Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 68:11; Isaiah 53:3-5Isaiah 60:1Isaiah 61:3: John 15:5; Philippians 3:13,14

Today is the final day of our journey! Thank you for participating with me. I pray that God has enlarged your heart spiritually, leading you into a deeper, more intimate walk with Him.

No matter how successful we may be in various areas, we’re all challenged with inner struggles in our lives at times — and I am no different. In this last devotional, I’d like to share a deeply personal experience that I believe will greatly encourage you.

Several years after we moved to the former Soviet Union, Rick and I were pastoring one of the largest churches in this part of the world and had already experienced many God-given successes in our ministry, including establishing three churches and the first-ever Christian television network in the former USSR. Nevertheless, I was struggling emotionally. For years I’d battled low self-esteem, continually carrying a sense of shame that hovered over my life like a heavy, smothering blanket.

This blanket of shame came upon my life when I was about 12 years old and I developed a very serious case of cystic acne on my face and neck. This wasn’t a normal case of teenage acne. It was a condition so severe that it penetrated all five layers of my skin. As a young person, I was taunted and teased continually by my peers. Their cruel words pierced my heart like poison arrows. I didn’t know how to guard my heart at the time and to withstand those venomous words. As a result, they literally shaped the way I viewed myself in relation to the world around me.

I eventually received a miraculous healing at the age of 25 from the cystic acne I’d suffered with for 13 years. Then many years after that, I underwent surgery to reduce the scarring on my face caused by the disease and to regain what had been stolen from me in my youth. However, I soon learned that although doctors can change a person’s face, they can’t change his or her soul! So my battle with shame continued — until one glorious moment after I’d sought the Lord in His Word, and Jesus released me from the oppressive bondage that had held me captive for so long. Subscribe to Denise’s 28-Day Journey Email Devotionals! The details of my story may be unique, but I’ve discovered over the years that everyone faces struggles like mine in some form. I don’t know the details of the battles you’ve faced in life — or of those you may be facing right now. But I believe that as we stand together, the redemption Jesus purchased for you and me can be realized in every area of our lives.

The Lord has opened doors for me to minister to thousands of women in the former USSR, many of whom have faced similar issues of fear, shame, and low-esteem for one reason or another. Yet from the foundation of the world, God has had a plan for each one of these precious souls. I am reminded of Psalm 68:11 in the Amplified Bible: “The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host.” God has always loved and esteemed all of mankind — both men and women. In fact, you’ll find that where Jesus is exalted, the role of “woman” is highly honored.

My heart can scarcely fathom the work God desires to do through His people in these last days, including through the lives of His handmaidens. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Men and women who are vitally connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ, are the ones who will make the greatest impact on the world around them in this hour.

In this crucial time, you and I are a part of that great host who are called to proclaim the Good News and to bear fruit for Christ’s Kingdom. If you find yourself struggling, it’s time to arise from the ashes of shame, fear, or whatever it is that keeps you from moving forward. It’s time for you to really shine, forgetting those things that are behind you and pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus. (See Isaiah 60:1; 61:3; Philippians:13:13,14.) You can make a huge difference in the world around you when you step out of the darkness of your old way of thinking and into the glorious light of the Gospel of Christ.

As always, we want to pray for you! Please let us know how we can stand with you for the fulfillment of the dreams God has placed in your heart.

In His great love,

Denise Renner

Denise Renner