Under the Mighty Hand of God

I Peter 5:6-7  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all you anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (NASB)

It was Saturday September 26, I was attending a four hour prayer meeting for a conference that is actually happening later this week.  It was a great time of preparation as we sang songs of worship, read scripture, and prayed together concerning the upcoming event.  One of the portions of scripture was Judges 6 the account of Gideon and the work that God had for him to do.  One of the things that Gideon was called to do was to tear down his father’s alter to Baal and the Asherah.  Then Gideon was to offer his father’s bull as a sacrifice, burnt on the wood of the Asherah.  There was a discussion that followed regarding the strongholds in our lives that needed to be torn down so that God could use us in the work of the kingdom.  Later, in a time of prayer the scripture came to me from I Peter exhorting us to live humbly under the mighty hand of God.

There are many ways that Satan can gain a stronghold in our lives.  Fear is one.  Fear can cause us to think and act in very irrational ways.  Anger is another.  Anger causes us to lash out with destructive intent.  Both of these emotions have their healthy place but when Satan enters the picture and is allowed to abide we become crippled as our lives become focussed on something other than the work of the kingdom.

A beautiful thing happened during this meeting which points toward the need for us to be part of the body of Christ.  A person whom I had never met before pointed at me and said, “there is a strong hold in your life that needs to be torn down.”  It was true, I had battled for weeks on a matter involving another person, I wanted desperately to be rid of the anger that would flare up seemingly from nowhere.  The person brought four other people to me who prayed with me and put the spotlight of God’s Word on the deep recesses of my heart.  As I prayed these words, “God, let me live once again under your mighty hand” the work was done and that root of bitterness was removed from my life.

So many times our hearts and minds get drawn away from the truth, we want to stand on our own and take things into our own hands.  This is not what is best.  God calls us to live TODAY in humility and obedience, under the protection and guidance of His hand.  The cares of yesterday, and the concerns about tomorrow cannot rule our lives; we must focus our full attention on God Almighty.

Work of the Craftsman III

Parts are made out of pieces.  A traditional bow has three basic parts: the riser, the limbs, and the string.  There are different processes used to form the different parts.  To form a part from pieces three things are required.  The first is a standard which defines the part.  Second is the proper force required to either extract the part from the blank or move the part to meet the standard.  Third is skill enough to create the part from the blank using the force and the standard.  Today we look at one of several standards that are used to make this bow.

A standard can be presented various ways.  For instance, when we make the limbs you will see laminations being ground to a very specific standard both in taper and thickness.  Since we are working on the riser section i thought I would share the making of the riser template.  Since my form is built to accept only one style of riser when assembling the riser and limbs it is crucial that the initial forming of the riser be created within a tolerance range.  This is best represented by designing and then creating a shape that is as near perfect as possible, representing the dimensions that the maker has in mind.  In this case, my dream for this bow is a 21 inch long riser that has an evenly rounded handle section 3 inches think which glides gracefully into the upper and lower limbs.  The transition from the handle to the limb must be identical above and below the grip, and the riser must fade into the limb so that the transition is barely noticed.  This transition is the most defining work the craftsman will accomplish, it is where the solid beauty of the riser and the power of the limbs come together to accomplish what the maker intended.

The material I have chose to build this template out of is kiln dried hickory.  I have drawn the shape i want into the plank.

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Then cut it roughly on the bandsaw being careful to stay away from the line as seen below.

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I want the edge of this tool to be clean and run exactly along the shape I have defined by the line.  This requires the use of tools that only take off a minute amount of material at a time.  I use a block plane, a spoke shave (designed by Bowyer’s Edge), and a sanding block to bring this template to the correct dimension.

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Now to test the work.  Getting both ends of the template to be exactly the same is very difficult.  One reason is that they are very difficult to compare.  So after working the wood a series of tests are performed to show the progress.  I use a sheet of graph paper and trace the flow of each end a measured distance from one another for comparison.  This shows one of the final adjustments. Line #1 and #2 are nearly identical to one another.

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In the end the template or standard we have made will be used to mark the initial dimensions which form the basic shape of the riser so that skill and force may be applied in the forming of the part.

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The standard is the thing that all other designs or parts are compared to.  It is something that only the maker knows or can create, because only the maker can determine what the dimensions of the part should be according to the design they have in mind.  I have said this before, I am really excited about this bow, it is my design and the work of my hands.  I am not about to just throw any old part into the riser section of this beautiful, powerful creation.

This is exactly the way our Heavenly Father views each of us His children, part of the body of Christ.  When we allow ourselves to be shaped into the image of Jesus Christ there is nothing that can stand in the way of God Almighty making something beautiful and powerful.  Only days ago this wood was first a bland, lifeless board up on the wood rack.  Then it became raggedy and worn, but now a basic shape seems possible.

Savor for a moment the words of an old hymn titled “At Calvary”, written by Daniel B. Tower (1895).

“Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!  Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!”

I hope that you will pause right now and let the awesomeness of the life transforming work of God Almighty fill your heart and renew your spirit.  We are here by design, made for a purpose.  Amen.

Work of the Craftsman II

Today I had the opportunity to do some work on the bow project.  As I worked my mind continued musing on how the process of this project is so similar to the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.  Of course we have to keep in mind that the wood in this case has no power of choice, hence the process can only really be viewed from the eye of the craftsman.  Although sometimes wood seems to have a mind of its own if it is not cured properly, or the wrong type of wood is used in the wrong application.  Looking back through my records this afternoon this is bow number 74 for me, at least since I started keeping track.  I cannot imagine trying to create that many bows if wood had a will of its own and could animate based on the choices of that will.  Yet this seems to be what God created.  God created man and from the very beginning it was His plan that” none should perish, but that all should have eternal life.” then He gave us the power of choice.  Oh, the precious wood that is lost because of that stubborn will!

The first part I wrote about was really about the abrasive part of becoming useful.  The sawing and sanding that it takes to make the pieces that will be formed into the craftsman’s design for the riser (handle) of the bow.  Today I watched the process of the joining of those pieces together to form the riser block.  First it is very important to have the perfect design or order for the pieces to be in.

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In this case I have eliminated some of the original wood.  It was just too dark, so I removed several of the strips of cherry and walnut and replaced them with black locust.  Black locust finishes in a medium honey color and is just what this riser needed to become the beautiful bow I have in mind.  Most of the wood I have chosen for this project are all from Illinois and were harvested from within a few miles of where I used to live there.  These woods are similar in contrast; the walnut and the cherry are the darker woods that will be melded together by the honey color of the locust and accented by thin strips of hickory (white) and wenge (very dark brown.)  Wenge is wood from West Africa, it is very porous and I will only use it for thin accent strips.  So the sorting and the lay-up gives an early indication of the design of the craftsman.

Then the gluing begins.  I need to point out here that the forming of the riser is absolutely crucial to the usefulness of the bow.  It is the core of the bow.  The riser is what enables both the bow’s beauty and it’s strength.  The riser does not create the power of the bow, the limbs do that, but it is the very foundation of the bow and it holds all the pieces and parts together.  Romans 12 speaks of the body of Christ and that although we are all different, we are connected to one another.  So, just as the pieces come together that have been sawn and sanded to make one homogeneous piece, so it must be in the body of Christ.

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Glue us applied liberally to both sides of every piece.

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The whole block is held securely from four sides so the clamping can begin.

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As the clamps are applied they must be staggered  and oriented so that the wood is held straight.  In other words, if all the clamps were placed so that they all twisted in the same direction this stack of pieces would slip in the direction of that twist and the blank would become a useless parallelogram.  So the clamps are altered so that the twisting pressure is opposite that of the neighbor and the block is held solid and square.  Next time you are getting squeezed from every direction, remember it is all part of the plan and necessary to becoming useful.

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Then the whole thing is unceremoniously thrown into the oven so the glue can cure at about 180 degrees.

Summary

The purpose of this days works was to produce a block of wood 2″ wide, 3″ thick, 21″ long.  The block must be cured as square  as possible.  There must not be any voids in the glue lines.  The block must be strong and show progress towards the beauty that is at this point still hidden somewhere beneath the surface.  If this process has been completed properly, when the riser block is removed from the oven it will be stronger than any block of any of the separate woods that were used in its making.  I would point out that the block will be at its strongest when it comes out of the oven, but it is not at all usable for its intended purpose.  It will need to be weakened before it becomes useful, in fact, some parts will become extremely fragile in the next process; then it will need to be weakened even more before it will become beautiful.  I am excited about this bow and cannot wait to make the final tiller adjustment and watch the first arrow gracefully reach its mark.

The one thought I would leave with you as a follower of Christ is this.  The core of the kingdom of God is the body of Christ.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and bind us together we become an immovable instrument that transmits the power of God Almighty.

How Great Thou Art

The words of the hymn caught my eye as I was flipping through a day’s accumulation of Facebook.  It was an image, like a page taken from a hymnal.  The statement above the image told the story of a federal judge who had banned the hymn from a halftime show at a high school football game.  A wide range of comments follow the story from “you can’t fix stupid” to those calling for impeachment of the judge.  As a follower of Jesus Christ nothing breaks my heart more than to see our nation turn its back on God Almighty.  It seems that with stories like this are becoming more and more prevalent.

I flipped on past the post but the words of the hymn stayed with me and my mind began to wander back through some of the memorable times when the words of the hymn had focussed me on God Almighty.  It was July 1995 and I was in the Kingdome in Seattle, WA.  I was attending a Promise Keepers Conference with my dad, brother, and a couple other friends.  The Kingdome was packed with sixty-five thousand men, all there to worship God.  The first evening was good as we all settled into the conference and I left the stadium that evening with great anticipation for what the next day would hold.

The next day I was tired when I woke up.  It was a time in my life when I was burning the candle at both ends working long hours, stretching the nickels out to provide for my wife and two very small daughters.  The first hour or so of that day was spent in a fog that even Seattle’s Best Coffee could not clear and then I found myself singing the words of this hymn with thousands of other men.  When we were about halfway through the second stanza I bowed my headed and prayed something like this, “God, I did not come here to drag through another day.  I came here to worship You with these thousands of men, I pray right now that You will will make this place shake.”  As thousands of voices started the chorus a few seconds later, the Kingdome erupted!  It is one of the most incredible events in my memory, one moment we are all singing, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art…” the next moment we were swept into a time of praise and worship where the stadium literally shook for a large part of an hour.

I have written in the past few weeks about the mystery that we find ourselves living in pertaining to our relationship with God Almighty.  This event is one of the markers of the mystery in my life.  As a young man this experience put a crack in my hesitancy to ask for what I needed from God, including physiological needs like living in a fog.  There is something even more important for us in these days when decrying God Almighty seems to be in vogue; We need to remember.  We need to remember what God has done, we need to tell about what God has done, and we need to return to God Almighty.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  II Chronicles 7:13-14

These words were spoken by God to King Solomon after he had completed building the temple.  In the verses that follow God consecrates the temple Solomon had built as the place where He would dwell.  The words are pertinent to us today who live under the New Covenant and the conditions still apply, IF my people…will humble themselves and pray…THEN I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

There isn’t anything that a judge or anyone else can say or do with this hymn that will have any real affect on who God Almighty is or how He chooses to act.  God Almighty has given the choice to His people and, today, we can either continue to make whimsical comments in an emotional response to the society we live in or we can find our place before Him on our knees.

The Work of the Craftsman

One of the things that I really enjoy is building traditional bows.  There is something about the sleek, simple lines of your basic stick and string that speaks of the past and presents beauty and strength.  It has been about three years since I built a bow and as I have been assembling the various pieces of equipment in the garage over the summer, I found added maintenance required because the tools had sat so long without use.  There is a lesson in there somewhere for another day.

Today I spent a couple hours designing and making the pieces for the riser, or handle section, of a recurve bow.  It was all the things I enjoy doing with wood.  Starting with the raw wood assessing it for soundness, grain orientation, and color all with the idea that the pieces need to come together to first be usable, then reflect the design of the craftsman, and finally transmit the power that lies within its limbs.

There is a simple process here that I will attempt to illustrate.  First the wood is cut to the width needed, in this case it is 2 inches even.  This is pretty easy on the wood but it is just the first step towards being usable.

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Then the wood is cut for thickness.  This completely distorts the wood from the way it started.  The potential beauty of the grain is hidden in the raggedy cut made across the grain.  The pieces no longer fit together and although they are roughly straight nothing fits.

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This is necessary however, because the craftsman can begin to stack them in certain ways so that the colors accent one another and a rough pattern emerges.

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Next the grinding starts.  Several passes through the grinder is what it takes to smooth out the ragged surface and make the final thickness.

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This is where the craftsman has to start making decisions about the wood.  With each pass through the grinder the piece is scrutinized because it is this process that makes the pieces usable.  The saw marks must be gone for two reasons: First, so the pieces can fit back together again.  Second, so that the integrity of the piece is not compromised.  You see, a gauge crosswise to the grain of the wood causes a weakness in the wood.  Repeated stress and harmonic vibration that the bow will be subjected to over and over again would cause the grain to separate at that point and the bow would eventually break.

Finally the pieces are sorted for the separate uses then laid out in the order intended.

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Now, there are a lot more pieces that need to be made for this to become a recurve bow, but as I worked on this project this afternoon my thoughts were guided to the idea of being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.  As all of my attention was given to making these pieces usable, so is the attention we receive from God Almighty who spared no expense to bring us into this relationship with Himself.  Yeah, it is easy to resent the grinding, and how often do we feel all raggedy and worn.  Someday, when it is all put together, this bow is going to be a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that functions fully within its design.  So it is when we allow ourselves to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

It is hard to know to whom I am writing tonight.  Someone out there who is a child of the King needs to hold on just a little longer.  The grinding does not last for ever and then we see the pleasure in the eyes of the One who made us.  Hallelujah!

Amen.

The Truth Will Set You Free

We all want an “atta boy” every now and then, right?  Sometimes it seems like we have just been hammering away at life, giving everything we have, leaving it all on the field…it would be great if someone would just swing by and say, “Keep up the great work.”  I am no different than anyone else here, but I would like to share a little perspective on this from God’s Word that has helped me stay in line and better gauge my expectations in this area.

As humans, our need or desire for an ‘atta boy’ is for the most part completely self-centered and self-serving.  We use this interaction to gauge how we are doing and how our stuff stacks up against someone or something else’s.  If we let this need overtake us, the ‘atta boy’ becomes the main thing and we will do whatever it takes to get there.  When this is the case things like right and wrong can often take a back seat and, well, the news is just full stories about what happens when right and wrong were not considered early in the decision making process.  As followers of Jesus Christ we have the answer to this because we know The Way, the Truth, and The Life.

I would draw our attention to Psalm 26, written by King David, Man after God’s own heart and my favorite blogger.  There is some real honesty in the Psalm and some things that when I am looking for validation I hope are true about my life.  There is a pattern here that I think pleases God and lifts us above the self-serving desires that we struggle with day in and day out.

Psalm 26:1-7 (NASB)

  1. Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
  2. Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.
  3. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.
  4. I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders.
  5. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
  6. I shall wash my hands in innocence, and I will go about Your alter, O Lord,
  7. That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.

The very first thing that needs to be noted here is that David went to the right source for information and with the proper attitude.  The literal translation for the beginning of this Psalm is “Judge me, O Lord”.  Wow!  What an awesome place to be!  Kneeling before God Almighty, baring the deepest parts of our soul, seeking the truth.  “Judge me, O Lord”.  “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.”  How is it  that we should be able to say these words before God without hesitation?  Well, David lays that out before God as well, “I have walked in my integrity”, “I have trusted without wavering”, “I have walked in Your truth” and so on.  Even David’s motivation is clear, “I will go about Your alter, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.”   I don’t know about you but that makes me pause and reflect on what makes me do the things that I do.

David’s position in this Psalm is one of ultimate freedom.  Freedom from the words of others or even what they may think.  Freedom from the stories we tell ourselves, and often believe, about our place here on earth and how we may or may not measure up.  Freedom from Satan’s measure which will never be enough and leaves us empty and broken.  Freedom in Christ who fills us with hope.  Freedom…because the truth sets us free.

Judge me, O Lord.

My Favorite Blogger

So, I have been contemplating this blogging thing for a few years now.  It is truly one of the bittersweet pieces of my life.  Not that it really matters what it is or how I feel about it.  I will never forget July 13, 2011.  I was in the early stages of recovering from a very bitter time in my career.  My stress level was off the charts and some very tragic things had just occurred that effected the lives of everyone I worked with.  The past two and a half years had taken their toll and yet God had remained true and I had learned that He will indeed carry you when you just cannot put one foot in front of the other anymore.  July 13, 2011 was a blue sky day in Springfield, IL and it was hot.  I was on the south side of town getting into my truck after a receiving some professional counseling when I heard God’s voice speak to my heart saying simply, “Write it all down.”  Instead of going directly back to work I stopped and bought a laptop and have attempted to ‘write it all down.’

There have been the high times and the low times.  There have been times when it just did not seem like the thing to do anymore.  Times when I bulked at actually putting things on the world wide web for all to see.  Times when I begged God to give me something to write.  Times like the past few days when my heart wants to write, but the words just will not pass my fingertips and I stare at a blank screen.

Tonight I have been trying to get unstuck and I have read some great stuff from other writers who are also followers of Christ.  However, across the evening the still small voice has been in the back of my head saying “Read Psalm 20”, “Read Psalm 20”.  I would like to introduce you to my favorite blogger.  David, King of Israel, Man After God’s own Heart!  If you study the life of David you will find someone who does not seem to have a lot of time on his hands for writing.  Yet, it seems that one day somewhere back there in his life God might have spoken words to him, something like, “David, write it all down.”  David was an honest writer.  There were the highs and lows, and things that he may have bulked at publishing for the world to see.

I would like to highlight some words for you all tonight from the pen of my favorite blogger.  Words that are inspired by God Almighty and have been kept for our encouragement through centuries of time.

Psalm 20:6-9

6  Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8  They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9  Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call.

Amen!