The Potter & The Clay

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

God is continually, molding and shaping us, so that we will be transformed into the image of the Son of God.

He uses many different methods to transform us. Some of the methods God used in my life are as follows:

1) My Vocation:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

I had to work to help support my family. My education consisted of a GED and some college. I worked in the corporate world, in Human Resources (Health & Welfare and Financial Benefits.) Because of the level of my education, I had to work twice as hard. At times, it really annoyed me, so I would repeat Colossians 3:23-24 over and over to myself, during working hours, until it became a part of me. God blessed me with raises and good reviews. To this day, I keep that scripture close to my heart.

2.)  My Co-workers, Friends and Family:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

3.) Suffering:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)

I was nineteen years old, when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my Life. About six months later, my husband abandoned me. He said, “I don’t want any part of Christianity.” I was devastated! In my early 20’s, I became pregnant, which resulted in a Tubal Pregnancy, which caused me to hemorrhage. I had emergency surgery, just in time to save my life. A few months after surgery, I became ill and I had to have a Hysterectomy. Over the years, I’ve lost almost everything I owned, four times, except for a few personal items, the clothes in my closet and some furniture. When I was in my 40’s, I became very ill and was hospitalized three times. I could no longer work outside the home. I’ve cried many tears in my lifetime, but each painful situation was teaching me patience. God, comforted me, provided my needs and healed my emotional wounds. My suffering changed my heart of stone into a compassionate heart.

One of the greatest evidences of God’s love to those that love Him is, to send them afflictions, with grace to bear them. John Wesley

4.) Prayer

I was praying in the Spirit…

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26 (NIV)

and an indescribable “Grief” came over me. That experience has forever changed me.

5.) God’s presence in my life and His LOVE that’s wrapped around me.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.” Romans 8:37-39 (NIV

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8 (NIV)

Paul wrote that being transformed into the image of the Son of God is a process, and it takes time and is a constant struggle over resisting sin. He wrote,

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).

So we see that this is an ongoing process throughout our lives. We shouldn’t grow discouraged because it takes time–a lifetime, in fact–and we will never achieve a total transformation into holiness until He appears. Then we shall finally be like Him, or as John wrote,

“We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 (NIV)

Paul’s words are an enormous encouragement to us:

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

Please apply Paul’s words to those things which pertain to the glory of God and our peace and endurance through Christ unto the salvation of our souls.

Because narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14 (AKJV)

PRAYER

Father,

I want to win the race you have marked out for me. I am done with limping along. I will take the steps of faith necessary to strip away everything that has impeded my progress. Speak to me now as I quiet myself before you. With the help of your mighty hand, I will remove the obstacles in my path so I can run with strength, stamina and staying power. And make me a source of encouragement for others as we all follow Jesus together in this great marathon! With faith in You, I will win. Amen.

by Mark and Jill Herringshaw

“…Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

In † Christian Love, Susan Osten

God Doesn’t Make Sense by Bill Sweeney

The fact that God’s nature was difficult for me to understand used to be a real challenge to my faith. This was especially true after being diagnosed with ALS. I don’t remember ever asking God “Why me?” but I naturally wondered why God would allow this or any other horrible disease to strike anyone. I began to rethink everything I knew, or thought I knew, about this being we call God.

One of the first things I studied was the Christian definition of God; the Christian belief that God is made up of three separate beings (Father, Son and Spirit) that are actually one being. This doesn’t make sense! I have heard many different analogies that attempted to explain this concept of this three-in-one God by everyone from children’s church pastors to highly-educated Theologians, but I still don’t get it! I know better than anyone that I’m far from being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but after many years of trying to figure out this concept of what we simply call the Trinity, I’ve concluded that no one is able to explain this Triune God in terms that are understandable to even the razor-sharp knives among us. And, I’m now okay with this because – If we were able to understand God in human terms, He wouldn’t be God; He’d be a man.

C.S. Lewis was one of the best Christian apologists of the twentieth century, but before becoming a follower of Christ, he was an outspoken atheist. He concluded that there was no God because the idea of God didn’t make sense to him. He wondered why a supposedly loving God would allow his mother to die when he was just ten years old. He also wondered why a God that claims to care so much for His creation would permit the horrors he witnessed as a soldier in World War One. I imagine a lot of people asked similar questions after seeing innocent people being killed and maimed in Boston and in West, Texas. But, ironically, it was also this seemingly nonsensical nature of God that brought Lewis back to the God of Christianity.

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
As a professor at Oxford, Lewis and some other professors, including his fellow professor and friend, the author J.R.R. Tokien (Lord of the Rings) formed a group where they would meet and discuss Philosophy, Theology and other “Big issues.” Tolkien was a Christian and he began challenging Lewis’ conclusions about God. Like me and so many others that have come to a crossroad, Lewis began to rethink his beliefs about this mysterious God.

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

 

As a professor at Oxford, Lewis and some other professors, including his fellow professor and friend, the author J.R.R. Tokien (Lord of the Rings) formed a group where they would meet and discuss Philosophy, Theology and other “Big issues.” Tolkien was a Christian and he began challenging Lewis’ conclusions about God. Like me and so many others that have come to a crossroad, Lewis began to rethink his beliefs about this mysterious God.

Lewis also came to the conclusion that mere mortals were unable to fully comprehend what we call the Trinity. And, like me and those who understand the implications of this conclusion, this idea of an incomprehensible God intrigued Lewis. He eventually ditched his “simple” atheism and turned to a complex God.

He wrote: “On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings… On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine…If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about…Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn’t have guessed. That’s one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It’s a religion you couldn’t have guessed.”

Why do we expect to understand why God allows tragedy and heartache when we cannot even comprehend the makeup of God? We haven’t yet even figured out why people do the things they do. God sees the Big Picture – the eternal picture, the picture that we’re incapable of seeing. For that reason alone we should give Him the benefit of the doubt when tragedy strikes.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

About Bill Sweeney
In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ – Unshakable Hope!

 

 

 

How Can We Have Hope When Everything Looks Hopeless?

How Can We Have Hope When Everything Looks Hopeless?

In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says that we can rejoice in our sufferings because we are a people of hope: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5, ESV)

So, how can we have hope when everything looks hopeless? In the midst of suffering, we can rejoice because these challenges cause us to:

1. Rely on God’s presence

Rejoicing in suffering does not mean celebrating when bad news comes. But, it does mean that we can believe that God is doing a redemptive work. This word “redemptive” means that God does not waste a hurt or disappointment. He is using them to shape and build us into the image of Jesus, which is his highest passion.

When we go through suffering, we often pray and seek God more intensely than at other times. My greatest times of growth have been when I’ve reached the end of my resources and all I have left is Jesus. God uses suffering to make us rely on His presence.

In Psalm 23:4, David writes that he does not fear because God is with him. He relies on God’s presence, and it brings him strength and comfort. Remember that for there to be a shadow, there has to be a light. I don’t know what your “valley of the shadow of death” is, but I do know who the Light is that is walking with you in that valley.

In another Psalm, David reveals that one of the reasons for his joy is that he is forgiven. (Ps. 31:1, NIV). We can’t determine God’s love for us based on good or bad circumstances. We determine His love based on the cross and what He did for us on it.

2. Rely on God’s provision

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul reveals that he has suffered from a “thorn in the flesh.” God was so concerned about Paul not becoming proud he allowed this to happen to him to prevent him from becoming conceited.

In our current situations, God is saying to us that His grace is sufficient, and even when we feel weak, He is making us stronger than we have ever been. His grace is not an abstract idea. It is the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. The hell you are going through may be the very circumstance God uses to take you to a whole new level.

3. Rely on God’s power

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9b, ESV).

What is your weakness? Maybe it is a son or a daughter that hasn’t quite turned out the way you thought he or she would. A job situation that has gone awry. A medical diagnosis that has scared you. Maybe, like Paul, it is also insults, hardships, or persecutions. Whatever it is, Paul says he will boast in those things because when we are weak, the power of Christ rests on us.

The greater the enemy comes at you, the greater Jesus is in you.
Maybe you hear voices telling you to just quit, give up, and let it go.

DON’T STOP! When you are weak, then He is strong. Remember the greater the attack against you, the greater Christ is in you, but you have to rely on His Presence, His Provision and His Power.

Write down what you are suffering from or struggling with and place it in an envelope. On the outside, write, “God’s got this, and He is transforming me.” Now when that challenge comes to mind remember to rely on Him.

-Derwin L. Gray, Gospel Of Grace

How Do We “Live The Abundant Life” Jesus Promised?

Living the abundant life that Jesus promised us includes facing our challenges, overcoming our obstacles, and walking patiently, with hope, through our sufferings and sorrows. Persevering through life’s struggles is vital to our Christian growth. It will not be easy, so we must believe in ourselves, and God’s Word which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

God’s protection is not like a magic force field that keeps us from all adversity. We must keep in mind that we live in a fallen world, and we have a free will. We are capable of creating our own troubles when our decisions do not include God, and they are not well thought out. When we reap the consequences of those decisions, we expect God to bail us out.

On the other hand, accidents will happen, and difficult situations that we have no control over will arise in our lives. During those times, we need to remember God’s promises of protection, provision, and comfort – He is faithful to His Word! Jesus warned that we would have troubles in this World: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God works in ways that we cannot comprehend. I can give you some scenarios of God’s protection, such as: His protection might come in the form of peace and strength in the middle of despair, or it might come as an ending because He sees something more on the horizon that we cannot see.

All we need to understand is that as a believer in Jesus, we are promised a new life covered under the protection of God in which NOTHING can separate us from His love. We can rest knowing that no matter what hardship we face, God is our protector, provider, and comforter!

Why does God allow us to experience suffering and sorrow?

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:6 (NIV), “Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same.” Unless we know the personal results of God’s comfort in our tribulations we are not able to comfort others in their trials. To have compassion is to enter in alongside of the other person. Suffering enables us to better understand the needs of others.

Prayer for Fear and Anxiety

Lord Jesus, the stresses in my life often reach a dangerous proportion—or so it seems. My body, mind, and spirit struggle to keep up physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some days anxiety stalks me like a deceitful predator, and the temptation to worry draws me in. I know better, but some days the challenges outweigh the truths buried inside. My trust in You fades into the background, giving fear and concerns permission to discourage me.

In those moments of apprehension, help me remember that I belong to You, and that You are not the author of fear or anxiety, but the giver of love and a sound mind. Teach me Your ways to respond to problems by giving thanks in them. Your Word assures me that You are always there with me. You are the Blessed Controller of all things, and nothing escapes Your attention in my life. You have given me every tool and spiritual blessing to fight against those things that try to steal my peace. You’ve promised that when I’m stressed and burdens are trying to weigh me down, I can come to You. You will give me sweet rest! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

In God’s Love and † Grace, Susan Osten