Category Archives: influences

Great Art: You Must Linger to See it

When the soul needs respite and the heart needs the vexing challenge of soul-stirring intellectual engagement, art offers a haven. On the nights when one cannot recognize the eyes of the individual in the mirror and the world seems as though it is failing to maintain its own rotation, art gives us a perspective that can rescue. When the everyday monotony of life begins to drain our souls of joy, art refreshes and revitalizes our hearts. Art: three simple letters used to label the concept of expression in total. The word seems wholly inadequate. It should be longer and have an “x” somewhere in it. Perhaps it is simple and short because art is easy to overlook and pass by?

Art is a powerful medium to express that which is inexpressible by any other means. Great art transcends cultures and time. It has no limitations and only grows in its appreciation as it is engaged. Great art refracts through layers of expression that expose a deeper truth, often revealing things that cannot be understood without equally deep investigation.

As of late, I have been inspired by the work of Makoto Fujimura. He uses a particular style of Japanese art to produce works that are masterful. Fujimura’s work is literally done in layers. Several translucent layers, one on top of another. The result is stunning, but only if the viewer allows them to linger. You see, the eye has to adjust to seeing the layers. In our modern world, this is extremely difficult to do. Yet, to appreciate the beauty of Fujimura’s work, the eye must hold fast to the piece. We must train our eyes to linger and rest on the expression. As the eye grows accustomed to the peculiar focus required to see the layers, the piece will spring to life. The greater attention given to grasping the work, the more beautiful it becomes.

So it is with all great art. The soul must be allowed breathe deeply the scent of expression. We must permit our souls the time to linger… to gaze upon the beauty and understand. Our souls, like our eyes, must adjust to the refraction of the light. As the light illuminates the layers of the canvas, our eyes slowly gain the necessary perception and begin to see the glory of the painting. We begin to see the work of the artist.

The Greatest Artist has displayed His work in layers that have become common to our eyes. We fly past His work constantly, seldom stopping to admire the layers of His glory. But if we would linger a bit, we would find our eyes adjust to an ever increasing beauty in the Father of Life. If will settle our souls to seek and savor Jesus Christ, we will find the much-needed respite from this present monotony. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Now a brief word of warning: Jesus is The Artist, who created everything. He is also the Light that exposes the work. When you stand in His presence to see His work, you will inevitably find some layers of yourself exposed. And that can be uncomfortable. But, to see the beauty of The King and to know His work is worth it.

Linger over the great truths of Scripture. Engage the incredible artworks produced by God’s people. Gaze at the beauty of what and who God has created. Listen to the music that He provides upon the winds. Seek beauty in Christ’s display of His glory. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Cultivating Beauty

Creative-beauty is lost in much of modern culture. The world we live in seems not to appreciate creative-beauty. To be fair, many people appreciate that which is creative and new. New fashion trends, shiny gadgets, and varieties of new styles of décor flood our senses. The old world beauty is recycled to give us a new world trend. These trends speak to a desire that is latent in the soul of humanity. There is a deep need to create, to invent, to engage the senses with something more than what merely be spoken. The soul needs to create. The soul NEEDS to create… something… something beautiful.

God created mankind in His image.

Consider that for a moment.

The infinitely creative God created man in His own likeness. You and me…. We were made to be creative. Creative: You were created to create. You were made to make. Humanity was designed to design. You were made in the image of an infinitely creative God so that you could display His infinite creative power.

Further, God is beautiful. No… not just beautiful. He is beauty and He creates beauty. Consider the canvas of the sky, painted anew each dawn and dusk. Think about the beauty of the mountains or a beach… The majesty of the spaces on this earth that remain untouched by humanity. The creative-beauty of God’s hand shouts forth His glory in every corner of creation! We were created to love beauty. To engage the world with what is beautiful and to create beauty in all areas of life.

The trouble we face in our world is that beauty has been marred by a rejection of the one who created beauty. Humanity has rejected God and, in doing so, has rejected beauty. Enter the mission of Christianity: to bring grace to a world dead in sin. Part of extending grace into a world of sin is the restoration of creative-beauty.

From the beginning, God has commissioned His people to tend the garden of this world. Adam was commissioned to work the garden of Eden, Abraham was to bless the world around Him, The Hebrews were charged with keeping the law as a testimony to God’s character, the prophets were to stand as navigators in a world of chaos, and Christians are to work to engage in a dark world, making the surrounding culture beautiful by infusing it with the radical love and grace of Jesus Christ.IMG_3200

Christians ought to strive to make the world a better place by delighting in the character of God and cultivating beauty, thereby improving our surroundings with His love and grace. The life of a believer is markedly different from that of a non-believer. The life of a believer should lead us to live in such a way that the world around us is improved by our involvement. One simple way to do this is to strive to make your spaces more beautiful.

When these truths first began to lay hold of my own life, I was at a loss of where to start. It seemed logical to me to produce artwork. In my utilitarian and pragmatic manner, I designed logos for work (see above), drew sketches of family, displayed great artworks in my office. Then, through the influence of some incredible works by Edith Shaffer, Devi Titus, Makoto Fujimura, and a few others, my wife and I began to strive to cultivate beauty in our everyday spaces. It was difficult to tune our hearts to be creators of beautiful spaces. Difficult, but so much fun! We repainted walls, added plants in weird places, created artworks to display, put phrases on walls and Scriptures on pictures, and embraced a conscious effort to surround ourselves with beauty.IMG_3201

Now, my wife and I strive to cultivate beauty in our lives. On a surface level, that means literally making areas of our home more beautiful. Beauty refreshes the soul and engages the mind. It is our desire that, when someone comes into our home or sits on our porch, they would encounter beauty. We long for our home to be a place where people can be refreshed by grace and love in the context of a creative and beautiful environment. We’ve tried to infuse life into our surroundings and create beautiful spaces.

IMG_3215The results of our efforts are myriad. Our lives are truly peaceful and our home is a place of respite and grace where we strive to engage in life-giving grace to each other and the world around us. Our kids are learning to create beautiful spaces too. Our oldest loves to create centerpieces for small group. Here’s her latest:

IMG_3212Even our children have fun trying to create spaces for respite, like this one:IMG_3217

Cultivating beauty is awesome. Being creative is fun. Having beauty around you is fantastic.

So, I’d like to encourage you. Find ways to make your world more beautiful.IMG_3213 Enjoy and display God’s creative-beauty. In this post are just a few pictures of what my family has done in an attempt to cultivate beautiful spaces. Creating spaces for beauty to thrive does not completely fulfill the commission to cultivate beauty and grace in this world… but it is a start. Get to work.

Cultivating beauty by delighting in God’s character is one of the core values at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. We strive together to cultivate beauty in the world around us and improve our surroundings. If this resonates with you, come check our church out. We meet in Brazoria, Tx at the Brazoria Heritage Foundation, 10:30 am Sunday mornings. A map and more information can be found here: www.sgfbrazoria.org

An Open Letter to Worship Leaders: 3 Thoughts to consider.

I love worship music. I mean it. I love the emotion, the unique chord shapes, the sometimes nonsensical symbolism, the poetic nuance, and even the melodic dynamics. I love worship music… but… In the last decade, most mainstream worship music has deteriorated to symbolic emotional twaddle. Often our songs are loaded with vague, unexplained images of water or fire. Vague imagery and ambiguous pledges to follow without a context of direction or command make the songs feel as though the writer knows little to nothing about the Spirit of which they are writing. The music follows a pattern that climbs to an emotional climax and the melody is designed to illicit a climactic buzz at the chorus. While there are some great examples of powerful, meaningful worship music writers, the majority of what is being espoused as great worship is really nothing more than trite and unbiblical efforts to conjure up emotional responses.

So I have a simple request for worship music writers: Stop it. I mean it… You’re hurting my people. Your shallow attempts at poetry, masked by unique chord structures and strings are luring the people of Christ into a state of theological impotency. You make confusing allusions to biblical stories that don’t make sense, create difficult environments for pastors who want to disciple their people well, and fail to actually challenge believers to live what they believe. You put on a great show that brings glory to your talent and satisfies the need of a few people to cry and feel some emotional catharsis.

I know it is difficult to write music that is received by the church. It is difficult to write in such a way to connect AND teach. Your job is hard, and I get that. I have three things that I would like you to consider when writing worship music for the church.

Music is Portable Theology

First: music teaches, it is portable theology. Take it seriously when you write. Music is one of the most powerful means of teaching that the church can use. It engages people at a level that mere discourse cannot begin to equal. The melodies and rhythms drive deep into the minds of people and help to crystallize truth into the heart of the one who is singing along. The repetition helps to solidify the memory. The corporate singing aspect helps to validate and normalize the truths proclaimed in the songs. The Bible says teachers will be judged by a stricter standard in James 3:1. Further, Mathew 18:6/ Mark 9:42 warns teachers not to cause others to stumble, saying it would be better to drown. So, be careful and take your job seriously. Your job is not to engage the emotions of people, it is to teach the truth through music!

Poetry is best when it is understood.

Second: Poetry is best when it is understood. I love poetry. Seriously. I’m not a good poet, but I write it myself. In fact, I’ve got a book of poems I’m going to publish soon (editing it now). I love the works of Kahlil Gibran, William Cowper, and William Blake. Poetry moves the soul and challenges the mind. The best poetry makes deep and difficult truths understandable. The best poetry is revelatory, not hidden. Please note: I did not say that poetry is easy. Your poetry can be difficult to grasp and that is fine. But it must lead people to understanding, not confusion. So it is with worship music. Make your poetry beautifully complex, but also wonderfully expository. When poetry is vague and easily misinterpreted, it hides truth and confuses people. Reveal truth through your poetic efforts by being exact. Vague references to water or fire are confusing without any context. Utilize your poetic talents to wrap the truths in context and exposition. Strive to Explain and teach about God and His character through your music. The Scripture is full of poetry that is designed to do this. Copy God’s example of praise and worship.

Songs should call us to love Jesus.

Third: Write songs that challenge people to love Jesus more deeply. The most powerful songs in the church are songs that challenge people to love and obey Jesus. They are songs that engage people on a deep level while simultaneously praising Jesus’ character in a way that challenges. These songs need to be formed within an established context of truth that will fortify the congregation’s love for Jesus. It is no good to call upon the name of the Lord and pledge that you are going to follow Him without actually making any declarative statements about where He wants us to go or what He wants us to do. It is no good to say, “I love you” without establishing anything about Him worthy of love. You may understand where God wants you to go or what it is about Jesus that is worthy of love, but the average person singing music in the congregation may not. So make the statement! State truths about God that will challenge our hearts to love Him more. Be as specific as possible and dig deep into the character of God. I want to be clear, it is not necessary that you constantly display incredibly difficult and deep truth that boggles the mind. It is necessary that you constantly display truth. You can write simple songs. But those songs must espouse clear truth and they must lead to a deeper love of Christ.

I lead worship at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria. I am also the teaching pastor. At our church, we strive to think deeply when we sing. We encourage our people to engage their entire being (heart and mind) when in corporate worship. If you want to be a part of a group of people trying to do this, albeit imperfectly at times, come check us out. http://www.sgfbrazoria.org.

6 Life-Lessons from Jo-Bits

jobitsanddaddyDaddy let Tooties compose one of these bloggy things. (here) So, I thought I should be allowed to compose such a work myself. So here are lessons from me, The Jo-Bitty! (aka, The Boy!)

RunRun. When there is nothing in your way and you have a straight path that is clear, run! Life rarely affords us the opportunity to run freely, unencumbered and unimpeded by circumstance or ability. Run when you see the opportunity. Finish the projects you’ve wanted to complete. Take the opportunity to race ahead with plans and efforts. Run! When there is a free and open path, run. Feeling the wind in your hair is amazing! Accomplishing tasks without deadlines is fun! Getting from point A to point B fast and free is exhilarating… When you’re able, run!

puddlesFind a good puddle to splash in. Find the place where you can jump in and make splashes! You old-people are far too concerned with getting water on your shoes or what others will think of your splash! Life is made for splashing! Puddles are made to splash. It is a still body of water that simply waits for your destructive force to splash in it. Make a splash! Get a little wet and laugh about it. When I jump in puddles next to my sister they squeal. They get some water on them and my splash bothers them a little bit. But, if I had never made the splash, they would have had an extremely boring walk. So make your splash! Jump in the puddles of this life and remember – your splash will make everyone else’s walk just a little more interesting. Splash splash splash!

PecanPickingDig in the dirt… you might find pecans! I live in south Texas. The trees here drop pecans every fall and we like to pick them. Mommy cooks with them, Daddy makes sugared pecans, and I like to eat them. The tricky thing about pecans is that they get pressed down into the dirt. You have to be willing to dig in the dirt to get the pecans. You have to get down on the ground and get a little messy. If you want to enjoy the pecans, you’ll get a little dirty picking them up.

Always be the knight! Be the hero of the story. Even if there is no story! Be the hero, save the day, be the good-guy. My sisters’ are always in danger! I am the knight! Sometimes I get confused and I hit my sisters… not a good idea. You see, God gave me hands to protect people. So I need to use those hands to take care of the people I love and to help those who cannot help themselves.

armor2When you go play, wear your armor! My big sisters and I go to a local playground a few times a week. We ride our bikes up there with mommy and daddy and we play. It’s fun. I keep my armor on while I play because I’m little and trip and fall sometimes. My armor makes me feel strong and protects me when I fall. It doesn’t block my sisters from wrestling with me or keep me from engaging the other kids on the playground, but it protects me when I fall. Daddy tells me I don’t have to keep my armor on, but I’m a knight! Knights wear armor because they are going to do things that are daring, and dangerous, and could hurt. I wear armor so I can do more, not to keep me from doing less. I build up my strength and protection so that I can be more daring and brave! Wear your armor and be daring!

JoBitsandTootiesTake care of the Tooties. I am the Jo-bitty and I have a little sister: Tooties [Toot-Tees]… perhaps you read her blog post! She’s a great writer. I love my Tooties, but she is small and doesn’t know everything yet. You have to be gentle with people who are little and don’t know better. Sometimes I forget to be gentle and Tooties cries. Sometimes I forget that she doesn’t know and my actions make her scream. (Then daddy talks in his big person voice and we all get sent to our beds). But sometimes I remember she is little and I’m big… that is when I sit with her and tell her I’m sorry. God made me to take care of smaller things. Tooties is smaller. I take care of her… when I remember. I show her the construction site and the bulldozers. I tell her stories and play games with her. I tell her she’s ok when she gets hurt. I take care of Tooties because Tooties is small.

I’m sure I could write more cool life-lessons, but it’s almost lunch time and I have to go make the macaroni and cheese. So… be good, buckle up, and wash behind your ears.

5 Lessons from Tooties

tooties6Hi, I’m Tooties! Daddy is alway writing these bloggy things, so I thought I’d try one!

Here are five lessons for you grown-up types!

 

  1. tooties4Leave your lovey laying around, that way you can stumble onto joy. I like to leave my lady-bug laying around the house. It is precious to me, so I take it everywhere I go. Sometimes I drop it on the floor and that is ok. Later, when I walk into the room, I’ll find it. Then I’ll be super stoked about finding my favorite thing in the world! You should try it. Leave loving things around you. Drop them in places that you frequent. They’ll be a source of joy when you come back to that space!
  2. Always carry a drink with you. tooties5Whenever I walk around I try to carry a drink. Something that refreshes me… even if it is not mine. You need refreshment in this life. As you go about your daily life, carry a drink… whatever that may be. Whatever it is that refreshes your soul, carry it with you and drink deeply in moments of need.
  3. When you fall down, you’ll be ok… Daddy’s right there. I’m small and unsure of my steps sometimes. I fall down and sometimes it hurts. But Daddy is HUGE and he doesn’t fall down!!! When I fall down, I know Daddy is right there and can easily pick me up. He loves me and he comforts me when I fall down. Isn’t great to know that The Father is there!?
  4. tooties2Yelling is a form of communication, but it is less effective than laughing, smiling, and pointing. All I wanted was the juice! Couldn’t they tell? I was yelling and grunting… I even did my best impression of a fish so they would make the connection that I needed liquid! As I was writhing on the floor yelling my best impression of a flounder out of water, it occurred to me, “they give me things quicker if I laugh and point.” Yelling and being angry communicates something, but it probably wont get you what you want. Smiling and pointing work much better.
  5. No matter what you loose, you’ll find something better soon. I lose stuff all the time! One second I’m waving it in the air, and the next it’s gone! tooties1It’s like someone magically removes it from my grasp while I’m distracted by something else. Whatever the reason for this mystery (Daddy), I know that I should not worry… in another moment I’m going to find something else to be excited about.

That’s all for now! Have a great day!!

“We need to talk”- 7 things to remember when you hear this.

weneedtotalk“Hey, you got a minute? We need to talk.” Those are some of the most anxiety inducing words on the planet. Often they could be translated to mean, “Something you said/did bothers me and now I’m going to metaphorically kick you in the face.” The incident described below is all too common and has happened to me in various degrees throughout my life.  It happens in churches, businesses, casual friendships, and families. Perhaps you will relate.

The pit of my stomach sank. An odd description considering that stomachs don’t actually float. My mouth was dry and my eyes began to fill with tears. A record of wrongs was being laid out before me by someone I was never aware I had offended. The litany was tremendous, and the questions that fired through my head were jumbled and confused. I had no idea I had wronged anyone and was definitely unaware of the list of apparently insensitive, almost criminal acts I was guilty of in the eyes of my accuser. I could say nothing; I only stood in stunned silence. Adding to my confusion was the realization that this person had never spoken to me until now, while I had believed us to have a transparent relationship.

In the moment, my first thoughts were about how sorry I was to have wronged someone. My second thoughts offered a little less clarity, as I was not afforded the time to process the accusations in an appropriate manner and was therefore left more confused. My final reaction in the conversation was silent acquiescence. I was a beaten man at a loss for words. (A strange feeling for me.)

In the weeks that followed, I interrogated myself, attempting to find my guilt, sometimes rooting out my own errors, and on other points finding no fault. I questioned myself over and over, sought wise counsel, and tried to move past the awkward work of making peace. I moved from my beaten acquiescence, to furious anger, to indifference, then to a vague and somewhat incomplete understanding, and finally to a sort of resting in the peace of Christ. In this introspective time period, I realized that this person had held onto my offenses, rather than addressing them at or around the time they were committed. They sat on my errors, keeping a running tab. While claiming “love,” they had kept a “record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13:5) While they now claimed to be dealing with grievances, they had given too much time to their anger and frustrations… letting “the sun go down.” (Eph. 4:26) These actions are wrong and unfitting for a Christian. And yet, this is often the way people handle their grievances with each other. This has been the way I have handled things in the past. (A brief word of encouragement: Overlook their failure to handle these things well!  People are people… forgive. Teach people to handle things the right way by your own example.)

This ambush caused great grief and mourning. The friendship was irreparably damaged. I would never again feel the same joy and comfort around this person. Though forgiveness was granted, the damage done to my soul has me in a nervous fit every time I am aware of offense, whether purposeful or accidental. (Yes, I did just admit to offending some people on purpose.) Due to various encounters like the one described above, I struggle with anxiety whenever someone says, “hey, you got a minute? We need to talk.” But there are ways to move past that and to do the work of love.

There are some things I try to remember when I find myself in this type of confrontation.

  1. God is working. That famous verse in Romans 8:28 that Christians use to remind themselves that God is always good, also serves to remind us that God is always working. This verse, taken in the context of a persecuted minority (Christians in Rome), serves less as a “God will make this better” and more of a reminder that God is faithfully working, even in our suffering. With this in mind, we can be reminded of that other truth that Christians often miss-apply: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) In context, meaning: “I can endure/ find peace in all circumstances….” No matter how great the anxiety or suffering, the Lord is working. In this uncomfortable conversation… He is working.
  2. Striving is hard. Hebrews 12:14- “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” I often find it interesting that God seems fascinated with the word “strive” or “wrestle.” So great is His affection for the one who wrestles, that He names His peculiar people “Israel,” or a direct translation: “Wrestles/Strives with God.” He loves it when we strive to know Him, and even more when we strive to be more like Him.   So, we find that life in a healthy community is hard and is full of striving. When you are confronted, your goal must be to strive for peace and holiness.
  3. Political maneuvering is always a bad idea.  Honesty and transparency are always lauded in Scripture, while political maneuvering gets people killed. (c.f. Acts 5, 1 Sam. 15, 2 Sam. 9-12, Num. 16) God honors honesty and protects transparent vulnerability. When the prophets stand bare before enemies, God defends them. When the apostles speak truth, God protects them. When martyrs of the faith stand transparent before their executioners, God redeems their lives. So it must be for all Christians. “To live is Christ, to die is gain…” (Phil 1:21) We must die to self and trust that the Lord is working, even through the hands of wicked men. God honors those who are faithful to walk in His ways… He will uphold those who are honest and transparent. (see Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50)
  4. “Peace must be risked.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Similar to point number 2, this is a reminder that if we want peace, we must be willing to risk ourselves to find it. Peace that costs you nothing, is not peace. True lasting peace costs everything and can only be found in complete surrender to the Sovereign Lord over all things. Surrender your anxiety to Him and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
  5. Love will win…. This one is simple. Love wins. Accusations, legal defense, intellectual arguments, manipulation, business tactics, and politics all fail in the face of Love. Love will and has overcome all things. Everything else will all pass away, but love will cover a multitude of sins, it will never fail, and it will always claim victory over the darkness. (c.f. the whole Bible.)
  6. Grant grace when you are accused. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Read carefully… “so far as it depends on you.” It is not up to the other person in the discussion to strive to this end. It is for you to do, regardless of their actions.
  7. Hold on to humility. Ask “how can I grown from this?” Avoid defending yourself. Avoid accusing the other person. “Turn the other cheek.” Remember your standard is not good people, it is Christ. Philippians 2:1-11 clarifies for us how we are to conduct ourselves. Christ was obedient, humble, and murdered for it. So… there’s your example and standard. Get after it.

Love is hard to do well. Read 1 Cor. 13 and try to be that description. I hope these seven points and my own story will help to encourage you next time you are accused or confronted. Are there truths you try to remember and remind yourself about in these circumstances? Share them in the comments.

I am a pastor at a church that is striving to live out love in honest and transparent ways. If you’d like more information, please take the time to visit our website: www.sgfbrazoria.org

Squeeze My Hand- Suffering pt. 3

squeezemyhandHer eyes filled with tears as she gripped my left-hand.

“Oh, I wish we were already on the ground!” she wept.

The take-off was a little bumpy, but not unusual. In the same manner as always, we lifted from the ground and immediately hit minor turbulence. The plane rocked and bumped a little left, then a little right as if finding its balance. My little girl silently whispered prayers for safety as she squeezed my left hand tighter.

A 7 year old should not be able to cause severe pain to a 35 year old man. Yet, my affliction is evident in my left hand. You see, I have scleroderma in my left foot and my left hand/arm. (pictured above) As a result, I only have about 75% mobility in my hand and it pretty much hurts all the time. Occasionally it will flair-up, turn a brighter color red, and my nerve endings will feel like they’re on fire if someone touches my hand or foot. This particular flight happened to be one of those times.

I know the anxiety my little girl deals with, she got it from me. Plane flights tend to heighten my already anxious state. While other people are able to sleep or think about plans for when they land, I find my mind drifting in and out of a state of panic thinking: “we’re all gonna die, God help!” and a state of extreme cynicism thinking: “If God intended me to fly through the air, I’d be a bird!” So when I see the tears in my daughters eyes and hear her pleas to be on the ground, it is not without sympathy. This anxiety can be crippling. Rational thought escapes us when we deal with anxiety. We must force ourselves to reason when we are anxious. No one can do it for us… no amount of information can stem the anxious feelings… when someone suffers anxiety, they must decide to reason through it. Sometimes that’s not possible.

So here I sit. My nerves on fire, in a state of internal panic, wishing I could comfort my little girl.

We hit more turbulence. She squeezes tighter. I lean down and say, “it’s alright baby, just squeeze daddy’s hand.”

Pain floods my arm… I wince, and tears begin to form in my eyes. I could not take away the anxious feeling my daughter struggled with. I couldn’t ease her fears with rational logic or profound thoughts of God. All I could do was let her squeeze my hand. This is what God does with me. In my own painful circumstances… He takes the pain on Himself, urging me to trust Him.

More turbulence… more squeezing.

In that moment I saw again the way Christ walks with us. Jesus does not merely walk next to you while you feel the pain. He has actually taken the pain on Himself. In His kindness, He has taken our pain upon Himself. Every pain and anxiety you suffer, He has walked through and is walking through with you. In those dark moments of the soul, feeling your every pain He urges you, “it’s alright… squeeze My hand.” No amount of pain is too great for Him.

You see, I held my daughter’s hand because I love her. The pain didn’t matter in that moment. In that moment all that mattered was her pain. Pain cannot trump the love I have for my child. Likewise, pain cannot overcome the love Christ has for you. Jesus went to the cross, bearing your every affliction and failure so that you could squeeze his hand, and now He walks through your pain with you! Pain in this world is bound to come, but you don’t have to walk through it alone. The Holy Spirit will comfort. Squeeze His hand.

It is when we recognize this reality as a community that we will start to see past our own pain to love others. You see, my pain in that flight was second to her anxiousness. She needed to squeeze my hand, unconsciously causing me pain. This is how we should love one another. In the church, we personify the love of Christ to one another. We squeeze each other’s hands, ignoring our own inconveniences. We offer up our time and resources to provide for each other in spite of our inability to bring resolution. We wade through the troubles and pains of life together no matter how painful our own suffering. So… learn to be squeezed by your community. In doing so, you will live a full life in the church.

I’m not always good at this. I still complain when someone else needs to squeeze my hand. I fail to love people well. But I have a group around me who let me squeeze their hands. (Romans 12:9-13)  Our church strives to embody the ideal of grace extended. If you do not have a community like this, we are working hard to build one where I live. Come join us at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria at 10:30 Sunday mornings. We meet in the Brazoria Civic Center Conference room (the old elementary school.)  There is a map on the important documents tab at the top of this page.  We all have struggles, let’s walk through them together.

This is part 3 of a series. Part 1 is here Part 2 is here