Posts Tagged ‘honoring God’

Well on the morning of June 26th I hit the road again. I am traveling to Saginaw, Michigan to do Pictures of Jesus at a great church called The Church in Drive. From there I will be headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. In addition to my role as my church’s delegate to the conference, I will also be doing some painting presentations there on three of the days. When the conference ends on Sunday I will be headed to Ashley, Indiana to present Pictures of Jesus again on Monday Evening. From there I make my way back to Ohio to spend the evening with some dear friends, then back to church, Bible study, etc. It’s going to be a good but lengthy trip.

I am sharing this for a reason beyond just saying, “Hey look what I’m doing!” You see, I love what I do. I love having the opportunity to travel all over the place and preaching and speaking and painting. The downside of it, though is that I spend a lot of time away from home and the family that I love, which can be hard. That’s how it goes with blessings sometimes. There is hard stuff in among the great stuff and I think the key is to be grateful for both. What I do is such a blessing to me, and the missing my loved ones, that keeps me grounded. It challenges me to be sure to be more in the moment when I am at home with my loved ones. It makes me strive for balance and proper priorities. God has been good and faithful to me. I must return that faithfulness, with a faithfulness and an appreciation for everything and everyone God has given. I don’t deserve any of this, and so I must work to be faithful to “Do [my] best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 TIMOTHY 2:15)

It’s all about gratitude and the faithfulness born from that gratitude. Be faithful, make the most of every opportunity, and honor God in every part of your life. especially in your relationships.

As an artist, and as a Christian, it is wise to wean yourself from a dependence on affirmation. Better to have the approval of God than the approval of men, and also quite frankly, the approval of men can be hard to come by. If you allow yourself to gauge your success or failure based on human affirmation, as an artist and/or as a believer, you might be in for a world of hurt. Better to pray for guidance and move out in the assurance of God’s love, grace and faithfulness.

That being said…

Affirmation is still a wonderful thing. Something to be received graciously and humbly. I’ve received several of them in the last day and they have really blessed me tremendously. How we handle this wonderful blessing is imperative. Here are three ways to make sure you handle affirmation properly.

1. Don’t let it go to your head. As Christians, we are more the instrument than the masterpiece. The glory belongs to God alone. Appreciate affirmation, it’s a good thing and may well be God using that person to show you you’re on the right track, but direct the glory to God.

2. Be appreciative and humble. This refers to step one to some degree, but goes a bit further. The person affirming you didn’t have to do it. They went out of their way to show you appreciation. Appreciate the person. He or she is a blessing.

3. For goodness sake, take it to heart. If you’re like most artists, especially believing artists, you will want to deflect glory while taking every harsh, ugly, condemning criticism to the very core of your being. This is exactly backwards. Ugly, condemning stuff is never from God so why would you take it into the heart where God lives? God allowed you to do something that touched and blessed someone enough that they went out of their way to praise what you have done. Receive it AND give God the glory.

Two last things. Sometimes affirmation comes from wrong motives. Test everything against the Word and the Spirit. Don’t let a false affirmation take you down a wrong path. And lastly, affirmation is encouragement and encouragement is a good thing. You know how it feels to receive it. Don’t be afraid (or hesitant) to give it. You may just spur someone on to love and good deeds, the very thing we are called to do.

Thank people for their affirmations, give God the glory and do something else that is praiseworthy.

This is one of those “late night, had a dream, can’t go back to sleep until I write it down” kind of messages. It will be short and to the point and my hope is it will make sense in the morning. I’m about three months from being a grandfather for the first time and I could not be more excited about it. In my dream there was a church next for to my grandchild’s house and it was covered with fake bats and all kinds of horror stuff. The pastor was decked out in all kinds of vampire gear, the whole thing had the feeling of evil to the point where, thinking how much this would score my grandchild, I said, “This is going to shut down if I have to shut it down.” Then I woke up. As I lay there trying to separate dream from reality, I had a thought. “What if the guy was just trying to creatively reach his community?” I mean that’s a big part of what this blog is all about. If that’s what it was, when does creativity go too far.

I remember another time, I took my youth group to a Christian concert near Halloween and the lead singer of one of the bands came out in full skull makeup ala Danzig. He made one of the most absurd comments I have ever heard, stating that Halloween had it’s origins in Christianity and Christmas didn’t. I knew what he was getting at. Halloween was established by the church as a way to honor the saints who had gone before and there are some elements of our Christmas celebrations that have been borrowed (and redeemed, I believe) from paganism. But since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, I think he was a little off the mark. He was trying to defend his decision to dress for Halloween, but he really missed the mark.

Thinking of these two things bought me to the two questions we must ask ourselves as we attempt to use our creativity to serve the Lord, especially in the context of the church. The first one analyzes our motives. “Am I attempting to honor God?” This one asks, “Is my heart in the right place? Am I tryout to do good in the name of God or just indulging my own whims? What’s my motivation?” Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things…” so this question is vital.

The second question is closely related and would have helped the young lead singer and a lot of other people along the way. “Does this ACTUALLY honor God?” It says, “My heart’s in the right place, but will what I am about to do actually succeed at honoring God?” The thing is the answer to both of these questions MUST be “yes” and we need to have that answer to both questions before we proceed.

Does that make sense? I’m going back to bed.

honorgodIn our quest to be Christ-following artists, there are many questions we need to ask ourselves, and to me this question must be first and foremost. I remember early in my career, and my walk, I wanted desperately to be a professional artist/cartoonist. I was laid off the day my youngest son was born and thought I would just become a full time freelance. It did not go well. The pressures of being a stay at home dad, combined with the fact that I wasn’t that good yet, made things quite difficult. We were going broke.

Then one day I answered an ad for a cartoonist. The job would pay $10,000 and the temptation was huge! The problem was the cartoons were dirty (bordering on pornographic) cartoons. I’d like to tell you I rejected it as soon as I found out what it was, but that would be a lie. My rationalization skills went into full effect and for a short time I tried to convince myself that this would be okay. (I really thought I needed the money)

Thanks to God for a strong, godly wife and a stronger Holy Spirit, I eventually did turn it down, otherwise there would be some pretty ugly stuff floating around out there with my name on it. Answering the question “Does it honor God?” would have been really be helpful.

Now, I’ll be the first one to admit, I was being stupid and greedy. The answer to the honoring God question in that case was obvious. Sometimes it’s not. There are times where it’s not so clear, so there are some subquestions. The first one is still pretty obvious, “Does what I am about to do involve sin or the glorification of sin?” If the answer is yes your answer to the project MUST be “no.”

The next question is, “Will anyone be hurt by what I am about to do?” This one is a little harder. Notice I didn’t say “Will anyone be offended…?” If we, as Christians, shied away from every project that might offend someone, we wouldn’t be able to do anything for Jesus. To some, our very existence is offensive. This is not to say we go our of our way to be offensive. We can cover that by following the biblical admonition to speak the truth in love. I am talking about doing damage to people’s lives or reputations, causing needless hurt. Is it putting people down rather than lifting them up? Let the love of Jesus be your guide.

Does it damage or deface property? I love graffiti. I think it is amazing as an art form, however, we believers should never, ever do it anywhere uninvited. God is not honored by crime no matter how good the art is.

Finally will it be a blessing? At the end of the day, we honor God best, we demonstrate His love best when we bless and encourage, build up, and urge people toward repentance and toward Christ.

We can honor God in every aspect of our lives and art whether the subject matter is “Christian” or not, so this isn’t about me wanting you to paint pictures of Jesus. It’s actually much deeper than that. The Bible calls us Christ’s representatives, His ambassadors, which means whether or not we paint pictures of Jesus, we ARE pictures of Jesus. When we honor Him, we represent Him well.

Don’t worry it’s not that one. It’s one that every artist especially every Christ following artist should know… Flexibility. Flexibility is a trait every artist should have and yet most of us seem to lack it. It manifests mainly in two ways.

The first is in the If only mentality. It only I had this, if only I had that. If only I had more money or better supplies or a better studio or a hotter computer with better software or whatever. You know what they are. Fill in your “if only” here. Literally write it on a piece of paper. Are you done? Good now throw the paper away and look around you. What do you have right now? Stop seeing your scarcity and start looking at what you have and use that. The biggest part of art is creativity, find what you have and use it. Our ancestors used burned sticks for charcoal, berries plants and on and on and on. Appreciate what you have and use it. Make the art you can make with what you have. It’s okay to ask God for more and better but make sure you’re faithfully using what God has given you. Think of times of lack as God building your creativity. He might even be using it to draw you out of yourself and teaching you to collaborate. Regardless of the circumstance, be creative, grateful and be flexible.

The other area we lack flexibility is much more insidious. It’s pride. We’re artists after all and there are certain things we deserve. Get that out of your head right now. The only thing we deserve in this life is Hell and thank God He gave us Jesus so we don’t get what we deserve. Before there was Madonna, there was “pre-madonna” (yes I know it’s really prima donna I was making a joke) and nobody liked her. Nobody really likes a diva either. We put up with their outlandish behavior because of their talents but we don’t like them. As Christ following artists our job is to represent Christ. No one was more entitled to be a Diva than the perfect Son of God and yet the Bible tells us over and over again how he humbled Himself to serve the ones He came to save. We can’t represent Him well by being demanding and inflexible divas. If you have ten minutes to do something, give the best ten minutes you have. If you have a budget of five dollars, use your creativity to make it look like it’s worth a lot more.

Learn the F Word and live it. Be flexible.

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.
Judges 19; Psalm 89,91
You can also download your own chart here.