We esteemed Him not

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Isaiah 53:3

We esteemed Him not.

This phrase has stuck with me this Easter season. I prefer to focus on Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Christ is risen! But this declaration that we esteemed Him not

What does it mean? As I dug deeper, I noticed that this rejection is passive rather than active–apathetic rather than hateful.

At least hatred acknowledges a person or a deed. Apathy goes beyond; apathy doesn’t even care.

Apathy. For our bleeding Savior. Barnes’ says, “…he was regarded as cut off from man…that he was the most abject and vile of mortals in the estimation of others; so vile as not to be deemed worthy of the treatment due to the lowest of men.”

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Isaiah 53:3

This verse speaks in first person plural of the Jewish nation, but I, for one, can see myself in the “we.”

I am so focused on my risen Lord that I don’t esteem my dying Lord. I grow apathetic to the suffering God on the cross, bearing the weight of sin and shame of mankind. My sin and my shame. 

Esteem Him this Easter season. Esteem the dying God and worship the living One.


Photo by Henrique Jacob on Unsplash

Among wolves

Children trickled home from school, their voices wafting up three stories to where I had curled up in my bed, attempting to steal a half hour nap. But more than to sleep, I curled up to drown out the dizzying voices in my head.

Advice too helpful.

Less invasive, but still overwhelming suggestions.

Pressure from friends to fill their emotional needs.

Dramatic stories that sucked me in (even kicking and screaming).

Stop! I buried my face in my pillow with the sting of fresh tears. 

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jn. 10:3) We had just read that verse at Thursday night prayer meeting.

“Jesus, where is your voice?!” I gasped.

The voices dispersed. There was silence. “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (Jn. 10:4)

Every day, someone invites me into their story. Sometimes it’s angry drama, sometimes it’s deep hurt or deep joy, sometimes it’s just a friend who cares. 

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10b). What is abundant life? I know what it is not, but that isn’t helpful.

Abundant life is the life that gives life life. It is Jesus Himself (Col. 3:4).

And abundant life is ours even when we are sent out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16). Why? Because our Good Shepherd will not leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). He is with us, God with us, Immanuel, even among the wolves.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (Jn. 10:14).

Following the voice of my Shepherd doesn’t make me deaf to the other voices. I may follow advice and reach out to the hurting, but I won’t be enslaved as long as I follow Him in and out of the fold.


Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Christmas comes to Almería

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Luke 2:10

Good news.

Great joy.

All people.

Yes, that means you, my friend. Do you ever feel anxious when someone brings you news? Even if it’s “good” news from their perspective, it may not be what you wanted or had hoped for.

But in God’s good news, we can find rest, whether or not His news fits into our tidy (and narrow!) plans. Why? Not because He is predictable, easy-going, and safe, but because He is good.

This Christmas, may you find rest in God’s goodness and find great joy in the reality of Immanuel, God with us.

kings day light show
Unexpected light show with the 3 kings’ crowns.

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 2

Last week, I wrote about my struggle with people-pleasing. And I’m still learning how to deal with this fear of man. (By waiting a week, I was hoping to be so much wiser!)

On my journey, I’m learning how much my thought life affects my everyday life. My thoughts aren’t as private as I think. Jesus was right, of course, when He taught that sin begins on the inside.

I know how critical and dark thoughts can be because I think them all too often. But when others think those thoughts about me, I am panic-stricken. Could I be the object of disdain rather than admiration or affection?

My negative thought patterns subtly place others as the wrong doers and me as the victim. (As if!)

How do I get out of this negative rut? Pep talks? Surrounding myself with positive friends? Hardly.

By asking God to redeem my thought life.

Notice I said “redeem” rather than “distract.” When I catch myself slipping into my “nobody loves me, everybody hates me” rut, I confess and surrender that thought. But rather than leave my mind as a gaping hole (which is impossible for women, by the way), I work to fill that hole with worthy thoughts and praise.

One day, I specifically asked God to help me take every thought captive. While dwelling on a wrong thought, I suddenly jabbed my hip into a doorknob (and Spanish doorknobs are sharp!). In pain, I managed to laugh and thank God for the not-so-gentle reminder. Other days, I, in essence, tell God to go away and leave me alone to think my negative thoughts.

Sometimes, we write off negativity as discernment. But they’re not the same. Negativity eats at your soul. Discernment can see and analyze the negative aspects of a situation without being controlled by them.

When your thought life is redeemed, you can be discerning without being negative. People may still sling unrealistic expectations at you or think mean things about you, but when you don’t dwell on it, it can’t control you. 

See, whether or not someone means offense in a comment, you can leave it. You can walk away because when you do, that comment–whether intentional or unintentional–is between that person and God. When you take offense, suddenly the the relationship is much more complicated. Suddenly, the comment is between them and God, you and them, and you and God. And that takes a lot of clarification, repentance, and forgiveness. 

But when you re-calibrate your focus– take it off of whoever you are allowing to control you, and place it on God– your world begins to bloom. You can hear advice without letting it dictate each decision. You can hear criticism without being in the depths of despair. You can love those who think little of you, even if their opinion never changes. And you can hear praise without feeling like it is watering the thirsty soil of your starving soul. Affirmation becomes a blessing rather than a necessity. 

And you– I should say “we”– can be content in our identity in Christ rather than our identity in the eyes of others. 

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 1

I was sweating under my blanket and it wasn’t because of the leftover summer heat. 

How could I have made the situation different? How could I have walked away without leaving a bad taste in their mouths? What should have I done to make them like me?

The night hours ticked away as I fought a bloody battle with my thoughts.

If you haven’t caught on by now: I have an overwhelming fear of man. I want people to love me and delight in me. I want to be the desired friend, the confidant, the one to diffuse tension in a situation. 

But that night, my heart was pounding so hard that I could feel the bed shaking along with it. And all because of a negative reaction that felt like a personal attack.

More hours passed before I was able to stop “problem-solving” and surrender. My heart, now guarded by God’s peace, relaxed until I could no longer feel the oppressive beating. And I fell asleep.

Not every wave of people-pleasing is like this for me. Sometimes, I feel invincible to others’ opinions because I’m too tired or too stubborn to bend anymore. Other times, I never surrender and spend days or weeks in agony, enslaved to another’s opinion and trying to think up ways to wriggle myself back into their good graces.

Can you identify? Are you a people-pleaser too?

I don’t have a once-and-done solution for us. Or even five easy steps to follow.

Recently, in talking with a friend, I realized that this area of my life is slowly changing. It may always be a struggle for me, but by God’s grace, it will no longer be my prison.

Next week, I’ll tell you a bit of my ongoing journey. And maybe you can tell me a little of yours too.

His pleasure in forgiveness

I always assumed that God forgave sinners because He had to. Not grudgingly necessarily, but because He needed to uphold His end of the bargain. Jesus, the sinless, took our sin and our shame, and God chose to look on Him and forgive us.

But recently I read the phrase “God’s pleasure in forgiveness.” It made me stop and wonder: Does God really take pleasure in forgiving us?

Can He really be pleased to erase our shame when justice demands that we remain alienated from Him forever?

I am beginning to grasp a level of God’s grace that goes beyond fulfilling an obligation or “just doing His job.” He wants us to be restored to a right relationship with Him. If He didn’t, He would not have provided a Way.

Jesus stands with arms outstretched, beckoning us to step into His perfection. 

And I continue to wonder: God finds pleasure in forgiving us. But how much pleasure do we find in repentance?

Only God can redeem a broken life

Her tearless story was like too many stories I’ve heard. Another rocky marriage. And she barely in her twenties. She refused to tell her mother because it would make her worry. 

We munched on market olives, tossing the pits into the ravine over our shoulders. 

She shrugged. “What can I do? All marriages are like this.” 

“But they don’t have to be!” I protested. 

She agreed to let me pray for her. And we talked about making the first step to be the change.

I didn’t pretend to have the solution. “Only God can change hearts.”

“North Africans have black hearts!”

“Why? When you’re supposed to be good Muslims? Why do you say that Christians are the ones who do good and Muslims have black hearts?”

She was shaking her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Some things just needed to be accepted. 

In the end, she went her way and I went mine. It ached to know that our lives had touched and she still walked away broken. But I am helpless to heal, to fix, or to fill. Her broken life is in God’s hands, awaiting joyful redemption. 

Neither do I condemn you

Whenever I read the story of the woman caught in adultery, I get caught up in Jesus’ brilliant suggestion for the one without sin to cast the first stone (Jn. 8:7).

Today was different. When I read the story this time, I saw His mercy.

Jesus did not condemn the sinful woman. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (Jn. 8:11).

The One qualified to condemn did not. Instead, He freed her not only from shame and condemnation but also from the power of the sin in her life. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).

What freedom that must have brought to a self-condemning heart!

And that’s the same freedom that should be evident in my own life and sometimes isn’t. I ignore Jesus’ words, believing that my own self-condemnation is greater than His promise. That His blood wasn’t worth the price of my sin.

That’s it, isn’t it? Unbelief masked as ongoing remorse.

Am I “free indeed”? Do I believe that there is truly “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)?