Monday, March 12, 2012

Artist, Architect, Author

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 3.17.12

“We’re interrupting your regularly scheduled activity for an important message from your Creator. Please stand by.”

Have you ever been going blindly and numbly about your everyday business and suddenly become aware that you are right in the middle of something that only God could have imagined before that moment?

I remember one Sunday morning, as I stepped out of my car to do my normal Sunday morning grocery shopping, the air above me, for as far as I could see, was filled with Canada Geese flying north for the summer. They were flying so high that I could just barely hear their honking, but I could see them as they swirled from one v-formation to another. I was mesmerized, frozen to the spot where I stood.  And then the geese were gone; the sky was empty, but I was left in awe of God’s delight in beauty.

When Ellen White was traveling in Europe, she and the folks with her had a similar experience.  Her description appears in a book written by D.A. Delafi, E.G. White in Europe 1885-1887.
“As Ellen White’s party left Norway they witnessed one of nature’s grandest spectacles—a northern sunset. Mrs. White loved the beauty of the natural world. To her, nature was God’s second book. She was awed by the grandeur:
‘We were favored with a sight of the most glorious sunset it was ever my privilege to behold. Language is inadequate to picture its beauty. The last beams of the setting sun, silver and gold, purple, amber, and crimson, shed their glories athwart the sky, growing brighter and brighter, rising higher and higher in the heavens, until it seemed that the gates of the city of God had been left ajar, and gleams of the inner glory were flashing through. For two hours the wondrous splendor continued to light up the cold northern sky,—a picture painted by the great Master-Artist upon the shifting canvas of the heavens. Like the smile of God it seemed, above all earthly homes, above the rock-bound plains, the rugged mountains, the lonely forests, through which our journey lay.’”[1]
You know, God didn’t have to make different types of trees or flowers or anything else. All the trees could have been the same.  He could have made things in black and white.  We never would have known the difference. Butterflies didn’t have to be beautiful to do their job. Birds didn’t have to sing pretty songs. Our God must love beauty, and He shared that beauty with us.  Breathtaking things in nature are like little taps on our shoulders, reminding us of all that God has done for us.

Even more astounding than God’s work in nature, though, is the artistry and skill He uses within His children.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Ben Carson?  In his book, Take the Risk, Dr. Carson describe the day that he asked God to be the architect of his character.
“One day, as a 14-year-old in ninth grade, I was hanging out at the house of my friend Bob, listening to his radio, when he suddenly leaned over and dialed the tuner to another station. I'd been enjoying the song playing on the first station, so I reached over and flipped it back. Bob switched stations again.
“A wave of rage welled up. Almost without thinking, I pulled out the pocketknife I always carried and, in one continuous motion, flicked open the blade and lunged viciously right at my friend's stomach. Incredibly, the point of the knife struck Bob's large metal buckle and the blade snapped off in my hands.
“Bob raised his eyes from the broken piece of metal in my hand to my face. He was too surprised to say anything. But I could read the terror in his eyes.
“‘I…I…I'm sorry!’ I sputtered, then dropped the knife and ran for home, horrified by the realization of what I'd just done.
“I burst into our empty house, locked myself in the bathroom, and sank to the floor, miserable and frightened. I could no longer deny that I had a severe anger problem, and that I'd never achieve my dream of being a doctor with an uncontrollable temper. I admitted to myself there was no way I could control it by myself. ‘Lord, please, you've got to help me,’ I prayed. ‘Take this temper away! You promised that if I ask anything in faith, you'll do it. I believe you can change me.’
“I slipped out and got a Bible. Back on the bathroom floor, I opened to the Book of Proverbs. The words of Proverbs 16:32—[‘He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city’]—convicted me, but also gave me hope. I felt God telling me that although he knew everything about me, he still loved me… That because he made me, he was the only one who could change me… And that he would. Gradually I stopped crying, my hands quit shaking, and I was filled with the assurance that God had answered my prayer.
Uncontrolled anger has never again been a threat to me or those around me. God has provided and will provide whatever strength I need to control my anger.”[2]
Isn’t God amazing? If we’ll let Him, He will take the parts of us that sin has bent, torn, ruined and re-design, re-mold, re-paint and re-create them to be how He meant them to be in the first place.

The catch is, He won’t make any changes without our express permission. You have probably, at some point in your life; given a child the opportunity to do something he really wasn’t able to do. Maybe you let him (or her) make cookies, or wash the car, or any number of other things that you could have done more quickly and without making anywhere near the mess. But, the child insisted on doing it by himself, so you stood back and watched. It was torturous, wasn’t it? You probably asked many times if the child wouldn’t like some help, only to be abruptly turned down.

Imagine how it must be for God to watch us trying to do everything all by ourselves, making monumental and usually tragic messes. And there He stands, longing for us to ask Him to take over. Those words of surrender are what He lives for – they’re what Jesus died for.

Think about it, who can put our lives back together, better than the One who has written each one of our names on the palms of His hands – the one who looked through the pain of the cross to the joy of being with us in Heaven?
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

[1] D.A. Delafi, E.G. White in Europe 1885-1887, p.127
[2] Ben Carson, Take the Risk (Zondervan, 2008)

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