Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

I've had to make some hard choices lately. Choices that impact my daily life and my heart tremendously. Choices that change how I spend my time, my money, how I direct my thoughts, my cares, my freedom, what I worry for and work for. What I will rely on. It has been a long time in coming, but as the recent events of my life began to take place, I found myself prepared for them by the Lord.

I have decided, to follow Jesus. I am accepting the Lord's trade, beauty for ashes, ashes for beauty. No longer do I hold onto my filthy rags of Self. I hold only on to Him and His promises.

Isa 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

I will give Him my ashes, He will give me His beauty, that He may be glorified. For He is worthy of glory.

Beauty He alone can give. Beauty He alone could purchase with His life.

His for mine.

Beauty for ashes.

He knows my name. He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls, and hears me when I call.

This past weekend I faced an old enemy. Someone who would still wish me ill, if they could.

But I have begun to trust the Lord in this and to hear Him when He calls.

How can you get over betrayal? How can you overlook wanton misuse of power? Open hatred? How can you forgive hurt dispensed in daily purposeful doses? How can you decide not to hold that grudge, that needing place in your heart that longed for love and got only disdain and mockery?

Because I now know God. The Creator. My Creator. The One who WAS and IS and IS TO COME.

He knows my name. He knew every step, every thought of every day planned, chosen for me. Yes, He allowed it. He is their creator, too. But who He is, is not who they are. Nor could He ever be like anyone who ever chose to do evil to those who trusted them. Judas comes to mind. Betrayal. Even in the Lord's betrayal, He became triumphant. He can make it all aright.

He is My Healer. My Redeemer. Lover of My Soul. My Brother. My Lord. My Savior. My Righteousness. My Provider. The One who Sees Me. My Salvation. My Rock. My God. His Word tells me all of this. Both directly and by example through His relationship with His people. Israel - those who struggle with God. Those who I thankfully find myself to be among.

I have finally come to where I see that I must love as He has loved me.

Why? Why, you wonder? I wondered, too.

Because eternity is at stake. Perfect peace, or constant unquenchable torment.

Each soul has their own perfect free will. Their choice. Their decision. I have made mine. I have chosen and in my choice, because of who God is and what He has promised me, I AM FREE. By His grace, His love, His mercy for me, I am in true liberty. Liberty, free to live as I truly chose. To come and go with Him, to lead or follow Him, to talk or listen to Him, I am able. Now, each choice has it's consequences, still. This is a material world. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is still true. But whether or not I am capable to listen and obey, in making this choice, I am free. Does this mean I will never fail, never falter, never sin again? Certainly not. But it does mean that in my life, as I ask, seek, knock, I will find Him - more of Him in me.

Before I was sealed with the Holy Spirit, I was bound to my bad habits, my self-condemning thoughts, my inadequate self-control. No longer. I can now bear the Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. I am able. Capable. I have the resurrection power of God himself sitting at the mercy-seat of my heart. He is enthroned. Cherished, held, treasured. This is eternal treasure we are talking about.

As I grasp how great a price was paid for my freedom. How much scorn He bore to love me, I am humbled to realize that accepting this gift then gives it to me to give. To give. To forgive. To love those who have not loved me.

Why? Why? I asked myself this question again today. I have struggled with it for weeks all in preparation for the reunion with my past. (Have I made it clear that on my own, I am not capable of this?)

This gift of eternal life that I now possess, to be in the presence of God, forever - I was in desperate need of this. Helpless, needy, poor and sick. Wounded, by others and my own hand. I needed Christ. I was dead without Him. I was ashes. I used to be overwhelmed with my ability, tendency, capacity, to sin - to consistently fall short. Being overwhelmed by it and incapacitated by it, is pride really. The thought that I should be able to do it myself is nothing but pride.

But then came humility in the flesh. Truth in a robe. Love with hands and feet. God in our carnal flesh. Tempted, tried and proven true. Jesus whose names means 'God is Salvation'.

I have been given a Word from the Lord.

That through one man, sin entered the world and through one man we are freed from it. I used to think I had no choice, no hope - it was my flesh and how could I ever escape from that? I'll tell you how. If you believe that the power of your flesh (Adam) is great, and we all know the power of our physical desires, wait till you know the power of the Spirit once you are in Christ.

Rom 5:17 The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God's wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

In Christ, believing Him, following His commandments, I am free. Gloriously free. Not only after I die, but now, on this earth, typing at this computer. Free to love and free to give. I don't have to give those who have wronged me my love, my forgiveness. I can't. I have nothing to give. I am lacking, I would never have enough and it would all be self-seeking if I were to do it in my own strength. I don't even have enough strength. (Thank the Lord!) I have to rely on Him. I can rely on Him. And the more I do, I want to rely on Him.

Why? Because as I study the Word, as I reluctantly trust Him and waffle through my daily trials, I find Him faithful even when I am not. He is trustworthy. He is faithful to me. He has answered prayer after prayer and lifted me up time and time again. He delivered each of my children, and gives me the heart to nurture them daily.

These are the battlefields, the proving grounds. This is where you decide, where you fight the good fight. Where you live out the truth before men. The same men who killed the truth in the flesh. Those who would seek to do the same to you. Why?

Because this world is ashes. It will not last. It is doomed to burn. Literally, it will all be ashes. What is to come is what is worthwhile, worth your heart and your affection. Everlasting, eternal beauty. Eternal joy. Eternal peace and comfort and elation. In the presence of the Living God, casting crowns as His feet. Considered His bride, the one He gave His life for. It is more than we can imagine. I've typed all of this and I only have a grain of it! How great is our God!

Isa 64:4 For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!

1Cr 2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."

Today I choose to love my enemy because God loves me. Because I can trust Him. Because if I don't, how will they ever know so much hangs in the balance? How will they know what God says is true? What good will my freedom do if I don't use it to reveal His Liberty to others? They know what they have done to me. Their own consciences condemn them. Does it hurt me? Have I cried and struggled and fretted? Yes. I have. All in the valley, on the way to standing on this mountain of victory, all along the way toward making this choice.

First He chose. (He chose me.) Now I chose. (I chose Him.)

Jam 1:18 In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.
Jam 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Jam 1:20 Your anger can never make things right in God's sight.
Jam 1:21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls.
Jam 1:22 And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself.
Jam 1:23 For if you just listen and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance.
Jam 1:24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
Jam 1:25 But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law-the law that sets you free-and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
Jam 1:26 If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
Jam 1:27 Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.

It's the people in your life that matter. Chose to accept lasting vibrancy and then live your life to bless others. Be His hands and feet. You can be the hands and feet of God to someone else who is hurting. Now that is a gift.

1Th 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.
1Th 5:16 Always be joyful.
1Th 5:17 Keep on praying.
1Th 5:18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1Th 5:19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
1Th 5:20 Do not scoff at prophecies,
1Th 5:21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.
1Th 5:22 Keep away from every kind of evil.
1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
1Th 5:24 God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this.

I remember how the Lord mercifully handled those who sought Him, acknowledged Him, loved Him. I also remember how He responded to those who despised Him. He spoke the truth to them openly and purposefully. My enemy is not a person, but the deception that holds their heart captive.

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

I do not have to go in affection (which is not love) to an unrepentant heart, but I do need to forgive (which is love) and be ready to bless as He graciously directs me. He will. He knows my heart and what my greatest need is. It is Jesus. No longer do I see any one person as my enemy, but I acknowledge that there is a greater battle raging on. I am free to courageously do spiritual battle because I am no longer bound by my unforgiveness. It is in God's Almighty hands. He will make it right. Justice delayed is not justice denied. It is actually justice magnified.

He will do all of this. I can rest in knowing that the battle is the Lord's and the victory is mine.

Miraculously, He is doing all this in my life. To Him I hand over my wounds, my ashes, my cries for mercy and justice for me and my loved ones, along with all of my earthly efforts. And in exchange, I receive His presence, trusting that He will make it all beautiful. Truly, abundantly, wonderfully, unspeakably beautiful. For Your glory, in Your time, Lord.

Thank You, Father, Creator, Friend.