Works of Art in Blocks of Stone

Known best for his exquisite statue of David and for his compelling Sistine Chapel frescos, Michelangelo is recognized as one of the elite visual artists the world has ever known, emerging in the minds of many as the foremost among them. How fascinating then to glimpse the master’s perspective as he commences his work, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Of one work in particular, he recounted, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” How profound, and how profoundly humbling: in transforming rock into art, the great carver yet labored as a servant, liberating art from stone.

I wonder how closely Michelangelo’s call to discover and his diligence to emancipate reflected the heart of God, who transforms us into something far greater than any virtuoso might conceive. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” He promised through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you …”1 God’s vision was not merely to reshape rock from one form to another, but, in Christ Jesus and through His Spirit in us, to breathe life into these hearts of stone and set us free.

God’s transforming work continues, for “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”2 So, He shapes us, sometimes painfully through the chiseling hammers of this world or its forging furnaces, and at other times through the joy of His presence and the breathless vision of Him into Whose image we are being formed. For “the Lord is the Spirit,” wrote Paul, “and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all … beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 3 So, take heart and persevere, for in each one of us “blocks of stone” God sees a marvelous statue, and more capably than any earthly artist, He carves until we are free.

Father, we have no idea the depth of your love for us or the height of your plans for us. All we can do is say, “I trust you” and “Thank you.” You are good. Lead me in your path today. Amen.

1 Ezekiel 37:26, 27
2 Romans 8:29
3 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18 NASB

Too Lofty an Aspiration?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher, fire fighter, doctor, or nurse? As you matured, did your aspirations morph, as well, letting go of your super-hero dreams, for instance, to pursue the construction trades? Or were you like the college student I know, who resolutely pursues a career as an ESPN announcer, a goal from which he has not wavered since the fourth grade? Yet of all the aspirations I’ve ever heard, I don’t recall anyone saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a servant.”

Servanthood—we may regard it as the lowest rung on a worldly ladder, but it is our highest heavenly calling. Think for a minute, how powerful the moments spent in prayer with someone who is confused, angry or hurting! Very few people will refuse your offer. Recall for a minute, what is it like to hear words of truth spoken in love, replacing confusion with clarity and doubts with hope? Marvel for a minute, what is it like to be a conduit through whom God’s eternal power and divine love meet people’s earthly and spiritual needs? Reflect for a minute, what is it like to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”?1

Or imagine for a minute how it must feel to share the honor of those whom God has called, “my servant”—Moses2, Joshua3, Samuel4, David5, Elijah6, and Jesus7. Too lofty an aspiration? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m guessing that in your heart of hearts, your deepest desire is to hear Jesus speak these words to you when you see Him face to face, “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness.”8 And if this is indeed our innermost yearning, then would we live our days with servant hearts from which flow servant deeds? Is there any higher calling? Can there be any greater reward?

I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:9b-10)

Father, your Son came to us as a servant; grace us the humility to serve with Him. Amen.

Christ in me is humility.

1 2 Corinthians 1:4
2 Exodus 14:31
3 Joshua 24:29
4 1 Samuel 3:10
5 2 Samuel 3:18
6 2 Kings 9:36
7 Isaiah 52:13
8 Matthew 25:21

The One We Get To Serve

No matter who we are, we “Gotta Serve Somebody,”1 concludes Bob Dylan in his tune of this title. His refrain emphasizes time and again:

“Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”2

The legendary songwriter is onto something. In fact, Jesus says we will serve a master—be it God or money—and that we must choose only one. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”3 So, let’s consider our dilemma: money as our life’s master, or God as the Lord of life.

Money perches precariously “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal,”4 but God guarantees us an inheritance,5 one that “can never perish, spoil or fade … kept in heaven for you.”6 Wealth conditions our value on a cold calculation of net worth, but God proclaims our pricelessness through the cost of our redemption: “not with perishable things such as silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ.”7 Wealth tantalizes the soul through sips of success, but never in quenching quantities, for “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income”8; but Jesus says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again … [It] will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”9 Of money it is said, “You can’t take it with you”—it drops us off at death’s door empty-handed and barren-souled; but Jesus counsels us to invest ourselves into what lies beyond our retirement years: “Store up for yourselves treasures in in heaven,”10 which surely awaits all who serve Him.

We could contrast these two masters in many ways and for a long time, exposing one and revealing the other, but here is the rich irony of it all: Money robs those who serve it. It would rob us of life itself, consuming our existence today with worries over what we will consume tomorrow. This is not freedom, and we need not squander our days serving the money god who oppresses us under a scepter of fear. Instead, Jesus points to the beauty of creation as the reflection of both the heart of the eternal God and the greater glory to which He raises His people. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?… Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”11

When money is our master, we “gotta” serve it, and we do so in fear. God is the glorious One we “get to” serve, and it is a privilege, it is a joy. For in Him is freedom from the fear of tomorrow; in Him is life itself, today.

Father, I choose to trust you today. I choose to serve you today. I choose not to worry about tomorrow, for you know what I need and you will be my Master then, too. Amen.

1 Dylan, Bob. Gotta Serve Somebody. Columbia Records, 1979.
2 Dylan. Gotta Serve Somebody.
3 Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
4 Matthew 6:19 (ESV)
5 Ephesians 1:14
6 1 Peter 1:4
7 1 Peter 1:18, 19
8 Ecclesiastes 5:10
9 John 4:14
10 Matthew 6:20 (ESV)
11 Matthew 6:28b-30, 33 (ESV)