To view the cover photo of “The Life of the Cross,” click on the “Books” tab and then on the photo.
One day in the early months of 2008, I was sitting in my living room, typing the words into my computer that would become my first book, The Life of the Cross. The day was dreary weather-wise, and the normal sixty mile view from the living room’s southern wall of windows was completely obscured by a dense fog. I couldn’t even see the trees in our yard that were just beyond the deck on the other side of the windows.
Typing away, I was intensely focused on my writing for some time. Then, at apparently just the right time, I “just happened” to look up. Surprised to discover that the fog had completely lifted, I was in mid sentence of conveying the news to my husband when I stopped short, not because of what I didn’t see, but because of what I did see.
In place of the missing fog, three small clouds had formed. Suspended in mid-air in the center of my field of vision, their nearness was evident against the distant background. The two larger of the clouds, one a vertical formation and the other a horizontal one, formed a distinct cross, with the third and smallest cloud sitting just above the cross’s upper left quadrant.
Imagine this: two clouds forming a cross just outside the window while writing a book about the Cross! Even in my shocked state, I knew that this was no accident. Instinctively, I jumped up and grabbed a small camera that was nearby. I barely had time to click three quick photos before the three clouds completely disintegrated and were gone.
It all happened so quickly: fog… no fog… cross… no cross. I remained dazed as I hurried to load the photos onto the computer. To my even greater amazement, the photos verified what I thought that I had seen: a cross, right outside my window. Not only had God provided the words for The Life of the Cross and the events behind the book, but He had even handed me the cover photo. Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed by God’s thoroughness and attention to detail in my life in the midst of His busy world. I can’t get over it.
Yet, I’ve had one “misgiving” regarding the event. The photo (the best of the three) was grainy, not high resolution, as I would have liked it to have been. Superimposed against an almost white sky, the “Cloud Cross” did not stand out well. The photo had to be studied in order to see the clouds’ detail. Meanwhile, the trees and land formations in the lower half of the photo blurred together as one large, dark mass and were indistinguishable from one another. Without explanation, no one could possibly determine what the photo represents.
For years, I have wished that the photo were “better.” I have even apologized for its appearance, explaining that I really had no opportunity to get a “better” one. I now have to wonder what gave me the audacity to think that the God who had provided the book’s events, the words, the cloud formation and the camera nearby didn’t know ahead of time exactly what kind of photo would be produced that day. How laughable is that?
But one morning earlier this week, I was set straight (at least a little straighter) in my thinking to see the photo from a new perspective. Awakened during the middle of the night, I decided to watch an early morning Christian talk show. The woman being interviewed is an international Christian speaker and author, who was discussing one of her books.
I listened intently as she explained the revelation she had received that had led to the book’s writing, for I had had a similar revelation a couple of years earlier. But while her revelation had produced a book, mine had simply (after the initial excitement) been stored in memory as another piece of the “puzzle.”
The revelation had come to both of us in picture format and is easily described, so I will attempt to draw the picture using words (an important gift from God).
According to an online Bible search, the word “sword” occurs 406 times in tha NIV translation. The first time it appears is in Genesis 3:24 when God placed a flaming sword between Adam and Eve (mankind), who had been evicted from the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Life. The last time it appears is in John’s vision, recorded in verses 15 and 21 of Revelation 19.
“11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linens, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the wrath of the fury of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small.and great.’ 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”
Defending what is righteous and striking down evil, what is it that the sword symbolically represents (in at least many of its uses) in the Bible? Paul gives us the answer in Ephesians 6:17, when he admonishes us to prepare to stand against evil in this world by taking up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The Sword, the Word of God, is the only weapon that is needed and the only weapon that is of any use “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (vs. 12)
In this world, we live in an ongoing battle of words, where lies (in our own minds) against God and against one another attempt to unseat God from His Throne over our lives. [Note: The word “lies” does not denote intentionality of misspeaking or misbelieving, but rather is used as a classification for all wrong thinking.]
But God alone has trumped the evil of His opposition with the Truth (Christ Jesus), bringing finality to the war of words. Though there remain some individuals who have not yet heard the news and others who have not yet believed it, the skirmishes between good and evil that continue to be fought are nearing their end. Time is drawing all things on Earth to a conclusion.
But what, though, does all of this have to do with the photo on my book cover? Well, first picture in your mind a sword. Now, right beside it, picture a cross. What do you see?
You see the same shape, the same form, the same representation! The Cross of Jesus is God’s Sword—God’s Weapon that destroyed all evil through one act of indescribable love.
When Jesus, both the Son of the Living God and the Living Word, purposefully allowed Himself to be crucified, He hung every aspect of His present and future (as well as ours) on the Truth of His Father and ours. His purpose was to fulfill His Father’s will, defeating the carnality of man’s nature that had separated man from God. The victory was accomplished by the Spirit, who resurrected a dead world to eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Cross was God’s instrument that, with Jesus upon it, completed God’s self-portrait of Himself as nothing else could.
Jesus upon the Cross: Word upon Word, and Truth upon Truth; Completion; Perfection. The Cross stands alone in design and purpose, undoing destruction with reconstruction, building futures of hope.
At the conclusion of the talk show that I had been watching, I sat contemplating the Truth as I heard it. Picking up my copy of The Life of the Cross, I once again looked at the cover photo, when realization struck. Specific words that the woman had spoken came to mind, and I saw the “bigger picture” within the photo.
The woman had described the Cross of Jesus as “a sword, with its point stuck in the ground.” And so it was in the photo that God had developed: a picture of heaven and Earth at the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The light background of the photo’s upper half displays the Light and Truth of heaven above, while the lower half portrays the world’s darkness, punctuated with only a handful of small lights shining in it. The “Cloud Cross,” descending from heaven, is frozen in time in the photo, with its tip/point piercing into the darkness below. The photo is exactly as God had always intended it to be: a picture that cuts through the fog of man’s thinking to reveal the Truth of the One True God, who is love.
The love of God that is revealed is almost unbelievable, which is the very reason why God knew that we would have to see it in order to believe it. But even in seeing God’s love demonstrated to such a degree, we still are not capable of fully comprehending it. God’s Love is too big and too perfect for us to understand. All that we can do is to accept it, to accept the Word of God for what it is: God, lighting the Way Home to Him through His Self-Sacrifice, ending our self-created suffering.
From our perspective on Earth, we look up at the Cross on Calvary, seeing the injustice of evil’s work against Jesus/God. The evil intention is undeniably there, no doubt. While that in itself was and is not news, the volume of evil residing in man’s heart was revelation to man then, as it continues to be to us today. Our capability to do wrong is incomprehensible to us.
But the overriding point (of which God has a multitude, I am sure) of the Cross is its unquestionable and definitive revelation of God, not man. Unparalleled by any other event in history, the merciful justice of God’s love stands out upon the Cross like nothing else ever has. Only by giving Himself without limit did God convince a hurting world of His Goodness toward all, freeing the world from condemnation.
The war was won when God pierced the darkness of our hearts with His Cross to allow the Light of Truth (Jesus) to change our relationship with God forever. By having pierced the Earth (from which our bodies are made) with the Cross (His Sword), God continues deadening our hearts, one at a time, to the power of sin. Then, by the life-giving blood of the “Lamb of God” (Jesus) that God poured out upon the Earth, God resurrects us to His eternal life, having paid in full the cost of our rebellion with the body and blood of His Son. Peace replaces war forever.
But one small part of the photo remains unexplained. What does the third small cloud represent? Why is it present?
As soon as I first saw it, I knew (I just knew) that it is the Crown of the King of kings—the crown that He “earned” upon the Cross and that He unselfishly shares with each of us who die and live in Him. The Cross and the Crown, being the foundation of our faith, also became the foundation of the cover designs of The Cross series of books that are being written.
In Christ, we get to wear not the crowns of thorns that we have produced with the works of our flesh, but the Crown of the King: His Crown of Righteousness, passed from Father to Son… and then to us. Through God’s grace alone (the perfect gift from Father to child) is true love both experienced and lived out in us through Christ for all eternity.
One single plunge of God’s Sword, the Cross, turned our eternal hell into eternal life.
And all that was needed to do so was One love-produced Sacrifice—just One.
Get the point? We should. God never misses. His aim is dead-on.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)