Posts Tagged ‘submission’

I’ve heard it, I’ve even said it. You want to bless someone with a gift, but they are someone who has much of what the world has to offer. It’s hard to figure out anything they need and they seem to want for nothing, and so you say, “What do you get for someone who has everything?” To be clear, if you try hard enough, you CAN find something for even the most blessed person, but what if that person is Jesus?

I mean not only does He actually have everything, but He made everything and no human being can add to the One who is the personification of perfection. Nonetheless there is something we can give. One thing that is fitting to the One who gave His life for you. It’s the only proper response. We can give Him our lives—Our whole lives. We can live for the One who died for us.

I’ve heard another thing said a million times. We talk about giving our hearts to Jesus, but did you ever contemplate what that means? From time to time, someone will get sick and will need a heart transplant. All heart donors have one thing in common. They’re all dead. You cannot live without your heart. Similarly, to give Jesus your heart is to give Him your life. You belong to Him. Now those of us who love Jesus should have no problem with this way of thinking and yet we try to withhold. In some cases, what we try to withhold is some sin that we do not want to give up. If that’s you, repent. Sin is sin. Jesus died to free us from sin. Give up your enslavement and truly live.

Today though I want to focus on a different kind of withholding. These are the people who desperately desire to give Jesus every good thing in their lives. The thing they hold back is the bad and the ugly. These things bring shame and they can see no reason to give them to a righteous God. If that’s you, you need to change your way of thinking. Renew your mind, if you will. When we give Him our lives, we need to give it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. If we do, Here’s what He does. He takes the best and makes it better and all that other stuff, He redeems. 
The bad, dumb, sinful stuff can become a powerful testimony. The problems we’ve had and the struggles we’ve been through give us mercy and compassion. All these things cannot help but give Him glory.

Romans 8:28 says, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to Him purpose.” That word “all” means “all.” Sure, God works through our gifts and abilities and talents, but He also works through our pain. He is at work in the lessons we learned and even in the sins we’ve repented. He can and will work through anything we give Him, so…

what if we gave Him everything?

It’s not like the old days. In the old days (and yes I know I’ve touched on this before, but bear with me) when I finished a piece of work, if I wanted the world to see it, there was only one possibility. Submit it to a lot of companies and wait to be picked. It rarely happened and it was, frankly, depressing. Those days are gone.

Now there is a third option: withhold your work and benefit no one, submit your work to other companies and possibly still benefit no one, and the third option, utilize the amazing array of tools available out there and put it out yourself. This is the option I have chosen time and time again and it’s great, but it’s also difficult.

covershotcolorbook4finFor example, I just posted two more of my Making Faces books for publishing. The files are being reviewed to make sure everything works and if I have my files correct, they will be available on Amazon, most likely today or tomorrow. Now you might be asking, “What kinds of sales are you having?” The truth is so far my sales have been very small, probably only making up a fraction of my time investment. Why continue to do this kind of work?

Well first of all because the ideas came and ideas are of great value, but only when brought to fruition. Secondly, and relatedly, if it doesn’t exist, no one will buy it, or for that matter be blessed by it. Thirdly, I am building something. Sooner or later, I will find the formula. I will create the thing that gets people’s attention, and when I do, guess what will happen. People will say, that was pretty cool, what else do you have and I will be able to point them to nearly twenty different books and products they might also like. You may not get an immediate return, but the work that we do is an investment.

covershotcolorbook3finReally it all comes down to this, you can sit on your ideas and lament every time someone puts their similar idea out before you (I’ve done that hundreds of times and believe me when I tell you, it stinks every time!) or you can be the one who takes the risk, does the work, and puts it out there for the world to see. I want to be the latter very single time.

Every piece of work you do is an investment. It builds your skills and it adds to the body of work you have available from which to reap a benefit. Plus, it’s usually fun.

One final thought, when it comes to our work, no one can buy what you don’t put out, and no one can benefit from what you keep to yourself—not even you. Put it out there!

owlcontrolI was trying to illustrate the idol of control for today’s presentation at the youth retreat at Pocono Mountain Bible Conference, and I ended up using one of my favorite projects. Look at the finished product and it looks like a somewhat mediocre cartoon painting of an owl. What it really represents is giving up control.

You see, when I make a painting, I try to control as many variables as possible. I sketch, I research, I have reference materials and I take my time and do the best work I possibly can. With this piece, I invited five students up to the canvas and allowed them to each make a mark on the canvas. I then used their marks to make the finished piece. It’s always tough to see the finished piece from their lines. I usually take a few seconds to pray and then I begin to move paint around the surface. From this piece I originally saw a fox, but then as I began to work the paint I began to see owl, which is what I finally did. Given the parameters of the project, and time limitations, I think it was pretty successful and it definitely proved the point I was trying to make.

owlcontrolsketchThe piece illustrates the fact that control is an illusion and that the only thing we truly control is what we do with what comes at us. We do the best we can with what we have and we prepare our skills as best we can to deal with the eventualities of life. Sometimes we have some measure of control and other times we have to play the cards we’re dealt. In all things though we can acknowledge that God is in control, seek Him for wisdom and more forward in faithfulness.

I ended up giving the piece to be given as a prize for some camper competitions and pray it blesses whoever won it.

This may seem off topic and yet as we use out gifts to serve the Lord, there is always the chance for controversy. Let’s face it, there are some things on which people will never agree, at least on this side of the grave. How we conduct ourselves in the midst of controversy is really, really important. I think a little math is in order here…

Submission is less than agreement.

What do I mean? Well, look at it this way. People can be beaten into submission. Given the right level of abuse we can all hit our breaking point and give in. What we can’t be beaten into is agreement. That’s because agreement is from the heart and to get someone to agree involves them having a change of heart. That doesn’t happen through violence. It’s why the crusades didn’t work (neither will the current form of it) and Jesus did.

This is still true. People aren’t beaten into faith or repentance, nor are they, at least for the most part, argued into it. Crusaders didn’t make people Christians, they made them say “uncle.” It’s not the same thing. Likewise people are rarely converted because of our debating skills or our ability to overpower them in a verbal joust. No, people are converted by love. If we’re to be like Jesus, we don’t give someone a beating, we take their beating. We sacrifice and we love.

Forced acceptance is not acceptance. Jesus won the battle for our souls by sacrifice. Not by beating but by taking a beating and not by killing but by dying and as He died He said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

We really don’t… You get that, right? We win by losing. We beat hate with love.

Agreement is greater than submission.

Unless we’re submitting to God, and if we submit to Him everything else will eventually fall into place.

They’re the first two artists listed in Scripture. Many people have never heard of them, but I think they are pretty important and we can learn quite a few things from them. They were the primary people called to do the work of creating the tabernacle and their stories are found in Exodus chapters 31-36.

1. Your talent is a spiritual gift. I tend to use the words gifts and talents pretty interchangeably and one day a friend called me on it. He said that talents and spiritual gifts are two different things. His evidence for this were the many talented people that do not operate in ways that honor God. Exodus 31:2,3 seems to refute this concept. “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.” His skills and his talents seem to come as a result of his filling with the Spirit. I can understand why some might think differently, but ask yourself this question: “Is there anything good that we have received that does not come from God?”

2. We need to submit ourselves and our gifts to God. Exodus 36:1 “So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.” Think about those descriptions of all the things that God had Bezalel and Oholiab make. They are very exact and very precise. God has a clear image of how each item should look and how it should be constructed, not to mention how they should be handled. Did you ever stop to wonder if God has a similar view about the things we create? What would happen if we submitted all of our creating to God at least as it pertains to the things we do in His service and service to the Church. This really should be a no-brainer as we are called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. (Romans 12)

3.We need to submit ourselves to those God has placed in authority over us. Did you notice Bezalel and Oholiab didn’t part ways with Moses over creative differences? No, God gave the plans to Moses, Moses gave them to Bezalel and Oholiab, and Oholiab and Bezalel did what Moses told them to do. Moses was the one in authority. He was the one tasked with carrying out God’s order. Exodus 36:2-3 “2 Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. 3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary.” In the same way, when we as artists are called upon to help the leaders of our churches to help them creatively express a message, we are responsible to follow their lead and give them our best efforts. After all they are the ones who will be held responsible to God and we need to take seriously the responsibility to them. Hebrews 13:17 reminds us: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Our creative abilities are a wonderful gift to us from God. Using them to honor God brings Him glory. In the end that’s what it’s all about.

submissionMy pastor is doing a year long series based on Richard Foster’s A Celebration of Discipline. Each month we look at a different discipline and this week it is Submission. This morning I was considering what it means for a creative person to submit.

First and foremost we must submit to God. In our every day lives to be sure, but especially with our gifts and talents. Submitting our gifts to God is a lot more than tithing off the income we may receive. It means we use the gifts we have received from God to the glory of God. It means we work through the filter of “will this project honor God?” It doesn’t mean that we only do pictures of Jesus or Bible things but it does mean we walk away from projects that will bring Him dishonor no matter how lucrative they may be. It also means when using our gifts to serve in the church, we never say something is good “enough for church” but instead we give God our very best every time.

Submitting to God in many ways, at least for creatives is the easy part. The hardest thing is submission to human authority, but this is also essential. It means we take direction and revision. It means we understand that some things fit and others don’t. It means we alter our tastes and preferences to do what needs to be done and we work to fit the venue. The reason for this is simple. The authority over us was established by God. Ultimately we can’t really say we submit to God if we can’t submit to the authority God has established.

For example, if my pastor asks me to do a project for the service or some other element of our church’s mission. I may have a very clear cut vision of what I see for the project. He may look at it and realize it’s not what he sees or is trying to communicate. His responsibility is to communicate the message and put forth the mission God has given Him. It’s my job to support that message and that mission. If what I have done doesn’t fit I need to go back to the drawing board until it does. It does me no good to get my artistic sensibilities upset. His responsibility is to God which is ultimate, so I must come under his authority. (By the way we haven’t had an issue here, so far we are pretty in sync, but as I begin a new ministry to creatives in the local church, this is something that needs to be established.) We need to give our best work and we must do what is asked of us. We need to submit.

It’s this simple, when it’s your mission, create whatever God honoring thing you want. When your work is in support of someone else’s mission, meet their needs.

How are you doing with submission? Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

whiteflagMy pastor is doing a series based on the classic book A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Each month he preaches on one of the 12 disciplines Foster outlines. For February our discipline is Submission.

There has been some question as to creating a symbolic reminder of the theme for the worship center/sanctuary. This is the idea I had for this important topic. You see for me submission to God and his will is heavily dependent on me surrendering my will to Him. To me me submission and surrender are synonymous, at least as it pertains to God.

When I thought in that way, the symbol became clear. The universal symbol for surrender is a white flag, so why not display white flags in the sanctuary. But let’s take it a step further. As the saying goes, “The biggest obstacle to God’s will being done is my will being done.” If that’s the case and I can’t speak for you, but it is far too often in my life, then this idea of submission is huge and it’s hard. It’s something we need to bring to the Lord. So what if we added something to the white flag. How about a few permanent markers so that people can write what they need to submit to God on the flags. Then we can pray over these things as a congregation. I think submission is very hard to do on our own. We need divine help. Making this a matter of corporate prayer, not to mention accountability is key!

In what areas of your life is submission difficult?

Today in my devotional reading, I found myself in Exodus reading God’s immensely detailed plan for the tabernacle of Moses. I am always struck every single time I read this passage by how detailed it is. There wasn’t a lot of room for creativity on this project. God had a very specific way that He wanted everything done.

Here’s a video from that shows part of the plan.

Creativity is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, not just those of us who are “artistic” but for everyone who has ever faced a problem. In much of our lives when it comes to creativity, the sky’s the limit, but then there are other times. In these times we need to respect God’s boundaries and His plan first and foremost.

This is especially true of God’s Word. Anyone who has read more than one of my posts will know I am all about finding creative ways to present the Gospel to the world around us. I believe God has given us immense flexibility for creativity in this area and that He has given us immense creativity for this very purpose. To find new ways to reach people with the truth that can and will set them free. There is however one area where creativity is neither needed nor allowed and that is with the Word itself. It is the Word of God and God has given it to us just as He wanted it to be. We dare not do anything that changes the meaning of what He said. When we either add to the Word or subtract from it, we remove it’s power because it is no longer God’s Word.

God has a really specific way and a really specific plan. We deviate from the Word at our peril. In these times creativity has to take a back seat, we must surrender our will and our way and follow God’s plan to the letter.

Isn’t that what it means to submit our creativity to God?

Is it really better to ask forgiveness than permission?

Is it really better to ask forgiveness than permission?

There’s an old saying, It’s better (or easier) to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. I have tried this and sometimes it works, however when it comes to the church an a calling to submit to authority not to mention honoring God, I don’t think it’s the way to go. So what should you do instead?

Imagine you have a ministry in mind, you feel it is a leading from God, but you’re pretty sure it will be a tough sell to your church. Sometimes the best thing to do is realize that some of the struggles we think we will have are imaginary. Seth Godin once wrote, “anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.” There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “you have not because you ask not.” Perhaps you just need to bite the bullet and “pop the question.” Find a leader in the church that you think might be open to what you’re thinking and open a dialogue.

Now suppose that doesn’t go well. Is your idea dead? That depends. Sometimes church leaders experience anxiety too. They may love your idea but they aren’t sure how it will fly with the rest of the congregation. Don’t be too tough on them, you had the same concern. The next step is to ask yourself a couple of good (but tough) questions.

1. Is the problem with the idea or is it with me? This one might be tough but it is a good question. Have you shown yourself to be a faithful servant who is capable of leadership? Are you living the kind of moral and ethical life that warrants you being allowed to lead? If not, put your idea on the back burner, do the steps that can be done in preparation, but volunteer to do the things that need to be done at the church show yourself to be faithful. If the problem is your moral or ethical life, don’t even bother going to Matthew 7:1, (you know, “judge not…) that just shows you’re prideful and unrepentant. Do what needs to be done and clean up your act. Maybe they just feel you’re too young and inexperienced. You can kick against this one if you want, but you may end up proving their point so instead, find an older more experienced mentor to work with you. Once you’re convinced you’re not the problem, look at the idea and ask the second question.

2. Does this idea fit where I am trying to put it? Some things are a fit for within the church and some are meant to be done outside. Some fit within the context of certain ministries but not for the whole church, etc. For example: The Passion of the Christ was over all a great movie that showed a lot of great spiritual truth, but show it in children’s church and you are going to be in heaps of trouble. It doesn’t fit. I remember for one of our community outreaches at my former church, I brought in a Christian punk band to finish out the night for the youth (I was the youth leader). Well the kids loved it but the rest of the congregation was more than a little upset. In a youth outreach it would have been great. In a whole community outreach, it didn’t fit.

3. Is it the right time? Sometimes you are great and the idea is great but it’s just not the right time. If that’s the case, do the prep work and get ready when the door opens.

One of the things I have seen quite a few times is it’s much easier to get buy in on something that is already successful. So if you have an idea and you’re not sure how it will work, but you’re pretty sure the Lord is leading, try it. Do it outside the confines of the church on a small scale that you can fund on your own. Build your team, “sell” your vision and start. Build it up, work out the kinks and get it ready. When it’s ready and working, take it to the church and offer them the opportunity to get behind it. If they do you’ve added to the ministry of the church. If it doesn’t fit, ask them to pray for you, continue to serve the church faithfully and keep going with what God has called you to do, perhaps this ministry was designed to be outside the church as a way for you to meet people and bring them into the Body of Christ.

Try it in a way that honors God and trust Him.

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.
Leviticus 13; Hebrews 3; Psalm 39
You can also download your own chart here.

This discipline is probably the most controversial and the least understood. So I want to start off by saying what fasting is not. Fasting is not some sort of Holy hunger strike. It’s not something you do to change God’s mind. It’s not saying, God, I’m not going to eat again until you see fit to do what I want you to do. First that’s called a tantrum and you should have been over that before your went to Kindergarten and second because if you think you’re going to convince (or force) God to do something outside His will by not eating, well, you’re gonna starve!

So what is fasting? Well first of all, we usually line it up with food but it doesn’t have to be. You can fast from anything you will miss from your life. This is self-discipline. It teaches us to turn our backs on the world’s number one most prominent idol… SELF. Jesus said in Luke 9:23; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Fasting helps us to learn to deny ourselves and the discomfort helps us to learn to depend on God.

I have had to fast from art twice in my life. The first time was when I was clearly, over the top and in idolatry to my work, putting it before God. It needed to be out of my life for a time to help me to get back on track with God. When I gave it up, the promise I made to God that day was that I would not pick up a brush again until I was doing it for Him. It was a fast that lasted six months, during those six months I got my call to the ministry and when God released me from that fast AMOKArts was born. The second fast came at a time when I could feel my balance slipping and I knew it was time to slow down and reconnect with the source of my power.

Fasting doesn’t change God, fasting changes you. Examine your life, your priorities and most importantly your relationship with God. Do you need to fast from something? Don’t put it off. Sometimes I think we would be so much better off if we learned to fast, faster.

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.
Leviticus 8; John 4; Psalm 51
You can also download your own chart here.