Libby, Montana recently hosted its second annual chainsaw carving championship with competitors from across the United States as well as from Zimbabwe, Japan, Lithuania, Scotland, Argentina, Moldova, Slovakia, Ireland. Each carver had from Friday through Sunday morning to work on a major project and in addition, a couple of “quick-draw” (1 1/2 hour) contests were held. Their finished products were then judged and put up for bid at an auction. My, oh, my were they impressive! Look up Libby, Montana Chainsaw Carving Championships online to see some of their amazing sculptures.
We cut our own firewood out in the forest and I’m happy to just make straight cuts in the bolts as I buck them up to haul home and split. I can’t imagine the talent these men and women have, not only in the operation of their saws, but to envision what the finished product should look like to end up with such realistic looking, detailed birds and animals and people. They are truly very gifted artists.
As we watched them work, to saw a bolt of wood, probably 24-36 inches in diameter start to resemble a bear or goose or dragon or Indian chieftain. With each chip that flew to remove something that didn’t belong, the sculpture became more and more recognizable as the image in the carver’s mind. By the time they were done the bird, animal or person looked so very realistic, as you will see if you go to the website.
I couldn’t help but think of how God is at work in our lives removing those parts of our old, sinful life that prevent others from seeing Christ in us. Paul tells us that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… (Ro. 8:28,29). God places the right people and circumstances in our lives to help mold us little by little every day, little by little in every way into the image of His Son. He does this, like the chainsaw carver, by removing what doesn’t belong in the finished product. The Bible uses a number of pictures that describe this process. One is the refiner who uses heat to remove the impurities (cf Isa. 1:25; Ezek. 22:19-22; Mal. 3:3). Job, who really went through the “fiery furnace” of adversity, said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as (pure) gold” (Job 23:10). The furnace is never pleasant, but without the process, we would never have the finished product. Gold as normally found in nature, is mixed with impurities that, if allowed to remain, greatly cheapen its worth. Subjected to temperatures of several thousand degrees, however, the impurities and undesirable contaminants are burned up, leaving behind the pure, tested product. Without the heat you could never have the pure gold.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter speaks of the refining process in our lives: “…though now for a little while, if necessary (and it is!), you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ” (I Pet. 1:6,7). And the Apostle Paul, writes about how “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (i.e., Christ living in us…II Cor. 4:7). And he goes on to describe the process God uses to help others see that treasure in us: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:8-18).
We went several times to observe the progress of the carvers. Each time their product was more recognizable. That’s how it should be in our lives as well, as God works day by day to remove those things that detract from “Christ in us” which is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). As believers, each of is “work in progress,” at different stages of completion. So, PBPGINFWMY! (Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet!).