December 2011

Why you are a work of art!

This past week my wife and I visited the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It is a museum that hosts among things exhibitions of contemporary art. One of the exhibits was a work of art by Robert Gober created in the late 1980s entitled “Untitled Door And Door Frame” and the elements used were “wood, enamel paint.” This particular “work” consisted of two major elements. First there was a wood framed doorway, the only entrance into a white ten by fourteen windowless, featureless room. The door frame was painted with a healthy coat of creamy beige enamel. Inside the room leaning against the opposite wall farthest from the doorway was the second element of the “work” – an old six-panel interior door without a door knob or latch which was also painted a creamy beige.
Like so much of modern art, it takes a right-brained creative to fully appreciate the categorization of certain things as “art.” And this display by Gober, constructed and arranged using such common objects was no exception. Typically when most people think of art they imagine works like the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci or The Pieta by Michelangelo.
To a left-brained home fixit guy like myself, Untitled Door And Door Frame looked more like an unfinished project and anything but a work of art. In my linear, structured way of thinking the paint was dry so why not get the necessary hardware, grab the door and install the hinges and latch set, measure the doorframe to match, install its hinges and mount the door?
Perhaps that is some of the emotional response Gober was looking for when he came up with his idea. I know that good art is meant to be evocative but typically we associate the response of its beholder be one of aesthetic enjoyment rather than frenetic deployment.
It raises a very important question “When is art, art?”

A hope-filled message from Job

I just completed my annual pilgrimage through the book of Job. It always falls at the end of the year in the Robert Roberts Bible reading plan that I follow. One of the extraordinary things about reading passages of Scripture again and again is having the Holy Spirit illuminate things one has never seen before. This year I specifically read Job seeking to discover fresh insights into the nature and character of God. I was not disappointed.

Since I knew, from my familiarity with the book, that Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were rebuked by God in the end for not faithfully representing Him I thought I would skim through their portions of dialogue in order to give more time to concentrate on the dialogue of Job and the fourth observer Elihu. “He (God) said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7 NIV)

We know from the outset that Job is someone worth listening to because God Himself singles him out as a man who has an exemplary relationship with Him. “Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’” (Job 1:7 NIV)

We also know that the dialogue of Elihu is worth studying because he challenges the advice of the three friends and is not rebuked by God for what he says.

As I read through the discourse of these two men to make sense of Job’s sufferings one salient hope-filled theme emerged. It is the message of promised redemption. More specifically, and I had never really seen this before, it is the message of the presence of an unseen redeemer who is mediating on behalf of those who are crying out to God in their affliction.

All those who have read the book of Job know that it is a story about redemption. In the beginning Job loses everything but his life and his wife, but in the end has everything restored to him. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:12)

The most famous Scripture verses from the book of Job, read frequently at funerals, speak of redemption. It is a portion of Job’s complaint in which the veil of suffering is drawn back and he has a revelation in which he utters these words: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26) This of course is a great comfort both to him and to us, to know that “in the end” we “will see God” and know that He has not abandoned us.

11 Reasons Why I Love The Bible

I have a passionate relationship with the Bible. It is without a doubt God’s greatest tangible gift not only to me, but to the entire human race. With each passing year I am realizing that one of my greatest joys in life is reading and studying it wondrous pages. I am drawn to its life sustaining truths the moment I arise in the morning and it nurtures me throughout the day.

Here are eleven reasons why I love the Word of God. It is by no means a comprehensive list, which is why I have stopped at “eleven” rather than going on to “twelve” which is the number of completion. It leaves room for an unlimited number of additions.

1. Most importantly it reveals Jesus to me. It is God’s source that first introduced me to His son Jesus over 40 years ago and continues to this day, enabling me to get to know Him better and develop a closer and closer relationship with him. “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39-40 NLT) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NIV)

2. It guides & counsels me in important decisions. I cannot count the number of times I have found myself groping in the darkness for wisdom regarding an important decision and as I was reading the Bible, it was as if God suddenly turned the light on through a particular verse or passage and gave me specific direction as to what to do. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NIV)

3. It is healing to my body. On numerous occasions, the confession of God’s Word with prayer has released healing power and health not only for me, but also for others. It is the first thing I reach for before going to the medicine cabinet or picking up the phone to call the clinic. “He sent his word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20) “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.’” (Matthew 8:8 NLT)

4. It is deliverance for my soul. Whenever I am afflicted with oppressive thoughts I turn to the Word of God for comfort

Meet the third Christian

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:24 (NIV)

You may not have realized it, but Joseph was the very first Christian. Now stop and think about it. Becoming a Christian might best be defined as accepting Jesus as both the Savior and Lord of ones life. And that is exactly what Joseph did when he agreed to take Mary home as his wife.

The angel that appeared to Joseph in the dream informed him of two things. He told him that Mary, his fiancé, had conceived by the Holy Spirit and was pregnant. And he told Joseph that the child within her womb was named “Jesus” the promised savior of the world.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (vs. 20-21)

Joseph’s acquiescence to the angel’s command to take Mary home as his wife was in essence and more importantly an assent to take Jesus home as well.

Accepting Jesus as the one who saves us from our sins is an act of faith. It is rooted in the belief that such forgiveness and the resultant transformation in our lives are really possible. It took tremendous faith on Joseph’s part to accept the fact that this Jesus, whom he had not yet seen, was the Messiah the scriptures had promised would come and the one who would make all things new. When he agreed to take Mary home, he was explicitly taking Jesus home as well and implicitly putting his faith in Jesus as his savior. His acceptance of Jesus as the Christ sets him apart as the first human being ever to do so.

But to me, the even more remarkable aspect of Joseph’s response was his acceptance of Jesus as his Lord. It has been said that most people want salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but few want lordship. To yield ones life to the rule and lordship of another call for the total surrender of ones will.

Two reasons to stand your ground

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. 2 John 1:8 (NLT)

On several occasions in my life God has used this verse as a timely encouragement to stay the course and press ahead into all He has for me. At those times I have taken it as a personal challenge from the Lord to hang in there and not let discouragement or disillusionment have their way. It has helped me appreciate all he has done in and through my life and enabled me to refocus on what is really important.

The sobering truth is that there are ways in which a person can lose what they and others “have worked so hard to achieve.” And that is the concern of the Apostle John in his writing to the unnamed lady and her children in his second epistle. This verse forms the heart of John’s message for them is also meant to be a word of encouragement to all of us.

Although our knowledge about this single parent mom and her family is somewhat limited, we do know that some of her children were believers and serving the Lord along side of her. (vs. 4) We also know that they had the gift of hospitality and used their home to host itinerating ministers of the gospel. In those days, traveling apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers relied upon the graces of hospitable believers not only to provide food and shelter but also a meeting place for them to minister. There were no church buildings as there are now and the church met in homes where the body of believers gathered regularly for worship, prayer, teaching and fellowship. (Acts 2:42-47)

John’s instructions to this “chosen lady” as he refers to her, and her children warns about deceptive teachers and strongly urges them to be very discerning as to whom they bring into their home and allow to teach. (vs. 7 & 10) The explicit nature of John’s exhortation would lead us to believe that perhaps she, and one or more of her children, were also leaders in that house church that they hosted.

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