Posts Tagged ‘faithfulness’

The old adage says “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Of course that’s not really whether mean. What they mean is do what you love and you’ll usually work harder than anyone else to keep doing what you love. You just won’t mind so much because you’re doing what you love. I know this to be true and I live it on a daily basis. This life of creative arts ministry is a lot of work. Between my church and my traveling ministry I put in a ton of hours. There is no substitute for practice, and the continued development of your gift in a life in the arts. People act as if the creative lifestyle is impractical. It’s not, you just have to decide whether or not you are willing to put in the effort it takes to do what you love.

Look anybody can do something they hate, (or mildly dislike, or whatever) for the money. I’ve had to and I would again if it came to it. I have responsibilities to the people I love. That being said, if I have my way, I’ll put in whatever effort I must to keep having the opportunity to create.

Why do I post this? Because I run into too many people who want it all now and wonder why it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Heck, I’ve been that person too. The truth is (outside the blessing of God) the road to your dream is usually paved with a lot of hard work. So practice, practice, practice. Create, create, create and then (and this is often the hardest part) put your work out there for the world to see. Also, the Bible says me the most of every opportunity… and while that passage is largely about sharing the Gospel, I think it applies to every area of life, especially the creative life. Whenever you get the opportunity to do what you love, do it for all you’re worth. Bring your all to the project. Do it as if you were doing it for Jesus, because at the end of the day, if you care about glorifying God with your life, that is exactly what you’re doing.

I remember seeing Skillet live at the Creation festival. They had already been playing for years, working hard, building a fan base and all of those other things that are covered by that simple little statement “paying your dues.” Then one year they got an evening slot on the main stage. That night they would play before 80,000 people and they brought it. Their performance was superb and they had more pyrotechnics and other show elements than anyone I Christian band I had ever seen and all the secular ones except possibly Kiss. Why do I share this? The had played thousands of gigs to get to that point, including many I’m sure to small audiences and in tough situations, and then one night the faithfulness paid off, they got a golden opportunity and they did it for all they were worth. As far as I am concerned they had cemented themselves into the role of headliners in that night, but that amazing performance was the result of lots of faithfulness, putting their hearts into their faith and their craft day after day after day. If we want creative success, if we want to do what we love, that’s what we must all do.

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.

So many people seem afraid to use their gifts. A lot of times they seem to feel like they are not good enough or don’t have enough or for some other reason they fall short. Here’s what you need to know. Your gift is from God and He gave it to you so you could use it to His glory. It’s not about your level of ability. It’s about your faithfulness. That’s not to say you don’t bring your best. That’s exactly what faithfulness is, but your best is the best you can do, not what other people can do. Your best is enough for God and everything is up to Him.

When we refuse to use what God has given us, we are in effect rejecting His gift and His plan. Don’t do that. Trust Him and…


matt10Yesterday, I wrote about not falling in love with our creations. I want to elaborate on it a little more today with a real life story. I’ve written about this first part before. What I am doing now, the speaking, the live painting, the storytelling, making videos, all of it feels very much like the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I was the kid who did the little plays for my younger sister and cousin. I was always making pictures and telling stories and doing puppets and ventriloquism when I was really young. My first pay check was for a dollar, for doing my ventriloquist/impression act for the Bernville Women’s Club when I was six. Then life happened. In school I was a human target and before long anything that made me stand out was something to be feared and avoided. By the time High School came around, I was terrified to speak in public and that dream was dead forever, or so I thought.

But one dream remained. I could make art. I was always pretty good at it. I now know it was a God-given gift, back then it just felt like the one thing I could do that wasn’t put down. I thought I would be a professional artist, perhaps a designer or illustrator, but my parents tried to stifle that. I do not hold this against them. They were looking out for me and they knew that to would be hard to make a living in the field. I went to school in an unrelated field, but when it became clear that track wasn’t going to work, I started to hustle and began eking our a living as an artist/designer. I even had some level of success, and while I never made a lot of money, I did get to do a few pretty high profile projects and somewhere in the midst of all that, I came to Christ. Here’s where it gets interesting. My art career began to be in conflict with my faith. It was fast becoming an idol. I fought this conviction for a long time. The reason for this was simple. I was in love with my plan. I was an artist, it was my identity. It was all I was good at and it was all I wanted to do.

The battle raged on and, no surprises here, God won. I came to the end of myself and I laid down my dream. My call to ministry was almost instantaneous but, to be honest, it seemed absurd. Public speaking was still a major fear for me, and it’s sort of a vital skill in ministry. None of it made sense, but God was at work. Through a series of developments, which will make this story way too long, God made the connection between art and ministry in my life. In the process, I began to tell stories, paint live and do all the stuff I was doing today. Please understand this, to be a professional artist, was a lesser dream than what God had in store for me, but in order to get to that point, I had to lay down what I knew and plunge into the great unknown. Today I have a better, happier, more fulfilling life than I could have ever known, but to get there, I had to fall out of love with my dream and love God more. I often wonder if that was what Jesus meant when He said, “Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.”

Hold your plan loosely and your God tightly. He will make a way.

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.

I’ve heard it said many times, “Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” You can probably argue with the proportions, but the principle holds true. There is not, nor will there ever be a substitute for doing the work.

Right now, I can feel some of my Christian brothers and sisters wanting to call me on this. They want to point out the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our success and I want to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is indeed vital and of utmost importance. The problem is I sometimes think people omit our part while leaving it all in the hands of God. This, more often than not is not the case. Oh God’s roll is huge, but what does He call us to over and over and over again? One word, “FAITHFULNESS.” The easy definition of faithfulness is doing the best you can with what God gives you. Why else would the Word of God say, In Ephesians 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

God gives us our gifts. He gives us the resources and He gives the opportunities. What does He want us to do? Make the most of those opportunities. Putting everything He has given us into the opportunities He puts before us. In evil these days, we need to take every opportunity to glorify God, so that others can see Him.

In the sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5) Jesus gives us this very familiar passage: 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Sounds like a little perspiration just may be in order. In the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) the master commends the servants who put what He gave them to work, while condemning the one who played it safe and in the process buried what the Master invested in Him. In commending the servants who did the work, He said, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come, share in your master’s happiness.”

And finally, in Matthew 24, Jesus reminds us that: “45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It seems clear, Jesus commends those who are diligently working to bring forth His Kingdom here on earth, fulfilling His will and giving Him glory. He’s already give the inspiration. It’s time for a little perspiration.

Let’s roll up our sleeves people… Time to go to work and do what we’re called to do.

I have a friend who works for a national ministry, they help churches, many of whom could (and should) pay for their services, but instead my friend and his coworkers have to raise their own support like missionaries. Their ministry is great and useful and their model stinks. In order to keep giving away what they do for free, they have to spend a lot of time that they could devote to their genuine gifting, and ministry purpose, raising funds. It makes no sense to me.

I was reading a book by a speaker who was contacted by a major ministry devoted to fiscal responsibility and helping people with their finances. They wanted this up and coming speaker to come and speak to a company gathering. The speaker agonized and finally decided to waive his costs (which included a rather large airfare) and speak for free. Later when speaking to the head of this ministry, he mentioned his struggle. The person who has made millions telling people to avoid debt said essentially if there had been a charge we would not have brought you in. I know this multi-million dollar organization helps a lot of people, but I have ZERO respect for that approach. We’ll tell the world to avoid debt and make millions doing it, but pay your own way to serve us.

Then there was the time I was called to speak at a major banquet for a non-profit. The person contacting me said, “I am expecting you will do this for free.” Here’s the truth. I would have done it for free (and I did) because they do tremendous good helping the poor, but the fact that I was asked in that way kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure they figured I only had eight minutes of the program, but those eight minutes required weeks of preparation and that is sort of my point. (As a rule in this ministry the shorter the time frame the longer it takes to prepare.)

As a Christian creative, you will no doubt be asked to do many things for free and you should do some of them. After all “Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others… (1 Peter 4:10)” You should also feel free to say “no” to some of (maybe a lot of) them. Here are a few ways I decide.

1. Prayer: No matter the request, pray about it. Don’t just assume it’s a good cause, I’ll do it. Everyone on the planet has a good cause (at least in their own minds) and you could be very busy and extremely poor if you do freebies for everyone. Ask God which things to take on and let the rest go.

2. Who gains from it?: I used to say I only did freebies for ministries, but I have had a change of heart for two reasons. 1) some ministries can and should pay and 2) sometimes doing something to help someone, unrelated to ministry, can do incredible kingdom good. It all goes back to prayer.

3. Will I gain from it?: Sometimes you can gain vital experience by doing something for free. You may not yet have acquired the skill level in a field to charge for it, but if someone is willing to be your “guinea pig” it might be worth doing a freebie. Then there is the dreaded thing called exposure. Be really cautious on this one. Everyone who is too cheap to pay you will try to sell you on all the “free” exposure you’ll get. I have occasionally gotten a paid job out of a freebie, but by and large doing something for exposure is a losing proposition. This is a game of counting the cost. I might possibly do a larger event (hope you’re reading Creation Festival…) for free because it will put me in front of a lot of people, but that’s more about the Gospel than it is about the financial opportunities. Remember that prayer thing I keep mentioning? Ditto.

4. Is there Kingdom impact?: Sometimes doing the logo for the small business just struggling to get started might open the door to the Gospel and an eternal good in someone’s life. You can’t outgive God. Again it goes back to prayer.

There is one reason for which you should never do a freebie… GUILT! One of things people always want to throw at ministries is “They’re only in it for the money.” This is ludicrous. First of all NO ONE goes into art or ministry for the money, you’d have to be a fool. Secondly, no one says, “My doctor, or my mechanic, or whatever is only in it for the money.” It’s understood in every other realm of our planet but the arts and ministry that people get paid for their services. Ministry and the arts should be no different. You have a skill that others don’t have and it has value. Give away as much as you want, but never do it out of guilt.

Here’s the thing, not everything I do has a charge, (this post for example) but everything I do has a cost and so does everything you do. To take the time to do anything, I have to take that time away from something else. The reason I can afford to do anything for free is because someone else is willing to pay me for doing something else. Understand if I do something for you for free, someone else has paid for it. People will say trust God to provide and I do, and He usually, almost always, provides through someone who sees what I do and values it enough to pay for it.

Christian creatives, live generously, give freely, but remember everything has a cost. Pray and charge accordingly. The workman is worthy of his hire.