Masterpieces of Grace

One of the hallmarks of Faith Community Church, as an intentional disciplemaking church, is its focus on the depth of God’s word through teaching. Each year, our church pulpit team will preach expositorily through an Old Testament book and a New Testament book.

On 22 July this year, I had the privilege of preaching my first ever expository sermon on Ephesians 2:1-10. It’s actually a lot harder than it looks.

Here is the video recording, thanks to Faith Community Church’s media team.

My message focused on four movements within the passage:

  • The Rescue of Grace
  • The Glory of Grace
  • The Mystery of Grace
  • The Purpose of Grace

I took inspiration from David Pawson’s commentary on Ephesians, Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, Tim Keller and Bill Johnson.

Hope you enjoy it!

Dirty Worshippers, Holy Worship – Part 1

In this two-part series, I explore the wonderfully reassuring paradox that imperfect, messed-up people get to use their gifts to serve a holy God; yes, even to serve on something as hallowed as the worship team. In this Part 1, I reflect on the question: who is qualified to serve? In the forthcoming Part 2, I will look at this issue from the theological perspective of how Jesus as our High Priest has made our offerings holy to God.

I believe that an apprehension and understanding of the grace of God will transform the way we approach Him in worship.

In this context, I want to pose the question: who is qualified to serve on the worship team?

In the olden days, we used to impose a high requirement of “holiness” (I’ll explain later why I’ve put this in quotation marks). Generally, a person wanting to join the worship team had to show some proficiency in music, although ultimately, it was mostly about character, faithfulness and a proven “track record”. One of the things we used to do to test a new recruit’s suitability was to put them on a so-called “lesser” duty (it should be apparent why I’ve used quotation marks here) such as operating the AV and see if they stick it out. This is even if the person was a complete tech-noob.

This created a couple of unexpected problems. Usually, the people on the worship team were seen as “a cut above” every one else, creating a culture of exclusivity, thereby breeding resentment amongst the rest of the congregation who were obviously second-rate in holiness stakes. The second problem was that some people on the worship team, whilst exhibiting loads of character, had very little musical or vocal skill. The lesser-skilled people invariable dragged down the musical quality as the team played to the lowest common denominator.

Yet, there is a third problem. And that is that those who were on the worship team felt a keen pressure to keep up appearances of holiness, making it difficult for them to live transparently and authentically.

An understanding of transforming grace changes the way we look at who is qualified to serve.

My former pastor used to say this: “No one is good enough to serve”. What he means is that, of ourselves, we are not worthy but we are made worthy through Christ. I prefer to look at it from the opposite angle and say “everyone is qualified to serve by the grace of God!”

If we look at it this way, standards of holiness should no longer be a measure of whether a person is good enough to be on the worship team. Rather, musical skill and ability become the main qualifying criteria.

You might ask: “doesn’t that create its own exclusivity problem?” And the answer is “yes”, but no different a problem to any other ministry. An usher in the welcome ministry should have a personality that draws people in and have a winning smile. That’s the usher’s gift. A preacher should be good at preaching. A teacher should be good at teaching. And a worship musician should be good at playing music.

Rather than elevate worship ministry above other more “menial” ministries (and in fact, in my view, no ministry is “menial”, it’s just that we have to change our perceptions a bit), we should elevate all ministry to its rightful place of worth. In that sense, I think that we should want worthy and holy people serving in all our ministries at church.

That leads me to the question of what it means to be “holy”.

Some people argue that the worship ministry, following the Old Testament model, requires a particular level of holiness. They point to the fact that the presence of God is so holy that the High Priest who has even a trace of sin will be struck dead in the Holy of Holies. They point to the story of Uzzah, who was struck down when he touched the Ark in 1 Sam 16 and the fact that David was only able to bring back the Ark when it was lifted on the shoulders of the Levites.

The way I see it, the new covenant of grace changes the system. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that where there is a change of the law, a change in covenant, there is also a change in the priesthood.

First Peter 2:9 tells us that all of us are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. This means that all of us are now holy. All of us are priests and ministers before God.

This brings me to the question of what it means to be holy. “Holy”, as I understand it, means “set apart” (hagios in the Greek). It is a particular posture and status, not a set of behaviours and actions.

That means we are all holy, no matter what we’ve done.

Think about it this way: if holiness consists of actions, then we had better make sure that all who serve on the worship team are 100% pure and without sin. We all know this is impossible. If this is in fact the requirement, no one would achieve it. This means that God will not inhabit the praises of His people; the unholiness will hinder the flow of the Spirit; worse still, those who purport to touch the Ark (the presence of God) will risk a sudden and untimely demise!

Holiness as a status is a different concept. We have done nothing of ourselves to attain that state. Rather, Jesus the Lamb without blemish took our place and his righteousness was imputed to us. So irrespective of anything we do, we are holy not by our own works but because of what Jesus has done.

What about the verse that says “Be ye holy, as I am holy”? Well, I think that is saying that as God is set apart, and as we are set apart, let us live up to the standard of being set apart. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are already holy. We just need to act it out.

There’s a verse in Exodus where God struck down the Egyptians with a plague. But the Bible says that the Israelites were spared and it says that God distinguished between his people and the unholy. Did Israel do anything to receive that protection or was it simply by virtue of their being God’s chosen people?

In the same way then, I want to suggest that all those who serve on the worship ministry are already holy. This is so even if they are still struggling with some very overt sins. (My only qualification to this is the verse where Paul warns us not to stumble others; so for that reason, I might not let everyone join the team. Even then, there are those who sing or play badly and they can stumble in a different way!)

Going to even greater extremes, the modern worship movement has several stories of now prominent worship leaders who began serving in worship ministry even before they had formally crossed the line of becoming a Christ-follower (that concept of when a person crosses the line is of itself worthy of exploration. I believe however that these people, by becoming part of the worship ministry, were already “on the way”). Lincoln Brewster and Henry Seeley come to mind.

I have heard Henry Seeley share on a number of occasions how he used to sit in the back of youth group utterly disinterested until Russell Evans got him to start playing the keyboard.

In one church I visited in Japan, they used to get the unchurched in to perform the music as a means of outreach!

I couldn’t say that in any of those cases, God’s presence was diminished because of the make-up of the worship team!

So then, what qualifications should we set? A good attitude is important because you want people who can work well in a team. But I think the main distinction remains one of musical ability. Let’s face it. The worship team is not more special than the rest of the congregation. Everyone should be worshipping anyway. The only difference is that they can play music, sing well or dance beautifully. When that becomes the defining qualification, then the quality, the excellence of the musicianship will begin to improve dramatically. Excellence will be the hallmark of the music team, coupled with the powerful sense of God’s sovereign presence responding to the praises of a group of holy people gathered to worship.

Originally published as Holy Worship Team, Batman.

Outposts of Grace

I missed this session by Brian Houston but my wife was there and keeps reminding me of this amazing statement that Brian made:

The church is called to be an outpost of grace in the world rather than a guardian of the law.

However that is expressed in our local church, this means we are inclusive rather than exclusive!

And that has been my ministry philosophy. No matter what a person has done or still does, I would prefer them to keep serving with me. I would rather that they remain within a positive life-giving community than without.

Never Once Did We Ever Walk Alone

We always get a bit reflective when we get to the end of the year. And that’s okay because being reflective is often the beginning of gratitude.

I don’t know what sort of year you’ve had, but I’ve had an amazing year! I’ll do a full write-up on 31 December. But no matter what kind of year you’ve had, I want to share this song with you because I believe it speaks to everyone of us, no matter what course your journey took.

Here are the lyrics:

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

One of my favourite books of the Bible is Hebrews. I like it because the author interprets the Old Testament through the filter of the works and person of Jesus. It makes very clear what the New Covenant is all about.

Heb 13:5-6 says this:

… Be satisfied with your present circumstances … for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? (AMP)

After the author describes how Jesus became the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins and made us acceptable and righteous to God, he exhorts us to live up to our holy standing. But just in case you thought that anything you do might separate you from God, he quotes an Old Testament scripture affirming God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us.

How often have we been taught that when we sin, the presence of God somehow leaves us, or our communication lines with God becomes severed, or we cease to come under His protection?

But this passage makes it abundantly clear. God will never leave us. He will not! He will not! No matter what you do!

So take comfort! Even if your year has been a challenge, realise that God was in it and with you all the way. You were never alone! He knows what He is doing. He won’t let you down. He won’t relax His hold on you because He is a covenant-keeping God and our side of the covenant has been well and truly fulfilled in the person of Jesus!

Blessings Reel – September 2012

It’s a long time coming, but I’ve finally had the time to sit down and put down my thoughts about God’s blessings in my life for September in this Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness.

I think that my reflections for September are best captured in Zechariah 4:6:

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

In the Message paragraph, Eugene Peterson renders it this way: “You can’t force these things. They only come through by my Spirit.”

By far the greatest blessing for me in September was the experience of being part of Arrows College for the Worship and Songwriting module. As I had shared in a previous post, God reminded me again about who the main stakeholders were of worship: namely God, the congregation and the lost.

I also got to try my hand at songwriting and I’m actually beginning to think that Faith Community Church could probably write enough songs for a live worship recording in the near future!

Beyond that, I was really inspired by the stories of some of the students and how God had brought them through their own journeys to their “now”. Even though some of them had gone through some difficult times, it is clear that God was with them through it all, teaching them important life lessons as they learnt to trust Him more.

One of the students shared from an interesting passage in Judges 20, which describes how the Benjamites were shielding some wicked men (who had committed a heinous sin) from Israel’s just retribution. The tribes of Israel, the passage says in verse 18, went up to Bethel and enquired of God, and God told them that Judah should attack the Benjamites first. However, instead of victory, the Israelites suffered the loss of 22,000 men.

The Israelites again enquired of the Lord and the Lord answered, “Go up against them” (verse 23). Again however, instead of victory, the Benjamites cut down 18,000 Israelites.

On the third occasion, the Israelites again inquired of the Lord and the Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.” It was only on this third occasion that victory came.

The student who shared from this passage was a ministry leader who felt God had challenged her to make some radical changes to her ministry methodology and she had felt at times that she wasn’t seeing the results of those changes.

I can relate to this, particularly because this year, I felt that God had called me to play a bigger role in worship within the city, rather than just within one congregation (Don’t get me wrong though. I am blessed to have started serving in Faith Community Church’s worship team and to work with an awesome band!). There have been several confirmations of this, and more recently, I was privileged to be asked by the Director of Global Day of Worship to organise a GDW event in the city of Perth. But I have to admit that I don’t completely feel comfortable doing any of this. I feel completely stretched, taking steps of faith in unfamiliar territory!

But I was really encouraged by the lesson from Judges 20. Even though you have enquired of God, and He has given the confirmation, the answer might not always come immediately. There may still be times when it seems like nothing is happening, or there may be some setbacks. (I like what Joel Osteen often says: “God uses your setbacks as a set-up for your greatest comeback!”) But in time, God will bring it to pass.

I felt that God packaged this lesson nicely for me last week when Edmund Chan came to preach at Faith Community Church on the message “When Your Dreams Remain Unfulfilled”. He made three points:

  • Make sure your dream is rooted in the promise of God.
  • Make sure your confidence is rooted in the resources of God.
  • Make sure your perspective is rooted in the timing of God.

The key to understanding Zech 4:6, Rev Edmund says, is the context. Unlike David or Solomon who was endowed with material resources, Zerubbabel was confronted with the task of rebuilding the temple with very little manpower and materials. And in the midst of this apparent lack, the voice of God came as if to say “don’t focus on what you don’t have, because God will cause it to happen by His Spirit. It’s not about you and what you don’t have, but about Me and what I do have.”

And this is counterintuitive because when we face challenges, we tend to rely on our little resources. God however is calling a kingdom people who will live counterintuitively and rely on His resources.

So I am encouraged to live what Rev Edmund calls “diachronistically”, i.e. to live through time, i.e. to take a long-term view, to see the long haul, not to look at disappointments and challenges, but to focus on the destiny.

And so, now that we are in the final quarter of the Year of Unceasing Fruiltfulness, I am convinced that God who started a good work will be faithful to complete it. As it says in Zechariah 4:7, the capstone, the point of completion, will come forth with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” By His grace alone!

A Historical-Prophetic Approach to Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Today, I want to continue the series on Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

As a recap, I introduced two key texts.  The first is in Ephesians 5:18-20:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The second passage is Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In one sense, we can see these passages as defining different styles of songs which are sung in the church.  I have suggested in previous posts that perhaps the distinction between the three categories may be quite artificial.  That is certainly the perspective I take in the current renewal of worship.

But I’ve found it interesting also to look at psalms, hymns and spiritual songs from a historical-prophetic perspective, where the different types of song can be seen as representative of the different eras in the history of worship music.

Firstly, hymns.  The classic hymn can be described as doctrinal statements set to music.  Certainly, Luther saw this as an important burden: that music carry a teaching function.  As hymns evolved however, they started taking on a very personal, experiential flavour, describing a person’s encounter with God, such as “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine”.

We could say that in hymns, we are declaring God’s wonder and works through song.  From a historical perspective, hymns represent the first great era of the recovery of worship after the Dark Ages.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of the Jesus People movement. The movement brought a new immediacy and impetus to relevant expression.  

Andy Park observes in his book To Know You More:

This new generation of Christians had to find a way to express their newfound love for Christ.  In this milieu of radical cultural change and genuine spiritual renewal, it was only natural that a new style of worship would be born.  Baby boomers rejected the rigid forms and styles of their parents’ generation.  For the boomers, rock music was their language of choice.

But not long after the birth of what we now call the “Praise and Worship Era”, there was a distinct move towards the objective and back to Scripture.  In the 1970s, Dave and Dale Garrett from New Zealand rose to prominence with “Scripture in Song”.  This was, in effect, the era of the modern-day psalm.

If I were to define “psalms”, I would say that the psalm is Scripture set to music.  In psalms, we declare God’s word through song.

The Praise and Worship Movement hit its zenith in the late 90’s with the catch-cry “an audience of One”, rejecting the subjectivity of the hymns and the earlier “psalms” and instead emphasising the need for objective praise.

Around the early 1990s (possibly earlier), a new sound began to emerge, which I would call “spiritual songs”.  The early pioneers were Kevin Prosch and Kent Henry.  In this movement, the songs of the church began to take on a more spontaneous character and a more prophetic edge.  Scripture reading, prophetic release and intercession began to intermingle with singing and music.

In the New Testament, the Greek term for “spiritual song” is ode pneumatikos, songs that are breathed or inspired by the Spirit of God.  In the spiritual song, we welcome God’s will in song.

This stream was given wide exposure through Delirious and continues in the music of the International House of Prayer and the likes of Jason Upton and Rick Pino.

In a way, whilst I have generalised a fair bit, we can see distinct prophetic moves of God through worship music represented by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Where does that leave us today?

Well, I believe that the three streams are merging.  The distinctions between each stream are going to get more and more nebulous.  We will reach into the hymnody of our forebears, respecting our historical/denominational influences and we will push prophetically forward in contemporary (post-modern) expressions.  Our songs may seek to embed doctrine, and yet be entirely experiential.  We will be completely content with the healthy tension in saying that worship is objectively to God, but subjectively for the people.  We will be less and less fussed with form (even though we will seek to push artistic boundaries) and more and more concerned with substance.

Let me give you two examples in which to process this new paradigm.

I remember in the mid-1990s when our church started to sing Delirious’s “History Maker”.  It was a song like no other before it. It was edgy and raw, but it also didn’t lyrically fit the mould of “audience of One” worship.  Leaders in our church worship ministry started asking:  is this even a “worship song”?  Should we sing it as a “worship song” or present it to the congregation aan “inspiration song”?

I can tell you now that as our concept of worship has evolved and broadened, there’s no argument about it:  “History Maker” is a worship song because it depicts a generation of sold-out, sacrificial worshippers desiring to change their world for God.

A more recent example is John Mark MacMillan’s “How He Loves”.  Essentially, it is a song entirely about God’s love for me.  It  does nothing to express praise directly to God.

But, I submit, it is still worship.

Recently, I heard again a message by Joseph Prince about boasting in God’s love for us.  The starting point for Prince’s thesis was that the reference to John’s being the “disciple whom Jesus loved” could only be found in John’s gospel!  In other words, John refers to himself as the “beloved”.  And the point is this:  when you receive God’s love for you, you will be inspired to love God back.  We no longer need to be told to love God.  We do not need to strive to love God.

Further, when we learn to receive from God, it makes God feel more like God.  Take the example of Martha and Mary.  Martha kept serving to the point of exhaustion and frustration, but Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and “took” from Him.  Who made Jesus feel more like God?  Martha who sought to minister to Jesus’ apparent tiredness out of her own strength, or Mary, who recognised Jesus’ inexhaustible sufficiency?

In summary, in the current revolution of worship, we recognise that becoming is through beholding.  There are no longer rules, but worship revolves around relationship.

So a song like “How He Loves” is a perfect representation of worship today:  to be able, like John and like Mary, to humble ourselves before Jesus and to receive His love for us.  If nothing else, this elevates His deity all the more and is, quintessentially, worship.

In the current move of God in worship, the streams of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs will merge into a mighty river of God’s presence.  Expression, style and content will be subsumed within the relational graced-based focus on the person of Jesus, that in worship, He may be unveiled in all his loveliness, so that the world may see and put their trust in Him. And yes, this is revival!

Blessings Reel – April 2012

It’s amazing to think that a third of the year has just flown by. And not just any year, but the Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness.

I like the idea of fruitfulness, because it has got nothing to do with what you do and what you can achieve; rather it has to do with where you are planted.

Think about it this way: a seed grows into a tree because all the potential has already been put into the seed. We have been created by God with potential. And not only potential, but unique potential. And yet, none of that is activated unless we are planted in good soil. The soil makes all the difference!

As we abide in Christ, we bear fruit naturally. We are blessed with fruitfulness. And our fruit becomes a blessing to others. We are blessed to be blessing!

Last month, Pastor Benny began sharing from the book of Ephesians. The first chapter of Paul’s epistle says this (v7):

In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

I like that God is a lavish God. He always does exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask or think. But I also like that even though God lavishes His grace and favour on us, He’s not indiscriminating and random. Rather, He lavishes with wisdom and understanding. A father who indiscriminately gives everything to a child spoils the child; a father who gives with discernment provides the child with what is best for the child.

April has been a full-on month for me and many times I’ve felt like maybe I wasn’t cut out for doing the whole Converge thing! Yes, I’ve always thought it’d be cool to have a day of worship, but organising one is something else! Thankfully,the program is now finalised. I’m really glad that many ministries have put their hands up to serve together on the Day of Worship.

And I’m also grateful for my cell group. I’ve really enjoyed going to cell group and even though I’m usually quite introverted, the people in my cell group have really included us and made us feel at home. God is blessing us with some great friends! And I’m really inspired by my cell leaders. My cell leader Ernie is really balanced and wise and Wen is an eternal optimist, able to see the best of every situation. I’m glad that God has planted us in this cell group for this season to inspire us to be better people!

So God has been looking after us; and even though we’ve worked hard and I’m a bit tired now, I know that I am blessed!

I’ll finish off with a tweet from Nicky Gumbel:

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD

Difficult moments, SEEK GOD

Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD

Painful moments, TRUST GOD

EVERY MOMENT, THANK GOD

Amen and amen!

Authenticity Attracts

Here is another brilliant thought from Pastor Benny Ho’s sermon yesterday at Faith Community Church:

Authentic people attract.  Weird people distract.

And he was talking about the church!

I think we’ve all seen our fair share of weird Christians.  I certainly have, especially because in most of my early years growing up in the church, there was such a pervasive performance mentality in the church that it just forced people to pretend they had it all together.  It was almost like no one wanted to admit to any shortcomings in case it reflected on their spirituality (or lack thereof).

But the more I became secure in the grace of God, the more open I was to being authentic and transparent.  I don’t think I can say that I’m completely transparent yet.  But I’m certainly less bothered by people’s shortcomings and sin than I used to be and I’m more open about my own struggles and shortcomings.

I wonder whether, when James said “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (Jas 5:16), he was talking about a transparent and authentic lifestyle amongst believers, rather than some form of liturgical confession done behind a closed booth to a church leader.  Maybe if everyone was more open to talking to each other about the sins they struggle with, they might not need to struggle alone.  And maybe if the Christian community was more willing to really acknowledge that all of us fall well short of God’s glory apart from Christ that we will be more willing to accept people – especially fellow believers – as they are and be less ready to judge.  Perhaps then, we might find healing for our souls.

And then maybe, just maybe, the church will once again be an attractive force for those who are wounded and broken, knowing that there is no safer community on earth than the body of Christ.

God Works Great Miracles When Things Seem the Most Hopeless

I don’t think God’s ever had a day when He thought “well, I never saw that one coming”.

Even though we may have.

Even though things seem messy. And uncertain. And hopeless.

Andy Stanley writes:

If we asked Jesus’ disciples months after he was crucified what their darkest moment had been following Jesus and when they had the least hope, I believe they would have answered, “It was when we realised things weren’t going to get better, when he promised us things would get worse, when he predicted that one of us would betray him and that all of us would fall away. It was when he was tried and convicted and we saw him die. It was when we thought we had wasted our time and that God wasn’t there.

If we asked them, When do you think God was doing his greatest work? Was it healing the lame guy, healing the blind, or seeing Lazarus step out of his tomb? I believe they would answer, “Actually, it was during those hours when it seemed he was doing the least. In those darkest moments, when it seemed God was inactive, he was actually the most active.” Those hours were the epicentre of the salvation of humankind. Those hours were the ones that, for thousands of years, people all over the world have looked back to, rejoicing in God’s goodness and grace….

God’s most amazing work often begins in the biggest messes, in times of brokenness.”

(Andy Stanley “God is Certain” in Craig Groeschel (ed) What God is Really Like pp 51-52)

Around two thousand years ago today, one of the greatest tragedies unfolded. Little did they know then that this was the seed of one of the greatest victories in history, setting into motion an outpouring of grace that would bring great spiritual blessings for generations to come.

In the most uncertain of times, in the midst of great hopelessness, God is performing the greatest of miracles.

Christ’s Sacrifice, God’s Masterpieces

I read this recently which really spoke to me about how we, as a Christian community, ought to treat our fellow believers. It’s by John Burke (pastor of Gateway Church) in an essay entitled “God is For You” in Craig Groeschel (ed) What is God Really Like (pp 68ff):

Jesus gave his life so that every willing person could be restored into right relatedness with God by grace. He did it so that we would all let God lead us daily to become the masterpiece he intended. What if we created a culture focused on calling out the masterpiece God sees waiting to be revealed in Christ?

If you found a Rembrandt painting covered in mud, you wouldn’t focus on the mud or treat it like mud. Your primary concern would not be the mud at all, though it would need to be removed. You’d be ecstatic to have something so valuable in your care. I’ll bet you wouldn’t try to clean it up by yourself, for fear you might damage it. You would carefully bring this work of art to a master, who would guide you in how to restore it to the condition originally intended.

When people begin treating one another as God’s masterpieces waiting to be revealed, God’s grace grows in their lives and cleanses them. What do you see first in others – the mud or the masterpiece?

In the lead up to Easter, I am so glad that God saw me as a masterpiece, worthy of His sending His own Son to die for me. Shouldn’t we also see others as if they are also God’s masterpieces that led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross?