Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

That title may sound a little heretical, but think about it. Imagine telling Peter, James, John or any of the rest of the disciples that we call this day Good Friday. Not now, when they can see the ramifications of all that happened, but on that Friday so long ago, while most of them are in hiding, fearing for their lives, as their friend, teacher and Lord is hanging on a hard wooden cross. The sky had gone dark, it looks like the end of the world and then they hear we call this day Good Friday. What do you think they would think?

It had to seem like the end of their world. It was just days ago that they were jockeying for position in Jesus’ Kingdom, James and John wanting to be by His side, one on the right the other on the left, but at that moment I am sure they were really glad those positions were occupied by others. Would they be next? I’m pretty sure that day, to them seemed anything but good.

So why do we call it good? Because we have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. Yes Jesus died. Yes it was torturous. Yes it was unspeakable but it was part of the plan. You see sin requires death and justice requires that that debt be paid. If you’ve ever sinned, even once, that penalty was yours. This Friday is good because on it, Jesus, the innocent Son of God stepped in and said, “(fill in your name here) sinned and I love (him/her) so I’ll pay (his/her) price. I’ll pay a price they could not pay and give them a reward they could not earn. Eternal life in paradise.” That’s what’s so good about Good Friday. You are loved so much that the Lord of all creation, sacrificed Himself in your place and died on the cross. Place your faith in Him and you will receive eternal life in a place far beyond your greatest dreams.

Now a lot of you reading this, already know the story. It’s our job to share it. How would you express what’s so good about Good Friday? Someone needs to hear the story today. Share it.

It’s funny where inspiration comes from sometimes. My youngest son teaches at a pre-school. Today I noticed he has a box sitting here filled with his children’s books for the winter. One of them is a treasury of Christmas Stories by author illustrator Jan Brett. Ms. Brett is one of my favorite illustrators. Her work is extravagantly beautiful. It’s meticulously detailed and probably takes tens to hundreds of hours per illustration. The art is breathtaking.

Now there’s something you need to know. I know nothing of her personal story or how she got where she is today, but looking at this wonderful book triggered a thought that I hope will be inspirational. Today she is an established artist/writer but undoubtedly there was a time where this was not the case—a time when she was a newbie trying to get discovered and that is where the risk comes in. She most likely faced a choice all of us with a creative bent had to face-namely she had to do the work. She had to make the choice to put her whole self into a project, taking the risk of no reward. She had to do all this amazingly beautiful work on that chance that something good would come of all that work with no guarantee. She had to give her very best to a project, not knowing whether or not anyone would ever see it or ever care. It’s the same way with us.

With every project we have a choice. We can put our best into it, trusting that something good will come of it or we can hold back and put out something mediocre, that will not take as much effort, but also may never get the attention of the audience we desire or are called to. Great art was never created based on a cost-benefit analysis. Great art is an act of love. Don’t hold back. Give your best and trust.

Earlier, I shared a video that I sent to a group of young people on the other side of the world. I was honored beyond words to be asked to do that and I am told it was well received. That was not the intent of the project. I saw an online art challenge and thought, “That looks like fun.” I decided to create a series of pieces with no thought of it being any more than good practice and a good time, but I put a fair amount of work into it and the result was an opportunity to share my heart and a little of my faith with some folks I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. The point is, we never know completely what God is up to, but if we will put our best out there, it’s worth the risk.

I know I’ve been on this whole track of encouragement, but there is a painful truth all creatives need to consider. In any given pursuit here will always be someone better than you. Sorry, but it’s a fact of life and that leaves us with a choice. There are essentially three things we can do when we see someone better than us. The first two are not helpful.

You can get discouraged. Given enough time, the end result of this will most likely be giving up, or beating yourself up, neither of which is what God wants for us.

You can also lash out. Acting as if some great injustice has occurred. Given enough time this will have you looking at this other person as a competitor or even an enemy. You’ll start to think things like, “Of course he’s better than me, he has this advantage…” or “She’s not so great…” or worse. This could make you feel like a victim or just plain bitter. Again, this is not beneficial.

But what if instead of these things, we chose to see the person as an inspiration, someone who makes us want to be better and grow in our skills. Rather than feeling competitive, we cheer them on, we’re glad when they get ahead and realize that they are being used in great ways. This is clearly a much better way to live.

At the end of the day, the only thing you are really responsible for is being the best you you can be, faithfully making the most of what you’ve been given. The choice is yours, but this is clearly the best one.

I was contacted by a fellow artist in Croatia and she asked if I could Skype in to talk to a group of students she works with. Unfortunately with the time difference, their meeting would at a time when I am really unavailable. I made this video for them instead about how I use the internet as an artist and minister.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

To me this verse is sort of the ultimate expression of encouragement. You see encouragement is supposed to bring courage and with courage comes confidence. This is what so many people in our world seem to lack. People are willing to do just about anything, or go along with anything, for fear of not fitting in or measuring up. Think of all the destructive paths that people will enter into and the carnage that goes along with it in the name of measuring up to a worldly standard that shifts like the sand. It’s madness. It’s got to stop and the verse tells us how.

One of the great things about Christianity is it takes measuring up off the table. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This means none of us, by definition, measures up. I know that sounds like the opposite of encouragement, but it’s not, for one reason. Jesus met us at our worst and laid down His life for us because we were worth it to Him. Our confidence, then, comes not in our own goodness or righteousness, or in our ability to measure up, or anything else. Our confidence comes from Him and His love.

Look at the above verse again. Why are we confident? Because He who began a good work in us. Stop there. Even as people of faith there is a certain amount of measuring up that we can be lured into. Jesus saved us and now we need to measure up. Now this is not to say we should not repent of our sins and try in Him to live righteously. We should. Also believers have a call on their lives, and we can get caught up in whether or not we are being successful in that calling and once again, we are trying to measure up, but that’s not what the verse says. Oh we need to be faithful and do what we can, but who began this work? He did. He began the good work in us. He knows what we’re capable of because He made us and when He made us, He began the work. He already knows the path you’ll take and what you’ll do and He has planned for it. He began it in you, and then it says He will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, He will finish what He started in you by the time Jesus returns and sets all things right.

This means you were not responsible for the beginning, and you are nor responsible for the ending. You’re responsible for what you do and the choices you make and that’s it. Your responsibility can be summed up in one word, faithfulness. You do your best to live a godly life, and you repent when (not if) you fail. You are responsible for doing the best you can with every opportunity, and repenting when, for whatever reason, you don’t. Friend, the plan and the purpose is bigger than you and me, and all along the way, at every step of the way, God knows. He is not dependent on us and we are totally dependent on Him. The pressure is off. Give God your best and He will handle the rest.

Be confident. You are loved by God and He’s got this!

I once was driving along when I saw the guy in front of me had one of those little frames around his license plate that said “Failure is Not an Option.” My heart went out to him and I thought, “Man you are putting way too much pressure on yourself.” The thing is failure is part of life, and it is rarely fatal. Remember I said, “rarely.” We pulled up to a red light and it was at the light that I could see the top of the frame. It said “Bomb Disposal Technician.” Yep, in his case failure is fatal, and I stood (okay sat) corrected. But here’s the thing, I’m sure even in his line of work, there have been failures. Oh not when it counts, in that moment, trying to decide which wire to cut, he has to be spot on every time, but I am also sure that moment of pressure is not the first time he ever faced a “bomb.” I am fairly sure that before he faced a real one, he had to do a lot of training disarming fake bombs, in situations where failure was an option. Cut the wrong wire and live to snip another day, much wiser and more ready to face the life and death situations that are no doubt a major part of his life, and that’s the point.

Most of us are not bomb disposal technicians. We face struggles and challenges every day and no one but God gets it right every time. For the majority of us, failure is not an option, sooner or later it’s a guarantee. We need to stop fearing failure, and instead take it for what it is, a learning opportunity. We need to learn to fail forward.

I wish we treated life more like scientists treat their work. Scientists expect to fail. They come up with an idea, a hypothesis, and they begin to do experiments to prove (or maybe disprove their hypothesis. If the experiment succeeds, they were right and they move on. If the experiment fails, and they often do, they look at the variables, try to figure out what went wrong and move on. Notice that, if they succeed they move on and if they fail, they move on, but either way they keep moving toward success.

Failure is not just an option, it’s often a necessity, and unless you’re a bomb disposal technician, it’s rarely fatal, that is unless you quit. Learn from your failures, see what went wrong, try something different and keep going until you succeed.