God the Artist and Jesus the Muse

tim-arterbury-126157From the beginning of time, God has been in love.

First, He was in love with the most pure, Holy, and right being in the universe for anyone to love–Himself. And this love of God for Himself has always been expressed in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

Eventually this explosion of love between God and His Son overflowed to the point where it had to be shared with others. Out of this ridiculously pure and holy love, God the Father was driven to create. So He said “Let there be light,” and “Let there be space between the waters,” and “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night” and so on. The crowning act of love expressing itself in art by these two was expressed on the sixth day: “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us,” (Genesis 1:26).

So everything that was created was created, not out of utility, but out of love. The Father loved the Son (because the Son was the exact expression of the Father) and that love culminated in the creation of the Earth. You and I and the computers or phones we are reading this on and the chairs we sit in and the views we see from where we sit were all designed as an expression of love for God. God creates out of love for Himself and now out of love for us.

Friends, we are all artists. We were designed to be like God. We were made in His likeness. Not only that, but when we decide to follow Christ, God promises that the very Spirit of God comes to live inside of us.  This Holy Spirit contains the very creativeness of God within Him, so as believers we should be some of the most creative people on the face of the planet.  Not all of us will paint or write or sing, but all of us will create. It’s part of our nature and part of having the Spirit of God within us.

While we are all called to be creative, not all of us are. By looking at the example of God, we see that true creativity is birthed out of love.  Truly creative ideas, the kind that change the world and leave a mark on history, aren’t birthed out of selfishness and the desire to be an artist. They are birthed out of a passionate love that grips the artist so that he or she creates must create. If we want to be an artist, we must fall in love.

The secular world talks frequently of muses. Originally these were daughters of Zeus who as spirits inspired artists and scientists. In today’s world we use the word to refer to people who become the inspiration for our art. These muses give writers and directors and painters ideas and provoke art. But from the beginning of time, God had One muse: His Son.

Our level of creativity as Christians is tied to the level that we are loving and musing on Jesus. The more we love Christ and think on Him, the more creative we will become, because our creativity will be birthed from the same fountain that caused God the Father to create the Earth. Paul wrote that without love we are a noisy gong or clanging symbol. The love of Christ compelling us to create keeps us from that kind of gaudy, temporary, short-lived art that doesn’t really matter. Love for Christ frees us to make art that resonates for eternity.

So work at expanding your skills. Get better at whatever your craft is. But in all your attempts to be a better artist, muse on Christ. Love Him well. The love of Him will fill you inspiration to create from a place of purity and inspiration the world will never be able to replicate.

In all your getting, artist, get a love for Christ.

[Related: Jonathan Edwards on the Relationship of the Trinity]

Getting Comfortable with a God Who is Not Like You

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It’s a common problem.

Someone is reading the Bible or talking about God with another believer and they stumble across a truth about God that they don’t like or agree with. The person could be offended by God’s character or His standard or simply the fact that He is a He. They could be offended by how He acts in Scripture or something they perceive He has done in their lives.

The problem is we as humans begin to build idols around these offenses. These aren’t idols of wood and stone like the pagans used to worship. Instead, these idols are thoughts and opinions about God that fly in the face of what the Scripture teaches. When we encounter a facet of God that we don’t like, our natural, human response is to recreate God into someone who is more like us.  And this–this God who is like us instead of who He really is–is a problem.

Let me give you one example: Romans 11:22 says this, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God…” For one person, the idea of a kind God is difficult. They see God as a hard man, punishing sin and don’t understand His kindness. Their temptation is speak of God as only just and never merciful.  Another person loves God’s kindness and how He is better than we can ever imagine, yet they struggle with God’s severity. How could God be kind and severe, they wonder? So they only teach on God’s kindness, leaving out any mention of His righteous judgment against what is wrong. The problem is both of these very different people begin to build God into their own image instead of letting Scripture shape their understanding of who God is.

‘There’s lots to be said about how to truly understand God as He really is. But we can start here: God is different than us and we must get comfortable with that. He has a different nature than us. He sees things differently than we do. We are not His equal to judge Him.  Nor is He a mix tape where we can pick the parts we like best and place them next to each other and chose that as our God.  We take God as He is, not as we want Him to be.

Once we settle the argument in our hearts that God is different than we’d like Him to be, we can begin to see who He really is. There will still be tremendous questions that remain to be answered, some of which will never be fully understood because He’s God.  This is what we signed up for–to draw close to God.

We just have to get comfortable with a God who is not like us.

[Editor’s Note: If the thought of understanding the nature of God is interesting to you, I wrote a 22 Day series based on A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy.” You can read the and follow along in the book series here.]

 

 

 

What I Am Celebrating Today

11395542494_3ef3475548_oToday is Father’s Day.

So yes, I’m celebrating my Dad.

And, to a lesser extent, I’m celebrating being a dad myself.

And, if you wanted to get spiritual about it, I’m celebrating God’s Fatherhood in my own life, which has had more impact than many people realize.

But today also happens to be my wife’s birthday. While I’m sure that you all have or are exceptional wives, I’m particularly fond of mine.

First, my wife loves Jesus. She has a devotion that points others to Him. It’s very rare that someone has to encourage my wife to seek the Lord. She loves Him for Him and it’s so rare.

Second, my wife is a gift to the body of Christ. She models what a godly woman is: She loves her husband. She raises children. She makes disciples. My wife is beautiful, but in a world caught up in materialism and perceptions, she has continually focused on beautifying her heart in a way that I’ve rarely seen women do (See 1 Peter 3:3-5).

Finally, I’ll say this: I have a particular type of all-in-ness that requires me to be all in or all out with just about everything I do. It’s an intensity that’s hard for others to live with and hard to understand.  But my wife, over a number of years, has continued to stick with me, love me, and encourage me when my intensity causes me to want to quit. I could never do what I do without her.

So for all of the reasons, I’m celebrating my wife today.

Now, it’s time to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day to you dads out there!

Photo Credit: Boxed Chocolates by Helene Titsch

Doing Things Differently

 

8952461739_a80cedf63e_oSociety tells us that “regular church attendance” is every other week.

We say that being part of a church means meeting daily from house to house.

Society tells us worship is the 30 to 60 minutes we step inside a building every week.

We say worship is a life of presenting our bodies 24/7 to God as a living sacrifice.

Society tells us children are a distraction and shouldn’t be a part of the main event.

We say the children should get a chance to participate in the Kingdom just like adults.

Society tells us that the bigger the church, the better the experience.

We say Jesus shows up regardless of how many others do, even for two or three.

Society tells us that we need to become more inclusive and relax our standards so more people will come.

We say the way is narrow and few find it.

Society tells us going to church makes us a better person.

We say following Jesus will cost us our lives.

 

What would cause us to live like this? To give our lives to meeting with other believers, living as a permanent sacrifice every day, all day? What would cause us to have meetings interrupted by children and sometimes barely having anyone around? What would cause us to choose an old path that few seem to like? What would cause us give up our lives instead of improve them?

The answers may differ for others, but for us, the answer is we’ve met Jesus. That encounter with Him has been so profound that we trust Him as our leader, not just someday, but now.  So we trust what He says, even about the ways we should gather and live our lives.

He is worth it.

Always.

Forever.

Photo Credit: Against the Flow by Hans G Bäckman

What Only God Can Do: The Gospel

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A couple of days ago I wrote about serving people in a way that makes it obvious that God is real and active, not just serving people in a way that an atheist or agnostic can serve them.  Some of the examples I gave are praying for the sick to be healed and hearing things that only God can speak to people and sharing them. You’d be forgiven if you thought I was making an argument for the supernatural. I was.

But there is another “tool” we have that the Buddhists, Atheists, or other “ists” don’t have: The Gospel. This retelling of the life of Jesus as the doorway for God drawing near to mankind isn’t just a story we tell people to convince them God is real. It *is* the power of God. Literally telling people the story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return unleashes the power of God in the lives of those you tell it to.

When we do share the Gospel with people, we unleash Christ’s power to transform a person. This story of God offering His leadership in spite of our sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus is the story that will fix every human issue. It will fix poverty, because it fixes the brokenness of the human heart hat causes people to be unproductive, greedy, and wasteful. The Gospel heals the sexual perversion that is killing us because it tells us about a God who loves us despite what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. Literally, the Gospel is a seed of life that transforms a person from the inside out.

Now, people share the Gospel all the time and nothing happens. Sometimes, it’s because the Gospel isn’t shared from a heart of faith and encounter. No one will believe you’re message of transformation if you haven’t tasted the transformation in your own life.  But other times, people remain under the power of the evil one after hearing the message. Jesus told us this would happen (Mark 4). But if we share the Gospel from a heart that has been changed by its message, we will inevitably see it give birth to new disciples.

So you may not be good at praying for the sick. You may not think you hear God well enough to tell people what He’s saying. Both of these things are things you can (and should try to) get better at. But everyone can share the Gospel. Everyone can share what Christ has done in their lives and connect it to what Christ has done for humanity. Every time we do this, it’s an open door to access the power of God to see a broken human life transformed.

Do you want the power of God? Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Share it.

Photo Credit: Romans 1:16 by Jim Whitaker

What Only God Can Do

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Often in pursuit of a more missional, incarnational lifestyle we spend a lot of time serving people. We feed the poor, help where help is needed, and act as family for people who are not yet part of God’s family.  Our hope is that in doing these things, people see the love of Jesus, hear the Gospel, and turn to Christ. This is good and part of God’s plan to draw people to Himself.

Let’s not forget, though, that Buddhists and atheists feed the poor, help where help is needed, and even act as family to those who aren’t part of God’s family. While these are all things God’s word instructs us to do, they are also things humans can do.

Without stopping doing these things, we should also begin to seek to do the things only God can do. We can listen to the Holy Spirit while we are serving people and see what He is saying. Then say it. One word from the Holy Spirit will unlock someone’s heart. If we’re serving someone and find out they are hurting or sick, we should pray for them, right then and there. God can and does heal and healing is a sign that the Kingdom of God has drawn close to people who are far away from God.

So don’t stop being servants or feeding the poor, but in all your doing, make room for God to do the things only God can do. Let’s introduce people to a God who can do more than just what nice humans can do. Let’s show them Christ who can do what only God can do.

Photo Credit: Miracle Growth by ⋯ L I Z ⋯

Inspiration Avenue 2017 06 11

Welcome to Inspiration Avenue!

My conviction is that our generation is over-taught and under-inspired, so every week I cultivate some of the most inspiring content I can find on the internet and bring it to you. I hope you are inspired to live fully submitted to Christ and pursuing everything He purchased for you on the Cross.

Maybe this goes without saying, but I don’t expect you to agree with me about everything I post here. In fact, I expect some of the things I post will rattle your theological cages. My suggestion? Be inspired by people who aren’t perfect. Realize you won’t agree with everything I share here. Eat the chicken, spit out the bones.

So, without further ado, here are three sources of inspiration for the week:

Simple Church JournalMethods and Tools vs. Prayer and Obedience: Roger Thorman writes about his journey into simple, organic house churches on his blog, SimpleChurchJournal. This post hammers at the thought that all of our disciple making methods and strategies are useless outside of a close walk with the Lord. This is so crucial, because often we get so caught up in the methods that a relationship with Christ can get left behind.

Salvation ArmyThe Phenomenonal Growth of the Salvation Army: Lex Loizides is a church historian of the revivalist variety. He spends his time at his blog Church History Review telling the stories of revivals of the past. Currently Lex is telling the story of the Salvation Army. While the whole story is powerful, I was particularly touched by the picture here of William Booth as an old man, completely eclipsed by the men and women he had raised up into ministry from the ranks of the poor and disenfranchised. May God help us all to raise up disciples that touch the nations of the Earth like He did with William and Catherine Booth.

David RavenhillDavid Ravenhill: David Ravenhill is the son of famed preacher and revivalist Leonard Ravenhill. Leonard Ravenhill was known throughout the 70’s and 80’s for calling the church away from being like the world.  I recently came across a quote of David, echoing his father in many ways: “this tidal wave of deception [. . .] seeks to make self the ultimate object of our worship while reducing God to being our ultimate personal trainer. In recent years, the words “your destiny” have been preached, prophesied, and promoted throughout the Body of Christ, to the point where self has become the center and focal point of life rather than Christ and His Kingdom.” Let’s all purpose to serve Jesus and not continue to ask Jesus to serve us.