Saturday, March 18, 2023

Going Home


Photo of the Burren by Suzannetmoran 2021

I dreamed that my husband and I owned a home in Ireland, a cozy cottage located in the middle of the Burren, a flat rock formation unique to Ireland, which is blanketed with colorful, delicate flowers in springtime.

We had not been there for a very long time but were now planning to return. As the Burren is only accessible by foot, we had arranged for a car to drive us to the edge of this region, and we would then have a long walk home ahead of us.

As the car dropped us off, it was still dark. But then the sun began to glow on the horizon, the soft pink and coral hues of dawn washing over the fields of flowers, illuminating them like shining jewels, glistening in the morning dew.

Almost instantaneously we were transported to the cottage, its thatched straw roof golden in the morning sun, its white plaster walls gleaming, and its lush garden in full bloom. We were amazed at its perfect state of upkeep, given our long absence and our not having made any arrangements for a caretaker. And yet it was breathtakingly beautiful, warm and inviting in its idyllic setting.

As we crossed the threshold, we discovered that the interior was immaculate, as if lovingly swept and cared for each morning while awaiting our arrival. To our surprise, we found freshly baked bread and wildflower honey in the cupboard and a kettle of tea whistling on the hearth – the perfect refreshment before starting life together in this welcoming home.

I awoke with a sense of peace and joy, yet wistfulness that it had only been a dream. It reminded me of the home that awaits all Christians, those who are saved by trusting in the death, burial; and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

When we die, we can’t take anything with us, other than souls we have led to the Lord (1 Thessalonians 2:19) and treasures we have laid up in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), namely, good works we have done with the proper motive to serve our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Once we are born again (John 3:3-8), we don’t have to prepare for the trip, to pack, or to book accommodations or arrange for these to be made ready, or even to travel. The moment we are absent from the body, we will be present with the Lord, and He will instantly take us to Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Often our life here seems like a journey through the darkness of this evil world (Ephesians 6:12), which is not our home (Hebrews 11:16). But there it will be eternal dawn, lit by Jesus Christ (Isaiah 60:19-20; (Revelation 21:23), Light of the world (John 8:12), Himself! There He has prepared many mansions for His children (John 14:2), no doubt each uniquely suited to our individual preferences and personalities. The delight of each home and of the Heavenly City (Hebrews 12:22) will be far beyond our earthly imagination, although Scripture provides some details about the latter, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2).  

Imagine a city with streets of pure gold, walls built of precious stones, and gates of pearl, ruled in perfect peace and harmony by Jesus Christ, inhabited by all who love Him! ((Revelation 21:18-26). Imagine having a glorified body that will never sin, age, sorrow, die or experience pain or sickness (Revelation 21:4), yet that will be able to enjoy eating and drinking (John 21; Matthew 26:29), walking through walls (John 20:19), and traveling at the speed of thought! (Luke 24:30-31). Imagine an eternity to share love, joy, and peace with Him and one another, to rule and reign with Him (Isaiah 32:1), to worship and praise Him! (Revelation 5:8-14).

All this awaits us and so much more! May we run with patience the earthly race set before us (Hebrews 12:1), look up for His soon return (Luke 21:28), and do all we can to bring others to Him, so that we may come home to our loving Father as His Son says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! (Matthew 25:21).

© 2023 Laurie Collett

Saturday, March 11, 2023

This Moment, or All Eternity?


Photo be Maxime Raynal 2015

Tonight, we who live in the Eastern United States set our clocks forward 1 hour, transitioning from Eastern Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time. Many feel that this time change should be permament, rather than setting our clocks back in the fall, and this is under debate in the legislature.

Time is also in the forefront of the news as many potential catastrophes -- nuclear, climate, economic, and disease-related, loom on the horizon. All this has led experts to declare that we are now at 90 seconds before midnight on the Doomsday Clock -- meaning total world annihilation -- closer than we have ever been since that clock began ticking in 1947. This should not come as a shock to Christians who have read Matthew 24, where Jesus enumerated all the signs that will precede the end of the age, when Jesus will return for His children. A mere glance at the headlines confirms these signs increasing in frequency and severity, much like labor pains, heralding this dramatic event.

But ultimately, whether or not Jesus tarries, only two time points matter for the Christian -- right now, and all eternity. I therefore thought it would be fitting to repost the article below. 

We tend to think of reality as the sum of our physical existence, past experiences, and future plans. In humanistic and philosophical terms, this is reasonable, for we are to a large extent shaped by our past experiences. Educators speak of “nurture plus nature,” or how our environment and genetics interact to predict our behavior, health, achievement, success, and a variety of other outcomes. And, as the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

And there is no denying that our future plans have a dramatic effect on our present actions. Our goals influence what studies, training, and work opportunities we are likely to pursue, and even what relationships we are likely to seek. Our anticipation of what lies in store, whether good or bad, greatly affects how we spend our time and resources in the present. 

Announcements of life-changing events in the near future have a profound impact on our priorities, whether we learn that we are about to have a grandchild or that we are likely to die in six months from a terminal illness.

But as born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) who have placed our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), there are truly only two realities in the time spectrum: this very moment, and all of eternity. And the same goes for all of us, saved or unsaved.

The past is not something we can change nor a place we can inhabit. We can get caught up in memories of good times or guilt-ridden over prior mistakes, but we can only change their impact in the present moment by adjusting our emotional response and asking God to release their hold on our life through His peace (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3). Once we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and His compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

If we are in Christian or other service, we cannot rest on our laurels and point to how we used to serve God in the past. In theatre, the adage is that you’re only as good as your last performance. Conversely, our faith in the shed blood of Christ has removed us from our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) as far as the East is removed from the West (Psalm 103:12). If He has forgotten our transgressions once we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10), why should we dwell in them? It is a lie of the devil (John 8:44) to confront us with past sins and convince us that we are therefore of no use to God and His kingdom.

The future should have no more hold on us than should the past. How many people stop enjoying the present, refusing to take vacations or to spend more time with their family now because they are working to secure their retirement and enjoy these experiences then? But sadly, they often find that an unexpected illness or loss of a loved one deprives them of fulfilling that dream.

In the Scripture example of the wealthy man who planned to build more barns to hoard his accumulated possessions, so that he could live comfortably for many years, Jesus called him a fool for not realizing that he would lose his life and his soul the very same night (Luke 12:16-20). James warns us that our life is but a vapor, vanishing like the exhaled breath before our face on a cold day, and that what happens tomorrow depends totally on the will of God (James 4:14-15) and not on our own plans (Proverbs 16:9).

In contrast, many worry about future threats at the expense of enjoying the present. The world is increasingly overflowing with chaos, confusion, persecutionnatural disasters, wars, and rumors of wars, as Jesus warned us would happen as we draw closer to the End Times (Matthew 24:3-14). Perhaps we are living under a Damocles’ sword of potentially bad news with our next doctor’s appointment, bank statement, or work memo.

But Jesus said that worry accomplishes nothing. In fact, it is actually a sin because it demonstrates our lack of trust that God is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus told us not to fret over our physical needs such as food or clothing, for he will provide all these if we seek Him first (Luke 12:22-32; Matthew 6:25-33), and He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

As our former pastor used to say, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” For each of us, the only reality along the continuum of time is the present moment. We can’t relive the past, and we are not promised tomorrow, or even our next breath (James 4:14-15). All could change in an instant, as it did for Job despite his exemplary obedience to God (Job 1).

But praise God, we do have this very moment to honor, glorify and commune with Him! In all that we do, let us do it heartily, as unto the Lord! (Colossians 3:23). Let us redeem the time, for the days are evil (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16). Let us give thanks in all things, for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning us. Let us pray without ceasing by making our life a living prayer, being constantly attuned to God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24).

For those who have not yet trusted Jesus Christ, today is the day of salvation! Put it off no longer, for even moments from now may be too late! (2 Corinthians 6:2).

But in addition to the reality of this present moment, we must face the reality of all eternity. God’s Word and man’s soul are eternal (1 John 2:17). Those who trust Christ will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ and their loved ones in Him (John 3:16; Luke 18:30; 1 Corinthians 15:22-57); those who reject Christ face eternal damnation and torment in hell (Mark 3:29; 9:43-48). Time as we now know it will have no meaning, for time will be no more.

For God, eternity stretches back infinitely and reaches forward infinitely (Revelation 1:8), yet “back” and “forward” are not appropriate terms once we are removed from the timeline as we now know it. Time will stand still rather than marching on. Before time began, God designed each of us to be His unique workmanship, to fulfill His specific purpose (2 Timothy 1:9). He knew and knows all things, including who would accept and who would reject His freely given gift of salvation (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29-30).

And once Jesus returns for us at the Rapture, earthly time will cease for each of His children. We shall live forever with Him and each other in glorified bodies that will never age, sin, or experience sickness, sorrow or pain (1 Corinthians 15:22-57). In the meantime, may we live in the reality of this present moment – our only opportunity to fulfill His will for our life – and in the reality of all eternity.

God had a plan for each of us since eternity past. Knowing that we will spend eternity future with Him, may we use each moment to store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20) and to bring others with us!

© 2018 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, March 4, 2023

For Such A Time


"Queen Esther" by Hugues Merle

Next week begins the Jewish feast of Purim, which commemorates saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an evil official of the Persian Empire under king Ahasuerus who planned to exterminate all of Persia's Jewish subjects.

Thankfully, Haman’s plans were foiled by Queen Esther, favored wife of Ahasuerus, herself a Jewess whom God had placed in this position of influence “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). She was an orphan adopted by her uncle Mordecai, who realized that God had orchestrated her unlikely rise to royal status so that she could help save His people.

He had wisely advised her to conceal her Jewish identity until it was needed to fulfill God’s purpose for her life. But now that her people were threatened, she could appeal to the king’s love for her to deliver all of them, and even to defeat Haman in the process, who ended up hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai (Esther 5-10).

It would not be the first time God had placed an outsider in the enemy’s camp to protect or deliver His chosen people. Joseph’s eleven brothers, consumed by jealousy, sold him into Egyptian slavery. But what they intended for evil, God used for good (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph’s eventual rise to most trusted advisor to Pharaoh, despite a tumultuous course of events including false imprisonment, ultimately allowed him to provide for his family during the severe famine, leading to a surprising reunion and preservation of his brothers, who gave rise to the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 37-50).

God spared the life of Moses, a baby condemned to die under Pharaoh’s cruel edict to kill all the Hebrew male infants born in Israel, while their older relatives were held captive for slave labor. God carefully arranged all the details so that Moses would be nursed by his own mother, discovered by Pharaoh’’s daughter as a basket carrying him floated by the river Nile shore where she was bathing, and raised as her own son (Exodus 2).

This position of great privilege in the Egyptian court, while Moses retained his loyalty to his fellow Hebrews, gave him a tremendous advantage years later.  In a moment of anger, Moses murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, and fled into the wilderness, where he spent years in exile. God spoke to him from a burning bush and announced His calling (Exodus 3). Moses would return to Egypt and deliver God’s people from captivity, ultimately leading them to safety as God parted the Red Sea for their escape, then reuniting the waters so that the Egyptians pursuing them would perish (Exodus 14).

Nehemiah, trusted cup-bearer to pagan king Artaxerxes, was in a unique position to lead the rebuilding of the wall fortifying Jerusalem. When he heard of the wall’s destruction, he convinced the king not only to give him time off to supervise the project, but also letters ensuring his safety while traveling and even construction supplies (Nehemiah 1-2).

Through God’s grace, He had lifted up Esther from the Babylonian captivity into a position of influence in the king’s palace, just as He later would elevate a humble young girl, the virgin Mary, to the honored position of being the mother of Jesus Christ, the promised Savior of the world.

God chose and exalted Mary despite her modest position in life because she was willing to obey Him and follow His perfect plan, considering herself to be the handmaiden, or servant, of the Lord (Luke 1:38; 46-53). This is in keeping with God’s ability to humble the mighty and wealthy while giving riches and power to the poor and helpless (1 Samuel 2:4-8), just as He did for Esther.

These Biblical examples, and many others, remind me that we as Christians, who have been saved by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), may also have been placed by God into our unique sphere of influence “for such a time as this.” Surely the signs of the times, with wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes in unusual places, false prophets, wickedness, all increasing in frequency and intensity like labor pains, point to us living in the End Times (Matthew 24), that period before Jesus returns to gather His children at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Not all Christians are missionaries facing hardship in foreign lands, but all of us are pilgrims, passing through this world that is not our home, journeying toward the Promised Land of Heaven. En route, God allows all of us to undergo trials, for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28). He has equipped each of us with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12), talents, and resources, and has placed us where we can grow (Jeremiah 17:7-8) to fulfill His unique purpose for us, which He knew since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus Christ Himself was the only One Who could ever fully complete the work God set out for Him to do (John 17:4). Sadly, each of us will fall short of perfect fulfillment of God’s designated mission for us, but the degree of our success will be based on our faith, obedience to God’s call, and character. If, by yielding to the Holy Spirit, we can emulate the integrity, compassion, dedication, perseverance, devotion and humility of Esther, Joseph, Moses, Nehemiah, and Mary, we are more likely to accomplish our Divine mission. 

In these End Times, may we recognize that we have been positioned in God's Kingdom "for such a time as this" and follow His perfect will, living with faith, integrity and purpose until He comes again!

© 2023 Laurie Collett



Saturday, February 25, 2023

Beauty to Ashes; Beauty for Ashes


Beauty to Ashes; Beauty for Ashes

Photo by Naveen Nkadalaveni 2019

As we saw last week, inner beauty is a gift from God, bestowed on those who receive the holiness of His Son by trusting Him as their Lord and Savior. Only then will we see beauty as God sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

When God’s chosen people and nation turn away from Him by forsaking His holiness to worship idols, whether other gods or earthly pursuits like power, lust, fame and fortune, God will remove their beauty. Their physical beauty will be consumed to ashes under the fire of His judgment (Isaiah 64:11; Lamentations 1:6, 2:1,15; Ezekiel 7:20; 16:12-15, 25; 28:6-7).

God created Lucifer, the angel of light, to be the most beautiful and wise angel (Ezekiel 28:12-19), appointed to lead the angelic host in worshipping God. Through the sin of pride, wanting to set himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-15), Lucifer fell from heaven to earth, where he is now Satan, prince of the power of the air, also referred to allegorically as the king of Tyrus (Ezekiel 28: 6, 7, 12, 17) and the Assyrian (Ezekiel 31:8-11)

Ezekiel 28:12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.… 17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

The hatred of Satan for God and man now make him as ugly and evil as he once was beautiful and holy, yet he and his demons can still appear physically and spiritually beautiful to deceive us if we are not careful (1 Peter 5:8), transforming themselves into ministers of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

However God defines human physical beauty, it is clear that just as He created and bestowed it, He can take it away. Earthly beauty passes quickly while we are still in our physical body, consumed like a fading flower (Isaiah 28:1,4), or a moth drawn to the flame (Psalm 39:11), for aging is part of the judgment we face under the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16-24). Such beauty is therefore vainbut a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised Proverbs 31:30).

Yet in the United States alone, billions of dollars each year are spent on cosmetics, plastic surgery, and other rejuvenating “beauty” treatments, not to mention on high fashion and jewelry. In 2015 the beauty industry generated $56 billion in this country, of which 24% was for hair care, 24% for skin care, and 15% for cosmetics. These soon reach the point of diminishing returns, as the ravages of aging continue while we are in our earthly body.

Whether or not our earthly companions consider us to be beautiful is of little importance compared with what God thinks of us. How can we be beautiful in God’s eyes? The apostle Peter warned women that our best adornment is not our hair style, jewelry, or clothing, but the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Peter 3: 4, 1-5).

When a nationwide beauty pageant was held to find a new bride for King Ahasuerus, Esther won his heart and the crown without any special beauty treatments or adornments, for her love of God and of His people must have given her a unique inner beauty that appealed not only to the King, but to all who knew her (Esther 2:1-17).  

We cannot achieve such beauty ourselves, for it is a gift from God. When Job questioned God’s treatment of him, God asked if Job could condemn God to make himself righteous, or if Job could give himself power, majesty, glory, or beauty (Job 40:6).

The answer, of course, is that Job could not, for all such attributes are from God Himself (James 1:17). Now that we are under the curse of sin, there is nothing in our own heart or good works that God considers righteous or beautiful (Romans 3:23). But once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the onlyWay (John 14:6) to Heaven, His perfect, beautiful holiness is credited to our account, for He robes us in His righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10).

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

Only then can God see us as beautiful, for when He looks at us, He sees the perfect beauty of His Son. Then the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us (Psalm 90:17), for He finds pleasure in beautifying the meek with His salvation (Psalm 149:4). We have no power or beauty of our own, but once we are saved, the Holy Spirit lives within us (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30, giving us access to His perfect power, beauty and wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Lord of hosts is a crown of glory and of beauty for those who trust Him (Isaiah 28:5).

Through His plan of salvation, God exchanges our ashes, representing our sin, sorrow and death, for His beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3), meaning the righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:22), the joy of our Lord (Habakkuk 3:18), and eternal life (John 3:16).

Isaiah 61: 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

When we are saved, God transforms us from His enemies (Romans 5:8-10) and children of the devil (John 8:44) to God’s friends, His children, joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:14-17), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), fellow workers with Him (1 Corinthians 3:9), and the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9).

In these new roles we radiate His beauty to others as we spread His Word, for beautiful are the feet of those who spread His Gospel, or Good News! (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). God allows us to be His ministers, reconciling other sinners to Himself by telling them about His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18). 

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

How are we saved? By God’s grace, through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), which elevates us to heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 1:3). When Moses in faith drew near to God on Mount Sinai, his face shone with God’s glory and was visible to all the people (Exodus 34:29-35).

Once Sarah finally trusted God completely to bring her the child He had promised (Genesis 18:10-15), she too must have reflected God’s beauty despite her old age, for King Abimelech wanted her to be in his harem, until God warned him in a dream to restore her to her husband Abraham (Genesis 20:1-14).

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can all shine with inner beauty that is pleasing not only to God, but to others. In Psalm 110:3, King David described the people of God as having “the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”

If we lack that inner beauty, we may fool others who admire our exterior appearance, but we can’t fool God, for He knows our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day for being hypocrites who rejected Him. They appeared holy and beautiful outwardly, while being full of corruption and decay within, like a beautifully decorated burial vault containing rotting bones and flesh. Interestingly, this verse (Matthew 23:27) is the only instance of the word “beauty” or “beautiful” in the four Gospels.

Even though we can’t always see the beauty of God’s design for our lives, He sees it all, from beginning to end, and He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We see the tapestry of our life from the reverse side, where the knots and threads crossing over each other seem to make a tangled mess, but from His viewpoint, the placement of each strand is woven into an intricate, harmonious masterpiece.

When He takes us to Heaven, we will see not only the beauty of our own life tapestry viewed from the right side, but His perfect beauty mirrored in everyone and everything around us, defying description and human imagination (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9). The holy city, containing mansions for each of us (John 14:2), will have foundations and walls of precious jewels, gates of pearl, and streets of gold, and it will be lit by the brilliance of Jesus Christ Himself, the fairest of all (Revelation 21:10-23).

Even our vile, corruptible, aging body will be transformed instantly into a glorious body like that of Christ Himself, never to age, die, sin, sorrow or experience pain or sickness (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57; Revelation 21:4).

May we allow God to exchange our ashes for His beauty! May we realize that beauty is in the eye of God, see beauty as He sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

© 2019 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Beauty Is In the Eye of God


Beauty Is In the Eye of God

With today's overemphasis on physical beauty, especially in the wake of Valentine's Day and entertainment awards boasting celebrities trying to outshine one another on the red carpet, it may be time for a reminder that God's view of beauty is far different from ours. I thought it would therefore be fitting to repost the article below. 

When our Pastor’s wife asked me to speak at our ladies’ banquet on the topic of “Beauty,” I must confess that the first thing that popped into my mind was not particularly spiritual. It was an episode of Twilight Zone from the sixties called “Eye of the Beholder,” told from the viewpoint of a young woman who had just undergone extensive plastic surgery in an attempt to look “normal.”

The bandages had not yet been removed, and her time alone in the darkness brought to mind vivid and painful memories of being mocked, bullied and humiliated because of her appearance, and even of having children run away from her in terror once they saw her face.

At long last the surgeon unwraps the bandages, as if he is peeling through the layers of an onion, while explaining that this would have to be their last attempt, for none of her previous ten surgeries had been in the least successful. It would be dangerous and futile to try any further. If this last surgery didn’t work, she would have no choice but to be sent away from mainstream society, to live in a small colony with a few other unfortunates who looked like her.

As the last layer is shed, the doctor shakes his head, turning away with a shudder of revulsion. The nurse cries out in horror before composing herself and handing the patient a mirror. Tears stream down the patient’s cheeks, but to our surprise, the image in the mirror is what we would consider beautiful – symmetrical and well-proportioned features, large eyes, classic nose, full lips, and smooth, flawless complexion.

In shock we see that it is everyone else who is “ugly,” with grotesque, misshapen, asymmetrical faces, pig-like snouts, and scales instead of skin. Truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our definition of beauty is highly influenced by cultural norms. In the sixties, when Twiggy was the star of fashion models, the ideal of beauty was epitomized by the familiar saying, “You can’t be too rich or too thin.”

But across the globe, in Mauritania and other African nations, young girls were (and sadly, in some cases, still are) being force-fed a high-calorie diet to fatten them up before marriage, as obesity was considered a sign of wealth, maturity, high social standing, and female attractiveness.

There are many Biblical references to human physical beauty, but Scripture does not define it. Rachel (Genesis 29:17), King David while he was still a young shepherd (1 Samuel 16:12), Bathsheba whom he later desired (2 Samuel 11:2), his son Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25), Queen Vashti (Esther 1:11), and her successor Queen Esther (Esther 2:7) were all called beautiful, but their looks are not described in detail.

We do know that David was “ruddy,” or rosy-cheeked, and Absalom had long, thick hair and was free of any blemish (2 Samuel 14:25-26). Even gray hair is considered beautiful on the head of an old man (Proverbs 20:29), perhaps because it represents the wisdom of experience, which is more beautiful than gold or jewels.

Proverbs 8: 10 Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

Today the passages in Song of Solomon in which the Bridegroom extols the physical virtues of His beloved, and vice versa, seem almost comical to us. Describing teeth as a flock of sheep, hair as a flock of goats, or temples like pieces of pomegranate (4:1-3) is not prime material for a Valentine or love letter of today.

Was Jesus, the holy Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), physically attractive? The prophet Isaiah said that He had no beauty that we should desire Him, yet this was in the context of His excruciating death on the cross, in which His body was bruised, beaten, bloodied and marred beyond recognition. 

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

But in the account of Jesus teaching in the temple as an adolescent, we are told that He continued to grow in stature and in favor with God and with man (Luke 2:52), suggesting that He was physically attractive.  As He was the perfect, sinless Son of God (Matthew 14:33; 16:16) and the physical representation of the Father (John 10:30; 14:7-9), I believe that Jesus was beautiful in His earthly form.

Scripture says that the Lord is beautiful (Psalm 27:4; Hosea 14: 4-8; Zechariah 9: 16-17), and that the branch of the Lord, namely Jesus Christ the Messiah, is beautiful and glorious (Isaiah 4:2). Revelation tells us that He is glorious in power and in majesty, seated on His throne like a precious jewel radiating brilliant rainbows of shining light! (Revelation 4:2-3).

God created the universe, and it was very good (Genesis 1,2). We can only imagine its pristine beauty before it fell under the curse of sin (Genesis 3), yet even now we can see God’s creativity, glory, power and majesty in the beauty of His creation, whether in the colors of a sunrise, the vastness of a starry night, or the microscopic detail of a leaf or even of the cells and atoms themselves (Psalm 19:1).

The adjective “beautiful” is used to describe the priestly garments of Aaron (Exodus 28:2, 40), the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 3:6; Ezra 7:27; Psalm 96:6; Isaiah 60:13) the nation of Israel (2 Samuel 1:19; Isaiah 52:1), Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:12) and Mount Zion (Psalm 48:2; 50:2). The name of one of the gates of Solomon’s temple, where Peter healed a lame man, was also Beautiful (Acts 3:2,6,10). These have in common the quality of being set apart, sanctified, or made holy for God’s service (Romans 15:16).

Accordingly, as Scripture confirms, the holiness of the Lord is beautiful, and we must worship Him in the beauty of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29, 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 29:2; 96:9). We cannot be holy on our own, for all have sinned and come short of His glory (Romans 3:23). We can receive the holiness of Jesus Christ only once we are saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven.

As we shall see next week, only then will we see beauty as God sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

© 2019 Laurie Collett

Saturday, February 11, 2023

How Does God Love Me? Let Me Count Three Ways.


Photo by Sheba_Also 2016
Valentine’s Day started me thinking about perfect Love, the Supreme Lover, and the ultimate Loving Gift. God’s love for us is infiniteeternal, and unconditional, for it has no limitstranscends all time, and requires nothing in return.]

His infinite love reflects His almighty power (Genesis 17:1, 18:14; 28:3, Jeremiah 32:27; Colossians 1:16) to give us all good things (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13); His perfect wisdom, to know and do what is best for us (Psalm 139Romans 8:28; 11:33-36); and His omnipresence, to protectembrace and comfort us no matter where we go (Psalm 139Revelation 1:8).
 He alone is love itself (1 John 4:8), the source of all blessings (James 1:17), and the light that overcomes all darkness (2 Samuel 22:29; Psalm 112:4; Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16; John 1:5; 8:12; 12:35,46; 1 John 1:5). He made His loving plan for us (Jeremiah 33:2-3from the foundation of time (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:4); He loved us from before we were even conceived (Psalm 139:16;Jeremiah 1:5); and His love is everlastingcontinuing throughout eternity (Jeremiah 31:3). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
We know His unconditional love through His grace, as He gives us blessings we don’t deserve (Ephesians 2:8); His mercy, as He spares us from the punishment we do deserve (Psalm 109:26; 136:26; Isaiah 30:18Romans 11:30; Ephesians 2:1-7) and His universal acceptance of all who have faith in His Son’s death, burial and resurrection as the only way to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), regardless of their racesex, or religious heritage (Galatians 3:28).
Because His love is unconditional, it is self-sacrificing to the point of death (1 John 3:16), it flows from a servant’s heart (John 13:5-14), and it is unmerited, for there is nothing we can do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9). He gave us the perfect Gift of His sinless Son, Who willingly laid down His life for us (John 15:13), empowered by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:2-4). And He did all this while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8Ephesians 2:5), rebels against His truth (1 John 4:3), and His enemies (Romans 5:10).
The incomprehensible richness of this love is possible only because He is One in Three Persons: our Father (Matthew 6:9); Jesus, our Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15); and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter (John 14:16). Each Member of the Trinity not only exemplifies what each of these relationships should ideally be like with their earthly counterparts, but each is perfectcomplete, and ever present to sustain us.
God the Father sits on His throne in Heaven (Psalm 45:647:8; Matthew 5:34, from which He rules all thingseverywherethroughout all time, commanding all matterspace and time. Yet He is our Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), our Daddy Who loves for us to come running to Him for reassuranceforgiveness, and encouragement (Luke 15:20). We can boldly approach His throne (Hebrews 4:16) with our requests because when our Holy Father looks at us, He does not see our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son Who was the perfect sacrifice reconciling sinners to Holy God (Romans 3:25: 1 John 2:2). 
Not only was Jesus that perfect Sacrifice, and now the High Priest Who intercedes for us while sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews12:2), but He is also our Betrothed, for the church of born-again believers is His bride. He is our Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15), Husband (2 Corinthians 11:2), and Beloved (Song of Solomon 2:3,8-10,16,17). 
According to the Jewish marriage custom, a man seeking to marry breaks bread with his beloved and her father, and if she accepts his proposal, she drinks from the same cup that he does. He then returns to his father’s house to build an addition for himself and his bride, and when his father decides the new home is ready, the groom returns unannounced to claim his bride, carrying her off with a great shout in the middle of the night. Therefore, the bride-to-be must keep herself pure and ready, for she knows that he will come back for her, but she doesn’t know when. 
When we place our faith in the power of Christ’s shed blood, it is as if we drink of that cup of suffering with Him, and during the remainder of our earthly life we become more conformed to His image through those sufferings and through the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). We are the bride awaiting Christ’s return, and only the Father will determine when the mansion He is preparing for us is ready (John 14:2-3; Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). Without warning, at the sound of the trumpet, He will snatch us away to meet with Him in the air (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and take part in the marriage ceremony and feast (Revelation 19:7-9).
We must therefore be like the wise virgins awaiting the Bridegroom’s return, keeping our lamps trimmed and filled with oil, symbolizing being filled with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13). Only through the Spirit is it possible for us to remain separated and holy as His bride, preparing for His return.
Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit, Who indwells each believer at the moment of salvation (John 14:17), is our constant ComforterCompanion, and Guide (John 16:7). At the moment of salvation, He gives each of us at least one spiritual gift to use to grow the church by sharing the Gospel, to fortify the church by helping, exhorting, and teaching fellow believers, and to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 12).
Throughout our Christian walk, the Comforter enables us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, described in three groups of three (Galatians 5:22-23): the sweet fruit we enjoy of love, joy and peace; the fruit governing our relationships with each other (longsufferinggentleness, and goodness), and the fruit of self-control (faith, meekness, and temperance). 
As our Companion, He is the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), for He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). How can He leave us, for He inhabits our very body (1 Corinthians 3:16) as His temple! As our Guide, the Spirit constantly draws our focus to Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:13-14), teaches us to understand the Scripture (John 14:26), and allows us to know that we belong to God evermore (1 John 4:13-16).
Praise Him that He allows us to be children of God the Fatherjoint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) through our relationship to Our Father and as the betrothed of God the Son, and His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) through the work of the Holy Spirit!  What greater love could there be?
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 
© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives