Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’


Earlier in last week, I shared the “idols” I made for the youth retreat I spoke at over the weekend. As far as I know, they are no more. I was unable to attend the final day of the retreat due to a prior commitment, but it is my understanding that they have been destroyed…

and I’m okay with that…

gollum_and_ring
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. There was a time where my creations were a little too precious. Not just that I put my best into them… No, it was more like this and that is how our work can lapse into idolatry.

But things have changed. These pieces were created to be destroyed. I painted them in insulation styrofoam and while I put my best effort into them, the fact that they were not intended to survive the weekend was always at the back of my mind. They were meant to be destroyed as all idols are, or should be. My hope and prayer is that as the students were destroying them, they were also thinking about the idols in their own lives that need to be dismantled and destroyed.

If that happens, even for one student, all the work was worth it. After all, I make all this art to draw people closer to God and idols come from the destroyer. They will destroy us if we do not first destroy them.


There have been occasions throughout my career where people have questioned whether or not what I do is making idols. The answer is no… most of the time. I’ve spent the last few days making idols, but it’s okay. Here are the idols.

photo 3-2 photo 1-3 photo 2-3

You see they’re not really idols, they’re pictures of things we idolize, or more correctly the idols at the core of so much of our idolatry problems, the quests for comfort, control and significance. I have been commissioned to create these for a youth retreat this weekend. I can’t say much more than that, the event is still to come, but these guys will be having a bad weekend.

There is a real danger of idolatry in all of our lives, especially the lives of believing creatives. It’s pretty easy to get our priorities messed up and move our creations onto a type of altar. I know this because I’ve done it.So how do you avoid it?

A couple of things: First of all, bathe your work in prayer. It’s hard to put something else on the throne of your life if Christ is firmly seated there.

Next: Build rest into your schedule. If you can still take a break and rest, without worrying it will all fall apart, your art is probably still in it’s right place.

Finally, keep yourself in check by checking yourself. Ask yourself about your priorities frequently and be honest with yourself. Also accountability is a key. Get someone you trust to keep you in check.

The other side of this is how people receive your work. You don’t have a lot of control over that, but you can be sure to explain what it is that you’re trying to do. Whenever I display my work, I am certain to have an artist’s statement posted. Of course sometimes your work will be seen unaccompanied by any explanation, so it’s important to work in subject matter that is God honoring.

The only time it’s appropriate to make idols is if your going to use them to help people understand how to tear down the idols in their lives. We only have room for one God in our lives. Idols have no place and no power. Keep your priorities straight, honor God and live (and create) to His glory.


Okay, I guess technically the first artist in the Bible is God, but today in my devotional reading, I got to Exodus 31, which tells us about Bezalel. If you haven’t read this chapter, as a Christian creative, you need to. As we read through the previous chapters, Scripture takes a break from the story of the exodus from Egypt to give us some very detailed instructions from God on how the tabernacle and all it’s implements, as well as the robes for the priests, incense, etc. are to be constructed. I can almost imagine Moses going, “Lord, I’m not an artist, how am I going to do this?”

Then in chapter 31, God answers the question. God fills someone with His Spirit and gives him gifts to create all that is required. This is incredibly good news for those of us in the church with a creative bent. As far as I can see, this artist, a man named Bezalel, is the first person listed in Scripture to be filled with God’s Spirit. His artistic, creative gifts, come from God, and, just as all good things do, so do yours. You might say we creatives have a Bezalel anointing, though I don’t want to push that too far. Instead, I want to look at something related to our call. God’s specifications for the Tabernacle were very exacting and He gifted Bezalel to meet those specifications. As discussed in an earlier post, there was still plenty of room to create within those boundaries, but the boundaries were very important.

If you go to the next chapter, we see the first recorded misuse of creativity by God’s people, the golden calf. This is the polar opposite of Bezalel’s calling. Here an image was made that not only had nothing to do with the Lord, but was specifically the opposite of what God wants us to do with the skills He has given us. People created in God’s image are not supposed to create gods that fit their image of what God should be. They had just seen God part the Red Sea, dispose of the most powerful army in the world at that time, and free them from 400 years of captivity. It’s only been a few days and already they’re making idols to lead them back to slavery. That’s the only thing an idol can do, enslave us and I think that’s the point.

There is immense freedom in living God’s way and we have immense creative freedom in God. He created us to create. The question then is what will we do with our freedom? Will we use it to honor God or turn away from Him? The best thing we can do with our creative freedom is to submit our gifts to the Lord.

When we are submitted to Him, we are truly free!


This morning I was making idols. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s okay. After all, I am a professional. Of course I am being facetious. I was actually making idols, but they are not idols to be worshipped, they’re idols to be destroyed. In an upcoming presentation, I am going to be speaking on the topic of idols, specifically three idols that seem to be at the root of all other idols.

idolssm
Think about the things we are willing to do in the name of these three idols. Think about the lengths that people have gone to and the crimes that people have committed in the name of having control. Think about how many people have done heinous things just to get attention, just to feel significant and comfort, well that’s at the root of so many things I couldn’t begin to count them. Sometimes I think we in the church are too caught up in sin. We can identify it, especially in others, and we are quick to point it out. Often though, individual sins are the symptoms of a greater disease. Idolatry is at the root of every sin and it has been this way since the garden.

God told our first parents they could eat anything they wanted except the fruit of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s basic concept was if you love me, stay away from that one tree. Love me more than that fruit. They chose fruit over God. The chose sin over God. Anything we choose over God is actually god in our lives. It’s an idol. Stated more simply, an idol is anything that comes between us and God.

This passage is among the strongest on the subject of idolatry. It shows us the futility of it. Isaiah 44
All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.
12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

We dare not get too caught up in the idea that idolatry is bowing down in front of a statue. It can be that, but it is usually far more subtle. Usually it’s as simple as choosing sin over God.

How would you illustrate this point?



I found this video and think it attempts to answer the question, what is art? in a funny and thought provoking way. What are your thoughts?

Sometimes I think we artists take ourselves far too seriously. How do you define art? I’ve often wondered over this. It’s so subjective. One man’s junk is another man’s genius. It makes me think about what we value and invest our lives in. Money is a picture of a dead president. Gold is a shiny rock and works of art have value for no other reason than because we say it does. Now please don’t get me wrong. I love art and I love it when people like my art (and occasionally want to buy my art) but we have to be careful. The last thing we want to do is end up like the guy in this passage.
Isaiah 44:12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”


Max Lucado: Cast of Characters Lost and FoundOver the last few weeks at my church we have been doing a study based on Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters: Lost and Found: Encounters with the Living God
This particular message focusses on wrestling with God from the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. Have you ever wrestled with God? Have you ever struggled with giving him control over an area of your life? I did. At one point I joined God in an epic battle for control of my art career. He won and because He won, I won a fuller more complete life. Wrestling with God saved my life. Join me as I explore this timely topic. As always your feed back is appreciated.


When arts ministry becomes about arts, it runs the risk of moving toward idolatry. Ministry is always about God, Jesus and people. If we keep that perspective firmly in place, God will take care of the rest. The arts are a tool we’ve been given to express the work of God in our lives and His message to the world. This is the role they must occupy in the life of a Christ following creative. Part of the challenge of ministering to creatives is helping them to remember that and keep God and our work in their proper places, i.e. God is over all and art is the tool we get to use to serve Him.

Excerpted from my upcoming manifesto, Ministering to the Creative Soul coming soon from AMOK Books