His Masterpiece

I love going to art galleries, especially on vacation. A couple of years ago, while on a date in the Gaslamp district in San Diego, Tom and I stumbled into the most beautiful art gallery. The whole experience, from the lighting to the soft music to actual art, was designed to tell a story. Every piece was a progression from the last. The woman guiding us began to tell us about the process of the artist, how he spent years developing each piece. He paid a high price in time and travel to achieve such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting a few times but I’ve never spent more than a handful of hours on something. I don’t have the patience! It was clear that art was more than a job for this artist, he had put his whole life into the work. 

I was reminded of this experience when I was reading Ephesians 2:10 (NLT). It 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.” Genesis recounts that, thousands of years ago, God took dust and fashioned Adam, then Eve, with the tender love of an artist. He breathed his life into them and told them they were designed by him to be with him, to be like him, to multiply and to share in his work of caring for the creation. Then they failed. They trusted the devil instead of God’s word and it appeared that the work of art had been damaged. But the great artist didn’t discard his work, he improved it. 

Over the course of generations, he continued to love his masterpiece, his people, revealing himself to them through the rise and fall of kingdoms and passage of time. It was a long and costly process, ultimately requiring the sacrifice of Jesus, his own son. He knew his people could never do the things he created and designed for them until they received the gift of the grace of God. When Jesus rose from the dead and the people believed, they took a deep breath of that Holy Spirit of life once again and the masterpiece was complete! 

When I thought about that gallery, filled with absolute perfection, and thought about God putting our lives in an even greater, more beautiful gallery, my heart was filled with gratitude. When we believe in Jesus, we receive the grace of God, we are portraits of grace. I imagined the stories of person after person, lit under that soft gallery light, and the overwhelming feeling of goodness and joy that would be conveyed to the observer. When we allow God to use us to do his good work, to love people, to teach children, to give generously, to pray for the sick and serve one another, we feel God’s beautiful spirit rushing through us. We are truly God’s masterpiece!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but I hope you will remember today that the great artist designed you to be displayed in his amazing gallery of life and the work that you are doing out of love for him today is truly beautiful. 

XO,

Bethany

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The Most Beautiful Story of All

It’s Easter week, our houses are full of eggs and candy and our minds are filled with preparations for Spring Break. Maybe right now you can stop and take a moment to fill your heart with the reality of the most beautiful story of all.

Jesus’ story is the power to change everything, to make your story beautiful, no matter how dark or boring, or despairing. Because of Jesus: 

You don’t have to prove that you are worth loving. God placed the ultimate value on you in paying for your life with the life of His most precious Son.

Your sin is dead. That nasty tendency to do the things that hurt us and hurt others, has been buried with Jesus Christ and no longer has power over your decisions.

You are understood. Jesus sees and has felt all of the things you feel, the struggles you’ve had. He prays for you constantly.

You are not alone. The Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead NOW lives inside of you, enabling you to do what you could never do before

You have nothing to fear. You are promised a beautiful future, restoration and new life for things that have dried up and died. You will experience an eternity of beauty and love.

There is no story more beautiful than the story of what Jesus has done for us! If you have never heard this before, then today I want you to know that God loves you so much. He knows you by name and invites you to know Him! You don’t have to fix anything about yourself to be accepted by Him. Simply ask Him to come into your life.

Join me in this prayer: Jesus, thank you for what you did for me when you died on the cross and came back to life. I believe in you and I want to know you and become who you created me to be. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to share the joy of knowing you with everyone I meet. Amen.

 

The Bible tells us even more. If you have questions, you can find answers there.

For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. John 3:16 (TPT)

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Romans 6:14 (NLT)

Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God’s Spirit of Resurrection lives in you, he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you! Romans 8:11 (TPT)

This is why he had to be a Man and take hold of our humanity in every way. He made us his brothers and sisters and became our merciful and faithful King-Priest[b] before God; as the One who removed our sins to make us one with him. 18 He suffered and endured every test and temptation, so that he can help us every time we pass through the ordeals of life. Hebrews 2:17-18 (TPT) 

Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you. Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen! Ephesians 3:20-21 (TPT)

The BIG Bible Journey of 2018

I was so excited when Pastors Jude and Becky announced the BIG Journey Bible reading challenge for 2018, like SO excited. I’ve always loved my Bible. As a pre-teen I encountered Jesus in a truly powerful way and was so thankful to have people around who told me that the Bible is the greatest source of truth and direction I could find in this life. I have great parents, pastors and access to incredible books and podcasts but nothing has been there for me like the Bible. When I look back at the big decisions in my life, every moment has a scripture, a promise, the word of God confirming or guiding the way I should go. Some choices (like two cross-country moves) had an incredible amount of risk attached to them, but I had peace because of a word from God. Reading my Bible on a regular basis reminds me who God is, how much He loves me and how much He wants to work in my life. It creates a starting point for so many conversations with the Holy Spirit about the things that matter to me most: my marriage, my kids, my purpose in life. The Bible also gives me a clear head! Since the enemy’s greatest power is to deceive us, reading the Bible makes us so much less susceptible to the lies of discouragement, doubt and fear.

But…I’ll be honest, since giving birth to my three kids, I’ve struggled to make time to read my Bible like I used to and I miss it! I’ve started more YouVersion Bible reading plans than I care to admit, always clicking the “Catch Me Up” button three or four times before giving up all together. Sometimes when I sit down to read after being away for awhile, that nagging voice of condemnation tries to tell me it’s not worth it because I’ll never be as consistent as I “should.” BUT, when I open the pages (or the app) in that early morning when I manage to wake before my kids or late after everyone goes to bed, the word never fails to speak to me. It’s usually not complicated and it’s always encouraging or inspiring. This year, I’m filled with excitement to start anew because the only thing better than reading the Bible is reading the Bible TOGETHER with my amazing church community.

I’m excited to talk about what I’m reading with my family (we even bought this kid’s version of the One Year Bible for my seven year old) and with my City Group. Every week this year, Pastor Jude and the preaching team are going to share from what we’re reading. Maybe you’ve tried reading the Bible and have been discouraged by portions that were difficult to understand. I’ve been there too. That’s why it’s so cool that we don’t have to do this alone. We’ll be able to take time in our groups and on Sundays to ask the questions and get some answers. I know God will speak to us.

This year, we’re believing for BIG things as a church and my family and I are believing for some BIG things in our own lives. I have some questions for God about dreams and words and things He put in my heart and I believe He’s going to speak to me. Right now, we’re all asking ourselves how we can live our best life in 2018. I believe that the Bible is the answer! The Bible enables us to become like Jesus. The more we read his words, the better we know Him, the better we know ourselves, and we’re transformed (Romans 12:2). There’s plenty to be said about resolutions and weight loss plans but nothing truly changes us like the Bible does. There is no greater gift!

I know Christmas is over but I’m still thinking so much about the life of Mary. In my last post, I talked about her willingness to say “yes” to God. My family and I recently went and saw The Star, a kids movie about the birth of Jesus. I loved the way they depicted Mary in the film. She was kind and joyful and full of unwavering faith. My husband Tom, shared something about Mary with me that he read in Tim Keller’s book, Hidden Christmas. In Luke 2:19, after the world marveled at the story told by the shepherds, it says “But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant.” That scripture summarizes the attitude I want to have toward my Bible this year. It wasn’t about mental analysis, Mary was full of wonder and allowed the words to go deep into her and define her. She embraced the life God set in front of her and allowed His words to bring peace and confidence every step of the way.

I believe God wants us to experience His word in the same way. I hope you’ll join us on this journey of Bible reading in 2018. We’re going to talk about it a lot here on Beautiful Stories. You can purchase the One Year Bible we’re using (or get the one with lots of space for journaling and note-taking like I did) or you can simply download the plan for free on the Bible app. This is sure to be such a life-changing experience for all of us. We’ll be here to help and encourage all along the way. I can’t wait to hear how God speaks to each one of you.

XO Bethany