Archive for November, 2016

Okay, another confession. I really like Guns ‘N Roses, like a lot. Now in these post-salvation, preacher days, I would do without some of the imagery and content, but the music is pretty great. Axl’s unique voice and insane range with Slash’s amazing guitar work and one of the strongest rhythm sections of their day made them hard not to like. They could do it all. That moment in Paradise city where the whistle blows and the guitars charge in is a musical moment like few bands could muster.

That being said, I would never have paid money to see them live. Oh, it’s not because I don’t think they could have put on an amazing show, it’s because of Axl’s penchant for getting angry, flipping out and walking off stage sometimes only minutes into their set, combined with the mayhem and riot that would ensue when the crowd figured out they weren’t going to get to see the rest of the show. It happened one too many times for my blood, so no thank you.

Today as I thought about this, it hit me. “Who told him that kind of behavior was okay?” Oh some will excuse it to the artistic temperament, but if you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know I think that’s a crock. Others will say, “Well he’s a star…” Yeah, that’s a crock too. So my fellow artists, here’s what I want you to know. No matter what you do, no matter how good you are, YOU ARE NOT A STAR! None of us are and we need to adopt a different mindset, especially those of us who follow Jesus.

Talent is not an excuse for bad behavior. Those of us who get to earn a living working in our talents and gifting should be the most grateful people on earth. Think about it, we are in a very real sense professional bringers of joy. I mean when you hear the first notes of a favorite song, you smile. When you see a great movie or a great piece of art, it touches something inside you and brings you joy. We get to do that for other people while doing what we love, and it is an immense privilege. Now add to that the fact that there are people out there who are willing to pay us to do what we love and you should begin to understand that we are blessed beyond measure. We should be humble and one more thing, we should be nice.

I know some of us are introverts and relating to others is tough, but we should at least be able to muster the ability to be polite and when people are depending on us or have paid or traveled or whatever to see us do what we do, we should be dependable and working really hard to over-deliver. Without them, we might still do what we do, but who cares? No one would see it. No one would appreciate it and we would have to do something else, possibly something very unpleasant to keep food on the table and grooves over our heads. We can’t afford to be “stars” instead we need to shine.

So be nice.

ingodwetrustI want to start this post with a disclaimer. First, I am not at all opposed to ministries raising funds. Some ministries, especially those that minister to the very poor, have few other viable options for funding their ministries, and those ministries are so vital that fundraising is a necessity. Further, I am not opposed to giving to fundraising efforts. There are many good causes out there and I have selected a few and give to them as I can. Lastly I will not pridefully sit here and say I will never raise funds for ministry. Only God knows what He has in story for me and I learned long ago arrogance is a luxury I cannot afford.

That being said, I really can’t envision ever raising funds for my ministry. I haven’t set it up as a non-profit. I’m not even sure if I can. I keep record of all my income and pay taxes on it, just like everyone else and I kind of like it that way. I don’t want to have to go to friends, family, etc. and ask them to back my efforts. Again I am not against that for others but it’s not the way I want to operate at this point in my life. I’ve seen friends really struggle to live in this way and while I’m not immune to struggle, this is one struggle I choose to avoid. It seems as if my friends who live in this “missionary mindset” have to spend an awful lot of time working outside their gifting to keep the income coming in. I’ve also seen more than a few ministries that could provide for their people but instead leave them to fend for themselves. To me that’s a problem and they need to look for a better model.

Speaking of better models, that’s what I’m trying to create. A way to make certain I spend the majority of my time working in my gifting and moving my mission forward. This is why I write and books and illustrate books as well as why I am creating other types of resources, workshops, etc. You might ask, “What’s the difference between working to fund your ministry or raising funds?” To me it comes down to a couple of things, the first of which how do the people benefit? When I create a resource and someone buys it, it helps to fund my ministry, but it also benefits them. They get information they can use to advance their own ministries, or at the very least enhance their relationship with God. Similarly, my paid speaking engagements allow them to hear information that I have put together to help them in some way. They receive a benefit for their money and their money allows me to keep doing what I do. Conversely, every resource I create and every presentation I make, helps me to build my own skills and move my calling and mission forward. There are benefits all over this model.

Another part of my model is my pastorate. I have posted several times that I really did not expect to ever pastor a church again, but I’ve kind of learned you should never say never with God. Being a pastor has been so beneficial to this ministry, far beyond the steady income it provides. This ministry provides real world experiences I missed traveling from place to place. I get to build relationships, work through real-life leadership challenges not to mention the opportunity to try out new things with real people. It’s a win-win situation. True, I can’t go out every week like I used to, but my church has been generous in this way as well.

I guess in a way I am raising support, but this model is different. It allows me to keep my focus on what I do best most of the time and it makes it possible for me to do a lot while keeping my skills sharp, growing in my faith and moving my mission forward. I guess the best way to close is with a question. Ask yourself, “How much of my time is spent doing what I do best and how much of my time is spent raising funds?” The answer to that question should show you whether you need a new model.

My last words are for people running ministries, look at how your people are living and ask yourself, “Is this God’s will for this person or should I be mobilizing people to find new resources and creating new models, models that allow these people to give their best energy to their best gifts?” The people who make your ministry work are in it to serve God. Are you making them serve mammon?

As far as I can see, this is my post number 2543. I post virtually every day and have been for a very long time. You might wonder how I can do it. How can I post every day and still keep it fresh. Well let’s start off with a bit of honesty. I know some days are fresher than others and there have been times where I missed the mark, but I do work hard to be consistent. Here are some ideas on ways to keep it fresh:

Prayer: First and foremost is the Spiritual end of all of this, this might be repetitive for this blog, but in this instance I don’t care. If your gift is about God then God needs to be in on the process. Praying and seeking God for direction in your work is key.

Passion: Consistency demands passion. I can post about this every day because I am passionate about creativity in the church. I feel like this is a huge part of my calling and encouraging people to use their creativity in the service of the Lord is tremendously important to me. As a result, I have a lot to say about it and it is really interesting to me and so I spend a lot of time thinking about it and studying it and working in it, which brings me to my next point…

Curate: No person is an island and fortunately there are a lot of people doing really creative stuff out there. Sometimes the best way I can serve my readers is to share what others are doing. This doesn’t just give me great content, it allows me to promote some really great people working in my field.

Never stop learning: Read, watch, listen and seek out all the information you can find on your topic, then share what you’re learning. One of the biggest blind spots anyone has is they don’t know what they don’t know. Finding new information and sharing it helps fill the gaps in our knowledge.

Chase inspiration down: If I waited for inspiration, I would have posted less than half of these posts. I have committed to posting here regularly, I have a small but faithful audience that is also interested in and passionate about this topic. I feel like I owe it to you to post great stuff as often as possible, so I don’t wait for inspiration, I seek it out and I don’t give up until there is a finished post ready to go up.

My goal is to give you the best post I can every day. I may not nail it, every day, but I know I will be bringing another post tomorrow. If you want to be consistent and keep it fresh it really comes down to three words. DO THE WORK!

ccwI was originally going to wait until January 1 to start this, but I decided to get a jump on it and start it today. As a pastor, Sunday is a very busy day and it has been notoriously hard to get a post done on Sunday, so I have decided to make a slight change to the format of this blog. Sunday will now be the day when I issue the creative challenge of the week. The reason for this is pretty simple. I can post these well in advance, as I think of them. Each Sunday will be a new creative challenge and you will have a full week to create your answer to that challenge and post a link to it in the comments below. If you don’t have a place to post your work, you can post it to the AMOKArts Facebook page. I’m looking forward to seeing your work.

This week’s challenge might be a reaction to Friday’s Black Friday mayhem, but in the Spirit of “it’s the thought that counts” The challenge is simple, make at least one hand made gift for someone you love this year. Give them something from the heart that you know will bless them immensely. Then when you’re done tell us about it in the comments below and be sure to share a link so we can see your work!

jitrsWell my wife and I went out today. We hit a few stores and picked up a few things, to be honest more things we needed than gifts, but the prices were pretty good. I have to admit I didn’t see much mayhem and everyone was pretty civil. I got home and went to social media and saw it happened again, people fighting in the stores, trampling each other as the doors open, even a person getting shot and killed over a parking space. It’s insane…

People are completely missing the point and the story. Jesus came to rescue us from sin. He came to love sacrificially and that is exactly the opposite of what I am seeing. Jesus came to teach us to put others first and to follow His example. If we are willing to fight and kill to acquire material things, even for the purpose of giving them as gifts totally ignores everything Jesus taught and it is thoroughly unacceptable.

Now I know what you might be thinking, people who would do that kind of thing are not followers of Jesus, this may be true (or it may not, all have sinned… remember?), but let’s say they’re not, this should be a huge concern for anyone who is a follower of Christ. After all, followers of Jesus are here to point the rest of the world to Jesus. Seeing this kind of behavior rapped around the celebration of our savior should burden our hearts and cause us to show a better way.

How can we demonstrate something better to a world that will fight and even kill for a bargain? This is a question we all need to answer and then we need to act on that answer. Selfishness (and that is exactly what this is) is best combatted with selflessness. Create a better Christmas, one that honors God.

I know I post this every year but there is more to Christmas than the bargains, so don’t get trampled out there. It’s not worth it. Honor God and have a great day.

I just have do much to be grateful for and today as we think of things to give thanks, I thought I would take a few minutes and show a little gratitude.

  • I’m thankful to God for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who secured eternity for me
    and all who will believe.
  • I’m thankful for my wife who has been a blessing in every way imaginable.
  • I’m thankful for my sons who are both fine young men doing great stuff.
  • I’m thankful for my daughter-in-law who is a wonderful young woman, teacher and mother
    of my grandson David who gives me ceaseless joy.
  • I’m thankful for parents who’ve loved me through all of it and for my brother and sister and their families.
  • I’m grateful for extended family and friends who have brought so much to my life.
  • I’m thankful for my church family who support and encourage me as I do what God has called me to do.
  • I’m thankful to all the churches, camps and ministries who trusts me to speak to their congregations and bring the Gospel.
  • I’m thankful for God’s ceaseless provision and pray I will always use it to His glory.
  • and of course I am thankful for all of you who read and follow this blog. I pray that God uses this humble effort to bless your ministries.

Of course this is just a few things I can think of in a few minutes on this cold PA morning. There are a multitude more and if you think of it, I’m sure you can come up with a few and I think that’s the point, A day to focus on gratitude and all we have to be grateful for is a very good thing. So today take some time off and think about ll you have been blessed with.

I have to say OK Go! might be the most innovative/creative video band in the world. The stuff they come up with is insane.

Check out this video for their song The One Moment and be inspired.

Well it’s almost the day. A day some people call turkey day and while I do plan on eating a decent amount of turkey, you’ll never hear me call it that. It’s Thanksgiving. Some people say it’s the day when the Pilgrims thanked the Native Americans for helping them to survive in the new world, that’s not even close. Oh I have no doubt they were grateful and it seems they blessed their new neighbors with a feast, but their Thanksgiving was to God. Thanksgiving is a day about God and our gratitude to Him for all His provisions, even for kind neighbors who help us out. We would have absolutely nothing if it were not for God. We would not exist at all were it not for God.

Think about what God did. The creation account seems pretty clear. God made everything. Lastly He created humanity and after He created humanity, He gave everything to us. When sin separated us from Him, our imperfection barring us both from His perfect heaven and from the relationship He desires to have with us, He gave His perfect Son to pay our price. We enter heaven wrapped in the perfection of the perfect One, Jesus Christ. God gave His perfect Son for you. If you ever question your value as a human being read that last sentence again. God gave His perfect Son for you. This should make us immensely joyful and even more grateful and it is with that gratitude that we give thanks. Giving thanks? Thanksgiving!

So here’s the question, how can you use the creative gifts He has given (another reason to be thankful) to express your gratitude to the Lord? How can you do that in such a way that people see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven? You see, God didn;t just give His Son for you. He gave His son for everyone who will believe. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we would be the righteousness of God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God reconciled us to Himself, then just after, He entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation, showing others how to be reconciled to God. This is our mission and fulfilling that mission should spring out of our gratitude.

How will you express your gratitude?

sunrisesunsetSaturday I was honored to participate in the retirement dinner of a dear friend, trusted mentor and brother in Christ. Craig Smith has served as District Executive in our area for the entire duration of my ministry. He and his wife Vicki have been a source of encouragement and wisdom throughout this journey of mine. He has always encouraged me in using my gift of art in ministry and to make sure not to overlook the other gifts as well. He was the one who took a burned out “young” pastor who was under attack aside and reminded him (me) that the position of Savior is taken, words I will never forget. He has managed to guide a very diverse district through some great and difficult times and is the kind of leader I aspire to be.

It’s probably no surprise that my participation in the evening was to do a live painting. It was first suggested that I do a live portrait of them, but I declined that. I’m not a great portrait artist to begin with and to try to do one in under a day, let alone under an hour, would have been virtually impossible, at least to the degree of excellence I would have desired for two people who have meant so much to me. (There’s a lesson there for all my creative friends, know who you are and know what you do best, theres nothing wrong with saying “I don’t think I can do that well in the time allotted, but what if we tried…”) Instead I picked a subject I have done before, but that can never be done the same way twice. It was a subject that I have always loved to do because of the amazing array of colors, but most importantly it perfectly sums up what the evening was all about.

I call it Sunrise/Sunset, because the fact of the matter is on canvas, you can’t tell one from the other. I asked which it was, a sunrise or a sunset? Then I joked that it depends which wall you hang it on, if it’s on an east wall, it’s a sunrise and a west wall makes it a sunset. In reality it is like my friend’s career. This portion of his journey has come to an end and his successor will have big shoes to fill, but in spite of the fact that it was a retirement dinner, his career goes on in other ways. He and Vicki move into a coaching role. I have no doubt that they will continue to bless, encourage and challenge people for years to come. The sun is setting on one adventure, but rising on another. This happens to us all. One door closes and another begins. My prayer is this quickly painted painting encourages them for years to come, because they certainly have encouraged me.

Who has encouraged you? How would you pay them tribute using your gift?