1 CALVARY When you ve done it unto the least of these, you ve done it unto me.
2 Page 4 of 64 INTRODUCTION John grew up thinking it was normal helping his father shoot up by holding his arm steady. He was sixteen when he left home. That was the last time he held his father s arm but it wouldn t be the last needle he saw. Thirty years later John is one of millions of children worldwide that grew up in the valley of the shadow of death. When he first saw the painting CALVARY it was hanging in a garage that had been converted into a halfway house by some former addicts. His tough exterior was unable to withstand the impact of the image and he wept convulsively for nearly ten minutes. No amount of statistics, however shocking they may be, will take the place of a personal experience. Everybody knows someone who has suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. CALVARY is a picture worth more than a thousand words. The painting represents one thousand words for every person who has suffered. It also tells the endless story of the mercy and compassion of Jesus. The painting CALVARY helps to say the millions of words that deserve to be spoken for those who have been touched by this tragedy. God is included as one of those who has been deeply touched and hurt. People have shared with us things like, The helplessness I felt against my husband s addiction was the same as the expression on Jesus face in your painting., There was one line in your message about your painting that opened up my spiritual eyes that finally gave me hope to understand that I can beat this drug thing., and I truly believe that The Lord led Steve to create the picture because it goes from the canvas to the soul directly before any filters can get in place. Should the reader care to experience a fraction of the suffering God feels for His children then go online and search out drug addiction, drug abuse, drug rehab, drugs and crime, drugs and children, drugs and rape, drugs and prostitution, and illegal drugs. The countless links will stagger your imagination with the human toll of grief surrounding this ancient and global epidemic. For years I have seen and known enough tragedy to have conceived and birthed the painting CALVARY. I waited years for this opportunity. I remember when I was younger that I often would have opportunities and not be prepared to take advantage of them when they presented themselves. That challenged me to always be ready in the future. The painting CALVARY took three years to come to fruition. Not being able to act when I was first ready to paint held that same sense of loss as when I was younger. However, I also waited twenty years for my company and ministry, ART for GOD, to begin and that taught me that God s timing is much greater than my impatience to experience my timing. I am grateful for all of the delays, detours, roadblocks, and challenges that beset the creation of the painting and subsequently this book. There are too many statistics available to know which few to include in this introduction. According to many of the sites I researched there were a few recurring threads that seemed woven into every fabric of abuse. These are the ones I have chosen. One: Stress...Stress is as much a part of life as is breathing. When stress isn t part of our personal experience we are faced with stress of our friends and family, strangers in the news, or we re invited to be part of some fictional stress and conflict that we see in our movies, hear in our songs, and read in our books. Stress has been a factor since Adam and Eve. Consider, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Mary Magdalene, Esther, Mary and Martha, John the Baptist, Lot and his wife, and a host of other characters from the Bible. Even with Jesus of Nazareth, whose life makes all human emotions an experiential reality for GOD, stress was around Him since His birth.
3 Two: Denial...Refusal to accept the reality of others and the inability to accurately assess our own reality are part of denial. A young girl may see herself fat in the mirror but actually be near self-starvation. A young man may see his gun and needle as a sign of his power and freedom rather than an ever-contracting torture cell. A woman may see her prescription mood medicine as a way of dealing with stress when, in her situation, it may be her way of avoiding problems. An old man may still imagine himself young, handsome, and desirable as he solicits a young girl for sex when his lust is only the dying embers of a life consumed and wasted on selfishness. Three: Self-image...In the simplest terms possible we identify and adopt a strategy to remain takers or, by the grace of God, we strike out against incredible odds and become a giver. Since birth our survival has always been about taking. We cry for food, to be held, or to have our diapers changed. As babies we learn how our caregivers react to our constant needs, and this is the birth of our reactions to stress. As we grow older we begin to cry for things we want but may not need. The clothes, computers, pets, cell phones, cars, and an endless list of material items that we use to create our self-image. Tantrums continue as we try to manipulate our caregivers with varying degrees of success. As we experience rejection to our tantrums we continue to develop new strategies. The ways in which we react to stress, desire, conflict, ambition, religion, and morality are all part of who we think we are, based on how successful our tactics have been. The apocolyptic schizophrenia which sends us hurtling down the highways of life is based on the tragedy that we don t really know how to be givers without a selfish agenda. Bordering on the blasphemous we continue to do good and be givers for the ultimate selfish reward...to be accepted into a glorious eternal adventure reserved for those who have found God and live by His commandments. In the midst of this sad analysis the truth is, we really can become unselfish givers. Should this ever be harnessed and lived, addictions of all kinds would slowly wither and die like darkness retreating as it is being exposed to the ever advancing light of a endless spiritual morning. Our real needs are to be appreciated, respected, loved, and touched with a hand of kindness. If, in our pain and weakness, we surrender to man rather than God, our needs are corrupted by someone else s wants and then, love and sex separate. Love gets lost and sex is taken hostage. Before we find God our self image is as powerfully shaped by our experience with sex as it is with anything else. Four: Replacement realities...drugs fuel a human problem. Drug manufacturers, legal or illegal, make fortunes. Is it based on the knowledge that we apparently don t think the sober level of consciousness is sufficiently adequate to balance and compensate for the struggles of life? Drugs or no drugs, we as humans, turn to a wild variety of entertainments and distractions, to create escapes that dull the real and imaginary aches of our reality. Five: Pain...The most powerful and recurring theme in the testimonies of recovering addicts is PAIN. Self medicating to mask pains so profound that sobriety seemed more unbearable than the addiction. When we attempt to cope with stress using selfishness, impatience, and other free-will decisions that negatively impact others, we are more easily seduced into drug addiction and a host of other lifestyles that make it incredibly difficult to serve a living God and His children. Below are some of the types of information that can be found on a variety of sites in any country of this world. Page 5 of 64 According to Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Stress is a major contributor to the initiation and continuation of alcohol or other drug abuse, as well as to substance abuse relapse after periods of abstinence. She also states, Individuals who have achieved abstinence from drugs must continue to sustain their abstinence by avoiding environmental triggers, recognizing their psychosocial and emotional triggers, and developing healthy behaviors to handle life's stresses... The reason for this behavior is addiction, or one of its fundamental features: the ability to alter peoples' brains such that they can no longer exercise proper judgment or experience normal pleasures. Along with displacing natural "reinforcers" such as food, family, and friends, drugs of abuse also eventually lose their ability to reward, placing the addict on a compulsive quest for more drug and for greater drug potency as their reward circuitry becomes increasingly blunted and desensitized...treatment techniques that foster coping skills, problemsolving skills, and social support play a role in successful treatment. Finally, support from family and friends can play an important role in recovery from both disorders. (www.nida.nih.gov)
4 of addictions and selfishness, and attempt to elevate the truth of art s destiny to serve others by working together artist and observer writer and reader...catalyst and result. The testimonies included in this book have real power, the power of understanding, compassion, and unselfish service for others. Take this power and use it for peace. What in God s name would possess a man to create a painting like, CALVARY? The answer to that question is God. Like Bob Dylan sang, You re gonna have to serve somebody. Knowing that information and knowing what to do with it are two entirely different issues. This then is Bull s Eye Christianity. A singular focus with no concern for denominational and religious differences found outside the bulls-eye...only truth...the truth that will set us free. And we must be free to set others free. 2. WHAT S UP WITH MOSES? Few people have been in a tighter spot and held up better under the scrutiny of history s microscope than Moses. But there are some issues the artist should bring up that have been suspiciously ignored or overlooked. What s with this, You shall make no graven image or any other likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters or the earth...? (2nd commandment. Exodus 34, Protestant and Hebrew) As the death knell for art spilled from Moses lips I can imagine artists leaping to their death from Mt. Sinai. Moses was leading a band of people who would worship Yahweh as well as the golden calf. So wild were they at that time Moses presented them with some no-brainers like don t worship things ungodly, don t ask God to do ungodly things, don t kill people, don t mess around with another man s wife, don t steal, don t lie, and don t covet. These commandments were liberally topped off with the wrath of God whose judgement allowed men and women to be killed for countless transgressions with no mercy. (http://www.positiveatheism.org/crt/whichcom.htm) As we all know, laws are made for those who continually break them. Those commandments could have just as easily been written like this: Stop killing other people, stop lying, stop stealing, etc. Now it is time to get back to the second commandment. It was never art for art s sake that Moses condemned. Moses condemned the worship of fetishes like the golden calf. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them... The distinction that must be made is that a graven image becomes ungodly only when it is worshipped. Otherwise it is just a thing like money and nothing says ungodly quite like trusting that money will solve your problems and bring you lasting joy instead of God. When an inanimate object is believed to possess magical powers or is elevated to the status of holiness it becomes a fetish. A fetish s power resides in the fact that people believe a spirit resides within that fetish. It was never the fetish itself but the spirit which dwelt within it which became the object of worship. It is our persistent primitive nature that still leans toward worshipping the supposed spirit indwelling inanimate objects, animals, and ideas. Page 9 of 64
5 Page 14 of 64 kill, and destroy? Does he just want to destroy our bodies or is there something more precious? After our friends are killed, our daughters raped, and our families destroyed, if the devil can make us believe that God is not all powerful, all wise, and full of love and goodness, then he has maimed our hearts, killed our hope, and destroyed our faith. And if we are taught to have unfair expectations from our Heavenly Father then we might begin to believe the lies that spawned the question on Friday, Apr. 08, 1966 in TIME Magazine, Is God Dead? * Humans don t need much of an excuse to rationalize their behavior and the seed of doubt as to God s power and love can send millions of men and women fatally squandering their lives in selfish pursuits. And we know from experience that selfishness grows and becomes insatiable whether we have adopted a god of money, sex, drugs, or any other choices that damage and belittle the lives of others. (*http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641, ,00.html) 6. HOW DOES IT SERVE THE DEVIL TO SEE LIVES DESTROYED AND FAMILIES BROKEN? The best case the devil has for abuse and addiction is that it helps prove that God s Kingdom is not only weak and powerless to stop evil but, like the Wizard of OZ, God really doesn t exist at all. That is the smoke and mirrors part of the deception. Lucifer can t possibly expect a junkie to further his plans. If someone battling addictions can t get through a single day without figuring out where there next fix, drink, or snort is coming from how will they be able to carry out any orders? In terms of a military strategy every precious life lost to drugs and alcohol is an acceptable loss if Lucifer s war against God s Kingdom is won. So on the one hand we see the tragedy of self consuming addictions and we think we see the devil s plan. What this war is really about is going on in the other hand. The hand palming the card is where the real evil plans are forming. The devil doesn t personally care that a mother weeps with a broken heart at the loss of her child or that a husband and his children can t find the mother who abandoned them. The devil no longer cares about any of our problems. He has enough problems of his own. Things have not gone as he planned since his intentional fall from grace. Murder, rape, theft, addictions, war, and abuse of any kind are our absolute proof that the devil s plans are not working. These horrible human atrocities are the by-product of his failed beliefs and corrupt government which were all based on self-importance, self-love, and self-assertion. This is the palmed card we don t see because we have been told for centuries that this display of hell on earth was proof that the devil s plans were working and this is the card we have always been shown. Think about it for a moment. If the leader of a country creates a form of government like communism or
6 Page 18 of 64 they have lots of money. Having a world view with unrealistic expectations of our Creator is part of a global problem that makes drugs just as valid as religion. We should not choose the fear of going to hell as a reason to go to church or believe in God. The other possibility is that we can be taught to befriend and partner with God rather than fear Him. Fear of God has proven to be a disastrous addition to the Gospel of Jesus. While it may have temporarily worked to control men and women during the times of the Old Testament, it nonetheless didn t work except to marginally curb our human appetites of self-indulgance. If fear was rightfully attached to the truth that sets us free, Jesus hardly would have needed to come here to demonstrate God s tender mercy and forgiveness. People knew back then that God wouldn t stop unholiness, even unto the death of our Savior. We still know it and continue to operate under those conditions. We must move beyond a failed doctrine, whose traditions have become sacred, because hundreds of thousands of men and women in the bondage of drug addiction and crime are dying physically and spiritually in the midst of available truth. Who are we really, that God would become a mortal and die to save us? What redeeming qualities are hidden within us that are so precious to our God? Are we more likely to refuse or give up drugs if we believe we were born into sin or because we are children of God and friends of Jesus? If, because of Adam and Eve, we are born into sin, are we more likely to commit adultery since we deserve to go to hell before we even get a chance? If we are doomed to failure we are not worth saving. If, on the other hand, we are precious in His sight it must be because there resides within us something so valuable that the Creator would become a mortal and teach us face-to-face those truths which
7 for that matter, some doctors are in it for the money, lawyers, insurance companies, casinos, car companies, cigarette companies, wine makers, liquor companies, clothing companies, software companies, book publishers, art supply companies, bakeries, farmers, and don t forget that bankers are also in it for the money. Oddly enough there are some churches that are in it for the money. One of the worst fetish abuses of scripture are the ones used to get extra money in the collection plate. And that abuse is no more exemplified than a few shows on network television. God must be some kind of investment club! All we have to do is put in $100 risk free and we can expect back at least $1,000. That s better than the lottery. We can buy $10,000 worth of tithing tickets and get back at least $100,000. Quoting scriptures about pressed-down and spilling-over monetary returns to get money to support any ministry is blatant spiritual extortion using the power of a fetish and superstition. Odds are, it s the poor people who have been deceived most into giving their widow s mite and not only for the sake of the Kingdom but for the sake of their seductive yet spiritual monetary reward. It is proper and spiritually right to support and biblically tithe to ministries that truly serve the Kingdom but enticing the poor into believing there is an easy way to wealth is no more than theft. Easy money is offered in advertisements in newspapers and on TV all of the time without the banner of God. Why is it that when God s name is invoked, that a lie is supposed to become true? That is the power of a fetish on an unsuspecting person. It is a lie to state that all God s children are supposed to have financial wealth. Tithing to a ministry under the guise that what has been stolen from you will be given back many times over is not a sacrificial gift to God, it s a bribe...now that s a problem. Give for the blessing of giving to a ministry that serves other people and don t expect a financial reward for that gift...now that s part of the solution. Jesus said, The poor will always be with you. Jesus did not have a financial prosperity message. Jesus had a sonship with God, and a God is love, mercy, and forgiveness message. When Jesus preached the real truth the poor gladly received it without wondering what financial reward was in it for them. Financial prosperity has nothing to do with the favor of God. It is proof enough because the poor were gladly received into the Kingdom while many wealthy ignored the invitation of Jesus. The rich left believing their wealth was guarantee enough for entrance based on parts of the Old Covenant which Jesus refuted publicly. Pork-barrel religion, like pork-barrel politics, will stay until we force it to leave. Money is not the problem and money is not the solution. The problem is our desire and willingness to possess that which we cannot honorably earn. Our faulty self esteem fuels our selish desires. Humans have only one way left to get what is not honorably theirs. They must take it by deception or force. Faced with the realities of who we act like and what we do to others probably makes taking drugs seem tame to those who use them. If money is the root of all evil then selfishness is its only seed. Page 21 of 64
8 Page 24 of WHAT S THE RUSH BIG BOY? Our same desperation for immediate answers to our painful prayers may also have been the source of our undoing. Lack of patience has crippled more lives than all of mankind s diseases combined. Not getting our way and not getting it when we want it has led many people to have, not only unreal expectations of other people, but of God as well. Our impatient expectations lead us into temptation and deliver us into evil situations. Anger, resentment, impatience, hatred are the manifest poisoned opposites of God s spiritual fruits. We advertise the need and ability to lose weight fast without the wisdom of self control. We encourage men and women to trust the magic pill to lose weight fast. And with greed, being a symptom of impatience, we have drugs like, Fen Phen, the diet wonder proven to damage people s hearts. Not only did the class action lawsuit against the maker, American Home Products, now known as Wyeth, result in a judgement of some two hundred million dollars against their early and poorly tested release (impatience) of the drug, but to the everlasting disgrace of the attorneys involved, they were caught increasing their fees, with the approval of a now retired judge, to fifty percent. Out of a two hundred million dollar settlement the men and women, whose heart valves were damaged by the drug, only received 37% of the settlement. Impatience and greed are inseparable. (http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?aid=/ /news01/ ) Ungodly behavior spawned by selfishness and impatience leads to the betrayal of trust, and whether it s a doctor, attorney, friend, parent, or Judas Iscariot, that betrayal, will so warp an individual that their denial can put them beyond anyone s reach except God s. Jesus expressed in word and deed that God is patient. The fruits of the Spirit include patience. Truth be told endless books could be written on each of the fruits of the spirit that come from willful and loving association with the Spirit of God. Jesus understood that timing was everything. For example, why did Jesus wait three days before going to raise Lazarus? History reveals that the Jews did not believe that one was truly dead until after three days. If Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead any earlier his enemies would have argued that Lazarus was not really dead. While denials may easily mask our selfishness, little can be done to conceal our impatience. All of us have experienced the burning poison when we allow impatience to settle into our minds. Fast food, faster cars, lightning fast internet connections, ever faster computers, instant oil changes, instant , pills to lose weight quicker, fall asleep faster, quick marriages and quicker divorces, all disguised as only for our convenience have lured us to sleep. If we were to live for the sake of our eternal destiny, our conveniences would not have such a negative effect on us. It is difficult to teach children to be patient when we are bombarded with an instant access lifestyle which breeds upon unsuspecting souls, choices destined to fail without God s grace. 13. HOW GOOD IS A COUNTERFEIT? A counterfeit $100 bill is only as good as the counterfeiter. How good a counterfeiter was Lucifer? His work was better than we can possibly imagine which is why we so often can t identify what the Pearl of Great Price is for us. In this example I will use three types of pearls: real, imitation, and cultured. A real pearl grows slowly over years because of an irritating grain of sand which has found its way into the oyster. A cheap imitation pearl can be made in a fraction of that time. The good counterfeit (cultured) pearl artificially introduces the grain of sand into the oyster and while they seem to go through the same process for the same amount of time it is not the same. The cheap imitation only looks good from a distance. Up close it has no depth to its shine and is so cheap to reproduce that each pearl is seldom separated by knots on the strand of that holds it together. As Christians we usually mistake the cheap imitation for the good counterfeit. The good counterfeit pearl has the same luster and depth of shine as the real pearl, and is likewise always
9 Page 29 of 64 In the painting CALVARY there are only two cards, the King of Hearts or the Joker. The King of Hearts represents God and the Joker represents the devil. The joker is underneath the King and rests in the shadow of the gun which is the destruction of self and others. The joker smiles and offers a variety of masks, or facades to the viewer. The joker is a wild card, a chameleon if you will, which assumes the identity of a card the player would like to have help him win the hand. The mark of the beast is one of the last and best slight of hand tricks I am going to tell you about. We have had countless books and movies about 666. If you are looking for the real devil and not the one held up like a pinata, to hit while blindfolded, then open your eyes. Blaming others for our condition deserves some quotes on blame. z The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his short-comings by blaming his opponents and hope people will forget. the engineer simply cannot deny he did it. Herbert Hoover ( ) (As Christians, are we going to blame our failures on the devil or are we going to be like engineers? We can rally together united with a single purpose to right a terrible wrong. We can blame the devil all we like but it wont change who he is, so why waste even one second of our time railing on the failed plans of a madman?) If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not a poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the Creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. Rainer Maria Rilke ( ) (God s riches have nothing to do with money because poverty, in the eyes of Heaven, is the person consumed with themselves.) Be not too hasty either with praise or blame; speak always as though you were giving evidence before the judgement seat of the Gods. Seneca (5BC - 65AD) I do not confer praise or blame: I accept. I am the measure of all things. I am the centre of the world. W. Somerset Maugham ( ) Any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought. Dwight D. Morrow z There is a well loved, out of circulation, cartoon strip called Pogo. One day the cartoon strip ended with, We have met the enemy and he is us. How appropriate that a cartoon character might disclose one of the most profound truths about human nature. The mark of the beast is a Mexican pinata. So many theologians have staked their careers on unmasking the anti-christ and the mark of the
10 Page 32 of 64 ceived was kindness with a tender touch. Words that gave them hope that God did not only love the wealthy. Words of courage that they were equal in God s eyes with the most powerful of people. Words of wisdom where they experienced self-respect rather than self-hatred because of their lives. Jesus surely enjoyed seeing the lights come on when those who gladly heard Him understood. A smile would effortlessly fill His face already shaped by mercy and service and the onlooker would feel the radiance of His love for them. How better to go and face the struggles of this life? Jesus did not teach that a life of ease showed God s blessing. Jesus wants men and women who will face the challenges and adventure of this life as He did, trusting in our Heavenly Father s ever present companionship. Jesus showed that God wants men and women who can triumph over tragedy, smile in the face of defeat, and have a deep peace in the midst of sorrow. All of these character traits are part of our destiny. All of this free will choosing determines day by day, moment by moment who we will be in the Kingdom here and beyond. Choosing to face life with faith in a loving God is not a hard concept to teach. Learning to love and serve others the way Jesus did and continues to do for us is real work. After all, the greatest commandment is the one that came from the lips of Jesus. That you love one another as I have loved you. Teach that. Live that. Watch the fruit that comes from one sentence. Telling the story of Job will not change the heart of an afflicted person the same as watching Jesus smile through His own afflictions. When we realize that describing the life and teachings of Jesus is not just Paul s story about Jesus but rather experiencing divine dignity and grace within our souls. When we hear Jesus timeless words and imagine His deeds of kindness and mercy we know they are for all mankind. 14. TIME, TRUST AND SERVICE When Jesus told the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30, it was about more than money. The one talent all humans possess in equal measure is time. How is our time used? Is it just an opportunity or is it an opportunity to serve others? The illusions of freedom and liberty are no more illustrated than when time fatally wasted on selfish pursuits. We need not look further than the day by day living interaction of Jesus with men and women to see how God values time. He was telling us the secrets found within greatness are completely interwoven with how we use our time. Great men and women in the Kingdom do great things for others. Why do we choose ourselves over others as we navigate through time? Does a shallow understanding of time facilitate addictions like drug abuse? Better yet, if we knew that time was literally created as an opportunity for us to personally experience the presence of God would we waste it so tragically? To balance the use of time, from the spiritual perspective, we must submit to and actively pursue both work and rest. How we choose to work will certainly effect what we choose to do with our free time. If a person spends their time working to pay for their drugs then how might that day go? Whether it is a factory job, a job on Wall Street, or theft, the work day exists to only benefit the selfish pursuits of taking the drugs. If the free time is used in any way to take advantage of others then the pursuits of the work are unholy. Once again in the parable of the talents, it was the person who had an excuse for being lazy, which is ultimately just one expression of selfishness, that up-