The Value of Gems

masterpieceYou are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Ponder It.
What do you believe God thinks of you?
If you could change one thing about the way you see your value, what would it be?
How committed are you to becoming God’s masterpiece?

Receive It.
Gems are beautiful, shiny, and full of colors. They’re valuable, but their true value is not determined by a gemologist. You are like a gem, and no one but God can determine your value. God didn’t mess up His design of you. He’s God, and He’s incapable of messing up. He created you in His image. You have His imprint on you. You can distort the image He’s placed on you by the way you live, but you can’t eliminate the image of God within you. No matter what you do, you cannot veer so far from God that He cannot reach you. You can never completely eliminate the image with which He’s created you. You’re designed from the inside out. When you neglect or refuse to acknowledge the worth God has given you—whether you inflate or deflate yourself—you are trying to say you know more about how you’re made and who you are than God does. You’re wrestling God for authority. And you will lose that wrestling match every single time. God decides your worth, and He thinks you’re worth sending His only Son to die for you. Yes, God sees your shortcomings, but He sees them only in the context of your potential. He knows the possibilities with which He created you, and He will continually strive to guide and mold you to your completion. When you don’t acknowledge His will and your value, you miss out on a piece of His plan, which is exactly what He doesn’t want you to do. Let Him show you your value. Fully live as He intends.

Live It.
This is it: the wrap up of our 30-day devotional journey. But it’s not an ending. It’s a continuation. God is still working in your life. He desires your faith and trust. He wants you to know Him and follow Him well. Stay committed to Him. Trust His work in your life. You are becoming a magnificent masterpiece.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message)

Trace and Restore

masterpieceTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Ponder It.
How has God changed your life?
What is something you have left in the past?
What is something you are anticipating for your future?

Receive It.
Tracing is difficult. You must start with a pattern and follow it closely. The same is true with restoration. You’re trying to recreate something. You don’t want to betray the original. The same is true with us. We are God’s masterpieces, but in order to become more like Him, we have to know Him. It’s a process. We’re constantly uncovering, tracing, and restoring who we believe He is and, therefore, who He created us to be. We were created in His image, and He is constantly transforming us. But we have to focus, not because we’re responsible for the work. God does the work of transformation. But our job is essential to the process. We have to yield. We have to pay attention, listen to His instruction, watch for the fulfillment of His promises. He wants us to become, and that takes time, effort, humility, and willingness.

You don’t have to live up to the standard of who God will transform you into someday. Stop comparing yourself to who you can or should become. You’re not there yet. You’re not prepared for that step. If you focus too much into the future, you miss out on the step God wants you to take today. You miss out on the preparation He has planned for you, the preparation that will lead you where you need to be and give you what you need when you reach each of your tomorrows. Let God take care of assessing your life. He has the best vantage point. He is the original artist, so He’s the best possible option to restore you into the masterpiece He has planned.

Live It.
Write as many words that describe God as you can. You can include names or adjectives, anything that reveals who He is. Write for at least one minute. Knowing God better helps you trust Him more. Knowing Him better helps you know Him better. Knowing Him better challenges you to rely on Him as He transforms you into His masterpiece.

Puzzle Pieces

masterpieceNow this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)

Ponder It.
Are you more of a talker or a doer?
What questions do you most want to ask God?
When have you found an unmet need when and where you least expected it?

Receive It.
I was at a women’s event, talking with a friend in the foyer during a midday main session. No one was expected to arrive so late, so my friend and I were surprised when a woman walked through the door. Her name was Olga. She was looking for a cup of coffee. There was a coffee shop in the building, but it was closed for the day. Since we had coffee prepared for the event, sharing a cup of coffee was no problem. Other than looking for a coffee shop, Olga knew nothing about where she was. She began to ask questions about the purpose of the building and our event. As it turned out, she was new to the area and had some needs that available specific ministries could address. After talking for a while, I asked for her contact information, and she left.

Unless we know the need, we can’t meet it. We have to ask questions. Sometimes we don’t ask direct questions. Sometimes the person in need doesn’t even know the need. How can we? We can interact. Listen. There are often unexpressed, even unidentified, needs just under the surface.

A sip of coffee didn’t fix Olga’s longing for healthy community of support and accountability, but it was a start. We did what we could. She got a cup of coffee for free, plus a conversation. In that moment, her needs were met beyond expectations. That’s what happens when we ask questions of others and ourselves. We don’t have all the answers. It’s okay when all the pieces don’t fit as we think they should. We might be able to help another person with one piece of her puzzle and someone else helps with another piece. Likewise, many people in our lives help us with our needs—both identifying and meeting them.

Ask the questions. Trust God for the answers.

Live It.
Look for someone to help today. Don’t help them on your own terms and timing. Help them on theirs. Keep it simple. Even the smallest acts of service and kindness impact people’s lives in big ways.

Coloring People

masterpieceTherefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Ponder It.
Who has encouraged you recently?
Who have you encouraged lately?
How has God surprised you with unexpected encouragers and encouragement?

Receive It.
Some people are colorers. They color people no matter where they go. They encourage people, share a smile, teach a timely lesson, infuse encouragement, extend accountability with compassion, invest in others’ lives, and anything else they can do to put color into people’s lives. How can you color others’ lives?

Listen. It’s a simple, but sadly, not-so-common practice. People need to share. Invite them to do so.
Compliment. I’m not referring to someone’s new shoes or hairstyle. Find a characteristic or action you respect, and let her know you noticed.
Invite. Whether it’s an invitation to serve, have coffee, or step in front of you in line, extending an invitation helps someone see you’re paying attention.
Smile. A warm smile goes a long way. Look for someone with a downcast or preoccupied expression. Make eye contact and share a smile.
Share. Let someone sit in the empty chair at your table or pay for coffee for the woman behind you in line. Sharing your life with someone begins with making space.
Pause. Interact with the cashier or barista. Ask the receptionist a question. Wish the salesperson well. The words you share (or don’t) aren’t just about you. Consider how the person to whom you’re speaking will receive them.
Challenge. Sometimes the best encouragement is a challenge to live by God’s standards. Encouragement isn’t about making someone feel great; it’s about helping them walk a life of great faith. Rely on God’s courage and direction to say the right thing at the right time.

Live It.
See how many times you can repeat one or all of the above ideas. Be a people-colorer today. In fact, become a lifetime people-colorer.

The Mask of Color

masterpieceBut He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Ponder It.
What are some purposes of masks?
What masks are most obvious to you when others wear them?
What masks are you most likely to wear?

Receive It.
Masquerade, theatrical, pampering, scuba, surgical, tribal, Halloween, sleep…and the list goes on. Masks are most generally used to give the illusion of being something we’re not, for protection, or to hide. Taking off our masks make us feel uncomfortable, exposed. When we take off our protective masks, we’re sensitive. We feel exposed. Our skin, our hearts, are soft. But God will never leave you exposed without His protection. You may not feel protected and safe, but our feelings deceive us. The reality is God will never leave us.

God gives us guidance, comfort, peace, and discernment through the Holy Spirit, who fills us. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God doesn’t just watch us from heaven? He doesn’t even just stay by our side. He fills us! That means we don’t need our own strength. We don’t need our own courage, protection, or direction. What we need is open ears to hear and willing hearts to obey. God has given us all we need. When we mask ourselves, we may hide a piece of ourselves for safety, but we also hiding the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. When we mask ourselves, we might cover up a few flaws, but we also deflect what we want to receive. When we wear a mask in order to receive approval, love, or respect, those things hit the mask, not us. We don’t get the full blessings of receiving what we most want. The mask that was supposed to help us actually ends up protecting us from the very things we want or need.

Live It.
Write the following two verses on index cards or sticky notes and post them where you’ll see them throughout the day. Reread and claim them, especially when you’re tempted to wear a mask.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

The Color (and More) of Light

masterpieceThere will be a booth for shade from heat by day, and a refuge and shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:6)

Ponder It.
Are you warm or cold-natured?
What is the most extreme temperature change you’ve experienced?
To what extent do you feel pressure to live up to a certain standard to others so that God is honored?

Receive It.
Color requires light. It can’t exist without it. But that’s not the only benefit of light. Light is nourishing, and it gives off warmth. Being God’s masterpiece isn’t just about how we look to others. It’s a more comprehensive experience for people who cross our paths. We impact their lives in powerful ways; rather, God impacts their lives in powerful ways through us.

Have you ever noticed how relative the feeling of warmth is depending on what you’ve become accustomed to or where you live? Someone travelling from Florida to Colorado would say Colorado is cold. Someone from northern Minnesota would disagree. At the end of winter, people wear no coats on a temperate day. But at the end of summer, people are wearing jackets on a day with the exact same temperature. Temperature itself is not relative. Our experience of it is.

The same is true when we interact with each other. What one person says is friendliness, another will define as standoffishness. What one person says is generous, another will say is stingy. We cannot control how others respond to us. We can’t figure out exactly what we need to do to get a specific reaction from individuals, to make them feel God’s warmth. Instead of trying, we can put all of our effort into following God. When we bask in His warmth, we absorb it. We then live with it. We still don’t know how people will respond to it, but God does. We don’t have to control all the details—just be obedient. God’s warmth will nourish us—and others.

Live It.
Invest in someone’s life today. Contact someone you’ve been encouraging and take the next step. Watch for someone you don’t have much of a relationship with yet but plant the seeds of encouragement with a smile and brief word. Appreciate when others encourage you—with a word, kind deed, or smile.

Lights to Display

masterpieceThis grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. (Ephesians 3:8-9)

Ponder It.
What do you want people to think about you?
Do you struggle with withholding too much information or sharing too much?
When you think of “authenticity,” what words come to mind?

Receive It.
Many displays have lights that highlight them—museum displays or outdoor parks and monuments. The goal is to highlight them, but the light never completely reveals everything. In fact, the lights often create glares, shadows, or distorted proportions. When the focus of the light has more than one dimension, the perspective of the light affects the perspective of the person looking at the display. The light is intended to illuminate the object, but it ends up presenting it in a less-than-authentic way. Do you ever do the same with your life?

We sometimes try to highlight what we most want people to see. We don’t mind if other aspects get downplayed or ignored, because we don’t really like some of those aspects of ourselves and our lives. Besides, we can’t be an open book to everyone, right? Of course, we can’t share everything with everyone, but what we share with people needs to be truthful and authentic. Everyone in our lives, even those who know us best, will only see pieces of who we are. Those who know us best don’t know everything about us, and if they did, because we’re always changing, they would have to constantly get to know us, over and over. Even we don’t know ourselves completely. Only God does.

When I answered, “Fine,” to the standard “How are you?” question one morning, I thought, “Why am I lying?” It’s not that anything was terrible, but I was grumpy. The woman who had asked me struggled with depression, and I often encouraged her. I guess I didn’t want to vent to her, of all people. But I asked her to ask me again. Confused, she did. When I told her I was actually kind of grumpy and briefly summarized why, her frown turned into a smile. I was puzzled and asked her what was so funny. She replied, “I just didn’t realize you’re like me!” I chuckled. Yes. When we’re authentic with each other, we find we have more in common than we thought, and we can encourage each other along the way. Let God’s light shine on and through you. At least He knows what to highlight when and to whom.

Live It.
Grab a flashlight, turn it on, and hold it against your skin just under your chin. Look in the mirror. How does it distort your image? Commit to letting God highlight you as He created you to be instead of trying to decide what features to highlight and downplay.