A piece of art, in any form, is crafted and put on display to reflect the artist’s creativity and skill; to reflect a virtue or beauty envisioned by the artist. According to the Apostle Paul, we are God’s piece of art.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:10
The word for “workmanship” in the Greek is poiema and can be translated: achievement, work of art, masterpiece. The more passionate an artist is about a particular piece of art the more they will labor to reshape it and mold it giving it their utmost attention.
C.S. Lewis put it this way…
We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [alive and conscious of its feelings]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Most of the time I really do want to be shaped and molded according to God’s intended design. I know that sin has marred and twisted not only my true identity in Christ but also my capacity to reflect the glory of God. But when that process gets uncomfortable or downright painful my heart cries, “Enough already God!”
But God’s love for us will not allow Him to stop working to reshape us into the person He made us to be. And to balk at His work in us is to want less of His love.
Grant us grace God that we might give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work of the Holy Spirit as He transforms us into your poiema!
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.
Filed under Christianity, CS Lewis, Discipleship, Glory of God, God, Holy Spirit, Love of God, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender
Have you seen the new commercial by a well-known do-it-yourself store when a couple rushes into a big house where the walls are covered with nothing but white paper?
They are both carrying markers and when they draw the outline of an object on the blank wall it immediately pops into reality. A new appliance, some pieces of hardware, a new window or door.
As a guy with a carpentry background who struggles to complete remodeling projects on our old farm-house in a timely fashion I would love one of those magic markers.
But the point of the commercial is that this particular do-it-yourself store can take whatever you imagine and make it real. How cool is that?! But I’ve got one better.
In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul prays for them to be rooted and established in love and able to fully grasp the width, length, height and depth of the love of Christ. Then he makes this amazing statement:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21
Paul has own unique way with words. How do you calculate “immeasurably more”? Whatever it is, God can do it with whatever we ask or imagine.
Obviously, this is not a promise to satisfy our own wants and desires. And our ability to imagine tends to grow smaller as we age. But in keeping with God’s kingdom purposes, what can you imagine God accomplishing?
- Healing for a wreaked marriage?
- Boldness to share the hope of Christ with those who don’t know Him?
- Wisdom and grace for parents dealing with a rebellious child?
- Real peace for a heart troubled with worry?
- Freedom from addictions or sinful habits?
- Better choices made by a rebellious child?
- The hard-hearted person finally opening up to receive God’s gift of grace?
- Character and integrity in those who serve in our government?
- Courage to forgive those who have hurt us?
- A renewed love of God for those who claim Jesus as Lord?
God delights to bring all manner of new life and restored hope because He loves us more than we can begin to fathom. The question is…
… what is it that we ask God for or imagine Him doing?
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Courage, Family, Forgiveness, Glory of God, Grace, Hope, Imagination, influence with the world, Love of God, Marriage, Parenting, Peace, Prayer, Revival, Sin, Trusting God
Yesterday I helped a friend grieve and say goodbye to a son he never got to hold. He and his wife lost a little boy about 12 weeks into the pregnancy. His name is Benjamin James.
Benjamin is face to face with our Creator but my friend and his wife are walking through a valley darker than any they’ve ever experienced. And it sucks!
This is not how God intended life to be. That’s why He’s busy creating a new place for us to be with Him forever. A place without death or suffering or tears. But until that day comes we endure some serious heartache.
The Apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning under the strain of a fallen, broken world.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. ~ Romans 8:18-22 (NLT)
Seasons of suffering, like what my friends Brian and Karen are going through right now, add to the groaning mentioned here by Paul. But no matter how deep our sorrow runs, God’s grace runs deeper… and wider… and stronger.
So for now, we grieve with hope and wait for the day when God’s glory will make it all fade away.
With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman was shared as part of the memorial service for Benjamin.
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
I want to go on record and state it… I’m guilty!
I easily limit God’s arena of influence to those people or circumstances that are poised with greatness and just oozing with an essence of being extraordinary. Since I rarely, if ever, fit those qualifications I simply don’t often expect God to be able to do much through me. But…
“Once He [Jesus] set out on His earthly ministry, the incarnate God never stopped seeing extraordinary possibilities in less-than-ordinary events. He foresaw the future of His kingdom in a dozen dodgy disciples—some of whom weren’t particularly good at casting out demons and one of whom wasn’t even a believer in the first place (see Matthew 16:19; Mark 9:14–32; Acts 1:16–25). And, most absurd of all, in the midst of my many failings, God manages to notice a glimmer of His glory in even me.”
~ Excerpted from Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Timothy Paul Jones
Even the Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament and was used by God to do some pretty amazing things understood the irony of God using ordinary people; even as weak and feeble as we tend to be. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth he wrote…
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6–7 (NIV)
Paul refers to all of us as “jars of clay” but points out that God does this because when He shines the light of Christ through our ordinary lives, it becomes obvious to others that it’s not us but God at work. This not only gives God the glory but draws people toward Jesus!
It’s precisely because we are ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary circumstances that God can use us to display His extraordinary glory!
Are you expecting God to use you or the ordinary circumstances of your life to produce extraordinary results?
I’ve long admired those people who seem to do life with steady upward progress. My own experience is more akin to a roller coaster ride with ups and downs and twists and turns and unexpected dips.
Yesterday was one of those “dips”, though actually I think it began shortly before going to bed the night before, and to be perfectly honest it was frustrating!
For some time now I’ve been thoroughly enjoying every aspect of life. My relationship with God is thriving. My family is doing great! I’ve been eating better and exercising. Ministry is going really well.
But then an unexpected dip came and there I was dragging myself into another day. It’s not that the bottom fell out but more like I was stuck in a haze.
I don’t know how you handle such moments but one thing I do is sort through and organize my stacks. According to Susan, if stacking were an Olympic event I’d be wearing gold! And since my desk looked like the aftermath of a tornado it was a good place to start.
By 1:00 pm that afternoon God had used several different things to get my attention and readjust my focus.
- Reading about a gal who gave up her 4,000 square foot home to work in Darfur helping the homeless and victims of sex trafficking.
- The story of Christopher Yuan – I write more about him in a later blog.
- An article by Carolyn Arends about how our busy pace of life can hinder our ability to listen to God and participate in His primary goal for us – to make us more like Jesus.
- A blog entry by Steven Furtick challenging us to emulate the attitude of the Apostle Paul – seeing every moment as an opportunity to participate in God’s grand adventure.
- Reading about a small church in KY that dropped their denominational name and reached further into their community to touch the lives of the hurting – pursuing the Great Commandment (Mt 22:34-40).
- An email from NewWays Ministries with encouraging words from Larry Crabb.
None of that was on my radar heading into the day!
I’m not suggesting that any of these particulars would have the same effect on you; I’m just pointing out that sometimes unexpected dips or hazy moments serve the divine purpose of interrupting our agenda or current train of thought so that God can more effectively grab our attention. So…
Don’t begrudge the dips!
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT
These words paint a picture of an unimaginable and extraordinary existence, one far beyond what any mere mortal has known or experienced. You may have heard these words before and related them only to heaven’s glory. But in actuality, they were penned for the here and now! For the writer, the apostle Paul, continues, “But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit” (verse 10, NLT).
There’s One Person above all others who desires an extraordinary life for you. He is a Father who delights, like any good father, in the achievements and happiness of His children. His name is God! And nothing will please Him more than seeing you reach your highest potential. God’s extraordinary plan is revealed when we live extraordinarily. Together let’s give the angels something to talk about!
— Excerpted from Extraordinary by John Bevere
What does it mean for you to live life extraordinarily?
“Your reality is God’s glory. Everything that is happening in your life—especially the stuff you want to keep a secret—is an ingredient in God’s greatness. You might be thinking, I don’t want God to use that! God’s reply is, That is exactly what I want to use. God is eager to use your now-life, not your cleaned-up version. To fuel the dream, He prefers struggles over strengths. One gives Him glory, the other gives you glory. Yep, it’s the spots on the lepers and their utter helplessness that got God excited and put the clean to shame. Got some ugly spots dotting the epidermis of your life right now? Got old spots and scars that the masks can’t cover? God is operating in your uncomfortable realities today, not in the ideal future. Reality is where glory resides.” ~ From Dream by Kenny Luck
We tend to be a proud people. We don’t want anyone seeing our warts or blemishes lest they think less of us. So we work hard to cover up the imperfections that might bring criticism from others. But this directly limits what God can accomplish through us; it limits how much we reflect His glory.
The Apostle Paul describes being buffeted or challenged by a messenger of Satan sent to torment him. We don’t know exactly what form of struggle this was but we know that it pressed Paul to the point of exasperation so that he cried out to God for help. Here is his account of it.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
If you run into a Christian who talks as if they have arrived, as if they have it all together – watch out! That person has yet not yet begun to understand the things of God. They are fooling themselves but no one else and certainly not God.
Do you believe God can use the ugly parts of your life as well as the good?
To read more from Dream click here http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781578569878&view=excerpt&ref=email_crn_wbmlt_daily_6092011
This year commemorates the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. And Memorial Day first began to remember those who fought and died in that same war. Oliver North offers this description.
“Begun as a local observance in the aftermath of the Civil War, the first national commemoration took place May 30, 1868, at the direction of Gen. John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Though his General Order No. 11 specified “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion” — meaning only Union soldiers — those who tended the burial sites at Arlington, Va., Gettysburg, Pa., and Vicksburg, Miss., decided on their own to decorate the biers of both Union and Confederate war dead.” ~ Oliver North
The Civil War was unique in that it pitted brother against brother and family against family. More than 600,000 men gave their lives and the outcome was a unified nation. But there’s an even more significant civil war going on today.
The Apostle Paul describes this most basic of civil wars that takes place between our desire to please God and the selfish desires of our flesh. In Romans chapter 7 Paul is frustrated and exasperated because of the ongoing struggle.
The solution? The grace of God available through Christ Jesus. “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” ~Romans 8:1
Don’t miss a single opportunity to thank a veteran for what they did in serving our country and defending our freedom. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
But be sure you make time today to praise God for the gift of grace made available to us through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. He purchased freedom that will carry us on into eternity!
Peace is one of those words that has come to mean so many different things to different people that we’ve lost how it was originally used by Jesus. We most often think of peace as the absence of conflict or strife; but it’s much more than that.
Peace is more about a sense of being whole or complete. It’s about possessing adequate resources no matter what the need. And it’s more of an inner state of being than anything dependant on external circumstances.
Consider what Jesus told His disciples as He was preparing them for His upcoming death, burial, resurrection and departure from this life to return to the Father.
I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. ~ John 14:27 (MSG)
Describing this same peace of God to the believers in Philippi the Apostle Paul wrote:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:7
So why isn’t this peace of God that goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend more evident in you and me? How can we come to experience such peace; this sense of being well and whole? By keeping company with God!
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4
This new year will certainly be filled with it’s share of ups and downs. While we can’t know all that 2011 holds for us, we can know the peace of God that is able to sustain us through anything that might be coming our way.
What are you doing to pursue intimacy with our Prince of Peace?
It is perhaps one of the most commonly held perspectives ever. We read it or hear it or even say it all the time. That perspective is…
“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
Let me pose a simple question; where do you find that nugget of truth in the Bible? Nowhere because it doesn’t exist because God never gave it as a promise.
In fact, we can know for certain that God does at times allow us more than we can handle because that was the Apostle Paul’s experience. Consider what he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
To be fair, I’m sure that our motive behind the “God will never…” perspective is to encourage one another or ourselves, but in the end it can keep us from realizing God’s power working in and through us. So long as we are trying harder and harder to hang in there we won’t let go and more fully rely on God.
Paul states that these overwhelming circumstances of life that made them ready to throw in the towel “happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Consider your biggest challenge right now.
Are you trying harder to hang tough or learning to rely on God?