Each year, in Redeemer Kids, we complete a walk through the Bible with supplemental reading from The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski. The hope is not just that they would understand the historical timeline as God’s Word reveals, but that they would also begin to see within these events the thread of our hope and salvation – Jesus. We are thrilled to find out what kids can recall each week, and we enjoy the questions that come our way, but it is even more exciting to see them applying truth to their heart. This kind of training with application is not just happening on Sunday morning. If we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, then Biblical instruction is not something we keep in the “Sunday Morning” compartment of our lives, waiting to be revisited. Instead, in our homes, when we sit down and as we walk along the road, teaching Scripture bears fruit in every day word and action. So rather than viewing Sunday morning as an all encompassing, or primary, means of discipleship, we can see that this is one essential time of worship among seven days. And a life of worship says Christ is ruler of them all.
Tools for Discipleship
For families who are interested in more information about why every-day discipleship matters and what that looks like, please read Pastor Keith’s article, Discipleship at Home. In the mean time, we’d like to provide you with some ideas for following up with what kids are learning in Pre-K up to fourth grade here at Redee. Whether you are a new believer or you have enjoyed living as a child of God for years, our hope is that this would be a useful resource for your home as you determine how to lead your children in truth and love.
1. Help Each Other Learn the Memory Verse
Each month, we will be memorizing a new verse or passage. If you, as a parent, are new to memorizing God’s Word, this is an exciting way for you to participate with kids and challenge each other to know sections of the Bible by heart. On Sunday mornings, we use plenty of repetition. We play games to recall parts of the verse, and we say it back to each other. Have fun finding a method of memorization that works best for your family and encourage each other to keep working at it.
2. Follow Along in the Long Story Short
In addition to The Gospel Story Bible, Marty Machowski wrote a book of corresponding ten-minute devotions. Within one week of devotions, kids interact with the story in various ways. They will read and imagine what it looked like to be in the historical account, and answer questions for recollection and comprehension. They will look for ways Jesus is woven in and around this section of the Bible, and they will even begin to use cross-references for better understanding.
3. Look Ahead
We encourage you to keep track of the lesson plans for the month ahead. To do that, please check back here on the blog at the beginning of the month for updated information on the current memory verse and passages explored each Sunday morning.
Today we wanted to share with you some excepts from our Kenya Magazine, called Amani. Amani is the Swahili word for “Peace” and it denotes a peace born of wholeness and harmony. The magazine chronicles the most recent Redeemer Church team trip to Kenya.
The Editor’s Note:
The stories God tells with a surrendered life are ones of daring adventure, but they are also moving works of art. Amani is peace born of wholeness and harmony. When we each learn the identity of our true self, we can each finally find our place in the glory song.
Each of us is created uniquely in the image of God. There are similar things within our hearts that bond us and gives us missions of united purpose, but within the mission, we must each play a different part–after all, diversity of voice and instrument create a fuller, richer symphony. We must not waste time wishing we were given a different part to fulfill. We must not let the beauty of a fellow worker singing the glory song beautifully discourage us from finding our place in the symphony, we must let the strength and beauty of another be an inspiration only, trusting God to come through for us when we step out and offer all that we are in our unique and divinely appointed way. We are not alone in this, we are but one part of the body, one voice in the symphony. We must not look to the chair beside us for comparison, but feed off their melody as we all look to our conductor who has written the composition of our lives and asked us to do what we do best.
From the Article:
Visions of an African Journey
What a rich experience it was to be able to travel to various villages and cities within Kenya, to see different climates, different tribes, different ways of life. Our minds were stretched to absorb and process new customs, languages, and textures that shaped everyday Kenyan life.
There really is more to see than can ever be seen, and I am so glad for that. But by far, the most beautiful of all God’s creation we beheld during our time in Kenya were the people. People all over the world are God’s crowning glory of creation, I know this to be true, but for some reason, God has allowed this truth to stun me with breathtaking impact while in Africa. Over and over again, I have had experiences of marveling at the lavish beauty and vibrancy of East African landscapes only to have my breath stolen away once God’s favorite works of art walk unassumingly into the scene, sometimes she walks by with a baby wrapped in a kikoy on her back, sometimes he’s balancing goods on his head, sometimes she is three feet tall and waving excitedly to the muzungu from the side of the road, and sometimes there are a chorus of perfect, little ones all around me, laughing as I humorously butcher yet another Swahili word. And I am suddenly reminded all over again that we are God’s pièce de résistance—the “very good” in the midst of a world created “good”.
From the Article:
Perfect: Seeing though God’s Eyes, A Lesson in Idenity
Why is it that whenever I think of all these children one word comes to mind: perfect. I am aware that the kids I’ve come to know here are like anybody else on the planet, broken and sinful. All of them have endured tragedy upon tragedy. They are surely broken, fragmented versions of who they were created to be.
And yet, they are perfect. With Perfect toothless seven-year old smiles. Perfect chocolate skin and eyes the perfect color of the earth in a forever summer. Perfect bare feet that run and play across red clay and long nylon grass. Perfect laughs that harmonize with stars in the galaxies and the blooming of spring. Perfect, deep, rich voices that sing silly songs, foreign songs, and songs of a Father’s love. These perfect, broken children are the beauty of God’s creation, His holiness at work. They have much to learn, and they grow in wisdom and understanding more each day. But even now, in their broken, incompleteness, they are perfect. And I finally realize the power of Christ’s love on the cross.
He is giving me His eyes, sharing His heart for these kids with me, showing me exactly how He sees them, individual, unique, and perfect. He sees each of them as who they are, who He created them to be. By the power of Christ’s love and sacrifice on the cross we are and are being made whole, complete, perfect. Each of us who comes to faith in Christ not only gets the amazing, unthinkable blessing of holiness–as Christ substitutes my sin for His perfection–but we even get to become more deeply, more richly, more fully who we were always created to be as Christ work continues its restorative wonder within us.
Identity in Christ does not paint us all the same color, rather it brings back the unique and beautiful hues of all the diversity and perfection with which God first created His good world. We get to own the identity we were always created to have even as we work out our brokenness and repent from our sin and discover just who this perfect person is buried beneath the false self this broken world has handed us. And believe me, the way God sees these children, the way He sees you and the way He sees me is full of delight and earth-shattering love. This is our identity in Christ, the perfection of his sacrifice, the perfection of his creation.
From the Article:
The Kingdom is Here: Community Home Visits
I loved having the privilege of visiting a couple of community homes. The experience was a very real way to step into someone else’s daily life–it fascinates me to no end that what is altogether foreign to me, is someone else’s normal.
There was one home in particular where the Kingdom of God was so apparent in our hostess’ hospitality, generosity, and humble means of bringing beauty into her corner of the world. This woman was a natural facilitator of community and her home and it’s evidence of her beautiful heart will linger in my memory always.
Her home was made of wood and tin with burlap and vinyl sacks cut and sewn to insulate the inside, the floor was dirt and the wind still blew through the house a bit, despite her efforts, but after being there for a few minutes none of these things seemed to matter any longer, for she hosted us with as much warmth and generosity as I have ever seen. Even though she didn’t speak a word of English and we only spoke a handful of Swahili between the nine of us, we loved being in her presence and in her home.
What made her home so special was the way she cultivated beauty and facilitated community so naturally. Even in her tiny hut-home and with meager means, she somehow managed to provide ample seating for her guests in a clean and lovely space. She didn’t let the potato sack walls nor dirt floor keep her from making her home beautiful. Lace adorned the walls, covering the vegetable sack insulation, the couches were covered in clean blankets, and the tables were each draped with a lovely cloth.
This woman is a widow with several children to teach, nurture, and provide for. She works hard to raise a few livestock and grow a humble garden. Her health often fails her as she struggles with the compounding effect of several ailments, and yet, in all these obstacles, she is not discouraged, she still takes time to bring beauty to her world and create a space for friends, and family and visiting strangers to gather in. She served us tea, made creamy by the fresh milk from her own cow. Her home was a space that said, sit, be, breathe, for all shall be well. It was a beautiful, refreshing, and inspiring thing to behold. She has shown me how to make art even in difficult and sometimes tragic circumstances of life. I got to witness the beauty of a woman growing in her walk with God and learning how to bring the Kingdom of God into the reality of her village of huts and crops and livestock. She is choosing hope and wholeness–she is the poetry of God’s heart.
From the Article:
Uncovering Joy in the Messy and the Hard
We were created to create, to collaborate, to cultivate. The work will be messy, the task will be hard. But press in when you want to retreat, endure when you feel defeat, persevere when you want to give up, draw close when you’re tempted to isolate, give grace when you don’t think you can tolerate anymore, and when others cause the ugly to rise up in you, look at it, deal with the ugly in you, knowing that restoration of beauty is the business God is up to and you can trust Him. When you are handed fragments create alongside God and others, create your way to something whole, something good, something beautiful and true.
Create until chaos becomes harmony.
If you want to see hundreds more photographs plus full articles, interviews, poetry, recipies, and stories, be sure to pick up your copy of Amani Magazine at the church office throughout the week or in the Welcome Center on Sundays. All proceeds from the magazine sales goes to directly to Kids Alive Kenya. For more info about Kids Alive International, please visit their site and for more info about Redeemer’s Love Initiative with Kids Alive, visit our church website.
Hope you enjoyed these glimpses into how God created something really beautiful through learning, broken hearts and faulty, eager hands.
There is a rather wide distinction between the way the Jews would define and describe God versus the way we as “Westerners” would define Him. For example, if we (as Westerners) were to teach a class on God’s character we would define God like Wayne Grudem does as “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” To be honest, as amazing and true as this is it can be hard to understand such a technical definition.
The Jews on the other hand would have a tendency in antiquity to define God in pictures and story. Instead of our technical definition referred to before the Jews would define God in a different way. For example, Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” The definition of God from this verse is that God is a strong tower. He is a safe place to run. Another example of that is that of Hebrews 12:20 which says God is a “consuming fire”. These are two rather different pictures of God.
What a vivid picture of the coming Messiah we have in Isaiah 11:10. It says, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples- of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” This passage says that Jesus (the root of Jesse) will stand as a signal for the peoples. Jesus is the radiant light blinking for all the world to see. I picture this definition as a boat searching for land in the midst of a violent storm. In the distance when all hope is lost somebody cries out that they see a “blinking light”. As this boat approaches the hope grows as they know in the distance a lighthouse is growing larger and larger. Salvation has come.
Isaiah 11:10 says that the nations will inquire as to what this light is. As the nations grow closer to this light (Jesus) they are told they will find rest in his glorious resting place. What is this verse telling us about God?
Jesus is drawing people to himself.
The beauty of the gospel is that left to ourselves we can do nothing to earn favor in God’s eyes. In fact, we wouldn’t even desire God without his drawing.
Jesus is drawing the NATIONS to himself.
God is passionate about spreading his glory among the nations, countries and races of the world. This is why racism is such a gross and ungodly sin.
Jesus is the sole place to find rest.
As the world crumbles before our eyes we know that the only hope for rest and peace is Jesus himself. No politician, job, family or anything in this world will give you the hope that Jesus can offer. His resting place is glorious.
Run to his light today. Run to his resting place today. You will find heavenly, glorious rest in Jesus.
To be entirely honest, I have struggled for years to understand the importance of art. Why must we paint pictures, and write poems, read stories, and act, and film, and sculpt, and dance, and carve, and craft, and sing, and draw. I can’t seem to get away from the reality that these things are important. Have you ever considered how much the human soul craves story. We are desperate for understanding, for interpretation, for relief, for engagement, for someone else to visually show us what already lies in our own hearts. We fall in love with songs and novels and movies and people because something in them resonates with something in us and we long to dive in deeper, to hold it close, to listen to it and watch the thing unfold over and over and over again. Not only this, but we express our love this way too. We write songs, and stories and poems out of the overflow of whatever is most deeply moving through our hearts. That is why in my search to understand if there is any intrinsic and/or eternal value to the act and resulting product of creating art, I have discovered that it is in the creating of art that we can deeply and passionately worship our Creator.
I have been reading John Piper’s “Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully” In it he brilliantly points out that creating is a powerful form of meditation. Sometimes we don’t really let the reality of a thing sink into the marrow of our soul until we try to somehow put it into our own words, to look at the thing, and how it made us feel and think and understand and put all of that into a shape or a sentence or a melody. In his book, Piper proposes the idea that putting out a “poetic effort” to communicate something beautifully is a powerful way of training ourselves to see and savor beauty which then fuels further worship of God who is himself the source of all true beauty. Perhaps an example would help illustrate what Piper is getting at. In his book he says, “when I hear my daughter singing… my heart is glad. But when I make the effort to put into suitable words what I love about her song—in a conversation, in a birthday card, in a poem—I hear more, see more, love more. This is how it is with all truth and beauty—the wonders of nature, the stunning turns of redemptive history, and the glories of Christ. In making the poetic effort to find fitting words for these wonders, we see and savor them more deeply and speak them with more power.”1
And so as we create to worship we must bring our best, high quality, deeply imaginative craftsmanship. This does not mean you have to be the best at what you do. What it does mean is that if anyone were to look at your work, they could see that you dug deep to produce what you did—no half measures here. We are to love the lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.2 If we put half-hearted effort into our work, whether from laziness, or fear, or in a hallow attempt to evangelize that is void of any true worship we are like Cain3, offering what’s easy and what won’t cost us much. Our worship should cost us much and if we dare to reach in deeply until it hurts, it will become our joy to give it, all of it, with all our heart. As T.S. Eliot has said, “The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink”4 and isn’t that just how it should be.
As a consumer of art and story of the culture in which you live, can’t you tell the difference between something made in a shallow attempt to sell or preach or promote versus something that has uncovered and revealed the creator’s deep desire and thus has life poured into it. To push past the surface of the easily accessible and readily acceptable language to communicate truth beautifully that resonates with humanities deepest held desires takes courage and perseverance for this is deeply opposed. As Emily P. Freeman has said in her book, A Million Little Ways, “when we aren’t able to to translate what makes us come alive into our own language, the temptation might be to dismiss it altogether. Many of us have spent our entire lives editing our first thoughts. We do this for all kinds of reasons—to avoid critique, prevent failure, please people, or simply because we can’t see how they will logically fit into our lives. So we tuck away our deepest desires, and we cover them up with more acceptable pursuits.”5
You want to know why I believe we are so easily deceived into thinking our deepest desires and any attempt at exploring and expressing them through our creations is often stifled by the suggestion that such things are not acceptable or worthwhile? I believe it is because it keeps us from truly worshipping our God. We have an enemy whose power cannot stand in the face of worship of the One true God and so he will do whatever it takes to keep our hearts shallow and resigned. He will work overtime to make our Christian pursuits of service and obedience void of heart and desire because without heart and desire we cannot worship in spirit and in truth. We need our hearts. We need to know the desires that lie in our hearts in order to pour these things out in adoration. And so we must do the hard work of uncovering our desires, if we are to give God our best.
As John Piper said in Let the Nations be Glad, “missions is not eternal, worship is.”6 To worship is our first commandment. To let worship propel the creative work does not necessarily mean that it has to be evangelical either. There is a time and place for such work, but even in artwork that aims at reaching non-believers one must first make quality work that is not flat and preachy and predictable. We must dig deeper than that, don’t settle on the familiar and the easy. Search, explore, pry into your own heart and mind and discover what lies beneath the cliches and idioms and all the jargon that lies at the surface within easy access and find the treasures buried in that place where who you really are can connect with a God who really is.
Third, let us expand our understanding of art beyond word and paint and film for we are co-creators in a world full of endless mediums created by God and given to us with complete freedom to explore their limits and test their combinations. God gave us our voices and he gave us garlic and oregano. He gave us the elements of the earth to form new substances and compounds and he gave us plants that can be pressed into dyes, eaten for their nutritional value, gathered for their medicinal value, or planted for their aesthetic value. But more than that he gave us a unique set of capacities that define our humanity and give us limitless creative outlets. We have the capacity to think and to feel, to bond and to relate. He made us sexual beings and hungry beings and learning beings. We can make art with the way we bake cookies, or tell jokes, or relate to our spouse, or build houses, or ice skate, or treat our neighbors, or read aloud. There is an art to everything, even us human beings, ourselves, are said to be works of art created by God.7
As we do the work of mediating on the beauty of God and his truth and his creation expressing the depths of his desire, it will in turn ignite worship even as it uncovers the depths of our own hearts.8 For we ourselves are God’s craftsmanship, his creation, his expression of his own heart. As Emily P. Freeman has said, “we are the poetry of God’s heart, the expression of his desire”.9
But we must not forget that we are a broken version of what we were once created to be, and we now have the capacity to have broken and distorted desires. That is why we as works of art, must bend our will to God as the artist who has created us and knows what wholeness and restoration will look like for us, specifically. He knows what the pureness of corrupted desires is supposed to look like within us. And so we surrender our desires even as they are uncovered and let Christ wash, heal, and restore them to their former glory. Only then will we reflect the radiance our King.
We must not create by merely trying hard and forcing our art to communicate a message that feels forced to everyone watching, but we must have the courage and the perseverance to create by meditating on the truth and beauty of God as we put our findings into our own words and shapes and melodies, uncovering our desires as we create from our deepest places, and live like works of art with the substance of our lives, bending our will to the desire of the master artist.
In part one of this series we talked about what beauty is. This post will discuss how truth and beauty are dependent on one another and how it’s the job of the Church to tie the elusive knot between the two.
The arts belong to those who call Christ their king. Actually, they belong to him from whom all things came, through whom all things came, and for whom all things were made.1 And through our being reconciled to him by the cross we are heirs to it all.2
Yet, in many ways the Church has surrendered art to the culture around us. We’ve consistently made movies that are desperately uncreative, developed an uninspired mold for Christian radio, and we’ve succumbed to making every attempt at art “evangelistic”. Francis Schaeffer who wrote on this topic frequently said, “A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.”3 God forbid we tell a fantastic story for the sake of telling a fantastic story, right?
Art, even without a gospel tract zip tied to its frame, is important to God because we are created in his image and he is the ultimate artist. That means anytime a human being is using his talents to create, he is reflecting his creator whether he likes it or not. This is the trap for our creative-yet-unbelieving friends, isn’t it? Even as they labor to disprove God through the arts of rhetoric and logic, for instance, they glorify him by using the tools he’s given. Forgive me for thinking this is adorable.
Art is an wonderful apologetic resource in this sense, too. It allows us to very clearly point to our nature as image bearers. I recently watched a remarkable video of a man painting a nature scene, sort of detached in outer space on a disc shaped piece of…planet, for lack of better description. I have no clue as to whether he was a Christian or not but he was certainly acting like one by using God’s tools that way. As he moved back and forth from one side of his canvas to the other, using paint brushes in both hands, divvying his attention between the painting and the paint, almost in a trance, and leaving me restless to see what his hands were translating from his mind, I could only think of how beautiful this reflection of God was. Here he is, a bizarre character, on a bizarre planet, in an increasingly bizarre story, and he has chosen to…paint? Why would he do that? Scripture tells us that at his very core, he’s an image bearer. He’s imitating his creator! To some degree the artist, Christian or otherwise, has shown an embrace to the mysterious world he lives in by suppressing his questions, if not for just a moment, and deciding to try his hand at creation using the standard God has given him.
There is an interesting remnant of that original mandate God gave Adam in the garden to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”4 As we create, as this particular artist tried his hand at fashioning his own little world onto a blank canvas, he took part in fulfilling what it means to subdue the earth. He’s used a paint brush made of wood and hog hair, paint made from oils, pigments and solvents either found from the ground or made from things found in the ground. He exercised his dominion over the earth and used his tools to reflect God’s glory by making something beautiful and true.
As a Christian I’m fascinated by all kinds of people as they use their creativity this way. All over the world in different cultures and from different religious backgrounds people write poems, make films, sing songs, tell stories, and paint paintings. It’s important for us to press into this natural desire of humanity to be creative and ask the question, what mere “bag of cosmic stardust”, as the atheist describes man, would care to create such beautiful things? What good is there in the arts if we are a rogue, interstellar accident? The answer is that a mere bag of cosmic stardust would not care to do such things. There is no inherent good to the arts in an interstellar accident.
This is where truth and beauty meet. Our theology must fuel our creativity. Christians have the advantage here by knowing and loving the one true God, who, with no creative help spoke the universe into existence! Truth and beauty, theology and creativity need each other. Theologians so often lack the “feels” in their writing, leaving out the God given gift of passion and emotion in their work. On the other hand, so many artists have little knowledge of Christ and the depths of his goodness and thus lack the substance that gives their work eternal significance. The truth tellers need the artists and the artists need the truth tellers. Christian, you are the bridge between this gap. Truth and beauty are both required to accurately express to the world who God is, which is exactly what we are called to do. My favorite author of late, N.D. Wilson, articulated this well in an interview:
“If we Christians have the truth, and that truth is beautiful – more beautiful than any other message or religion out there – and then we present it in stammering, clumsy, irreverent, or ugly ways, well, we’re hypocrites. We’re living unfaithfully to the Truth. But if we live in a state of celebration and joy and gratitude, and if our words and our art and our presentations of that truth hit people like the smell of baking bread, then we’re getting somewhere.”5
Lean into your being created in the image of God by making really good art, then. Bring beauty to theology and bring substance to art. Make beautiful things, sing beautifully, write the best stories and be the best filmmaker. You have a theology that assures you that the ultimate artist has adopted you, cleansed you, loves you, sacrificed his son for you, and on top of all that has given you the tools you need to glorify him through your talents and passions. That’s freedom!
Rejoice in the fact that as we carry out Christ’s great commission by telling the truth we can point to all kinds of beauty to support our claims. God has been gracious to bury these creative secrets all over this planet for us to discover and use for his glory. Don’t leave the figurative gold and treasures for only the world to use. Be prepared to speak of God as the standard of truth and beauty. Be an image bearer and an artist after God’s own heart.
Article by Brian Riddle
1 Romans 11:36
2 Romans 8:17
3 Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible
4 Genesis 1:28
5 Truth and Beauty: A Conversation with N.D. Wilson, The Gospel Coalition