Posts Tagged ‘Joseph’

At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.

Well by now a lot of you know, I am not a big fan of snow. I know God is a great artist and he has good reasons for snow, and it is very pretty but I much prefer when he works in his green palette. This year in this part of Pennsylvania, we had very little snow, as a matter of fact we had quite a few days in February where it was near 70 degrees. It was awesome, but now… this…

We are in blizzard conditions, the snow is falling horizontally and piling up in huge drifts. It’s pretty wild out there right now. It seems like we were on a snow diet all winter long and now as we near Spring it’s time for a “snow binge.” It reminded me of an important concept for all of us. The concept of moderation.

So often, in our creative lives we have ebbs and flows, times where we’re blocked and times where we can’t create enough and in both those times, moderation is a key. I have a feeling the reason we get blocked is because we burn out in the times of inspiration. The thing is neither of these things is good. Creative block can be mentally and Spiritually agonizing, but those times of creative excess can be times when we don’t do our best stuff because we just feel so busy. We need moderation.

It’s this simple, your body and mind need rest. There seems to be this “make hay while the sun shines mentality that comes with creative booms. We have to create when we have the inspiration because we’ve all been through those inspiration famines and as soon as I thought of that term, I got the solution. In the Bible during times of famine, there was usually one option, starve and hope you make it through to the next bumper crop, but then we hear from a guy names Joseph. God showed him a famine was coming and told him what to do, and as a result, he not only went from a slave, to the second most powerful person in the most powerful nation on earth at the time, but he also saved many lives including the lives of God’s chosen people. The answer was simple. Save up in times of plenty so that you have something for the times of famine.

When you are in those times if inspiration plenty, what if you saved up some of that inspiration for times when inspiration is lacking? It’s fairly easy to do. You just need a notebook, a sketchbook or some kind of electronic device to store the ideas. Then when the ideas are sparse, you just refer back to them and keep right on going. This is really just good stewardship and faithfulness. After all maybe the reason you’re blocked is because you haven’t followed through on something God gave you.

The bottom line is if we work in moderation, we’ll be healthier and more creative, doing better quality work and we’ll (at least theoretically) never run out of ideas. Well out to shove up some of this snow. There’s more coming, but I don’t want to have to move it all at once. See that, I’m practicing moderation.

I decided I needed a little something more for a Christmas program at church and I thought back to a script I wrote in 2001. At the time I was a church youth leader. Much is made of the fact that Mary the mother of Jesus was probably quite young, a teen, not much different than many of the students I was working with. Before long a strange idea hit me. If Mary and Joseph were in my youth group and told me the story of Mary being with child what would have my reaction been. What came out of that thought was one of the favorite things I have ever written. I really wanted to use it, but there was a problem. The computer I wrote that piece on has long since been recycled and I changed web hosting providers. There was a good chance the piece was lost forever, but I thought to Google it. Fortunately it came up, unfortunately it came up on a paid content site, having been uploaded by someone else. Someone else is profiting from my content.

What was my reaction? Well I thought about lodging a copyright complaint with the service, but that didn’t feel right in this case. I’d rather have it out there helping people than lost forever which it might have been. In the long run, I decided to just be grateful that people are still seeing it, and secondly, I decided to post it here for free. If this sounds like something that might bless you or your group. please feel free to use it. I call it Mary and Joe’s Counseling Session. I pray it blesses you. Click here to download your copy.

Some passages of the Bible are extremely descriptive. Just reading them, you can see the images in your mind. I find this especially true when the Bible speaks of dreams and visions. I read one of these in my devotions this morning. It comes from the book of Genesis, chapter 41. Pharaoh has just had a dream. Seven fat cows are eating by the banks of the Nile when seven gaunt, skinny cows come out of the Nile and eat them up. What’s up with that? Carnivorous Cows? Cow-nivores? No, clearly this dream must be symbolic, and of course it is. Joseph is brought from an unjust prison sentence to interpret the dream. Seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. Not only does Joseph have the interpretation, he also has the plan. Save in the plenty to provide for the famine. In the process, Joseph saves the lives of many, many people including his family which would become the nation of Israel. He gets promoted from prisoner to second in command over all over Egypt. God always keeps His promises, even when He goes through unlikely, and even difficult means.

As I was reading this, an image came to mind, a pretty literal image admittedly, but I decided to capture it. You can see it below (click the image to download a free coloring picture). I love when I can do things like this, because as I was working on it and trying to figure out how to interpret it visually, I was also thinking a lot about this story and the faith that surrounded it. Not only that, but it gave me the opportunity to create something I can share with my friends to bless them and in the process share another story of God’s faithfulness.


God is good.

Title page for my new game for HistoryMakerz

Title page for my new game for HistoryMakerz

A few years ago I started a youth presentation called HistoryMakerz. The idea behind it is simple. We use young people from the Bible to encourage young people of today. In the presentation I tell the stories of people like David and Joseph (Genesis) and Mary to illustrate that these were not superheroes, They were ordinary people who put their lives in the hands of an extraordinary God and that if we will do the same thing God can use us to make a real difference in this world.

Well after some time I am getting the opportunity to present it again and to celebrate I am reworking some of the interactive elements of the presentation. Before each of the messages I try to have some kind of fun activity that brings people up to speed on the story. One of my favorite things to do for this are digital game shows. This is the latest, it’s called Who Said That? and it goes along with the story of David.

Go ahead and play the game and see how you do. All you need to do is click the image above. Please keep in mind this is created to be hosted like a game show so it does not keep score. If you get an answer wrong just go back and try again. Check it out and let me know what you think.

If any of you are in charge of any kind of youth group or conference contact me at perhaps I could come and lead History Makerz at your event. It will be finished and ready to present my November 1, Lord willing. For more on HistoryMakerz go to

For those artists who read this, this is just another way to use art to teach biblical truth. How can you use your talent to tell these stories and share God’s message with the Church and the world around you?