October 31: Creative Exposure

Read Matthew 16:28-17:13 and Luke 9:27-36

There have been people throughout time who have had powerful and glorious encounters with God. Each of them displayed His glory differently. The creativity of God even shows up in how He interacts with His people.

• While in the desert, Moses encountered a burning bush and the voice of God. He proceeded to make excuses about why he couldn’t serve. (Exodus 3, 4)

• In the temple, Isaiah saw an incredible vision of the Lord in His holiness. As a result, he had an acute awareness of his own sin and then he offered himself in service. (Isaiah 6)

• On the road to Damascus, Paul encountered the risen Christ. He came to faith and became arguably the most influential missionary of all time. (Acts 9)

The Transfiguration of Jesus adds yet another flavor to the mix. Jesus radiated light. His clothes were whiter and brighter than anything ever seen. And in His glory, He was joined by Moses and Elijah. Let’s draw attention to two details about this encounter.

First, listen to the conversation of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Luke tells us, “they spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (v. 31). Although that sounds pretty innocuous, a closer look tells us they were talking about His “exodus”…that’s the word used for “departure.” Both Moses and Elijah had experienced their own “exodus.” Moses gloriously led the people of God in “exodus” from Egypt to the Promised Land. And Elijah? His “exodus” was a glorious departure from this world into heaven with a chariot of fire and a whirlwind (2 Kings 2). Jesus was also going to experience an “exodus” as He was taken up into heaven (Acts 2). That would have been a fascinating discussion!

Notice, secondly, the response of the disciples. Awakened from sleep, Peter suggested the building of shelters…perhaps reminiscent of the Feast of Tabernacles. Maybe he was suggesting that they place their ministry hats on the shelf and stay in the glorious presence of Christ there on that mountain. But, you see, part of the purpose of these encounters with the glorious Christ is that people are empowered for continued and greater service with uniquely diverse purpose…not taken out of service. If you have encountered Christ in powerful ways in powerful times of worship, allow that to propel you to fruitful  and creative ministry for Him!

sbk

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October 30: Creative Stewardship

Read Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus often used parables to creatively teach truth. Simply put, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  A parable is an everyday tale with everlasting overtones.  Jesus used them to illustrate his points, allowing some to better understand.  Meanwhile, others were further blinded (Matthew 13:10-17).

The kingdom of heaven is the particular focal point of today’s parable (cf. vv. 14 and 1).  This is the kingdom we pray for when we express the sentiments of the Lord’s Prayer (“Thy kingdom come…”).  Both words “kingdom” and “heaven” are significant.  Do not lose sight of the fact that followers of Christ are not only destined for heaven.  We are also subjects in a kingdom.  It is a kingdom that is real, one that is coming, and one in which there is a King who is currently away.  At an imminent yet unknown time, this King will return.

Although He is currently away, the King has chosen to entrust much to His servants.  Sure, there is a great difference between five talents and one talent.  Still, the single talent was nothing to sneeze at!  What creative gifts, abilities, resources, past experiences, and present opportunities has he entrusted to you?

The King also has expectations of His servants.  The first two of the servants in this parable understood that with the stewardship came responsibility.  They were to leverage what had been entrusted to them in such a way that the King would be pleased.  What are you doing with those things God has given you?  Would He find pleasure in your use of them? Can you use them creatively for His good?

Upon His return, the King took time to review what had been done.  He dialogued with all three about their use/nonuse of the resources He gave them.  Are you living in such a way that this future examination has an impact today?

Finally, the King extended repercussions for what had been done.  The faithful servants were commended.  Their responsibility was multiplied.  They experienced the joy of the King.  What will be the eternal repercussions for your use of all that God has entrusted to you?

sbk

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October 29: God’s Creative Tools

Read Romans 12:1-21

As the builder of His unstoppable church, Jesus Christ uses human “tools” in His construction project.  Those tools work best when they are used in the way that they were designed.  Some of those tools include gifted church leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers).  While these leaders have unique abilities, they share a common purpose of equipping others in the body of Christ to mutually serve one another so that the “church construction” continues to progress upward.

But church leaders are not the only “gifted” individuals in Christ’s construction project.  The truth is that every genuine Christ follower has at least one special ability.  The Holy Spirit gives to each one of God’s children a unique gift to be used creatively for furthering His kingdom.

Do you know what yours is?  Romans 12:6-8 lists a small sampling of them:  prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, and mercy.  Meanwhile, the Bible is clear that there are others.  You can perhaps discover yours by observing those things that you especially enjoy doing and are fruitful at.  The input of others can also be a great help in identifying your “gift.”  Other brothers and sisters in Christ often have a better perspective of how God uses you than you do!  If you don’t know your gift, seek to discover it.

Once you identify it, be careful how you feel about yourself and your ability.  Don’t think too highly of yourself in pride!  Don’t think too lowly of yourself in disappointment!  Don’t look at others and their gifts with jealousy!  Don’t look at yourself and your gift in superiority!  The Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He sees fit.  You had no say in what gift you received.  There is neither room for pride nor for jealousy.

There is, however, a need to use your gift.  The Spirit of God has creatively designed you to be used as a tool in the construction of Christ’s church.  He has planned that you serve as a part of the “body” of Christ.  Every body part is essential.  Others need what you have to offer, just as you are dependent upon the gifts that others have.

Humbly identify your gift and look for creative ways to put it to use!

sbk

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October 28: Creative Worship

Read Romans 11:33-12:2

At Grace Church, we use an acrostic to describe key elements of the Christian life.  We Grow in Him.  We Reach out to others.  We Act in ministry on behalf of the body of Christ.  We Connect with believers in biblical fellowship.  But the fuel that propels all of that is our worship as we Exalt God in His greatness.  That is what spurs us on to do what He bids and to be what He asks

When we hear the word “worship,” we often think of singing.  You will need to keep in mind, however, that worship is more than music.  Paul expressed it with words from his heart (void of music) in Romans 11:33-36.  After having written about and explained some of the great doctrines of the faith such as salvation, sanctification, and election, he verbalized his desire to give God glory in this great doxology.  It is interesting, however, that these words are rooted not only in what Paul had just expressed, but also in the fact that there are things about God the He could neither explain nor fully grasp.  His heartfelt words acknowledged God as One who is above and beyond humanity in His wisdom and knowledge.  Paul creatively expressed these words of exaltation in recognition of God’s supremacy over man.

Meanwhile, Paul calls readers like you to also exalt God in the worshipful presentation of our bodies to Him.  Have you given yourself completely to Him to be used creatively for His purpose?  Is your life an offering…an expression of worship…designed to bring Him pleasure?  That act of worship is not done without reason.  You are to do it because of what you know about and have experienced in God’s mercy.

You see, your worship of God should be all-encompassing.  It should incorporate music but reach beyond to words and to the way you live.  It should flow out of the things you already know about God but also include the things you can’t understand or explain!

sbk

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October 27: Creativity in Sharing God’s Truth

Read Acts 17:16-34

God often uses man’s creativity to make His truth known. Paul experienced this in Athens when he encountered intellectuals at the famous court called Mars Hill who sat around all day discussing matters of philosophical nature.

His listeners had little to no biblical foundation.  They were apparently unfamiliar with the Old Testament.  They had not heard about Jesus.  Nevertheless, they were deeply religious people.  The influence of pagan gods was symbolized by the numerous idols that filled the city.  These were men and women who enjoyed a good debate and philosophizing about life.

So Paul took note and used his creativity to find a bit of a different starting point from what he was used to . . . the visible creation and its creator.  He even punctuated his presentation with a quote from one of their own poets.  But, of course, he brought all of that to a close with a clear reference to the Savior who was raised from the dead and who will one day judge all.

Paul allowed God to use his situation to speak the truth of the Gospel and let these men know they were deeply valued by God!

So are you.

God is the ultimate source of your existence.  He gave to you life, breath, and movement.  It doesn’t matter if you were planned by your parents or a surprise.  It doesn’t matter if you felt loved, tolerated, or used by them.  God chose to give you life in the past and all that is necessary for you to carry on life in the present.  You are part of His will and an object of His love.

Just as with Paul, no matter how we say it, the truth remains.

Your Heavenly Father has purpose in your existence.  He has orchestrated the chronology and geography (the when’s and where’s) of your life with one intention in mind.  And He wants to get your attention however He can. That’s why He used Paul’s creativity at Mars Hill. It’s why He gives life to so many different kinds of people at so many different times and in so many unique places.

“He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him . . . ” (v27)

You and I are part of His will and an object of His love.  He wants to be in relationship with you!

sbk

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October 26: Created With Creativity

Read Genesis 1:1-31

If you were to travel as far back into time as you possibly could, you would eventually reach the “the beginning.” But time itself is a created thing (Hebrews 1:1, 2). It was set into motion by the Creator.

Even though what I am about to ask defies logic, take another step back to a point before time or any created thing existed. It’s true, we lack the chronological and spacial terms to describe this time or location, still God existed then and there. “In the beginning, God…” He always was…and always will be. He always has and always will be one God (Deut. 6:4).

Let’s push our minds a bit further to consider another illogical but accurate reality. This one God is three persons. The three are visible even in this opening page of Scripture.

The Father, responsible for creation, did so through Jesus, the Son (Jn. 1:1-3). He is the creative Word through which “nothing” became “something” and the One through Whom dust became a human being. And as for the Spirit of God? He was “hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2) already on Day 1 of creation.

This three in one God was not only visible in creation, but also at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16, 17). His three in one work is remembered every time a believer in Christ is baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

This eternal God created…heavens and earth…seas and dry land…sun, moon, and stars…plants, flowers, and trees…fish and sea creatures…lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!). But as His crème de la crème, His pièce de résistance, He created men and women.

Mankind was to be different…different from all the other created entities and beings. You see, humans were to bear the very image of their Creator. They were to be creative and relational; with another and with Him. They were to exercise dominion in a microcosmic way reflective of His ultimate dominion over all things. They were to reflect His priorities in this earth. They were to mirror His holiness.

This holy, eternal, three in one, personal God has big plans for you!

sbk

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October 25: Authenticity; A Good Name Where It Counts

Read Revelation 3:1-6

This week, we are seeking to grow in authenticity. From our reading today, it is my hope that you take away two important truths. Let me introduce both of them here up front:

  1. Our church has a reputation.
  2. What others think is not what matters most.

Now, let’s pause and examine these truths in more detail. As the glorious Son of God spoke to an exiled apostle, He invited John to write seven letters to seven churches that existed at that time…around 90 a.d. The affirmation and exhortation extended to those churches have application for churches today.

As attention was directed to the church in Sardis, Jesus said, “…you have a reputation of being alive…” Reputation is not just a personal thing, you see. This church likely had a history of passionate engagement for the cause of Christ. Others knew of the activity. In fact, as others thought about the church at Sardis, they apparently thought to themselves, “Now, that church is alive!”

I wonder…beyond your own personal reputation…what is the word on the street about your church? What do people say about my church, Grace Church in Wooster, Ohio? How would people complete this sentence? “That church is _________!”

But, as outlined earlier, the word on the street about a person or even a church is not the final word. Even though the Sardis church had a reputation for strong, passionate, attentive service for Christ, the Savior knew otherwise. Even though their reputation may have once been accurate, Christ had the defining perspective. The truth was, they were dead. They needed to wake up, experience revival, and finish what He had called them to do.

If you were to set aside what others think for just a moment, what would be Christ’s assessment of you / your church? Psalm 139 gives us words that express a prayer of vulnerability. Would you pray them today in sincerity?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23, 24 NIV)

sbk

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