God’s Masterpiece

I have always admired the work of Claude Monet, the master French impressionist. Actually revered is probably a better description on how I view his work.I have a deep love for landscape art and Monet’s paintings are quite breathtaking.  I had the opportunity to visit an art gallery in Las Vegas of all places which was displaying a large collection of his work.  It was remarkable to note that when looking at his paintings up close, they all looked like random blotches of oil paint.  But when one steps back to take in the whole painting, that is when the true beauty and the nature of the subject comes into view.

Monet lived the later part of his life in Giverny, France on a small farm which he turned into his canvas. His particular passion was painting his water-lily pond, which took him many years to cultivate to his perfection. In the last 33 years of his life, Monet painted little else, creating many masterpieces for us to enjoy.

The Bible tells us that we are God’s masterpieces, (Gk.”poiema”), his work of art, his magnum opus,  his poem, his symphony. He is the master artist who sketches us and takes a lifetime to fill in that sketch with a palette of colors. He is the master musician who composes the symphony of our lives. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10. God also tells us in Ephesians that we are His chosen, adopted, holy, blameless, his inheritance, redeemed, forgiven, sealed with the Spirit, righteous, a citizen of Heaven, faithful, lavished on by God, included, a saint,  light to others, secure, have peace, alive with Christ, complete, and our lives bring great glory to God. If God thinks so very much of us, why do we think so little of ourselves? We are His masterpiece and yet we live as if we are a dime-store imitation.  We often view ourselves as random blotches of paint. If we would but step back and take in the whole of our lives, we would see the work of art God is creating.

Realizing how wonderful God thinks we are seems to collide with the biblical imperative to be humble. How can we have a healthy, biblical self image and still be humble? We do that by remembering that it is all God. Long before He laid the foundations of the earth, “He had us in mind.” It was God’s plan from the beginning of time to love us, choose us, and adopt us. It was all Him, and it was made possible by His sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. It was said that in order to get perfect reflections off the water in his pond, Monet would insist that both the garden and the pond were meticulously clean-even to the point of asking his cleaners to dust the surface of the water.  How fortunate we are so have a God who does the cleaning of our souls for us, washing us in the blood of the Messiah, His Son.

When our focus is on how great our God and all He has done for us, humility and gratitude are the result.  Humility is not thinking too much of ourselves, (which is pride), nor thinking too little of ourselves (which is also pride), but thinking of ourselves less. We do not admire great works of art, magnificent poetry, or a stirring piece of music for the thing itself. We admire the artist who did the painting, the writing, or the composing.  God makes much of us so that we can live our lives making much of Him. We bring God great glory when we live our lives as the “Work of Art” he has made us to be.

A Season of Waiting

Winter is a season when the whole earth is in a waiting period. The grapes have been harvested and the vines are bare. The almond trees are void of leaves and buds. The summer wheat has been baled and stored in the barns. It is as if the world is asleep waiting to be awakened in spring.

Winter is a time of waiting for us as well. Children await the arrival of Christmas day and the promise of gifts galore. Adults anticipate time with family and friends, warmed by the joy of Christmas.

Waiting is something we do not do well in the 21st century. We are used to getting what we want as soon as we want it. We can get in touch with people instantly through email, cell phone, and text messaging. We feel that by waiting we are wasting time and being unproductive.

God is in the waiting business. His waiting is an active waiting not passive. The earth externally appears to be dormant, but internally it is being revitalized and reborn. Like His creation in winter which patiently, eagerly waits for the warmth and new life of spring, we wait for God to do His work in us. But this waiting takes patience.The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.” Waiting often feels like suffering to us, but it means to suffer through the present moment, in order to experience the joy and fulfillment of the future.

Winter is the perfect time for Advent, a time of waiting in expectation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Messiah. With awe and wonder we wait for His arrival with great longing. We marvel at the mystery of the incarnation; God becoming man in a baby. The miracle of the incarnation made possible the miracle of salvation.

Yet we should also marvel at how God could love us so much that He would leave His heavenly throne to become like us. The miracle of Christmas is not just that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” but that God chose to love us at all. The ancient scholar Irenaeus wrote, “The word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of his great love for mankind, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”

Advent is also a time to reflect on the promise of Jesus’ second coming as well. Hebrews says Jesus “will appear a second time…to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” This waiting actively anticipates the return of Christ. As believers we are to wait with expectation. Just as our children wait for the good gifts their parents give them, we eagerly await the good gifts God has for us at His return. While we wait we are to be busy preparing the fertile soil of our hearts for His return. We are to be sowing seeds of the Gospel message in the hearts of others. We are to be busy in our waiting.

God beckons us to a place of stillness, quiet, and reflection during the Christmas season, for it is in the stillness that we most clearly see His presence and hear His voice. May you experience the intimate, amazing love and overwhelming grace of our Heavenly Father through the celebration of the birth of his Son, Jesus, this Advent season.

Window Shopping

I love living on the Westside of Paso Robles. With the renovation of the downtown area, Paso has been able to keep the small town atmosphere alive and well on the Westside. This is a great time of the year to stroll along the streets of downtown. The shopkeepers are all busy decorating their store fronts for the holidays. I love window shopping at the furniture and decorator stores. The displays of their living areas are warm and inviting. The rooms are always accessorized perfectly. There is never anything out of place. As I gaze longing into the windows, I imagine myself sitting on one of the cozy sofas with a cup of coffee and having a long chat with a dear friend.

It is entertaining to imagine living in that perfect room in the window, but reality soon creeps in. I live on the other side of the window in a world where life is not perfect, where my living room is not accessorized perfectly. Dirty cups reside on the table and stray socks hide under the sofa.

So it is with our spiritual lives. My heart longs to live in a perfect world with a perfect family, perfect friends, and a perfect church. I desire to be a perfect wife, mother and friend. But I am a sinner living in a world marred by sin where perfection is an illusion. I am thankful that my family and friends love me enough to forgive me of my sin and imperfections. I am thankful that my Heavenly Father uses this imperfect world to refine me and smooth out my rough edges. I am thankful that Jesus challenges me to live out the Sermon on the Mount, causing me to struggle with the same questions; “who is my neighbor; how many times must I forgive; what does it mean to be light to the world?”

My heart also longs for God. David cried out in Psalm 63, “My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David could not quench his thirst for God. Often I try to fill my hunger for God with other things, other enticements, but they never satisfy. They are only temporary distractions. Perhaps our longing for God is not meant to be satisfied until we reach heaven. The prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.”

C.S. Lewis said in his book, The Weight of Glory

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
We are on the outside of the world, strangers in a strange land. But it will not also be so. Jesus promised the disciples and us in John 14 that someday we would dwell with Him in our Father’s house. I long for the day when I shall get IN, when I can mingle with the splendor. When that day arrives, I will no longer be on the outside of the window looking in. I will be sitting on a cozy sofa having a long chat with a Dear Friend.