Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Deep Wound, Deeper God
By Ramone - January 12, 2009
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
- Psalm 147:3
There will be on every high mountain
And on every high hill
Rivers and streams of waters,
In the day of the great slaughter,
When the towers fall.
Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun,
And the light of the sun will be sevenfold,
As the light of seven days,
In the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people
And heals the stroke of their wound.
- Isaiah 30:25-26
This is what the Lord says:
"Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing...
But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,'
declares the Lord."
- Jeremiah 30:12,17
In the Reeds
By Ramone - January 10, 2009
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
- Isaiah 35:7
But when she could hide him no longer,
she got a papyrus basket for him and
coated it with tar and pitch. Then she
placed the child in it and put it among
the reeds along the bank of the Nile.
- Exodus 2:3
By Ramone - November 6, 2008
I painted this picture for the introduction to "Faith or Fear", a study by Cherry Brandstater. I had felt impressed to ask God for a picture for each of her three studies and when it came time to ask Him about her third study, I was suddenly at a loss. Her third study deals with the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the "Sanctuary" and "Investigative Judgment", which was created to explain why William Miller's date-setting for the day of Christ's return was not incorrect but actually of salvational importance to understand. The doctrine is so complicated and convaluted that I just had no idea where to begin or what to paint.
As I prayed, it was like I saw all the calculations -- the mess and Miller's calculations, and I saw a man at the cross. He's letting go, but having trouble letting it all go. His hands are wanting to embrace the cross... but his hands are at the same time questioning, still offering the fruits of the numbers, like saying "God, but what about this?" Isn't there something of value here in this? Something worth keeping? It couldn't have all been wrong or off, Lord? It was so close, Lord! It fit so well, made so much sense...
He's facing letting go of hoping to please God. His attempt to calculate Christ's return (or the events prior to His return) and thus "be ready" for it is ultimately an effort to earn God's approval, to earn His pleasure and "be ready" and "acceptable" for when Jesus returns. It reveals the buried, deep-seated fear that unless we do something, we won't be saved. Making these calculations, knowing what's coming and when (or how), seems to give us assurance that we'll be ready, we'll be saved, we won't be lost. We think.
But you don't have to calculate it to be saved! See the cross? He loves you! He has saved you! You are safe in Him! You are sealed in Him, by His Holy Spirit! And while you are safe in Him, He will one day come and get you to take you home and to a new world!
I was reminded of a film entitled "Pi", in which a man uses his super-computer to calculate the Kabbalah's mythical 216 digits of the name of God... and nearly kills himself in the process. Film critic Roger Ebert noted about this that "the closer you get to finding something that does not exist, the more insane you become." The closer you think you get to it, the more validated your journey seems, and the harder it is to realize your goal is was a mistaken impossibility. The harder it becomes to just let go of it all. The man with his super-computer calculations in the movie was just like Miller and the foundation of Adventism, trying to calculate the impossible to ultimately attain God (or salvation). Because it felt so, so close, Adventists could not let go of their calculations. Miller did and repented. But Adventists could not accept that it was all mistaken from the beginning. They couldn't repent and find rest at the cross.
The next day after sketching this picture, I realized God is bringing Adventists back to the root, back to the original place and opportunity for repentance that the unrepentant Millerites could not humbly take (because of the shame of humiliation and fear of futility). I realized that the picture shows the "meeting" which the unrepentant Millerites needed to have, but ran away from. It's the point of the realization which they avoided; it's the run-in with the cross which awaits them still.
I had no idea where to begin in portraying a picture about the complex and difficult Sanctuary/Investigative Judgment doctrine. But with the picture God showed, He took things past all the complicated spaghetti of the Adventist doctrine and back to the simple root of it all: the call to repent of the original error which started it all, the works of calculations attempting to garner favor with Him. Before Adventism He sets the Cross and offers rest from trying to make the calculations work, from trying to save face, from trying to avoid the fear of futility. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, it was futile. The sooner we can admit that, the sooner we can find rest and true security. Here is the choice God is presenting Adventism and has been presenting for over 165 years: Will it be the this, or will it be the Cross?
As I was copying down the "equation" numbers (and now as I write and weep in the Spirit), I note that the Cross event plays a very minor part in the calculations. The "Messianic week" is a parenthetical, "by the way" in Miller's calculations. It's just a brief stop, a supporting-evidence, a footnote on the way to getting to 1844. The Cross became a numerical proof for 1844. Miller's calculations say, "Even the Cross pointed to 1844!", instead of pointing to Christ and Him crucified as our salvation. Miller's calculations and the Adventist doctrine based on them simply set aside the message of the gospel, and declare that the way to be saved is instead to "be ready" for His coming.
"Lettin Go" is a picture of Adventists in our age (and in any age) coming to the foot of the cross and being overwhelmed as they see the choice of surrender before them. They have a brief, faint glimpse of something... a salvation with a magnitude greater than anything they had imagined--or calculated--to be possible. They hear a faint whisper of what He has done on the Cross. The Spirit calls them, both inviting and commanding, to come fall on their knees here, surrender all to Him, trust Him alone, and be broken by the Rock. And find rest. But it feels risky to believe they can be accepted bringing nothing to make themselves pleasing or "ready". It feels shameful, fearful and futile to face the possibility that so much and so long of a journey began on the wrong foot. It's hard to let go.
But ask for His grace to let go. And find rest for your souls at the Cross. Please!
See also: "Letting Go" (at Heart For Adventists)
By Ramone - October 23, 2008
This is a picture of Christ's beloved bride. She is broken. Her efforts to try and keep the old covenant laws only showed her how much she failed and fell short. She finds she has no hope, no rest, and is dressed in filthy rags. And in this place of her greatest brokenness, the gentle hands of her Savior reach down to lift up her head, hiding her view of her broken works and moral righteousness, bringing her gaze instead up to Him, to see Him instead of her perfection or how pure she isn't. And here she finds peace. Here she lays down her burden, a yoke too heavy for her to carry, and finds rest for her soul in Him, her Beloved. She finds that He Himself is her Sabbath-rest. Forever.
Bless you in Jesus' name, in His love.
This picture came as I was praying for my friend Cherry Brandstater's website, "Gently Broken", which the Spirit led her to put together to minister to the hearts of Seventh-day Adventists in desperate need of relief and rest in Jesus Christ alone. She used it for the introduction to her study about the Sabbath here: "Ultimate Rest" (Introduction)
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Safe in You (in that Day)
By Ramone - January 7, 2009
The other day at a family restaurant with my wife and son, I felt the itch to sketch something in my spirit, but what? First I saw bread and wine. Communion? Was this about "communion"?
I began mulling over things about that. Many people focus on the ritual of communion, how important "the eucharist" is, the service, the church, and so on. As I began thinking about all of that, I began to actually dread the misunderstandings that would come when people saw this picture... they would see it as an affirmation of whatever central importance they had placed on (or felt needed to be placed on) the communion service.
I began looking at the background, and I started to see a dark sky and brown hills (as I write this, I am weeping in the Spirit)... and I knew it was the last days and/or the last day itself. Darkness is coming and will increase before He comes. In that day, the only safe place to be is in Him.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A liter of wheat for a denarius, and three liters of barley for a denarius, and do not damage the oil and the wine!" (Revelation 6:5-6)I believe we are living in the days after the opening of the third seal. Today there are all sorts of "scales" being used in the world to weigh value... value of things, places, and people (oh, Lord). All sorts of "measurements" are being taken and used and exacted on people whom God has died for. (That's what these pictures are about). But God is telling us that the only safe place is in His Son. The only thing that counts is the life of the Son, Jesus Christ. As humans, our measurements and scales are "off". We don't know how to weigh and value as we ought to. We must trust God's system of weighing. He can see that our righteousness is nothing in His sight. Only His Son's counts.
That's what this picture is about. He is saying that the only thing that will stand in that day, the only righteousness that will stand in that day is His Son's. Our only way through is His body, His blood freely given to us.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." (John 6:53-58)As I began writing about "communion" earlier, I began to weep in the Spirit because THIS IS NOT ABOUT A RITUAL, LITURGICAL OR CEREMONIAL "SERVICE" OR ACTIVITY! He is calling us to stare at His Son, what He has done for us, and receive HIM! Receive His righteousness and live by His word! Trust in Him, that it is only His body that was broken for us --the perfect sacrifice for our sins-- and His blood poured out to forgive our sins. He is our covenant, He is our safety, He Himself is our only shelter in the day of darkness.
On Your Shoulders
By Ramone - January 7, 2009
"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him,(>_<)
for He shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders."- Deuteronomy 33:12You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders
You raise me up... to more than I can be.- "You Raise Me Up", by Rolf Lovland & Brendan Graham
Thank You, Lord. Thank You.
See also: "I Am Your Pasture" (at Weeping Jeremiahs) and at Heart For Adventists
Bound Together (sketch)
Monday, January 05, 2009
By Ramone - January 2, 2009
This came as I was praying about some songs the Lord had given me about His "Sabbath-rest". It's probably the most 'simple' picture I've done yet. In my spirit (thank You, Lord!) I simply saw an ocean stretching out to the horizon. The water up close was lighter, clearer, almost green, and in the distance it grew darker. It was like I was on some tropical island looking at clear, beautiful clear waters, light green and light blue waters, and beautiful deep blue ocean waters.
What is "Sabbath-rest"? It's not a day. Rather, "Sabbath rest" is the wonderful rest and peace that comes to us in Jesus because of His finished work for us. Jesus called us to lay our burdens down and enter His rest (Matthew 11:28-30), and the Bible says we can experience that rest "today" (Hebrews 4:7). We can rest in Him--right now! We don't have to wait for "the right day of the week" or some special event.
Naturally we think there is something we have to do. Religion teaches us we have to earn His rest (sadly, even Christianity has often done this, too). But no, Jesus Christ has done the work for us. It's time to lay down our burdens and just go out into His waters of rest. We can enter today simply by faith (Hebrews 4:3), not by works or law. His rest is a gift of grace to us. And like entering the ocean, we can't stand on our own two feet, so to speak. We've got to lay down -- lay down our burdens, our efforts, and just let Him carry us out into the deep.
Our works, our efforts, even the old covenant law, we cling to all of these things because they unconsciously feel like a sort of insurance to us. We feel safe by holding onto law & works. "If I do this, then I know I'm safe." We're afraid of simply falling into the arms of the living God. Since we can't see God physically, it's naturally difficult for us to trust Him fully for saving. Doing some bit ourselves, some thing, some good work, some law obedience -- unconsciously these things seem to offer a support, a leg, an insurance. It seems like they'll give us a little relief, some extra assurance. Ironically, they don't. They in fact give us less assurance! Simply because deep inside we know we can never measure up. So we end up comparing ourselves to a standard (like the old covenant law) and measuring ourselves to it. In moments of doubt (which may be frequent) we run into despair, wondering if we measure up or not.
In contrast, Jesus gives us rest. It's a free gift. To trust Him fully for saving feels a bit scary at first. Letting go of our insurance feels a bit like floating out into this ocean! It would be fearful in the natural to even consider just floating away into the ocean. But in the sea of God's love, it is different --there is no safer place.
In fact, clinging to what's behind is far more dangerous, for behind us is a mountain of dead works, filthy rags, unrest, unrighteousness and impending death. Without His saving (His alone, not ours!) we are lost in a sea of death. Far better to be "lost at sea in His love"! (Lord, stamp that on my forehead -- "Lost at sea in His love!")
As I thought of the different colors of water, growing deeper further out, I realized it is because the water is shallower up close and deeper farther off into the ocean. I realize that this picture is a view looking outward from this picture by my spiritual mum Hazel Holland. In a dream (link) the Lord showed her a picture of a mountain of children piled upon one another, dressed in dirty ragged clothes, frantically holding onto each other and the 'mountain' of bodies beneath them (many of which had died), fearful of falling into the blue sea around them (see close-up). They were holding onto their works, good works & dead works, and the old covenant law, terrified of letting go to what seemed like certain death and oblivious to the fact that merely avoiding the sea of God's rest was actually killing them.
This is a picture looking outward into that sea. Can you hear God's voice calling you to let go of your works, your 'insurance', and come rest in Him? It's a picture of Him calling us in deep peace, invitation and longing,
"Come rest in Jesus. Come in, come deep."
You & Your Family
By Ramone - January 1, 2009
A sister in Christ who is a former Adventist, like myself, made this comment recently on the FAF forum:
"I feel sometimes I am as the man who 'saw men as trees walking,' but I know the One who is healing me and who rescued me from SDAism. I know He is trustworthy to change me 'from glory to glory' as He continues to work in my life."She was mentioning this story of a blind man who was healed by Jesus...
A Blind Man Healed at BethsaidaPutting On or Taking Off?
Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.
And he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking." Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, "Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town."
- Mark 8:22-26 NKJV
When you first look at this picture, it seems to appear that something is being applied to the eye, but in fact, something is being wiped off! Something is being removed from the eye, in layers. Perhaps often we ask for that healing eye salve, or we ask for a new thing, when in fact what Jesus would rather do is just help us see Him more clearly? I believe this reflects how many of us have "put something on our eyes" that would appear to help us see clearer, but in fact it actually clouds our vision. (This was true of Adventism!)
It reminds me of the letter to Thyatira in Revelation 2. In that city the church had a special 'prophet' who was probably a leader there and was teaching them some "deep secrets", which probably came with a certain "prophetic" advertisement or credibility -- "This person is a prophet! These are special things I need to know! They're deeper things, deeper keys and secrets!" (I believe the prophet's teaching probably offered greater spiritual 'authority', that is, greater ways to control your destiny or receive blessings.)
Jesus came down really hard on them, saying He was going to punish this prophet and all of the prophet's "children", because what this person was peddling was actually death! He then said, "I lay no other burden on you." Interestingly, often people advertise "deep secrets", special knowledge, etc., and it's supposed to make things easier, take you deeper into the divine, etc. But what it does is actually make things heavier. There's more to learn, more effort to exert, and more trouble if you mess up or don't hold to and soak up the teachings. Jesus said these things are all "burdens". He came to take away our burdens, not lay more on us! All we need to do is hold onto Him, onto what He has given us freely of Himself.
Discerning the Thicker Cloud
Jesus' command to the man (not to return to the town) is interesting. The man was from the town of Bethsaida, which was one of a few places that Jesus rebuked very harshly (Matthew 11:20-24). Although He had ministered there a lot and done many miracles, as a whole they generally refused to repent and believe in Him. It seems as if there was a general unwillingness to believe in the town, a spirit of unbelief. It didn't hit everybody, but it seemed to be pretty strong. Mark doesn't say who the "they" were that brought the blind man to Jesus, but it's interesting that the first thing Jesus did was to take the blind man out of town. Could it be that He didn't want to do a miracle in front of people who wouldn't believe and repent even if they saw it, or who were looking for a show? Did He take the man away from the "they" who brought him to Jesus? Had "they" brought him to Jesus out of belief or unbelief? There aren't definitive answers to these questions, but what we do know is that the man's healing came in layers, and that Jesus wanted him to stay out of the environment of Bethsaida.
Bethsaida seemed to be a town under "a non-repentant cloud of unbelief", so to speak. So Jesus took him out of that cloud (out of the town) for his healing, and even then it took more than one touch of His hand. After that, even though he had been irrefutably healed, even though he could physically see clearly and had a great "witness" of who Jesus was, Jesus told him not to go back to Bethsaida. The "cloud" of unbelief and a non-repentant heart is more difficult to have removed than physical layers on top of your eye! Opening blind eyes was not as difficult as opening willfully blinded hearts.
The Sight We Trust In
All of us live in a kind of "Bethsaida" at times. We grow up not believing, or are in unbelieving environments. All of our spiritual "sight" can blinded in "layers". We discover something true, but it's not usually the end of things. He still has more to show us. Often we begin to discern spiritual things, but we're not seeing clearly yet. Like the man from Bethsaida, we make out fuzzy shapes but don't quite see it clearly. Paul said it was like seeing in a mirror -- that is, an ancient mirror which reflected an unclear image (see this picture & story). Though we don't see clearly, we know His touch, and that it is Him who is with us.
It's not our sight or our healing that we trust in, but rather the love of Him who is before us!
There were several times when He healed blind people, but in this case the man was not "instantly" healed. I don't know about you, but automatically it makes me think, "Was His touch not strong enough?" "What was wrong?" In praying for healing (in my own life and in others' lives today), I've known that often healings don't happen instantaneously, but take time. Somehow I hadn't realized that this happened in the Bible, as well. I don't know all the reasons for this, but sometimes it just takes time.
The important thing is that He sees us clearly, and we trust Him and know He sees us clearly. I don't necessarily like the picture of an eye up-close. Go figure, somehow it's slightly grotesque to me. But this is how I saw it. And a blue eye, at that (my eyes are brown!). I think it represents being at peace... the blue is like the waves of the sea, the peaceful waters of rest. Knowing it is He who touches and heals us, and trusting in Him (instead of in our sight), we can be at peace even though we do not see fully clearly, and/or are not completely healed. Our faith isn't in the degree of our clear-sight, nor in the degree of how much we are or are not healed. Rather, our faith is in the love in the hand and heart of Him who is with us and touching us.
Knowing He Knows
The Sovereign God knew what He was doing when He touched the man's eyes at Bethsaida. He could have taken it all off with one touch, but somehow I think He wanted the man to have the experience of seeing "walking trees", so to speak, so that he would know he didn't yet see clearly. Perhaps that first touch was given to get the man's faith rolling? Maybe seeing those "walking trees" helped him have more faith, that if Jesus touched him again, He'd see even clearer.
I have this conviction that God always knows what He's doing. He does things in a way that is perfect for us. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes we can't see clearly. Other times we think we've understood and had our eyes opened, and we don't realize it's only the beginning. It can be difficult once you think you're healed (or unveiled) to find out there's more to go. It can be difficult when you think you've learned something correctly, only to find out that you weren't seeing clearly.
But He knows what He's doing, and He tell us not to be afraid in His hands, because He will remove whatever things are keeping us from seeing Him clearly. Maybe there are certain 'layers' or beliefs we think we need, but really are clouding our vision. Maybe it's just that we think we've left it all behind, but really we haven't. His revelation that there's more healing (or unveiling) to go can be a shock to us --perhaps even painful-- but He works all things for our healing. And we trust in His clear vision of us, not in how well we see Him clearly.
Born in Christ!
By Ramone - December 27, 2008
What we can celebrate at "Christmas". (^_^)
This is something that occured to me after listening to a Christmas service. Because He has saved us, because He has traded places with us (taking our sins and giving us His eternal inheritance as our own), we are now in Him and identify with Him. Because He was born, I was born. I was born in Him! I am in Him now, having been born again. I now live in Him, grow in Him, move in Him and have my being in Him. When He appears in glory, then I too will appear.
By Ramone - December 27, 2008
I feel God is calling us to receive His heart so much, so heavily, to be broken by His love for someone, for others, for whoever is on His heart... to come to the end of ourselves, kind of similar to this picture in a way. I think there's a point of being filled so much with His heart for someone/people that it's so overwhelming that you don't know what to "do" next, you know? You're stopped, immobilized, overwhelmed and overcome by His love, and the only way forward from there is complete surrender to whatever He says. I saw this picture of a path, with a GIANT heart blocking the way of the person walking on the path, and the person is on his/her hands and knees, broken, unable to 'see' the way forward... now the only way forward is in His heart.