It was an unusual coronation day in Judah. The robe and crown were ready, but they were much smaller than usual, sized to fit the tiny head and small shoulders of an eight-year-old king. Josiah, the child king of Judah, was faced with a difficult situation. His people had turned away from God after generations of wicked leadership.
Josiah needed help. He could have sought out the greatest warriors to keep the kingdom safe. He could have sought out the greatest spokesmen to inspire the people. He could have sought out inventors to bring about a technical revolution. But Josiah knew what the nation needed most was a teacher.
As he began to restore the temple that had fallen into ruins, Josiah came across a set of scrolls, the divine Scriptures that had long been forgotten. They needed someone to interpret the words of God, and so Josiah sent for a teacher named Huldah, a woman who he hoped would be able to guide him. Huldah was not the woman his advisors wanted, but she was exactly what the kingdom needed. She taught the young king about his heritage and, more importantly, about his God, and her teachings inspired and equipped a young boy to lead his nation back to God.
He could have chosen anyone: a warrior, a spokesman, an inventor, but he knew that if he were truly going to turn his world around, it would take a true superhero: it would take a teacher.
Deep in Sonoma County, California, a potter named Hugh Hope paints invisible designs on the surface of a platter. It looks odd to the casual observer, this artist who sits alone with his vessel, painting patterns that no one can see. The magic of Hope's work, however, is revealed when he begins the second step of the process.
Once the timing is right, he dips his brush into a bit of red iron oxide and gently grazes the platter. The scarlet hue spreads across the surface, coloring the vessel, but, more importantly, revealing the secret design that Hope painted with his invisible wax. The designs rest quietly on the surface, unseen by the average observer, until the master potter applies the color. The iron oxide suddenly reveals the potter's artwork in all its beauty.
So often when we are on the Potter's wheel, it is easy to look at other vessels and wonder what God is doing with us. We can see Him working, but it does not seem like anything is happening. It is easy to get impatient and even disheartened. Sometimes we start to question what He is doing in our lives.
But the work of the Master Potter is not always apparent on the surface. He works with deft hands and skilled practice.So many of His most beautiful designs are the ones He creates with invisible wax, painting intricately and invisibly, until the moment He applies the iron oxide, and suddenly our eyes are opened to the masterpiece He has been crafting us to be.
Far away in the Land of the Rising Sunlives lives a school of Japanese potters who specialize in the art of kintsugi (golden journey). Their art form does not focus on forming perfect pottery with beautiful patterns or shapes, but on repairing broken pottery to highlight the journey of each piece. The beauty of their work is in the brokenness. After gathering up the broken pieces, they restore the vessel with gold, silver, or platinum lacquer. They use the most costly minerals on earth to bind the broken places.
The beauty of a kintsugi vessel is in the striking maps of its broken places.
The art of kintsugi tells us so much about how God sees brokenness. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible on the topic of brokenness is Psalm 51, wherein David the king falls on his face before God in repentance. He has just realized how much he has failed God, his people, and himself. He stands before his Lord, utterly broken. But in the midst of his brokenness, he lifts his voice in faith, declaring,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart— these, O God, You will not despise" (17).
Indeed, God did not turn David away simply because he had failed. He repaired and restored him, just as He continues to do with us today. Brokenness does not exclude us from God's love, power, or plan. He simply asks that, instead of trying to hide it in the shadows, that we bring it before Him so that He can do what He does best: lovingly repair us, not hiding the cracked and chipped places, but showcasing them in beauty so that our lives will forever testify of Him.
“You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
I love hanging out with four-year-olds. They are funny, creative, and full of questions. Anyone who has spent much time with a four-year-old can tell you their most common question is, “Why?”
We joke about how kids ask so many questions, but in my experience, adults are just as likely to question things. Whenever life doesn’t seem fair, whenever tragedy strikes, whenever we are passing through seasons of pain or suffering, one of the first things we want to ask is, “Why?”
So many of life’s “whys” are not easily answered (which is why I love the old song that says, “We’ll understand it better by and by”), but I do believe it helps to be able to take a step or two back and look at the precision involved in God’s work.
In the case of the prophet Jeremiah, God allowed him to do just this. God told him to go to the potter’s house and watch the him work. He saw the potter put down a flawed piece of clay and pick up another that would work best for his design. God then told Jeremiah that the house of Israel was like clay on the potter’s wheel.
When it seems life is chaotic and we cannot find answers for our whys, may we find some comfort in the fact that the divine Potter is still at work in our lives! For the next few weeks, we will join Jeremiah in the potter's house and see what lessons we can glean from the potter's wheel.
We have an excellent example of fatherhood in our Heavenly Father:
Paul, the aged apostle of Jesus Christ recognized he was nearing the end of his earthly journey. Just as Jesus commissioned His disciples to “…go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Paul fervently wished to pass the vital torch of the truth to Timothy, his “son in the gospel.” He admonishes Timothy to be “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and gives him certain perimeters for guidance.
First, he tells him to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Grace is God’s favor, anointing (divine enablement), protection and provision. As God told Paul, His grace is all sufficient for all things.
Secondly, as a recipient of this great saving gospel, Paul tells Timothy he must teach others also. (If each one won one and each one won, won one we could reach the entire world in one generation).
Then Paul reminds Timothy that he must “endure hardship.” Soldiers lead a life of sacrifice and often must deprive themselves of ordinary creature comforts. He reminds Timothy not to “entangle himself in the affairs of this life.” Jesus also warned us not to be overcome by the cares and anxieties of life.
Lastly, Paul reveals the principle motive of a true soldier of Jesus Christ: to please the Lord that called him to be a soldier. This old song expresses well the Christian soldier’s determination: “It's a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room; it's a fight and not a game. Run if you want to, run if you will, but I came here to stay.”
The Biblical book of Psalms is the hymnbook of the Old Testament. It 150 songs address every sentiment and encompass a vast awry of events. It is the longest and most diverse of all the books of the Bible, culminating in Psalm 150, a primer (an an elementary and fundamental explanation) about the art of praise.
Psalm 150 begins with the exhortation, Praise the LORD! The first word declares the purpose of the Psalm: praise! Then it declares the Person worthy of our praise, the LORD! We are to praise Him in His sanctuary (on earth) and in the firmament of His power (in heaven), in other words praise Him everywhere. We praise Him for His mighty acts, giving thanks for all that He has done. We praise Him according to His excellent greatness, the quality of our praise.
We praise Him for all that He is, His attributes, character and essence. It also addresses the quantity of our praise: we praise according to how great we think He is! We praise Him with musical instruments that we have created to amplify our praise, wind instruments, percussion instruments, stringed instruments. We even praise Him in our dance!
The final verse proclaims, Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Humans are uniquely gifted with intellect, reason, will and choice. Our praise is made more precious to God because we offer it from our free will and choice. Praise the LORD!
Years ago, I read The Call of the Wild, about a dog named Buck who spends most of his life choosing between a miserable (but familiar) place, and a wonderful (but unknown) better place. So many people live their lives like Buck, feeling a call to more, but afraid to leave the threshold of the familiar. Even while living in misery, they cannot bring themselves to take that leap of faith when God calls.
Then there are the plus ultra people. In ancient legends, the mountains near the Strait of Gibraltar bore the inscription, “Non plus ultra” (nothing farther beyond), warning sailors that they had reached the end of the world. But at the end of the 15th century, explorers ventured into the untamed seas and set sail for places they were not sure even existed. They longed for the plus ultra, the further beyond.
God calls us to leave thresholds, to venture plus ultra. He calls Abrahams to leave their fathers' inheritances, trusting in His provision. He calls Ruths to leave familiar homes and gain new and greater families. He calls Esthers to stand in the face of death and save nations. He calls Pauls to shine a light of hope in dark lands.
Becoming a plus ultra person is not an easy, but it will always be worth it. You have to leave the familiar bondage of Egypt to taste Canaan’s freedom. God calls you to great things, to abundant freedom and new beginnings, but you have to decide to leave the familiar and take the leap. Your future awaits, beyond the threshold, plus ultra.
"When I could not reach mercy, mercy came running to me." (PCD)
I have been blessed with an old dog. I've had her since her puppy years, and she is a constant source of joy. When she was younger, she would run to the door as soon as I came home. She was never self-conscious. She didn't worry about whether or not I wanted to see her. She was overjoyed to see me.
Now she is 21, and, while she is still thrilled to see me, it's a different experience. Her joints ache and there's a little less pep in her step. Sometimes she makes it to the door, walking gingerly, but just as happy I'm home. Sometimes, though, her little legs are just too tired and she sits on the couch, waiting for me to come to her. And I always do. I loved her when she was strong and I love her every bit as much when she is weak. I just love to spend time with her.
Hebrews 4:16 gives us instructions on how to approach God: we can come boldly before Him. Sometimes I do, since I am just so excited to spend time with Him. But then there are other situations, moments when I am weak and hurting. I want to come before Him, but I am so weighed down with the cares of life that I feel I don't have the strength. But I am so glad for Hebrews 4:15, which reminds me that God is "touched with the feeling of [my] infirmities" -- He loves me even when I am weak.
Like the beautiful song says, when I could not reach Him, He came running to me. When I am weak, He reaches for me, and in Him I become strong once again.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The first principle of faith begins with the acceptance that God truly does exist, The Bible begins with this principle, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It is a simple declaration that begs belief and is the foundation for faith in God and His Word.
Next, God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Diligence is key: it's a focused act of sincerity and consistency. Our greatest reward in the precious relationship that we develop with God and then God’s continual providence for all of our needs. Romans 10:17 teaches that we receive faith by hearing the written or spoken word of God.
Our faith is expressed through our obedience and actions. Hebrews 11 offers many examples: Noah built an ark and saved his family. Abraham sojourned in the Promised Land and preserved a homeland for his descendants. Joshua marched around Jericho and walls fell down. They expressed their faith through obedience and actions.
Personal salvation also comes by faith and obedience to the Word. Acts 2 records the birth of the church. In verse 37, people ask what to do to be saved, and Peter tells them: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” So, we express our saving faith through repentance, baptism in Jesus' name, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Believe and receive it in Jesus’ name!