God is like a potter, and we are like clay. In his work of spiritual formation, God constantly molds and shapes us. This can be a slow process of gradual growth.
Or, at times, an encounter with the living Christ through his Word will infuse us with grace that moves us quickly to a new level of devotion and commitment.
At other times, the potter must stop spinning the wheel. look carefully at their work, decide if the shape of the pot is as they had originally envisioned it fits the original purpose for which the potter originally intended. Sometimes, break the pot down and then start over again because the clay has become misshapen.
Through each effort at reshaping the vessel, our spirit, each of these types of spiritual formation shows a different way God deals with us. If I can no longer be molded, I need to repent and experience the shattering grace of God’s love.
If I somehow believe I have somehow reached a spiritual plateau, achieved a measure of spiritual maturity where I do not feel or know where my spirit can mature in God anymore, I need to begin a process of discover by God’s Spirit into the unknown and undeveloped and woefully underdeveloped areas of my personality or giftedness that God knows need his powerful touch. And if I’m then gradually growing, I need simply to rejoice and increase my thanksgiving.
A process of discovery! What concrete ways do we see the Potter at work in our lives? A new biblical perspective might have to be developed, new directions set, moral values instilled, old habits broken, positive attitudes fostered, deeper commitments chosen and cherished, a family reunited, emotional hurts healed, a serious crisis resolved, spiritual gifts utilized, and new ministries started.
As God, our Creator, continually and continuously shapes you and me, (is God ever finished?) and His neighborhood, life all around us is being transformed.
God’s neighborhood is not transformed into the vision we desire or believe is best for what greater “more politically correct” purposes we set aside for it.
It is, after all, when all is said and done, God’s neighborhood and not ours.
Jeremiah 18:1-11Amplified Bible
The Potter and the Clay
18 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will make you hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house and saw that he was working at the wheel. 4 But the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand; so, he made it over, reworking it and making it into another pot that seemed good to him.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” says the Lord. “Look carefully, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I might [suddenly] speak concerning a nation or kingdom, that I will uproot and break down and destroy; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will [a]relent and reverse My decision concerning the devastation that I intended to do. 9 Or at another time I might [suddenly] speak about a nation or kingdom that I will build up or establish; 10 and if they do evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will reverse My decision concerning the good with which I had promised to bless them. 11 Now then, say to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am shaping a disaster and working out a plan against you. Turn back, each of you from his evil way; correct your habits and change your actions for the better.”’
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
God is Not Even Close to Being Finished with Me Yet!
God is Not Even Close to Being Finished with You Yet!
God is Not Even Close to Being Finished with Anyone in HIS Neighborhood!
I’m going a bit off-script this day.
Lately, I have been spending a great deal of time reading and studying and pondering and writing these devotions from the Gospel and New Testament.
However, today, and probably for a few more days hence, my spirit felt lead to the Hebrew Testament Prophet Jeremiah.
The night before, God woke my mind up in the middle of the night again. It was with the clear message this biblical reading is meant to be timely for us today.
Pondering and praying about it throughout yesterday, I realized sometimes we need spiritual encouragement. God knew that. Jeremiah knew that, and he told the story of a potter’s wheel. I hope this devotion today can be inspiring for this coming group of readers – and that together, with God, we can all know it too.
Hear what the prophet Jeremiah said some twenty-six hundred years ago again:
The word of the Lord said to Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So, I went down to the potter’s house, and there he worked on the wheel. As he worked on a piece of pottery, it crumbled in his hand. Then he made it into another piece that pleased him more.”
The prophets used analogies and images to teach essential spiritual lessons.
This text is an example of storytelling to show Israel God’s mercy.
The imagery of as a pottery maker in his house illustrates God’s patience.
I know I have read this passage dozens of times, I’ve listened pastors preach it, and I’ve preached it through the lectionary cycle before. But there’s something I have somehow missed until yesterday as I pondered, prayed, this devotional.
One scholar said that the “potter’s house” was not a single person. Rather, all of Jerusalem’s pottery came from one area considered “the house of pottery.”
That neighborhood was outside the city walls. Jerusalem rested on a hill.
To reach the potter’s house a person had to go out the gate, thorough the valley of Hinnom, and up the hillside.
The valley is where Israel burned their garbage, and they called it Gehenna.
The kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire in the valley, so the ancients believed it a cursed place.
Our notion of hell comes from this valley of burning: the abode of the dead.
The prophet walked through the people’s sin’s, their garbage, and even what they believed dead before he saw the potter.
I’m the same way: I’ve had to confront my fears, my doubts, and walk-through memories of loves and hates I thought dead before I reached the potter’s house.
After Jeremiah waded through the trash heap, he then made it to God’s pottery wheel. He saw God with dirty hands that were dried and blistered and cracked from the weight of the clay, the pottery wheel and the intensity of the fire.
The vision of the potter taught Jeremiah a lesson about Israel: God is always at work. God would continuously collect their misshapenness, continually remold and reshape it, and make them into people with hearts of flesh instead of stone.
So, my devotional writing today is along those lines: God’s not finished with us.
God didn’t give up on Israel. God will not give up on us.
Years ago, before my wife and I were married, we were looking for gifts for wedding parties. We were looking for wine goblets for our reception table.
We found a pottery shop where we introduced to the owner and the “master potter.” He took us on a tour of his classroom where he gave both children and adults of all ages both beginner, intermediate and advanced pottery lessons to.
He sat down at a pottery wheel and showed us how to mount the clay on the wheel and how to use our hands to begin forming and shaping the pottery.
At first, the force he used with the clay surprised me. Then, as he taught us that clay is not ready for the wheel until it goes through the pressure of shaping, I realized the necessity of preparation.
He carefully, but ever more forcefully, worked the wheel with his foot, worked the clay with his hands, kneaded it, squeezed it, and saturated continually with the water it to prepare it for whatever the potters’ vision was of its final shape.
It didn’t have form immediately. It needed time and water before it looked like a water pitcher. I noticed the clay would crumble if it didn’t have adequate water.
Life is a process of kneading, water – our baptismal identity, and shaping by the potter’s hands before we become “whole.”
Genesis says that God formed us in his image and molded us into his likeness.
Some of the earliest images of God in Genesis is a potter, with muddy hands, creating human beings.
God’s still working on us, shaping us toward wholeness.
God is not even close to being finished with anyone of us yet.
There were times I wanted to give up on dreams, relationships, and desires.
As I frequently take the time to reflect on my relationship with my wife, what it has been before we were married, after we were married, and what it is right now, and what I fervently pray it will be for all of our remaining tomorrows,
I see in my married life where God has been continually, continuously at work. He has been at work both with and within both of us to shape and reshape our marriage into His image and not ours. Somehow, miraculously God is at work, shaping me and my wife, pushing the mud into position to create a new vessel.
Our lives are messy at times, yet we both desire the perception that everything is okay. We know people who portray the ideal life and a perfect family on social media. But deep down inside we know something is missing. We both feel like a warped piece of bit pottery instead of the perfect piece on display in a museum.
After frequent searches through Scripture and in both individual and corporate prayer sessions, we finally accepted there’s nothing wrong with imperfection.
These days we are striving for vulnerability instead of perfection. God didn’t give up on Israel because of imperfection, and God will not give up on us either.
That leads me to another point I notice in this text:
It’s never too late to work together with God to begin being reshaped again.
In any relationship, in any covenant of marriage, there are always areas where more shared and mutual growth and maturity into God’s image are necessary.
Again, we can both envision God, in His Potter’s House, at His Potter’s Wheel.
The final thing I learned at the pottery studio was a spiritual lesson still informs my theology of my marriage to both God and to my wife who are my whole life.
“Living Life in God’s neighborhood happens because there is no perfect clay.”
Then the potter taught us what happens when ‘life happens,’ clay falls apart.
The clay pitcher he had carefully made, spun in perfect balance on the wheel until he moved his fingers ever so differently and gently into the clay. The clay gradually caved in on itself and became misshapen, spun lopsided on the wheel.
Sometimes when the pressure of life pushes us, we cave in on ourselves and spiral out of control. But then he said, as I can envision God is saying to us now; “When the piece you’re carefully making falls apart, you can always start over.”
The prophet Jeremiah saw a broken piece of pottery on God’s table.
He said God selected the moment, selected the brokenness, reformed it, and put the clay back on the potters’ wheel, created something new from broken pieces.
That should give us confidence. Even when our hearts shatter into a million pieces, God can take our pain, our fears, our guilt, and our grief, and transform the broken pieces of the self into a new creation. The prophet said the broken pottery became better than it was before the fall on the ground and shattered.
There’s never any perfect clay (relationship, family, ideal, dream, job, vocation, ministry or mission…). But it’s never too late to appreciate the beauty of flaws.
There’s an art in Japan, kintsugi, that is a unique way to fix pottery.
In Japan, people often inherit pottery from family members.
When a meaningful piece breaks, they do not discard it. Some cultures are like God; they do not throw things away just because of blemishes or brokenness.
They collect the pieces and repair the pottery.
But they do not use invisible glue that makes the pottery appear flawless.
They leave it with visible vulnerabilities.
They understand that scars can be signs of refinement.
The gift of imperfection is credibility.
The artist collects a special tree sap and mixes it with gold.
Then they carefully join the separated fragments together with gold.
The gold and the sap make the piece stronger at the cracks than it is elsewhere.
When they finish, the pottery is a one-of-a-kind heirloom with bright gold lines giving it a unique beauty and character it did not have before the fall.
Hear the words of the prophet again, “The first piece crumbled in the potter’s hand, but he made it into another piece that pleased him more.”
With God, our Creator, scars, imperfections, and brokenness, become inspired stories of triumph and grace.
They are stories where God turns lead to gold and things become greater than we ever dreamed possible. Remember, when we put hopes and dreams in tombs when we mourn them, and when we assume they are dead, God raises the dead.
The Tomb is STILL empty!
Jesus is STILL ALIVE ….
— God is not even close to being finished with anyone of us yet.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Pick up a lump of clay and mold it in your hands
Think about the creation of the world—
the touch of God’s hands on the very substance of the universe
As you change the appearance of the clay with the touch of your hands,
think how the world you live in has touched and changed you…
Think of how your hands have touched other people –
in love, in anger, in sorrow and in joy…
Think of the things and people who have touched your life
and molded you into the person you are today…
“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay; you are the potter.
we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
Look, Lord, on an empty vessel that needs to be filled.
In faith I am weak—strengthen me.
In love I am cold—warm me and make me fervent
so that my love may go out to my neighbour.
I doubt and am unable to trust you completely.
Lord, strengthen my faith and trust in you.
You are all the treasure I possess.
I am poor, you are rich,
and you came to have mercy on the poor.
I am a sinner, you are goodness.
From you I can receive goodness,
but I can give you nothing.
Therefore I shall stay with you.