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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Turning Despair into Hope

A painter stepped back from the canvas and viewed what he had painted. The scene portrayed a dark-gray farmhouse set on a drab landscape. A broken shutter dangled precariously from an upstairs window, and a thin line of smoke wisped upward from a crooked chimney. In the foreground stood a lone leafless tree. Its barren branches, like long, misshapen bony fingers, pierced a cloudy sky. Near the top of the painting, a full moon veiled by a cloud added an eerie character to the already gloomy painting.

Contemplating what he had painted, the artist decided to title his work “Despair,” But a sudden burst of inspiration changed his mind—and his painting. He dabbed a paintbrush into his brightest yellow and dabbed the window with the broken shutter. Instantly, light emanated from the farmhouse, stating in effect that life was inside.

Once more, the painter stood back, viewed his work, and then affixed the title “Hope.” Just one touch of light had turned the whole scene from “Despair” to “Hope.”

Life can get mighty tough, especially when the cost of living soars and personal income falls. At the same time, health may deteriorate and relationships may sour. Aches, pains, and anxieties may become more plentiful than dandelions after a spring rain. Despair may plunge us into a dark and gloomy existence unless we yield to the divine Artist’s hand and trust Him to apply light to the window of our soul.

That light may come in the flash of a Bible exhortation and promise. For example, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7) may be just what we need on one of those downcast, gray days. Or a call from a Christian friend to say, “I’m praying for you, “ may brighten our day. So take heart; the Master moves His brush across the canvas of our lives in strokes of genius. His hand is always steady, and His work is always perfect.

Hang tough. There’s hope!

© 2008, Jim Dyet

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Your Password?

The ancient Gnostics opposed Christianity in the Church’s infancy. They rejected the belief that salvation was purchased by the shedding of the blood of the God-man, Jesus Christ. How could God wrap Himself in human flesh, they questioned, when all forms of matter are evil? Further, they rejected the teaching that human beings may know God by simply trusting in Jesus as their Savior. Salvation by grace through faith seemed absurd to the Gnostics. It didn’t square with their belief that the way to God involves elaborate knowledge and secret passwords.

The Gnostics derived their name from the Greek work for “knowledge,” and considered themselves intellectual know-it-alls. They were the forerunners of so many self-proclaimed modern intellectuals who reject salvation by grace and devise elaborate philosophies about God and truth.

The apostle Paul identified Christ as the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), and he warned his readers about the Gnostic error. “Beware lest anyone cheats you through philosophy and vain deceit,” he wrote in verse 8. In spite of modern-day post-modern thinking and widely accepted humanistic thinking, Christ is still the source of true wisdom and knowledge, and He alone saves sinners by grace through faith.

If a contemporary Gnostic demands a secret password for finding God, why not tell him it is JOHN14:6?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Only a Shadow

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Annette had died, leaving a husband and two young daughters. Her husband was a pastor; her daughters, Kristen and Kari, were 5 and 7 respectively.

The sorrowful pastor had tried repeatedly to ease his daughters’ pain by explaining that their mother had gone to heaven. He wanted them to know that death is not a terrifying experience for a believer. But his words failed to comfort little Kristen and Keri.

Then, stopped at a traffic light on their way to the funeral home, the pastor called his daughters’ attention to the shadow of a truck that had pulled alongside their car.

“Girls,” Dad, asked, “would you rather get run over by a truck or by its shadow?”

“Daddy,” Kristen replied, “a shadow doesn’t hurt.”

“You’re right, Kristen. The Bible says that dying is like walking through a valley called ‘the shadow of death.’ When Mommy died, she walked through a shadow, and Jesus was waiting beyond the shadow to meet her.”

When Jesus voluntarily died for our sins, He took the full brunt of God’s wrath, being made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The physical suffering was intense, but the spiritual suffering was even more intense—inflicting on Jesus far more agony and anguish than the human mind can comprehend. Isaiah 53:11 mentions “the suffering of his soul.” Because He was bearing our sins on the cross, He became the object of divine judgment. The punishment we deserved fell on Him even to the point that God turned away from Him.

However, because Jesus experienced God’s full wrath, believers experience His full love. Because He was forsaken by the Father, believers are accepted by the Father. Because Jesus died, believers live. Because He was “run over” by death, only the shadow of death can touch us. Because He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He waits beyond death’s shadow to welcome us home.

© Jim Dyet