Category Archives: discipleship

In the Workshop

A friend once told me an illustration she’d been given about how God’s sovereignty played out in her service.  Wracked by fear of making a mess and not being good enough, she was encouraged by the following…

Its like we’re in the workshop of a master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard.  We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that the work we’re doing is very small in light of what he’s done and so it doesn’t matter if we don’t measure up – he’s done it all already.  Its like a father who has given his child a spare bit of scrap wood to mess about with, just so that they feel loved and feel part of what he’s doing.

I suppose it could be comforting when we feel our efforts for the Kingdom are pitiful or that we’ve made big mistakes in our life choices – its good to know that there’s a Master craftsman who’s really building and who’s getting it right and making it beautiful.

Others I’m guessing would feel much more like what is really in play is the following…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that what we need to do is to get out of the way and let him do it.  So we sit back and watch the Master at work, peeking over his shoulder trying not to get in the way, marveling at his skill and whilst there are things he’s doing that we don’t understand, we simply know that in the end his finished work is glorious.

I’ve been thinking about this ‘workshop of life’ 😉 about this Master craftsman and me.  Both the above scenarios mean that the work gets done – in the end there is a pure and beautiful masterpiece on the workshop table and whilst I feel a certain sense of security or comfort of life being that way, both pictures end up leaving me cold.

The second paints a picture of a God who does whatever he wills in order to get the work done, regardless of what we do to get in the way.  Our part is to watch and glory in the craftsmanship.  We have no real part, we’re just tools (or even distractions) in what he’s doing.

The first picture, then is surely better as we get in on the fun – we hammer away and design things and glue stuff…  we’re given a scrap piece of wood to muck about with while God is doing the real work.  Our part is to have a bash and keep ourselves busy, have a go at copying the glory of the craftsmanship while not actually making any impact on it.  We have a part, but it doesn’t matter about how it goes, because really its just a scrap that the Master has thrown at us to muck about with.

The cold feeling these images bring means that really I think there is a third way at work in God’s sovereignty.  Of course, no one image will fully convey it, but I’m thinking that if I’m going to think about such a workshop scenario, it would go much more like this…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – he is teaching and training and showing and hanging out and inspiring and repairing and (dare I say it…?) marveling and smiling at what we’re making together.

See, I think I really am building something here – and not just mucking around with scrap – it is of great value, it is important… essential even.  I really am making decisions, I’m designing and crafting and shaping life.  I really am doing the work, but I think I might be a master in training with THE Master.  An apprentice, if you will.

I am learning to create and craft at His side.

The bits where I have no clue how to do it, how to make it fit, he’s working on – but always in a way that teaches and trains me and my workmanship in his masterpiece.  The bits where I’ve accidentally gouged a great big chunk out of the wood, or mucked up the design, he transforms into something more beautiful than i could have imagined – showing me what it looks like to heal and refine and redefine.  I can be careless and flippant or meticulous and particular or creative and flamboyant.  Such freedom gives both weight and value to my choices and creates the beauty of true partnership.

This is a frightening concept.

It means that when I have a choice to make – about marriage or about career for example – I cannot sit back with my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and wait til it all works out or til Jesus comes back – whichever comes first.  Rather, I must take steps towards seeing things happen, recognizing that I have a responsibility to bear for my own life; to live life rather than to simply let life happen.  That my choices  (or lack thereof) have consequences carries weight but therefore also worth.

This is an incredible concept.

The biggest part of this freedom is that even when I’ve no effing clue what to do, or how to proceed, or things seem impossible, the Master is there.  Not to take control and do it for me, not to relegate me to the scrap woodpile, but to put his hands on mine and guide me through in a way that not only accomplishes something, but that also means together we create something beautiful.  Something beautiful in me and through me and even for me.   Something beautiful that is part and parcel of this Master’s greatest work of art.

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Filed under discipleship, freedom, God, gospel, perspective, truth

Gratuitous post

Its been a while.

I’ve been visiting my wp dashboard (read: stats) regularly and inwardly bemoaning my lack of writing of late.  It makes me a little sad, as I really do enjoy the old blogosphere.  I guess I’ve been hit by a kind of blog-block – a lot of things crossing my mind to write about, but never quite discovering the time to write.

So, here I find myself scribbling a quick hello to my faithful reader(s??) – realising that perhaps its because I was too lazy to search through the too-slow-for-words on screen tv guide on my digibox, thus resorting to switching the tellybox off that indicates that facebook is not the only stealer of my life and time, but rather the tv.  Hmmm… AND I don’t even like it that much!

Life to the fool…

There are, I suppose, many things going on for me in my small corner – plenty to be keeping the wee head ticking over.  Like, I spent some time this term thinking about biblical inspiration and interpretation.  I thought about blogging about it, but figured my regurgitation of the scholarship of others may not exactly be all that riveting.  But perhaps some sort of summary of my findings or my journey might be helpful to me and… er… well, interesting for you (if you’re into that sort of thing!).

I’ve enjoyed hearing some stuff about the Incarnation; I’ve been surprised by some teaching on self-esteem I thought I was going to hate;  I’ve had to distill some of my thoughts on singleness in order to try and ‘teach’ some stuff to recent graduates; and I’ve embarked on a voyage of 100% support-raising to go work with a church in France…  All in all, yes… there’ve been some big things going on.  AND my friend cut me a fringe.

Its all go over here.

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Filed under bible, blogging, discipleship, France/French, random

What is going on??

Now, I know its getting a bit old, and that its easy for anyone to say… but, something is going seriously wrong with the church.

Its not usually my ‘bag’ to church-bash and I’m often the one who tries to defend the imperfections of the church in such a conversation, but I’m going to break my own rule.

In the last ten days or so, I’ve been utterly, utterly struck by the overwhelming sense that the majority of people’s understanding of the gospel is ‘Now that Jesus died to save me, I’m going accept that gift and then try to make it up to him.’  We pay lip service to ‘saved by grace’ but in our hearts and actions we represent a gospel that is no gospel at all.

I’m struggling to know how to really express what’s in my head here…

Okay… I’ve encountered some students who are believing ‘saved by grace’ but living ‘try harder to be better’.  When these conversations occurred it made me sad and frustrated – longing for them to grasp even a glimpse of grace.  That’s not to say I’ve got it – far from it, but at least I feel like I’ve had it taught to me and modelled for me and have been made to wrestle with its implications for my life.  But I’m not sure these people are learning the tools to begin to do that, you know?

The real reason I’ve been pushed to write this, however, is that someone really close to me has pretty much walked away from his faith.  The reason?  Guilt.

Seriously.  What exactly has the church been teaching (or NOT teaching!) for the last several generations?  We need to wake up and smell the mouldy chicken.  The gospel of Christ – that is NOT about how good WE are, but about how good GOD is – is being lost and the lives of people are festering as a result.

Speaking at an InterVarsity conference on ‘Following Christ’, Vinoth Ramachandra says this:

“The darkest periods of history were the periods when the gospel was least understood by the Church.”

If the gospel is the hope of the world and what the church is preaching barely keeps Christians on the Way, what is going on??

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YOUR part in MY Part in the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of Discipleship

Okay, so a while ago I posted about discipleship asking a bunch of questions and got really very little response…  I actually WOULD appreciate some input from people about this, so at risk of appearing needy, I am posting again!

The crux of it is the following…

Discipleship.  Are there methods to the madness?  What are those ‘difficult questions’ that so many claim they need to be asked?  What does ‘being intentional’ really look like?  Okay, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, but surely there must be some principles somewhere to work from?

Really my question is this: If true change is brought about by the Holy Spirit, how do I BEST play my part in facilitating that work?  Any suggestions?

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MY Part in the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of Discipleship

There’s been a bit of chat of late about discipleship, in a ‘following Jesus’ kind of way.  The definition of what it is has been in discussion over at Transfarmer‘s corner and by extension, how it is done.  MY questions follow on from that…

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A significant temptation as a ‘professional’ Christian (along with flashing your vast wads of cash…) is to allow the desire to see people change as they grasp the truth about God to become confused with the desire to see people change as they grasp the truth about God from what we teach them.

In fact, its maybe not so much a temptation as an everyday hazard of the job.

The thing is… it is God who changes us, isn’t it?  Its a bit like leading worship in a way – you can prepare are the beautiful songs and music and readings and prayers you want, but unless God shows people’s hearts something of himself, then a worship leader is just singing a nice wee song and sometimes not even that!  But when your heart longs to see people impacted by Jesus, plus the added pressure of it kinda sorta being a big part of your full-time job you it feels extra specially important that you do it well.

I want to be assured that my ‘methods’ of relating to people, discipling people, teaching people are the best and most effective for spurring change and growth.  I want to know that I’m saying the right things, doing the right things to show people the absolute beauty of the gospel of Jesus.  I want them to see it, taste it, live it, breathe it…

The Spirit of God is at work in me and therefore there is goodness and truth and purity in my motives, but I’m still in a world affected by sin, so there are selfish reasons as to why I want to get it right.  I want to be able to compare myself with those who’ve gone before and those who will come behind and feel that I measure up just as well as (or better than) them.  Oh! for the day we can look at each other in contentment and joy in the display of the multi-coloured, much-varied, manifold wisdom of God in the tapestry of His church!

So anyway… let’s assume for a minute that my motives are spotless and think about this.  Discipleship.  Are there methods to the madness?  What are those ‘difficult questions’ that so many claim they need to be asked?  What does ‘being intentional’ really look like?  Okay, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, but surely there must be some principles somewhere to work from?

Really my question is this: If true change is brought about by the Holy Spirit, how do I BEST play my part in facilitating that work?  Any suggestions?

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Filed under change, church, discipleship, God, gospel, grace, heart, hope, questions