The Mountains Melt

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice,

let the many coastlands be glad.

Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him;

righteousness and justice are the formation of His throne.

Fire goes before Him

and burns up His adversaries all around.

His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,

before the Lord all of the earth.

The heavens proclaim His righteousness

and all the peoples see His glory.

All worshippers of images are put to shame

who make their boasts to worthless idols;

worship Him, all you gods!

Psalm 97: 1-7

The Mountains Melt

Lord – a person who has authority, control or power over others; a master, a chief, a ruler.

Philippians 2:9-11

God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him a name that is above every name.

The word ‘name’ in this passage is referring to more than the one Mary gave him at his birth. Jesus, while being a name that raises hope, strikes fear, and is often surrounded by controversy, it is not above every other name. The name being referred to here is Jesus’s title, his position. Jesus is the Christ, the I am, the Most High. He is Lord.

How frequently have you used ‘lord’ in the last week? “Dear, lord….” “Oh, lord!” “Lordy, lordy!” Too many to count? What do you mean when you say that word? Do you even know? ‘Lord’ is not a convenient term that was coined to add emphasis to a statement of surprise or frustration, it is an authoritative term carrying serious weight. Those who carry the title of “Lord’ own unquestionable authority over people, places or both. Those of nearly every faith assign God, alone the title of Lord. To imply another being, human at that, is ‘Lord’ is blasphemous. To make a statement like that in 3 A.D. Jerusalem is a death wish.

Carry that weight of the position over into this verse. God is making an undeniably clear statement, Jesus is Lord. God. The one who is Lord Himself. He says Jesus is Lord. The game just changed.

I do not fault a person using a “curse word” around me, provided that use the word in context. When you say a word synonymous with feces, make sure what you are referring to is logically associated with fecal matter. Otherwise, you just sound like an idiot. This is applicable to any word. Words that carry supreme authority should be used with extreme caution and respect.

Many people today claim the position of being Christian, not really understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being Christian is not a matter of paying dues, associating with one group while avoiding others. You cannot claim Jesus as your Savior without also claiming Him as your Lord.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father. Matthew 7:21

Christ, Kairos, YHWH, the Most High,

Jesus Christ is Lord.

All will acknowledge Him, whether willingly or not.

Who is He to you?

A City on a Hill

A City on a Hill

 

Newly finished because planting season is here, check out the painting inspired by our series ‘A City on a Hill’ from earlier this spring!

Matthew 5:14-16

I’m pretty sure this is the riskiest painting I’ve ever completed. For starters, I stretched this canvas myself, the first time I’ve built my canvas since high school! Since I’ve been working with upholstered furniture for the last ten years, the art of stretching fabric is very familiar. Next came the risk of different materials and methods. I chose to paint directly on the raw canvas, no Gesso or under-painting.

A common thread in my work is deep symbolism, ‘A City on a Hill’ is no different. Each detail in the painting is meticulously chosen to represent something specific.

North Ridge Church

 

The first image  created in this piece was the ‘hill’. At first, I was hesitant to use a mountain landscape in a painting I’d call ‘A City on a Hill’ because the reference seemed cliché’ and too easy. In the end, I stuck with the mountains to directly reference the family of believers with whom I worship and serve together; North Ridge Church.

 

With the ‘hill’ resolved, my next step was to tackle the ‘city’.

A couple of summers ago, I drew during a series we called ‘Planted’ at North Ridge. One particular message focused on how God places us in a specific place with a specific purpose, to build a city within a city. With that in mind, I could have allowed the mountain range to be both the hill and the city, but that interpretation would have been lost to people unfamiliar with that series.

Instead, I chose to incorporate another re-occurring theme in my work, the use of foreign language that literally translates into the word or idea I aim to convey. This time I stretched my use of  linguistics to include Japanese, selecting the symbol that communicates ‘light’. Referencing ‘light’ instead of ‘city’ captures both analogies in the words of Matthew, the city on a hill and the lamp on a pedestal.

These first details; the hill, the city, and the light are all God-designed and God-established entities so I wanted to create them in a way that acknowledged His hand. At the time I was developing this composition I was also starting a vegetable garden from seed; and that’s when the inspiration hit, dirt. Dirt; the original earthen material, one of God’s first creations. Dirt naturally connects our minds with God’s hand in creation so it became the ideal material to use as paint in ‘A City on a Hill’. This was my first attempt at using dirt as paint, so I was nervous from the start. I mixed a saturated paste from leftover potting soil in a plastic dish and used a bamboo brush to apply a thick layer on the canvas. After a couple days drying time, the majority of the dirt held, so I excitedly moved forward with the piece!

I dry-brushed the blue mountain and foggy-looking landscape, then complimented the blue with a red-orange, sunset sky before inspiration struck once again. At this point, I had one step left in the piece as I had it conceived. After seeing the dirt and color as it stood, I felt it was lacking. Bring on risk number three, a white Gesso wash. I often use an ink wash with India ink on mounting board in my work. My hypothesis was that mixing Gesso in the same method would bring similar results on raw canvas. The risk paid off. Using the wash, I dabbed heavy brushes full on the top edge of the canvas frame, allowing the fluid white to stream down the face of the piece and create organic white lines. A “happy accident” (to quote Bob Ross) was that, since the blue mountain had not dried, the white drips pulled some of the blue color into itself. Some drips mixed into a lighter blue, others pulled blue down with it while keeping some of the white hue separate. The result (which I am very happy with) took me to the scripture that inspired my name, James 1:17-18.

Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.

The Gesso wash created a white rim (the heavens) along the top and runs down to infiltrate the dirt and acrylic paint on the canvas, solidifying the dirt and enhancing the flat blue so that it becomes a very interesting focal point int he piece.

One last detail to add, this one the riskiest of all but the one that makes this piece work. Using a serrated steak knife, I stabbed a hole in the top right of the  canvas and sawed at the threads until I exposed a jagged hole. Cutting this hole did not loosen the canvas as much as I expected. The areas I thought I’d have to go back and tighten up remained flat and rigid. The piece was now complete.

As you take in the piece, your eye is drawn to the grossly damaged corner. I image this detail will capture eyes from across the room and make people ask themselves “What is going on there?” or “Did someone vandalize that painting?”. Whatever the question, it is one they can’t escape. Therein lies the point. The frayed cut will capture your eye and refuse to let it free. You must force yourself to look at the rest of the composition instead of its wound.

A city on a hill………..cannot be hidden.

Rest

4-21-13, The Authority of Jesus, Rest on Jesus' Authority

Rest in the absolute power and absolute authority of Jesus. Jesus failed if his mission was absolute peace on earth.  – two phrases that hit me like a 2 x 4 when they left Dean’s lips. Most striking for where I am at in my life; rest. Matthew continues showing us examples of Jesus’s divine authority over sickness, debilitation and death in chapter 9. After each miracle, Jesus is clear to ask its witnesses not to speak of it again. Seems a bit counter-intuitive for a discipleship mission objective. We can understand this request better when we put it into period context. Countless impostors roam the streets, showing off their tricks to gullible citizens in the marketplace. These guys have a good act, a little diversion here, some slight-of-hand there, a rehearsed sales pitch and voila; you gain a following. Jesus does not want himself associated with these pretenders. He wants followers who pursue him for who he is, not people looking for entertainment.

What today’s message and drawing communicate is that many have turned following Jesus into precisely what Jesus disassociated himself from. We know how to put on a good show. Our bright colors, modern music, and progressive attitude draw huge crowds. We know how to plan a great party that gets people walking through the door, but if lives are not changing what purpose does the church serve?

Authority over death, disease, your comings and goings, your sickness all rests on Jesus’ shoulders because his shoulders bore the cross and he did not fail. Along with the aspects of life you’re comfortable acknowledging divine authority to control are the areas that aren’t so easy to keep from trying to control yourself; your marriage, your finances, your business, your whole life.

The word across today’s drawing may be familiar from the drawing two weeks ago, it is the word ‘authority’ written in Greek. Jesus’ torso supports ‘authority’ on his shoulders. You the viewer are the figure chillaxin’ on the theta, resting on Jesus’ authority over our circumstances. Our attention is directed above, away from Jesus’ supporting frame. If we are not careful, our rest will turn into complacency and we’ll take Jesus’ authority over negative circumstances for granted while trying to usurp his authority over the rest of our lives.

Rest in Jesus’ authority, but don’t miss it.

The Healer

The Healer

 

Moving on after the Sermon on the Mount, we’re diving into Matthew 8 with a new series entitled “The Authority of Jesus”. Over the next two chapters, Matthew writes using a cyclical format of miracles and discipleship as he shows us Jesus’s ministry. Matthew is teaching more than a spiritual curriculum, he is showing us Jesus was (and still is) more than a great teacher, he is also our healer. If we accept Jesus as teacher, but do not acknowledge him as healer, we  reduce him to just another great mind and are not following him.

At the start of chapter 8, Jesus heals a leper. The obvious scandal with their interaction is the risk Jesus takes by approaching the diseased man (then furthermore,  touching him!). The language used by the leper is easily missed. The diseased man, his body literally falling apart, does not ask to be healed; he asked Jesus if he could be cleansed. Leprosy was not only indicative of a physical disease in this time period, it was also believed to reflect a spiritual deformity. Lepers who braved the local market were required to announce their presence by yelling the word “UNCLEAN” wherever they went as a warning to the public. Jesus intentionally identifies with the unclean man in order to make him clean. He offers the same opportunity to each of us.

Today’s drawing is very personal to me. It is also quite simple, two words and an icon. Across the page, in the foreground, is the word ‘authority’ written in Greek. Jesus holds supreme authority over the earth and all its inhabitants. The middle ground hold a second word, ‘healed’, also written in Greek. The icon in the background is the medic-alert tag I no longer have to wear, and the broken chain that once suspended it on my neck. This December I will celebrate ten years without seizures or anti-convulsion medication because Jesus identified with me.