This weekend I will be traveling to my home city of Charlotte, NC to minister at my home church Beauty for Ashes Ministry pastored by my mother, Pastor Rosa Marion. It is my mother’s 2nd Pastoral Anniversary. She has been an ordained Pastor for 5 years. But her work in ministry started well before. My mother accepted Christ when I was 9 months old and she has been saved all 44 years of my life. I have never known her to do anything else but serve the Kingdom of God. As I have been preparing my sermon for Sunday I have been reflecting over the 44 years and I can unequivocally say she has received Beauty for her Ashes!
If you know the story of The Sanctuary you know that I had two very influential people in my life pass away four months apart. One was my Father and the other my maternal Aunt. As a result of her passing, a firestorm broke loose on the maternal side of my family. Once the smoke cleared there were so many casualties, one, being my mother. And as the fire was smoldering, the ashes of fear, anger, mourning for the loss of relationships, and despair were floating amongst the ruble. She was left without a job and many friends and family were gone. Many questioned her integrity and motives. Not only was she dealing with sorrow and grief from losing her only sister and best friend, but she was also dealing with the loss of all she had known for over 25 years. She was in such a dark place. She had to deal with some very hard truths in her life. My sister and I were heavy with so many feelings. To us it seemed as though her life was in ruins and ashes, however, to God He was ready to crown her with beauty.
Isaiah 61:3 says,
"To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
I'm sure we have all heard the term beauty for ashes. Do we truly understand what beauty means? The literal meaning of the Hebrew word is an ornament, tiara, or turban. Some translations use the term "crown". That's what God has done for us. Our gracious God sent His son to die on the cross, he exchanged His beauty for the ashes of our broken lives. He came for the poor… the afflicted… the broken-hearted… the captive, to give us a beautiful crown! Ashes in Scripture are a symbol of mourning and repentance.
I am sure many of us have a bonfire going on in our lives and we are mourning and doing some repenting. But His Word says that He will take our mourning and repentance and give us a crown. He will then replace the bitterness and sorrow with oil of joy. Psalm 23:5 says, "Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anoints my head with oil; my cup runneth over." This speaks of God anointing the head with oil. Oil of joy has reference to joy of the heart. Oil represents the kind, sweet, comforting words that give encouragement and new hope to the heart of the wounded. It refers to the healing and protective power and strengthening power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
He also promised a garment of praise. This describes the radiance, the happiness, and the sweetness that fill the heart and the life of the child of God who loves the things of God, and lives for the glory of God. This garment is entirely from heaven. The Lord wants to replace our spirit of heaviness with praise.
The "Trees of righteousness" and "Planting" He spoke of, is when the people of God are restored, and are again growing and fruitful.
Isaiah 61:3 is relevant for today as it is God's desire to replace the ashes of loss, bitterness, and sorrow with the beauty of joy, new hope, healing, and strength to the heart. God wants His Holy Spirit and His Word to comfort our heavy spirits. With God's help, we can be restored, move forward with our lives, and again become fruitful and productive. I know this to be true, because I have seen my mother, Pastor Rosa Marion, take every last ash and give it to God and He has graced her with beauty. She birthed "Beauty For Ashes Ministry." This ministry has provided food, shelter, clothes to a underserved part of Charlotte. But most importantly she planted, hope, love and kindness into a community that has shown her that labor is not in vain. The "trees of her righteousness" and "planting" has brought forth astounding testimonies of those who have come under her care. And she rejoices with each of them as she takes their transformation personal. I can testify that she has been an example of a servant committed and sold out to the cause of the King. I am witnessing her experience joy, strength, gladness and peace on a whole new level. You see, there were some things that she needed to deal with within herself and the fire the adversary thought would ruin her brought transformation, refinement and liberty!
I want you to know that this just can't happen for my mother, it can happen for you. If you are in a bad place and feel all burned up, your ashes of a broken life are redeemable for something more beautiful than can be described. In those times of trouble or despair, turn to the one who loves you, and will always be there for you. Even when you bring an offering of ashes that you think are worthless, He sees you as worth it. Why? He loves you, unconditional. So today, ask God to give you a new song - a song of praise and the garment of praise.
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