Posts Tagged ‘calling’

One of my favorite parables in the Bible is The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25. This is a story that Jesus told as an illustration. It’s not a true story, per se, though it reveals a great spiritual truth. The story has three main characters, a master and three servants. The master is about to go away on a journey but before he goes, he entrusts each of his servants with a portion of his wealth for the purpose of investing it on his behalf. Now again, this is a made-up story for the purpose of illustrating a point. The master in the story represents God, the servants represent His followers, and the talents… Well a talent was a unit of measure, a sum of money, yet somehow, I believe the principle is perfectly transferrable to what we call talents today.

As mentioned above, the servants are given differing sums of money, dependent on their ability. This is crucial to the application of the story. The talents are the master’s investment in his servants. He gives them based on what he knows to be the capabilities of his servants. Are you beginning to see the application. If the master represents God and the servants represent us, then our talents represent God’s investment in us. This investment is based on the knowledge the One who created us, has about us. This should be both liberating and gratifying. It’s liberating because once we understand this principle we should come to realize that we never have to compare ourselves with anyone else every again. What God desires from us is not so much success as it is faithfulness. If you have done your best, you have done enough. The extra added benefit of this is, if you continually serve and continually bring your best to the table,  your best cannot help but improve.

But what about the gratifying part. Well consider this. In the church, we talk a lot about believing in God. That is still important and it is essential, but this parable bring another point to the table. You see this parable shows us that God believes in you, and your talents are evidence of that belief. God has given you something of great value that belongs to Him for you to use on His behalf, to His glory. He gave you these thing because He knows exactly what you can do with them. This is, at least in part, the essence of calling. What God has invested in you, He fully expects you to reinvest in His Kingdom by using these very special abilities to serve others in His name. if you want to understand your calling. Start there.

Assignment: Read the Parable of the Talents, and then consider what God has given you. In the parable, two of the servants act at once on what they have been given, while the third buries the master’s investment. Look back over your list of gifts and talents and then look at your life. Is there anything you have “buried?” What would faithfulness look like in each of your gifts, especially the buried ones? Begin to journal ideas of ways you can be more faithful with what you have been given, acting on anything you can.

A lot of people, including some new friends have asked me about gifts, talents and calling. I am thinking through a more extensive post or project on the topic, but I decided to crystallize some basic thoughts over at my web-comic CREACHER. These are just the basics, more to come.

I have to say, I love what I do and because of that I feel really blessed. I get to create for a living. In the early days of my career, I always figured the only way I would get to do that was if I became a professional artist. To tell you the truth, pursuing that was one of the most frustrating periods of my life. It always seemed like it was feast or famine, the jobs I had paid the bills, but I can’t say I was ever really creatively fulfilled. I now understand why that was. God had something different for me, and in many ways, something better. Now that’s not to say that ministry is better than art. If you’re called to art, do art and do it to the glory of God.

I think deep down inside, I was making assumptions. I was creative and I had a gift for art, therefore God must be calling me to be an artist and so I worked and worked and strove to be an artist full time, professionally, and I always felt pretty stuck and unfulfilled. The thing is if I had been paying attention, I would have realized there was something different in store for me. I’ve been using art as a ministry tool for almost two decades, but I still kind of thought I would make my actual living as a professional artist/designer/etc. True I even pastored a church for almost decade, but it was a very part time pay and an almost full time ministry, but I still relied on something else to pay the bills. The thing is God wants us to rely on Him.

I had to have some help to get to that point. The church closed and God led me to a wonderful church to heal and recover. I started to go out speaking and figured I would do that part time and continue relying on another job for my income. Then the door closed on the job too. Now I didn’t have a choice. I had to rely on the Lord. He opened the door for more speaking and then he led me to a church who needed an interim pastor. It was during my slow speaking time, so I said sure, I can do anything for a couple months. Something strange happened. I fell in love with the people of this church and they showed me they love me too. It didn’t take long to remove “interim” from my title. Here’s the thing. I am making more art, than I ever did as I illustrate my messages for the power points. I am teaching painting through my paint parties. My pastorate is “3/4 time” which means I have a little more free time, and during that time, I create all kinds of other things for my speaking ministry, which I also usually end up sharing with my church. I am writing more and creating more and one last thing, I’m generally pretty happy and fulfilled.

Why do I share this? I share this today for the person who is feeling unfulfilled creatively. For the person who thinks they’re not good enough at their art, because they’re not making a living at it. I guess I am posting what I wish I would have read when I was going through all that same stuff. God has a plan and a purpose for you. Believe it. What if you did your art just for the love of art and incidentally for the love of God? What if you moved forward in faithfulness and relied on God to put you in the right places and the right times?

One last thing, none of the other things during those times when I felt really unfulfilled were wasted. I learned skills that benefit me to this day and I learned to appreciate the life I have now. It’s an amazing blessing, but it’s not always easy and there are times where I am working really hard for long hours. All the things I’ve done in life give me a greater appreciation for all that I have.

Do what you do for the love of it. Work at what is before you like you’re doing it for God and rely on Him to take you where He wants you to be.

For years I had no idea there was such a thing as calling. I jut figure we all just sort of did what we want, I guess. You took a job, you worked for the weekend and hopefully you got to retire with enough time left to enjoy it. Then I met Jesus and began to believe there was a plan and a purpose for my life. So then I knew I had a calling, and at first I thought that had to do with vocation. I knew my calling was to be an artist, but there was a problem to that as well. I began to believe that because I was called to be an artist meant success as a professional artist and when at times life got difficult, I started to have questions for God. Did I miss Him? Did I get this wrong? Was my desire to be an artist just coming from me?

Then one day I heard a call to ministry. At first, I thought this was at the exclusion of my art calling. In fairness there was some truth to that one. My issues with my art career had gone into idolatry and I needed to let it go for a while, but it was not meant to go forever. Eventually I saw that art was a tool for ministry and that both could co-exist, and work really well together, but I’m still not sure I grasped my calling. I think I’ve finally figured it out and maybe this will be helpful to you too. Am I called to art? Yes. Am I called to Ministry? Yes! Here is the thing, I am called to bring the arts to the church and the church to the arts. I am Christ’s ambassador in both worlds. I use art to communicate the Gospel and I speak to the church about how to embrace the arts and creativity. Both are important and both are useful to the Kingdom. ministry is service. It’s not just for the church. The ultimate end of ministry is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and that happens in the church building and the marketplace.

Everything God gives us is useful to His Kingdom. That’s why He gives it. The thing is, we never know how He will use it, so we have to be faithful with everything and from there, we need to trust the Lord.

Be faithful and use what you’ve been given to the glory of God. Ultimately, that’s your calling.

Well Christmas 2016 is behind us and I hope you had a great day. Now it’s December 26, there’s one more week before we ring in a new year. It’s time to start looking forward. Where do you want to be by this time next year? What do you want to have created? What are you looking forward to? Who do you want to be by this time next year?

How you spend this week could help you toward those goals. Hopefully by now you have goals in mind. If not, that’s the first step. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Seek the Lord and ask Him what He wants from you for this year. You can usually find answers at the intersection between your gifts and your opportunities. You can also find opportunities by looking for problems that need solving. After all, most of creativity is solving problems. What triggers your passions? What needs to change?
There are needs all around us. Find one you care about and meet it head on. One other things to consider about goals is to try to make them as measurable as possible. Try to set specific goals. This will help you to see the progress you’re making. Track your progress and celebrate it.

Once you know what needs to be done, move from thought to action. Take the first steps. People say to begin with the end in mind and that is very important, but please remember we almost never move from the start directly to the finish. Sometimes we can get discouraged, feeling that the goals are too far away and the journey is too hard. Believe it or not, both of those things are good things. Goals that are too easy to achieve are usually too small and require very little faith. Goals are journeys to be taken a step at a time. Start to look at those steps and take them. Call the people you need to call. Do the work. Measure your progress and celebrate the victories. This week is a great time to begin making those steps.

So what are my goals:
Let’s start with this blog. I have written nearly one post for every day this year and while I have loved doing it, I really desire more interaction with all of you. I haven’t quite figured out how to make that work yet, but I intend to keep trying to find things to make that happen. I value the time you spend reading these things and hope to give you more things you can put into action.

I’m creating a new book based on a concept called The Daily Creative. The idea is simple to get people creating every day and thus building their creativity. There is a Facebook page where these will be delivered as well as a page on my website. My goal is to finish the book before June, so that I can offer it as a complete collection to people participating in The Daily Creative Online.

Of course I also have goals for my church, my artwork, my speaking ministry, even my family. I don’t have time to list them here. What I will tell you is they are stretching and aggressive, but doable, as I grow closer to what I want to do.

I just got done reading a really pretty good book called One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. The idea behind the book is pretty simple, and Cooke’s goal and mine are pretty similar. We’re both interested in helping people find their life’s purpose. Between his thoughts and mine, I’d like to give you four questions you can ask yourself to help you find that one thing. Those questions are:

1. What are your gifts/talents?
Consider for a moment that God knows what He’s doing. If that is the case, and of course it is, then the gifts and talents He put in you were put there for a reason. I believe that reason is for you to bring Him glory and build His kingdom. How could you use your gifts to that end? Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to paint pictures of Jesus or tell Bible stories, but rather that you give the world your very best gifts done in God honoring ways.

2. What are your passions?
Consider for a moment that God wants you to be joyful. If that is the case, and it is, His joy is after all our strength, then chances are the things you are passionate about may have been put there by Him to excite you about a specific mission He has for your life. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or that you will be happy all the time, but He made you passionate enough to push through the pain to the prize. Chances are the good, positive things that fire you up, fire you up because that’s how God made you.

3. What are your experiences?
Consider for a moment that God has a plan. If that is the case, and it is, then the things that happen in our lives, both good and bad may just have a purpose. This is hugely encouraging if you think about it. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” That means that if God has a call on your life and if you love HIm, then all the things in your life can work together into a God honoring, purpose filled life. There is even a purpose and good can even come out of the most difficult situations.

4. What drives you crazy?
Consider for a moment that God knows your heart and mind. If that is the case, and it is, then He knows just how to get through to you. Sometimes it’s the stuff that drives you crazy and the stuff that makes you mad that reveals your life’s purpose. If it weren’t for this tactic, how else would the world’s injustices be corrected and its wrongs righted. If you look at a situation, see it as intolerable and think, “Someone should do something about that” consider for a moment that “someone” might be you. Sometimes it’s the things that drive us crazy that make us find, and fight for, the solution.

You “1 Thing” will most likely be found at the intersection of these four questions.
For example. I am gifted and talented as an artist, writer and storyteller. I am passionate about helping people to know Jesus and find their God-given purpose. My experience is in making art, writing, storytelling, with vocational skills and training in graphic and web design, plus I’m an ordained minister on the positive, and on the negative, I’m a person who was bullied for most of my life, turned to alcohol and wandered through life wondering what’s my purpose (all of which God redeemed when I came to love Him and seek my calling (just like He promised in Romans 8:28). Lastly, what drives me crazy is seeing people live a hopeless existence, without Jesus, without hope and without purpose, in need of encouragement.

All of that put me in creative arts ministry.

Where is God putting you?

This week’s message dealt with finding the things we were born to do as we live in God’s will.

I challenged the congregation to draw write or in some way express what they were born to do…

based on the criteria of their gifting, experiences, temperament and more…

While we I may not know all the details my image expresses the artist and the shepherd.

These are two things I know to be my calling.

What were you born to do?

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
1 Samuel 20-21; Titus 1
You can also download your own chart here.

Is it really better to ask forgiveness than permission?

Is it really better to ask forgiveness than permission?

There’s an old saying, It’s better (or easier) to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. I have tried this and sometimes it works, however when it comes to the church an a calling to submit to authority not to mention honoring God, I don’t think it’s the way to go. So what should you do instead?

Imagine you have a ministry in mind, you feel it is a leading from God, but you’re pretty sure it will be a tough sell to your church. Sometimes the best thing to do is realize that some of the struggles we think we will have are imaginary. Seth Godin once wrote, “anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.” There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “you have not because you ask not.” Perhaps you just need to bite the bullet and “pop the question.” Find a leader in the church that you think might be open to what you’re thinking and open a dialogue.

Now suppose that doesn’t go well. Is your idea dead? That depends. Sometimes church leaders experience anxiety too. They may love your idea but they aren’t sure how it will fly with the rest of the congregation. Don’t be too tough on them, you had the same concern. The next step is to ask yourself a couple of good (but tough) questions.

1. Is the problem with the idea or is it with me? This one might be tough but it is a good question. Have you shown yourself to be a faithful servant who is capable of leadership? Are you living the kind of moral and ethical life that warrants you being allowed to lead? If not, put your idea on the back burner, do the steps that can be done in preparation, but volunteer to do the things that need to be done at the church show yourself to be faithful. If the problem is your moral or ethical life, don’t even bother going to Matthew 7:1, (you know, “judge not…) that just shows you’re prideful and unrepentant. Do what needs to be done and clean up your act. Maybe they just feel you’re too young and inexperienced. You can kick against this one if you want, but you may end up proving their point so instead, find an older more experienced mentor to work with you. Once you’re convinced you’re not the problem, look at the idea and ask the second question.

2. Does this idea fit where I am trying to put it? Some things are a fit for within the church and some are meant to be done outside. Some fit within the context of certain ministries but not for the whole church, etc. For example: The Passion of the Christ was over all a great movie that showed a lot of great spiritual truth, but show it in children’s church and you are going to be in heaps of trouble. It doesn’t fit. I remember for one of our community outreaches at my former church, I brought in a Christian punk band to finish out the night for the youth (I was the youth leader). Well the kids loved it but the rest of the congregation was more than a little upset. In a youth outreach it would have been great. In a whole community outreach, it didn’t fit.

3. Is it the right time? Sometimes you are great and the idea is great but it’s just not the right time. If that’s the case, do the prep work and get ready when the door opens.

One of the things I have seen quite a few times is it’s much easier to get buy in on something that is already successful. So if you have an idea and you’re not sure how it will work, but you’re pretty sure the Lord is leading, try it. Do it outside the confines of the church on a small scale that you can fund on your own. Build your team, “sell” your vision and start. Build it up, work out the kinks and get it ready. When it’s ready and working, take it to the church and offer them the opportunity to get behind it. If they do you’ve added to the ministry of the church. If it doesn’t fit, ask them to pray for you, continue to serve the church faithfully and keep going with what God has called you to do, perhaps this ministry was designed to be outside the church as a way for you to meet people and bring them into the Body of Christ.

Try it in a way that honors God and trust Him.

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Leviticus 13; Hebrews 3; Psalm 39
You can also download your own chart here.