I am Precious

Unattractive People are Precious in His Sight

 

“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?” Luke 15:4 HCS

Prostitutes.  Drug users.  Alcoholics who can’t hold a job. Ex-cons. These are the lost sheep that Jesus finds precious.  He hung out with their “type” when he walked this earth. 

And he took the heat for it, too.  The respectable people criticized him for it.  Pastors in ties and Sunday School teachers in pressed khakis. Stock brokers.  Soccer moms.  The well-behaved 99 sheep.  They didn’t it like it one bit that their shepherd left them in the open field to chase after that … rabble.

But he did. 

Recently, my husband met a tired single-mom with a dead-end job.  She was overweight and aging.  Her front teeth were pocked with cavities.  He asked her to church, and she said this:

“I gave up on church a long time ago.  Every time we walked in, we were out of place. People stared at me and my kids because we weren’t dressed like them.  We don’t fit in at church.”

Jesus looked at that mom, and called her precious.  If Jesus were here, he would run out of our air-conditioned church buildings to seek her out.  He’d listen to her heart.  Have dinner with her and her kids.  Draw her to himself.

Have you ever heard the cliché “You are the hands and feet of Jesus?”

Well … you are.  I am.  If am to follow him, I need to act like him, to see the value of the lost sheep, to seek her out.  I have to cross the comfort line, leave the pew and my own social class.  I’m writing this to myself, to remind myself, because really, I get too busy to do this.  It’s not that I’m adverse to doing it, just that my schedule is so full that I don’t find the time.

But if I want to seek out what is precious to God, I’m going to need to change that somehow.

“When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’” Luke 15:5-6 HCS

I am Precious

Mercy and Compassion

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea. ~Micah 7:18-19, NASB

Mercy and compassion. Two of the most beautiful words penned.

When I work with the kids in Awana, I have a practice of beginning with the bad news: we’re filthy in our hearts. We look together at Jeremiah 17:9 — the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it. Often times these precious ten and eleven year olds can’t seem to grasp the idea that all of us are hopelessly sinful. Dirty.

But me? The more I see of myself, the more I struggle with the darkness of sin in my heart, the more I grasp that I need cleaned. I desperately  need a savior. Here’s what I have a hard time grasping: because He delights in mercy He will again have compassion on us and remove our iniquities.

That kind of compassion honestly blows me away.

My son was recently sick. Puked all over himself and the carpet. Ew. I mean yuck. No one wants to touch that kind of mess. But I’m his mommy, and I love my baby boy. So, I put him in the bath, washed his smelly little body, got him some water and a fresh pair of pjs, and then put him back to bed. And then got to work on the carpet. Scrubbed it until the mess and the smell was gone.

I didn’t tell him to get to cleaning. I didn’t even expect him to help. Compassion washed over me as I tucked my sick boy into his bed. It stayed in my gut even as I set myself to the task of puke evacuation.

Nothing shows love quite like the willingness to clean up someone else’s nasty mess.

I often wonder what Jesus is thinking, feeling, when he cleans my putrid heart. This again? When will she ever learn? Or, This is the last time. I’m not doing this again.

No. Because He delights in mercy, and lavishes His compassion upon me.

I am Precious

I am Precious: Created by God

“For it was you who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Before I turned 31, I had walked on the Great Wall of China, stood in the mist of Niagara Falls and ridden a mule down the Grand Canyon.  I’d slept in a yurt in Mongolia and mugged for pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. I’d fallen in love, gotten married, moved to Africa, lived in a mud hut and learned a foreign language.

But at age 31, something happened that was more awe-inspiring than any of that. 

I gave birth to my first child.

I held that baby while he slept and inspected every part of him, marveling at God the creator. If I had created my son, I certainly would have remembered to give him fingers and toes and a nose.  But would I have thought to weave all those hundreds delicate blue veins into his eyelids?  Would I have remembered the tiny pores in his smooth baby skin? God’s attention to detail in the form of my slumbering son awed me.

And the love I felt for him – more powerful than Niagara itself. I’d heard many describe maternal love, but to actually feel it … well … it was a flavor of love I’d never tasted and frankly didn’t even know existed.  That child was precious to me.  Even now, as he stands on the threshold of his teen years (shudder) he is precious to me.

My son taught me about the love God has for me, his daughter.  God considers me precious.  He knit me together in my mother’s womb, and on the day of my birth, he knew me.  Even now, as I stand on the threshold of middle age, I am precious to him.  (Ok, so maybe I’ve crossed the threshold, but it sounded more poetic to say it the other way.)

That’s not because I myself have any merit.  It isn’t because of any inherent goodness.  Like the rest of humanity, I am broken and sinful and nothing without Him.  God knows my faults better than I know them myself.  No.  I’m precious because he created me.  I was his idea.  He thought me up, and then he made me.  He has ownership, and he loves me in spite of myself.

You, too, were such a good idea in God’s mind that he couldn’t resist creating you.  He loves you like a mother loves her child – more so. 

I don’t know what your mom and dad were like, or what sort of childhood you had.  But God rejoices over you like the ideal parent, the perfect parent, the one who only wants the best for his precious one.

God created you, and his works are wonderful.  I know that very well.

If you really lived as though that were true, what would be different about your life?

I am Precious

Tucked Close to the Shepherd

“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry [them] in his bosom, [and] shall gently lead those that are with young.” –Isaiah 40:10-11, KJV

Our dog died recently. Not a happy way to start a post, I know. Forgive me, and go with me on this, because I got an image pressed into my head, and this verse flashed it through my mind.

Billy, our Beagle, was old and frail. We knew the time to say goodbye to our little four-pawed buddy was coming. And when it came, he hid himself out in the back yard under a bush. My husband went out to get him, because it was cold and wet outside, and because I don’t think anyone or anything should die alone. With gentle hands, my husband scooped Billy up into his arms and carried him back to the house.

Sick and frail, Billy couldn’t even stand. But he was brought into our home in arms that are both strong and loving.

Imagine the I AM, the mighty God, the King of Kings tending His flock like a shepherd. Can you picture him kneeling close to the young, wobbly lambs; the tired ewe with babies; the injured ram, frail and broken? What an image. Reminds me of what meekness really means. Not weakness, but strength under control, power managed with grace.

Jesus gathers His lambs, lifts them with tenderness and tucks them close to His bosom. This GOD who comes with a strong hand reaches for me with gentle love. And He carries me. Can anything make me feel more precious than that?

I am Precious

I Am Precious

David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.”

Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” ~2 Samuel 9:7-8 NASB

From Jen:

Imagine a story—any story where there are kings and noblemen, castles and suits of armor. Got that story in your mind? Good. Now put yourself in it. But instead of the castleprincess of the realm, you are the peasant. The maid who does all of the work, who is dressed in rags and smells bad and can’t read or write.

How do you feel?

Now, imagine that you are still that lowly peasant, but you’ve received an invitation. You know enough that it carries the seal of the King—it’s actually from him. Are you going to put it on a shelf, unopened, and let it live there?

No way! You’re going to find a way to discover what’s written inside—and a good thing, too. You’re invited to not only see the King, but to stay with Him. To live with Him and become part of his household.

Now how do you feel?

From Susan

Like Cinderella.  I’d be so awed by that invitation that I’d use my sharpest knife to just barely lift the seal, mindful not to crease it.  I’d hold the creamy paper in trembling hands.  I’d sign up for literacy classes just so I could read the thing myself, and then I’d stare at it until the words were engraved on my heart.  I’d show it to every one of my stinky peasant friends.  “Look.  The king has invited me to the palace, and he wants me to become … a princess.”

The invitation is, of course, the Bible.  It shows me the way to the place of my King.

In the verses Jen chose for us today, King David invited the grandson of his predecessor to the palace.  Poor, lame Mephibosheth must have been terrified.  Was this powerful king going to run him through with his shiny sword?  Mephibosheth was, after all, the grandson of King David’s rival.  Did David want to make sure Mephibosheth wasn’t going to try to usurp the throne?

But no.  David welcomed him not as an enemy but as a precious member of the royal family.  “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, just like one of the king’s sons.” 2 Sam 9:11b HCS.

I, too, was an enemy of the King.  Not only an enemy, but a hygiene-challenged peasant.  God sent me an invitation to dine at his table daily as a princess. I treasure that invitation.  I read the Bible daily, because I treasure the time in His presence.

The King looked at me, his enemy dressed in rags, and found me precious.

I am secure

I am Secure: Safe in His Providential Care

time in hand“But as for me, I trust in you, oh Lord… My times are in your hands.”

~Psalm 31:14-15a, NASB

This little nugget of beauty is stuck in the middle of a lament. The verse before ends with “they scheme to take away my life.”

Some wonder how one can live with hope when they are surrounded by despair. Here is the anchor, the hand-hold on truth:  My times are in God’s hands. And this God is mighty in power, gentle in spirit, loving at heart and good in all He does. Though thunder rolls and waves crash and fires blaze all around, my life is kept secure in the immutable hand of God. Things may not make sense from where I stand, but His plan is sure and will not be thwarted.

I often listen to Alistair Begg while I’m on the elliptical at our local YMCA, and this week I went through his series called “my times are in your hands,” which came straight from Psalm 31. I loved what he had to say about this verse, this security.

“I am not trapped in the grip of blind force.”

In other words, my life is not shackled to an ambivalent fate. My life, my everyday living and doing; my past, my present and my future is held fast by the very hands of creation.

I am secure

My Stuff Doesn’t Make Me Secure

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:15-17 ESV

You would think, for a former missionary, that this would be an easy one, right? Yeah – not so much.

I’ve realized, since we returned to the States, a subtle shift in my thinking. At first, moving home was sort of like walking into a candy store. Oh, wow, now I can buy a house, and my kids can do all this cool extra-curricular stuff that wasn’t available overseas, and we’ll all be happy and prosperous. And secure.

The Holy Spirit had to nudge me then, in our first months after resignation. Even in North America, He told me, my contentment and my security was to be found in him. I listened, sort of, while I bought the house and signed my kids up for soccer and Girl Scouts and basketball and … hmm. Funny. None of that felt as satisfying as I envisioned it would when I was sitting overseas.

It wasn’t that I regretted returning to the States. God had clearly led us here, and I had (still have) complete peace about that decision. The problem wasn’t geographical. It was heart-o-graphical. I had begun to set my heart on the things of the world instead of Him.

And, it goes further than houses and soccer games. It goes right to the heart of American culture itself. Americans are all about finding financial security. Sure, lots of us don’t have it. Many Americans even live contrary to the principles that produce it, but we all want it: enough money to live on right now, enough to go out to eat and buy what I want. Enough saved for retirement, enough to send the kids to college, enough for a vacation every now and then. And then, just in case, we take out life insurance and health insurance and car insurance and disability insurance and long-term care insurance.

If I had all that, why then I’d be secure. I’ve thought that very sentence. Have you? It’s a lie to its core. All that – the salaries and annuities and insurance – will be gone in one fiery instant. If some war or financial catastrophe doesn’t do it, our own deaths or Christ’s return will. What will remain, then?

God. The Great Depression did not touch God. Neither did any war that has ever wiped a nation and all its financial infrastructure off the map. No money crisis has ever affected God, and none ever will. He is the only place we can truly find security.

Houses and soccer leagues, pay checks and IRAs – these are not sinful things by themselves. They can be gifts from God. But when we look for contentment in them, we’ll come up empty. And when we look for security among them, we’ll find that we’ve built our lives on quicksand. Instead, Jesus beckons us to do what seems extremely unwise to an American’s eyes – to live wholeheartedly for him, even if that means financial insecurity, discomfort or even suffering.

Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33 HCS