Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Does It Take to Be Creative?

     As a writer, I am always looking to improve my skill and hone the ability to communicate clearly so that I might encourage others in their walk of faith.  Writing, music, theater, and painting are all art forms that can be used for God's glory, but we must develop the kind of heart that Jesus possessed in order to succeed in our calling.  Michael Card, musician and minstrel of the Lord, gave not only a concert at the Ligonier Conference but also discussed Christ and Creativity.  Listening to his music has always been a rich blessing, but listening to his heart was even more so.
     In his discussion, Michael Card referred to Philippians 2:5-11 as the center of his message:  "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  He related that this text was shared with him and the lessons in it have long helped him in his journey with the Lord.
     Paul wrote these words in the text to encourage the Philippians to remember how the Lord lived among us.  In fact, this was written in hymn form.  The first three stanzas of the hymn relate to Christ's humiliation and servanthood and the last three to His exaltation.  Michael Card told us to write a large "X"
on our paper which stands for the Greek letter "Chi" (also representative of Christ).  He called this "Chi-ism" which someone shared with him at one point in his ministry.   On the top left point of the letter, we were to write the word "humility".  To the right, we were to write the word "servanthood".  In the middle of the "X", we were instructed to write "radical obedience".  On the left bottom point, we were told to write the word "Lordship" and on the right, we were to write "exaltation".  In this word picture, we could see that the chief lessons our Lord displayed to us in His time on earth was that of humility and servanthood as displayed by the words at the top of the letter "X".  Jesus was humble not haughty, proud or arrogant.  If we want to be creative in using our gifts for Christ, we must remember that our goal is not to be puffed up and self important.  We have Hollywood examples that do that very well.  However, as Christians, we must be humble for God is the giver of every good and perfect gift and He is to receive the glory not us.
     Secondly, Jesus demonstrated His servanthood by washing the feet of His disciples.  They protested that someone whom they had come to recognize as their Messiah should do such a thing.  Yet, Jesus came to serve and often reminded His disciples that if we want to be great in the kingdom of God we must first be as servants.   Using our creative gifts to serve others is the goal we must strive for in our walk on this earth.
     Michael Card pointed out that at the center of the "X" were the words "Radical Obedience".  Jesus came to demonstrate an utter dependency on God.  He yielded to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane even though He was about to endure the shame and agony of the cross.  At all times, Jesus obeyed the Father in perfect submission to do what we could never do for ourselves.  He became the perfect sacrifice through His radical obedience and calls us to this same walk.  In the end, the humility, servanthood and radical obedience of Christ resulted in His exaltation and Lordship.
     When we look at using creative gifts in our flesh, our tendency is to want to turn the "X" over and seek exaltation first.  But we need humility in order to really make an impact on our world.  We may never be published, become a famous singer or great star; however, God has a place for all who humbly come to Him.  In order to serve Him, we also have to know who we are and that comes from knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection.  Michael Card concluded his talk by offering three important things for those who seek to use our talents for Christ.
     1)  We are to serve knowing who we are in our Lord.  Christ defines this for us.  Our identity is not in what we do but in who we are.
     2)  We are called first to give ourselves not our ideas or gifts.  You are not your gift.  Jesus came to give Himself not His gifts, or miracles.  We have to remember that we must give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord.
     3)  Our thinking and our minds are to be in radical obedience to God.  He must be first.  He must increase while we decrease.
     As the talk concluded and Michael Card sat down to play his guitar and sing for us his "psalm like" songs, tears came to my eyes.  What beauty in the music he writes and sings was all I could think.  He is a humble artist singing for Christ and His glory.  I could not help but think of  Eric Liddell the Olympian (Chariots of Fire) when he said:  "I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure."  Eric Liddell knew that He was designed to bring glory to God through the talents and gifts which the Lord had given to Him.  May we do the same!  Whether we write a small blog on the internet, write and compose songs, play an instrument, sing in the choir, or ring hand bells, we are to remember to whom we belong and to serve Him first in humility and radical obedience.  Serving others by using our gifts reflects the image of Jesus Christ to a dark and needy world.  We will feel God's pleasure as we do this.  Selah!

How is God using your creative gifts?  I welcome your thoughts today.  They mean a great deal to please feel free to leave them here.

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