Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Beyond the Clay

Article originally appeared in September 20th, 2009 issue of Vista.

One of my favorite worship songs was written by an Australian Worship Leader named Darlene Zschech: “The Potter’s Hand”.  It captures the beautiful analogy of how a life surrendered to God is like clay in a potter’s hand – a concept Christians tend to associate with Jeremiah chapter 18 verses 1-10.

The potter at the wheel is symbolic of God, and we are the clay He molds.  What a comparison!  Because just like a person, a lump of clay can be a fickle thing.  Now this can work in the Potter’s favor or it can grieve Him.  The way it works well for Him is that “compliant” clay can be molded into any purpose that He desires.  And we will experience a sense of fulfillment in our lives in the long run when we choose His will over ours.   But clay that has too much water makes for a wobbly vessel, and clay that’s too dry will cause the vessel to crack.  So it’s important that there is a balance.  We don’t want to spiritualize every event of our lives, but we also want to be paying enough attention that we recognize it when He is trying to get our attention, give us His directives, or He is moving on our behalf.

The word for vessel in verse four is a very general term and simply refers to something that’s being made ready (or is ready) for a particular purpose.  There is a story about a man born blind in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John.  Jesus spat on the ground, made clay and put it on the guy’s eyes.  Then He told the blind man to go wash it off.  Jesus told His disciples in verse three of that same chapter that this man-vessel’s purpose was for the works of God to be revealed.  What an awesome destiny! But if a vessel becomes marred, or more specifically, if we should choose a path of moral decay, or our leaders choose a path of moral decay for this nation, God’s destiny for us changes.

It’s important that we recognize that the passage about the potter and the clay isn’t limited to just you and me.  It can be applied to a whole nation.  When those who lead our nation are applying the principles in God’s Word to their decision making processes, we are going to see God’s favor and blessings poured out on the nation as a whole. But when our leaders allow our nation to become marred by the corrupt demands of those who have ungodly agendas and insist on passing laws that are counter to God’s Word, then our nation will experience negative consequences. In fact, this would apply to any nation.  Jeremiah 18:7-10 does not name a specific nation – it’s a general, blanket statement.  The good news is that those same verses also assure us that not only will God remake the destiny of repentant individuals, but He will also remodel the destiny of  repentant nations.

We serve an incredible God who sets each of us apart for a specific destiny.  Though we all start out as “a lump of clay” in His hands, His loving eyes look beyond who we are, and He sees the potential for who we will become as He continues to fashion us beyond the clay.


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One Chosen Hero

Story originally appeared in October 22, 2006 issue of Vista.

“Lord, this is craziness,” Gideon muttered in prayer from the floor of a shallow, stone pit.  “I can’t believe that I’m forced to thresh wheat on the floor of a winepress!  And for what cause?  The Midianites might steal our harvest if they find out we have one.  Why can’t you just wipe them out?”  He raised his threshing sledge into the air and pounded a loosened wheat sheave for emphasis.

A sudden burst of light caught Gideon’s attention and he looked up from the sheaves.  Gazing down at him was a man with blazing, brilliant eyes that exuded a joy which Gideon know he’d never personally experienced.

“The Lord is with you, you mighty hero!”

Gideon slowly stood, staring at the figure who seemed to have an iridescent glint that emanated from his very core.  At first, Gideon was unsure of how to respond.  Then the words of the strange greeting registered.

“The Lord is with me,” Gideon repeated incredulously.  “If the Lord is with me, or anybody in this nation for that matter, then why has the Lord allowed the enemy to kill so many of us?  And why has the Lord allowed our enemy to steal our livelihood and destroy so much of our land?  It feels more like God and all the world are against us!”

“Don’t you realize that I have given you the power and the authority to trample the enemy and overcome all of his wickedness?  I will use you to help your people get the victory over the enemy because I have chosen you.”

Gideon gaped, stunned by the words of the stranger.  Then he asked, “But how?  I’m not rich; I have no notoriety.  I’m not even very smart.”

“I promise you, I will equip you.  When you go to fight this battle, I’ll be closer to you than any of your family or friends.  Just call out to me.  I am more than able.”

Gideon blinked, shaking his head in utter amazement.

“I promise,” the figure grinned, which made him even more vivid.  But there was something deeper.

Is it possible to emit love? Gideon wondered, then he finally spoke again.  “Could you please stay here for just another moment?  I…I just need a confirmation from you.  You know, just so I can know that I haven’t lost my mind from threshing too much wheat.  Um…I…I want to bring you an offering.  Will you wait?”

“Sure,” the figure chuckled as he helped Gideon out of the pit.

Gideon turned, walked a few steps and looked over his shoulder.  The figure had seated himself under a nearby oak tree, and in a rich baritone voice began singing a song that Gideon had never heard before: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

Gideon spun around, ran to his house, and hurriedly prepared an offering of young goat meat, unleavened bread, and broth.  Once everything was ready, he made his way back to the oak tree.  His stomach plummeted to his feet when he saw that the figure wasn’t just a figment of his imagination.  Then a sense of peace washed over him.
Well, at least I know I haven’t gone crazy.

The figure grinned and pushed himself to standing with his staff.  “I see the mighty warrior has returned.”

Gideon chuckled to himself at the very sound of the words.

“Set it on that rock,” the figure pointed, then added, “Smells good. Go ahead and pour the broth over it.”

As Gideon poured, it felt as though lightening surged through him. He stepped back as the figure pointed his staff at the offering.  The rock on which it sat began to vibrate, glowing brilliant white as smoke swirled and billowed into the azure sky.  A blaze erupted from the rock and consumed the offering as the figure disappeared.

Gideon fell to his knees and cried out, “Please God, have mercy on me!  I’ve seen your angel!”

An immediate peace coursed through him as he heard the Lord’s voice reply, “Be at peace.  You shall live and be victorious.”

An overwhelming joy flooded Gideon’s soul as he was hit with the reality that God hadn’t forgotten him or his people.  It suddenly struck him that God wanted to give them peace, hope and most especially, a future.  The problem was wrong focus.  Everywhere he looked it seemed people were either undermining God’s ways, or worse, worshiping something other than the One True God.  Joy gave way to indignation as he uttered, “But Lord, what can I do?”

An uncanny boldness rose up in him as an idea floated into his mind.

Restore a right focus!  Restructure my priorities, Lord.  And Yahweh, bring an army who will join me to reach this nation!

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