The Potter’s Mark

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) 

Maybe I have been watching Antiques Roadshow too much, but when I read this verse recently, I immediately thought of the potter’s marks that are impressed on the bottom of clay pots. Many times, there are fake marks on pots to make them appear authentic and more valuable than they are. 

The word translated above as “the exact imprint” is the Greek word charakter (χαρακτὴρ). It is where we get the English word “character” from.    

Strong’s Concordance notes that the word can mean a graver (the tool or the person), the engraving, the figure stamped on something, an exact copy, the express image.  

Thayer defines it as “the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile).”i  I never thought of being a facsimile in a positive light, but this article from StudyLight.org was enlightening: 

“The word ‘express image’ in our text is once again a metaphor and suggests the idea of a visible outward reproduction of the inward nature of that which is original. A similar idea is illustrated in a fax machine. A fax is the outward visible form that we can examine in order to see all of the characteristics of the inward image stored in random access memory that the human eye cannot possibly otherwise behold. The application the inspired Hebrew writer wanted his readers to recognize is that Christ metaphorically is our ‘facsimile’ of the Father. Through Him we are able to see all of the divine qualities that make up the natural essence of the invisible God.”ii — Rick Calvert 

Jesus came as a “facsimile” so that we could see and come to know the invisible, unseeable God (Exodus 33:20). He came stamped with the exact character of God. God’s character has been much maligned of late, actually, from way back in the Garden. But look at Jesus and you see God.  

“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. John 12:44-45 

Or as the Message translates it: Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. Jesus came to earth as a human being to show us what God is really like.iii Who He really is. 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18 

Jesus was the exact charakter/character of God expressed in a man here on Earth. He bore the true Potter’s mark. The way he did that was to completely and utterly yield and submit to the will of the Father, for he said, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30).  

He loved people, he healed people, accepted the rejected, he spoke the truth in love, he offered second chances and mercy, he knelt down and washed their dirty feet, he touched their open sores, he suffered their pain with them, he was angry at sin and oppression and hypocrisy, he was passionate for the holiness of God and His temple. He accepted the suffering and humiliation of the cross and died for us all. 

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too if we, like Jesus, yield to His forming hands and submit to His will. If we take up our cross and follow Him. Otherwise, we may have an imprint on us, but it won’t be the charakter of God. We will be a fake, a forgery, a counterfeit.  

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB) 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV)  

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:13-15 (ESV) 

Image: Judith Pearce, Ian Sprague. Bowl. Marks https://flic.kr/p/cPjZ9C  

i Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901)  

ii Greek Thoughts by Rick Calvert https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts.html?article=34   

iii for a fuller and excellent discussion of why Jesus came see Why did God send Jesus at gotquestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/why-God-sent-Jesus.html 

Ancient Door

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too?

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
    the world, and all who live in it; 
2 for he founded it on the seas 
    and established it on the waters. 

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
    who does not trust in an idol 
    or swear by a false god. 

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord 
    and vindication from God their Savior. 
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, 
    who seek your face, God of Jacob. 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is this King of glory? 
    The Lord strong and mighty, 
    the Lord mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    lift them up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is he, this King of glory? 
    The Lord Almighty— 
    he is the King of glory. 

This Psalm is talking about opening the ancient doors in order to bring the Ark back into the Temple. It says that those carrying it must have clean hands and a pure heart.   

According to Charles Spurgeon, the ancient doors are the doors of our hearts.  

“There is no passage that says, ‘Down with your heads, ye gates, and be ye fast closed, ye everlasting doors!’ Not a word of that sort, Heaven’s gates are open wide. What then is shut? Why, the gate of the human soul, the door of the human heart. There are many gates and doors, bars of iron, and bolts of triple steel that stand in the way of Christ.”  — Charles Spurgeoni 

These are the doors closed at Eden. Yes, God, with a broken heart, barred the gates to Eden. But, only after his people had closed theirs on him. The doors our Lord has been knocking on ever since.  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 

The Psalm says that we must be those who do not “trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Yet when the joyful shout comes to lift up the ancient doors, the antiphonal retort comes back, “Who is he, this King of glory?” 

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too? The question implicit in the garden? 

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

Who is this God who enters the garden gate and walks in the garden? Is he one you can trust, one who cares for you and loves you, who delights in your presence? Or, is he a self-serving manipulator? Is he keeping you from good things? Is he keeping you from your real destiny, your true freedom? Can he really help and keep you, or do you have to do it yourself? 

They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert? Psalm 78:19 

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes (is persuaded, places confidence in, entrusts himself to Christ).” Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus came to show us who this King of Glory really is. He came to reveal and restore knowledge of the Name that we might again trust Him and walk with him in the garden of our hearts. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26 

The ancient knock on the ancient door. The ancient question, “Who is he, this King?” 

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29 

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1 

i Charles Spurgeon, A Triumphal Entrance https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-triumphal-entrance/#flipbook/ 

Image, “What’s Behind the Door?” By Chris Healy https://flic.kr/p/xLfx9e  

Faith Looks

A theme again emerged this week from the blogs and devotionals I follow. May these encourage you!

On accepting adversity in our lives: Always it is initiated by an act of will on our part; we set ourselves to believe in the overruling goodness, providence, and sovereignty of God and refuse to turn aside no matter what may come, no matter how we may feel. I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him. Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will. I choose to trust in God, and my feelings eventually follow. ― Margaret Clarkson, Grace Grows Best in Winter 

(Blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/04/wisdom-wednesday-the-sovereign-god-110420/

Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes. — Watchman Nee 

(Blogged by Cookiecrumbstoliveby https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/calm-cool-and-collected/

You are good, you are kind 

 You are more than these 

 I’m lost for words trying to describe You 

 Elohim, Elyon, Alese lewi [He who does what He has said] 

 Your greatness is all I see 

 There is nothing You cannot do 

 There’s no mountain You cannot move 

If You have said it, then You will do it 

 ’cause You have a track record of keeping Your word 

 And You’re not about to stop doing it now 

— Olorun Agbaye – You Are Mighty, Nathaniel Bassey, lyrics 

(Blogged by Precious John-Adeyemi https://goodandloved.wordpress.com/2020/11/01/my-top-5-songs-of-the-week-2/

“In this world you will have trouble.” — Jesus 

Friends in the Lord. We need to get over it. In this world we will have trouble. We will get cancer. Tragedy will strike our families. Untimely deaths will occur. Our children will endure trauma. At the other end of the spectrum, people will be beheaded simply for their faith in Jesus. Trouble is the unfortunate feature and bitter fruit of the insanely complex, compounded brokenness of the whole fallen creation. It is neither an indictment on the goodness of God nor the faith of his followers. 

The big difference on this point is not between people who follow Jesus and people who don’t. Trouble is our common lot. The big difference is the people who follow Jesus get to add this tiny little hand grenade of a footnote to our bumper sticker: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — J.D. Walt 

The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in. – RC Sproul 

Photo copyright Derek Bair 2006

Trusting in Chariots

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8 

This was an old friend of mine, Josephine’s favorite verse. She was in her nineties when I got to know her. Telling me stories of her life, she said that when things got really bad – and things did get very bad for her at times – she would go into her closet and pray that prayer. Then she would come out and face what she had to face in God’s strength. And God would answer. She trusted God through being kicked out of her home as a teenager, freezing in an unheated attic apartment, days of hunger and grueling hard work. Through her whole life, she had a thick prayer notebook. She often prayed that verse for the problems and people on her list. 

It was Josephine who taught me to pray. She would say, “Let’s pray! You start.” I would pause, composing a wonderful prayer in my mind. She would give me about two seconds and demand, “Well are you going to pray?” I learned early on to just jump in and start talking, hoping God would give me the words. And you know what? He did! And I learned to stop putting my faith in my ability to put together the correct prayer – putting faith in my chariots and horses, faith in my faith – and just trust and let his Spirit pray in me. 

The Hebrew translated “we trust in the name” in Psalm 20:7 actually says, “The name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority, character of the Lord we will recall, call to mind, mark so as to be recognized (i.e., remembered), recount, think on.” We mark to be recognized or remembered – like putting a bookmark in the page of a great book to go back and reread over and over again – we remember his character, who he is, and we trust.   

A.W. Tozer warned against having faith in faith, not in God. 

There are preachers who devote themselves completely to preaching faith. As a result, people have faith in faith. They largely forget that our confidence must not be in the power of faith but in the Person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ … It is the character of God Himself, you see, that gives us this confidence. — Faith Beyond Reason 

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love. We just like the idea of being in love. It is exciting and makes us feel good. But it might not have much to do at all with the actual person – their feelings, thoughts and desires. Having faith in our ability to have faith – or even having faith in the promises of God – is really just trusting in chariots if our faith is in how well we can dredge up “faith” and memorize and proclaim. Our faith must rest on the Faithful One, on the Promise Keeper. Its foundation must be on the name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority and character of our Lord. It is because we know him, who he is, that we can believe. 

This is important, because when things get really bad and it seems your prayers are not being answered, you will not be thrown for a loop, you will not be overwhelmed. You will come out of your prayer closet and stand firm on the Rock. Put your bookmark there, in the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us, Shepherd, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior, in his proven character, in his unfailing love and mercy.  

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 (NLT) 

But we trust in the name. 

Here is a place to start getting to know the goodness of our Father https://biblereasons.com/who-god-is/

Image, Tattered Spine by Tim Samoff on flickr https://flic.kr/p/51oAP  

Engraved on His Palms

(Today I would like to share an entry from 3-Minute Devotions with Charles Spurgeon¹ that has meant a lot to me.)

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”— Isaiah 49:16 KJV

No doubt a part of the wonder which is concentrated in the word “Behold,” is excited by the unbelieving lamentation of the preceding sentence.

Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.” How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God’s favored people?

The Lord’s loving word of rebuke should make us blush; He cries, “How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven you upon the palms of my hands?”

We know not which most to wonder at, the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people. He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt him.

He never fails, yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties, molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears.

“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marveling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of his hands.

The name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven your person, your image, your case, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works; I have graven you, everything about you, all that concerns you; I have put you altogether there.

Will you ever say again that God has forsaken you when he has graven you upon his own palms?

Lord, You have written my very existence on the palms of Your hands. I am forever grateful for Your love. I will trust in, rely on, and lean into You today—and always! Amen.

(A full sermon by Spurgeon on this topic can be read here Neither Forsaken Nor Forgotten)

¹ Published by Barbour Publishing Inc. Used by permission. Copyright 2015.

Photo by Jack Bair 2019, all rights reserved.

 

 

A Mass of Reasons

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good (good, rich, valuable, excellent, right, beautiful, best, bountiful, fine, gracious, joyful, kind, loving, merry, precious, sweet).
Psalm 100:4-5  

For the Lord is good. This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise.”—Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

“A mass of reasons” – I love that. Yes, there is always a reason to thank and praise. Though there are always reasons to complain and even despair, let me turn my eyes to my loving Father, to my beautiful, gracious, kind, precious Lord. He is the one I can always run to – when I have a “skinned knee” of the soul, when I am afraid of the thunder of what is going on in this world – he is always there with open arms.

Give thanks to him and praise his name!

 

I would like to thank Ruth at the Plantedbylivingwater blog for her 365 Days of Thanks challenge. Thank you for the daily prod and reminder!

 

Amen!

When Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.”

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” Revelation 3:14 (NIV) 

In Revelation 3:14 the Lord Jesus calls Himself “the Amen.”  That really struck me, so I looked up the definition of the word. It means firm and faithful. Jesus, the firm foundation. Jesus, faithful and true. At the beginning of a discourse it means “surely, truly, or verily,” so that when Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.” At the end of a discourse or sermon it means “so it is, so be it, or may it be fulfilled.”

According to the Thayer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, saying amen “was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.” Yes, I believe it. Yes, I am putting my trust in this.

But I also found out something about the origins of the word. According to NetBible, “The word ‘amen’ is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related — in fact, almost identical — to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence.”

So it is very comforting to me that the Bible ends with the word “Amen.” This is something that can be trusted. This is true. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

Amen! So be it! I’m standing on this Rock!

 

Image in the Public Domain: Woman standing on a rock near Villa de Leyva, Colombia by Joshua Earle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_standing_on_a_rock_near_Villa_de_Leyva,_Colombia_(Unsplash).jpg

 

Love is My True Identity

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.  -Thomas Merton

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 3 (NASB)

And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5 (NLT)

Yes, Lord, fill my heart with your love. Let your love become my true identity, my name, my character. Let my life be hidden in you Jesus, let me live in love. May the world only see you and how much you love them when they look at me. May the words I say, the prayers I pray, the thoughts I think, the healing touch of my hands be yours – for you are Love.

 

Image copyright Jack Bair 2019

Accepting God Accepting Me

Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope. Zechariah 9:12a (NIV)

In our last Bible study at the jail we looked at the above verse. One of the sweet ladies commented that to her, “returning to the fortress” meant coming back to who God meant her to be. “Accepting God accepting me” is how she put it.

At first, I didn’t get it. Doesn’t “return to your fortress” mean returning to God? But I think she was on to something. Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are. Who you were meant to be. The loving Father loving you, his beloved child. The good Shepherd caring for you his little lamb. The hen who gathers her little chicks under her wings. Is this what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NIV)?

“For too long we’ve primarily associated repentance with someone pointing a finger at us and saying, ‘Behave!’ Here’s how I see it. Repentance is the hand of Jesus reaching out to us with the invitation to, ‘Become.’ Becoming begins with beholding God as he truly is (i.e. like Jesus). When a person catches a glimpse of the true and living God and they begin to really believe, they also begin to believe in the possibility of their life becoming far more than they ever imagined before.” J.D. Walt[1]

Concentrating on behaving can turn us into finger-pointing hypocrites. Concentrating on becoming, or being, makes us beloved children with our eyes turned adoringly to our Father. “That’s my Dad! I want to be just like Him.” And Jesus showed us how to do that. We can only truly become who we were always meant to be under the shadow of his wings, abiding in the Vine, following the Shepherd in his flock, with the Father’s loving, guiding hand upon our heads.

As J.D. Walt goes on to say, “Anyone who has walked more than a mile or two down this road knows that behavior has a way of taking care of itself when the Holy Spirit empowered process of becoming takes root.”

Yes. Accepting God accepting me. Return to your fortress, oh prisoner of hope!

 

[1] Taken from Don’t “Behave.” Become by J.D. Walt https://www.seedbed.com/step-19-dont-behave-become/?mc_cid=ad45fa3de2&mc_eid=27234cb1e3

Thank you to Ian Livesey for the photo of the lamb on Flickr.