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Bernard Martin, writes the following story in his book If God Does Not Die.
One day a pastor was called from a children's party at the Sunday school to visit a young woman whose world had collapsed into an acute depression following the death of her husband in an auto accident. She had withdrawn from everyone and shut herself in her bedroom with the blinds pulled, and she didn't communicate with anyone, including her children, because she said they reminded her of her dead husband. The minister left the party in a show of confetti which the children had thrown at him. He brushed it out of his hair and from his coat as he prepared to call on the depressed woman.
When he arrived at the woman's house, he entered her darkened bedroom and told her who he was, but there was no response. He could faintly see her pitiful form lying motionless on the bed. He tried to carry on a conversation with her, but she was unresponsive. He reached out to touch her hand, but it lay lifeless in his. So he just sat with her in the dark silence for a time.
Then he decided to act. He wanted to see the woman face to face,
to read Scripture and pray. So he turned on the bedside lamp.
The woman blinked and stared at him blankly. As he took out his Testament which he carried in his handkerchief pocket of his jacket,
and opened it, confetti fell from it all over the bed. After an anxious and flustered moment, the minister burst into laughter.
And that did it. First a smile appeared on the woman's face, and then she broke into quiet laughter. She reached out her hands to the minister in the joy of resurrection. They prayed together and she left her darkness to return to the light.
John Bisagno former Pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church tells the story of his coming there to candidate for the position of pastor many years ago. He said that as he entered the auditorium it was dimly lit, with just a few people huddled together. They were singing some old slow funeral type song that was depressing.
Later that day he took a walk in downtown Houston and came upon a jewelry store. It was some sort of grand opening and there were bright lights and a greeter at the door to welcome you in with a smile. Inside there was a celebration going on. There were refreshments and people having a good time talking and laughing with each other. They welcomed him and offered him some punch. He said that after attending both the church and the jewelry store, if the jewelry store had offered an invitation, he would have joined the jewelry store!
Mark Buchanan writes;
ďFasting churns the stuff up from the depths. Is there anger in me? I can usually control that with a burger and fries Am I resentful, irritated, overly ambition, fearful? I can smoother that with pizza. Am I depressed or embittered, suffering from a sense of lifeís unfairness? I can artificially perk myself up with a Mars bar.Ē
WE do that at times Ė use food to deal with lifeÖ
Whoever Takes the Son
Many years ago, there was a very wealthy man who shared a passion for art collecting with his son. They had priceless works adorning the walls of their family estate.
One day, the nation was at war and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His son had died. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with sadness. The joy of the season had vanished with the death of his son.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. He opened the door and a soldier, with a large package in his hands greeted him, ďI was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.Ē
The soldier mentioned that he was an artist and then gave the old man the package. It was a portrait of the manís son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young manís face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man hung the portrait over the fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars worth of art.
His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces of art for which museums around the world clamoured.
Half a year later, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the upcoming auction. According to the will of the old man, all the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received the greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the worldís most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled that day.
The auction began with a painting that was not on anyoneís museum list. It was the painting of the manís son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. ďWho will open the bidding with $100?Ē No one spoke. Finally someone said, ďWho cares about that painting. Itís just a picture of his son. Letís move on to the good stuff.Ē
The auctioneer responded, ďNo, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?Ē Finally, a neighbour of the old man offered $50 dollars....
I sat down and looked through some magazines this past week. I discovered that if I want to feel right, I need to get a NordicTrack. I donít have a NordicTrack, just a membership down at the gym, so I suddenly realized that I didnít feel as healthy as I thought I did.
I then read that if I wanted to be stylish, I would need to buy a Toyota Camry. Our family van was in the shop, so I had been driving our old Mercury Sable. That felt bad enough. Real men drive SUVs or bright red sports cars. Iíve got four kids, so I donít have the luxury of driving what real men drive. So I found out that I couldnít be stylish with the cars I owned.
Then I saw that if I wanted to really feel the spring season, I had to dress for the spring season, and the only place for that was at Dillardís. I knew I wouldnít have a chance to go to Dillardís that week. Suddenly the beautiful weather just didnít seem that beautiful. I just wasnít dressed for it.
It didnít get any better. I learned that I needed to be opening my mail with knife from Oneida. I only had a two-dollar letter opener from Office Depot. Now even my mail was disappointing. On top of that, I discovered that I couldnít have a good meal if I wasnít in Texas Ė at least not a meal that would satisfy me. So much for my Lean Cuisines. Then I read that if I wanted to be a man, at least a manlier man than my neighbor, I had to drive a Yard-Man mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine. At least it was cheaper than a new SUV.
I like my house until I saw the new developmentís ad. I thought my family and I were close until I realized we didnít have season passes to the amusement park. I even thought I loved my wife, but since I hadnít bought her a diamond necklace from the jewelry store, I was informed that I didnít. I found out that I canít even be romantic with my wife unless we use Sylvania light bulbs. Wouldnít you know, we have GE.
By the time I got finished with those magazines, I wasnít just depressed Ė I needed counseling. Ever felt that way? We all have. Itís the sad fruit of living life that covets.
James Emery White, You Can Experience an Authentic Life (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), 139-140
*Discover the power of encouragement. God wants you to be encouraged, and He wants you to be an encourager to others.
*It was on March 23, 1945, during one of the last major offensives of WWII. General Dwight Eisenhower was walking near the Rhine River and fell into step beside a young infantryman. The young GI seemed depressed, and Ike asked, "How are you feeling, son?" "General, I'm awful nervous. -- I don't feel so good."
*And Eisenhower replied, "Well, you and I are a good pair then, because I'm nervous too. Maybe if we just walk along together to the river we'll be good for each other."
(KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 1891 - SOURCE: Reader's Digest - TITLE: The Fine Art Of Encouragement - AUTHOR: Mark Littleton - DATE: 11/1/89)
Itís something like what Coach John McKay of USC said to his team after they had been humiliated 51-0 by Notre Dame. McKay came into the locker room and saw a group of beaten worn-out and thoroughly depressed young football players who were not accustomed to losing. He stood up on a bench and said, "Men, letís keep this in perspective. There are 800 million Chinese who donít even know this game was played." Thatís what you call perspective.
SOURCE: Steve Farrar, "Family Survival in the American Jungle," 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 40.
Does it help to think that God delights in you? Think about it! I donít care how ugly you think you are. You are Godís delight. I donít care how fat you are. You are Godís delight. Even if your marriage seems such a struggle. You are Godís delight. Even if you are divorced, your self-esteem wrecked. You are Godís delight. Even if you are so depressed your life feels like a black hole. You are Godís delight. Even if you threw a pity party and nobody showed up. You are Godís delight. God doesnít abandon you because your business collapsed. You are Godís delight. God doesnít leave you because youíre face is all wrinkled. You are G...
Some time ago I was reading about the 18th century German sculptor Johann Heinrich von Dannecker. His skills were impressive. He could bring stone to life with his tools. At the height of his powers, he wanted to do something special with his gifts -- he wanted to shape a statue of Christ that would stand out as a witness to his world. For two years he chiselled and scraped and polished the marble, till he was certain that it carried the likeness of his Lord. But he wanted to test his work on eyes that wouldn’t lie. So he went out to the street, and brought in a young girl. He took her into his studio, and he set her down in front of the shrouded stone. Uncovering it, he asked her, Do you know who this is? No, sir! she replied. But he must be a very great man. And Dannecker knew that he’d failed. The statue was good enough for kings and nobles, but it wasn’t good enough to speak the word about Christ.
He was discouraged. He was disheartened. He was depressed. But he knew that he had to try again. So he set his hand to the task. Six years it took him this time! Every day, painstakingly, shaping and carving. Finally it was done. And again, he brought in a child as his first critic. He took off the shroud, and asked her gently, Who is that? Legend has it that tears came to her eyes as she recognized Jesus. It was enough. Dannecker had finished his task. He had created his masterpiece. He had given visible shape to his faith. And later, to a friend, he told the secret of those last six years. It was as if, he said, Christ had joined him daily in his little room. He felt the nearness of his Lord. He sensed the glory of his Presence. All Dannecker had to do, really, was to transfer the vision of Christ that he received to the block of marble.
It’s a powerful story, isn’t it? But there’s more to it. There’s another chapter that comes later, one so striking that it actually makes John’s vision come alive.
Some years later, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte saw Dannecker’s work. He was very impressed. He sent for the sculptor, and he had a commission for him -- Make me a statue of the goddess Venus for the Louvre! he said. Quite an honor! To be chosen as the creator of a work of art like that! Who could refuse? But you know what?! Dannecker did! He refused the commission. He gave up that honor. And you know why? This is what he told Napoleon:
"A man who has seen Christ can never employ his gifts in carving out a pagan goddess!"
Easter is so much more than learning how to face death without fear, with courage and dignity. After all, even philosophers, poets, and scientists can do that. I remember the astronomer Carl Sagan mention in an interview that he was looking forward to death as “the last great adventure.” Walt Whitman, who wrote a beautiful poem upon the death of Lincoln entitled, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” wrestled with the thought of death in his verses. In the end, he decided that all we can do is embrace it like a friend: “Come, sweet, soothing death. Undulate around me, arriving, arriving..” His contemporary, the poet William Cullen Bryant wrote what some have called the most beautiful American poem, “Thanatopsis,” (which is Greek for “A View of Death”). And what was his view of death? In beautiful, flowing verse with elegant words, his bottom line was that the best we can hope for is that our body, placed in the earth, will by its decay help some other form of life spring forth. Our death helps produce life.
I’m sorry. No matter how elegant the language, that message is depressing. God has so much more planned for us that merely to be fertilizer for ferns. That doesn’t dignify human beings. Jesus, however, gives us the highest dignity; he rose from death as our REDEEMER TO GIVE YOU ETERNAL VICTORY.