Archive for May, 2019

The Gospel is a fact; therefore tell it simply.
The Gospel is a joyful fact; therefore tell it cheerfully.
The Gospel is an entrusted fact; therefore tell it faithfully.
The Gospel is a fact of infinite moment; therefore tell it earnestly.
The Gospel is a fact if infinite love; therefore tell it feelingly.
The Gospel is a fact of difficult comprehension to many, therefore tell it with ILLUSTRATION(emphasis added)
The Gospel is a fact about a person; therefore preach Christ.
—Archibald Brown

The purpose of communication is to be understood. Nothing is more important to communicate than the Gospel. Share it in ways that people understand.

I got this copy free from the publisher for reviews but I requested it because I was really intrigued by the topic. Johnny McGowan is a pastor at Lakewood Church, on staff with Joel Olsteen and he has written a wonderful book here. The basic premise here is rather than ambitiously chasing after advancement and the world’s glory, we should step up in the positions where we find ourselves and work as if we are working for the Lord, trusting the Lord to advance us. It’s about being a humble servant and glorifying God, “blooming where we’re planted.”

McGowan is a fine example of this, having started out as a volunteer in the audio visual department at Lakewood and in the course of Stepping Up has grown into a pastoral position and basically the “right-hand man to pastor Olsteen. So many of us would be so much happier if we could embrace the teachings of this book. I highly recommend it.

Today a friend of mine posted an article about a pastor in Zimbabwe who was arrested for selling his parishioners tickets to heaven for $500 each. Evidently the tickets allowed the holders to bypass judgment and assured them a place in heaven. Needless to say there is so much wrong with this story that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so wrong. My friend posted this article with one word of comment. “Creativity…” I cringed.

My response was “I’m a fan of creativity… It’s the first thing we learn about God… This is not creativity.” I may have been hasty. There is certainly an element of creativity here. If the assignment is “Find a way to fleece people who trust you, in a way that will make them never trust God again.” then I suppose this was a creative solution, but, of course, this is a massive misuse of creativity.

That’s when it hit me. Creativity, especially Christian creativity, needs boundaries. Now I know as a creative you might want to kick against this. We artistic types often do not like boundaries. I have a post upcoming soon that talks about enjoying creating creatures because the possibilities are endless and there is truth to that, but when it comes to creativity in the church there are boundaries, and those boundaries are for our good. The primary boundary is the Word of God. In my opening example, the Scripture would have reigned that in very quickly, as the Scripture teaches over and over again that the gifts of God are not for sale and that no one misses out on judgment, though admittedly that judgment is for different reasons. Further, wealth is not often seen as a blessing in Scripture. Remember the camel passing through the eye of a needle and that we cannot serve both God and money, the rich young ruler and on and on. As a matter of fact money is such a difficult thing for people to handle properly that Jesus talks more about it than He does about things like heaven or hell. But it’s not just money.

Scripture sets boundaries on subject matter, content, morality, and on and on and on. Basically it comes down to these questions: will God be glorified by what I’m about to do and will He be praised? These boundaries will keep us, not just on the right side of God, which is primary, but will allow us to live with a clear conscience before our fellow man. If we are going o glorify God, how the people around us, those we are glorifying Him to, need to see us living above reproach. Boundaries allow this to happen.

For a guy who wants to spend most of his time as an encourager, I sure spend a lot of time in a cycle of discouragement. Day after day I see people who claim to be people of faith denying what I believe to be basic truths of Scripture. I literally find myself incredulous that there is this much disagreement over things that sure look black and white to me. This leaves me torn.

A few years ago I was going through a struggle. I had a major health scare, and it shook me to the core. I ended up seeing a therapist for a few weeks, and one of the things she really introduced to me was the fight or flight response. Namely in the midst of a struggle we feel faced with two options, to fight or to run. That probably best sums up what is on my heart. When faced with what I see as clearly false teachings, I wonder do I fight or do I flee? Oh I don’t mean run from the church, but I wonder if it’s time to run from the argument. Do I fight to rescue the false teachers and or the people in their care, or do I leave them to their own devices and focus on the people who are receptive to the faith as I understand it? This is harder than you might think. You see I really love and care about the people with whom I disagree. I’m just not sure what is lost if I spend all my time focused on controversy. If I stay in the controversy, am I just adding to the noise? At what point do I shake the dust off my feet? How many of my true mission field will be turned off by the continual debate? At what point does this all become those foolish arguments Paul warns us to have nothing to do with in 2 Timothy 2:23? Does the fight really do anything at all to advance the Gospel or am I just fanning the flames while the world burns?

At the end of the day, here’s what I know. Jesus is still this world’s only hope. I have been welcomed into many places with divergent viewpoints because I always lead with Jesus. So while I may still be torn, fight or flight? I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: “…I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) This is where I place my trust. This is the rock on which I stand.

Getting back on the encouragement track, check out this short message from Stan Lee. It’ll make your day.

This is one of those books I received from the publisher for free in exchange for review, but to be honest, I would have been glad to have paid full price for it, and am really grateful to have found it. The reason is simple. I have read quite a few books on prayer and they have always sort of left me either wanting or feeling inadequate. They either offered “one size fits all” formulas that didn’t quite fit, or they made me feel like I was an incompetent pray-er unworthy of so much. This is How We Pray is different. For starters Adam Dressler is honest to a fault about the struggles he faces in prayer. I haven’t met many people who really feel like their prayer life is all it should be, and I certainly do not. It’s okay, maybe even good, but it’s nowhere near where I want it to be. I think the subtitle of the book sums up what Dressler and I and so many others really desire. Discovering a Life of Intimate Friendship with God.

Dressler handles this masterfully, showing us genuine friendship with God that does not diminish God’s greatness, Holiness or anything else. Dressler’s chapters each have a one word title that relates (mostly) to the struggles we face. He expounds on struggles such as distractions, guilt, disappointment and worry. He also deals with what friendship with God looks like as well as essential topics such as repentance and forgiveness. Using a combination of biblical, personal and literary examples, Dressler fleshes out what we face as we reach toward a deeper relationship with God. The last chapter, Simple, deals with some things to be considered, (tips?) that can be used to enhance our prayer life. It’s not one size fits all, just some simple things that we can try. I loved this book and was blessed thoroughly by it. This is one of those books I will return to and read at a slower pace, so I can glean more from it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled with prayer and desired a more intimate walk with God.

Literally anything we create and post could be considered content generation, and so the possibilities are literally limitless. There is something however that is not limitless. It’s time. We’ve already addressed the idea that your create is limited and the importance of making good choices on how to invest that limited time. This is of the utmost importance, but there is another side to this coin. Your audience’s time is also limited. Add to that the fact that there are countless people vying for their attention and you begin to see the issue. Generating content is one thing, generating something people will actually consume is something else entirely. If you have limited time to generate content, and we’ve already established we all do, why would we want to invest that time in things no one will see, read, look at or buy.

One of the best ways to get past this is to generate something people need and a good way to find that need and solve it is to look for problems that need solving and solve them. That is what I am trying to do here, but there’s a problem. I’ve spent most of my adult life creating things for people to read, whether it be ads, signs, articles, publications, books, etc. and one of the conclusions I have come to is people don’t read.
I came to this conclusion early in my art “career.” I was working in a sandwich shop that was not long for this world. Business was extremely slow. The management knew I was artistic and so in our vast amount of free time, the manager would have me make signs. One of these was a sign telling the customer which soup was soup of the day. We had limited materials, mainly paper pens and tape, but I made what I would consider to be a pretty impressive sign. I had just finished it and was standing directly behind the sign as a customer came in and asked, “What is the soup of the day?” I literally wanted to cry. The point being we don’t just need to meet their need, and solve their problem. Further, even if you do your best, there are no guarantees. What we need to do is get their attention. Then once we have their attention we need to make sure our creation was worth their limited time.

Basically there are three things we need to look for. First we need to find a need that we can meet. Is there something you know a lot about that a lot of other people need to know? Next you have it ask the question how will you deliver the information. Where do the people who will want your content go to look for it. Finally you need to figure our how to get their attention. Your audience is literally bombarded with messages every day of their lives. The question is how will you stand out from all the rest. Of course over and above all of this is generating the very best information you can.

Remember the content you’re generating is supposed to be a blessing. Finding the biggest audience you can spreads the blessing further. You just have to get their attention.

Author’s note, while I know all of this to be true, I’m still having some difficulty getting the attention of a larger audience. So I ask you, person who cared enough to read this post, how can I go about making this information more spreadable.

Theologian Charles Spurgeon one said “Discernment isn’t knowing right from wrong, it’s knowing right from almost right.” Well our content creation has a similar need for discernment. It’s not necessarily that we need to know right from wrong, though if you’re creating stuff you know Is wrong you need to stop that, now. No, the discernment we need is, as my friend Timothy Wallace says, between the good things and the God things. Case in point:

Since last fall I have participated in three daily art challenges. It all started when I discovered Inktober, a challenge to create an ink drawing each day for the month of October. Well one of my primary art forms is cartooning, which relies heavily on ink, so I jumped in and it was a lot of fun. I’m a pretty firm believer in creating every day to keep your skills sharp so I thought it was a good thing and I got connected to a few people through it. Then in March, I found out about Marchartoon, a similar challenge more specifically tailored to cartooning. Once again This one was a good time and I later found out it was created by some folks that run a youth sports club in Croatia. They liked my work and it led to me getting to speak, via video, to the club in one of their meetings. Then finally I thought, why to create your own, and so I came up with the one I am currently working through Art MAYhem, which has been a real blast, even through I have only one regular participant besides myself. My temptation is to create a different challenge for each month and try to build up a tribe of creatives under my Facebook page The Daily Creative.
The question is, is this a good thing or a God thing? To this point I am undecided.

On one hand I have a mission to help creatives, and as stated earlier I am a firm believer in creating every day to keep your skills sharp and growing, but I don’t just want to keep them busy, because while sharp skills are important, my mission is more than just getting people to create, it’s creating to the glory of God and helping creatives and the church to work together. For this reason I have some decisions to make. While these activities are really fun and I have been able to figure out ways to glorify God in them, they are also really time consuming. Time is the great equalizer in our lives. We all only have 24 hours, and since most of us do something else for a living, and all of us need to sleep, not to mention the other responsibilities, those hours are often really diluted. If we only have a few creative hours a day, is a daily creative challenge really a God thing or just a good thing? The answer is not as easy as you think.

The challenges have taken a lot of time, which may take me off task, but they have also opened doors into the world beyond the church, especially the art world, which is clearly part of my mission field. I’m reminded of the biblical proverb, “Do you see a man skilled in his work, he will serve before kings…” What if this time consuming art opens doors for me to glorify God? It’s already happened, Cost benefit analyses don’t often work in God’s Kingdom and economy. It is for this reason that we need discernment when entering into projects. It all starts with prayer.

Ask God to help you to stay on mission…

More coming soon

Okay so yesterday I made myself into a case study. If you missed it, go ahead and check it out. This won’t totally make sense without it.

Now you may have read this and thought, (especially if you’ve been around for a while), “This is nothing new, it’s even the stated objective of the website. That is true, but believe me when I tell you, this revelation has been desperately needed in my life. Even with a clear picture, there have been times, especially recently, where I have felt like I am way off task. There are a thousand things I could be weighing in on, that are oh so tempting and yet far off task. In fact some of these things have been so tempting that I have considered starting new blogs o deal with them. At times like that, I have some real discernment to do, and we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Today I want to turn it over to you.

Let’s start with the basic question: 
What is the discontentment I am trying to help others to overcome?
and we’ll add the follow up question:
What is my discontenment?

While reading this blog probably means you have an interest in the church and creativity, it’s highly unlikely that your mission and calling is exactly the same as mine. You might be an artist/creative, looking for how to use your gift to advance the mission of your church or how to minister in the world/marketplace. You might be a pastor, who wants to learn how to work with/recruit/etc. the creative people in your church. Your calling might be evangelism or teaching or preaching or discipleship, or you might just want to make art that communicates your love of Christ in unconventional ways. These are just a few of the reasons you might seek this blog out. What I want to do now is help you to hone in on your mission/ministry and begin to narrow your focus. So start with the above two questions and when you have answered them to your satisfaction, it’s time to add two more.

What’s my calling? and What are My gifts?

When you start to have some clarity on that, there is one final question.

How will I deliver what I am creating to the world?

Needless to say, the first step in this is prayer and it will also take some time to answer these questions, but the work is worth it and leads to a life of purpose.

More tomorrow…

If you missed yesterday’s, go back and check it out, this one will make no sense without it. It’s okay… I’ll wait.

Today let’s put yesterday’s post to work. We’ll start with the question I asked yesterday, and then I will answer it. Please keep in mind this has been a major revelation for me and I am actually working through it as I write. The question is:

What is the discontentment I am trying to help others to overcome?

My answer to that question is ultimately I want to make the world a better place. Great, so does everyone else. Obviously, that’s too broad, so let’s narrow it down.

I want to use my talents to make the world a better place. That’s a little narrower. Now I know some of the tools I will use to accomplish the goal—in my case, art, design, and communication. A little better, but still way too broad, so let’s hone it down a little further with another question.

What is my discontenment?

In other words, What do I want to do? Why do I want to do what I do? How will I make the world a better place? What’s wrong that I want to make right? What needs fixing? What is that thing that makes me say “Someone should do something about this?” This leads to something that I really haven’t touched on yet—calling. This is the divine element that needs to be considered. Look the truth is there are a billion things that would make the world a better place, and you obviously can’t fix them all, but what is the thing that lays on your heart? What is the thing that burdens you?

For me, it comes down to one thing. I believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives. I believe every time someone receives Jesus, their life is changed forever and changed lives will change the world. I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beyond all the eternal benefits, is a great force, the greatest force, for positive change in our world. I believe this because I have seen first hand the good that it has done in my own life. Now we’re getting somewhere.

So I want to help people to come to know Jesus. This, in and of itself, is a lofty goal, but, for me, there’s more. I’ve already identified the tools I can and do use. I could be very satisfied (content) just doing that for the rest of my life, (and I no doubt will) but I feel a broader calling. You see I know I am not alone. I know there are many others in the world with a similar desire. They are creative and they love Jesus and they know He is the answer to solving the world’s problems, but they are banging their heads against the wall (at least metaphorically) trying to figure out the hows and maybe the whys. What if I could help them too? Is there a way to unify our efforts to creatively point the world to Jesus?

Further, God has called me to pastoral ministry, to church leadership. I believe the church is God’s chosen instrument for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Is there a way that I can unite these two worlds I live in, artist and pastor? Can I help churches to embrace creativity (and creative people) while helping creative people to embrace the church and to empower it (as far as any of us can)?

To be continued.