Where True Beauty Resides

salvation, redemption, creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 1:6I don’t often write about current events or popular culture.   They are here today and gone tomorrow and often not worth much in the grand scheme of God’s plan.  That being said, I’m going to use an example today that is drawn from a recently aired television show simply because it helps to make a useful point and because of how God used it to show me something that I want to share with you.

Over the past few years, my wife and I have enjoyed watching the BBC television show, Downton Abbey.  If you are familiar with it then you know it is a British period drama that takes place in the early part of the 1900’s and deals with the family of nobles that inhabit Downton Abbey, their staff and the way that the world began to change rapidly during that period of time.  We follow the lives of these aristocrats through war, modernization, the advent of the automobile and the telephone and many other changes all set against the backdrop of the marvelous house (actually, that word doesn’t do it justice, castle or estate are better descriptors) and grounds that make up Downton Abbey.

And even though we are watching the show to see what ultimately happens to these people, I can’t help but be impressed and sometimes even awestruck at how beautiful and grand the backdrop is for the show.  The architecture of the house, the rich woods, the marble, the paintings, the decor and even the clothes and finery are all fairly breathtaking.  I enjoy seeing these beautiful things and appreciate the craftsmanship and ingenuity that went in to their creation.

After watching a recent episode, I had the thought that seeing beauty on that scale was inspiring and that I appreciated being able to see it, even if it was just a television show.  And on the heels of that thought I thanked the Lord for beauty and my first instinct was to call to mind a sunset, a bird in flight, a night sky filled with stars and other images of God’s creation.  But immediately the Holy Spirit spoke to me and took me deeper.  He said “the most beautiful thing in all creation is that which I am creating in you”.  And as I pondered that thought, it took my breath away.

It’s difficult to put into words, but I know what the Holy Spirit spoke to me is the absolute truth even if I have very little knowledge of the specifics.  I know, from what the Bible says, that I am now a new creation.  I know that God’s Holy Spirit has come to reside in my heart (the center of my will) and that as I yield to Him and His teaching, He is changing me from what I was into what God intends for me to be.  And if you are a child of God, the same holds true for you.

Brothers and sisters, we have something to truly be excited about!  The work has begun but it is not yet finished.  I believe we’ve barely scratched the surface of what God intends to do with us and reveal to those whom He loves and calls His own.  True beauty, the purest and most lovely in existence, resides in the hearts of the redeemed.  And it’s only going to get better and better as we keep on following Him and keeping Him in the center of our lives.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6 (NASB)


When All You Can Do Is Pray That Love Wins

redemption, reconciliation, repentanceAt times it is difficult to pin down a single topic or theme for a blog post.  The desire to write is there and the impetus to tell of God and His glory remains constant and strong but the specific direction is unclear.  So I’m just going to tell you what’s on my heart at this moment.

What I know is this: God is real.  God is good.  God is still working and changing lives.

I know God is real because of the way that He has touched me personally and changed me as well as the evidence I see of Him in other lives around me.  I know God is good because, limited though I am, I see His handiwork and the evidence of His greatness every day.  And I know God is still working and changing lives because of the testimony of other believers who are not afraid to show up and speak out about their love for Jesus.

Even though I know God and see Him working I am still in this world and just like everyone else, I have problems and obstacles in my life.  My heart is broken and has been broken these last few weeks over the separation and estrangement of two people that I know and love very much.  I see what they are going through and I hurt for both of them as does all of their family and friends.  My prayer for them is, and has been since the beginning, that love would win and that healing and reconciliation take place.

The thing is, only God can do something like that.  Only God can take the pile of ashes that we so often create with our best efforts and turn them and us into something beautiful and worthwhile.  Apart from God we are broken and miserable but with God we are healed and we are changed.

What is the key to this healing and this great change?  Faith and repentance.  By faith we believe that God is the only one who can change us and when we throw everything we have and everything we are at His feet and cry out to God with our whole heart, then and only then, can He begin to make us new.  He will absolutely turn a life around 180 degrees from ruin to righteousness and from destruction to deliverance.

Will God intervene in the situation that I have described between these two estranged loved ones?  I believe that He desires to and I believe that He certainly is able.  How it all comes to pass will depend on the hearts and wills of those involved.  Sometimes we realize we are in trouble rather quickly and turn it over to the Lord and sometimes we run for many years before we realize that it is all in vain if God’s hand isn’t in it.

My prayer is that somewhere down the road, in God’s perfect timing, I will be able to look in to the eyes of these folks and see lives that have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I look forward to that day.


Do We Deny His Redeeming Power?

Redemption, Salvation, GodOne of the most central components of Christianity is the belief that by identifying ourselves with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be born again.  “Saved” we call it.  And although we are saved in a moment, we do not instantly become Christ-like.  (In fact, without a great deal of prayer, Bible study and help from other Christians, we never will in this life become Christ like – but that’s a post for a different day).

If we claim to be a Christian, then we claim to have been redeemed.  Where once we were spiritually dead and belonged to this world, we are now alive with Christ, born again in spirit, claimed by God forevermore.  This act of redemption is powerful, and in terms of our salvation, once is all that is needed.

But God’s redeeming work does not stop there.

God not only wants to redeem our souls so that we can one day join Him in Heaven, He also desires to redeem our lives while we are here on this earth.  Based on my observations, I wonder how many of us really understand that God is actively involved in the process of redeeming his creation in the here and now.

Whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever weaknesses and failures that you are currently experiencing, God can take those and redeem them for His glory.  A mistake need not be the end.  A failure need not be forever.  And a tragedy need not have the final word.  Only God has the final word, and there is nothing that He cannot do.

Satan, our adversary, likes nothing more than to see us stumble and fall.  He does everything in his power to cause it, in fact.  But God, who is infinitely stronger and greater, likes nothing more than to take Satan’s most cunning schemes and turn them on their head so that they ultimately benefit His kingdom and His children.

I am certainly not saying that we should aim to fail, nor am I saying that a tragedy is really not tragic.  Heartache and pain come to us all and as long as we live in this fallen world, we will all experience the consequences of sin.  What I am saying is that our God is so great and so amazing that He can take our darkest moment and our worst nightmare and bring blessings and goodness from it.

God is still in the business of redemption and he specializes in bringing dead things back to life.  Darkness cannot stand before Him and death and Hell have no power over Him.  There is no moment or circumstance that surprises Him and there is no time that He is not in control and not actively working for the ultimate good of those He loves and calls His own.

Remember well, brothers and sisters: when we choose to allow our circumstances to defeat us and we become dismayed and bleak because of the trials of this life, what we are really saying is that we do not believe that our God is big enough to redeem even this.  May we never deny His redeeming power!