was return to Egypt.

    I was tempted. Beyond tempted. But I fought. Court costs, attorney fees, expensive and frequent road trips, tear-filled visits, heart-wrenching good byes. My life had become one continual reunion with Egypt. And my son was drowning in the wake of it all. After a couple years of turmoil in the battle for my boy, the scores were tallied and the winner declared. To the victor go the spoils, but I had lost. I was alotted visits, holidays, special occasions. Ultimately, I would see only a fraction of that. 900 miles is a bit far for every other weekend.

    I was inconsolable. There was nothing more I could do. Except go back. And I nearly did. I tried to anyway. But God blocked me. I didn't know it then, but looking back now, I can clearly see it. The donkey wouldn't move. A couple from church funded and chauffeured a visit to see my son. I walked into my ex's house with intent. I had convinced myself that I needed to reconcile with him. The only way that I knew how. I tried to implement the plan, but was stifled before I could even bat an eyelash his direction. The phone rang and my ride was leaving for the long drive home. I tried to stay. But they refused to leave without me. The donkey would not budge. So I left. By the time I had opportunity to make another attempt (several months later), the desire had left me AND I had met someone new.

    God spared me that mistake, but I spent the next ten years living without my son. Watching from a distance, as he grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. Unable to help him, no matter how hard I tried. Petitions to investigate his alcoholism and neglect. Nobody would believe me because alcohol doesn't remain in the bloodstream long enough for anyone to catch him doing it. And they took their sweet time getting there.

    I wondered for a long time, why God allowed this to happen. When I first met Jesus, I certainly never believed He would have ever let it get this far. But here I am. My son is now 21 years old and I find myself still asking, "Why?". Why did I have to live my life without him? Why did he, as a result, have to suffer a Godless childhood? Every waking minute of my walk with Jesus, and even my dreams, all interwoven with the loss of my only son. The only love I had ever known.

    For a long time I believed that it was God's sovereign judgment that was bringing about necessary suffering to produce righteousness in me. To purge me of all that I had done to destroy my life. Uprooting all the sin that I had planted. I feared Him for that reason. But I never knew His love for me for the same reason. Being punished for what I didn't know, hardly seemed like a gracious and loving God to me. His Son would agree, but while I had accepted His sacrifice for my sins, I didn't understand it. And I did not know Him. How could He be my Lord, if I did not know Him? He was no more real to me than an ancient story. He was no more friend to me than a stranger passing me on the sidewalk. And I received His love, His forgiveness, and all of His grace, as I would any stranger. I didn't. With zero trust or belief, I read His hope-filled words with a firm understanding that they were never meant for me. And so, I didn't believe Him. And because of this, I never knew Him.

    I was a Christian on a technicality, but I was still very lost. Drowning in my sin, I was anonymously tossed into a boat that was adrift on the sea of worldly things. I was given no oars, no instruction, no direction, and no compass. I had a map, but was never trained to read it. I was no longer drowning, but I was no more saved than I was in the water.

    Have you ever felt this way? Do you feel this way now? I can tell you that it doesn't have to be this way. You can know Him. And experience His very real love. Christ loves you personally, just as you are. Not a distant love that He once had, but a now love that will never be quenched, and He presents it before you. Just waiting for you to believe it, so that you can see it. God's judgment was never in question, we know what holiness demands. But His love, now that one is hard to believe. At least, it was for me.

    The "Freely Given" label on the price tag is what makes it so hard to believe. That's why Grace is so fought against, and it angers so many people. Because it's FREE. The minute that I realized that, Jesus became real to me. And I started a journey to knowing Him. You can know Him too. His Grace is free to all who will, come and drink of the river of Life.

    Why is Grace so Important?

    Getting stuck on this word will completely change the way you experience Salvation in Christ. Grace is more powerful, more important, more spiritually compounded with all of God's goodness than any of us can ever understand. And if you miss the importance of the revealing of God's Grace in your life, you will spend your entire Christian walk in constant conflict and defeat.
    For so many years of my Christian life, when I should have been walking by faith, instead I was tripping over it. I tried to. But as much as I tried to believe that it was all about Jesus, secretly I still believed that it was a little bit about me. That secret, which really wasn't all that concealed, kept me in chains. The real kicker here is, that it was only kept secret from me. The devil is cunning. My fruit was chocked full of selfishness and pride, so it wasn't hidden from everyone around me. My life was one giant defeat after another. If I wasn't struggling with anger, I was tripping over guilt. Poverished in heart, lacking any real compassion at all. Emotional and physical loss and regret were my steady companions. Rejection followed me everywhere. It was the one friend that I could always count on to visit me for extended periods. He rarely left my side. I was supposed to be a Christian. I had accepted Jesus. Yet I was a complete train wreck.

    I tried to be a doer of the Word. This was what I was taught as a believer. Read the Word and do it. I was determined to do everything God wanted me to do. And I tried. Oh I tried so hard to be everything that He wanted me to be. The harder I tried, the harder I failed. I would no sooner resolve to NOT do something that displeased God, than it would result in a huge failure. This was the outcome of every effort I made to do right. No wonder I gave up so many times. I often did what the Christians like to call, "backsliding". Every year or two, I would slip away again. God couldn't count on me at all. I wasn't faithful. I had no integrity to speak of. I had lost so many battles with temptation and sin that I had lost count. It was always a losing fight. And there was no way to win. So eventually I would stop trying and that would be that. I fell into the world again and forgot all about being a failed Christian. For a little while.

    Until Jesus would come knocking on my door again. Bringing His Good News. It always started off as good news. Saved by grace through faith. I believed it. Ran into His open arms. Recommitted my life to Christ. Again and again. Get back in church and hear the "stop sinning" message. Again and again. Try to be good. Again and again. Miserably fail. Rinse, repeat. This was my life. For seventeen years.

    What a mess. I feel like I've spent my entire life in the wilderness running around in circles. Chasing after scraps. Collecting just enough mana to keep me from dying of starvation, but not enough to live that abundant life. Not enough to cross over into the Promised Land. Never enough to enter into the Rest of God. Isn't that the ultimate trap set by the devil? Keeping us all in a rat race. Running the maze. Never certain, always guessing. Hoping. Each corner turned, is it another dead end? Maybe this one will be the way out. All you can see are the endless walls, and it's hard to behold Jesus through a wall. If we can't catch a glimpse of the Prize we will never be victorious. Because eventually the walls will win, and everyone would just give up. One can only run in the natural for so long.

    But this is not a rat race. And we no longer operate in the natural. It's all an illusion. The devil lied, we believed him and our faith in that lie created the fiction of defeat that we battle through. You were never a lone contender. We contend together for the Prize. Jesus. With the brightness of His grace, Christ melted every wall into nothingness 2000 years ago. And all around you now, even IN you, is the Rest of God. The very essence of what God did on the 7th day of the creation of the world, is inside of you. Jesus DID every bit of the work, and now... we can forever REST IN HIM. As Abba looked all around and saw that it was good, we can now behold just how good Jesus is. IT IS FINISHED.

    Being good, pleasing God, keeping sin far from us, righteous works, helping people, compassion, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, meekness...all of these things, are no longer something we have to aspire to. I don't have to keep being a failure. I can no longer fail. Since the day His grace took up residence in my life, it stopped being my battle. It's all done by the working of the Holy Spirit inside of us. It's not your fight anymore. It's Christ in us. He IS the hope of glory.

    And no, it's not a license to sin. I had that long before I ever met Grace. It's not an it at all. He is the Holy Spirit. And He is the documented seal of authority. He is backed by the truth and righteousness of the Living God. He empowers us to walk in the victorious, Resurrection Life of Jesus Christ in us.

    © Kari Stamper

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