selfworth“I may not be pretty, I’m not rich, I don’t have a perfect body, but I have a good heart for those who care.”

The world gets so many things wrong. I saw this posted on Facebook this morning and had an immediate knee jerk reaction.  Just as the media (tv, movies, romance novels…eesh) tells us to “follow your heart” and could not be more wrong because our hearts are corrupt and deceitful, even so the above warm-and-fuzzy thought has everything backwards.

Anyone can buy superficial beauty if they have enough credit cards. Methods abound by which one may lift, tuck, color, whiten, straighten, curl, poof out, suck in, smooth, and adorn oneself. Where does all that investment go when you lie in a coffin one day? Lasting beauty, genuine beauty is a choice.

Today, you can be beautiful in your worship.  That beauty will show through your face.

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. Ps. 29:2

Today, you can know that even the hardest trials and inexplicable circumstances will be viewed one day as beautiful…because of the work they did on your heart, to make you look more like the Fairest Lord Jesus.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. Ecc. 3:11

A “nice” body? You have a body which was lent to you for God’s purposes…one that is fearfully and wonderfully made! And this temporary shell we’ve borrowed will be transformed into something even more amazing when we leave this life.  Are you getting the idea that our focus is not to be upon this world, but upon something better and beyond what we know here?

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.Phil. 3:21

You are not rich?  You can be.  Any riches you may attain here in material goods will one day decay or pass to another.  Nothing that we think we possess in this earthly existence is truly ours.

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:21 (read the whole context for full understanding here)
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 2 Cor. 8:9

And finally, a warm heart is all well and good…but it should not only be offered to “those who care”. That is selfish love. God’s love is unconditional…it is not an if/then kind of love. God’s love gives unreservedly. God’s love loves by choice, not upon the merits of the one loved. There is a great deal of peace and security in that.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them…But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Luke 6:32,35

It is no wonder our young people are insecure, unhappy, irritable, fearful, and depressed.  All they have been encouraged to focus upon is fleeting. Physical beauty, material riches, youthful appeal…they all slip through the fingers no matter how tightly we grasp them. How frustrating and empty is the life spent frantically clawing for things which do not last.

Our oldest daughter has seen the angst of her peers. We talked yesterday about many precious promises God gives in His word (and because of who He is, He always keeps His promises!) that we can stand upon firmly. God’s truth is the only dependable thing.  We must teach them, and show them this.

Only in Christ is there anything of worth for us. Only in Him do we attain real beauty. Only through Him do we become everlastingly rich. Through Him, who loved us not because we “cared”, but “while we were yet sinners.” Our young people need Him.


Black, White, and Unconditional Gray

We find security in absolutes.  We are prone to form cliques.  We want to find our niche.  We sit in the same place nearly every Sunday in church. 😉  There are “love languages” and “personality types” and signs of the zodiac and “seasons.”  We like to put things in nice, safe, neat cubby holes.  But there are many things in life that refuse to conform to these immovable partitions.  That is where faith very often comes in.

We know certain things about the attributes of God.  We know He is holy.  He is just.  He is love. He is immutable (unchanging).  But then there is His mercy.  At any given moment, God’s mercy can bridge the gap between penalty and charity.  This does not negate His immutability.  Rather, it decidedly, divinely places the jewel of grace prominently on display.  God’s unconditional love makes it possible to span the distance, because there is a wideness in His mercy:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth’s failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man’s mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.~Frederick William Faber, 1862

I think sometimes those in Christian leadership are somehow afraid to dwell upon this.  Sort of in the same way that many in fundamental circles shy away from preaching “too much” on the person of the Holy Spirit.  Oh dear.  They fear that their congregants might take it too far.  Too far?  “As far as the east is from the west” is the predetermined distance between our sin and the righteous judgment of God.  How do we dare think we have the right to pull the horizons together with our bare hands, when His nail-pierced ones have by choice pushed them apart?

Unregenerate people (and believers too) are starving to hear this.  We’ve had decades now of judgment and conformity, believing that keeping a whip and chair close at hand will grant us the acceptance for which we ache.  We have focused on dressing right, talking right, carrying the right Bible.  Were not the Pharisees reprimanded for such an emphasis?  We have been taught that approval of men is important, being encouraged to evaluate in light of the question,”What will they think?”  We allow that fear or guilt to motivate us.  I confidently suggest that God never intended it.

We have been given a free will by the Creator Himself…and so, our choice for obedience is an offering every time.  He delights in these decisions.  With every one, we say, “I choose You instead of myself.”  What a treasure. Lovely.

Friends, we are already “accepted in the beloved,” and you had no hand in it.  Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, “while we were yet sinners.”  Our acceptance is already secured.  It is a free gift.  It is to be personally received.  You can’t pay for it now, or ever.  It is not earned at its inception, or somehow maintained by our works.  As James said, faith is proven (indicated) by our works. Our works are evidence, outgrowth of a changing, loving, grateful heart.

We need to let the Spirit do His work.  Preach grace and allow it to renovate hearts.  See, there are white keys on the piano.  There are also black keys.  They make the most beautiful sounds when they are played together. God does that.  We need to learn how.

“Mercy and truth are met together ; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”~Psalm 85:10

Yours, Mine, Ours

In my Monday Bible study, we were looking at Romans 12.  The study is actually in Ephesians, but we are determining to focus upon and grasp this idea of biblical unity (which is much, much more than just “getting along”).

We enthusiastically embrace unity with the Savior:

Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above, Thou hast taught me it is so!
O this full and perfect peace! O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.

~George Robinson, 1876

Click here for the rest of the lyrics.

We need to go further, though.  Here is what we read, that really opened my eyes:

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” ~Romans 12:3-5

In another version, verse 5 is stated, “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

I couldn’t get away from this.  During the study a week ago, I felt compelled to go around the table, make eye contact with each lady, and say, “I am yours.”  Then, in the same manner, I went back around and said, “You are mine.”  So simple, but so compelling.

If we would get this idea, that we are to strive for unity like this, it would transform every church, every family, every marriage, where Christ is present.

I’m doing my best to renew my mind, as the context says:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” vv 1,2

It is Vain to Serve God.

“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?” (Malachi 3:13-14 ESV)

Be honest.  In your heart of hearts, in the weakness of faithlessness, have you ever uttered something to this effect?

  • “It’s just not worth it.”
  • “What have I gotten out of this?”
  • “This is too hard.”
  • “I keep sacrificing, and for what?  This??”

We all have seasons like this, because we are made of dust.  The blessing is that He remembers this.  He knows what was used to craft us.  He knows the frailty that consumes us.

Let’s turn the tables.  What motivated the Savior to sacrifice Himself for us?  It was love.  Love, and the joy that was set before Him (that we would all one day be reunited and be one together with Him–John 17).  He could very easily have said any one of those things I listed above.  We fail.  We fall.  We faint.  But it is love that was the impetus that drove Him to the cross.  It is love that must spur us on as well.  If it is payback, reward, ease…then we will shrink in disappointment, because this world is tainted with the sin of the fall, and we are corrupted along with it.  This life is a series of imperfections.

Cultivate your love for Him, if you sense your spirit sagging, your resolve flagging.  Love can motivate the human heart to otherwise unattainable heights.  Read the word.  Speak with Him.  Get to a quiet place so you can hear His replies.  Remind yourself of His greatness, His goodness, His pity, mercy, and grace.

He remembers.  We need to as well.

My Gloom…His Hand

Alack, thou knowest not

How little worthy of any love thou art!

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee

Save Me, save only Me?

All which I took from thee I did but take,

Not for thy harms.

But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.

All which thy child’s mistake

Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home;

Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

Halts by me that footfall;

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Francis Thompson (1859-1907)