Not forgotten

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So much of childhood is wrapped up in our search for belonging. We want to belong in our families, from the oldest trying to please and excel to the middle child vying for attention, trying not to fade into the wallpaper, and the youngest putting out sparks of humor and zest to liven up the party. These are sweeping generalizations but at least they’re research-based generalizations, right? You or I may not “fit” the mold, but one thing our birth order tells us is that we all want to belong. We want to fit, even when we are trying ever so hard to be rogue. Developmentally, our parents approval meant the world to us growing up, even if they were MIA. Our siblings opinions also mattered, whether they understood it or not. Our teachers and peers and youth leaders, we wanted them to see us. We didn’t want to be forgettable. Who wants forgotten. We want to belong and to be remembered. It’s why infants cry to alert us to needs, preschoolers ask for bandaids every 47 seconds, and teenagers try out new outfits and attitudes daily. Even as adults we make drama where there’s peace, we try to buy the very best and newest stuff, and we add friend after friend to our Facebook feed…the task of being unforgettable is exhausting.

Today we find out the Jesus-truth on this matter.

We are never forgettable.

Open your Bibles to Isaiah 49:13-17 or read below.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
    break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted.

14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
    my Lord has forgotten me.”

15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
    yet I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me.
17 Your builders make haste;
    your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.

He can not forget. All this vying for attention in life is really a search for the One who can not forget us, even if He tried. The questions God asks of Israel here are hard,

“Can a woman forget her nursing child?” (v.15)

Some of us may say, “No, of course not!” Others of us may say, “My mom did.”

Can you see how life complicates our ability to see Truth? Maybe this knowledge can give us compassion for those who still wrestle and are disconnected to church or Faith.

God understands this complication. Listen again to the next Words from Isaiah 49:15 –

“Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

God further drives home His promise in verse 16 –

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

God makes promises to the city, but you better believe that each of the residents of those walls heard the promise in it for their own lives. When siege laid waste and Babylon breaks through the city walls, terror and fear struck every heart and every family. Their city was destroyed, the temple, God’s dwelling place among them, destroyed. Each of those people needed to know, “I am not forgotten. My God is with me.” He was giving them something better – Redemption.

And He wrote the promise on His hands.

On His hands, He engraved our names, the name of His Church, His people. How could he forget?

Turn to Isaiah 63:9-16. Feel free to start at verse 7 if you have your Scriptures open.

In all their affliction he was afflicted,
    and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
    and himself fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old,
    of Moses and his people.
Where is he who brought them up out of the sea
    with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is he who put in the midst of them
    his Holy Spirit,
12 who caused his glorious arm
    to go at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
    to make for himself an everlasting name,

who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
    they did not stumble.
14 Like livestock that go down into the valley,
    the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest.
So you led your people,
    to make for yourself a glorious name.

Look down from heaven and see,
    from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
    The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
    are held back from me.
16 For you are our Father,
    though Abraham does not know us,
    and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
    our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Even when others fail to acknowledge us, God in Trinity remembers us.

Look back at the passage and look for the work of each member of the Trinity in our Redemption. I’ll highlight my vantage point below.

“You are our Father…”

There’s that familial language again. We need not look any further than to Our Father in Heaven to acknowledge us, to recognize us, to see us. As children and as adults we are not forgotten.

“In all their affliction, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them…”

The Angel of the Lord is believed by Old Testament scholars to speak of God’s son before His incarnation. This is Jesus, plain and simple. He was afflicted for us. He saves us. He loves us. He looks upon us and redeems us.

“Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit…”

God placed the Holy Spirit into our midst, into each of us. The Spirit’s work is connected to remembrance. The Spirit isn’t just for our remembrance of God, but His remembrance of us. God sees us through His Spirit now, in Jesus Christ. We are remembered as faithful children because of the Spirit’s faithfulness in us. We might grieve the Holy Spirit by our rebellion (v. 10), but that alone is a promise. God sees our rebellion because He sees us. Only in having our rebellion, our sin laid bare, can redemption enter in. Thank you, Holy Spirit for seeing all of me – and loving me anyway!

Great are His promises. Aren’t they remarkable? We are not forgotten. No matter what this life and this world may hold, our Redeemer of Old is bigger, is greater, is more steadfast. We want to leave a lasting mark in this life, we want to be remembered, and we do it in the only place that matters – on God’s hand – engraved on His hands and held by His Spirit.

You are not forgotten.

 

Exploration:

Sometimes I think we speak of the Trinity in vagueness, because it is a slightly vague and complex idea to us. Which person of the Trinity gives you comfort today – Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Who can you share the message of not forgotten with?

Written in Iron Ink

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What are some of your favorite ways in which God comes to you?

In our church body, we teach three particular ways, or means, in which God comes to us – through His Word (the Bible), in our baptisms, and in the Lord’s Supper.

Your belief system might be a touch different, but I doubt that it strays much from these three connectors. We need God like fish need water, more than that. Our deepest need in this life is for God. We will scramble any which way until our hearts settle in His arms. God, however, does not remain hidden. He has left these three precious things that are both physical and spiritual for one reason – to come to us. God loves worship. He loves praise. He loves His created things. But all of it is intended for connecting us with His Son, His promises, and His Salvation. When we understand that He comes in these three ways, according to His Word, then we are no longer searching and searching and searching. Instead, we know we have been found by Him.

If all of that last paragraph sounded like theological mumbo jumbo to you, just rest in this.

God comes.

God comes to you.

Let’s return to Isaiah 43 once again, and study this concept. Start by reading Isaiah 43:1 below. If you feel so led, write this verse out in a notebook, on scrap paper, on your shoe, wherever, to commit it deep into your heart.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

God calls.

Note: God is the action taker. God is the seeker. He calls, we answer. Before you were born, He called you. Before your parents or your grandparents brought you to church or you, yourself, came to church, He called. Before baptism, before confirmation, before growth…He called you.

God calls you by your name.

Heidi, David, Macee, Jonah, Jyeva, Ezekiel

This is my family. Each with their own name. He didn’t just call each of us, He called us by our names. What is your name? Fill it in the space below.

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God calls you, He brings you into His redemptive plan, by this name. He writes this name in His Book of Life (Rev. 3:5) and on His heart. And guess what…He keeps writing.

The book of Job shares another way that God reveals Himself, by His Word, to those around us. Please read Job 19:23-24.

Oh that my words were written!
    Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
    they were engraved in the rock forever!

So, Job’s life, not so easy. The first part and the last part, pretty good. The middle was all kinds of gunky and hard. Loss, ongoing health problems, cruddy friends, embarrassment, marriage issues, the list goes on for our friend, Job. His physical, earthly problems bubbled up into a spiritual crisis. In the verses above, Job attests to what each of us would want in the same circumstance,

“If I am going to go through all of this, I want it to matter.”

Job cries out to God,

“Make it count! Don’t leave me here. Do something with this!” (Heidi’s personal paraphrase)

What Job wanted is what God indeed gives to each of us – a testimony of His work, written in Iron Ink.

Unerasable. Durable. Able to withstand the arguments and the questioning. Going out for generations to come- in our families, in our churches, in our communities.

Listen to Job’s testimony, written in the Iron Ink of Job 19:25-26:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God…

God comes to others through our testimony of Jesus Christ.

He reaches into this Word so that others can know of our great Redeemer. They will know Him by who we are and where we have been and the Word we share because of it.

Flip back to Isaiah 43. This time scroll down to verses 14 and 15 –

Thus says the Lord,
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon
    and bring them all down as fugitives,
    even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
    the Creator of Israel, your King.”

Babylon is not a happy prophecy for Israel. Israel is about to have a Job moment. Right after the proclamation of grace in Isaiah 43:1, “I have called you by name, you are mine,” God brings hard news to His people. It’s about to get messy. Babylon is bondage. They will be sent far away, their nation destroyed, families split up, livelihoods decimated. Messy. But God’s message isn’t just “messy is coming,” It is –

I use the messy.

It is no mistake that God calls Himself Redeemer in this passage. You are mine, He says, when life comes at you, when you walk through the fire, when bondage overtakes you, people will see my redemption story. “For your sake,” (verse 14) “I send.” the Lord says, “So that I can redeem. So that they will know my redemption.”

We are iron ink. Every time we share His Word and His testimony on our lives, He comes.

He comes for you.

He comes for me.

He comes for them.

He comes. Redeemer, Holy One, Creator, King.

Watch Him write, girls. Watch Him write.

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Listen to the Podcast Intro for our segment based off of this post – Written in Iron Mink: Ministry Stories

Exploration:

What does it mean to you that God calls you by name?

Share with us the names of those you hold dear. This doesn’t have to be a complete list, but a way to celebrate that God calls them each by name,

What iron ink testimony is God writing in your life that shares His redemption with others? What Bible verses or passages speak His life into your story?

 

Redeemed Scripture Engagement Tool

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Name calling and the Gospel

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Name calling and the Gospel

There’s a fun place in Isaiah 41, where God uses a little name calling to get our attention. 😉 This verse sticks out as an oddity, so it just begs to be studied. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a verse your would share for reaching someone with the love of Jesus. Many might consider it more than a hint offensive, but the redemption promise in it is so clear, we might be itching to share it by the end of the study.

Please read Isaiah 41:14-15 –

Fear not, you worm Jacob,
    you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord;
    your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
    new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
    and you shall make the hills like chaff;

I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to think of myself as a worm. In fact, this is crazy counter-cultural. We like to think we are pretty good people. Ok, decent people. You know, average citizen kind of people.

The reality is that God’s honesty in this circumstance is our salvation.

Jacob was a worm. We are a worm. It is what it is. We stink it up. We put ourselves before other people. We hold our earthly treasures tight to our hearts. We disregard God on some level, daily. We consider ourselves in such a way that we push His Spirit further down, so we don’t have to listen to the Truth that shakes us to our core – we need Him. Without Him, we are dust, worms along the ground, here one day, dried up in the sunshine the next.

Paul, the apostle, missionary of the Early Church, dynamic speaker, teacher, and child of God, has something to say on the matter as well. Investigate the verses below –

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:15-16

 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 7:21,24-25

“…Of whom I am the foremost.”

“Who will rescue me…”

Just as Paul includes the answer to his questions in the concluding verses, so does Isaiah. Turn back to Isaiah 41:14, or read it here below, once more.

Fear not, you worm Jacob,
    you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord;
    your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

Redemption is the answer, girls.

God gives us the Law. He doesn’t mess around with prettying it up. We are sinful. We need a Savior. And what He gives us in return is so much more, so much better.

We have a helper.

Christ, as our Redeemer, is also the help we need. What sweet Gospel Truth! I don’t know about you, but most days I need some help. I don’t need prettying it up. I need real and constant help- for myself, for my children, for my church, for my life.

Part of the Gospel of redemption is that He is here to help. Let’s let Him. Let’s turn to His Word and turn to prayer. Our salvation is 100% secure in Jesus Christ, we have nothing, absolutely nothing to fear. We can let Him root around a little in there and do His good work in complete assurance.

Verse 15 of Isaiah 41 tells us that when it’s the worm against the mountain of life, the worm in Christ wins.

My help is in the name of the Lord!

Psalm 124:8

Say it loud and strong. Call on Him with me.

My help is in the name of the Lord!

Father, we come to You. We give You thanks for Your Word and Your Truth. You have redeemed us. You have rescued us from the low place. You raise us up with Your Son. We trust in You. We honor You. We ask You to continue this work in our lives today and every day. Spirit, change our hearts, change our minds, change our lives as You draw us closer to the Father everyday. Thank you for seeing us, Lord. Thank you for being faithful, when we are not. Fill us with Your Grace, now and always. You are everything, Lord. Everything. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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Exploration:

What is one thing that you would like the Lord’s help with? (This could be related to yourself, your marriage, your friendships, your church, your community, anything!)

He is already there, sister, but let’s bring it before Him. Take a moment to pray for His help with this specific thing today.

Write Psalm 124:8 on a post-it or notecard, anywhere, today. Take a picture and share it with us here. Use the meme above and share it in your newsfeed. Share it wherever, with whomever. Rejoice! You are the face of Christ’s mercy to someone who needs to hear it today.