Reflections – October 2017
On a recent foray into an antique store I was drawn to some unusually beautiful pieces of furniture. Most were solid wood, rather than veneers — mahogany and cherry predominately — displaying stunning grain and strikingly beautiful patterns in the wood. Imagine the excitement a furniture maker must feel when encountering such lovely pieces of raw lumber. How his heart must leap and his imagination soars when he considers the possibilities! Obviously treasured and well cared for, those I saw were all polished and had retained their rich patina. Some had magnificent carved relief on the drawer fronts or ornate borders; but what really captured my attention were table tops and other objets d’art with intricate inlaid designs of other woods, ivory, or precious metals. The skill and precision of the craftsman awed me as these were fashioned well before power tools or mass production had become common, so I can only imagine the time devoted to the task.
Veneers are thin slices of wood typically less than 1/8 inch in thickness glued onto a core panel of wood of lesser value or, nowadays, even particle board. The completed piece of furniture assumes the appearance of a more expensive solid wood piece but is much less expensive and lighter. However, its beauty is superficial, and there is the possibility of the veneer lifting, buckling, chipping or splintering at some point. Additionally, repairs are difficult. My fascination with the decorative inlays though sent me scurrying to learn how they were made, and I found that they too, are small veneers set into a design that has been meticulously prepared to receive the pieces. From standing tree to finished piece, what imagination, talent, and dedication is required to produce such beautiful objects of lasting value! Something only a master craftsman can attain.
Still in awe at what I had seen and learned, the Lord seemed to whisper in my ear, “I am that Master Craftsman who fashions my children to become my greatest masterpieces.” As I pondered that statement, it became clearer to me that over a period of time, He does indeed work to transform us so we become worthy representations of His nature and character. His raw material is the natural man, who sometimes comes into His hands at an early age, still tender, malleable, and supple. Often though we come later, roughly hewn, marred by the traumas and scourges of living in a fallen world – broken, angry, arrogant, fearful and timid, scarred by words, abuse, disappointments, poverty, to say nothing about our own poor choices at critical junctures in life. Doesn’t sound like a likely prospect for creating a masterpiece, does it? But God is the God of the improbable. And since we are created in His image and skillfully wrought (read Ps. 139) we are already “solid wood.” We are not at our core cheap imitations whose beauty is only skin deep. So His delight is seeing us willingly submit to His skillful hands, motivated by His heart of consummate love. We may view ourselves as run-of-the-mill ordinary, but God sees the finished product as a masterpiece fit for His kingdom. And He has extraordinary plans for us in His kingdom. So with His heavenly plane and router He skillfully prepares us to receive the beauty conceived in His unfathomable mind. Each step is precisely designed and trimmed, positioned and fit to achieve His desired result. His work is flawless. His patience is endless. Each design is unique.
We—you and I—are the recipients of the Lord’s lavish love poured out, in large measure, for us to win others for His kingdom. That which is good and righteous and pure and holy in us is not so we can be admired and lifted up, or be self-satisfied, but that we can lead and direct others to Jesus. Phil 4:8,9 says, “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy –meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me (Paul), these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” You see, after we have meditated on these things we are to become DOERS of the word! Eph. 2:10 confirms this as Paul urges us forward with these words: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The Master Designer and Artisan is calling out to us in this most strategic time in history. May we all be answering His call with an eager “Yes Lord!”