Masterpiece – Going Deeper

 

This is an addendum that further elaborates on the blog post: Masterpiece 

During the two years Michelangelo shaped his work of art, he used a variety of different tools. He used hammers and large chisels to remove large sections of stone. He used smaller chisels to work on the finer details, and he used brushes to remove debris. God does the same thing when He is shaping us into His masterpieces. I want to look at four different tools God uses in our lives:

  1. WORSHIP –God doesn’t need us to worship Him, because God isn’t insecure, sitting around hoping we like Him. WE need to worship Him. Do you know why? Think about who you are today: your personality, your quirks, your good qualities… and even your bad ones. What are they the product of? The people you admire – your idols, and the people you spent the most time with. In the same way, we become more like God when we spend time with Him… admiring Him. In (2 Cor. 3:18), Paul wrote, So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
  2. WORD – It is in reading God’s word that we learn what parts of the stone need to be removed, and what needs to stay in order for us to achieve the things God has planned for us.
  • We find pieces of stone that need to be removed – (Col. 3:5; 8,9) So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world…

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 

  • We also use God’s word to identify the characteristics that need to be accentuated in our lives – (Col. 3:12-14) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
  1. WORKS – (Eph. 2:10) 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. What are your dreams? Are they big? I’ll bet they are. Aren’t there BIG things you would like to do for God’s kingdom, or to help the people around you? Have you accomplished all of those dreams? Do you think the “good things God has planned for you” would be bigger or smaller than your dreams? Do you know why most of us aren’t doing the big things we had hoped to accomplish? Because we haven’t been willing to do the little things that have presented themselves first. The two greatest leaders in the entire history of the nation of Israel would likely be Moses and King David. These men had very little in common. Moses was educated in the finest schools in the world, David never attended school. Moses was 80 years old when God called him, while David was a teenager when he was anointed king. Moses was married with children, David was single. However, they had ONE thing in common. When God called them to lead, they were doing the exact same thing: tending sheep. To be more exact, each of them were tending someone else’s sheep. Moses was caring for his father-in-law’s flock while David was tending his father’s sheep. The Bible is full of stories of heroes who were plucked from obscurity to accomplish great things. The greatest enemy of reaching our destiny and accomplishing big things for God is often our unwillingness to do the little things that are right in front of us. In Luke 19, Jesus reminded us that when we are “faithful in little things, He will make us rulers of much.”
  2. WARFARE – Warfare might truly be confrontation with the enemy, or it may take the form of testing and trials, but God is still at work with his hammer and chisel… even in the hard times. In (Ps. 119:67; 71), the writer said, Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word…

71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.

In those times that we struggle, grieve, or feel afflicted, God is at work like a master sculptor removing little pieces of our lives that hide the beauty of His finished work. Little things like pride or self-righteousness can be those final pieces of debris that must be removed to reveal God’s finished work. That is why, in (Rom. 5:3,4), Paul said, We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”

Masterpiece

david-michelangelo-accademia

In 1464, a statue was commissioned for the cathedral in Florence, Italy, and a single, giant piece of marble was chosen from a quarry. Work was first begun in 1464 by a sculptor named Agostino di Duccio. Agostino only got as far as beginning to shape the legs, feet, and the torso before he gave up in frustration. Ten years later, it was taken up by Antonio Rossellino; however, very little progress was made and his contract was terminated soon thereafter.

Both sculptors had, in the end, rejected the enormous block of marble due to the presence of too many fissures and imperfections, which may have threatened the stability of such a huge statue. It seemed the rock just had too many problems and risks to ever amount to a great masterpiece. It then lay neglected for 25 years. During this time, it was exposed to the elements, standing through 25 years of sweltering sun, driving rain, wind, and even an occasional snow.

Finally, in 1501, 26-year-old Michelangelo was contracted to finish shaping the gigantic piece of marble.  He began work early on the morning of September 13, 1501. He would work on the statue for over 2 years before unveiling His 17-foot-tall masterpiece, David, which is still probably the most famous sculpture in the world.

While other artists saw a block of marble with too many imperfections to be usable, Michelangelo saw David. He said, Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

The thing that changed a shapeless hunk of marble into a world-famous piece of art wasn’t the quality of the rock, it was the vision of the artist. The same thing is true in our lives. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

When you look in the mirror, do you see a magnificent work of art, or do you see a shapeless block of stone, full of cracks and imperfections? Just like Michelangelo used all sorts of different tools like hammers, various chisels, and brushes to remove unwanted stone and refine other parts into perfection, God uses all sorts of different tools in our lives as he removes unwanted parts and refines and polishes other parts. He uses His word and our worship, as well as the works of our hands and even the difficulty of warfare.

There are three little-known, and rather unique techniques Michelangelo used to create his masterpiece. God often uses these same techniques in his work on each of us.

  1. Michelangelo worked in total secrecy during the years he pounded away at his sculptureGod often does much of His work in our lives while we are seemingly hidden away in total obscurity. In fact, He seems to make a habit of finding unknowns like Moses and David anonymously tending sheep and elevating them to masterpiece status.
  2. Because of the size of the statue, Michelangelo worked outside. He, and the marble, were constantly exposed to the elementsOften the greater the destiny God has planned, the harsher the elements to which we are exposed.
  3. Michelangelo used a unique technique to accomplish his vision: he created a wax model and submerged it in water. Then he would drain a little water at a time, exposing only the part of the statue on which he was workingThis is such an accurate picture of the way our lives develop. It seems we know so little of God’s plans for us in the early stages. Each day, as we look in the mirror, a few more inches of God’s work emerge. Only God knows what still lies below the water level in your life.

So, through the days of anonymity, storms, or wondering what God is up to in your life, rest assured that He is right there with you, pounding away to create His masterpiece in your life.

 

 

Five Lessons from My Five Fathers

Dad and meFather’s Day was a couple of days ago. While I was blessed with a wonderful father, I also found myself thinking of a few other men who were like second dads to me. As I thought of these different men, each of them had one particular quality that dominated my thoughts; and that characteristic became a life lesson for me. Here are those five lessons from my five dads:

  • Be committed (Leon Cavitt) – One of my very best friends in my teens and twenties was Danny Cavitt. It wasn’t unusual for Danny and I to come rolling in around 5:00 or 6:00 AM… to go to bed. While we might have slipped in unnoticed in many houses, there was a 100% chance that Danny’s dad, Leon, would be up. Not only would he be awake, but there was only one place you would find him. Every single morning, Leon got up at 5:00, got his Bible, and sat down in his recliner to read and pray. It didn’t matter, either, that many of those early mornings when we drug in at sunup were Saturdays, when he didn’t have to work. His devotional time was an appointment he never missed. I never heard Leon preach a sermon, teach a lesson, or even quote a scripture to us; but the single most indelible memory I have of him is seeing him through my blurry, blood-shot eyes sitting quietly in his chair reading God’s word. What commitment!
  • Major in hospitality (Bill King) – My very first friend was my neighbor, Scott King. One of the really cool perks of our friendship was that his dad owned a motel on Lookout Mountain. On many Friday evenings, he would take Scott and I up to the motel on the mountain and give us a motel room for the evening so that we could climb around the rocks and do all the things you might imagine two 10 or 12-year-old boys would think of with a hotel room at their disposal. Scott’s dad was a high-ranking bank executive who had lots of irons in the fire between his job at the bank and owning two motels. Here is what I remember most about Mr. King, though: every Friday, he would take the two of us to a restaurant called The Albert Pick (which had the most amazing bread ever!). Then, on Saturday morning, Mr. King would make biscuits and gravy for us. I am sure there were a million things he needed to do more than have dinner with two preteen boys and cook us breakfast, but he never made me feel like I was an imposition. Instead, he always made me feel welcome. I am sure Bill accomplished lots of great things in his life, but I remember him most for making me feel welcome and important – like another of his sons.
  • God answers prayer (Bob Blazier) – When I was just starting school, our church got a new pastor named Bob Blazier. His son, Bobby, and I became almost instant buddies (I say “almost instant” because the first time Bobby came over to my house it earned me a spanking – but I’m not still bitter…). At any rate, Bobby and I are still best friends and his parents are still my second parents. Bobby’s dad was from the country, and you could tell it in his speech. He occasionally made up words during his sermons, and he had not had the opportunity to pursue the advanced degrees that many ministers receive. The puzzling thing to many people was how in the world Bob, with some of his seeming limitations, could be such a terrific preacher. He was (and still is) one of my very favorite teachers and preachers. While others may have been puzzled, I knew his secret. You see, Bobby and I would often run and play around the church during the week or on Saturdays when it seemed to be deserted. However, many times there would be a sound coming out of one of the Sunday School rooms. It was the sound of Bobby’s dad praying. He would go into the classroom, close the door behind him, and spend hours crying out to God. Therefore, every brilliant Sunday sermon was a life lesson in Paul’s declaration that “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.”
  • Live life with a chuckle (My uncle Richard) – When I was in school, I used to ride the bus to my aunt and uncle’s house in the afternoons until my mom got off from work to pick me up. Beth and Richard had five kids of their own, which meant there was usually lots of noise and chaos, fussing and fighting, running and jumping, doors left open, and sounds of things crashing to the ground. Add to that the unique form of disruption and destruction that I brought and it was a scene that could have made Mother Theresa try out a new vocabulary! My uncle Richard had this amazing ability to take it all in stride. He could disarm the most stressful situation, whether it was teenage daughter angst and hormones, or his son and I playing tackle football in the living room, with humor and an easy-going attitude. When I sort through all my memories of Richard (or Papa, as we called him), he seems to have a sort of a bemused smile on his face in every situation. How great would life be if a lot of us took ourselves a little less seriously?
  • Integrity matters most (my dad) – I have always known my dad loves me and would give his life for me. That being said, when I was young I used to kind of wish he were a little different. Some of my friends had cooler dads. Others had richer dads. Still others had Santa Claus for a dad. My dad wore socks with shorts and sandals… colored dress socks. He had a pocket protector and one of those retractable key rings on his belt. He wasn’t particularly athletic and didn’t care all that much for sports or hunting, fishing, camping, etc… As I got older, though, I began to realize that my dad gave me the greatest gift any dad could give: he gave me a good name. I have never once in my entire life had to pause when someone asks me if I am Donald Lance’s boy and wonder why they are asking. Someone could tell me my dad was rude to them, and I might believe them. Another person could say that he was kind of distant or cold to them and I would probably buy it. However, if anyone told me that my dad lied to them, I would double over in laughter. My dad goes beyond the category of honesty into the brutally honest, “I don’t believe I would have said that” category of truth-telling. One of my sisters once suggested that he mark something on a medical form about having the privacy laws explained to him, just to expedite the process and he looked at her like she was a Martian who had just entered the waiting room. The mere concept that he would mark something that wasn’t true seemed absolutely alien to him. Therefore, it was no surprise that when I sold he and mom a car, the bank to whom we submitted their credit information called the dealership right back and asked, “how many would they like to buy?” There is no greater gift he could have given me than a reputation that is above reproach (what I have done since then to sully it is a subject for a different blog…). To this day, my dad lays his head on his pillow every night knowing he has nothing in his past from which to hide. What an amazing legacy.

Five great fathers in my life; five great life lessons! How blessed I am this Father’s Day.

A Different Type of Courage

A few days ago, I had the privilege of singing in the funeral of a lady I have known all of my life. For me, Mary Lee was a bit of an acquired taste. As a boy, I sometimes didn’t know how to take her personality. I always loved and admired her husband, Gilbert, who was a hero to me. He had been an Army Ranger, and not just any Ranger, but one of the most famous group of US Rangers in all of history. He was one of the men who had climbed the ropes up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc on D-Day in 1944. Gilbert’s great courage was clear and unquestioned by anyone who knew his story; however, Mary Lee possessed a different kind of courage that wasn’t as readily apparent. While it takes great courage to leave behind the familiar and strike out into the unknown, Mary Lee proved it also takes tremendous courage to be the one who stays behind.

While Gilbert sailed across an ocean to face the enemy of our country, Mary Lee stayed behind waiting, wondering, and praying. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for a young bride as the first reports of the bloodbath at Normandy began to come in; yet Mary Lee waited, wondered, and prayed. As the moments became hours and she didn’t know if Gilbert was alive or dead, she waited, wondered, and prayed. When the news reached her that her husband had been seriously wounded and she was half a world away, she still waited, wondered, and prayed. Through the months of Gilbert’s physical recovery, Mary Lee stayed by his side. Through the years of emotional and mental struggles to put the past behind him, Mary Lee stayed right beside him.

My memories of Mary Lee begin a little later, but they begin with my earliest recollection of going to church. Mary Lee was a charter member of my home church, which began in 1949. The very first church service I ever remember as a child, Mary Lee was there. When I left my home church to become a pastor, 47 years later, she was at the last service I attended. Thousands of people had come and gone from my church over those 47 years, but not Mary Lee. When she passed away, at 94 years of age, she was still a member of that same church. She had been through a dozen pastoral changes, numerous style changes, and lots of changing faces; yet, still, Mary Lee stayed. She complained sometimes (well, actually, fairly often) when things weren’t done in the way she preferred; yet, she stayed. As a pastor now, myself, I have learned to appreciate people who might not like everything you do, but they stay by your side. That is an increasingly rare trait. Most of Mary Lee’s friends moved on at one time or another. That didn’t make them bad people, just different from her.

I am part of a generation who changes jobs often and changes churches, spouses, and locations quite often, too. Again, this doesn’t necessarily make us bad people, but it does make you notice someone with the courage to stand still through all of the change going on around her… to dig in her heels and stay through the good and bad times.

Styles of worship and music changed at our church; still, Mary Lee stayed. Her husband passed away a few years ago; Mary Lee stayed. She was one of three sisters, who remained close through the years. In fact, after all of their husbands had passed on, they were like the three musketeers sitting together in church and riding together wherever they went. Both her sisters passed; still, Mary Lee stayed behind.

While facing death certainly requires courage, so does remaining behind and putting the pieces of life back together without those we love. Through the war, through the many changes of life, through the loss of most all of her generation, Mary Lee waited, wondered, and prayed. However, last Wednesday, her waiting ended. Last Wednesday, her wondering became certainty, and her praying became face-to-face conversation with her Savior.

The single, most defining memory I have of Mary Lee is the sound of her laugh; and last Friday, as I sat in her memorial service, I just imagined heaven was filled with the sound of her laughter. She was laughing at how old many of us had gotten, since she was no longer old. She might have also laughed at how sad some of us looked for her, when she was happier than she had ever been; and she was laughing thinking about how much she looked forward to telling us all “I told you so,” (and you know she would love that) for she had been right: right about everything – Jesus was Who she thought He was. God could be trusted, and good things certainly come to those who wait… those who have the courage to stay.

    Dedicated to the memory of Mary Lee Baugh

ReWiring Church

Hey guys, this is a call for help! When you remodel an old house, or renovate an older building, you often have to do some rewiring to bring everything up to current building codes. At True Life, we think it might be time to do a little rewiring on the church. Actually, our building is quite new, so that isn’t the issue. It is the approach to, and perception of, church that might need a little updating. Let me tell you why I say this. A recent survey told me that over 90% of Americans believe in God or some sort of superior universal being. In addition, over 75% of Americans believe in the same God that I do. Here is the problem: less than 20% of Americans go to church (in my hometown of Chattanooga, the number is about 18%). Let that register for a second… 9 out of 10 Americans believe there is a God, but less than 2 in 10 think church would be a good place to learn more about Him, or to get better acquainted with Him! Is it possible that, just like codes for wiring in buildings need to be updated fairly often to keep up with new innovations, so do our approaches to this thing called church?

This is where I need your help: I started a new series called ReWiring Church this past Sunday. My goal is for it to be a very interactive dialogue (not monologue) about how we approach this thing called church. We need as many different viewpoints as possible. If only members of True Life respond, then we will hear a lot of similar viewpoints based on shared experiences. I would love to hear from people who are parts of other churches; and it would be especially helpful to hear from the 82% of people who don’t attend church! I want to hear things like:

  • What do you love about church?
  • What do you wish was different?
  • If you attend church, why do you attend?
  • If you don’t attend church, why not; and what would make you want to try it?
  • What is something you wish just one church was radical enough to try?
  • What role should the church play in the community around it?

This past Sunday was the first message in the series. It was entitled ReFocus, and in it, I asked two questions:

  1. What is a church?
  2. What is the primary mission of the church?

You can watch it on our True Life mobile app. Just download true life church – ga from the app store and look under the messages tab. It is free. It is also posted on our website: http://www.thetruelife.org. It was simply a starting place for our conversation, but it was a good chance to refocus on exactly what Jesus had in mind when He established this thing called the church. In each of the upcoming weeks, I am going to incorporate some of your comments and emails I received.  Here’s how you can get in the conversation:

  • Email your questions or ideas to rewiringchurch@gmail.com
  • Go to the Rewiring Church Facebook page
  • Comment on this blog site or on Facebook
  • Tweet me at @dlance10

Please jump into the conversation. We might just be a church crazy enough to try your idea!

Thank you in advance,

Danny