Friday, December 26, 2014

Desktop Image: The Potter's Hand

Since I have chosen the NAME OF THE LORD for 2015 the next thing I do is to create a Desktop picture for my computer. I take the graphic and add Scriptural text that remind me of the Lord's work in me. Every day of the year in 2015 my Desktop picture will remind me of who the Lord is to me this year. It's a wonderful way to walk with the King and be a blessing.

The Potter's Hands

The Potter
Hebrew: "yatsar"

Jeremiah 18:1-6 NIV

Over the years our family and congregation has prayerfully chosen one name of the Lord to accompany us through the year. Each individual carefully searches the Scriptures and asks the Lord to reveal the Name He has chosen be for us during the coming year. This year I have chosen, "THE POTTER."

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…shaping you as seems best to me.”

I love the way the Lord says this, not about one individual, but all, each one of his children are...

1) Clay in the Potter's hands (made of dust)

2) On the Potter's Wheel and being formed by God himself

3) Mared in the hands of the Potter. Not that He makes mistakes, but we all are marred by sin and stubborness.

4) Shaped as seems best to Him, not as recommended by us, but He is the Sovereign Lord. He does as He wants.

I cannot make myself what I ought to be any more than I can change my height by thinking about it and trying to grow. God, my Father, is the master craftsman. He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or even imagine. So, ask Him work. Let Him work in you that which is well pleasing in his sight.

Daniel said it well in Daniel 4:35
"All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

Have Thine Own Way Lord

Have thine own way Lord.
Thou art the Potter
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
After thy will.
While I am waiting,
yielded and still.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Mercy of God

"Because of the LORD's great mercy we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22

Someone has said that GRACE is getting what you do not deserve, but MERCY is NOT getting what you do deserve.

The Hebrew word for "mercy" is "hesed" which contains the idea of the protection in the womb. God's hides us in his mercy like a mother protects her child in the womb. We all need mercy. Without it, as Jeremiah said, "except for the Lord's great mercy we would be consumed." The NIV has almost always removed the English word "Mercy" and translated it "Love." I understand the translator's effort to make it better understood, but "mercy" cannot be adequately translated by "love" though the idea of God's love is contained in the word. Mercy is redeeming love that reaches down to the unlovely, undeserving, enemy of God and rescues him in his sin, despite his sin. It is God's extreme love for the unloving and undeserving.

I find David's prayer for mercy in Psalm 51 especially helpful and comforting to my own sinful heart. David includes 21 requests for mercy expressing his cry in a variety of ways. Listen in to his plea for mercy. May it be our appeal to God when we fail.

1. Have mercy of me v1
2. Blot out my transgressions v1
3. Wash away all my iniquity v2
4. Cleanse me from my sin v2
5. Teach me wisdom deep inside v6
6. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean v7
7. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow v7
8. Let me hear joy and gladness again v8
9. Let my broken bones rejoice v8
10. Hide your face from my sins v9
11. Blot out all my iniquity v9
12. Create in me a clean heart v10
13. Renew a right spirit within me v10
14. Cast me not away from your presence v11
15. Do not take your Holy Spirit from me v11
16. Restore to me the joy of your salvation v12
17. Grant me a willing spirit v12
18. Save me from my blood guilt v14
19. Open my lips to declare your praise v15
20. Give me the sacrifice of a broken spirit v17
21. Give me a broken and contrite heart v17

Note, none of this has anything to do with David's worthiness. It is an appeal to God's unilateral mercy. It is an appeal to God to work in him what is necessary, that David was incapable of doing for himself. It is an appeal to God's character. It is an appeal to God's name as "All Merciful" which in Hebrew is "El Molei Rachamim." Except for the Lord's mercy we all would be consumed. Let us learn that well. His mercy is His character. In Exodus 34:6-7 God reveals his glory, himself, to His servant Moses.

6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."

May we ever see Him as All Merciful God whose glory it is to forgive the undeserving. Remember also that when we come to God in prayer it is before His MERCYSEAT.

I can never read this passage as a man and wonder about Bathsheba's repentance. Did she repent with the same humility and appeal to God's mercy? We are not told in Scripture, except we see the evidence of God's eternal mercy, compassion, and forgiveness when she is placed by mercy and great grace in the line of Jesus ancestry. In Matthew 1:6, we read that "Jesus Christ was the son of David… and David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife." In fact, Matthew includes two forgiven women in the genealogy of Jesus. The other is Rahab the harlot! Oh, the mercy of God! "The mercy of God is an ocean of love a boundless and fathomless flood."

May we all ever remember that we are saved by His mercy long before we are saved by His grace. "His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness."

In my devotions on this theme I have included the words to the Gateway song, "Save Me, Lord Save Me" because it reflects so well the cry of David's heart for God's mercy.

In desperate need of mercy
At the end of my own strength
I fall upon the kindness of Your grace
Lord I know that You are good
You came to rescue me
So please, hear my humble plea
Save me, Lord save me
I have nowhere else to go
Lord I trust in You alone
To save me, My Savior
I call on Your name
Jesus, save me
Lord I believe, You died to set me free
Lord I believe in You
And I believe, Your blood was shed for me
Lord I believe in You
Save me, Lord save me
I have nowhere else to go
Lord I trust in You alone
To save me, My Savior
I call on Your name
Jesus, save me

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thinking About Easter – Part 5 – The Shofar

The Shofar is translated "trumpet" in the Scriptures. It played a significant role in bringing men and women into the presence of God.  There are four sounds made with the shofar:

Tekiah - One long blast with a clear tone  - A long unbroken tone, symbolizes hope and the strength of God.
Shevarim - Three shorter blasts - Three shorter, more broken sounds, indicates wailing and sorrow for sin.
Teruah -  staccato notes played very quickly (nine or more) -  represents the broken heart of those who come to God.
Tekiah Gedolah - a single unbroken blast, held as long as possible (40 seconds) - an invitation to come into God's presence.

It was used on occasions stipulated by God in the Old Testament. I will list just seven here.

1. It announces the entrance into the Holy of Holies
2. It ushered in the slaying of the Passover Lamb
3. It is blown as a call to prayer
4. It called God's people into the presence of God on Rosh HaShana
5. It is a call to repentance
6. It is a call to the army to battle.
7. It is blown at the end of battle and when the King is Coming

The Shofar Blown - The Lamb is Slain
The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed.  At 3 pm the priest would go to the "Pinnacle of the Temple" (the highest point). For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shofar (ram's horn) at 3:00 p.m. - the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. At 3:00 pm when Jesus was being crucified, He said, "It is finished"- at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shofar was blown from the Temple.

The Veil of the Temple
At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-four-inch thick, several story high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom - representing a removal of the separation between God and man. During the lifetime of Jesus, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies-the earthly dwelling place of God's presence-from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) to enter into God's presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16).

Solomon's temple was 30 cubits high (1 Kings 6:2), but Herod had increased the height to 40 cubits, according to the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. There is uncertainty as to the exact measurement of a cubit, but it is safe to assume that this veil was somewhere near 60 feet high. Josephus also tells us that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart. he book of Exodus teaches that this thick veil was fashioned from blue, purple
and scarlet material and fine twisted linen.

The size and thickness of the veil makes the events occurring at the moment of Jesus' death on the cross so much more momentous. "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:50-51a).

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore approach God's throne of grace, with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. 

Isn't is amazing what God has done to put an exclamation point to the importance of the death of His Son! He wanted us to know with the death of the Lamb of God and the ripping of the Veil of the Temple, that now we can all appear before God even as Moses did, face to face. We are being invited by God himself to come "boldly" that is, without fear, to speak with Him face to face.

Isn't is ashame however, that the people of God rarely avail themselves of this high and holy privilege and calling. The Holy of Holies is open, but we are seldom there.

This Easter the Lord is reminding you and me that the way is opened into the Holy of Holies. Why not take advantage of the trumpet call and enter into the presence of God?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prayer Screensavers

It’s time to clean up my Prayer Screensaver file again. This past month I have lost four of my friends and family who have gone home to be with the Lord whose faces have been on my prayer screensaver. 
What is a Prayer Screensaver?  It is close-up photos of my friends that I am particularly praying for. Usually they get on my screensaver because they have asked me to pray for them over a particular and specific matter. I then pray for them in person and ask them if I can take their picture with my cell phone to put on my Prayer Screensaver.  When I return home I put their photo into a file and point my computer screensaver to that file. Whenever my computer keyboard is not used for three minutes my screensaver file kicks in bringing before me the individual faces of people I am praying for.  Their face is held on the screen for 5-8 seconds then it cycles to the next person. It is a wonderful way to remember people in prayer.

This all began a few years ago when my church family grew exponentially to over 500 people and I was having trouble remembering their names let alone remembering to pray for them. I began taking photos of people who meet me at the altar for prayer or those who come to me for counseling. I always tell them why I would like to take their photo and what I am going to do with it. I have yet to have anyone say, ‘no’ to being on my Prayer Screensaver.  I found that this helped me get to know my congregation better and carry them in my heart daily. When our flock reached 1,500 people I could still say I knew 90 percent of them by name, and most I knew something significant about their lives that I periodically prayed for.

The Apostle Paul must have had a prayer list like a screensaver in his brain. The often said to the people he wrote to, “I give thanks to God upon every remembrance of you, making mention of you in my prayers…”  (Ephesians 1:16)  This is more than simply praying over a list. Paul waited for the Holy Spirit to bring a person to his mind (his screensaver) and whenever they came to mind he would pray specific prayers for them. 

It has been amazing over the past five years to see how God orchestrates my screensaver to bring people’s faces to mind at the right time. Often one person’s face is randomly brought on to my screen over and over again. I take that as a cue that the Lord is calling on me to pray for them. So, I pause and lift them up before my Father in heaven. Often I will see those people later in the week and let them know that they were heavy on my heart on such a day and hours. It is amazing how often it is at that hour they were in some particular need.

Some people stay on my Prayer Screensaver for a year or until God answers their particular request. Others are then for only a month. About every six months I update my Prayer Screensaver with new and updated photos and new faces I am praying over. 

I keep files of people I have prayed for so I can pull them back into my screensaver whenever I sense God leading me to do so. I have files of my Brazilian friends, files of my immediate family, church families, individuals in crisis, sick people, close friends, and people who have shared very private personal prayer requests with me.

There are times in my devotions when I sit in my devotional chair away from my desk and pray for each person as their face appears on the screen until my heart is satisfied that I have carried their burden to the Lord.

Scripture References:

Ephesians 1:16 
I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

1 Thessalonians 1:2
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

Philemon 1:4 
I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Forgotten Hero of the Titanic

There is a seldom told story of a lone hero of the Titanic. In these days of commemorating that horrible loss some 100 years ago this weekend, I thought it good to pass on to you some good news.

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in.

On board the ship that night was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner.

As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling, "Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.

That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not.

Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris.

Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ. Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people,yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were, "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Does Hollywood remember this man? No. Oh well, no matter. This servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..." John Harper was truly the hero of the Titanic!

Author Unknown. Sources for this article:
"The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997," John Climie, George Harper, & Bill Guthrie from "Jesus Our Jubilee Ministries" in Dallas, Oregon

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give Thanks! God Is For Us, Not Against Us

The Prayer of Jabez is my prayer for the year. I have prayed it, and plan to continue to pray it, every day of the year. But here’s a thought let’s turn the Jabez prayer from a moaning and groaning prayer of “Oh, that God would bless me indeed” to a thankful cry, “Oh, God you have blessed me indeed.”

Most of us spend our lives wishing for the favor of God. ”Oh that you would bless me!” is often the cry of our hearts when we pray. But in reality we walk about with a mental shroud of gloom and rejection. We don’t feel blessed. We often feel cheated and shortchanged by life. We don’t’ feel like God cares all the time.

We are like Joe Btfsplk form the Li’l Abner cartoon by Al Capp:

Joe Btfsplk, the world’s worst jinx, had a perpetually dark rain cloud over his head; instantaneous bad luck befell anyone unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity. Though well-meaning and friendly, his reputation inevitably precedes him, so Joe is a very lonely little man. He has an apparently unpronounceable name, but creator Al Capp “pronounced” Btfsplk by simply blowing a “raspberry”, or Bronx cheer. Joe’s personal black cloud became one of the most memorable images in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip.

Let’s get rid of the cloud of gloom and doom that so often follows us around. Let’s give thanks for what we do have and what God has done.

We are children of the King. We are joint-heir with Christ. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Let’s think like it, act like it, feel like it, live like it. There is a reason God chose to call us “believers.”

What is it we believe? Our thoughts betray us. If we are feeling like paupers it is because we are not believing what God says, but rather what the enemy has sown in our cheated hearts.

The Scripture says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What are you thinking in your heart today? The Apostle Paul exhorted us give thanks in everything, and for all men. He goes on to instruct us in having the mind of Christ.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

A great exercise for the grumblers and complainers among us it to begin the day with an extended time of thanksgiving – nothing else. Then covenant with God that for this 24-hour period you will “put a muzzle on it,” that is, you will not complain, grumble, criticize, or bemoan anything. What a day that will be! And what a wonderful transformation it will bring to our feelings and our families. Try it, you’ll like it!