Is Jesus Enough?

Is Jesus Enough?

I gave my key away–the one I wore around my neck, the one my Mamaw jokingly thought was my house key, the one with the word dwell engraved into its aged brass. This isn’t a story of my generosity. If you knew my initial reluctance, you would see a glimpse of my selfish brokenness.

But I was in the shower a few weeks ago (read: a mom’s semi-quiet space to think) when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give away my key to a friend. Matt gave me the key last Christmas because he knew my word for the new year was dwell. In the shower I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it to her at Christmas. That’s a great idea, Holy Spirit.” But I felt Him say to me, “No, now. Give it to her now.” I love this friend so much, but the giving away of the key was more than giving a necklace. It was a surrender, a declaration to a trusted friend that even if my desires don’t come to fruition, Jesus is enough. I wrote her a letter to go with it, and it went something like this . . .

Dear friend,

I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give this to you. As you know my word for this year was dwell. At the beginning of the year, I hoped this might be the year we got to put down roots in a new home, to spread out a bit and create a new space for our family to dwell. But then we got the call and knew we needed to stay in this house for home study reasons so as not to mess anything up with our dossier in Ethiopia. And so I thought the word dwell would represent our Ethiopian daughter coming to dwell with us, united with her forever family. And while I still pray and hope God does the impossible, I recognize that unless God intervenes in a supernatural way she won’t be here before the end of the year.

While God might not have answered my prayers as I originally desired and on the timetable I had in mind, He gave me something even greater. He has shown me that in the midst of much uncertainty and right in the middle of the pain of waiting His presence dwells within me as a child of God. He has shown me that the opportunity to dwell in His presence is always there and always enough. I’ve prayed many prayers and sung many songs to my God with my hand wrapped around this key. Now, it’s yours to grip while you pray the prayers He has placed on your heart and sing the song He’s given you, while you dwell in His presence as He writes your next chapter.

With all my love,

Liss

Sometimes, for reasons He knows and I don’t have to, He moves in ways different than I prayed for. Sometimes, the loved one isn’t healed and the job isn’t saved, the pregnancy isn’t rescued and the timeline isn’t quickened. But the gift of this year has been finding His presence is always there. I can always dwell under His wings, and He is always enough. My raw, broken heart can be honest with Him, and He is always a safe place for my weary heart to find rest.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2 ESV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2 ESV)

Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:22-24 ESV)

 

Divine Rest

Divine Rest

For a long time, I’ve wrestled to reconcile the laws and regulations of Sabbath in the Old Testament with the freedom Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, describes in the New Testament. While preparing for a talk several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me some things that brought clarity to my wrestling. It seemed like too much for one blog, so I split it into two parts, each part focusing on one half of Isaiah 49:16. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday, February 24th. 

I spent my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm. I remember my grandfather and I would climb up onto the seat of the tractor and ride out into the pasture to check on his cows. I loved going by the salt lick. (And I admit to tasting it once or twice.) I loved dragging the hose over and filling up the old cast iron bathtub the cows used as a watering trough. Often, we moved the cows from one part of the pasture to another so they could graze on fresh grass. One day while we were out there, I noticed the brand on one of the cows and asked my grandfather about it. He told me how the branding iron was heated up until it was red hot then placed on the hide of the cow until it seared its permanent mark onto the animal.

Early last year, amid a lot of feelings of unworthiness and people-pleasing tendencies, I wrote a little verse on a sticky and stuck it to my bathroom mirror.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:16

It’s that searing mark I saw in the pasture that I think of when I read this verse. Except with God, He took the searing. He took the mark. God uses His messenger Isaiah to remind His people, His children who feel forgotten and defeated, lost and afflicted, that He cannot forget them because they are engraved on His hands. We are seared into His hands. He doesn’t just hold us. We have left a permanent mark on Him.

The metaphorical mark described by Isaiah would become a literal mark on the day God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, went to the cross for us. It would be Thomas who said he needed to see with his own eyes the mark of the nails in his hands, and eight days later, Jesus showed him. “Put your finger here, and see my hands…” John 20:26.

Our worth, our being engraved on the palms of His hands is not determined by what we do. Our worth was determined the day Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, willingly chose to die for us. Our worth was demonstrated the day God willingly watched His Only Son pay the ransom for us. Our worth is not determined by what we do. Our worth is determined by what He did.

When we live life from a place of knowing our worth because of what He did, we can let go of the performance-driven life, the perfectionist life, the control-freak life. We can surrender to rest, divine rest. 

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3

The ESV Study Bible says this about chapter 2, “The repeated comment that God rested does not imply that he was weary from labor. The effortless ease with which everything is done in Ch. 1 suggests otherwise. Rather, the motif of God’s resting hints at the purpose of creation. As reflected in various ancient Near Eastern accounts, divine rest is associated with temple building. God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place; it is not simply made to house his creatures. God’s activities on this day all fit this delightful pattern. The concept of the earth as a divine sanctuary, which is developed further in 2:4-25, runs throughout the whole Bible, coming to a climax in the future reality that the apostle John sees in his vision of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ in Rev 21:1-22:5.”

Divine Rest = Temple Building

God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. When I read that, I flipped over to the page in my prayer journal and looked at some of the verses I’ve gathered for my word of the year, dwell. 

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 16:9 Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

1 Chronicles 17:9 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1 

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4 

God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. We know that as believers the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This is why we are here, and this is why Sabbath is so important. Sabbath is divine rest. And divine rest means remembering our worth doesn’t come from a title or an address or an income. Our worth comes from being engraved on His palms, from the marks He bore while He hung on a cross because of His Great Love for us. Divine rest means carving out time and space to build the temple, to be God’s dwelling place.

The Cross of Christmas

The Cross of Christmas

From the wood of a manger to the wood of a cross.

From strips of swaddling cloths to the linen of grave cloths.

From the dark of night in Bethlehem to the dark of noon at Golgotha.

God’s great redemption plan. Heart beating. Wrapped in flesh and bones. Emmanuel, God with us, to ransom and redeem. The lost and lonely, the broken and outcast, the forgotten and shunned.

This world can have all its Christmas hype, all things merry and bright. But those who have walked through dark days know how a single Light can pierce an inky sky. Those who are acutely aware of their own imperfection covered in blood and grace can see the scandalous beauty of Love touching the unlovable, of Grace reaching down for the unworthy, of God Almighty coming to dwell with us. So three decades later, He could break and pour for us.

To grasp the birth, we have to stare at the cross. To relish the arrival, we must remember the ransom. 

This song that our church sang yesterday may be my new favorite “Christmas” song, “Death was Arrested” by North Point Insideout. I’ve been listening to it on repeat all day. This is Christmas. Life begins with You.