An ancient legend tells of a king who walked into his garden one day to find almost everything withered and dying. After speaking to an oak near the gate, the king learned that he was troubled because he was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine overheard their conversation and added that she, too, was upset, for she could not bear delicious fruit like the pear tree. The pear tree heard his name and began to complain that he did not have the lovely odor of the spruce. And so it went throughout the entire garden.
We've been receiving dozens of emails lately from people who are really feeling the pressure, and who have expressed gratitude and appreciation for our devotions over the last few days. Reading through some of the replies, my initial thought was – wow, God is creating some magnificent diamonds!
Some time ago, we wrote about pearl harvesting as an illustration of how the Lord takes us into His "shell" like an irritating grain of sand, and over time, covers us with His beautiful covering, forming us into polished and precious gems for his glory and delight. This image of sanctification takes the metaphor in one direction: but here is another interesting thought. The beautiful pearl inside the oyster cannot be seen or enjoyed without a great price being paid. The oyster must die. It must be torn open in order to find the treasure within. This speaks to me of the original foundation and source of our beauty. Yeshua (Jesus) our Messiah had to be bruised, afflicted, torn and killed so that the beautiful treasures God intended us to be from the beginning, could be discovered and released from the darkness of sin.
The king of the birds was looking in the mirror one day and was disappointed to see that his feathers were not as bright as they were once. "I am getting old," he said, "I think it will soon be time to choose a new king". He decided to announce that on a certain day, all the birds will gather and present themselves before him so that he would be able choose from among them the most beautiful of all to be their next king. The crow got wind of the king's plans and began to fret. "There are so many beautiful birds in the kingdom and I am only a colorless crow. I don't have a chance at becoming king." Suddenly, he had a terrific idea. He began to search through the woods and fields for colorful feathers fallen from the wings of his companions, and stuck them in amongst his own.
En Gedi is a nature reserve about 40 minutes from our home. Surrounded by dry, barren, rocky ground, except to the east where the Dead Sea lies, it is an oasis, fed year round by springs of fresh water, and home to some of the most unique wild and botanical life in the world.
This touching story of how Yeshua (Jesus) was anointed before His crucifixion carries a beautiful illustration that has ministered to me time and again. I have wondered why the alabaster box needed to be broken when Mary could have simply opened it and poured out the nard; (extremely expensive and precious perfume which might have been Mary's dowry). One commentator said that she refused to use that box for any other purpose after anointing Him. That would make sense if it was Mary's dowry because it would be an expression of a bridal vow to Yeshua and no one else. But whatever the motive in her heart, Mary's example speaks powerfully of the total devotion and commitment her soul had for Yeshua, her will to give the best of everything she had; and it speaks of brokenness followed by anointing and its beautiful fragrance. So I believe this act is an illustration meant to encourage every devoted soul whose offering of herself brings circumstances which "break" her. The fragrance of perfume following the breaking "fills the room".
I heard a story about a man who was imprisoned during Napoleons reign. While sulking in his dungeon one day, he etched on the wall the words "Nobody Cares".
The Hebrew word for "face" is "panim", (the Hebrew letters, peh-nun-yud-mem), literally "faces", a plural word. Normally, when we think about God, we focus only upon one of His "faces” at a time. God is "love" – or He is "holy"– or He is "just"— or He's a God of "wrath". Yet, of course, ALL these "faces" are His at once; and so the word "panim" accurately reflects the truth of God's multifaceted being. As we get to know Him better we begin to appreciate the complexity of His nature and the fact that our focus on one "face" is a very limited view, since there's so much more going on in His amazing "Personality".
An artist went searching the streets of New York City for a model to pose for a portrait he wanted to call — 'The Prodigal'. One day was passing Central Park and saw an impoverished beggar lying on a bench and thought: 'He's perfect! That man would represent the prodigal son beautifully in my painting.' He asked the beggar if he would be willing to sit for his painting and he would gladly pay him for his time. Naturally, the beggar agreed.
The Grand Canyon Park bookstore operated by the National Park Service found itself in the midst of some controversy a few years ago when they were selling a book written by creationists much to the ire of the National Center for Science Education.
A young couple was visiting a renown jewelry store in New York City. They browsed through cases of magnificent diamonds with their gleaming yellow light along with many other splendid precious stones. Among those beautiful stones, one in particular caught his wife's eye.
Throughout the world, millions of dollars are spent on priceless works of art. I'm always amazed at how much people will pay for one painting — some are considered virtually priceless. But what makes a masterpiece? It's not a what — it's a "who" — a master makes a masterpiece!
50,000 soldiers from the tribe of Zebulun served in David's army with UNDIVIDED (some translations: "not double-hearted") hearts. Can you imagine a skilled army with this level of loyalty and devotion?
Charles William Eliot, former president of Harvard University, had a birthmark on his face that bothered him greatly. As a young man, he was told that surgeons could do nothing to remove it. Someone described that moment as "the dark hour of his soul." Eliot's mother gave him this helpful advice: "My son, it is not possible for you to get rid of that hardship…But it is possible for you, with God's help, to grow a mind and soul so big that people will forget to look at your face."
There was a mailman, John Hand, who rode his mail truck through Los Altos Hills of California on his 50 mile route each day. The route was plain, all brown and virtually no color. One day he began to throw wild flower seeds out of the window as he drove. Today, if you travel his route in the Los Altos Hills you'll find beautiful patches of flowers throughout, blossoming in many colors.
These first two scriptures are speaking of the same "Stone", the prophesied Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), the "head of the corner" or "rosh pina", in Hebrew. This stone is laid in Zion, a common synonym for Jerusalem, where mount Zion rests. The stone is "tried", that is, tested in every way that a stone can be; the stone is precious and excellent to be set as a sure, reliable, accurate, even everlasting foundation, and a stone which is prepared and set in place by God, Himself. Can you think of a "Stone" more perfect or beautiful than our Messiah?
In her book, Let Me Be a Woman, Elizabeth Elliot records the story of a friend who had great difficulty accepting the looks God had given her. While everyone this girl knew had grown beautiful golden hair, hers was black. And while they were all still growing, she had stopped. She grew to be only about four feet ten inches tall.
Throughout Colorado and New Mexico forest fires are burning out of control. Last night, we had the priviliage of hosting a pastor and his wife. They were leading a tour group visiting different ministries throughout Israel. While the pastor was checking his email, he received word that houses near his congregation in Colorado were being evacuated.
As I write, it seems the prevailing concern among people everywhere is -– what's going on with the economy? Europe is on the verge of an economic collapse. Even the kings of wall street are suffering huge losses with JP Morgan reporting losing over $2 billion yesterday. People are watching their wealth dissipating and dwindling away. Reflecting on these material losses reminds me of a story about a lady who perished in Pompeii in the first century.
It was 1986, in the midst of a three year drought, when two brothers who lived in a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee made an incredible discovery. As these two fisherman monitored their equipment on the lake, they noticed something glistening in the sun covered in mud. It was a fishing boat. Upon deeper examination, archaeologists determined that these two brothers had discovered an ancient boat from the time of Yeshua (Jesus). It's was called the "Jesus boat" and is now located in a museum next to the Sea of Galilee.