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.

DO YOU LOVE? Or….

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                           DO YOU LOVE?

OUR WORLD NEEDS MORE LOVE!

While often read during Christian weddings, there is no mention of romance, marriage or other coupling within 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. True love is not an affection for or attraction to another person. True love is an action; something we each must do– outwardly and at all times- for all our fellow man. True love is a verb that, when practiced to the fullest extent in our power, benefits the whole of humanity.

*We all need to reflect on our own actions and motives. I created the below table so that we can all focus and dedicate ourselves to filling the world with more LOVE through our own lives! 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 LOVE IS / DOES: LOVE IS NOT / DOES NOT:
“Love is patient…” Enduring, does not give up, lasting Fail, die, transient, fleeting, short-lived, brief, temporary
“…Love is kind. Charitable, good, respectful, gentle, nice Cruel, malicious, malevolent, maleficent, mean
“It does not envy…” Gracious, content Jealous, covetous, grudging
“…it is not proud.” Humble, meek, unpretentious Prideful, boastful, self-congratulatory, dominating, smug, egotistic, conceited, condescending, cocky, pompous, hubristic, arrogant, patronizing
“It does not dishonor others…” Respects, honors, credits Slur, brand, shame, disgrace, discredit, brand, condemn, stigmatize
“…it is not self-seeking…” Selfless, benevolent, considerate, self-sacrificing, generous Selfish
“…it is not easily angered…” Peaceful, patient, calm Volatile, hypersensitive, demanding, irritable, snappish, impatient, hot-headed, petulant, excitable
“….it keeps no record of wrongs.” Forgives, unburdens, liberates, pardons, remits, passes over Resentful, avenging, vengeful, retaliatory, punishing; blame, begrudge, abominate
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Rejoices – Glorifies, celebrates, exalts, triumphs, jubilates, exuberates

 

Truth – Virtue, righteousness, correctness, actuality, authenticity, morality, honesty, facts, good, right, ethical, just, pure

Evil – Deceit, wicked, libertine, sinful, poisonous, menacing, falsehoods, villainous, perverted, wrong, illegal, unwholesome, defiling, condemned, dishonest, depraved, obscene, cruel, sordid, snide, mean, contemptible, vile, vicious, unrighteous, unlawful, nefarious, rotten, deadly, hazardous, harmful, hostile, noxious, detrimental, damaging
“It always protects…” Conserves, preserves, forfends, guards, defends, safeguards, shields, secures, resists Assail, assault, attack, bombard, besiege, cave, submit, yield
“…always trusts…” Believes in, confides; faith, sureness Suspicion, distrust, mistrust, doubt
“…always hopes…” Awaits, anticipates, believes, expects, envisions; positive Doubt, question, despair; cynical, negative, discouraged, nihilistic
“…always perseveres.” Persists, carries on Quit, give up, bow, falter, succumb
SPTR

*Notice that in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 there is no reference to: affirmation of, agreement with, acceptance of, political affiliation – nor of race, color, gender, etc.                               Love is for ALL the world – no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.” We must work to love ALL people.

You can be part of the solution or part of the problem. Which part will you play?

Project 1, Post 7: A Little Elbow Grease

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Reflection:

Holding a hard-bristled dish brush in one hand, I stared at my painting contemplating what I was about to do to it, to inflict upon it. I took one last deep breath and then began scrubbing my painting with ferocity and determination. I scrubbed – and I scrubbed – and I scrubbed – chipping away at the very paint I had purposefully laid upon that canvas. I chiseled away parts of the blue flower petals that I had so carefully composed.

I was on a mission to expose flecks of the aluminum foil squares that I had used as the foundation beneath my painting. It was actually working! It sure was not easy though. Actually, the entire scrubbing process required far more elbow grease than I had anticipated. It also took some time. Nevertheless, I began to be filled with more and more pleasure as the fruit of my labor began to be seen.

As I continued, switching off between arms after one became tired from scrubbing, I remembered a brief verse in the book of Genesis.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis, 2:15)

Wait… Adam had to work when he was living in the Garden of Eden? Yes, he sure did. We (humans) were designed by God to toil, to work (in many different forms of course). Even in Eden, life for Adam and Eve was not without effort.

Sometimes we can become discouraged at our constant toils, wishing life were an endless vacation. However, hard work is often a blessing in disguise. Work gives us pleasure and satisfaction in seeing the products of our labor. Work gives us purpose and a sense of self-worth. Work allows us to find a sense of value and pride in ourselves, often when we need it the most.

So, whatever you do each day – whether it is sowing a field, filing paperwork, waking repeatedly in the night to feed a crying baby, turning wrenches, raising children, flipping burgers, etc. – do it heartily. The fruits of your labor might not be seen right away, but in time you shall be blessed.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Artistic Process:

You have probably seen old buildings with paintings on the side. Although weathering and age have stripped pieces of those paintings away you can still see the integrity of the images. That was my goal in scrubbing my painting in order to allow the aluminum to peak through. I didn’t want to demolish my work, but instead allow small flecks of foil to add depth, texture and character to the piece.

Project 1, Post 5: From Blue Blobs to Blue Flowers, Having the Strength to Stay the Course

Project 1, Post 5: From Blue Blobs to Blue Flowers, Having the Strength to Stay the Course

Prelude:

I love springtime! My favorite color happens to be blue, so I decided on painting simplistic, blue flowers over my canvas’s background. I wanted to paint in the utmost simplest of fashions, omitting my usual artistic flares or intensities. First I simply laid out the general area of the flowers by painting a blue base color to form the general shape of three flowers.

Ah! For some reason it startled me! I can’t articulate exactly why, for even I still don’t entirely understand my sudden and strong emotions that my actions induced. I was just startled.

“Oh no!” I thought to myself, “I’ve ruined my painting!”

“What was I thinking?”

“I can’t do this right.”

Well, there is a well-documented and long, long history (from the beginning of time, really) of us humans acting based solely on emotions and feeling. This action of events has rarely lead us flawed creatures in the right direction. After all, emotions have a tendency to take over our typically rational selves and turn us into “non-thinkers.”

I realized, “Why am I questioning myself?” “Paige, you know how to paint a flower!”

“Why on Earth would you be second guessing yourself over this?”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

So, I charged onward, staying the course.

Reflection:

A lot of things in the world today evoke a great deal of emotions. Christians are typically very empathetic and our sympathies can often lead us to question our own Christian beliefs and can sometimes even lead us to act against our own well-being or against the well-being of others. The course of events in life and in politics can be very, very confusing. Sometimes we may feel at odds with our own religion, especially as the world and our society begin to replace basic Christian morals with new, “progressive,” worldly morals of right and wrong.

It is extremely easy for us to slip down the wrong road and allow our compassion and empathy for others to convince ourselves that we silly Christians had simply been misunderstanding the unchanged words of God and Jesus for over two thousand years.

This is acting on emotion. This same act can also lead us into a new kind of arrogance, as if we “new Christians” know better, are smarter and are the only all-knowing, true Christians. Ah, but BEWARE! There is no virtue in being arrogant and smug. Nor is there any virtue in assuming the word of God can be deconstructed to conform to any set of ever changing worldly ideologies.

Instead, we Christians must stay the course, steady in His truth.

This is not an easy task. So, I offer the following scripture as a bit of encouragement and guidance to help you stay steady on your feet and on the true path of the Lord: (1 John, 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God will live forever.”

Artistic Process

First I laid out the location for the three flowers using a medium blue base. I did not focus on the precise shape of a flower, as those details take away from the freeing element in artistic process. Next, I used a darker blue from the same blue-toned family to add variation. This was done using free, quick strokes from a medium-sized paintbrush. I made sure to leave the lighter, base blue color visible around the edges to form the illusion of petals. I made sure not to apply the darker blue in a uniform way. God’s natural world is not uniform. In real flowers, the positions of the petals and the direction of lights, as well as things like other leaves that might obscure the light, create a varying shade within each individual flower petal.  Instead of getting too caught up in where the darker blue “should” go, it is important to remember that you can always paint over it.

*Next, I will be adding more depth to my flowers…. The process continues!

Project 1, Post 4: A Stray Pup and Forgiveness

A Stray Pup & Forgiveness

Reflection:

As I finally took some time to work on my painting my mind replayed the busy last few weeks of my life. – Wow! What an interesting few weeks it has been!

“To err is human. To forgive, divine.” (Alexander Pope)

It began on a Saturday when a stray dog wandered up. The second that I laid eyes on him I let out a gasp in complete shock and disbelief. Never, ever have I seen a living creature look so dead. The dog, a Boxer, hesitantly came over to accept an offering of food and water from my husband. The poor boy’s little bobbed, nub of a tail wagged incessantly. His body had been reduced to a semi-alive, emaciated, skeletal condition. Each vertebrae, each rib, each joint in the hips and the shoulder were almost as formatively visible as any veterinary program’s fleshless, skeletal teaching specimen held together by wire. The Boxer is a breed of large dog, and yet this boy’s waist (behind the ribs and before the hips) had been reduced to a mere 2 ½ or 3 inches max. His movements were slow and lethargic. He had no energy left in his little body. We happily took this poor boy in hoping to bring him back to health.

“Houston” as the stray pup is now called (after the street where he was found) had no flees and was remarkably clean. He even sat for me when I asked. He was not micro-chipped and had no collar or identification. To spite his horrific body condition and appearance, his hair was soft, like a puppy’s. A thorough vet exam produced an educated estimate of his age to be around 6 months to 1 ½ years.

As much as I wanted to believe that “Houston” had been wandering about for long enough to have landed himself in such a dire physical state, the clues point us to a far more likely, far more unpleasant circumstance. Houston was likely kept inside and simply not fed. The reasons why a person or persons might not feed an animal vary, but the result is definite.

Yet, this dog has demonstrated more divinity in his plight than most humans.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid the power to forgive is devoid the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In spite of being starved, Houston has forgiven men. He clearly has reason to begrudge the human kind, yet he doesn’t. Instead, he forgive. He loves. Houston, through his ability to forgive, has actually given himself a fresh start. Gone are days of the past. Gone are those broken relationships. Now, new relationships are formed: relationships based on love in spite of past transgressions. Had he not come to us, he likely would have perished within the week.

Today, in America, we see various special interest groups on university campuses comprised of students demanding a variety of measures that they believe will right past wrongs, end all pain, and put the world at peace. Many of these demands center on “white privilege.” The idea that past grievances determine the “goodness” of an entire race of people is not only illogical and shallow, but is also diminishes the humanity and the value and worth of those people as well. This idea has no clear goal in mind. There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Instead, “endocrinees” of this social theory are none the better: these young people are still left with a spiritual void in their souls, hearts primarily filled with anger, and minds focused solely on vengeance.

Behind the anger lies pain. Pain can only be healed through love. Forgiveness is hard, but it allows us to let go of our pain and finally move on.

Christ taught us to strive for forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Just like “Houston” has demonstrated, it is through forgiveness that we unload the weight of the past, giving ourselves a new start, a new future. Forgiveness isn’t just a gift to others. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

So, the next time you feel angry, wronged, please remember that the weight of anger only drags us down. The gift of forgiveness is what allows us to move forward. We should all, myself included, be a little more like dear “Houston.”

Amen.

Artistic process:

I have been suffering from “artist’s block.” Finally, I decided I would try painting some very simple blue flowers. I do love the spring! So, this week, I just played around with a few simple lines, adding a background of “reeds” before I go any further.

Project 1, Post 3: From Division to Unity

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“From Division to Unity”

Reflection:

Inspired by the idea of color-blocking I applied a few squares of color to my painting. The result? Eeesh…

My painting looked chopped up, discombobulated. Staring at the damage I had done, I recalled King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream interpreted by Daniel and recorded in the Book of Daniel, chapter 2.

King Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest ruler of Babylon and responsible for the creation of the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This great nation, once encompassing south Mesopotamia, ultimately fell. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as interpreted by Daniel, described the great nations that would come to rise after Babylon.

The king dreamed of “statue” with a head made of gold. Below the head of gold was a breast and arms were made of silver. The stomach/abdomen were made of brass. The legs were made of iron. Finally, the feet were made of part iron and part clay. A rock was thrown, hitting the statue’s feet. The feet were crushed and the entire structure crumble into pieces on the ground becoming dust. Wind carried away the dust. All that was left was the stone that had destroyed the “statue.” The rock then became a mountain, seemingly filling the whole Earth.

The golden head represented the King Nebuchadnezzar’s great Babylon.

The silver breast and arms represented a kingdom which would follow, but without Babylon’s strength.

The kingdom of brass would then follow which would rule all of the Earth.

A fourth nation made of iron would follow. With the strength of iron, this nation would crush all the others.

Lastly, the feet made of iron and clay represent the fifth nation. Being part iron, this nation will have some of the strength of the fourth (all iron) nation. However, this fifth nation is divided. The two parts of this divided nation would try to join together, “But they will not stay together any more than iron mixes with clay” (Daniel, 2:43).

In Matthew, chapter 12, Jesus tells us that a divided nation cannot last, saying “Every nation divided into groups that fight each other is going to be destroyed. Every city or family divided into groups that fight each other will not stand” (Matthew, 12:25).  He goes on to say, “If the Devil puts out the Devil, he is divided against himself….. But if I put out Demons by the Spirit of God, then the holy nation of God is come to you” (Matthew, 12:26, 28).

….. Thus, for my painting, I faithfully decided to go the route of unity, not division, and I quickly worked to remedy my artistic blunder.

America today is a divided nation. In some ways we are divided into many groups who are fighting one another as Jesus described in Matthew. America is also divided in two, like the iron and clay feet depicted in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Once you slice a pizza, it is never whole again.

The Devil is walking amongst us, causing Christians to question the tenants of their faith and causing fellow Americans to turn against each other. Groups who seek to cast out the Devil by the Devil’s own means simply further divide us. Sadly, these groups are no more holy than a fox with mange.

It is important for Americans to remember that our nation became great because of two things:

  • Our Christian faith in God and the Holy Trinity.
  • Unity

Only God can caste the demons out of our country, of our society and heal a divided nation. If we continue to turn our back on Christ and his teaching, we are allowing the Devil to divide us.

Keep your faith.

Renew your dedication.

Ensure your body does not become a divided nation itself.

Pray.

Believe.

Give thanks.

Art Process:

Using acrylic paint, I tried color-blocking a few small squares before I stopped. To reunify my piece, I chose to follow the same whitewashing technique described in my last post (Project 1, Post 2: Whitewashing). Now what? Looking at my painting I feel I have a suitable background. Now what? What will I paint? I’m not sure… My mind is filled with many ideas and, for this painting, I will simply be proceeding in the spirit of experimentation!