The wisest king in the Bible missed the point.  Solomon was able to write chapters of wise thoughts.  Solomon was able to reflect philosophically on numerous perspectives of life and reduce the complexities of relationships, priorities and values into wise reflections and directives of how to live a joyful and blessed life as a person who feared God.  Solomon was able to offer strong rebukes and warnings about falling into traps and snares of sin. Yet, Solomon who was the wisest and richest King of Israel missed the point of many of his own writings.

Solomon missed the point of life even though he was very wise about life. Solomon knew more about life than almost anyone. Solomon wrote more about life that anyone in the Old Testament than the major Prophets, Moses and his father David. Solomon built more buildings, palaces and temples than any other king of Israel. Solomon had more money and gold than the other kings of Israel and owned more chariots and horses than the other kings of Israel but Solomon failes to let his heart be satisfied with his God.

Solomon in the very height of reign begins an endless, futile and insatiable quest for more riches, palaces and wives.  Solomon's coveting, greed, pride and inability to find satisfaction in the accumulation and possession of more and more led him to seek more and more.  In the end, Solomon's more leaves him distant from having purpose in life and all of his more brings him judgement from the God who had previously blessed him richly. All of Solomon's  more became pointless and all of the wives, palaces and riches were little value because he had lost his heart for God.

Solomon has been labeled as  "The Wisest Fool" and "The Brilliant Failure" because while he wrote brilliantly and profoundly about the folly of sin and the destruction, it would bring; but he misses the point of applying it to his own life. Even though Solomon writes that "the love of pleasure will bring poverty," he fails to see how poor he has become in his love for all pleasures of life.  He fails to realize he has turned away from the "pursuit of righteousness and loyalty" which would bring "life, righteousness and honor" (Proverbs 13:25) and finds his life void of righteousness even though it is filled with extravagant luxuries.  Solomon fails to see how much of the blessing of God, he has lost in the loving of countless wives.  Actually all of Solomon's wives, accomplishments, palaces and massive amounts of gold, horses and chariots could not satisfy him because his heart was far from his God.  All of the things of life, had taken him away from his God.  Finally, even though Solomon sees the fear of God as leading to life (Proverbs 19:23), he sets aside the life that the fear of God would bring.  Solomon's life ends quite sadly because amidst all that he had around him, he had lost the only thing that mattered.  Solomon had lost his heart for God.

"And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these." Matthew 6:28-29

"But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (Malachi 4:2, NLT)

As the world around us begins its yearly cycle of new life, nourishment and growth; we see and sense the evidence of that reality around us. Tiny leaves come out of swollen buds while finches and wrens gather bits of grass and twigs weaving and fashioning nests to shelter their young. In the pastures growing greener each day, young calves frolic in the lushness of the hillsides. People bask and linger in the warmth of the sunshine as they spend more and more time outdoors.

Some people are busy walking as if they discovered something new and completely unique, while others are digging in the earth as if there is gold under the rich humus in their gardens and fields. They gold they are seeking, will not be found in the form of a precious metal notoriety but in the anticipation of the production and growth from the spring and summer seasons. The richness from the gold they are seeking will come later. The gold will come in the vibrant and intense color of mature marigolds in full bloom. It will come as the calves stand more squarely and stocky in a golden sunset. It will come as wagons overflowing with golden corn are being emptied in the fall harvest. It will come in our personal and spiritual lives as well. It will come as friendships are fostered through nourishing and bonding moments together this season. It will come as eternal gold, as our faith develops as grow in the teaching and love of our heavenly Father.

Seasons are part of all life and the changes and growth inherent in all of them will bring life. Seasonal rhythms have always brought life, as noted thousands of years ago by the writer of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8). The sowing of seed and its nourishment and care, have always been essential to all life, including all spiritual growth and life. Jesus speaks of this through his parables describing the sowing, the needs of sustenance, the interfering draining enemies to growth such as excessive heat, weeds and poor soil in the nourishing and harvesting phases of all life (Luke 8:5-15). There is a beauty in each lily that is difficult to describe and it flows from the provision of God in the nourishment He gives (Mt. 5:28-30). As we find joy in our relationship with God, a far greater beauty than any flower will the product and result of His provision, nourishment and shaping of our lives.

Eventually there will be a harvest from every season of our lives. What will be the result of the season before us? Will the harvest of from this season, be bright and colorful with the glory of God? Will the harvest be of the gold of this world or will it convey a richness of golden color from the goodness of God as He molds and changes our hearts as we grow in our relationship with Him?

I offer to each of you, a summer blessing. May God bless your sowing of new life in His word this summer! May the Holy Spirit nourish your faith richly in the warmth of the true Son, the source of light and life (John 1:4). May you not tire of doing good (Gal. 6:9-10) and may the gold that you harvest after this summer season be not of the perishable nature but of the nature of Christ (1 Peter 1:17-20).  Amen.

He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed" ( 1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

There is a word for the inability to express, contain or bring forth adequately in words something too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words. It is a word beyond indescribable because even something being indescribable seems to venture possibility of trying to express something in words but failing in the end to accomplish the goal of expression. The word, ineffable defines the inability to express, contain or bring forth adequately in words something too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words. Yet even this stronger word is inadequate to express or contain the smallest amount of all that the Crucifixion of Christ offers, brings about, guarantees and entails to us and for us, in redeeming and saving us through the mercy, love and grace of God. There simply are no words for all Christ does in His suffering and death and all He gifts us through the laying down His life.

There are no words to express what Christ suffered before, leading up to His death and upon the cross. There are no words for what Christ endured as He died for our sin. There are no words to describe the loneliness of being alone in His decision to submit to Father’s will as He was being abandoned by most of His followers and admirers. There are no words to describe the massive and incomprehensible amounts of rejection as He faced His impending death. From the taunting and scoffing to the damming condemnation by the religious, the common and those in authority is unrelenting even though He only loved, taught and healed as the “Light of the World.” The weight of this indescribable psychological, unbelievable emotional and ineffable spiritual pressure upon His heart and mind brings us again to the complete inability to express all that was laid upon on the “Son of God” as He offered himself willingly to His destiny.

There are no words to describe the scourging, roughness and brutal beatings inflicted with sadist glee upon the Savior. Just shy of the bringing death; the flesh, muscle and tissue opened up to bleed forth much of life of this fully human, god self-limiting man stumbling towards the cursed cross. The crown, He wore … both literally and symbolically brought excruciating pain as it was pressed viciously upon His brow through the smashing in purposeful intent to mock and torture our Lord.

There are not words to describe the crucifixion, where death was seemingly both intended and denied as time passed in the wretched planned duration of judgment inflicted through its excruciating methods and procedures of torture and pain. The weight of the body of the Savior pulled against the tendon and bone barely sufficient to sustain the continuing of this terrible and brutal agony. Even if the physical pain could be somewhat described; again there are no words which can describe the weight of the sin of the world hanging upon the Holy Son by His dying to redeem all the people of the world for all time.

Finally, there are no words to describe the separation at the Crucifixion of the Son from the Father (Matthew 27:46). A separation unknown from everlasting to everlasting as the Father turned away as the Son took on the sin of the world to redeem the world in bringing eternal salvation to all who would believe. This is the ultimate act of love of the Christ in His willingness to bear the sin of the world separated from His Father as He completely guarantees the salvation of all people from their sin. When Christ said, “It is finished!” from the cross (John 19:30); all that was required had been given as to secure God’s grace for all time to all of the world.

At the cross God takes all that Christ suffered and released in the laying down of His life, to forgive all sin totally and completely. His forgiveness towards us is without measure or limitation as to guarantee our relationship as His child by Christ’s grace with His immeasurable love sealed by His Holy Spirit as our eternal inheritance. This is gift, given to us at the cross.

Are there words to describe such a gift to each one of us?

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Wenceslaus Hollar, Jesus on the Mount of Olives, Print, NGO Image, National Gallery of Art, Public Domain

When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
(Luke 22:40-44, NASB)

The Garden located on the side hill of Mount of Olives called Gethsemane derives its name from the Hebrew word for “Olive Press.” How remarkable that this garden so named was the place Jesus favored in His coming to His Father for times of prayer and fellowship.

The Son continually sought blessing, direction and relationship with His Heavenly Father in all matters assuring that He might be in constant and complete unity with His Father’s will. On all the occasions up until this point, the Son had never had any difficulty with the Father’s will but now massive amounts of untold heaviness were pressing in and on the body and spirit of the Son. It was a time of extreme and unbearable crushing in this place of “The Pressing.”

The Son staggers under the weight of the judgment about to come upon Him. Although He never wavers in His submission to His Father … He does plead for a possible release from the course of destiny now before Him. Some people explain the hesitation on the part of the Son as coming from the tremendous pain, torture and suffering that was about to come upon the Savior because of our sin and the sin of the world. Others suggest the hesitation comes from Jesus being fully human and alive alongside His being fully God.

These are significant pressures but the massive heartache and agony that would crush the Savior, came from carrying of the weight of the sin of the world and the knowledge of the intentional and required abandonment that was to happen when the Father would turn His face away from the Son on the cross. This had never happened, not for even the tiniest of moment in the unfathomable everlasting to everlasting unity that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had dwelt in without beginning or end.

The severing of this love between the Father and the Son was required for the redeeming of all people for all time. It a great and indescribable love the Father has for us that even while we are hopelessly lost in our sins, He loves us (Romans 5:8). It was an incredible love that demanded our Heavenly Father to turn away from His beloved Son and allow the crushing weight of that redeeming abandonment to save a world of sinners. It was an incredible love our Savior had for us to lay down His life and to submit to this unfathomable crushing for our sins. We cannot imagine or comprehend the crushing that took place in the Garden of Gethsemane to our blessed Savior but we can be ever so thankful for the forgiveness and freedom it gives us. What was pressed out in the place of “The Crushing” was the amazing gift of our salvation. Thanks, be to God!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)

Suggested Reading … Luke 22; Isaiah 53

 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).

What is beauty? Is beauty something individualized and classified as to certain people? Is it something for the lucky in the genetic pool of features and characteristic who have exquisite features and captivating looks? Is this natural beauty just something that the luck of the draw doles out? Or is beauty something you can buy in product form of which by the application of make-up, creams and color accents and agents will render the ordinary face extraordinary? What is it about beauty that fashion groups and companies try to determine and dictate to others by their subjective definitions of certain features what beauty is? Is beauty, a body shape or size or a certain striking facial feature? Is beauty attained by the endless offerings of new styles in clothes and dress and thus available for purchase?

Is not beauty more than the physical features or factors of a person? Surely beauty is more than something purchased and applied to the surface of the skin? Surely beauty is not the clothes draped or stretched across and around the body, regardless of the shape or size of the person?

Even in a broader sense of beauty … there are natural flowers, plants and trees that are attractive to the eyes with their color and unique features that we would speak of as beautiful. There are panoramic vistas that are considered beautiful. There is architecture whether in design and structure that appeals to the senses and is defined as beautiful. In addition, most artwork and photography exists as attempts to capture and gift us with the artist’s interpretations of beauty.

Yet, however beauty is defined or presented, there are moments in our lives when we encounter rare and extraordinary beauty where we least expect it. It happened to me in one of the rankest and discouraging places I have ever visited in my lifetime. At the Guatemala City Dump Community, where the paths are filthy, gutted and broken down of life and promise, I met two women who were radiant, hopeful and full of life and promise. They are women whose beauty was shining like a light in the darkest of places. In a place where the stench of discarded, used up waste and accumulating refuse … staggers and penetrates every sense of your being. Yet, here in this repulsive and ugly place, these beautiful women live expectant in the hope of their faith. Here in this offending place of nauseating smells; the pleasantness of everything about them brings forth the sweetness of the very presence of Christ in whom they trust absolutely. Here, in this place of despair, they live out their days in the hope of their faith.

These beautiful women bonded together as sisters, live with their families in a 12 x 18 foot space they are proud to call their home. This tiny home built from discarded boards and covered with salvaged tin was splashed with color and decorated with things they have collected along the way. They work in the dump collecting things to be sold or recycled. To add their lot in life, these sisters have lost their husbands to the violence that comes with life on the edge of life. Death comes on the edge of life where violence often rails against the poor and disadvantaged because force and evil are tempting as pathways for change. Their husbands drifted away from God even as the wives clung and still cling to the mercies and provisions of God. I have seldom seen any greater faith and trust in anyone in my life and seldom sensed any greater joy than the fruit of the Spirit of God in their lives life lived out here in this dreadful place as women of beauty in the middle of great hopelessness.

Their beauty is not something … they apply after buying some beauty product for they have no money to buy anything extra. Their beauty is not just something that was naturally gifted to them in their features that they vainly exhibit. No, their beauty flows out as something more. Even as they smile and reach out to others … there is something so rare and powerful in the trueness of their essence. Their beauty is far deeper and far more substantial. It has been fashioned and molded by the greatest sculptor of all time, their Lord and Savior. All the pain, misery, poverty and difficulty that life has doled out to them and everything that has come against them has not made them bitter, hostile or mean spirited. Instead all the awfulness thrown against them has been reclaimed and remade as they have trusted in their Savior and given their days over to the hand of God. He has remade these women beautiful in every way.

If beauty somehow is to come from ashes, then something has to be burned upped. Something has to have been offered up to the qualities of the heat and flame as to change the composition of the substance. So then what has been burned away in the heat of pain and suffering, affliction and circumstance while leaving the pureness of gold to remain in the place where the fire burned off the dross?

These precious women of faith have given themselves up to the One who refines in the fire. They have released all the pain and suffering, affliction and circumstance to be refined as precious as the finest gold. They surrender their days to their Lord and all they contain. They give up all that would pull them away from the workmanship of their loving Father. They trust Him completely, totally and in every way. Their contentment while living in this awful place is found in Him alone. Their joy is in Him regardless of their lot in life and their beauty is something that God has fashioned by His love.

It is rare to see such trusting faith. I have seldom seen any greater faith and trust then in these special women of true beauty. I have rarely sensed any greater joy as the true and beautiful fruit of the Spirit of God in a life lived out than is evident in these women. They possess great beauty in the middle of great hopelessness. Their beauty comes from the living grace of a loving Father and God, who in the ashes in our lives creates true beauty. Only He can take what would be awful, terrible, rank and filthy can bring beauty. Beauty comes from the Savior who came to redeem the world and only He can make beauty from the ashes of our lives. He alone can make a person truly beautiful as He creates and fashions us from the inside out as to shine with His workmanship. I will be forever etched by in my faith; by these beautiful women whose trusting faith in a Living God made then alive in Him while living in one of the worst places, I have seen with my eyes on this earth.

Praise, be to God, who loves us all with a great and extravagant love. Amen.

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"And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay and you are the Potter. We are all formed by your hand" (Isaiah 64:8, LB).

      There is a story in every vessel made by the Master Potter. There is a place where the clay is lifted from the earth, a chosen place noted for its color and hue. This unique and special clay looks like ordinary mud to most but to the Master Potter, it possesses the needed qualities to make a priceless vessel. The Master Potter carries this handful of clay back to His workshop. There He places the chosen clay unto His potter’s wheel. Slowly He begins to turn the wheel moistening the clay with care and expertise. The clay begins to take the shape imagined by the Master Potter and although it was just mass of soil moments ago, He now begins to shape and form the structure of a vessel. The Master’s hands are firm but ever gentle applying pressure exactly as needed.  He is pushing and kneading, softening and pulling, creating lines and markings while lifting and rounding off the edges of unfolding vessel.

If the clay is defective or stubborn, it must be put aside or mixed with other clay of better qualities. If the clay is supple melding itself to the intention of the Master; the shape of the vessel begins to resemble the perfect design the Potter has purposed it to be. When the vessel has been turned and fashioned into its intended form, it must dry a bit in the air as the Master looks over His vessel. The Master Potter tenderly watches so no one disturbs the vessel in its unfinished state. He protects it from careless workers tempted to consider the vessel finished. He also stands by His vessel ready to turn away any vandals, who might steal such a beautiful designed vessel.

After a time, the Master Potter takes the vessel to the kiln to temper the clay into a substance strong and stout. As the heat rises, the vessel becomes stronger and stronger until it reaches a point of strength needed for its purpose. Still the Master Potter is not finished with His masterpiece. He brushes the vessel with a protective glaze returning it to the kiln to permanently set the glistening finish.

The vessel now completely resembles the masterful design and it shows the intent, skill and completed craftsmanship of the Potter. The vessel now bears the mark of the Master Potter and is of great value. The beautiful vessel is finished, complete in purpose and revealing excellence simply because the clay yielded itself freely and completely to the creative, caring, loving and skilled hands of the Master Potter.

Where throughout the entire process of becoming a vessel, does the clay ever give anything? To become a priceless vessel, it only has to trust and yield to the Master. At what point in this purposed course of action of being formed and conditioned would there be any reason for the clay to refuse the touch of the Master Potter’s hand? At what stage of being molded, turned or fired, does the clay know; what is needed or required for it to be a true vessel worthy to bear the mark of excellence in its strength, beauty or function?

Why are so resistant to the Master Potter? Why do we as the clay, value our ability and wisdom so important as to make ourselves into a vessel of our own design? Why would our design be better than the Master Potter? Why do we do we want to escape the trials that would temper us in faith, when we should be trusting in the Master Potters watchful eye as He lets us be fired appropriately to make strong in His love? Why are we not willing to let Him apply a liberal coating of grace to make us glisten as we show His touch and presence? Why are we as the clay so unyielding and untrusting? There is an amazing thing about our God. He as the Master Potter never ceases to love us and remains ever attentive and fixed on us as the clay. His only desire is to create a masterpiece in the vessel that we will become the legacy of our days lived out on this earth and into eternity. His purpose is to make us a vessel of quality and beauty and one that will bring Him glory. In spite of all of our rebelliousness, this Master waits with a patience beyond understanding for our repentance and the yielding of our hearts to His touch, so He as the Potter can finish his work in us.

So what will be the story of the vessel of clay that God wants to make of your life? Will you allow Him to mold and shape you? Will you trust Him as He allows trials to temper and strengthen you? Will you allow Him to cover you with grace so you can shine with His love as a vessel of His creation and purpose? Let Him be the Master Potter with the clay of your life. Let Him make you, the useful and beautiful vessel He wants you to be.

Suggested Reading ... Isaiah 64

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