Im weird.  I like weird things.  I like things weirdly.  Take for example, I like to eat my M&Ms by colour order, I don’t like peas and I dont like my food to touch on a plate.

 

I’m slightly obsessed with Lost, the tv show, and Star Wars and often know weird random facts about them that no one else may really care about like the fact that an estimated that 2.2 million full-time employees missed work to attend the film, resulting in a US$293 million loss of productivity.  I’m also slightly obsessed about missing people and cold cases at the moment and listen to a couple of podcasts about them – I think its the Lost thing but in real life.

 

I’m also 4 books away from the goal I set myself to read this year.   Weird and super geeky I know.  Anyway recently I read a book about art restoration, as you do, and it got me wandering off on a tangent thinking about how it applies to our identity as God’s masterpiece and the process we are on to become more like Jesus.

 

Art Restoration is a very specialized business.  Do it the wrong way and you end up with this…. Phrases such as “the worst restoration in history” and “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic” were used to describe her attempt to repair the 1930 artwork – a depiction of Christ with a crown of thorns….

art restoration bad

 

Do it right and you can enhance the original beauty and glory of the artwork.

It is a process of removing vanish, the build up of smoke and oils, scraping, stretching, repainting, retouching, sometimes even removal from the very walls the art is inbuilt into.  Sometimes art has been damaged by day by day exposure to past and modern pollutants, or by rough handling or even blatent disregard.  Someone built a door in the middle of the last supper painting and cut jesus’ feet off.  Literally!

 

Sounds like life right?  Sometimes we can be like that work of art – damaged by the past and present pollutants of what people say and do, of what we say and do and feel.  Sometimes it can feel like we’ve been handled roughly, or stored in a damp attic, or moved from room to room.  Delays.  Disppointments.  Discouragement.  Disagreements.  Detours. Damage.

These things can all affect our heart and the way that we interact with the world.  It can affect our thinking and our living.    It affects our relationships and our destiny, the potential we have to pursue the call of God.

However I believe that we have a choice as how to how we let the grit of life affect us – the saying is it can make us bitter or better.  It doesn’t change the difficulty or the pain of the situations but it can influence how we deal with the pressures of life.  I don’t want to minimialise the difficulties some of us face, but we need to do life well, right?  As Christians we are sometimes the only bible that people will read.  We are amabassadors called to demonstrate the reality and grace of God.  Paul calls us to consider it all joy when we go through trials – yet often our default setting is venting and grumbling and reacting.   In Philippians 2:14-15 says Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

 

We are God’s masterpiece.

Our identity as a child of God is that we are fully righteous, fully innocent, fully accepted.  We are anointed, chosen, called, empowered.   We are created by God on purpose, with a purpose.

Psalm 139 says Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.  Psalm 139

 

We are uniquely and carefully, fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

But like an art masterpiece there are 2 things to consider, that can encourage and challenge us

 

  1. masterpieces take time to create
  2. masterpieces sometimes need restoration

The Bible says, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). The New Testament was written originally in Greek. The Greek word for “masterpiece” is “poema.” It’s the word we get “poem” from. God says, “You’re my poem. You’re my masterpiece. I don’t want you copying somebody else. I’ve put gifts in you — heart, abilities, personality, and experiences — and I want you to use them.” You have worth because of what God says about you and has done for you.

 

The Bible says “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

 

Let me be clear, you do not have to change yourself up to come to Jesus.  He accepts us and welcomes us as we are.  He has made the way for us to know God and even our best works the Bible describes as filthy rags.  We don’t have to clean ourselves us to receive salvation.   Salvation is a free gift, none of us can earn it or pay it back.

But once saved Jesus does want to change us.  He doesn’t want to just edit our behaviours He wants a complete heart transformation.  Christianity is not about behaviour modification it is about heart transformation.

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Check out these verses about God’s heart for our transformation:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

John 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.

 

 

This might sound like Christianity 101 but man, don’t we all need this reminder.  So many of us struggle with insecurity and that holds us back from becoming who we are destined to be.  We compare ourselves to someone elses highlight reel instead of having a look in the editing room to see all the preparation and pain that went into those highlight moments.

 

The Mona Lisa took 14 years to paint

Da Vincis the last supper took 3 years to pain

Auguste Rodin’s The gates of hell took 37 years

The Sisteine chapel took about 10 years to finish

 

Whatever stage of the journey we’re on, whether we’ve been a Christian for 5 minutes, 5 months, 5 years or 50 years we all have acknowledge and surrender to the path of process that God has us on.

 

Sometimes I wish that God was like the fairy Godmother in Cinderella.  With a wave of a wand and biberty bobberty boo Cinderellas rags were turned into a magnificent gown worthy of the ball.  I wish that God would wave His wand and then the rags of my life, the flaws in my character that lead to poor choices, the leanings I have towards sin, the insecurities, the rebellion, the false thinking, the ungodly emotions – that with one wave, bibberty bobberty boo, I would be this woman of incredible godliness, honesty, integrity, grace who never yells at my kids, is grumpy at my husband, who wants to say no to God and wants to hide from the world.

But God uses the every day moments of life to transform us.  Just as an artist uses a paintbrush, stroke upon stroke, so God uses ordinary pressures to reveal our character and to give us opportunity to surrender to His way.

When my kids were smaller we did a bible study in the mums group called Unglued by Lysa Terkerust.  As homework we had to keep a journal about the moments that made us come unglued, the moments we forgot whose we were and reacted, vented, and snapped.   So every time I yelled at my kids, got grumpy at whoever or acted upon that grrr that rises up within each of us…. I had to write it down in my journal and then share it that week with the other mums.  With each journal entry we had to identify what happened, why it happened and other contributing factors.   After a while in those pressure point moments I could feel the grrr but God was using the study to transform me.  I had a choice, I could  yell and write it in my journal or I could push pause and choose a different way.  I could act differently.  I was not a slave to my emotions.  In the every day moments I was becoming transformed, not just in my behaviour, but in my heart.

God will use our boss, our family, our friends, our co workers, our neighbours to shape us to be more and more like the masterpiece we are designed to be.   He will use our disappointments, our discouragements, our delays to prune us.  God will use the pressure points of our life to transform us at a heart level.

I had the immense honour of spending weekly time with Sara last year and was delighted to watch some of her paintings develop from blank canvas to gallery wall.  It gave me a wonderful insight into the process and patience it takes to create a masterpiece and how sometimes it can look like nothing is changing or even that it can feel like a backwards step.  But every stroke is intentional and is part of the big picture.

God is our artist and he is intentional with every brush stroke and layer.  He has the artistic vision and sees the big picture.

I have this distinct memory of driving down union rd, 8 months pregnant with Evangeline and incredibly frustrated at where my life was at.   I had just compelted a preaching course and the other people, the male people, were off adventuring and itinerating.  And there was I.  I couldn’t even sit through a message without having to pee let alone give one.   I was compraying, that’s a combination of complaining and praying and God spoke.  Claire, I made you a woman.  I as spiritual as I am, dismissed God and brushed His words off with a “yeah I can see that” only for Him to say it again.  Claire I made you a woman.  In that moment the wisdom of God revealed that that meant as a wife, as a mother.  That these were necessary for my journey.  I wanted to go from A to B but God wanted to use some other letters of the alphabet.  Being God He knew what I needed in my life, the areas that I needed to grow in, the areas I needed to surrender in.  I wanted instanteous, but God was taking me the long way round.

Until we see Jesus face to face our journeys wont be straight lines nearly as often as they will be a series of loops rolling us forward by circling us back to faith. Beth Moore

In the bible we see Joseph taking the scenic route to his dream fulfilment.  As a teenager he dreamed of leadership and influence but was then sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into jail, and then after 17 years, promoted to prime minister.

Moses was meant to be executed as a baby, was adopted by the pharohs daughter, murdered a guard, fled from Egypt for his life, became a lowly shepherd in the desert looking after his father in laws sheep, was called by God to confront pharoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land.

David was a shepherd boy who spent his days and nights out in the paddocks with the sheep, but God saw the heart of a king and anointed Him to rule, but first he had to kill Goliath, be attacked by king saul who he served, he had to run for his life, spent time hiding in caves, joined by a rabble of down and outers, and then 15 years from the promise of kingship he became king of Judah.  It took another 7 years for him to become king of all of Israel.

The good news is we don’t need to worry about our future because God is already working in our future. Our future is uncertain and we can’t control it, but God is already there. The only thing certain about our future is that God is working to preserve our life when we need Him most. Are bad moments going to happen? Yes. Are good moments going to happen? Yes. And God is already preparing to preserve our life in all of it–to weave all those frayed fragments into something good.

The same God who was at work in Josephs life, in Moses’ life, in David’s life is at work in my life and your life.

Its important for our hearts to acknowledge and accept that God takes time to transform us because our hearts forget and our hearts are fickle.  There is no bibberty bopperty boo.  When we know that it is a lifetime process the pressure of life doesn’t blindside us.  We are prepared for it.  We can choose to have joy in the trial because we know that God is using it to transform us, to grow our faith.  I don’t know about you but there were times that I felt almost betrayed by God because things weren’t working out how I wanted them or though they should go.   There were times that I felt things were off until I realised that I was leaning on my own strength and talent instead of surrendering to God.   It felt like I was walking around that mountain again and again, dealing with the same issues again and again, until I realised that God wanted to actually really deal with the issues and bring about inner healing and holy thinking.

God is good all the time.  He sees the big picture.  His plans for us are good, giving us a future and a hope.  He loves us.  He wants to bless us.  He wants us to walk in freedom and holiness.  He is at work in us to make us willing to do His will.  And He is purposefully on purpose shaping us to be more like Him – stroke by stroke, His masterpiece.   He will complete the good work He has begun in us.

 

We are God’s masterpiece.  But just as great works of art in the real world can become damaged we too can be mared by the pressure points of life.

 

When the Sistine chapel ceiling was restored people were amazed at the vibrancy of colour that michaleangeo had used.  The colours had become dull and muted due to years of exposure to the oils and smoke from constant candle burning.  A thick smoky layer had covered the true nature of the masterpiece.

What layers have built up around our life that cover who God really wants us to be?  What attitudes have we allowed?  What defences have we put up?  What sins do we run to instead of running to God?  What behaviours have we excused or standards have we compromised because its easier, or fills a gap, or covers a flaw, or helps us fit in, or because it just feels good.    Every compromise and sin and ungodly attitude is a mark on the masterpiece.

So how do we get through life unmarked?  The reality is that we probably don’t.  We are human. There are safeguards we can put in place which we’ll touch on in a moment but the reality is that life will leave its mark.  The remedy is to live close to God that when those marks are made that we draw near to Him, ask for forgiveness, ask for healing and surrender to His love.  As we find our security in Him and know that we are beloved children of God its like we have a Teflon coating that helps protect us.  God wants us to be anchored to His hope and His love.

 

Here are 3 other strategies we can use to safeguard our lives.

  1. do life with good people. When we have good people around us – particularly mentors or connect group leaders – we have a positive voice that can both encourage us and call us out when we need it.  Sometimes we’re blind to our own blindspots and a trusted person who is further along the path than us can see with wisdom areas in our life that will trip us up.  Sometimes we don’t act like who we really are.  Sometimes we don’t act like who we are called to be.  We need people who know who we are and where we are going who have permission to call us out and call us up.  People who see the gold. I encourage you to be open to that wisdom.  God uses people to encourage and challenge us as part of the pruning process.  Sometime truth is hard to digest but when spoken in love it is like gold.  Proverbs 27:6 states: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend compared to the kissing up of an enemy – paraphrase mclean style.  David had Jonathan.  Paul had Barnabas.   Elijah had Elisha.

Hebrews 12 talks all about the correction of God.  He corrects those whom he loves.  Like the art restorer who has to scrape, stretch, repaint, and use various other techniques to repair an artwork God sometimes has to use methods that may make us feel uncomfortable.   He doesn’t just want to edit our behaviour but transform us at a heart level.    God’s boundaries are not because He is a kill joy but because He loves us so much.  They are designed to facilitate healthy relationships.  They are designed to protect us.  Often our natural reaction is to push against these boundaries and God’s correction we need to learn to receive them and obey.

  1. get into the word of God. Psalm 119:11 says I keep your word close, in my heart, so that I won’t sin against you.  God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  Hebrews 4:12-13

It may seem like cliché – again Christianity 101 – but the word of God is God’s love letter to us.  It shows us His heart.  It also transforms the way we think.

Romans 12:1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

  1. pursue restoration. You know, sometimes it would be easier to leave things at status quo. Restoration and healing are intention and require us to fight against our natural reflexes and default settings.   It requires work.  It requires confrontation of emotions and reactions.  It requires often requires forgiveness.   It took art restorers 14 years to complete the restoration of the Sistine chapel.  As chrsitians we need to pursue healing.

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Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver.

As well as a cool form of repair, kintsukuroi has a deeper meaning. The mended flaws become part of the object’s design, and some people believe the pottery to be even more beautiful having gone through the process of being broken and repaired.

Our experiences don’t define us, but they do influence us. We can decide to hide, or we can decide to embrace these experiences that have shaped.  We can choose to see these experiences for what they are: our golden seams. We can decide to cover up, or we can decide to walk out into the world as ourselves, mended breaks and all.

One person’s obedience and surrender to a process and to healing will ALWAYS unlock someone else’s heart for healing, surrender and worship. We are here on this earth for a greater purpose—one that is watched over and cared for by God who is like a gardener. He prunes and cuts away and it hurts. But He fights over you, dances over you and He uses lyric and melody and surrender to do it through. Your encounter unlocks an encounter for someone else. Keep singing. Keep writing. Don’t flee in heartache—run to Him. Don’t fight against the pain—feel it and take it to your comforter and let Him comfort and heal you deep down. If we live in the shallow end we’ll never experience the fullness of what the deep unlocks. —Kari Jobe

 

God does not want you to remain discouraged, disappointed, delayed or damaged. Don’t miss the purpose in the pain.  He in Jesus made the way for healing to be possible.  He is the shepherd of our soul.   He has given us the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the advocate, within us.  This morning, and every Sunday morning we have an awesome ministry team who will stand with you as you pursue healing, as you seek God and as you work through the affects of the pressures of life.   God wants to bring out the gold in your life.   He is the master art restorer and you are His masterpiece.

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