You Call Me Beautiful

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
   behold, you are beautiful;
Song of Solomon 1:15a

Thank you, Lord, that you call me beautiful.  I need to remember that. I get so caught up and entangled by my own inadequacy and I call it humility.  I get down on myself. I call myself weak. And I think I am being humble. I think I am following You. But you call me beautiful.  You call me your love. I am so dirty with sin and shame. And you call me clean. You call me beautiful. I am beautiful.

How can my sin be be called beautiful when it covers me like caked on mud?  Because You no longer see the sin! You have washed me clean! Your blood has washed me clean.  Your love has overcome my filthiness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Lord, You have cleansed me of ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.  I am clean. I am beautiful. You call me beautiful.  You call me clean.

As a lily among brambles,
   so is my love among the young women.
Song of Solomon 2:2

And so I shall be called a lily among brambles.  The world around me is filthy and full of sin, but I am Your beauty.  I am your flower. Your love. I want to walk in the confidence of that knowledge!  I want to spend every moment walking in the power of how You know me, how You see me!  I want to know I am Your beautiful flower! Help me to have the confidence of Your truth about me!  

I am loved.  I am beautiful.

No Other Love Compares

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-41

Lord, You don’t look at me the way I look at myself.  You see the labels I put on myself as a distraction to me that keeps me from sitting at Your feet and worshipping You.  It’s humbling to be reminded of how often I get distracted and side tracked by my own opinion of myself, or even worse, the opinion that others have about me.  I get caught up in what I think I’m supposed to do. I worry about obedience to what You want from me and don’t stop to listen to what You are saying.

Lord, help me to listen.  Help me to stop putting pressure on myself to do what people expect of me.  Instead, let me fall at Your feet and worship You. Teach me to lay aside the world and the constraints of my own sinful pride and a misplaced desire to serve You in a way that I have decided I am supposed to.  I just want to hear your words teaching and guiding me.

I want to wash Your feet with my tears, Jesus.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Holy Spirit, move in me.  Humble my arrogant heart. Temper my human longings and create in me a clean heart.  Guide me in the ways of Your thinking and desires for me. Drown out the sounds of my human will and the demands that the world has placed on me.  I long to be in Your right mind and not my own. I long to be true to Your definition of who I am and what I am to do. I long to worship You with humility.

39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:39-41

I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who puffed themselves up on the outside with their dependence on praise and obedience to the Law.  I don’t want to be honored by men or even know what they think of me. I don’t want to care, dear Jesus! I don’t want to care! Let me be a fool or a loud mouth.  Let me be brazen or unrefined. Let me be so aware that there is nothing good in me, that I all I can see is Your grace lifting me up! Let me choose the better portion in You, my Love!  

Sweet Holy Spirit, let me hear Your whispers.

I will submit to Your love for me, my Lord Jesus.  Only in You am I free. And no other love or praise can compare.

Being Poor in Spirit

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
Luke 8:9-10

You explain things so clearly to anyone who wants to understand.  I love that about You, God. The ability to learn and understand the mysteries and wisdom that come from You are found in the humility to put aside my own thinking and reason to be taught by You.  That was the problem with the Pharisees. Those lovers of the Law were really lovers of themselves and the percieved piety they recieved from the obedience to your statutes. But they were missing the point entirely!  If anyone hears your law and only obeys it to impress or feel better about themselves they are not catching the heart of what the Law has brought.

Paul talked about the Law making clear to us the Truth of who You are and are inability to have fellowship with You.  He taught that inevitibly Your perfect law made clear our failing annd pronounced death upon us. But it was our sin that brought death, not the law itself.  So acting out the Law, if it didn’t teach the person to know and understand Your heart and Your desire to bring forgiveness of sin, gained nothing from obedience to that law.  Without the faith to know that You are salvation, not the Law, a person is lost forever. They will never understand, will they? They’ll just be stuck in the death of their sin, instead of the life that can only be offered by You.  

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 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 7:7-25

But being poor in spirit and humble in knowledge, gives me the right to learn and understand Your greatest mysteries because I’m willing to let You teach me.  As I recognize the deeper and deeper need for You to be my advocate in all aspects of my life, I find You willing and ready to teach me. And that’s how You used parables.  You showed people that if they were willing to be taught, instead of just having it all spelled out for them to figure out on their own, they could inherit a deep and meaningful fellowship with You that can be found in no other way.

But if a person is stubborn, and refuses to be taught, but only wants to lift up their own wisdom and understanding, then they can never learn even the simplest of lessons from You.  And of course the simplest lesson of all is that You came down to earth as a man to be our bridge between yourself and us. And anyone willing to follow You at all cost will find the richness of Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your eternal life.   So, that’s why the disciples had been given the ability to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God. Because they were humble enough to give up trying to find You or serve You on their own.

You love that, don’t You?!  You just love people to acknowledge that they need You and want Your help!  It’s not complicated. It was never supposed to be complicated. Help me to be poor in spirit like that!  Teach me to be humble and to learn from You. Don’t ever let me rely on my own reason above Your own. Help me to know the depth and mystery of Your Love.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20

Good Fruit

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

If my mouth is praising You in all things and if my actions are full of mercy and love for everyone around me, my fruit is good!  It is abundant and full! It is reassurance, dearest Jesus, that the abundance of my heart is your love and mercy. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me, or even what others expect of me.  All I need to do is focus on You, Your Word in my heart, and the offerings of Your love and mercy that flow through me. I know I’m not going to get it right all the time. But I see You working, God. I see Your hand gently guiding me and faithfully teaching me to “bend the bow of bronze”.

He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 Psalm 18:34

I found myself praying this morning very deeply for someone who had hurt me.  Lord, I know that’s nothing new for You, but I know I don’t do it enough. My logic and understanding of your Word tell me to forgive and show mercy to those who hurt me, but in the moment, I’m often so hurt that I spend all of my energy focused on just speaking love and speaking from the abundance of my heart.  But prayer needs to be the further fruit of those words. Thank you for reminding me of that this morning.

Lord, help me to be more focused on You so that I continue to produce good fruit.  Let every thought be held captive by Your love, Your grace, Your Spirit.  That is where my treasure is. That is where my story leads. That is all my heart desires.  Let me honor You and serve You in all things. It may look strange to the World. It may even look strange to Your children.  But I know that Your Spirit will use me. Your Spirit will guide me. And Your Power will seap out of me to the world around me, without me even saying a word.  That’s just who You are. And You are in me so I can be confident in that.

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
Luke 6:19

Use me God.  Though I am a woman of unclean lips, You have made me clean and Your power is made perfect in my weakness.

Favored by God

Trust is a gift from you, God.  Zechariah and Mary both received unbelievable messages from the angel Gabriel about giving birth by a miraculous act of God.  Both received the fulfilled blessing that had been promised to them. But only Mary trusted the promise. Zechariah doubted the promise and suffered the personal consequences for it.  

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luke 1:5-7

Your word says that Zechariah and his wife were both righteous before you and “walked blamelessly in all the commandments”. Yet, because of his doubting, he was silenced.  This silencing kept him from sharing in the blessing that he had been given, but it didn’t stop the blessing.

So often I’m ready to doubt your promises, God.  I get so used to calling them promises that I forget that they really are promises and you are faithful to fulfill them!  Help me to trust you, God. Help me not to doubt the blessings that you are sending to me. I think Zechariah doubted because Elizabeth was barren.  Instead of remembering that you fulfilled your promise to bring a child to a barren woman with Abraham and Sarah, he was stuck in the current circumstance of Elizabeth’s inability to conceive.  

By no means should he have been putting his faith in Elizabeth’s body!  But instead he should have trusted in your power! He was a man who knew you!  And yet his fear and the sorrow of his current circumstances kept him from trusting You.  He was well versed in the knowledge of your faithfulness and yet the familiarity of his personal troubles kept him from fully trusting in the message that he had been given.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

How favored indeed was Mary!  Her childlike faith and trust in Your message were evident in her from the start.  Her circumstances were simple and humble. She was favored by God, because she didn’t put her trust in her humble circumstances.  Sure, she questioned Gabriel when he said she was favored, but when he told her what that favor was going to give her, she recognized her place as Your servant.  If you wanted to call her “favored” that was good enough for her. So she trusted you.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Lord, I am highly favored by you.  I know this because of what you have done for me.  You gave me your Son as a ransom for my life. And you gave me your Spirit as a deposit of your promises to be fulfilled in me.  Lord, let me trust you. Let me walk in the favor you have pronounced on me. Let me know Your promises are true and walk in that truth instead of the turmoil of my corrupted circumstances.  

Oh, Jesus!  My love! Help me trust You so that I can share with the world the blessings You provide instead of being silenced by the doubt in my own heart.

Regarding Psalm 5

“O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice.”
Psalms 5:3

Lord, you hear my prayers.  When I call to you, you are quick to answer.  You have made yourself known to me and I am yours.  I love you, Jesus. You provide comfort when I am weak and tired and afraid.  I cry a lot to you, God, because I know that you hear me and that You never grow weary of hearing what I have to say.  

I get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of life sometimes.  It seems like all around me the same groanings. The world is in a turmoil of sin and death and wickedness and everyone is suffering the same horrible fate.  Death stalks us and longs to consume us, and your little ones are not immune. The innocent still suffer. The righteous still get hunted. I am maligned by my own thoughts.  Even alone in my room I am confronted with it. Death and sin are dauntless enemies.

But you have conquered sin and death.

57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

I will lean on your Holy Word. I will trust in your promises.  I will wait on your deliverance and trust in your counsel. You protect me from the dangers of the world, even when I am overcome.  You turn what the enemy intended to harm me into good lessons, into teachable moments, into patient endurance. One day the evil of this world will be destroyed forever.  Until then I can trust you to use it for my good.

For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
   you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalms 5:12

I recognize and reiterate your promises, God.  You will bless the righteous with favor and cover them with a shield.  And I am your righteousness. I will not be afraid. I am yours.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

 

The Mercy Seat

Disobedience brought death into the world.  You’ve always told us that. From the very beginning you told us that if we listened to You and trusted that Your plans for us were full of good things, that we would be with you forever and never know death.  All we ever had to do was trust you. But we got tricked into thinking we couldn’t trust you, didn’t we? And it brought us nothing but fear. Lord, you never wanted us to be afraid of you. It was only after we had been shown what disobedience looked and felt like in the Garden that we became afraid.  

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Genesis 3:8-11

I don’t know why we’ve always tried to make it so complicated.  You’ve kept it simple from the beginning God. From the time of Adam and Eve, you showed us that we had brought death to ourselves and to the world.  When Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, they tried to cover themselves with leaves, but you took animals, killed them, and gave the skins to them to cover themselves.  You showed them in an action that the knowledge of their nakedness as shameful to them brought to them death. Only death could cover it.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

With Moses things were no different.  You met him on the mountain. You told him that you were trustworthy and that if he trusted you Moses could lead all the people into trusting Him in freedom.  You gave him some rules to show him how righteous and good and fair you are, and how breaking those rules would only bring death. You showed him and he believed you.  

And then you showed the people how to remember your promises and how to remember you are trustworthy.  You gave them the plans for the tabernacle. And every inch of the tabernacle declared your promise that you are trustworthy and that your plans for people were to be clothed for “glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2).  You laid out your grand design for humanity with the designs of the tabernacle, completed with mercy at the center where you met face to face with mankind.

34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.
Exodus 26:34  

The mercy seat covered the arc of the testimony.  The arc held the law, but the testimony of it was not the law, but Your desire to show us that disobedience brings death, but trusting You brings mercy.  It was a physical representation of your desire for us to be together, for us to trust you. Your mercy covers the law. Your mercy has dominion over the law.  Your mercy is the answer, but the sacrifice of blood is meant to show you that we understand what the knowledge of good and evil brings to us and to the world. It brings death.  When we understand that we can receive your mercy.

I receive your mercy new today, Lord.  Sin brings death, but you have brought mercy through your son, Jesus, who had victory over sin and death through his resurrection.  I receive your mercy new today, Lord. Give me the grace to receive your mercy new each moment by your Spirit in me.