A Cracked Pot

A Cracked Pot

By Pat Knight

In God’s Word, our lives are compared to clay pots, both of them fragile. Physically and emotionally we are weak vessels, easily injured. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

The woman was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary where she learned to love her Lord. Though she must serve her sentence for repeated crimes, she clung to God’s promises. She knew she was God’s creation, but she felt like a cracked vessel, flawed and sinful. Eventually she learned that there was a remedy available for the many fissures in her life. She presumed that if she were really made of clay, her cracked and crazed veneer could be repaired with glue, restoring her vessel for use. She believed God would function as her glue, forgive her sins, and repair her broken heart.

Rejoicing in her new-found freedom of healing and forgiveness, she sang praises to her Savior. Imagine being sentenced to a correctional facility and rejoicing for the positive developments in one’s life! She was joyful because her daily life depended on God’s promises. She accepted His unconditional love in exchange for her fragile, crumbling, vessel of clay.

In Macedonia, the apostle Paul intervened to heal a demon-possessed slave girl. No one thanked him for performing the miraculous healing; in doing so he eliminated the ability of the slave owner to profit from fortune-telling. There was such uproar among the town’s people due to this encounter that Paul and Silas were ordered to be beaten. After they were severely flogged, they were thrown into prison. About midnight, exhausted, bleeding, and suffering intense pain, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns to God. Nothing could quiet their joyful spirit. Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison, opening the doors of the cells and loosening the prisoners’ chains.

God was at work even in the dark, dank dungeon.
As a result of the apostles’ testimony to God’s goodness,
the jailor and his family came to believe in God.
Paul and Silas were released the next morning by government officials.

God delights in mending the little and big breaks in our lives. In the process, He strengthens us beyond what we can imagine. We observe the newness he has created from our previously broken-down lives. Though Paul and Silas were bruised and bleeding, God’s powerful love transformed their attitudes and healed their lacerated skin and bruised muscles resulting from the beatings.

Job sat among the ashes of the local dump heap, scraping his head-to-toe boils with a broken piece of discarded pottery. Before Jesus claimed our damaged lives we were all destined for the trash pile. We had no usefulness or merit. Breaking any of God’s commandments served to further crack our life’s fragile vessel, rendering us ineffective in carrying God’s love and light to others.

When our lives fall apart from multiple sins that weaken the outer veneer and threaten to eviscerate, Jesus is still at work in our hearts. Our ordinary, fragile, clay vessel is elevated in stature by the immeasurable value bestowed by our Savior.

The secular standard for measuring life’s worth is normally judged by the self-defeating attitude of the amount an individual contributes to society. We cannot earn God’s love. It is unchangeable and unconditional. He reaches out to us when we have no more to give; when we are spent and exhausted from our attempts at self-righteous living. God merely calms our efforts, instructing us to trust and depend upon Him as He repairs our broken spirit, damaged hearts, and physical ineptness. “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Only with the healing and peace of God can we reach our full potential in this world.

Jesus, our Savior, peers directly into our hearts and ascertains our motives. The woman serving her time in prison is aware of a great truth:

God is able to supply all of her needs,
including rehabilitating her life and repairing her fragile vessel.
Would it be so improbable for those of us who are unencumbered
by the stringent demands of prison life,
to share the same hope?

Let us sing and rejoice like Paul and Silas, the courageous and obedient prisoners of centuries ago. Grasp the truth that joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. Joy is an attitude that spontaneously erupts when Jesus resides in our hearts!

Hate What God Hates

This is an excellent article by Franklin Graham from the October 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

I recently had the privilege to pray for our nation and its leaders at a gathering led by President Donald Trump.

I asked for God’s help and wisdom for our president and Vice President Mike Pence, along with our congressmen as they attempt to help steer our troubled country through some very turbulent times.

America has flaunted its sexual immorality to the world. We’ve neglected many of the poor and suffering and are guilty of much injustice, pride and self-indulgence. We are broken spiritually, adrift morally and divided politically and racially—following whichever direction the bankrupt culture seems to drive us.

Sadly, the voices of hate have grown increasingly loud and insulting, and it was my prayer then and now that God would silence these voices like he shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was hurled into the den.

While those hateful voices have been raised on both sides of the political aisle, we must realize that ultimately what is transpiring in our nation is an increasing hatred of God, His Word and His ways.

In my lifetime, I have never seen such blatant and incessant animosity toward Christ and His followers. We should not be surprised, because the Scripture tells us that if they hated the Lord Jesus Christ, they surely would despise those who worship and serve Him.

I think of the recent ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Bremerton, Wash., high school football coach Joe Kennedy. For eight years, Coach Kennedy took a knee and prayed silently after games. But in 2015, he was suspended by the school district when he refused to discontinue his prayers, and his contract was not renewed.

The federal appeals court said in their appalling ruling: “When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the 50-yard line immediately after games, while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee … and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.”

Can you believe it?

Read the rest here.

What Does It Really Mean to Be Blessed?

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton from Set Apart.

What Does It Really Mean
to Be Blessed?

I often hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three healthy children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!” or “We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”

But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? For example, all of my children have Lyme Disease and one of them has several disorders that have often left us devastated, broken, and uncertain about the future. Are we no longer considered blessed?

My husband lost half of his salary, forcing us to lose our home and all we had worked for. A year later, he lost his job altogether when his position was eliminated, leaving us with the burden of paying for 5 people’s Lyme treatments with no income. Are we no longer considered blessed?

I have battled multiple health issues for most of my life and finally discovered I have been ravaged by Lyme Disease. Did I just happen to draw the short stick and miss out on the blessings that so many others seem to have been given?

Why do we most often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems? I believe it’s because many of us have a very short term and shallow view of what it means to be blessed.

This begs the question – what does it mean to be blessed?

Read the rest here.

The Gift of Illness

This excellent article about a difficult subject is from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

The Gift of Illness

 

I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not on chemo. I’ve ended up in the hospital only two times, for brief outpatient visits. To see me, you’d assume I’m the picture of perfect health. But underneath this strong exterior lies deep weakness.

I’ve been given the gift of chronic illness. And while I would love to reject such a gift, it has been my invitation into a thousand moments of grace—to feel where I was once numb, see where I was once blind, hear where I was once deaf. It’s been my merciful undoing and my gracious remaking.

You see, in my own strength, pain-free and healthy, I am Pride and Self-sufficiency and The Greatest People Pleaser. But here, in the throes of weakness, I am forced into postures of humility and dependency upon God. This brokenness has surfaced every cranky, weary, impatient, mean, insecure, fearful, shortsighted aspect of my character. So I cry out to Him.

And I find Him.

Read the rest here.

Crushed but not Broken

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Crushed but not Broken

By Patricia Knight

Crowds of people pose unique and sometimes bizarre dynamics. A peaceful gathering meets to discuss, to listen, or to resolve issues. A crowd often degenerates into a mob by assembling to complain or to demonstrate.  Over-zealous behavior at rallies may lead to violence and injury. Crowds at sports arenas or long lines at retail stores may initiate pushing and shoving.

Crushing frequently occurs due to the compactness of a group, heightened by difficulty of individual movement. Some people may be physically propelled by the energy and intent of a multitude. Anyone attempting to exit the gathering could be trapped from within and seriously injured.

Jesus was the unlikely victim of crowd manipulation. “As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him” (Luke 8:42b). Some of those gathered around Jesus were thirsty for knowledge or in need of healing; others yearned to witness Jesus’ miracles.  In the midst of the mass where Jesus was pushed and jostled, He possessed the compassion to focus on one individual, patiently discerning that person’s need, and providing the specific attention required.

When Jesus detected a tug on His robe, He demanded, “Who touched me?”  His disciple, Peter, informed his Master of the futility of locating one individual within a multitude of people.  Peter argued,  “‘The people are crowding and pressing against you’” (Luke 8:45). Not satisfied with Peter’s complacent attitude, Jesus persisted. He identified the person’s touch as light but deliberate. Someone had a motive of healing in mind! Dr. Luke writes that the moment the woman with a twelve-year history of a hemorrhagic disease touched Jesus’ robe, her bleeding ceased immediately (Luke 8:44).

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/jairus-daughter/

Jesus was on His way to heal another person, but suddenly He stopped, diverting His attention to the person in the crowd who tugged at His garment, transferring healing power from his body to hers. Jesus wouldn’t allow the woman to slink away from the crowd without commending her faith and assuring her of the permanence of her healing.  She learned that memorable day, “The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Jesus’ reaction to a gentle outreach on His clothing or on His heart always initiates a tender, loving response. What prevents us from calling on Him for each one of our needs, whether minor or major? “Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say, ’Here am I’” (Isaiah 58:9).

When we are squeezed by unfamiliar circumstances, we may regress into anxiety or panic. We feel so crowded, we find it hard to breathe deeply or to move in the right direction. Every day we are bombarded with challenges to our faith. Calamities occur that threaten our ability to function: financial devastation, serious health issues, frayed relationships, loss of employment. We feel crushed by the enormity of the situation. We doubt recovery. We grieve losses. We are discouraged and distressed. Where do we find solace?

Frequently, Jesus escaped His followers, favoring a place of solitude and prayer. He sought spiritual enrichment:  re-connecting with His Father to fill His heart with heavenly goals and His mind with sovereign wisdom. By seeking His Father’s will at all times, Jesus renewed His strength and clarity of mission. We aren’t aware of the specific content of Jesus’ prayers, but we have evidence of the result:  refreshment, renewal, and rejoicing. For the Son of God, it was an opportunity to evaluate His priorities and to problem-solve; to worship and to glorify the Father. Jesus sought seclusion in prayer, the example He taught us to follow.

Our Savior understands our responses of anger, sadness, and confusion because He experienced similar emotions as an incarnated man on earth. Jesus was the subject of disbelief by His own siblings. He was humiliated, disrespected, criticized, and falsely attacked by opponents. Church leaders detested Him and sought His annihilation. What was His response?  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:45). Jesus possessed high energy levels to accomplish a demanding ministry by spending quality time in secluded, secret prayer with His heavenly Father.

God’s children aren’t exempt from troubles. However, God assures us that He will comfort, protect, and provide for those who cry out to Him for deliverance. Our Lord is faithful, the unfailing deliverer of the righteous, who also holds the wicked accountable for their hostility aimed at God’s followers. Jesus was crushed by crowds, but they were unable to adversely affect His ability to respond to individuals among  throngs of followers. Jesus hasn’t changed. He still listens intently to our prayers and intercedes with victory for those who believe.

During those experiences when we feel crushed or broken, remember, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34: 18-19).

Call on Jesus, lavishing Him with praise and gratitude. Call on Him to communicate and maintain a consistent bond of fellowship. Jesus wants to supply you with the antidote of spiritual joy of heart and peace of mind. To acknowledge that our heavenly Father is within easy access provides tremendous comfort. We are invited to confide in Him anytime, anywhere. “How gracious he {God} will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you” (Isaiah 30:19).

We may be crowded by an energetic group of people, as Jesus was, or we could be crushed by circumstances beyond our control. Either has the potential to threaten our strength or security, but Jesus offers the solution. Rejoice, for He has the desire and the ability to rescue us from all adversity. We are motivated to worship our Lord in the splendor of His majesty, glorifying His name at every opportunity. Father and Son deserve our personal best, for they have sacrificed their ultimate for each of us!

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (Psalm 48:1).

Rain Clouds

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If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. —Ecclesiastes 11:3

If we believe the message of this verse, then why do we dread the clouds that darken our sky? It is true that for a while the dark clouds hide the sun, but it is not extinguished and it will soon shine again. Meanwhile those clouds are filled with rain, and the darker they are, the more likely they are to bring plentiful showers.

How can we have rain without clouds? Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will, for they are the dark chariots of God’s bright and glorious grace. Before long the clouds will be emptied, and every tender plant will be happier due to the showers. Our God may drench us with grief, but He will refresh us with His mercy. Our Lord’s love letters often come to us in dark envelopes. His wagons may rumble noisily across the sky, but they are loaded with benefits. And His rod blossoms with sweet flowers and nourishing fruits. So let us not worry about the clouds. Instead, let us sing because May flowers are brought to us through April clouds and showers.

O Lord, “clouds are the dust of [your] feet”! (Nah. 1:3). Help us remember how near You are during the dark and cloudy days! Love beholds You and is glad. Faith sees the clouds emptying themselves and thereby making the hills on every side rejoice. —Charles H. Spurgeon

What seems so dark to thy dim sight
May be a shadow, seen aright
Making some brightness doubly bright.
The flash that struck thy tree–no more
To shelter thee–lets heaven’s blue floor
Shine where it never shone before.
The cry wrung from thy spirit’s pain
May echo on some far-off plain,
And guide a wanderer home again.

“The blue of heaven is larger than the clouds.”


© Copyright 1997. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. CowmanZondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530