Posts Tagged ‘faith’

If you’ve been following along, you know that I wrote a few posts on failure recently. What you don’t know is those posts on failure triggered something in me that has caused me to do a lot of writing over the last few weeks, exploring a lot of areas of importance for the creative Christian life, predominantly around the areas of failure, fear and faith. Here is a little sample of my writings on faith.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” Leo Buscaglia

So how does faith apply to the creative life? I think Dr. Buscaglia really hit the nail on the head with the above quote. Our gifts, our talents, our abilities, experiences and a host of other things are given to us by God. Further, in a very real way, they are His investment in us. He gives them to us, knowing how He made us, and the way He “wired” us, in anticipation that we who love Him will faithfully use these gifts for His purposes in our world. I love this. We call these gifts “talents” which is interesting. A talent in Jesus’ day was a unit of measure, specifically it was a way to measure precious metals like gold, and so it could be said, maybe a little facetiously, that our talents are worth their weight in gold. They have value and if they are gifts from God, and I believe they are, then talents are something of great value that God entrusts to us. As a minister of the Gospel, I believe a big part of my calling is to help people to come to believe in God, or at least to work to that end, but our talents say something different to us. Oh, we still need to believe in God, but our talents tells us God believes in us. And so those of us who have a creative bent should be investing at least some of those creative gifts into accomplishing God’s purposes on earth. One might imagine that there are two primary applications of this principle, serving others and sharing the Gospel.

A friend and trusted advisor once gave me three words of wisdom, (maybe it’s four, not sure how to count the contraction) “It’s always something.” What does it mean? Well we live in a broken world and about the time you think you have it all figured out or things are running smoothly, along comes the dreaded “something.” That something is almost something that is completely out of our control and when it happens it tends to side track everything. “Something” is aggravating.

Here’s the truth, while “something” is usually out of your control, how you react to it is usually completely in your control. I’ll be honest, “something’ has hit me pretty hard and it has me questioning my fitness for leadership. It has me questioning the effectiveness of my preaching, and a whole bunch of other stuff. How can I fix this? What if I can’t? Have you been there?

The thing is, the calmer side of me, knows it’s not all up to me. Mine is to do what I can do and trust God with everything else. I’m still the same person I was before this happened, and so are you. I’m still called, and so are you. I’m still gifted for the task at hand and so are you. Most importantly my God is still on the throne. At this point, the only thing I’ve lost is confidence and maybe that’s okay, because I’m not supposed to be that confident in myself anyway. In the position we’re in, we can’t afford a “circumstantial faith.” We need to trust the Lord in all circumstances. I need to focus on being confident in the One who knows how this will all work out, trust Him and keep moving forward. You know why?

Because, “It’s always something.”

I apologize for having been a little short on posts these last few days. Basically life has been kind of a whirlwind, lately. In addition to all the art ministry stuff, I’m a pastor and for a pastor Easter is about the busiest time of year. There are extra services and special activities, not to mention the day to day things that have to be done. Some people think pastors only work one day a week. Those people are wrong—really, really wrong. In addition to all that I lead our adult Bible study, for which I am also writing the curriculum. Around all of this, the speaking/painting ministry is still going. I left my church after service and our council meeting to drive two and a half hours to preach four nights of revivals and around all of that I’ve been preparing for a day long continuing education workshop I will be leading for my denomination’s educational group on Saturday. Around all of that, I am also working on getting my Masters in Creative Ministry (fortunately that last component is a work at your own pace program), and believe it or not, that’s not all of it.

Now there was a time, when I would have written something like all of the above to boast about all I’m doing, hoping somewhere deep down inside someone would be impressed. That is still a danger, but it’s not really how I feel these days. You see something struck me last night as I was finishing my first revival message, it was a feeling, I never really experienced back in the days where I worried what everyone thought of me. As I looked out to the faces of the people gathered in that country church, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and thinking “I love what I do.” I’m not rich, I’m not famous. I’m not any of those things I used to think I had to be to matter. I’m just happy and there’s something else. I’m grateful.

There’s that old adage that says “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I get what they’re trying to say, but I can’t go quite that far. No the truth is, it’s a lot of work and getting to this place took a lot of work and sacrifice combined with doing a lot of stuff I didn’t always love. I know God can just drop wonderful things in our laps, but I also know He doesn’t always work like that. Truth be known, the stuff I didn’t love doing, helps me to appreciate what I get to do, enough to do all the work it takes to get to do what I love.

What can you take away from this? Work hard toward doing what you love and trust God. He has a plan and purpose in all of it, so press on.

Doubt is common to us all, especially doubts in matters of faith, but there is (at least) one doubt none of us can afford. The children of Israel had just been released from Egypt. They were headed to the promised land. This was the land flowing with milk and honey, the land God had promised them since the time of Abraham centuries before. And now they were knocking on the door of all that God had promised. Moses sent spies into the land to check it out. They saw the land was everything God promised, stocked abundantly with everything they could have ever needed. The land was indeed good, but there was a problem. Huge people and fortified cities were throughout the land and doubt started knocking on the door of their hearts. That doubt became so extreme that by the time the spies returned, they worked the people up into such a frenzy that they wanted to kill Moses and the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb and then return to slavery in Egypt.

Their problem can be summed up in one word, doubt, but the doubt was specific. They doubted that God could deliver everything He promised. That doubt carried a death sentence of sorts. All the people who doubted died in the desert and the promised land was received by their children after having to suffer with their faithless parents for forty years. Their doubt was deadly and even the faithful, not to mention their children paid the price. The question is, could this happen to you?

Think about it, we are surrounded by God’s promises. They are all over Scripture and there is much ground to be gained for God’s Kingdom. The One who promised never to leave nor forsake us, has called us to go into all the world and make disciples. He has gifted us for that very purpose. We have the call and we have the resources. There is only one thing we lack. Will we have the courage to step out in faith and receive the promises? As soon as we set out there is this very real temptation to look at all that is against us, and there is a lot going against us. Our society is increasingly hostile to the good news, our faith is seen as politically incorrect, and while there is very little outward physical persecution, there can be no doubt that there are plenty of people who make it their mission to bully us into silence. These are the giants we face and the question is will we move forward or will we retreat and wander while our churches die and our children succumb to the whims of society or will we move forward in our call. The thing to remember is nothing is bigger or more powerful that the One who goes with us. If we wander in this desert, it is because we choose it.

Here’s the thing. The One who called you is faithful and in Him, you can do whatever it is He has called you to do. With God al things are possible and you can do all things through Him who gives you the strength. Yes, you can do whatever God has called you to do. You just have to face the giants an trust God to be bigger.

Have you ever felt dry? I mean really dry, spiritually. I think we all go through those times, but in my time of prayer today, I started to see three drops coming up like a fountain, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I began to think of all the passages that refer to the living water found in Christ. Faith in Him will refresh us in the dry times and bring us healing. So today if you’re struggling and “dry” the one’s for you.

John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Someone dear posted about a struggle she is having over the use of the light of the world passage in the inauguration. I actually didn’t see it, not because I was boycotting or anything, but simply because I was working and didn’t have time to get away. I’m sure we come at things from different points of view. I’m older and somewhat more conservative and yet I could understand her angst. If you’ve been following this blog you know I think the election was sort of a no win situation and wonder if our two choices don’t reflect a nation under judgment. Nonetheless, her post spawned this response.

“Here’s what He [Jesus] said, “You are the light of the world, A city on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Politics is part of the world system, and while occasionally people go in there and shine, government is not usually where the light comes from. At another point in Scripture Jesus said He was the light of the world. We reflect His light. We need to pray for our government, but we can’t wait for it. We need to shine. We need to do good for others in God’s name, whatever the government does and even in spite of the government sometimes. Darkness doesn’t exist. Darkness is the absence of light. When you find yourself in darkness, the best thing to do is shine.”

Regardless of your political position, what’s done is done and our job remains the same. We Christians are in this world to reflect the light of Jesus. Once you cast your vote, your part in the process largely came to an end. It is time to get back to shining the light by doing good and working in faithfulness to live a life of blessing and grace. If we are faithful to our calling, God will be glorified and when God is glorified, in big and small ways, things change.

In our world there seem to be an almost infinite amount of things we can be worried about—things that can strike fear into our hearts. Terror, the economy, even the upcoming election, all these things and many more can send us cowering into a corner. In the midst of everything, we have this command from Jesus to now worry:

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Like everything else Jesus said, it’s absolutely true. Most of what we worry about never happens and even the stuff that does happen is largely out of our control. No use allowing our fears to limit the size of our world. What is fear really? It’s imagination misused. We imagine the worst and the worst is what we end up with. On the other hand we serve a God for whom all things are possible. This should allow us to see past fear to infinite possibilities and when we see infinite possibilities we can stop cowering in fear and start working toward solutions.

The first step in any problem, whether real or imagined, is prayer. Take your worries, your fears and your actual problems to the One who knows everything. This is a first response not a last ditch effort. Then trust, obey and move. In every problem, God can. God is capable. We just need to be faithful and remember the first five letters in faithfulness are F-A-I-T-H.

Let’s imagine better and then work to make it so.

dothisfirstHere I sit in a crowded Starbucks. My son is taking his test for certification as a teacher here in PA and I decided to drive him to take the test. Starbucks is a great place to get things done, though the hustle and bustle is a little tough on the concentration. It feels in here like my brain feels most days. Conversations all over the place. The manager laments a broken machine and his inability to make certain coffee favorites. people shout their orders, the barista shouts the finished orders, as some sort of cool jazz/world music tinkles in the background and I am listening to a video besides. I’m embracing the chaos, while writing and drawing and trying to take some of the things in my head to reality, all the while overspending on expensive drinks to assuage my guilt for taking up table space for several hours.

The thing is, I was feeling thing way in my bed this morning. The following was flowing through my head. A new way to market some of my art, new ideas for art, a new creative resource, “What will I do for Sunday’s message?” and what should be the next message on my vision series at my home church? How will I book a few more dates on my two week tour to Florida in March? (“wonder how close I’ll get to Disney World and how mad would my family be if I stopped?”) Then there’s the page ideas for my next adult coloring book and how to sell the ones I already have. How many of my books should I order for my merch table and do the books I currently have fit what I do? I need to catch up my class today. Should I get the supplies today to make the three giant idols I have to make for a presentation in February? The new sketch devotional I have to finish and have printed before the March tour. What should I write to the people that faithfully follow AMOKArts and how can I upgrade this site and make it better? And that was just part of it.

What do you do when your brain is on overload? You’ll notice there is nothing on my list that is bad and most everything needs to get done. I know I sort of  harp on this a little bit but it bears repeating. Ideas are gold but they don’t always show up in their time. These showed up about 4:00 a.m. I laid in bed and fought for sleep until 4:50 then I got up and got started. You might think I dug right in on my work and too often that is what I did, but this year I have made a decision. At times I fall into a habit of jumping right into projects, first thing in the morning and before I know it, the day has flown by and I haven’t done what was most important.

So when say I got started, I went to my recliner and opened my Bible. I’m on a reading plan this year. Then when I finished my devotional reading, I read a little from the book I am studying, bundled up and went on my prayer walk. I was done by 7:30 a.m. and I was ready to work. Those ideas didn’t leave me and I am in the process of getting a lot of work done. This will be a pretty productive day.

You know me, I am all about chipping away at your projects, breaking them down into manageable steps and working hard to get things done. That hasn’t changed. The only way to succeed is to do the work, but before you do the work, connect to the One who inspires and empowers the work. Keep Him first and everything else will work out.  Jesus told us if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit. He also said apart from Him we can do nothing. I have spent too many years striving in my own strength. From now on, everything starts at the source of my strength.

How about you?

Confession time: Sometimes being a daily blogger is downright frustrating. When I go and look at the statistics on how many people read these posts, it’s often discouraging. I see that even some of my closest friends, friends who are in this field of ministry, often don’t read it. There are even days when I think, “It’s pointless, let’s just not post for a couple days and see what happens.” I’m here to tell you, that’s the wrong attitude. Instead we need to do the three things listed in the title.

1. Trust God: My above thoughts are a little hypocritical. Most of my friends in this field are also regular bloggers, and truth be known, I don’t always have time to read their stuff either, as a matter of fact the better things are going, the less time I have to read. I love my friends and they love me, we are just really busy people. No point in being frustrated. I need to trust that the One who called me to this, the One who inspires the posts, is powerful enough to draw the people in who need to read it.

2. Be Faithful: I’m not asking you to become a daily blogger, I’m asking what God is asking, which is that you be faithful in doing whatever it is He called and created you to do. I’m becoming increasingly aware of how little I understand success when it comes to the Kingdom of God. I might be called to reach multitudes or my work might reach a smaller number, some of whom will reach multitudes. Success, at least personal success, is measured by one thing in God’s Kingdom: Faithfulness! Am I doing what God has called me to do? Yes. Have I prayed and given it my best effort? Yes. Have I put it out there for the world to see? Yes! If I can answer yes to those three questions (at least in the creative realm), then I am already successful. The rest is up to God, so see step one.

3. Love Your Audience: Just the fact that you take the time to read what I have to say, at any given moment, is a blessing. When I think about it and realize that God has given me the ability to touch lives all over the world, I am humbled beyond words. I do what I do, first for Him and then for you. The people that read your creations and appreciate your creations are worth their weight in gold. Do not waste time fretting over how many people you don’t have, sow into and love the people you do.

Trust the God who has called you to create to draw the people who need your work to it. Be faithful in consistently producing and sharing your best work. Love the people who are drawn to your work, appreciate them and always do your best to over-deliver.

If you’re reading this post today, Thank you. I pray it blesses you and spurs you on to doing your own good work and good deeds. I love and appreciate you.

Do great stuff today. To God be the glory!

There’s an old saying, “What I feed grows. What I starve dies.” This is crucial, especially in the realm of belief. If we will believe that we are worthless, that we have little to offer, that we can’t make a difference, that we aren’t creative, we feed a negative mindset that makes perception reality. It’s literally a self-fulfilling prophecy. Likewise, if we will believe that we have value, that we have something (maybe even great things) to offer, that we can make a difference, that we are creative, we feed a positive mindset that will make those perceptions reality. Who you are depends first and foremost on who God made you to be, but secondly, it depends on what we believe we can be, what we believe we are. What mindset are you feeding?

Remember this truth. Think your value is low or nonexistent? Consider the price your Lord paid for you. He gave His only Son to die in your place. Sounds like he finds you far from worthless. Second, If you believe you have nothing to offer, consider that Scripture says you are created in Christ Jesus to do something good that God planned in advance of your birth. You were quite literally created on purpose. If you believe you can’t make a difference, look at the people throughout Scripture who, though seemingly small and powerless, ended up doing great things and having tremendous impact. From the boy sold into slavery by his own brothers who ended up becoming prince of Egypt and saving his people, to the child of slaves, raised in the house of kings, who ended up tending sheep before becoming the leader of his nation, who God used to rescue his people, to the guy born in a stable who ended up saving the world. God seems to love humble beginnings.

Think you’re not creative? If you’re a Christian, Scripture calls you a child of the ultimate creative. Scripture tells us we are more than conquerors, children of the King, etc. etc. etc. The enemy of our souls, who’s been bent on our destruction from the beginning of time, has a lie to combat every one of God’s truths and promises. He lies because He hates you and wants to ruin you, yet, for some reason, when it comes to ourselves, we seem to find it easier to believe his lies that our loving Father’s truths. What we believe in these matters has a huge impact on who we will become.

What beliefs are you feeding?