Sunday, May 18, 2008

Working with Clay

Working With Clay
May 19, 2008

Philippians 1:6 "...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..."

Remember art class? There was always someone with crazy talent that could make anything he touched into a masterpiece. And this masterpiece always made your project look like macaroni pasted to construction paper, no matter how hard you tried. Or maybe you've seen an amazing artist at work, marveling at the precision and skill made to look so effortless. Have you ever seen an artisan work with a piece of clay?

He begins by unwrapping a lump of clay from its protective covering and stares at this gray matter with nothing but potential. To you and me this block of clay looks like nothing, though it could become something wonderful. The artisan begins his work, pushing and molding the clay. He bends and mars its flesh until it is in the correct position. He applies carving and cutting tools to take away the unnecessary. As you watch him work, it is difficult to tell what the finished product will become. It almost looks as if the artisan is failing at his work, as the clay resembles nothing that you are familiar with, nothing you've ever seen before. Still, he presses on, intently adding shape and detail, one movement at a time. At this point, you begin to wonder if the clay was better off as a block of potential as there is no way he can pull this lump of marred flesh into a work of art. You may even think he should throw it away and start over, as your imagination cannot begin to pretend a finished product could materialize.

But as the artisan continues, you begin to see the object take form and if you squint your eyes you can pretend it resembles your nutty aunt Clara. With a little patience, you endure as the artisan puts the final touches on the work of art to reveal the finished product. He spins it around and your jaw drops in utter amazement. As you gaze at the work of art you are marveled at its simplicity yet complex beauty as you realize it is a perfect likeness

The Lord is at work in your life, Christian, and you may think it will never turn into anything worthy of display. But the Lord is hard at work, molding and shaping your flesh until it is in the perfect likeness of the person He needs you to become. It may seem the Lord cannot make anything beautiful out of your current state or that He should throw you away and start over with someone else. But I assure you, He is intent on finishing the work that He started in you. Give Him a little more time and patience. Once He is finished, you can take a peak at the finished product. I promise, you will be stunned and amazed at how He was able to take you and your life and make something beautiful out of it.

Helpful hint. Make sure the clay is soft for the Lord to do His work, otherwise His molding and shaping might hurt a little.

1. Fearful the Lord is not able to make anything beautiful out of your life?
2. Are you willing to give Him a chance to complete what He already started?

Under the Covers

Under the Covers
May 12, 2008

Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Remember when you were five and slept in your own bed, maybe even in your own room for the first time. When the lights went out fear began to creep inside, but as long as you could hide under your covers, you could make it. Even if it was simply one sheet, it was a covering or protection from whatever might lurk in the darkness of your bedroom. You would pull the covers high overhead and nothing could get to you as long as you stayed totally covered up tightly. You were safe, as that covering made sure of it. No bad men could harm you and no thunder storm could rattle you, as long as you were safely under the covers; those cotton sheets were really a coat of armor made of steel.

Now as an adult, your intelligence has taken away that confidence in your bed linens. Somehow there is very little that can give you a safe feeling, that feeling of ultimate protection from all harm. There is little you can do to proect yourself from the bad men that might harm you or the thunder storm in your life that might rattle you. No matter how tightly you pull up the covers, there is nothing protecting you, or so you think.

But when we become Christians, we automatically get a new set of armored bed linens. It is called the covering of the Almightly. God reaches out over you as you sleep with everything under His command and control. Nothing can harm you. You are safe and protected from the bad men and thunderstorms of life. There is nothing that man or life can do unless the Lord allows it. Though difficulty may arise in your life, you are still protected and your soul is always safe. No matter what happens in life, you are still safe under the covering of the Almighty.

When you go to sleep tonight, rest assured that His covering is keeping you safe. Stay under it all the days of your life, as it says a few verses later "you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day." Psalm 91:5

1. Afraid of what lurks in the dark?
2. Are you resting in the covering of the Almighty?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

God's Big Voice

God's Big Voice
May 5, 2008

1 Kings 19:11-12 "The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

Americans love their superheroes. Billions of dollars have been spent perpetuating images of superheroes in our hearts as we love to indulge the idea of someone so strong and powerful who can rescue us from all harm. We continue in this fantasy, imagining what it would be like if we had such superhero powers, envisioning the display of our powers in front of our enemies. But there is really only one such superhero: God.

He displays His power so many times throughout the Bible, where His might is demonstrated before everyone or a select few. The Bible paints a picture in many different books of the Bible regarding God showing up in a storm; thunder, high winds, lightning, and earthquakes. This imagery instills in us a sense of awe, knowing full well His capabilities, where we revere His power and are willing to submit before Him. But then, after this display of power and might, God speaks. Our superhero steps forward and begins to talk to us. Naturally, we expect His voice to be booming, maybe as loud as the thunder, or with fire blazing from His breath. But God does not speak in a thunderous chorus where nations can hear His words. He speaks in a still, small voice.

Our superhero chooses to talk to us in a still, small voice. The word "still" is used so we are willing to calm our thoughts, voice, and world around us in an effort to hear Him. The word "small" is used so we can hear Him on an intimate, one-on-one level. When God speaks, He uses a voice that can only be heard if we are listening in, so very closely. If the distracting noises around us are too loud, then His voice cannot be heard, as it is usually a gentle whisper. God's displays of His superhero powers are so His enemies are afraid of Him. God's use of a still, small voice is so that anyone who truly wants to hear His voice might do just that.

1. Haven't heard the Lord's voice in a while or ever?
2. Isn't it time you quieted your selfish world to hear Him?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Greatest in Heaven

The Greatest in Heaven
April 28, 2008

Matt 18:4 Jesus said, "Whoever will humble himself and become like the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

After getting my MBA in Finance, I worked for the largest private bank in the world, managing investment portfolios and having lunch with millionaires everday. We lived on the East Coast only a few blocks from the beach and life was good. Through a strange twist of fate a few years later, I found myself jobless and needing to support my wife and two children (with a third on the way). I took the only job I could find at the time, working construction. One day, I ended up working on a brand new hospital; the task at hand for me was to take out the trash. The place was dusty, dirty, and dark inside and my clothes reflected the look and feel of the jobsite. I had collected enough trash to fill my cart and pushed it to the service elevator in order to take it to the dumpster.

In line at the service elevator two gentlemen were talking; one older and one much younger. The younger mentioned how tired he was from studying during the previous night for his college course. The older advised him to stay with it, to hang in there, and that it would pay off for him in the long run. He continued in his discourse to the young man and noticed me out of the corner of his eye. I had been listening in, as I had a passion for higher education and was hoping that my higher education would have also paid off. How ironic of a place I was in; my education afforded me the knowledge and ability to be on the hospital’s administration staff but instead I was picking up the refuse on the construction site. The older man noticed me listening in and said to the younger, “Stay in school; that’s your ticket; you don’t want to end up like this common laborer right here.” He pointed at me, suggesting that I was truly what my task had demoted me to be, the lowest and least respected guy in the place. He didn’t even have enough common courtesy to mention those words to the young man in private, as if I was too stupid to understand what he was really saying.

I kept my mouth shut and did not mention anything of my situation, past, or education. This slap in the face hurt so badly and I wanted to stick up for myself and defend my pride, suggesting that I should not be in such a place. But I did not. I kept quiet. For days my ego hurt from his wounding words and I searched for ways to not let it affect me, though it did. It pains me to replay this story but it actually gives me tremendous hope. Hope, you wonder? Yes, Jesus teaches us that in order to become great in God’s eyes we have to become least in the world’s eyes. This does not mean that everyone must pick up trash for a living and cannot be a prestigious board member, but rather have the attitude of the least respected. Jesus was teaching about a pride issue, not one of physical status. This opportunity to receive such an insult that day afforded me the lesson of becoming the least in the world’s eyes. It was a chance for me to take a look at my heart and make sure that humbleness and meekness were reflected in my character, not a puffed up pride on the outside that may have the potential to take me into hell.

1. Want to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
2. Have you learned what it means on this earth to be the least?