A Word for 2014

19 01 2014

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Once upon a time, a long time ago, a man named Jeremiah wrote a letter. But it wasn’t actually from him.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,” it began, “to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” And right off the bat, two important things were established: The letter was from God, and so were their circumstances. Though Nebuchadnezzar had taken the people of Israel captive, God plainly says He sent them to Babylon. And not only that, He goes on to tell them to put down roots there. Build homes. Plant gardens. Marry and give in marriage. Seek the welfare of that city. Pray on its behalf.

To a people whose identity was inextricable from the promised land, all of this must have sounded absurd. But the letter from God also explained that, in His time, He would bring them back to Jerusalem. And then? This wonderful, glorious promise:

“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

And I imagine that those who believed were filled with joy, just as countless others through the centuries have read these same words and rejoiced. No matter how hard, confusing, or heart-breaking things may be now, there are better days ahead. Such comfort!

Sure, some might caution that this promise was written to a specific people for a specific time, and they would be right. They might go on to say that believers today can’t “claim” this promise, because it wasn’t originally intended for them. And in the narrowest sense, they would be right again. But in their strict adherence to context, they would risk losing sight of a big glorious truth that applies to every believer in every place in every generation.

And that truth?

God knows.

Our God is a God who makes plans for His people, knows what those plans are, and can be fully trusted to accomplish them.

You and I may not be natural descendants of Israel, but if we’ve trusted Christ, we’ve been grafted in. Jeremiah’s God is our God. We are His adopted sons and daughters.

And we are known.

A friend of mine once wondered aloud if perhaps a Psalm 139 level of intimacy was reserved for the King Davids of the world, and my whole soul recoiled at the thought. No, I insisted. That can’t be. The whole of scripture reveals a God who knows. He has written our names in His book, numbers the hairs on our heads, and notices when even one sparrow falls to the ground. He knows our thoughts and words and ways every bit as well as He knew King David’s. He knit us in our mother’s wombs, and ordained our days, and His thoughts toward us outnumber the sand.

We are known. 

And this changes everything. Because the God who knows us also loves us and redeems us and welcomes us into His kingdom. When we come to Him, we realize we are not our own. We’ve been bought with a price. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It’s not my dream, my career, my ministry. I’ve been crucified with Christ. Mine is to walk in what He has already prepared — the plans He has for me. The plans He knows and has always known.

The more I think about this, the greater my joy grows. The King of the Universe, creator and ruler of all things, knows me and has plans for me. And if this is true, then obedience to Him is my fulfillment. Submission is freedom. When I walk in the good works prepared for me, His light shines, His body is strengthened, He advances His kingdom, and He receives the glory. When I embrace His plan for me — however grand or humble it may be — then I’m free to celebrate His plan for others without envy or competition.

When I know I am known, I long to love and worship and seek Him more. To cease striving and know that He is God. To rest in His sufficiency. To be pliable in the Potter’s hands, a useful vessel for Him.

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2014 is shaping up to be a full year, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to declare and celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness. I’m also grateful for this humbling, amazing truth. I am known. Fully known. And the One who knows me is able to sanctify and anoint and fill with His grace and power to do His work in His beautiful name to His glory.

And the same is true of you. Isn’t it a wonder? Friends, we are known. May we lean into this truth and go forth to do His will rejoicing.


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17 responses

19 01 2014
kingfisher

Thank you, Jeanne. I’ve missed seeing your thoughts. I’m so happy for you that you can be joyful about being known, and that God already has plans for you, which you’re carrying out without trying to wonder too much if you’re on the right track.

I’m not strong or well, and one of my greatest areas of being disturbed is in my not being capable of doing anything — except praying. So many bloggers are urging us to find out and become all that God intended us to be. It seems to me like so many times, that results in self-effort and telling God what we think he should do for us, rather than a natural evolvement of us carrying out his will, even unknowingly, by our quiet everyday actions. So many good, small actions could bless someone in the body of Christ — a note or phone call, speaking the words, “I care about you.” And I so deeply dream, even yet, of doing something with my artistic talent, and I do do some graphics arts on my computer but just haven’t the strength to sit upright to paint. Since I have “sensory overload” and major (life-altering) conditions, I can only be mostly alone, can’t reach out to others much. And sometimes that bothers me.

Yes, I know God honors our prayer life. Yes, I accept that I’m “known”. But I still don’t “feel” (emotionally) like he could value a slacker like me as highly as those real saints who pray and he says “go and do,” and they do, and succeed in their endeavors, and bless many people.

In fact, I don’t know how to “feel” (emotionally) that I believe he has great plans for me that I will really carry out, as my health continues to worsen year by year. My brain is often fuzzy from either the drugs I have to take, or the conditions themselves. Yes, I understand that I’ve taken in too many ideas from others about who God would want me to be. And that I can’t measure up to my own expectations of that. But how does one who is sick, and in constant pain every hour for 20 years, and has toxins in their body, get past the low feelings and into the joy?

My mind can claim a “stubborn joy” (as I read on a blog) of believing there’s hope for the future even when the present looks bleak, but resting in that when my muscles are always tensed as in fight-or-flight, doesn’t happen very often. The isolation in which I live, and the circumstances of the energy drain of trying to care for myself, don’t lend themselves to finding other people to encourage me. On the other hand, the isolation is a solitude which has protected me from a whole lot of “God wants you to ____” ideas from other people.

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Dear friend. I read your comment last night but didn’t want to shoot off a quick answer. Really, I just wanted to sit with you for a while in these questions and ponder God’s heart in them. I want you to know how much you inspire me by your faith and faithfulness. You are walking a hard road, and you are walking it with Him. That is a bigger victory than you may know. If you doubt your value to God, please know that I believe your role in His kingdom is one of the greater ones. I honestly don’t think God measures success the way we do — even as Christians. Prayer is the greatest work of all. Praying while in pain is a sacrifice that bears tremendous fruit in the kingdom. And all the “small actions” you mentioned? They’re not small from an eternal perspective. The more time I spend around disabled people and those who care for them, the more I’m convinced that we’re all going to be surprised when we get to heaven. The ones we thought were great and mighty for God won’t be the ones He honors most, but rather the hidden ones, faithfully loving Him and trusting Him even when the world labeled them useless.

When I wrote “No matter how hard, confusing, or heart-breaking things may be now, there are better days ahead,” I actually thought about the fact that God’s view of “better” may not look like mine. Whatever brings us closer to Him is “better.” Whatever prepares us for eternity is “better.” We know that when we see Him, we shall be like Him. Whole, healed, and in no pain, fully understanding His ways and why He led us to walk such thorny paths here. And I imagine He will lift your head and smile into your eyes, and yours will be among the heartiest of “well dones.” Because you received grace to walk a hard, hard road, and you trusted Him in it.

No one has a greater calling than that. No one.

Praying peace and joy for you — not based on your circumstances, but solely based on the mysteries of the upside-down kingdom and the revelation of a Savior who bends low to wash feet and asks only that we’re willing to do the same. Thank you for serving Him in your prayers, your faith, and a thousand other “small” ways.

Much, much love.

19 01 2014
Simply Darlene

Indeed! Miss Jeanne – what a blessing to read this Truth. And those images, especially the second, really bring the message home.

Thank you.

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Darlene. Love you. Thinking about you and your son and praying grace abounds. xo

19 01 2014
hisfirefly

You have written my heart here
to be pliable in His hands
yes, this!

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

May He grant us this grace always. xo

20 01 2014
FlowerLady Lorraine

This was wonderful and just what I needed this morning.

Thank you ~ FlowerLady

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

I’m so glad! You’re welcome with all my heart.

20 01 2014
ro elliott

Amen…coming into a deep knowing of how much God loves me…was a game changer…it changed everything…and isn’t amazing…He knows us…better than we know ourselves and His love for us never changes…He doesn’t withdrawal because of what He sees in us…but oh …Love comes near with compassion and mercy…and grace upon grace. This was a great way for me start my day…blessings~

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Thank you! Yes. Oh, how I long to lean on that love and grace more and more.

20 01 2014
Jody Lee Collins

Jeanne, my niece emailed Jer. 29:11 to my daughter recently as she struggled with worry and concern about her pregnancy. The part that spoke to her was the fact that, regardless of what the doctors and midwives and technicians and specialists had been saying, God said–“my plans are good.”
Always.
Oh, to know that we are known. I agree with your thought/prayer–Lord, may we lean into knowing YOU this year.

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Isn’t it so good to know His Word is alive? He speaks again and again, meeting us on the pages and reminding us of His faithfulness. I’m so thankful for His grace in your daughter’s life.

20 01 2014
Lisa @besidestillwaters.blogspot

Your words offer deep sustenance for the uniqueness of His people.
And your message interlocks perfectly with Emily Freeman’s book A Million Ways.

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Lisa. I haven’t read Emily’s book yet, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful.

20 01 2014
lschontos

I cannot imagine an impersonal God. This is so rich Jeanne. It is only in trusting that He holds my moments in HIs hands that I find peace and purpose and the grace to become small that He might be great. Thank you. I’ve missed reading your words.

20 01 2014
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Linda. The “grace to become small that He might be great.” This is our daily bread, isn’t it? Thanks for missing me. Much love to you. xo

23 01 2014
Tammy Miga

Thank you Jeanne, It is so true that many times we look for circumstances to turn out how we want them to be, or work, when God has an entirely different plan altogether. We can trust that that plan will be the most perfect, and best, for he loves us so much, and knows who we are, and what we need, better than we know ourselves.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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