Cracked Pots

The Lord hacracked pots been impressing on me lately that I am a vessel to be used to glorify God. A vessel in the old English use of the term meaning a container, like a pot or a jar. It really goes with the whole seeking first the Kingdom thing we talked about the last two weeks; putting God first in our lives so that he can be allowed to move through us to advance that Kingdom. The consequence of this attitude and mindset leaves us in a much better place in every aspect. At least every aspect that we entrust to Jesus.

Whatever aspect of our lives we trust to the Lord— seek to use it to glorify and honor him— will be healthy, blessed and secure. Whether it’s our money, our jobs, our families, our thought lives and words, our health both physical, emotional and spiritual- it all has to be entrusted to Jesus in order for us to be all that we can be in Christ, all that he wants us to be and all that he created us to be. Our Father, our Savior, our God and Creatorwants us to be blessed, fulfilled and happy.

He wants us, all of us, to be vessels of his love. We cannot be a vessel of his love if our hearts are full of everything but. And that’s what he’s been showing me lately. The Lord wants me to understand, not just to understand but to really have it at the forefront of my mind till it really becomes me, that I am his. I am his spokesman, I am his hands and feet, I am his tongue, I am his opportunity to shine in the dark places of this world, to bless the poor and brokenhearted, to encourage the discouraged—in other words; to be everything that Jesus was when he walked this earth.

That is what I am supposed to be and that is what you are supposed to be. We, the church, are Jesus to a dead and dying world. We are the only gospel they can see, the only hope they can know, the only true love they will be offered— the true light in the darkness. We are vessels of his love; jars of clay holding life giving water.

Vessels

Now I can just hear the thoughts of some who are hearing this saying, whoa- are you claiming to be equal to Jesus? No, I am just saying what Jesus said and what the apostles taught us over and over again throughout scripture that we are the body of Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. It’s truly grasping that concept that is so difficult for us to understand, to appreciate the full implications of that. I’m not sure that we ever will in this life.

His Holy Spirit indwells us and we are just vessels, literally jars of clay that contain his Holy Spirit, we are the temple. But we are not a temple or a jar that just sits in one place and stores things, like the clay pots that held the Dead Sea scrolls for nearly two thousand years before they were stumbled upon by a goat herder, we are alive and mobile, living beings created in the image of God with a heart to love, a mind to reason and a soul to live forever.

We are eternal beings and we will live on— whether with our Lord in glory or separated from him for eternity in a state of living death and torture, if we refuse to surrender to him and be that jar of clay full of his life—Glory fire or hell fire— I’ll take glory, thank you very much. His word is in my heart like fire and shut up within my bones, I am weary from holding it in and indeed I cannot! —The words of the prophet. The anguish of a prophet, Why me Lord? why me. Because I called, and you answered.

It’s not because we are beautiful, it’s not because we are wise. Indeed, It’s not the beauty of the jar that determines our fate, hell fire or glory fire, it’s what we put in it. In fact, those who worry about the pot and forget to fill it, or refuse to fill it with the light and life that is freely offered to all of us are the ones sent back to the kiln never to be seen again.

When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord.  2 Chronicles 7:3

We are the temple that contains the fire of his glory, if you have said yes to Jesus, if you have received his gift of grace and been born again. Then you are a vessel of incalculable worth and you are beautiful no matter how cracked or marred your jar might be.

In fact, the more cracks in the outside, the more light can shine through. Stop looking at the outside and recognize what, or rather who, is in you. You are a vessel of incalculable worth, and you are beautiful!

 

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The Epitaph

Seek ye first  Is your heart right?

Living in any way short of seeking first the Kingdom in all our ways will leave us lacking and wanting. I contend that whatever area of our lives we refuse to surrender to the Kingship of our Lord, whatever we despair of relinquishing control of will be the area in which we are found the most lacking, where we will struggle and stress the most. If we want something to be truly blessed, we have to let go of it and let God have it. That is how we seek the Kingdom and get all that we need in return. It’s a tricky and scary proposition I know.

You want to be vulnerable and weak, then keep striving to build your own strong tower. You want to be insecure and paranoid? Then keep working to build up your own name. Can you say narcissistic? Boy, look at the house of cards our politicians are living in, they build themselves up and we tear them down. And great is the fall of them.

 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Mat 7:2

A familiar verse from the story of the man who build his house on sand. That doesn’t mean we can’t build, we just need to keep our priorities straight and keep reminding ourselves whom we really want to be in control because at the end of the day, if it’s all about us, us will be very lonely and unpopular, not to mention living in a fallen house.

The Funeral

That reminds me, I went to a funeral years ago for a business man I knew very well. He had built a thriving and very respected contracting company. I knew him to be a no nonsense guy who had little time for chit chat and expected his employees to be the same way.

His funeral was well attended and held in the church where it was well known that he had donated his money and the time of his employees to help build the building. Towards the end of the service they opened the floor to any who wanted to share memories and after a long awkward pause his wife and grown daughters finally got up to share their memories and I was surprised and quite frankly shocked by what they shared.

They told stories about how he used to strut around the house on weekends crowing about how he had become so successful and how respected and important he was. I kept waiting for the punch line but there was none, apparently he was serious. As they shared I got the distinct impression that they really weren’t going to miss him all that much.

It struck me that though he had provided a good home and gave his family all they desired or needed financially. A nice house, college educations, a reputable well-known name— he hadn’t given them what they really needed, a father who showed humility and love in a way his family could appreciate.

He claimed to be a Christian, and I believe he was, but his priority was seeking his own kingdom first, even his donations to his church seemed to be for recognition and bragging rights, “Look at that, I made that happen.” I know, I sat there in that church and had pointed out to me the beams supporting the roof that his guys had put in at his command. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, trust me, I appreciate every nickel and every minute that people give to this building and this ministry. But if you are doing it for bragging rights, please, you are seeking the wrong kingdom in doing so.

I mean, I take pride in my work and take delight in having had the time and abilities to do a lot of the work in this very building, but I didn’t do it for me, I did it for you, I did it for the Kingdom. This is not my kingdom, nor is it yours. As soon as it becomes that, it will end up a very lonely place with an epitaph that reads; “Great guy, nice place, too bad he’s gone— No, not really—actually he was kind of arrogant and annoying.”

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you.”The words of Jesus.

I truly believe that if we are using all that we have, our time, our talents, our wisdom and money to bless others, putting others first, we are putting the Kingdom of God first and he will abundantly bless us in return. Then we will have an epitaph that reads: “A blessed person whom we were blessed to know and whom we will dearly miss, till we meet again.”

Love your family today, before you become a memory.

Overtime or Family Time?

Priorities-“…doing what is best for those we love even at the expense of the things we love.”

welder

We all get caught up in this world. It’s the way we are wired, we were created to work– God put Adam in the Garden of Eden and even in paradise he had a purpose- to care for the garden. We were created in the image of a God, who is certainly himself very creative. It’s just that we have gotten our priorities askew. Which, if you think about it, is the entire reason the whole world is screwed up, it is the very definition of sin- my kingdom first!

We are prone to measure our worth by what we do, what we produce, our station in life as perceived by the world is tied to titles and bank accounts regardless of how we are affecting those around us.

I remember working in a welding shop years ago and my boss called me into the office for a serious discussion. He was finally giving me the raise I had asked for and for which I was long overdue, it had been several years since the last. Anyway, he, in all seriousness, told me that he wanted this job, building asphalt patching equipment, to be the most important thing in my life.

I don’t remember how I responded, I know I didn’t agree to that but I didn’t say no either, I really needed this raise. As I sat there in stunned silence I remembered what he had told me a couple of years earlier, that he preferred to hire single guys because families just got in the way. I was single when he hired me but I was now married and had a baby girl at home, she was much more important than this job. Sure the job was important because it fed my family but I certainly wouldn’t sacrifice my family for the job– though I would sacrifice the job for my family.

Which is exactly what I did a few years later. Our second daughter Jessie had come along and I was working 60 plus hours a week. This schedule of long days had been going on from the time she was born- in fact I’ll never forget holding my new born daughter and rocking her to sleep when Donna handed me the phone. It was my boss wanting to know when I was coming back to work. I had taken a couple of days off to be with Donna and my new daughter when they came home from the hospital.

Her first birthday came and went and the situation hadn’t changed, I was still working massive overtime at my all important job. The money was great but I had a year-old daughter who barely knew her dad and a three-year-old who cried because she missed her dad.

I went into the bosses’ office and said- I know you can’t and won’t change the situation here and I am not even going to ask you to so I am giving you notice. Two weeks– I’m done.

I left my position as shop lead-man and went to work for a building contractor as an apprentice carpenter. My pay checks took a big hit but I got to go home every day after an eight-hour shift and I got my family back. Soon I was making more there than I was at the welding shop and they never asked me to make the Job the most important thing in my life. I work hard at my job because I know that even though they are in business to make a dollar they care about the people and the families that work for them and if they do well, I do well.

I put in an honest days’ work because I am respected, not because it is demanded by those who belittle and deride me. I work hard because I have a family who depends on me and a God who tells me to work as though working for the Lord.

 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col 3

I made a decision and took action to put my family before my Job, more specifically, to put my relationship with my family, before my Job and I knew I had to put the relationships before my ability to provide them with a big house on a big piece of land and everything they thought they might need to be happy, because without a relationship, without the time to be there in their lives none of that would mean anything.

The only reason I knew this was because of my relationship with the Lord— doing my best to put the Kingdom of God, to seek first his kingdom— had taught me what was truly important. Priorities. I sought God, sought to work hard to provide for my family while trying to find a balance where I could also be in their lives to teach them what a loving Father is. In the end we lost the big house, and the land, but we kept the family together and have all in various ways and degrees, learned together to seek first his kingdom. And we have never gone hungry or not had a nice place to live.

The Kingdom of God is about character, doing what is best for those we love even at the expense of the things we love. It’s trusting God for the things while we shift our focus to who we are in him, and the kind of person he wants us to be.

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

Politics and Passion

It’s a Passion.

When we are born again we are filled with a passion for the Lord, for the things of the Lord— his word, his worship, his people— all people who don’t know him— “You need to meet my Jesus! Why doesn’t everyone know him? Surely they would want to if I just told them what he did for me!”

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8,92273 (600 x 369)

We have a passion but we start getting discouraged, our joy starts to wane as we realize that people just think we’ve lost it— even some other Christians think we’re weird.

So we stuff down the joy, hide the exuberance so we don’t stand out. We start looking at the world that is still going on all around us just as it always has, except now we can see just how messed up it is and how everyone is hurting each other and themselves and we get discouraged, we lose our joy, we lose our passion. “Lord, just come and rapture me out of here, forget this place, forget these people.” —That’s not a good attitude either. It is certainly not the Lord’s attitude as he is holding back from coming until all have heard.

So it should be with us. We can keep our joy; we can keep our passion. The difference between us and the people of the world who don’t know our Jesus, is that we are free from the having to allow this world to shape us, to affect how we feel. The only power the world, the only power the enemy, has over how we feel− whether we are happy or sad, whether we care or not− is what we give it.

We have available to us an inexpressible and glorious joy. We need to keep releasing that and reminding ourselves of that. That’s a big part of the reason we gather together to worship, when we focus on the Lord, when we lift our voices, our hands and our hearts to God we are also raising ourselves above the cares of this world, it reminds us who is on the throne, of not just the universe, but our lives, and it frees us from despair and anger.

Politics

Boy, that’s important to remember especially in the political climate we have found ourselves in as our government gets farther and farther away from the Godly principles we were founded on and our presidential election becomes a full-fledged circus, actually that’s offensive to the circus, Barnum and Bailey and the Ringling brothers had much more class and the performers admitted that they were in it for the fame and the money.

It would be very easy to get discouraged and despair. How many people do you know that are downright depressed, or out and out angry over the presidential candidates that we the people have selected? Do you suppose that being so emotionally influenced by our national game of thrones has a positive influence or a negative influence on your state of mind, or on those around you who are witness to your despair? We are supposed to be filled with an inexpressible joy, not a loudly expressed anger.

Nothing good comes out of our despair or our anger. It only pushes people away and farther into the darkness making it less and less likely that they will ever see the light, that they will come to know our Jesus and be set free, or that our nation will truly be free again.

An election is not going to change this nation and bring it back to God— I don’t care who we elect— if our hearts are not free, if we are bound up by bitterness. If we are living like those who are dead, none of it will matter. A free people without the guidance of a sovereign God will not be free for long. A nation led by people who are living for the flesh, a nation where God is taken out of the public discourse and worships a plurality of Gods, or lives in the arrogance of godlessness, is not going to stand whether we have a Trump, a Cruz, a Sanders or another Clinton sitting in the oval office.

This nation will remain Godless unless we, the church, born again believers rediscover our passion, the passion that comes from the joy of our salvation, that comes from knowing a freedom that no government can neither grant nor take away, a joy that says; everyone needs to know about my Jesus— let me tell you what Jesus did for me! Hallelujah God is good! Even if it gets us branded a weirdo, or worse, just branded.

Being angry and telling people they or their candidates of choice are ignoramuses is not going to achieve anything good. I’m not saying you can’t have, or express, an opinion. What I am saying is be careful how you say it. You are never going to change a person’s mind by deriding or maligning them. We are not going to change this country by arguing our point of view with an attitude of condemnation. The eyes that have been blinded by the enemy will never be opened until the lights behind them come on, when they are born again.

So it is that the only way things are going to change is if we change hearts, and we can only change hearts by the power of the gospel and people are only going to hear the gospel if we are presenting it, living it, being it, with the passion that comes from the joy of knowing that we are saved, that we are free and we are His— no matter what happens in Washington or next door.

Your heart is free, keep it so. As Peter would go on to write in his chapter about what it means to be born again:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Pet 2:1-3

God is good, every day- even on Election Day.

 

Radically Changed? -Little Mattie

Lithe Mattie

-Radically changed-

You canBaby-Full-Size-Wallpaper’t be born again and not be radically different, not see the world through the eyes of the Savior; experience life, the pain the joy and heartache and the passion, that comes from being a Spirit led, Spiritually alive being, in a dead and dying world. Unless of course you purposely ignore the Spirit.

Being born again isn’t a state of mind, it’s not a phrase to describe a set of beliefs or a particular brand of Christian. It’s not a club that you join or a conditioning to ascribe to through discipline, ritual or liturgy. Being born again is a state of being. It’s a state of being just as surely as being born of the flesh is. It is who you are, but you also have to allow yourself to become who you are as a born again person.

Being born again from death to life is a radical transformation, it is literally an altered state. We don’t learn to be born again any more than a baby learns to alter his or her condition from being in the womb to being out in the world. But unlike the first birth where a baby doesn’t have a choice as to whether it’s born or not; In the case of being born again we do have a choice, we choose whether we will be born again, or not, when we choose whether or not to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and invite him into our hearts and are made alive by his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

How can you not be different when you are suddenly the living temple of the very Spirit of God himself?

I have seen this transformation happen over and over again, I have had the privilege of inviting many, many, people over the years to accept Jesus as their Savior and I don’t care if it is just quietly raising your hand in acknowledgement in a church service, boldly sprinting to the alter in front of everyone at a big event, bowing your head and saying the sinner’s prayer across the table in a cafe, falling prostrate in repentance and weeping for joy before a campfire in the mountains— if you have opened your heart to Jesus you are a new creation, and you are not the same person you used to be.

When it happens it is always a miracle, another rebirth, another cause for celebration in heaven. I’ve looked in a person’s eyes and seen the lights come on as there is suddenly someone home, the fear and hurt falls away and life begins— real life.

I racked my brains as I taught this lesson to my church trying to think of some story or illustration about what it means to be born again, to be free, to be real, to just be, and it just wasn’t happening. There’s the old usual illustrations of the Butterflies and the Bull frogs being born again, from a caterpillar and a tadpole but really, that doesn’t work, we are not worms or bugs or amphibians so it’s hard to relate.

But I kept thinking about little Mattie, (Names changed) A baby girl a couple in our fellowship is foster parenting. I remember the first time they walked in here with her, the foster mother, Catrina, was all aglow just like a mother showing off her new baby and Scott- the proud father. But this baby had not been born to them. Mattie had been born into a nightmare. At just a few weeks old she shown up in our church with two broken legs, a broken collar bone and sternum, and a cigarette burn on her toe for good measure. All inflicted on her by her birth mother, her flesh and blood mother.

But Mattie was born again into a new family, given another chance, a new life. She was now in the arms of a mother who would never hurt her, who loves her and has brought her to a place of healing, peace and safety.

But there is more to the story; the Lord had told Scott and Catrina that Mattie was coming. The Lord knew that there was a baby girl who would need a chance to be reborn into a new family, weeks before she was even born.  Matt and Catrina had been struggling, they wanted a big family and had a beautiful daughter but had been unable to get pregnant again and they asked me to pray for them. I did and in the midst of the prayer I saw a picture in my mind of a baby girl still in the womb and I heard the name Mattie.

I told them that they were going to have a little girl. I then asked them if they had thought about any names; “No, not really” I hesitated because I didn’t want to influence them but I said, “Well I heard the name Mattie, I think its short for something but I don’t know what.” So when she walked in that day with a baby girl and said; “Guess what her name is”, I said; “No, it can’t be.” … It was, She said: “Her name is Matilda, but they call her Mattie.”
-The little girl they were promised.

So it is, that our God is good— all the time. Is that a great picture of being born again or what? Mattie, who was born into chaos and pain, has a new life a new family, a new hope for a good future. She came to our church that first week bruised and broken, knocked out with pain meds screaming in pain whenever she woke up, it was heartbreaking. But she has been allowed to heal and now her eyes have a light and she smiles when she is awake. Her past just a distant, fading memory.

Someday Mattie will have the choice to make, “Am I the victim, living in defeat and bitterness, using my past as an excuse and a reason to destroy my future, or am I going to live as a victor, one who has been given another chance to live a life of joy and purpose, using the opportunity and love I have been given to move forward into a hopeful and optimistic tomorrow?”

We all have that choice to make.

So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:7,8