Idol-Worshiping Sheep

This is the second part of a two-part series. Your may read part one here. You are strongly encouraged to read the part one before proceeding.


“The Human Heart is a factory of idols.”

– John Calvin

A few years back, I completed a custom painting for a baby boy’s nursery; one that would complement the minimalist style, warm color scheme, and the simplistic, one-dimensional pattern of the bedding set of the new baby’s African Animals-themed nursery.

After creating the landscape and sun, mimicking the simple, leafy shapes from the bedding’s pattern, I created a one-dimensional, dark silhouette of a giraffe.

Lastly, using a wide, fanned brush, I added a slight hint of depth to the painting by dragging layers of cream, coral, and red paint up from the bottom edge of the painting.

DSC01117 (3)

Contrast my very simplistic painting of the giraffe with the intricate, detailed painting of the leopard that my mother created and which I used in my last article.

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While both paintings were created for very different purposes, my mother’s painting of a leopard is, quite clearly, far more representative of one of God’s complex creatures.

My painting of the giraffe, on the other hand, is but a shadow of this truly magnificent creature.

 

Predators in the Pulpits and Prey in the Pews

An even starker contrast between the two paintings is the subject of each: one a predator, the other one, prey.

In my last article, I discussed the concerning phenomenon of authoritarianism, of predatory leadership afflicting some Evangelical churches in America. This phenomenon appears to be on the rise and, since my last article was published, I have learned is far more widespread than I had initially suspected.

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the authoritarian church leader as [1]:

  1. Idolatry: “[T]he sinful desire to always be in control, especially the control of the lives of God’s sheep. Such sin is but a thinly veiled attempt to play God for His people. And make no mistake, such men become as God to their flock. It is hardly surprising that pastors with such a sinful tendency will eventually attain near papal infallibility in their churches [and beyond]. Paul’s command to young Titus in 2:15 (‘…rebuke with all authority…do not let anyone despise you’) is their ‘life verse’ in practice if not in precept. Usually this idolatrous sin of always needing to be in control is accompanied by a wrathful, berating, anxiety-producing spirit as the controlling leader will tolerate no loose electrons in his personal universe of control (Cf. Ezekiel 34:4 & ff.; Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:3). Such self-deified leaders produce congregations which are more afraid of displeasing the leaders than they are of displeasing their Lord and Savior. Men who must be ‘God’ to their people ironically lose the authority of God’s Holy Spirit by their sin. Then their God-given authority is replaced by fleshly control maintained by manipulation, intimidation, verbal coercion and the ecclesiastical version of pulling rank (e.g., ‘Now, I’m your elder and you had better do this, or else…’!) The Apostle John’s description of Diotrophes seems to fall under such a category of sin (3 John 9-10).”
  2. Prayerlessness: “[A]uthoritarian pastors and leaders do not rely upon prayer for their people as a primary instrument ordained by God for the edification and protection of His people. As a result, they verbally coerce and bully their people into conformity… Such fleshly shepherds expend far more labor scolding, threatening, manipulating, confronting, ‘counseling’, and ‘EXERCISING DISCIPLINE’ to get their people to knuckle under to their will.”
  3. Unbelief: “[M]any leaders in churches do not believe the declarative statements and promises of God contained in His Word…  In this pattern of unbelief, following hard on the heels of their own prayerlessness, authoritarian shepherds develop the mindset, ‘If I don’t make them do this, they won’t!’ or ‘If I don’t make them do this, who will?’ They really do not believe that Christ will shepherd His sheep and the Holy Spirit guide and convict the saints while they are away from the human shepherd… Sadly, such pastors and elders create a ‘police-state mentality’ in their congregations: everyone’s life is carefully monitored and scrutinized for any deviation, and any ‘sins’ or questionable activities are to be reported to the church leadership immediately.”
  4. Lack of love for the sheep:Many pastors love to study, preach, teach and manage but they just do not like the people. Even their time counseling people is only to ‘fix’ problems that might mess up the church. Compare such attitudes with that of our loving and compassionate Lord for the sheep-like sinners of His earthly ministry (cf. Matt. 9:36 and 14:14; Mark 1:29-41 and 10:21). Do you see how far removed our Lord’s shepherd ministry is from many pastoral examples today?
  5. Pride: “[A]t root, all the above mentioned sins of office bearers stem from an inflated sense of their own importance. John Calvin once observed that from the king on his throne to the scullery maid in her kitchen, each of us harbors a kingdom in our hearts. Such is the sinful pride of the human heart… How unlike their Master!

 

But there is a flip-side to this coin: idol-worshiping sheep.

“But it has also been my sad observation that a reaction has set in among some churches and leaders. ‘Authoritarianism’ has risen among some pastors and officeholders such that whole churches seem to be little more than idol worshipers of ‘the great man’ and the ‘omnicompetent elders’. Instead of wounded shepherds victimized by their flock, we now have the specter abroad of wounded sheep victimized by the very men called to feed and protect them.

Who is to say which set of sins is worse or brings more shame on the name of Christ and the gospel of grace?

 – Pastor Steve Martin

At least one university lecturer and researcher, Charles Chilimampunga, believes that the trend towards pastor/leader worship “is mostly due to the fact that such church leaders are taking advantage of people’s deprivation,” [2].

 

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the idol-worshipping sheep as [3]:

  1. Idol-Worship: “[S]inful flesh is not content with the unseen reality of the one true God. It wants to fashion an idol in place of the invisible God who is spirit. There is always the temptation to act like the Jews of Saul’s time who wanted a human leader that they could see, rather than the unseen God Himself (1 Kings 8:1-18). But God shares His glory with no man, not even ‘called men’ who are promoted to demi-god status by their adoring flock. Such flocks too often find for themselves a man who likes to lord it over the flock. Thus a sinfully symbiotic relationship is complete with an abusive authority figure coupled to idol-worshipping minions (e.g., Jer. 5:30-31). Such people populate churches that boast of their preacher but speak little of Jesus Christ!”
  2. Fear of Man: “[T]oo many sheep are more gripped by the desire to please a man or more fearful of displeasing a man than they are of pleasing or displeasing Almighty God (cf. Prov. 29:25; John 5:41-44)… Men-pleasers have little stomach for potential conflict or simple disagreement. They would never dare question their exalted leader, no matter how respectfully. They would never ask for the biblical basis for a decision made by the leadership, even when that decision seems to fly in the face of clear biblical teaching. Such men-pleasers crave the smile of a man’s countenance more than the smile of God and they will not speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:15).”
  3. Unbelief:“[T]oo many believers do not believe that God still guides His people today through the means of prayerful meditation upon the Word of God and the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit…  It is not surprising that Christians who put men of clay on pedestals, who then cravenly serve these idol-leaders, and who do not believe that God still guides should fall prey to abusive leaders. It is only the grace of God that it does not happen more than it does… Perhaps authoritarian shepherds are God’s chastening rods upon the backs of idol-worshipping, men-pleasing, unbelieving sheep who will not have God to be their God and who substitute a mere creature in His place (cf. Isaiah 2:22 and Psalm 33:13-19)?”

 

Unlike a giraffe on the Savanna who will put of a fight against any predator looking for a meal, idol-worshipping sheep willingly allow themselves to become fleshly prey animals for predatory church leaders.

As Pastor Martin has pointed out (emphasis mine) [4]:

Flocks of sheep with paralyzed decision-making faculties reveal exposure to shepherds who played ‘God’ for them. Thus the sinful tendency noted in John Milton’s wry observation (‘New presbyter is but old priest writ large’) returns to haunt the churches. And even more sadly, some idol-worshipping sheep love it to be so.”

Christ described those who would flock to such false shepherds, warning, “For wherever the carcass may be, there the vultures will be gathered,” (Matthew 24:28).

For those who wish not to become vultures, it is imperative to remember that the Word of God advises us “to check themselves and make sure they are not elevating pastors to a place that belongs to Christ in their hearts. Whilst we are to appreciate and love pastors, we need not give them the worship that is due God,” [5].

It is important to recognize and avoid systems of toxic faith.

A horrible and shocking thing

has happened in the land.

The prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule by their own authority.

My people love it so,

but what will you do in the end?”

(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

The Toxic Faith System

There are several notable features of and rules within an environment wherein Christian fellowship and Christian worship has morphed into a system of toxic faith, a system which enables Nicolaitan leaders to persecute their idol-worshiping sheep:

  1. Control: “When the toxic-faith leader struggles with control on a personal level, he or she also attempts to be in the center of control within the system. The leader desires to have the final say in every decision, whether minimal or monumental… so that total control, or at least the illusion of total control, can be maintained by the leader… The more the person seeks to control all details, the less likely that person will be able to maintain a clear vision of the larger issues,” [6].
  2. Blame: “When problems arise, immediately find a guilty party to blame. Almost every toxic believer caught in a public scandal has relied on this rule to explain or minimize the scandal,” [7].
  3. Perfectionism: “A toxic-faith system traps all its religious addicts into the tyranny of perfectionism. Because they are taught that they belong to an elite system, followers believe they can attain perfection, think they need to attain it, and feel terrible shame when they fail… This rule against making mistakes increases shame and fear and motivates members of the toxic system to deny and repress their humanness. A mistake is considered a reason to fear that their faith lacks strength. Fear becomes the motivation to work harder to compensate for a lack of faith that has produced the mistake… The toxic-faith system has no room for error and no room for people who make mistakes. Since people in need, people who mess up, and people who reveal their humanness glaringly point out the weaknesses of the toxic-faith system, they must be removed. Their expulsions also motivate others to measure up to the perfect standards of the organization. They try harder, lest they be thrown out too… The perfectionist practice of faith becomes product-oriented; the relationship with God becomes less important than the product of acceptable behavior. Anything short of perfection elicits the shame of not being quite good enough… The toxic believer… endeavors endlessly to avoid the shame and pain of not measuring up. He or she always hopes that “this time I’ll do it right,” (emphasis mine) [8].
  4. Delusion: “Never point out the reality of a situation. Religious addicts aren’t interested in reality. They don’t want to know how things are. They are interested in how things should be and how everyone can work together to create the illusion that everything is the way it should be. Anyone not creating that illusion will be discounted or removed. To talk of reality is to commit organizational suicide. If more faithful followers were willing to commit organizational suicide and become outcasts, all the other religious addicts would be forced to face reality and change to meet the needs of the people the ministry is supposed to serve,” (emphasis mine) [9].
  5. Perpetual Cheerfulness: “Never express your feelings unless they are positive. Religious addicts don’t care about people. They don’t care how people feel or what their needs are. They care about their own feelings and their own needs. Addicts who know the rules will never reveal a thought, feeling, or doubt that would make the toxic leader feel uncomfortable. The leader wants to be reinforced only with positive feelings and statements of affirmation. No room exists for those who are negative, depressed, or worried about a problem. In a toxic-faith system, followers must always wear pasted-on smiles. Individuals who make known their problems are considered outcasts and are ostracized,” [10].
  6. Spotless image: “At all costs, keep up the image of the organization [or leader(s), or movement]. The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… This rule is never observed 100 percent, however. Some members of the organization or a family always come to see the group for what it is and challenge the false perceptions. They become outcasts, but as they go out, they force a crack in the delusive image of the leader, the family, or the organization. Eventually, enough cracks destroy the facade completely, and people recognize the organization for what it is… All rules in a toxic system have something to do with maintaining religious addiction. Rules are designed to fuel the addict’s ego, protect the addict’s position, and perpetuate the status quo. This is the central poison in the family or organization and in the faith of the addicted followers,” (emphasis mine) [11].
  7. Blind Loyalty: “Don’t ask Questions, especially if they are tough ones. Religious addicts must be blindly loyal. Questions, especially the tough ones, reveal that a follower has some doubts and lacks faith. Any questioning is considered resistance to the organization or the leader of the family. Questions are met with responses that indicate certain issues are not to be mentioned. Expenditures of the organization, for example, are said to be beyond the understanding of the followers… There was a time when everything in the solar system was said to revolve around the earth. Those who questioned this belief were cast out, and some were punished. In a system of religious addiction, the toxic-faith leader believes that the ministry or the family should revolve around him or her. Anyone questioning that approach, or suggesting that the ministry revolve around people’s needs, has no place in the system,” [12].
  8. Conformity: “Don’t do anything outside of your role. A toxic-faith system doesn’t permit personal growth. Those who remain in the system must learn their roles and not deviate from them. Otherwise they will be perceived as rebellious and unstable. The toxic-faith leader doesn’t want individualism; he or she wants predictability and conformity. If a person can’t adhere to the rules of the assigned role, that person must be ejected from the system… A toxic-faith system is intent on maintaining the homeostasis of the system, that is, keeping the boat from rocking… The toxic-faith system gets victims to stick to their roles by shaming them. Those at the top encourage followers to shame the rebel to intimidate him or her back into submission… The only individuals who can exist over time in the toxic system are those who stay within the bounds of their roles and continue to find new ways to serve the leader. The more a person can accomplish for the toxic-faith leader, the longer the person will stay and the more respected the person will become,” [13].
  9. Mistrust: “Trust is discouraged so that the system’s leader maintains allegiance of power… Religious addicts exist inside a system based on false reality. Rules are made up, and those living within the rules are unreal. No one can trust in a system where no one is being real. When people do not say what they think or express what they feel, no one can be trusted. Where one must sacrifice the reality of what one thinks, feels, hears, and sees, trust is impossible. In the absence of trust, manipulation and fear grow. Victims allow themselves to be manipulated as long as they remain in the system. Unable to rely on anyone but the leader, they permit that leader to reign over them,” [14].
  10. Elitism: “Religious addicts are at war with the world to protect their terrain and to establish themselves as godly persons who can’t be compared to other persons of faith. In their attempt to maintain and protect their beliefs, religious addicts line everyone up in two camps; there is no middle ground. A person is either part of the toxic-faith system or against it; a person is either supportive or destructive. The toxic organization fosters this mentality until its followers believe that everyone on the outside is a threat to the ministry, has no understanding of what is “really” going on, and must be ignored if they challenge the beliefs of the religious addicts. At the point of any new threat, the leader and the religious addicts are ready to go to war. Individuals who have not made a similar investment will be perceived as enemies ready to strike at any moment… Religious addicts often cease to react and operate like human beings. They show no compassion for the hurting or those who feel trapped in sin. Zealous addicts make sinners feel alienated and hated. The attractive, gathering nature of Christ is lost in the religious addicts’ desire to set themselves above and apart from all the rest. Self-righteousness replaces the humble service to God that probably characterized their walk of faith at the beginning… As the ministry grows, it will come under closer scrutiny, and some of its toxic beliefs will be revealed as such by those who suspect the motives of the leader, the addicts who follow, and the entire organization. When these investigations begin, religious addicts are manipulated into believing that they are being attacked by the enemy. The prudent course would be to admit the mission has gotten off track, confess the wrongs, and bring it back in line with biblical teachings. But religious addicts would never do that until every other option had been taken away,” (emphasis mine) [15].
  11. Labeling: “The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious addict. Labeling attempts to dehumanize critics so that dismissing them or their opinions becomes much easier. The religious addict chooses not to address a critic individually but places a negative label on all who would disagree… Rather than say that John Smith has asked some questions, the addict proclaims that there are “detractors,” “traitors,” or “malcontents” who would destroy the ministry or organization. The labels become rallying points used to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment… By labeling John and by persuading other church members to believe that label, the insecure pastor was able to avoid dealing with disagreement. The military uses labeling to enhance the “killability” of the enemy. The last thing a military leader wants a soldier to think about is that the person in his rifle sights may be a father of five little girls who will starve without a daddy. The enemy is given an ethnic label in an effort to dehumanize him. The soldier is better able to kill one hundred of them than one father or husband. Religious addicts use the technique well, and when they use rumor and innuendo to kill the reputation of a sincere critic, other followers are more apt to go along if a label can dehumanize the dissenter. The purpose of labeling is to separate and divide… The approach is transferred to the person’s individuality. The person is shamed and demeaned for beliefs that have little to do with the person’s value or unique gifts from God. Disqualification by labeling hurts the victims and allows persecutors to continue in their toxic faith. It is sheer poison… Because it is difficult to rally against rational-thinking people who have distinctly different views, labels must be used to polarize the opponents and energize the followers to fight those opponents… Labeling discounts and dismisses the opposition and establishes the superiority of religious addicts. It does not invite the exploration of the beliefs of others; it reduces them to objects of scorn. Labeling becomes the perfect weapon to attack the enemy or defend the toxic-faith system, its beliefs, and addictive practices. Labeling allows religious addicts to define truth, uphold that truth as defined, and destroy anyone who would dare to question that truth,” (emphasis mine) [16].
  12. Sheep Become Co-Conspirators: “[The sheep] are addicted to religion as the means by which they feel accepted and significant… conspirator. In large organizations, more than one co-conspirator usually exists. Several co-conspirators work together to form a team of yes-men and yes-women who will do anything to protect and defend the persecutor. They feed into the persecutor’s ego and further blind him or her from reality. When conflict arises, they usually find a way to agree with the persecutor and support his or her position. They are loyal and supportive of the persecutor in every way. If it were not for them, the persecutor’s empire would fall quickly. In a toxic-faith system, these are the most dangerous followers. They are as driven and misguided as the persecutor, and because they are close to power, people trust them. Because they so deeply believe in the persecutor, many will continue to support that person when trouble, rumor, or admission of wrong surfaces… The primary role of a co-conspirator is to make the persecutor look good… In a typical crisis, the co-conspirator comes to the rescue of the persecutor… Co-conspirators believe their actions are genuine. They say, “I know God’s hand when I see it, and his hand is on this person.” They see everything from the point of view of the persecutor, that he or she has been called of God to head the family or run the ministry and that everything must make sense in light of that divine calling… and further enhance the delusions of the persecutor. Each co-conspirator sees the evil plot as out to get the persecutor [“a faithful minister”] and takes it as a personal mission to protect the persecutor at all costs. If it means that lies and distortions must be propagated, then lies and distortions will be devised. If it means lying to prevent the authorities from taking children out of the home, then lies it will be. For this willingness to lie, thus continuing the delusion of sincerity and purity, the co-conspirator is rewarded with gifts, power, money, and prestige,” (emphasis mine) [17].

“For from the least of them to the greatest,

all are greedy for gain.

From prophet to priest,

all practice deceit.

They have dressed the wound of My people

with very little care,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace at all.

(Jeremiah 6:13-14)

Turning Sheep into Vultures

As you have likely now noticed, the toxic, pack-like environment of a toxic faith system turns the sheep into simplistic shadows, into silhouettes of the Christ-loving people they once were… They lose all ability to empathize with others whom they view as “wrong” (for any reason) and are incapable of humility and forgiveness.

They become caricatures of their former selves.

Consider the below, highlighted passage from page 33 of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s book, “Tortured for Christ.”

4

The sheep became predators, joining in the hunt for His sheep.

Thee became vultures.

These vultures will lie and slander without pause.

These vultures will stalk those deemed “opponents,” both virtually and in person.

These vultures will put good Christians in harm by doxing them.

Some vultures have even gone so far as to send, via “snail mail,” fallacious and defamatory letters to one blogger’s church members (including the janitor), “as well as denominational leaders, the chancellor of a wellknown local university medical center, the chiefs of certain medical divisions, the president of a related denomination’s seminary and a cardiology practice,” and also “all of the members of a community board on which” she and her husband sit [18].

Worst of all, these predatory sheep have sacrificed their relationship with Christ for the worship of a toxic leader and a toxic faith system, and have smeared their once-Christian witness to the world.

“They were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Conclusion

I did not write this for those who have already dedicated themselves to such idolatry (and whom I know will be seeking out and reading this article due to their predatory impulses).

I write this for those who have not yet forfeited themselves to a toxic leader, those who do not yet posess “paralyzed decision-making faculties,” as Pastor Steven Martin describes, and for those precious Christians who, currently, may be feeling trapped in a Nicolaitan fellowship.

Christ is a gift, not a curse.

Christ is humanizes, not dehumanizing or heart-hardening.

If you find yourself in a system where you are being pulled in a direction of becoming a vulture, get out now!

Never create a golden calf out of any human, no matter how much you admire him or her.

Keep your focus on Christ and never let him go!

 

Citations

[1] Pastor Steven Martin, Authoritarian Shepherds and Idol-worshipping Sheep, Abuse of Authority in the Church, IRBS Theological Seminary (2016). Retrieved at: http://irbsseminary.org/abuse-authority-church/

[2] Brenda Twea, Are we idolizing church leaders?, The Nation, retrieved at: https://mwnation.com/are-we-idolising-church-leaders/

[3] Ibid. [1].

[4] Ibid. [1].

[5] Ibid. [2].

[6] Steven Arterburn & Jack Felton, Toxic Faith, WaterBrook Press (2001), P. 216-217.

[7] Ibid. [6], P. 217-218.

[8] Ibid. [6], P. 218-221.

[9] Ibid. [6], P. 221-222.

[10] Ibid. [6], P. 222-223.

[11] Ibid. [6], P. 229-231.

[12] Ibid. [6], P. 223-225.

[13] Ibid. [6], P. 225-226.

[14] Ibid. [6], P. 226-227.

[15] Ibid. [6], P. 154-157.

[16] Ibid. [6], P. 164-168.

[17] Ibid. [6], P. 191-197.

[18] The Wartburg Watch, How a Letter Meant to Hurt Dee in Her Church and Community Gave Her a Precious Gift Instead, retrieved at: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2017/08/16/how-a-letter-meant-to-hurt-dee-in-her-church-and-community-gave-her-a-precious-gift-instead/

The Courage to Say Goodbye to the Church of Rotten Fruit

Christ simply said, “I never knew you. Go away from Me, you who do wrong!”

Project 3, Post 7: The Courage to Say Goodbye to the Church of Rotten Fruit

This is my final post in this series on dealing with apostasy, with heresy in our churches. This post will be the most difficult for you to read, to hear. There comes a time when courage is needed to overcome our fears and also, perhaps more importantly, our immense sadness.

You may read PART 6 HERE, PART 5 HERE, PART 4 HERE, PART 3 HERE, PART 2 HERE, AND PART 1 HERE.

Before I continue, take a moment to pray with me:

Lord,

Please bless each reader, sending the Holy Spirit to guide them as they read this important post. Grant each individual Your holy power to read, to hear, and to interpret Your Word, Your Gospel with Your divine wisdom. Grant each one of Your precious children the Courage needed to use the information below for Your Holy Purposes. Please send Your angels to protect them, Lord.

In the name of your son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Screenshot_20180713-172149_Gallery

The finished painting of the tree.

Let us begin…

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through a forest, your dearest friend at your side.

Together you remark on the many trees: some trees are very large, with outstretched branches, while other trees are far slighter in stature, able to nimbly sway in the breeze. All of the trees in this forest are beautiful.

The two if you soon come upon a fork in the path.

To the left, the heavily trodden path widens, and it appears smooth and welcoming.

To the right, the path is far narrower, with spouts of grass peeking through the seldom-trodden dirt. In the distance you can see hills.

After a short argument, you and your friend decide to go your separate ways:

Your friend adamantly chooses to venture down path to the left.

You, conversely, choose the path to the right.

“A wise man’s heart inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left.”

Ecclesiastes 10:2

As you walk along the narrow path, you notice that the many trees have borne fruit, even the smaller ones.

Thirsty from your walk, you pick a plum from one of the trees as you pass. The fruit is crisp and sweet. The juices drip down your chin.

As you continue walking, a soft rain shower soothes you from the sun’s warm rays and quenches the thirst of the many trees along the path.

After some time had passed, you came to realize that each of the trees along the narrow path are a congregation of believers.

You could hear a multitude of voices singing hymns of praise emanating from within the trees. Though he road is narrow and bumpy at times, you discovered that a guiding hand was readily there to steady you should you stumble.

Having heeded the Lord’s call to “Expel the wicked persons from among you,” the multitude were in holy unity in righteousness, “all of the believers were in one heart and mind,” as the anointed among them preached the One, the Only, the Holy Good News! (1 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 4:32; Galatians 1:7)

You found yourself filled with joy, your load lifted.

“Go in through the narrow door.

The door is wide and the road is easy that leads to hell.

Many people are going through that door.

But the door is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life that last forever.

Few people are finding it.”

Matthew 7:13-14

This was not the case for your dearest friend who chose to wander leftward down the wide path…

He, too, heard singing and saw many people gathering within each of the giant trees.

He heard enthusiastic preachers shouting sermons to the masses.

Walking the wide path among many large and beautiful trees, your friend, too, became thirsty.

He, too, picked a plum to moisten his mouth.

However, the plum was rotten.

When he bit into the plum he found the fruit to be dry and sour, and his mouth became filled with worms.

Still, your friend was convinced that a good fruit could be found among such beautiful, powerful, grand trees.

He searched and he searched for one good fruit.

As your friend walked onward, he passed several strangers fleeing the wide path toward the narrow road which you, yourself, had taken.

One stranger warned your friend to not be deceived by the grandeur and beauty of the large trees lining the smooth, well-trodden path, proclaiming that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The other stranger reminded him, Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise,” (1 Corinthians 3:18).

“Come with us,” the strangers pleaded.

Yet, your dearest friend thought himself to be quite wise. Thus, he continued his search for good fruit, traveling further down the wide road.

And as the two kindly strangers fled the wide path for the narrow, saddened by their inability to convince your dear friend to join them in reversing course, the two strangers were comforted by whispers of reassurance from Christ, His words spoken upon their hearts.

Christ softly instructed the strangers, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:60).

Meanwhile, your dearest friend, his throat parched, his brow wet from the warm sun, continued his search for a piece of good fruit down the wide path…

One fruit after another, all of the fruit was rotten, and your dearest friend’s thirst was left unquenched.

Before long, as he walked the wide road, the air became clouded with smoke. With each step he saw fewer and fewer trees, but more and more stumps where trees had one been.

Finally, your dearest friend came upon a giant inferno; thick black smoke bellowed upward into the air.

In the fire he could see the burnt remnants of trees. He could hear cries of agony: these were the cries of the parishioners, of the proud  preachers, as they called out to God above.

Your dear friend heard the tormented calls from the enthusiastic preachers, hollering “Lord, Lord, did we not preach in Your Name? Did we not put out demons in Your Name? Did we not do many powerful works in Your Name?”

Finally, as your friend stood there by the raging fire, he heard Christ answer those preachers and those congregants with an abrupt condemnation.

Christ simply said, “I never knew you. Go away from Me, you who do wrong!” (Matthew 7:23).

“Watch out for false teachers.

They come to you dressed as if they were sheep. On the inside they are hungry wolves.

You will know them by their fruit. Do men pick grapes from thorns? Do men pick figs from thistles? It is true, every good tree has good fruit. Every bad tree has bad fruit. A good tree cannot have bad fruit. A bad tree cannot have good fruit.

Every tree that does not have good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

So, you will know them by their fruit.”

Matthew 7:15-20

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The finished painting of the tree.

“Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaptation for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart.”

Charles Spurgeon

Now, let’s put this into context.

Our American churches are ripe with apostasy, limbs hang drooped, heavy from fouled fruit.

Loving correction under our present circumstances is difficult and the chances of success are grim, considering the advanced stage of Biblical departure in which many churches now find themselves.

More often than not, and this is especially true for denominational churches, a church’s leadership will turn a blind eye to apostasy/heresy when confronted with the truth.

Some churches will claim that objections weren’t submitted in proper form, and, at other churches, a laundry list of regulations/restrictions/red tape will spring forth preventing concerns from ever being addressed. Still, at other churches, the elders will huddle around the accused to shield him from rebuke… all the while these same elders cast doubts upon your credibility.

Some denominations have handed over far too much power to councils or organizations, elevating the voices of a few men while providing these men the image of legitimacy which comes with fancy titles. These small groups of cohorts (such as the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for example) are easily taken over by those who ambitiously seek their own glory and who wish to further their own agendas at the expense of the Gospel Truth.

The reality of our present circumstances is this: churches and their organizations will, far more often than not, punish the person(s) who shine a light onto the error taking place, while protecting the perpetrators from correction, ensuring the perpetrators’ reputations remain intact.

“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.”

Proverbs 13:1

REMEMBER, it only takes a tiny amount of yeast to make the entire loaf of bread rise (Galatians 5:7-9). It only takes a little bit of error to pervert the whole of your church, sending it down the wide, easy, heavy-trodden road to Hell.

When error is not addressed, it grows.

Or, as Paul aptly put it,their message will spread like cancer,” (2 Timothy 2:17).

Do you expect for a church which has abandoned core truths to put a sign out advertising their apostasy?

No way!

As scripture informs, the departure from the narrow path onto the wide road to Hell will occur subtly, undetected, with many unaware (Jude 4).

As the Rev., Dr. Paul Elliot has stated:

“Like cancer in the human body, false teaching in the body of the church begins undetected and unrecognized. By the time Christians who are still true to the Word of God recognize the cancer of false teaching and are stirred to action, often it is too late to stop its deadly progress. The damage has been done, and a spiritual crisis is upon the church.” 

So, then what?

What should you do if efforts at correction have passed by unheeded?

This, sweet beloved, is where your own path may take a heart wrenching turn.

Thus, bearing in mind Christ’s warning that that the path to salvation is narrow, and that only a few will find it, because the wide road often mimics the narrow road… and bearing in mind that the wide road leads to Hell… You must LEAVE.

That’s right: you must bid farewell to your beloved church. And you must welcome the sadness and the mourning that such a departure will assuredly bring upon you with a joyful, humble heart.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what partnership can consist of righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

 2 Corinthians 6:14

Yes, you will in deed mourn, as I have been mourning since departing from my own beloved church.

Yet, there is but one True Body of Christ.

It does not consist of four walls. Nor a particular denomination. Nor a wide, liberal tent. For if it did, then the late, great Charles Spurgeon wouldn’t have left the Baptist Union.

Nor does not constitute a schism to depart from an apostate church or  an apostate denomination.

Rather, it does constitute a schism to remain yoked to the unrighteous.

If we were destined to remain in unity with evil (which we should never do), then the late, great Dr. J. Gresham Machen wouldn’t have departed the Presbyterian Church of the USA.

In your cowardice, you perpetuate a schism within the true body of Christ by remaining tied to those who have chosen a the wide path, the popular path, the easy path  that ultimately leads to Hell.

Having gone through this myself, I can attest to the difficulty of this matter. Yet, I rest assured, my burdens cast upon Christ, my heart unstirred and free from regret.

Just as the two strangers in the story above, I am comforted by Christ’s instructions: Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:60).

And so it is now that I leave you with my sincere prayers… and I leave you in the loving care of our Lord Jesus Christ as I close with the profound words of Dr. Machen:

“If the liberal party really obtains full control of the councils of the Church, then no evangelical Christian can continue to support the Church’s work… To do so would mean the most terrible bloodguiltiness which it is possible to conceive. If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs. Our Lord has died for us, and surely we must not deny Him for favor of men.”

Antibodies of the church, soldiers of Christ

In this way, each of us has a special role to play: the role of a righteous antibody. – We are the antibodies of the church: righteous fighters, salvation’s soldiers.

Project 3, post 5: We are the antibodies of the church, the soldiers of Christ

This is the 5th part of Project 3. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, Part 3 HERE, and Part 4 HERE.

 

Periodically we are treated to the sight of a rainbow stretching wide across the sky, or vivid sunsets of red and pink, purple and blue. During such times, the colors that we typically spot in the landscape of God’s plentiful earth, we can also find high above, beautifully complimenting the pastel sky.

 

To mimic these stunning moments of symmetry, testaments to the splendor of the Almighty, I began bringing the colors found in the sky and in the foliage of the tree in my on-going piece down into the grassy meadow below.

 

Note: Painting involves mixing paints to create various colors. Because of this, it is important to stagger the stages of your painting, keeping in mind the paint you wish to use in multiple areas should be carried out in a fashion that does not lend itself to the premature drying-out of your paints.

 

Artistic process:

 

  • First, I redefined the border between the meadow with a simple, thin brown line. Next, I used a matte black to define the roots of the tree, creating shadows. White was added to define highlights and add the illusion of texture and dimension.

 

  • Using the tip of my pinky finger, I smudged the black paint onto the canvas, drawing it out away from the roots, creating depth. I also smudged black along various areas of the grass away from the roots of the tree.

 

  • Again, using the tip of my pinky finger, I smudged teal paint along the outside of the shadows beneath the tree. The dark, teal-gray paint was the same color I used as the base color for the foliage of the tree. Like the black, I carried this color into the broader body of grass.

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I observed the many shades of reds and oranges and flecks of yellow which were so vibrant in the sky of the piece.

 

Keeping in mind that the tree’s broad branches would, in real life, cast a shadow upon the ground below, I plotted areas toward the edges of the canvas that would remain brightly lit from the vibrant sun.

 

  • Using a half-inch wide, flat-faced brush with stiff bristles, I used left to right dragging stroke to punctuate the grassy field with reds and oranges and hints of creamy yellow. The yellow was used to emphasize the most sunlit areas of the landscape.

 

When painting landscapes, the infusion of darks and lights and various colors can serve to define elevation changes of the earth.

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Sprigs of grass can be added to these elevation indicators to further develop the impression of fluctuations in elevation, such as with small mounds or sloping hills, as seen in the example (below) of a different painting.

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  • Mixing paints, I created five different shades of green, from very light to very dark.

 

  • Using a small, very thin, round-tipped brush, I applied sprigs of grass with brisk strokes upward; starting at the base of the blade of grass and then sweeping upward.

 

  • I also used the green paint to further define the earthen base for the grass. I applied a few random lines, from left to right, and pulls blades of grass out and upward from each.

 

  • Lighter shades of green were used in areas of direct sunlight; darker shades in the shadows.

 

  • I made sure to sporadically group clumps of grass around the roots of the tree to create depth.

 

I stood back a few feet from the painting and observed the balance of color. Having carried colors from the sky and the dark grayish-teal down into the meadow, I decided to add one last touch.

 

  • Using the same, round brush I had used to apply the vibrant, deep blue “dots” in the foliage of the tree, I carried that color and the dots down into the grass.

 

  • I applied the dots heavily around the base of the tree; then thinned them outward.

 

The below image shows the painting as completed after the above steps.

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Reflection:

 

As I stood back to take in the piece, at all that I had done thus far, those bright blue dots popped out at me. Those vibrant dots felt as if they were alive; tiny balls of energy, as if the very life source of the meadow and of the grand ol’ tree itself.

 

As I gazed up my painting I realized that those splendid bits of blue were symbolic embodiments of the souls of Bible-believing, faithful Christians…

 

Throughout this project – dealing with the need for the body of Christ to reclaim our churches from the grips of apostacy – I have written at length about the need for each one of us to take responsibility for both reading and studying God’s precious Word, and for safeguarding His Word from misapplication and abuse. We must hold tight to sound doctrine.

 

In this way, each of us has a special role to play: the role of a righteous antibody.

 

Scattered amongst the branches of the tree and sprinkled in the meadow below, each vibrant blue dot – each dedicated, Bible-believing Christian – acts as an antibody, serving to prohibit the infection of heresy from progressing. If we each do our job, we prevent the disease from running rampant.

 

For this reason we have a very important task: In essence, we must be missionaries within our own congregations, apostles within our own churches.

 

We are the antibodies of the church: righteous fighters, salvation’s soldiers.

 

And, that’s a pretty cool thing indeed!

 

So, now I wish to close from a few verses from 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 2New Living Translation (NLT)

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

11 This is a trustworthy saying:

If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
12 If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
13 If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.

The Illusion of Holiness & Shadow-barren Trees

Project 3, Post 4: The Illusion of Holiness & Shadow-barren Trees

The is the 4th part of Project 3 which covers the state of the church here in America. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

(Col.2:8-9, NASB).

Artistic Process:

  • After first identifying what direction the sun would be coming from in this painting, I added highlights to the branches of my tree using a bright off-white. Using a thin, straight brush, I created clean, crisp lines across the topside of each branch. Next, I used a dark grey to define the underside of each branch, as seen in the image below.

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  • I selected a dark greyish-teal to form the base of the tree’s foliage. Using a 1/2” wide, rounded, soft brush, I dabbed the dark teal paint into the canvas. Since trees do not have leaves all over each branch, I scattered the teal around the branches. Notice: I added some teal along the length of the branches, but often not covering the branch itself. This allows for the foliage that appears from behind each branch.

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  • Next, I added shadows, very dark shadows. For this I selected a flat back. I followed along the same pattern of the teal I had already laid upon the canvas, but also took the black across the branches in several areas. I did this, because leaves that are closer to the viewer would undoubtedly cast a shadow behind them. In other words, the dark shadow was applied to create depth.

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  • I then selected a slightly lighter shade of teal-blue paint. After allowing my brush to dry, I dabbed it into the paint. Keeping the width of the brush parallel to the bottom and top edges of the canvas, I briskly tapped/dabbed the teal paint upon the canvas. This created rough edges, creating the illusion of leaves. I applied the teal paint in clusters. Some of these clusters were applied across the branches of the tree. Once this was finished, the distinct illusion of leaves had been created.

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  • Finally, I used a long, straight brush with a circular tip to dab on tiny dots of dark blue paint. This added texture and dimension to the foliage of the tree.

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Reflection:

While reading the Bible, 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 grasped my attention. Here, Paul says:

If some people are not Christians come to your church meeting while all the people are speaking in special sounds, they will think you are crazy. But if a man who is not a Christian comes to your church meeting while you are all speaking God’s Word, he will understand that he will understand that he is a sinner by what he hears. He will know he is guilty. The secrets of his heart will be brought into the open. He will get on his knees and worship God. He will say, “For sure, God is here with you!”

 

Paul’s main point here, put very simply, was to point out the fruitlessness of preaching in tongues/languages that others can not understand. Obviously, it is quite difficult to impact others meaningfully without speaking a language they understand. However, Paul’s words also point out the power God’s Word has on others. Thus, we can see the importance of straightforwardly speaking God’s Word for others, as the Word has the unique power to convert souls. This power lies in the Word’s ability to illuminate the darkness of sin, to bring it to the surface of one’s conscience. It is through the intimate illumination of sin which takes place within a person’s soul that leads to repentance and conversion. For this, I am reminded of Jesus’s words (John 3:20), “Everyone who sins hates the Light. He stays away from the Light because his sin would be found out.” Jesus is the Word, and the Word is the Light.

 

The composition of the tree’s foliage in my ongoing painting is symbolic of American churches which contain both darkness and shadows, as well as light. Some churches have become places of darkness, where scripture twisting and sin validation commonplace. Like the illusion of foliage in my painting, the illusion of holiness is maintained in unholy houses of worship. It is this illusion of holiness that sustains the false teachers’ positions of authority. As the scattered blue dots among the leaves, there may still remain a few congregants in the darkest churches who remain genuinely filled with the Light of the Holy Spirit. However, the majority of the congregants in the darkest houses have been led astray by the wolves.

 

How does this happen?

Notice in the image below how the foliage has overtaken the black shadows that I had laid down.While the shadows are still visible, the light has returned to prominence. In many churches the opposite is true: their trees are barren; the shadows having overtaken the branches. Like a garden unattended, weeds were left unopposed and passively permitted to flourish without reproach, and the Light of God’s Word was slowly, selectively, and purposefully twisted into language incomprehensible or kept locked away from the ears of the flock. The flock has been led into placid captivity.

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Still, there are others who actively engage in their own entrapment and in the entrapment of others. These sheep, having fallen asunder through indoctrination into worshiping the false philosophies of men, will fervently reject God’s Word when it is spoken. They will bray incessantly with anger and rage to all those who plainly speak God’s Word. These are like the swine who trample pearls beneath their feet (Matthew 7:6).

“Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Our jobs a Bible-believing Christians of all denominations is the same today as it was in Jesus’s time, in Paul’s time: we are to be a spirit-filled force of holy opposition, holding fast against the forces of darkness. We must keep ourselves directly opposite to those who espouse falsehoods. Only through our steady withstanding can we expect to bring God’s Light and His Word into our shadow-stricken churches. Only through our unwavering example can all sinners hear the language of Christ and repent, sheading their chains of sin.

“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

(Acts 20:27-31 NASB).

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Trees Are Not Brown… And Other Truths

Project 3, Post 2: Trees Are Not Brown….. and Other Truths

In my last post (the first of this series), which can be read HERE, I described my inadvertent ruining of a once promising piece… My creative experimentation doesn’t always turn out well. I had accidentally turned a painting full of light into one now blanketed in darkness.

As I mentioned this is not dissimilar from the current state of our American churches… It is we who must confront ourselves in order to restore our churches to places of light and Truth.

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Artistic Process:

I kept looking at my poor picture – that poor tree – and kicking myself for what I had done. The whole thing… It was just a big mess! My error left me feeling a bit deflated and a lot confused. What do I do now? How am I supposed to fix this? I can’t take the wax off… How do I save my picture???

As I stood there pondering my canvas catastrophe, my thoughts slowly grew in clarity and I was able to identify a new “starting point.” The streams of melted wax had blurred the boundary between the sky and the ground…

And so began the process of renewing my painting…

I mixed into being variations of yellows and greens, darks and lights (all acrylics). After determining where the horizon line would be formed, I began applying the paint using short, brisk stokes, creating grass. Using dark greens and browns I slowly created elevation changes and shadow. At last, a clear division between land and sky had been established. The mess I had made of my painting had regained a small semblance of order. Once I finished the border area I went on to rejuvenating my poor, darkness enveloped tree.

 

Many people don’t realize this, but tree trunks and branches are far closer in color to gray than to brown. Sure, we all grow up coloring brown trees with green leaves, but that isn’t actually representative of reality, of truth. I challenge you to go outside and find a tree. Walk up close. Is it brown or is it more of grayish in tone? HERE is a fairly simple, scientific explanation. 🙂

I carefully reformed the body of my tree using shades of gray paint. Darker shades were applied against lighter shades to create clear and distinct shadows and highlights. Grays aren’t the only colors found on the trunks of trees, however. Many trees often play host to interesting molds and fungi, many of which are greenish in tone. Therefore, I took a splayed, dry brush and dabbed small sections of the tree trunk and branches with olive-colored paint.

…Little by little I was able to uncover my lovely, knotted-old tree from that dark mess of which I had made. I could see its form, its beauty. No longer was it hidden. At once, it was as if I felt a heavy load had been lifted off my back.  Truth and clarity have that effect on us.

BELOW are pictures representing various stages of renewing and redefining my tree.

 

Reflection:

There is a clear border between land and sky, right and wrong, good and evil. However, if trees are gray instead of brown, what is the Truth about good and evil, about right from wrong? The world of fallen men has a tendency to creep into our idea of right and wrong. Have you lost site of the border, the boundary between good and evil?

Do you follow Biblical scripture or do you follow worldly scripture? Do you even know the difference?

We (Christians) of all people should be the most diligent in knowing what is Truth. That comes from diligence to knowing and understanding God’s written Word.  Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11, for their scriptural diligence, writing “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

“…If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15:14

Right now, many Christians live in a state of ignorance. We conflate nice with good. We conflate position with honor. We are lazy and far too trusting. We assume that the lessons from the pulpit are honest and truthful and based in scripture. If you assume that your minister is preaching Truth simply because he became a minister, was hired at your church, and seems like a nice guy… You could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute.

When is the last time you read from your Bible? Do you check the sermons and the words of others against scripture to determine Truth? If you don’t, you could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute!

Our jobs as Christians isn’t simply to receive sermons or try to be better people. Our job is also to safeguard the Word of Christ Jesus and his message, ensuring that it is delivered to others in Truth! The Word of God is precious. However, harmful and fallacious doctrine results when the word is taken out of context and twisted around by fools. From now on, understand that you are the keeper of the Word. If you don’t read the entire story and seek to understand it, you only contribute to the abuse against it. If you do not double check references to scripture made by others, including ministers, including ME, you could be allowing the Word to be abused and misused.

If you do not seek the Truth, you do not and will not have the Truth. You do not and will not know gray from brown. You do not and will not know the difference between right from wrong and good from evil.

We must stay diligent seeking God’s Truth. We can not renew our churches without first being able to SEE the clear border between right and wrong, truth and lie. By reading God’s Word, our own failures and sinful nature come to light. – I know, because God’s Word continually  reminds me of my fallen nature as a human and the Holy Spirit is my inspiration for my continuous quest toward living as God wishes. Christ saves me from myself and he lifts me up, carrying my burdens. He walks with me and guides me forward. It is imperative that we continually renew our own spirits in Christ and in Truth, confronting ourselves. God’s Word brings the border between truth and lie, right and wrong into clear focus.

Today- rededicate yourself to God’s Truth through his Word. Pray for full understanding. Renew your soul.

This is your own new starting point! Go, now. Off your tuckuss!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

Project 3, Post 1: Melted Crayons & Smothered Light

Project 3, Post 1: Melted Crayons & Smothered Light

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Introduction & Artistic Process:

A few months back, I found an unfinished painting behind my wardrobe. It was a picture of a leafless tree against the backdrop of vibrant yellow and red (shown above). I decided to finish the piece. It was to be a bumpy road… one which I am now going back and reflecting upon.

I love experimenting. In 2015, I created a painting of dandelions using acrylic paint and melted crayons (pictured below). I had been somewhat disappointed with the finished project, but – as with many of my pieces that I feel are flops – others adored my dandelion creation. It had long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating endeavor, but the piece became a fan favorite!

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So, gazing upon my leaf-barren tree, I decided to experiment with melting crayons once again…. Yet, I was about to reminded that not every experiment turns out well.

I began by cutting and then gluing tiny fragments crayons onto the grass areas of my piece. Next, I used a hair dryer to melt the crayons, holding the canvas at a tilt so that the liquefied, colored wax would run upward like shoots of grass. Hmmm… I thought to myself. That doesn’t look right…

Undeterred, or oblivious to the gravity of my mistake, I made things even worse. I added bits of crayon to the branches of my tree, melting the colored wax into what turned out looking like a dark blob with sporadic offshoots like fingers. Ahhhhh! What have I done??? My tree looked like a “swamp thing.” At once I realized that I had destructively altered a painting. It had been full of bright light, but I had smothered that light. The painting was now heavy and dark and seemed as if it had entered a state of madness. The few areas of light remaining had lost their vibrancy and seemed completely at odds with the dark and heavy wax now covering so much of my piece. The light seemed almost as if was now locked in battle with the swamp thing itself.

 

What had started with a small number of tiny crayon fragments, scattered around the base of my tree, had grown into weeds, casting shadow upon and overtaking the grass below. I could have stopped this invasive species right then and there. Instead, I allowed it to spread… I participated in its invasion upward. It only took a few minuscule flecks of crayon, settling in among the branches of its intended victim, to ultimately blanket the poor tree on a thick coat darkness. The weeds had spread and shut out the light.

“A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” ~Galatians 5:9

Reflection:

What had been done to my tree is not dissimilar to what is being done to our churches and to the body of Christ. Weeds live amongst the scattered grasses in every area of the world. These weeds have even taken root in most of the branches of Christianity the world over. It is their constant desire for and their coveting of others’ nutrients to drain that compels the spread of the weeds, just like kudzu, the plant that ate the South.

Subversives are as old as time… “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The Christian church has always been under attack. Christian themselves come under attack from the very moment they devote themselves to Christ; a fact of which, unfortunately, many Christians are never warned. Perhaps, though, one of the most tragic aspect of Satan’s slow march toward church destruction and Christian enslavement is that so many of us actually aid the enemy himself. Our precious nutrients are what Satan and his servants rob from us and consume. Courage, conscience, certainty, trust, faith, conviction, foresight, clarity, honesty, kindness, generosity, chastity, and reason are just a few of our nutrients upon which the subversives feed upon in service to their master.

“This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.”     ~Galatians 2:4

Confronting our own participation – whether accidental, passive, or purposeful – in Satan’s schemes is essential. Just as I was forced to contend with what I had done to my poor painting, we Christians must contend with the darkness we have allowed to progressively blanket our churches in darkness under our watch.

In my next post, I will cover my first steps toward saving my painting, and, God willing, I will discuss the issues we must contend with and the steps that we must take to renew the Body of Christ and our churches. Remember: God is our savior, our everything! The road won’t be easy and I am sure to receive some unwanted attention from the dark realms. I ask you to join me in this journey, and to please pray for my protection and for your protection as, together with God, we delve into this pressing matter.