“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against His enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for a spirit of despair.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT/NIV)

Ashes are a biblical symbol of brokenness, mourning and repentance. After the destruction of something by fire, we say, “Everything has gone up in smoke. There’s nothing left but ashes. The good news that Isaiah predicted some 800 plus years before Jesus came to perform His earthly ministry was that Jesus would offer us beauty for ashes! Out of the ruin and brokenness of our lives, He could bring healing and wholeness!  What an exchange! Beauty for ashes! Life for death! The ashes represent our lives without Christ. We are lost and without hope, guilty and condemned, separated from God by our sins. Yet, in mercy, God sent His Son to this broken world. When Jesus came, He read this passage from His own hometown synagogue one Sabbath. Then He sat down and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21(NIV) Finally, the time of the Lord’s favor had come! God’s favor would offer good news to the poor, comfort for the brokenhearted, freedom to those bound, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for a spirit of despair! How tragic that those who heard Him that day missed it! They only saw Jesus as the hometown son of a carpenter. But Jesus was so much more than a carpenter’s son. He was the Son of God! Not much has changed, has it? Why would anyone want to hold onto ashes, mourning and despair when they can experience beauty, joy and praise? What about you? Jesus is offering you a glorious exchange. He gave His life for you on the cross, that now risen from the dead, He may offer His life to you. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Bible says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life has gone; a new life has begun!” That new life is the very life of Christ indwelling you making you a brand new creation in Him! That, my friend, is beauty for ashes! While many on this Ash Wednesday may be focusing on what they are going to give up for Lent, why not rejoice in all that you are gaining in exchange? Use this Lenten season over the next forty days to add to your faith a deeper dimension of His presence by setting aside time alone with God in His Word each day. You could read through the New Testament over the next forty days or read the Gospels and rediscover Jesus. Look for where God is at work and join Him by serving the needs of others. Let God make something beautiful out of your life. (If you’re in the Houston area, join us tonight at 7pm for Ash Wednesday at our Fellowship or Atascocita campuses or if you are out of town you can join us online at www.woodlandschurch.tv .)