Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Sculptor

It was dirty, covered in muck and filth from the pit in which it had lain, discarded and useless. There was certainly nothing attractive about it. But the sculptor had chosen this particular block of stone for his great work, and he dragged it out of the pit. He washed it clean with the purest water he could find. Immediately it looked much more promising to work with. Yet as the sculptor looked closer, he could see the deep flaws within this stone block. It was mis-shapen, and had suffered not only erosion which had caused cratering and pitting of its surface, but also it was covered in crusty deposits. It would require the greatest skill and craftsmanship to make anything of it. The sculptor was undaunted – for he could see.

As he brought it back to his workroom, the local townspeople saw what he was doing. They scoffed and laughed at him for wasting his time on yet another old block of stone, for they had seen him working on similar blocks of stone in his workroom for many, many years. The sculptor ignored them – for he could see.

Taking his mallet and chisel, he began chipping away at the block of stone. He noticed that some parts of the stone broke off easily with a gentle tap. Other parts, those in which the deepest flaws ran, required much firmer, stronger strikes of the chisel, before the imperfections broke away. Some parts of the stone required a significant amount to be cut away. This was done by tapping a groove into the stone, followed by a hard hit in the centre of the groove to crack and break the stone. It was most satisfying to the sculptor as the unwanted stone was discarded. For with each careful incision, the stone block increasingly took on the image the sculptor wanted to see.

Finally the sculptor rested from his work. The block of stone was now ready. He carefully carried it to where he had placed the other specially chosen stone blocks, now also completed. But the sculptor now focused his attention on one particular stone, which had lain there from the beginning. The townspeople had all walked past it at some point. Knowing little about stone, and not caring to find out, they just saw it as any other block of stone, and sometimes stumbled over it as they walked on by, cursing the sculptor for leaving it lying around. But the sculptor could see in this stone what no-one else could see. It had required no work, for it was flawless. It was the purest stone there had ever been, exceptional in its quality, beyond compare. The sculptor knew exactly where to lay this stone. It was the chief cornerstone, thus all the other stones would be set in reference to this beautiful stone. The sculptor carefully fixed into place all the stones he had worked with around the chief cornerstone. Finally he stepped back and examined his work. He was pleased. It looked exactly as he had seen.

The townspeople came out to look. A gasp went up from the onlookers. For they could now see what the sculptor had seen all along. Stones which had lain abandoned and useless, fit for no good purpose, had been transformed under the care of the sculptor. Stones which individually had not seemed to possess much beauty now formed part of the most beautiful building they had ever seen. The stone blocks were decorated with precious stones - jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. Whichever angle anyone looked at the building from, the stone blocks had been arranged in such a way that the eyes were always drawn towards the chief cornerstone. And what had caused the crowd to gasp was the fact that as they admired this beautiful building, whether it was the way the sunlight was shining or not they couldn’t tell, but light was emanating from the chief cornerstone which caused the whole structure to dazzle in a brilliant light.

The crowd fell to their knees in awe and sang out their praises to the master sculptor.


“As you come to him, the living Stone— rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”, and,” A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message— which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:4-10)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The lovingkindness of the LORD

Photo Design by Becky Pliego

I recently bought “The Lamb” to read with Harry, my 5 year old, having read a wonderful review by Christine Blackerby Pack of Sola Sisters. Having now read it myself, I have to say I think every Christian family should own this book and read it with their children! I’ve never come across a book which explains so clearly the gospel message, which lays such a good foundation for understanding exactly what Christ accomplished on our behalf by laying down His life for us on the cross, and the repetition used throughout the book together with the questions at the end of each chapter are an ideal teaching tool for young children.

As we came to the end of the book we were recapping on the questions. “If we try to be very good and not do or think bad things, will we be perfect enough to go to Heaven?” “Yes!” declared Harry triumphantly! I inwardly sighed. Then I realised that I was expecting rather too much of my 5-year old to have grasped the truth of our complete inability to help ourselves when I continue to struggle with this myself! As Diane said in a comment to a post by Persis over at Doctrines in the Kitchen this week about the great doctrine of Imputation, “You know, no matter how much we "get" the doctrines of grace, we're always so prone to drift back into works righteousness. We are so dense.”

I’ve been camped out in Psalm 107 the last week or so. The last verse had grabbed my attention: “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (v43). Lovingkindness. What a beautiful word. I want to understand more of this, so I’ve been thinking and meditating on this Psalm.

This Psalm is a call for the redeemed to give thanks to the LORD for His goodness! Amen! The redemption of four groups of people is then described. Those wandering in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty; those imprisoned by their rebellion against the words of God; the foolish who abhorred all food; those going about their daily business suddenly laid low by the awesome power of God revealed through His acts of nature. I’m sure you, like me, can relate to some, if not all, of the groups of people outlined here. In each case, through the circumstances in which they find themselves, “they cried out to the LORD in their trouble”. They realised they were unable to help themselves. They realised their need for a Saviour. They saw their moral bankruptcy before a Holy God, the inability of the world to provide any hope, their weakness and insignificance before a God whose voice both causes and calms the storm. And without fail, each time they cried out to God, “He saved them out of their distresses”. For He is a faithful God, who esteems those who are humble and contrite of heart. How are they saved? The hungry and thirsty are satisfied and provided with a city of promise to journey towards; those imprisoned have their chains broken and are brought out of darkness; the foolish are healed; and those reeling around in the storm see the waves stilled, and all is calm – and I believe that not only does this apply when the storms are calmed, but surely this also refers to that perfect peace which the LORD provides to those who are His in the very eye of the storm.

This, then, is the lovingkindness of God – a God who is just longing to show us the height, depth, breadth and length of His love for us if we would but die to self and abandon ourselves to Him and the salvation He provides, this salvation which is all of the LORD, from first to last. In His great mercy and compassion He provides those circumstances in our lives where He leads us to lean on Him as our only source of comfort and hope, that He might be our Redeemer, that He might receive the Glory due His Name. And because we are so dense, this seems to be an ongoing process in our lives.

I look at Harry and my heart aches for him. For I know that this process of dying to self is one that can’t be learnt simply by listening to the words of those who have been through it – this is a process he will have to own himself, he will have to bear his own load and wrestle with God as he works it out, as he comes to see that truly none of us is good enough to enter the presence of God without the mediation of the Lamb of God. The ache in my heart is surely nothing compared with the ache in his Heavenly Father’s heart. And I am confident to entrust my precious son to the lovingkindness of my God for I know whom I have believed, and I know that He is good.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Theology Leads to Doxology

My friend, Becky Pliego, is hosting a series throughout April entitled Doctrines in the Kitchen.

Becky says: "Many years have passed since God opened my eyes, and my ears. And now I understand that one cannot be a true Christian if the Word of God is not engraved in one's heart and mind. It is not about going to church or being part of a certain ministry. It is about abiding in the Word of God.

This is the reason why we have prepared a delicious, wonderful banquet for you. We want you to taste and see that studying the Word of God, that digging deep into it is sweeter than the joys you'll find in any other book, it is sweeter than anything else! Those doctrines, which in a book may look "arid" have the power to change your heart."

I can only testify to the truth of this statement. My testimony is included there, where I share how studying the doctrine of Christ filled my emptiness.

I would encourage you to go along to Becky's website and join with us as we share how studying theology has led, not to dead orthodoxy, but to a joyful doxology, and hearts full of praise as we see our Sovereign Lord exalted and lifted high!

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."
(Romans 11:33-36)

Friday, 1 April 2011


A few years ago at our old church, as a sign of commitment and dedication to God for the coming year the congregation were asked to recite the prayer of Brendan, the Navigator. This prayer began “Lord, I will trust you, help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with you. Christ of the mysteries, can I trust you to be stronger than each storm in me?” My husband and I both felt very uncomfortable with this prayer, especially with the title “Christ of the mysteries”, and didn’t join in.

Since then I have discovered why this prayer made us so uncomfortable. For the God of the Bible is not shrouded in mystery and unknowing, rather as Daniel tells us “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Daniel 2:28). God ultimately reveals Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ - “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18).

In Genesis, we read that man’s eyes were first opened when Adam and Eve disobeyed God “and they realized they were naked” (Gen 3:7). Yet this opening of their eyes to their sinful condition only resulted in spiritual blindness. We read in Romans 1 that despite God clearly revealing his invisible qualities throughout creation, man turned away from God. God’s wrath against man is then revealed by Him giving them over to the sinful desires of their heart, shameful lusts and a depraved mind unable to see the Truth.

Blinded. Helpless. Hopeless.

A promise from Isaiah rings out into this hopelessness: “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Isaiah 65:1). And John’s gospel paints a vivid description of this: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” (John 9:1-7).

A man blind from birth. There is no indication given that this man was seeking Jesus, it was rather Jesus who saw him and went to him. It was Jesus who gave him sight. Does this not describe our own experience of Jesus too? Spiritually blinded, not seeking God, but then God in His great mercy opened the eyes of our heart that we might see Him, repent and believe.

Now that we can clearly see, I believe we have an obligation to clearly speak. It is becoming fashionable to see confusion and mystery and doubt in the matters of God – but this is simply not true, we have been blessed with a revelation of the Father Himself! “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22). There are those for whom the language of Jesus is not clear, and who are unable to hear what he says – those who do not belong to God. Yet “he who belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47).

Paul recognised the necessity of clear speech as he coveted the prayers of the church: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Col 4:3-4).

The mystery of Christ is no longer hidden in obscurity. He revealed Himself when He came to this earth 2,000 years ago, to live a sinless life in perfect submission to His Father, to lay down His life that we might be saved from our sins, to rise again in triumph from the grave to give us a living hope and an inheritance kept in heaven for us which can never perish, spoil or fade. This is surely the greatest message of hope, and it deserves to be proclaimed with boldness and clarity!