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.

Jesus Wept for Me

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 19:41-44

Dearest Lord Jesus, how great is your love for us!  Sin had filled the minds and hearts of your people when You came to them and it broke Your heart.  In another Gospel you said you wished you could gather them up like little chicks beneath your wings.  But your people refused to recognize You. They refused to acknowledge Your complete sovereignty. They wanted to worship themselves.  They wanted to worship their own filthy rags of righteousness.

Thank you, Lord, that You weren’t content to see us die that way.  Thank You Lord that you wept for us, and walked the road of suffering into Jerusalem and onto the hill of Calvary’s cross so that we could have our sins paid for.  

And thank you, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit, that finally gave us the help we needed to see You for who You really are.  Even amidst the cacophony of sin that drowns out Your truth in our lives, Your Spirit makes You known to us. Without Your Spirit we would never know You.

So, thank You, Jesus.  Thank you! I worship You and the Spirit of God within me by Your power!  Thank you!

Loved by God

Father, why is it that we always seem to seek our value in our own terms and not by Yours?  Over and over again You tell us that our value comes from Your love for us, and yet over and over again, we seek to make our value in ourselves.  

Jesus, in Luke 15 and the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son you showed us what our value looks like.  It is completely independent of our circumstance. Whether we’re just unwittingly lost, like the sheep, or lost by the carelessness of another person, like the sheep, or whether we’re lost by the pure foolishness of our own heart, like the prodigal son, the value of each was equally as precious to You.  

Your love is completely independent from our circumstances.

You made us all.  We rightfully belong to You as our Maker.  Yet we place our value on our own deeds, our circumstances, or our expectations.  But You look to each one of us and say, “You are mine. You are worth everything to me.  You are valuable to me!” That value doesn’t rely on us at all!

The celebration comes when we recognize that You have given us our value.  When we turn away from defending our poor behavior and defining ourselves based on our own perceived merit we can finally see that Your value for us is all that matters.  And You love us! We are worth everything to You and when we finally see that and turn to You to receive Your love, there is much celebrating for us and for You!

Thank You, God, for loving me.  Thank You, God for defining me as someone who is valued and loved by You.  I am someone who is worth dying for, not because I did anything to earn it, but because You made me and You I am highly valued by You!  Yay! Thank You!

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.

The Resurrection!

Jesus, thank you for revealing yourself to the World through your resurrection!  You truly are alive just as you said you would be! I’m so thankful for your life, Lord!  I know that it means I have life. You have utterly defeated the world, sin and death. They no longer have power.  All authority has been given to You! And you have used that authority to empower us with Your Spirit and give us authority as well.  We share in your rulership! How wonderful!

We are so broken, so foolish, so full of failure and yet you still chose to become like us, in the form of a man, with all the human flaws and failings at peak potential in your own body, but you overcame it all.  Your resurrection proves it! The tomb is empty because you are alive.

Lord, thank you for teaching us all about who you are through the scriptures.  Thank you that you walk with us and patiently show us the revelation of your identity through the prophets of the old testament so that we can fully consume and understand who you are and what you have done for us.  It is incredible, God.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:25-27

I worship you, Jesus!  I worship you and love you for what you have done!

 

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.

 

The Full Fruit of Your Living Tree

There is so much in my heart, God.  So much longing, so much need. In the depth of my heart you hear me.  You hear my tiny voice and rejoice over me with singing. You prepare a place for me.  You lead me and hold me up. You keep me from drowning. You dry my tears. You release me from my shame and from my sorrow.  

I know your justice will come quickly.  Once it starts it will be quick. Your justice will come and our hearts will be glad.  We will rejoice forever with you. We will never cry again. We will sing songs and be glad.  We will dance. We will laugh. We will rejoice in the eternal glory of your presence and your love.  

No more will there be suffering or pain.  

No more will there be betrayal or heartache or weariness.  Those days will pass away and be forgotten. Your justice will be swift and complete.  How sad for those who don’t know you. How sad for those who will feel the brunt of your wrath because they chose to stand with the false idols.  

You have made your glory and your salvation known.  

But the people reject you for their own gain. They reject you for money, power, and fame.  The fabricate glory and honor from the work of their own hands, and fail to see the majesty of your creation.  They can’t see what you have given them and created for them. They have blinded themselves to your love because of their own desire and lust.

Lord, how free I feel to know that your love is even bigger than my own.  How happy I am to know that when I looked beyond myself and my own desire for love and acceptance, I found deeper love and acceptance than I could have ever known apart from you!  You offer to all people the things we long for most and yet the enemy has convinced the world that joy can come from their own power. But your joy is so much better!

Bring wisdom to your people, God.  

Show the world your deep and powerful love through your redeemed children.  Help the world to see that if they can look beyond themselves they can find and receive a love and mercy and peace that they could never know apart from you.  Whatever they have found on their own is nothing compared to what you offer. Let them see that, God.

Let them know the full fruit of your living tree.

Bring life to the nations, God.
Thank you for Jesus.
Make him known!

 

 

Tears in a Bottle

“You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in a bottle,
Are they not in your books?”
Psalm 56:8

God, I feel like I’m walking through mud.  I’m stuck in all this struggle and I’m overwhelmed and frustrated and sad.  It’s so hard to pick up my feet and take another step. I know you are with me.  I know you care for me. I know I can cast my burdens upon you and be sustained by you, but I’m struggling.  The attack from the enemy is so strong. It is relentless. It is consuming. It’s hard, God.

“My heart is in anguish within me;
   the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
   and horror overwhelms me.”
Psalm 55:4-5

In the onslaught I struggle to hear you.  In the tumult my heart is aching. My eyes are blinded by tears and anger and futility.  I wallow in it. I don’t know why I do, but my heart truly is in anguish within me. I can’t turn around without hearing the taunts of the enemy.  My fear holds me hostage. My anguish paralyzes me.

“But I call to God,
   and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
   I utter my complaint and moan,
   and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
   from the battle that I wage,
   for many are arrayed against me.”
Psalm 55:16-18

You hear me, God, when I call out to you.  You hear me and save me. You long for me to be in peace with you and in my life.  You bring the Prince of Peace to my heart and to my mind. My head rests in your lap and I am comforted.  I am covered by your love and your mercy. You will save me. You have saved me. I am yours. I am saved from the wrath of my own condemnation.  I am saved from the fear of my own failings and doubt. I am free from the lords that once ruled me and molested my heart. I can have peace in your arms.  I can rest in your love.

   “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
   This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9

 

His Hand is Stretched Out Still

Daddy, someone told me yesterday that the first 40 chapters of Isaiah were all about your wrath, and that it wasn’t until chapter 41 that we see your mercy.  He seemed surprised when I answered him with my thoughts on the contrary.  Because Lord, I’ve begun to truly see your compassion and mercy in everything.  It’s like a mighty flood gate has opened and your love and mercy have poured out of it with POWER!  I’m seeing your love in everything!  Especially after hearing a sermon explaining how you define yourself from Exodus 34. God, your love really does endure forever.

You are “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

So, when I was reading Isaiah this morning, and particularly reading in the early chapters that my friend had named chapters of your wrath, all I could see was your great mercy and love!  Wow!  In Isaiah Ch. 9-10 you pronounce the wrath that you will pour out on all things evil that have torn people away from the light and love of your faithfulness.  You promise that you will destroy all the things that have stolen people away from the peace and joy that You provide.  And you warn the people through Isaiah over and over and over:

“For all this anger had not turned away, and his hand is outstretched still.”

Every commentary I looked at said that  your outstretched hand is the hand that will smite the people.  But I just couldn’t make sense of that.  It seemed wrong to me, God.  And so I kept reading.  And sure enough, you showed me the truth.  After the warning of utter destruction you promise, comes your outstretched hand of MERCY.  In chapter 11 you announce that your judgement has a protection clause, and that protection of judgement will come in the form of Messiah Jesus!

“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remains of his people”

Isaiah 11:11

You extend your hand of mercy!  You offer your hand for protection from selfishness and evil intent.  You are offer your hand to any who will take it.  Your judgement comes and

You will say in that day;
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah 12

Your outstretched hand is the hand of mercy and love.  Your hand is extended for all to find cover and protection from the destruction that awaits any who would rather stand on their own, apart from you.  You keep telling us that we cannot save ourselves when the destruction comes.  Only the one who made us can save us.  So, Lord, help people to see that your way is salvation, not destruction.  Your mercy and love will have their way and you will put an end to evil.

“He will raise a signal to the the nations”

You said that “He will raise a signal to the the nations” (Isaiah 11:12) so I’m asking you to burn that signal brighter, so that people will see your love and your offer of protection and be saved.

Amen.

(Sermon Link: What God says about Himself)

Salvation Belongs to the Lord

“Salvation belongs to the Lord.”  Jonah 2:9

Father, salvation belongs to you and you alone!  You are merciful and full of love!  While we were your enemies you died for us.  So, Jesus, I’m so sorry for all the times I had hate in my heart instead of mercy, for all the times I wanted to see vengeance poured out on my enemies instead of love and mercy.  My heart aches to realize that there are times when I have run away from your mercy for others because of my own hurt or anger.  I’ve looked at the evil in the world and I’ve longed to see you put it to an end, and I know that one day you will do that.  You will put an end to the rampant sin of the sons of disobedience.  But before you do that you offer your salvation.  You say in your word that it is your heart that all would find redemption and reconciliation in you.  So, I’m sorry that, like Jonah, I have questioned your love for others while freely accepting it for myself.  Thank you that you have forgiven me.

So now Lord, I lift up to you your enemies.  I lift up to you the murderers, the rapists, the pedophiles, the liars, the cheaters, the profaners, the torturers.  I lift up the broken, the bruised, the beaten, the subjugated.  You died for them all.  You died for them and paid the price for their sins that they could find joy and peace and have changed hearts.  Salvation belongs to you alone, Jesus.  And you have chosen us all “from the foundation of the world”.  Who am I to question it?  Your love is greater than me.  Your mercy is greater than me.  Your heart is greater than my heart.  Your ways are higher than my ways.  Salvation belongs to you.  So use me to share your love with those who don’t have it.  Use me to love those who have no love.  Use me to bring life to those who are walking in death.  Use me to offer the cleansing love of your Son to those who are dirty and ruled by sin.  Use me, God.  Here I am.  Send me.

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

Amen.