Beauty Instead of Ashes! Out with the Old! In with the New!

Beauty for Ashes

“Instead of” are powerful words repeated throughout scripture. As we end one year and prepare to enter a new one, may the truth of these words resonate.

  “to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair…
Isaiah 61:3

As Jesus began his earthly ministry he read from the scroll previewing this portion. Then he sat down and declared these incredible words,

 “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:21

Today

From that day on everything changed! The waves may still roll, but Christ is present! He is with us!

God is willing and able to grant an excellent exchange for whatever burden we are carrying.

Shame, disgrace, humiliation
foolish mistakes, failures, or fear,
death of dreams, hopes
or a loved one….

Instead Of

His presence guarantees not only comfort and provision in the midst of struggle, but much more:

  “beauty instead of ashes,
joy instead of mourning,
praise instead of a spirit of despair…

Even a child recognizes a good trade when they see one! However, there is one condition! God is asking us to give Him our ashes, mourning and despair. Are we willing to let them go?

Beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of a spirit of despair! Click To Tweet

Broken

When I yielded my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I had only brokenness to offer Him. My track record had produced failure and disappointment in multiplied measure. Suicidal thoughts and depression had left me a broken shell, without hope.

But Christ came! Everything changed – some pieces radically and instantly, others slowly and progressively.

He continues to invite me to yield to Him things He never intends me to carry. His offer to replace them with something incredible still stands.

Wasteland to Beauty

Thorn bushes are rough and dangerous; their pointed barbs sink deep. Jesus bore such a painful crown pressed firmly in His brow.

Thorns

Applauded one hour and disdained the next, His beauty and deity were unrecognizable to most earthly eyes.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign…
Isaiah 55:13

Junipers in the Middle East are tall willowy bushes growing in desert places. Travelers often find shelter under their bending boughs. The myrtle bares intensely aromatic white blossoms delicately edged in the colour of royalty, purple.

Myrtle

Jesus surrendered His true Kingship and bore the crown of thorns. In so doing, he now gives us ability to be overcomers in our thoughts. He grants us peace instead of the harsh reruns that plague our minds with

words cruelly spoken,
images that cut through innocence,
or paralyzing pain of loss.

Jesus traded an authentic crown for a mocking one. Today, he invites us to exchange every unnecessary weight for the authentic beauty He offers. It is a good trade!

Garbage Can

A few months ago, a friend was struggling to personally receive God’s “instead of.” All her short life, she had been juggled from house to house – unwanted and undervalued.

We set a garbage can in the middle of the room and began to toss crumpled bits of paper into it. Each piece represented an image, thought or message that had been embedded into her belief system shaping how she now saw herself.  When the mark was missed, we walked over and picked up the wad of paper and made sure it landed deep into the metal bucket.

Garbage

I had several wads of my own to toss!

Once the trade is made, no dumpster diving! Click To Tweet

Once tossed, we gave each painful wound into the hands of the only One who can fully erase their weight.

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Psalm 103:12

Once the trade is made, no dumpster diving!

It is not just our stuff that God is perfectly able to trade. God wants to release us from everything anyone else has done against us. God’s “instead of” applies equally to both!

Eternal Glory

God is a master of transformation – a divine recycling! Out with the old and in with the new!

Though once my mind was racked with dark thoughts of death, now I help others find the light of hope. This is not unusual! God delights in taking what was once our greatest infliction and turning it into a powerful tool of redemption.

Those once bound by chains of chemical addiction now show others the way through the tangle to beautiful fulfilled lives. People once tormented in a variety of ways now lead others into places of health and wholeness. As a matter of fact, your place of greatest struggle is probably the very area God has destined to use you to bring freedom for others and glory to Him.

“For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.”
2 Corinthians 4:17

We cannot always fully see what God is working out. His “instead of” is always greater and better than the troubles we are are trading in.

Whatever we are going through is working! It is working for His glory! It is working the best in us and for us! God will receive the glory and renown He is worthy of, as we are willing to exchange what we are holding on to.

Before this year ends, trade it in! I am excited to see what new thing God has for each of us  through Christ!

Out with the old! In with the new! What a beautiful exchange! Click To Tweet

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Additional Resources!

Another read: Do it Again Lord! Renew! Restore! Revive!

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Laughter – It’s Better Than Medicine! Choose Joy!

Laughter Better Than Medicine

Laughter is contagious! Laughter inspires us to let go of frets and worries engaging fully in the simplicity of life. Now that’s my kind of medicine!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22

The word translated “medicine” [gehah] occurs nowhere else in the bible. Scholars believe it more accurately means “healing” or “relief.”

A Merry Heart

God Laughs

As nations conspire, people plot, and kings band together

“The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the LORD and against his anointed,
saying, “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.”
Psalm 2: 2-4

God’s laughter gives us the assurance that Christ will ultimately triumph over evil. Three times Revelation 4 tells us  there is One who sits on the throne. Envisioning the King of all kings enthroned in majesty, I rest. He has not abdicated! All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him.

Laughter Exalts God

Each of us experiences, at one time or another, the barrenness of a desert place. Everyone knows the pain of difficult a season. Some more extreme than others! When we approach the other side, laugh!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.”
Psalm 126: 2

Laughter

 

Joyous enthusiasm convicts nations, convincing them of God’s greatness and goodness to His people. Has God done something good for you? Remember and be filled with joy and laugh!

People around you will notice and ask the reason for your joy.  What a perfect opportunity to share what God has done.

Waiting for Laughter

Life doesn’t always throw us something to laugh at. What do we do then?

Nehemiah had been given permission to return to Jerusalem. Many years prior walls of protection crumbled, gates smouldered and the stones of refuge scattered. With the help of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Nehemiah rebuilt in fifty two days what was impossible for decades.

The people gathered together listening intently to the reading of the Law. The realization of their sinfulness erupted in mourning and intense weeping.

Ezra, the Levites and Nehemiah stopped the people from weeping and mourning.

“This day is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not mourn or weep.”
Nehemiah 8:5

Joy

Do overwhelming circumstances grip you today? Are you experiencing deep pain right now? The distance between today and your last good laugh may seem miles apart. Take hope!

“…Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

Be encouraged! Morning always comes! In the presence of the Lord there is neither weeping, sorrow nor sadness. None! Just as He was present in the midst of the people of Nehemiah’s day, He is present with you today.

Joy Produces Strength

“…the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah ties joy securely to strength. Strength here also means “fortified place, defence, fortress, or rock.” When we choose the position of joy we find strength that stands

  • against the assaults of the enemy
  • strong over condemnation from the Law
  • in the fullness of God’s promise toward us

Joy is Strength

Recently, I walked through a particularly difficult season that threatened to consume life, hope and peace. Every morning I was aware that God was granting me the option to choose joy. Daily joy was a deliberate decision, a purposeful intent. Joy became my personal fortress in the midst of intense struggle. The Rock of joy withstood!

Laughter isn’t just child’s play! Its good for us all! Let’s get serious about joy!

Laughter just might prove to the best medicine after all.

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For further reading:

Great Trials Matched by Great Joy – James 1 Perspective

Great Trials Matched by Great Joy – James 1 Perspective

Great Joy James 1

Choosing joy in the midst of great adversity and difficult circumstances never comes “naturally”. Joy is a gift readily available! Great trials can be matched by equally great joy according to James 1:2-4.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its works
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

Consider

That first word implies there is something to take into account. It has the sense of “commanding with official authority”.

There was a season of pressure I was facing when every morning before my feet hit the floor my declaration was, “Today, I choose joy!” The situation ahead was the exact opposite. My emotional survival demanding a choice of action; my choice was joy.

Joy

That choice made all the difference in my two-year trial.

Neither James, nor I, am making lite of trials. The intensity and duration is unpredictable and often severe. Trials are to be “faced“.

Years ago a fierce storm hit our farmyard with pounding rain and   hail accompanied by flashes of intense lightning. A small group of tame ducks were caught outside in the midst of it. I expected them to run for shelter or hide their heads beneath their wings. They stood together in a small cluster facing the wind and torrent with heads held high. The image spoke to me then and continues to speak now. They faced the storm.

 

Whenever

Trials do come…
unannounced – unwelcome…
usually in multiples…
fierce and overwhelming

Great Trials

There is something we need to “know” in the midst of trials and tests. “James jogs our memory just a little. Trials have purpose!

In school tests were inevitable. A test demonstrates both what we know and what we don’t know. Trials show the Anchor and Substance of our faith is Christ alone!

Perseverance

My Greek Lexicon defines this word as “cheerful (hopeful) endurance, constancy…” It reads:

“In the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is
unswerved from his deliberate purpose and
his loyalty to faith and
piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

The only way for me to find joy in the midst of my greatest trials and sufferings is to hold on to an eternal biblical perspective. Here is found that cheerful, even hopeful, endurance and constancy that gives strength and fortitude to rise above. My trial my last a life time, but it won’t follow me to heaven!

We will all get knocked down.
Get back up!
Knocked down again? Get back up!
We’ll take jabs to the jaw! Get back up!
We’ll take a few in the back. Get back up!
When we hit the pavement hard? Get back up!

Perseverance

This is perseverance – living with deliberate purpose and loyal to the faith, in the greatest trials and sufferings.

Mature and Complete

James says “let perseverance finish its work.”

We always have choice. It is easier to give in than to get up and be knocked down again. Far easier!

I’ve talked before about finishing well; perseverance helps me to just that. If we “let” or allow the trials we face to finish what God is doing, the result will be maturity and completeness.

My grey hair doesn’t mean maturity. Age is a process I cannot stop. However, maturity is a strategy I can co-operate with. The Amplified Bible reads,

“But let endurance and steadfastness
and patience have full play and do a thorough work…”

One can trust a mature person. Their wisdom, strength and tenacity helps them to stay the course.

Mature CompleteThink about what being complete and perfectly sound would look like. When Peter healed the lame beggar, the word used is the same as this one in James. Legs and feet once none responsive now jumped, leaped and walked to places forbidden just moments before.

Weakness replaced by strength
dependency vanished in ability
chains of confinement broke into freedom!
Walking and leaping and praising God!
Over forty years of painful trial
melted forever
encompassed by great joy….

Great Joy

Trials are God’s instrument…

“that you may be mature, complete,
not lacking anything”!

When we know, as James and the early church knew, in the midst of intense persecution we too can face trials with great joy – wholly joyfully!

God is working! He is producing in us a tenacious faith bearing fruit of maturity and bringing us in to a realm of neither lack or deficiency.

That very thought is enough for me!

 

 

Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt!

Give Me Chocolate

One recent morning my daughter-in-love called and innocently asked, “How are you doing?” Though it was early morning, I confessed I was eating chocolate. She completely understood! It was one of those “give me chocolate and nobody gets hurt” days!

What does your “one of those days” look like? You know what I’m talking about! The kind of day when one thing quickly piles atop another, over another, yet amass another. Maybe for you it isn’t a single day, but a string of unbroken difficult days that have marked an entire season.

crown-741478_640 - Pixabay - CCO Public Domain -cderosia - Crown Thorns Jesus Christian Christ

Then I noticed this image. It caused me to re-evaluate my heap-upon-heap day. All perspective changed in the light of THAT day over two thousand years ago!

On this day of His
family left Him for crazy
friends ran for their lives
one sold Him as a slave
another cursed the mention of His Name
religious leaders slandered Him
political powers washed their hands of Him
the populace shook their fists and turned their backs.

Yet He did not complain! Quite the contrary,

“For the joy set before Him He endured the cross.”
 Hebrews 12:2

Wait! Back this train up! “For the joy”…. How is that anywhere near possible?

Endurance

For the Joy…

With joy Jesus sweat drops of blood in the garden. Thus He made possible for our wills someday, in every way, to be surrendered to His.

In surrendered joy His beard pulled from a jaw, set firmly to the holy task, acquired grace for us to walk humbly with each other.

For you and me,  through joy whips separated flesh from flesh; healing from all sickness and disease is now ours.

With joy Christ was wounded for our transgressions (sinful acts) and bruised for our iniquities (faulty attitudes). Now we, through Christ, are forever set free from the guilt and shame of our acts and attitudes.

With joy thorns pressed deep a head deserving a crown for our proud and evil thoughts to be brought into captivity.

For the joy set before Him nails pierced hands that reached the least of these, so we too may touch the lives of unreached ones.

With incomprehensible joy blood dripped from the nail locking feet to wood, that those who followed could journey with fearless faith the straight road.

With joy the spear thrust deep emptying heart and lung. Sanctified and purified we may now live through His shed blood.

Childbirth

Joy Wrapped in Love

With joy? Yes, with joy wrapped in love! With joy He looked beyond his darkest day

when the Father turned His head
the sun refused to shine
the earth tremored in disbelief
and the veil of separation torn for all time.

He looked beyond “this day” to the horizon of endless time. Here perhaps is the key to both overcoming and rising above “one of those days”.

This day of ours is but a single word
against an eternal scroll…
a golden thread among the weave and warp
of all time and place.
This day neither defines nor determines
God’s good purpose
and beautiful design for our lives.

God's Plans

…”No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
I Corinthians 2:9 

With joy, great joy, Jesus gave his life so all who believed in Him would live!

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I Choose Joy!

Lord grant me the grace to see beyond “today”.
Give me courage and faith
to face each day with the joy set before me.
Forgive me Lord for grumbling about my little day –
I reach for joy!
For the joy set before me, I will move forward.
You, Lord, are with me always!

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Another article you might enjoy –

Great Trials Matched by Great Joy – James 1 Perspective