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.