Thursday, October 1, 2015

“No such thing as a Christian artist,” says poet Joel McKerrow

A friend sent me a link to an article lately with the above title, featuring Joel McKerrow, a brilliant spoken word artist. His thoughts regarding faith and art are applicable to anyone who works in the arts and the media. You can read the entire article here, but for now, here are a few quotes:

McKerrow is adamant that he is not a “Christian artist”. “We have done a disservice to the world by having a Christian music scene; a Christian artist scene. People who follow Jesus should be artists who are Christians.”

My hope is that my spirituality comes across in my music and in my poetry, but I think it comes across in a subversive way. My spirituality and my faith and my understanding of God and life and Christianity – they affect everything to do with my artistry, but I wouldn’t want to call myself a Christian artist,” says McKerrow.

If more Christians adopt the same approach as Joel, we'll end up being a lot like yeast in dough*. Our way of living, and essentially Christ in us slowly permeates our surroundings - subtly teaching people how to live, as Bill Johnson would say.

*Matthew 13:33

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What does a Conolli have to do with Worship?

A few weeks back, I was talking to a friend about junk food and healthy food, and how I'd noticed that my body was craving healthy food more, and junk food less. In part, it's because I'd been eating healthy. A meal including beans and veges made me get excited. Stranger things have happened!

Last week, it got weirder. Thanks to the best friend/gym partner/PT that I could ask for, I'm more consistent at having a gym routine than ever before. I made it to the gym four times, and when it got to Sunday afternoon, my body was craving exercise!

It gets stranger. That same afternoon, I was offered a very rich dessert that would have otherwise got thrown out. Usually, I'd take up the offer in an instant! But my body actually didn't feel like it! I knew my flesh would still like it, but I chose to say no to it. (I had to throw it out quickly before I'd change my mind!)

It's occurred to me that this is a lot like the things of God!

Even though I often fail at doing the things I set out to do (like prayer/worship/bible reading) I have found that the more time I spend in God's presence, worshipping/reading his Word, the more I desire Him!

Bill Johnson says: “In the kingdom, if you want to get hungry, eat.”

The very things you want to want.... do them.

I had to do this a while ago, ironically right after I'd written a series of blog posts on gettingspiritually “refilled”.

I had to drag myself, early in the morning, towards bible reading. I drifted & day-dreamed constantly. In and of myself, I didn't really want to do the things I had so passionately encouraged you, the reader of this blog, to do – read the Bible and feed of God's Word through prayer.

Still, I made myself attempt it with all the energy I could muster. I had a break-through when the verse of the day (on my Bible phone app) was exactly the verse I'd read and pondered earlier, in my state of drifting, day-dreaming and forcing myself to read anyway. This happened not once, but twice in a row! That really woke me up. Even when we feel unfocused/lost/distracted, God can still speak to us and draw us back to the path he wants us on.

It's worth taking the step towards God, in the way that you know how. Ultimately, it's by His grace that we do anything. It is because of His enabling presence that we even breath, let alone engage with Him. It is here that the mystery lies. God is active, even when we are passive, and yet God's word still says that if we draw near to Him, he will draw hear to us*. God is not entirely bound by our actions, and yet His movements are intrinsically linked to ours.

What does the conolli have to do with worship? The canolli is the dessert I said no to on Sunday. Usually, I would have said yes, but I chose to throw it out. I ate healthy food instead, which my body loved. What is it in your life that you need to throw out today, in order to draw near to God?

*James 4:8

Friday, August 7, 2015

Colours of the spectrum (Spoken word poem)

To all my readers of the cultured type that savour words and wordplay,
Listen - while I exert my first intro using a verse made
In the form of a poem - crafting words in a terse way
Call it a what you like, this isn't art for arts sake

It's time to explore the paradox of letting your light shine
And running your race – while remaining connected still to home base
Let's investigate in rhyme – I've got these two thoughts in my mind
If they're a contradiction, the bible's in opposition to it's own way

And so is God. But instead, he's far from double-minded.
He knows the way to your heart, even when we're stubborn & blinded
He knows how to navigate truth and bring it to light for you
But we need to listen – and not shoot down seemingly opposing views

God is just, and God is love. Both 100% true
You have to meditate, ponder, and live it out to see it in full view
We're called to be light in dark– again, 100% true. But still,
We're also called to use our gifts to make Christ's bride beautiful (Eph 5:27)

At the same time, the church needs to let her light shine
And that won't happen if we huddle like we're quite fine
Mingling amongst ourselves – while the world around us is perishing
& selling music to our kids that's sex crazed explicitly

Nah – we've gotta get out and show the world that there's a better way
To live and move – a view on life is better with the Spirit, man.
The body's gotta move & function, it's gotta stay connected
Then we've gotta move into the world and show them they're missing

Is God a contradiction? When he says two different things?
More like they complement each other – church and witnessing
We've gotta get these things in balance – bring together the two halves
And if we do this then John 13:35 will come to pass

Some wanna be an earshot from the church bell
I wanna win souls, make gunshots in the worst hell” - Andy Mineo

Sometimes my music's for the church I call it body art” - Lecrae

Following Your Calling/The Problem with the Church today

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” - 2 Thessalonians 1:11

This is going to be one of my more controversial blog posts relating to spirituality and the arts.

I am hoping to challenge some people out there, when it comes to following Jesus and living out your calling. I want to challenge your perception of “the church” and “the world”.

Ephesians 5:1

Live a life worthy of your calling”

You, and I are called to steward the giftings and talents that we have, and serve the purposes of God in our world today. If you have that established in your mind, read on!

I want to propose a paradigm for following your “calling”, with regards to the media and the arts.

First, I want to share a vision that I had. It wasn't an “open vision” as such, but it was a series of pictures in my mind that I felt like God was showing me.

First, I saw a picture of Jesus, walking down a street. There was a church building on the side of the street, and Jesus walked past it. I was called to follow him. I felt like the church building represented church programs and activities that I wasn't called to be a part of. I had a calling to follow Jesus and move on*.

We know that Jesus cares about reaching the lost, as shown in stories about the lost coin and the lost sheep (Luke 15).

Then the second picture I saw, was Jesus holding a hammer, banging a large tent peg into a large tent. Immediately the Scripture came to mind “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). I felt immediately like this picture represented something that Jesus was doing, that I was called to be a part of. It caused me to repent of all the times where I've been called to serve, help or minister to those in the church, and I've simply gone and done my own thing.

The key application that I got from this experience is that in the midst of sensing a call to minister in the world, and also serve and connect in the church, the body of Christ, we need to follow Jesus.

We are called to be salt and light in the earth. When should we focus on that? When should we head out into the world?

We are called to be a part of the family of God, which is the church. When should we focus on that?

I'm happy to discuss the answers to these questions individually with you, obviously however, there is no “one size fits all” answer that I can write in a blog. The answer will be different for every single person. The answer is to follow Christ. Walk with God.

The problem with the church is that it is full of people. As soon as you connect with a local church or body of believers, you'll find people you don't naturally connect with. There may well be people that rub you the wrong way. However, this is a part of God's plan to sanctify you, and help to make you more like Jesus.

A new paradigm: Where do you fit in the spectrum?

I want to propose to you that every Christian has a calling in some way to use their giftings “in the world”, or the “marketplace”, and in some way in the church - that is, the bride/body of Christ. Even someone who's called to be a pastor, or full-time worship director in the church is somehow off track, if they never befriend or connect with non-believers from week to week. We all need to be letting our “light shine” in some way (Matthew 5:14-16). Likewise, even if our main calling is to spend time in so called “dark places”, we're all called to be connected to the body of Christ, and be submitted to anointed leadership**. It's not an “either or”, but a “both/and” thing. Obviously, this will look different for everyone!!! It's almost like a spectrum, where spending most of your time out in the world/marketplace is on one end, and spending most of your time serving/leading within the church is on the other. Where do you fit in the spectrum?

When I mentioned this concept to a friend of mine, he said he calls it a “sliding continuum” - meaning how you connect day to day, and week to week with those inside and outside the church can vary. My friend spent many years working successfully in the NGO/“not-for profit” sector, and eventually (and reluctantly!) was called into working for a church as a pastor. Through his work as a pastor, he remains very connected with many people outside of the church, as well as within. He connects with many in order to equip and send them into the media, arts, and other spheres.

The grand vision: I see a body of believers that infiltrate the media and the arts sectors of society, and bring greatness to what they do in the marketplaces of the the world. Just by being who they are, they will literally be like salt and light to the world around them, permeating our society and culture with the life of Jesus (Matthew 13:33). They have a heart towards the entire body of Christ, and seek to connect and to serve as God enables them. They also have a strong mandate to BE the church, out in the world, as they entertain, and fulfill many other regular functions and roles within the media and arts spheres.

I also see church leaders that rise up and embrace people sent out into these spheres, and support, pray for and encourage them in their calling (1 Corinthians 12:25-28).

*This doesn't mean that Jesus (being omnipresent and active throughout his entire body on earth) wasn't in that particular church, He may well have been. It just means that I wasn't called to be a part of what was happening there.

** The bible does have 1 Cor 2:15-16 and 1 John 2:27, there is also 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Hebrews 13:7 & 17. #truthintension

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Stay Re-fuelled for your Creative Journey, Part 2

How do you stay “refuelled”? That was the question we ended with in Part 1. If you missed it, you can read it here.

We are “whole” beings, but we still have a “triune” nature. That means, as humans we are spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23.) Our soul* and body** need to be “refuelled” regularly if we want to live well. Right now though, I want to focus particularly on how we can refuel spiritually.

Why do we need to stay refuelled spiritually?

The more you truly walk with God, the more you realise that you can't fully live and function without Him. How does God sustain us? Through his Word.

Simple. Prayer, and reading the Bible. Put them together, and they're like fire and gasoline.

Jesus Himself said “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that God speaks [present tense].” (Matthew 4:4)

How do we hear what God speaks?

The Bible is a key way that God speaks to us. As we read and converse with Jesus, (who by the way is the Word!***) the Bible really does come alive.

It's then that God's word becomes food to us. It feeds our Spirit.

We don't just want to read it however, we want to meditate over it (Psalm 1:2). Meditating on something is basically actively thinking about it. It's a bit like chewing your food.

These ideas about Bible reading (from IHOP) have flipped my bible reading on it's head at times recently. It's a great article that puts prayer and bible reading together. Again - it's like lighting a flame next to TNT.

My biggest enemy

My biggest enemy for engaging with God could be one of your big enemy's too. It has a glass screen, and it's probably in your pocket right now, filled with notifications. Don't check it now, finish responding to this first.

My smartphone has been a huge distraction for me over the years. One thing I'm learning to do is “fight fire with fire”, and use my phone to distract me with the word of God. For example, using the Youversion Bible app, I get notifications with the verse of the day, and I also have it emailed to me at another time of the day, in another translation. It's easy to activate this, just go to “Settings”, then “Notification Settings”, then press “Verse of the Day”. Let me know how you go!

I found this article very encouraging a while back: “Your Bible Reading is about to Threaten Your Smartphone Focus” Read it now if your Smart Phone is ever distracting for you, and get aggressive pursuing the things of God!

* Our souls can be refueled, for example, by doing things we love, and also by spending time with people we love.
**Obviously, your body is refueled by good food, nutrition, sleep, and other things.
***John 1:1

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Stay Refueled for Your Creative Journey, Part 1

There are a few topics I'm scared to write about. This is one of them. Why? Because whenever I write about a topic like this, just like when I wrote about prayer a while ago, there's three fingers pointing back at me. However, when I feel the nudge to write about something, it's usually for a reason. Read Part 1 and Part 2 right now, and I think you'll be inspired!

Speaking of things that are inspiring, I have a part-time job that I really enjoy. However, the main reason I do this job is because I have bills to pay. To get paid, I have to send away a time-sheet regularly. If I don't submit it by a particular time, I don't get paid. Each week I am highly motivated to take the necessary time to send it in! Unfortunately, when it comes to our relationship with God, if we neglect to make it a priority, the effects may not be quite as obvious as a missed pay-cheque, at least for a little while.

But when we take the time to connect with God, and refuel on Him and His Word, life is so much better! This is about so much more than dry spiritual disciplines...

Think about this: Paul McCartney is a pretty cool dude. If he happened to be in your part of town tonight, and requested your company for dinner, would you say no? I know I wouldn't!!!

This week, the Person that gave Sir Paul his talents wants to spend time with you. Will you say no?

The Holy Spirit is the most creative being on the planet. The more connected we are with Him as a person, the the better off we'll be in our own vocation, whatever that may be. This is one reason why our relationship with God is so important.

How do you refuel in your relationship with God? If there's any particular way that is working for you at the moment, please share it in the comment section below! You never know, your answer might help inspire someone else! (Part 2 in this mini-series is coming right up.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Leaven with your Latte? Song choice at the Coffee Club

As I write this, I'm sitting in a local cafe and two of my extremely talented friends are playing music here. They've just finished playing a funky, mellow version of Cee Lo Green's “Crazy”. I clapped louder than anyone here, because they nailed it! They took a nice song, put their own creative spin on it, and their performance fit the environment beautifully. They haven't sung about demon worship, or having sex on fire with a prostitute - and they haven't sung “None but Jesus” either. They simply sang songs appropriate for their setting, and the audience appreciated them. The cafe staff loved them, and served them well.

To me, this is a good example of a bunch of musicians (who are Christians) getting out and being “salt and light” in the world (see Matthew 5:13-14). They are using their gifts to bless and to serve their community. My two friends treat people well. They are kind, genuine, and “loving” people. In industries so often filled with jealousy and selfish-ambition, this is quite often a “breath of fresh air”. There are two other things that happen as they go about creating and performing music for the general marketplace: Their world-view naturally leaks into what they produce. Healthy relationships will generally be celebrated more than unhealthy ones for example, and life is enjoyed and celebrated, without the need to be drunk or high. This has a positive, permeating effect on those around them (just like leavenMatthew 13:33). The other thing is that for them Jesus' promise remains true: “I am with you always”. The presence of God is what marks His people more than any other distinguishing factor. Often people will be left thinking “there's something different about that person”. Christ's character formed in us, and His supernatural presence in and around us, will be a defining factor in our ministries in the world today.

To some, an understanding of all of this will bring a release and a sense of freedom to pursue their craft, and career with a new sense of “calling”. Whatever your craft and vocation is, there is not necessarily a need to use it purely as a vehicle for evangelism, or a message of any sort. I am a big believer in personal evangelism. As an individual, we should aim to be ready and willing to “witness” what we know about Christ to people. However, our craft and vocation is a different matter. Generally, it's a good underlying idea to be brilliant at your craft, in and of itself. If you do feel to share a particular message of any sort (gospel related, or otherwise), go for it. But don't be afraid to simply be great at what you do, and serve people with what you are doing. Of course, be a Christian as you do it... it isn't ideal to promote porn as a part of this process (for example). However, it is not required of you that you promote imagery of Christ in it's place. Do what you do well! And be a great version of yourself while doing it. :-)

Much love.

Thoughts? Opinions? Feel free to respectfully share them in the comments below. :-)