Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Beauty in the Artist's Hand


person molding vase

I read about a famous artist who had an unusual way of creating his masterpieces.

Working with a lump of clay, he formed a vessel on his potter's wheel.
When he was satisfied with the shape, he painted it , glazed it and placed it into his kiln. 
When the firing was completed, he lifted the lovely piece of pottery out of the kiln
 and put it into a burlap sack.  
Then taking a hammer he smashed the pottery to pieces. 
 Removing the pieces he spread them out before him on his working table, 
then with great patience worked to painstakingly fit them all back together.  
The vessel began to take shape again. 
 The cracks he filled in with gold, the gaps he closed with precious stones.  
When he was finished, he held  a vessel unique in its design and beauty.
 Truly a work of art that had great worth
  because there would never be another just like it. 

I saw the analogy immediately.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Potter's Hand in our mother's womb.
But then we are put into the burlap sack of this world.
The hammer of life comes down upon us.
We are crushed by sorrow and heartache, smashed into pieces by the sin and evil in this world.
Feeling destroyed and worthless, we cry out to the Lord !
With infinite patience, the Lord gathers together all our broken pieces and  painstakingly fits them all back together again.
He fills  the cracks with the gold of His mercy and the gaps with the precious stones of His  grace. His love is the glaze that makes us shine.
God,  as the great Artist, creates  us to be the Masterpiece He designed us to be.
We are of infinite value, fashioned for His glory and  fitted for the Master's use.

Have you given Him the pieces of your soul and let Him create a Masterpiece out of the brokenness of your life? 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Meditating

Meditating --  It is easy to find  teachers and gurus eager to teach the practice of meditating - easy to find books written on the subject.  Articles are readily found on the internet on  'how-to' apply the  techniques that aid in 'emptying the mind' so that one can find peace and tranquility.

While those into meditating claim its practices are ancient,  they do not go back far enough.   God is the one who declared that meditating on His Word was what would make us successful in all the ways that count for this life and eternity!
But God's meditating is not to EMPTY our mind, but rather to FILL it. 
Satan is clever in taking what is God's and twisting it or turning it backwards for his own deception.

God's purpose of meditating is to embed  His Word into our hearts and minds and magnify our understanding of it. He gave us our imaginations to make meditating a wonderfully visual experience.

Let me share my morning 'meditation' on a familiar passage of scripture - Jesus' own words, from Luke 11:33-36.  It is the passage that speaks about the 'eye being the lamp of the body', and the body being filled with 'good' or 'bad'.
"The lamp of the body is the eye. 
Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. 
But when your eye is bad your body also is full of darkness."

A 'lamp'.   No one reaches for a lamp in the brightness of the noon day sun. A lamp is useful only in darkness . The light of a lamp reveals what is within the reach of its beam.
I imagined a street that lay in the darkness of a moonless night.
I saw in my imagination that two women  were making their way down the street, each carrying a lamp to light their way.
One swung her lamp to the left side of the street.  Her lamp revealed a garbage dump full of waste - a mess of the discarded remains of what was perhaps at one time useful to someone. 
The other woman swung her lamp to the right side of the street  to reveal a park-like setting with, benches, trees, flowers and a  market displaying tables of  fresh fruit and vegetables , from the bountiful harvest of surrounding farms.

I watch and realize that the two women each carry a basket.  The  two women  move to  opposite sides of the street and begin filling their baskets from what they find, one from the left side of the street and one from the right.  They then carry their baskets home and  fill their cupboards with the contents.
Later that day, I receive an invitation from first one woman , then the other, to come join her for dinner that night.

Which invitation do you think I will accept ?

Why did God use the analogy of a lamp to describe our 'eyes' ? 
We would walk in darkness if we had no eyes.  It is our eyes that allow us to 'see' what is around us. Our eyes open to us the world we live in.   We see destruction, we see evil, we see war and hate,  but we also see beauty and love and peace and harmony. 
Our eyes 'see' what we direct them to see.  What they have gathered is stored into the 'cupboards'  of our mind and heart and soul. 
Then when we invite people into our life --  we 'share' with them  from what we have gathered -   
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of this heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

What we focus on we gather. What we gather is what we store.  And what we store determines who we become, and what we have in our 'cupboards'  to share with others.

As we go through our day, we direct our eyes to the 'left' or to the 'right'.    What will we focus on? What will we gather to put into our 'storehouse'  - our heart and mind ?   Will it be the good things of truth and righteousness and love - the things that are of the Kingdom of God  -  or -- will we gather the things that corrupt, that destroy , that fill our mind with unworthy thoughts , that stir in us a lust for things that do not edify, things that entice us embrace the world and make us vulnerable to the temptations and deception of the enemy?
Remember, you put in your basket  what your eyes focus on throughout your day, and the contents of your basket  cannot be simply dumped out when the day's journey is over,  but will be brought 'home to be stored in the cupboard of your heart'.. 

Do you need to clean out your cupboards today ?  Remove by God's forgiveness the things that destroy and corrupt ?
Do you need to change some habits ...  pay more attention to what you put in your 'basket' ?
Then, with His grace, focus on those things that fall into the list of Philippians 4:8 ... :"Finally brethren, whatsoever things ........."



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Unforgetting!

Ark of the Covenant
                                                                                                       photo by Igor Rodrigues

I'm sure the Israelites wondered and wished for a glimpse into the Ark of the Covenant that  hid the items God had commanded to be put it it.  Not only was looking into the ark forbidden but the ark itself was concealed under cover when it was moved with the tabernacle from resting place to resting place.

Our curiosity is easily captured when we hear of something that is hidden.   We even wrap gifts to give to the recipient  the added pleasure of discovering something 'secret'. 

We have, without question,  an innate motivation to search for what is concealed or hidden.
A God-given instinct to help us to find Him? 

I learned something recently - a detail perhaps, but a detail that fascinated me. 

The Greek word Aletheia is mentioned 110 times in our New Testament and is always translated 'truth' in verses such as .... 
John 8:32 "Then Jesus said .....   and you shall know the truth , and the truth shall set you free!"
John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth."
John 14:6  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth and the life...."

Our understanding of 'truth'  is simply 'something that is true, a fact' ,  but that is not what the Greek word conveys in meaning. 
Aletheia means --  'to unforget, to unconceal' ...   Letheia means to forget, conceal and when the 'a' is added to the beginning of the word, the meaning changes to indicate 'the opposite'.  The same way our English 'un' changes a word meaning - for example ,  'do'  and 'undo'.

I found it interesting when I considered the scriptures that contained this Greek word. 

I invite you to follow me in my thought path ....

In the beginning, God ....   Those are the first words of our Bible

God was in the beginning, the great I AM,  and He is the Source and the Creator of all things.  All things belong to Him,  all authority and dominion are His, and there is no voice, no word, no created thing that can come against Him or contradict anything concerning who He is or what He wills to do. His word stands without question, without shade of meaning - His word is absolute,  and there are no gods beside Him to add controversy in word or deed or authority.

Adam and Ever were created in His image and walked in the beautiful Garden of Eden in perfect fellowship with God.   Then came the fall, the turning away and ... the rest is history, in fact, a cycle of repeated  history over the last 6,000 years.

Over and over again, man has chosen to 'forget' the words of God, to 'forget' His loving commandments,  to 'forget' His warnings,, to 'forget' His miracles and His wondrous deeds on behalf of man for his good. 
We understand that in the big picture . We are all familiar with the stories in our bibles and we readily shake our heads in disbelief at how foolish the Israelites could be to 'forget' the God who so loved them. We look in disgust and horror at men like Adolf Hitler who we readily acknowledge 'forgot' any good God put into their hearts.
But ...  the Bible is written for our personal 'learning, admonition, edifying'.   When we read the scriptures we must turn the Light - away from others -  to shine in our own hearts and lives.
Over and over we 'forget' and come up with our own words, our own works and desires and purposes. We set ourselves up as the 'masters of our own fate'.   We do 'what is right in our own eyes'.  And over and over again we add to our 'forgetting' , and in our 'forgetting' state we are convinced we are right and all is well. 

There is something powerfully deceptive in forgetting, isn't there?
I recently went grocery shopping for my Dad and I forgot to pick up an item on his list.  It didn't bother me at all, I was not even aware that I HAD forgotten.   It was only back in his kitchen when I glanced again at his grocery list that I had an 'unforgetting' moment of clarity. It was only in the 'unforgetting' that I became aware of what was missing and aware of my guilt.

We feel no conviction, no remorse, no need for repentance or change, in our 'forgetting' . As it is impossible to see anything when we are in the dark, so also,  in our forgetting we are totally unaware that something is missing or wrong. We are blissfully ignorant of the fact  that what we believe may not be based on God's truth.

Unforgetting ...    Jesus says ... "I am the way, the truth, and the life"  -- what if we substitute the word 'unforgetting' ?
"I am the way, the Unforgetting, and the life."    Do you see how that adds depth of meaning? 
Only in Jesus -- only in searching out  His words .. can we 'unforget'  the things in our minds, in our emotions, in our actions  - contrary to His Word - that we have allowed because of our 'forgetting'.
Unforgetting'  can only happen if and when we hold up our words, thoughts, deeds to His Words -- Just as I did not 'unforget' the grocery item, until I looked again upon the written words I had 'forgotten'.

We are not even be aware of our 'forgetting' if we do not search the scriptures to discover again what God said - if we do not search out the ancient paths, the old stories that teach us so much about God's will and character, the scriptures written by God's inspiration. 
Jesus came to draw us back to search for Him.  Keeping our eyes on Him, listening to His words will cause us to 'unforget' and bring us back into agreement with what He has declared.
Jesus 'unconcealed' for us the messages and purposes of God for us. 
He is  our 'Unforgetting' ..   The only One who can shine a Light to reveal what we have 'forgotten'.   

How much of God's word have we 'forgotten' ?    How often do we just accept, without question,  what is readily accepted in the world around us ?   How often do we stop to consider if something has been spoken or done because some word or character trait of God has been 'forgotten' ?
Let us be diligent to 'unforget' where we have turned aside to our way, and look to Jesus who is our 'Unforgetting' Guide.

Monday, May 20, 2019

When Times Were Good !




Have you ever wished you could go back in time when everything was 'better' ?  When your life was comfortable and you were happy and the future looked bright ?   Before your life fell apart? Before pain and suffering and tragedy changed everything ?

You are not alone.  I think most of us have been there at one time or another.
I was reading in Job yesterday  and realized that this is exactly what Job is wishing for in Chapter 29 of his book.

Look at his opening cry .  "Ohh I wish I were back where I used to be when times were so good!"

And he reminisces , listing all the things that defined him and his life - in the 'good old days'.

God was good, God was His trusted provider, protector, friendly Counselor. 
Job's children were all around him, his well-being was like cream under his feet. Even the rocks poured out affluence before him. 
He was respected everywhere he went.  The younger men did not dare show their faces  when Job sat at the gate - the older men stood to honor him, even the princes deferred to him. 
When Job opened his mouth and spoke, it blessed everyone who heard, and everyone marveled at the wisdom of his words. 
His righteousness was the standard to look up to. His judgments were just and true
He made God the most important focus in his life -  he lived by every word from His mouth. In fact it was more important to him than food (Job23:12).
Job was known for his philanthropy. His care for the poor, the blind and the lame was legendary.
He searched out the victims and freed them from the wicked who mistreated them.
He was secure, he was blessed beyond measure, he lived as a King. His God was with him.  Life was good and it could only get better - until the day he died ! 
Or .. so he believed.
.
We have all experienced it.   One morning begins as any other and we are totally unaware how drastically our life will change before the day ends. 
What a shock it must have been to Job when everything he thought was unshakable was shattered.  The loss of his servants, his flocks, his children, his health.   He fell from being the most respected to the most abhorred.  Even his wife saw only a hopelessly dark future.."curse God and die" was her advice. His friends accused him, "it must be your fault!"

What if Job had never been tested by God ?   What if Job's life had ended as it began?  Would we even know about him?  Perhaps not, except as a footnote in our bible as the example of  a perfectly blessed man.  What would we then have drawn from his life?  Proof that if we live godly lives we will be blessed and protected from all tribulations or life-sorrows?   
Then when hardships come, as they do to all of us, would we have been so shaken in our faith that we are left believing that we have been rejected by God?

Do you think Job was aware as he sat in sackcloth and ashes scraping his sores and mourning the death of his children that he was living out an example that would make his name a byword familiar on lips thousands of years later?
Would he have had any idea that the worst of his life was the best of his life if measured in terms of harvest value?   "Except a seed falls to the ground and dies... "

Job is our comfort when trials come our way.  Instead of letting our faith be shaken, our faith is our anchor. It will carry us through.  Look at Job's words -  interjected into his cries of despair  
 "But He knows the way that I take - 
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold!" (Job 23:10)

Are Job's words  echoed in I Peter 1:7 .... 

"In this you greatly rejoice, 
though now for a little while, if need be, 
you have been grieved by various trials
 that the genuineness of your faith , 
being much more precious than gold that perishes, 
though it is tested by fire, 
may be found to praise, honor and glory 
at the revelation of Jesus Christ,"