10.11.2021

not scary: halloween & the Gospel

Alright, Christian, once again, we have an incredible opportunity and time to plan for it. So here's my ever refining Franken-article to help get you motivated. Read on...


“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16
(ESV)

Once a year we have the world coming right to our own doorsteps begging for treats. So we encourage Christians to do something incredibly easy—on Halloween night, turn your porch light on and share the love of Jesus along with your treats. In other words, be present with people.

Remember, this is as simple or complex as you want it to be. (We tend to go a bit on the complex side, but here's some inspiration if you like: All Hallow's Garage)

Need more ideas? Have a few:

• Dress up your goodies. Purchase some bags, plain or decorated. Add a small toy or something fun. Give the best treats on the block.

• Provide hot chocolate for your guests. Kids and adults love this. It can lead to time spent together and potential for deeper discussion.

• Set up a fire pit and roast marshmallows or make s’mores. Same effect as above.

• Do something big at your house to draw attention. Set up spotlights, games, fun scenes, whatever. People tend to remember these houses, and what you gave them.

• Use your skills, or those of a friend, and do magic tricks, balloon animals, music or something else fun and entertaining.

• Invite the neighbors to your house for a “getting to know you” party early in the evening or a day or two in advance. Pass out invites that week to let them know.

• Invite Christian friends to help out, especially if they have fewer children in their neighborhood. That way, you can double your efforts.

• Alternately, if you don’t have many children in your neighborhood, actively find someone who does and work with them. Or maybe go to a party. Be where people are.
• Consider having some Bibles available to give away as appropriate in case the opportunity arises.
• Pray, both before and after the evening, for the people you will meet and for a true love for your neighbors.
Whatever you do, don’t hide behind closed doors. The world is coming to us. Let’s give them something “sweeter than honey.” (Psalm 119:103)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” -2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
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Sharing the Gospel on Halloween (or any time) 

The Gospel is all about what Jesus has done, is doing and will do. Throughout Scripture we see reminders of the Gospel given to believers, or those who claim to be (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). So don’t forget, the Gospel is for everyone all the time, Christian or non, not just a one-time event in which we hope someone responds and we move on. This is what our salvation is based on, and we need to remind ourselves and each other of that every day.

As a summary, we might say:
• God is perfect, and He says we have to be perfect too. Unfortunately none of us are perfect. We think and say and do things God says not to, or ignore things He says to do, all the time. Our relationship with God, others and our world is broken.
• Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t, took on punishment by dying for imperfect people like us, and came to life again, proving He’s God. Only He could repair our relationships.
• God calls us to stop focusing on ourselves and what we want, and to focus on Him, trusting Jesus as Lord, and the One who does everything we can’t.
• Through faith in Jesus alone we can live with him in a renewed Earth forever.
(This example limits religious language and jargon. Always explain words such as “sin” or “repent.”) 

If you choose to include printed handouts with your treats it’s important they include the basic truths stated above. Don’t go for handouts designed to draw attention without sharing the true Gospel, never give out tracts instead of treats, and don't use paper in place of relationships when you have a chance to engage people in person.

While summaries such as this can be useful, especially for review, they by no means express all the depth and richness that is the Gospel of Jesus seen through all of Scripture. There is a lot of theology behind the statements above that disciples need to have explained. There are also many ways to draw people more personally into the wonder of Christ and His beauty. Consider creation. Listen for ways the individual might see the Lord’s work or provision in life. Ask how they are doing and how you can pray for them. The possibilities are as endless and amazing as Jesus Himself.

When speaking to someone, we need to remember we aren’t doing the saving work, nor is the person saving himself with a response. God is Savior, and He knows who He has enabled to respond and when they will. Ask questions to understand where the person is spiritually. Don’t do all the talking, and certainly don’t aggressively attempt to force someone to “seal the deal” with an on-the-spot prayer. This creates confusion and could end in false assurance, especially if you can’t or don’t follow up. We are to make disciples by sharing who Jesus is and what He’s done, encouraging others to believe and obey Him, and to further encourage love of and joy in Christ for those responsive to Him.

Never forget the importance of listening and relating. If someone feels they can trust you, they will often tell you a lot about their life. This can help you discern where they are spiritually and how ready they are to hear more. Rather than approaching with a formulaic method, listen for concerns and needs, and consider how Christ meets that need. (Example: They’ve been unemployed for months. Jesus is Provider of both physical and spiritual needs. How have they seen Him provide?) Be ready to pray with them while present. Many people are touched by this act alone. Pray the Lord gives you a heart of compassion for anyone you meet.

If someone claims to be a believer but you feel unsure, you might ask them to explain the Gospel to you. Then you can commend or gently correct as necessary.

Should a person truly be ready to receive Christ as Lord and feel compelled to pray in repentance to Him, let them pick the words and see how He leads. Ask if they are comfortable with follow up so they can be continue to be discipled. 

Even simple discussions with neighbors just letting them know you are a believer could easily lead to deeper relationships born on Halloween night. Be ready to follow up with your neighbors in any way necessary to show them the love of Christ throughout the whole year.


More treats for you:
>> Check out some additional related articles by Verge Network.

>> Also, an excellent 3 minute video by Jeff Vanderstelt, who encourages us to "Open the Door to Halloween" in order to engage our neighbors.

4.02.2021

Easter 2021: Epic Garden Battles

With spring having sprung, gardening is a hot topic at our place. After last year’s bumper crop, and the very long winter that followed, the spouse is all-in on getting the food stuffs growing again. And while he obviously loves it, so much of his focus sounds like all-out war. Guarding against adorable vermin or undesirable pests, overgrowth or underwatering, he’s ready to protect this new plant life at all costs. And as the celebration of Easter approaches, I’m reminded of a few garden battles of biblical proportions.

Battle Lost
Genesis 2:8-9: “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

The Bible starts out in a perfect garden. Just imagine: No weeds, no disruptive creatures, no drought or floods. Better yet, no issues even between people. Humans and the rest of God’s creation humming along harmoniously. But the story takes a turn with a sudden battle for control. Should we trust the one who first planted the garden and its tree of life, or ignore him in an effort to gain more? Caving to greed, the humans harvest from the wrong tree and lose it all—the garden, their trust in each other and their friendship with God. As overfertilization leads to plant death, the battle is lost. Sickness spreads. Thorn and thistle now dominate the landscape.

Battle Won
Isaiah 11:1-2: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him…”

As years of thorny battles wear on, one day a new shoot comes up. A baby grows to be a man, and that man turns out to be the ultimate gardener. He arrives to show us how to cultivate our relationships again. Expected by some, yet unrecognizable to others, he is ready to fight with his own blood, sweat and tears for his people in his garden, even as we decide to fight against him. In a garden called Gethsemane, he’s arrested. Despite no fault being found, he is prosecuted and placed on a wooden cross, sometimes referred to as a “tree.” Crowned with thorns on this tree of death he does not deserve, this man called Jesus dies...

While this looks like no victory, no one even imagined that 3 days later, life would emerge from a tomb. Even a woman finding the grave empty and seeing a man nearby thinks he's just the local gardener—until he calls her by name. But as a seed falls into the ground and dies to reproduce exponentially, Jesus died and rose to bring new life into the world. The garden battle is won! As the original gardener, he naturally knew what was needed to help it heal. And to each of us, He asks an old, familiar question: “Will you trust me to heal you too?”

Battle Done
Revelation 22:1-2: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

Much as it began, the Biblical story closes with a perfected future garden. We get a glimpse of renewal to come, of a world growing complete and healthy again, of harmony between God and people restored. The thorns have gone, and the tree of life we once rejected now heals us. For all who trust that ultimate gardener, the garden battles are done.

Anyone who gardens is positioned for a unique perspective on loss, triumph and restoration as you guard and nurture your own vegetation. Yet even if you lack a green thumb, every new bud and petal can call to mind these garden battles lost, won and done, even as we navigate the thorns of life that still remain. So as the flowers bloom this spring, I pray you do trust Jesus, the ultimate gardener, for the complete nurture and healing only he can bring.

Enjoy the greenery and happy Easter!

3.15.2021

Pray for the Lou Week 2021

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah

-Psalm 24:7-10 (ESV)

 
As I continue to follow the threads of unity and prayer among congregations in and around St. Louis, this year's Pray for the Lou Week is a significant piece.
This week follows last year's single-day Pray for the Lou on 3.14.20, when area churches joined together to pray in and for neighborhoods in St. Louis city. This year, that vision was expanded to a full week throughout the broader region, and included regional prayer rallies, prayer walking in area neighborhoods and a special 3.14 "Preach for the Lou" Sunday, with many pastors across the area preaching from Psalm 24.

I was able to attend four of the eight regional rallies in person while still following pandemic protocols. Two were online only, but all were and are available to view online via Pray for the Lou's Facebook page and other means. Just attending the first rally in North County, I began to sense the Lord was actively answering prayers we'd begun to pray years ago, and I was eager to see how this would play out throughout the week. Seeing pastors share pulpits with intercessors from North City to Jefferson County while hearing similar requests for our Lord to move in and around St. Louis at each location was increasingly encouraging as the week went on.
Our collective desire is to see the King of Glory, King Jesus, fully enter and affect every part of the St. Louis area.

On Saturday, participating churches were mobilized to go out and prayer walk in their local communities, and ours took part by stepping out to pray for our neighbors, schools, businesses and government. It is powerful to consider how many areas were prayed for simultaneously that morning.

A local prayer walk in Hazelwood

This morning of prayer walking was followed up by a virtual closing worship celebration you can watch right here:

While we continue to pray for more churches and leaders to catch this vision of prayer and unity, I remain encouraged to have many more congregations join together this year with the goal of seeing the Kingdom, not just an individual congregation or denomination, grow in and around St. Louis. And I'm increasingly thankful God's provided the many intercessors I know praying and working to keep the momentum going. 

It's time to believe and embrace the reality that we are already one in Jesus, and we want to see cooperative relationships between leaders and congregants continue across every one of our perceived dividing lines. As we pray for God's peace and presence here, let's see what the Lord will do when His people connect beyond a week or an event and move together in His power.

If you or your church weren't able to be involved this year, follow PrayfortheLou.org to keep up with what's to come.

As always, keep praying, St. Louis!

12.24.2020

Christmas 2020: The True Light Still Shines In the Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” -John 1:5; 9-14 (ESV)

While 2020 needs no year in review, it’s no stretch to describe many of its moments as “dark.” So it seems especially exciting to have so many celebrations at this time of year which include elements of light. Whether special use of candles or festive decorations, drive-thru displays or consideration of stars, there’s a cheer and wonder these lights can bring.

With just the two of us, we sometimes skip concerted holiday decorating efforts, but we actually cracked open a box this year to discover a couple forgotten sets of unopened solar lights. Given all the dark spots of 2020, and inspired by others doing the same, we decided to light things up a bit more than usual this season, gradually expanding our display in hopes of bringing a touch of brightness to anyone passing by.

Looking at lights in this year like no other—from our meager presentation to every holiday display, and on up to those in the sky—I’m reminded each one is a representation of something greater and brighter and more true. And as we look for something bright in a world often dark, we need look no further than a much celebrated baby in a manger to begin to see that true light.

This light came into a world of darkness, God Himself made flesh. He illuminated what it means to be fully human, to live as the light of the world. On Earth’s darkest day, that light was momentarily snuffed out, only to reignite in glorious resurrection. This is the light shining in the darkness that the darkness could not overcome. Instead, overcoming the darkness within and around us, this blazing glory makes it possible for us to know God, and to one day see our dark world shine bright again. And this true light is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Earlier this year, I considered that we never know what tomorrow may bring, as 2020 certainly proved. As I quoted then from Ephesians 5, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This remains my prayer and encouragement for you, regardless what another year brings, to trust Jesus and truly experience His love and light that overcomes the darkness.

Hoping your holidays are merry and bright!

Art: Unsplash.com

12.18.2020

"Look Closer This Christmas"

Just sharing this fantastic short video about the unconventional arrival of the long-expected eternal King Jesus. If you'd like to take a closer look at the story of His birth, check out the beginning of the Book of Luke.

Merry Christmas!

8.12.2020

A Moment to Pray on MLK


On a rainy Saturday in August, I made my way to the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. and Kingshighway in St. Louis to join in prayer with others with the same King and dream, both for our city and beyond.

Pray on MLK was coordinated by Civil Righteousness to happen in multiple cities on the same day. August 8 was chosen for having been the first date on which a street was named for the civil rights activist in Chicago back in 1968.


At 6:01 p.m. local time, groups gathered on MLK streets to enter into a time of silent prayer and lament. This start time was chosen as the same moment the shot rang out in Memphis that took Dr. King's life, the very time we heard the bell toll in April 2018.

As we formed this silent wall of prayer in St. Louis, we again used white tape on our mouths with one or two words written to express the prayers of our hearts. On this occasion I was prompted to focus on "LOVE," lamenting the lack of love for neighbor all around us now being expressed daily in ways ranging from harsh words to outright rage to increasing crime. I know we will not see love for neighbor unless our city knows the love of God in Jesus. For this I prayed.






At 7:01 p.m., we gathered for a time of hopeful proclamation and worship. In St. Louis, this time, along with a pre-rally I was unable to attend, took place at Fountain Park, which also houses a statue of MLK. It was an encouraging time seeing the people of God from many churches across our region worship our one true King Jesus together, looking to Him alone for the justice and reconciliation we so desire.







I am increasingly thankful for opportunities to join in peaceful gatherings such as this one. With the recent loss of leaders such as John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, I've heard concerns expressed that the nonviolent ideology around civil rights, to which MLK so strongly held, might also be lost. But in light of events like this, I see the Lord raising up new leaders seeking to right the wrongs of our past and present through prayer and persistence by the power of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. Even as we line streets and visibly show the world a different way, we stand with the thought not merely to get the attention of man or their honks of approval, but to bring our frustrations and desires to God Himself. We are encouraged by His Spirit to act in our communities by loving and serving our neighbors in creative ways, often being used in answer to our own prayers to build up the people and places around us.

I hope you'll join us in prayer for God's power to reach into our cities through His Church as we ask our one, true King to bring His change to a hurting world.

 Logos used by permission via prayonmlk.org.

6.06.2020

A Prayer Walk in Ferguson

A different landscape since Saturday
As protests since the death of George Floyd continue, now in even more countries across the globe, a special prayer walk took place in Ferguson, MO on Thursday, June 4. This event was organized by the North County Pastors' Group, a collective of churches which originated following the death of Mike Brown.

These churches, my own included, have hosted an annual event called Unity Sunday for the past 4 years, from which I have personally benefited whether as attendee or participant. These events have allowed opportunity for predominantly black and predominantly white churches to gather together for fellowship, prayer and worship, and have included pulpit swaps between the pastors. As we've grown to know one another, this prayer walk was a significant next step in joining together, this time outside church walls and into the community.

The evening began and concluded in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Ferguson, where we prepped and prayed before heading down the street to the Ferguson Police Station, now largely boarded up due to rioting which occurred after my time there on Saturday. The goal was not only to pray for the community, but to listen to those in the community and pray with them as appropriate. There was opportunity to do so with several individuals, including a police officer, a protestor and at least one of the artists now working on positive messages in front of the station.

Additional prayer suggestions included prayers of repentance, for justice and righteousness to prevail, for understanding and bearing one another's burdens, for healing and meaningful systematic change, for discernment and for blessing.

Gathering at First Baptist



Artists now being allowed to work out front


One group prays with an artist

Praying with an officer

Opportunities for listening and dialogue

One story of a protestor particularly caught my ear. He explained that earlier in the week, peaceful protestors were chanting, "I can't breathe," echoing the words of George Floyd as a policeman held a knee to his neck. A Christian group outnumbered the protest group that night and, whether intentionally or not, proceeded to drown out the their voices. Not surprisingly, this was seen as purely frustrating and disrespectful, tainting any message the Christian group may have attempted to share as well.

While I was not there to witness the event or know the intentions of either group in this case, it was clear that this man felt ignored and unheard by "religious people," giving me pause to consider the delicate but significant balancing act of our communication. While there are appropriate times to stand against, we must also be sure to use discernment in our delivery and approach if we truly wish to reach people for Christ. As stated in my previous post, we must listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Our message, the message of Jesus Himself, will never be heard if we even inadvertently ignore, dismiss, overpower or speak past all other views and voices. Even—and perhaps especially—if we disagree, we must remember the power and importance of acknowledging and respecting others created in the image of God if we too hope to be heard. Quick to hear. Slow to speech or anger.

This makes me even more thankful for God-given opportunities even in and around this event for respectful dialogue with individuals of various ethnicities and ages as we all continue to process with and learn from one another.



Work in progress—in more ways than one

Groups in prayer for the community and our nation


I am also excited at the answer to prayer of lately seeing some prayer events covered by local media, this evening included, allowing the voice of the church to be more broadly heard. (See the full story page here.)


I am so grateful a last minute meeting cancellation freed me up to attend this significant evening. I have historically found my way to similar events in response to racial concerns on my own, so it was deeply encouraging to this time pray alongside a number of individuals from my own church as well. Various limitations and commitments had also prevented me attending other prayer events this week, including a rally near the Gateway Arch on this same afternoon—a landmark where I've desired to see group prayer happen. Though I was unable to join both events, I praise the Lord this actually did happen, and that we are seeing multiple prayer events continue and grow during this time.

Church, continue to watch for and share prayer events from groups like Civil Righteousness, NOCO Pastors, 10 Days of Prayer - St. Louis or in your own local area. Let's continue to be that light in the darkness, powerfully and respectfully bringing the Lord's presence into our communities.

6.01.2020

Prayerful Protest for Floyd in Ferguson


On Saturday, I was once again able to join with Civil Righteousness as Christians gathered in Ferguson, this time in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and all that is currently transpiring. This was the first of a 21-day call to prayer and action referred to as the Isaiah 58 Fast, running from May 30 to June 19.

We came out to form The Wall, lining up on the opposite side of S. Florissant from the Ferguson fire and police stations to be a presence and to silently pray. Participants stood with white tape covering their mouths, a single word written on that tape to publicly express the cries of our hearts in prayer.

On this day, my word—my prayer—was "HOPE."

While I struggle to find one all-encompassing word for the pain so many of us feel and our many needs, as I prayed even for what that word should be, I felt how desperately hope is needed. To have this eruption not only in cities across the U.S. but even now in London, and right in the middle of the multi-faceted tensions of a pandemic, I feel it even more. And, far more significantly, I know that hope will only be found as people come to know Jesus Christ Himself, the only one who can truly heal our world as it ever louder groans.

After gathering up some photos, I settled into the line—and finally wept. I have found over the years that I must do something with these emotions, and have learned, sadly far too many times since 2014, that this must include prayer and lament with God's people. The moment I saw the announcement of this event the night before, I knew I was supposed to be there taking all this to the Lord.

As I stood on that street I've traveled many times since my childhood, hearing the honks and hollers of approval from people of all backgrounds for a protest—ANY protest at this point—I felt the full-on exhaustion from this repetition of history that continues to cost us all so much. In my mind rang sentiments from black friends and community members, ranging from, "I'm depressed," or, "I had to shut down this time," to all-out rage of various stripes.

Lord Jesus, come quickly. Oh God, bring us Your hope.

Church, we cannot be surprised where we are, and we cannot continue as we have and expect change. I echo the call of organizer Jonathan Tremaine Thomas for the body of Christ to be out demonstrating who God is. We need to be a true presence in our communities, bringing the light of Christ to drive out the darkness. Jesus came to Earth, God present among us. He left us His Spirit, the presence of God in us. Now we can bring His very presence into our communities as we unite and pray and serve.

Whatever emotions you may be processing, I encourage you to channel them through the truths of the Gospel and in light of the sacrificial Savior who loved us enough to die for us. By His blood we are one in Christ, and we can and must love each other and our neighbors. Seek opportunities for prayer and service, whether in St. Louis or in your own community. Share news of events like this, which are far less likely to receive media coverage. And, as always, listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Actual dialogue plays a crucial part in loving like Jesus, and bringing His hope to a hopeless world.


Tape and markers...

...Weapons of war






Post gathering and time of Communion

You can view video of the entire event here:

Watch for more events and prayer gatherings to come on the Civil Righteousness website or follow their social media channels.

5.27.2020

The Dichotomy of True Comfort


"Comfort and Ease." This was the topic of discussion during this month's Theology at the Bottleworks (currently meeting via Zoom). We'd actually planned for this conversation before the pandemic shutdown hit here, and it seemed a perfect time to pick it back up now during what is, for many people in many ways, a particularly uncomfortable time.

Early on, our moderator gave us a couple of definitions which seemed somewhat contradictory. One was "a state of ease and freedom from pain or constraint," while the other was "a strengthening aid."

In processing differences in types of temporal comforts (material, consumable, relational, etc.), versus what I now find truly comforting in my own life, I notice what feels like a marked contradiction as well.

Ultimately the single most comforting place for me to be is in the presence of the Lord—talking to Him, listening to Him, realizing His love and care. Yet strangely, and as I frequently hear from others, I don't always find myself pursuing Him as strongly as one would expect if this is where such true comfort is found.

The question then is why not? I've heard all kinds of reasons, often involving time constraints (which are recently not such a problem for many of us). But for myself, I've come to realize one reason is this: As I go to Jesus, I really have to deal with things I might not want to—things I may even be actively trying to ignore. I have to work through deep issues and concerns, whether in the world or in myself. This, of course, can be incredibly UNcomfortable. But as He guides me through and begins to course-correct my understanding, I can also see that He is always with me, a "refuge and strength" and "very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46) And as I sink into that reality and begin to trust Him, I find incredible comfort—and most definitely a "strengthening aid."

During the conversation, it was intriguing how quickly several people indicated that, while comfort in itself may not be inherently wrong, merely pursuing a life of comfort was not seen as a positive. It was also a common concern that perhaps a growing interest in a return to personal comforts was taking priority for some during this time. After all, I noted, "freedom from constraint" is currently a rather hot cultural topic, perhaps especially in the States. It seems we often have, in part, a discomfort rooted in sheer inconvenience. But I question how this affects our love for our neighbor. Are we invested in our personal comfort—perhaps more colloquially our "rights"—over and above the comfort and care of all others?

Looking at Philippians 2:1-8, it's clear God calls us to a different way of thought and action than simply our own self comfort.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."

Reading on, these words particularly stand out to me:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

And how are we to do this? By having the sacrificial mind of our Lord:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Jesus gave up every possible comfort, leaving His Father's side, coming to live with and serve broken people, even going to a torturous death before His return to life, all to give us the ultimate comfort of knowing God. We can have "freedom from constraint" in going to Him now, and we look forward to complete "freedom from pain" in a renewed world. This truth is our "strengthening aid," one meant not only to give comfort to us, but also giving us the ability to comfort others, even sacrificially as Jesus did.


Jesus shows us that our greatest comfort came through His ultimate "inconvenience," and His willingness to give up His own comfort is the foundational reason we can trust Him. In Christ, we find these seeming contradictions are actually complementary. And nothing could be more comforting.