[Light Arises in the Darkness Book] Intro

[Light Arises in the Darkness Book] Intro

 

Recently, I mentioned my new book I was writing, Light Arises in the Darkness: How to Go Through Suffering and Experience Incredible Joy.

So here is my book–in progress–starting with the a cover layout I made on Photoshop. It may change as I get closer to publication, but this will work for now.

 

 

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And here is the chapter outline, followed by the introduction. Keep in mind the book will be edited before publication, but you will get to see it in the rough, first. I really appreciate your comments, as that will be an encouragement and will also help me in the direction I take the book.

Please pray for me that I would write it well–that it would be according to the truth in God’s word, the Bible, that it would encourage others in the midst of their struggles, and that it would help people to see how awesome God is, in the midst of the difficulties of life. Thank you!

 


Light Arises in the Darkness

How to Go Through Suffering and Experience Incredible Joy

Copyright 2017 by Matt Philleo. All rights reserved.

 


CONTENTS

  1. Why is there Suffering?
  2. Acknowledging Your Suffering
  3. Suffering Caused by Financial Problems
  4. Suffering Caused by Health Problems
  5. Suffering Caused by Loss Problems
  6. Suffering Caused by Relationship Problems
  7. Suffering Caused by Internal Problems
  8. Seeking the Lord in Your Suffering
  9. Responding to His Presence and Encouragement
  10. Becoming an Encourager

 


 

 

“Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they also go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls. We suffer today, but we shall rejoice tomorrow.” – Charles Spurgeon

 

INTRODUCTION

This book is not meant for those who have it all together.

I wrote this book partially as way of recording my own struggles, and piecing together in life how God has lifted me up out of the muck and mire, leading me from darkness into light, and is still lifting me up today. He can and will do the same for you, if you let Him. It is my hope that you will find great encouragement through reading this book.

 

 

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But, on the flip side, the best this book, or any book like this can do is serve as a signpost, pointing you to the Book of books, that is the Bible. I believe God wants to jump off its pages, in the middle of your discouragement and despair, give you a warm, life-infusing hug, tell you it will be alright, encourage you by giving you a plan of what He wants to do in your life, and even how you will respond to that by following Him closely.

What I write I am going to share from a biblical perspective, a Christian worldview. If you are not a Christian, it is not my goal to alienate you, but I must be true to who I am. My God has encouraged me through many trials in life. I believe He will do the same for you, because I’m nobody special. (But I am loved by Him, and so are you!)

Even if you don’t believe in God just yet, He still longs to give you peace in the midst of the storm.

But in the process, He may tell you things you don’t want to hear. Now, would you rather have a friend who cared about you enough to tell you that you had a smudge on your face, or someone who was too afraid to tell you the truth and let you walk around all day like that?

 

 

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Yes, God actually speaks today, and it is either through the Bible or words that agree with the Bible. I will be sharing many things from its life-giving pages, as well as my own personal testimonies and those of others who have gone through suffering. As I share the stories of others, I have changed a few of the names to keep things anonymous.

I ask that you pray before and while you read this book. Everything that I present to you that is not directly from the Bible, I sincerely hope can be of help to you, but is subject to error. So please pray as you read this that God would allow that which is true to be remembered, and anything that is not would be forgotten and not retained. You can tell what is true by whether or not it agrees with the words contained in your Bible. May the Lord forgive me if I wrote anything that would diminish His glory and lead you astray in any way. I have almost turned away from writing this book for that reason. But I’ve continued to pray and believe this is what He wants me to do: that somehow, amazingly, God can use these meager words and images to bring encouragement to at least a few people and glory to Himself.

One thing you may be thinking is, “Who are you to write a book like this?”

Where are your credentials?

Well, I’m neither a professor nor a pastor. I’m not a psychologist, though I’ve given advice to many! I’m not even what you would consider a “super-Christian.”

I’m not a theologian. At least not a professional one.

I’m a layman. I’m a Christian, a husband, father, active member of a local church, and an artist. I love to do paintings and drawings that bring comfort, encouragement and inspiration to the brokenhearted.

So why write a book about encouragement?

A couple years ago, I started writing about the ideas in my art when I posted it to my blog. Extant above all was the theme of encouragement. My art is inspired by the times when I have experienced suffering of many kinds: financial, relationship, loss, and internal struggles. Can you relate? I found God to be the only stable source of encouragement in these times of darkness and despair. In fact, I have even experienced incredible joy in the middle of the worst circumstances!

 

 

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“I found God to be the only stable source of encouragement in these times of darkness and despair.”

 

 

I thought it would be great to create an e-book to share with readers of my blog, but soon the idea got wings and expanded to a full-size book, especially as I asked others to weigh in and share their stories of finding light in the darkness as well. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes a few words can create a thousand pictures in our minds. With that, I decided to put pen to paper, (or fingers to a keyboard) as well as a brush to canvas to express the concepts of comfort, encouragement, and inspiration.

It is this goal of finding joy in the middle of suffering that I want to share with you. Feel free to disagree with anything I’ve written, but come with an open mind. I’ll be including images of my artwork to illustrate and correlate with the concepts and ideas presented here.

May you come to see how great, loving, perfect, and valuable God is as you find encouragement through this book!

 

 

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And that’s it for now. In the next post, we’ll move right into Chapter 1: Why is There Suffering?

Be blessed, and I’ll be in touch,

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Share Your Thoughts!

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8 Reasons Why I’m Back to Writing the Book

8 Reasons Why I’m Back to Writing the Book

Almost two years ago, I decided I was going to write a book on encouragement. Initially, it was going to be just a brief E-Book, but then…

Then, I started asking for a few folks to contribute their stories–stories of how they went through struggles in life, but somehow made it through. Several people responded, and I had stories that I could include to truly add life to the book!

This meant that the book needed to expand and with several concepts brewing in my head, I knew that I had enough content for a full-length printed book. My goal was (and still is) to make this a unique book by including a lot of paintings, drawings, and illustrations to go with the concepts and stories.

 

 

I had a title already picked out for it: Light Arises in the Darkness: How to Go Through Suffering and Experience Incredible Joy. The premise of the book is that in the middle of your biggest trials, fears, disillusionment and devastations, God would meet you in the dark place and pour out His light, love and mercy on you, if you would only seek Him.

I know, because I’ve been there, and experienced it. Maybe you have too! This was a book that I needed to write. Even as an artist, sometimes pictures just aren’t enough to communicate a message that dives down so deep into who you are. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would need at least a hundred pictures to share this message of hope with others.

Words are needed too.

Soon enough, these words flowed out into the keyboard and on my screen, and I had about two chapters done within a couple months. I was feeling good.

Fast forward two years later.

For the longest time, I was sitting with just two chapters in the book! What happened?

Let me be completely transparent here and share with you seven reasons why my book still remains undone:

1. I didn’t feel like I had my outline organized enough.

2. I got so busy with art commissions, teaching classes, marketing, and just life, that I didn’t feel like I could commit to the time necessary to get the book done.

3. Marketing seemed like such a nebulous thing and so the whole project became too daunting.

4. Am I a good enough writer? I was afraid of what people may think–either something they thought that was incorrect, or that it wouldn’t connect with them.

5. I procrastinated on it this long. The people who knew I started the project had to be disappointed that I haven’t finished it yet and so, in my shame, how could I continue?

6. My relationship with God at times is not as close as I’d like it to be, so I thought, who am I to write a book like this?

7. Because this book deals with theological concepts, I was afraid of writing something erroneous, even heretical, and God would be angry with me.

 

 

Recently, I was praying, and I asked God if I should write this book. As I had my Bible in front of me just paging through, I read the words, “write the book.” I know this seems strange, but that is how God often speaks to me!

I flipped through a few more pages, and quickly my eyes fell upon the words, “Tell your friends how the Lord has had compassion on you” (And that is the main thrust of the book.)

Then I thought “Well, I’m afraid.” But the Lord showed me the passage “So do not be afraid…”

And again another: “Why are you so afraid?”

Finally: “Where is your faith?”

I really sensed God’s presence and encouragement as I prayed.

The Bible says that plans fail for a lack of counsel. So recently, I asked my pastor what he thought of the idea and if he would pray for God’s blessing on it of it. He said, “It’s not just a good idea, it’s a God-idea.” He was happy to pray with me.

So for that and many other indications when I’ve asked “Lord, is this your will?” I’ve gotten a green light. I shouldn’t have to have God hit me over the head to get me to do this.

Now, let me write eight reasons why the book must get done, in answer to my excuses–and by God’s grace why I’m going to do it.

1. I’ll never have my outline organized enough. But I have many concepts that I’ve written down in my journals, and soon enough, they’ll find a home within the chapters I already have set up. The book can evolve as I write it.

2. I have to just make the time to write. It only takes about 30 minutes to write about 400 words. I can schedule that time every day, and little by little, I’ll chip away at the project until it’s done.

3. I’m a better artist (possibly writer too) than a marketer, but I’ve educated myself on some of the core concepts of marketing. Basically, it involves letting people know about what you’re doing before and while you do it, getting their feedback, letting them be a part of the experience so that they are truly interested once the project is done and launched! Even if I make several mistakes in the logistics part of it, I will have still connected with people on a deeper level, and that will have been worth it!

4. The more I write, the better I’ll get. There will always be room for improvement. However, the goal is not to impress people with my writing. It is to share something that could make an eternal difference in their lives. Even just one word is able to do that. And since I plan on including scripture verses into my text, I know for sure, that has power to change lives.

5. It’s time to close to door on shame. For those of you who knew about this book idea when I first started writing (and especially if you took the time to share a story with me), please forgive me for how long this has taken to write! I thank God that I still have hands to type with, and as long as I do, I’ll use them to glorify God.

6. My relationship with God–and all of ours–will have its ups and downs, but I’m trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that He has brought me near to God the Father. If God wants me to write this book–then He will enable me to do it well.

7. God showed me that I don’t need to be afraid of writing erroneous things. Now, I don’t want to swing to the other side, and be prideful or careless with my words, but God can keep me in the clear. Only the Bible is inerrant. I may write some things that are not completely correct, or fail to convey an idea properly, but God can keep me from distorting essential doctrines or theological concepts.

8.  People took the time to write to me and share their deepest struggles, and it would be wrong to not share those things with others who could identify with them and use the encouragement.

And then finally, I need to write it because I believe God wants me to. And doing His will is the most important thing!

Jesus, Isaiah 42:3, Smoldering wick, suffering servant, painting,

“Smoldering Wick,” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by Matt Philleo

So, the book is on! I’ve already started a habit of writing a little each day on it again, and so far, I’ve been pretty consistent. Occasionally I miss a day or two, but I get back on the saddle and keep going! So far, I’ve written over 25,000 words! 🙂

As I work on the book, I’m going to post segments of it here on my blog, and send you updates as I go along.

Eventually the goal is to have it printed up, possibly in full color, with several of my paintings, drawings, and illustrations interspersed to bring the words alive.

I want to encourage people. In this world, we need as much of it as possible.

Have a blessed day,

If you like this post, please share it with others. And feel free to comment below. Thanks!

P.S. Would you be interested in receiving updates on the book as it’s written (2-3 times a week)? Click here and I’ll send you excerpts of the book as it’s written, before it’s published. I welcome any of your feedback on it…truthfully, it would be much appreciated and very helpful. 🙂 

Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

It’s easy to get frustrated in the middle of painting an acrylic portrait. Possibly your skin tones aren’t looking natural, or the values are off. Maybe the portrait just doesn’t look like the person you’re trying to capture. When you’re going for realism, and it just isn’t happening, what do you do?

Although you may be tempted to give up, don’t.

I want to give you 3 reasons why:

1. You will save time, paint and materials.

Let’s face it. Painting is a labor of love. As artists, we could choose more lucrative jobs, where our exchange of time for money paid better. But we put a lot of hours into creating a high-quality unique work of art.

So if you have put several hours into a painting only to scrap it and start over, you lost that time. In addition, you lost money with the cost of canvas, paint, and wear and tear on your brushes.

Now, even if you paint just as a hobby, it’s frustrating to take the time to create something and then have nothing to show for that time you allotted in your busy schedule. Finishing the painting makes sense then, even from a purely material standpoint.

2. Pushing past a difficult point in your painting will build your resilience and grow your “artistic muscle”. 

It’s easy to give up. Sticking with something when your thoughts and emotions are screaming, “This looks terrible…I’m done with this!” is way, way harder.

This is similar to weightlifting. Serious bodybuilders know they won’t get great results unless they push past the pain. As they break down their muscle tissue, they also break down barriers and limitations they previously had. With that, their muscles grow larger and stronger, because muscles don’t like to be in pain. Endurance and stamina increases.

Several years ago, I created a portrait to celebrate my pastor’s 80th birthday. It was a portrait of him and his wife, a 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas. During a certain point in the painting, it looked pretty bad. My wife came upstairs (where my art studio used to be) and peered in to see how I was doing. She said, “That just doesn’t look right. I don’t know if you can pull it off.”

Umm…thanks!

I thought for a moment, “Can I pull this off?” Well, God helped me to “pull it off” many times. He wasn’t about to quit now. I ignored the doubt and kept at it.

I figured I had a photo that shows me what it should look like. I had a roadmap, a blueprint to tell me how to get there, how to build. And even if I took a scenic detour for a bit, I’d get it where it needed to be, eventually.

A painting is never ruined. It’s just that it might take longer to fix than you would like!

3. You will learn ways of resolving issues in your painting that you can use in future paintings.

In the case of this particular portrait, I learned that even though mid-stage during the painting process, the likeness of the subject may be off, I can correct the facial features with additional layers and it will start to look like the person.

Here is the portrait in the beginning stages. Early on, there is a lot of excitement in creating a painting. I had great expectations for how it would turn out, and I cut myself a lot of slack, because I knew I just started it.

 

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Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 1

But then as I invest more time into it, I expect that a painting should start “behaving” and looking pretty good, for all the time I put into it. However, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, for me, it usually doesn’t.

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Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 2

 

Somewhere around these two stages. the painting looked pretty goofy, and it’s about at this point where my wife remarked, “I don’t know if you can pull this one off.” She said that the pastor’s wife looked like some weird “california girl.”

Even though I was tempted for a moment to give up, I thought something along the lines of, “I know what this needs to look like in the end. I’ve got my reference photo next to me. I’ve got some paint and a palette. Sooner or later, it’s going to look like it should and it will turn out alright.”

 

Acrylic Portrait on Commission by Artist Matt Philleo

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 3

 

After a few more hours, the painting started to turn the corner. Even though I think I had painted certain areas of the faces a bit too dark, I was able to layer over them with just the right mix of colors to adjust what was off.

When you are establishing values and colors on your faces, sometimes the accuracy you had in your sketch will be thrown off. Capturing these shadows are vital to making a person’s face look like the person you are trying to capture. Since shadows describe the contours and shapes of eyebrow ridges, noses, cheekbones, jawlines, and so many other parts on a human face, it’s important to realize that during the in-between stages, you won’t have an accurate likeness. It’s like a sculptor who has to chisel off many fragments of marble or wood to get the beautiful sculpture that was hiding inside the whole time.

Soon enough, I could see the likenesses taking shape.

That excitement of certain areas of the picture starting to look great then compels you to work even harder to get to the finish line of a signed portrait.

 

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 4

There was still a lot of detail work to do: many nuances to add in the clothing, details in the face and bricks in the church sign. It took a lot of patience, but it paid off. After about 35-40 hours, I had a finished painting!

Realistic Acrylic Portrait by Matt Philleo

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo

I presented this to my pastor and his wife at his 80th birthday party. They loved it. That was 12 years ago, by the way. He is now 92, and still preaches (although not as much as he used to) today!

So again, I want to encourage you: if you are painting a portrait in acrylic, the next time you feel like giving up at a certain part in the process, push past it and keep going. Continually refer back to your reference photo, and paint exactly what you see. If you don’t give up, you will have the confidence knowing that you can finish what you started, and your paintings will never get the best of  you. But you will give your paintings the best, and have something excellent to show for your efforts.

I’m writing this post on Good Friday, and this whole idea of finishing what you started, pushing past the difficulty, and seeing what good can come as a result, makes me think of Jesus’ passion. He could have decided as the going got tough–incredibly tough–knowing in advance what He would endure on the cross, to abandon his plan of providing salvation for the world by dying on the cross for our sins.

But instead, he headed for Jerusalem, knowing what would happen to Him there.

In the garden of Gethsemane, when it would have been easier to turn away from the preordained plan of experiencing God’s wrath for sin and even having His relationship with His father broken for a time, he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

And three days later, we all know…”the rest of the story.”

Portion of “Perfect Servant,” acrylic on canvas, 2002, by Matt Philleo

All this to say, there is great reward for not giving up, both in this life and the next. Happy Easter…and Happy painting!

–Matt

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or at the bottom of this page. Thank you!
A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

What do you do when you feel like you are at the end of your rope?

I recently finished a painting called “Smoldering Wick,” which I’ve shared on Facebook a little bit, and many people have asked what it is about.

Even though I just finished the painting just at the end of last year, the idea came to me several years ago. I was feeling discouraged about certain things in my life that weren’t measuring up, my failures and mistakes glaring me in the face, and I wondered if God could forgive me.

Many times when I feel this way, I get on my knees, open up my Bible in front of me and ask God to speak to me out of His word. Although I know God is forgiving and that He also will help me in all my discouragement and difficulties in life, I want to experience this forgiveness and goodness from God.

I want to know He is right there with me.

Some people may be able to, but I have a hard time shutting of the floodgate of my feelings. When I feel down, I can’t just put a smile on my face and pretend everything is OK when, inside, I feel like I’m drowning.

And I’ve found from experience that nobody knows me like God, not even myself.

And nobody cares to listen to me pour out the bitterness of my soul like God.

And nobody has the answers that I so desperately need like God.

And so this is what I do. I seek the Lord until He comes and reigns His righteousness on me. I know if I spend enough time there before Him, sooner or later, He will break through the hardness of my heart, or mind, and unbelief will melt away, and His light will cascade down upon me, breaking through the darkness.

And this all comes through His word, in the Bible.

So it was that one day, that I sought the Lord in my time of need, and I came across this promise in Isaiah 42:

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, Jesus

Isaiah 42:3 ” A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

 

In another translation it says, ” a bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

As I came across this verse, my heart was lifted up with joy. I felt the presence of God right there with me!

I knew that if I had even a flicker of a flame left burning for Him, He would not snuff it out.

In context, this verse, written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 B.C. was speaking prophetically of Jesus, who would be that suffering servant, God come in human flesh, the One would know what it was like to experience our pain, and could sympathize with us when were weak and beaten down.

And that’s exactly what I felt that day. It didn’t matter what I was going through, really. The trial that brought me up to this point, even if it was my fault. (Which it probably was) All that mattered was, God was in the house! God was in the room with me! And in experiencing that intimacy with Him: of His love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His gentleness, His kindness–I had everything I needed.

And so I wanted to commemorate this moment. Back in the Bible times, when God showed up, the ancient Israelites would put up a monument or a memorial stone to help them remember what God did for them. And so in the same way, I wanted to paint a picture to commemorate how God brought such encouragement to me! Also, I thought, “this may bring encouragement to someone else, if they get a glimpse of how kind, how patient God is with us.”

So I sketched it out. The title “Smoldering Wick” came right away. And then I thought, “I need to pick a time where they would use kerosene lamps to illuminate what they were trying to see,” so I picked the Victorian era.

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, sketch

Original pencil sketch for “Smoldering Wick” by Matt Philleo

The servant would symbolize Jesus, who shows compassion on us when we are discouraged.

I wanted the pose of the man to communicate that feeling, with his hand on his master’s shoulder. The man would be obviously distraught, but reading the Bible for comfort.

Because I wanted this to be a large painting with a ton of detail, it wouldn’t be started for another couple years after doing this sketch. I was still working part time at delivering newspapers and later working at a local recycling facility, and between that and commissioned artwork, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on one of my own paintings.

But I had the sketch, and the idea was recorded. When the time was right, the next step was to get together the photography for the painting, so that it would look realistic enough to convey the emotion and the concept to whoever looked at it.

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or at the bottom of this page. Thank you!
The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

Several times, I have wanted to give up being an artist. The end of last month was the most recent time.
After Thanksgiving, we had our “Small Business Saturday” sales event at Artisan Forge Studios.
But the day before I was very discouraged. The month of October and especially November were slow months, with not a lot of art sales or commissions.
Rent was overdue.  Our landlord called, after getting a partial payment on rent, and he wanted to know when we would bring our account up to date. I didn’t know the answer to that question. I didn’t know what to do–and I had already tried everything I knew. I felt like throwing in the towel.
Sharing these sentiments with my wife, she matter-of-factly and truthfully advised:
“God has always provided. He’s not going to stop now.” 
Feeling just a tiny bit better, I went to bed.
Artisan Forge Studios, a place of collaboration, painting, sculpture and more!

Artisan Forge Studios, 1106 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire

The morning of the show I prayed, “God you’re a big God, so I am going to pray a big prayer. I pray that I would sell ‘Smoldering Wick’ (my biggest and most detailed painting, a 30″ x 40″ ) today at the art show.”

 

There was only a trickle of people that came in. But I smiled even though I didn’t feel like it and talked about the painting and the message behind it to whoever showed interest. During the middle of the show, two middle-aged men came in, and drawn to the painting, they asked me what it was about. They listened openly to the spiritual message behind it, and although they didn’t seem to quite share the same perspective I had, they loved the luminosity of the brushwork and the compassion portrayed by the people within the picture.

 

Then, out of the blue, one man said to the other, “So, do you want to get it?”

 

My ears perked up. And I thought, What did I just hear you say?

 

And they discussed where they were going to put it, and if I took credit cards. I told them I could take their card on the spot with Square. So we rang up the sale and it went through! “Congratulations!” I told them as I shook their hands.

 

After they left, I prayed “Lord, what did you just do? I asked for that painting to sell and you answered!”

 

Well, needless to say, my family had rent money.

 

I later learned that the collectors of this painting  just happened “by chance” to show up at Artisan Forge Studios that Saturday, the day of the show.
Acrylic painting of realistic figures in Christian inspirational art

“Smoldering Wick”, 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by artist Matt Philleo of Eau Claire, in collector’s home.


The Lord has done this many times for us. You would think I wouldn’t worry, but I still often do. But my faith is growing little by little, and I’m amazed at what God does. And so, yes, it isn’t easy being a full time artist in some ways, but it’s an exciting ride! This is what I’ve been called to do. So I’m just stubborn enough to stick it out (with some encouragement from the right people) when many people maybe think I should have packed up my brushes a long time ago, and given up on the fantasy of being a full-time artist.

Although I’ve already posted some images of the painting on Facebook, I’ve had a lot of people ask what the painting “Smoldering Wick ” is all about. I will share more about that and the inspiration behind it down the road, but for now, I want to say it has everything to do with the “the Light of the World.”
Jesus is the “Light of the World.”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)
All of us were in darkness before Jesus came. Darkness in our sins, darkness in ignorance, or even willful disobedience. In my predicament here with the financial problem, I was in darkness. Not just the darkness of not having enough money to pay rent, but the despair of the feeling of hopelessness.  A lack of faith.
I think Jesus may have said to me, like He said to Peter, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Nevertheless, He answered my prayer. I didn’t feel so confident when I prayed it. But God, in His mercy, answered it. 
Now, should I have had more faith?
Yes.
But, God still answered my prayer, even with the little faith I had.  And so it gave me more cause to thank God for how kind He had been to me, as I realized I got far more than my feeble faith deserved.
My wife, who teaches the children’s Wednesday night Bible class at church, used a line as a metaphor for faith. She shot out a line with a sticky end and reeled in the object she desired as the kids watched. As long as she continued to reel, she would get what was attached to the end of the line. But if she set down the line, because reeling it in (or trying to get the object to stick) was too hard, she would never get the object at the end.
This is a powerful picture of faith and I still remember it.
It doesn’t take a rope to reel in a big fish. You just have to keep reeling it in with the line you have and not give up.
But, now, I want to say more about the object of our faith: there are many objects we want to pick up at the end of that line. But whatever the object is–maybe a better job, a nicer car, a relationship restored, healing for a disease, even forgiveness of our sins–and these all  may be good things to desire–ultimately the goal of receiving these transient things is to receive the true object of our faith, Jesus Christ. In other words, when we see how good He has been in answering our prayers and providing for our needs in the midst of the struggle, we will see Him more clearly. His generosity, His kindness, His consistency, His love, His power to deliver, His glory will be unfolded to us. When we see Jesus for who He is, we will be amazed. Our natural response will be to thank Him, to praise Him. And I don’t think there’s anything that pleases Him more, than when we rejoice at who He is.
Smoldering Wick, Bruised reed and the suffering servant,

“Smoldering Wick” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas by painter Matt Philleo, with Isaiah 42

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5)
None of us have ever seen God, but we do “see Him” as we experience His truth in the Bible, coming alive as we read, believe, meditate upon, and live it out. We stand upon His promises and we watch them come to pass.
Jesus said as recorded in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus will breathe life into the smoldering wick: the soul with a flickering flame that still yearns to burn brighter.
May God’s riches blessings come to you this Christmas, as the Light of the World shines brightly upon your path!

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Just Passing Through

Just Passing Through

On my way to band practice at church last Thursday, I saw a vehicle with its flashers on.
Instinctively, I pulled over and asked if the motorist needed help. Apparently the clutch went out on his car, and to top it off, his cellphone didn’t work! So I let him use mine. He wasn’t able to get a hold of someone to help, and since he was on his way to work, he asked if it wasn’t too much trouble if I could drop him off.
 
“Absolutely,” I said. 
 
During our brief drive I got acquainted with him a little more. He was effusively thankful that I took him to work, even though I was supposed to be at band practice. He apologized that he caused me to miss my appointment.
 
“You are more important than that,” I shared. “God has been good to me. And so I just want to show that love to other people.”
 
As I chatted with this man, I discovered he was a Muslim. I briefly shared with him how I came to know Jesus (Isa is what Muslims call Him) and why I know I’m going to heaven not based on anything good I have done, but because of what He did for me. 
 
We did not argue theologically at all. He just listened to me share, and then he shared a bit about his beliefs, and about his job. And by that time, I dropped him off at his workplace and he thanked me again. 
 
“I want to let you know I love you, and may God bless you.” I added, as I shook his hand. “Call me if you need any more help.”
 
“Allah bless you, my new friend said, “and may he repay your kindness to me.”
 
This man did not have three heads. He did not cry “Allahu Akbar” and try to chop off my head. And yes, as a Christian, I do not agree with the teachings of Islam, since they do not acknowledge the deity and salvation of Jesus Christ. True, there may be a day–following the current trend–when America could become a Muslim nation. I’m not clueless about that. And of course we as American citizens should be able to protect ourselves at the moment where our loved ones lives may be in danger.
 
But how will I see these people today?
Middle Eastern man walking, public domain photo

Middle Eastern man walking, public domain photo

 
Will I see people different from me as a group first to fear and then to hate, or will I see them as people just like me…people who need the Lord?
Many Muslims are born into their religion, not knowing anything different. They want to have some assurance of heaven or paradise, like most people do, and they are taught that the only way they can possibly get that is through a lifetime of good works, or instantly through a martyr’s death. By contrast, Christians depend on the certainty of righteousness, given as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ, by His completed work on the cross.
The truth is, Muslims, like the rest of the lost world, are in the dark and need the light shined on them.
 
Recently, a guy I was chatting with mentioned how he was listening to a talk show that was talking about Muslims taking over our country, and he is prepared to get a gun and start taking them down.
 
Really?
 
You have to be careful what you listen to. 
 
American Flag, public domain photo

American Flag, public domain photo

 
As a Christian, I am not in the business of trying to save America. I’m trying to save–or rather let Christ in me–save people who live in America.
If America as we know it goes down, it is not the end of the world.
In the Bible, you don’t read Paul admonishing the Christians in Rome to rebel against the tyranny of Caesar, to look up to Rome as a shining city on a hill, or to keep the Empire from being overrun by pagan barbarians. No, he said pay your taxes, fear God, honor the king. Christians can lose their purpose and weary themselves out in trying to prop up a decaying system and culture. The culture will always be threatened by outside forces, often beyond our control. But regardless of the culture, people can always be reached.
 
All I know is I loved this man. Moments before, I was listening to a sermon on the radio, where the preacher said you don’t have to necessarily feel love. You can just intentionally choose to love. I asked God to help me with that. A moment later, He gave me an opportunity. And I believe, by faith, Jesus loved him through me.
 
He is not one of “them.”
 
He is a human being, created in the image of God, and should have every opportunity to be saved, just as I am, by God’s grace. He should be the recipient of mercy and love, just as all of us are.
 
And who can say that God hasn’t allowed Muslims to live in this country, even the large influx of recent refugees, so that the Christians in this land would reach out to them and share who Jesus is?
 
Please pray for this man to come to know Jesus. From what I understood in our brief conversation, there are others reaching out to him as well. 
 
"Passing Through," 15" x 30", Acrylic on Hardboard, by Matt Philleo

“Passing Through,” 15″ x 30″, Acrylic on Hardboard, by Matt Philleo

 
In the end, America is not my home. I’m on my way to a better country.
That’s what this painting, “Passing Through,” illustrates. I created this back in 2004, depicting a man who is obviously out of place, riding on a camel through a Midwestern town. If you are a Christian, you are just passing through this world as a traveler, on your way to your permanent residence in heaven!
 
I thank God for all the blessings I have in this country, but if every one were stripped away, I would still have my relationship with Christ, and that would be more than enough. And I want to others to enjoy that relationship with him too, whether they be called Catholic, Protestant, Jew, atheist, Buddhist or Muslim.

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