Beauty For Your Ashes

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Yes, it’s true, life is not always happy. It’s not always easy. It deals harshly sometimes, it seems unfair, and we may wonder where God is, or why He didn’t stop that difficult event or illness from happening.

Job was there too. This righteous man who loved and honored God. Yet he lost everything. It crumbled around him, all he held dear. And he knew without God, he was nothing. And we find him in the beginning of the book of Job, “…he sat in the ashes.” Job 2:8

Daniel was there. He and the people had suffered under captivity, he prayed to God on behalf of his people, that God would have mercy. He repented, and confessed his own sin, his deep need for Him. He knew where true strength and help came from, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy withfasting and sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3

Tamar was there. She had trusted and yet was betrayed. David’s own daughter had been taken advantage of, raped, and she was left on her own, alone, with no hope for her future, to pick up the broken pieces of shattered life. “And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” 2 Sam. 13:19

And they may have wondered too…

Where was God in it all? Where is He now? Deep grief, crime, captivity, illness, death of loved ones, shattered hope, and broken dreams?

What Beauty for Ashes Really Means: 

His Truth says this: He was there. In the midst of it all.

And though we may not always see it, or feel it, or even understand it, we can know beyond a doubt, that He is now. Still. He is with us.

“To provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Isaiah 61:3

For He will never leave us or forsake us, His love for us in greater than we could ever imagine, though we live in a world where we face trouble many days.

Jesus reminds us in John 16:33“In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, for I have overcome the world.”

And that’s the key to the ashes that cover our days in this life. The deeper Truth that shines through every bit of our grief, and pain, and sin, is this, Christ came to set us free. Christ came to redeem. Christ came to bring hope. Christ came to bring beauty from ashes.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:1-3

He never intends for us to stay stuck in our sin, pain, or deep sorrow. He heals and restores, He calls us onward, He reminds us that in Him, we have great purpose and hope.

There’s beauty and greatness behind every mark of darkness. The ashes will fall away, they don’t stay forever, but His greatness and glory shine forever through every broken place and flaw we’ve struggled through.

He conquered death. He lives forever. He reigns in glory. And we have victory in Him.

Take courage dear friends who are facing deep battles. He is greater than any enemy we face in this life. We overcome because He has overcome and our lives are hidden in Christ. May God cover you with peace, may He bring healing in the face of hard news, may He bring deep, abiding joy that makes no sense to the world, may He bring comfort and care as He wraps you in His arms. The God of miracles fights for you today, and He is Mighty.

There’s still beauty ahead…straight out of ashes. Christ redeems. Grace.

A Prayer for Beauty from Ashes

Dear God,

Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstance can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face, and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. We trust You will take all the rubble, ruin and ashes of our lives and transform them into Your unfading, eternal beauty in Christ our Lord, Amen. 

To Love is to Live

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“Start living now! Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Make the effort, take the time to love deeper and be more compassionate to all people because that is the very purpose of life itself for all humans. Every day you are alive is a special occasion, worthy of grateful celebration. Every second, every minute, every breath, is truly a gracious gift from God none of us deserve. Please, my friend, don’t waste these fleeting moments of your life, unless you want to wake up one day, old and cranky with painful regrets.”
—Mary Manin Morrissey

The Extravagant Love That Finds Us

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Shana Schutte writes;

One of my girlfriends was lonely and frustrated that God hadn’t delivered her greatest desire: a husband. Never married and 40, she was tired of praying and waiting and waiting and waiting, but most of all she was convinced that her life was somehow less-than. “Being single is not the abundant life!” she stated emphatically. I certainly identified with the sometimes heart-wrenching emotions of feeling like the only girl without a date to the prom. I empathized with her loneliness, her cries late at night when only God can hear and her zillion prayers for a man she wasn’t even sure exists. But the absence of abundant life? Our conversation sent me running for my Bible where I found (John 10:10.)”The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”The word “LIFE” jumped off the page. I had to look up its meaning. In the definition, I found the prescription for my friend’s sickness of heart: God Himself is the abundant life that both she and I seek—not relationship with a man.” 

The Greek word for life is “ZOE” (the original language) and means:

“LIFE, referring to the principle of life in the spirit and the soul. (emphasis mine). [ZOE is] all the highest and best that Christ is, which He gives to the children. The highest blessedness of the creature.”

Supernatural Life (with a capital “L”). God’s Life inside of me. Inside of you. In the spirit. In the soul. God-given. God-originated. God-fueled. The highest blessing we can have this side of heaven. Christ Himself.

Friends, the first step to developing an intimate (and fulfilling) love relationship with God is to admit that the abundant life He promises will never be found in another person. Instead, as the definition of “zoe” (life) shows, true abundant life is internal and it’s found in Christ alone.

Don’t get me wrong; God created us to experience human love, and romance can add a wonderful dimension to life. But romantic love will never be able to trump an intimate love relationship with God. Frankly, God likes it this way because He doesn’t want any contenders for your heart; He’s jealous for your affection (Ex. 34:14).

Secondly: Accept That a Fulfilling Intimate Love Relationship With God is PERSONAL

Some things with God are so personal, so intimate, that they cannot be described with words, they can only be felt with the heart. This is how true intimacy with God is; we feel that no one else can really understand the special bond that we share with Him because it’s altogether personal.

This describes my relationship with Christ. He has comforted me as I have cried, directed me, taught me, rebuked me, guided me and loved me. There have been times when I have thought that my heart would burst with emotion for Him.

“Who could understand the depth of my relationship with Him but me and my Savior?”

This is true intimacy with God: when we feel that no one else would totally understand, even if we tried to explain, because relationship with God is personal.

If you haven’t ever committed yourself to a personal relationship with Him, it’s not fraught with difficult requirements and religious duties. He doesn’t ask that you change yourself before you commit yourself to Him; He just asks that you come as you are, confess your sin to Him, recognize your need to have your sins forgiven and accept His gift of forgiveness that He has offered to you through His death on the cross (Matt. 27:1-66, 2 Cor. 5:21). After you have done this, you can begin a life-long conversation with Him which is part of the abundance of “zoe.”

Lastly, remember that just as developing intimacy with another person takes time, so it is with relationship with God. As you grow to trust Him and believe what He says in His Word more and more, your love affair with Him will become increasingly fulfilling and the abundance of “zoe” will grow inside your spirit and soul, encapsulating your entire being with a supernatural sense of joy and fulfillment you’ve never had before and can’t explain, but it’s very real. 

As you do this, God will give you the faith to trust Him to bring the right person in your life at the right time. You won’t get so frustrated with God, but trust Him in a much greater way because you know His plan is perfect. You will experience a deeper sense of His peace & joy today & for your future. “Zoe” (God’s Life) will animate your entire being.

This is the extravagant love we don’t have to keep looking for because it has already found us! This is the perfect, unconditional love that comes from our Father and revealed to us at the cross of Jesus Christ His Son for us. Let His love embrace you today and trust your tomorrows, and all your prayers, for a future spouse in His loving, all-powerful hands. He has not forgotten you. 

The Juggler & the Diamond

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The Juggler & the Diamond

He was born in Italy but came to the United States as a young man. He studied juggling and became famous throughout the whole world.

Finally he decided to retire. He longed to return to his home country and settle down. He took all his worldly possessions, booked a passage on a ship to Italy and invested all the rest of the money in a single large blue diamond. He hid the diamond in his stateroom.

While aboard ship, he was showing a boy how he could juggle a bunch of apples. Soon a crowd had gathered. The pride of the moment went to his head. He ran to his stateroom and got the diamond. He explained to the crowd that it represented his entire life’s savings. He started juggling the diamond. Soon he was taking more and more chances.

At one point he threw the diamond high into the air and the crowd gasped. Knowing what the diamond meant, they begged him not to do it again. Moved by the excitement of the moment, he threw the diamond even higher. Again the crowd gasped and then sighed in relief when he caught the diamond.

Having total confidence in himself and his ability, the juggler told the crowd he would throw it up one more time. This time it would be so high that it would be out of sight for a moment. Again, they begged him not to do it.

But with the confidence of all his years of experience, he threw the diamond high into the air. It actually did disappear for a moment. Then the diamond returned into view sparkling in the sunlight. At that moment, the ship lurched and the diamond dropped into the sea and was lost forever.

We all feel terrible about the man’s loss of all his worldly possessions. But God compares our soul as more valuable than the possessions of the whole world.

Just like the man in the story, some of us are juggling with our souls. We trust in ourselves and our own ability and the fact that we have gotten by before. Oftentimes there are people around us begging us to stop taking the risk because they recognize the value of our soul.

But we continue to juggle one more time…never knowing when the ship will lurch and we will have lost our chance forever.

The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

The Bible teaches we can’t come to Christ anytime we want to, only when the Spirit of God is tugging at our hearts. To put off our decision to surrender to Christ is as dangerous and risky as that foolish juggler we just read about.

“How about you?” 

If you would like to invite Jesus Christ into your life and know you have eternal life and have total assurance your sins are forgiven —- please pray this prayer aloud; 
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“Dear God, 
I know that I am a sinner and I know I need Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ today. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross and was raised from the dead on that first Easter morning. I want all my sins forgiven and I want to know I have eternal life right now. I am willing to turn from my sins, with Your help and turn to Jesus with all my heart. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart now and take control of my life. I will follow You from this time on as Your disciple. In Jesus name, Amen.” 

If you prayed that prayer, please message us. We would like to encourage you in this all important decision to follow Christ.

God bless you richly! 
David Crews

Remember to Not Forget Our Dependence on God

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Our busy, stressed, high-tech, Internet, postmodern culture today strongly encourages us think “we are the captains of our fate, the masters of our destiny” (Invictus, William Henley). But, are we? 

How often do we realize our very breath is gift of God? How easy it is to take for granted the obvious. Our very inclination and nature is to let God quietly slip away to the back of our minds. Somehow we begin to think God owes us everything He has freely given us by His undeserved favor.  

Yet, in order to grow in Christ, we must live an “intentional discipleship” (work out our salvation as He has worked it into us) daily. In the beginning of our Christian journey, this can seem a bit daunting, but like learning to do any new thing, as we consistently “practice the presence of God” — it becomes part of us because we are already connected in personal, intimate union with Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior (Romans 6). 

“May I simply encourage you today to “simplify your Christianity” and get back to being humble, grateful and appreciative to God for the simple gifts that we depend on daily for our survival as humans?”

Things like; safe shelters, healthy food, legs that walk, eyes that see, ears that hear, etc. Yet, go deeper, how about a heart that pursues spiritual growth, holistic healing, Christlike mindset, a special compassion and love for others that only God can give us? But wait….what should we deeply praise God for, most of all? 

How about His unmerited, undeserved, unearned grace and favor He has mercifully extended to us in our personal salvation in Christ? 

What would any of us be without it?

I shutter to think about the consequences of not knowing Him, His love, His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord and what He has done for the whole, unbelieving world of lost souls He died for at the cross. I know clearly God took the initiative to invite us to know Him. We only believe because He has graciously given us “the supernatural gift of faith to believe Him and trust our lives totally to Christ.” 

Let your grateful heart to God be known today by others wherever you go. Share with others what good things God has done, and continues to do, for you. Please make sure you don’t forget to thank God daily for all His good gifts we depend on daily to live, to flourish and to thrive as His beloved people.

We are more dependent on God daily than most of us realize. Live your life everyday with that keen realization. Satisfaction, strength and joy can be found only in Christ

Walking Through the Darkness

“Walking Through the Darkness”

“Let them who walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”
—ISAIAH 50:10

We’ve all been there. Perhaps, you are there now. What do you do when life seems unclear, when the way before you is foggy, misty and dark? You see little to no light at tunnel’s end, just thick darkness all around and closing in. You feel alone and you don’t like what’s happening now in your life.

Most of you reading this probably don’t feel this way, thankfully, but I know some of you do. It’s very difficult to walk in darkness. It’s frightening, even terrifying. Fear can paralyze us, cause us to stumble and fall. It’s hard to see things. It’s an uneasy feeling. I know, I’ve been there.

Jesus knows how you feel. Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.”
(John. 8:12)

When circumstances force you to walk through the darkness and you have no light, that’s the time, more deeply than ever, to “trust in the name of the Lord” and to “rely on” God.

The Hebrew text uses a very interesting word for trust that means to “lean on completely for support.” Rest your total weight on Him. That means to “resist the urge” to let your emotions, your fears, your worries or insecurities about things get the best of you. When you’re fully trusting God, there’s no room in your heart for fear, worry or anxiety, only His peace.

Perhaps that’s all you are able to do just now, just muster up a little prayer for His help. That’s o.k. It is, anyway, what you should do. Let Jesus reach down from His light to your darkness, hold you up, and walk with you.

You can walk with Him through difficulty and trial. He is faithful. Darkness doesn’t last forever. He does.

TODAY’S PRAYER

“Father God, I need Your help. I need You. I want to trust You, and I do. I choose to lean on You and ask You to carry me through to the other side of my troubles. In Christ, Amen.”

Go Deeper — Take strong encouragement from these words;

“Perhaps your journey seems a little strange now. It’s o.k. God is with you and promised to be with you even when life is so unsure, even in those times when you may not feel His presence. He is there. And, most of all, He will get you through this season of darkness. Trust Him with all your heart.”

It’s Not Your Past That Matters to Jesus

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Shame is a No-Win Game

Friends, I’ve discovered that many people today are dying slowly in a secret tomb of shame. Some are ashamed of their poor financial condition, plagued with guilt about their irresponsible spending and debt. Others are ashamed about sexual sin from their past. Many carry extreme guilt with them into their future relationships. Countless people are crippled by the shame of secret addictions. Some people even live with false guilt after suffering as victims of sexual abuse. Some carry constant guilt over broken relationships, shattered marriages or children they may feel deep down inside they failed. Still others bear the shame they feel over a chronic health problem that affects their entire life.

Shame usually follows a pattern — a cycle of self-recrimination and lies that claims life after life. First, we experience an intensely painful event. Second, we believe the lie that our pain and failure is who we are — not just something we’ve done, or had done to us — and we experience shame. And finally, our feelings of shame trap us into thinking that we can never recover — that, in fact, we don’t even deserve to.

Finding a Way Out

Please understand that there is a way out of the cycle. It is different for each person, but it is also possible for each person, by the grace of God, no matter how uniquely and irreversibly crippling that person’s shame might feel.

When we let shame control our actions, we cannot know God, because we cannot live our lives for him. Christians, ironically, can try to live as if God doesn’t exist because, in their cycle of shame, it doesn’t seem as if He does.

One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, broke out of his prison of shame, although the struggle was long. Jesus had predicted this fisherman-turned-disciple’s betrayal, and Peter immediately and passionately denied that he’d ever turn on Jesus.

“I’ll stand faithfully by you until the end,” he insisted.

Unfortunately, real-life events soon proved Peter wrong. A rooster’s crow reminded Peter of his denial, forcing him to face his crushing triple failure. Yet Peter refused to believe the lie that his betrayal now branded him a traitor. Broken and repentant, Peter cried out to God for forgiveness. After His resurrection, Jesus honored Peter’s desperate plea. Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration gave Peter a renewed passion, and the courage to preach a daring message at Pentecost and become one of the fathers of the Christian church.

His failure — transformed from tragedy into triumph through Peter’s repentance and God’s forgiveness — became a character-building lesson that led the way to kingdom victory.

Breaking the Shackles of Shame

Like Peter, we can break free from the cycle of shame, but only through the power of God in Christ.

We live lives of private defeat, but God wants to renew our hearts and minds and to send us into His world as lights shining in the darkness. Like Peter, we can become convinced of the truth: namely, that we are not our sins. And we’re also not what others have done to us.

Rather, we are who God says we are: His children. We are forgivable. We are changeable. We are capable. We are mold-able. And we are bound by the limitless love of God.

When we hope in what God has promised — commanded — our hope is the same as certainty.

For many, it is difficult to accept that the past has passed. Sometimes, it’s so hard just to leave it there, where it belongs. But until we do, we cannot make peace with the present or walk into the future with hope.

Changing Your Future

Once we accept the unchangeable past, we must embrace that God can change our future.

While we may always remember what happened, we need to believe that we are not what happened. We are who God says we are — new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we reject what our shame says about us, we can finally hear what God says about us. He is working in all things to bring about good in our lives because we love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).

Your Turn

God is ready and willing to turn your shame into your strength! Are you ready to let go of that shame, repent to those you’ve hurt, and give it to Him? Your Heavenly Father is more willing to take your burdens than we are often willing to give to Him. We pray He has touched your heart today and that you will indeed choose to let go of that inner shame, give it to Christ by prayer and just be set free from that which is holding you back from His plan for your life. Freedom is just one prayer away for you. Take the step now and watch God work a supernatural miracle in your life through Jesus Christ who already suffered the guilt of all your sins, on His cross, and said, “IT IS FINISHED!”