Tag Archives: Art

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

Philippians 2:14-16a; Brief Thoughts

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life…

Consider what life would be like for someone who never complains or grumbles about anything. It is difficult to imagine this in a world where the majority of conversations, news, and entertainment are based on sarcasm and complaints. This is one aspect of life in which Christians are to be separate and radically different from the world. Paul admonishes the believers, “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”[i] Following verse 1-11, this exhortation is perfectly logical. If a believer exemplifies the same humility that is present in the character of Christ, then it stands to reason that the believer will be submissive and obedient to the will of God, accomplishing the tasks that God has set before them without complaint.

It is intriguing that Christians are encouraged not to dispute. This is one of the chief accusations leveled at the church in modern times. It seems Christians would rather argue over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary then discuss real world issues. The denominational arguments and inter-denominational disputes have displayed a character of argumentative division.[ii] To be clear, it is imperative that Christians struggle with one another to understand God and His nature. It is necessary for disagreements about theology to arise as we discuss what we see in Scripture. These kinds of discussions are not what Paul is addressing in verse 14. Rather, the Philippians are encouraged to live a humble lifestyle that does not complain or argue about the circumstances that they find themselves in.

When Christians strive for holiness, the world takes notice. Christians stand out, not only because what they do is different from the world, but because of what they do not do. Christians do not respond with the same selfishly-divisive attitude when the stresses of life come upon them. They stand in humility, willingly submitting to God’s design and accepting what seems impossible to accept. When humanity is pressed and stresses are placed on those who do not believe in Christ, it is rare for that person or people to respond with anything other than complaint and division. However, these two characteristic responses are to be absent from the Christian. If grumbling and disputing are the normative response in a person’s life, that person needs to repent and trust in Jesus. Only Jesus can change the heart so that when life shakes you, grace comes out.

God changes the heart of those who believe in Him (c.f. Ezekiel 36:22-38). In changing their hearts, He engages the world with His own image. Colossians 3:10 reminds us that believers are “being renewed in knowledge after the image of [their] creator.”[iii] The Lord has established Christians as the image bearers who would live a lifestyle so contrary to the world around them that they improve their surroundings simply by living in them.

Are you cultivating beauty in the world around you? Does your presence make the lives of those who are around you a better place? Christians are lights, bringing illumination to a dark world ruled by selfishness and death. For a believer, truth and love are the guiding principles of life. As such is the case, Christians rest in the truth that God is in control of everything and that they need not argue over the trivialities that consume the rest of the world.[iv] Further, Christians improve society. The humility and service modeled by Christ changes the world. If believers would simply live as they are made to, then the world would be a more beautiful place. Unfortunately, many in western Christianity have decided it is more important to have a beautiful building and nice carpet than to engage in making the world a better place for the name of the Gospel. Saints, it is time to work to improve our surroundings. The Gospel changes souls, indeed it also changes the way those souls live on this earth. Strive to cultivate beauty, effect change, and serve the world. In doing so, you will shine!

We cultivate this lifestyle and improve our world by “holding fast to the word of life” (v. 16). Obey the Bible. It seems almost too simple, but it is true. If Christians will obey the Bible and live by what it says, they’ll see the world change.

[i] ESV Philippians 2:14

[ii] This particular division is extremely prevelant in the Southern Baptist denomination, which has been arguing and disputing as of late on soteriological matters which are important and policy issues that are unimportant.

[iii] ESV Col. 3:10

[iv] In the west, these trivialities extend all the way to our political systems.

The Kingdom

I see a Kingdom somewhere beyond this fog

That displaces my vision to see the long…view of life.

It floats between The King and this mundane-life-drained-membrane of reality that we call earth

It hides the hope and glory and all the worth

Of all that is beyond, in that place where our brothers have gone

Oh I HATE the fog

The Kingdom is greater than the haze, that distorts its display

The streets are gold and light is so bold

That no shadow takes hold and no darkness control

The mind of the ones brought to the Son

There you are free of the chains that tie your heart to these affections, worthless from the start!

But there you join the King in life only sought

In dreams, we’ve barely seen, or begun to proclaim!

This King’s name? Oh…  that will change the game

You see this King, He is no thing ordinary.

He is power itself, greater than all wealth,

The victor’s crown to the cast down

He alone is risen above, as love enthroned

Matchless, Supreme reigns this King

You see this king is grace in place of failed schemes and self-righteous dreams that lead to false victories!

He is majesty itself, and His light is so bright it stands in stark contrast to this worlds filth-y excuse for truth.

You see this King had a people who destroyed the majestic peace that nevermore was to cease

That very nevermore came at our hand in our master plan to reject the God to man love  that we supposed was too cold for our souls.

So, broken from our heavenly home, we became cursed to roam

The sands of meaningless self-exalting frivolity

Attempting to find a calm to be

Some sacred rhapsody to set us free

There was no rhyme of song to replace the King our souls long to see.

There was nothing but chains to bind our unrelenting hearts and minds,

chains of our own making providing the undertaking…

…prison

No hope, No life, no freedom, no strength, no breath

Only the cold stiff stench of endless death

But remember that King? He rose to redeem

The heart so cold given rhythm of the soul

Imagine this King sees His subjects in need, kneels down from above, gazing into every eye that has scorned his love!

In furious rage He stands from His throne and comes down from on high to make war all alone!

He brings with Him no sword in his hand or malicious instrument with which to punish man.

Only love and sacrifice to engage the bent.

Frailty and majesty intertwine in the heart of this King

Broken and small He wins back us all

Not with the power of force but an exchange, a change of course.

You see, we were destined to breathe no more the life of liberty

Enslaved in a cage that we created we were more than simply ill-fated,

We were dead

But this failing King laid an exchange for you and me

He staked His claims on my dead remains and breathed life, removed the chains…

That so desperately trapped

He took off my chains and bore them Himself!

He made the exchange taking poverty over wealth.

He became death that death would die and I was given hope and more than that… life!

A Great Book to Read: Tortured for Christ

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania who was imprisoned for 14 years because he refused to say that communism was God’s ordained plan and that it is greater than the revelation of Christ. He was tortured daily in prison. One of my favorite phrases is when he talks about a deal he made with his guards in the prison. He says, “we have made a deal: each day I will give a sermon, and each night they will give me a beating. I am happy because I get to preach, they are happy because they get to beat me. All are happy.” In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand recounts his own story of suffering through severe persecution. He also shares stories of other persecuted Christians throughout the work. These stories stir the soul of believers to share the Word of the Lord!

The story of Wurmbrand’s suffering convicts me to share the gospel all the more boldly. Wurmbrand was beaten and persisted in preaching, we sometimes remain silent because we feel it might be a social impropriety. Wurmbrand was separated from his wife and son for the sake of the gospel, we hesistate to obey the call of God because I don’t want to risk such things. Wurmbrand knew the joy of the Lord through sacrifice and solitude and suffering, most of us have never truly sacrificed, spent time in solitude, or suffering.  We are commanded in Scripture to “remember those who are in chains as though you are in chains with them, for you are all part of the body.” Heb. 13:3 So read this book!!!

Wurmbrand also writes a chapter to the western church.  He calls us to give the underground church the tools necessary to do the work.  He states, “…we will do the suffering… we just need the tools.”  We are able to help the underground church in many ways.  One of the easiest ways is to send money to those who are dying.  A more difficult way is through legitimate prayer.  Spend time on your knees praying for the salvation of the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Finally, stand for justice in every location by loving people in a radical way.

Go get this book and read it. If you don’t like to read, go get this book and read it anyway!  If you can’t read, go get the free audio book here this month: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=freebook

Triangles are my favorite shape.

triangleEach point is unique. Each interacts with the outside world in a unique direction. Each shows it’s character in the direction it points. Each point directs the gaze in towards something else. Each certifies it’s own angle by the direction it points. The points are entirely unique and lead us to recognize the realities around the triangle from a different perspective.

The angles within each point magnify the other points. Each angle proclaims the greatness of the other points. Magnifying the space within, the angles direct us to each of the other points. They glorify each other with no malice or envy.  Each angle is dependent on the other points of the triangle for it’s own character and yet each angle points to the others.

In perfect interaction with the other points, the triangle can only be recognized when we are aware of all three points and all three angles.

So it is with the Trinity. So it is with God.

I’m just going to leave that there for you… have fun, merry Christmas.

Stuff on My Wall, Final Post

I love art!  Art (all types) speaks to the soul in a way that nothing else can.  It moves the heart to understanding of God that cannot be compared to a lecture or sermon.  Because I believe this, I surround myself with works of art.  So on this back wall I have some great works I’d like to share. 
back wall

 

Lion2

The first one is the Lion overlooking the world.  I painted this a few years ago.  My wife and I have a favorite book: Safely Home, by randy Alcorn.  It is a fiction story about the last Christian martyr in China.  In the midst of the book there is a description of a statue of a Lion with his paw on top of the globe.  Alcorn describes the lion as tender yet fierce.  The lion holds a balance of strength and meekness, between grace and near reckless ferocity, between fury and patience.  Alcorn describes the lion as standing over the Earth with a look of power and justice.  I tried to capture that in this lion.  I keep it on the wall so that I can be reminded of Our Lord, the Lion of Judah.  He is not tame!

waterfall

Second, the picture of the waterfall (sorry for the reflection of my desk in the photo).  I was given this picture by a former coworker from back when I worked retail.  Written in the bottom right of the frame is “John 4:14.”  In John 4:14 Jesus says, “…but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  This artwork is a black and white photo of a waterfall coming out of the rocks!  Hopefully your picking up on the symbolism from the Old Testament.  If you’re not, read Exodus 14 and following… that will get you started.

Safely home

Third is a picture from Safely Home.  In this picture Jesus clutches the last martyr to his chest.  The martyr is holding some crowns in his right hand and is slumped over in the chest of Jesus as if to illustrate complete and total comfort from the exhausting work on his heart.  An angel stands in the back with the martyr’s white robe held out as if presenting it.  I love this picture because Jesus is not sitting on the thrown.  He has leapt off the throne and grabbed the martyr, clutching him close, obviously before the martyr could even complete his bow.  To the right on the floor lay the chains that once bound the martyr on earth.  They are cast off to the side.  This is the image of Jesus meeting his children in heaven!  He does not remain on the throne, He is so excited to see His brother, He runs to hold the servant close.  This is a picture drawn from the character of God found in the Gospel Parables.  It is beautiful and I am excited to see my King in person one day.  “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” –Philippians 2:10-11

Power of One

Finally, one of my favorite stories is pictured below on the shelf.  “The Power of One!”  In this world of racial discrimination and humanity wickedly oppressing other members of humanity, there are few stories as powerful and horrifying as the oppression of the Zulu people in South Africa.  Apartheid is one of the greatest blights on human history.  In The Power of One, a young white man grows up to teach reading and writing to the Zulu people who are socially, economically, and physically oppressed.  The Zulu people were not able to receive education and therefore were enslaved to a system the relegated them to poverty and death.  The young man works hard to liberate a people who are oppressed and this is that story.  This book inspires me to work hard for justice!  We are to be agents of righteousness in this world.  And, where there is injustice, we must work hard to be the justice and fight for justice for the sake of the Gospel.   If you don’t like to read, there is a fantastic movie version with Morgan Freeman!  Warning, it is graphic, rated R, and has violence and language in it.

Don’t worry, this is the last post of “stuff on my walls.”  We’ll get back to more serious things soon.  What do you have on your walls and why?