Category Archives: Visual Illustrations for Bible Verses

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

Metamorphosis

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     Where once existed companies, workplaces, banks, restaurants and shops now swelled piles of dirt and rocks. Monstrous excavating machinery maneuvered on-site. Buildings were demolished and leveled while brick, masonry and mortar was unearthed, scooped up and hauled away. My delightfully  pleasant small town was being flattened!construction-zone
      Streets switched direction, traffic patterns transformed, avenues altered.  One who had lived in the town for decades may not recognize the place! And yet, the small town’s remodel will bring strength to it. Renewing and reworking will bring significant growth for families and businesses. Many of us are intrigued and curious to see what striking changes will come over the next year(s)!
new-construction-going-up      Jesus longs to transform me.  I may believe I live a pleasant, delightful existence but to change completely is what my Savior desires. Such transformation will not simply require moving things around, but it will demand that habits are demolished and hauled away, attitudes are altered…there will be conversion, modification, and even metamorphosis in my life.  
     Reconstructing and remaking my life to be conformed to the image of Jesus takes the excavating of the Holy Spirit’s power. Amidst the renovation process, I need to be consistently, intimately communicating with the Master Builder, knowing that my home will be eternally with Him.
     Praise you Jesus for being a Savior who transforms lives.  May I continue consistently to soak in Your Presence and seek the Power of the Holy Spirit to transform me into the body of Your Glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
new-constructionHe [Jesus] will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of His Glory”  (Philippians 3:21 NSRV).
(This article was written by Annette Latulippe Young, from our Blue Water Writers’ group. The article and photos were used by her permission. Thank you, Annette!)

On the Lighter, Brighter Side

facebook-closedIn case you haven’t heard yet, I was asked to share this. keep-goingHowever, even if you can’t access Facebook, you can still do this…advice-for-shopping-in-a-mallAnd, this is definitely great advice!  🙂 doctors-strikeHere’s one for all the doctors in your life! I love this!  🙂
(Do you know any who take time to picket? I do not!)kindnessIsn’t this the truth?! galatians-2-20May this one be true for each of us!

Rise Up, My Love (222): How Can We Reciprocate God’s Love for Us?

bread-and-wine-and-candlesSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.” So many of the sacred lessons I’ve learned from this book came during quiet times of meditation during our chapel’s weekly communion service. These next thoughts came as I pondered our text during one of those communion services. There were two questions on my mind. #1. The Lord gave his body as bread and wine to be broken and poured out for us…not only for our salvation, but for daily spiritual food and drink that we might have a spiritually abundant life of “feasting” on and with him. In return, what exactly (if anything) can we bring to him for the love feast? #2. What is the significance of “liquor” rather than wine, and “heap of wheat” rather than bread? The answer to the first question, is, I think, a resounding and thrilling, “Yes!” challah-bread-and-candle-10-15-16We can offer to our Lord what he has given us—our body, open and available for his delight. As a woman cannot produce offspring by herself, but rather by joyfully receiving her husband’s seed and allowing it to penetrate her being, spark new life, take root in her womb, and grow to fruition…even so can we delight our Lord by receiving with joy his living seed…the Word of God, and allowing it to penetrate our being until it sparks new life, which we allow to incubate within us…receiving our life blood of time, love, and spiritual resources until it comes to birth as a spiritual babe…to be suckled and brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is much harder than simply coming to the communion table each week and taking in all the Lord has provided for us, but if it is the longing of our heart to delight him as he delights us…this is the way, for he has told us the secret in this verse! To him, our navel is drink indeed, and our belly wheat. That in us which allows for spiritual reproduction is a spiritual feast for Christ. fresh-rolls-11-25-16Do you remember the account from the fourth chapter of John where the disciples leave a very weary Christ by the well and go into town to buy provisions? When they return and urge him to eat, what is his response? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John 4:32). The disciples…always thinking in physical terms…wondered if someone had brought him lunch. But, notice his reply; it had nothing to do with physical food. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:34-35). What had Jesus feasted on in the disciples’ absence? The joy of one sinner coming to faith in Christ…the refreshment of imparting living water to one fainting heart. What was his aspiration for his disciples? That they see the multitudes of people in need of salvation. Would you like to provide a love feast for your master? Open up your navel to be filled with the wine of the Spirit. Feast on the Bread of Life until your belly is as round and lustrous as a “heap of wheat set about with lilies”…filled with the Word, fragrant, and protected by purity. Allow yourself to become fruitful in producing spiritual offspring for your Lord. In this way, you will become a “love feast” to refresh your bridegroom!

Table Mountain: One of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders

view-of-table-mountain-from-distanceIconic Table Mountain is the most beloved and photographed landmarkyellow-fynbos-edges-the-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountain in all of South Africa. lions-head-and-long-lines-at-table-mountainEvery year more than 800,000 visitors ascend to the top (so come early)!hiking-path-up-table-mountainSome hike up the steep mountainsides, aerial-cable-car-going-up-table-mountainbut most ascend the way we did: via a revolving aerial cable way view-going-up-table-mountainwhile enjoying 360° panoramic views of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean. view-of-table-mountainTable Mountain is 3,563 feet at its highest point,
although the Back Table is a two-mile long, level plateau of “table top.”

aerial-cable-car-ascending-table-mountainSome geologists estimate that Table Mountain’s mesa was formed by volcanic and glacial action during the Ordovician Period some 5oo-600 million years ago, making it at least six times older than the Himalayas and one of the oldest mountains in the world. panoramic-view-of-cape-town-from-lions-head-to-devils-peakRegardless of it’s exact age, Table Mountain is ancient, and it’s the only terrestial feature on earth that has a constellation named for it: Mensa, meaning “the table,” so named by the French astronomer, Nicolas de Lacaille back in 1763 after a two-year study of 10,000 stars in the Southern Hemisphere.

plaque-on-table-mountainTable Mountain is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. world-floral-kingdoms-at-table-mountainThe Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s plant kingdoms, orographic-clouds-forming-behind-lions-head-gorgeous-wildflowers-near-table-mountainbut the richest for its size, boasting 8,500 distinct species, silvery-leaved-native-species-of-plants-in-cape-peninsula1,470 of which occur on Table Mountain and the Back Table. diverse-plants-in-cape-town-and-around-table-mountainThat is more than all the plant species in the United Kingdom!yellow-fynbos-and-trails-up-table-mountainSadly, 70% of the plants are endemic (found no where else in the world), lilies-on-table-mountainand despite incessant attempts at conservation, this area also has the highest number of threatened species of any equivalently-sized continental area. visiting-the-top-of-table-mountainWe only had an hour to explore the top, but there are many hiking trails of varying lengths to experience Table Mountain’s beauty. cape-town-as-seen-from-table-mountainThere are jeep trails up the steep slopes that make first class mountain bike paths, the most famous being Plum Pudding Hill.steep-sides-of-table-mountainRock climbing and caving are also popular sports.
The largest cave is Wynberg, but over 100 caves
have been discovered in the peninsula and on Table Mountain. yellow-fynbos-and-shop-at-the-top-of-table-mountainGood maps are available, and if you decide to go exploring, be sure to buy a map, because dense mists can descend without warning any time of the year. table-cloth-spreading-over-table-mountain-saIn fact, the flat top of the mountain is notorious for being enveloped
in orographic clouds,  orographic-tablecloth-covering-table-mountainwhich are formed when the moist sea air rises to the top of the mountain
and hits colder air. alan-on-top-of-table-mountainWhile we were visiting, we were able to enjoy one of these dramatic changes orographic-clouds-forming-on-table-mountainfrom sunny to cloudy in a matter of minutes.

table-cloth-of-clouds-over-table-mountainThe locals call this effect “spreading the table cloth,” and legend has it that the foggy table cloth is caused by a smoking match between the Devil and the Dutch pirate, Van Hunks. table-cloth-clouds-on-table-mountainWhat do you think? Do you believe that legend? I’m always charmed by legends, which are known to be fictitious. I’m not so charmed by scientists who promote their theories as fact. view-of-cable-way-station-and-cape-town-from-table-mountainFor instance,  I don’t think anybody can “prove” how the world came to be. Personally, I believe God created the earth with the appearance of age. I believe each “day” was a period of time, like the word “day” is used in other passages, such as “the day of the Lord.”clouds-move-in-to-cover-table-mountain I don’t know if a “day” had 24 hours or one nanosecond or 600 million years, but I believe God spoke and it happened. Our world did not need 600+million years to evolve.clifton-beach-from-table-mountain“Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could…” (as Maria Von Trapp sings). But, I don’t think our world’s beauty comes from our doing something good in our childhood or from eons of evolution, atlantic-ocean-of-cape-peninsula-saI believe the biblical account, which says that our gorgeous planet was created by God, who is the definition of goodness and omnipotence. How about you?
orographic-clouds-obscuring-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountainIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)

Rise Up, My Love (209): Where are You Twining your Vine?

The Sea of GalileeSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” First, the bride looked to see if she could see any fruit in the valley. Next, she looked to see “whether the vine flourished.” Notice that it is not “vines” as in many vines in a vineyard, but just one vine.   secret-garden-mackinac-island-9-18-05From John 15 we know that Christ is the true vine and we are the branches. How quickly reading about the vine flourishing brings to mind thoughts of believers abiding in Christ! The bride concerns herself not only with seeking new fruits for her Lord, but with the growth of the vine already established in the garden…the growth of the Church, the body of Christ. Indeed, the bride is the body of Christ here on earth. To go into the garden to examine the vine makes me think of going into a quiet place alone before God and prayerfully examining my own life. Am I flourishing? Am I abiding in Christ? Am I receiving an unobstructed flow of his Spirit, or is there any crushing weight of sin that has partially broken off my attachment to the vine? As I put forth delicate new tendrils, are they attaching firmly to the sturdy supports provided by the husbandman, or are the young shoots of my new growth waving free in the breeze…aimlessly waiting for any handy support?  garden-in-bunratty-folk-park-irelandDo you know much about vines? I still don’t know much, but I learned a little from planting a grape arbor along the fence around our swimming pool. The branches of the grape vines aren’t very smart! They don’t naturally seem to attach themselves to the sturdy fence provided. After returning from a vacation and inspecting my vines that June, I noticed that many of the young shoots were growing straight up into the air toward the sun, and one had wound its way tightly around a young nectarine tree that was planted nearby.  twining-vines-and-a-frogHow like humans, I thought! How often—particularly in our youthful ignorance— we tend to wave about in the breeze of life like the tendrils of young plants, just looking for someone or some group to shower us with sunny approval. Too often we go to the “highest bidder”…whoever pays the most attention or makes us feel most important, rather than bending down in humility and attaching ourselves to the sturdy fence “beneath” us (usually parents and other God-given guides). And yet, to be truly productive, we must learn to lean on our supports and abide in the Vine.  climbing-roses-on-a-brownstone-cottage-cotswold-englandEven after we’ve matured somewhat, we’re in still greater need of support, or we’ll never be able to “bear the weight of glory” so to speak…including the horrific pressures of bringing up children. Beyond that, think of all the people who’ve become prominent in society and then failed miserably. Even many extremely gifted Christians come apart at the seams when given lime light. Like fruit trees heavy with promise, their branches literally break under the load, and they lose much of the precious crop that was ripening within them. Trees that have lost branches are more open to infections. Sometimes the damage is so great that the entire tree becomes diseased and dies, or has to be pruned out of the orchard lest the infection spreads.

Isn’t that the way life is? Tenderly, I took the new shoots, carefully weaving them in and out of the fence. The ones that had grown straight up for too long were inflexible and commonly, despite my best efforts, would break off or require tying to retrain them. The shoot that had wound its way tightly around the nectarine had to be broken off completely, lest it choke the young nectarine. Ah, how our like our human tendency to reach up for glory or attach ourselves to someone or something else beside the one true God. Brokenness, retraining, wasted time, and sometimes a severe loss of life or limb. Such is our lot when we are wayward, for the Lord does promise to prune and chasten all whom he loves  (Revelation 3:19). He works with us so that we’ll become fruitful!peaches-in-the-sun

Rise Up, My Love (205): Clear as the Sun

i-want-to-walk-in-the-light-as-he-is-in-the-light-please-pray-for-me-and-if-youll-tell-me-i-will-pray-for-you-tooSong of Solomon 6:10 “Clear as the sun.” What a challenge! As I study this magnificent book, I am acutely aware of two things: first, Solomon is writing about a real person; and second, in a deeper sense, the Lord is picturing his bride. For my part, I am striving to become like this treasure of a wife to my earthly husband and like the beloved bride to my heavenly Lord. When I come to a description like this one, I stand in awe. How could anyone truly have a countenance “clear as the sun?” …even granted that the sun isn’t perfectly pure in God’s sight? sun-behind-kids-at-ludington-state-park Think of the sun. To the naked eye, it looks like a perfectly round, perfectly pure, golden globe. The sun is the monarch of the sky; it has been commonly worshiped around the world by heathen as “queen of the heavens” because its energy is the source of heat and light for our whole earth, and without that amazing radiance, we are told that life could not exist. hot-sun-setting-on-mediterranean-seaThe sun shines with an intensity that will blind anyone who dares to meet her gaze or attempts to stare her down. The sun appears to be perfectly clear and perfectly constant. Since time began, the sun has been rising and setting with perfect regularity, marking the times and seasons. Let’s take all these characteristics of the sun and imagine what Solomon might have meant when he described his wife as “clear as the sun.”sunshine-in-alaska-fjord To have a countenance like the sun would be to have a countenance that is transparent, pure, constant, brilliant, and life giving. “Clear”…transparent—a woman who has nothing to hide…who is without guile, deceit, or hypocrisy…who has no hidden agenda and no secret plans to manipulate her husband or those around her. What a worthy goal for women (and all of us who are believers)! winter-sun-on-rose-hipsPure—no taint of sin…no tarnish of covetousness…of wishing for what is someone else’s…be it husband, personal qualities, or possessions. No heart of envy or propensity for idolatry, rebellion, or dishonesty. What wouldn’t a husband give to have such a virtuous, trustworthy wife? Constant—steady as the sun…always warm (hot!), always bright, always clear, always there. sun-burst-behind-cloudsThe sun doesn’t run away and hide; it never refuses to shine; it is not fickle….here today and gone tomorrow. No, it is the weather changing on the earth that makes us unable to receive the sunlight when clouds arise and the world turns; it is not the sun that changes her mood! chestnut-trees-in-bloom-at-kensington-park-londonOh, that as women we (and all of people) might be as constant as the sun, always there, always steady, always burning with incredible heat. Brilliant—not just existent…not just there…not only constant but brilliant…beautiful, full of wisdom, understanding, compassion, and the incredible heat of unfailing love—the reflection of the Lord’s glory. Does such a woman exist? But, wouldn’t you like to be such a woman? I would!