Category: Thinking

A New Year

In Christ sculpture in progress

Picture God at your birthday party singing louder than any of your friends or family. Is that hard to imagine?

Welcome to the new year. ‘Tis the season of resolutions. Someone once said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” I’m not a fan of making resolutions, but if I were, I’d likely adopt the two that eighteenth century pastor and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, made: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

But I prefer goals to resolutions. And one of my goals this year is to create art that keeps Scripture front and center in my life and in the life of those who see it. My wife jokes (sort of) that I can’t find anything in a cabinet or the fridge if it’s behind any other item. To a large extent, she’s right. I’m the type of person who works better with everything laid out where I can see it — be it sketches I’m working on or tools in my studio — seeing it all helps me remember that it’s going to be needed — that it’s part of the workflow.

The same is true for God’s Word. Seeing verses from the Bible as I move through my day helps keep God’s truth at the center of my life, reminding me of His loving presence, His promises, and His power.

I’m reminded that God’s loving presence is guaranteed. After His resurrection from the dead, Matthew records Jesus speaking to His followers before He ascended into heaven: “… and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I won’t face any trials that come my way in this new year by myself. And Psalm 138.8 encourages with these confident words: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of Your hands.”

God’s promises are comforting. In the book of Jeremiah, 29:11, we read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I love that verse, especially when considered in light of another one in Romans, 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. No matter what 2017 brings, I can trust that God is in control and is working things out for my good if I place my trust in Him and align my life with His purposes.

God’s power is absolute. There is nothing He cannot do. The gospel of Matthew, 19:26, records Jesus describing the power of God the Father: “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And I love the vivid language of Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” That’s quite a statement, that last line. Picture God at your birthday party singing louder than any of your friends or family. Is that hard to imagine? Why? God created you and He loves you more than you can imagine.

An anonymous pundit said, “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.” We might chuckle at that, but it takes intentional effort not to do just that. This year, I’ll be aiming to create more art to help me visually weave Scripture into my everyday life. Do you find that to be helpful in your own life? If so, what are some ways you’ve helped yourself focus on God’s truth throughout your day? Feel free to leave a comment below. And happy New Year!

The Secret to Peace From Philippians 4:8

Peace Like a River sculpture in the Salvaged Messengers series.

Next time you’re feeling tired, mentally fatigued or overwhelmed, just tell folks you’re hitting a little Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Ah, those wonderfully long German words. Fliegerabwehrkanonen is the word from which we get “flak”— exploding shells fired from anti-aircraft guns. No pilot wants to fly through flak, but we fly through mental flak almost every day.

Explosions—not of shell fragments—but of images, text, and sound bombard our eyes and ears, blasting their way into our mind. Emails (yes, like the one you’re reading), texts and instant messages merge with Facebook posts, 24/7 news blasts, and the latest cat video into a swelling spray of mental flak that shatters our peace.

Psychologists have coined various terms for this—information overload, infobesity, infoxication and others. Xerox produced an amusing video about it which you can see here.

But joking aside, mental flak can have negative consequences, deforming us into distracted, unproductive, ineffective and inattentive people.

We don’t have to accept this as the norm, however. God offers peace and rest—a place of quiet shelter, like a cave hidden behind a deafening waterfall. He invites us inside, encouraging us to refuse to be conformed to the world’s patterns and behaviors. He offers a different way because our Maker, after all, has His own perfect pattern for our lives. We don’t have to remain pinned down under a hail of mental flak. God promises that we can be transformed. We can have our tired, frazzled minds renewed.

This is one of the great treasures of Philippians 4:8. In it, we’re encouraged with these words: “ … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

In a world where we constantly receive information—often of the distressing variety—through an overwhelming number of channels, it’s more crucial than ever that we develop a habit of thinking on the true, the honorable, the pure, and anything that is praiseworthy. That’s part of the secret of not conforming to the patterns of fatigue and frustration that are so prevalent in our world. When we surround ourselves with things that build up rather than tear down—art, writing, music, other people—we’re putting Philippians 4:8 into practice. We’re also putting ourselves in a position where God can reprogram us, re-calibrate our sensitivities, and reinvigorate us. And that’s when we’ll experience genuine rest in the true peace that only comes from God Himself.