Tag Archives: doubt

Your Place in the Cosmos: The Parable of the Artist

Once upon a time an Artist originated a stunning work of art. Mixing various media such as sculpture, water color, oil, ink, movement, texture, and light, the Artist created a piece the likes of which no one had before beheld. Pleased, The Artist displayed the piece prominently at a cross-roads for all to see. Travelers trekked from afar to admire the piece, which ignited in them a burning desire to create also. When this happened, the Artist, standing off unnoticed, bowed his head and smiled.

Strangely the Artist did not scribble his signature on the piece, believing his authoritative strokes, unique colors, and complex designs spoke for him. The Artist also left his work untitled hoping those drawn to it would christen it. Soon enough it became known as The Creation. The Artist took great pleasure in the joy his work brought and so scattered smaller pieces of art throughout the world. Predictably Art flourished.

For a time.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah: 39:1-41:16

Ephesians 1:1-23

Psalm 66:1-20

Proverbs 23:26-28

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah: 39:1-41:16: I laughed when I read chapter 39:1-8. King Hezekiah makes a dumb move and shows his enemies all his treasure and secrets. As a result, God comes to him through Isaiah and makes one of the easiest predictions ever. You gave Babylon the map to your palace and key to your house. Now they will come and steal all you have amassed and worked for. Even your grandchildren will be taken away.

Hezekiah’s response? I’m so glad it won’t happen in my time.

How often does God use the natural consequences of our dumb choices as punishment for not obeying and listening to him? And how often do we continue in our ignorance simply because we won’t experience those consequences and that wrath immediately?

Ephesians 1:1-23: This chapter contains one of Paul’s beautiful prayers. One of the things this prayer (and his others) challenged me with is how large and mighty it is. He does not pray for the Ephesians’ physical ailments or anything daily or mundane (though these things are good to give to God). He prays instead that we can know God, his glorious gifts, his deep love, and his promises. When I read these prayers, how little mine seem. This, this makes me want to pray for a resurrection of my faith and for the great things of God. Then maybe my cold and cough will wither in comparison.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

After time, however, Art Critics thrived and complained that The Creation, and all of The Artist’s other works, carried no signature. Thus Controversy as to the true identity of the Creator of The Creation also flourished.

Eventually people not only Denied that the The Artist conceived The Creation but further Claimed that their artists had–artists with names such as Baal, Pan, Zeus, Mother Nature, and Chance. Rivalries bloomed. Schools of thought evolved. Many revered The Creation rather than The Artist. Others rose up and reasoned that, because no one had seen The Artist or any artist, that no Artist existed. Instead, they argued, “Our fear and ignorance invented the idea of an Artist to help us understand The Creation.” But they couldn’t explain how The Creation originated. Some argued that since no Artist exists The Creation must have Spontaneously flared into being.

This View ultimately won the day and The Creation evolved into an Object of study rather than an awe inspiring work of Art. Its paint, canvas, frame, material, and techniques were studied, tested, weighed, categorized, and controlled. Unfortunately, to those studying it, The Creation lost its Beauty and Wonder, becoming a conquered object. The Critics further erected a wall around The Creation and, to appease those still traveling to see it, made available, at a small cost, blurred prints. Consequently all of the other unique works of The Artist became objects of study as well, only valued if they served a purpose The Critics supported. Art as The Artist designed it died.

Now The Artist wept bitterly. But not because of a lack of recognition for his work. For had he wanted Fame he would have fixed his signature unmistakably on his every piece. The Artist mourned because his Original Idea, for all of those who admired The Creation to become intimate with his ways as artists themselves, miscarried. Decay flourished.

Inconceivably The Artist bowed his head, smiled and returned to The Creation determined to recreate and reinspire Art. In a final, powerful, artistic stroke The Artist sculpted A Cross that blended the image of his love for all artists with the pain The Artist felt when Art in them died. A small but unstoppable revolution followed. The Artist established an Artist Colony designed to incite all to learn Art. Lesser artists then became Art teachers passing on the Wonder and Technique of The Artist to all future generations. Today that Colony of Artists stands in the Crossroads–commissioned to Declare the love and wonder of The Artist himself.

“‘To whom will you compare me?

Or who is my equal?‘ says the Holy One.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:

Who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one,

and calls them each by name.”

What is our place in the cosmos? We belong in the heart and hand of the Artist. We too are the work of The Artist’s hand and he calls each of us by name as well.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. Which part of creation points you to God?
  3. What do you most often pray for?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt

As a child, I grew up in a pretty unconventional church. They were one of the flagship Jesus Movement churches in the Denver area. Every week, countless hippies gave their lives to Christ. And on Sunday nights, they were baptized.

One Sunday night, a man in a wheelchair wanted to be baptized. I’m not sure why he was confined to a wheelchair—all I knew was that he couldn’t walk. Well, once our pastors dunked him in the baptism tank, the man sprang out of the water jumping up and down, splashing and yelling “I’m healed!”

I remember the moment vividly because I was sitting on the front row with my best friend Kent. I was in the first grade at the time.

About 10 years ago I bumped into my friend Kent. We sat down for a cup of coffee and then he looked at me and asked, “Mike, do you remember that time we were sitting in church on a Sunday night when a man in the wheelchair was healed?” He then recounted the events exactly as I had remembered them.

Stop!

As you read this, what’s stirring inside you? Do you believe me…or are doubts swirling around in your head?

If you’re wrestling with doubts, you’re in good company because that’s one of the subjects in our reading today.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 37:1-38:31
Matthew 28:1-20
Psalm 34:11-22
Proverbs 9:9-10

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Matthew 28:1-15. Like we discussed yesterday, Jesus was a true revolutionary. So who were the first people to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead? Two women (verse 1). In a culture that viewed women as inferior to men, this was pretty significant. But also notice that Jesus appeared to the two women before he appeared to the disciples. A woman’s testimony was considered unreliable in the culture of that time. This is one more reason to believe the Bible—and Jesus’ resurrection—is true. No Christian at that time would have made up a story about Jesus appearing to two women first. No one would have believed that.

The New Bible Dictionary offers an interesting insight into this account of the resurrection: “This is not an account of how Jesus rose from the dead but of how his resurrection was discovered. The miraculous removal of the stone was not in order to let Jesus out but to let the women in to see the empty tomb.”

In verse 10, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” In light of abandoning him, Jesus was telling his disciples he was okay with them.

Matthew 28:16-20. This passage is loaded with meaning. Verses 18-20 form the Great Commission. But prefacing it, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He can do whatever he wants—with nature and human nature. Jesus is in complete control.

The wording of verse 18 echoes Daniel 7:14: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The phrase in the Great Commission that is often overlooked (in my experience), is the command to teach Jesus’ disciples to obey. We receive salvation as a gift of grace. We can do nothing to earn it. But Jesus loves us too much to leave us as we are. He wants us to grow in our relationship with him and in our obedience to him.

Psalm 34:14. This phrase really speaks to me: “seek peace and pursue it.” In order to attain peace, it seems we must seek it and pursue it. Peace don’t just happen.

Proverbs 9:9. What great insight! Wise people are always learning, always growing. Perhaps that’s partly what makes them wise. But this also speaks to an attitude—a commitment to grow, and the humility to learn.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

One of the most incisive comments I’ve seen in Scripture is that after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples worshiped him “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Did you get that? Some of Jesus’ disciples doubted the resurrection—and they weren’t even criticized!

I’m the kind of person who at times prefers denial over reality. Rather than doubt God’s love for me, I suppress it. Rather than wrestle over the reality of miracles in Jesus’ day, I ignore it.

I’m sure the Scripture passage above includes Thomas, the patron saint of doubters. Yet legend (and some historical evidence) tells us that God used him make disciples in India.

So what does this tell us?

  1. God can handle our doubts. There’s no need to hide them from him because he sees them anyway.
  2. Our doubt doesn’t mean we don’t believe. In his book, Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey says that were there no room for doubt, there would be no room for faith, either. He further writes in his book Reaching for the Invisible God, “Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith, and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose it for what it is: not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.”
  3. Our doubt doesn’t preclude us from being used by God. Thomas serves as a good example for all of us.

Rather than suppress your doubts or allow them to paralyze you, why not bring them to Jesus? He can handle it!

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. In what areas of your life do you struggle with acknowledging that Jesus is in control? Why is it a struggle?
  2. To what extent are you committed to learning and growing?
  3. What doubts do you wrestle with? How has God used them to build authentic faith in you?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


[1]D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed., Mt 28:1 (Leicester, England;  Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

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