Preaching into Poison

“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel…

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:1-7,19-22

Poison in the culture is nothing new. Opposing opinions, vehement passions, divided loyalties. In every generation and nation there are people with varying and fervid allegiances, whether to gods or philosophies, diets or political views, that unsettle any semblance of peace and unanimity. How are we to handle the twist and pull and vitriol? What do we say to accusations and jaded attaboys?

The early apostles, in the midst of such an atmosphere, zeroed in on a singular aim. Undeterred by nay-saying, they spoke boldly for the Lord, bore witness to the word of His grace, and preached the gospel. They were so assured of their calling, and so confident in their message, that this was the only way to speak into and counteract opposition. They knew the truth of Jesus was the only message that could shed clarifying light, penetrate the misguided reason, and melt the most rebellious heart. And if that message was rejected long enough, they moved on to preach elsewhere. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 9:15-16)

When we encounter acrid conversations, where words get caustic and critical and ugly, how do we respond? Do our emotions churn into a tit-for-tat? When the atmosphere is tense or toxic, do our defenses and temper rise? It’s vital we prepare ahead for how we can turn the talk to inject truth. How might we elevate the conversation? What questions can we ask that stir thoughts of God? What topics inspire significant discussion over catty chatter? How will we introduce the gospel that transforms by grace?

And sometimes, we preach best by walking away. Will we trust Jesus for discernment to know, and boldness to go? (Matthew 10:14)

Lord, make my words an antidote to the poison around me. Keep me faithful to proclaim Your good news, and lift You high as the living, saving God. (Acts 14:15)

This Was the Lord’s Doing

“A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark 12:1-11

Listening to Jesus’s parable, we cannot help but feel anger (and disbelief?) at the tenants’ cruelty, violence, and warped thinking. We cry out for justice for all the servants they mistreated and killed. The final blow is their murder of the beloved son. It is all unfair and undeserved! But then Jesus says, this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. How can this be? When we step higher and see the long view- the servants as prophets, and the heir as Jesus- we see that their rejection of both precipitated the satisfaction of perfect justice on the cross. The heinous suffering was not for naught.

What is mysterious and sometimes even seems mistaken to us is indeed marvelous when it comes through the hand of God. What we would reject as wrong and agonizing, He establishes for eternal purposes that outlast, and are far better than, our ways of thinking. We face ravaging illness, innocent suffering, untimely death, and cannot see beyond the present and suffocating emotion. We are broken by destructive or fractured relationships, and cannot see any way for redemption and healing. We hit roadblocks in life and career plans and wonder that any good can come.

Enter our gracious Lord. Have you not read the Scripture? Our Savior was rejected by men, and through that very rejection and condemnation and anguish, carried all of it, and all that causes us horror and pain, to Calvary, for us. Because He suffered and died, we can live free and forgiven forever as part of the church of which He is Cornerstone. Now that is His marvelous doing! (Isaiah 53:3-12)

With what are we struggling? A grief or deep sorrow? Rejection, loneliness, despondency, or fear? It is difficult for eyes filled with tears to see clearly, yet for these present agonies to become marvelous in our eyes, we need to rise up and see God’s long view, with an eternal perspective. His way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)

Lord, grant me the understanding and faith to believe that even heartbreaking hardship is Your doing, and the eyes to see Your sovereign will as marvelous.

I Trace the Rainbow

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility,.. in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” Romans 8:18-24

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11,16-18

Sufferings of the present time, deep and agonizing afflictions of body and soul, feel as though they are wasted when we see a life waste away. But Christian hope tells us otherwise. Hope borne in Christ says these are not worthy to be compared with the weight of glory to come, they are light and momentary in view of everlasting. We suffer in physical futility, but God mysteriously translates that to spiritual longing for the fullness of what we were made to be. He will, through the pain, so unite us with Jesus that by His grace, we will manifest His life, even in the groaning.

As we wait eagerly for redemption, for release from this world’s bondage to pain and suffering, will we tether our hope to God’s promises? Though weary in soul for all the wretched fallout of sin and death, will we determine not to lose heart? Christ’s love that took Him to death on a cross surrounds and comforts us in an unbreakable grip.

“O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee.
I give thee back the life I owe, 
that in thine ocean depths its flow 
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that follows all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee.
My heart restores its borrowed ray, 
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day 
may brighter, fairer be. 

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and know the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.” ~George Matheson (1882)

Loving Lord, help me trace Your rainbow through every downpour of suffering and sorrow, with eyes fixed on the tearless morn that is to come. All glory is Yours.

He Can’t Not

“From there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.  But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ And he said to her, ‘For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’  And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone…

And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:24-30, 36-37

The tension between what Jesus initially wanted and what happened reveals the Son of Man, who needed rest and time alone with His Father, and the Son of God who was bent on fulfilling every iota of His purpose here on earth. There is no inconsistency between the two, only perfect, inexplicable harmony in the flesh of our Sovereign. He could not not be merciful to one who had not been His focus, but providentially approached in faith. He could not not be a Savior.

There are things we, while living in the flesh, can’t not do. This side of heaven, we will yield to temptations of flesh and mind. We will sin. We will suffer. We will regret. We will grow older.

But for Christ Jesus, what He can’t not do is always good, redemptive, and holy. O, to be like Him! Always full of love and compassion, always selfless and giving, always appropriate and kind! Always grateful, sensitive to needs and able to meet them perfectly. Always in tune with the Father, always yielded to His will. Always in control and zealous for God’s honor. Always doing all things well!

Holy God hates sin, but He can’t not be gracious- He does not always accuse nor harbor His anger forever. He allows helpless sheep to wander, but can’t not extend compassion and hold them tight. He disciplines us for good, but grows impatient at our misery, and can’t not be merciful. He sends us into storms, but can’t not be faithful to bring peace in the midst. He can’t not love, or rule, or abide as our dwelling place. His character and attributes are consistent and constant, unchanging and righteous, infinite and divinely balanced. (Judges 10:16; Psalm 90:1; 103:8-9,17; Matthew 14:22-27,32; Mark 6:34; John 10:28-29)

What default habits can’t we not do that we can humbly bring under Christ’s sway? Would we choose to appropriate what is true about God to each?

Lord, tether me to You and Your sure promises. May I glorify You by standing stable in all You can’t not be and do.

The Windows of Suffering

“Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised… When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and praised God and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” Matthew 27:51-52,54; Luke 23:46-47

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:8-10

Physical, emotional, and soul suffering open many windows. We see through them the sufferings of Christ, the victories of Christ, and the fellowship of our suffering with him. There is a mysterious and exquisite beauty in watching another in Christ endure with grace and unflappable faith- we glimpse the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus, we sense the rumble of resurrection power, we gaze through the rent veil of pain and say, Truly this is the Son of God! Christ in them, Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Suffering also may expose areas of our hearts we do not like. It can reveal impatience, stubborn self-determination, and pride that erupt when pain presses hard. But the suffering of Christ Jesus appropriated there transforms and restores. He touches the agonies, applies His It is finished!, and draws us alongside to learn the meaning of the cross. Ex-cruciating, ‘out of the cross.’ He died for all of this, and arose to assure hope of ultimate restoration. Will we allow Him to have His way? (John 19:28-30)

Nothing we suffer is a surprise to God. Our ability to endure is a gift from His Spirit. He wastes no suffering, instead working in and through us love and character and hope that are pleasing to Him. This is a gracious thing. Can we step back to see God’s broad perspective on what is to us now all-consuming, and say Truly, this is the Son of God, teaching me what it is to hope by knowing the power of the resurrection? (Psalm 42:3-9; Romans 5:3-5; Hebrews 13:20-21; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 2:19)

Would we open the window of our heart and allow Jesus to flood in with His love and light? Sharing in His sufferings brings a communion with the Divine that is inexplicable, and precious. Would we trust Him to bloom radiant beauty from the deepest pain and sadness, spilling blossoms that cause others to say, Truly this is the Son of God!?

Father, for those I love who suffer, help them endure with hope. And Jesus, in any suffering You call me to share, may others see that You, the Son of God, are glorified. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

“Take Heart, It Is I”

“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Mark 6:45-52

After hearing of the horrendous death of His cousin, after ministering rest to his disciples, after feeding the 5000, Jesus got away to pray. Always engaged, always in tune, always compassionate, Jesus remained intimately connected with His heavenly Father, and His people. Refreshed and enlightened by the divine communion of prayer, He saw His disciples struggling in their boat and went to them, walking on the water. We don’t know why he intended to pass them by, but do know that seeing their distress and fear, He stopped. (Mark 6:27-44)

Jesus is infinite and manages everything in perfect awareness and with perfect precision, everywhere. He is at once soaked in prayer, full of love, and all-wise. There is nothing in our hearts, minds, or lives He is not concerned with or does not see. Even when we are in the fourth watch of the night, in the darkest of dark, hardest of hard, remotest of remote, He is there, walking across our tempests to meet us and cheer us to take heart. Take courage! (Psalm 139:1-3,7-12)

Jesus orders our rest, directs our work, and sends us into storms. He is always near, praying for and watching over His beloved children. He knows when we’re baffled, pained, and terrified, and comes to comfort. ‘It is I, take heart. I am in the boisterous wind and choking waves. I see your angst and fear, and they do not ruffle me. I know the limits to your strength, but I am strong. And you can take heart in Me.’

What has the Lord asked us to do that has grown more difficult in time? Where has He directed us into a storm we are too weak to handle? What impossible do we face right now that appears to have no smooth resolution? Picture the Lord, on a mountain above, watching in love, praying for us, and then coming to get in the rocking boat alongside our anxious bodies. How does His very presence make a difference? What comfort, hope, and help does He bring? Where will we take heart because of His promises today? (John 17:9-17; Romans 8:34-39; Hebrews 7:25

Lord, astound me at Your compassion, loving care, and magnificence. May I in faith behold You in every circumstance and fix my heart in Yours, to the exaltation of Your great name.

Dare to Deal With Doubt

“The Lord said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’ And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man…’

“Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.  Then Gideon said to God, ‘Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew…

“That same night the Lord said to him, ‘Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid, go down to the camp… [and] hear what they say…’ Gideon [heard] a man telling a dream.., ‘This is the sword of Gideon;.. God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.’

“Gideon… worshiped. ‘Arise, for the Lord has given Midian into your hand.’.. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade… And the army fled.” Judges 6:14-16,36-40; 7:9-10,13-15,22a

When God called Gideon, He committed to making him into His man for the task. Gideon was a mighty man of valor, but he had doubts about conquering the formidable Midianite army, and honestly expressed them. His Lord heard, understood, and dealt with each one. Gideon’s weakness and inability was met with God’s presence and Spirit, his need for assurance that he was indeed God’s instrument was answered with fire and supernatural dew, and then God allowed him to overhear the enemy’s fear. The Lord knew Gideon intimately, and graciously allayed his every doubt and made his way. (Judges 6:17-22,34)

Every time a new calling, or obstacle, or challenging circumstance presents itself, our Lord is in it. He personally enlists our faith, and listens and supports us when we doubt. He knows our earnest ‘I believe, help my unbelief,’ and supplies wisdom and confirmation when we ask, without finding fault. (Mark 9:24; James 1:5-6)

How do we respond to God’s instructions? Do we mask resistance and disobedience by claiming incapability? Do we doubt the goodness of His plan? Or do we step up, confess our uncertainties, and trust Him to provide? Neither inexperience nor unmatched strength remains an obstacle when we advance with Him. Our communion with God trains us for all that is to come.

Lord of Hosts, I commit my doubts and cause to You. Help me trust You more each day, and obey with confidence in Your blessed sufficiency. (Jeremiah 20:11-12)

Just a Touch

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus, and seeing [Jesus], he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’ And he went with him.

“A great crowd followed him and thronged about him. There was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years… She had heard reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately… she felt in her body that she was healed. Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?..’ The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.  He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead…’  But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe…’ They came to the house.., and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly…  He took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were overcome with amazement.” Mark 5:22-25,27-30,33-36,38,40b-42

He was just a man, but He was different. Jesus was sought out because He had an authority they recognized but couldn’t explain, compassion and healing power that were beyond natural, and irresistible. Crowds thronged to watch, individuals bowed and reached to make contact. Just one touch, whether they Him, or He them, and everything could change and be made right. (Mark 1:27; 2:12; 4:41)

In the pressing crowd of everyday life, there are many places that need healing. Relationships have rifts, attitudes sour, and filters on what we watch and say shake loose. We suffer pain in illness and strain in business. How often, when we have real needs, do we flit from person to place to possible solution and skirt around Jesus? Do we just watch from a distance? Is He a last resort, or even considered?

There is nothing like the personal touch of Jesus. We grab His feet and beg, and He goes with us. We touch His garment in the hope of faith, and His power flows out. His hand on our brow fevered with worry and fear, and over our still heart, revives and makes whole.

When will I reach to Jesus for specific healing? Of mindset, spirit, body? Will I pick up and open His word for wisdom, understanding, guidance, comfort, and cheer? What areas of my life will I make available for His healing, transforming, or renewing touch?

And how might I touch another for good? When I cannot be present, how might loving words, encouragement, or prayers bouy a flagging soul? Whom will I beg Jesus to restore?

Lord, hold and lift me, and touch others through me.

“If the LORD is With Us, Why?”

“The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. [He] appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.’ And Gideon said to him, ‘Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, “Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?” But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.’ And the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’ And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house…’

“Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. [He] said, ‘Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace.”  Judges 6:11-15,22-24a

Israel was under suffocating, destructive oppression from the Midianites, and God’s favor seemed a distant reality. When the angel appeared to the earnest, hard-working Gideon, his message was hard to understand. ‘The LORD with us? Then why these seven years of unrelenting, merciless opposition?’ His reply turns Gideon’s supposition upside down. ‘Go and save Israel. I’m sending you and I will be with you.’ Gideon rose from the weight of his circumstances to look God in the face. (Judges 6:1-10)

That was the message: ‘Lift your eyes! I am the Lord, I am sending you, I will be with you. Focus no further on all the small what-ifs and whys. I give you might and peace. You are not forsaken, but rather, favored and called as a man of valor for a great deliverance.’

When circumstances are grim, the Lord is with us. When the enemy cuts off hope and seems to deplete us of sustenance and joy, the Lord is with us. When we’re called to tasks larger than our abilities, the Lord is with us. When we’re threatened and attacked for faithful obedience to God, the Lord is with us. Instead of looking at our hard situations and wondering why and how, we can look to Jehovah Shalom who is with us always. From where is God calling me today to see Him anew? He’s designing the big picture. Looking to Jesus transforms how we see our troubles in a magnificent way. (Judges 6:25-30)

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” ~Helen Howarth Lemmell (1922)

Lord, clothe me with Your Spirit, that I may wholly trust your presence with me. Help me, without question and with confidence, to live out Your purposes and bear forth Your glory. (Judges 6:34)

Spoiled and Reworked

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

“Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 1and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.  Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.”’

“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart…’

“My people have forgotten me;
    they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
    not the highway.” Jeremiah 18:1-12,15

The Lord gives vivid visuals to His prophet Jeremiah to illustrate His heart for redemption. To watch a potter knead and press and shape clay on a wheel is to understand the loving, purifying, caring hands of the Artist. It was God’s good plan to rework and redeem His people; He would ultimately send His Son Jesus to make it eternally possible. Though he may buck and chafe and resist, man, made from clay, is ever clay in the Creator’s hand. (Galatians 3:13; Titus 2:14)

What spoils us is our stubborn penchant to go our own evil way, to turn from the God who made us for Himself. We worship false gods of intellect, health, productivity, family, and luxury. We must be king in control, and fashion our plans and listen only selectively to God’s voice as it suits our desires. We stray to side roads of compromise in confidences, integrity, and biblical principles. (Genesis 2:7; 3:19)

All the while, the Master Potter is itching to get His hands on us. In love, He lets us choose our path and direction, and stands ready to return us to the wheel for reworking when we return to Him. Will we amend our ways and yield?

What impurities need removing? How might the Lord knead harsh words and hard attitudes into softer, more grace-filled ones? Where can self-righteousness, stubbornness, and pride be reformed into humble servanthood?

Lord, have Your full way with me. Work me into a vessel for honored use in Your kingdom and for Your glory. (Romans 9:21)