How to Carve a Duck

How to Carve a Duck

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:29

My wife, Carolyn, and I met Phipps Festus Bourne in 1995 in his shop in Mabry Hill, Virginia. Bourne, who died in 2002, was a master wood carver whose carvings are almost exact replicas of real objects. “Carving a duck is simple,” he said. “You just look at a piece of wood, get in your head what a duck looks like, and then cut off everything that doesn’t look like it.”

So it is with God. He looks at you and me—blocks of rough wood—envisions the Christlike woman or man hidden beneath the bark, knots, and twigs and then begins to carve away everything that does not fit that image. We would be amazed if we could see how beautiful we are as finished “ducks.”

Growing in Christ comes from a deepening relationship with Him.

But first we must accept that we are a block of wood and allow the Artist to cut, shape, and sand us where He will. This means viewing our circumstances—pleasant or unpleasant—as God’s tools that shape us. He forms us, one part at a time, into the beautiful creature He envisioned in our ungainly lump of wood.

Sometimes the process is wonderful; sometimes it is painful. But in the end, all of God’s tools conform us “to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).

Do you long for that likeness? Put yourself in the Master Carver’s hands.

Father, You are the craftsman who shapes me. You are the one who knows what shape my life should take. Thank You for carving me into the image You have planned. Help me to trust that the pieces and parts that You shave from me are the right ones.

Growing in Christ comes from a deepening relationship with Him.

By David Roper

Reconciling God’s Love and Justice

Psalm 33:4-5

Some people reject the message of salvation because they are offended by the Bible’s description of God’s wrath. Even believers can struggle to reconcile the Lord’s love and justice. How can He at the same time be perfectly loving and perfectly just? In an attempt to come to terms with this dilemma, we often try to soften the message of judgment and instead emphasize His warmer, fatherly qualities. But love and justice are not contradictory terms. In fact, you can’t have one without the other.

God’s love brings good into our lives. But if there is no justice, sin runs rampant and causes untold pain and suffering. No one thinks a judge is loving when he or she refuses to punish guilty criminals. To set them loose in society is not healthy for either the wrongdoer or the community. In the same way, our loving heavenly Father cannot allow sin to go unpunished.

But this presents an even bigger dilemma for mankind. We are all guilty before a holy God. That is why Christ came to earth. He bore divine wrath for all our sins so that the Father could be both just and forgiving. His justice was satisfied by the most loving act of all time—Christ’s death on the cross. Now those who by faith accept Jesus’ offer of salvation will not experience eternal punishment for sin.

Although believers will all one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, there will be no reason to fear. Our judgment has the purpose of determining rewards, not dishing out punishment. In gratitude, we should prepare now for that time by living for the Lord every day.

My Every Prayer

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” (Philippians 1:3-4)

The letter to the Philippian church stands as perhaps the most personal of the epistles, with Paul’s love for the believers being obvious. He expressed his love with heartfelt prayer for them every time he thought of them.

These prayers are constant in the sense that the Philippian believers were never far from his thoughts. Often Paul resorted to prayer for their personal needs and their relationship to God. His prayers are described by at least two Greek words of interest to us. First, he tells that he “thanked [his] God” (Greek eucharisteo) each time they came to mind. To another church he similarly wrote, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4). The word implies a sincere statement of genuine gratitude for their fellowship in being with him in serving God and partnership in the ministry.

Likewise, he used the word “supplication” (Greek deesei), an expression of gratefulness for his needs having been supplied. Paul’s needs were often provided for by those to whom he ministered, and he was profoundly grateful. The Christian minister is enjoined to remember his followers with “joy.” Paul remembered them in thankfulness to God for them and to them for their response.

We should strive to arrive at a balance between our ministry goals in evangelism and ongoing care for believers’ Christian growth and steadfast doctrinal purity. What is the state of our harmony among church members, as well as our prayers for them? JDM

Death Sorts Us Out

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. —Matthew 13:30

Right now we live in a… mixed-up world. Some people get the headlines who, if the truth were known, should be getting a striped suit in a prison somewhere.

There are other worthy persons who are completely ignored in this world and, if the truth were known, they would be on the front covers of the news magazines next week.

God is not mixed up, though…. He has His own process for sorting things out. Many a person receiving the praise and plaudits of the world today will be sorted out when God’s time comes. He does not sort them out down here in our time. He did not even sort them when His twelve disciples were with Him. Peter was a coward and Judas was a lover of money and a betrayer, but not until the last minute did He even mention it. But when Judas died he was sorted out. He died and went to his own place.

Death sorts us out and if we go to heaven it is because we have a nature that belongs there. It is not hard for the sovereign God to sort out all the natures that belong in heaven and take them there.

Thank You, Father, for the surety I have of heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ, which is mine regardless of my position in the eyes of the world. Amen.

The Attributes of God

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (Acts 2:3)

What a broad world in which to roam; what an expansive sea in which to swim—and I speak of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

He is eternal, which means He is wholly independent of time. Time began in Him and will end in Him.

He is immutable, which means that He has never changed and can never change in any smallest measure. Being perfect, He cannot become more perfect. If He were to become less perfect, He would be less than God.

He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events. He is; and none of the limiting terms of creatures can apply to Him. Love and mercy and righteousness are His, and holiness so ineffable that no comparisons or figures will avail to express it.

In the pillar of fire He dwelt. The fire that glowed in the “holy place” was called the Shekinah, the Presence. Then when the Old gave way to the New, He came at Pentecost as a fiery flame and rested upon each disciple!

Angels are not kept from us by storms

If we fear the Lord, we may look for timely interpositions when our case is at its worst. Angels are not kept from us by storms, or hindered by darkness. Seraphs think it no humiliation to visit the poorest of the heavenly family. If angels’ visits are few and far between at ordinary times, they shall be frequent in our nights of tempest and tossing.

Dear reader, is this an hour of distress with you? Then ask for peculiar help. Jesus is the angel of the covenant, and if his presence be now earnestly sought, it will not be denied. What that presence brings is heart cheer.