Unfinished yet Complete

13_19_4_web“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known” 1 John 3:2.

There is something in us that longs for completeness. Donald Grey Barnhouse tells this story: “The children of the great composer, Bach, found that the easiest method of awakening their father was to play a few lines of music and leave off the last note. The musician would arise immediately and go to the piano to strike the final chord.”[1] For many years, a house in a near-by neighborhood stood framed, but incomplete because the owners did not have funds to finish the building. I have many craft projects started but shoved aside and unfinished. We have all started painting projects at home or gardening projects in the yard, a craft project, a book we want to read (or write, as I look in the mirror) and stopped before the task was done. We run out of time or funds or energy or motivation. We lose interest and give up. I am so thankful that God is not like me, He has never started anything He did not bring to completion.

Consider creation. God planned each day the project He would start, and at the end of every day the Scripture tells us God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). At the end of creation week, after the earth and the heavens, the sun, moon and stars, plants and animals and human beings were made and all things were set in order, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (1:31). He set out with a purpose, to create the universe and all that would inhabit it, and He worked until everything was done. Psalm 33:11 says “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” He has a plan and a purpose and the power to fulfill everything He puts His hand to. He never leaves anything unfinished. And that includes you and me.

The question then is, “What is His plan for our lives?” I don’t mean the details of where we live, who we marry, what job we take or how we serve Him, although they are encompassed in God’s full purpose. But Paul tells us that God’s perfect plan is to “conform us to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). His whole “project” is to make us into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. To make us walk like Jesus and talk like Jesus and live like Jesus and love like Jesus. This work is done through the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer as, day-by-day, God chips away at our selves to reveal more and more of Christ is us.   It is not easy nor painless. It is not a quick process or a one-and-done. It is a life-long daily transformation, that will involve struggle and heartache and we will often become weary and restless – unless we remember God’s purpose.

I look at my own life sometimes, all my starts and stops of Christian growth, all the vows I made to change my life for good (only to have to make the same vow again the next day and the next) and wonder if God has given up on me. Has He finally decided that I am just more trouble than I’m worth? Has He become frustrated with me (as I do with myself) and moved on to someone who is more capable, more intelligent or more “spiritual” than me? Is He just going to leave me here in this unfinished state?

The Bible assures us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). God never takes on a project without knowing the full cost, the time and effort involved, and – most importantly – a vision of the end result. You see, when God picks up his brush and approaches the canvas of our lives He sees a completed portrait and every stroke of light and dark that He applies is done with the image of His Son in mind. Our perspective is vastly limited, but His is perfection. God knows “the end from the beginning” and He has declared “My purpose will stand. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned that will I do” (Isaiah 45:10, 11).

I remember a song I taught to the children at church once that I think is just as appropriate for adults.

He’s still working on me

To make me what I need to be

It took him just a week to make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me[2]

If you are frustrated because you just can’t seem to “get it right,” don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t.

Holy Father, I am so thankful that You never give up on anything You start. You started working in me the moment You saved me, and You won’t quit until all You see in me is Jesus. I am Yours to mold and fashion according to Your perfect design. Amen.

 

[1] Donald Grey Barnhouse, quoted by David Jeremiah, Agents of the Apocalypse: A Riveting Look at the Key Players of the End Times, (San Diego, Turning Point, 2014), 86.

[2] Joel Hemphill, He’s Still Working on Me, 1980, Hemphill Music Company/BMI

Advertisements

A Light in the Darkness

LightInDarknessGod is light; in Him there is not darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

It is only a brief memory, when the sky went black as night in the middle of the day. I was in school when the intercom in the classroom crackled to life and the principal’s calm but strained voice came through. Everyone was to immediately get into the interior hallways and sit against the wall with our heads tucked between our knees, arms covering the back of our necks. This was no drill – this was the real thing. As we trooped out of our classroom we saw through the windows – nothing. Blackness wrapped around our school as if someone had thrown a heavy blanket over the whole building. Several of us began to cry as our teacher tried her best to put on a brave face. We knew something very bad was happening – it wasn’t supposed to be dark in the middle of the day. Several tornadoes were reported in the area that day. Eventually the weather passed and we were relieved to see light coming in through the windows again. We even spotted a rainbow in the rain-washed sky.

What a blessing when light replaces darkness – in the sky and in our lives.

The name of God that reflects His character and His first act of creation is Yahweh Ori – the Lord my Light. Genesis tells us that “in the beginning . . . the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:1, 2). The first thing God did was “turn on the lights.” Genesis 1:3 tells us “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Interestingly, this was not the day God created the sun, moon and stars – that occurred on the fourth day of creation. No this light was called forth “from a fixed source outside the earth,”[1] The light came from God Himself.

What is light? Light can only be described as a contrast to darkness. In both Genesis 1:4 and 1:18, when God created the sun, moon and stars, the Bible says the light was created “to separate the light from the darkness.” They are two polar opposites – darkness is nothing but the absence of light. There was nothing, utter darkness – then God emanated light from Himself and that light dispelled the darkness.

Darkness happens every day when the sun sets; it happens when the skies turn black with a storm’s fury. Darkness happens in the world when evil and wickedness rule over men. That is why God sent “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 19) – His Son Jesus Christ. The hearts of men are darkened by sin, so Jesus came as “the Light of the world’ and He promised that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The light that Jesus offers is a powerful light that nothing can extinguish. John 1:5 declares “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus quoted Isaiah 9:2 when He said of Himself “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Consider this – when Jesus died on the cross, Luke 23:44 tells us that “darkness came over the whole land.” For several hours the darkness was like that blanket that seemed to wrap around my school – total blackness – the evidence of the death of the Light of the World. But on resurrection morning, Jesus burst forth from the grave and the Light of Life broke the grip of darkness over the hearts of men. Jesus is the Light and He brings Light to the darkness of the world.

Darkness also occurs when our hearts and minds are gripped with sadness, grief, hurt, anger, bitterness or despair. This is darkness within our spirit and Yahweh Ori brings His light to bear in our sufferings too. David said in Psalm 139 “If I make my bed in the depths . . . if I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you” (vs. 8, 11-12) When your circumstances are shrouded in darkness, when grief shakes your soul to the core, when defeat and discouragement threaten to snuff out the last rays of light in your life, you can be assured that God stands ready to bring His Light to your heart. His light encourages and strengthens us to take the next step, to get up the next morning, to draw the next breath. David also said “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Ps 18:28).

Jesus also tells us that when His Light shines in our lives, we become “the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). We are bearers of His light and we have the power to shatter the darkness in the world around us. We live in His light and our lives shine that others may see. When we walk in the light of Christ we are “children of the light and children of the day” and we “shine like stars in the universe” (1 Thessalonians 5:5; Philippians 2:15). That is the kind of influence I want to have – to bring the light of love and truth into the darkness of sin and suffering.

As the creation account in Genesis shows us that God brought light into the darkness of the universe, Revelation tells us that there will be no source of light other than God and Jesus in heaven. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23). There will be no darkness, because the eternal light of the Lord will be always shining. Where there is Light, no darkness is found.

Perhaps today it is dark in your world, there may be gathering storm clouds that no one else sees but you. Maybe you have given darkness a foothold in your life through a sin that has you hiding from the light. You might be experiencing the darkness of sorrow or disappointment or hurt. Whatever the cause, know that when you invite in the Light of the World the darkness is overcome by the brightness of God’s love and goodness.

In the dark of night, in the dark night of the soul, in the darkness of evil in this world Yahweh Ori – The Lord my Light shatters darkness and illumines every shadowy corner.

Yahweh Ori – You are my Light and my salvation (Ps 27:1), You gave me eternal light when You saved me and You give me light in the dark times in my life. With You as the Light of my life I will never be overcome by the darkness.   Amen.

 

[1] John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis, (Salem, Sheffield, 1975), 49.