As you look around the
world today, you see a broad mix of beauty and of ugly. It wasn’t always
this way, and it wasn’t meant to be this way. And it won’t stay this way. In the beginning God
concluded that everything He had made was, not just good, but VERY good.
When God says something is very good, you can believe that it was outstanding.
It’s springtime right
now, and life—beautiful life—is returning to our neck of the woods. Left
to itself, nature has a way of cleaning itself up and chasing away the cold,
the dark and the ugly. Those of us with any kind of a green thumb
(terribly interesting expression), or green little finger, or whatever, are
anticipating buying flowers and bushes and tomato plants. We want to do
our part to make our world beautiful, and maybe feed ourselves at the same
This desire is a
God-given urge to manage the world we were given all those many years
ago. “Have dominion,” was the counsel. What that really means is
for us to assume the role of caretaker—or, more accurately, Care-GIVER. I
suppose our Father could have made the world in such a way that it was
self-sustaining, with all of the creation able to take care of itself.
But, no, in the wisdom of God, He decided that we should be responsible for the
world we had been handed. Not only are we servants of God, we are also
servants of our world, and of our neighbors, and of ourselves. It is my
responsibility to manage and care for, to the best of my abilities, the portion
of the world with which I have been entrusted.
It’s not terribly clear
what it means to be “made in the image of God.” But I think we can
conclude that a part of us has been so constructed that, not only should we be
a vessel in which God can live and shine out of, but that we should also be
endowed with the same attributes and attitudes that our Father has.
How might the verse
read? God doth not prepare a candle, and light it, and hide it. But
He lights it and sets it on top of a hill for all to see, and it gives light to
all that sit in darkness and of the shadow of death. This appears to have
been the purpose of God in making man. As a lighthouse, guiding travelers
away from the rocks.
As the attributes and
attitudes of our Father are revealed in us, the desire for the salvation of
ourselves and of others ceases to remain buried and floats to the surface.
We love “because He
first loved us” is a fitting example of what it means to be “made in the image
of God.” We care because He cares for us. If we cease to resist, we
are drawn to Him because everything about us responds to Him, we are naturally
drawn to Him because, deep down, on levels we don’t fully comprehend, we are
made in His image.
Any tendency toward
altruism is not a product of Evolution, where only the fittest are deemed
worthy of survival. Altruism is software installed by our Father in the
beginning; it just needs to be mined out and brought back to the surface.
For so long, much of
the world and the people in the world have been buried alive, so that the Image
and fingerprints of God are hardly seen. We are buried by ugly. We
are buried by greed. We are distracted on so many levels by, not the
cares of Heaven, but the cares of the world. Our enemy, the Devil, has so
arranged our world that we are constantly busy with the affairs of
surviving. Most of us rarely have “enough” money. Day by day and
year by year we are engaged in an ever-increasing struggle against poor
health. Even those of us, who right now, enjoy the best of health, have some
disaster patiently waiting just over the horizon.
Our outlook would be
pretty bleak if we didn’t have a Saviour Who also is patiently waiting, not
just over the horizon, but right here.
John the Baptist said
to the people, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the
world.” Not just the sin of the people, but also the sin of the
world. He came to take away, not just the ugly of the people, but also
the ugly of the world. In His wisdom, He is seeking ways to expose the
ugly—so He can deal with it.
I’m reminded of
something I once learned about Michelangelo, the sculptor. Not only was
he a gifted sculptor, whose classic works are with us to this day, but he also
had a beautiful imagination. Consider this observation he made:
"Every block of
stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover
And this one:
"I saw the angel
in the marble and carved until I set him free."
He stood before many a
block of rock and pecked away until an object of beauty emerged.
Twenty-odd years ago
Cindy and I sold a home in England and purchased 12 acres of Alabama. We
wanted to build a home where we could safely raise our children, and have a
place of refuge from our broken world.
When we were first
considering the ground and the lay of the land, we were less than
impressed. It was scrubby, rocky, swampy. There were brambles and
weeds and mud and what-not. But it was ours. And we set about
clearing a spot for the house, then began the process of building a home that
has never been completely finished.
Slowly but surely we
pecked and sculpted and trimmed and planted. We opened channels for water
to drain. Working with nature and the passage of time, we set about
revealing the beauty that had been hidden.
To look at our place
now, you would have no idea about how much work went into that
revelation. It didn’t always have the trickling streams and the buzzing
of honeybees, and the birds with their beautiful songs.
I’m reminded of how we
used to have to wait for our photographs to come back from the photo
center. Remember we used to use film for our pictures. Then we sent
them off to be developed. The process of developing did not put the
pictures on the photographic film; it merely revealed what was already there.
It’s a lot like the
Bible idea of buying from Jesus “Gold tried in the fire.”
I wonder if schools
still offer the kind of instruction many of us with a few years on us once
In my school we had a
metalwork class. In that class was a small foundry which was able to get
really hot, hot enough to melt metal. From time to time we melted all the
scrap metal in what I imagine was a cast-iron pot. Thus began the process
of trying the metal; it’s hard to find that definition in today’s dictionaries.
Once it was melted, it was then tried. It was the job of one of the kids
to scoop away the crud and dirt and ash that floated to the top of the
metal. This we did several times until all that was left was the pure
metal. Sometimes it took a lot of heat and a lot of time, depending on
how dirty the metal was. But eventually all the crud was removed.
I think of this when I
consider the idea given to us by John: “The Lamb of God Who scoops away the
crud” as it comes to the surface. Forgive my bending of a Scripture, but
I think you get the idea.
Often in our lives,
Jesus turn up the heat, and as He does so, all the crud comes to the surface:
bitterness, hate, prejudice, jealousy, and on and on. There it sits on
the surface for me to see, and for everybody else to see. This heat may not
feel very pleasant, but this experience is for our benefit. We can’t take
this crud to the other side, so Jesus is doing His best to help us get rid of
it, and if we ask Him, once it’s on the surface, he’ll scoop the crud
away. If He doesn’t get rid of it, we’ll be left with it sitting right
there on the surface. And when He finally comes to erase the sin of the
world, we’ll be erased with it.
It’s not the fault of
God that the Devil will not survive the fire at the end. All of the
Devil’s crud is on the surface, and the rest of him is riddled with crud.
The hand of God is not shortened that it cannot remove the Devil’s crud, but
the Devil, if I read it rightly, has no desire for the crud to be taken
away. It’s really sad ... I imagine ... from the Father’s perspective.
God has a Law; we are
out of harmony with that Law. He wants to save us. He can’t change His
Law, so He has to change us.
But once this crud is
all gone from our lives, what’s left, once again, will be the image of God.
Right now, it appears
to me, the major purpose of our cooperation with God as caretakers of the
planet and caretakers of ourselves, is to reveal the beauty that doesn’t
readily lie on the surface. Ugly has taken over much of our lives, but,
if you’ll permit me to make a very realistic observation, beauty is more than
skin deep; sometimes we have to dig a little.
It’s just like our
relationship with our Father and the Heaven He dwells in. As honest
seekers after God, the more we look, and the deeper we dig, the more beauty we
find. Often it takes time to clean things up, and often it requires
patience … on lots of levels. But, rightly employed, patience brings all
things back to perfection, says our Brother James.
In time, all things
will be restored. And the beauty that for so long has been so woefully
hidden from our senses, will one day be restored to all its former glory ...
and more … so much more.
“Eye hath not seen, nor
ear heard ….” we are counselled.
But one day soon, we
will see, and we will hear, and our imagination is going to explode. In
Ye are the salt of the earth ... Ye are the light of the World ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:13, 14, 16.
You hear that term bandied about a lot right now: "Essential Workers." What exactly does that mean -- essential? Well, very basically, it means you can't do without it. Right now, around the world, great numbers of people are dying for lack of oxygen. Oxygen is essential for the life of the human being; just as, with few exceptions, a fish out of water will not survive for long. Right now front line healthcare workers, striving to provide that oxygen, are essential in the fight for life.
I'm sure we'll agree, "essential" is a relative term. A soldier is essential for the safety of most modern nations. A gas station is essential to keep the world moving. A hotel is essential for the business person who needs a place to stay while away from home. But couldn't we also agree that those things are only essential as they, and many others, are there only to help maintain the world as it is?
A handful of church congregations across the USA have defied the order to temporarily cease holding public services, stating that it's their constitutional right to congregate and that God will protect them (Heaven forbid the people should discover that their church's input was not so essential after all, and that the people should learn to live without a priest offering their petitions to the Throne of God). The majority of churches have joined the internet ranks and have taken to streaming services online -- nothing really new about that. I have three daughters, each of whom is no stranger to streaming their church services. Personally I would prefer they enjoy the fellowship of a church congregation, but I suppose it could be argued that even God streams to us His services, albeit living streams. But that's another conversation.
If a person could consider him or herself a soldier in the army of Heaven, or as a shepherd stationed to keep the sheep safe, then yes, under the present spiritual reality, that person is essential.
But you say, "If I were not here, the work would go on without me. I'm not essential to the Gospel progress." Perhaps, but for sure, without your input the work would go on differently. Your single presence among the many thousands aboard one of these enormous cruise liners might not seem to make much of an impact; but make no mistake, as you lean against the rail at the side of the ship, you actually cause just enough of a list that the helm must make a very slight -- even minute -- adjustment. Your presence and efforts, or lack thereof, make a difference.
There's coming a time when those kinds of efforts will not be needed, but that time is not yet. Right now you are a Necessary Element, an Important Contributor, a Key Factor in the spreading of light around you and beyond.
And we have not been left alone to wander through life guided by the lights from the sparks of our own making. We have a Companion who, though He be beside the Throne of God, He also be by our side, always, causing the wind to blow where it lists, unafraid of the waves the wind causes in this dark and dreary world. "What manner of Man is this ...?" they asked when the tempest ceased.
If you've ever watched parasailors at the beach or lakeside, you will have witnessed a beautiful object lesson in the use of air currents, or wind. The wind is blowing all around, yet only those parasailors with the right equipment are caught aloft. And once aloft, all the parasailor has to do is tilt the wings to guide him or herself through the air. Beach- and lake-goers all around are feeling the same breeze, but are unable to rise with it. We are invited to spread our spiritual wings, catch the breeze, flee the nest, and do great things for our Lord and Master.
YOU are a spreader of salt.
YOU are a light bearer
YOU are an alabaster box.
YOU are causing the ship to list.