Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Love is …

Love is …

 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13 NLT).

 

Love is … easy, love is hard. Love is … simple, love is profound. Love is … a command, love is a choice.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You must love each another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34 CEV). Jesus means these words for me because I declare I am his disciple, a learner and one who seeks to obey him. If you are his disciple, this command is for you as well.

My choice to love was made when I chose to follow Jesus. Same for you. We chose to obey his words, his commands. And he commands us to love each other.

This love is not just human love for friends. This love is well beyond and above that love. This is the “as I have loved you” love of Jesus; God’s love.*

“This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13 CEB).

“As I have loved you.” Now that’s a thought we can chew on for some time.

As I move toward the final stages of writing prior to publishing the Bible Study for my book, Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life, I’ve crafted a page of etiquette for Bible study group behavior.

Sounds funny, a page on etiquette, but these reminders are needed. The points simply remind us of how we should act with one another. It dawned on me that these points of etiquette are actually ways we can love one another in a small group setting. Or anywhere, anytime.

I want to share with you some of the easy ways to love one another, excerpted from my Bible study group etiquette page:

“Value each person in your little community of the Bible study group. Give each other the respect due each one. Commit to:

  1. Show up. Someone said that 90% of any task is just showing up. Be at the group meetings (barring an emergency). And when there, be present. “Be Here Now,” attentive and engaged in the moment. This is for your own benefit as well as the benefit of the others. You never know what God may speak to you through another person, or what God may impress on another through you. Sometimes you just being there is all the encouragement someone else needs (Hebrews 10:24–25).

 

  1. Do your work. The week before you meet, do the work for the upcoming lesson in preparation for the group time. The more effort you put into the study, the more you will get out of it. Solomon said, “The soul (appetite) of the lazy person craves and gets nothing [for lethargy overcomes ambition], but the soul (appetite) of the diligent [who works willingly] is rich and abundantly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4 AMP).

 

  1. Be generous and share the discussion time. Be short-winded so others may also participate in the discussions (1 Peter 5:5–7).

 

  1. Be a better listener than a talker. Bible study discussions are not the place for giving advice or counseling. You are not meeting together to solve anyone’s problems but to learn what God has to say in his Word. “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving] (James 1:19 AMP).

 

  1. Be trustworthy as you listen. What is shared in the group discussions stays a secret with the group. These things are not to be told to anyone else. “He who goes about as a gossip reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy and faithful keeps a matter hidden” (Proverbs 11:13 AMP).

 

  1. Be a Berean Christian. When questions come up, don’t default to traditional, current, or even “common sense” ideas, but search the Scriptures like the Bereans did to find out what God has to say about the issue. He does have a word to say about it. And unlike the words of men, God’s Word “endures forever” (Acts 17:10–12; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:22–25).

 

These are some easy, simple, yet thoughtful ways we can love one another in any group setting, and these few guidelines will serve as our standard of etiquette for this Bible study group.”

Though the above points are designed for a small group setting, they are applicable in most life situations. I’ll let you make the leap to apply these principles, rooted in God’s Word, to your everyday life, at home, at work, at school, at church, and everywhere. I’m working on it too.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35 CSB, emphasis added).

 

Daily Verses

 

How can I move from my limited, human brotherly love to Jesus’ love, to love as he has loved us? A song just reminded me of the only way– “I’ve Been Crucified with Christ,” (by Robin Mark) quoting Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 CSB, emphasis added)

Listen to the song here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoZWRfXdh4w

I want to cooperate with Christ and let him live his life through me. That’s the only way to love others as he loved us.

Love is … all of the above, and so much more. In Christ we can do this.

 

The Bible Study for Brokenness to Beauty has yet to be published; hopefully, by autumn it will be available. However, the book Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life may be purchased now at Amazon books. Click here to go to Amazon.

*Agape love: “Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13. https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html 

Scriptures are taken from https://www.biblegateway.com

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God’s Delights, Our Delights

I feel good when I’m creating something with my hands. There is an interesting phenomenon I became aware of one day several years ago while working on a project. I don’t remember what I was working on or even when or where this realization first came to me. But it was an actual physical sensation of pleasure radiating from inside me. An “inner smile” is the best way I can describe it. It comes unexpectedly when I stop to take a break from working on the item or when I finish a project. And when I sense that inner smile, it makes me smile on the outside too.

It has come at times when I’ve written a piece that has come together through struggle (as most of my writing comes). But when I found the words that were “right,” that resonated in my soul, there was that smile coming from the inside.

More often, though, I’ve sensed that inner smile of pleasure when I’ve been caught up in the creative process using my hands. It has come while creating a mosaic, adhering pieces of broken or cut glass into designs on a substrate. Or like the other day, when I was gluing a paper dust cover onto the back of an old 30″X 40″ frame I had refinished. This frame now holds a large filet crochet piece I crocheted over the course of several years, and a couple of moves across the country (from California to Georgia to West Virginia, a long time ago).

This inner smile I experience, this pleasure at doing something creative, not only causes me to smile outwardly but makes me think of the pleasure of God, that is, the pleasure God takes in his children when we are being and doing what is right and good, in love, reverence, and trust in him.

I started looking for just a few Scriptures that speak to what brings God pleasure and found these (this is not an exhaustive list, of course):

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. (1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV, emphasis added)

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB, emphasis added)

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

    in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:10-11 ESV, emphasis added)

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV, emphasis added)

At that very time (Jesus) rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Luke 10:21 NASB, emphasis added)

Doesn’t it make you smile inside, and out, to read some of the things that bring joy, delight, and pleasure to our God? Think of it, we don’t have to be superheroes or wildly gorgeous or do some great feat of strength or daring to please him (sounds like what the world goes after, doesn’t it?). We don’t even have to be “wise and intelligent” in this world to bring joy to our Father. Maybe a sigh of relief is more accurate as a response to what God values and seeks in his children. Because I’m sure not any of those things.

To bring joy to our heavenly Father we only need be like little children in our simplicity and humility, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And loving and treating others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 22:37–39; 7:12). “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said (Matthew 22:40). In other words, these two commands of God are the Bible in a nutshell (Romans 13:8–10).

And since God has given us everything we need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:3), we can do this, we can make God smile. He’s given us his Spirit to live in us; “Christ in [us] the hope of glory.”

I’m working on cooperating with God. And learning. It’s my life goal to bring a smile to my Father’s face.

We don’t have to be rich, or good-looking, or famous, or smart, or … anything except actively loving God by “abiding in him,” which is obeying his word, and loving one another (John 14:15; 15:10, 12).

So our response to our gracious and merciful God should include these elements (again, this is not an exhaustive list):

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Jesus, in Luke 10:20 ESV, emphasis added)

Your words were found and I ate them,

And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;

For I have been called by Your name,

O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 NASB, emphasis added)

In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. (1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV, emphasis added)

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 HCSB, emphasis added)

Trust in the Lord and do what is good …

4 Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in Him, and He will act,

6 making your righteousness shine like the dawn,

your justice like the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6 HCSB)

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list. You can add to it Scriptures that come to mind about what God values and delights in. Consider setting a goal for your Scripture reading in 2018 to look for these sorts of verses that clearly state what gives God joy and pleasure. And make being and doing those things your life goal. I guarantee that will give you an “inner smile” of pleasure.

May your New Year be filled with God’s delight in you!


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A Marketing we will go

About three days ago, as I was reading in Isaiah, I came to this verse, “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us” (Isaiah 26:12, NIV).

I had to stop and ponder it. In light of my current whirl of anxious thoughts and activity, I bowed my head and thanked God for what he has done in this one area of my life this past year: my book Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life, was completed and edited; the cover designed; all reviewed for any errors and changes; and just before the end of 2015, sent off by the publisher to the printer! Brokenness to Beauty will be ready for purchase very soon!

Happy days, right? Well, yes and no.

How to market my book has consumed my thoughts and activities online for several weeks. Hand-wringing new territory. Again. Another whole field of endeavor to master! Will my learning curve never level off?

For weeks I’ve been reading theories about and strategies for how best to market a book, especially as a new, unknown author. Which way to turn? What advice to follow? How do I maximize my little budget?

All this time, lots of prayer to God for him to lead me. I don’t know the “how,” but he does.

The other day, after weeks of this, I realized I was withdrawing in my spirit, pulling back from the conflict in my soul. All the unknowns, the “which way to turn” as I view before me so many paths in my “yellow wood” of book marketing. Instead of joyful anticipation of the release of my book, Brokenness to Beauty, I wanted to run away from it!

So I took myself by the scruff of the neck, figuratively speaking, of course, and turning my head upward to my Father I said, “Lord, I don’t want to be this way, it is crazy after all you’ve done! I choose now to hitch up my britches and plow ahead into the fray, to take on a positive rather than fearful and negative attitude. I will move ahead.”

I know God led me to write Brokenness to Beauty; it wasn’t my idea. I believe he wants me to get this book out there because the message I have is for others, to strengthen them in their times of struggles and trials in life. So he is helping me market it, I just can’t see it yet.

I know God has been with me and taught me all along the way as I wrote this book, which was done over the course of several years. I’ve learned so much through this experience of writing a book!

And I know that what God starts, he finishes, as my good friend, Claudia Cooley (http://claudiacooley.com/), herself a published author, reminded me yesterday as we talked on the phone. She was there in the early days when I was only talking about writing this book!

And above all, I know God is with me in all these pursuits. He is going to answer my prayers. He is the one working within all my efforts to accomplish his work, as Isaiah said.

And he is the one who gives me peace in the midst of it all.

Photo by Maryhere from Morguefile

Photo by Maryhere from Morguefile

I am moving ahead!

If you’d like to be part of my marketing scheme for Brokenness to Beauty, if you have an idea of what you could do to promote Brokenness to Beauty among people you know, or if you have successfully marketed a book and so have experience you could share with me, leave me a comment and let’s talk!

It’s only January 3rd in this New Year of 2016, but I’m beginning to look forward to January 3, 2017, to look back over the year and say, “all that we have accomplished you, Oh God, have done for us”!

 

 

Yellow wood is a reference to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com/


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God, Jeremiah, Saeed and Us

A friend emailed me these scriptures and they got me thinking:

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.’”(Jeremiah 33:1-3, ESV)[1]

The euphemistic sounding “court of the guard” was not a nice courtyard. It was a jail. Jeremiah was “shut up” in it. Dungeoned away.

Phot by kconnors DSC_0471.JPG

Photo by kconnors DSC_0471.JPG

God had called Jeremiah, the son of a priest, to a prophetic ministry early in life. Jeremiah’s perceived inability and youthfulness did not keep God from ordaining him to be his “prophet to the nations,” regardless of how inadequate Jeremiah felt. It would be a difficult and dangerous calling but God pledged himself to “be with you to deliver you,” therefore Jeremiah was not to be afraid of his enemies (Jeremiah 1:6-8).

As I read the first quoted verses about God showing Jeremiah great and mighty things he knew nothing about when he called on God in prayer, I thought of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and many other men and women similarly persecuted and imprisoned for their faith in Jesus.

They are not Jeremiah, but like Jeremiah, God has called them to a hard task: faithfully speaking forth the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a resistant, even hostile audience. But God has also promised to be with them wherever they go, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

We must not consider persecution and imprisonment for Jesus’s sake an anomaly. Suffering for Christ is not a strange phenomenon. It is part of being a follower of the true God and his son Jesus Christ. So it is not just the pastor Abedinis who are called to suffer: it is you and me. As a western Christian I have been trying to get my mind around that reality.

This lack of understanding about persecution for our faith being a part of the Christian life, is similar to my experience growing up in church and for the first 20 years of my life not recalling hearing about and nor giving thought to God’s care of and concern for the poor. Until I met someone who plainly understood it and could point it out to me in Scripture. It was everywhere in God’s Word! How had I missed it?!

When was the last time you heard a sermon or lesson on standing firm and fearless in the midst of persecution, as applied to ourselves and not a Bible character who lived thousands of years ago? Or even expecting persecution to come? In fact, when was the last time you were persecuted for your faith in Jesus?

I’ve asked myself these questions so don’t be offended at my asking you the same things. I’ll bet we’ve all made comments about it and had fears as to the coming persecution. I have. In Scripture, however, it is taken for granted that persecution will be part of our lives when we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” and we are told straight up not to fear. Jesus’s words to go into all the world and make disciples is for all his followers, not a select few.

I pray for deliverance for my brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith.

But I also pray for grace, and their daily strength to stand strong, and to forgive their enemies. I pray that Jesus will be more real to them, that they draw closer to him each day. And I pray that Jesus draw very close to them. I pray that they know his presence with them as surely as they know they inhale and exhale.

I also pray God use them powerfully in those neighborhoods and prisons to live out and speak the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. To those who are their mortal enemies. To those who are so very lost.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Many of us have claimed for ourselves God’s promise to Jeremiah, I know I have. I don’t see a problem with that.

As long as we are also willing to wear Jeremiah’s mantle of suffering.

Or as Paul stated it: to fill up the sufferings of Christ.

He’s the same God today as he was then. And the way through dark times of persecution is the same as through any other difficulty in life: cling to and stand firm in the Word of God, live a life of prayer to the God of the Word, encourage and help one another, remembering our reason for being here: to honor, love and serve our King and Savior Jesus Christ, carrying his good news to the world.

God, help us to honor You.

 

 

It’s all there in the Book. Here are a few samples:

(Matthew 5:10-12;43-48; 10:14-39; 24:9-14; Romans 5:1-5; 8:16-18;31-39; 12:14, 17-21;15:30-33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Cor. 1:5;8-11;4:1-18;7:5,6;11:23-28;Ephesians 5:8-21;6:10-20;Philippians 1:12-14;19-21;27-30; 3:10-11;4:1; Colossians 1:22-24;4:2-6, 10; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:1,2; 3:1-4, 7; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2: 1315; 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:8, 11-12 2:1-3, 8-13; 3:10-12; 4:1-8, 14-18; Hebrews 11; 12:1-7, 11; 13:3, 12-15, 18-19, 23; James 1:2-4, 12; 1 Peter 2:12, 21-23; 3:8-12, 13-16, 17; 4:1, 12-19; 5:6-11; 1 John 2:18; jude 17-25; Revelation 1:9; 2:7, 9-11, 13, 26; 3:8, 11; 22:12-21)

 

 

 

 

[1] English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/

 


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Whatever you say, Jesus

“When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!’” (Matthew 14:14-16, NASB)

When we get the big picture, when we know what God is about (God’s purposes in the world, his kingdom agenda, a biblical worldview) it gives us Perspective and a compass with which to set our course for life, prayer and ministry. The more we live by faith, the better we understand God’s thinking.

What I mean is, as we continue to saturate our lives with God’s words and live our lives in obedience to him and his words, we are changed little by little. The more or less of the changes in us is probably in direct proportion to our faith in and obedience to God (John 14:21). And some of it could be related to how much we are paying attention to what we are experiencing, in other words, our intentionality in our lives with the Lord.

As an example, about the time they got the news of John’s beheading, the disciples had just concluded a mission trip of touring the cities and villages of Israel in teams of two. Not only did they preach, but Jesus had conferred on them the power to heal and cast out demons, obviously directed at big problems in the country. Jesus listened to their post-trip reports and advised they all go away for a while to rest. This had been exhausting work. Enter the needy crowds (Mark 6:7, 12-13, 27-29, 30-32, 33-34).

Now think of it, the disciples had been casting out demons and healing people! Jesus gave them that power. It was very specific. Yet it didn’t seem to occur to the disciples that he could, should he so desire, give them similar powers to meet other needs. They never thought of it to ask him.

I’ve seen God to amazing things in my own life, not to mention in others’ lives. I raise my hand and profess to believe with all my heart in the power of God to do the impossible. I’ve heard scores of wonderful believers quote their favorite passage: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” (Ephesians 3:20), and believe with all their hearts that there is supernatural power “that works within us.”

I’ve seen this power at work, though it isn’t always as dramatic as what I envision the casting out of a demon would be. But it has been every bit as real and miraculous an act of God in answer to prayer.

However, that doesn’t mean I always transfer that knowledge to the next moment when I come up against an impassable wall, when I am stopped cold in my tracks by a gargantuan need I know I cannot meet. Just like the disciples didn’t connect their recent experience of God’s power given to them to heal and cast out demons, to the present moment when they saw thousands of hungry people who needed food.

So, having said all that (in my last three posts), what could have been the next “paragraph” in the disciples’ request to Jesus as they scrambled for a solution to the need of thousands of hungry people? By implication, what might be our next words to God in prayer as we encounter insurmountable needs?

Jesus had granted the disciples the ability to cast out demons and heal. Might he also grant them the power to feed thousands of people, especially when he told them to feed the crowd (Matt. 14:16)? It’s worth the asking.

“Jesus, um, we have a big problem. We’ve checked and we don’t have the money to buy enough food to feed all these people, and we don’t have the food on hand, only enough for one child. But we recall you have power to take care of big things and it seems to us this is not too big for you. In fact, you gave us power to heal and cast out demons just a while back so we were thinking, if you want to give us the power to somehow feed these thousands, we’re ready. We’re up for the challenge! Just say the word, Jesus, and we’ll do whatever you say.”

I will always ask God’s mind on an issue, and when I am certain it is something he approves, I want to have the boldness to say, “Jesus, um, we have a big problem … but I know you have the power to take care of big things … you have given us power to do “greater things” and I’m up for the challenge! Just say the word, Jesus, and I’ll do whatever you say.”

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).

 

Scriptures quoted from NASB  www.lockman.org