Friday, June 27, 2014

Flawless by Design

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Songs 4:7 NIV)

Flawless by Design
Have you been watching much reality television lately? The shows range from ugly ducklings to homely houses to unruly families. And if you dare sport an unsightly blemish or a glaring flaw, you had better believe you will soon be considered as a prime candidate for a makeover.

Goodness, it’s enough to give you the impression that God must be sitting up in Heaven, a larger-than-life 'Max Factor,' looking down at His creation with His head tilted and one eyebrow raised thinking, “You know, maybe they just need a little more blush to highlight those cheekbones or perhaps just a little tuck here and there. Better yet, let’s send them all to the day spa for the latest cellophane wrap and some sliced cucumbers for those puffy eyes.”

As a young woman, I used to work for a well-known cosmetic company, and one of the many perks of my job was performing makeovers on women. I especially enjoyed observing how ladies would transform Cinderella-like into glowing beauties, and how even their very demeanors would change once they caught their new image reflecting back in the mirror.

My dear old Aunt Alice, who lived in the country on a work farm and specialized in fried green tomatoes, used to always say, “A little fresh paint on the old barn never hurt anybody!”

I no longer work for the cosmetic industry, but I still perform makeovers every day—not necessarily the 'Revlon' kind, but rather the 'Beauty for Ashes' kind. God has privileged me to be an encourager of souls to those who may have lost their self-worth and somehow feel less then attractive because of a misplaced identity. God has by-passed our need for plastic surgery or the newest age-defying skin care products because when we become born-again, we are instantly transformed into a completely new creation! We are no longer in need of being 'made over' or polished up from a tarnished image.

To Him we are made complete and absolutely perfect, lacking nothing. In His eyes we are exquisite just as we are. Isn’t that reassuring in what can sometimes be a very superficial world? I am so thankful for His unconditional love and that He is head over heels in love with us … just as we are!

The famous hymn says it so well:

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee …
    I come, I come.

    —Charlotte Elliott, 'Just as I Am, Without One Plea'

Come to Him today and let Him give you a “makeover”. He longs to whisper in your ear, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7). Missey Butler

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bouncing Back

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. (Jeremiah 18:4 NKJ)

Bouncing Back
At the age of 22, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job as co-anchor for weekday news on one of Baltimore’s stations because she was deemed “unfit for TV” after the show received low ratings. Winfrey called it the “first and worst failure of her TV career.” But she rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows before amassing a media empire, according to articles at BusinessInsider.com. 

Stories of failures to success fascinate many people, and we sometimes wish we are like the heroes of such stories. At the core of these stories, however, is the question all of us must answer, “Do we get back up stronger after we encounter setbacks?”

Not all of us are quick to recover from a setback. Some of us might find it too difficult to continue or call it quits. Of the many attributes rebounders are expected to have are the ability to accept failure, desire to take action, open mind for new ideas, ability to be comfortable with discomfort, and motivating passion, according to an article at USAToday.com.

The apostle Peter is a good example of someone who grew stronger after a setback. He was not perfect, but he did fairly well as a follower of Christ and fisher of men. After he denied Jesus three times, he was heartbroken and for a little while went back to be a fisherman. With the Lord’s forgiveness, he rebounded and turned his love for Jesus into a driving passion that got him all fired up for action. He found comfort in the Lord amid discomfort of trials and persecution, and was opened to receiving new ideas from the Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:16-18; Luke 22:55-62; John 21:3, 15-19; Acts 10:13-20).

Are we like Peter or like those who find it difficult to get back on our feet after a failure? Are we fearful of more setbacks awaiting us? Do we easily give up or do we shine taking up new challenges? Are we growing stronger and wiser learning from our past mistakes?

As disciples of the Lord, we need to buildup and grow our bouncebackability, so we might not give up easily. We ought not to be surprised with failures or setbacks in life, for they are lessons we learn and accept along our journey moving forward. Like clay in the potter’s hands, let us allow God to mold us to become useful vessels for His purpose as we find comfort and joy amid discomfort during trials and difficult times. With fervent passion, let our minds open up to new ideas for action and pay close attention to the Holy Spirit who guides us, so as not to confine God to man’s ways or thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:3-4; James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Dear Lord, thank You for helping us grow our resilience to accepting setbacks and failures in life as part and parcel of lessons we need to learn in order to become stronger and move forward. Grant us the motivating passion to carry on amid discomfort or facing new challenges. Continue to mold us to become useful vessels for Your purpose as we open up to accept new ideas and changes.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Voted Off

Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7 NAS)

Voted Off
When the corporation I worked for failed to reach its targeted revenue for the year, it was announced the CEO would be leaving because of personal reasons, although everyone knew he was voted off the island.

As employees, many of us are also vulnerable to be voted off whenever a business or corporation restructures or fails to perform well. Sometimes we might be selected for layoff because of ‘personal reasons’ like our lack of exceptional performance, and at times because we outperformed our superiors or specially valued peers.

When the sailors cast their lots to find out on whose account the storm struck them, the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah was eventually thrown overboard because he was endangering their lives by his disobedience to God (Jonah 1:7, 15).

Unlike Jonah, Jesus was voted off by the council to die for the whole nation because He outperformed the chief priests and the Pharisees by the many signs He did. Jesus eventually died on the cross to save us all because of His love for us and obedience to God (John 11:47-50; 19:30).

Are we like Jonah or like Jesus? Are we upset or unhappy because we have been voted off the island? Are we feeling bitter or unjustified because of layoffs for the wrong reasons, such as outperforming or unwittingly crossing someone? Is our disobedience endangering the lives of others?

While on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus did not for a moment feel bitter or unjustified for the wrong done to Him. He knew what was coming and willingly submitted Himself in obedience to God. Similarly, as disciples of our Lord, we should not be surprised by the ordeals we are going through. If we suffer because we are Christians, do not be ashamed, but praise God we bear His name. So the next time we encounter a door that is closed, rest assured another door will be opened. We need only to pray and wait (1 Peter 4:12, 16; Matthew 7:7; 1 John 5:14).

Dear Lord, help us to forgive those who insult or shame us. Keep us calm in spirit and give us Your peace amid the storm. Teach us to accept whatever comes our way, even when we are handpicked to leave what we have come to love. Move our hearts to obey You in all we do. We place our trust in You that when a door is closed, another will be opened. Grant us patience as we wait and pray.

Friday, June 6, 2014

No Greater Bestie

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NAS)

No Greater Bestie
When Lisa received the tragic news of her husband’s death in Iraq from his fellow military officers, her friend Diana was with her. The next morning, Diana took over to call Lisa's friends and family to tell them what happened. She shielded Lisa from media phone calls, drove to Dallas to pick up Lisa’s mother-in-law at the airport, babysat Lisa’s daughter, cooked, and cleaned Lisa's house. 

“I absolutely could not have functioned without Diana,” says Lisa. “I can't even fathom what that night would have been like without her. After George died, a lot of people treated me differently. I guess they didn't know how to act. But nothing changed between me and Diana.”

That was a true story shared at RedBookMag.com about the friendship and bond between Lisa Morrissey and Diana Stefaniak.

In the Gospel of John, a story was recorded of a similar friendship and bond. Jesus loved the siblings, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. So when He saw Mary weeping for her brother, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled. Jesus wept (John 11:5, 33, 35).

On another occasion, Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

By this, the Lord declared His friendship with us—one that has no greater love than to lay down His life for His friends (John 15:15, 13). 

In a sense, this means Jesus is our bestie, our best of friends, because He gave up His all to save us, and we are friends of God because we abide in Him and He in us (1 John 4:13-14).

How should we then respond to such a friend as He? Do we spend time with our Lord to grow our friendship studying His word and praying regularly? Do we share our worries, sorrows, cares, sadness, happiness and joy with Him? Do we stand by our Friend no matter what happens? 

As friends of Jesus and of God, let us be found faithful to stand by our faith regardless the sorrows we face or the pains we endure following Him. Even if the world forsakes us or treats us differently because of our failures or misfortune, the Lord will not abandon us, for He does not change. If we have cares or worries, let us bring them to Him because He cares for us.

Who are we, dear Lord, that You count us worthy to be Your friend? You see our hearts and heal us where we need Your touch. You understand us deep down and never let us down. You love and care for us more than any best friend we know or have. You are always near to comfort us in our times of sadness and despair. Our worries and cares You have carried, and our sorrows You have turned into gladness. Mourning and sighing flee from us for You have turned them into joy and thanksgiving. Draw us close to You as we study Your word and pray, for we long to grow our friendship with You.

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