Lasting Beauty

Today’s post is by Hilary Buck, a friend who writes for Day-by-Day, an online devotional produced by Gracecom UK. She pastors Grace Communion in Lewes. (Re-posted by permission.)

“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 (ESVUK)

The Greek word Paul used for ‘workmanship’ in the scripture is one from which we get our English word: poem. So he’s pointing to creative, quality workmanship. Some have thought it should be read as God’s creation of a ‘masterpiece.’ Thinking of ourselves as God’s masterpiece might make us wince a bit when we consider ourselves. What me, a masterpiece? Others might look askance if I claim I am God’s workmanship, let alone his masterpiece. And do I think of myself as a piece of divine poetry?

Great poetry – poetry sales have been booming in these recent years. Thousands of people travel each year to see great works of art – the masterpieces of our minds and hands – in our museums. Take the British Museum: five million come each year; the national Gallery about another five. At the Louvre, over ten million come to see the Mona Lisa alone. Over four million come through the doors of the Victoria and Albert, called the nation’s attic, where only twenty five percent of what they have acquired is on display. Nearly four million go to music festivals here, let alone the numbers that attend concerts.

Enough of statistics. We we cherish the great creative works that have been made in music, writing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and all the crafts. We admire them, we are enchanted and moved by them. But none of them will last forever. There’s only one work of art that will last – and that’s us.

Michelangelo, one of the world’s greatest artists, was asked how he created his sculptures: ‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block’, he explained, ‘before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.’ Of one particular piece he said: ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ God is, if you will, carving out the new you and me, into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus said his Father works and he works. And Paul reassures us in Philippians 1:6 that as God has begun a good work in us, he will complete it. The detritus of our way of life, of our old minds and outlook is being carved away, one day to reveal the stunning beauty of us, his new creation in Christ.

Prayer
Our Father, we give you thanks that you have made us in your image, and now, in Jesus Christ,  you are making a new creation—one of perfection and beauty to live with you forever, to your glory.
Amen

The Beauty of Grace

Did you spend some time contemplating beauty last week? I was able to ride my bike through the forest near my home and admire God’s creation – the pine trees, blue sky, clouds and of course, wildflowers. I even spotted some deer crossing the road ahead of me. I am in awe every time I ride through this amazing area and give thanks for these blessings.

But do you know what the most beautiful thing is in the entire world? It’s knowing all I see is because of God’s grace. It’s living in the reality of God’s unbelievable love, assured of my place in his embrace for eternity.

When I think of grace, I remember all the years I spent believing what God wanted most was my obedience, then learning what he really wants is to love me and have me love him in return. His beautiful grace has freed me from seeing him as judge, jury and executioner. It’s opened my eyes to the tenderness of my father, the self-emptying and sacrificial love of my friend and brother Jesus, and the loving guidance of my comforter, the Holy Spirit. His grace is truly amazing – and beautiful.

Our Love of Beauty

We human beings have a lot in common, even though we tend to forget just how much we share. One of those things is our affinity for beauty. All people are attracted to the beauty of nature. We love art, architecture and creative landscapes. We are attracted to sparkling jewels, fine clothing – anything well-crafted and well-made. This is not to say we can afford or need to own any of these things, but we do admire them. Museums are filled with objects of beauty and showcases of homes or anything lovely are usually well-attended.

We also tend to forget who created beauty. God not only created all the beauty we see, but he himself is beautiful in every way, and our love of beauty comes from him. Ancient people made the mistake of worshiping the creation instead of the Creator. But after admiring the beauty we see around us, either natural or made by human hands, our thoughts should turn to admiration and adoration of the most beautiful being in existence. I love Psalm 27:4, which says, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (NIV). Instead of gaze, The Message uses the word contemplate.

The Bible, and the psalms in particular, give us many ways to contemplate our God of wonders. Just spending time thinking about his amazing love for us could fill the rest of our days. In his great love for us, he has made it possible for us to gaze on his beauty for eternity. But why wait? Let’s start right now!

How to Treat People

When I became a volunteer with the regional blood bank in Southern California, I had to attend a one-day orientation. We were encouraged to be courteous and helpful to the donors, and to show respect, dignity and compassion to everyone. At times this was more challenging than I expected. People can be difficult!

Those three words are still with me, almost five years later, as this secular organization had somehow boiled down the way to treat people to this short and sweet motto. The New Testament has many “one-another” verses, detailing how to get along, but I find them hard to memorize. Respect, dignity and compassion is easy to remember.

Speakers and authors like to pose the question, “What would your life look like if…?” What if I weren’t afraid? What if I believed God really loves me? What if I trusted him more? What if everyone were to treat all people with respect, dignity and compassion? It’s hard to imagine a world like that because it’s never happened. But one day….