Tag Archives: Beauty

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 4:4; Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 

(Warning: the following article refers to happiness, joy, and gladness interchangeably… because they are interchangeable.)

Be happy! Be filled with gladness! The imperative of verse 4, taken by itself, would sound somewhat absurd to a group of Christians who are being persecuted. One would expect something like, “persevere” or “press on.” But Paul commands, “rejoice!” It seems absurd to adjure someone in a dire and desperate state as the suffering church of Philippi to be glad or happy, but that is exactly what this word means.[1] The call to rejoice is indeed a call to happiness in the midst of the world that attempts to deny that happiness.

Happiness and gladness have been dismissed by many in the Christian community as something trite that should not be pursued. It is as though happiness is considered selfish and the truly righteous pursuit of life is holiness. The Christian community has been taught that holiness is more important than happiness and that happiness and holiness are antithetical. However, when Paul exhorts us toward happiness, he encourages us to find our gladness/ happiness/ joy in Christ. Much of the Christian teaching in the world today separates happiness and joy. As if joy is some deeper more ethereal reality while happiness and gladness are fleeting emotions. However, the Bible is loaded with texts that talk about happiness. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to do a word search for “blessed” because even translators are uncomfortable with the word happy). A pursuit of happiness in God is central to the Christian life.[2] Rather than thinking of happiness and holiness as two opposing pursuits, Christians ought to recognize that the pursuit of holiness will bring the greatest measure of happiness. Happiness is not antithetical to holiness, it is the complement. Pursuing holiness and a knowledge of Christ is a pursuit of happiness. (For a more thorough explanation see footnote number 2 below).

Paul urges us to “rejoice in the Lord” (v.4). This rejoicing comes as an emphatic imperative. Christians have to be reminded to rejoice. Paul felt it necessary to emphasize the necessity of rejoicing. It is easy to forget that joy is found in a pursuit of Christ. When the surrounding world is constantly attempting to steal the attention of Christ’s followers from Him, it is necessary to bear constant reminder that joy/ happiness is found in Christ. In a world when fleeting desires are met with a swipe of a finger, the effort to know Christ more wars against the modern lazy tendencies.

Oh Christian, do not give into this world’s efforts to steal your happiness. Rage against the rulers who would insist that you belong to them and your desires will only be fulfilled in the pathetic offerings of self-indulgent, temporary satisfaction. Make war on sin and pursue holiness. In pursuing holiness you will find happiness/ joy. Pursue your joy in Christ and in knowing Him! Paul emphasizes rejoicing in the Lord because happiness/ joy is found in Christ.

Remember, Paul’s imperatives are exhortations. Meaning they are commands or statements that are based on a previously established or assumed truth. The assumption of this particular verse is that joy/ happiness is found in Christ. At this point in the reading of Philippians, it is difficult to argue that one will not find happiness in Christ. There is an overwhelming victory given to Christians through faith in Christ. Take a moment and skim back through this wonderful epistle. You will see, God has done and is doing more than you could ever ask or imagine. Trust Him for your joy.

 

 

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[2] Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015).  For a more full explanation of happiness in the Christian life, check out Randy Alcorn’s book, “Happiness.” Seriously… go by this book.

Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015)

Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015)

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.

Simple Helps in Battling Depression

Pastors get depressed. Such is the nature of ministry. I had a very wise pastor once tell me, “have the skin of a lion and the tenderness of a lamb, because you’re a shepherd and sheep bite.” That sentiment has always stuck in my heart. I know this statement well. It has become my friend. Anytime I am wounded I think, “sheep bite.” Knowing that and understanding that are two very different things. I had another very wise friend tell me that the greatest hurts he has ever endured have come from people in the church. This is the reality of the world we live in. Heaven has not come and darkness still exists on this earth.

With that in mind I’d like to share some things I do physically to aid in the combat of depression. These do not eliminate depression nor will they always work; but they do lighten the load a little.

LIGHT

Turn on lights! It is so easy when you are depressed to hide in a dark room. Make sure you are in bright places, if you have to go outside, then go outside. Depression likes darkness, throw a light on and try to chase it away.

CLEAN UP

This one is difficult for me. I am a notorious dumper. What I mean is that I am notorious for walking into a room with an arm full of stuff and piling it somewhere in the room. As a result my office looks like a small grenade went off. Order and cleanliness are the antithesis of chaos and confusion. Often depression can loom because there is extreme chaos and confusion over life events. If your surroundings echo that, it will only serve as a reminder of what you are struggling to forget. Clean up and organize and you’ll have one less thing the adversary can use to discourage your heart.

BEAUTIFUL THINGS

Surround yourself with beauty. If there is no beauty, then make some. Create something beautiful. Find a place of beauty that you can rest in and admire. Remind yourself that God is more beautiful than your troubles and is gracious to supply your every need. Let your heart be inspired by great music and great art! Perhaps you’ll be reminded of how small the things that depress you are.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Even introverts need people. Find people who love you and tell them you are troubled. Use the word troubled, its much less weird than depressed. Let them know what it is that troubles you and let your feelings be known clearly and concisely. They can love you in ways that can lift your spirit… let them do that.

DO SOMETHING YOU DO WELL

I played basketball in high school with intentions of playing in college, but that is a story for another day. I can usually sink about 80 percent of the free-throws I take. My all-time high was about 215 in a row before I missed.  The guy that beat me made two more than I did. So, I’m a decent free-throw shot. So when I get depressed or angry, I’ll go shoot some free-throws (some of you are reading this thinking, “ahhh now I see why you were in the gym that day!)  I’ll shoot for a bit, and then I’ll be able to think rationally. I feel better about myself and have a little bit more clarity of vision. I know how to shoot a free throw.  I know I can do it. I may not know how to handle everything in life, but I can shoot a free throw.  When you’re depressed, go shoot some free-throws. Find something you’re good at and make time to do it for an hour or so.

REMEMBER THIS IS TEMPORARY

As a believer, it is imperative that we remember that all of these troubles we face are temporary. There will be a day when there is no more struggle or pain… take the long view. Eternity is much greater than here and will last much longer! My brother and I like to remind ourselves of something Dad used to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and remember, if you back up far enough, everything is small stuff.” It is easy to say that when you’re not depressed. However, if you will look at something great and immense when you are depressed, perhaps you’ll remember.

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