Category: Reflection

on how busyness is laziness

“I want to appear important. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself and to all who will notice – that I am important. …I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed. …Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It’s filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s action. It’s taking charge.”

Eugene Peterson, from Contemplative Pastor

 

Be A Farmer: How to Experience Transformation

TransformationIf you’ve been a Christian for longer than a week you know that you can’t transform your heart through sheer determination and willpower.

The Bible talks about sin as a condition so deeply ingrained in the heart that it works its way out through the body (Ro. 7:5). Jesus spoke of this as well when he said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He was addressing the external righteousness of the Pharisees, telling them that “every careless word” will reveal the true nature of their heart (Matt 12:34-36).

In other words, what is inside will always come out. If you are full of anger, full of lust, full of bitterness, no force of willpower and determination will keep the heart from being revealed.

There’s two typical ways we go about dealing with this reality: the first is to try harder and do better, give will-power another try. The second route we take is to believe that there is nothing we can do so we must idly wait for change to happen automatically. In the meantime, thank God that you are “objectively” righteous, and soon enough the real righteousness—the change of heart Jesus spoke about so often—will eventually come. These are the two options: will-power or idleness, and both are wrong.

Paul gives us a third option: learn to be a farmer.

He says, “he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (6:8). Richard Foster comments on Paul’s farming metaphor and how it relates to the process of transformation:

“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain.  He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain” (The Spiritual Disciples, 7).

Paul gives us the picture of the farmer to resolve the tension of transformation, and it’s a paradox: there’s physical work you can do that has no power in creating growth, yet is necessary for maturity. Like the flourishing garden of a farmer, transformation takes bodily discipline. When the Christian practices of prayer, study, solitude, silence, service, and many others become a regular part of our diet, we are creating the right conditions to experience something supernatural.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that there is some kind of power inherent in the disciplines, there isn’t.

No seasoned farmer will boast about what grows from his garden, he is well aware its mystery, and thankful to be invited into the process. The disciplines simply create “the right conditions”—they create the environment for God to do his work. They are his chosen means of grace for transformation—for taking what we believe in our heads, and webbing it deeply into our hearts.

Transformation happens not through willpower nor idleness but by learning the skills of the farmer who takes the time, the patience, and the effort to cultivate, plant, and water, creating the conditions for God do his mysterious work. It is a slow, long, but life-giving process.

 

 

 

Learning to Lament in the Midst of Tragedy

Lament

Christians need to learn to lament. We live in a culture that prefers to hide sadness, and too often, Christians have been found doing the same.

Every day, we encounter people who are suffering because of loss, instability, pain or regret and they lament because of it. And every day, Christians offer intellectual answers to the emotional turmoil that so many victims of tragedy experience, bypassing any need for lament.

We look up our favourite suffering-will-make-me-a-better-person verse and stamp them on the victims of tragic turmoil.  I hear it said all the time that since “Jesus will use your suffering for good to make you a better person,” you shouldn’t be sad.

Though the statement about Jesus is true, the conclusion about emotional repression is absolutely false.

Here’s a question that might be worth asking: How should Christians  respond to tragedies that involve violence, hate, suffering and death without disqualifying the reality and immensity of their grief? How can our faith in Jesus as Lord ultimately be a source of joy while being honest about the dysfunction of suffering and death? How can we point to something worth hoping for without giving pat answers about “sanctification” and how suffering will “make you a better person”?

It’s easy to miss, but there’s something mistakenly unhealthy about this common scenario because it fails to take into account the complexity of the biblical narrative and how Jesus himself responds to tragedy.

On the one hand, the Bible is full of claims that God redeems suffering. He reveals himself as the Redeemer of his people and the whole of creation. Indeed, the entire biblical narrative is largely about the how God promises to redeem a creation inked with suffering, violence, and brokenness.

Despite this, nowhere in the Bible do we get the idea that a victim of tragedy should silence their cry, hide away their tears and pretend that it’s all okay.

Nowhere in the Bible is the suppression of honest feelings equated to holiness.  Instead, an entire book in the Bible is dedicated to the very necessary human response to Lament.

Learning to lament is part of what it means to be human. And we see this throughout the Bible:

The great psalmist David expressed every emotion in his psalms and in the midst of tragedy and grief invited his people to lament with him (2 Samuel 1). Not only did he sing this lament but taught his people to learn and live in it, despite God’s faithfulness to redeem the situation.  When Mary and Martha lose their brother, they lament. Mary laments with particular gusto, expressing her wishes that Jesus should have been there sooner. Was she wrong? 

The narrative of suffering for many Christians doesn’t fit with the next part of the story. For many, Jesus should have just told Mary and Martha to stop being sad.

Instead, Jesus does what nobody could have guessed: he weeps. The God who makes himself into a man reveals how deeply he has tied himself to the creation he loves with real, physical, tears. This is the character of God; one who responds to tragedy not with a simple answer, but with his humanity.

The Gospel is not about a God who takes all the pain away with the click of a button, but one who enters in with great compassion and empathy, making a way possible for a redeemed and resurrected world.

In our pain, in our suffering, when we experience violence, abuse and exploitation, the God of the Bible does not stand afar, but enters into the suffering, offering his tears. Only when we see a tearful God, could we begin to hope for a redeemed future.

This is part of what it takes to become a mature human being: learning to grieve with those who grieve, to cry with those who cry, and to mourn with those who mourn. When we learn to lament with one another, we are learning to take up our cross as a communal act, and only then will we be ready to experience the miracle and mystery of the resurrection.

 

The One Thing You Need to Stop Doing with the Bible

Bible

It’s become increasingly clear in our day that people would much rather use the Bible  than be used by the Bible.

The Bible has become a book for anyone to dissect and use for their own purposes. Though it has been used to inspire good in the world, it has also been falsely used as a means to justify violence, racism, slavery, hatred, and murder.

Even today—through the impersonal means of social media—we would much rather use the Bible to argue with those we believe are wrong, rather than let it have its impact to redirect our misguided lives. Some of the worst and most poisonous uses of the Bible are when Christians use it as a weapon to fight with other Christians. One version of the Bible against another.

Indeed, this unfruitful way of using the Bible does little more than increase the wedge of division in the church, providing ample reason for unbelievers to remain unbelievers—something Jesus warned us about. Rather than be transformed by our interaction with the Bible (because it points us to the One who can transform), we use the Bible to assert our opinions and forward our agenda.

There’s this important doctrine that developed in the history of the Church regarding the special authority of the Bible. How that authority is understood and applied has varied, but its essence has always referred to these two things:

1) authority to reveal the character of God and his intention for his creation and

2) authority to bring the Scripture-reading community (i.e. the Church) into participation with God in his plan to redeem the world.

The Bible’s Authority has to do with God’s sovereign plan for the world and his desire to use a broken humanity for that plan. 

This means that the “authority of Scripture” is most truly taken seriously by the Church, and by Christians, when they get to work in the world on behalf of the Gospel news that Jesus has defeated that powers of sin and death and has begun the work of New Creation. The Authority of Scripture has to do with God’s invitation for humans to participate with him in his work to bring healing and wholeness and shalom to his world that he has neither forgotten nor abandoned.

That means that the authority of the Bible has a lot less to do with our opinions about facts, and much more to do with the lives we live. 

If you think you have a high view of the Bible’s authority because you argue with people who don’t agree with you, you’re missing out on the meaning of the Bible’s authority. If you find yourself repeatedly promoting your  arbitration of what is true and false theology on social media, it is likely that you don’t have a high view of the Bible, you have a high view of yourself.

The Bible’s authority refers to a way of life, and it wasn’t enough for God to give us a list of traits or rules to reveal this way of life. He chose instead to model it himself in the person of Jesus, revealing and making possible this way of life that the Bible’s authority points us to.

When we use the bible as a sword to slay others rather than an invitation into the life modelled by Jesus we grossly misuse the Bible and subvert its authority. You want to know if you have a high view of the Bible’s authority? Take a look at what you desire: do you increasingly desire Jesus and the way of life he embodied or are you more interested in proving a point? How do you remain in a posture that avoids using the Bible, and begins to be used by the Bible?

Pray: Learning to be Present to Jesus

pray
For you created my inmost being;
     you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
     your works are wonderful,
     I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
     when I was made in the secret place
     when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
     all the days ordained for me were written in your book
     before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

One of the hardest parts of prayer is the act of being present to Jesus while doing it. Yes, Jesus is always present when we pray, but we’re great at multitasking, especially when praying. I could be praying and simultaneously thinking about the next book to read, idea to ponder, or email draft that needs to go out. (I confess, I have an unnatural desire to plan ahead in such a way that takes me from “being in the moment”).

Instead of simply being, I want to be doing.

We all have an intrinsic desire to produce, to be useful and effective, to have satisfaction from our work, and that’s not a bad thing (in fact, I’m totally for productivity, and I wrote a post about a tool to help you with that here). But most of our work is driven by a sense of self-importance, wondering “if I don’t send out that email and make that work schedule, who will?” It may be true, but why is it that in the midst of those activities, we rarely have the urge to sit still and be quiet before Jesus?

We live scattered lives, driven by the stress we complain about and go to bed thinking, “I should pray more.”

One of the things that has helped me with feeling scattered is the practice of silence. Not just being quiet, but quieting your mind, stopping yourself from thinking about what needs to get done, and reflecting on a word or phrase, like “Jesus” or “God is love” or “you are good.” I’ve been going through a book by Peter Scazzero called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Day by Day, which contain two short devotionals for every day. Each devotional begins and ends with two minutes of silence, stillness and centering before God, with a short reflection on scripture in between. I rarely expect this kind of thing to make an impact on my days, but I’ve seen it happen. I feel lighter, more aware of God’s continual presence, with a new courage to face who I really am and oppose being driven by the dictates of others.

The practice of silence is a like a workout for your brain. Returning to the gym after missing a few days will feel painful on your body. Likewise, when I miss a day or two of silence and reflection, I notice the impact when I pick it up again. With practice I’ve grown stronger in my ability to silence my mind and when I am consistently being present to Jesus in those small moments, it changes the rest of the day and every ounce of self-importance struggle to defend my dignity slowly dissipate into a weightless shadow. As I learn to be present to Jesus, I, like the psalmist, begin to know the true me.

Discipleship is More than You Know

Discipleship

Over the last half-decade of church work I have wrestled with what it’s supposed to look like for churches to practice discipleship.

The models of church that I’ve seen most are built on the idea that discipleship means accepting ideas about God.  The more “truth” you know about God, the greater disciple you are. But discipleship is not about having information, because if it is, the disciples weren’t really disciples after all. Let’s just say they didn’t have their systematic theology in order. For the disciples, and for us, discipleship is more than you know.

At the180 we are looking at how there are moments in life that we need the courage to unlearn the bad habits we’ve picked up on our journey. Jesus often calls his disciples and listeners to unlearn something—which is hard, scary, and takes courage.  The sermon that kicked off our series on unlearning reminded me of how we tend to reduce the Great Commission to “coming to church to be a christian”, instead of “going out to make disciples.” The church at large has come to the conclusion that disciple-making means giving people a list of things to believe and then making them do the same.

But Christian discipleship is much more than some heady acceptance of ideas about God.  Jesus didn’t commission his disciples to make us into great consumers of ideas or “absolute truths.” This discipleship thing has to do with our hearts, heads and hands.

Here’s something: discipleship is a word Christians use but it’s not something only Christians do. Discipleship happens to every human. Every person is being discipled all the time—something is drawing us into its way of life, teaching us a way of living that we believe will bring satisfaction. Another word for disciple is learner, but not the kind of learner that sits in a classroom to receive ideas, the kind of learner that follows a person in the way that he/she handles life, relationships, people, money, everything. Ideas play a small part.  Apprenticeship might capture what discipleship entails—being with someone long enough to become a lot like him or her. And it always happens in communal spaces, like with friends around a dinner table or a sports games.

“It’s about life!” my professor Rikk Watts is know for saying. Discipleship is about life in the most comprehensive sense. It’s about being with Jesus in order to do what he does. It’s asking the question (thank you Dallas Willard) “what would Jesus do if he was me?”

One of the things we talk about at the180 is how the church is made up of those who are “called out of the world to go back into the world.” If discipleship is more than cranial consumption, if disciples is more than you know, and discipleship has to do with the way we live, then the church needs to be more than a dispenser of ideas. The church learns to be “the called out ones” in a sacred space to rehearse the life of the kingdom through the practices of singing, eating, and sharing together around a common Lord. And it’s in this space that we learn to be disciples together–learning to live the Jesus-life–so that we can go out and make disciples.

 

 

Can We Know God’s Will for our Lives? Part 2

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In my last post, I suggested that a Christian should be able to answer the questions, what is God saying to me and how do I know that he’s saying it?

Unfortunately, some Christians feel they need to discern God’s will about what they eat for dinner. What we eat for dinner is not something that God is really concerned with, provided we eat with gratitude. An important reality, often overlooked in our anxious searches for God’s will, is that many life decisions are left for us to make freely. Some Christians walk with an enormous weight of uncertainty, worrying about every jot and tittle of their lives, when God has allowed a certain degree of freedom.

Through Scripture, we know enough about God to make most decisions. Some questions have been answered with a “no” and others with a “yes,” while many other questions are left to up to us. Imagine God gave you a watch. Would you honour him more by asking him for the time or by looking at the watch? I know that I ought to practice kindness and patience towards my wife, and I know that I ought not hate or judge my brother. However, what I eat for dinner is my choice.

Still, some decisions require more than logical reasoning and biblical knowledge. Some decisions we face beckon us to slow down and listen carefully to God’s direction. Maybe it’s prioritizing tasks for the week in order to make decisions well, or considering a career or relational opportunity that might change the direction of one’s life completely. There are certain matters we know the answer to, other matters in which we are free to choose for ourselves, and still other matters that require thoughtful and prayerful discernment.

Let me illustrate:

Pretend a coach of a soccer team has drafted you into his team. When it’s game time, it would be silly to ask about the rules of another sport, or whether or not you should try to work as a team with the other players. The first question is irrelevant and the second is obvious.

Likewise, to fret about God’s will for my dinner or whether or not I should be “kind” to my neighbour misses the point of discernment. In the first instance, we’re asking a question that has nothing to do with the game or even the sport, and in the second instance we’re ignoring the rules of the game we’ve already been given. There are also moments in the game when passing the ball to player A or player B will be your choice, and to ask the coach for his instruction in that moment would be detrimental to the game.

I know the rules, I know the point of the game, I know that there will be moments where I must depend on my reflexes and choose accordingly. In this way, we can understand “God’s will for my life” as referring to my position on the field and how I can best use my strengths to win the game according to the strategy.

In order for me to play well I will ultimately need to know myself: how am I built to play this game well? This is the task of discernment.

Seeking God’s will for my life does not dismiss everything he’s already revealed in Scripture, but seeks to understand my fit in it. What are my “gifts” in the context of the team and the strategy already given?

The particular will of God we seek is in the context of our participation in the life of the church.

One of the early challenges the church had to wrestle through was individual gifting, or vocation. Every individual equally contributed to the life of the whole, just like every part of a body contributes to the life of the body. And that body, being the church, exists for the common good of society. The question is: what is Jesus saying to me personally (now comes in the individual, the parts that make up the whole), in the context of our calling to be the church in our world.

We must learn to listen to the voice of Jesus for ourselves, but not apart from our team. So how will we do it?

Here are five voices we must be listening to in the dance of discernment:

1) We listen to Scripture, which speaks not only to our heads, but to our hearts as we contemplate its stories and teachings. Scripture has an authoritative power, not because it has special secrets about how old the earth is, but because it has a special way of igniting faith, hope, and love in us. In an overarching sense, Scripture tells us of the gospel news of God’s rescue mission to bring the world to its intended harmony. It tells us the rules of the game and the strategy for winning. But to know how we fit in the game we need to learn to read the Bible personally: how is a passage, a verse, a story speaking to you, in this moment?  When we take the time to slow down, listen, and contemplate God’s word, it has a special power to speak to us in a personal way, because the Bible always brings us to the person of Jesus who is the Word of God in the flesh. Sometimes this means sticking with one word, one verse, one parable or psalm or story that sticks out to you, and letting it resonate with you until your heart catches guides your head. Perhaps you’ll receive a picture, an invitation, a sense of gratitude, or a memory. This isn’t an easy discipline, but a very rewarding one.

2) We listen to people in our lives who can help us see our blind spots. Who are we reading the Bible with? Who are we worshiping with on Sundays? Who knows you enough and loves you enough to be honest with you about who you really are? But beware of people telling you what God is telling you: they may be able to guide, to advise, and even to offer an opinion, but only you can know the inner witness of the Spirit.

3) We listen to the friendships we find in the church, the local and the historical, the present and the past. Scripture has a personal and concrete word for us, yet keeping ancient friends from our Christian heritage will help us keep from making Scripture fit our own designs. Let the creeds of the church be the boundary markers of the soccer field, telling you if you’re in, or if you’re out. The creeds can also help you make sense of where you are on the pitch, providing you with an orientation that helps you know if you should pass or shoot. Our forefathers were at a different level in their prayer lives. Find an old prayer book to help you discover  new ways to foster intimacy with God (Augustine’s Confessions is one of my favourites).

4) We listen to our circumstances: how has God provided the context you are now in? Pay attention to the circumstances of your life. How are you to be faithful in your current circumstances? What do you like or dislike about your circumstances that you would like to change or not change? These questions force us to be honest about what is possible and what isn’t. But don’t eliminate the apparently impossible option, because God may indeed be calling you to something that in this moment, feels impossible. This listening is merely a matter of seeing clearly how God has been at work in your circumstances. Oppositions and obstacles need to be considered, but don’t be quick to take them as signs that this isn’t what God wants: God may very well be asking you to walk through a closed door.

5) We listen to our emotions, which help us identify what we love and what we dislike.   We tend to be suspicious of emotions, for fear of emotionalism, and end up putting too much weight on our rational abilities. However, Descartes was wrong when he proposed that humans are merely thinking beings. We are thinking, loving, and acting beings, far more complex that what Descartes suggested. Emotions are at the heart (no pun intended) of what it means to be human and in order to properly discern the voice of Christ, we need to develop the capacity to articulate what is happening to us emotionally.

All of these activities happen in the context of a life devoted to prayer. Prayer is the glue that helps us make sense of each sphere of our lives. Prayer is our response to God’s initiation; in prayer, we are always responding to God’s YES to us in Christ. Prayer is constant dialogue with the coach, cheering and guiding us on as we play the game.

Seeking the will of God is not as simple as a question and answer session. Discernment is a process, it is a game, or a dance or like being part of an orchestra. We attentively listen and watch the conductor move his baton towards a harmonious composition. As we learn to play in sync with the voice of the coach, God’s team defeats opponents not by beating them but by winning them over to a new way of playing.

Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences on discernment and seeking God’s will below.

Learning to Trust in the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without the delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability–and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually–let them grow, let them shape themselves, with undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Instagram, Hashtags, and the Things We Communicate

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There’s a search feature on Instagram which tells me that there are more than 40 million pictures tagged with the word “blessed.” They boast about meeting celebrities, getting a new tattoo, and finishing a morning workout with a protein shake. In our world, to be “blessed” is now equal to being famed, fortuned and favoured. But is this really accurate?

In my first year of college I noticed that students had an incredible capacity to adjust their lingo in order to fit in to their crowds of choice. But let’s be real: this isn’t something that only happens on college campuses. In the Christian subculture, we “share testimonies,” feel “convicted,” pray for a “hedge of protection” and “seek God’s glory.” Not that these are wrong things, or bad words — actually, most are derived from biblical principles – but one of these phrases has been so badly misused by Christians that it has led media icons, rappers, and movie stars to co-opt it to communicate something totally un-Christian; I’m thinking of the term, “blessed.”

Now that life on social media is such a predominant part of Western culture, we should perhaps be reminded of the implications of hashtags and rethink whether tagging a picture of front row seats at a Taylor Swift concert with #blessed is a good idea.

Here are four questions to consider before using the term “blessed”:

1) What are you trying to communicate?

Many assume that to be “blessed” has one very obvious meaning: to be fortunate or favoured. But if we’re honest, our use of #blessed has much less to do with God than it has to do with us. We use #blessed to highlight the most trivial events of our lives: made it to class on time, found a new outfit on the sales rack, on a vacation my parents paid for.  I’m not saying God can’t be at work in those situations. But by trivializing the idea of being blessed, we’ve allowed an important word to be co-opted and be detached from its true Christian value. Biblical blessing has much more to do with Jesus, his way and his message than it does with our daily pleasantries.

2) Why are you trying to communicate it?

My opinion on technology and social media is that, like all created things, they are good. In fact, their existence attests to the ingenuity and innovation that reflects God’s creative image on earth — man is called to join God to create ways that brings flourishing. Your media feed can be used for practicing gratitude and even experiencing a truly human connection (don’t tell me the slideshow of your grandma shared by family members didn’t make you shed a tear!). On the other hand, it can easily be used as an opportunity to brag about your life. Let’s be honest, telling the world how awesome you are through social media and adding #blessed doesn’t automatically suggest that you are thanking a higher power. Who’s getting credit here, God or you?

3) Gospel consistency: Does it line up with what Jesus said?

If you’re hashtagging #blessed whenever your life is going great, you’re saying something about God: you are saying that he’s only working when things go well. But, isn’t he at work in your life even when things are going terribly? Isn’t he at work even when you’re stuck in traffic or doing dishes?  People never Instagram sadness or trauma, or the mundane—but according to the Christian faith, God is at work blessing you right in the middle of it. According to Jesus, it’s the meek, the mourners and the merciful who are blessed, not the ones who got a free latté upgrade at Starbucks. The meek, the mourners and the merciful (and all the other beatitudes you may remember from Matthew 5), are blessed because of the person of Jesus as the king who is making all wrongs right.

4) Is my life being changed?

There’s an interesting use of the word “blessed” that you can find it in the book of Acts, in one of the first Christians sermons ever preached. Peter, we can say, used the term #blessed, but not like any of us do. In his sermon, Peter preached that Jesus was sent by God as a blessing that would cause us to turn from evil. The blessing that is in Christ is not a “my life got easier” blessing. It’s more of a “my life is being transformed” blessing: I’m not as greedy and selfish as I once was; I’m more giving and selfless; my world doesn’t revolve around me. Why? Because of Jesus. I am no longer defined by my possessions and circumstances because Jesus defines me by his love and leads me by his Spirit. I may not be perfect, but I don’t need to make up for my imperfection by boasting about abundance or fortune.

God’s love casts out the fear of being unworthy, so we don’t have to front. So the next time you hashtag your photos, put wisdom to work and interrogate yourself: what are you going to communicate, what are your motives, is it consistent with the Gospel, and are you being transformed by the ultimate blessing who is Jesus? Perhaps a better way to hashtag is not with #blessed, but with #thankful.

Thoughts on Art, Salvation and Being Human

creative

The question of vocation has loomed over my head and heart for many years. I’ve heard that most people don’t discover their true vocation until their mid 30s, likely because they’ve reached a certain degree of self-awareness. I’m in my late 20s and fighting to discover where my heart is. I’ve heard it said that God calls us to things we love, and makes us love the thing he calls us to. Joy is a big part of the process. Someone asked me recently: when did you last experience joy? Sadly, I couldn’t remember. As I thought about it, I realized that one thing that gives me great joy is helping others discover their creative potential, whatever that may be.

A few months ago I taught a two-part series on salvation. The first part was more of a doctrinal survey, and the second part asked the question: what does salvation have to do with culture? What are we saved for? With help from Andy Crouch, I discovered that salvation has a lot to do with restoring our human, creative calling. Man’s ability to create was not lost at the Fall, but his motive for making was marred. After the Fall, Mankind explored his creative powers for his own glory—for violence, oppression, idolatry. Christ, the true Culture Maker and Redeemer, transformed a cultural symbol of violence and evil—the cross—into a symbol of victory, power, forgiveness and redemption.  In our being reconciled to God, we are being restored to our original human calling as co-creators with Christ in this great drama of redemption.

I am thrilled to help others find their creative gifts, move past the insecurities that inhibit them, and watch them flourish as they contribute to what God is doing.  Let’s move past the typical stereotypes of who an artist is and what art is.  If you’re a human, you are made in God’s image, and you were made to create–you are an artist. Cultivate those creative impulses and put them out into the world in a way that glorifies God—and by that I mean, in way that reflects his plan for a New Heavens and New Earth—one in which suffering, oppression and injustice are wiped away.