Stuck – 1 Samuel 16:1

“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’”
1 Samuel 16:1

It seems that Samuel got stuck. In disappointment, frustration, discouragement, anger maybe. A sense of righteousness from the Lord’s earlier warnings might have been there. Whatever combinations of emotions he was experiencing, the mourning went deep.

And Samuel sat in it.

To the point where the Lord said, “How long?” “Get up, get going.” “I’m not done yet; I already have someone picked out for this.”

I see in this a reminder that God’s plan keeps going. He isn’t surprised. He isn’t distressed. Saddened and sorrowful, yes, but from the standpoint of the One who is all-knowing. He already has it all prepared. He’s already written the story and woven in all the details – including the ones we didn’t see coming.

So yes, feel it. Allow the emotions to come, because denying what’s there only makes them fester. But then look to the Lord and keep going. Keep looking ahead. He knows the sorrow, He feels it and has compassion on you to the point of storing your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). Because you are precious to Him. He knows how hard this is, and He wants you to know there is more. There is purpose and light and hope, now and always, because God is guiding this path and will establish your steps in faithfulness and steadfast love as you follow Him.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 5:6-7,10-11

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber…
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand…
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:5,8

Original Stories – Psalm 139:16

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance.
In your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:16

Reading in My Utmost for His Highest this morning, several of Oswald Chambers’ phrases stood out to me:

“If you will give God the rights to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God’s experiments always succeed.”

“In the life of a saint there is this amazing wellspring of original life all the time”

“The saint realizes that it is God Who engineers circumstances”

“Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.”

It’s such a beautiful truth to be reminded of: my life is not following a pattern.

As I come to Jesus, and follow Jesus, and walk this path He leads me on, it doesn’t follow a mold – and it doesn’t set one. There are not precedents here, either to follow or establish. I have my God’s warnings and promises that He has given us through the Scriptures, but as I walk in His promises and obey His commands, life can look so many different ways as He fulfills His Word and completes His work in me.

How amazing it is to have the God who created all things so invested in my life. Creatively involved. Intricate in His details.

Oh, how He must love creating, leading, and making things new. How wise and powerful and all-knowing to be able to invest and design to this great extent. Because there are so many storylines, so many paths that cross, and so many details big and small that turn our gaze and the path that we walk, creating new interactions.

Our God really must love writing our stories – all fitting within His grand story of redemption – and being involved as it all unfolds. As He must have loved creating the world with all of its details, and the universe it’s a part of.

And how very great He must be, to be involved in all of it. All over the world. Every story, every piece. Our great God whose sovereignty is astounding. Especially when it comes with such personal, intimate care. He is not distracted from me. And He is not distracted by me. His attention is not pulled away from any part of His plan, and His plans are all-encompassing.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:24-28a).

He is great enough to orchestrate it all. To uphold the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). And He is near enough to know my needs before I speak them, and to desire that I speak them. Near enough, personal enough to want to hear from me. To want to know me, and for me to know Him, in close relationship as I turn my heart and mind (with the strength He Himself provides) toward Him in faith, obedience, love, and praise.

Our great Creator is still creating. He is still unfolding our stories, establishing our steps, and drawing us to Himself to make us new. To make all things new. Let us draw near to Him – let us choose Him – that we would know the steadfast love and magnificent grace of the only One who is able to save us and make us whole.

And let us trust Him here, in the original stories that aren’t like anyone else’s. It might be confusing. It might be painful at times. But it is all filled with grace and guided by the hands that lovingly care for us in each moment. He has purposes here, for each one of us. Beautiful purposes that will shine with the brilliant glory and joy of His redemptive grace. He will not fail us. Because He never fails.

“A person’s steps are established by the LORD,
and He takes pleasure in his way.
Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed,
because the LORD supports him with His hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24 (CSB)

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”
Psalm 145:15-19

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…For the body does not consist of one member but of many…But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”
1 Corinthians 12:12,14,18

“…We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Ephesians 4:15b-16

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
Psalm 73:23-24

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.”
Psalm 139:17-18

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

So Loved – Luke 15:21-24

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:21-24

So much about our society focuses on building up our sense of worth.

Perhaps because there’s a perception that worth equals value? That for me to be valuable, I must be worthy and must bring something to the table? Or if I’m not worthy, I need to become worthy somehow.

If we feel unworthy, we can feel hopeless. Maybe a sense that if we aren’t worthy, we won’t be loved, we won’t belong, we won’t have purpose. Or that we shouldn’t have those things.

But our worth is not part of God’s equation.

When God’s Word (so when God Himself) talks about our value, His love, and the purpose He brings to our lives – He doesn’t talk about our worth. He doesn’t frame it into what we “should” have. It just isn’t part of the discussion. Jesus’ sacrifice, taking on our sin and shame and the punishment that goes along with it, eliminated all the “shoulds.”

What I’ve been processing this week is this:

It isn’t about whether I’m worthy. It’s about the reality that I am so, so loved.

Contemplating this, my mind is drawn to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. A beautiful portrayal of the love of God for us and His readiness to welcome us in and pour out His love when we come home to Him. The son insults his father deeply and casts him aside, he squanders his inheritance unrighteously and is left with nothing, he realizes the depth of his wrong choices and comes back humbly, declaring his unworthiness and likely struggling to look his father in the eye as he prepares to ask for a position as a servant. His father runs to him and throws his arms around this beloved son. He doesn’t speak to his son’s worthiness at all, but simply proceeds to pour out love and favor and calls all to celebrate his son’s homecoming.

This is what God does for us. He seeks us out. He runs to us as we turn from our darkness to come toward Him. He wraps us up in love as we cry out our sorrow for our unworthiness.

Because seeing our sin, becoming aware of how far we fall short, brings sorrow. Yet that sorrow is purposed for our joy, because godly sorrow leads us to repentance and abundant, eternal life with the One who makes us whole.

When we see our unworthiness, let that magnify our awe. Because rather than throwing us away as useless, God sees us in our sin and He comes for us in great love, declaring, “This one is Mine.” He sees a beloved child of His and wants to draw us close, to wrap us up in His holiness and transform us to be like Him. He doesn’t leave us sitting in our sorrow; He picks us up and frees us to run on His paths of righteousness and joy.

The point isn’t about us being worthy. And while He clothes us in His righteousness and will present us blameless before His throne in joy, I don’t perceive a point in which He makes us worthy. That isn’t our aim either. Because we will never have deserved His mercy and grace. From a “should” perspective, it shouldn’t have happened. But Jesus eliminated the “shoulds,” and gave us His glory and grace and light and life instead.

That’s why we will worship Him forever. The song of our salvation, our awe at His love for us – we’ll never get tired of it. We will forever be amazed at our God.

Our God who hears us. Our God who sees us and meets us where we are in compassion. Our God who works in us to purify our hearts and show us life as it is meant to be lived. Our God who captures our tears in a bottle. Our God who fights for us. Our God who sings and rejoices over us. Our God who sees our needs and provides, for we are of much more value than sparrows. Our God who is mighty to save, no matter how far we have fallen. Our God who says, “You belong here, because I have made you Mine.” Our God who loves us without taking worth into account, and who shows us that our loving others, and their loving us, should never be about worth either.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:17-20

“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 as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:1-9

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:6-8

The Value of All of Us – Psalm 139:11-16

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night’—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.”

Psalm 139:11-16 (CSB)

I want to better comprehend the value of a human life – the value of all of us.

Those God created and declared “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Those God breathed His life into and put eternity in our hearts (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Those He pursues for relationship even though we loved the darkness more than His light.

Those He died to rescue from that darkness and sin so He could bring us into true, abundant life and freedom.

I’m struggling to put what’s in my heart into words, but gaining a sense of the value of each one of us feels so important in so many ways. Stretching beyond the current upheaval considering abortion, although that has brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Because the baby who is still in the womb, being actively and intricately knit together as God brings it through stages of development – the baby has this great value.

And so does the mother, so let us honor her and protect her and help her on this journey in practical, relational ways.

The father has great value as well, and the power to use his voice to protect his family and influence it for good.

Those with developmental and physical challenges have this same value, same intentionality, same love of the Creator who wants to bring them into His family.

Each one with emotional and mental struggles is equally precious, put together with the same care, and God desires wholeness for them as well – wholeness personally offered through His Son, Jesus, who came to make a way for us.

I have this great value. Remarkably and wondrously made. Knit together by the hands that fashioned the stars. Regardless of my poor choices made or the effects of others’ harmful choices on me, that value still holds fast and I am loved by my Creator, who has also become my Father, loving and wise and mine, through Christ.

And you, reading this. You have this great value.

Your life is precious and valuable. It has been from the moment you came into being and started being formed, and it will be through the moment you take your last breath in this life and shift into eternity. You have been put together with love and purpose, and you are loved and seen right where you are. God knit you together with intentionality, to fill the role only you can fill.

Remarkably and wondrously made. And greatly, greatly loved by the God who wants light and hope and freedom from darkness for you. The God who will walk with you and provide for you every step of the way, whatever your journey holds, when you choose to walk with Him. He came to offer all of that. He came to offer Himself, to take your place in the just payment for rebellion against Him, and to draw you into relationship with Him forever.

You are immensely valuable. He sees you. He knows your pain and your joys. He cares. He understands. And He is drawing you to Himself through Jesus, who died to make that possible, and rose again to show that it was all true.

Let us sense the hope and wholeness in this truth.

And let us stand firm on the value each one of us holds. From our beginning as babies in the womb to our becoming more elderly and our bodies more frail. Beautiful, precious value, not to be taken or treated lightly.

Let this honoring and valuing of all people be a defining marker for our lives. Lived out in every conversation, every action, as we conform our speech and behavior to mindful intentionality in building each other up, actively coming alongside to help and encourage, loving without boundaries, and going above and beyond to show honor even as we recognize the importance of accountability and responsibility (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 12:9-10).

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-10, CSB

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Isaiah 46:3-4, ESV

Baptized – Mark 1:4-8

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:4, 7-8

The last sentence in these verses is a simple statement, but I’m sensing such a contrast here.

John did his designated work to prepare the way of the Lord: preaching repentance, baptizing with water those who committed to follow the Lord. And while doing so, John also emphasized the greater work, the greater One, who was coming.

Jesus.

The Promised One of worth, glory, and power, whose baptism was far different than John’s.

Because it wouldn’t be just water. Jesus’ baptism of us isn’t just a symbol.

The spiritual baptism Jesus gives is us being enveloped by and filled with the Holy Spirit.

So while our physical actions of baptism incorporate water, this is representative of the truer baptism we have already experienced. It indicates a God-given, God-powered change to our very core.

If all that happens is a determined choice to do better and a dipping in water to show our decision, success of that decision still rides on us. That perception of salvation focuses on our own ability to stay the course and not falter (which we inevitably will).

But if salvation instead comes from our belief in Jesus as God the Son who came, died for our sins, and rose again in victory, the success rides on Him. The One who accomplished all that was required. The One who will never fail and will never lose those who are His (John 6:37-40; John 10:28-30).

The One who baptizes us with His Spirit at the moment of our salvation, who then seals us as His forever and who begins His powerful work from the inside out to purify us and make us wholly beautiful, as He is (Ephesians 1:13-14; Jude 24).

His work, His change, His salvation, His renewal of us.

It’s all Him.

That’s what a Christ-centered baptism truly emphasizes.

Not just our choice, our belief, our surrender – though those are important declarations to make with our lives and this action of obedience.

But our God’s salvation and His power that makes us alive and brings us into newness of life, when we brought nothing to the table. Showcasing His glorious grace, unfathomable mercy, and everlasting love.

Jesus offers us something so much deeper with His baptism than us simply wanting to make better choices. He offers a salvation and steadfast hope that is secure, freeing, and life-giving to our souls.

If you know Him, focus your heart in thankfulness that you have been baptized with His Holy Spirit, to your very core, and He will faithfully and compassionately complete His work.

If you don’t know Him yet, I pray these words would stir your heart to look to the One who wants to make you whole and bring you into a life with His pure joy, peace, and light: “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).

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Jude 24-25

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Jeremiah 31:33

“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”
Jeremiah 32:40-41

Finished – John 19:28-30

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
John 19:28-30

“It is finished.”

I want to spend time today dwelling on this phrase. This declarative statement that holds so much for us. So much for me.

It was done.

The massive chasm separating sinful, rebellious people from the holy God who loved them and who desired their full restoration and life – a way was made across it.

Great, immense debt. Offenses that would take eternity to pay fully, as they were committed against the eternal and holy King, the Maker and rightful Ruler of all.

Jesus paid all of it, completely satisfying holy justice.

Fully settled at the cross, so that for each one who believes in Him, guilt, condemnation, and shame no longer apply. In their place, we receive grace, relationship, and peace from our God of steadfast love.

If more was required, the criminal hanging next to Him would have had no chance. But He looked to Jesus and was saved forever. Because Jesus’ work is complete (Luke 23:39-43).

“It is finished,” and we are now able to approach His throne of grace as easily as walking through the torn veil into the holy of holies (Matthew 27:51). There is no separation now. And no need for fear. Our ransom has been paid and all punishment has been taken from us.

“It is finished,” and we experience rest from our striving in that truth. No more proving ourselves. No more trying to be good enough. We experience the love of the One who sees and knows us fully, and who chooses to make us His forever as He completes His work to make us whole.

“It is finished,” so we can focus our energy on running wholeheartedly with Jesus in His light, rather than on trying to make up for the past. Our eyes can remain lifted up to take in the wonder of joining our God in the adventure of the good works He has prepared for us to do and speaking His gospel so others can know the power of His salvation.

“It is finished.” God the Son took it all. Every drop from the cup of wrath. Not because He wanted to, but because it was the only way for us. We had no hope otherwise. That’s why other religious ideas won’t work to save anyone. They leave out the cross. They ignore the great sacrifice, the unfathomably high cost paid to offer us an alternative to deserved wrath. If there was another way for us to escape it and find salvation, Jesus would have picked that one (Mark 14:32-36)

There wasn’t.

Jesus is it.

He’s the only option, the only hope we have.

Not because God is mean and wants to keep people out by providing a narrow way.

No, God’s heart is to save.

So He came to save us.

There was one way. The only way. And it cost everything. Because it cost His own life, with great agony. Great enough that before the whips and scourging and beating and thorns and hammers even started, Jesus’ capillaries burst with mental, emotional, spiritual anguish and blood poured out of Him with sweat (Luke 22:44).

This was God the Son. And He took all of this for us, leaving no drop left. So He could say with all authority, conviction, and power, “It is finished.”

He became sin and took all of the wrath for us. And when He knew it was completed, He declared it so, and gave up His spirit in death.

And in accomplishing our salvation, bridging the chasm, reconciling us with God through the blood of His cross, He is satisfied and will be praised forevermore.

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 53:11-12

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’…
And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.’
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”
Revelation 5:5, 9-13

Bringing Them to Jesus – John 1:42

“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed [Jesus]. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated ‘the Christ’), and he brought him to Jesus.”
John 1:40-42

“And he brought him to Jesus.”

Such a simple statement. But one that is having a significant impact on me.

As the teacher in a Sunday school class spoke yesterday about this being our task – to tell people what we know of Jesus and bring them to Him – it was like pieces of truth clicked into place for me, in a way they never have before.

In the past, when I’ve heard someone talk about bringing another person to Jesus or say, “this person brought me to Christ,” the context led me to understand it as bringing that person to believe in Him. Taking them all the way to a conversion of faith. But seeing it play out in Andrew’s life as he witnessed to his brother, the statement here doesn’t go to that extent.

Someone else’s belief is not our responsibility.

That’s entirely outside of our capability and control. And God does not task us with this.

We bring them to Jesus. He takes it from there.

Their faith. Their ability to see the truth of sin and salvation. Their conversion. Their new creation. All of it is Jesus.

We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) because we speak Jesus and are His hands and feet to show His love and compassion as we speak His truth. In so doing, we bring others to the true Light who enlightens everyone. The Light who has the power to make Himself known and change their hearts.

We simply speak what we know: Jesus, how He has saved us, and our experience of Him with us in our story. With this, we bring others to Him. As Andrew told his brother what he knew, and physically brought him to Jesus, and Jesus began to speak and work in Simon Peter’s life.

Oh, that this would be the defining mark of my life: bringing people to Jesus, whatever the outcome might be. One precious individual at a time. Being a light shining on top of a hill, speaking of the light and life I have known Him to be for me. Walking in the joy and freedom that I don’t have to hold all the answers someone might ask; I just speak what I know of Him, bring each one to His feet, and the rest is up to them as the Savior works in grace and wisdom. Perhaps I am one of several who will need to bring a person to Jesus before he or she truly sees and chooses Him, Jesus working through each of us.

Bringing them to faith is not our task.

Bringing them to Jesus is, that they may have the opportunity to see the One who has given us life abundant and eternal, forever in peace with Him.

Not Waiting – Genesis 17:23

“Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.”
Genesis 17:23

“That very day.”

Abraham did this that very day.

God spoke to him of the covenant being established, confirming it and clarifying the line of offspring it would apply to: Sarah’s son, not another’s. And God included a new command that every male throughout the generations be circumcised, signifying this covenant. Those who refused would be cut off for breaking it.

This was not a comfortable or easy obedience. It would be quite physically painful. But Abraham did not waste any time. He didn’t even wait 24 hours.

No, he went forward and did what the Lord commanded. Just as he had done when God told him to leave his home and go out to a place God would reveal.

Abraham obeyed.

Oh, that this would be the description of our obedience as well.

To have our eyes opened and hearts enlightened as we read Scripture or hear it preached. To know the truth of God’s Word and obey it that very day. As Isaiah 50:5 says, “The LORD God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.”

Not waffling or procrastinating. Not trying to reason our way out of it.

Simply obeying.

I want to take a brief moment to comment on spiritual manipulation here. Because there are some who use the Bible to coerce others into doing what they want, claiming it as spiritual obedience. And it can sound so convincing when they do it.

Our God is full of wisdom, love, and kindness toward us. He wants us to walk in wisdom as well, which includes boundaries to care for and protect ourselves and not enable others’ sin, selfishness, or irresponsibility. Enabling those things is not a healthy form of love or kindness and we don’t see Jesus doing it. It can actually help keep the other person, as well as ourselves, trapped.

Wisdom and discernment are key pieces as we seek to live in obedience, humbly examining others’ perspectives, our understanding of Scripture, and ourselves.

There are often conflicting emotions to work through even in the clearest of commands, when we’re confident in what God’s Word is telling us to do but we wrestle with applying it in a given circumstance – but let us work through those emotions as we obey.

Even as I write that statement, part of me is squirming…because it is much easier to write than to live out sometimes. It’s tempting to delay obedience until we can get feelings of resistance settled. For me, that generally just means I don’t want to do it and I’m looking for excuses to put it off.

But then I wonder: is God’s Word not the truth that sets us free? The beautiful, steadfast, powerful truth of the Gospel and what it means for our lives? James calls it “the law of liberty” (James 1:25), which is a description that I love. Freedom is found here, in our faith and obedience to the God who really does know what He’s doing and what He’s asking.

He knows how hard it is. He knows how painful it can be. And He cares. He cares enough about you to command it for your freedom, with all compassion and tender care and strength poured into you – and into me – to make attaining and walking in that freedom possible.

So we aren’t bound to a life that is less.

And so we can know Him, the Life-giver.

It reminds me of Hebrews 12:1-2, which describes a life where we look to Jesus, focus on the joy set before us, and throw off everything that would keep us from it.

Abraham wasn’t going to let the momentary pain, as great as it might be, keep him from what God was promising.

I don’t want to let it keep me from that either, or from a moment of the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

This life lived with Jesus in obedience and confident faith has guaranteed trouble (John 16:33). But it also has life abundant (John 10:10), fullness of joy (John 15:11; Psalm 16:11), peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7), and an inheritance kept in heaven for us that will never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4).

Everything we are commanded to give up won’t last and it won’t get us what we’re wanting.

We give up the lie to gain true freedom.

We give up what won’t last and gain everything that will last forever – everything that truly fills our cup to overflowing and makes our soul come alive.

And then we will know eternal life, the true life that is abundant, never-ending, and free from fear. Because we know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).

Let’s not wait another day.

Forgiving Ourselves – Isaiah 53:5-11

“But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all…

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”

Isaiah 53:5-6, 10-11

God the Father placed our guilt, our sin – all of it – on Jesus, who took it on and fully paid its price.

In forgiving ourselves, we must do the same: place our guilt and debt on Jesus, allowing Him to take it and recognizing the fullness and amazing choice of what He has done, and accept that He has taken all our iniquity on Himself. We place it on Him and walk forward in the freedom He already paid the price for.

It feels deeply wrong. He doesn’t deserve our sin and guilt. We don’t deserve Him to take it away…but that’s what His love chose. He chose salvation for us. He chose to save us instead of Himself, which is what the Jewish religious leaders didn’t understand (Mark 15:31). His death was not weakness or defeat; it was great power and victory for the joy He saw before Him.

And out of the anguish of His soul, He saw the light of our salvation, the restoration of making us and all things new, the transformation in bringing us from darkness and death into light – and He was satisfied.

Forgiving ourselves is recognition that the cross was enough punishment (because God is just) and that it is wrong for us to keep heaping punishment on ourselves, adding to what Jesus did. It is recognition that even though our guilt is not Christ’s, He wants to take it from us.

That is the whole reason He came, and lived, and spoke, and died horrifically, and rose again, and draws us to Himself. To take our guilt and shame upon Himself and fully away from us, that we may know Him. To keep some of the guilt denies the glory and power of what He has done. His love doesn’t want us to miss this, to miss His freedom and beauty and relationship.

When I imagine Jesus taking my guilt, the picture of Him taking a filthy garment off of me and putting it on Himself, my insides recoil. There is a perception that it would make Him dirty. Such an injustice, to bring filth upon One who is holiness, purity, beauty, majesty, and light.

But that isn’t what happens.

Like the sick and lost whom Jesus touched to heal – the lepers He reached out to in compassion, those with blood-related diseases, the sinners exposed in their darkness – our uncleanness, our filth, does not make Him unclean. It is eradicated at His touch. All of it, gone.

That is the power of His holiness and love. His holiness heals it all and makes us holy, like Him.

Jesus died so this could happen. He rejoices every time it does. All of heaven rejoices when it does! (Luke 15:4-7)

He delights in our freedom, and the Father shouts deliverance over us when we are forgiven. He shouts deliverance (Psalm 32:7). He sings (Zephaniah 3:17). He calls our name to follow Him (John 10:3-4). He loves us with a wholeness and steadfastness beyond what we can imagine (Isaiah 49:15-16). And He will never, ever let us go (John 10:28-29).

Cast all your concerns on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Pour out your heart before Him, for He is your refuge (Psalm 62:8). Let all guilt, remorse, and shame drive you close to Him, and bask in the glorious light of His powerful love as Jesus says to you, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure garments.”

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’”
Zechariah 3:1-4

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

Eager Expectancy – Isaiah 54:2

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.”

Isaiah 54:2

This calling is written within a promise to the people of God, as He foretells the new covenant to come when His truth and salvation would spread throughout the nations.

In it, I believe we can see how God desires His people – His beloved children, His chosen – to live: with eager expectancy and a hope so steadfast that we prepare ourselves and our lives for what He has in store. Regardless of what we see, regardless of what disappointments we have known in the past. It is a calling to hope in Him even in the dark, to faith that brings Him great glory.

We don’t know what His plans for us here on earth will look like. But we have so many promises to hold fast to as God declares to us who He is through His Word.

Promises of our God’s goodness and grace, our strengthening and fullness of joy, His radiant glory displayed and power made perfect in our weakness, our perfecting as we learn to love and trust Him through obedience, His faithfulness and truth in all things.

He is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

He is the living God who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).

And we are His. Lovingly kept in His hand as He holds fast to us (John 10:27-29). He is for us, and nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love for us through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:31, 38-39).

We will experience His faithfulness to us, both now and for all eternity, and the world will see His glory. We can trust Him here and forever, because He is so very trustworthy. He is Almighty God and our good Father, and He cares for us – He cares for you, specifically, and He is with you right where you are.

So may we look to Him, fix our eyes on His goodness and sovereign power, and put aside our fears. May we open ourselves wide in joyful expectation and confident hope for our God to come in and fill our lives with His abundant goodness and grace, far beyond what we could hope or imagine.

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!”
Psalm 31:19

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21