Work

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is from a photo taken on our trip to Historic Williamsburg, VA in October 2006.  It’s one of dozens I took of various structures in the village.  Many, like this one, represent ‘cottage industries’ typical of early American culture.

I chose it because it represented a ‘cottage industry’. I don’t recall what ‘industry’ was involved.  It required a separate large structure in which a fire was kept at a high temperature.   I chose it to represent our Thought—Work.   

Thought:

A FRIEND OF MINE, in business for himself and with several employees, once asked me: “Jim, when does a person stop looking for work?”  Before I could answer he responded. “When he gets a job!” You may have to think about that for a moment.  I’ll give you this hint…lazy.

EVER WONDER where this whole idea of ‘work’ started in the first place?  Some think ‘work’ is some kind of curse that came as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. Not so.  Work actually predates their ‘fall’ and has a wonderful eternal purpose for our lives.  It begins now and continues into Eternal Heaven.

Work in Heaven?

[1]“THE IDEA OF WORKING in Heaven is foreign to many people.  Yet Scripture clearly teaches it.  When God created Adam, he “took the man and put him [first couple] in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Work was part of the original Eden.  It was part of a perfect human life on Earth. Work wasn’t part of the Curse.  The Curse, rather, made work menial, tedious and frustrating: “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19).

“HOWEVER, ON THE New Earth [Eternal Heaven], work will be redeemed and transferred into what God intended: No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).  Serve is a verb.  Servants are people who are active and occupied, carrying out tasks.

GOD HIMSELF is a Worker

He didn’t create the world and then retire.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).  Jesus found great satisfaction in his work.  “My food, Jesus said, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). We’ll all have work to do, satisfying and enriching work that we can’t wait to get back to, work that’ll never be drudgery.  God is the primary worker, and as his image-bearers, we’re made to work.  We create, accomplish, set goals and fulfill them -to God’s glory. Consider Christ’s activities: working in a carpenter shop, walking the countryside, healing, fishing, sailing, meeting people, talking, teaching, eating—doing his life’s work.  Even after his resurrection he moved from place to place, connecting with his disciples and continuing his work. (A preview of life after our resurrection).”

[2]“ON THE NEW EARTH, God will give us renewed minds and marvelously constructed bodies.  We’ll be whole people full of energy and vision.  James C. Campbell says, “the work on the other side, whatever be its character, will be adapted to one’s special aptitude and powers.  It will be the work he [or she] can do best; the work that will give the fullest play to all that is within him [or her].

“EVEN UNDER THE Curse, we catch glimpses of how work can be enriching, how it can build relationships, and how it can help us to improve. Work stretches us in ways that make us smarter, wiser, and more fulfilled.  The God who created us to do good works (For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10) will not cancel this purpose when he resurrects us to inhabit the new universe.  The Bible’s picture of resurrected people at work in a vibrant society on a resurrected Earth couldn’t be more compelling.  We’re told that we will serve God in Heaven (Revelation 7:15; 22:3).”

WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.                                        Colossians 3:23, 24


[1] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2004, page 319

[2] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2006,  395-396

Heaven 3

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Ink with Pen and Brush in August of 2020.  I like architecture. The Stone Arch Bridge is a local feature I’ve wanted to render in some medium for a long time. Ink became my choice. The Stone Arch Bridge of the Twin Cities, commissioned by James J. Hill and designed by Charles C. Smith, was built between 1882 and 1883. After 130 years of existence, in 1994, the bridge was converted to a pedestrian walkway.

I chose it as the Art for our third and final week on the Thought—Heaven 3.  I see it as a symbol of the words spoken by Jesus in John 14:6 “I am the way [bridge or road]…to the Father [heaven]…’

Thought:

TODAY I COME to the final blog on Heaven.  Yes, I could go on for weeks but instead, I want to give a succinct summary of my current Thoughts and introduce you to two resources you may consider for a more thorough investigation.  As I’ve previously stated, it is a great subject of enormous consequence and benefit for all Jesus followers.  My primary resource is the Jude/Christian Scriptures.

THE SIMPLEST WAY to conclude my thought on this subject is to state the obvious:  Physically, we will die. ‘We’ (as physically animated persons) live for a period of time, before that physical part of us dies. I believe ‘we’ (the inanimate part of our true identity/being) do not die.  At this point of physical separation, I believe Scripture teaches that followers of Jesus enter Heaven. What does that mean?  That’s a question theologians and philosophers have considered for perhaps millennia and more recently, even scientists have joined in.

I see ‘Heaven’ described in two ways:

FIRST, ‘INTERMEDIATE HEAVEN’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Paradise’) and ‘Eternal Heaven’.  What do I mean?  When that person physically dies, he or she is instantly alive in ‘Intermediate Heaven’.  One passage I believe supports this is Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  We are instantly separated from our physical bodies and into the presence of the Trinity: Father God, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit.  This active presence continues until the resurrection and renewal of all creation described in Revelation chapters 21, 22—New Heaven and New Earth (and our New bodies in 2 Corinthians 5). That leads to…

SECONDLY, ETERNAL HEAVEN (eternal home). Jesus spoke of this in John 14:1-2 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  Between the ‘Intermediate Heaven’ and ‘Eternal Heaven’ described above is when the last part of Jesus’ words in John 14 takes place.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (Eternal Heaven)

I believe there to be strong evidence that God will continue with creation throughout the cosmos that He began in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe we will be serving with God in this eternal expansion similar to that given to Adam and Eve in the Genesis account, Genesis 1:21-34. All of our redeemed gifts, talents, and experience will come into play with our New bodies. 

My Secondary Resources

Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, published 2004, (516 pages).  Randy has written more than fifty books, including Heaven.  He has studied the subject more than twenty years and has a library of 150 volumes on heaven. I read this volume several times since 2007.

Destined For The Throne, by Paul E. Billheimer, published 1988, (134 pages). Forward by Billy Graham.  I was given a copy by a friend who had just returned from California in 1995.

Hope for Now and Eternity

1 Thessalonians 4: 13, Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death (now in ‘Intermediate Heaven’), so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (into ‘Eternal Heaven’).

Heaven 2

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Oil painting in my garage the Summer of 2019.  I completed three paintings with eagles.  I’ve shared the others in previous blogs. This is a simple composition—lone eagle…expansive sky…open landscape…a hint of verdant woods.  The eagle is doing what eagles were created to do.

I CHOSE THIS Oil to represent today’s key Thought—Heaven 2.  Why?   To me it represents the many ways we see, or imagine, the world in which we live.  We imagine what it might be like to silently glide though the atmosphere like the eagle.  Is there some sense in which this may make us think of heaven: Tranquility of the flight? Endless expanse above? Delightful landscape below?  All of these and much, much more?  Let’s think about that.

Thought:

My Primary Resource

LAST WEEK I stated my plan to take a few weeks in these Thursday blogs to address my personal understanding of ‘heaven’ by answering a few typically asked questions. Before launching into questions, I’m obliged to state this qualification: I’m aware that mythology, Hollywood, religions, scientists and philosophers have offered many ideas about ‘heaven’. Nevertheless, my ‘primary’ resource (and the primary resource of my ‘secondary’ sources) is the Old and New Testament of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. While I do believe that all truth is God’s truth, any resemblance in what I share to what other than biblical sources may claim is purely coincidental.  

I am aware that my current understanding of heaven will not agree with everyone.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t claim to have all the answers.  Full understanding comes when we’re actually there! I’m excited about what I do believe I’ve been allowed to see about heaven.

What is Heaven? 

THE WORD ‘heaven’ appears 422 times in the English, New International Version (NIV) of the Old and New Testament.  Yet, not much attention is given in contemporary writing.  One volume titled Systematic Theology, contains 738 pages.  The author dedicates only one page to ‘heaven’.  Another text, Christian Theology, contains 1,302 pages. ‘Heaven is covered specifically in 10 pages. I don’t mean to be critical of these authors.  They do wonderful work on many important topics.  It does surprise me that so little has been discussed when ‘heaven’ appears 422 times in our English Bibles. [1]  It feels a little like knowing you are going to visit a foreign country. But, no one will allow you to read the many well documented brochures containing significant tips on how to plan now for the journey or what you may expect when you actually arrive. How sad is that!  Much of the joy in any trip is the knowing, planning and anticipating what’s ahead!

Heaven Defined Three Ways:

FIRST is Cosmological—to designate the entire universe or cosmos.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   Genesis. 1:1;    Also see: Matthew 5:18

SECOND is a virtual synonym for God.  To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  John 3:27; See footnote  [2]

THIRD & most common use is the ‘abode or dwelling place’ of God.  Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Matthew. 6:9; John 14:2

In these blogs we’ll center on the THIRD use…a ‘dwelling place of God’.

The Destination–Heaven!

Jesus said:  My Father’s ‘house’ has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  John 14:2

The Apostle Paul said: “But our citizenship is in ‘heaven’.’  Philippians 3:20a

Paul also said:  “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in ‘heaven’,” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

“This World Is Not My Home”

This song was written in 1946 by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far: but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the

Philippians 1:21, 23


[1] ‘Heaven’ in the Old Testament Hebrew is [shamayim]. In the New Testament Greek, it is [ouravos].

[2] Matthew, in writing to a Jewish audience, who would not pronounce the name Yahweh, repeatedly used of the term “kingdom of heaven” where Luke in parallel passages has “kingdom of God.”  Mathew used “heaven” as a synonym for God.

Heaven

Art:

I painted this Acrylic two weeks ago from the photograph of an area we visited on a family trip years ago.  I like the bright colors and contrasts of sky, landscape and lake. To me it speaks of ‘shalom’ or ‘peace’ with beauty.  

It’s a tangible reminder of what was originally intended in the first two chapters of Genesis and its account of original creation, coupled with the last two chapters of Revelation speaking of the renewed creation.  It seemed to fit well with our Thought for this week—Heaven.

Thought:

The Question

One Sunday morning a California Pastor stood before his congregation and presented three inquiries: (1.)  If you believe in Heaven, raise your hand.  Every hand shot up !  (2.)  If you believe you will be in heaven when you die, raise your hand.  Every hand he saw was raised.  (3.)  If I had a bus outside waiting to take you to Heaven this morning, and you would like to get on board now, raise your hand.  Guess how many hands went up?  None!  Does that little story have a point?  I think so. It possibly begs a number of questions. One centers around what we know about Heaven. 

Mark Twain’s Answer

I think it was Mark Twain who, when asked by his Sunday School teacher if he wanted to go to Heaven when he died, responded immediately…and with force “No!”  Why? He was asked. “I don’t want to float around on clouds all day singing songs in a church service that never ends!”  To Mark Twain his life right now wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot more fun that anything he had ever heard about Heaven. “I’ll just keep what I’ve got. Thank you very much!” Mark Twain’s knowledge about Heaven was near zero.

Mary Smith’s Answer

By contrast, Mary Smith, in her mid 90s, lost her husband last week following their 70th Wedding anniversary, is now depressed, bedridden, nearly in constant pain and resides in an assisted living facility with no family to visit.  When asked by the Chaplain if she would like to go to Heaven when she passed away, her immediate response was, “Yes, today would be good! I don’t know much about Heaven, but I know the Bible says there will be no more “sorrow, tears or pain” that’s good enough for me!”  Unlike Mark Twain, Mary was quite willing to trade her present life experience for Heaven, even based on the little knowledge she possessed.

Our Answer?

Most of us fall somewhere between Mark Twain and Mary in age and knowledge about Heaven. Age comes automatically.  Knowledge about Heaven comes intentionally.  We either make the choice to place ourselves where we may gain such instruction, or we don’t.  Since life’s urgent daily challenges keep us busy seeking other answers, questions about Heaven get pushed to the back burner.  And, if we are in the habit of Church attendance (prior to COVID19) and perhaps a Small Group Bible Study, even that may be of little help.  The Sermon topic of Heaven seldom appears in the Worship Folder of churches or on Small Group topic lists, except for Funeral or Memorial Services.

My Confession

Since my Ordination November 8, 1967, I’ve preached hundreds of Sermons, taught Bible Classes, facilitated Small Groups and written papers and articles. Few of them were specifically on Heaven.  Heaven was often mentioned but was not the subject itself.  I’ve had many Pastor friends during these fifty plus years, who would make the same confession.  Why haven’t we been more helpful with this instruction?  Not sure I have a definitive answer.

Now What?

Now what? In my formal theological studies, the subject of Heaven was always part of Systematic Theology…I’ve read on the subject in dozens of Bible Commentaries and…listened to many recordings. Through the years, I’ve discovered two resources that have been of greatest value to me. My plan is to take a few weeks in these Thursday morning Blogs to address my understanding in answer to typical questions on the subject of Heaven.  My prayer is that it will be helpful to you.  You may want to reread Genesis 1 & 2  as well as Revelation 21 & 22.  Isaiah 65:17-25 will also be helpful.

COVID19 deaths are rising daily in this country and around the world. What’s ahead for followers of Jesus?

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

Revelation 4:1

Motive

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is a view of neighbors across the pond from our dining window that I drew last winter from my photos. Our Minnesota ‘Winter Wonderland’ is on the way!

What might you guess is my motive in using this particular Art for our Thought–Motive?  If your answer is something akin to “I don’t know” then, you’re close to my answer as well.  One of mine is to reflect on the relative ‘peacefulness’ of how things were in our world the first day of Fall in 2019 (aka the ‘Old Normal’)!  

Thought:

What Is A Motive?

MOTIVE IS A REASON for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious. Motive is something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc. Three other words come to mind: purpose, intent and goal.

“Fact Checking”

WE HEAR LOTS this pre-election season about ‘fact checking’: Is the alleged factual content of political ads, speeches and news coverage accurate?  I sometimes come away with a feeling that the ‘fact checking’ needs ‘checking’.   Why?  One reason has to do with our word motive.  I understand that each candidate’s motive is to win the election.   If that was not the case, why even bother?

Can Motives Be ‘Checked’?

HOW CAN ANYONE check a motive behind action or words? Is that possible?  It’s been suggested that if you wish to understand why (motive) someone is doing or saying something:  Look at the consequences of their words and actions.  If doing something that is making everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable (and maybe even themselves):  One hypothesis is they are actually trying to make everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable, etc. It’s hard for most to understand why people will do things like that.  But, it may actually be their goal. 

Where are Motives Born?

WHERE DO MOTIVES originate?  One’s motive may be influenced by environment—by other people or events.  A well-known comedian, when confronted with wrongdoing would say: “The Devil made me do it!” Not true! The ‘Devil’ may influence your motive but not make you say or do anything. That motive comes from a deeper place. Our motives, our intents, and our desires originate from our heart. …He [the Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart…1 Corinthians 4:5.    All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Proverbs 16:2. Motives originate from the heart. 

What’s In My Heart?

WHAT RESOURCES ARE available in my heart? They will frame my motive and effect my use of words and actions. That’s what will be heard and seen by those around me. For the follower of Jesus, It begins with God.   When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our heart….”  Galatians 4:6.

The Holy Spirit in your heart produces… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22, 23a.  The key characteristic is love. Thomas Aquinas said, “…Love is born of earnest consideration of the object loved. It tends to generate that same love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in those who are observing and hearing your example. 

What Are We Modeling For The Future?

ARE WE GIVING the next generation a worthy reputation to live up to?  Are we modeling not only factually accurate information and respectfulness toward opponents?  It seems to me the contest in an election should be about what each candidate has in mind (motive) for the good of all citizens equally.   Sometimes it feels candidates are bent on seeing who can best destroy the character of their opponent with abusive, insulting, degrading language.  Is that a worthy model?

My hope is that better motives will change the rhetoric to a model any American can honorably point to as leadership examples everyone may look up to. 

Prayer

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Trouble

Art:

I painted this Oil twenty years ago from a photo I took while on a walk in our son’s St. Paul neighborhood. The date on the picture is about ten years later, when I photographed the painting.  

I chose the picture for our Thought—Trouble—for a couple reasons: First, people often turn to their faith when experiencing trouble. Second, we enjoy their Fall beauty, but leaves are actually experiencing a natural kind of trouble.  I believe God works in both.

Thought:

Do You Have Trouble?

DO YOU HAVE trouble [aka: worry, problem, strife, complaint, concern or bother]? You are not alone.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” John 16:33 [NIV/ Why?  If God really does love me, why do I have trouble?  This may sound contradictory, but I believe its actually God’s love for you that allows us to have trouble.  I didn’t say God causes us to have trouble. Although, in certain circumstances, I believe his love may.

What is trouble?  Someone said, “Trouble is negative feelings when bad things happen.”  Trouble is the feeling I have when things don’t go the way I expect them to.  I don’t like it. My first response is to control the situation to manipulate people, things or events to the outcome I want.  Do you see a potential flaw in this thinking? Where is God?

God Has A Purpose

[1]“GOD HAS A PURPOSE behind every problem.  He uses circumstances to develop our character. The Apostle Paul says, ‘We know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character.”  Romans 5:3,4 [Msg.]  God uses problems to draw you closer to himself. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;  he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”[NLT] Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you are out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone. It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic heartfelt honest-to-God prayers. When we are in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers.”

“Problems force us to look to God and depend on him instead of ourselves.  Paul testified to this benefit:  “We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us.” 2 Cor. 1:9  [LB]  You’ll never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.” 

God’s Good Plan For You

“BECAUSE GOD IS sovereignly in control, accidents are just incidents in God’s good plan for you. God knows about every day of your life since before you were born.  “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:16b [NIV] Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything!  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” Romans 8:28, 29  [NLT]

“Regardless of the cause (poor choices, natural phenomena, other people…) none of your problems could happen without God’s permission.  I like the word picture Rick Warren uses to describe this: “Everything that happens to a child of God is Father-filtered, and he intends to use it for good even when Satan and others mean it for bad.” 

Character Building

“CHARACTER BUILDING is a slow process.  Whenever we try to avoid or escape the difficulties (problems) in life, we short-circuit the process, delay our growth, and actually end up with a worse kind of pain—the worthless type that accompanies denial and avoidance.  When you grasp the eternal consequences of your character development, you’ll pray fewer ‘comfort me” prayers (“Help me feel good”) and more “conform me” prayers (“Use this to make me more like you”). 

Our First Option

SO, DO YOU HAVE trouble in your life today?  As I mentioned with the Oil painting, when we do have trouble, there seem to be two options for followers of Jesus: we can turn to God or turn to our own powers.  The first option works…the second… not so much. God gives us the choice.

Leaves turning in the Fall are experiencing trouble, but God’s plan for the life of the tree, and their seasonal contribution to the tree’s maturation continues.

“You know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life.’

Rick Warren

[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren ch. 25

S.H.A.P.E.

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Art:

THIS STILL LIFE fruit bowl from a few years back is my first (and last) attempt at such Still Life Oil painting.  It was a good exercise for me as a hobby painter, but I worked from a photograph.  That’s not the best way to do Still Life.  Actually, I rather work with landscapes, physical structures or animals. 

I CHOSE THIS Oil to accompany our Thought for the week—S.H.A.P.E.  In the fruit bowl each kind of fruit has a unique shape and each piece of each kind has unique shape.  Apples are different from oranges and no two apples or oranges are the same. Each has a shape.

Thought:

AS YOU MAY HAVE guessed from quotes in the last couple of blogs, I am finishing a book by Rick Warren I first read several years ago–The Purpose Driven Live published in 2002 and made the New York Times Bestseller status.  Today’s Thought is an acrostic taken from his book.  I’ll get to that.

Consider Some Statistics

FIRST CONSIDER some statistics I came across: 

80% of what you and I do essentially anyone can do—watch TV, eat a meal, sitting around or surfing the internet. Much of our lives are made up of pretty ordinary activities.

15% of what you do anyone with some level of training can do—your work or skill or hobby. 

5% only you can do. Husbands, only you can be the husband you are to your wife. No one else can do that for you.  Moms, only you can be the mom you are to your children. No one can be that for you. One might consider it nice if we could pay someone to exercise for us.  No. Only I can do that for myself.  And, no one else can be what God uniquely created me for.  I (We) need to discover our God given unique SHAPE.  It is given for a purpose, an assignment.

S.H.A.P.E.

[1]WHENEVER GOD GIVES us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it.  This custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:

SPRITUAL GIFTS:  You can’t earn your spiritual gifts or deserve them—that’s why they are called gifts! They are an expression of “God’s grace to you “Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us.” Ephesians 4:7 (CEV)…Neither do you get to choose which gifts you would like to have; God determines that.  Paul explained “It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts.  He alone decided which gifts each person should have.”  1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)…  Your Spiritual Gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit.

HEART:  The Bible uses the term heart to describe the bundle of desires, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have.  Your heart represents the source of all your motivations—what you love to do and what you care about most. Even today we still use the word in this way when we say, “I love you with all my heart.” … The Bible says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person.” Proverbs 27:19 (NLT)…Your heart reveals the real you—what you truly are, not what others think you are or what circumstances force you to be… How do you know when you are serving God from your heart?  The first telltale sign is enthusiasm when you do what you love to do.  The second characteristic of serving God from your heart is effectiveness.  You get good at it.

ABILITIES:  Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with.  Some people have a natural ability with words:  They came out of the womb talking! Other people have natural athletic abilities, excelling in physical coordination.  Still others are good at mathematics or music or mechanics.  All our abilities come from God…Even abilities used to sin are God-given; they are just being misused or abused… The Bible says, “God as given each of us the ability to do certain things well” Romans 12:6a (NLT)…What I am able to do, God wants me to do.

PERSONALITY:  We don’ realize how truly unique each of us is… DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways. The number is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. That number is the likelihood you will ever find someone just like you…It is obvious God likes variety—just look around you. God made introverts and extroverts.  He made people who love routine and those who love variety. He made some people “thinkers” and other people “feelers”… The Bible says, “God works through different people and in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purpose through them all. 1 Corinthians 12:6 (PH). 

EXPERIENCES:  You have been shaped by your experiences in life, most of which were beyond your control. God allowed them for his purpose of molding you—Romans 8:28, 29…In determining your shape for serving God, you should examine at least six kinds of experiences from your past: 

  • Family experiences:  What did you learn growing up in your family?  
  • Educational experiences:  What were your favorite subjects in school? 
  • Vocational experiences: What jobs have you been most effective in and enjoyed most? 
  • Spiritual experiences: What have been your most meaningful times with God? 
  • Ministry experiences:  How have you served God in the past? 
  • Painful experiences:  What problems, hurts, thorns, and trials have you learned from?”

The Choice I Made

BECAUSE EVERYONE is busy, I try to keep this weekly blog under a limited number of words. This week I had to either go over my word limit or split the topic in two parts.  I chose to use the space necessary to summarize and give you the option of digging deeper as you like. The book is a good read.  Read one short chapter per day for 40 Days.  

ALSO, YOU MAY want to check out this free test and other related materials for determining your SHAPE!  You are worth it!  

www.freeshapetest.com


[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, p. 236ff

Mentors

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Art:

Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, Southern Bavarian: Schloss Neischwanstoa) is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Fussen in southwest Bavaria, Germany.  The palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat, and in honor of Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds.

The castle was intended as a home for the King, until he died in 1886. It was open to the public shortly after his death. Since then, more than 61 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with as many as 6,000 per day in the summer. (These numbers are before COVID pandemic.)

I painted this Oil of the castle a few years ago.  I am drawn to historic architecture and this castle, though built not that long ago, caught my attention.  I am sharing it in connection with this week’s Thought—Mentors.  It served as a kind of mentor for me in producing this painting.

Thought:

Mentor(ship) is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.  I suspect it is next to impossible to name every ‘mentor’ in our lives.  For me, the most influential mentoring in my life has often been through their writing.  I recently developed a list of fifteen people who, in my life to this moment, have been mentors.  Someday I may share the list in this blog.  But not today.

It did come to me the other day, how important and impactful certain phrases and quotes, from a variety of sources, have made an impact on me.  So, I want to share a few with you this week.

Quotes from Mentors

“Love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved.” / “Love follows knowledge.”                                                                                                                                             — Thomas Aquinas

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”         — Charles R Swindoll

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”                                                             Earl Nightingale

“There are no shortcuts to maturity.” / “You’ll know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random, baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life.”                                                                                                                                                          Rick Warren

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”                                                                                                                                 Martin Luther

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed.  But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!”                                                                                               Corrie ten Boom

“Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”                                                           V. Raymond Edman

“The greatness of a man’s [or woman’s] power is in the measure of his [her] surrender.”  William Booth

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves.  We’re still trying to give orders and interfering with God’s work within us.”                                                                                               A. W. Tozer

“There are two kinds of people:  those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right then, have it your way.’”                                                                                                      C. S. Lewis

[1]“In the film Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”  Later he says, “to give up running would be to hold him [God] in contempt.”  ‘there are no unspiritual abilities, just misused ones.  Start using yours for ‘God’s pleasure.”

“People don’t care what we know until they know we care.” / “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” / “Doing the right thing daily, compounds over time.”                                                                                                   — John Maxwell

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”                           — Jim Elliot

 “Be proactive.” / “Put first things first.”/ “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” / “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”                                                                                                            Stephen R. Covey

Final Thought

By sharing this short list of quotes from fourteen people, who have been ‘mentors’ to literally hundreds of thousands, without context and perhaps without a biographical understanding of the speaker, may have been unfair.  Nevertheless, I hope you will forgive me, and I pray you too may find some ‘mentoring’ from them for your life this week!

[1] The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, p. 75

Landmarks

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Art:

ST. PAUL’S HISTORIC Landmark Center at 75 West Fifth Street in Rice Park completed in 1902, was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke in Romanesque Rival architecture. It originally served as the United States Post Office, Courthouse, and Custom House for the state of Minnesota. In the 1970s, a citizens’ group saved the building from demolition and restored it to its previous grandeur. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and reopened to the public as Landmark Center in 1978 and serves as an arts and culture center.

I WAS DRAWN to the details in the Romanesque Rival style and completed this Ink with Pen and Brush two weeks ago. I thought it a fit companion to our Thought for this week—Landmarks

Thought:

LANDMARKS ARE A recognizable natural or artificial feature used for direction finding. The costal lighthouse is a prime example.  In a broader sense, I see ‘landmark’ appropriately applied to any sign or symbol designed to remember the past, enrich the present, or point to a future.

We live with our landmarks: Wedding rings, Kids inch marks on a door frame, National holidays, Flags and banners, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Photos, Mementoes, Compass, Tower transmissions, GPS, you get the idea. As landmarks, these point to past, present, or future destinations.

God provides His landmarks: Sun, Moon, Rainbows, Sabbath, Tabernacle, Temple, Cross, Communion and Baptism to name a few.  One example follows the defeat of the Malekites in Exodus 17, the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered, and make sure Joshua hears, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” The written scroll became the ‘landmark’ to recall what God did in the past.

  Landmarks toward God

IT SEEMS TO ME God sometimes uses a metaphor to help us better understand what is beyond our finite comprehension. For example, using light to describe himself: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5. He continues to use the metaphor of light as a landmark pointing to God himself:

  • First, in the Genesis record of Creation.

God always existed. He created light as a landmark to help us understand something of his character opposed to darkness.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  Genesis 1:3, 4 [NIV]

  • Second, in Jesus’ Incarnation.

In response to generations of promises through the prophets, God manifest himself in one single body as Immanuel—God with us—in Jesus. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

  • Also, in Jesus Followers.

Jesus ascended and gave the Holy Spirit of God to his followers.  Now the light of God and Jesus is in each Jesus follower and is the landmark of light pointing to God.  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:14 [NIV]  How does that work?

 Function of God’s Landmarks

 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heavenMatthew 5:15, 16 [NIV]  We “let (allow) the light to shinethrough us by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to do through us what he did through Jesus—good deeds:

 Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40ff  [Msg.]

 Jesus said, You are the light of the world.   Our individual world begins with those who live under the same roof, then to extended family members, neighbors, fellow employees and everyone you meet today.  You and I are ‘landmark lights’. What they see in us draws them to God the light source.

Landmark Lighthouses

But you (Jesus followers) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 [NIV]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tools

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Art:

HOPE YOU’RE NOT too bothered by a snow scene in August.  If Hallmark Channel can feature Christmas movies in August (which I enjoy!), I might be allowed just this one picture with snow?

I PAINTED THIS OIL eight years ago from a reference I don’t recall. I like the horses under the lights just before being secured for the night.  I chose it in connection with our Thought—Tools—for this week.  The shed to the left and in the background house the farmer’s tools. They are easily accessible when needed.  Each was created for a specific purpose. The two horses were possibly his most valuable tools.

Thought:

WHEN WE MOVED from Andover to Rosemount, Minnesota in 2018, one goal was to downsize.  For me that meant four important parts of my life would undergo big changes.  I enjoy all of them and have tools for each, plus a place set aside for each:

  • Study & Writing: I had a large well-lit space for my library, computer and all that goes with study and writing.
  • Fine Art Creation: I had a good size studio space for my drawing board and H-frame easel,with workspace and storage for art supplies.
  • Woodworking: A section of our two-car garage was dedicated to workbench, table saws and the other smaller power tools and materials.
  • Gardening: I had an 8’ x 12’ utility shed in the back yard for all the gardening and landscape supplies.

NOW LIVING IN a townhouse, gardening is limited to one or two potted plants on the patio.  All those tools went to our son in Apple Valley. Woodworking was limited to a few hand powered tools when all the big equipment went to our son in Hastings.  I have maintained an adequate space for Study & Writing as well as Fine Art Creation. But this is not what I want to talk about.

Unique Tools!

YOU AND I were born into God’s purpose and for God’s purpose.   Everyone was created with the same mutually beneficial common purpose of growing in our experience and representation of God our creator in his world.  But we are not identical.  Each is a unique ‘tool’ for our Master’s use as he continues to create through the instrumentality of our gifts, talents and diverse experiences.

Each person [tool] is given something to do that shows who God is: everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.  All kinds of things [tool purposes] are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people [tools]. The variety is wonderful…wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12: 4ff [Msg.]

How it Works

All these gifts [‘tool’ functions] have common origin but are handed out one by one by the Spirit of God.  He decides who [which ‘tool’] gets what, and when.  1 Corinthians 12:11 [Msg.]

For we are God’s workmanship [tools], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10 [NIV]

…he [Jesus follower] will be an instrument [tool] for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Timothy 2:21b [NIV]

Servants (Slaves)…Instruments (Tools)

 EACH OF US is a unique ‘tool’ for our Master’s use as he continues to create through the instrumentality of who we are and of who we are becoming.  The word Paul uses is ‘slave’ from the Greek douleuo.  This is a slave or tool by choice out of gratitude. We are all invited to join!  I’m reminded of the chorus we used to sing… “How can I do less that give Him my best, after all he has done for me?”

Unique and Identical

EACH FOLLOWER of Jesus is a uniquely created and gifted child of God born into a culture, time, set of opportunities and environments.  Nevertheless, each has two things that are identical through the indwelling Holy Spirit: His Presence (Psalm 23) and  His Love (Galatians 5:22). The assignment in His Kingdom work may change during a lifetime, but his presence and love never changes.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. Ephesians 4:11ff [Msg]

My ‘Tool’ Prayer

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” May the tool of art and writing in my life be used by the Master for blessing in His church—the body of Christ—and beyond.  Amen!