Suffering.

The principle that suffering leads to glory is illustrated in Scripture by a vivid description of clay on the Potter’s wheel- clay that was once cracked, shattered, and broken, clay that was totally useless and ugly. The Potter took the clay and broke it down even further, grinding it into dust then moistening it with water before He put it on His wheel and began to remake it into a vessel pleasing to Himself. The cracks and chips and broken pieces disappeared as the clay became soft and pliable to the Potter’s touch. He firmly applied pressure on some areas, touched lightly on other areas, added more clay to a specific spot that needed filling, and removed clay that hindered the shape that would make it useful for His ultimate purpose. As He turned the wheel, His loving, gentle hands never left the clay as He molded and made it after His will.

Finally, the Potter finished remolding the clay and took it off the wheel. Under His skilled, gentle hands, the once-ugly clay had been transformed into a vessel that had shape and purpose. He added color, carefully painting on a unique design. But the clay was still soft and weak, the color dull and drab. So the Potter placed the vessel into the fiery kiln, carefully keeping His eye on it as He submitted it to the raging heat. At a time He alone determined was sufficient, the Potter withdrew the pot from the furnace. The blazing heat had radically transformed the clay into a vessel of strength and glorious, multicolored beauty. Then the Potter put it in His showcase so that others might see the revelation of His glory in the work of His hands.

Is the Potter molding- or remolding – you, using….

pressure or problems?

stress or suffering?

hurt or heartache?

illness or injustice?

Has He now placed you in the fire so that circumstances are heating up with intensity in your life? Then would you just trust the Potter to know exactly what He is doing?

For the child of God, suffering is not wasted. It is not an end in itself. Scripture reminds us, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body…. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {2 Corinthians 4: 7-10, 17}

|excerpt from ‘Why?’ by Anne Graham Lotz|

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Why did Jesus die?

His popularity with the multitudes aroused jealousy in the teachers of the law. There was much muttering. “He is baptizing and everyone is going to him.” Some said He was a good man. No, said others, He is leading people astray. How come He speaks with such wisdom when He has never studied? Could this possibly be the Christ? Surely He is not from God- He has a demon. He is mad. He speaks blasphemously.

A meeting of the Sanhedrin was called.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The crowd that had seen Lazarus walk out of the tomb had spread far and wide the word about a miracle worker. This was the last straw. “See,” said the Pharisees, “this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

This man Jesus was not to be tolerated.

That much is not surprising. We understand politics, which certainly had a part in His death. But politics was not the real and inescapable cause. There was something far deeper, unimaginably deeper, which we may spend our lives seeking to fathom. It is revealed in Jesus’ words to His disciples at the Last Supper: “This is my body given for you.”

For us. For us who desperately need redemption Jesus gave His body. No one could have taken His life from Him. He laid it down of his own volition, to redeem us, for we had sinned. In the person of Adam we had made a declaration of independence – to “do our own thing” – and this had fallen away from God………

…… He wanted to help us home! Why? There are at least sixteen specific expressions of that divine compassion. I list them in order in which they are found in Scripture:

  1. that we might not perish, but have eternal life
  2. to justify us
  3. to establish His lordship
  4. that we might cease to live for ourselves
  5. to rescue us out of this present age of wickedness
  6. in order that we might attain the status of sons
  7. that we might live in company with Him
  8. to save sinners
  9. to win freedom for all
  10. to make us a pure people, marked out for His own
  11. that we might cease to live for sin
  12. to bring us to God
  13. to do away with sin
  14. to undo the devils work
  15. to bring us life
  16. as the remedy for the defilement of sin

Ezra the prophet, writing four centuries before Christ, knew nothing, of course, of the Cross, but prayed, “Our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” Nor can we. We have a far greater revelation, in the New Testament, of the enormity of our sin, and we know about the Cross. What shall we do about it?

Matthew and Mark tells us that the two criminals who hung on the crosses beside Jesus heaped insults on Him at first. One of them said, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other, with new insight, recognizing the justice of his own punishment and the innocence of Jesus, asked to be remembered in the kingdom. “Today,” Jesus said, “you will be with Me in Paradise.”

How shall we respond to this inconceivable sacrifice of love?

Devotional taken from “Secure in the Everlasting Arms”, by Elisabeth Elliot.

Bomerang

If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead.

Proverbs 26:27

Here God is warning us that making trouble for others will eventually bomerang back to us. Sir Walter Scott said, “Oh what tangled web  we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Some of you know I have a great passion to encourage women to read the Bible from cover to cover. One of the wonderful benefits is that the Bible doesn’t just teach life principles, but it also illustrates them through real examples in real people’s lives.

The book of Esther displays a picture of someone who dug a pit for someone else and then fell in it. His name was Haman. He hated a Jew named Mordecai, Esther’s cousin. His hatred wasn’t based on any real wrong done to him. His hatred stemmed from the fact that he didn’t get his way. That’s a story in itself. And as his bitterness grew, he sought to kill not only Mordecai, but all the Jews of the land. Bitterness does that. It always widens the circle of collateral damage.

An interesting detail of the story is that Haman’s wife, Zeresh, encouraged him to take revenge. She said, “Hang Mordecai. Then go and be happy.” That’s bad advice. But Esther took a bold step, asking her husband, the King, to intervene. End result, Haman was hung on the gallows he intended for others. Haman did not know “what goes around comes around.” Haman was the rat that got caught in his own trap.

Make it personal….. Live it out!

Haman is the central villain in this story. But his wife, Zeresh, fueled the fire. Instead of being the voice of reason, she encouraged him to act out his rage. When we do that, even if we don’t participate in evil actions, we are accomplices to the crime; there is “blood on our hands.” Whether it’s your husband or your sister or a leader you serve with that is angry, pray for them. And better yet, pray with them.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

Taken from our sweet sister, Debbi Bryson’s devotional “Wisdom for Women”

Bryson

God’s Seashell Collection

 This is a recent post from Shannon’s blog  Pray this blesses you as it has me.
If you’ll forgive me for not boring you with the how’s and why’s that my husband, daughter and I are in Florida, I’ll get right to one of the most precious revelations the Lord has ever blessed me with. Though it was such a tender and personal exchange, I share it in hopes it will encourage someone.
A few days ago, I laid in an unfamiliar bed, in the middle of the afternoon, crying tears of utter exhaustion, sorrow, and desperation. The doctors say the pain will not get better unless I sleep, but sleep is sometimes impossible from the pain. I am not sure what true delirium looks like, but I had to be there…or close to it. My heart echoed a request I’ve asked God repeatedly, “Please Lord, help me learn everything I possibly can from this trial. Every tiny ounce, fragment, sliver or moment, may nothing be wasted.” I don’t trust myself to glean it all because so much of me wants it over.
But as numerous as the tears that wet my pillow, I saw in my mind’s eye numerous people sitting down and eating in a lush, green field. Then I heard the Lord’s instructions to the disciples from John 6:12 “gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost,” and my heart was instantly at peace. I had assurance that the Lord would gather the very fragments of this trial for me so that nothing would be lost.

Yesterday, I woke up to thick clouds blocking an oceanic sunrise, but I wanted to walk the beach and look for treasure. I love shells, sand dollars and sea glass. Our hostesses have jars full of them and I envisioned giant jars to display my own.

I scoured the shores like one of those metal detector things some people use at the beach. I was so intense on my hunt that a man stopped me and asked what I was searching so hard for. The current and waves are extremely rough where we are staying and it would be a miracle to find a sand dollar or pretty shell intact. Then I saw it. A gorgeous sand dollar emerged as the tide water rolled out. I rushed over and plucked from the sand…a triangular fragment of what must’ve been a very large sand dollar. Cue the music for disappointment.
As I tossed it aside, the Lord quickly spoke to my heart, “Go pick that back up. I gave you a treasure.” I stared at the gray remnant that didn’t even fill my palm and the familiar, soft voice came to my thoughts again, “go up and look along the seaweed and trash that the high tide left along the shore.” No one walked the beach along that muck and mire. It even had an unpleasant odor. But I obeyed.
As I walked where no footprints lie, scattered among the debris were fragments of gorgeous shells and broken shards of large conch shells that could amplify the ocean’s roar. Then the Lord spoke to me so clearly, “Shannon, you toss aside the broken and incomplete and remnants, in hopes to obtain the whole and beautiful, attractive and valuable. But I do not see as you do. The broken are beautiful to Me. The defaced, exposed, shattered, fractured and worn pull at My heart and draw me close. Remember, I gather the fragments that remain so that nothing will be lost? It’s not just about the lessons in your trials; it is about you. It’s about all of My people that have been tossed by hard currents, tumultuous waves and trials, circumstances that have crashed down and broken them. Fractured hearts. Souls that are worn thin. I see those who feel as though they are mere fragments from their years…and I call all of you My treasure. Would you like to walk where no one walks and gather what no one gathers? You will find Me there.”

I stood still, stunned by His love. Touched deep by the tenderness of Jesus that calls my unattractive, broken self a “treasure” to His heart. Amazed by His grace that loves to dwell amidst what the world, and sometimes the church, easily discards, overlooks, and sees no value in. And then I looked down and saw this tiny, little chiseled shell and photographed it. What kind of blows and tossings could sculpt a perfect heart? When I tried to pick it up, it shattered in pieces. The Lord knows that we are not good care-takers of others hearts. Especially when a person has become so frail. I should’ve just observed and admired rather than gather for myself. The Lord’s words continued…as I will share in a future post.

But for today…no matter where you live or walk, remember that the Lord sees you…and His lens is not as the worlds. “…For they will draw out of the abundance of the seas, And the hidden treasures of the sand.” Deut.33:19b

WAIT

Desparately, helplessly, longingly, I cried:
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait.”

“Wait? You say, wait!” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith, I have asked, and am claiming your Word.

My future and all to which I can relate
hangs in the balance, and YOU tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, go-ahead and sign,
or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

And Lord, You promised that if we believe
we need but to ask, and we shall recieve.
And Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master repied once again, “You must wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taught
and grumbling to God, “So, I’m waiting… for what?”

He seemed, then, to kneel, and His eyes wept with mine,
And he tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.

All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want–But, you wouldn’t know Me.

You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint;
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint;
You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there;

You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit decends like a dove;
You’d know that I give and I save… (for a start),
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of the infinte God, who makes what you have LAST.

You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that “My grace is sufficient for Thee.”
Yes, your dreams for your loved one overnight would come true,
But, Oh, the Loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

So, be silent, My Child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft’ My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer is still, “WAIT.”

{Author Unknown}

Satan’s Meeting

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their savior. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.”

“So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, but steal their time, so they don’t have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“This is what I want you to do”, said the devil:

“Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!” “How shall we do this?” his demons shouted.

“Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.

“Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.”

“Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles.”

“Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!”

“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. To keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.”

“Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.”

“Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives. Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night. Give them headaches too! If they don’t give their husbands the love they need, they will begin to look elsewhere. That will fragment their families quickly!”

“Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won’t talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death.”

“Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy!”

“And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences.”

“Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause. It will work! It will work!”

It was quite a plan! The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get more busy and more rushed, going here and there. Having little time for their God or their families. Having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives. I guess the question is, has the devil been successful at his scheme?

You be the judge! Does “busy” mean:
B-eing  U-nder  S-atan’s  Y-oke?

When Wrong Seems Right

Bryson

April 29th (today’s) Devotion by Debbi Bryson

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

This proverb could be the headline of today’s newspaper. We are a society of people who think we can make up the rules as we go. But in reality, because we’re breaking God’s laws, it’s killing us.

But now let’s apply this proverb not just to the external godless world around us, but to our own personal internal worlds. This may surprise you, but I feel that the Lord wants us to apply this principle to bitterness. Yes, bitterness. Bear with me on this.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Somehow (in a distorted way) we sometimes think that retaining anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness is the right way. We think it’s right because it seems to protect our rights.

Here’s how it happens. We get hurt or angry. We then nurse that emotion because someone did wrong, and that was wrong. So we relive it over and over. But the Bible warns us that this becomes a root of bitterness that defiles many, and so it does. It affects our thought lives, our personalities, our relationships, and because it’s disobedience to God, it affects our relationship with Him.

So the moral of this is to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving just as God for Christ’s sake forgave you (see Ephesians 4:32). This is the right way- right for us and right for others.

Make it personal… Live it out!

Can you say, ‘Yes, I have allowed bitterness to ruin my life?” Would you like to break free? In Matthew 5:44 Jesus gave an amazing formula. If you truly try it, it is guaranteed to give you victory.

1. Love your enemies.

2. Bless those who curse you.

3. Do good to those who hate you.

4. And pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

Now, I find this impossible to do going from one to four. So I work the formula backwards, meaning the first step to victory for me is number four: pray. Once I start praying for the person, the Lord softens my heart. Then He shows me some way to bless the person, and eventually I find the ability to love.