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