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The Master Craftsman

Posted on January 25, 2015

Some have called him an artist. The Great Painter, who could take an empty page of existence and suddenly fill it with a breathtaking sunset using only a few strokes of his brush and able to mix colors so alive and rich that all attempts to duplicate them have fallen short. Others consider him a sculpture,  capable of bringing his subjects to life.  Without a doubt he was creator of the most beautiful objects in the world. Some knew him as a farmer, preparing the soil, planting, nurturing and harvesting all that is good and tasty. Still others will always see him as a craftsman. the Master Craftsman. For he mastered and worked wonders with everything he chose to put his mind and hands to. As we look back we regard him as one, but he was more than one. He was a potter, a mason. a carpenter, a silversmith, a designer and builder, a poet, a composer, a gardner and landscaper and the list goes on. He built vessels that could withstand  storms on a raging sea and dwellings with foundations that would  stand up to any weapon hurled at them and remain strong even when surrounded by all the shaded violence that the world could conjure up. It was obvious from the beginning that his creativity was unlimited as he dipped his hands into every medium. One of his favorite hobbys was to search for that which had been broken and battered, deliberately lost and written off as worthless. Then he would do his miraculous work of salvaging and restoring in plain view of all who followed his footsteps. Now, the short fall in assigning a title to a person, is that no single descriptive word or phrase can accurately nor completely describe any of us. However, for the purpose of this story I will refer to him as the Master Craftsman. In all that he did, his workmanship was unequaled. Even by today’s standards, he continues to stand alone in his field and his many remarkable attainments inspire others to rise above mediocrity.

Of course, as with anyone who is successful at what they do, there are those who will try to minimize their accomplishments, slander their name, doubt their capabilities and even deny their very existence in order to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. To the value of us all, the Master Craftsman was never swayed by the critics, skeptics and doubters who refused to acknowledge his unique abilities. Instead, with a keen awareness of truth and a commitment to excellence, this one of a kind artisan moved forward, executing his mission with an undying love. As time went on, his project activity was so widely spread that you could sense his presence just about anywhere.

One day, as he was resting, the Master pondered his accomplishments. He was well pleased with the results of his efforts, although, deep inside he knew that his greatest work was yet to be done.  He contemplated everything that it would entail. His emotions raged within him as he considered the great  personal cost that this work would demand of him. He was faced with a delima…. If he chose not to move forward with his plan, the heartbeat of all he had created previously would be lost forever…. If he did pursue it, for everything that would be bound up in this project to be effective, it would have to be given away to the people of the land. He was not so naive to assume that everyone would appreciate the sweat drops of blood that would be an integral part of this project. On the contrary, he was deeply saddened by the thought that some may refuse his gift, laugh and scoff and turn away…. But he was certain there would be a remnant who would believe in him, understanding the purpose of what he was about to do and with open hearts accept it as the perfect masterpiece, given away out of the Master Craftsman’s love for the people….. Consumed with compassion, he decided the people would be worth his sacrifice.

One early morning in the springtime when a rain shower was just ending, after gazing at a rainbow of promise, the Craftsman strolled through his garden and there he selected one tree from all the others. He watered it, nurtured it and guarded it until it grew strong and true. One day he said to the tree, “your wood will become famous and it will be able to support an enormous burden.”  Then he  went on a search for a particular metal that he would need for this project. When he had selected just the right metal for the job, he crafted three fragments of it down to a fine point at one end and cut the other end off leaving it thick and blunt. Then he set them aside until the proper time.

As with any fine artist or craftsman, a strong passion for what they do drives them to reveal their heart and soul as they pour themselves into every detail of their work. And so it was with this ingenious creator. To him, timing was everything.  The people were longing and waiting with anticipation to see what he was up to. The need was undeniably desperate. The Master Craftsman was aware more than anyone that what he was about to do had never successfully been done before and would never be done again. Oh, there were many temporary imitations, but once he had completed this work, they would be obsolete. He would have one chance and nothing less than perfection would be acceptable. The craftsman was about to present to the people a masterpiece so amazing, that all who dared to gaze upon it would experience at least a hint of the resolve, purpose and heartfelt love that stirred it’s creator in the beginning. The result would be a work of art that was priceless.

Being the author and perfecter of his greatest work, the Master was fully capable of completing every detail on his own. However, in his wisdom and in good faith, he chose to enlist others to play some of the important roles. “This,” he said,” will add a personal touch to my work so that my reason for doing this can be comprehended by everyone.”

Now, the Master Craftsman had a son who had always worked along side of his father. As a matter of fact, they were inseparable. The son was often quoted as saying,”I must be about my fathers work!” Much of the time, those who knew them well referred to the two of them as,”one”, for it was evident that they were of one spirit. One day, as the they were recounting all that they had done together and finalizing their plans for the masterpiece, the Craftsman said to his son, “I have considered all the options and there is only one way this will work. You alone will be the deliverer of this finest gift of all time. Although, for the people to accept it, you will have to live among them for a while. Actually, you will need to become one of them by being part of a family that lives in the land. There is a young couple who will be getting married soon. I have watched them closely and I am convinced that they will be the perfect family for you to stay with. As we speak, I am sending a messenger to inform them of your arrival. One more thing my son, you will have to finish this precious work on your own. I must stay here and watch over things, but we will be in touch daily. While you are living there, you will be put through many tests. You will be tempted in ways that no one person has ever been before. You will carry a burden heavier than any man has ever been able to carry. There will be dark opposition to our work as this world has never seen. And son, there will come a moment when you will ask me why I have forsaken you. Remember this always; when you hurt, I will hurt. When you are lonely, I will be lonely. But, when you rise to victory, we will be victorious together. You will know when our masterpiece is finished. After you have announced it’s completion to all the people and presented it to them as a free gift, then it will be time for you to come back here with me. In the years that follow, many of the men, women and children who accept the gift you offer them will be coming here to live with us. So, we must be busy preparing places for them to stay.”

Moved deeply with love, in a way that could only be defined through the ages of eternity, the Master Craftsman sent his Son away. The rest is divine history, written by the hand of God to offer to the world His greatest work. Giving us His only Son, Jesus,  who was perfect, blameless and without sin. He would take your sin and my sin upon Himself to become, The Lamb of God. Making us, when we accept this gift, holy and acceptable in the presence of The Father and The Son and The Spirit.

The Bible states in John 3:16 – 17 , ” For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” How easy is our part, huh? To believe, to trust, to accept. I don’t pretend to know what it was actually like for God to plan and bring to fulfillment all that was necessary for us to enjoy the gift of salvation, but at the same time, I never want to forget that my redemption was much more than a casual thought in the mind of God. The Bible is clear. From the time sin entered the picture, God began planning a way for you and I to escape the penalty and wrath of our sin and be delivered safely into the arms of Grace and Mercy. These verses in John, chapter 3, are so beautifully and simply worded that it can be easy to miss what the two words, “so loved”, encompass within the realm of God’s compassion for you and me.

If you can find a few quiet minutes alone, try this experiment. In your own handwriting, paraphrase John 3:16 something like this: For God so loved me, (insert your name here) that He gave His only Son, so that if I believe in Him, I will never perish but I will have everlasting life. Then pray. Thanking God for what He did to provide salvation for you and for the faith He gives you to believe and trust in His Word. Do you think, if you were the only person on earth that needed salvation,  God would have done all this just for you? The answer is YES! That’s how personal His love for us is. In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is promising that he is going to the Fathers house to prepare a place for us so that one day, where He is, we may also be. Can you imagine, knowing the abilities, workmanship and the creativity of God, what our home in Heaven will be like? Have fun dreaming about it and looking forward to your new home!

Oh by the way, for the sake of the story it is written in past tense, but let that fool you. The master Craftsman is still in business today. Creating, planing, designing, restoring and of course, a couple of His specialties; finding that which was lost and mending broken things. As a matter of fact, I just saw Him the other day in a prison, doing some of His great work of salvaging for that which, by popular vote, was believed to have been of little value.

What kind of work do you need The Master Craftsman to do for you today? Desire all that He has in His tool box for you.


Girl In The Stairwell

Posted on January 15, 2015

It was a number of years back. A cold and snowy winter night, as I recall. My wife and I and our four daughters were enjoying a warm, cozy evening in our home. The girls were sprawled out on the living room floor leisurely multitasking. Playing a games, reading, drawing, eating popcorn and watching a Disney movie. my wife and I were relaxing in the easy chairs just taking it all in. As parents, we so enjoyed those Saturday evenings, unwinding from a busy week, everyone was happy and we were all together…..

Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart to do something out of your comfort zone, but you resisted? And then, after holding back with all your strength, you finally gave in? I’m afraid I  have to admit that most of my experiences with the Spirit leading me start out that way. Sadly, there have been those times when I have resisted Him and never took the next step to obey His call. I’ve regretted each of those times. But, when I have yielded to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, I have found that whatever it was He wanted me to do wasn’t so scary after all. And it feels so good to know that at that very moment, you are directly in the center of God’s will for your life. To someone who doesn’t know Christ and how His Spirit draws us, this seems ridiculous and  unimportant. The Apostle, Paul, explains it this way in I Corinthians, 2:14; “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them.” But to those of us who know Christ and trust in Him, It’s a big deal. In Galatians chapter 5, in speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, Paul reminds us that since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Now, remember, the Holy Spirit only moves according to the will of the Father. So, even if it seems like an insignificant thing to us, when the Spirit of God is tugging at our heart, He usually has a greater purpose than we can see from down here.

….. For me, as a father, those were special times, just to be at home with my family, all safe and warm.  If only Norman Rockwell could have visited us that night with his canvas and brushes in hand! I remember thinking, “it doesn’t get any better than this”. …. That’s about the time the phone rang. It was a local motel with a spa heater that was down and a full house of guests who were not happy campers after stepping into a spa full of cold water!  About the last thing I wanted to do at 9 o’clock on a snowy winter night was to leave our snug little refuge in the country and drive into town to work on a spa heater. But, the next day was Sunday and they were good customers, so off I went, complaining to my wife all the way out the door. “Why do motels always have breakdowns on weekends and holiday’s?” Looking back, I can see that my state of mind plunged from one of thankful bliss, into a pit of judgmental thougts and selfish desires. Needless to say, that wouldn’t have been a good time for a heart examination….. Or…. maybe it was???

Arriving at the motel, grumbling to myself, I gathered my tool bag and entered my usual way, through a side door that opened into a hallway that led to the pool room.  I stepped inside and was startled by the sound of sobbing! There on the back  stairway, was a young girl, who was obviously distressed over something. She sat, head in her hands, about six stairs up from where I was. With a glance, I estimated her to be about 14 years old. Denying that my heart ached for her, I quickly looked away and continued on with my mission. I thought to myself, “what a pitiful sight and sound”. She was crying so uncontrollably that she didn’t even stop when I walked in. Do you ever have a silent conversation with yourself? Don’t tell everyone, but I seem to do that quite often and that night was no exception. Well, maybe it was a conversation with God, but I was doing most of the talking… “That girl doesn’t want me to stop and talk to her…” I greeted the night desk clerk and made my way into the spa equipment room… “The stairway is poorly lit. I would scare her”… I checked out the heater. Found the problem… “What could I do to help her anyway?”… Walking out to my truck to search for the part I needed, I was wishfully wondering ; “maybe she’s gone by now?”… She was still there! Still crying… ” I found the part I needed and decided that I would enter through another door… “I have no idea what I would say to her?”… It took me 30 minutes to get the spa heater up and going. I told the thankful desk clerk, goodnight, and then said to myself,”get out of here!”  I turned, fully intending to exit through the “other door”, just as  a number of travelers from a small bus were struggling to get themselves and their luggage into the lobby. With no other option, I proceeded down the hall toward my usual door… “She has to be gone by now” I thought. … As I walked toward the door I could to hear the faint sounds of the “evening nightmare”, growing louder with each step I took. The young girl in distress was still sitting on the steps…. “Why hasn’t someone else heard that poor girl and stopped to help her?”… Holding back my emotions, most likely looking similar to a race horse wearing blinders, I burst through the door! I took a deep breath of cold night air and made a beeline to my truck. Once in my truck, I spoke out loud,”Wow! I’m glad that’s over.”… Or was it?

I pulled out my keys, but for some reason, I could not put them in the ignition. I starred at my hand,”Start the truck and let’s go!” Speaking as if my hand could actually hear me. I didn’t know anyone could cry for so long and so hard….”It’s just a girl crying, it happens everyday. NO!, I can’t go in there and talk to her! It’s not smart. All she has to do is scream and accuse me of something and then what defense would I have?”… I sat there, my breath fogging up the truck windows. With my hand I wiped a small opening and gazed out at the snow. It was like God placed in that opening, an image of the “Good Samaritan story”. Only I was the man in the story who refused to take a chance, instead, went out of my way to avoid helping the one in need. I had become the man with the hardened heart. God brought to mind my daughter, who was about the same age as the girl in the stairwell. I felt a pinch of guilt as I thought of my four daughters, home, safe, warm and happy. Was that all that mattered to me? I asked myself, ” What if this was my daughter in there? Would I not want someone to stop and try to comfort her?” I felt my resistance wearing thin. I was ready to switch roles. Softly, the Holy spirit spoke somewhere inside of me. ” Just go pray with the girl”.

Immediately, I got out of my truck and began walking with my eyes glued to the motel door. I began thinking, ” I hope she is still there.”  I didn’t have a clue how to approach her. ” God, tell me what to say!” As I opened the door, my questions were answered. I walked up to her and asked,”are you OK?” She looked up. Her hair was in disarray and her  eyes were red and saturated. Shaking her head, she responded,” I had a fight with my mom.” I asked her if there was anything I could do to help and she again shook her head. Then I asked,”would it be OK if I prayed with you?” She answered me in such a way that I caught a hint of pleading in her voice.”Yes”. We prayed. At this point it is somewhat puzzling to me. God has, for one reason or another, preserved the details of that night so clearly in my mind, yet I can’t remember much of my prayer? It was like the Holy Spirit took over at that point and said through me what needed to be said that night. I remember simply praying for her and her mother, and asking Jesus to make His love real to her. I trust the Spirit knew how to put the right words in the prayer when I could not do it…. You’ve probably already guessed that in the week that followed, I spent some extra time in the scriptures, especially Romans chapter 8. From that point on, I began to experience verse 26 in a more personal way. It reads,”The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The girl thanked me for praying with her and that was it. Suddenly I felt a release. A still small voice was saying to me,”you’re done. That’s all I asked you to do.”

I had lost track of time. Back in the truck I looked at my watch. I was only in there two minutes! All that resisting and God only wanted two minutes of my time. I prayed and wept for a while. Partly for the girl and her mother. Mostly because I was so ashamed of the way I had acted.  I had become more concerned about coming up with selfish excuses than stopping to check on the troubled girl. How quickly my heart had hardened. At that moment I saw the face flash through my head of someone who had once stopped to pray with me when I was hurting. I drove away, realizing The Lord had not brought me to the motel that night to merely fix a broken spa heater. He brought me there to fix my heart. At least for the time being. I wish I could say that I have never resisted His leading in my life since that night, but that wouldn’t be true. However, since that night He has given me many opportunities to pray with and share testimonies of His love with customers and others that I meet along the way. Maybe you have had experiences similar to mine where you have discovered that The Great Physician will make house calls, motel calls and anywhere calls just to do a heart examination at any time, 24/7.

Today, when I walk into that same motel to do a repair or just drive by. I pray for the girl. I often wonder where she lives? Is she married? Does she have children? Is she a believer? I don’t know her name, but God knows who she is… She would be in her late thirties now. Did those two minutes on that cold winter night, years ago, make any difference in her life? I don’t know if she even remembers. But I remember. I know those two minutes made a difference in my life. I came close to writing that night off to undesirable circumstances. At times like that it helps me take a look at Isaiah, chapter 55. It is an invitation to the thirsty. Check it out sometime when you feel like you need a heart check up. I love the way “The Message” translates the decree from God in verses 8 & 9. “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work. For as high as the sky soars above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” Another translation reads like this,” My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

Pulling in our drive, my headlights lit up up the freshly fallen snow like a Thomas Kinkade. The deer gracefully scampered across the drive and into the shadows as if to say,” the coast is clear! Drive on!” With the snow crunching under the tires, the truck rolled forward. I saw things in a different light than when I had left home earlier. Instead of looking like a square metal box with windows, our trailer house had now taken on a rather quaint appearance. Even the tires and concrete blocks that I had carefully placed on the roof, to keep the noise down when the wind blew, had become flowing drifts of snow.  I remember thinking, “inside that house lies my family. The perfect family.” Oh don’t get me wrong. We had our faults. We were the perfect family because God put us together and He doesn’t make mistakes. He knew we needed each other to love and to forgive and to laugh and cry with. Once inside, the only noise was that of the the furnace blowing it’s heat through the vents. A welcomed sound for I knew it was still working and keeping my family warm. My wife had left a single lamp burning for me with a note slid under it. Quietly, I tip toed into the girls rooms and watched them sleeping for a moment. I looked in to check on my wife, only to find that our Lab, Sandy, had assumed my position on the bed. She opened one eye briefly, before going back to chasing rabbits. She had that look that said,”I see you, but I’m NOT moving over.” …  ” What a blessed man I am,” I was thinking, as I carried my old guitar into the bathroom, so as not to wake anyone. I wrote the 1st verse of a song about being a father. This was a good day. One, I pray, that will always leave it’s imprint upon my heart.

Good Night & God’s Blessings Over You,


Pure & Lovely

Posted on January 5, 2015

Hey, do you have your 2015 calenders up? We have a school calender that rolls into the next year, so that’s an easy one. We have a couple of family photo calenders. We love those, so they go up quickly.  Then, we have another calender that is special as well. It was from a youth fundraiser and has scenic photos with a scripture verse on each page. Most importantly, the birthdays of family and friends are on this one, so until those dates are all transferred to a new calender, the 2014  stays up.

The other morning I was looking at the snow scene and scanning the January birthdays when I glanced over at the verse for that month in 2014. It was taken from Philippians, 4:8. Speckled with snowflakes, these words were written in black on the side of a red barn; “Whatever Is Pure, Whatever Is Lovely, Think Of Such Things.” I knew in an instant, that verse was meant for me. My mind had become full of everything except thoughts of the pure and lovely.  I thought hard for a moment, and then I said out loud, to no one there. “You know what? I live in the real world. I have to think these undesirable thoughts because this is what I have to deal with each day. I can’t just sweep them under the rug and pretend they aren’t there. Can I?” Then I muttered,”God, You know I can’t always have pretty thoughts.”

I left for work. Throughout the day that verse simmered on the back burner of my mind. It’s aroma drifted in and out and around all that was happening in my head, breaking down my resistance to the truth and importance of Philippians, 4:8. On the drive home, I evaluated my thoughts. ” Too much junk. Ugly stuff! Like worries, problems, doubts, selfish and judgmental thoughts. These were not my friends. No, they were the enemy! They had infiltrated My Space!”

Driving into the brilliant sunset, listening to one of my favorite songs, God gently reminded me that it was my choice. I could let the undesirables stay, or I could replace them with pure and lovely. … I chose to replace them! Within a few minutes of purposely focusing on the most pleasant, pure and beautiful images that had been lying on the shelves of my memory, collecting dust, a flood of peace came over me. I asked myself,”why don’t I do this more often?” Now, I was ready to ride on to my castle and rescue my bride from her day of toil!

That night at home, I read the rest of Philippians, 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Verse 9 goes on to assure us that if we put into practice what we have just read, the Peace of God will be evident in our lives.

Just as I do, you live in the real world where there is no shortage of ugly thoughts. Of course, we cannot sweep all the unpleasant under a rug. However, I am learning that God’s plan on this is the best. Instead of allowing the ugly, the worst and things to curse to be in charge of who we are and how we act, if we invite the best, the beautiful and the things to praise into the forefront of our minds, they will help us deal with the undesirables in a way that honors God.

I urge you to try this experiment at home, but be forewarned, the results may be overwhelming! Have some fun, read this passage of scripture in it’s context and discover ways that you can apply it to your daily life.

The Lord spoke to me in a way I least expected Him to. From an outdated calender. Just imagine how He may choose to speak to you today, this week, this year? Be on guard for the undesirables who may be lurking in the shadows of your mind. If you detect them, blast them away with the pure and lovely!