Life is Hard!

I am a strong believer that God uses everything that happens in life to teach us something about Himself if we will just listen to His Spirit and allow Him to instruct us. Then I search God’s Word to see what God has specifically said regarding what the Spirit has impressed upon my mind.

I am a pen turner and I love to work at my lathe. I have learned many things about life as I work at my lathe. Each step of the process in turning a piece of wood or antler into a pen is painful to the material with which I am working. The process includes cutting, drilling, shaping, sanding, polishing, friction, and pressure. But when the process is complete the material has been transformed; it has new beauty, value, and purpose. Something of little value now has greater value, all because it endured a painful process! Life is full of difficulties and it easy to become overwhelmed. But there is a purpose behind each hardship; they are all part of a process to shape and mold us into some of greater value and purpose. My desire in writing this blog is to encourage and maybe stir up some conversation with the lessons that God has been teaching me through the painful process of life. Life is hard, but God is good. May He continue working His process in my life.

If you are going to read any of my posts be sure to ready "Introduction to Lessons from the Lathe". In that post I lay out the basis for all the other blogs.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Meditaion: "Staying on Treatment"

I was thinking today about how much my cancer reminds me of the sin in my life. As long as I took the treatment the cancer was kept at bay but when I went off treatment the cancer started to grow again. I was not cancer free while on treatment, the treatment just made the cancer powerless.
When Christ entered my life, forgave my sin, and made me His child; He broke the power of sin. As I remain in Him and allow His word to abide in me, sin remains powerless. But when I stray from Christ, stop reading His word, stop praying, and stop allowing the Holy Spirit to fill me; sin rears its ugly head once again.

I live in a sin infested world; my body, my nature, and my heart are sinful. Satan is just waiting for the opportunity to pounce and draw me back into my sinful way of life. That will be true as long as I remain on earth. I know that one day, when I stand before Christ and see Him face to face, I will be free from sin! Until then I must “stay on treatment” or as Jesus put it in John 15, abide in Him. My abiding in Him and His abiding in me sets me free from the power of sin.

Cancer will always be a part of my life; it is in my body and there is nothing I can do about it. But I can control it by staying on treatment. Sure the treatment brings with it many side effects that are hard to bear sometimes but it does the job of keeping the cancer at bay. This brings me full circle to “Lessons from the Lathe” and why following Christ is difficult at times. But regardless of the hardships, abiding remains the only way to keep sin defeated.

I encourage you today to “stay on treatment” for sin. Make time with Christ apriority; allow His word to fill your heart and mind; allow His Spirit to do His work in your life. That is God’s plan for delivering you from the power of sin; there is no other way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thinkg about 9/11

I can't believe that Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I can still remember being called into the chapel at RBC and watching as the events took place right before our eyes on the television screen. I remember our crying out to God in fear, in anger, and in uncertainty. Why?! How could anyone do this to innocent people, how could this happen in the USA, how can a good God allow such a tragedy? It all seemed so senseless.

I don't want to dwell on everything that has occurred over the past 10 years. A lot of hearts have been broken and continue to break as a result of this event. This event has caused a lot of anger and division, as we continue to seek to assign blame. But I think that a lot of good has also come as a result as well.

Do I truly believe Romans 8:28? If so how does that impact my perception of 9/11? As I think back on that day and all that has transpired as a result: do I see it as a violent attack by radical extremists; a tragic event that happened to innocent victims; or do I see it as an act of a loving God, who in His wisdom was working to bring about ultimate good? My answer - yes. It was a violent act, it was a tragedy, but behind the acts of man there is a sovereign God. Sometimes it is hard to wrap my mind around that fact.

God's thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. I may not understand all that He is working to accomplish but I chose, by faith, to trust Him. God is always faithful to His word. He never breaks a promise. When He said, "I will never leave you or forsake you," He meant it. And when He says that He works all things together for good; He means all things, even those things that seem tragic. God will use health issues, financial crisis, unemployment, and any other "bad" thing to bring about His desired result in His creation. I take great comfort in that fact, I find security in God's sovereignty, and I find the courage to face one more "tragedy" because I know behind it all a Sovereign God is at work.

God is good.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Role of the Craftsman vs. the Role of the Material

 My role as the craftsman is to determine what I will create. I visualize it, I search for and select the material that I will use, I plan my work, I work my plan, I complete my work, and then I choose how best to use what I have created.” The only responsibility that the material has in the process is to be available and to submit to my plan. It doesn’t matter what a good craftsman I am, without material I can’t make anything! A craftsman must have material with which to work in order to demonstrate his workmanship.

I think this is a wonderful illustration of how God works. God desires to demonstrate His glory. He has chosen to use individuals to accomplish this purpose. He has a plan and a purpose; all He needs is the material with which to work.
God is the one who is searching for individuals in whom He can work. The whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost.” In the gospel of Luke Jesus uses two stories of lost things, a sheep and a coin, to illustrate this purpose. The storyline is the same in each: someone has something, that something becomes lost, the someone seeks for his lost possession, and the lost possession is found and reclaimed. The coin did go looking for its owner; the sheep did seek out his shepherd. Each was sought and then found. God wants to do that in your life. He is seeking you.
The responsibility of the “material’ is found in John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus came and gave His life. The only thing that is required of “whosoever” is to believe; to be available and to willing put their trust in Christ. God will not, nor cannot work on material that does not belong to Him. We must choose to place our lives into His hands.
Just like a craftsman with material, God can now begin to work in your life to accomplish His purpose. But remember who it is that is doing the work. Too many times when we place our faith in Christ we begin to try to do all the right things. But watch the craftsman with his chosen material, the craftsman is working and the material is being worked on. A dressmaker chooses the material and it is cut from the bolt. The material is then cut according to the pattern and then sewn together. The only thing the material does is to submit to the cutting and sewing of the seamstress. When the material submits, the master can bring his plan to completion and the material is transformed into something new.
It is the work of the master and the availability and submission of the material which allows the master to create something new, something of greater value, and something with a new purpose. That is God’s desire for your life. He desires you. Are you available? Are you willing to submit to the Master’s plan?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dead Things Become New!

     My main objective in working at the lathe is to transform the material with which I am working into some thing new. English dictionary defines transformation as "a marked change in nature, form, or appearance."  I am not trying to make a better piece of wood; I am making something new!
     This may seem like a simple idea but, the material I work with must be dead before I can start to transform it. The piece of wood is dead. It is no longer connected to the tree, the sap no longer flows through it, and it no longer demonstrates signs of life such as bud, leaf, of fruit. The antler has been separated from the deer, either by the natural yearly growth process of antler, or by the death of the animal. The point is that I cannot work with living material. Can you picture a living tree or animal spinning on a lathe, especially a mini lathe like the one I use in pen making? It is silly and ridiculous to even consider such a thought, yet it is also a very basic truth. I will state it again, you cannot transform something that is still living into something completely new!
     This is the starting point in making sense in God's process of working in the life of an individual. God is not in the business of plastic surgery, a nip here and a tuck there. Nor is His purpose curative surgery, cutting away disease to bring about a better life. He is not about making good people better. His process is not about improvement; it is about transformation.
     The Bible clearly teaches that man, apart from God is dead; separated from the source of true life (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13.) True life, as God intended it to be, is one of a intimate relationship with Him. God originally created man in His image and they existed in close fellowship. But man choose to do the one thing God told him not to do, he ate the forbidden fruit, and immediately suffered a break in his relationship with God. In Genesis 3 God comes to walk with man, as He did from the moment that He had breathed life into man, and man was hiding! Why? The relationship had been broken by sin. I am not going to spend much time developing the theology of the holiness of God; books have been written on the subject. The only point about God's holiness that I will bring up is that, because of His holiness, God cannot tolerate sin. He can't even look on it! So there was the problem: God made man for relatoinship, man broke relationship, God cannot look on sin - there is no hope for restored relationship; it is dead! Romans tells us that all have sinned, miss the mark with God, and that the wages of sin is death. Titus 3:5 tells us that it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, not through our own efforts, that we are saved. That is the bad news. The good news is that Romans 6:23 goes on to say that even though we deserve death, God's gift is life. I love in Ephesians 2:4-5 where it says, "But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life ..." So what we could not do for ourselves God did for us! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." The next verse says that "we are God's masterpiece"; He didn't make us His masterpiece until we accepted His grace through faith.
    This is an important point to grasp. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Until I recognize that I am dead and until I admit my total inability to do anything about it, God cannot work.  I never understood the concept clearly until I began to work at the lathe. That dead piece of wood or antler with which  I am working contributes nothing to the process. It is the material with which I work. I cut it, I shape it; I make it into what I desire it to be. The materials only responsibility is to submit to the process of the craftsman.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Gospel

My intent in writing this blog is to share the message of God's love, His grace, and His purpose for our lives. In Christian terms it is called sharing the "Gospel'.
     If you click on this G.O.S.P.E.L. it will take you to a video link that my son-in-law posted on FaceBook. It is another way of telling the basic stroy behind this blog. It is told in languae that is fresh and appeals to a younger generation, yet the truth resonates with my soul.
     Apart from the gospel, my story is worthless; it offers no hope to anyone. But because I know that God's Word is true; because I have experienced the reality of the gospel's power to transform a life; because I, through God's grace, have had my relationship with Him restored; I can assure you that there is hope for the most hopeless situation. God is good.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Behind All Art There Is An Artist

     The David, the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel ceiling; as I list these I am certain that most people will reflect on images they have seen of these famous works. When you glimpse the colossal  David, you can't help but marvel at the genius of Michelangelo. A glance at the Mona Lisa or the Sisten Chapel cause awe of the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci. Behind each work of art, whether a famous classic or a crayola drawing, there is someone who took the time to create it. No one would argue that you can't have art without an artist.
     I have no problem looking around at the most awesome work created by the greatest Master ever, and saying "What an amazing God who created such beauty!" What I do have trouble understanding is how people can marvel at the intricate designs of nature and not recognize that behind it there must be a Creator. Craftmanship demands a craftsman! "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" Psalm 19:1. "For we are His workmanship..." Ephesians 2:10.
       It is said that Michelanelo work three years in sculpting the David, da Vinci labored for four years on each the Sistine Chapel and the Mona Lisa. The artists toiled at their work, following a process that would allow them to complete their vision. Each had his own process, method, and tools to shape and form the raw material into the completed work of art. God works a life time to form His masterpiece. He has His unique process for each of His works of art.
     To begin to make sense of the struggles that occur in our lives we must recognize God's hand is in control. That He is following His process and that as Philippians 1:6 says, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion..."
     Behind every work of art there is an artist, and he knows what he is making and has a process he is following. May we begin to recognize God, the Artist, who is faithfully working on His masterpiece!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Introduction to Lessons from the Lathe

Disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment are common emotions in today’s world.  The adverse effects of sickness, disease, family strife, economic woes, political unrest, and natural disasters are evident almost everywhere you turn.  A sense of hopelessness hangs heavy in the air.
I am intimately acquainted with these negative feelings.  Over the past few years I have struggled with the loss of health, the loss of career, the loss of loved ones, and the uncertainty of life.  Many times I have asked the question, “Why?”
I am a pen turner. The lathe is my seminary; it is the place I go to contemplate life. As the chips fly and the pen takes shape, I am able to understand more about life. It was at the lathe that God started to help understand His purpose for pain in my life.
Lessons from the Lathe
1.       The process is planned –The craftsman determines what he will create, which determines the steps he must follow. The process is planned. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

2.      The process is painfulEach step of the process in turning a piece of wood or antler into a pen is painful to the material with which I am working. The process includes cutting, drilling, shaping, sanding, polishing, friction, and pressure. The process will include pain! James 1:3-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

3.       The process is profitableWhen the process is complete the material has been transformed; it has new beauty, value, and purpose. Something of little value now has greater value, all because it endured a painful process! Job 23:10, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
           Everyone has crisis in their lives which causes them to question God’s goodness. I have learned through all of the struggles and through many hours of working at the lathe that God has a purpose for our suffering. If you are struggling with discouragement today and are asking, "Why would God allow this to happen to me?", let me encourage that God has a purpose for the pain you are going through. Allow Him to complete His process. And then you will be able to say like Paul in Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good to them that love God..."

God is good!