CONFESSION #31: I can't believe I wrote for 31 days.
We did it! A month ago, I never thought that I would have made it through writing for 31 days for this series, but it happened. I think a key reason is due to the fact that God really put a desire to write this series into my heart. I've learned a lot. I hope you've learned a lot, or you've at least starting thinking more about creativity.
On today, the last day of the series, I just wanted to post some thoughts about God's wisdom and understanding. I think that this topic is HUGE when it comes to navigating creative content and even navigating being a creative Christian. In all things, the key is rely on God and that goes for daily life and even our creativity.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways, acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
That's where I want to leave you on the end of this 31 day series. Trust in God, lean on his understanding when it comes to your creativity, being an artist, and creating content to his glory, and he will make your paths straight.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I'm going to take a much needed blogging break, but look forward to some more content soon!
This is the last post in a 31 day series called Confessions of a Creative Christian.
Content that Edifies
CONFESSION #30: Sometimes I forget to think about how my creative content might affect others.
Image this, you're watching a movie or reading a book when all of the sudden a sinking feeling sits in and you start to question, "Why am I watching or reading this?" This happens more so when I consume creative work rather than when I create, but I'm sure you can relate with the feeling. There are times when I start reading a book or watching a movie and then it just doesn't sit right with me for a bunch of reasons.
For me, this has happened more so with the fiction books that I read. A friend might recommend a book, I start reading it, and it portrays an idolatrous romantic relationship. I read it for a little bit, but the more I read, the more uncomfortable I feel. And so I stop reading it. Or sometimes I'll read a book and it delights in the things that God does not delight in, and so I stop reading it, because my conscience does not feel right about it.
I never want my audiences regardless of the artistic medium to feel that way while engaging my creative work. EVER. I would like my audiences to engage my work critically and be forced to think about the messages my art might invoke, but I don't want them to feel uncomfortable to the point that my creative work becomes a stumbling block.
In thinking through this idea, I've been focusing a lot on Romans 14:
"Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us purse what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."
Whew! That was a long passage for this little blog, but it's so crucial. In context, Paul wrote this to the Romans in response to religious laws about food. He encourages them that they are free in Christ to eat any food, since Christ makes it clean. However, he encourages them to abstain from eating food if it might make a brother stumble. However, this passage this passage applies to more than food.
Starting in verse seventeen, Paul talks about the heart of why we shouldn't put a stumbling block in the way of a brother or sister. The heart is that the kingdom of God is about "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." That's the focus and the heart. But ultimately in verse 18, "Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men." If the heart behind a person's creative work is serving Christ, then their work is acceptable to God. This even goes back to what we talked about yesterday with creating work to the glory of God.
This part of the passage closes with, "So let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." This applies to our creative work.
Our Content Should:
1. Be to the glory of God.
2. Serve Christ.
3. Promote peace and be for the mutual upbringing and edification of others.
Numbers one and two are the main goals when it comes to creating content, and we focused on them in yesterday's post but another question you could be asking is, "Does my creative content edify the people that engage it?"
Edify by definition means to instruct or improve especially in moral and religious knowledge.
Does your creative content do that? If I'm honest, my content falls short of the mark. The content I consume even falls short of the mark at times. But this is another way to gauge whether our content is bringing glory to God.
I encourage you, as you work on your next creative work, think through how the content you are creating will edify others. By seeking to edify others, you're ultimately serving Christ through your work and that's to the glory of God.
Creative Content For the Glory of God
CONFESSION #29: I often believe the lie that if my creative work isn't overtly Christian in its themes, then it's not for the glory of God.
Do Christians have to make their creative work overtly Christian? That's a question I get all of the time. It's a question that I tend to ask myself all of the time. And the answer is no. A Christian is called to do everything for the glory of God, but they are not called to make their work overtly Christian in themes. In fact, I think that works that are overtly Christian in themes struggle at being effective or even truthful about the realities of life under the sun, but that's a subject for another day.
Essentially, as a Christian your focus when it comes to what you're creating content wise should be ultimately to the glory of God.
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him."
"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31
That's the heart, but what does this look like practically? Well, if you're making a work of art that brings glory to God, you're not going to glorify illegal drug usage, drunkenness, pre-marital sex, or other sins. You might potentially use one of these things as a way of showing a person's sin or character, but glorifying God means that these things can't be glorified because God finds them unrighteous. However, if you use any of these things to convey a greater theme of redemption or even to show that they shouldn't be glorified, that's a different story.
"Is my work for the glory of God, or is my work for the glory of fleeting earthly pleasures?" This is the essential question that you should ask when it comes to creative content.
In my opinion, sex is the main thing that Christians should exert extreme wisdom, discretion, and modesty when using in creative content. Why do I think so? Sexual immorality usually leads to the greatest temptation and destruction. Our culture's view of sex is counter to God's view of sex, and sexual immorality is rampant and explicit in the content of our culture's creative works. Therefore, as believers we should use extreme caution, wisdom, and discernment when it comes to sex in creative works or even the works that we consume.
Some believers might be reading this wondering, "But how does someone do that practically, because I know believers that desire to write novels or make movies that show how sexual immorality leads to destruction or even how God used a young girl getting pregnant to lead her to following Christ. How does one touch about the topic of sex but in a way that brings glory to God?"
I think that there is a way to do so that shows discretion and modesty when it comes to the subject. Obviously, this means that a sexually explicit scene isn't modest or discreet, but as creative people, there are ways to convey something without being explicit.
These are just some thoughts about bringing glory to God in the content we create. These thoughts are by no means exhaustive. Bringing glory to God in content is a tricky line. As artists, we desire for our work to be genuine, honest, and to strike a chord with our audiences. We should also want our work to depict life under the sun in a fallen and broken world, but we can still bring glory to God in our content even if it doesn't convey overtly Christian themes.
What are your thoughts? What helps you bring glory to God in the content that you create? Or even how do you view content in your creative work or the creative work of others?
Who is King? God or Creative Content?
CONFESSION #28: When it comes to the struggle of navigating creative content, I often need to be reminded that ultimately God is King.
Just like God is the King over our lives, He's also King over the art that we create and the art that we consume.
Whether we create a film, a painting, or a story, we create a work in which God is fundamentally King, even if the artist doesn't intend it. And God uses our work and the work of others for his purposes.
When it comes to this truth, I automatically think of horror films. If I'm honest, I hate horror films. I just don't find them enjoyable, and they freak me out. I know a lot of Christians who are against horror films due to their content (supernatural creatures, demons, ghosts, psycho-killers, you name it). However, I also know a few people that have become Christians after watching some disturbing horror films. God is King over content.
I also think of the content of the Bible. The Bible is a pretty graphic and violent work. The English translation of the Bible is rather tame in comparison to the original Hebrew. There are portions of the Bible, like Ezekiel 17, that are rather explicitly graphic in the original Hebrew. Not to mention, The Bible contains stories that include brutal murders, incest, rape, adultery and a lot of other "iffy" content.
My point in looking at this isn't to glorify explicit or controversial content but to create an open discussion. The Bible is not a rated G or even a PG book. It is honest and truthful in its depictions of life in a sinful and fallen world. Life is not a Disney movie. It is often dark, messy, controversial, and even explicit.
As Christians, we are surrounded by a world that is far from being rated G for general audiences. I mean, our daily news is even graphic at times.
We live in a fallen and broken world. The art that we consume and the art that we make will reflect that. However, it's how we go about showing a fallen and broken world that matters. There's a way to touch upon tough subjects while also avoiding creating stumbling blocks (2 Corinthians 6:3, Galatians 5:13).
I plan on talking more about this tomorrow: how to tackle tough subjects while honoring God, having a clear conscience, and trying to love others by not being a stumbling block. However, no matter the content, God is ultimately King, and He will use it for His own designs.
The greatest way I've seen this in my own life was when I became a Christian watching Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader three years ago. God used a film to speak to my heart. He could have used anything, but He used a film. For me, it was the ultimate display of God using art for His purposes.
So the next time you create a work of art, specifically if it isn't overtly Christian, think about this idea: how might God use my art for His own glory? And think through how your creativity might show that God is King over your content.
Navigating Creative Content
CONFESSION #27: When it comes to being a creative Christian, the hardest area for me to navigate is content.
As an artist, my desire is be genuine and truthful in the way that I depict life while also honoring God with my creative work. This same thought goes into how I "consume" art. How should I think about content in regards to what I create and what I view?
I am by no means an expert or perfect in this area of thought, but over the next few days, content is a topic that I want to explore and think through biblically.
So look forward to some posts on content over the next few days.
Entering God's Rest
CONFESSION #26: I often forget that at the end of a Tough Mudder life, there's the promise of an eternal rest.
This weekend I went away to a conference, and during one of the talks, life was compared to a Tough Mudder. If you don't know what a Tough Mudder is, go here. It's pretty much a hardcore obstacle course. Life feels like a Tough Mudder at times, a succession of obstacles or difficult seasons, but in order to endure these obstacles, there needs to be times of rest.
(Side note: you also have to prepare physically and mentally for a Tough Mudder, which could be a discussion for a future post.)
As I thought through the metaphor of life being a Tough Mudder, I felt mentally exhausted. Races are exhausting, but what pushes a person through the race is the feeling when you've reached the end.
For those that put their faith in Jesus, there is the promise of entering God's eternal rest at the end of life. This idea is mentioned in Hebrews 4.
There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
In the context of this passage, God promised his people a Sabbath rest, an eternal rest. When they disobeyed him though, they were no longer allowed to enter this rest. When we put our faith in Christ and obey him, we are allowed to enter that rest. It's a promise at the end of a faithful life.
I'm meditating on Hebrews 4 today, and the promise of an eternal rest after enduring the race of life. Will you meditate on this with me?
CONFESSION #25: I LOVE storybook Bibles!!!!! Maybe a little too much...
I confess. I love storybook Bibles! I read chapters in them as devotionals, and sometimes I just open them to look at the pictures. I find them inspiring, like the actual Bible, and they're beautiful. The two storybook Bibles above have beautiful illustrations that bring Bible stories to life for children and for adults.
Honestly, I find storybook Bibles to be incredibly creative, especially the illustrations.
In particular, The Jesus Storybook Bible (the one of the right), shows how every story in the Bible ultimately points to Jesus.
On this book review/recommendation Saturday, I highly recommend that you get yourself a Storybook Bible. Who knows? The creative illustrations may inspire you to illustrate other stories from the Bible. As a visual persons, I'm always excited about illustrations of biblical stories!
Running Low On Creativity
CONFESSION #24: Even thought I don't like to admit it, even I run out of creative ideas and find myself in a creative slump.
Admit it. We all experience those moments when we run out of ideas and creativity. After twenty four days of this 31 day series, I'm hitting that wall myself. And when people run low on creativity there are only a few things to do.
1. Stubbornly Try to Push Through
2. Give Up Altogether
3. Take a Break and Come Back Later
Okay, maybe there are a few other things that people can do, but these seem to be pretty common ones... particularly for me. Right now, I'm at stage three.
It doesn't mean that I'm giving up on this series. By no means! I'm loving every minute of this series. But as I prepare to go away for a conference this weekend, I'm realizing that my creative juices need a bit of a rest. In fact, I feel like I've exhausted my creative juices. That's a good thing! But it also means that I need to take a step back and come back later.
How often does that happen in our creativity? Sometimes we just need to take a step back and see the whole picture. Or sometimes we just need to be reminded of the vision. Or sometimes we just need a break from the details. Other might even need to see the details in order to get the whole picture.
Humans are not God. We don't have the ability to create 24/7. Sometimes we do need to walk away for a bit, take a break, or a rest. It energizes us for when we do come back from our work.
In essence creativity is very similar to a theology of work. We should work hard for the glory of God, but we also need to humbly take a step away and rest.
For me, some of my greatest ideas have come from inspiration that I encounter during periods of rest. At rest, my brain isn't working as hard. It's more open, more aware, and it's more prepared to experience divine inspiration. That's how I came up with the concept for this 31 day series.
It was during the summer. I had just returned from Poland, and I had two weeks to kill until the beginning of the fall semester. So I often found myself just hanging out, reading outside, going for short walks, or taking little excursions. I was petting my dog while relaxing on a coach when I came up with the idea for Confessions of a Creative Christian, and it stuck.
The same thing happened when I came up with the idea and the title for this blog. I'm pretty sure that I was just laying in my dorm bed listening to music when the idea for Engaging Culture came to me.
God gives me my best ideas at the most random times, but particularly when I'm at rest.
So this weekend, my plan is to rest from creativity. There will still be a book review on Saturday and a passage on rest on Sunday. But my hope is that during this weekend that the Lord would send me some divine inspiration on how to end this 31 day series on a strong note. (There's only a week left!)
Right now, I have some ideas floating in my head, but it's time to end this race in a strong stride. And for that, I'm going to need some rest before the final stretch. So pray for me. Pray for some divine inspiration this weekend.
And take some time just rest too and allow the Lord to send you some creative inspiration.
The Artistry of the Seasons
CONFESSION #23: Most of the inspiration I have to create comes from the breathtaking beauty of nature, especially during a season like fall.
The time of the year when I feel the most inspired to create is during the fall, which is pretty interesting since fall is preparing the landscape for a seasonal death. There's just something so beautiful about it though. All of the colors. All of the smells. Fall is God's artistry.
It inspires me to create. It also fills me with a fullness of joy, seeing God's intricate design and plans for creation. I will never be able to create something as beautiful as fall, but I can try to capture it, enjoy it, and be inspired by it.
So here are some images that I've taken over the past few weeks as fall has practically fallen.
I hope that fall inspires you as it inspires me.
CONFESSION #22: When it comes to thinking about being a creative Christian, I really appreciate the thoughts of other creative Christians.
I really value the thoughts and wisdom of other Christians in creative fields, so I thought I would share a few of them with you. These are just a few links to articles or videos or websites that have really shaped my views on being a Christian with the gift of creativity.
Why Christians Should Create: An thought provoking article that touches upon some of the topics that I've already talked about in this blog. It lists four reasons why Christians should create.
Advice for Christian Artists: A short word to Christian Artists from Max McLean.
Make God Look Great. Create: Written by the author that wrote Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Creating Stuff.
Unsolicited Advice From a Failed Filmmaker: Offers some helpful tips for Christians that want to make films.
Cinemagogue: I really appreciate this website. It offers reviews for blockbuster films and shows where the gospel can be found in the stories. Harleman also wrote a book by the same title, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.
We Engage Culture for Jesus: A talk by Lecrae about why and how we should engage culture.
Hope you enjoy the links and the thoughts they have to offer.
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