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Gone Too Soon
Jan 31 3:17 AM

Gone Too Soon

Jan 31 3:17 AM
Jan 31 3:17 AM

David had not yet been crowned king when he heard the news that both King Saul and his dearly beloved friend Jonathan had been killed in battle.

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Day 29
Jan 29 12:21 AM

Day 29

Jan 29 12:21 AM
Jan 29 12:21 AM

As you read today's devotional, play "WAY MAKER" from the Sacred Whispers Playlist.

Spiritual

YOUR BEAUTY IS NOT FOR SALE

By Marlin D. Harris

What do you see when you look in the mirror? What does the image that looks back at you say when you walk by a reflecting glass or even see yourself in a photograph? 

For far too many people they see someone who is fat, or ugly, or unattractive, or embarrassing. Even as I write these words, I believe the heart of God breaks over the large number of men, women, and young people who have attached these psycho-social labels to their sense of personhood. The fact that they bear the very image of God is no longer sufficient ground upon which to build their sense of self-esteem. Inner virtues of the heart have taken a backseat to outer vices of the body. ‘Purity’ doesn’t matter half as much as ‘pretty’, and our personal honor has been drowned out by public hubris. When did all of this happen? How did we fall so far away from what God calls beautiful? Who told our daughters, and our sons that they are ugly; or fat; or unattractive? Where did these concepts of describing human beings even come from? And by what standard are we using to reach such determinations in the first place?

All of these questions, and many others like them, crowd my thoughts when I hear someone describe their outward physical appearance in these negative ways. 

Somebody had to tell them they were ugly. At some point in time, someone convinced them that they were unattractive. These beliefs do not arise spontaneously. They do not germinate independently in a little girl's or a little boy’s mind. 

No, they have to be planted there. 

And every time our daughters pick up a magazine, or our sons browse through a website, or they turn on a television, they are being subtly – and surely – indoctrinated into what our culture defines as beautiful, and conversely what our culture defines as ugly. 

Sadly, this is the result of living in a shallow, image-conscious society where we are deluded into thinking that ‘image’ is reality. You must be careful to never let anyone turn you into an artificial copy of the original ‘you’ that was never given the freedom to exist.  

If we are not careful, we will soon become slaves to the opinions of others. Fight to maintain your God-given sense of dignity, and never allow your world to revolve around the cosmic sun of other people’s approval. For so many people, their entire perspective of their own personal self-worth and value hinges completely on what somebody else thinks about them. This need for approval and validation from outside of ourselves is a dangerous drug to give to a culture that is hypersexualized, image-driven, and masters of exploitation. These shallow notions about beauty existed long before our 21st Century culture immortalized them. They existed in the days when the scriptures were recorded and are particularly highlighted when the book of Esther was being penned.

The Book of Esther has much to say about its main character, Esther. This is only right since the book is named after her, and the story centers around her personal strength and enormously courageous faith, in saving her people from certain destruction.  

However, there is one other character in this book, that doesn’t get the press or the attention that I think she deserves. We all know Esther, but I think it would be helpful if we all got a little more acquainted with Queen Vashti. Vashti didn’t save a nation from extermination, nor did she accomplish any great diplomatic victories for her people, but there is something that she did that demands both our attention and our respect. Vashti defended her sense of honor and personal dignity, even amid the threat of her immediate demise and death. She wasn’t in a position to stand up for a nation, but she was in a position to stand up for herself.

In the days of the empirical rule of the Persian Kingdom, the luxuriantly powerful Persian King Ahasuerus threw a fabulous banquet for all the princes and noblemen from around his vast empire who had gathered in the Persian capital city. 

As the festivities ensue, Ahasuerus and his many guests had become overly self-indulgent in their wine and the opulent displays of their wealth. The king begins to parade his vast power and fortune around for all of his subjects to marvel at. This demonstration of wealth, power, and human glory went on day after day as the end of one party quickly gave way to the beginning of another. Then in a moment of drunken revelry, it occurs to the king that there is yet one object of beauty that he has not yet paraded around for the men at his party to marvel at; and that object was his queen, Queen Vashti. She was his prized possession, and her beauty was a ‘commodity’ that he could depersonalize and objectify at his own wishes and whims.  

It is this social dynamic that is at the heart of our culture today. The king determines what is beautiful. He defines what is successful, and he tells us who is valuable. The self-esteem and self-worth of people everywhere are at the mercy of the king. Well, Vashti would not play along with this overt abuse of her own personal dignity. 

She was not going to be a willing participant in her own exploitation. She would not attend a party where she would be paraded before the king as only an object of sexual desire, and not a human being with personal dignity. Had she gone in to be paraded before this party of men, she would have become an accomplice to her own imposed devaluation. So, in honor of her sense of personal dignity, Vashti refused.  

How powerful are those two words – Vashti refused. Even though the king was calling her, and great honor and accolades no doubt awaited her; but for Vashti, her beauty was not for sale. Is this not the very definition of human trafficking? Doesn’t this strike at the heart of pornography and feminine exploitation? 

There is a strange reality in our modern culture today; beauty, image, and our personal dignity seem to always be up for sale. This is what is at the root of low self-esteem and image shaming. Too many Vashti’s have answered the king’s call. 

Too many women and men have defined their human dignity by what others think of their outward appearance. The reference point for our personal self-esteem has been moved so many times that we no longer know how to arrive at our true value, or how to determine our true worth.  

Many of you are reading these words while inwardly being consumed with an insatiable desire to measure up. You have to measure up to standards that at best are artificial. You are emotionally stressed trying to be beautiful, or smart, or skinny, or liked, or valued – and for many people, you are just simply trying to be seen. Because you feel like you live in a world where no matter how much you do, and how hard you try, no one ever notices… you. The truth is that many of us are not dieting and exercising to be healthy; we are dieting and exercising to be seen. We are not trying to become our best version of ourselves, we are really working hard to become somebody else’s best version of ourselves. And if we were to be honest, it is completely exhausting. 

Well, please hear me. This devotion today is your permission to stop. Literally, fully, totally – Stop. Stop being a willing participant in your own exploitation. Stop selling out your true beauty for somebody else’s approval. Stop wearing the labels that other people have given you while rejecting the labels that God embedded in your heart when He created you. Stop esteeming yourself only as high as other people’s approval of you. Because whether you know it, or even believe it; you are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are more than enough. The only reason why you don’t believe those words is because somebody kept telling you differently, and you have chosen to believe them. Well, I want to share with you what God says about you. This is all that ever really mattered.  

Practical Step

Don’t simply read these next several lines of truth, but embrace them. Sit with each statement and let them speak to your heart, and believe that God was speaking each one directly to you. 

You Were Purposefully And Wonderfully Created – Psalm 139:14

You Are Beautiful – Ecclesiastes 3:11

You Are His Treasured Possession – Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6

You Are The Apple Of His Eye – Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8

You Are The Object Of His Love – Jeremiah 31:3

God Knows You By Your Name – Isaiah 43:1

You Are God’s Masterpiece – Ephesians 2:10

Every Hair On Your Head Is Numbered – Matthew 10:30

You Are Loved With An Everlasting Love – Jeremiah 31:3

You Are Made Perfect In Weakness – 2 Corinthians 12:9

You Are The Bride Of Christ – Ephesians 5:25-27

You Are The Righteousness Of God – 2 Corinthians 5:21

God Sees You In Your Weakness – Genesis 16:13

You Are Never Alone – Hebrews 13:5

Beloved, never doubt your inestimable worth. You are worth more to God than a million sunsets and an innumerable host of angels. Nothing shall ever separate you from His love. You do not exist at the pleasure of people, you exist at the pleasure of God. 

If only you knew how much God loved you, you would never run to another one of the king’s parties. You are more valuable than that. So never let yourself be judged again by someone else’s version of beauty. Refuse to allow your conscious to wear the labels that the world has imprisoned you with. 

You are none of those things they said! You are God’s masterpiece. And your beauty is not for sale.

PRAYER

Loving Father, I pray that You will wrap me in Your love and remind me that I am beautiful, wonderful and special in Your eyes. Give me the calm assurance that I don’t have to give in to what the culture says about me. I am more than my outside appearance. I am everything You have made me to be. Thank you for Your grace. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.


Practical

GOD OF REST 

By Matthew Pryor

(Content taken from the Body Tithe Devotional)

When I tell people that fitness is composed of three things, they generally know the first two: exercise and nutrition. However, when I tell them that the third factor determining their overall level of fitness is sleep, they seemed surprised. Sleep is for lazy people, right? Who has time to rest anyway? It’s so unproductive . . . or is it? 

The benefits of sleep fall into two categories, the first being the physiological functions. Your body does countless, incredible things when you’re asleep. For instance, hormones are being regulated. Big deal, you say? Hormones are essential for muscle growth and development. Hormones help determine appetite satiation. Hormones are used to manage stress and control energy production sources and increase alertness. 

Your tissue growth and repair occur in your sleep. Energy is restored. Your immune system is bolstered. Muscles relax, repair, and grow. The cardiovascular system gets a break with a lower heart rate and a drop in blood pressure. Toxic metabolic byproducts are removed from the brain. Memories are preserved. The list goes on and on, all happening without you even having to try. Equally important are the emotional benefits of sleep. When well-rested, you increase your ability to focus, lower your stress, and have a more positive demeanor. Getting good sleep will improve your decision-making process, including options regarding food and exercise. It’s a whole lot easier to make bad nutrition choices when you have no energy. When we’re low on energy, if we exercise at all, it often results in half-hearted efforts and a decreased benefit. Being tired usually results in poor decisions, rationalization, quick fixes, or unrealistic assumptions about how we’ll do the next day. 

When it’s spelled out like this, it’s easy to see why sleep is so important for your fitness. In a nutshell, it helps you repair and prepare, without you even having to try. The Bible says that God formed us (Psalm 119:73). He made the delicate, inner parts of our body and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). So, it should come as no surprise that the God of our bodies is also the God of rest. He did invent rest, after all: “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 2:2–3) 

Now in fairness, rest and sleep are not always synonymous. God, of course, never sleeps (Psalm 121:4), but He has wired our bodies to require it. Furthermore, He has blessed us with permission to relax, recoup, and refresh for our days ahead. He has made it appropriate for us to repair and prepare. God is also the God of a different kind of rest, as His Son tells us in Matthew: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  

This kind of rest frees us from the compulsion to use our own strength to fix something we can’t fix. We no longer need to keep trying, doing, and working for something that’s already been offered through grace by faith. This kind of rest relinquishes us from the feeling that we must earn our deliverance. This kind of rest restores our souls for all of eternity. This is salvation rest. 

The good news doesn’t end there. The same assurance of being united with God in the someday allows us to go to Him in the now. The exhaustion we have in our earthly life, the loads we are carrying, the busyness, the problems and hardships—we can lay all this at His feet. The confidence and security that are born out of a relationship with Him serve only to lighten our load. He can replace Martha’s work with Mary’s wonder (Luke 10:38–42). God lets us rest in green meadows (Psalm 23:2). He invites us to experience the rest that He prepared for us and promised to us (Hebrews 4:1–3). Having 20 days of the fitness journey under your belt, you’re hopefully realizing the benefits of your nightly sleep. It plays out in your workouts, the day’s events, your decisions, and in your progress. Making it a priority will make the journey not only more rewarding, but more enjoyable. 

The greatest need, however, is to fully rest in Him every step along the way. We need not worry or have anxiety about our fitness. We can relax. Exhale. Trust. For when we go to Him (as He teaches), we find rest for our souls (as He promises) because He does the work. Just as with our sleep at night, we are the ones who benefit and we don’t even have to try. 

PRAYER

Thank You God for the gift of sleep and, even more so, for the gift of spiritual rest. Will You forgive me when I rest my efforts in anyone or anything other than You? Please help me to slow down, try less, and rest more. In Your Name, Amen.

Pryor, Matthew. The Body Tithe Devotional: Spiritual Encouragement For Your Fitness Journey (pp. 79-82). Sophros. 


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