Archive for September, 2018

Truth is important. Truth is both powerful and fragile. On one hand the Bible days the truth will set you free, on the other hand if you strip even a little away from truth, it’s no longer true. Christians, we need to deal in truth and truth alone. In a world where so many line up with Pontius Pilate and ask the question “what is truth?” We need to be right there pointing to the One who said I am the truth.

This is both an amazing privilege and a huge responsibility. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, this means in this convoluted world, we must be a beacon of truth. This means we read, study and share the truth of God’s Word. It means we don’t share and post things until we know whether or not they’re true. It means we don’t follow the culture for expediency’s sake, or bend the truth to advance our own cause.

My creative brothers and sisters, we have been blessed with abilities for the purpose of communicating God’s truth, and we should use those gifts for all we’re worth, but whether we work in realism or abstraction, whether we create fiction or non-fiction, whether our music is traditional, contemporary, classical, heavy metal or anything in between, what is most urgent is that our work communicates God’s truth.

Did you ever see something that just infuriates you? Yeah, antisocial media has expanded that exponentially. There was one picture in particular of a guy holding a sign that said “If Jesus comes back, kill Him again.” I almost lost it. The audacity from this guy who probably thinks he is among the most tolerant people on the planet… I was losing it. I wanted to drop the hammer. I wanted to tear into this guy and shred him, verbally at least and then I had a weird thought. Jesus would show this guy grace. You know He would. He died for this guy, which probably takes dropping the hammer off the table.

I’d like to tell you, I instantly calmed down at the thought, but that would add lying to my list of sins. I realized I was being like Jonah. You remember him? Swallowed by fish for running away from God. Do you remember why he ran? Yeah he didn’t want preach to the Ninevites, because he knew God would forgive them and show grace, and he didn’t think they deserved grace. Here’s the thing. They didn’t deserve it and the guy in the photo, he doesn’t deserve it either, but here’s the rub… neither do I. See grace is always undeserved, otherwise it wouldn’t be grace. We who have received grace, must show grace regardless of anything else.

Think about it. The future is not bright for people who hate Jesus. We need to let that help us lead with love. We need to pray for the people who hate us and our Lord and by the way, we need to make sure that if they hate us, it’s not because we’re being jerks. 1 Peter 2:12 tells us Christians how we should live. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. This world is tough and there are a lot of things that are just plain not fair. None of that matters. We are still called to love. Instead of wanting to drop the hammer, we need to let the hammer fall from our hands and remember how the hammer fell on the head of a spike over and over again, driving those spikes through the hands and feet of our Lord.

On that day, the hammer was dropped far too many times. Drop the hammer and take up the cross.

As you might have guessed, as a creative, I’m not always a big fan of tradition, especially in worship. For the most part, I truly believe that sacred cows make the best hamburgers. That being said, there are some times when tradition is very important. I’m coming up against one of those now. You see my church has a traditional service that means the world to me. We call it Love Feast. It’s basically a twice a year communion service that could be, to some degree, a reenactment of John 13. I love this service as a matter of fact, it was one of the major things that made me choose my denomination and it’s something I would fight to keep in the church, but there’s a problem.

The service has three elements. Foot washing, a simple meal and communion. These three elements are not the problem. The foot washing, which sounds a bit uncomfortable, is actually amazing in its ability to keep us mindful of the importance of humble service. The simple meal is a nice time to reflect on the Lord and of course communion connects us to our parts in both the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a very meaningful service. In involves all five senses and is extremely touching. I love this service, and by now you’re thinking, “Okay so what’s the problem.”

The problem is we do it twice a year. Some of my folks have participated in this service over 100 times. It’s surrounded and infused with tradition, and I have no real desire to mess with the tradition part of it at all. It means so much to so many that I’m hesitant to tamper with it in any way, and yet, I also don’t want people to take the service for granted, or just go through the motions. So how do you keep something with so much tradition fresh at the same time? Very carefully.

My first thought is to alter the preaching. The issue is, there is only one passage on washing feet in Scripture, really none on the simple meal and only two or three on communion itself. Again there’s really not much flexibility there. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself another question. Does it have to be original or is the tradition okay even to this regard? Are there creative elements that I can add without taking something away from what is already a beautiful service? I’m still exploring the answers to these questions. The service is now two weeks away, and I am still wrestling.

How do you keep things fresh when tradition is important? I’d love to see your answers in the comments.

Well this past week was a long bur wonderful one. In eight days I had the privilege of ministering the Gospel eight times. It started Sunday bringing a message on dealing with offense at my home church, Springfield Church of the Brethren. I’ve been working on a series on overcoming offense with love. On Monday I packed up all my supplies and headed for eastern Ohio early Tuesday morning, to minister with my friends Bill and Brenda Weiss at their amazing home also known as the Liberty Raymond Tavern. No I haven’t gone out to play the bar circuit. Their home was a stagecoach stop back in the 19th century as well as a stop on the Underground Railroad. They have a barn on the property where they have a weekly worship gathering. It is always a great time, always intimate and meaningful. They hosted me for the week and helped me to connect with my other stops.

Wednesday, I ministered at the church that first brought me to the area. I ministered at the closing night for the Spiritual renewal services at Bristolville Church of the Brethren. When i first went to Bristolville in 2014, they arranged for me to stay with “the other Weisses” and we’ve ministered together ever since. This time in Bristolville, I did my newest presentation Love Like Jesus, and we had a great night. Thanks to Fred Keener and the folks at Bristolville for having me back once again.

Thursday, Bill Weiss and I traveled to Erie, PA so that I could speak for a meeting of the Erie Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. I first spoke at a FGBA Dinner last year and I have come to really enjoy them. The FGBA usually asked that their speakers give a testimony rather than a sermon, and I was delighted to give mine, complete with a live painting from my presentation, Pictures of Jesus. On Friday I did a similar message at the Sharon, PA chapter’s dinner. I always enjoy challenging people to use what God has given to His glory and I thank both chapters for having me.

Before the meeting in Sharon on Friday, I was privileged to tape my first TV program. I was a guest on Crossing Paths with Don Reed Sr. and Ron Kosor. I did my lion and lamb painting called Dichotomy, which is also part of Pictures of Jesus and deals with what we can know about Jesus, just by knowing His name. It was really exciting to see how a TV show is done and I look forward to seeing the episode when it airs.

Early Saturday morning I bid the “other Weisses” farewell and drove the seven hours home only to get up early Sunday morning to drive to Quakertown to minister the two Harvest Home services at Quakertown Church of the Brethren. In the morning service I did Hurried, Buried and Worried, and in the afternoon, I did the full presentation of Pictures of Jesus. It was a really good day of ministry that I enjoyed thoroughly.

By the time I arrived home on Sunday afternoon, I was tired but feeling blessed. Ministering the Gospel through the arts is truly a wonderful blessing. I love what I get to do and I look forward to returning to my home church this Sunday and to my next adventures. God is good.

I believe it was St. Irenaus who said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Someone else once said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I love what I do, but it’s just one aspect of what makes me fully alive. My family and my relationship with God are a huge part of that as well. At the same time, I absolutely love what I do, but it is a lot of hard work and it’s in doing the work, as faithfully as I can, that God gets the glory.

If you’d like to see me bring my ministry to your church, please contact me.

It started with a question between a father and a son,the son asking why the church needed smoke machines in worship. This question led to one of the most honest explorations of worship I have read. Manuel Luz is a true artist, musician, worship leader, etc. and he delves deep into what it means to worship from the depth of one’s soul. He’s not advocating for a style of worship, nor does he denigrate any type of worship. Rather, Luz looks at the heart of the worshipper connecting with the heart of God in ways that are both God-honoring and authentic. This is a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone involved in worship, from the worshippers in the pews to those responsible for leading people into worship. I have read quite a few books on worship and this one is the best by far. Go out and pick this one up. You will not be disappointed.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately on this topic. When it comes to my ministry and yours, what is our responsibility? It may not be what you think. Here’s what I mean. I tend to work really hard. While I know all glory belongs to God, I am also fully aware that I have work to do. There is a part in my ministry that is my responsibility. The thing is, more often than not, I get it wrong. You see I tend work as if the success or failure of the enterprise belong to me and that the outcome depends on me. That’s not the case.

The success of any ministry or other enterprise, totally and completely belongs to God. Because of this, that responsibility is His and that is a very good thing, because only He really understands what success means. Thing about Jesus. He worked for three years and ended up with a core group of 12 followers. That would get Him fired in a lot of churches today. That’s because we don’t understand success. Jesus invested in those 12 men and they in turn were used by God to change the world. Jesus’ ministry probably didn’t look like a success “on paper” but on the pages of God’s Word we see something different happen, success beyond measure, because God can use anyone to do anything. Success is His. It all depends on Him.

So if that’s the case, and it is, what is your responsibility, and mine? One word, faithfulness. We are told in Scripture to make the most of every opportunity and that is the key. You use your every God given gift, to the best of your ability and trust everything else to God. Too many people want to make serving God about their ability. They throw around words like excellence, and we should strive for excellence, but that begs a question. In the world of faithfulness, how do we define excellence? I believe there is only one way. Have we worked to the best of our ability today? In faithfulness, that is the best we can do. From there it is in God’s hands. This is important in every walk of life, but it’s crucial when you live in the very subjective area of the arts and creativity. Is Picasso excellent or is Rembrandt? Is Pollack excellent or is Van Gogh? The answer to all the questions is yes. They did their best, found their audience and blessed them. In creative ministry, the same rules apply. Bring your best to the table and trust God to use it to bless people, knowing full well that if we persist in working and bringing our best it will get better and better and bless more and more.

If you’re a creative, learn this now. You will not please everyone every time no matter what you do. So create work that pleases God and be faithful.

That’s your responsibility. Everything else is up to God.

Last night I revisited the church that brought me to this part of Ohio four years ago, Bristolville Church of the Brethren, in Bristolville, OH. It was really nice to reconnect with old friends. It was the last evening of their spiritual renewal services, and I had a great time.

This was my second time presenting the Love Like Jesus presentation I started doing in August. I have to say I am really starting to love this presentation. The impetus for it was really simple. A camp I was invited to speak at had the theme Love Like Jesus and they asked me to do a presentation on that topic. Well needless to say I was excited about the theme but I quickly ran into a problem. How does Jesus love? Oh it’s not that I was having a hard time coming up with ideas. No the problem was I had too many for any kind of a clear and concise message. How do you describe the greatest love there has ever been in an hour or less? I decided I needed to go back to the tried and true three point sermon format, because sometimes you need to put boundaries on your message. Part of what helped was listening to the radio in the preparation process and hearing Cory Asbury’s song Reckless Love. I’ll put a video of it at the end of the post. It really does a great job of describing God’s love, overwhelming, never ending and in a way reckless.

Then I read a post where someone took issue with the idea of God’s love being reckless. After all, God is all knowing and all powerful, is anything reckless for him. Of course, for Him, though it may appear to us that it is, it isn’t, but if we look at loving like Jesus, I think it’s safe to assume that for us, it will definitely appear reckless if we choose to try to love as He loves.

I also looked at His love being unconditional and sacrificial. While we may not be able to pull off unconditional in perfection, we can certainly strive to love and choose to love in spite of circumstances that might lead us to do otherwise. As far as sacrificial love goes, of course we cannot reach the level that Jesus did, but because of what He did, we don’t have to. He is the once and for, all supreme sacrifice. What we can do is sacrifice our plans, our time, even our rights for the sake of loving on other people. Wouldn’t our world be a lot better if we loved in these three ways?

I think it would.

Here is the painting I did. I call it You Can’t Kill Love.

And here is that wonderful song by Cory Asbury.

Last night I preached and painted at a wonderful ministry here in Northeast Ohio at the Liberty Barn, an intimate worship experience hosted by my friends, Bill and Brenda Weiss. I spoke on the topic of choosing love over offense and, of course, I painted. As I thought about the topic, I sort of hit a brick wall. “How do you paint that?” Well, I decided to approach the painting differently. I decided to ask five people to come up and make a brush stroke on my board before I painted. I then incorporate their brush strokes into a final piece. Here’s what came out.

One person made a squiggle, one made a heart, one made a straight line, one made a wave and one made a large arc across the board. Then I prayed and began to see this image coming to life and that’s appropriate to me this is a painting of life. It’s not so much about the subject, but rather about the process. You see, usually when I do creative arts ministry, I have carefully planned, practiced some and I pretty much have the image down before I paint it live. With this image, that is not the case. I simply have to figure out a way to deal with what has been thrust at me. That’s how life is.

Friend, your life is a story, and in your life, there is only one thing you control—your actions and by extension your reactions to the things that happen. Your life story is kind of like those books some of us had in middle school. You remember them. You read a number of pages and then the story comes to a crossroad and you have a choice to make. Choosing one option takes you to continue the story on one page. Choosing the other takes you to a different page. The direction of the story is made based on your choices and so it is with life. The direction of our lives is determined, at least in part, based on the choices we make. In our world, there seems to be an epidemic of offense. Everyone is offended by something, but what we need to know, is offense is a choice. If we choose offense enough times, it becomes a root of bitterness that is exceedingly difficult to overcome. What if instead we chose to love? That’s what Jesus did and His action changed the course of history for all eternity. The world lives in a pattern of offense. We have been instructed not to be conformed to the world’s pattern, but rather to be be transformed. Jesus is our pattern and He chose to love and even sacrifice Himself for His offenders.

The choice is is yours and that choice will effect the direction of the rest of your life, so choose wisely.

Choose love over offense.

Sometimes I need to create just for fun. I’ve long been a fan of the old school car artists like Big Daddy Roth, so in my free time I decided to do my own characters in a similar style. Musicians jam and visual artists can do the same. Think of an artist you admire and do your take on their work. You never know what might come of it.

You can get these on T-shirts in my Zazzle store.

Sometimes I feel like we live in an American Idol world. I guess I better break that down. American Idol was a show I really enjoyed for a while. I loved seeing all these talented people trying their luck before the judges, with the hopes of making their dreams come true. I enjoyed it because there were some really talented people, and indeed the show did produce a few superstars, but something didn’t sit right with me.

It seemed like everyone was sitting around waiting for their golden ticket. Waiting for someone to hear them, accept them and bestow on them the life of their dreams. Contrast this with my friend Morgan. One day last week she posted this video of her heading to New York City to perform with her band. She got to the club in time to play her set, and when it was over she shot a little video of herself getting home at 5:30 a.m. I saw another video from Boston this week. Now she ends up playing a fair amount of bars and clubs and given my history with alcohol, well that’s not my thing, but here’s the point. She’s not sitting around waiting for someone to make her dreams come true. She’s not sitting in her house waiting for someone to see her and how talented she is. She’s doing the work.

Her video reminded me of a clip from my all-time favorite band Rush. Just before they retired, they put out a documentary called Time Stand Still. I remember watching them live when I was in high and thinking about how cool their lives must be as they traveled all over playing music. The documentary gave a taste of their reality. Traveling from city to city in a station wagon, bartering with each other for the privilege of crawling in the back and sleeping on the equipment, and then graduating to a Dodge Fun Craft van with an actual bunk. Now of course today their lives are very different and they are quite wealthy and very famous but the reason they got there was because they didn’t sit around waiting for fame, they jumped in the “Fun Craft” and did the work.

That’s life in the arts. Natural talent is a great blessing from God, but the ones who succeed are the ones who will take that talent and roll up their sleeves and do the work. I see people all the time that seem to think they will go to school, get a degree in some art form and think that will guarantee them success. It won’t. I’m not belittling education, but the ones who succeed are the ones who go out and do the work. They practice. They perform. They write. They paint. They hustle. They realize they aren’t to big or important to take the small role or the small show. They get all the real world experience they can get. Don’t wait for the “cushy gig.” Find the opportunities and make the most of them. There’s no substitute for doing things the right way.

No matter what you want to do. You’ve got to do the work.