Beautiful

By Hannah Stevens

My Heart Overflows

The glorious beauty of the gospel is something that never grows old. Throughout our lives, the gospel remains a fountain of grace and a continual reminder of our value to our Maker. Its glorious refrain echoes continually in our soul; it becomes our only boast and our only fuel for living. We hear the song with each breath we take. We were broken; He was perfect. We were poor; He possessed everything. We were weak; He alone was strong. One reason the gospel is so precious is that it so clearly reveals the nature of our Father in heaven. In it, we see God’s tender compassion and mercy for the weak and needy. We also see His limitless strength as He goes far beyond the call of duty to win back His treasure. The invitation to receive the gospel is not a one-time experience. There is always a deeper heart understanding that is possible. As pastor C.J. Mahaney exhorts, “Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life- permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust.”

The deeper we experience and receive the gospel, the more our hearts are compelled
to respond. What are some authentic responses of a heart that has truly been touched by the reality of what Jesus has done? A heart may be deeply touched with genuine gratitude that wells up from within. Tears may fall as a person struggles to comprehend the immensity of the self-giving love of God. Songs of thanksgiving and praise may explode your lips as you bubble over with new life and hope. We may solemnly come into a humbling and holy silence, as the true Hero of the story is revealed and we see His utter goodness and glory. These responses are all ultimately expressions of the same thing. There is only one response for the heart that has truly received the gospel: Worship.

Read Psalm 45: 1-4, underline what is highlighted to you as you read, and then answer the following questions:

“1 My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

2 You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
3 Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty.

4 And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; and Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.”

1) What does verse 1 tell us about ourselves? _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________

2) The “You” in verse 2 prophetically refers to Jesus. What do verses 2-4 tell us about Him? _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________

The call to worship is not a command. A person can no more generate an expression
of true worship than a volcano can be told to erupt. True worship comes from within, and it emerges as we receive the reality of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. It bubbles over as we let it impact us beyond our rational understanding and settle deep into our souls. In the words of John Piper, “Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. This cannot be done by mere acts of duty. It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart.” Let your heart overflow! In the passage of Psalm 45, the word “overflow” is the Hebrew word “rachash,” meaning to stir, to gush up, and to keep moving. In this passage, we see an invitation to keep flowing with the worship that comes from a fresh revelation of the object of our worship, Jesus Himself. We do this in tandem with the Holy Spirit, who God has poured into our hearts at the moment of our conversion. As Jesus said in John7:37-38 “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

When we focus on Jesus, the object of our worship, one of the first things we will see
is His beauty. Our passage above declares “You are fairer than the sons of men!” This phrase alone is worthy of centuries of meditation. Psalm 29:2 declares “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Reflect back on your response to question 2 above. Take time to consider the following question: What about Jesus is most beautiful to you?

Why? Write your answer below: _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________

The beauty of Jesus compelled the Psalmist David and has been the inspiration for countless saints, worshippers, artists, and missionaries who have sought to express through song, art, and laid down lives the worth of Jesus. There are just not enough ways to express the worship that Jesus is worthy of. For David, it became His life passion. In Psalm 27:4 he declares, “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, and to inquire in His temple.”

Growing in the revelation of Jesus’ beauty is a life-long invitation. There is literally always more to see of Him. And the more we see, the more we will naturally respond with worship that flows like living waters from our hearts. This worship arises as a pure fragrance before God, erupting forth and joining the chorus of all creation, the saints who have gone before, and the heavenly hosts who stand before Lord. Take a moment to ask God to reveal Jesus to you in a deeper way than you’ve known Him before. Lay down your old definitions of worship, and begin to ask Him for the genuine overflow of the heart that is forever undone by His mercy, His beauty, and His strength.

Pray.

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And I Must Decrease

By Hazen Stevens

“And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going
to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:26-30

In John 3:22-36, we find an interesting situation emerge amongst the disciples of John the Baptist. The crowds were now being attracted to Jesus, and John’s disciples came complaining to Him about how Jesus’ ministry was expanding while their own was contracting. How often do we accept loss, demotion, suffering, and difficulty as simply a part of life when it occurs in the lives of others, but we take offense with God and His dealings when it visits our lives in a personal way? So these disciples, who understood that John had testified of Jesus when they were together beyond the Jordan, now took offense that John’s testimony concerning Jesus’ ministry was actually coming to pass at the expense of their own.

We then see John remind them of a simple truth, one that we seldom like to consider in modern western Christianity: sometimes, for God to have his complete perfect will expressed in our lives, we will have to suffer natural setbacks, sufferings, declines, and failings; such occurrences are not only permissible in God’s will, but ordained and necessary.

John could not accomplish the will of God for his life unless he experienced a significant decline and ultimately the loss of his ministry, then his life. We don’t enter the Kingdom of God unless we are first poor in spirit, and we can’t continue into the fullness of the Kingdom by any other path. Paul could not discover what it meant to “gain Christ and be found in Him” without first suffering, “the loss of all things” (Phillippians 3:7-8).

day 10

While we love the stories of the Bible that involve deep suffering, but ultimately a triumphant redemption arc, like the story of Joseph, Peter, or Jesus, sometimes the redemption can’t be seen this side of heaven, like John’s. The hall of faith heroes described in Hebrews 11 contains many great victorious stories of those who by faith, “quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight armies..” but also catalogs those who by faith, “were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they may obtain a better resurrection. Still, others had trials of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment” of which many, like John, simply didn’t escape (Hebrews 11:35-26).

Peter receives an angelic deliverance from prison in Acts 12:7-10, but in verse two we read concerning Herod that, “He killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Some are delivered by angels, others are simply put to death. The challenge is to believe that when we are James in the story and not Peter to still know “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This is regardless of whether that purpose is to increase or decrease.

In John 15:5, Jesus tells his disciples in the upper room, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” A fulfilled life is one that accepts the painful humility associated with such radical dependence upon another, that truly, without Jesus, our lives amount to nothing. John understood this and called himself a friend of the bridegroom, whose greatest joy was complete in hearing the bridegroom come into his destiny in taking the hand of his bride.

Jesus, in essence, eulogizes John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11 saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” In Jesus’ estimation, John was the greatest man born of a woman up to that time, precisely because he accepted that his life must decrease to serve the God-ordained destiny of another.

Consider, how will you decrease today, that God’s purpose in you would increase!? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pray

Increase

By Hannah Stevens


After a long winter, spring comes slowly, full of gentle promise. The days slowly get
warmer, the sun’s rays lose their frigid stare, and all creation begins to respond. Birds
bustle busily, gathering bits of this and that for their nests. The trees tiny leaf buds
emerge and with pain-staking precision begin to open. Every day there is more green,
and brilliant hues fill our eyes and feed our color-starved vision. Slowly, life is perfected
until early May finds us in a wonderland of growth, life, sound, and fragrance. It is in
these moments that we get in touch with the longing.
The longing. It isn’t the solid satisfaction we feel when a job is well done. It isn’t the sigh
of relief after a long day’s work is over. This longing, the deep groan that unites all of us
as humans, is that deep guttural longing for wholeness, for completion, for perfection.
It is the longing for Eden. Our fore-parents Adam and Eve didn’t long for it but lived it,
walking perfectly through a perfect world with their perfect Friend. No other human on
earth has had that experience, but, still, somehow we know and carry it. The knowledge
of that “something more where all shall be well” resounds in the heart of each of
Adam’s race over generations. We don’t feel it only when we experience the suffering
and dissonance of a world still so broken by sin. We feel it also in moments of utter joy
and happiness. There remains a wistful nostalgia: it is longing for the Eden we haven’t
experienced yet but where we know we belong.
We long for Eden because it reveals the Man who made it. Jesus Christ, firstborn of
the Father, perfect. He is higher, more beautiful, more amazing, more just, and more
compassionate than anything we could ever comprehend. His glory is revealed in His
transcendence and also in His immanence. Colossians 1 declares the irrefutable glory
and authority of Jesus over all things. Read it now, underline the phrases that most
impact your heart, and answer the following questions.
Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible
and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in

Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He
is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to
have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the
fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether
things on earth or things in heaven.
1) Of the phrases you underlined, which is most striking to you? Why?




2) What does this Scripture reveal to you about Jesus? How could this revelation impact
the way you live your life?




In early days of Jesus’ ministry, we find John the Baptist devoting His life to preparing
the way for the Messiah. After years of preparation in the wilderness, John the Baptist
emerges as a radical prophetic voice, calling Israel to repent and come clean before
the Messiah is revealed to them all. After Jesus is revealed and His fame begins to
spread, John’s disciples come to Him, wondering how John will take the fact that He is
no longer in the main spotlight. John responds with this stunning revelation. Read the
passage, underline what impacts you, and answer the following questions:
John 3:27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has
been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I
am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride
is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him,
rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been
made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 “He who comes from
above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the
earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
3) What did John live for? What brought him greatest joy?




4) What does it look like for Jesus to increase and for John to decrease?




The word increase in John 3 is the Greek word auxanó. In the meaning of this word
is a continual progression into greater levels of increasing. There is always more
space within us that Jesus can fill. There is always more parts of ourselves that, as
we surrender, can be filled with the glory of Christ. Like John, we too are invited to live
our lives in such a way that makes way for the growing revelation of Jesus Christ to
our world. John Bloom, staff writer for Desiring God writes, “A mark of our increasing
maturity as disciples is an increasing experience of joy in Jesus’s influence eclipsing our
own, both internally and externally.” Read this final Scripture and answer the following
questions:
2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the
surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
5) How do you feel the Lord inviting you to let Him increase in your life?




6) Are there any things that you need to surrender into His hands so as to allow Jesus’
increasing preeminence in your life? List them here.




Take time in this moment to pray a prayer of surrender from your heart. Choose to come
under the stunning revelation of Christ’s worthiness and supremacy over all. Ask God for
a deeper revelation of who Jesus is, that you would be compelled to give everything, and
that He would take His rightful place in your heart. He is the sum of all things. He is the
fulfillment of the longing of every heart.