RELIGION POINTS TO A DIM FUTURE // JESUS POINTS TO A BRIGHT FUTURE
by Jefferson Bethke
A Word On This: Keith Hunt
Jefferson Bethke is quite popular today on Youtube and what he has written. He had obviously come to Christianity through a lot of so-called "fundamental" churches. What he writes about here is often found in the narrow minded fundamental churches. I was brought up in a Church of England school and a local Congregationalist church. Neither of them were narrow minded. Reading the Bible from age 6, I could see you workship and serve God in all the things you do [of course within God's righteousness] and not just in the context of "religion" - I saw people were given various talents and could use those talents in a right and good way, and be pleasing to God and Christ. There are too many "narrow-minded" churches. I personally did not run into them until I came to Canada at age 18. I attended some of these narrow-minded churches, so I fully understand what is being talked about by Jefferson Bethke.
When I first became a Christian, I thought that only religious things mattered, like Bible study, prayer, worship songs, and Sundays. I thought that I was simply supposed to hold on tightly until I got to the finish line. When I finally reached the end, I was sure everything would blow up, and we'd live happily ever after in the white, fluffy clouds of heaven. That was until I read Romans 8:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.1
Even the creation feels the bondage and corruption of sin, is groaning in pain, and will somehow "be set free from its bondage" the same time we are. At first you might think that sounds a little hippie-like. The verse almost seems that God has made a covenant with his creation just as he has with us.
That's when it hit me: God actually cares about a lot of things we don't.
God actually cares about the earth, but we seem to think it's going to burn. God actually cares about creating good art, but we seem to think it's reserved for salvation messages. God actually cares about mundane jobs, when we seem to think only "Christian ministry" will make him happy.
Our lives on earth aren't just placeholders until we go to heaven. We are to create, cultivate, and redeem while we're here. The misconception, I've realized, has come from a lack of knowledge of why we were created.
WHAT WE WERE CREATED AS AND CREATED FOR
To understand why we were created, we need to go back to the ancient garden. The one where everyone walked around naked, there was no sin, and animals such as gorillas and lions probably roamed freely next to Adam and Eve. Pretty epic time in history, if you ask me. As the book of Genesis records, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' "2
God, when he created humankind, created us in his image. God had created everything up to that point, but he hadn't created anything "in his image." In the Old Testament, the phrase "image of God" is only found three times, all in Genesis referring to God creating humans. We are the only ones created in his image, which means we bear some form of God's nature and reflection in us and on us.
The fact that we can create is a sign we are created in his image. No other creatures have this ability to create. Sure, some animals can build and work, but they can't create. They can't make something out of nothing. I've yet to see a horse write a screenplay for an award-winning movie or a shark paint a sunset on canvas. Only humans are uniquely wired to create.
As God's children, we are to use our lives knowing they reflect back to him and bear his image. Too often, instead of acting like mirrors pointing back to Jesus, we try to act like billboards, advertising ourselves. But outside of Jesus we have no ability to create. In the same way the moon can't light up without the sun—because all it is doing is reflecting the sunlight—we can't create or bear God's image on our own accord. Trying to get glory for things we have done is like the moon shouting, "Look how awesome I am," when the only reason the moon is shining in the first place is because of the sun. The brightness of the moon is borrowed brightness.
This is partially why God wants us to be involved in his creation, managing it and cultivating it. For example, Alyssa is a photographer, and I doubt it would go well for me if I said, "Hey, Alyssa, I really love you, but I hate your photography. It's pointless and seems like a waste of time." I can guarantee she'd be pretty mad at me. Photography is something she does, and it has her image on it. When I praise her photography, I'm praising her.
I show her I love her by also loving what she creates. So it is with God. We can't say we love him if we don't also love what he has created. This applies to people of different races, cultures, and countries. Since everyone is made in the image of God, everyone has worth and everyone has dignity. You want to radically change how you see others? See them as fellow image bearers—broken just like you, but image bearers
We love God by loving his people.
When I first became a Christian, I had a ton of passion but no knowledge. Even when I had been a Christian for a total of four seconds, I thought I knew exactly what God wanted and desired regarding a ton of different issues. For example, alcohol was a sin. There was no arguing that one. I even refused to read Jesus' first miracle for what it was.
Drunkenness? Yes, that's a sin.
Making a brother or sister stumble? Yes, definitely a sin. But alcohol as sinful in and of itself? Still can't find a verse…. But the big one I'd harp on to all my friends was secular music. There was no way you could be a Christian if you listened to music that was made by the devil's puppets. If the song didn't say things like "amen," "hallelujah," and "tran-substantiation"—even though I didn't know what that last term meant—it was not okay in my mind. Because of this I did something I regret to this day.
At the time, I had an enormous iTunes library, and maybe only 20 percent of it was labeled "Christian," so I devoted a whole night to scrolling through my entire list of music, highlighting, right clicking, and pressing move to trash. I probably put thousands of songs in the trash can. And then for the big crescendo, I right clicked and pressed empty trash can. I'll be honest: in that moment, I felt pretty holy. I felt God smiling down on me. I mean, how could he not let me into heaven after deleting Lil' Wayne from my iPod playlist, right?
Then about a year or two later, after almost constant Bible study, I started to ask those questions that just gnaw at you. Why was there such a thing as "Christian music" anyway? Music can't be saved. When I bought those songs, it wasn't like I baptized them and gave them communion before I listened to them. I wanted to know what actually made music Christian. And why was Christianity the only religion that had our music separated by faith rather than genre?
How come when I go to the music store, I don't see a Muslim section, an atheist section, and an agnostic section? Doesn't that seem weird that all music is separated by genre except Christian music, which is separated by worldview? That's an indictment on both the Christian and the non-Christian: on the Christian because we like to retreat to our own subculture, and on the non-Christian because they don't let Jesus followers have a voice in the industry at large.
I started to miss some of the music I had deleted. I thought Christian music would grow on me, but it never seemed to. A lot of times it felt outdated, cheesy, and generic. The lyrics were fine, but some of the music was terrible. FYI, if you can replace God's name with your girlfriend's name in the song, it's probably not all that deep or theologically dense.
The more I pushed into the Scriptures, the more I realized Christians hadn't gotten this view from the Bible. The idea originated with Greek philosophers who pushed a heavy secular-versus-sacred agenda. They said there were things of the body that were mundane and things of the spirit that were important. But God never stated this. Genesis 1 says everything he created was good.
That means music, art, politics, food, animals, plants, and trees are all good in and of themselves.
These things aren't evil, but our abuse of them is evil. You'd be hard-pressed to find something that the Bible calls inherently evil. Almost everything the Bible condemns is an abuse of God's original intent or use when he created it. God created everything, so it doesn't have to be labeled "Christian" to be good. He created the trees. He created molecules. He created taste buds that send amazing signals to my brain every time I have Alyssa's homemade guacamole. How could I not give him glory for that? There is no divide between secular and sacred, and we completely miss it when we insist there is.
As Christians we should be setting the bar for good art and culture, not trying to sequester ourselves away and only copying other art in order to make it "Christian." After all, we have the Creator as our Dad, and if we suck at creating, then we're sinning. Now, that might seem a little harsh, but it should inspire us to shoot for more. We need to see the gravity of our actions. As image bearers, we are to reflect a proper image of who God is. When we make bad things, we are reflecting a false image of who God is.
We are saying God is a copycat, when he isn't.
We are saying God is cheesy, when he isn't.
We are saying God doesn't believe in the excellence
of all things, when he does.
We are lying.
Growing up I only saw art in the church when it was a portrayal of Jesus' blood or a graphic picture of the cross. I remember thinking, Is there no such thing as art in the Christian world outside of salvation? Can art just speak for itself as something beautiful and true and point to Jesus? A depiction of his sacrifice on our behalf is amazing, but let's also display beauty and wonder in the everyday as awesome too.
At the end of his life, the apostle Paul was talking to his protege Timothy and wrote, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."3 God should get a lot more glory for things than we give him.
If we only give God glory for explicitly Christian things, we are thieves. He wants all the glory. When we bite into food, we are to let him know how awesome he is for making food. When we listen to great music, we are to do the same. When we don't, we are stealing. There is glory God deserves that he is not being given.
I struggled with this a ton in college. I'd spend time praying in the morning and then proceed to class. But sometimes I'd have tough thoughts, or feel like what I was doing had no benefit. I just wanted to get back to my room to pray and read my Bible. Now, those things are great, but I missed God in everyday life when he was there the whole time. He was in my classroom just as much as he was in my bedroom. He was present, wanting glory for the meal I ate that day just as much as he wanted glory when praying to him.
I took this line of thinking all the way into my vocation. I quit baseball my senior year of college because I wanted to concentrate on studying the Scriptures and pursuing a more "righteous" job like being a pastor or theologian. Now, studying the Scriptures is vital to a healthy life with Jesus, and technically, we are all theologians. Some of us just have terrible theology. But I thought I needed to get a Christian job. To this day I wonder, Who showed Jesus to the other players once I left the team? God had given me the unique ability of baseball to infiltrate that culture as a missionary, knowing the language and customs to point people to Jesus.
When I first became a Christian, I thought that to be a good Christian, I had to be in ministry. I thought people who weren't were just Junior Varsity Christians. I thought that to be on God's good side, you needed to be a pastor, theologian, or priest. You could maybe be a Bible study leader, but that was pushing it. It was almost not holy enough. Being a Bible study leader was like being on the swing team in high school sports—where you'd play on JV but sometimes get the privilege of sitting on the varsity bench. But that's not what-the Bible says.
Peter was a fisherman.
Paul was a tent maker.
Jesus was a carpenter.
Does that strike anyone as weird? Jesus literally made things out of wood all day. He wasn't a temple priest; he was a carpenter. An average blue-collar, nine-to-five workingman. Scares me to think how quickly I would pass him today if I saw him on the street. Probably would be a construction worker with calloused hands, wearing a Carhartt jacket.
In fact, few people switched vocations after they began to follow Jesus the first two hundred years of Christianity, unless their vocations outright violated Scripture, as prostitution and sorcery do. Since Christians were persecuted, they worked as they always had to provide for their families, and then maybe they led or pursued other ministries in the underground church. But for the most part if a blacksmith became a Christian, he stayed a blacksmith. He was just a blacksmith to the glory of God.
As the apostle Paul made it clear, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."4 There's no asterisk after that verse that adds, "Only if that eating or drinking is done in an overtly Christian way like at communion or a church potluck." No, it says whatever you do. No qualifications. No exceptions. Now, if the Bible calls it a sin, or if you know you are blatantly doing it to the glory of yourself rather than God, then don't do it. But we have to admit we don't give God the glory he deserves.
You can bring God glory wherever he has already placed you. You don't need to feel guilty that you're a chef. You don't need to feel guilty that you only paint, but your dad wants you to be a pastor. Too many times Christians want to go into ministry because of outside pressures by their parents or pastors, not realizing where they already are is their mission field.
Single moms, I'm going to come right out and say it: don't struggle under the burden of wanting to do more outside your home but not being able to, especially if you have small children. You don't need to lead a women's group, write a Bible study, or serve in your neighborhood. Your kids take up all your time, as they should at this stage in your life. You don't need to be leading a ministry. Your kids are your ministry!
The apostle Paul tasks Christians with a "ministry of reconciliation,"5 which sounds pretty opened-ended to me. You can worship God by cleaning up baby puke with a thankful heart just as much as if you were to be writing a Bible study for thousands of people. This is because the way you train that child, the way you teach him the ways of Jesus, and the way you display grace and truth firsthand is God displaying his ministry of reconciliation through you. God is pleased with you. It comes down to a thankful heart, not an explicitly Christian behavior. If something is done with a thankful heart, then that is Christian behavior.
Christianity will spread quickly when there are disciples of Jesus living in every domain of society—service, politics, music, art, etc.—bringing glory to him- and pursuing the greatest joy possible.
Do you like to cook? Do it to the glory of God. Do you like to work on cars? Do it to the glory of God. Do you like to write stories? Do it to the glory of God.
If you have a thankful heart and are using that domain to reflect God's beauty as Creator, then you are worshiping. Listening to Hillsong United isn't worship; it's an aid for worship. I found a deeper level of joy and connection with Jesus when I realized that eating a good meal with thankfulness was just as holy as my prayer time. The truth is, God doesn't just want your "Christian" things. He wants it all. When we realize the beauty of God's grace in the mundane, not just the religious, that's when we will begin to see him correctly.
In the New Testament, Jesus encounters a promiscuous Samaritan woman. I've mentioned parts of this story in chapter 4, but to recap, since Jesus was a Jew, he shouldn't have been talking to her. Samaritans were seen by Jews as …… marginalized people. To make matters worse, she was a woman, a second-class citizen during this time, and a promiscuous one at that! Thank goodness Jesus wasn't running for president, as his "association with her" would have been a PR nightmare. He didn't seem to care too much about the societal rules and standards—what else is new—and so he engaged her in conversation. With a bit of humor, Jesus asked her to go get her husband. When she told him she didn't have one, Jesus pretty much said, "I know the guy you are messing around with now isn't your husband."
The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."6
The Jews and the Samaritans argued about the right place to worship. Was it just in Jerusalem, or were their old places just as good? But Jesus says to forget that. He says upon his death and resurrection things are going to change radically. No longer will worship be an external behavior with certain holy spots, but holiness will be a matter of worshiping in spirit and in truth. Faith is no longer wrapped up in a building; it's wrapped up in every soul who loves Jesus. When the people of God move, the church moves. It's not brick and mortar; it's skin and bone.
The best part about this Bible passage is it tells us what God is seeking. We don't have to guess—we don't have to blindly attempt to please him—because he tells us. He is seeking worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.
The word worship is defined by glory and thanksgiving. We are worshiping when we give glory to something. Whatever we give glory to, we sacrifice for. Sometimes that's sex; sometimes that's our jobs; sometimes that's our reputations. But we all worship something, and we all put pseudo-gods on the thrones of our hearts.
When Jesus died on the cross, he completely reversed this curse, allowing God to retake his proper place as the one true God of our lives.
Proper worship is living a life in spirit and truth.
God owns every bit of truth in this entire universe. If something is true, it's his. He is the source of all truth and light, so if something is true, it is coming from him. This means he can get worship from something if it's true.
Take Michael Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror." I love that song, but I've had many Christians say that it's not okay to listen to it. The artist wasn't a Christian, so God can't get glory from it.
I see it differently.
The reason I like that song is because it's true. The entire premise is that to make a change in the world, you need to start with yourself and look in the mirror. That is true, correct? And so when I hear that song, it is worship to me because it stirs my affections toward Jesus, makes me realize I need to concentrate on my sin more than anyone else's sin, and encourages me to go out and make a difference.
We should not consolidate God's glory to only explicitly "Christian" things. We owe God more praise than we think. On top of that, how big and great is a God who can get glory and praise out of a song written by someone who doesn't love him? He's that big. God gets glory for every thing, and everyone eventually will glorify God, be it his grace or his justice.
Let's take classical music as another example. There aren't usually lyrics, but there is an extremely beautiful collision of instruments and sounds. When I hear that music, I listen to how amazing the different instruments are, and it stirs thankfulness in my heart toward God. How awesome is he that he created the instruments to sound like they do? How awesome is he that he created our ears to receive the sounds so poetically? The minute my heart and mind give him praise for that, it's worship.
In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul uses a pagan philosopher to prove his point. Truth is truth no matter if it comes out of the mouth of a donkey, a philosopher, or the apostle himself.7 In fact, if we are honest, a lot of times when we reject truth coming from a non-Christian source, we are trying to justify disobedience.
For those who might be unsure about this issue, let me ask: Why don't we do it with anything else? Why don't we do it with doctors? How awkward would it be if we asked our surgeon just before being rolled into the operating room, "Are you a Christian? If not, you can't perform surgery on me!" That would be insane. We judge doctors based on their field and expertise. Either the doctor is good at medicine or he or she isn't. And you can give God glory and praise when you walk out of the operating room a healed person because he has uniquely given that doctor a gift in order to bring God praise, whether the doctor is a Christian or not.
So it is with art and music. It's not about a piece being Christian; it's about a piece being true, beautiful, and excellent. As the apostle Paul tells us, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever."8
God is glorified in everything he has created. Am I saying everything needs to be received with open arms? Not at all! There are plenty of things people in the world say that are not true' in the biblical sense. That's why we have to be in the Scriptures. Scripture is our litmus test. Does it line up? Does it hold up? Is it according and similar to God's character revealed in Jesus? Have a filter, and make sure it is truth according to God.
Jesus made the elements of worship extremely clear: spirit and truth. For something to be considered proper worship, it's got to be both. The problem is some of us are very good at worshiping in spirit but not in truth, while others are good at worshiping in truth but not in spirit.
The ones who worship in spirit and not in truth are easy to spot. They usually say things like, "I'm spiritual but not religious." They usually base their lives on the five senses. If it feels good, tastes good, or smells good, it must be right. They are caught up in the whims of their emotions and lusts. They are the same type of people the apostle Paul addressed in Athens. He walked into the town and saw the idols everywhere, and it grieved him.9 There was a ton of worship going on, just not right "worship. That's when he exposed the futility of their idols. He made it very clear the gods of sex, money, and power couldn't save. They were made with human hands and could do nothing for them. Think about it: When was the last time your boyfriend set you free from all that enslaves you? What else or who else died so that you could be made new? Idols always overpromise and underdeliver.
The opposite distortion is also easy to see. Someone who worships in truth but not in spirit usually has nineteen Bibles on their shelves—all with dust on them. They can tell you the Ten Commandments even though they hardly live by them. They seem to know rules but lack gentleness, love, and compassion. They seem rigid. There is no wiggle room. They worship by the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law as the Bible says.10
But combining worship with spirit and truth is a beautiful thing. Truth with the Spirit becomes vibrant, organic, and alive. It feels fresh and new. Thankfulness sparks in a heart frequently. That's true worship.
THE BIGGEST LIE
God cares about every domain of life—politics, science, food, art, and music are all his, which means he wants them all back. He wants the glory. He wants redemption in those fields. And he redeemed us that we might turn around and continue his redemptive work in all these other areas. We are created to cultivate, not just talk about religious things all day. Jesus makes it very clear that he came to build his kingdom. That implies not just a group of people but a way of life fully encompassing all matter and substance.
He came not to save people but to save his entire creation, which we are a part of. It's about restoration. If we don t realize this, we will naturally turn to escapism rather than restoration. We will turn church into a holy huddle rather than a group of people sent out to push back the domain of darkness. We are created to infect and infiltrate culture, restoring and reclaiming what is God's.
Music? That's God's.
Sex? That's his too.
Art? He is the ultimate creator, after all.
We are to show a different way of life right in the middle of culture rather than creating our own subculture.
The problem with the American-Christian subculture is that our art and glorification of Jesus begin to weaken because we lose all sense of comparison. For example, a lot of Christian musicians no longer shoot to be the best musicians; they shoot to be the best Christian musicians. The standards have been lowered. But the truth is, art can speak for itself. It is a reflection of the creation mandate, not the salvation mandate. Rather than making Christian music, we should make music with a Christian worldview just as atheists, Muslims, and others do when they make music. There is nothing about music that is Christian; it's the worldview in the music that can be.
When we privatize our art to the Christian sector, we see churches feeling the need to be relevant rather than just using their gifts to reflect who God is and what he is like. The problem with trying to be relevant is it makes us copy what culture is already doing. To be relevant, you have to copy what is cool. So we put our mouths on the tailpipe of secular culture in hopes we can recycle some of it and use it for ourselves. The problem with this is that it automatically puts us ten to fifteen years behind culture because rather than setting the precedent, we are copying their systems. This is where we get a huge section of Christian apparel and coffee mugs that simply copy secular logos. My favorite is the shirt with the words "Holy Spirit" printed in the same font and logo as Sprite. Or the one with "A bread crumb and a fish" instead of Abercrombie and Fitch.
We call it redeeming, but it's actually stealing.
Making bad art is bad in and of itself, but if we are Christians, this takes on a whole other level of weight. Because we are called to mirror and reflect God, everything we do should give people a proper picture of who he is. Our job as Christians is to stick so close to Jesus that when people are around us, they sense him. Is that true with your life? With your job? With your hobbies?
The problem with bad art and creating a Christian subculture is it tells a lie about God. When we become lazy and only copy other art in order to make it Christian, we are sinning. We are saying God is a copycat and that he needs culture's creativity. If God is the Creator, though, shouldn't the people who are in relationship with him be the most creative? So when we make art and when we engage the culture, what kind of picture and message are we giving about God?
The truth is, God is a God of excellence. He does things well. He goes above and beyond. He lavishes excessively and adds nuances simply to bring his name glory. Does the way we do art, the way we engage politics, and the way we eat food give this image of God? Too many times we retreat, when God wants us to engage.
When Jesus is speaking to Peter about starting the church, Jesus says, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."11 The crazy thing about that statement is gates don't move on their own. For them to "not prevail," something has to be charging them because they are a defensive structure. Jesus is implying that the church will be storming the gates of hell, not running the opposite way. We should be engaging and pushing back the realms of darkness as a powerful offensive force. He doesn't say we should retreat, escape, and hold on tightly because the powers of hell are chasing us in the domain of secular music and evil movies. No, he is saying to infiltrate and infect every domain in life with his grace.
There is no divide between secular and sacred, and we completely miss worship when we insist on it. God created everything, so something doesn't have to be explicitly Christian. We should judge things based on beauty and truth. God owns truth and has a monopoly on truth. As Christians, we should be setting the bar for good art and culture.
BUILDING THE CITY
After realizing I no longer had to attend seminary in order to be a good Christian, I felt free. Truth is, I wasn't any good at learning Greek or Hebrew, and I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed it. But what could I do? I love to write, speak, blog, and make creative YouTube videos with my friends. I began to see the creative process as a form of worship to my Creator.
What does this look like for you? We are all called to be ambassadors and missionaries for Christ.12 Missionaries, by definition, engage in the culture around them and show people Jesus and his grace in that particular context. What do you truly love to do? Are you an artist? Do you love to cook? Do you enjoy dancing?
The psalmist says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, / and he will give you the desires of your heart."131 find it scandalous that God will give us our desires.
Augustine wrote, "Love, and do what you will," in reference to 1 John 4:8.141 remember thinking, Do as I will? That sounds dangerous. The truth is, when we are living for God, our desires are actually God's desires. The question shouldn't be, am I in God's will? The harder question for me is, am I actually delighting myself in the Lord? Because if you can answer yes to the second, then you can answer yes to the first. John MacArthur, a famous Bible teacher, gave us a few questions to ask ourselves:
Are you saved?
Are you spirit-filled?
Are you living moment by moment in his presence?
Are you sanctified?
Are you set apart to him?
Are you submissive?
Are you holding everything with an open hand?
Are you thankful?
God makes it pretty clear that if you can answer yes to all these questions, you can do whatever you want.15 Why? Because if those things are true, God will give you the desires of your heart, which are intertwined with his. You don't need a spooky ghost to show up and tell you what to do. You don't need to burn some incense and light some candles. You can live in the freedom that if you are living close to Jesus, you can do as you please. If one of your answers is no, then your desires may not be lining up with God's, so you have to be careful.
So what drives you? What do you like to do? Do it and thank God while you're in the middle of doing it. That's true worship. And when we're all following our desires, every part of culture is being influenced. God calls us to create and cultivate every domain.
Genesis starts in a garden, but Revelation ends in a city. I find that so interesting since you can't get from a garden to a city without cultivating and creating. We have to get there somehow. We were not called to retreat into the forest, read Left Behind books, and play harps until we get to heaven. We are called to redeem this earth—everything, not just the spiritual part….. Have you ever stared at a downtown skyline and been in awe? I've been to Manhattan a few times, and the buildings and infrastructure are incredible. Every time I walk by the Empire State Building, down Wall Street, or through Times Square, all I can think is, If this is what broken and fallen men and women can make, what will he in store for us who love Jesus and are in glory with him? If we can create this in our broken vessels, what will we be able to create when fully restored?
We need to start seeing ourselves as missionaries and ambassadors for Christ in everything. Where does God want to send you as a missionary for culture? One of my favorite examples is Lecrae. Most people my age know his music. He's a beast hip-hop artist, but he sees everything about his craft—the songs, the interviews, the content—intentionally. He sees himself as an urban missionary in a particular context and desires that people with a Christian worldview have a seat at the mainstream table. He does everything with that lens. He doesn't do this so he can get famous. He does it so he can make disciples.
When there's a shooting in Chicago and the news wants a hip-hop perspective, he wants the reporters to call him. When there is a segment on mistreatment of women in hip-hop, he wants to be interviewed. He does this so he can articulate the good news of Jesus in mediums that might not otherwise hear it. The only way he gets a voice at the table is if he authentically and strategically engages his craft in his mission field.
How could this look for you? Where has God placed you that you might be running from?
Maybe it's as simple as redeeming the seemingly mundane tasks, such as schoolwork or cooking or a part-time job, and God is so pleased when we do this.
Or maybe it's figuring out exactly what those desires are in our hearts—art, drawing, writing—and creating to the best of our abilities. We know God delights in us when this happens.
And here's the awesome part: All the stuff we create doesn't just go up in smoke. Some of it will because it's created with the wrong intent or heart, but we aren't here to just work and have it count for nothing. It will be a part of the fully restored and redeemed city of God. God's working to build his church and looking to make that city; all he asks is if we want in.16
I WAS READING MY BIBLE FROM AGE 6. I LOVED TO RUN; SO I RAN IN COMPETITIONS ALL THROUGH MY SCHOOL YEARS, AND PRAISED GOD FOR IT. I LOVED TO PENCIL DRAW, WAS GOOD AT IT; SO I SPENT HOURS DOING IT, AND PRAISED GOD FOR IT. I WANTED TO PLAY SOCCER AND CRICKET REAL WELL; I PRACTICED AND I DID, AND I PRAISED GOD FOR IT. I LOVED BEING IN THE "CUBS" AND THEN "BOY SCOUTS" - I DID, AND I PRAISED GOD FOR IT. GROWING UP I LOVED TO SING POP SONGS AND COWBOY SONGS, AND HYMNS; SO I DID, AND PRAISED GOD FOR IT. COMING TO CANADA TO BE A WESTERN HORSEMAN AND COWBOY; I DID, AND PRAISED GOD FOR IT. AS A YOUNG MAN I LEARNED THE ORTHOPEDIC SHOEMAKING SKILL; THEN ORTHOTICS; I GOT SUCH PLEASURE OUT OF SERVING PEOPLE WHO HAD FOOT PROBLEMS, AND I PRAISED GOD. AS A KID I LEARNED TO PLAY THE GUITAR; AS AN ADULT OF 33 I STARTED TEACHING PEOPLE TO PLAY THE GUITAR, BANJO, MANDOLIN; UKE; AND I PRAISED GOD FOR IT.
AT AGE 40 I WAS ORDAINED TO THE MINISTRY OF JESUS CHRIST; I LOVED SERVING PEOPLE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM OF THEIR LIFE. AND I PRAISED GOD! AS A KID I LEARNT TO LOVE WRITING. ABOUT AGE 38 I BEGAN TO WRITE ABOUT THE TRUTHS OF GOD; I HAVE NOT STOPPED, NOW AGED 72; I PRAISE GOD FOR IT!
SO IN EVERY FACET OF OUR LIVES; OUR WORK; OUR HOBBIES; OUR INTERESTS; WE DO IT WITH OUR WHOLE HEART; WE SHOULD LOVE EVERYTHING THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US TO DO, WITH OUR ABILITIES AND TALENTS.
WE SHOULD USE OUR ABILITIES AND TALENTS TO PRAISE GOD WITH THEM; TO SERVE OTHERS; TO GIVE BACK TO OTHERS WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO US. OFTEN THOSE ABILITIES AND TALENTS WILL BE GIVEN OUT WITH NO OPEN CHRISTIAN FLAG SUSPENDED OVER OUR HEADS; BUT IN USING OUR ABILITIES AND TALENTS, PEOPLE WILL OR SHOULD SEE GODLINESS IN US, LOVING TO SERVE PEOPLE, TO HELP PEOPLE.
AND OUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS WELL PLEASED WITH US.
YOU WERE CREATED TO DO THIS HERE AND NOW.
BUT THERE IS YET ANOTHER FANTASTIC, GLORIOUS, MIND-BLOW REASON WHY YOU WERE BORN. IT IS ALL EXPLAINED IN MY STUDY "A CHRISTIAN'S DESTINY" UNDER THE SECTION ALL ABOUT GOD, CHRIST, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.