Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)
“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Every little girl learns of fairytales early in life. They dream of big castles, white horses and ironclad knights who are really princes in disguise. Reality is not an issue in make believe worlds as wonderful as the imagination can wonder. During the difficult days of my parent’s divorce, just eight years old, I still remember making a checklist in my head of what I would do and not do when I grew up. I based my list on the hurt, pain and struggle of my world split in two. Loving two people who live far apart is difficult on the innocent heart constructed of happily ever after. Princesses are not real. At least, not the ones read about. Knights on white horses do not rescue damsels in distress and there is no such thing as a perfect life.
My favorite Disney princess is Aurora also known as Sleeping Beauty. Although my grandmother read Cinderella to me, Aurora was the one who I loved the most. She sings the song, “One Day My Prince Will Come.” It’s funny though that we do not remember the plight of the princess in each fairytale only the happy ending. Cinderella suffered the oppression of her evil step-mom and her daughters after her father’s death. Snow White was left in the woods to die. Aurora was plotted against from birth. Each princess had a plight. Each one hurt, abused or forsaken yet many little girls desire the outcome of their journey in life. Do we forget the price paid for their resolution? No. To believe will test everything our life is founded upon. It will challenge us to do things that we never once thought we could do. I read a little pictogram on Facebook that quite simply stated, “You were born to do more than pay bills and die.” A little rough around the edges but relevant and true. You will never know who you are in Christ without a little faith in a beautiful life. We have to believe that there is more to life than this to ever find it. We must decide to hope for more than is evident and realistic but hopeful and new.
Beauty for ashes. My life is beautiful thought I did not always think so. I am a princess who lives in a real fairytale. My Prince is coming. The process of claiming my crown is a bit challenging. It requires that knowing who I am and still living this life just the same. So this morning as I read Isaiah 61, I skipped past the beginning to see what is required. I have the Spirit of the Living God inside that has confirmed there is more to life than this. I live for the day of my soon and coming King who will rescue me. Life is beautiful. It is just how He planned. The Lord has promised that everything is beautiful in His Timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) I finally believe it. Do you?
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
To give them beauty for ashes…there must be a sacrifice. No Kingdom moved its castle to sit by the prince or princess. The royal one must claim their Kingdom. We have a Kingdom though unseen is unconquerable. It cannot be shaken or moved which requires us to be shaken and moved to claim it. To have it will require sacrifice – some small and others too costly to count until the day of accounting. Life leads us in choices. Small beginnings of faith fan the flame of desire for more than is offered in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. We strive for more but to attain it requires a sacrifice of this life for the one that is coming. It is not what I do or what I say or even in what I give. It is in me. God doesn’t desire the contents or conditions of my life to be given away or changed in the slightest. He only asks for me. He want me in all my mess, mistakes and misfortune. The Lord sees me as beautiful in the ashes of sacrifice. The moment I surrender and submit my heart, mind, soul and body to loving Him fully and completely is the moment happily ever after becomes my reality. He is free to work all things together for my good now. (Romans 8:28) I have given Him permission by laying my life down at the Cross.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) This is the revelation that changed my life forever. The Truth that all God wants from me is me. Every day He pursues me with His Unfailing Love and Goodness hoping to overtake me. His Love for me is neverending. It cannot be stifled or stopped even in my best attempts to avoid Him. The Lord wants me. All of me. For many years, I tried to be a good Christian. To do all the right things. To be a good person. To share the Light of His Love. Yet, in the end, the very thing that saved me was when I could do no more. In my weakness, His Love overtakes us. With the ashes of broken dreams, disappointments and shattered hearts, Jesus begins to make us beautiful.
Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
I must choose a Kingdom. I must decide. It is a matter of life or death that I choose well. When I choose to live for the Kingdom of God, I must die to self. “The oil of joy for mourning” comes to those who decide to live for something more than this life. If cannot flow freely in a life that is conflicted. One must make the choice if they will life for today or forever in each moment. Whoever loses His Life for Christ’s sake will find it. True joy is born of true repentance. Turning from sin and darkness to claim righteousness in the Light of His Love. The wages of sin will always be death. (Romans 6:23) To remain present in our sin after salvation will only result in a contradictory life. In such a volatile conflicted state, one will never make a clean break from this world to claim forever. Salvation means to repent of our sin. Not relinquish it for a moment or day, but to turnaround and walk the other way. You will never experience the joy of salvation unless you are truly saved.
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14) We are not helpless bystanders but heroes and heroines in disguise. The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to help us transition from death to life. He is the partner who should not be silent but continually sought for our eternal success. He grooms us, molds us and shapes our life so we can become conduits of joy and strength.
Matthew 11:27-29 (NKJV)
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” comes when by burden. To experience praise is an act of release. When we give our burdens to Christ, He gives us a reason to praise. New songs rise up in our heart as we experience freedom again. You will never fully understand praise until you have given up heaviness to have it. Come to me all you labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Few people come to the Cross of Jesus before broken. It is not until you cannot bear the load of sin and consequence that one unloads it at His Feet. We give Him just enough to readjust and keep marching. God never told you to be the strong one. It is our flesh that demands control of our strength. The Word of God says that true strength is found in weakness for that is the moment His Grace is sufficient for me.
The burden of our life is simple. Give Jesus all our fears, faults and failures and feed His Sheep. (John 21:15-19) How many times did Peter fail the Lord? Yet, Jesus still came to meet him on that beach. Just because life didn’t turn out the way we intended and we gave up on the Lord, doesn’t mean that He has given up on me! He keeps coming back. Jesus offers to carry the load of my life if I will just continue to share the Good News with others. To take care of His People until He comes. To get involved in messy people who just like me need Him the most. Praise comes when we surrender our life – the good, the bad and the ugly including that which we can handle and that which we cannot to say, “Yes Lord, I will feed your sheep!”
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV)
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I am almost finished with this rendition of a fairytale. Yes, this is a fairytale but true. Our life is a process. It is the process of planting our life in the Love of Jesus Christ so that we will be rooted and grounded by His Love. Through sacrifice – there is beauty. Sadness and death produce joy and life. Oppression gives way to peace, rest and praise. All these unlikely things produce an abundance in our life. The unlikely becomes likely. The impossible completely possible. However, no one willingly asks for that which produces a beautiful life. When it comes, we question God and doubt His Love in pure ignorance that is only remedied by experiences with the Lord and encounters in His Presence. These are the things that drive us there for if we would go willingly it would not be necessary to move us to better and we simply respond.
Our life gains purpose in the Kingdom of God because it is the place that we were created to be. When the supernatural becomes our new natural – it is in that place that satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment govern our once reckless, random and purposeless existence. We become the rebuilders the road to righteousness for others paving it in truth and genuine love. We will raise up the banner of His Love to a lost and dying world so that will know the Way. We will repair the breaches made by false prophets and fake preachers allowing wolves in the fold while silencing the lie of the enemy with the Truth of God’s Love, the profit of obedience and the sweetness of surrender so the sheep will come home. With this message of restoration a revival will begin in the final stages of preparation for our soon and coming King. (Isaiah 61:4-5) It also says that those who live this way will be well-provided for. Life is beautiful or at least it can be when we choose to believe that there is one true fairytale with a Prince called Peace. As we wait for Him, it is not in vain. He make everything beautiful in its time as we grow deeper in His Love season after season until He comes.
Isaiah 61:6-7 (NKJV)
But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.
I Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV)
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
When we think of a prince or princess, do we ever really consider their wealth? No. We long for a carefree life filled with love and honor. Think about it. There are not huge piles of gold or expensive gifts. We long to be saved from our ordinary life into an extraordinary existence. We are given the opportunity to become Sons and Daughters of God. The Creator of all that exists. He offers us a chance to be part of His Royal Priesthood. His Own Special People. We are special. We are wanted. All of this potential is locked up in our life waiting to be revealed by faith. When we believe that God has purpose in meaning in every facet of our life – past, present and future- we begin to see that none of this is random and all of it has meaning and purpose. Happily ever after is possible even when up to now has been hard and hurtful. Don’t give up on your dream because your life is a disaster. God makes our mess a message. I would rather listen to the wisdom of well-planted trees who have made it through all seasons which means that they may appear broken and abused but they have the best fruit that will renew my soul and refresh my spirit. Their roots lead me to living water and not some dried up pool. As I look at my life, I am living happily ever after and there are many chapters in the book. It is coming together as a beautiful story as God is faithful in each exchange.
John 10:9-10 (NKJV)
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they