Posts Tagged ‘glorifying God’

There’s this enigmatic figure in the Bible named Bezalel who should give all of us creative types both great joy and a challenge. We read about him in Exodus 31:2-4 (ESV)

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”

This guy must have been amazing. There are some people who even believe he was not just a man, but what theologians call a christophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words some people believe that before Jesus came in the flesh as a baby, me made an appearance as Bezalel. I doubt this because the Bible makes reference to his father and his ancestry. Still his gifting is beyond remarkable. Look at all the passage says about him.

“I have filled him with the Spirit of God.” It is notable here that Bezalel is the first person listed in all of Scripture to have been killed with the Holy Spirit. So much for those who want to split hairs between gifts and talents. This Spirit filled craftsman was given so much, and the purpose of that gifting was to do artistic craftsmanship to the glory of God.

“Ability and intelligence” This carried through the theme of the Spirit of Skill from yesterday, but please note something else, intelligence. Not only did he have creative ability, but he was given the wisdom to use his gift well, in a way that honors God. Brothers and sisters it is not enough to be good at what we do, we must also exercise wisdom as we use those gifts.

“with knowledge and all craftsmanship.” God allowed him to know how to do things. Think about your creative gift. Surely there is a lot of work involved in building and developing what you have been given, but so much of what you do almost feels instinctive, like second-nature, doesn’t it. When people ask me how long I have been doing art, I can’t really specify a date, it’s always been with me. That’s because God has given us the knowledge to do certain things and do them well. Doing them well is key, that brings us to craftsmanship. This implies God has also given us the ability to bring our best to the table. I’m reminded of Proverbs 22:29 Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. Your gift was given to you by the ultimate King to serve before the ultimate King, so bring your best to every assignment.

From there we get the laundry list of all Bezalel’s abilities: to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” In short, God made Bezalel really good at a whole lot of things. He has likely done similar things with you. Artistic people tend to gravitate toward multiple creative pursuits. This too may well be by design. Rather than list these out, I want to look at why Bezalel was given these gifts. He was given these tasks to lead, supervise and do the work of building the Tabernacle. His gifts were given for the purpose of drawing people into worship and glorifying God. If you are a Christ following creative, it’s likely the same for you. Now this doesn’t mean you have to do all your work for use in the church, (though you should offer your gifts to the local church as often as you can) but it does mean that what we do should in some way glorify God, open doors to the Gospel, etc.

The point is, your creative ability comes from God. Use it in ways that will please him.    

I’ve been doing some thinking lately on this topic. When it comes to my ministry and yours, what is our responsibility? It may not be what you think. Here’s what I mean. I tend to work really hard. While I know all glory belongs to God, I am also fully aware that I have work to do. There is a part in my ministry that is my responsibility. The thing is, more often than not, I get it wrong. You see I tend work as if the success or failure of the enterprise belong to me and that the outcome depends on me. That’s not the case.

The success of any ministry or other enterprise, totally and completely belongs to God. Because of this, that responsibility is His and that is a very good thing, because only He really understands what success means. Thing about Jesus. He worked for three years and ended up with a core group of 12 followers. That would get Him fired in a lot of churches today. That’s because we don’t understand success. Jesus invested in those 12 men and they in turn were used by God to change the world. Jesus’ ministry probably didn’t look like a success “on paper” but on the pages of God’s Word we see something different happen, success beyond measure, because God can use anyone to do anything. Success is His. It all depends on Him.

So if that’s the case, and it is, what is your responsibility, and mine? One word, faithfulness. We are told in Scripture to make the most of every opportunity and that is the key. You use your every God given gift, to the best of your ability and trust everything else to God. Too many people want to make serving God about their ability. They throw around words like excellence, and we should strive for excellence, but that begs a question. In the world of faithfulness, how do we define excellence? I believe there is only one way. Have we worked to the best of our ability today? In faithfulness, that is the best we can do. From there it is in God’s hands. This is important in every walk of life, but it’s crucial when you live in the very subjective area of the arts and creativity. Is Picasso excellent or is Rembrandt? Is Pollack excellent or is Van Gogh? The answer to all the questions is yes. They did their best, found their audience and blessed them. In creative ministry, the same rules apply. Bring your best to the table and trust God to use it to bless people, knowing full well that if we persist in working and bringing our best it will get better and better and bless more and more.

If you’re a creative, learn this now. You will not please everyone every time no matter what you do. So create work that pleases God and be faithful.

That’s your responsibility. Everything else is up to God.

I’ve written several posts over the years about how deadlines are our friends. I believe that is true with all my heart, but is there ever a time not to work with deadlines. The answer is yes.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to swear and part of that is this idea of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” and we need take this to heart. As creatives, when we commit to doing something, we are often doing something the person commissioning us cannot to for themselves. They are depending on us to finish what we start and they need it by a certain time. God is not glorified if we prove to be undependable. To glorify God for the creative is to deliver what you promised, the best that you can do it and on time. Anything less can bring dishonor to His name. It is for this reason that we have to be careful about deadlines.

I made a personal rule a couple years ago that when it comes to taking on side work, I don’t take anything with a tight deadline. I broke that rule last week and I’m wishingI would have set things up differently. Now you might think, “Dave, you’re a creative, deadlines are a fact of life. How can you say you don’t take deadlines? What are you? A prima donna?” No, I guarantee you that’s not the case.

The fact of the matter is I already have more than a few deadlines. These are hard deadlines–things I must complete every week. The most obvious one is weekly. Every Sunday morning at 10:00, I must go to the front of my church and I better have a sermon ready when I get there. People joke, at least I hope they’re joking, that pastors only work one day a week, but the truth is, there is a lot to be done each week, but the thing that gets the most attention, and takes the most creative energy is the sermon. That’s a firm deadline. I also lead our church’s weekly adult Bible Study and for the last year and a half, I have been writing the curriculum. That means I have to be ready to go every Wednesday at 7:00. Next are the speaking engagements. 30-50 times a year, I speak at other churches and different events, and all those things have to be prepared. In addition, I am working on my masters. Now fortunately I found a school that is very flexible, or I would have had to drop that. I am also a husband, father and grandfather, and the last thing I would want to do is mess up those relationships. That’s why I don’t take deadlines.

I still want to serve others with my gift and I still can, but I must make sure that the people understand that I can’t do tight deadlines. This means I have to be secure enough to understand if people have to go with someone else for a project. The truth is, there are only so many hours in a day and we all have to invest them well. My recommendation. Only take deadlines if you know you can deliver and deliver well. We all need a little margin and some rest in our lives, otherwise this gift starts to feel more like a curse. It’s okay to say no sometimes, especially if saying yes would mean not keeping your word.

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 am re-reading Rory Noland’s classic creative ministry book, Heart of the Artist for a class I’m taking. It’s wonderful. I’m also coming off a great weekend of ministry at a wonderful church in Virginia. Tonight those two things are sort of colliding. You see, emblazoned across the top of the back cover of the book is something I hear quite often when I minister.

“I Wish I Had Your Gift!”

Nolan then follows it with a question. “How do you handle those words as a creative artist?” When I read that, I thought answering his question would make a superb blog post, so here goes.

The first thing I say is “Thank you.” or “I appreciate that.” Some may think this is a little shallow or that I am being some sort of glory hog, but nothing could be further from the truth. This person has gone out of their way to show me appreciation, and encouragement, and I thank them for it. I will then follow that with acknowledgement of the Lord. They’ve usually just heard me spend the better part of an hour tying my gifts and theirs to God’s glory, they don’t need another sermon, just a little gratitude.

The next thing, and to me the most important thing is to ask this question: “What do YOU do?” Envying my gift is not what this is ultimately about. I am glad they appreciate what I do, but I want them to see that they too are gifted and that their gift is of immense value. I want them to realize that what they do is special and they can bring great glory to God by doing what they were created to do. Quite often they do something immensely interesting, (Maybe even something I wish I could do) often something I could never do and I let them know that. What I do is cool, but what they do can be cool too and more than cool it could be a great blessing to someone else.

Lastly, if it turns out the person is a visual artist and they actually want to do what I do. I encourage them to practice and develop their gift. One of the thing I say is I can paint a painting is six minutes because I’ve been painting for 40 years or more. This is not to say that it will take them 40 years to reach where I am, many will catch or surpass me in far less time, but what I want them to remember is there is work and sacrifice involved in serving the Lord in most fields, especially art.

One other thing. I try really hard to no longer downplay my gift. I used to think that in order to practice proper humility, I had to minimize what I do. Here’s the thing, my gift comes from God. It’s the way He has chosen to bless me. It doesn’t honor Him to me to belittle His gift to me. Instead, I praise Him for blessing me and encourage them to live in His blessing.

My name is David. Now I would love to tell you that it’s because my father took one look at me on the day I was born and was so overwhelmed with love, that he knew he needed to give me a name that expressed the full extent of that love. So he named me David, because it means beloved in Hebrew.

I would love to tell you that, but I can’t, because it’s not true.

Then I’d love to tell you, that wen I was born, mom took one look at me, saw amazing potential and decided to name me after the mighty, warrior, poet, artist, prophet, biblical king David.

But I can’t tell you that either, because it’s not true.

No, the reason my name is David is much simpler. My father’s name is David and his father before him, my grandpa, was also David. I’m told that when my grandfather heard my mother was going to bear him his first grand child, that he proclaimed my name would be David. I’m told he told so many people, so many times, that my poor grandma, who had long since grown tired of hearing said proclamation, on the day I was born, received the call, got off the phone and told my grandpa my parents named me Jeffrey.

I’m told that did not go over well.

I usually use that story as a lead in for telling about our heavenly Father’s insistence that His Son be named Jesus, but not today.

You see, yesterday was Father’s Day and I celebrated the day at of all things, a baby shower. I know that sounds a bit strange, but I could not have been more thrilled. You see the baby shower was for my first grandchild, to be born next month. Medical technology has advanced quite a bit in the 51 years that I have walked on this planet. I already know that this child, my first grandchild, is in fact, male, a grandson. I also know that his name will be David. For the first time in my life, I totally understand what my grandpa was going through.

Now to be clear, there are many David’s in this equation, so the child is not only being named for me, but for his great grandfather, great great grandfather. His other grandfather and his uncle also have the middle name David as well as his father’s best friend. Nonetheless, I am overjoyed and once again, I have something to live up to. Living in such a was that I make my little grandson’s name, David Weiss, something he can be proud to have.

How much more should we all live to give glory to the one in whose image we are all created?

This morning in my quiet time, I became convicted. You see over the weekend I did my Creative Church Workshop. Only one person attended (no that’s not the failure) but we had a great day talking about God and creativity and how to use our creativity to serve the Lord. Maybe that’s the reason I failed.

You see the other person asked me my secret to blogging daily and I blew it. I started talking about practical things with writing and inspiration. I talked about esoteric things, like wanting to be consistent because I value my readers. I even talked about how I don’t recommend anyone try to blog every day, at least not right away (too tough to come up with consistent content for someone just beginning) and that it’s more important to post consistently than to post every day. I also thought of a few more things that I did not say but none of those was a failure either.

No, here is the failure. I failed to give her the most important reason I can blog daily. I think it was just the context of the day and maybe I felt it was understood (I’m even relatively sure it was understood, but that makes no difference). Here is my confession:

The number one reason I can post a blog post nearly every day is because I spend time in prayer and ask God to give me something to say to the people who will read my blog. People He gave me. I pray for something that will challenge and bless and inspire and God is faithful to deliver. Now that’s not to say everything I write comes from God. I’m sure there are times where I get out ahead of Him, or times were I miss the mark. Those are the times when I take over and try to do it on my own.

Here’s how you can tell. If you read something here and it touches you to the depth of your soul, if it blesses you, if it changes your life or inspires you to do something great, it’s God. If you read it and go, “MEH” well, it was probably just me.

Everything good in me comes from God. He is good all the time. Trust Him and ask Him to guide you. He will deliver.

Sunday night I got a real blessing. I started to see rumors on social media that Tim Tebow was going to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. I was overjoyed. You see the Eagles fell out of favor with me years ago when they left Reggie White get away. I became a Packers fan at that point and remain one to this day. With the signing of Tebow, the Eagles are back on my good list. You might be wondering what any of this has to do with the topic of this blog, i.e. creative ministry… Only everything.

You see a friend of mine asked all his youth ministry and pastor followers if they would be using some sort of Tebow story as an illustration in their ministries. It is a great story, stand out college player goes pro, comes off the bench to lead his team to the playoffs, gets released in favor of one of the best of all time, gets bounced around, released, ends up becoming an analyst of the game but doesn’t give up on his dream and returns after two years to the pros. It’s a great story, a story of perseverance, but it’s not the real story.

If I were in the pulpit, I might share a Tim Tebow story but it would not be the NFL story. While I hope and pray God gives him favor and great victories in Philadelphia, that story has not yet been written (Though for his detractors I will point out, he led the Broncos just as far as an already Hall of Fame certified Peyton Manning did in his first year with the team). Here’s the real story. This is a young man, let’s not forget he’s only 27 years old. He’s been an outspoken representative of his faith from the time he hit the national spotlight in college. He’s take heat for that faith and never wavered. Lest we forget we start college as teenagers. But it gets better, through the ups and downs of his pro career, under a microscope, I might add, he stood firm. I mean come on, they call dropping to one knee in prayer “Tebowing.” How many prayer positions are named after you? Just sayin’.

tebowhospitalBeyond that this young man has used his fame and notoriety to do some real good in this world. At 27 he has already built a hospital in the Phillipines through CURE International, for goodness sake, and everyone knows why, because this young man regularly gives glory to God. And that is what all of us can take away. That’s the real story.

Tim Tebow wanted to be an NFL quarterback and even when that dream didn’t seem to be working out, he used what he was given to the glory of God. That is something we can all do. We can all be faithful with we have been given, make the most of every opportunity, wherever we are at, and live to the glory of God.

So Mr. Tebow, welcome to Philadelphia. I hope you do amazing things here on and off the field. To the rest of us, pray for this young man. God has given him a big platform and that sometimes makes us big targets. I can’t wait to see what God will do.

saint_irenaeus_oflyonsWe talk a lot about glorifying God. We say (rightly) that this is our purpose as Christians and especially as believing creatives, but what does it mean to glorify God? How can we glorify the Most Glorious? I think it’s an important distinction. We can’t add to His perfect glory. Rather we live our lives to point people to that glory—people who on their own have been blind to it. The real miracle is that God uses us, flawed though we are to reveal that glory. Still the question remains, How can we point to that glory and better yet reflect that glory?

Lately I have been really inspired by this quote from St. Irenaeus…

The glory of God is man fully alive.

What if it’s really that simple? Doing what we were created to do, being who we were created to be, to the best of our ability in our ordinary every day lives. What if the best way to be extraordinary is to merely be what God created us to be and to acknowledge Him at every turn. Could it be that simple? YES! We’re his workmanship. We’re created in Christ to do good works that He planned for us. (See Ephesians 2:10.) How transformational is that idea?

I am reading a great new book called A Million Little Ways and I have to tell you I am loving the concept. Perhaps Christ is found less in the difficult to attain grand gesture, that huge thing we all think we’re incapable of and so we walk away in discouragement, and more in the simple things any of us can do, done with great love.

Author Emily P. Freeman says it this way:

Christ in you, as you. Christ, clothed in your humanity. Christ, with all of your talents and weaknesses and natural inclinations. Christ coming out through your unique personality. Christ serving them lunch, washing their clothes, making a meal for a neighbor. Not to say that you are Christ, but that he has chosen you, as you are and not as you wish you were, he has chosen you to live within…

He invites you to move with the rhythm of his Spirit. This is a mystery and wonder that is the gospel. He doesn’t wait until we are conformed to a version of ourselves that we are pleased with. He comes in and transforms us from the inside out.

How can you glorify God today? Don’t ignore the small stuff.

This is a painting I did about a year ago as part of my worship service at New Creation. It goes with the message I preached on John 4, the woman at the well. You can hear part of the story for yourself if you watch the video, but that’s not why I placed it here. I placed it here to show you what’s possible when we take art beyond the big three. It’s possible to include all of our gifts in worship.

There is more to worship that the Big 3 (preaching, playing instruments and singing.) Our lives are supposed to be worship. Remember Ephesians 2:10 says for we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. In this Lord’s day ask yourself, “How can I commit what God has given me to worship?”

Some of you may look at this and say that door is not open in my church. No way would they allow me to use my gift in worship. My first question to you is “Have you prayed for God to open a door?” and my second question is “Have you asked?” See sometimes we only perceive a door to be closed and “we have not because we ask not.”

In other cases, your gift doesn’t fit the context of the worship service. That’s okay too, your work does not have to be done at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning in your church building to be worship. Simply commit to the Lord to do your work for His purposes and do it as a form of worship. Hear this and hear it well it is not a substitute for gathering together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe we all need that as well. Remember we are supposed to worship with our whole lives.

My suggestion: Try to find a way to use your gift in the worship service. If you are SURE the door is closed to that, find a way to share with your congregation what God is doing through your gift as you offer it up to the Lord outside the church. This is not about trying to get glory for yourself, (You know, “Hey look at me!) it’s about sharing that there is more to worship than showing one hour on a sunday and consuming the worship “show.” It’s about helping people to realize that whatever gift they have received from God can be used to serve God in the church and in the community. It’s about helping people see they can be used by God.