That's the Book: Hebrews
A couple of days ago I took a walk, grabbed my gear and parked myself at a favorite view. I sat and painted and pondered Hebrews. I've noticed some parallel lines.
The book of Hebrews is a visual book. It draws pictures of how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mirror the heavenly reality. Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining how the temple, priesthood and sacrifices on earth are shadow copies of the more real ones in heaven. The things on Earth, while temporary, are important because they mirror the permanent ones. The forms help us understand our situation and our need for salvation. Hebrews then details how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system which gives him the authority and position to act as high priest for our relationship with the Father.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the houses of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23.
Art mimics reality. Or reflects reality. Or it tells us something about truth we didn’t notice previously. In the same way, the temple reflected the real truth. When people get obsessed with rules, or the church’s structure or the legalism of a religious order they are forgetting that those symbols only reflect. They should point us to the real eternal truth. The symbols aren’t the valuable things themselves. And art, while lovely, doesn’t reflect perfectly. Especially for an artist in training.
However. Jesus himself reflects God perfectly.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and though who also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right had of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4
Hebrews is calling us to live lives that reflect the glory of God. And faith -while not flawless- is strong enough to carry us to the finish line where it will be perfected.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case - the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6: 9-12
And then we come to one of the best sections in the entire New Testament. Hebrews chapters 11 and 12. If you feel like quitting these are the verses to read. Read them out loud to your weary soul. Shout these promises. Write them on walls. I promise God will strengthen your resolve, steady your quacking limbs and put some starch in your spine.
Chapter 11 summarizes the stories of the Old Testament and calls us to notice how these people of faith did great actions and stood for truth in the midst of hardship by holding fast to the promises of God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that her rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
The end of chapter 11 is a great reminder we are not alone in any sort of suffering. The stories in the Bible include torture, flogging, chains, stoning, persecution and mistreatment. The world was not worthy of them.
Then chapter 12! The author calls you to apply the lesson to your own life.
THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes onJesus, the pioneer and perfecto of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12 1-3
I’ve been trying to learn how to draw trees for years. Finally can do a passable fir tree. But my leafy trees still look like green blobs. Kinda like a large green stuffed garbage bag. Not a tree. So earlier this week I saw a post Jini77 had put on an urban sketchers Facebook page. I decided to try and copy it. Perhaps my hand and eye would crack the code to the elusive deciduous tree. So I penciled in a simliar study. Inked and water colored. And while not nearly as nice as the original artist - I think my trees look more like trees than garbage sacks. Yay for progress.
When I looked around and mimicked someone who had it down I did better in my own art. And this is what chapter 11 and chapter 12 are saying. Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Not perfect people. But faithful souls who were reflecting the deep truth of God. Since we can see their lives let’s run like them. Not because they are worthy but because they reflect God so well.
I fussed over this painting. I second guessed the color. I enjoyed the time outside and wasn’t at all crashing on myself but I also wasn’t ready to post it anywhere. I had it laying on my desk at work while I pondered how art reflects what is good. And my friend came up and said she loved it. Said it was great. Said she wanted to hang it up.
See - when our lives reflect Christ we don’t have to second guess everything or over criticize. We can be a mess and slip frequently and still the reflection is what reminds people of truth. And so its worth painting. And running our race well.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed. Hebrews 12:11-13
If I fall and get back up people around me gain more courage to get back up. When I quit their load is heavier. When you stay the course - you become a part of the great cloud of witnesses that tells others to keep their eyes focused on heaven and their feet on the narrow path. Keep on my friends. This dark time is not the end of the story. Don’t let your light go out. Don’t buy into the lie that its too hard. Too much. Too late.
I believe in Christ and His ability to carry you.
Therefore, since we have a great hight priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. h=Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews is a loud cry into the battle field to the other believers to NOT GIVE UP.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:39
Jesus is the sacrifice therefore our sins are covered. Jesus is the priest therefore we have access to God. Jesus gives believers power to persevere therefore we can be faithful. The lines are drawn and we can hold onto that picture. Isn't it just gorgeous?
When we talk about art reflecting the glory of eternal ideas then we have to mention the team at The Bible Project. Their art definitely amplifies the glory of God and expands understanding for the viewers.
The team at New Spring Church has some fairly fantastic art in their infographics. Here is one for Hebrews.
www.chetsmom.com. had this beautiful rendering of Hebrews 12:1
That's the Book: Philemon
Sometimes in life you have to backup to learn anything. The book of Philemon is one of those times. You'll see what I mean.
The book of Philemon is a short one chapter appeal. Paul is writing a letter to a co-believer Philemon. Paul is asking Philemon to grant freedom to the runaway slave Onesimus. The book is also one of the more misapplied books of the Bible throughout history. So before I summarize what I believe we can learn to apply from Philemon there is an important distinction I have to cover first.
Let’s talk about what Philemon is not.
A validation of slavery.
Especially any sort of bondage that dehumanizes another soul. The chattel slavery of the US history, the caste system in India, or any sort of human trafficking for work or sex is not Biblical and Paul didn’t endorse it. Want proof? Read the text.
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do... Philemon 1:8a
According to Paul what Philemon should do under the authority of Christ is to set free his slave. If you read the full Biblical narrative you'll conclude God's heart is for equality and freedom. Major themes in the Old Testament call for freedom. When Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, it is framed as a major sin. One only God had the power to redeem. when the Israelites were captives in Egypt, God sent Moses and most of the book of Exodus being about freedom for the slaves and justice to the captors. The requirements in the law spelled out in Leviticus require a year of Jubilee where everyone is given freedom. Most of the grief in the prophets and the promise of a redeemer center around when Israel was in slavery after the fall of Jerusalem. In the New Testament Jesus makes clear he came to set free those in bondage. And Paul's other books call for treating anyone under any kind of authority with equality.
I believe we end up in trouble with the Bible when we use any verse out of context to justify behavior outside the cohesive message of the whole text. And Philemon is no different.
He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. Philemon 1: 16b
Paul asserts here that the slave Onesimus has equal value as both Paul and Philemon. His status as a man is one of fellow. So Paul is confirming what the rest of the Bible maintains - that all humans are created in God's image and have equal value. So any system which would undermine this truth is outside the Biblical narrative and is heresy. There is no room under the cross for dehumanizing language. So using Philemon (or any part of the Bible) to argue for slavery is flat out wrong.
We can now talk about what I believe the book of Philemon is;
A brilliant approach to advocacy and persuasion.
Sometimes a strong fight and an authoritative move is necessary. If you know children are in danger a call to the authorities is important. If violence is about to occur. you better buckle up for some action. An example would be the American Civil War. Although necessary, the fight is costly. And sometimes - especially when the one who needs to make amends is a believer - the right approach is an appeal through love. A good example is William Wilberforce's extended legislative action in England. William Wilberforce used logic, poetry, legislative bills and lots and lots of words to convince the public in England that the slave trade was a moral travesty. Paul's letter to Philemon is a good pattern to follow if you are working for change. Here are what I see as some critical steps.
1. Start with what is right.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. Philemon 1; 4-5
2. Make a clear call to action.
It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus-- that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Philemon 1: 9b-10
3. Establish trust and invite partnership.
I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Philemon 1:12-14
4. Lay in deep. If you have the truth on your side - ask the big question boldly.
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ Philemon 1: 17-20
5. Move forward in action.
Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Philemon 1:22-23
The thing I love about the book of Philemon is that Paul is asking a fellow believer to step out in faith in a way that is expensive, counter culture and focused on love. What can you ask today?
The team at The Bible Project had some thoughts on this book I hadn't considered. Check it out.
Since this post was about slavery I want to direct you to some great organizations fighting slavery world wide right now. And sadly....slavery is still an issue in the United States.
Check out International Justice Mission HERE. This awesome organization is using courts and advocacy world wide to set free modern day slaves.
Check out Shared Hope HERE. This Vancouver, WA based non-profit is fighting for better laws to stop sex trafficking here in the United States.
This was the kind of book you have to read slowly. Partly because Russell Moore's vocabulary and insights are above average. Partly because it's painful. But it's worth the work. Family can be hard. The cross is able to transform hard into beautiful.
If you are a fan of the hilarious Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy book, this biography of Douglas Adams is a fun romp through the lore. If you don't have the ability to laugh at yourself then this might not be a good read on your nightstand.
I really enjoyed this book. Super useful techniques to remember anything. I used it to FINALLY keep up with my 13 year old's ability to remember the Presidents of the United States. I'm telling you - anything that helps me impress my eldest daughter is worth the time to read.
Clever and big hearted. I enjoyed this book. Be warned it contains lots of salty language so its not for everyone.
When you want to learn how to do something - ask the most expert person you know what resources they recommend. I asked Artist Elo Wobig how to learn to draw and this is the kit she recommended. The girls and I are enjoying working our way through the lessons.
That's The Book: Titus
I have been tracking a few goals for the past month. Make my bed (good start to the day, gift to my future self). Read my Bible. Do something in art. Write at least 100 words a day on That’s the Book (Eleven more books to go for those of you keeping track. Probably only me. And maybe my mom. And probably my spouse and kids but they are keeping track likely only so I’ll quit talking about it.) And I’m also trying to MOVE every day. This is the tough one.
The last ten days I’ve been getting up early to do a morning YouTube video. Just a little light tone and yoga. Mostly it’s about balance. I don’t have a ton. I tried this morning to do a side plank. Not quite gonna happen yet. I tip over.
Balance is a trick in life too. Focus too much on one side and you end up obsessing over details. Veer too far to the other side and it’s a crazy free for all with no forward motion. I sometimes tip over.
The book of Titus is from Paul to one of his co-workers Titus. The basic purpose of the book is to encourage Titus to keep preaching truth and to encourage the church he serves to hang onto the main message and avoid diving into surrounding controversy. Paul's main message is that the Christian faith is the most persuasive when the church practices the truth. The goal is to honor God and welcome the wounded world by living consistently with what Jesus taught.
Here is the extreme on one side Paul is advising people to avoid.
They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach - and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1: 11. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good. Titus 1:16
And the balance he recommends;
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who gave himself for us to redeem us from wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2: 11-14
I love some of the phrases in Titus. The book is only three chapters long so you really should stop reading this and go read it - nothing like original sources. But to persuade you to do so here are a few of my favorite thoughts.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Titus 3:4-5In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. Titus 1:2
Hope and kindness and love. Good ways to balance a life. Imagine being Titus off in a lonely church trying to hold the faith. And imagine receive a letter from Paul which focused on the hope of heaven and the kindness of God. I bet it brought Titus back to center ready to face the challenge. This message is for you too. If you've veered off to one extreme of legalism where the weight of trying to do more or be more is tipping you over come back to center. If your life has toppled over to the other side with no guardrails and the license on your behavior has driven you to extremes causing pain can I recommend the same? Come back to center. Life is best lived there.
Why reinvent the wheel? The guys at the Bible Project know how to summarize better than anyone. Here is their take on Titus.
This is a fun song to memorize Titus 3:5. I love it and am going to sing this one with my kiddos.
I saw a post on Facebook this last week where friends were asked to post one word about how they felt right at that moment. Many of the words spoke to heartache.
Not my favorite list of words. It got me thinking. I wondered if this list fit most of the people I know. So I figured I should ask. Do you feel dead?
Then yesterday I went to a fundraiser for Open House Ministries; a local homeless ministry. (Check them out at www.sheltered.org). I love this organization. I love their big hearts, huge hope and incredible grace to broken and healing people. One of my favorite moments at the fundraiser was when the chaplain prayed. I may be biased because we're related - but his words hit deep.
“Thank you Jesus!
You do not take bad people and make them good.
You take dead people and make them alive.”
I wanted to Hallelujah right in the middle of the fundraiser. I didn't. But I haven't quit thinking about it.
I thought about that list of dead words. And about the sorts of words we sometimes throw out to hurting people. Perhaps we get stuck in fights online and in nasty narratives because talking about bad and good is subjective and judgmental. Too much nebulous area and room for disagreement. Too easy to point fingers and avoid our own culpability.
I thought about the people I know who put on brave faces but inside feel dead. And I wondered if maybe those words of despair are so prevalent because no one knows how to get life.
I bet most people want more life. How about you?
You know the fun thing about the gospel? Its all about trading. Death for Life. Loneliness for Family. Sadness for Joy. Discouragement for Hope. Defeat for Victory. Anxiety for Peace.
It's not magic. It's not a solution to all your problems. It doesn't make those hard spots disappear. But the promise and the gift changes you so that there is something (someone!) alive right inside that helps you grow and get help and heal. Until the first word that comes to mind might be this one:
Do you feel dead? I know the author of new life. Shoot me an email if you have questions. I'd love to take you to coffee, send you a book, or say a prayer for you. Jesus makes dead people alive. Hallelujah.
That's The Book: 2nd Timothy
The girls and I have been working our way through a book called Drawing from the Right side of the brain. It contains a series of exercises to help you learn how to draw accurately. One of the major skills is to start to see the world as it is really not as your logical left brain expects it to be. For example, very large things which are far away can appear smaller than small things which are very close. Learning to draw things as they actually appear instead of the symbolic forms your brain has always found useful is a hard switch. Effective. But difficult.
The book of 2 Timothy is similar. Paul is asking Timothy to face the world as it is - a mess full of currupt people who love to engage in fruitless arguments. Believers face hardship.
But mark this; There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal , not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 2 Timothy 3; 1-5
Some people preach an easy gospel. I’ve read those books. Trust Jesus and you’ll find the perfect spouse, make a million dollars, have beautiful skin and lord knows your children will be raised up in the way they should go - never embarrassing you in public. This is like the stick figures in drawing. It’s fake.
That’s not life. Kids get snotty or worse rebel into full loss land. People leave. Cancer hits. Loneliness, discouragement and despair aren’t what we advertise. But sometimes it is what real life looks like. Paul gives no such glib advice like work harder and magically succeed.
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3: 12-13
The good news is Paul's letter includes the truth about God as well.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1: 9b-10
You see it? The truth of the state of the world is dark and dreary. But the truth of the gospel is glorious. Eternal. True in the midst of great heart ache. True for us as well. And the truthful telling of how the world is and how great and wide God’s faithfulness is more beautiful than the cartoon fake gospel.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12
Perhaps the thing I find most encouraging about 2 Timothy is how everything was still bad, not resolved and messy. 1st Timothy was an encouragement letter from Paul to Timothy about how to handle a struggling congregation amidst difficulty. And presumably Timothy took the advice. And everything didn’t resolve into a neat package of perfection. So 2 Timothy is a reality based letter to keep on keeping on when it’s hard. If the church leaders in the early church faced difficulty and were honest about it I can be too.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in christ Jesus with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless; he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:10-13
One of the things I’m really enjoying about my art book is the step by step practical tips. Closing one eye helps figure out perspective. Using toned paper helps smooth out mistakes. I am not a talented enough artist to figure these tips on my own.
And my faith? Same. I’m not intuitive enough to figure out how to preservere on my own. So I’m grateful for 2 Timothy.Paul goes into detail practically about how to endure and remain faithful.
Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of the evangelist discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4: 2-5
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
If you want to do good art it helps to have good tools. Paper, brushes, pencils. Paul also provides good reminders that we have tools given by God.
All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline. 2 Timothy 1: 6-3
Keep your eyes on the end game. Art requires us to really see what we are trying to draw. Paul is telling Timothy the same. If you keep your eyes on heaven the picture gets clear.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4 6-8
The Lord will reduce me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. 2 Timothy 4: 18
My goal in learning to draw is to gain a new way of seeing and reflecting the world. 2 Timothy makes me think perhaps the goal is to see and reflect heaven.
The team at The Bible Project is my favorite resource. They don’t disappoint with this talk.
In case you too want to learn to draw here is a link to the book we are working our way through at home.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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