Engage Art Contest:
I prayed about Ephesians 6 for a long time after I read about this contest because I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I repeated the scripture in my head over and over again asking God how I could represent it visually. I had a first revelation where the Holy Spirit seemed to reveal to me that the armour is not actual real shiny armour that you could see or hold, it is spiritual armour that is often times given to you through important people in your life. So, I immediately had this vision for a painting that was a self portrait. I was standing outside in my backyard with the day break over my shoulder, holding a candle, cradling it from the wind, carefully keeping it alight. In it’s light would be the faces of all those who have given me important aspects of my spiritual journey- pieces of my heart that would be analogous to the spiritual armour of God. I painted this painting, but ended up leaving out the other faces because they just didn’t seem to work within the composition. This whole time I constantly questioned my motives and if I should be applying to the contest. Was I after fame? Money? I wanted my motives to be pure. I wanted to be sure that whatever the outcome, my paintings are for my own personal development, and reaching others for the kingdom of God. I read recently in John Bevere’s book “The Holy Spirit,” that there are four kinds of tongues that one can speak in: tongues as a sign, tongues for interpretation, tongues for personal prayer, and tongues for intercession. What struck me was Bevere’s description of tongues for interpretation:
“Years ago I was getting ready to preach at a church in Singapore. All of a sudden, a man in the service began to speak in an unknown tongue. I knew right away that this tongue was not a language of the earth; it was a heavenly language. Everyone in the room was amazed by this manifestation of the Spirit. After he finished speaking in this heavenly tongue, the man then began to give the interpretation. His interpretation was exactly in line with the message that God had given me for the church. “
I realized that my paintings are of a sort of tongue. They are a visual language that is somewhat dead by itself if not accompanied by an interpretation! As the apostle Paul said, “For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say.” (1 Corinthians 14:13) Tongues are meant to be for the edification of the church and believers everywhere. So, if I can produce a painting that is by the Spirit I view it equally important to have an interpretation alongside it.
Whilst painting that self portrait with the candle I felt the Holy Spirit speaking you my heart that this self portrait was a stepping stone towards something larger. It seemed as if the self portrait taught me how to accomplish portraiture solely with the palette knife - a technique that I was unsuccessful with before this time. I felt the Spirit saying that now I was ready, and that I would paint a larger piece for the Engage Art competition with many faces. I completed my self portrait knowing it wasn’t the one for entry. And I thought and prayed about it again unceasingly.
It was a short tome later, at my small group that my wife and I host on Wednesday evenings at our house, that I had a breakthrough. We were studying John Eldredge’s book “Waking the Dead.” It was the chapter called Fellowships of the Heart that spoke to me:
“Who will fight for your heart? How can we offer the stream of Counseling to one another unless we actually know one another, know one another’s stories? Counseling became a hired relationship between two people primarily because we couldn’t find it anywhere else; we haven’t formed the sort of small fellowships that would allow the stream to flow quite naturally. Is it possible to offer rich and penetrating words to someone you barely know, in the lobby of your church, as you dash to pick up the kids? And what about warfare? Would you feel comfortable turning to the person in the pew next to you and, as you pass the offering plate, asking him to bind a demon that is sitting on your head?”
Sitting in my living room with my small group, I looked around, and there I was surrounded by the people who are there for me - to do battle with me and for me. I saw Mike, Aine, my wife, Pastor Hans, Janet, Danielle, and Greg and knew that they hold the armour.
God is relationships. C.S.Lewis says,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
You cannot be Christian and not seek relationships. It’s how you grow, and it’s how you reach others so that they can grow in their Spirit as well. Knowing that God is all about relationships and love spurred me to this composition where each member of my small group - who boldly goes into battle and intercedes for me - is holding one of the elements of the armour of God mentioned in Ephesians six. They include the breast plate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, and the shield of Faith.
These pieces of armour are not literal, they are Spiritual armour. That’s why I never opted to paint literal shining armour that you might find in the dark ages. I found items that represented God’s armour for me. From left to right I will give an account for each item represented: The belt of truth is held by Greg in the painting, and it is an old belt of mine. The breastplate of righteousness is held by Mike and it is my painting apron gifted to me by my daughters at Christmas past. The shield of Faith is a little different. I do not own a shield. Upon reading that sometimes shields in the past were constructed of stretched leather over board, I realized that a painting is described in much the same manner - being a canvas stretched over a wooden frame. We found a painting done by one of my daughters for the painting where it is being held by Janet. Pastor Hans is beside her holding a pair of my shoes representing the shoes of the Gospel. Beside him is Àine holding the sword of the Spirit which means the Word of God. Àine is holding our family’s Bible - the NIV - open and I liked the fact that it appears as if she’s reading from it. And last but not least is Danielle holding a hat of mine representing the Helmet of Salvation. What’s interesting to me as an artist is that the painting becomes a sort of self portrait because they each holding items that represent me as well. Each is symbolic of the scripture pointing to God, but also inclusive of me the artist. It forms a well rounded picture of Ephesians six, my team that helps me in this fight, my personal armour (metaphorical and real), and God’s leading. The shoes, belt, hat, and apron are more metaphorical because they’re some of my everyday clothing. They represent me and a part of who I am. It’s the shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit that directly speak about my relationship to God. Each time I paint a painting it is alike to the shield of Faith because I am in a sense saying “I believe in you God, and I choose to carry out your mission here on Earth by painting something that speaks from your Spirit.” I made this commitment to give my artistic practice to God about two years previous. So that now when I paint I attempt to only paint what will edify His Kingdom purposes here on Earth. So having a painting represent the Shield of Faith is very fitting for me because each time I paint I feel I am saying I believe in you God and I will step out in Faith and put brush to canvas. The Sword of the Spirit directly speaks to my relationship with God because it is my Bible. It is His very Word which is
“...alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
It is the second of the tools listed in the six pieces of the armour of God. The shield and the sword are the only two tools of battle listed. The shield is for defenders, but the sword is a weapon. As Christians we cannot accomplish anything in our own strength, it is on Jesus that we must rely - on every Word of God. Reading the Bible is the only way to do battle and unfortunately we are in a world that is at war. We will need the armour of God, and this is the weapon of choice, the one most important thing on which we all must rely - the Word of God. It is our access to His Spirit and to the Father.
The people who posed for this painting are Greg Hickey, Mike Larson, Janet Martens, Hans Martens, Aine Perrin, and Danielle Becker.
Original Oil on canvas Painting
painting workshops and commissions
Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!