You know Gateway started in the 1990s and that’s when Nintendo became really popular. Rather than an adventure on the screen, God is inviting us into our next great adventure in the real world! I mean let’s be honest: floating on LadyBird Lake is way better in real life than on any video game screen!
We’ve spent the last few weeks exploring this notion of our Next Great Adventure. John led us through exploring our mission and taking risks, and today I want us to wrestle with the idea that we are all called to be creative in this adventure.
So, like many of us, Libby and I took some time this Summer for a true vacation…aka “no kids allowed.” While we were gone, we had someone in our church help us with our youngest son, Max. He’s 7 and a handful! While we’re gone he really doesn’t want to talk to us, check in with us, because he’s preoccupied with what this family did with him. This family basically gave him a box, some tape, glue, colored pencils, pens, markers and scissors, and just let him be himself. What Max did with the resources not only kept him busy, but it uncovered his creativity. He made buildings and city blocks out of these boxes, and nobody helped him or prompted him.
This box of goods is no different than how God operates with us. He put breath in your lungs, a mind full of ideas, and crafted you as a unique individual to do what only you can do.
We have been looking at the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11. Last week we looked at Moses, and I want to spend a little more time on his story.
Let’s go to Exodus chapter 25 to glean God’s heart towards creativity.
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. 8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. – Exodus 25:1 – 9
So now we have God giving a directive, and the next few chapters are filled with details about how God wants things done. He puts his proverbial designer hat on, and spells out what this structure should look like. Now let’s go to Exodus 31 to see how this is going to all take place:
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. – Exodus 31:1-5
So as we talk about creativity, there are a few things I want to highlight in these passages?
- God is Creative
(we are invited to join in the process)
I think the psalmist beautifully encapsulates God’s creative bent in…
There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works. – Psalm 104:25-31
Again, let’s look at the context of this Exodus passage and see God’s creative hand from the beginning. This entire process of freeing Israel from its captors, the Egyptians, and bringing them into the promised land is one creative event after another.
- Burning bush calls out to Moses
- Pharaoh gives permission after a plague of locust, frogs flood the land, water turns red like blood, hail destroys the land, and so on and so forth
- Then they get cornered up against the Red Sea and Moses parts the ocean with his staff
- They are following a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night
- They’re fed manna from heaven as their daily sustenance
And now…now God wants a place to commune with them so he has them build a building, a tabernacle…and not just any old building. A specific building with certain colors, elements, shapes, wood, garments. What we glean is that God is truly a master designer, an architect, God’s vision for the world (your world) goes beyond what you can even comprehend. So when we say a resounding, YES, to God’s creative heart, it not only begs us to a great adventure, it is now permission to partner with God in what could be.
God cannot help but to be creative, and his invitation is that in this adventure towards being free…we would embrace creativity. You see, our lids, our boundaries, our walls, can all keep us captive to what was or what should be, and the creative spirit in each of us diminishes until it burns out.
- God Calls Us
(we choose to accept the call)
I remember studying this passage a few years back, and this sentence seemed to be out of place:
“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive – Exodus 25:2-3
This entire passage is a series of commands and directives, but right there, right in verse two is a phrase that made me stop and ponder…”from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” Mind you this is the same group of people who actually experienced the list of creative miracles I read a little earlier, and now they have an option, they get to choose to participate from a place that prompts them to give. When was the last time your heart was prompted and you didn’t listen? When was the last time your heart was prompted and you did listen? This invitation to creativity comes in still and subtle ways, but are we listening for the prompt?
David Martinez, Jr., ever heard of him? Probably not, but you have seen some of his handy work. David owns a crane company and leads a lot of engineers in Houston, TX, but David is not an engineer. David grew up in a working class family in the heart of Houston. How did David become a prolific business leader with cranes and rigs that have impacted hundreds of skyscrapers around the world? David would say it was God.
David was part of my church years ago, and he told me that early in his blue collar working life, God gave him a series of dreams, and he would wake up and draw whatever God had showed him in his dream. Mind you, he is NOT an engineer, has no formal engineering training, but he has several patents for rigs and cranes that are used all over the world. God literally downloaded these engineering ideas as drawings, he hired real engineers to make the ideas come to life, and now he owns his own business built on the ideas God gave him in his dreams.
David’s obedience took him from being an employee to an owner. From someone using other’s inventions, to being an inventor himself. His Linkedin page actually has his title as not only CEO but also Inventor.
The idea here is that God invited David to a creative adventurous future, and he wants to do the same thing with you and I.
- God Gifts Craftsmanship
(we are wired to contribute)
2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. – Exodus 31:2-5
Remember the context here, Moses is God’s chosen servant to lead the people of Israel, and although he’s using Moses to do mighty creative things, Moses isn’t called to do EVERY creative thing. Instead, with this structure being built he has chosen another person to lead the charge, Bezalel. And look at how God dotes over him…he’s filled with God’s spirit, wisdom, understanding, knowledge AND with the skills to make it happen. He knows how to work with metals, stones, wood and crafting. Many of us who are Christ followers are growing our spiritual gifts and understanding, but maybe, just maybe, God wants to use the creative skills he’s naturally gifted you with, or you were trained in.
Then there are some of us who are nominally growing our faith, or some of us who are just here exploring who God is, and I hope you understand that you too have been gifted with creative gifts in your own way. And maybe God is wanting you to grow spiritually as strong as your creative gift/abilities have grown.
There’s a book called When Helping Hurts, and in the book a reference is made to
Asset Mapping which is derived from a methodology called Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) out of Northwestern University in Chicago. Here’s the definition of ABCD, and it is perfect for what we’re describing in scripture:
ABDC is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action.This method uses the community’s own assets and resources as the basis for development; it empowers the people of the community by encouraging them to use what they already possess.
Most social scientists will agree that everyone is wired and able to contribute something, and when we contribute those around us are made better for it.
Here’s the scriptural parallel…God creatively asked for a building that the people already had the resources for, he called the people with skill to accomplish the goal, and all that was missing was the willingness to use their gifted craftsmanship.
“The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not.” – Darren Hardy
God Wants Us (we can NEVER change that)
You may not know this as a regular attender or being new to Gateway, but we have quite a few people who get to see these messages before they are spoken. One of those people is Julia Carlisle, a pastor on our staff who responded to this message with a few thoughts of her own, and they were so poignant, it only seemed fitting to use her words to close out today.
“We are made in the image of a creative God-creativity was his first act that we see in scripture. Creativity is one way we look like God in the world.
Mankind screwed this gift up pretty quickly, using their ability to create to try to become God instead of reaching the world with Him.
What is redemptive about this quality? God still creates something out of nothing. He brings life from death. He is making all things new. New creation.
We are not original creators, but co-creators with God.
Creativity is a way we worship and image-forth God.
You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. It doesn’t have to be flashy or world-altering to honor God.
When we delight in our God-given creativity, God is honored. And when we use it to love others, God is honored.
Our creative abilities shine-forth even in the seemingly mundane things of life. When we make a good meal for a friend or family. When a parent joins in the imaginative world with their kids. When a barista makes the perfect latte to warm the heart of her customer. When a husband dreams up a way to surprise his wife for her birthday. When someone works hard to make a home that people feel welcome to fellowship. When someone pens just the right words in a card for a friend who’s grieving. When a teacher comes up with a new way for their students to connect with and get excited about the material.
Ultimately, we get to be a part of the re-creation of this world, helping to restore what has been broken in the way we use our gifts to build the church, when we love the outcast, serve and pray for our enemies, and share the miracle of God’s transforming work in a world that’s so desperately needs it. We get to partner with God in His creative work of making beautiful things out of a broken world.”