Impacts Beyond Ourselves – 1 Samuel 15:17

“And Samuel said,
‘Though you are little in your own eyes,
are you not head of the tribes of Israel?
The LORD anointed you a king over Israel.’”

1 Samuel 15:17

My decisions impact much more than just me. I am not near the kind of office Saul held as king of Israel, but my actions and responses, my obedience and disobedience whether outwardly demonstrated or held in my heart – the impact of all of it extends far beyond myself.

Like with marriage. I have been reading through This Momentary Marriage by John Piper, which emphasizes God’s role in marriage, His design of what it is to look like, and the purpose of it all. Marriage holds the responsibility to reflect the covenant relationship of Christ and His beloved church. It is a picture of the gospel. Piper stresses that this responsibility must not be taken lightly and is about so much more than the individuals or the couple themselves. Because it is meant to show the glory and hope of the gospel of Christ to the world.

My obedience elsewhere, in every facet of life, must not be taken lightly either. Obedience in contentment, in joy, in faith, in forgiveness, in purity. Obedience in only speaking with grace to benefit the hearer. Obedience in service and ministry, stepping willingly and gladly into the roles God brings us to, even if they look intimidating. Obedience to speak the truth in love, checking motives to be certain we speak with pure love and kindness. Not shying from voicing Christ, His truth, and the hope given to us, but offering the words as hope, not condemnation. Christ died out of love for sinners. The Lord’s heart breaks for those lost in darkness, as it broke for us before we believed and were saved by His grace. May our hearts break as well and seek to show and speak the hope of Christ with His love, compassion, and strength.

We are light in this world. We must walk as children of light; that is what we are (Ephesians 5:8). Not just because walking in light keeps us in fellowship with the God who makes us whole, but because our walking in light affects all around us. Our family, friends, and acquaintances as well as those we don’t see. The other drivers on the interstate. Those who see our posts or comments on social media. People around us in stores, restaurants, or parking lots.

We are light. We must live intentionally here, in our homes and our workplaces and our schools and wherever our days take us, because oh how this matters! Stirring up other believers to love and good works. Bringing perhaps the first glimpse of hope someone has seen in a long time. Filling our role in the body of Christ, knowing each part matters and is needed for the whole body to hold together and build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

We matter. You matter. There are purposes set out for you by the God who made you. Your faith and joyful obedience impact those around you. You might not see it, but those effects ripple out – as do the effects of disobedience.

Though you may be little in your own eyes, are you not woven together by the Living God who has written your days and brought you to new life in Christ for the good works He has prepared for you (Psalm 139:15-16; Ephesians 2:10)?

This God thinks of you. He sees you. He strengthens and equips you. He loves you. He calls you to Himself, having brought you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Walk as His beloved, set apart, chosen child of light in the ways and purposes He has designed (Colossians 3:12). They are beautiful, life-giving to you and those around you, and will show His magnificent glory to all.

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Greater Joy – Psalm 4:6-7

“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!’
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Psalm 4:6-7

This morning I am contemplating our joy. The joy poured into the hearts of those who look to and follow the Lord. Joy far greater than the happiness others experience when material blessings and prosperity abound and when everything seems to just fall in place. The joy we receive from the Lord is greater than that.

As we bring our attention to this greater joy, my personal prayer is that the Lord will speak truth to me that my joy in Him can be full regardless of how circumstances play out. That however long difficulties or uncertainties remain, the basis of my joy is not in how or when these things resolve. It is based solely in Him. So I need not despair. All I need for joy is Christ. And I always have Him. And He is the same in every moment, ready to pour in fullness of joy as I abide in Him.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in me…If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept the Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
John 15:4, 10-11

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Psalm 63:5-7

We tend to live surrounded by lies that other things will satisfy and bring joy. That if we don’t have a certain career or relationship or new technology or house, if our lives or family don’t look a certain way, if we aren’t having certain types of “fun” or experiences, we will miss out on something that would make our lives so much better.

Sometimes these things are inherently sinful. Sometimes they aren’t bad in themselves, but they become our focus and we lose sight of how the Lord is working in our lives and the good He has in store – whatever that looks like. We lose sight of the Lord Himself. When our eyes become fixed on those other things and they become our pursuit, that is when we miss out. Because we’re missing out, right now, on the fullness of joy and the richness of satisfaction Jesus wants to spring up in our hearts.

Fullness of joy is found in His presence. His joy is experienced within us when we are abiding in Him, obeying His commands and abiding in His love. Living in Him, pressing into Him, and shedding the old life and the old lies that broke our relationship and turned us away from Him.

Our soul is satisfied as with fat and rich food as we intentionally focus our attention on the only One who will satisfy us to our very core. This satisfaction does not only come when things are going as we like. The man who wrote Psalm 63 was in the wilderness. Singing for joy in the shadow of the wings of his Lord, in whom he had taken refuge. Because our joy is found in relationship and the experienced steadfastness of our God who is with us and who upholds us always.

I pray this stirs hope in you this morning, and challenge if it is needed, that our joy and satisfaction come abounding from our relationship with Christ, with the God who reigns over all. That as we abide in Him, obey His commands, and choose to fix our attention on Him, we will experience the fullest joy, joy so abundant that the happiness others seek or feel in the gaining of all this world can offer cannot compare to the fullness of our joy and the richness of our satisfaction in Christ. Make Him your pursuit, the treasure you seek in your days far above anything else. He is very, very worth it.

Personal Grace – Isaiah 61:1-3

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion–
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:1-3

Oaks of righteousness. A picture of such strength and steadfastness, of holiness reflecting the character and beauty of the Lord…a picture that could stir thoughts of those perceived “heroes of the faith” and a sense that such a position is reserved for a select few. Those who are capable of a different level of strength or who have a different story.

But what strikes me this morning is where the individuals in this passage come from. These oaks of righteousness are the poor and afflicted. The brokenhearted. The captives. Those who have been bound. Those whose mourning had them in ashes, whose spirit grew faint.

This is where they were. These are those whom our God transforms. A planting of the Lord. Requiring His personal involvement. Because this is a very personal grace, meeting us in our weakest, most desperate, most painful state.

Personal grace that speaks good news – good news of hope from our Savior, spoken to the one whose hope has been lost. Personal grace that binds up a heart wounded and shattered. Personal grace that proclaims to the individual captive, “I have come to set you free!” and opens the prison in which one is bound. Personal grace that comforts the one in mourning, exchanging ashes for beautiful adornments, anointing with gladness perhaps thought lost forever, wrapping in praise that strengthens.

This very personal grace of our Lord meets you where you are. To plant you firmly in Him, running the roots down deep. That you may become known as an oak of righteousness.

He takes the broken, the captive, the weak, and pours out personal, powerful grace to make each one an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Because He has done it. He picks up the one and brings healing, hope, freedom, comfort, strength, praise.

Beautiful, personal grace. Planting us in Christ as oaks of righteousness and growing us up in strength and holiness to bring Him great glory and praise.

“The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name,
that the mouth of the LORD will give.”

Isaiah 62:2

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 40:1-3

Forgiveness and Future Grace – 1 John 5:3-5

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
1 John 5:3-5

Faith. Our faith in Jesus Christ overcomes the world, and this is lived out in our obedience to His commands. It overcomes the world’s influence on us, the temptation to turn from the Lord.

Contemplating this, the concept of future grace comes to mind. A concept spoken of frequently by John Piper, and one that I think is vital for me in this moment. Future grace, which is guaranteed for me, because I am Christ’s and His Spirit dwells in me, giving me everything I need the moment I need it.

My current battle is forgiveness. Because I know I must forgive. Forgiveness is not optional for those who follow Christ. It is commanded. And how can we deny it to others when we ourselves have been forgiven so much, and at so great a cost – to the point of costing the life of the Holy Son of God? Our sin, my sin, against a Holy God is grave indeed, and He freely chose to forgive and love and draw me to Himself while I was still blinded and determined to reject Him and His ways.

Yes, I am forgiven much.

Yet I feel such resistance.

I desire the peace, the life, the freedom of forgiving and releasing everything to the Lord. But inside, I resist. Not only because the offender sees no wrongdoing, but also because it has been ongoing. Continued future offenses are likely unless the Lord chooses to change the heart.

This is new territory for me, honestly. This area referenced by Peter as he asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive. Offering 7 as a supposed generous number. Yet Jesus gave a number far beyond that, a number no one would likely be able to track. Because there is no limit. We are to forgive. No matter how many times offenses happen. As Christ’s, we forgive. Because God’s forgiveness toward us does not have a limit. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers them all. If we have trusted in and surrendered to Christ to save us, His sacrifice took every punishment. The justice due for our sin was laid on Him, because that’s where our sins – each one – were nailed.

Knowing this unlimited and continued forgiveness shown to me, how can I withhold it from another? Regardless of the other’s perception of things. I am not responsible for their view or obedience; I am responsible for mine.

Coming back to the topic of faith in future grace. Because there will still be moments in which the thought of long-term forgiveness is daunting. I can quickly get caught up in looking ahead, wondering what will happen in the future. Wondering how I will handle it. Thinking of future hurt, future struggle. Weariness and frustration and a sense of injustice easily rise.

But that “future” (only imagined at this point) isn’t where I am.

I am here, in this moment.

And in this moment, I must forgive, knowing my God not only has forgiven me, but He also sees me here and gives grace for this need.

And in the next moment, whatever it holds, God will give grace for that need as well.

Future occurrences, if they happen, will be met with future grace already planned by my wonderful, powerful God of hope, light, and peace.

Future grace will uphold me. Future grace will fill me. It will be perfectly measured out, because my God is faithful and, more importantly, He will be glorified in me.

Future grace guaranteeing the glory of God in and through my life, because that is what He does.

When we choose forgiveness, or obedience in any form, we are declaring that we believe God’s future grace will carry and sustain and satisfy and empower. Because it is His grace that enables us to obey as we determine to do so.

Choose obedience to Him. It is life and peace and freedom to your very soul. That is why the God who is love commands what He does. Walking in obedience, in light, frees us to experience the fullness of His infinite joy in a heart that is tender and softened, and to bask in the life-giving, breathtaking view of His majesty seen through eyes opened by His Spirit and no longer clouded by the darkness of sin.

Revealing Himself As We Need – 1 Samuel 3:10

“And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’
And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’”

1 Samuel 3:10

Reading through this passage this morning of the Lord’s calling of His prophet, Samuel, I was reminded of a devotion I wrote several years ago considering the unique ways in which the Lord revealed Himself in His calling of each prophet.

The devotion I’m referencing is from February 2012 (pre-blog), so I am going to begin by simply copying it in for us as a foundation to what God laid on my heart this morning. Because rather than something entirely new, I believe the Lord is building on what He revealed those years ago.

    “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
    for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
    and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
    Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”
    Jeremiah 1:7-8

    I love the assurances that God gives His prophets when He calls them. In some instances, as with Isaiah and Ezekiel, He shows them His glory. In others, like Jeremiah, He assures them with words such as, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Knowing the sovereignty and the magnificent grace of our Lord, it isn’t a far reach to believe that He specifically chose these words and revelations for the individuals He called to carry His words to the people. He knew what they would face. He knew the difficult and challenging prophecies that they would declare. These assurances, these displays of His holiness, prepared and emboldened them for the road ahead.

    These weren’t remarkable men. It was God who did remarkable things through them. They are known because God’s Spirit moved them, God’s words came to them, and they obeyed His calling no matter the cost. This should give us confidence in God’s calling for us. It may look like something that we feel entirely unprepared or unqualified for, but it is not about our qualifications. It is all about God, His glory, and the amazing things He can accomplish with a vessel that is willing to be whatever He desires. He is a perfect God, and He has a perfect plan with flawless timing. We can trust Him in this. He knew you before you were formed in the womb. He knows your every detail. And He knows the wondrous things He can do through you. Trust this marvelous God that we serve. Recall the love that He has poured out for us and revealed in the sacrifice of His Son. His purposes for your life will fill you with joy and satisfaction like nothing else, and He will prove Himself faithful and strong for you as you follow His leading.

Considering these varied callings, perceiving them as unique, personal preparation, perhaps this is what we see in Samuel’s story as well. A boy raised in the tent of meeting, working alongside the priest, Eli, as well as the priest’s sons who were wicked men.

The Lord’s first words to Samuel not only establish him as a prophet, receiving and declaring the word of the Lord, but perhaps also prepare this young man for what he is about to witness: judgment on the sons of Eli for their evil practices and continual blasphemy. Because the Lord explains the reason. Which emphasizes to Samuel both the Lord’s holiness and the gravity of their wrongdoing, and also provides assurance that the actions of the Lord here are just and are not given lightly.

The Lord is assuring Samuel of His character, that He is just and righteous. There is reason for the judgment coming to Eli’s house, and it does not need to cause trepidation in Samuel, only recognition of the Lord’s holiness, inspiring a holy, reverent fear that is right and good.

In this, we can see the Lord’s compassion, wisdom, and understanding. He knew what Samuel was about to witness and the ways in which it could impact him. The Lord knew what Samuel needed to be able to stand firm through that experience and not lose sight of who his God is. He knew what Samuel needed in order to not shrink from God’s calling.

He knows what we need as well. And His compassion, wisdom, and understanding flow in the ways He reveals Himself to us, if we will listen to Him. Samuel needed to respond with a listening ear before the Lord could speak into his life; perhaps that serves as a reminder for us as well. To seek Him. To humble ourselves. To be continually sensitive for His still, small voice calling to us, and respond, “Speak, for your servant hears,” quieting all to listen.

Whatever our path holds, wherever the Lord leads, He will give us what we need in order to trust Him here. At the same time, in His great wisdom and love for us, He will veil certain aspects to build and strengthen our faith as we continue to seek His face and learn that when we wait for Him and look to Him, He will come through in perfect timing and in His ways that resound with His glory and grace.

A Personal Salvation – 1 Samuel 2:1

“And Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the LORD;
my strength is exalted in the LORD.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.’”

1 Samuel 2:1

Hannah prayed these words after seeing God’s faithfulness and blessing toward her through the birth of her son, Samuel.

Through her barrenness, spiritual enemies had whispered lies and ridicule into her mind and heart. But now the tables had turned. Her enemies were ridiculed, because Hannah rejected their claims and acted against them, putting them to shame by her rejoicing at the salvation of the Lord.

Because He saw her. He heard her. He did not abandon her there, but responded in great faithfulness and power. The salvation of the Lord in which Hannah rejoiced was not abstract or generic; this salvation was for her. It was personal. He was her God, and she experienced that reality.

And so she rejoiced and her enemies were silenced.

This is reflective of Revelation 3:9, in which Jesus declares the destiny of the enemies and deceivers of those who are His. “Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.”

We will not be put to shame. Because even the darkest, most powerful spiritual enemy will be made to know that our God has loved us.

Take time today to meditate on the salvation of the Lord. Not in generic or abstract terms, but in how He has saved you. The change He has wrought in your life, heart, and soul. Even beyond the initial experience of trusting in Christ for salvation and being made alive together with Him, also consider the other deliverances, the healing, the strengthening and growth, the blessing and faithfulness of the Lord. How He has carried you. And all the amazing promises, the certainty of this God who cannot lie and never changes, that He will be faithful to uphold and to save those who are His forever.

And if you have not yet known this salvation, if its personal nature has not been experienced, it can be yours. I plead with you, do not wait. For nothing is more beautiful, or hope-filled, or urgently important than this. Jesus Christ will take your life and make it new. His Spirit will make you come alive and experience love more steadfast and pure than you could ever know. The deepest sense of belonging and home, because you are filled with the fullness of the God who made you to be His. To know Him. Because knowing Him is life, abundant, free, and eternal.

Rejoice today, believer, in the salvation of the Lord! Rejoice, and allow His truth and power to silence your enemies, putting them to shame in light of the cross and the continued, unending faithfulness of your God.

“There is none holy like the LORD;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.”
1 Samuel 2:2

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.”
Isaiah 45:22

“For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Acts 2:39

By His Blood – Exodus 12:3-13

“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household…Your lamb shall be without blemish; a male a year old…and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 12:3-13

Even as the people whom God had chosen, this final plague would have meant death for them – if not for the blood on their houses. These people, these families, were each saved by the blood of a lamb through a salvation written and instructed by the Lord. Foreshadowing our hope of salvation, one that would be complete and last forever, by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Israel’s salvation that night was not because they did not also deserve judgment. They were sinners, just as those in Egypt were. Their sin, perhaps, did not look the same or reach the same levels (because there are levels), but all sin is a rejection of the Lord’s glory and authority as the Sovereign One. All sin creates a deep, separating chasm. All sin deserves wrath from a holy God who is just. Because justice does not allow those who do wrong to go free.

But the Lord chose these people and revealed to them a way of salvation, and through their faith and their surrendered obedience to His plan, they were saved.

Without the blood, without His mercy, the Israelites’ outcome would have been the same as the Egyptians’.

Oh, may this truth resonate in our hearts. A reminder of how undeserving I am. How utterly reliant on the mercy and power and love and faithfulness of God to save. And may it increase our thankfulness to know that He does, that He is faithful to save us to the uttermost when we choose Christ. We have a confident hope, a steadfast anchor for our soul, because Jesus has passed through that curtain beyond this life and He will not lose one of those who are His (Hebrews 6:19-20; John 6:37-40). Each one of us will reach our home safely and will be clothed with life (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). Joy is set before us, not fear. Because our Lord is here.

I am saved not by my own merit, but by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was sent because God so loves us. And oh, what freedom there is in that. Not freedom to do evil, but freedom to stop trying to gain acceptance and salvation and perfection with my own power. I can’t do it. No one can. Sin’s stains are permanent.

But God.

God made a way. The blood of Jesus, willingly shed on His cross, cleanses us and washes the stain away. Satisfying the justice of God while making a way for the mercy and glorious grace of God to be demonstrated. Clothing us in His righteousness and beginning His transforming, purifying work. A work He will see to completion.

For all who trust in Christ, responding to the plan of salvation revealed by the Living God who is mighty to save, we have been brought from death to life. For “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). And He will keep us there.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:1-10