A Rant - Passover and the New Covenant

I'm stunned and deeply saddened at the Old Covenant understanding of what is a thoroughly, entirely, and solely New Covenant celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.  My blog reading today has grieved me - even my favorite blog (post edit:  I removed the name of this blog out of respect for its writer.  She may not have realized...)

 An Old Covenant understanding is the very opposite of what this Resurrection Thing is meant to communicate. 

No, I am not talking about understanding the Jewish roots of Christianity - though it could be debated that the roots of Christianity are in Christ Alone - He was the plan from before the foundation of the world.

I am not talking about the thoroughly Jewish setting of the Gospel Narrative...I get all that.  Been there, read the books, done the Seders, done the Halakhahs, got the T-shirt, and got me an "A" on the Hebraic Thinking Test.  But all this talk of Old Covenant, as if it somehow makes the resurrection better than it is, all by itself?  All the law-based jargon?  Do we really have to be quite so Jewish to grasp our salvation?

No, we don't.  And it could be...might be...I have at times personally observed it to be....dangerous.  Yes, this whole Passover thing can be dangerous if not viewed through  radically New Covenant eyes.  Read the words of the Apostle Paul, which are, incidentally, also the words of Christ.  The whole Bible should be in red letters, because it is all the words of Jesus, and all about Jesus, the Word become flesh.

At worst, all the Jewish symbolism celebrated by supposedly New Covenant people keeps the lost from seeing the true Gospel (which is the Finished...Finished!...work of Christ).  At best, it is playing with shadows, delighting in symbol over substance.  At worst, all this symbolism engenders an elitist spirituality - blatantly put forth as being sound doctrine.  There is a sad example of this in one of the links on my favorite blog.  The link she promotes takes you to a Jewish roots type of website, where the writer boldly asserts that keeping the law could be what makes us "chosen" in Christ! 

Utter.  Nonsense.  I can't emphasize that enough.  Not.  True.

At best, all this Seder/Passover/Tabernacle/symbolism obscures the real and simple truth:  Christ died for the sins of the world.  (The Methodist church, next road over from me, has a replica of the tabernacle up in their yard.  So I'm not just picking on this one lady, whose blog I normally adore, and promote here all the time.  The tabernacle?  In tarp and cotton and Tyvek?  Puh-leeze.  I'd rather my kid sit on a giant bunny's lap for a cute picture, or hunt for plastic eggs.)

All over blogland, as well meaning parents seek to teach their children the significance of Easter, the Resurrection is either trivialized on one side, or ritualized into Old Covenant oblivion on the other.

On the eve of this most New Covenant of New Covenant celebrations, may I point out that this thing, all along, has been all about Christ, and the Father's securing a bride for the Son?  It all culminates
in a marriage supper, friends.

The Passover depicts the New Covenant, the New Covenant is not about the Passover.  Yes, during Christ's celebration of the Passover, during that holy Seder, it is very possible, even probable, that the Son of God proposed marriage to His bride, down through the ages.  When He said, "This cup is the blood of the New Covenant..." it would have been well known to a practicing Jew that that was a traditional marriage proposal.

Which made communion forevermore a New Covenant sacrament, where you and I get to say "Yes" again and again and again - YES to being the Bride.  YES to having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing - because of the price our Groom paid to obtain us.  He fulfilled the law on our behalf, so that the stain and spot of sin could be blotted out, the wrinkles of our failures smoothed by the pressing heat of His Great Love.

Once, for all time.  His work is Finished, and if you look at that picture up there, you are looking at a small part of what it was all about.  I know this, I think, deeper than I know my own name.

The most appropriate way in the universe to observe and keep and celebrate the Resurrection is to tomorrow be with The Bride, also known as your local church - not playing in the shadows at some Seder somewhere, earlier in the week.  Not playing with symbols long been retired - but rather, go be with the Lamb's bride, celebrating the substance of the Passover, and relishing the freedom from sin's dark stain, freedom from wrong's inherent wrinkles! 

The Bride.  No spot.  No wrinkle.  No "any such thing".  Why?  Because she stands In Christ Alone.  Christ died to have her.  His blood has (past tense) washed her clean.  And don't you call unclean or irrelevant or "too much trouble to fool with" the very thing Christ gave the ultimate price to treasure and have.

The Passover is about the New Covenant.  The New Covenant is not about the Passover.

Good Friday, More Art For Missions, and The Art of Makoto Fujimura

A Good Friday, after dinner treat...

Last year's hand-made rejoicing...

 More Art for Missions...

 Acrylics, modeling paste, watercolors, matte gel with colored tissue paper, hand-stamping, ink, all rendered in spring colors, layered upon pages of antique hymnals, with a strip of antique hymnal fully visible at the bottom...
10x10 canvas, $45, postage paid
If you'd like this mixed media canvas, email me, and I'll ship it out to you.

Half of all I make on my art goes to our Harvest Church teens' mission trip to the streets of southern California this June -  the other half goes back into art supplies.

Easter display, in my foyer, with a very special Makoto Fujimura's Four Gospels Project, a gift given to me last year - and an absolute treasure. This book was not manufactured, it was crafted.  If you can possibly have one for yourself, you won't regret it!  It launched me into a Makoto Fujimura "craze" that continues to this day.  I devour everything he writes and paints.  I feel like I finally understand - and I love -  abstract art, when Fujimura puts it in context of Scripture.

I created my Easter display with Fujimura's Four Gospels, opened to one of my favorite pages with the account of the Resurrection on the left, and a painting on the right.  (I have to say, I was so overwhelmed by the lavish love of this gift last year, I couldn't even blog about it. I quietly treasured it up in my heart, a secret between me, God, and the giver of the gift...) I scattered my mercury glass birds all around, and even behind the large illuminated Bible, where you can't see them in the picture.  I also placed my four-sided Easter candleholder, depicting the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Pieta, and the Resurrection...

No deep thoughts today - not because I am not thinking them, but because they are beyond words, right at this moment.  My fingers don't want to type them yet, and my heart wants to linger longer over the things I hear God saying to me.

Ponder the power of the cross.

Holy Week Thoughts - Wednesday

But now, God's message:
The God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.
I've called your name. You are mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place,
it won't be a dead end -
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That's how much you mean to me!
That's how much I love you!
I'd sell off the whole world to get you back,

I'd sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.
So don't be afraid: I'm with you.

~Isaiah 43:1-5a in "The Message"

Someone well seasoned in many years of ministry said to me, "The grace of God is the gospel!" I agree. With all my heart, I agree. You can't separate God from His grace. You can't separate grace from the gospel, or the gospel from grace. You can't compartmentalize the atonement, justification, or the truth about the power of the Holy Spirit doing the works of God in and through the believer...it is all the gospel.

Because the gospel is many faceted, and the grace of God is, in Peter's words, "manifold", God raises up pastors and teachers who spend their lives for it...explaining it, living it, reminding everyone of it, at every opportunity.

Just because a limited, finite human vessel (like a pastor or teacher) has 45 minutes to an hour, once a week, to instruct and illustrate manifold "grace", does not mean grace has somehow been separated from the person of Jesus, or isolated from the other aspects of His nature. I'm sure there have been heretical antinomians who've done that, but I don't know them by name.

The "first things" that CS Lewis referred to? (see blog entitled "First Things") They are always all-of-a-piece. First things, (like the love of God), have no power apart from their source. You cannot slice and dice the Godhead. They dwell in an eternal, unchangeable state of unity amongst diversity. God is love. God is justice. God is wisdom and peace. God is grace. God is truth. Grace is the truth about God, and the truth about God is His grace.

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (I Cor. 1: 30, 31)

Because of God, we are in Christ Jesus, who, because of God is our imputed wisdom, our imputed righteousness, our imputed (and ongoing) sanctification, and our complete redemption. That pretty much covers it all. The entire Trinity has conspired to make sure Jesus is our entire substitute, so that the only thing we can ever take credit for is His Finished Work.

To focus on any aspect of this gospel, such as grace, using Scripture as your authority - what seems like a singular focus will automatically put you in the rip-tide of the Holy Ghost. You will be pulled, inexorably, into all God is; you will be drawn into the depths of all that Christ has accomplished on your behalf. Why? Because "Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one God." You might begin with grace, and you still end up with....GOD!

But until it becomes personal, until it becomes something we realize we desperately need, it is mere creed. The only thing that takes the gospel from creed to need is such a constant exposure to The Message of the New Covenant, that you begin to apply it to your day, not just your destiny. Ah, then you will discover a stark need for grace, because the Gospel is to be applied by all saints, at all times, to all of life.   More than a one-time "prayer of salvation", more than a doctrine; the more you see God, the more you become aware of your stark need of Him - his power, grace, and love.

Grace is the gospel. The atonement is the gospel. Righteousness is the gospel. The love of God is the gospel. He'd "sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you."

Holy Week Thoughts

image from the blog Na Da Farms...

After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (Hosea 6)

Blatant New Covenant truth, up there, found smack dab in the Old Testament...grace is all over the place, from Genesis to Malachi, from the first Messianic prophecy, and the blood sacrifice to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, to the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings.

But what reaches out and grabs me by the throat in these verses in Hosea is the phrase, "Then shall we know, IF we follow on to know the Lord..."

Some things pertaining to the Lord, I only get when I pursue them, persist in them, persevere in the quest. Follow on to know. I will not follow on to know with any sincerity if I think I already know. And in my limited experience, the manifold grace of God is one of the aspects of the gospel that I have had to follow on to know. It has been a stunning journey, so far.

There is much more about the Lord that I will need to follow on to know. I plan to search for all of Him, as for hidden treasure, a priceless pearl concealed away in a field. Because, you see, I don't know. I know nothing as I should know it - there is always more to be discovered.

I'm so glad. What sort of God would He be if even one aspect of His nature could be comprehended in a glance?

Art For Missions

Well, I can't figure out how to turn this picture back right side up...but if you tilt your head a bit to the right, you'll see one of our church's offereing envelopes, and this one was mine.  I designated my tithe and offering up above (you can't see that part), and down below I was able to put $100 in my designated fund - our teens mission trip to California!  I took a picture of it with my smart phone, and happily plunked the envelope into the plate this past Sunday.

All three of my canvases have sold, and about 6 prints, too! 

Today, I've been commissioned to paint my "In Christ Alone" canvas in shades of black and white, with gray tones as well...for a lady whose room is decorated in a modern style black and white color scheme.  She's also ordered my print "He Is Risen" in black and white, with that yellow flower giving it a bright splash of color.

Half of everything I make goes to missions, and half into replenishing art supplies.

These are exciting days for me!  If you see any canvas you'd like to have, feel free to commission me to paint it in the colors that best suit your decor.I can also, of course, print any 4x6 or 5x7 print (or larger)  you might like.  I send these matted, in a cellophane protective sleeve.

"Old School" Love - Congregation

congregate: to bring or come together into a group, crowd, or assembly; to gather.


I was part of a congregation today.  I realize that word, "congregation", is considered old school.  I think the word is more relevant today than it ever was.  It is a word that needs reviving.  It is a concept to be enjoyed.  If you are an integral part of a church congregation, you are blessed.  Stand a little taller, and lift that chin of yours. 

Today, if you are a member of a church congregation, you are counter-cultural. 

In our post-Christian society, to be a congregant is to be a celebrant, a reckless deviation from the norm.  The norm is to treat Sunday as though it is no different than any other day.  The norm is to fear/avoid/put down the organized church.  After all, it is so full of....people.  And it is so...organized. 

Like the whole universe and all of creation and our human bodies and our homes and businesses and libraries and neighborhoods and our pantries and our cleaning supplies are organized, for crying out loud.  (If your cleaning supplies are not at least loosely organized, please don't have my grandson over to your house.  Lack of organization can be dangerous, to cupboards and universes alike.)

When will someone have the courage to say that "organized" is not a bad word to describe the church?  When will someone get the gumption to say, "I am proud and blessed to be part of a congregation."

You know...I am part of the church - a group of people with names and addresses and histories and feelings and faults and failures and sins and quirks.  I assemble in an organized fashion, with a number of people who are hilariously UNlike myself.  We are diverse.  We disagree.  But we gather anyway...we assemble....congregate....get together...physically, in real time and real space....around a central theme:  the Gospel of the Finished Work of Christ.

I mean, really.  Some people can only come together over the central theme of  being anti-organized-church...but often, they have to do it together.  And then, it gets even stranger -  they organize!  They pick a day and a time to regularly be anti-organized in someone's livingroom.  That's a bit like the little elf-dentist in the Christmas stop-motion picture, when he said, "Let's be independent together."

It is so normal these days to be anti-organized church.  But normal is boring.

I am a congregant, a celebrant, a saint.  Deal with it.