Saturday, February 27, 2010

North American Yuppie Adventurers

2 Corinthians 5:13-14

"If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do."

Following Jesus is the greatest adventure of a lifetime! Should we follow and obey Jesus for the sake of the adventure itself? No, we should follow Jesus for the sake of Jesus Himself. Can we enjoy the adventure of sharing Jesus as we enjoy the adventure that sharing Him and obeying Him brings? Yes! Adventure is a byproduct of following a wild Jesus, and is not always positive, in that it feels good, is easy, and fun, but it is good.

We are compelled, or should be, by the love of Jesus. "Love is a choice not a feeling," and I would add "not an obligation.” Adventure is not always easy, or fun, or a good feeling. We choose to put ourselves at risk to experience Jesus and the adventure of following Him. It is God’s love that compels us to do so.

In doing adventure ministry and in making disciples in the outdoors, I have notice two subcultures of outdoor enthusiasts. This first subculture likes the idea of adventure, but they are terrified at its reality. There is another group that seeks adventure for adventure’s sake and not for the transformation that can take place in doing adventure activities.

This first subculture loves to subscribe to outdoor magazines and books, they read about adventures and expeditions, and they go to conferences, and they collect all the right gear, but they do not get outside and actually embark on the adventure. I would call these "North American Yuppie Adventurers.” They wear The North Face® and other technical gear, but they have no idea if it breathes or resists the elements and they don’t want to get it dirty or damaged. They like adventure in theory, but they have never slept outside in the rain. They drive Hummers, but complain of potholes.

The second subculture makes an idol out of the adventure. They seek adventure for the sake of adventure. They are not interested in the change and transformation that the adventure can bring to their own life through the power of Jesus, and in the lives of their teammates, the other people in their expedition. Adventure is difficult and trying and these people thrive on the difficulties. They are into the adventure for the fun of it and have self serving motives. They are the god’s of their own adventures. They seek to prove themselves and to “one up” themselves and others for the sake of creating their own identity in what they have done, or in the adventures that they have had. They are not looking to be made Holy, to know the true God, or to better people than they were before they set out. They have a high tolerance for adversity and uncertainty. However, suffering for God or others is outside of the realm of what they seek or desire. When the going gets tough, these people get going and move to the next big thing, regardless of who they leave behind. They are performance driven.

Now, let's apply this to the church. If we are following Jesus in theory only, then we are not fully experiencing Jesus and the adventure of following Him, and we are not being fully transformed by Jesus. It is my fear that much of North American Christianity is either following Jesus in theory or we are following a lesser god, or an idol, and a self serving “Christianity.” If we are following Jesus for the sake of the adventure that He brings in serving Him, we “want His stuff” (Keller). We do not want God in this scenario. We want what God and what His people have to offer us, and we are not compelled by the love of Jesus.

The Love of Jesus should move us forward in this Christian life. If we are truly following Jesus, we will have dirty feet (Everts). Following Jesus in theory alone is not following Him at all (see the book of James, faith without works is dead). If we are to be His disciples, we must go! We must go because we love God and his people. It is the love of God that compels us. It is “His love [that] has the first and last word in everything we do!” It is His love that brings us to Jesus, leads us to true adventure, and sets us free!

Seeking Jesus in His Adventure,



Everts, Don. Jesus With Dirty Feet. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL. ©1999

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. 2 Co 5:13-14, Jas 2:18

Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit gods. Penguin Group (U.S.A.) Inc. New York, New York. © 2009

James 2:18

“I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, ‘Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.’ Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mission: They Persevered in Their Efforts

The Mission © 1986

Luke 12:47-48

“The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!"

This semester I am studying missions. Early missionaries, especially those we are studying this week in Latin America, persevered in their efforts to spread the good news of Jesus. The question that comes to my mind after watching the movie The Mission for class, and after reading the section below is, "So, why can't we persevere in our efforts to share the good news of Jesus?"

"Dussel describes what they were up against in spreading the good news: “They crossed innumerable rivers – one missionary wrote of having forded twenty-five different rivers in a distance of only ten kilometers or six miles. They moved through dense jungles, parched deserts, and mountain areas covered with snow and ice. They survived innumerable fevers and insects by the millions, moving without the benefit of maps and oftentimes without guides (Macdonald Class Notes)."

And we, at times, have trouble sharing Jesus with our next door neighbors, or with the person down the street, or with the person at work.

I love the great outdoors and the challenges that it brings. Reading about these missionaries this week in class, and watching The Mission, excites me and makes me want to hit the trail, and backpack, and conquer the wilderness with gusto!

I am confronted with the reality, however, that these missionaries were not traipsing through the Jungle, fording rivers, enduring sickness, and bushwhacking without guides for adventures sake. They endured these hardships and difficulties for the sake of the mission. They did it for the Gospel's sake. They did it for the love of their neighbor. They did it for their love of Jesus.

While this week's study and watching The Mission made me want to climb waterfalls, and visit the jungles of South America, I realize that my excitement is not as great for evangelism and mission, as it is for adventure itself. Are these mutually exclusive? Can we enjoy the adventure of sharing Jesus as we enjoy the adventure that sharing Jesus and obeying Him brings? Where will our obedience to Jesus take us?

I think about the Apostle Paul's missionary journeys as I read this week's lectures and think of mission, and I think about all Paul endured to spread the gospel. I think about how much more advanced we all are now in the 21st century, and I think of how much technology we have, and how much better we can communicate and navigate. I am left wondering: Are we taking the challenge to bring the gospel to unexplored lands? Are we even thinking that we should walk down the street to share the gospel with that neighbor?

I have maps and compasses and I have a G.P.S. unit in my glove box of my four wheel drive S.U.V. that will take me anywhere in the world that I want to go without incident. What resources do you have? Where will the Lord lead us with what He has given us to serve Him?

In His Service, on His Mission, and by His Grace,



Macdonald, Rev. Canon John A. History of Mission in Latin America: The Roman Catholic Church, Part ½, Week of February 22, 2010, ME 500 Online, © 2010

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Lk 12:47-48

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jesus + X = Y

Jesus, plus X, equals Y, where X is our religion, and Y is our idolatry.

X = Religion

I define religion as humanity’s efforts to get to get to God, to control God, to manipulate God, or to please God by its own efforts, attributes, personality, gifts, or works.

Y= Idolatry

The basic and first definition of idol worship, according to Encarta, is the worship of idols or false gods. Idolatry is also defined as extreme admiration. Idolatry, or extreme admiration, is excessive admiration or love shown for someone or something, and I would add “other than God” to the end of this definition.

What is wrong with the equation?

Anytime we put a plus sign after Jesus we are making a statement that God is not enough and we must add something to God to make God sufficient. If God must have something added to Himself, then God is not adequate on His own. If God needs something outside of Himself, then He would cease to be God. Religion, works and/or keeping the law, and false gods, inferior gods, or idols, have little or nothing to do with Jesus the true God. In fact, Jesus has done away with religion. He has freed us from the law, and bids us to smash our idols. This equation is no good. God has done the work! Jesus is all we need. Jesus is sufficient. Jesus = God.

Galatians 2:20-21

“Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Ga 2:20-21

© 2010, Robbie Pruitt

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: Christian Mission in the Modern World, by John Stott

Summary of Stott’s Main Arguments

John Stott’s book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, is almost prophetic in its addressing issues of defining terms and fighting to keep the meanings of the words we use, especially those words of Biblical significance. Published in 1975, Christian Mission in the Modern World actually addresses issues of perceived changing of the meaning of words, and shifting and subjective realities, and interpretations, of a postmodern world view in missions. Stott is ahead of the times in this work in how he speaks to moderns and post-moderns alike. In beginning of the book, to define his terms, and to speak about meaning to his audience, Stott asserts, along with E.D. Hirsch, that “A text means what its author meant (Stott, p. 14).” So Stott begins to define the terms mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion.

Stott begins his work, in the introduction, with a great sentence, which for me sets the tone; he says, “One can hardly discuss church-world relations and omit the concept of ‘mission (Stott, p. 11).’ “How does one define mission?” is what Stott goes on to explore in chapter one. He makes the point that “Mission is a comprehensive word that embraces everything which God sends His people into the world to do, including evangelism and social responsibility (Stott, p.35).” Stott wants us to see from the onset that these two go together in mission.

Stott’s main argument is for missions to incorporate both evangelism and discipleship and social action. Stott begins with addressing the definitions of the terms that he uses like mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion, which are important to understand in the right handling of missions. Stott begins in scripture and seeks to recapture a biblical definition, and the author of scriptures original intent, in speaking of and addressing mission. Stott asserts that “The Living God of the Bible is a sending God (Stott, p. 21).” He is Missional.

Stott argues that physical needs of people must be met in missions, but so do the spiritual needs of people. These two extreme views of mission, evangelism and social justice, go hand in hand and go together harmoniously. The biblical view of missions is one that supports this idea and this can be seen in Jesus and his disciples and how they ‘did missions.’ In scripture, we see a synthesis of ‘shalom’ and evangelism. There is an ecology of these two. Stott begs the question, “Can a distinction be drawn between God’s providential action and God’s redeeming action (Stott, p. 20)?” Stott thinks not, and I agree with him. He says that “In our servant roles (like Jesus) we can find the right synthesis of evangelism and social action (Stott, p. 25).”

In his chapter on evangelism, chapter two, the focus is again on defining terms and defining and discerning what evangelism is, and what it is not. Stott liberates the term evangelism, and us Christians, from being results based in function, where in order to be successful; we must be converting people to the faith. Stott says that evangelism is sharing the good news with others, no matter what the outcome is. It is not results based. It has been my own personal experience that I have not done evangelism out of fear of the daunting task of bringing someone to the point of conversion, I do not think that I am alone in this. Evangelism is not conversion or a set of methods, as Stott points out; it is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, however that good news is proclaimed (p. 40).

Stott points out that evangelism is using words to describe the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our sins (p. 54). The central message of good news that we are to proclaim, in word and deed, is Jesus. We are to send that message of Jesus to people and it should be auditory, not that Stott would totally disagree with St. Francis who said, “By all means preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” Stott might tweak this a little and say, “By all means preach the gospel, evangelize, in all the ways that you can ‘in thought, in words, and in deeds.’” The central message that we are to proclaim in word, and ‘in presence,’ is Jesus, the Word (p. 55). In short Stott says, “Our goal is to present Christ Jesus in the Power of The Holy Spirit that people may be persuaded to come to Him in penitence (p. 56).”

In his chapter on Dialogue, chapter three, Stott begins with the question, “Is there room for dialogue in the proclamation of the good news (p. 58)?” This question evokes strong opinions and polarizing views. It is met with resistance from the evangelical community. The term dialogue, no doubt, has strong negative connotations. The gospel, however, is, as Stott puts it, “non-negotiable” (p. 59). None the less, this should not limit us, or excuse us, to not be engaging in dialogue at all, like many rigid fundamental evangelicals suggest or are inclined to do. Stott proclaims that a true dialogue has authenticity, humility, integrity, and sensitivity and is a token of true and genuine Christian love (p. 80, 81).

Stott notes that dialogue is okay when it is properly understood and that dialogue and discussion are two different things altogether (p. 59). Stott provides for us a simple definition for dialogue which is, “A conversation in which each party is serious in their approach both to the subject and to the other person, and desires to listen and to learn as well as to speak and instruct (p. 61).” He notes that this definition is to be understood within the context of the Living God entering into dialogue with humankind. God himself modeled dialogue with His people throughout scripture from the foundation of the world, should we not emulate Him in dialoguing with the world in an effort to introduce the world to Jesus? Stott argues that “True Christian dialogue with a non-Christian is not a sign of syncretism but is fully consistent with our belief in the finality (and the supremacy) of Jesus Christ (p. 71).”

Chapter four of Christian Mission in the Modern World addresses salvation. “What does salvation mean?” Stott asks (p 82). The very name of Jesus means: “God is salvation.” and “God the Saviour (p. 83).” Yet this concept of salvation can be a difficult one to grasp to the point that other words or concepts are introduced to facilitate understanding. Stott says that he would almost like to refer to salvation as “Salvation yesterday and today,” but cringes at the idea that we may not have a firm understanding of salvation to begin with to understand its implications for us today, not that they are different, but our understanding could be different. We must understand our salvation and live lives as if we were indeed saved. Stott states that “Our message of salvation is bound to fall on deaf ears if we give no evidence of salvation in a changed life and lifestyle (p. 108).” Our actions must line up with our words and our belief.

Lastly, in chapter five, Stott addresses conversion. Stott asserts that salvation is not possible without conversion preceding it. He says, “Conversion denotes the response which the good news demands, and without which, salvation cannot be received (p. 109).” While conversion is an unpopular word in some instances and in some circles, it is very necessary. Conversion can be differentiated from regeneration, as it can be differentiated from salvation. Conversion is best defined and understood, however, in light of regeneration and in light of salvation.

Stott defines conversion as being faith plus repentance (p. 114). Conversion is our response to the gospel message; while regeneration is God’s act in us (p. 114). Conversion is a conscious act on our part, where regeneration is unconscious, and is propelled by God (p. 114). Conversion is more of a process than an event, while regeneration is a complete work of God (p. 115).

Stott asserts that conversion has implications for the believer and the church and that repentance and evangelism, and repentance and conversion go hand in hand (p. 117). Conversion is also necessary to join the church, for church membership (p. 119). Bringing the whole message full circle, that mission goes hand in hand with social action, or shalom, Stott asserts that conversion also has social implications, in that it demands social responsibility (p. 121).

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, missions are doomed to failure from the start. Stott states that “nothing more is needed for the Christian mission in the modern age (and I would add our post-modern age) than a healthy fusion of humility and humanity in our reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 128).”

Assessing the theological and practical relevance of Christian Mission in the Modern World

I believe that we have lost the essence of our Christian faith in many ways due to biblical ignorance and a relativistic postmodern culture where words have lost their meaning. When you combine these two issues, Biblical ignorance, and relativism and postmodernism, what you have is uncertainty, and a lack of clarity in believers as to what it is that they actually believe. Again, Stott is ahead of his time in Christian Mission in the Modern World. We almost need a book like this for other areas of our faith, along with this one on mission that defines our terms.

Though Stott would say that, “Mission is a comprehensive word that embraces everything which God sends His people into the world to do, including evangelism and social responsibility (Stott, p.35).” However, there are other areas of our faith other than mission that can be explored in this way, like discipleship. I have been particularly interested in studying and teaching discipleship, and what I have discovered is that I have to begin with defining the term for people. Most believers do not have the grasp they should on basic Christian terms and beliefs. This is what makes this book so relevant for today. Though it was written for a modern audience, by a modern thinker, it fits with today’s postmodern culture and speaks to biblical illiteracy by going back to scripture and being re-rooted in God’s word and God’s definitions.

Stott goes to scripture and he defines the terms that are essential for us understanding mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion. This book is simple and practical and theologically sound in presenting its arguments. Stott emphasizes mission and the Great Commission, but he balances it with the Great Commandment. As the saying goes, “You cannot ask for a hand until you touch a heart.” or as Stott quotes, “A hungry person has no ears.” Evangelism and shalom go together in mission. As Stott points out, scripture does not make a divide between evangelism and shalom, nor should we.

© 2010, Robbie Pruitt


Stott, John. Christian Mission in the Modern World. Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. © 1975

Friday, February 5, 2010

Prayer in Discipleship and Transformation

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – St. Augustine

“Pray, and let God worry” –Martin Luther

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” -James 5:16

If you ask anyone who Ananias is you might get a blank stare or a puzzled look. You would also get a puzzled look of perplexity if you asked someone who Monica is. However, if you ask most people if they have ever heard of The Apostle Paul or St. Augustine, you might get a very different answer, and without the looks of perplexity.

Without the prayers of Ananias or Monica, you do not have a St. Paul or St. Augustine. What you have is a heathen and a womanizing reprobate, and a guy named Saul who likes to kill Christians for fun. The prayers of Ananias and St. Augustine’s mother Monica invited these two men, St. Paul and St. Augustine, into God’s plan and purpose for their lives. Prayer is powerful and influences the people we live around and the world we live in. Prayer is our work.

In this writing we will explore the lives of Ananias and Paul and the lives of St. Monica and St. Augustine. We will look at the role prayer played in their discipleship and formation, and in their life callings. We will then look at how this role of prayer has played out in my family and my personal story of becoming, and being, a disciple of Jesus Christ. We will finish by looking at what the implications are of prayer in making and being disciples ourselves and what the applications are for our own lives.


Acts 9:10-17

“There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: ‘Ananias.’ ‘Yes, Master?’ he answered. ‘Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.’ Ananias protested, ‘Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.’ But the Master said, ‘Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.’ So Ananias went . . .’”

Ananias was available to God and was receptive to His vision in prayer and in action. We do not hear a lot about Ananias before or after this story in Acts chapter nine, but he plays a pivotal role in the life of God’s church. The church would not be the same outside of Ananias’s life, prayer, and obedience to Jesus.

Prayer in the Calling of Paul

Ananias influenced the Apostle Paul through prayer in these ways:

  • Ananias made himself available to God
  • Ananias was receptive to God’s vision
  • Ananias said “Yes” to God and answered His call
  • Despite the risk and uncertainty, Ananias went
  • Paul’s prayer matched up with Ananias’s prayers as they were both available to God in prayer
  • Though Ananias questioned God and was afraid, he ultimately listened and obeyed
  • Ananias’s obedience, despite his fears and the real risks, helped Saul to be Paul

St. Paul

Paul wrote more books than any other author in the New Testament. Paul’s missionary journeys helped spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world, changing the world as we know it, and “turning it upside down.” The Apostle Paul has shaped theological thought and has influenced thinkers for almost 2000 years. No other figure or theologian since Jesus has shaped Christendom the way that the Apostle Paul and his life and letters have. However, without Ananias, we would not have Paul, we would have Saul, and we would be living a completely different reality as Christians.

St. Monica

Who was St. Monica? St. Monica was St. Augustine’s mother. She is described as being “A woman of prayer and tears (Smither, p. 93).” Her supplications, her petitions to God, were focused on her wayward son, Augustine. Augustine was said to have reported that his mother had visions and dreams that her prayers for her son had come to fruition and were answered. Monica was a woman of prayer, character, faith, trust, and integrity. Monica was also a great listener and peacemaker. She was a mentor and leader of other women in their difficult lives and marriages. While Monica was such a great woman, she was not without fault and struggled with wine, being overbearing, and being controlling, and she had other sins in her life as well. (See Augustine as Mentor, p. 94)

Prayer Influence in Augustine

St. Monica influenced her son Augustine through prayer in these ways:

  • Monica was available to God
  • Monica was a woman of faith and trust in God
  • Monica was a woman of prayer and intercession
  • Monica had integrity and character
  • Persistence of prayer and the relentless pursuit of God were evident in Monica
  • While Monica was not perfect, she was faithful; her prayers were answered in her son Augustine

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.)

St. Augustine has influenced many major thinkers, theologians, and philosophers over the last fifteen centuries. While Augustine had a rough beginning, through his mother Monica’s prayers and relentless pursuits of him for Jesus, Augustine turned out to be a man of faith, character, and mission. Like Monica, Augustine led a life of ministry and mentoring and a life of discipling others. Augustine also shaped the face of Christianity as we know it. St. Augustine also influenced the life and theology of Martin Luther, and thereby he influenced the reformation. Augustine also influenced the life and theology of the Catholic Church. The landscape of our faith would have been very different without Augustine. And without a St. Monica, there would have been no St. Augustine.

St. Sylvia

If I were to ask you who Sylvia Pruitt, Howard Price, or Tom Craig are, you most likely will not know who these people are. However, if it were not for the prayers and the influence of these people, you would not be reading this right now. Without Sylvia Pruitt there is no Robbie Pruitt, me. Now, I am not presumptuous enough, or arrogant enough, to think that I am on the same playing field as St. Paul or St. Augustine. What I am saying is that prayer changes people. Prayer leads people to Jesus and empowers them to fulfill God’s purpose and mission for their life. I know this from personal experience.

I should not be a believer today. I should probably not even be alive. Like Augustine, I lived a life characterized by sin and the pursuit of my own passions and desires apart from God. I did not want to be in a relationship with God, as much as I wanted relief from life’s struggles and pains. I found temporary and false relief in the bottom of a bottle, in friends, and in my own dreams, desires, and works. My mother Sylvia, my grandfather Howard, and my youth leader Tom Craig influenced my life in their prayers for me and their influence in my life. Without these people’s influence, prayers, and intercessions to God on my behalf, I would not know Jesus today.

My mom is a chain smoking, Coca Cola drinking, back pew sitting, fowl mouthed saint! One of the greatest blessings that I have ever received from my mother, aside from her birthing me into this world, nurturing and caring for me, and not killing me when I had fully deserved it, is her prayers for me. My mom blessed my sister and brother and I with prayer. She tells the story of raising us three kids as a single mom in the 1980’s in a man’s world, and praying that if God did not raise us, that it would not get done. Mom said, “I told God that if He did not raise you kids, then it wouldn’t get done.” Mom said to my brother and sister and me, “Lord, I can’t take care of them. Take them. They are yours!” God answered mom’s prayers. My sister, my brother, and I are all following and serving Jesus today because of St. Sylvia. My mom is a modern day St. Monica. Without my mom Sylvia, there would be no Robbie Pruitt following Jesus.

An interesting side note to this story is my grandfather’s prayers. My mom’s dad Howard, a.k.a. Papa, said this about raising my mother and her brother and sister, “Lord, please let me live long enough to get my kids raised.” My mom jokes of him repeating this prayer when the grandchildren started coming along, that’s me. The joke continued when rumor has it that Granddad prayed this prayer again when the great grandchildren started coming along. As mom puts it, it looks like the concern was shifting to granddad continuing on living, more than the grandchildren making it, my grandfather and his humor! Either way, however it went down; if there was no Papa and his prayers, there would be no Sylvia.

St. Robbie and St. You

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

-Ephesians 6:18

We live in an anxious, lonely, sinful, disconnected, and fallen world. We are in an ongoing battle to know God and to make him known. We cannot push through without the power and presence of the almighty God. We must be a praying people. It has been said by Martin Luther that prayer is our work and that we should, “Pray, and let God worry.” Martin Luther is also attributed as saying, though it is not found in his writings: “I have so much to do that if I didn’t spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done.” It is clear that Ananias did the work of prayer and so did St. Monica. My mom Sylvia, my grandfather Howard, and my youth leader Tom did the work of prayer as well. We are also called to do the work of prayer if we are going to make disciples of Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we get to live into God’s answered prayers for our lives in Him. God has answered so many prayers on our behalf which beckons our own personal obedience and commitment to His purposes and plans for life in Him. God is inviting us into His life and work. We are invited into a life of prayer. We get to pray and intercede for those we love and care about and we get to influence others through our prayers to God on their behalf. If we are to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to, we must be a praying people, and Jesus promises us that He would be with us to the end as we make disciples of Him (Matthew 28:18-20).

Discipleship and Prayer

In order for us to make disciples of Jesus Christ we must:

  • Be faithful to walking with Jesus and following Him
  • Be available to God
  • Be present, accessible, and prayerful
  • Be prayerful and obedient, no matter what the risks are or what the fear is
  • Take time to pray, make time to pray
  • Say “Yes!” to God and His call on your life to pray
  • Allow God to work through you by moving out of God’s way
  • Allow God to work in you, through you, and despite of you
  • Know prayer is the work

As we seek to follow Jesus and as we seek to be people of prayer, doing the work of prayer, we must think through these questions:

  • How are we being obedient to God in our prayer life?
  • How can we make ourselves more available to God in prayer and intercession?
  • Who are we leading to Jesus through our obedience and prayer?
  • How might the world be changed through our prayers?
  • Who do we have praying for us?
  • How much time are we spending in prayer?

May we be people of prayer,



The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jas 5:16, Philip. 4:6-7

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Ac 9:10-17, Ephes. 6:18

Smither, Edward L. Augustine as Mentor. B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN. © 2008

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Art is Knowing Where to Point

“The truest tendency of art is toward the exaltation, not the reduction, of its subjects. The highest art, as William Blake said, is able ‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.’”

–Wendell Berry

Genesis 1:1-3

“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared.”

Genesis 1:26

“God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature. . .”

Genesis 1:27-28

“God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!"

A guy I know from my home town of Columbia, SC, named Drew Bunting, is a musician who also happens to be a Christian and a priest. He has a lyric in one of his songs Madhouse that I love. It says, “Art is knowing where to point.” This has got to be one of the best definitions for art that I have ever heard. The reason why this definition is the best I have heard is that artists, or people who create, are creating out of something. We are also creating out of who we are. We are created beings that are creating out of an already created order. We are pointers. Anything that we create is an assembly of what already exists in some form or another already because of God.We are simply pointing to beauty or assembling beauty from God’s creation, through God’s inspiration. We point to God in our art.

The very nature of our desire to create and build comes from the image of God that we ourselves are created in. Creation speaks of God. Our desire to create speaks of God. The creations that we create, our art, is through the image of God, and from God’s creation. All of creation, including the art that we create, speaks of God as well. If art is knowing where to point, and I believe that it is, then when we find the art we are pointing at, we find that the art is pointing back to God, or it is at the lest speaking of God in some fashion.

Art is a narrative of God’s story. In the rawest of essence of artistry we are plagiarists of God, who has created everything, unless of course we give credit to God as being our source. This giving credit to God turns art from being an act of plagiarism to an act of worship. After all, we were created in God’s image. We are designed to create. We are also designed to worship.

God is the master craftsman. God is the ultimate artist, and we are living in a grand piece of art.God’s creation, our selves included, is a piece of art.

In His book On Earth as it is in Advertising, Sam Van Eman states that media is pirating the gospel narrative and is selling a stolen bill of goods in order to generate revenue. The gospel narrative is being stolen and twisted for advertisers to sell products. In this work Van Eman coins the term SimGospel to describe this phenomenon. He defines SimGospel as “All messages that simulate the biblical narrative through advertising and popular media (art included) for the purposes of selling products and ideas (Van Eman, p. 4).” What ideas are we selling when we produce our art? Are we pointing to God saying, “Look!” or are we pointing to ourselves saying, “Look at me! I am a god.” Art can be a medium to worship God and to make Him known or it could be self seeking and self promoting. This is idol worship.

Creation Begins in God

John 1:1-4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

In The Beginning, God

God created out of nothing. Any time we create, we are creating out of something. We were also created by God, but we were also created in the image of God. Being created in the image of God, we are by nature creators. However we create out of what exists already. We do not create out of nothing. The first sin of Adam and Eve was one of pride. Humankind desires to be like God (Gen. 1-3). The idea that we can create anything outside of God is a prideful idea (John 15:5).God is the creator. If, and/or when, we create, proceeds forth from God’s creation and creativity that is in us because of who God is.

In an illustration of creation called In The Beginning, God, Fred J. Meldon asserts that “The ancient Egyptians believed that a flat world rested on four pillars of stone and the ancient Hindus believed that a flat world rested on the back of a huge elephant, the elephant stood on the back of an enormous turtle, and the turtle stood on an immense coiled snake! (This begs the question, “What is holding the snake up and how is it not being crushed?”) Instead of promulgating such childish theories, Moses, who was educated in Egyptian schools, but who was inspired by God to write the creation account in Genesis, gave us the true, God-breathed account, in words of grand simplicity, matchless beauty and exquisite accuracy: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’” (Tan).

God has to be the creator of the world and everything in it and it must be God who holds His creation together. Moses understood this idea that these lesser constructs and beings, pillars, elephants, turtles, and snakes, could not hold up or hold together the enormous created world.After all, these were created as well and were of less substance than what they were holding up.God had to be doing the creating and holding together, something greater than creation must be its author and sustainer.

Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:15-17, concerning Jesus and creation: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This same idea can be transposed to the art that we create. Does our art encapsulate who we are? Does our art exist outside of our having created it? Is our art larger than our lives, or is it in submission or subjection to its creator? The answer could be debated, but the obvious answer is, “No.” We exist outside of our creation of art. Our art exists because we willed it to be. However, we willed it to be and we created, because God Himself created the world, everything in the world, and God created us. Without God, there is no art. It is God that has created and it is God who holds all things together.

Artist or Plagiarist

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

“There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.”

Plagiarism is defined in the broadest sense as being when an author or artist presents words or ideas as his or her own, when in fact; they were someone else's ideas. It is God’s idea to create and to allow us to create. All things are from God’s Hands (Psalms 84:11, Proverbs 28:10, Matthew 7:11).

I believe that to be an artist is to be a plagiarist of God. The idea that being an artist is being a plagiarist is a direct assault on our pride. One cringes when they read the statement. Again, pride is the first sin. We want to be God (see Genesis 1-3). This is why we wince at the idea that we may not have an original creative thought in our heads. But if we cite our creative source as being God, our artwork ceases to be plagiarism and becomes an act of worship and obedience that brings God Glory. After all, we were given stewardship over God’s creation and we are invited by God into His creation to labor with God in His creation.

God has created the world and everything in it. The author of Ecclesiastes takes this concept a step further and asserts that the there is nothing new under the sun. Yet, we can create new buildings, new pieces of art, new music, poetry, and so on. There is a paradoxical existence between there is nothing new and the fact that we can create. Both are true.

A Great Artist Comments On His Art

“Michelangelo is considered one of the greatest Renaissance painters and sculptors.

In talking about his sculpting, he said that he never created his great works; he discovered them.He said he uncovered them.

Using his famous statue of David as an example, he said God placed the art in the stone, and it was Michelangelo’s job to bring out what God had created. Trying to see what was waiting to be uncovered, he was known to stand in front of an unfinished piece and yell in frustration, “Come out!” (Youth Specialties, Uncovering the Art)

The Dirt in Art

There is a story of a man who wanted to compete with God in a man making contest where he would show God that he could create just as well as God could. Here is how the story unfolds:

“One day a man decided that he had come a long way and no longer needed God. So he told God that he was done with Him.

The man walked up to God and said, ‘God, I've decided that I no longer need you. I am to the point that I can go about creating on my own and I can do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost.’

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after he was done talking, God said, ‘Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest.’ To which the man replied, ‘OK, great!’

But God added, ‘Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.’

The man said, ‘Sure, no problem’ and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, ‘No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!’" (

Art is Worship

Art is an act worship. Creation itself speaks of God and to God. Paul picks up on God’s creation being a megaphone for God to speak. Paul also picks up on an exchange of worship from creator to creation, which is idol worship, in Romans 1:21-23.

Romans 1:19-20

“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.”

God’s creation speaks of God. We see this reality in Paul’s declaration in Romans 1:19-20. God’s creation and the beauty it displays speak volumes about the character of God Himself. We cannot see the attributes of God, but His creation lets us know of God’s character and attributes.Because God is completely other, and exists within, and outside of, His creation as completely other, we know God to have eternal power. We know God to be larger than that which He has created. God existed before time and outside of our sense of time. God is infinite. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Because we see these attributes in creation, we are without excuse. The world, and everything in it, is a billboard for God’s existence. God’s artwork is speaking volumes about Himself.

What does our artwork say about God? What does our artwork say to God?

Idolatry or Art

Romans 1:21-23

“People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.”

Paul begins to unpack the human condition right from the start in Romans 1:21-23. We are prideful human beings. It has been said that “God has created us in His own image and that we have returned the favor.” As sinful human beings, products of the fall, our sinful nature and our creative natures have put us in a prideful place of desiring to become gods, with a little “g.” We have decided that we will create for ourselves gods of our own making. These gods are merely extensions of ourselves, and we thereby end up worshiping the self (see Counterfeit God’s by Timothy Keller).

Psalm 135:15-18

“The gods of the godless nations are mere trinkets, made for quick sale in the markets: Chiseled mouths that can’t talk, painted eyes that can’t see, carved ears that can’t hear—dead wood! Cold metal! Those who make and trust them become like them.”

I love art and am an artist myself. My art is poetry. I am a poet because God, the first spoken word poet, spoke the world into existence. I am imitating my creator in whose image I was created in. When I create art it is an act of worship. I am saying to God, “I love the beauty that you spoke into being and I want to speak words of beauty about your creation as a gift to you, recognizing that all has been given by you and all is yours.” I do not trust in things of my own making or I would be placing myself in the position of the God who created me and the things I have made. I would also never worship or think too highly of the words that I put together when it was God’s words that assembled the universe and all that is within it.

When I trust in the created order rather than the creator, I put myself in a position of worshiping a false god. When this created order comes forth from my own lips and I worship it, I am worshiping nothing more than a god of my own making. As Timothy Keller put it, “If I am worshiping a half god, I am not worshiping God at all.” This is idol worship. When I worship a lesser god, I become like that god, I become dead. When we live to worship the true God and attribute all to God, we have life in Him.

Paul puts it this way in the following passage from Romans 1:25: “They traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!”

Worshiping God in Art

Art is a wonderful thing. We are a creative people who were designed and created in the image of God to create and to participate in creation. Creation, art, has everything to do with the author of it. Art speaks of God and to God. God desires to be worshiped and glorified and we live fully into our purpose when we are worshipping and glorifying God. I can think of no better way to worship God than by creating and enjoying art. What I want to always be on guard for is thinking that I am god by not citing my source in my creativity. Plagiarism is taking credit for what is someone else’s work. I should never take credit for what is ultimately God’s, or for what is ultimately from God’s hands. There is nothing new under the sun.

Idol worship is giving the worship and regard to created things when it belongs to God. Idol worship is worshiping the created and not the creator. This can happen in focusing too much on the art, and it can happen when we put too much focus on the artist when that artist is not God.

All our works should be a tribute to our creator. Our lives and creativities should be acts of worship and service to our God. As the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Creating to the Glory of God,



Bunting, Drew. Madhouse. On Treat Your Buggy Well. © 1997

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, S. Col. 1:15-17, Col. 3:23-24

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jn 1:1-4

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Gen. 1:1-3, Gen. 1:26, 27-28, Eccles. 1:9-11, Rom. 1:19-20, 21-23, 25, Psalms 135: 15-18

Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

Uncovering the Art. Youth Specialties Hot Illustrations 1.0., © 2001

Van Eman, Sam. On Earth As It Is In Advertising. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI. © 2005