Prepare Your Heart for Worship

Here is a simple prayer to pray through and reflect upon as you prepare to worship God personally and with others. It is based upon the beautiful hymn: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.”

Almighty God, may my worship of you cause the
mind of Christ to be more fully present in me
this week so that I may think your thoughts
and do your deeds.
May Your Word dwell in me
so that I delight to do what You command.
May Your peace so umpire my life that I am
progressively set free from anxieties and fears.
May Your love so fill me that I am empowered
to love others that may prove difficult to love.
Lastly, may Your beauty rest on me in such a life
transforming way that others might truly see
Christ in me and be drawn to Him. AMEN.

Another way to do this is to turn this into a prayer of confession of sin.
Here is an example:

Almighty and Gracious Father,
Your Word says that You have given us the mind of Christ
so that we can think Your thoughts and do Your deeds.
Forgive us for allowing worldly-mindedness to creep in –
causing sin to seem normal and holiness to seem strange.
Pardon us for filling our lives with so many other things
rather than Your Word.
We confess that anxiety and fear rule us rather than Your peace.
We acknowledge that envy and greed fill us rather than Your love
We lament that a spirit of despair rests upon us instead of Your beauty.
So transform us that others see Jesus in us and are drawn to Him.
For we make our prayer in His matchless name, AMEN.

Gazing Upon True Beauty

Religious people find God useful for obtaining things in life. Christians find God beautiful and knowing Him is the chief good they seek.

The Psalmist declares in Psalm 27:4 –

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

  • May we see and sense in new ways today how beautiful and lovely our Lord is.
  • May we not settle for little glimpses of His majesty.
  • May He give us the gift of gazing – a sustained focus of His beauty.
  • May we all come to the place where we can’t keep our eyes off of Him!
  • May the Lord so work in all of our hearts today that we find Him beautiful.

Friends, this is not just a nice, little sentimental exercise. It is a spiritual lifeline that will keep you from giving your heart to lesser loves and other beauties that will ultimately lead you into bondage, misery, and despair. True beauty always leads to liberation and lasting joy!

Physical Beauty – Reflections, Confession, and Forgiveness

Reflections

How do we celebrate beauty without lapsing into either pantheism or cynicism? This will take serious imagination, imagination fueled by reflection and prayer at the foot of the cross and before the empty tomb, imagination that will discern the mysteries of God’s judgment on evil and God’s reaffirmation through resurrection of his beautiful creation.
— N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

The Song of Solomon affirms the longing we have to be beautiful. With a lover’s eye for every feature, the poet describes the bride’s hair, teeth, temples, eyes, cheeks, neck, lips and [other more intimate parts]. The bridegroom’s features and strength receives similar praise. We may allegorize the Song, but why would God describe his bride in such blatantly physical and erotic terms if he did not rejoice in the physical beauty of His handiwork? God intended us to be as beautiful as this bride, and at the consummation of all things he will restore to us a beauty beyond what even poetry can hint at.
— Karen Lee-Thorp, “Is Beauty the Beast?”

“I am a woman who needs to be seen. I need it in a basic way, as in to breath, to eat…There is nothing like the mystery of an absent father to addict you to the loving gaze of men.”
— Nancy Friday, The Power of Beauty

Prayer of Confession of Sin

Beautiful Savior, You died to make me beautiful
one who was marred and made beastly by sin.
Late it was that I loved you,
beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you!
Thus, I vacillate between
a monkish contempt of physical beauty
and a worldly addiction to physical beauty.
Unlike the patriarch Job,
some of us have made a covenant with our eyes
and we still gaze lustfully at others with whom we are not married.
Forgive us O LORD!
Most of us compare ourselves to others
and feel insecure, ashamed, and envious.
Have mercy upon us O LORD!
Some of us have a disdain for our bodies
that You knit together and fashioned.
Liberate us from such bondage O LORD!
Many of us have grown up lacking
that precious sense that we are beautiful
in the eyes of at least one loving beholder.
Give us a sense of Your delight, acceptance, and favor
through Jesus Christ our LORD. AMEN.

Declaration of Forgiveness         Isaiah 62:2,5

You will be a crown of beauty in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God…
for the LORD will take delight in you…
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Is Beauty the Beast? What does the Bible say?

Key Verses: Proverbs 11:16, 22; 30:18-20; 31:30

In the hearts of women and men, there is a God-given longing to be seen and enjoyed as beautiful or handsome without being used. However, ever since the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive (Genesis 6:2) and came into them (v.4), physical beauty has been just as much a curse to bear as much as a gift from God.

Christians have long been of two minds about physical beauty. We tend to vacillate between a monkish contempt of physical beauty and a worldly addiction to physical beauty. Many emphatically declare that inner beauty is all that matters. They emphasize that “the LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Chronicles 16:9). They exhort us to follow the One who “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

However, if you have ever attempted to go to church or get a job in a major metropolitan area or find a spouse in your local singles group, you know that most tend to overvalue physical beauty. People do judge books by covers. For this reason, the world is full of people who suffer pains of rejection because they feel undervalued because of the way they look. All of us want to be admired for our beauty.

The way through this maze is to fully embrace the two things that the book of Proverbs says about physical beauty. The wisdom writer of Proverbs challenges us that…)

  • Physical beauty is the gift of God. Therefore we must not undervalue it. Physical beauty is not the beast. The father who writes Proverbs prays for the Lord to give his son an exquisitely beautiful and graceful wife (Proverbs 5:19).

Biblical Examples of God using physical beauty to accomplish His eternal purposes. Acts 7:20 – Moses “was beautiful in God’s sight.” Joseph was handsome in form and appearance (Genesis 37:6). Esther 2:7 – “The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at.”

But, why do we tend to undervalue physical beauty? Physical beauty is an alluring temptation. We undervalue physical beauty because it serves as a cause of much sin and evil in the world. Proverbs 6:25-27 – Lust after the physical beauty of a prostitute.… the alluring enticements of the immoral woman.

Physical beauty can become a vehicle for sin. Note 2 Samuel 11:2 – “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…”).

“If men never succumbed to the attractions of women, then the human species would have died out a long time ago,” the neurosurgeon brother of Eliot Spitzer, Daniel, told The Wall Street Journal.

However, “rejecting beauty can be as serious a sin as worshiping it. Listen to the testimony of Karen Lee-Thorp…

“I was stunned a few years ago to realize that my self-control around food was anorexia, a fruit not of the Spirit but of a compulsion to control something in my chaotic world. My alleged humility turned out to be merely spiritualized shame and cloaked pride. Beneath my drab clothes lived a woman who hated her body and who hated and feared beauty as the cause of evil. Like many children who are victims of rape and incest, I had believed that my feminine attractiveness had invited the abuse… I carried into adulthood a deep conviction that attractiveness was both dangerous and out of reach. Looking like a boy felt safe and achievable…”

We err when we distinguish too sharply between inner and outer beauty. The outer is part of what makes the inner available to others and the way we respond to someone’s outer person affects the person inside. Clothes, hair, and makeup can be an asset without becoming an addiction.

Human persons, not merely spirits, reflect God’s image. And I will never tire of telling you that you are loved both body and soul until you can look into the mirror and see imago dei. I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

Let’s examine a more common temptation that we all face in our youthful-oriented culture!

  • Physical beauty is a fading vanity (Proverbs 31:30). Therefore we must resist the prevailing tendency to overvalue physical beauty. Beauty can be a beast!

How do we know this from the book of Proverbs?

The key verse in Proverbs 31:30 clearly states that physical beauty is a fading vanity. “Charm (hen) is deceitful (Charm deceives because it promises a lifetime of happiness that it cannot deliver) and beauty is vain (breath, vapor, gentle breeze), but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Physical beauty is temporary, superficial, and deceptive.

The wisdom writer of Proverbs uses a graphic word picture to portray a woman whose beauty is only skin deep and physical. Proverbs 11: 22 – “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” The Scriptures view this indiscreet, beautiful woman not as a little disappointing, but as a monstrosity. It’s a disgusting and offensive portrait. A beautiful ring and you reach for it and it is attached to a pig that rolls around in the dirt and its own feces.

Overvaluing physical beauty dehumanizes women and damages their self-image. One way of translating Proverbs 11:16 – Charming women obtain glory. Glory means importance, honor and significance… Men use coercive and ruthless power to gain prestige. Women tend to use their physical charm.

We dehumanize women. Women are treated as sex objects. Child prostitution. The eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. They are three to five times higher in industrialized nations. Twice as high in college age women. There are presently at least one million Americans with anorexia and 95% of them are women. Between 60,000 and 150,000 of them will die as a result of their obsession.

Why should they care about their character when nobody else does?

Overvaluing physical beauty dehumanizes and debases men. Because of this addiction to beauty, we have all manner of sexual immorality, especially pornography. Here’s a summary statement from an article in the October 20, 2003 edition of New Yorker Magazine: “It (pornography) utterly damages a man’s ability to have healthy, intimate relationships in marriage. An escape… false intimacy – undermining the ability to have real intimacy.”

It also dehumanizes and debases men because it affects the way men determine whom they are going to date and marry. You tend to write off 80% of all the women you meet saying she’s shallow or she’s ugly.

If you tend to overvalue physical beauty:

  1. Embrace the reality that “outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Fix your eyes on that which is unseen!
  2. Befriend and spend time with people for whom designer fashions are not a priority or an option. This will keep your pride in check.
  3. Pursue the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4). Augustine declared that we love only that which is beautiful, but the beauty may be hidden. Proverbs 11:16 highlights a woman’s charm that is not just skin deep. “A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches” (11:16). Character will determine what a person is like and what everybody else’s life is like around him or her. The Scriptures praise Abigail for her discretion and godly judgment (1 Samuel 25:33).
  4. Women, help us out. We men are visually stimulated. We need you to follow the Apostle Paul’s counsel in 1 Timothy 2, to dress modestly.

Where do we get the power to rightly value beauty?

  1. Acknowledge that we have not prized the Lord and His beauty with anything like the fervor He deserves. Augustine confesses: “Late it was that I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you!”
  2. You can’t rightly value physical beauty unless you see and experience the glories of redemption. Ephesians 5:25-27 – Jesus Himself is your lover who died to make you beautiful – a radiant bride without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish. The Lord made us to be his lovers, not just his subjects or his sheep. When you are in love, you think about the person all the time. He wants us to be in love with him. He wants us to see him as the ultimate beauty.
  3. Illustration: Remember the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. It is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

Benediction: May the LORD satisfy you in the morning with His unfailing love, that you may sing for joy and be glad all your days and may the beauty of the LORD our God be upon you…. Psalm 90:14,17

Jesus’ Ultimate Desire for You – Part 2

 

Jesus prays in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus gives us his reason for why he wants you to be with him: “That they may behold my glory which you have given me…”

Jesus Desires Your Presence so that You Might See His Glory. That all the given ones might dwell in his immediate presence forever in order that they might delight forever in the glory of God in Christ… a vision that begins here on earth (2 Corinthians 3:18) and reaches its climax in heaven.

It is interesting to note that Jesus taught and modeled for his disciples that real glory consists in gladly taking the lowly place and serving others. But here Jesus wants us to see that that is not the whole story. There is coming a day when we will see and experience the transcendent, majestic, awe-inspiring glory of our Lord. It is only as we are with Jesus that we will see and experience this glory.

Well, we must ask ourselves a basic question: What is glory? Glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of Jesus Christ in his manifold perfections. We catch glimpses of His glory during our earthly lives (1:14; 2:11; 2 Cor 3:18; 4:6), but there is a yet more complete vision of his glory that awaits believers. John later says that at his coming “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4).

Since heaven is to be spent beholding and marveling at the glory of Jesus, would pray for the Lord to awaken your desire to behold and experience a taste of His glory and beauty now on earth? Would you pray along with King David: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).

Does the desire of the patriarch Job resonate with your spirit? “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Take a moment to reflect on these words that set forth the desire of the Apostle Paul. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:21,23). “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

One Key Use of John 17:24: Let it comfort you when you are called upon to release someone you love to Jesus at the time of their death. Jesus wants them to be with him. That is why Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” We should see the deaths of our Christian loved ones and of ourselves as the Father’s answer to his Son’s prayer. Jesus is taking his own to be with him where he is and now they behold the fair beauty of their Lord not just by faith but now by sight.

John Knox had this passage of Scripture (John 17) read to him every day while he was on his deathbed. It is not hard to imagine why this last section would have been particularly comforting to him. For here we read of Jesus’ burning passion for our presence. He wants you to be with him and see his glory. Heaven would not be the same with your absence. He makes sure that you not only have the right to heaven but also are made fit for heaven so that you might be by his side. Oh, how he must love you!

 

Husbands: What’s the best gift you can give your wife today?

There are lots of wonderful gifts that you can give, but the best gift you can give her is to regularly pray for her and tell her what you are praying for her. This is especially crucial if you’ve experienced a recent conflict. It is very hard to stay angry at someone for whom you are praying.

Here’s a guide that I have developed from Proverbs 31 that I use in praying specifically for my wife and daughters. I offer it to you as a helpful tool.

  • Make her a woman of noble character (31:10 – “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”)  Make her virtuous, morally excellent. May she hate sin and love Jesus more each day.
  • Develop her into a diligent worker (v.17 – She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.)  Give her strength for her tasks and the ability to discern the best from the good (Philippians 1:9 – making the excellent choice).
  • Sensitize her to meet the needs of those around her (v.20 – “She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.”)
  • Give her a proper perspective of the future (laugh and smile at it) (v.25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”)  Free her from undue anxiety and fear.
  • Develop her into a faithful, wise and kind teacher (v.26 – “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”) The word “kindness” is the Hebrew word ‘hesed.’ It means covenantal, steadfast, unfailing, persistent love. The Apostle Paul would say that the goal of all Christian instruction is “love” (1 Timothy 1:5).
  • Make her such a godly wife and mother that her children rise up and bless her; that I bless and praise her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” (vv.28-29).
  • Cause her to grow in her knowledge and fear of the Lord (v.30b – But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”)  Show me how I can encourage her spiritual growth.
  • Help her to have a proper perspective on her outward appearance (v.30a – “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.”)
  • Free her from the tendency to compare herself with other women.  Free her from an undue focus on externals for God does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Praying for Your Wife

What are you praying for right now for your wife? I have found it most helpful to pray through certain Scriptures for my wife Scottie. One passage that has served as a helpful guide through the years has been Proverbs 31:10-31. Here are several bullet points for prayer. I would urge to use this as a guide in praying for your wife. James 5:16b says that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

One important discipline in serving as a loving leader is praying for her. Here’s a guide that I have developed from Proverbs 31 that I use in praying specifically for my wife and daughters. I offer it to you as a helpful tool.

  • Make her a woman of noble character (31:10 – “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”)  Make her virtuous, morally excellent. May she hate sin and love Jesus more each day.
  • Develop her into a diligent worker (v.17 – She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.)  Give her strength for her tasks and the ability to discern the best from the good (Philippians 1:9 – making the excellent choice).
  • Sensitize her to meet the needs of those around her (v.20 – “She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.”)
  • Give her a proper perspective of the future (laugh and smile at it) (v.25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”)  Free her from undue anxiety and fear.
  • Develop her into a faithful, wise and kind teacher (v.26 – “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”) The word “kindness” is the Hebrew word ‘hesed.’ It means covenantal, steadfast, unfailing, persistent love. The Apostle Paul would say that the goal of all Christian instruction is “love” (1 Timothy 1:5).
  • Make her such a godly wife and mother that her children rise up and bless her; that I bless and praise her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” (vv.28-29).
  • Cause her to grow in her knowledge and fear of the Lord (v.30b – But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”)  Show me how I can encourage her spiritual growth.
  • Help her to have a proper perspective on her outward appearance (v.30a – “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.”) Free her from the tendency to compare herself with other women.  Free her from an undue focus on externals for God does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
  • May she become a woman who loves others well. (truthing in love – Ephesians 4:15)