Where Sacrifice Starts

Oh, beloved of God.

(That’s you.)

Shall we pause there?

That’s you.

Okay, I think we can move on now.

But, if you need to stay there….stay there…

The season of Lent began this week.

On the 13th of February I realized that Ash Wednesday was on the 14th this year, Valentine’s Day. I began to think of all the different things I could do, or could give up, for Lent…and felt a little guilty for being super aware of Valentine’s Day and super not aware of Ash Wednesday.

Around the same time I was also looking at other scripture about getting rid of things— I read John’s account of Jesus driving the profit-hungry religious out of the temple before Passover. I also heard Christine Caine and Bianca Olthoff (thank the Lord for technology) teach on these words from Paul:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

In light of all of this, I felt like the questions I needed to ask myself were clear—

What do I need to throw off? What do I need to drive out of the temple of my heart? What specifically do you want me to add or subtract during this season of Lent, God?

Again and again I asked and His answer didn’t seem clear.

I was once again (dang soul-amnesia #annvoskamp) caught in a desperate striving to understand.

Wouldn’t it be super cool if you audibly told me what to do, God? Or, supplied me with some holy dice? 

Instead, the Spirit led me to the dark of my prayer closet (aka…my closet) and to a place of silence.

He showed me, reminded me, that what my soul really wanted, what my heart was really longing for, was intimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of God. I wanted to be closer to Him and I was afraid that something was in the way, something that I just couldn’t quite figure out.

He showed me the lie I subconsciously believed— that I needed to love Him perfectly before I could receive His perfect love.

What nonsense?!

When I was His enemy, He died for me. When I was helpless, He poured out His grace on me. Indeed, my body is like dust, but God knew my soul before the foundations of the earth.

He predestined me in accordance with the pleasure of His will. Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross I am justified before the Father, I am FILLED with the Holy Spirit, I am a co-heir with CHRIST.


And here I am all distraught wondering what I should do, what I need to do to be okay with God…forgetting that He did and DOES it all.

Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on JESUS. How often do I look down at my feet? How often do I, like Peter, forget that it is by God’s power I am carried nearer Jesus and doubt that I can make it to the finish line?

There was NOTHING separating me from His love while I knelt all angsty-like in the closet. My ability to have intimacy with Jesus is not the result of what I’ve done, but what HE has done. He paid with His blood for the grace and love poured out on me— all I need to do is open my hands and accept it. He always wanted communion…communion.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me (John 15:4).

The glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (John 17:22-23).

We can do nothing apart from God— intimacy with God is where we start.

We start with the knowledge that apart from Him we can do nothing.

We start with basking in His deep love for us.

We start with adoration of our sweet, mighty, warrior-lover— Jesus.

When we kneel at His feet, marveling in His power and glory, and let go we can trust that He will reveal to us exactly what He wants to, when He wants to. And, He’s already revealed so much through scripture.

The word I received from God in my closet was unexpected— an invitation to adore Him and connect with Him rather than worry. An invitation to follow Him step by step with JOY…with the lightness that comes knowing that all things are from Him, and through Him, and to Him (Romans 11:36)

Where does sacrifice start? In the fullness of Christ’s provision— the fullness of His love. 

To Him be the glory forever and ever.

How have you experienced God’s love lately? I would be happy to hear from you!


Donielle Hart

Just Like Cain [Who am I and Who am I Worshiping?]

[Painting  by Mariotto Albertinelli]

Cain— the first murderer— the guy with anger issues— the sinner of the Bible I have historically identified with the least. In the past, I’ve been quite appalled by Cain— appalled that his jealousy and anger over something seemingly easy to correct could escalate into the act of murdering his brother. He was angry because the Lord received Abel’s gift of meat, but rejected Cain’s “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3 NKJV). The solution seems easy—get over it and give God some meat, man!

However, in reading Genesis again recently, I was struck by the Cain and Abel situation in a new way. More specifically, the Cain situation.

I used to see Cain’s actions as not only sinful, but horribly rash and idiotic. Now, I see myself and the attitude of our culture in Cain.

Cain was a “tiller of the ground” while “Abel was a keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2 NKJV)— both gave to the Lord out of their occupation…but, Cain’s gift was not accepted. Surely it felt unfair—  wasn’t his job just as worthwhile as Abel’s? Didn’t they need to eat grains with their meat?

It seems it would be easy (on a practical level) for Abel to give the Lord a meat offering, sheep were his thing! …but, maybe it was really hard for Cain to sacrifice a sheep— he spent his days tilling the earth. In fact, God probably wanted him to till the earth, it was an important job. But, the Lord did not want or require what came out of Cain’s giftedness for THIS offering…and that must have hurt. We know he became “very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5 NKJV).

God sees Cain’s response and addresses it:

“Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?”

This seems like not only a chastisement (and an implication that Cain knew what he was supposed to give God and deliberately disobeyed), but an encouragement, an affirmation that Cain COULD, indeed, be accepted AND that the Lord saw the way Cain felt.

The Lord goes on:

“And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 NKJV).

Cain wanted to make his worship about himself rather than about God. He thought the Lord “should” accept his offering— after all, didn’t the Lord appreciate how he cultivated the earth? I am sure He did…but Cain failed to see that appreciating and affirming man was not the point of worship. 

Cain did not “do well.”

We do not “do well” when we try to make religion and worship about us— when we say “God made me this way, He can’t ask me give Him such-and-such!” We clothe our self-worship in the pleas of a victim, “Why can’t you just accept me?” or “A loving God wouldn’t make it this hard for me to obey Him.”

Oh, but it was HARD for Cain! It did not feel natural or right or fair for Cain.

Cain’s sin leads to more sin.

Cain kills Abel.

God is obviously very upset about this and punishes Cain— part of Cain’s punishment is that the work he wanted God to accept as his offering, tilling the ground, would no longer produce anything for him. The Lord also said he would be “a fugitive and a vagabond” from then on (Genesis 4:12).

To me, this punishment seems to be an act of grace. It seems like God is about to show Cain how the work he may have thought to be so vital to his identity (tilling the ground) actually wasn’t. Because Cain couldn’t produce from the ground and had to live as a vagabond, he had to change his occupation. Maybe God was pruning Cain.

Though the Lord punishes Cain for murdering Abel, He also shows him mercy. God marks Cain so anyone who kills him will receive vengeance “sevenfold” (Genesis 4:15 NKJV).

Cain isn’t so unlike us. Our sinful tendency is to become self-focused and to make worship what WE want it to be— we can easily make ourselves the focus of worship rather than our great God. Sometimes what is really needed, and what God would have us to do, isn’t necessarily where our giftedness lies.

We can continue in sin that leads to death yelling, “This is just the way I am!” All the while, our good and gracious God longs for us to run into His arms. He is longing to show His strength through our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He loved us first— and He receives and accepts us when we accept Him. My sin nature, sinful tendencies, personality and even my gifts should not define who I am. I am adopted into Christ’s family. He calls me blameless, pure, His bride. He wants to make me into His likeness.

He desires for us to walk and worship in His ways— the ways that lead to life. Praise the Lord for His mercy. The story of Cain holds hope.

We don’t know if Cain began to live in obedience to God after this. We know he lived for a long time. Genesis 4:20 specifically mentions that some of his descendants were known for raising LIVESTOCK…which seems significant to me. However, he did build a city, which may have been in defiance unless God told him his time of being a vagabond could be over (because part of Cain’s punishment was that he would be a  wanderer).

The state of Cain’s heart after correction is uncertain. I don’t think we’ll know until our earthly lives are over.

What I can seek to understand and change is the state of my own heart in relation to the Lord:

Am I worshiping the Lord and living my life for Him through obedience to His word and His Spirit? In other words, am I worshiping the Lord or myself?

How do I respond to correction?

What do I need to sacrifice?

God is so worthy every bit of my soul, my heart, my mind.

To be in His presence is life, freedom, and peace.

It is only with His help and His grace that we can worship Him the way He deserves to be worshiped.

My soul yearns for His hand physically in mine— for all of my brokenness restored.

For now, with the help of God’s mighty grace, we fight the evil within and without us. We may fall in our weakness, but He picks us up. He says, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9).