Day 22: V is for Vessel

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” II Timothy 2:20-21

V is for vessel. A vessel is a container for holding something; a person into whom a quality has been infused or permeated with (such as grace).

God formed man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) just as the potter forms the clay. On Day 16, we saw that the potter had three main types of vessels. Do you remember what they were? There was the earthen vessel; one made from the earth. There was stoneware, which was very durable and heavy. Then there was the porcelain vessel; the one with exceptional beauty and costly.

Did you notice something in the last paragraph? Each and every vessel had a purpose! We are simply vessels in the Master Potter’s hands; therefore, we also have a very special purpose. No matter what type of unique vessel we are … for God has made each of us unique in our own way (Psalm 139:14) … we should strive to be a vessel of honour.

In our verses today, we learn that there are vessels that are honourable, and there are vessels that are not honourable. So, how do we know what type of vessel we are? Well, it depends on what is put inside of us. Have we gotten lackadaisical in our daily lives and allowed little impurities to slip into our vessel? Or have we been diligent to study and to learn how to keep our vessels free from sin?

What does an honourable vessel look like? II Timothy 2:21 tells us that it is one that is sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set apart for a sacred purpose; to be free from sin. We all sin. Everyday. We are all made in human flesh; consequently, not one of us is exempt from sinning (Isaiah 64:6).

Because of Christ’s shed blood on the cross, we are no longer bound by those chains of sin. Yes, we can sin. But, often that sin is of choice. Be honest … we choose to sin. God has made a way for us to escape though (I Corinthians 10:13); literally, leaving us with no excuse. Once we have sinned, we must then confess that sin and turn from it so that our vessel may be clean again.

Lesson Objective: To understand what a vessel is. To learn that not all vessels are honourable. To be honourable our vessel must be sanctified; when it is sanctified, then it is usable by our Master.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Over and over, He molds me and makes me, Into His likeness He fashions the clay. A vessel of honor I am today. All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away. — Terri Gibbs

Day 21: U is for Unforgiveness

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another … even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:13

U is for unforgiveness. To properly define and understand unforgiveness, we must define the word forgive. To forgive is a verb, and it means to cease to feel resentment against (an offender). Forgiveness requires an action. To not forgive requires doing nothing. But, what happens when we do nothing in the area of forgiveness? Well, to begin with, we become more angry, more upset, more annoyed, more bitter, and even more unforgiving.

How in the world can this be? It can! I have seen it … multiple times … where it has dug such deep roots that it has caused these people to suffer tremendous health issues. When unforgiveness is left unchecked, it grows. It will grow to such a  point that it literally chokes the physical and spiritual life out of you. This is so sad!

As we saw earlier, resentment in our lives is the true culprit for unforgiveness. When you have resentment toward someone, basically you are either upset, angry, or annoyed. What are some situations that would make us feel this way? Well, it can be a disobedient or rebellious child, a person who does not respect you, a person who has offended you, parents who were over strict or harsh in their relationship with you, a spouse who does not meet your needs or has had an affair, a person that you respect who has not kept a confidence that you shared, a friend who has talked about you behind your back, a person who has abused you (as a child or as an adult), or a person who has ignored or rejected your love.

How can we overcome such great hurts in our lives … and these can cause GREAT hurts? How can we even begin to have a spirit of forgiveness well up inside of us? We are only going to be able to do that when we have put ourselves in God’s shoes … for we MUST forgive as God forgives … for that is what TRUE forgiveness is.

· Look beyond the person’s fault and see the spiritual need of the person … oftentimes the reason that a person has acted a certain way (done a certain thing) is because of what is going on inside of them … in their heart. I Samuel 16:7

· Forgive expecting nothing in return (forgiveness IS a ONE-way street). Luke 23:34a

· God’s forgiveness is forever. Isaiah 43:25

· It never reminds … never brings up again. Hebrews 8:12

· It was His will to forgive … it is not based on feeling; it is a choice; it is a matter or making up your mind; it is a        decision that is right in the eyes of God. Luke 23:34a

· Through God’s forgiveness, His loves shines through. Romans 5:8

· Putting aside all thoughts of revenge … taking your hurt and your pain and placing it in Jesus’ hands to let Him judge.  I Peter 2:23

Lesson Objective: To understand what unforgiveness is. To learn how we can forgive when that is the last thing that our heart wants to do.

Did you pass or did you fail?

1Info in this devotion is from “How to Forgive…When you don’t feel like it” by June Hunt; Harvest House Publishers

Day 20: T is for Tower

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

T is for tower. Tower means a building or structure that is higher than its diameter and also higher than its surroundings; a towering citadel (fortress); support or protection (bulwark).

There are different types of towers in the world today. There are towers that are used to see things far and wide. There are towers that project light around them. There are towers that are used to transmit things as well. There have even been towers used as fortresses … as a secure place from harm. All of these towers serve special purposes. All are important in their own rights.

Towers that see things far and wide … When I think of this type of towers, I think of forestry towers. Growing up in Alaska and being around so much timber and so many forests, it was very important to have tall towers to see things far and wide. I am sure that it was one of those towers that was key in spotting the forest fire that started on June 5. It has progressed so quickly and has burned over 70,000 acres, but could you have imagined not having any warning at all? We need these type of spiritual towers as well. We may not be able to stop the raging fire that is headed our way, but with warning, we can plan a route of escape or be able to have time to seek shelter to protect ourselves.

Towers that project light around them … I think that we all know what type of towers these are. They are lighthouses. Many a life has been saved by the lighthouse’s strategic location … and a faithful keeper of the light. God’s Word is our lighthouse and God is the keeper of that light. But, faithful friends who know God’s Word can also be that light that shines in the darkness showing us the way.

There have been towers that are used to transmit things … In by-gone years, a telegraph machine was used to transmit messages across the miles. Today we have the telephone … and the written word. The Christian Writer’s Workshop this past week was such a blessing to me. First, just to have the fellowship with other Christian writers and authors … even though I was definitely the “young” one on the block. We need to share with others what God has taught us and the written word allows us to be as a “voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord …” John 1:23

There are towers used as fortresses … We need a strong tower that can keep us safe and secure when the devil is on the warpath. Where can we find this tower? We can find it in the Lord Himself. He is our high tower. He is our strong tower. He alone is our strength, is He not? May we find ourselves seeking Him more.

Lesson Objective: To understand what a tower is. To learn what the different types of towers are and how they play a role in our lives as Christians.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 19: S is for Seek

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

S is for seek. To seek means to search for, to look for, to request, to aim at, or to try. Where do you find yourself today, my friend? Are you all about self? Are you just going with the flow of life not wanting to make any waves? Or do you find something within yourself that yearns for purpose … something that gets such a grip on your heart and life and will not let go?

Do men and women really seek after God today? Oh, many have become very gifted with words … what to say, how to say them and even when to say them. They can make them sound however they want them to sound … and very convincingly to boot! They may fool every single person around them and the entire gamut of social media. But, God is not fooled, my friend. God knows the heart. I Chronicles 29:17 “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness …”

How many churches yesterday had houses that overflowed out into the yard and the street and the neighborhood? In the United States? I guarantee none. Because men do not seek after God as they try to lead others to believe. Men are lovers of their own selves, their own gain, their own pleasures, their own comforts, and their own time. They love to have the control.

They have no intention to truly seek after God. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me that when men seek God, they find Him! Matthew 7:7-8 tells us that those who seek, shall find. I am reminded here of the woman in Luke 15 who lost a piece of silver … just one piece … and what did she do? Verse 8 tells us that she first lit a candle … she shed some light on the issue. Secondly, she swept the house … she did not leave anything to chance. Lastly, she sought until she found it! Whatever you are seeking for, my friend, can be found in Christ. Do not stop searching for it. It can be found!

The saddest thing of all is that men who claim Christ as their Savior do not even seek Him! They do not read their Bibles. They do not pray. They do not heed His Word. They do not fellowship with His children. They do not attend His house except sporadically aka when it is convenient for them. My heart breaks to see so few truly SEEKING after God! They do not want to surrender control of their lives … if only they knew what freedom is found there!

“With my whole heart I humbly seek You … I yield my stubborn will completely.”1

Lesson Objective: To understand what it means to truly seek til something is found. To acknowledge you and I, as children of the King, need to be seeking everyday to be more like Him! The most important thing is Him, so put your stubborn will aside and SEEK Him first!

Did you pass or did you fail?

1http://bestillandknow-elsabeth.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-life-is-yours.html

Day 18: R is for Render

“… then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21

R is for render. To render means to give or, more specifically, to give back something in return. What is the first verse that comes to your mind when you hear the word render? Was it Matthew 22:21? If it was, I would not be surprised. It is a verse that has been quoted often enough for us to easily remember it.

But, do we truly understand what this verse is teaching us? In context, it is speaking of money … and taxes in particular … that is due (owed) to Caesar (the government). God has ordained the government and there are going to be things in life that we will have to render to them, and let us not forget that there are things that we must also render to God.

But, looking beyond the context, what principles can be found here for our everyday life … life where it meets the road? It is very easy to slip into the mode where life is dictated by the flesh, but Romans 8: 12 tells us that “… we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.”

Our flesh is a deadly evil … and what does our flesh like to do best? It likes to render evil for evil, does it not? I mean, let us be honest here. Does your flesh like to retaliate or strike back at someone who has hurt you, or wronged you, or humiliated you, or slandered your name? I know that mine does.

If we are responding in the power of the flesh, then, yes, we will try to get even or try to return hurt for hurt. But, Romans 8:13 tells us that “… if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” So, if we want life and health, what are we to do? We are to daily mortify [subdue; deaden] the flesh.  This is not always the easy road … but, yet, God requires us to live after the Spirit.

There are people in my life who have hurt me with words, who have hurt me with actions, who have slandered my name, who have told lies about me, who have misjudged me, who do not speak to me, etc. I am positive that you have a list as long or longer, do you not? If I were to share this with the average Christian, their response could very easily be “Cut them out of your life. They do not deserve …” But, it really is not about what a person deserves, but what is due them.

The Bible plainly tells us that what is due them is NOT evil for evil. So, when we are tempted to do evil toward another, what are we to do instead? I am glad that you asked because the Bible gives us instruction on that as well! I am to love unconditionally (Matthew 5:44). I am to answer quietly (Proverbs 15:1). I am to use words that are fitly spoken (Proverbs 25:11). I am to pray for them (Luke 6:28).

Lesson Objective: To understand what it means to render. To acknowledge areas in your life where you are rendering evil for evil and to correct those areas by mortifying the flesh and living after the Spirit of God.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 17: Q is for Quit

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Q is for quit. To quit means to give up or to move, typically permanently. Wow! I never thought about that … when I quit, the chances of it being permanent are greater than it being temporary. As I think about this from that light, I realize how true that definition is. How many times have I quit something never to return to it? What a tragedy!

Trials in life are a fact of life, are they not? It does not matter if we are saved or not saved. We will face trials. The question is … how do we face our trials? Do we face them with stern composure and strong stamina? What happens when that trial drags on and on? Do we still remain as strong in our resolve as we did in the beginning? Probably not.

Speaking for myself, it gets tough! I get weak, and I get weary. To add to that, I begin to lose my way. My vision becomes blurred, and I begin to stumble around. My faith begins to quiver. The doubts and lies of the devil start to penetrate to the point that I am now feeling them acutely. Ouch!

How do I gain back that strength and stamina that I once had? That faith that was so strong that it could move mountains? I go to the Rock … the One that is higher than I! I get in His Word and I start digging until I find some scripture that I can stand firm on and that I can fight the attacks of the devil with.

A poem that I had heard many moons ago, that has come back to me in times when I am tempted to give in to defeat and let the devil claim the victory, is entitled, “Don’t Quit.” May you write it in the fly-leaf of your Bible and whenever the devil jumps up on your shoulder and tempts you to give up and to give in, be sure to remind Him that you are not a quitter! Remind him that God is on your side and God ALWAYS wins!!! Yes, He does! Hallelujah!

When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh. When care is pressing you down a bit, rest if you must, but don’t you quit. Life is strange with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns, And many a failure comes about, When he might have won if he stuck it out; Don’t give up though the pace seems slow — You may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned inside out — The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, and you never can tell just how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit — Its when things seem worst that you must not quit.”1

Lesson Objective: To understand what it means to quit. To acknowledge that we all will face trials, but we do not have to accept the lies of the devil and roll over dead. Instead, we can find strength anew by digging in God’s Word. Where do you find yourself at, my friend? Are you ready to give up? Are you too tired to tread even one more step? Well, let me encourage you … DO NOT QUIT!  You are probably closer than you ever imagined!

Did you pass or did you fail?

1http://www.yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=1820

Day 16: P is for Potter

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:6

P is for potter. Potter means one that makes pottery. So, what then is pottery? Vessels made mainly from baked clay. I did not realize it, until Pastor preached on it recently, but there are 3 main types of pottery. Do you know what they are? Well, they are earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain (china).

We have a missionary friend who is a potter by trade. When he is visiting churches, he often will do a demonstration using the potter’s wheel to make a vessel. You can visualize in your mind how the process works, you can read about it in books, or you can watch a YouTube video on it, but until you actually see it in person, you do not get the full impact or importance of the Potter in our lives today.

When you think of a potter making a vessel, what is foremost in your mind? Well, in mine, I think of wet clay. This type of vessel is referred to as earthenware. There are some very interesting qualities that are associated with earthenware. First, it is the cheapest. Secondly, it has a high elasticity … when wet. Thirdly, it is the easiest to shape. Do you see the spiritual lesson unfolding here?

Spiritual Lesson of Earthenware: God made man from the dust of the ground (aka earth as in earthenware). We were made from the cheapest soil, not made from the fine, expensive kind. Yet, when the Master potter adds the water of His Word to our lives, He is able to very easily shape us for we are at our highest elasticity at that time.

The second type of vessel that a potter makes is stoneware. Stoneware is very thick and heavy. It really matches its name … for it is as hard as STONE. It is very solid and not permeable. It is the most durable.

Spiritual Lesson of Stoneware: God wants us to be strong in Him. He wants us to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and that takes strength. Even though God uses weak materials (aka our human flesh), He can make us strong.

The third type of vessel is porcelain (china). Porcelain is a very valuable clay. It is made by heating materials to an extremely high temperature. It has been completely purified to where it is almost of translucent quality. It too is impermeable. Even though it is almost translucent and very delicate looking, it has great strength. But, what is most noticeable is its great beauty!

Spiritual Lesson of Porcelain: We are very valuable in God’s eyes, even though we are just mortal flesh. But, as He puts us in the fire and our impurities begin to melt away, He makes us into a beautiful vessel. One of honor unto Him.

Lesson Objective: To understand how even though we are just vessels of clay, if we will remain pliable, the Master can make us into such beautiful vessels. Are you letting the Master Potter mold you and make you into that beautiful vessel? That vessel of honor … fit for the Master’s use?

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 15: O is for Others

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Philippians 2:3

O is for others. Others is used in reference to anyone other than oneself. I know that we like to think that we are the only person on this planet, but, let me assure you, we are not. There are many other persons; in fact, billions of other persons.

Since there are so many others living here with us, how does that affect us? How are we to live and act? Well, one of the principles found in the scripture today is that we are to “esteem [respect; honor] other[s] better than [above]” our own selves. Hmph! Is that not sitting too well in your spirit, my friend? Why do you think that is? Have you been promoting self too much these days? Have you been so wrapped up in your own little life and own little world that “you deserve” that you have pushed aside and cut off all others who dare to stand within your personal space? Is this sounding too familiar?

I really am more of an introvert than an extrovert. I like my personal time and my personal space just as much as the next person … believe me! BUT, that does NOT excuse me from reaching out to others around me!

We have spent so much time in the world and listening to the world … and reading all of those “make me feel good” quotes that are all over social media, that we have let them completely brainwash us. This is a fact.

How are we going to reach others around us (saved and unsaved alike) if we will not even get the bushel basket lifted high enough to let our lights shine before men? That is our purpose, is it not, dear Christian? To live a life that testifies of God’s love, His saving grace, His mercy, His omnipotence, and so much more?

I believe that we need to win the lost for Christ. The scripture so plainly backs this up. But, what about that person sitting next to you in the church pew? What about that Christian sitting at the very back of the church trying to not be seen because they are so over-whelmed in their spirit from the attacks of the devil that they just want to find a hole and die?

When was the last time that we did something for someone else expecting NOTHING in return … and I mean NOTHING? God has given EACH one of us talents to be used for His glory. When was the last time that you used it to serve in your church? To serve another brother or sister in Christ? To serve that lost person that will not let you into their personal space?

The Bible goes on to tell us in Philippians 2:4-8 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Oh, my friend, my heart is greatly convicted! Woe is me, Lord! How can I compare? How can you compare?

Lesson Objective: To understand that others means just that … OTHERS … NOT self, NOT me, NOT you, and NOT I! What are you doing to reach others around you? How much time have you taken for others today, this week, or this month?

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 14: N is for Nigh

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you …” James 4:8

N is for nigh. Nigh means near in place, time, or relationship. There are things in life that we should be close to and there are things in life that we should not be close to. The most important thing that we can choose to be close to is God.   Without a close relationship with God, all else truly pales in comparison.

In our Christian lives, there are going to be times that we are closer to God than at other times. What determines this? Umm … ME!? Yes, me! When I feel far from God, guess who moved? Not God … I did! If you are going through a season in your life where you feel far from God, you probably are. But, guess who moved? That’s right … YOU did!

I love hymns and there are so many good ones … each one telling their own story. The hymn that I want to share with you today is entitled, “Nearer, Still Nearer.” It was written by Lelia (Mrs. C. H.) Morris (1862-1929). Lelia was born in Ohio and from what little I found on her background, it looked like she lived her entire life in Ohio. She enjoyed writing hymns as she did her housework … now, that was true multi-tasking! When she became blind at the age of 52, her family built her a 28-foot-long blackboard to write the hymns on that she composed. It is said that, in all, she wrote over 1,000 texts.1

I imagine this hymn held more meaning than some to Lelia because, as we saw in our devotion yesterday, it is in our storms and the dark of night (aka her blindness) that we find ourselves closest drawn to our Savior.

V1: “Nearer, still nearer — close to Thy heart; Draw me, my Savior, so precious thou art; Fold me, O fold me close to Thy breast, Shelter me safe in that “Haven of Rest,” Shelter me safe in that “Haven of Rest.”

V2: “Nearer, still nearer — nothing I bring, Naught as an off’ring to Jesus my King — Only my sinful, now contrite heart; Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart, Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.”

V3: “Nearer, still nearer — Lord, to be Thine, Sin with wits follies I gladly resign — All of its pleasures, pomp and its pride; Give me but Jesus, my Lord crucified, Give me but Jesus, my Lord crucified.”

V4: Nearer, still nearer — while life shall last, Till safe in glory my anchor is cast; Through endless ages, ever to be, Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee, Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee.”

I do not know about you, my friend, but this hymn speaks to my heart in such a keen way. It makes me want to be the writer of this hymn as my heart cries out with those very words … “nearer, still nearer!” I desire, not just a one-time moment, but a continual movement nearer and nearer to my Lord!

Lesson Objective: To understand the desire of God for us to draw nigh to Him. Does your heart cry out as the hymn-writer’s does in this hymn?

Did you pass or did you fail?

1https://hymnary.org/text/nearer_still_nearer_close_to_thy_heart

Day 13: M is for Morning

… weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

M is for morning. Morning means the period between midnight and noon, but more specifically between sunrise and noon. I am not a coffee drinker, but if I were, morning would still be my most favorite time of the day. Is it your favorite time of the day as well?

Our country has seen some very severe storms this summer. I know for us here, we have had a couple. It seems like they invariably come in the middle of the night. Yikes! Storms bring their own darkness, but add to it the dark of night and the darkness is so thick that it feels like it is penetrating to your very soul.

It is the same way in our spiritual lives. Storms of life come in pairs or back-to-back with no relief between them for the weary worn believer. I have been there. I am confident that you have been there as well, my friend, have you not? Or you may even be there right now.

When those storms come, what do you do? Well, for me, when those storms of nature come, I find my prayer closet (I literally go into our closet and start praying). Nature’s storms strike great fear in my heart … when I say great fear, I mean GREAT fear! So, when I find my way to my prayer closet, I do two things. One, I close my eyes and cover my ears (squeezing hard) because I want to shut out every bit of the noise and lightening that is completely surrounding me. Two, I start praying as if my life depended on it … because when the storms are so great that our mobile home is rocking, yes, make no mistake, my life is depending on those prayers!

Storms of life can be great and they can put great fear in our hearts. They may even be shaking us to the very core of our being. But, what must those storms do? They must drive us to our prayer closets and in those closets, we must shut out every bit of the noise and storm that is raging around us. When the noise has subsided, we then can find God. It is here that we can cry out to Him in prayer … sharing our every fear and our every burden. It is also here that we can find His still, small voice speaking to us.

No battle was ever won nor storm endured that did not find oneself anchored in Him. Where do we find Him? In His WORD! Storms will come, my friend! There is no avoiding them. The question is  … how prepared are you? Are you in His Word searching for life’s answers? Are you writing them down? Are you claiming them in your storm?

Always remember that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Hang tight, my friend, morning is coming!

Lesson Objective: To understand the blessing of the storms in life. To find ourselves in our prayer closets seeking the face of God and clinging to His promises … that the weeping will only endure for a time and then His joy and peace will follow.

Did you pass or did you fail?