Oftentimes, I have discovered that it isn’t my own words that can communicate what I need to say or hear. I find the message I desire comes from the Bible. God always makes everything right and He always has the hope I need. The following passage is just one example. May God richly bless you with His love and make everything come out right for you…Psalm 103:6-18 The Message (MSG)
6-18 God makes everything come out right;
he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.
Isaiah 61:3 New International Version (NIV)
…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
It was five months ago, when we all sat in front of our televisions and watched the most out of control wildfires ever recorded in history. We watched the horrifying pictures on the news of a once beautiful valley known as Paradise burn to the ground. We watched in horror the people trapped on top of their cars with fires raging on both sides of them. We watched helplessly while their town was being decimated by a ravaging campfire. Most of Paradise, was dead end streets and only four roads could lead you out of town. People were trapped and sadly, 86 people lost their lives and over 13,900
homes were reported destroyed. Paradise quickly became a town that was seemingly without hope. Today, there are only ashes and remnants remaining of homes that once were. That is until one man of faith, saw a picture online, of one single chimney standing alone in the ashes of ruins.
When artist Steve Grammar, saw that chimney online, he saw something no one else had seen. He saw a blank canvas and a picture of hope to be shared. Steve, with the permission of the owners, went and painted a beautiful mural on that white brick chimney. He saw an opportunity to give the people of Paradise some renewed hope. Steve Grammar wanted them to have something beautiful in the place where their ruins remained. After painting the one mural, the people of Paradise saw the artwork’s splendor and they asked Steve to not to stop painting. The mural was so beautiful, and the people of Paradise were so encouraged by Steve Grammar’s God-given talent they felt hope was alive in them once again. They found themselves rejoicing in the artistic abilities of his painting with the cans of spray paint.
They felt such joy from the murals that they wanted more from him. So, Steve Grammar, did just that, he painted them more murals. He painted them on the ruins of partially standing walls. He painted one on a church baptistry that remained sitting on the ground surrounded in scraps and ashes. Then he painted some of them on the abandoned and burnt vehicles that remained. His artwork was mostly paintings of women. Steve said he thought of the love story from the book of Solomon that is written in the Bible. Steve, with his artistic talents, found a way to bring the beauty of hope from the ashes of despair for the hurting and devastated people of Paradise California.
In a similar way, as the artist Steve Grammar, looked and saw a blank canvas on that lonely chimney, a canvas that no one else could see; God, in the same way sees us as His blank canvas. He sees something in us that we or no one else can ever see. When God looks upon us, He doesn’t see our lives as ashes of ruins. No, instead God, our Creator, the greatest artist of all time, also sees a beautiful blank canvas of hope. When he looks at us, he doesn’t see our created failures standing in the tragedies and ruins of our lives. He sees only the beauty of hope that can rise from the ashes left standing there.
When we surrender our lives to the One True God of this universe, He will reach down and artistically paint a masterpiece from the fire ravaged ruins of sin in our lives. He takes our mess and He shapes it into something so magnificent and so beautiful. No one except God can do that. Only God can trade beauty for ashes. I know this is true because I am one of those messes He picked up from the ashes of ruins. God has taken my sin scorched life and turned it into His masterpiece of beauty. He restored my soul and I now have hope in the place of my ashed ruins. I have peace in the place of my sorrow. I have joy in the midst of my pain. I have love living in the place where only death once lived. Only God by His Son, Jesus Christ, can take our lives and restore them to a place of love and hope and real beauty.
Some people say, that the town of Paradise was not prepared for the fires that swooped in and destroyed homes and lives that day. Others say that they were prepared because of the drills they had practiced and the number of lives that were saved. The people of Paradise had practiced drills, and they believed they were ready to escape in the case of a fire emergency. The only problem was they had never practiced or prepared for a fire with the gale-forced winds and the rapid pace of embers that blew and spread so quickly. I want to ask you, are you prepared for that day? Are you ready for the unknown time of His rapid return? When we see Jesus coming in the clouds, in the blink of an eye, to take His children home will you be prepared? That is what the Bible describes will happen. In the blink of an eye Jesus will return to take His children to their eternal home.
I Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For thetrumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
The Coming of the Lord…I Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Only those who have accepted Christ in their hearts can be called His children. And only His children will be saved from the fire and eternal destruction. Will you be one of His children? Do you have hope of an eternal future with Christ? If you are not sure, then please email me and let me help you settle your doubt. It is never too late to give God, the ashes of your life. That means that today is the day of salvation. The Bible says it is appointed once for a man to die. So, if you still have life and breath it is not too late to surrender your will over to God.
The artist Steve Grammar understood where hope lies. He knew the love of God and he wanted to share it with the hopeless people in Paradise California. I also know where hope lies. I also want to share that hope with you and tell you that God has a plan for you. He wants to give you an eternal future of hope in Jesus Christ. His desire is to paint on your blank canvas and create beauty from the ashes of your life. My hope lies in Him. My hope is that you will be ready.
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver
There is an old familiar saying that most of us learned as children. The first time I remember hearing it was in elementary school. I was being bullied by a boy and a group of classmates. This boy had said some really hurtful things that devastated me. To this day, I can still hear his words speak to me, “You are so ugly and stupid…your face looks like an Apple…“Apple Head, Apple Head” he kept saying. I had a heart shaped face and wide cheekbones and although I knew I was cute, I never felt pretty enough.I liked this boy who was picking on me. In fact, just the day before this event happened, I had given him back his love note to me. You know the one… The classic, I love you. Do you love me? Circle Yes or No. I had circled Yes and was so tickled to have him as a boyfriend. However, on this particular day, He was not so likeable to me. He was so mean and relentless. He even went so far as to attack my last name Crutcher…”Crutches for Crutcher” he would say. Taunting me with his words. as all the other kids laughed and pointed at me. I went home crying to my mom that day. That was the first time I had ever heard that old familiar saying, ”sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” My mom told me to go back to school the next day and share this old saying with this boy and all his mean friends. She comforted me and said I was very pretty and that I was not to let his words hurt me. The next day, I could not get to school fast enough to stand up to him and tell him his words had not hurt me. I wanted to believe what my mom had told me. I tried to convince myself his words had not mattered to me. But they did. They had hurt me quiet deeply. The truth was I carried alot of self doubt within me. I was insecure about my wide cheekbones and heart-shaped face. I didn’t like my last name. I felt ugly as I compared myself to other girls. He didn’t know this about me. He was just being a boy showing off for the attention of his classmates. The fact was He had really hurt me. I carried his venomous words with me for a long time. All the way into my adulthood. When you feel the stinger of the most popular boys hateful words, as the words from someone you liked as a boyfriend. That sting hurts for quiet some time. No matter how tough or what saying we use to defend ourselves, the fact still remains all words coming from our lips carry with them a great power to hurt others. In the book of James, Chapter 3 verse 8-9 we read,
(ESV) but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
Wow! James compares our words to a restless evil, a deadly poison. He is basically saying to us that we speak using both sides of our mouth. In one aspect, we praise Jesus and give glory to God, and in the other aspect we use our words to curse at the very people God has created in the likeness of His own image. Notice James also said, no human being can tame the tongue. We may not be able to change the power with which our tongue can speak but we can certainly change the way we speak with the power of our tongue! God has given us so many tools by which we can gain wisdom and insight about speaking with words. One example gives us a beautiful visual of apples made of gold being surrounded or set into a shiny setting of pure silver…it comes from Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” The NIV Bible says it this way, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply —and how good is a timely word!”
What we glean from here is to be mindful not just of what we say but be mindful in our timing and delivery of how we use our words. Our words have power! Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Our words when spoken graciously, are as powerful as health to our body and sweetness to our soul. Another tool we can find in scripture is that we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak. It’s found in the book of James, Chapter 1 verse 19. It says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”. How difficult is that! How quickly we all want to speak and be heard and to stand up for ourselves to get our points across.I believe the greatest tool the Bible gives us we find in Galatians 5…in the fruit of the Spirit, or the “God-fruit” as I like to call it. If only we could use the “God-fruit” of Self-Control, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and lead our words, then our tongues could be tamed by God and become the most powerful and aptly spoken words in any language. The power of the tongue would be aptly directed for the use of building up others with the love of God.Our words are powerful! They do hurt others. And despite what saying we may have learned as children and even taught to our own children, we must be consciously aware at all times of their power and the poison our mouths can so easily spew out. Let us all walk quietly, in Self-control led by the Holy Spirit, and be sure to release the aptly spoken apples of gold in a beautiful setting of silver.