Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Set A Table Before Me

Although this image may look mysterious, there is nothing deliberately hidden or cryptic about it.  It's a very straight-forward illustration of part of Psalm 23:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Psalm 23: 5

This artwork refers to the first and last parts of the verse, only alluding to the oil with the branch of olives (and again, the olive leaves, if you read the last blog).  The table is the focal point.  On it are items that would be sustaining if in the natural, and although the Lord does provide us with our earthly sustanence, it is spiritual reality that I am illustrating. 

As I mentioned, there is an olive branch, which here represents healing and anointing. (We often think of the olive branch as representing peace, from the dove in Genesis, after the flood, but it was a leaf it carried, not a branch-- still we can also add the meaning of "peace with God, because of His covenant"-- which makes a theme in this picture, God's New Covenant with us).  There are grapes, which are "the fruit of the vine" from which wine is made-- so this can represent the wine of communion-- the blood of Christ-- and the fruit of the Spirit as well.  The bottle is a wine bottle, so that is redundant in a way.  I would take this to mean that the grapes represent the fruit of the Spirit more specifically. 

The bread is "the bread of life" which Jesus called Himself (John 6: 33, 35, 48, 51-- look these up for a really great Bible study).  However, notice that the bread is challah, a Jewish bread, but that it is not unleavened.  Jesus would have been serving unleavened bread at the "Last Supper," because He and his disciples were celebrating the Passover.  All though the communion table is somewhat referenced in this artwork, I think that the table I'm referring to here is really a more "every day" sort of table.  Truly, what is being served here is the Life of Christ in the middle of ordinary life. 

Lastly, there is cheese, which I chose to artistically represent the "milk of the Word", the "solid food", and if you'll allow me a little artistic license "the meat of the Word" as well (honestly, I didn't want to look at a leg of lamb sitting on the table, but I think it should be there spiritually speaking--the foibles of an artist!  Maybe I'll have to go back and add it after all-- but then, I'd have to put a bottle of milk there too!)  The cup on the table, which I decorated up with some designs and a cross, obviously symbolic, could be the "cup of salvation," -- it is there to hold whatever is being drunk, either the wine, or the milk, or the water.  It also represents the body and the soul.

That brings me to the large goblet behind the table, translucent to represent "unseen," spiritual reality.  It represents Christ and His presence, full of the water of life.  His presence is there, even if "unseen," officiating at the table, serving as He does, and ministering with His constant overflow.  In a way, it also represents the Christian, who, when he is in Christ and Christ is in him, truly can say "my cup overflows."  Here we are in the wilderness, and all we really need is the Cup, because everything on the table is actually a product of His overflow. 

We could also relate to Jesus praying, "let this cup pass from me, if it be thy will." (Matthew 26:39)  In the situation, or experience, of this picture, we may also be praying the same thing.  Our answer seems to be, "no, you have to go through this, but I will be with you."  And Jesus, having gone before us, has been the victor.  It is because He accepted the cup that was given Him that we are saved and delivered.

When I say the table is the focal point, I would have to say that it was  to me, when I thought of making this image.  And yet, the subject of the artwork is truly the "You" in the title, and the awesome power and presence of the Lord.  It's hard to miss the lightning, and when I first chose to put that in, it made me wonder if the viewer might take it as God was one of the enemies.  I'd say to that, "only if you are an enemy of God," and of course, that is your choice. 

For me, and any other child of God, the incredible power packed into that lightning bolt is a cause for fear and trembling, but it's not aimed at us!  If it's wrath against sin, Christ absorbed it, and He can take it.  I'd say, the enemies around better take warning, for that is just a tiny bit of a display of God's power.  This shows how much we don't have to fear any amount of display of so-called power by any enemy, demonic or otherwise.  We have God on our side, if indeed we are on His.

This image is a rather dark one, for the simple fact is that we live in a darkened world.  Sometimes our enemy is only the darkness of our own mind and the blind state we might find ourselves in.  In that case, the light of the gospel is shining, and it will overcome the darkness if we don't run away.  The lamp on the bottom left is representative of  Spirit and Truth, and it's not plugged in to any natural source!  It's getting its energy from the lighting, from God's power. 

I noticed that while I was working close up into the picture, and the table and the chandelier filled the screen, or higher up where the lightning hits the cup, it is very bright.  It is only when you back off from the image that it looks dark.  This is very significant, as that's how it is with our walk in Christ.  If we back off from Him, our experience becomes very dark and frightening.  We start looking at the darkness in the world and at the enemies, and we feel threatened.  Instead, we should get closer to God, and His light then fills our mind and changes our experience.  Suddenly, the enemies are of no consequence.

There is only one active enemy visible in the picture, and that is the snake (an emerald tree boa), which represents Satan, the accuser.  He is hiding in the shadows, waiting for a chance to devour.  But the only chance he has is for us to stand still and give him permission and access into our minds.  He constricts by telling lies, which we don't have to listen to or believe.  Basically, he has no power over us except to tempt or confuse, and if we're focused on Christ and His Word, he is easily overcome.  And if you look carefully, a tip of lightening is touching him, as if the finger of God were reminding Satan of his doom.  For the truth is, Jesus already overcame the devil.  Thinking of this reminds me of Jesus in the wilderness after He was baptized.  The Spirit led Him there to be tempted of the devil.  He overcame Satan with the Word of God!  That is the same thing we are to do when we find ourself in that situation, say "It is written":

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:1-4 NKJV
When Jesus came out from the wilderness, he began his ministry in power.
I chose the background picture of the stones in an ancient celtic circle to represent other spiritual forces, either demonic or human, that are not submitted to God but are not directly trying to attack the viewer.  I am not thoroughly familiar with the meaning and usages of these stone circles, except to know they were part of pagan worship.  I do know that they are still held as sacred by some people, and are popular imagery these days in spiritualistic or occult belief systems.  The demonic spirits behind this type of worship are territorial.  They don't mess with me, but I have become an enemy to them, and have aggressively camped on what they call their ground.  The people's minds who are held captive to false religions are what is being fought for.  This is the ground, the territory where the battle is.  My purpose is to call these people out of darkness and into God's glorious light. 

There are so many people who are interested, on a fascination level, with anything spiritual.  For some, it's an escape.  But people are really looking for answers these days, and are looking to spiritual things.  I think some people are more drawn to light than others, and if they will come near the light, that is good.  Maybe they will accept the true Light and be saved.  But how many realize that just because something is spiritual doesn't mean it's good, even though it might look it?  That snake looks very pretty sometimes (he can appear as an "angel of light"  2 Cor 11:14 ) and can sound very pleasing, but if you put up with him, he's deadly.

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.  For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. 2 Corinthians 11: 13-15, 20 NKJV)

This artwork shows a battlefield-- a very personal one for me.  Having been saved from the occult myself, by Christ Jesus, I can only do what is right and try to shine His light out into the world, perhaps to draw others to Him, who is the only  way to God.  I am aware of the danger of battling for a mountain that Satan holds at present.  I know I am not beyond temptation or deception.  As I step out of my "cave" where I feel safe from the world, I take the risk of being stumbled by something in it.  And yet I can do no good by hiding my light.  Therefore, I must partake of the feast of the Lord "in the presence of my enemies," since now they know where I am.  And though I am not afraid of them, they do try to hinder me.  I thank the Lord for His constant presence and protection, and that He will defend me as I remain in Him.

The images I used for this composite were licensed from
Castlerigg stone circle © Boguslaw Kupisinski
Round Antique Table 3d © Vadim Andrushchenko
Old goblet © Ole Jakob Ihlebæk 
Ornate Table Lamp Chandelier © Margojh
Red grapes isolated © Cs333 
Emerald Tree Boa © Eric Isselée
Challah bread isolated on white © Kgfoto
Wicker Bottle © Fabrizio Troiani 
Olive II © Pjgon71 
Cheese isolated on white © Yana Gulyanovska 
Grunge texture © Draganea 
Tattered Scroll Collection © Cajoer 
The beginning of the tornado © Victor Zastol`skiy
Sheep with lamb © John Butterfield
Celtic flower design © Patrick Guenette
Fencing © Galina Afanasyeva

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Kingdom of Peace

This work began as a study for a painting I had promised a friend, quite some time ago.  I have since decided that trying to paint detailed and surreal images like this would take more time than I have, so I've concluded that my digital composite art will have to do.  I am happy with this mode of expression now~ I have made my peace with it!

Her request was for a "lion and lamb" picture, and I know she likes gardens, so I began to create a spiritual garden mostly from photos of my own of the Cummer in Jacksonville.  The olive tree, of course, doesn't grow there in the natural world.  But I was envisioning a mountaintop garden, and since Jesus often prayed and rested with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, I thought it was fitting.  It represents here the Tree of Life.  I was concerned at first that it didn't seem to have olives on it, and I was going to try to clone them in, but I decided it wasn't necessary, as "the leaves are for the healing of the nations."

 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelations 22:2 

Now this picture doesn't match up with the Biblical description here, but then there's at least one in Genesis that's different.  What I'm thinking is that wherever Jesus is, there's the Tree of Life, since He is the Life.  I don't have clear revelation on "twelve fruits," so I am going to leave that alone right now.  I figure that He can bear fruit in His season, and that is His doing not mine.   I do know that in the natural world, olive leaf is a useful herb that promotes health and healing, and I occasionally use it myself if I'm fighting an infection!  Olive oil is also one of those really healthy things, and it stands for anointing in Scripture.  Sometimes I can't put every detail into a piece that there possibly could be, so we have to see the possibilities for understanding even in that which is "unspoken" but can be "read between the lines."

The main subject is Christ, and the Lion and the Lamb both represent Him:

But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." Revelation 5:5

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  John 1:29

"for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17

In this picture, the lion and lamb are actually sitting on a rock that is in the middle of a stream!  That may seem uncomfortable, but this is a spiritual representation.  It's the river of God, which "proceeds from the throne of God"

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1

Since this is a symbolic representation of the Kingdom of God, we will assume the throne of God is present but unseen as is God Himself.  The rule of God is visible however, in its effects.  Here, one of the effects is peace.  Remember that one of the premises I go on in my artistic representations of spiritual things is this:

nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21

So, if the Kingdom is in you by the indwelling Christ (shown by the dove who symbolizes the Holy Spirit), then the outcome would be peace.  This of course is a process, but we should be having an increase of peace as the rule of Christ in our life increases:

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.  Isaiah 9:7

As much holy zeal as the Lord has, He is always at peace, which is why I have chosen to show the lion and lamb lying down.  He expects us to rest in Him as well, and be at peace.  He is the Prince of Peace!  There is no reason, no valid excuse really, to live in worry, stress and doubt if He is our King and Shepherd.  And what better Shepherd to have than one who knows what it's like to be a sheep?!  He knows how easy it is for us to fret and have care that takes away our health and well-being.  He knows our natural world does not often look like this artwork.  It often looks like devastation, as in Haiti.  However, for the Christian, even living in terrible circumstances and with incredible suffering does not have to steal our peace from us.  Indeed, we should endeavor to enter into His peace and rest, which will shelter us in times of difficulty. 

Hbr 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. . . Hbr 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. . . Hbr 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. . . Hbr 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4  [I suggest reading the whole chapter, and also Psalm 91].

Jesus words about the end times were about tribulation of all types, so we should not be dismayed at the happenings in the world. 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

We are to expect trials, tribulations, and persecutions, but we have the Spirit if we belong to Christ, and one of the fruits of the Spirit is peace.  Tribulation also works to train our character and bring us into line with Christ's character, of which patient endurance is certainly part.  (Galatians 5:22;  Romans 5:3)  Small trials throughout our life help make us stronger and more able to deal with large problems later.  But if we do have to deal with something for which we are not ready, then His grace is sufficient:

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have had plenty of opportunities in my life to test the validity of this Scripture, and I testify that is it indeed true!  And yet, sometimes I worry that something will happen in life, some big disaster or something, that I won't be able to handle.  Then the Lord gently reminds me of how His grace carried me through things I thought would certainly destroy me, or at least my mental stability.

No matter what, we have the hope of Christ's return in glory to rule on the earth!  I am looking for that, praying that it will be soon.  When we think of the "millenial reign" we probably first think of peace!  I love the word picture that Isaiah "painted" about that:

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6 

We often get these words confused with the "lion and lamb" concept, but I think these pictures fit together, so I took advantage of the fact that seeing a lion and lamb lying down together would evoke a concept of the millenial reign as well.  We often don't think of the fact that as we mature, our picture of Christ matures as well.  We may know Him as the Lamb at first (He is easier to handle that way), and then the Lion of Judah later (which I see as a more warlike representation, one that has already defeated Satan).  Eventually we will be comfortable knowing Him as both the Lion and the Lamb together, understanding that He will manifest whatever facet of Himself that is necessary for the time.

These things were all in me as I "painted" but I received a "hidden manna" from it as I meditated on the picture and prayed for more understanding.  I saw it while I was listening to a Brenda Craig teaching on the Word.  Suddenly I saw that the garden here is divided into three parts.  I knew this when I did it but I didn't see what it really showed.  It is all about how we pursue (seek after) the Lord. 

This is what I saw:  on the left, He leads us into green pastures, a place of quiet and rest.  He does all the work, we just lean on Him and soak in His presence.  In the middle, there seems to be no way in, just something you can look into but not walk to.  The Lord showed me that there are two ways to go deeper, dive in or fly in!  This is spiritual, and it's takes seeking the Lord to understand.  But it takes a leap of faith and giving up your own control.  The third way of pursuing the Lord is climbing.  As on the right hand side of the picture, one has to climb up some steep stairs to venture out into more of who He is.  You might get to a mountain top and have a revelation of God.  You might go down into a valley then to serve, and discover more of His character and have it worked into you.  It's about action,  testing, and experience.  But it all takes us to a higher level with Him.  Each of these three modes requires faith, hope and love-- along with obedience and perseverance.  But they will all three lead to more intimacy with Christ and knowing God more.

I haven't explained the statue (from Middleton Place in South Carolina).  What do you think it means?  Comments?

Credit for images licensed  for use in this composite:
Grand old olive tree  © Manicblue
Hills & Swiss Alps © Ken Brown
Rotunda in Crimea  © Vladyslav Surnin  
Lamb © Mikael Damkier
Male Lion © Eric Gevaert
Beautiful stone urn with flowers © Douglas Freer
White Dove in Flight 6 © Christopher Ewing

"The Kingdom of Peace" is a composite artwork by Karen Gladys Henry © 2009. All rights reserved. For permission to use this image in any way other than copying to your computer as wallpaper, please email me at Thank you.