This morning, Gene and I went to church and were almost on time! Woo-Hoo! Getting better, people.
We had a special guest speaker today. He was someone I have wanted to meet, or at least hear in person for a very long time. He was “an original” in this church we are attending, decades ago during the Hippee era/Jesus movement. I have enjoyed the worship songs he has written for years, and have heard a tape of him that a friend has. His name is Bob Kilpatrick.
The wonderful thing about the believers that came to know Jesus during that era is that they are so quick to believe and understand God’s mercy and grace, and are so able to accept His love.
This lovely man played his guitar and led worship with us, and it was precious, from the heart, and at times fun and funny. What a blessing in itself. I “felt done” just from worship, like the message was complete.
But, I know that worship is only a beginning and the main course is the breaking open of bread, the Word of God. So, I sat expectant of the next course.
He began to share from his early days as a believer, and addressed some of the issues I am facing now. It was all stuff I knew already, and most of us who love God know these things. But, the way he presented the truth was fresh. And the perspective was also fresh. It broke open this bread in a way that went straight in, past the brain and brought life to my spirit again. It was like a breath of fresh air that I have been needing but couldn’t seem to get. Such a relief.
I am hoping they copied this message so I can rip it to my mp3 player and listen to it over and over. I want to share some things he said here, but want to get it right.
One thing was emphasized in his message, and that is that God is an artist. We tend to think of Him in terms of math and science, when His Own first statement was that He created. He was introducing Himself to us as an artist.
It is not about the debit list, and the credit list. How many sins I’ve committed vs. how much good I’ve done, or how much I have gotten right. How many times has He had to give grace, like somehow He is giving out rations.
He refered to something I have said over the years, and that is how we in America see God like Santa God. We give him our lists of what we want, and we think He has a list and checks it twice to see if we’ve been naughty or nice. It is a debit/credit list, and we are always trying to balance the list or scale so we are alright enough.
He also mentioned that we try to fix ourselves. The whole self-help thing, like we can have a solution to our problem. We see sin as a problem and want the solution. We see ourselves as a problem when we are “bad” and want to be “solved”, as in math. He said, God is not a solver of problems, but an artist. He referenced the scripture in Isaiah where it refers to God as the potter, and we are the clay.
As an artist, you know that you are the one who does the work. For example: this man is a musician and writer. When he is writing a song, and has a couple of lines down and walks away it is not like the song adds more lines while he is gone. He doesn’t come back, see new lines he didn’t write and say, wow! More lines have been written and they are really good! No. It waits for him to write more. He is the one creating, and the peace he is creating doesn’t do any of it.
The key role for the piece in this process is to submit to the artist and the process.
It is the same with us. We are His masterpiece, His workmanship. And He is the artist making us complete and perfect. It is not up to us to try to perfect ourselves or make ourselves right. It is not up to us to “get it right”. It is up to Him to get us finished and right.
Our role is to submit to the process, and to surrender completely to the Artist. I surrender all… the old hymn says it all. In this surrendering is our part.
Whatever He wants, He gets. And what he wants doesn’t always make sense to us. His ways are not our ways, they are high above our ways.
But what about the verse saying to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling? I am thinking here about the scriptures that reveal that there will be those who have labored much, and even having great spiritual giftings and miracles with results! And then Jesus sends them away because He never knew them!
This is key: it isn’t about the labor. It is about the relationship between the Creator and his creation.
And we can’t have relationship if we don’t know we are loved as we are. Nothing about us surprises Him or catches Him off guard. Why do we get so surprised by our own shortcomings? Because we think we have come farther along than we have! Or because others think well of us. Or, we don’t know what’s lurking in us and it blows us out of the water when it surfaces.
But He already knows everything and isn’t upset about it at all. He is just waiting for us to realize it and submit it to Him so He can complete the work in just the right time!
This man, himself has done nothing but go where God sends him and obey with his entire life. This message isn’t to negate the “working out our faith”, but to work it out in surrender, trust and love.
There is a scripture that has terrified me since childhood. It is the one that says we will give an account of very idle word we speak. (Yes, being so verbal and wordy, this would frighten me, wouldn’t it?) We have been taught for generations to see this as judgement from the math sense of things. (I am still uncomfortable thinking of it in other terms.) Make sure the debit list of good words is large and the credit list of words we should never have uttered is non-existant or we will suffer consequences.
He says that God as artist is simply wanting to know the material He is working with, and is it (pottery)ready to withstand the heat of the firing?
So, what gets blurted out when we are not our best, or not with people we behave better with, the things we say without thinking during the course of our days…these are the things that show what our material is, and whether there are things within it that can cause ruin before it is finished. He can examine those words that are coming from our true selves, the one part of us He is concerned with, and determine whether or not we are ready for the heat, or whatever stage of creation this piece is at. He used as an example the story of the statue of David fashioned by Michaelangelo, and the vein running through that marble that made it nearly impossible to work with without destroying the material.
So, rather than being ready to be judged for every word we say, we should realize our Creator is concerned with the state or condition of our material and that He is simply wanting to make us perfect.
Sure does shoot down the striving part of us, doesn’t it? I am thinking of my earlier blog where I ask so many questions. Questions like, have I ever gotten anything right? Does anything I have done matter?
These kinds of questions, which rolled out of me while tired, hurt and grieving really show that I still have in me that doctrine that I must behave right and be perfect for my life to have an impact for good.
Is it an impurity in me that shows mixture? If I am saved by grace, and not by works, then how can I keep my salvation by works? I have always said this. And yet, the proof is in my own words and questions. I have deep within me this belief that I can somehow solve the problem that is me. It was a relief to hear such a sweet interpretation of a hard verse, and to be reminded of what I already know. God is good. God is not bad. Ever. He is not mean. He is not tired of me, nor has He given up on me. His plans for me are good. And He is able to make me into someone He is pleased with.
It is not up to me to “get it right” or “do” anything to be a vessel for honor.
All I have to do is choose to surrender to Him and to His hand, and agree with Him that He is in control and does the work. (The scripture says, choose to be a vessel for honor or dishonor.) I just let Him chisel away until the masterpiece is finished to His satisfaction. This does mean that I must choose to, and agree to sit under His hand and be still.
And this is the hard part for many of us.
It isn’t about not doing anything, or not caring if you do it well. His word says, whatever you do, do it with all your might. Sometimes, we just do something because it needs doing. But, there are times when you are set aside, like pottery is shelved for a season to dry before firing, or after glazing.
And sometimes, we are doing what we shouldn’t be. He has another plan, and it isn’t always about us.
(I had to be unseated from a longtime job because it was time. But I wouldn’t just walk away without another job available, so I was put in this position of “resting under His hand” by being laid off. It doesn’t seem practical at all, not working. I find I can’t cope well with it. I don’t know how to not work. Truly. It is foreign to me. Perhaps this is why this message is so “on time” for me.)
This man said that what God wants is to display us in Heaven as His beautiful masterpieces. What a concept! That is His goal in our lives. To display us and show us off as beautiful and complete works of art.
I have always quoted the scripture, “He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in you.”
Hmmm. If I’ve really got that, as well as the verses about His plans being “to prosper and not to harm us, to give us a future and a hope” deep in my heart, then why do I still feel as if I need to somehow perform enough? Or feel that I haven’t?
I am reminded of my favorite line in the book, Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn. First line of this quote: “There is a difference for me between memorizing something and really holding on to it in my heart.” The next line is a woman’s response to that, “Ah, you want to own the truth and not just rent the words.”
It is time for me to own the truth, “God is the artist who is forming me into His masterpiece. It is not up to me to help Him or do His job. It is not up to me to “get it right”. His plans for me are good, and any chiseling away at my material, any chipping or hammering, no matter who it is by (what they say or how they treat me), is simply His way of perfecting me so He can show me off when I get Home.
Awesome. Simply awesome.