Stand Beautiful

When a routine scan showed that Chloe Howard had a hole in her heart and two clubfeet, doctors told her parents to have an abortion. But they knew God knew better. When she was born, her heart, and one of her feet, were healed—a miracle they could never have expected.

Her clubfoot has required six major surgeries, but Chloe’s parents never let her forget that she was made in God’s image. ‘They did an incredible job teaching me that I was not a mistake, I was not an accident,’ she told Vision’s Neil Johnson.

‘God did not mess up when He made my foot. Everyone is made differently, and my difference was just easier to see. I think it’s so important for parents everywhere to teach their children that truth.’

But at 14, Chloe suffered a traumatic assault that left her questioning everything she believed. At her Christian high school, she was targeted and bullied because of her disability. 

‘I was told to take off my shoe, and I said no. I was told several more times, and I said no several more times. My arms were held to my side. I was lifted up by someone stronger than me and my sock and shoe were ripped off. My deformed foot was exposed to a large group of my peers.’

‘Some people hear my story and say, “Chloe, it’s a bummer that happened to you. I’m sorry, but I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. It’s just a foot.” But it’s my foot, and my body, and no one has the right to touch anyone without their consent, ever. This foot has a lot of weight to it. This foot and I have been on quite a journey with all the surgeries and the weight of what comes with growing up with a disability.’

‘This moment took the 14 years of self-acceptance and love towards this foot that my parents had instilled in me, and completely ripped it all away within 90 seconds. As my foot was being held out in front of me, naked in front of these angry prying eyes, I remember looking at that foot and seeing everything I had always seen in front of me. The silver scars I have tracing my twisted foot, all the spots on the end of my toes where there should be toenails but there aren’t, all the bruises and permanent discolouration, I saw all of that.’

there is beauty to be found in brokenness

‘And for the first time in my life, I recognised what I was seeing as something ugly, as something worthy of shame. I quickly grew this hatred within me for this left deformed foot. This day sparked within me this period of depression, of suicidal thoughts and of feeling invisible because these perpetrators, these assaulters had not listened to my “no”. I felt that maybe my words did not matter, so I quickly began to isolate myself from everyone. I stopped going out, stopped seeing my friends, my body was heavy and tired—I was becoming scared of my own thoughts. I felt like God had left me truly alone and couldn’t possibly have a plan for my life. I remember saying, “God, if you’re a good God, why do you allow these terrible things to happen?”’

‘I spent months in this dark place, and it wasn’t until a pastor at my local Church recommended that I read the book of Jonah that I started to see and realise that maybe God was with me through it all. It was such a hard concept to grasp that bad things happen and that such a good and just God could exist in that moment.’

A verse that really stood out to Chloe and provided her with the strength to carry on was Jonah 2:6 ESV: ‘You brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God!’

Chloe came out of her trial with a message, and God gave her the platforms she needed to spread it. At just 19, she’s presented a TEDx Talk, written two books, and built an anti-bullying website, ‘standbeautiful.me’. 

She admits that trusting Him hasn’t always been easy. ‘This journey has been really hard these past 19 years, and I know my life won’t stop being hard. But I have come to find that there is beauty to be found in brokenness, and hope to be found in the dark and a future to be found in saying yes.’

Watch the TEDx Talk here

Despite the Evidence

‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

Four times in Genesis chapter 39, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have to endure jealousy and betrayal, or the advances of Potiphar’s wife, or her lies that sent him to prison. The Bible says, ‘They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfil his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.’ (Psalm 105:18–19 NLT)

Joseph didn’t know it, but he was in training for reigning. God wanted to see if he would choose trust over lust, and obedience over expedience. It’s in looking back that you realise why one of God’s names is ‘Redeemer’. He can redeem everything you’ve been through—the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.

The lesson Joseph learned is this: God is with you even when there is no evidence He is. He is walking alongside you. He is working with you. He is going ahead of you to re-arrange circumstances in your favour. His Word says, ‘“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So that we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”’ (Hebrews 13:5–6 NKJV)

But sometimes in the plan of God things get worse before they get better. That’s when you must tighten your grip and lean harder on God: ‘Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.’ (Hebrews 10:35–36 NKJV)

SoulFood: Isa 53–57, Matt 13:10–23, Ps 125, Pro 4:3–4

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2020

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 53–57 ()

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53:1   Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
  For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
  he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
  He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
  and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
  Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
  yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
  But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
  upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
  All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
  and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
  like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
  By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
  that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
  And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
  although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10   Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
  when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
  the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11   Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
  by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12   Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
  because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
  yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

54:1   “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
    break forth into singing and cry aloud,
    you who have not been in labor!
  For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD.
  “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
  do not hold back; lengthen your cords
    and strengthen your stakes.
  For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
    and your offspring will possess the nations
    and will people the desolate cities.
  “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
    be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
  for you will forget the shame of your youth,
    and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
  For your Maker is your husband,
    the LORD of hosts is his name;
  and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
    the God of the whole earth he is called.
  For the LORD has called you
    like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
  like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
    says your God.
  For a brief moment I deserted you,
    but with great compassion I will gather you.
  In overflowing anger for a moment
    I hid my face from you,
  but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the LORD, your Redeemer.
  “This is like the days of Noah to me:
    as I swore that the waters of Noah
    should no more go over the earth,
  so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
    and will not rebuke you.
10   For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
  but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
    says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
11   “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
    behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
    and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12   I will make your pinnacles of agate,
    your gates of carbuncles,
    and all your wall of precious stones.
13   All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
    and great shall be the peace of your children.
14   In righteousness you shall be established;
    you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
    and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15   If anyone stirs up strife,
    it is not from me;
  whoever stirs up strife with you
    shall fall because of you.
16   Behold, I have created the smith
    who blows the fire of coals
    and produces a weapon for its purpose.
  I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17     no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
    and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
  This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
    and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”

55:1   “Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
  and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
  Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
  Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
  and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.
  Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
    a leader and commander for the peoples.
  Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
    and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
  because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has glorified you.
  “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
  let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
  let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10   “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
  making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11   so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
  but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12   “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
  the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13   Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
  and it shall make a name for the LORD,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

56:1   Thus says the LORD:
  “Keep justice, and do righteousness,
  for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
  Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast,
  who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
  Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
    “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”;
  and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
  For thus says the LORD:
  “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
  I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
  I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.
  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
    and to be his servants,
  everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
  these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
  their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
  for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
  The Lord GOD,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
  “I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.”

  All you beasts of the field, come to devour—
    all you beasts in the forest.
10   His watchmen are blind;
    they are all without knowledge;
  they are all silent dogs;
    they cannot bark,
  dreaming, lying down,
    loving to slumber.
11   The dogs have a mighty appetite;
    they never have enough.
  But they are shepherds who have no understanding;
    they have all turned to their own way,
    each to his own gain, one and all.
12   “Come,” they say, “let me get wine;
    let us fill ourselves with strong drink;
  and tomorrow will be like this day,
    great beyond measure.”

57:1   The righteous man perishes,
    and no one lays it to heart;
  devout men are taken away,
    while no one understands.
  For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
    he enters into peace;
  they rest in their beds
    who walk in their uprightness.
  But you, draw near,
    sons of the sorceress,
    offspring of the adulterer and the loose woman.
  Whom are you mocking?
    Against whom do you open your mouth wide
    and stick out your tongue?
  Are you not children of transgression,
    the offspring of deceit,
  you who burn with lust among the oaks,
    under every green tree,
  who slaughter your children in the valleys,
    under the clefts of the rocks?
  Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion;
    they, they, are your lot;
  to them you have poured out a drink offering,
    you have brought a grain offering.
    Shall I relent for these things?
  On a high and lofty mountain
    you have set your bed,
    and there you went up to offer sacrifice.
  Behind the door and the doorpost
    you have set up your memorial;
  for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed,
    you have gone up to it,
    you have made it wide;
  and you have made a covenant for yourself with them,
    you have loved their bed,
    you have looked on nakedness.
  You journeyed to the king with oil
    and multiplied your perfumes;
  you sent your envoys far off,
    and sent down even to Sheol.
10   You were wearied with the length of your way,
    but you did not say, “It is hopeless”;
  you found new life for your strength,
    and so you were not faint.
11   Whom did you dread and fear,
    so that you lied,
  and did not remember me,
    did not lay it to heart?
  Have I not held my peace, even for a long time,
    and you do not fear me?
12   I will declare your righteousness and your deeds,
    but they will not profit you.
13   When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!
    The wind will carry them all off,
    a breath will take them away.
  But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land
    and shall inherit my holy mountain.

14   And it shall be said,
  “Build up, build up, prepare the way,
    remove every obstruction from my people's way.”
15   For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
  “I dwell in the high and holy place,
    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
  to revive the spirit of the lowly,
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16   For I will not contend forever,
    nor will I always be angry;
  for the spirit would grow faint before me,
    and the breath of life that I made.
17   Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
    I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
    but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
18   I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
    I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
19     creating the fruit of the lips.
  Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
    “and I will heal him.
20   But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
    for it cannot be quiet,
    and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21   There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Matthew 13:10–23 ()

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10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

  “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15   For this people's heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
  lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
  and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Psalm 125 ()

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A Song of Ascents.

125:1   Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
  As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the LORD surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.
  For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
    on the land allotted to the righteous,
  lest the righteous stretch out
    their hands to do wrong.
  Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
    and to those who are upright in their hearts!
  But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
    the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
    Peace be upon Israel!

Proverbs 4:3–4 ()

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  When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
  he taught me and said to me,
  “Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live.

Sat 08 February, 2020


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