Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
For the past couple of weeks, I have been going over the edits for the Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables book. What I have learned is that I have no idea how to use a comma, I either have too many or not enough.
The purpose of editing a manuscript is to make improvements. Tedious, time-consuming, and at times painful but necessary. It is my least favorite part of writing.
The ultimate goal of the Christian is to become more like Christ, the very image of our savior. It is a life-long process and will only be complete when we stand in the presence of Christ Jesus. Throughout our lives, we undergo a similar exercise of modification. As we grow in Christ, we are continually in situations and trials; these tests are to strengthen our faith and to improve us as Christians.
For us to become more like Christ, we must be open and willing to undergo the “edits.”
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
As the bus came out of the trees, Mont Saint Michel rose up out of the salt marshes of Normandy. Its spire, like a finger, pointed heavenward. Blue skies with the occasional wisp of white seemed to stretch forever as if nothing existed beyond the abbey.
I departed the bus and impatiently waited for the next tram. Excitement propelled me as I walked across the causeway to the benedictine abbey. The closer I came, the realization of just how big this feudal structure was became obvious. Once across the path, I entered into a medieval world. Cobbled streets and narrow passageways stretched out. Shops, restaurants, and people filled the island city. Anxious to make sure I made it to the chapel at the top of the abbey, I, along with my daughter and friend, began the arduous climb up the stone steps.
The steep stone stairs took us higher, and the view of Normandy was magnificent. The wind whipped and clawed at our clothes as we climbed. Finally, the staircase widened to the courtyard that surrounded the chapel. From the turrets, I stood stretching my eyes to the horizon that melted into the sea. There was peace so high above the world. I entered the chapel and found a pew. I longed for a moment of quiet reflection.
As I sat in that pew in the stone chapel I thought about the abbey. One of the things that I found to be interesting about Mont Saint Michel is its design in the structural hierarchy of feudal society. On the top, there is God, then the abbey, monastery followed by the great halls. Then storehouses, housing, and on the bottom and outside the walls are the fisherman and farmers’ houses.
This design places the spiritual leaders and teachers above the rest of the people in the city. There above the commoners and tradesman, the residents of the abbey segregated themselves. It immediately reminded me that Jesus does not want any of us to put ourselves above others. When Jesus came to teach, save, and heal, he did not go to the synagogues, instead, he went to the people. Jesus went to those that needed healing, forgiveness, and encouragement. We cannot influence, encourage, and help unless we are willing to go to those in need.
Getting close to God does not come from building towering chapels and monuments; it comes from focusing on people.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
On my recent trip to France, I had the pleasure of visiting several museums. One that I enjoyed a great deal was the Musee D’Orsay. Musee D’Orsay was more contemporary than the Louvre or others. It had a vast array of artwork from amazing sculptures, such as Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” and notable paintings such as Whistler’s “ Mother”. Part of the museum’s exhibits was Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night over the Rhone”. This painting is one of a series in his nocturnal paintings, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it.
My daughter and I took the stairs to the top floor and using our museum map found our way to the room that housed part of Van Gogh’s collection. It was easy to find the piece because it was surrounded by people trying to get a photo. I entered the group and as the people peeled off I made my way to the front of the line. Just as I had a clear view I snapped a couple of pictures. Just as I did so, a man in his early 30’s walked past the group, stepped in front of me and the others that had been waiting and began to examine the painting closely. Starting in the leftmost corner, he leaned close, only inches from the oil canvas. People began to grumble, and asked him to move, he ignored everyone. The protest became louder and people began to tap his shoulder, he continued his examination. Finally, satisfied, he strolled away and found another painting.
Later as I sat looking out of the hotel window at the stars on the night’s canvas, I thought about that man. I wondered if maybe his approach to the painting was really the way it should be done. Just like the other museum guest, I too was more focused on getting the right photo. Yet, this man did not attempt to photograph any of the artwork as far as I could see, instead, he made sure he spent time with the art. This man did not want a snapshot of the artist’s handiwork, instead, he wanted to take time to seek what message and intent the artist was trying to convey.
We should be doing the same, seeking God by taking the time to truly study His Word, seek Him through prayer and demonstrate His love to one another. Christianity is not an image to be displayed but rather a life to be lived. Do you take time to seek the Master and His message for you?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 ESV
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I passed through the doorway into a darkened room. The walls were black and blank. In the center was a cylinder, I passed through it as I explored the dimly lit warehouse space. Large wooden spools were spaced throughout, my daughter and I found one and waited. As we waited more people began to filter through the door, some like us found seats some milled around. Time passed and the room and mezzanine filled with people. The lights dimmed and darkness crowded around us. Silence hung motionless as we all waited. Then a blast of music gave me a jolt and brilliant light exploded on the walls. Before me, Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces were built and tore down to the music. The music, like Van Gogh’s work was chaos, a collection of different genres, rock to classical meshed with images of his paintings. Oceans morphed to wheat fields and sun flowers bled into the starry night.
Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist. He is my favorite because he takes chaos of colors and frenzied brushstrokes and creates beauty.
Many years ago, my life was chaos, a roller coaster of emotions, disappointments and depression. However, once I stopped fighting it and relinquished it to Jesus, the chaos that made me feel like I was orbiting earth without a tether, slowed. Jesus reached into the chaos of my life and it made it beautiful. That is what Jesus does once you give him control, he takes the crazy, the depression, the pain, the fear, anxiety, worry, guilt and shame and he makes it beautiful. That chaos is now a tapestry of beauty.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
I have never been one for sports. However, this evening, my friend excitedly shared that Tennessee had won, but more than that, she explained how the player responsible for securing the win was not the likely candidate to have done so.
I will not pretend to know the details or try to deliver commentary of the game, but the story of the benched player turned hero piqued my interest. Benched for not playing very well a couple of weeks ago, the starting quarterback was replaced with a freshman. Unfortunately, the freshman sustained a concussion and was unable to finish. This meant the benched quarterback was getting another chance, and he used it to bring home the win.
This quarterback could have just given up, gotten an attitude, or allowed bitterness to well up within his heart. Instead, he got off the bench, and he went to the field, and he played the best game he had in him.
We all make mistakes, miss the mark sometimes, and at one time or another, find ourselves benched. How we come off that bench is the real measure of who we are.
You will face trials in your life, and you will not always win the first time, or maybe not the second either. However, the key is to never give up, no matter what you may face. Do not allow past mistakes or sins to keep you sidelined. When you are called off the bench and to the field, play the best game you have in you!
For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due
for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
In my early years, I often had part-time jobs to help ends meet. Twice I worked as a cash room clerk. Every night at the end of the shift, a line of giggling and whispering cashiers would begin to form at the cash room door. They climbed up the metal stairs, their footfalls echoing on the landing as they came down the hallway, each carrying bulky black tills and banker’s bags. I stood in the half door, my pencil at the ready, with the clatter of calculators and cash counting machines behind me. I took their cash drawers, wrote in the number of sales, credit cards, checks, and returns. I slid the log around for them to sign. One after another, the cashiers gave an accounting of their day’s work. By the end of the night, a tally of how the store had done emerged.
I think that many of us forget that we too must give an
accounting of what we have done with our lives.
How did we spend our money? How
did we spend our free time? What did we
do with the gifts, opportunities, and talents God gave us?
Many of us have heard of the White Throne Judgement
(Revelations 20:11-15) when God judges the non-believers, but how many of us
stop to think about the believer’s judgment, the Bema seat of Christ (2
Corinthians 5:9-11). When you give an
accounting of what you did with your life after salvation. Many of us focus on salvation and the
forgiveness of our sins. Salvation
indeed covers our sins if we sincerely repent but how we choose to live after
salvation determines how we spend our eternity.
When you stand before the Bema seat, will Jesus say, “Well done, my good
and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)?
Will crowns be given to you for your faithfulness? Or will you stand before Jesus, and will your
account of what you did be lacking?
It is not too late.
Every day the Lord tarries is an opportunity for you to make the most of
the life he has given you. Maybe today
is a good day to evaluate how you live out your salvation.
Can you give a good accounting of your day’s work for
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:14-15
As I walked down the gravel path, the roof of Chambord castle peaked above the trees. As I continued, it rose majestically stretching heavenward, the spires piercing the blue sky of Loire Valley. I stopped at the avenue and marveled at the 500-year-old chateau surrounded by manicured gardens and cobbled walkways. All the books and documentaries had not done justice to Chambord’s beauty. I entered the castle doors and into the foyer. Ahead of me, the heart of the chateau loomed DiVinci’s double helix staircase. I climbed the spiral stairs to the roof. Strolling through the spired towers, I marveled at the stonework, the detail, and beauty. The wind whipped my hair as my eyes scanned over the treetops across the acres of land that rolled out before me. Chambord certainly delivered on beauty and wonder.
As I descended the staircase, I took in each landing as I went — great empty galleries on each floor, illuminated by grand windows. Cold stone floors echoed the steps of other tourists as carved faces of wild beast watched them mill about. This magnificent chateau, with all its grandeur, was an empty shell. Never fully furnished, or inhabited, this chateau was never a home, only a part-time residence for royals.
On my bus ride back to Paris, I thought about the empty chateau. All the external beauty, the intricate design, and gardens, yet there was nothing within — an empty stone shell.
It is not just grand chateaus that display beauty, wealth, and project power, but many of us do it too. Often we spend time worrying about what our outside looks like to others and neglect our inside. Men may be making the judgment of the outside, but God sees the inside of a man. He looks at the heart, our motives, and our love for one another. Spend more time on the inside. Once the inside is right, it will shine on the outside.