Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inner Beauty

Jesus, you are beautiful!  We sing this line in many songs and using different phrases that mean the same thing.  I then hear the argument that "Jesus was nothing to look at."  If that is so, then why do we sing songs and say things about the beauty of the King?
The reason that one will say Jesus is not physically attractive comes from Isaiah's prophecy about Him.  Isaiah 53:2 CEV " Like a young plant or a root that sprouts in dry ground, the servant grew up obeying the LORD. He wasn't some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us."  I have long struggled with this verse.  Jesus is the Son of God, how could he not be beautiful?  Isaiah 53 also goes on to describe his appearance at crucifixion.  I have wondered if verse 2 actually spoke of that day after he was beaten.  Today the context to me seems to point toward even as he grew up there was nothing attractive about him.  Regardless of how I take this scripture, Jesus explains something to His disciples that gives me a different level of understanding.
Pharisees accused Jesus of wrong-doing by not making his disciples do the ceremonial hand-washing before eating.  Jesus used the Word to rebuke them.  Tradition blinded them to truth.  Jesus quoted Isaiah, Matthew 15:8-9 NLT "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'"  They were more concerned about their ceremonies and show than with true worship.  The disciples didn't understand why Jesus said that to the pharisees.  They were still stuck on physical understanding and the outward appearance of godliness and not purity of heart.  Jesus then explained, Matthew 15:17-20 NLT "'Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.  But the words you speak come from the heart - that's what defiles you.  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.  These are what defile you.  Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.'"
What does this have to do with Jesus being beautiful?  The list He gave in Matthew 15:19 is what makes one ugly.  They include: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander.  Jesus did none of these.  What was in his heart came out of his mouth.  Love flowed from Him.  Jesus even blessed the pure in heart.  Absolam was said to be physically beautiful.  Saul was said to be remarkable in appearance.  Jesus had a beautiful heart.  It was not defiled.  He went through temptation and stayed pure.
If I were to log all the words that come from my mouth, I am sure I would be ashamed.  I want to be beautiful.  I will never attain the physical beauty of a movie star or be asked to model the newest fashions, but I strive to be one that attracts people.  I don't desire for them to be attracted to me, but to Jesus in me so that they can delight in His love for them as much as I delight in it.  Guard my heart, Lord, and guard my lips.  I want to be beautiful on the inside.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Prayer for Our Government Leaders

Most Holy Heavenly Father,
We recognize You first and foremost as the Great King, The Mighty One, and Your  Son, Jesus, the Captain of the Hosts.  You have ALL authority in heaven and on earth and under the earth.  Through You and by You all things were created.  You said of Your Son that the government would be upon His shoulders and we stand now in agreement with Your WORD.  We recognize that it was no accident, and that this plan was Yours from the beginning of time.  All authority was put into place by Your appointment, authority and permission.  Now we lift up to You, those who You have called, “For such a time as this.”  We stand beside them now in intercession as Aaron and Hur; who stood beside Moses and held his weary arms up.  We lift them up knowing that You will give them supernatural strength to stand when they have nothing left to rely on but You.
Many are holding an office, Lord, for the first time after running on the principles and foundation that You alone placed within their spirits.  I pray that you line each official up with another who will keep them accountable to the direction that You set forth before time began.  Equip them to serve You, their leaders, each other, and those who depend on their service.  Open their ears to hear Your voice.  Open their minds to remember Your words.  Open their hearts to receive Your love.  Open their spirits to the awe of who You are.  With all of the voices that call out to them right now, give them the supernatural ability to focus on the voice of Truth.
Help them to pay attention to what You say, to turn their ears to Your words and not let them out of their sight and keep them in their hearts.  For Your words are life and health to them; to their whole bodies.  Above all else, show them how to guard their hearts.  Help them to make a covenant with their lips that no perversity or corrupt talk will come from their mouths.  Let their eyes be fixed on You.  Looking straight ahead may their eyes not wander when confronted with the vile and wicked things of this world.  Let them fix their gaze directly on You and keep their minds pure.
Be the light to their paths.  Shine brightly and keep their feet firmly planted in Your ways.  Let them choose each step with wisdom and when in doubt let them not forget to call upon Your name for direction and clarity of vision.  Let them not turn to the right or to the left, but straight ahead.  Keep their feet from evil.  Holy Spirit, come, be their caution.  Father, give them strength to follow through, to heed the caution of Your Spirit and boldly proceed in the calling, in the path that You have set before them.
Finally, Lord, I pray for Your abundant blessings upon them.  May they lift their eyes up to the mountains and know that is where their help comes from.  Their help comes from You, O Lord, and You alone.  They cannot finish this holy assignment without the Maker of heaven and earth.  Let them feel Your presence and know these truths.  You will not let their foot slip.  You who watch over them will not slumber.  You who watches over Israel will neither sleep nor slumber.  Let them feel Your presence and know these truths.  You watch over them and shade them at their right hand.  The sun will not harm them by day nor the moon by night.  Let them feel Your presence and know these truths.  You, O Lord, will keep them from all harm and watch over their lives.  You will watch over their coming and going from now until forever!  Sustain them with Your Word.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Fish Rescued Jonah

Much of my growing up years, I lived with an understanding that God sent the fish to swallow Jonah as his punishment.  In Jonah 1:17 after Jonah was thrown into a raging sea and it grew calm the Word says, "Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and nights."  Jonah was right when he told those on the boat that the storm was his fault.  The sailors feared God when the storms calmed. 
I think they must have realized the storm was supernatural before Jonah "fessed up" anyhow because the lots were to find out who was responsible for the calamity.  As sailors, they must be able to read the sky and know when a storm pattern is brewing.  When this storm raged from no where and kept getting worse, they became desperate.  They didn't want to be responsible for Jonah's death and they tried to avoid throwing him in the sea, but God knew what He was doing.
Jonah 2:5-7 "The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.  To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple."
It even seems by the order of the text that Jonah didn't pray this prayer of thanks to God until he'd been in the fish for 3 days and nights.  The last phrase of the prayer is quoted and then verse 10 says the Lord commanded the fish to spit him out.
It is by God's providential hand that Jonah survived this ordeal and God put him in this ordeal.  It makes me wonder if Jonah pouted for 3 days and finally realized that God rescued him and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  I'm only thinking that because I see a pattern of him pouting. 
Regardless of why we experience the things we experience, whether it be rebellion, sin, or just God's sovereignty, we need to look to God for the answer.  Sometimes, the trouble we seem to experience is actually our salvation.  I've been there.  I hated a situation I was in, but if I never experienced it, I wouldn't have been able to come into the place I am right now.  God provided my discomfort to rescue me and I believe rescue my children. 
It's all in perspective.  I need to remember to pray for God to let me see from His perspective when I face what I face.  Unfortunately for me it usually takes me longer than 3 days to figure things out.
Romans 8: 28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Have you no shame?

Jeremiah 3:3b "Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame." 
As I read this yesterday, it really struck me as I am in a generation that no longer blushes.  We have become so hardened in our worldliness that we are beginning to not blush, and even those of us who are called by the name, Christian, are the ones whose actions are shameful.   I certainly have told my share of vulgar jokes and laughed at others' telling them.  My behavior has warranted Heavenly Father speaking to me in this tone as well.  When I join in unwholesome conversation with unbelievers, I in a sense am giving them permission to continue.  If I blush at their jokes, they will more likely feel conviction.
The context of the scripture is God's speaking to the nation of Israel as they have chased other gods.  It is interesting that He points out that those from other nations who worship other gods do not exchange their gods for another and yet Israel has the true God and turns from Him.  They dig broken cisterns when they have the spring of living water right in front of them.
God's plan for us is to be set apart and worship Him only.  He wants us to love Him which is the first and greatest command.  To show love to Him we must honor and obey His commands.  He has set us apart, so we must act like we belong to Him and not to the world.  He loves me enough to allow me to take His name in a relationship of betrothal.  I want to wear his name as His bride and not as one who would easily trade Him for a stone. 
Shame was not something intended for the Bride of Christ.  After creation, man was in the garden naked and unashamed.  A toddling child runs around without clothing and is not aware that it is inappropriate.  He must be taught that clothing is a standard.  Some children become embarrassed to kiss their parents in front of their friends as they grow older.  Some even begin to feel shame for their relationship with Jesus at a certain point.  Why, then does the Word say, "... and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame." in Romans 9:33 as well as several other places?  I believe the answer lies in context of time you live for.  If you live for today, you may be ashamed of simple things that really have no lasting merit.  If you live for eternity, and you hope in the Lord, you will not be put to shame. 
If my eyes remain fixed on the Bridegroom King, I will not indulge in shameful actions.  When I stand before my Maker in eternity, I will not have a life worthy of shame.  Even if I have committed shameful acts, He will wash away any shame if I ask Him too.  There will be no reason for me to hide my eyes as He embraces me in eternity.  When I live for eternity, the things that the world told me were shameful will melt away in the waves of His love for me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jeremiah's Calling

There is a word that I've heard and have always had mixed emotions about.  The word is DESTINY.  When I am not doing what I know to be right, I often feel I am a failure and was never destined to do anything good because blah, blah, blah...  Other times I know that I am destined for good.  I know that I have a purpose and I've struggled most of my life to define who I am.  I've read back in past journals and found that I've asked that question over and over again.  I know that I have a purpose.  I know that I have a destiny!  If nothing else, I am destined to give God glory in one way or another.  So as I began reading Jeremiah a few days ago, I was stirred. 
Jeremiah 1:1-10 NIV The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
"Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.'  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you." declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth.  Se, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."
There is a lot in just those first 10 verses.  What I hear loud and clear is DESTINY.  It is funny because I am reminded of a quote from the movie Bolt by the hamster named, Rhino.  "Ring, ring! Who's there? Destiny? I've been expecting your call."  I've even jokingly said it a few times with my children when we play.  If you watch that movie, though, you will realize that Rhino wasn't sitting around waiting for the call.  He was actually chasing after the one who was his ultimate hero.  At the point of this quote, he was being called into a higher purpose.
In Jeremiah's case, he was not following a worldly icon, (god, idol) but was communing with Jehovah God.  He was called as a young man.  No matter his actual age, Jeremiah felt as though he were a child when God spoke to him.  Even if Jeremiah were a child at the time the word of the Lord came to him, he was first called before he was even conceived.  He was called as a prophet of the Lord, Most High. 
Jeremiah's first response to Sovereign Lord at first seemed whiny to me, but as I read it and consider it, I realize that it was a statement of humility.  He did not have confidence in himself.  This is a perfect place to be when called to a higher place.  Start with your head in a lower place.  If Jeremiah were eloquent in speech, he would have put his confidence in himself rather than continue to speak the words of the Lord.
The Lord gave him words to speak.  He reached out and touched his mouth.  This action reminds me of Isaiah 6 when Isaiah asks the seraph to touch the coal to his lips.  There are similarities in the commissioning of a different "sent one."  Most of the time our words are insufficient.  Sure we use a lot of them, but His words are perfect.
Because of his calling, response and obedience, Jeremiah was appointed over kingdoms and nations.  God already knew his character.  He already knew his response.  Is that why he had a destiny as such?  God knows all and this was just the beginning of a long time of ministry. 
God is still in the business of calling and appointing people over nations and over families and over churches.  How long has he been trying to have this conversation with me, with you?  Are we willing to put our head lower than our pride to allow his words to enter our lips for his glory?  If my destiny is just to walk through this life as a testimony of His glory and I obey, it will be enough.  I know He has more in store for me.  I suspect He has more in store for you, too!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Were you born in a barn?

I've heard this question several times in my life.  Usually when one leaves the door open when entering a building, the question echos out.  We've just finished the season when many celebrate the Nativity.  My family watched 2 movies, "The Prince of Peace," an animated film and, "The Nativity Story."  Jesus was born in a barn.  I have been inspired by these stories.  The telling was a bit different in each film, just as any retelling of a historical event.  This year was like most and I really am overwhelmed by the whole sequence of events.  This year it is even more striking to me to hear that he was born in a "barn."
It wasn't enough that He became man, but He humbled himself to the lowest of lowly for mankind.  For our salvation He came!  He left the most glorified position.  He even mentioned it in the prayer to Father before His crucifixion. 
John 17:5 LITV  And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the existence of the world.
He gave all of it up to come and become like us.  To be humbled, to be spit upon, to be a sacrifice for our salvation.  His own people did not believe that He was/is the Messiah.  They had been waiting for Him.  Even scholars from the East knew that His coming was imminent and the heavens gave a sign.  It is much easier to believe that a young girl was promiscuous than that a virgin would give birth.  No one would believe today that she was a virgin, but at least she wouldn't likely be stoned to death which would have been her fate if Joseph had not believed and intervened. 
I am still blown away by the contrast and this remains in my spirit.  Jesus chose to leave splendor beyond my wildest imagination to be humbled lower than low and be born in a barn.  Why?  So that you and I can join Him in His glory in the end if we choose rightly!