Thursday, April 24, 2014

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. - Psalm 33:1

Comely.  It isn't a word we use or even hear often anymore.  Its most basic definition is "pleasant to look at, attractive, agreeable or suitable."  Common synonyms include handsome, pretty, good-looking, lovely and beautiful.  Comely.  A good thing.  A pleasant compliment.  After all, who doesn't long to be attractive, right?

If you don't agree, spend a few minutes watching commercials (or better yet, infomercials).  Browse through magazines or surf the web.  I guarantee you'll find all sorts of products, supplements, devices and gadgets for improving one's looks, whether it be by means of weight loss, hair growth, wrinkle remover or the perfect tan.  There's a lot of money to be made in the search for the perfect beauty aid.

Oddly enough, though, if people would take the time to look in their Bibles, they may find the answer they've been seeking for and at a much better price than they ever imagined.  Psalm 33:1 tells us that praise is comely for the upright.  Praise makes us beautiful, not just on the inside but on the outside too.  Have you ever noticed how much more attractive someone appears if that person is happy, positive and speaks kindly of others?  On the flip side, those who are always negative, griping and complaining and sporting a frown that would frighten bats away, are just not very pleasant to look at.  With their bitterness exposed, they appear harsh and unfriendly, an extreme contrast to the definition of comely.

Sure, you can try the creams and sprays and mechanisms if you want to.  There's nothing wrong with trying to keep up our appearances.  After all, we are commanded to take care of the temple of God.  But in our efforts, let's make sure we're not overlooking the simplest remedy of all.  A simple attitude adjustment is the best face lift we could ever have.  With a smile on our lips and praise in our hearts, our true beauty will shine forth.  The worry lines will fade away because we're focused on the positive instead of the negative.  The dark circles under our eyes will disappear because we're no longer losing sleep over today's struggles and tomorrow's possibilities.  The peace of God will put a rosy glow in our cheeks and a spring in our steps.  Our posture will improve as we stand tall in the knowledge that God is working all things together for our good.

They say that beauty is only skin-deep, but the comeliness the Bible speaks of penetrates the soul.  It is the inward beauty that radiates out through us when we allow ourselves to be used of God as vessels of honor and praise.  We spend so much time and money on the outward beauty that is only skin-deep.  Don't you think it's time to give some attention to the inward beauty?  Unlike the many beauty gimmicks out there, this beauty treatment won't break the bank.  In fact, the only thing it will cost you is a willingness to let go of your old attitudes and adopt a new attitude of praise in every part of your life.  It's a bit like cleaning out your closet--out with the old, in with the new.

Comely.  Yes, that's what I want to be.  How about you?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daring to Dream

Let's face it, we all have dreams, right?  Some dreams are attainable, while others, we know, will always be a dream.  But how do we know the difference?  How do we know which dreams to strive after and which ones to brush off?  And for those of us who have watched dreams die, do we dare to believe that another could possibly come true?  This morning, I read the story of a man who had a dream that not only came true but also flourished in a miraculous way.

Jim Bishop had a dream of building a small family cabin on the two-acre lot he had purchased in the Colorado wilderness.  Comfortable with the necessary tools, he began the construction on his own.  Day after day, he walked the property and gathered up rocks to use in the building of a one-room cottage.  As the cabin began to take shape, Bishop began working on a fireplace that spiraled up from the ceiling of the cottage, giving it a tower-like appearance.  Pretty soon, friends and family would stop by and jokingly ask if he was building a cottage or a castle.  After hearing several similar comments, Bishop figured, "Why not build a castle?"

Rock by rock, wooden beam by wooden beam, the cottage soon grew into a castle.  But Bishop wasn't finished.  He continued to add on.  He created ornate rooms, breathtaking towers, bridges, a ballroom and even a fire-breathing dragon.  His creation is nothing short of indescribable and has become a tourist attraction for many who visit Colorado.  To the public, Bishop Castle is known as the country's largest one-man project, and for a while Bishop agreed with that assessment.  But during the time he worked on the project, his viewpoint began to change.  The work was being done with no blueprints or floor plans.  He was literally making it up as he went, yet somehow, all the pieces seemed to fit together perfectly.  After a while, Bishop realized that it was not chance that was bringing his dream to fruition; there was something more.  Now, Bishop describes the castle as "built by one man with the help of God."

There are a couple of important lessons to be learned from this dreamer.  First off, not only did he dare to dream, but he worked toward the dream.  So often, we have a goal, but we're unwilling to do what's necessary to achieve that goal.  We're too attached to our comfort zones to get up and do the "real work." If we want our dreams to become realities, some serious time and effort are required.

Second, when his plan took a new direction, Bishop didn't grow discouraged or defeated.  He just continued to build and trust that things would work out.  So many times, when God leads us down a new path, we grow frustrated or weary.  "But, God," we complain, "this isn't what I had in mind."  Well, Jim Bishop wasn't planning on building a castle at first either.  His plan was simple--a one-room cottage.  But look at what God accomplished because Jim allowed his plans to be changed.  What could God accomplish in our lives if we'd allow Him to make some changes?

Third, although he didn't seem to realize it at first, after a while, Jim could not deny God's part in the construction.  We need to be careful in that area as well.  When pursuing our dreams, it's easy to get our priorities and perspectives out of whack.  We become very self-focused about what we want and what we have accomplished.  But the Bible makes it very clear that without God, we can do nothing.  Let's keep that in mind.

I don't know what you're dreaming today.  I'm not privy to your innermost goals.  But God knows.  He also knows what He has planned for you, and while the two may not be exactly the same, by allowing God to tweak your dreams, you'll be able to accomplish something far greater.  A castle instead of a cabin.  The will of the Lord instead of the will of yourself.  Remember, God has promised to give us abundantly above all that we could ask or think.  That includes our dreams and goals.  Will you settle for your dream, or will you allow God to make it even better?

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. - Psalm 37:4

Monday, April 21, 2014

Whatever!

Whatever!  Doesn't that word just infuriate you?  It does me because it's typically used alongside an I-don't-care attitude and/or the rolling of the eyes. What do you want for dinner?  Whatever.  What would you like to do?  Whatever.  I think this would be a good idea.  Whatever.  No, I really mean it.  Whatever.  Grrrr!  It's enough to make my red hair stand on end even though I know I'm often guilty of having a "whatever attitude" myself.  After all, it's easy.  It requires no effort or concentration to say, "Whatever."  And so many times, we use the word to express an attitude that would ordinarily get us into trouble, but because we can excuse the word's meaning, the attitude is left unchallenged.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard kids use it with their parents.  In fact, it's become trendy and cool.  If you don't care, don't want to care or want to show disrespect without being too direct, just say, "Whatever!"

The apostle Paul had a "whatever attitude." Did you know that?  Fortunately, his "whatever attitude" was a good thing.  Where we use "whatever" as a sign of disrespect or disinterest, he used it in the exact opposite way.  Take a look at some of the ways Paul portrayed his "whatever attitude."

Whatever happens, we belong to the Lord. - Romans 14:8
Whatever is not of faith is sin. - Roman 14:23
Whatever the Bible says was written for our good so that we might have hope. - Romans 15:4
Whatever else claims to be god, I know that there is one true God who created all things. - I Corinthians 8:5-6
Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. - I Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17
Whatever your background, race, gender or status, Jesus saves! - I Corinthians 12:13
Whatever else may let you down, remember love never fails. - I Corinthians 13:8
Whatever life throws your way, remember it's for your good. - II Corinthians 1:6
Whatever happens to my life, I know I am accepted of God. - II Corinthians 5:9
Whatever I do for Christ is noticed. - II Corinthians 5:10
Whatever anyone else may say, I will not betray my friends. - II Corinthians 8:23
Whatever a man sows, that's what he'll reap. - Galatians 6:7
Whatever good a man does, the same shall he receive from the Lord. - Ephesians 6:8
Whatever the cost, I will preach Jesus. - Philippians 1:18,20
Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8
Whatever happens, I will be content. - Philippians 4:11
Whatever exists was created by God and for God. - Colossians 1:16
Whatever you do, do your best and do it for the Lord. - Colossians 3:23
Whatever happens to this body before Christ returns, I am confident that I will live with him for eternity. - I Thessalonians 5:10

A bit of a difference, isn't it?  Paul's "whatever attitude" is a reminder of what our attitudes should be.  Instead of speaking the word in frustration, we should say "whatever" in faith, as in, "Whatever happens, I'm going to trust and praise God."  We use the word as a signal of defeat, but Paul's use demonstrated victory.  Same word.  Totally different applications and attitudes.  Today we must make a choice of how we're going to live our lives.  Strangely, the answer will be the same either way--whatever.  But which "whatever" will it be?


Friday, April 18, 2014

Tales Surrounding the Tomb


Imagine you are among the multitude gathered around the tomb of Jesus. Sobs fill the air as many mourn the loss of their dearest Friend. Some whisper to others, sharing their memories and their grief. Yes, I'm sure there were many tales surrounding the tomb.

Mary, the mother of Jesus –
I still remember the night the angel came to me. It seems like just yesterday he told me that I would bear a son and that His name would be Jesus. I was overjoyed and, at the same time, frightened. I believed the angel even though I didn't understand how it was possible. Me, the mother of the Messiah. I knew who He was and what He was destined to become. Even as I held Him in my arms, I knew He had a higher calling. But what I never knew was how difficult it would be to say, “Goodbye.”

 
Woman with the issue of blood – We had never met before that day on the road. I had heard of Him. Everyone had heard of Him. They said He could do miracles, that He could heal the sick. I wanted to go see Him, but I just didn't know if I could face the disappointment if He failed. For twelve years I had suffered. For twelve years I had seen the doctors shake their heads. For twelve years I had felt lost and forsaken, completely without hope. But once I saw Him, everything changed. I knew that if I could only touch Him, I would be healed. 


Martha – We had our ups and downs, but Jesus was the dearest Friend I had ever had. I know that the times it seemed He was hard on me, He was only trying to help me. He was guiding me to do the right things. I didn't get it at first. I was so full of anger and bitterness that I didn't see His love and mercy. Then, when my brother, Lazarus died, I had a choice to make. Would I let the bitterness continue or would I trust that Jesus knew best? I made a decision, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.


Lazarus – I wish I could tell you what it was like to be dead for four days and then to live again, but there are some things that just can't be described. Standing there in the graveyard that day, I'm not sure I fully understood what was happening. People were standing all around me. Some were laughing while others were crying. Some looked as if they were ready to faint. Mary and Martha filled me in on what had happened. They even told me of their initial anger and confusion over Jesus having been so late. Looking back, I'm sure they'll agree that He wasn't late at all. He was right on time.


Mary of Bethany – So many of His followers just didn't get it. Even His disciples didn't seem to grasp what Jesus had told them over and over again. But I understood. I knew why He had come. I comprehended His sacrifice. We didn't have long. There wasn't much time to spend with Him. That's why I took every opportunity I could to be with Him. I know it made Martha angry, and for that, I'm sorry, but I just had to be near Him. I needed to hear the hope He had to offer. Finally, it occurred to me that I needed to give Him something in return. I went to my room and grabbed my most precious possession. It was special. It was costly. But I could think of no better use for it than to anoint my Lord. He could carry the scent with Him, and with His dying breath, He could be reminded that He was loved.


Barabbas – I've seen a lot of people in my time. Good people, bad people, and people who didn't know the difference. But I had never seen anyone like Jesus. I can't really put my finger on it, but there was definitely something different about Him. I noticed it right away. I was thrilled when I heard the people shouting to set me free. I couldn't believe it. I was ready to die, but somehow, I was instead set free. Then I saw the One who was to die in my stead. He didn't look like a criminal, and when His eyes met mine, I saw such love. It's as if He were saying, “Pay attention, Barabbas. You're the one I'm dying for.”

Joseph of Arimathea - I'd been a disciple of Jesus for quite a while, actually. I just couldn't let anyone know. After all, I was an esteemed religious leader. What would people have thought if they knew I was in league with the Messiah? What would the Pharisees have done to me? I feared ridicule. I was afraid of being an outcast. I didn't want to lose everything that I had worked so hard to gain. But when I saw Jesus hanging on that cross, everything changed. Suddenly, I didn't care who knew that I was a disciple of His. I finally realized that there was so much more than worldly gain. That's why I went to Pilate and asked for the body of Christ. I knew I was putting myself and my family in danger, but more than that, I knew that I owed it to Jesus. It was the least I could do. He carried me away from the bondage of sin. It was my turn to carry Him.


Peter – I don't know what to say. I've failed Him so many times, but still He forgave me. He never gave up on me. He continued to help me and to teach me. He knew I wasn't worthy of His time and attention. After all, look at how I abandoned Him. . . how I denied Him. I never had the chance to tell Him I was sorry. I didn't mean to do it. I was afraid and confused. It's no excuse, I know, but if I could talk to Him now, I know what I'd say. Yes, if He were alive, I would serve Him once again, and this time, by His grace and not my own strength, I would stand with Him. I would be a disciple He could be proud of. . . if only He were alive.