Archive for July, 2022

What do you do when the first pages of a memoir speak of being hit by a truck and living to tell the tale? You read on. This is a thoroughly enjoyable memoir from a phenomenal musician, Mark Lee of Third Day. It’s more than just a behind the music episode. This is the story of one man’s journey to “happily ever after” and coming to the realization that that’s not really the point. This is a wonderful story of life, music, faith and a God who is bigger than all we face. Great stuff and I highly recommend it.

I found this book at Hobby Lobby on clearance. What a shame. This book is extraordinary. It’s all about forming good habits and breaking bad ones. Batterson’s thesis is simple. Do it for a day! It’s the old proverb, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” fleshed out in wonderful ways. Combining scriptural stories with stories of more modern people with plenty of examples, Batterson writes a useful, instructive and highly relatable book. Following his own format, the book is designed to be read a chapter a day, which is essentially how I read it, and as a result I have already done some work on a few of my habits and learned a lot in the process. This thing is inspiring. Pick up your copy ASAP, as a matter of face, do it today.


Posted: July 22, 2022 in Uncategorized

Tomorrow I set off with my wife and son for a week’s vacation, and for the first time since I have been in “full-time ministry” I really feel like I need it. I’m really tired, practically exhausted and I am really exploring why I feel this way. The thing is, it’s not my church, nor is it my ministry to the wider Church. I find both of those ministries immensely fulfilling and meaningful. I love what I do. So what is the problem? As near as I can see it, it’s the world. I am burned out on the world. I am sick of being part of a generation that calls evil good. I am weary of the attack on so much of what is right and good and true. I am tired of the only thing that is still allowed to be called wrong is saying something is wrong. I lament the values being passed on to the next generation. I am undone by the apostasy I see rising up as so much of the “church” seems to have traded the truth of God’s Word for the whims of the culture. I need a few days away from the tumult of “social” media, the “news,” etc. I need a few days of rest and some good moments of quiet contemplation and one more thing. I need to lose myself in worship. Right now I’m pretty much in fight or flight mode. I want to fight and sometimes, if I’m honest, I want to fight ugly, but then I remember, the battle is the Lord’s, so I will flee to Him for a while. Catch you on the other side.

Think about it. All sin is idolatry. What do I mean by that? Well think back to the original sin. No, not the doctrine of original sin which very basically stated is the idea that we are all infected by Adam’s sin. I’m not speaking to that today. I am speaking to the very first sin—the one that started humanity’s downhill slide. What was it? It was when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What was the sin? They did what God told them not to do. On the surface that is exactly correct, but I think it goes just a little bit deeper. They were in the Garden with God. God loved them and they loved God, but I believe love requires a choice. We need to choose to love and so God gave them a choice. He took them on a tour of the garden He had created specifically for them. He said basically, “You can eat from any tree in the garden except for that one in the middle. If you eat from that one, you’ll die.” Now we know that Satan tempted them and they ate from the tree and that was that, or was it? You see, I think the tree was the choice. God was saying choose me over your desire to eat from that tree. Essentially they looked at the fruit, they looked at God then back at the tree and essentially said, “We want the fruit more than we want you.” They chose the fruit over God. Anything we choose over God is an idol and every time we sin that is what we are doing, even if only temporarily, we are choosing sin over God. Because of this, all sin is idolatry.

Conversely all idolatry is sin. Anything we choose over God—anything we place before God in our lives becomes an idol—good bad or indifferent. It’s not just bowing down to a statue, it’s any time we pick anything and put it in front of God in our lives—money, people, sins, even self. Any time we choose to do something God in His Word tells us not to do, it is choosing that sin over God—idolatry. Any time we choose not to do what God tells us to do, It’s choosing ourselves, out time, our schedule, our will over God’s will and once again, that’s idolatry and all idolatry is sin.

Why am I sharing this on my arts ministry blog? First of all I woke up this morning with this constantly running through my brain, until I wrote it down, but more than that, there are a whole lot of people out there trying to redefine sin. Only God can do that and He hasn’t. What He has said in His Word is unchanging. Secondly, there are times where in our artistic pursuits we are accused to creating idols. This is almost never the case in the sense that people think we are creating something for the purpose of bowing down to it. No the idolatry we face is much more sneaky and insidious. We need to guard out hearts and be more discerning as to when we are putting our creativity and art making in front of our God and His will for our lives. Even well-intended idolatry is still idolatry and all idolatry is sin.

Guard your heart and submit your work and your life to God. He won’t steer you wrong.

What If It’s Worship?

Posted: July 15, 2022 in Uncategorized

I spent the late morning and early afternoon yesterday at Sight and Sound Theater here in Lancaster, PA, watching their amazing production “David.” What an fantastic show! I love how they dramatize the lives of the amazing people God has used in His Word. I don’t like to say they make the Bible come alive because the Bible already is alive by the power of the Spirit, but they definitely allow you to see the people of the Bible as real people. People who are living on page 50 not knowing what will happen on page 51, if that makes sense. They lived the stories we read in real time. This kind of brings me. to my own story.

As I watched a really gifted young actor portray the great man whose name I share, I started to think about my own story, and how this David is doing. I think I’m a little tired—burned out being too strong a word for what I am experiencing, but I am tired. All around me I see giants—things coming out of our broken world that are terrible and huge—things that threaten our lives and mock my God. Like that giant long ago, they seem to cry out, “Who will fight?” I want to stand like my namesake so long ago, but I confess I feel so small and ill equipped. You see it’s not just that I want to “slay the giants.” I also (really) want to see the people in their grasp being set free. I just really feel like I don’t have what it takes. Then I remember, David didn’t either. The battle was the Lord’s and it still is.

In the show there is a scene (not the Goliath scene) where Samuel tells David there are some battles that are not won with swords. Rather the people begin to worship and the Lord shows up and wins the fight. Could it be that simple? What if it’s worship? What if instead of feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the battle and the size of the giants, what if we approached the throne and called upon the name of the Lord? What if we lifted our praise in the face of the giants and let the Lord take them down? I and starting to think that is precisely what is needed.

There is one truly terrifying scene in the show. After fighting and fighting and fighting, and coming home to face the demands of leadership, a burned out David, can’t fight anymore. He’s been so consumed with the battles for so long and guess what got pushed out of his life by the demands. It was his connection with the Father. The man after God’s own heart became so busy slaying giants that he lost connection with the source of His power. In the process, he lost the ultimate fight and ended up falling and falling hard. What if it’s worship? What if we need to take our focus off the giants and off of the battle and put it firmly onto the One to whom the battle belongs. Fatigue, burnout and failure come when we forget who the battle belongs to, and begin to fight in our own power. There has to be a better way.

What if it’s worship?

Former president John Quincy Adams said that. Because it’s a president you may assume the context is politics and it’s true. You want to win the election, tell the best story. In a lot of cases the one who tells the story that resonates with the most people will win the election… but that’s not really where I want to go with this.

No instead I want to talk about your story. Think about literature. One of the things almost everyone will agree upon is every great story has conflict. Batman without the Joker is the story of a rich guy brooding in the bat cave. Frodo needs Sauron and the road to Mordor can’t be a walk in the park or the story has no point. In a way our stories are the same way. If you are experiencing adversity or conflict right now, understand that’s part of the story and how you and I face it determines the outcome of the story. Victory is a key part of the story and the greater the struggle, the greater the victory and the greater the story. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” That’s a promise from the Lord and it’s the one we all wish He would break. He won’t. He never breaks a promise, but praise God that is not the end of the story. Instead He follows it up with a message of hope. “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Look to Him for the strength, look to Him for your victory and when you get it, tell the story. When you overcome by His strength and His power, then your story is His story.

Live a better story and tell the story, because “Whoever tells the best story wins.”

They build it. I know this runs counter to the conventional wisdom and what most creatives believe. We say things like, “I want creative freedom to do whatever I want.” We see boundaries and constraints as enemies of the creative process, but they aren’t. As a matter of fact, I maintain that limitations and boundaries actually force us to be MORE creative. Some folks will wait to create until the conditions are perfect. Those people will likely never create much for anything. The reason is simple. Perfect is pretty uncommon. Boundaries and limitations are staples to the creative process. Think of the most basic one, the dimensions of your canvas, paper, etc. You can lament the need for a bigger canvas or you can figure out how to do something really cool within the confines of what you have. Limited budgets are another consideration. You have two possible things you can do when your budget is limited. You can either get creative figuring out how to make do with what you have, or you can get creative with how to raise more funds.

Then some of us lament parameters and constraints put on us by the people who are footing the bill, but even this is not a good argument. I can’t speak for you, but there are times where a blank canvas is intimidating. What should I put on it? What should I do? I can create whatever I want to create. I’m just having a hard time figuring out what to create. But now suppose someone says “I want you to paint an elephant.” Is that a limitation? Yes, but there are still an infinite number of ways to create that elephant. You can bring your style to it, your flair. You can create a multitude of poses all the limitation does is helps you to focus your effort. There are still infinite possibilities, you’re just been given a jumping off point. Of course the other side of that is more practical. When we create “whatever we want” we have no idea whether or not anyone else will be interested in purchasing it. While the guy who asked for the elephant will likely pay for the elephant, giving you the resources to create another day.

Bottom line, “Limitations don’t hamper creativity. We do when we wait for every condition to be perfect and see the limitations as insurmountable rather than what they are—stimuli to make us more creative.

Boundaries are you friend, dear artist, embrace them and become even better.