Artworship

The paintings above were all born out of a project run by Jeremy and Jamie Wells called “Artworship“.

“During Artworship participants are asked to reconsider worship. They are asked to forget what they have known and think about the fundamentals of worship, of expressing love and reverent devotion to God.  What makes the God of Christianity different from the deities of other faiths is His extremely personal interest in knowing us. Our response to this should be worship which allows this personal God to search us out, to test us and to know our thoughts.  Many times we don’t give ourselves this freedom or we are scared to delve into these areas and thoughts.  Artworship is a place where we can come before this Holy and Loving God.  We can express though creative means our love, devotion and the truth of who we are.

People are asked to create.  And they are not given a formula.  This can be a frightening experience for some.  For this reason, we walk people through this experience and assure them that being created in the Image of God, we all have a creative capacity within us. The hope is not an end result of beautiful paintings. The hope is that through this experience Christ will be allowed to touch what has been hidden away and the process of healing and forgiveness can begin.'”

An extract from the Artworship website

I think that what these guys are doing is fantastic, and, I for one think that art could be utilized so much more in public worship.

We have people painting occasionally at the church service I attend, and I know that for some people, they find it so helpful. It’s not just about the artist, who is able to use their God given talent to worship their maker, but about people who learn and take things in better using visual aids.

I think that a very important point that Jeremy and Jamie make is when they say “The hope is not an end result of beautiful paintings“. I believe that all of us have creativity, if only because we are made in the image of a creative God! I always say to people that say they can’t do art, that whatever they create, someone, somewhere will like it and will be willing to pay money for it. Even with that being the case, that is not the point here – to me, there is no such thing as a “bad” piece of art, not only because of the fact that people have different tastes, but because of the fact that art is SO much more than the finished product, it is SO about the process and what the artist goes through to create!

So in this, what I am saying is that, if you feel like you are not a creative person, that you can’t paint, then give it a go, take a pen, or some watercolors, or whatever you can find, take some time aside with God and create something in worship to him, and see if it is helpful to you. And, if you are a creative person, take some time to encourage someone else to try out a new way of expressing their love and worship to Jesus.

– James

“When I Grow Up…” – an art exhibition by James Brooks

Here is a bit of shameless self-promotion!

Recently I have been working on a new collection of paintings which will be shown for the next month at the Firestation Arts Centre, Windsor. Everyone is welcome to the opening night which will be this Weds 1st October, from 7pm. For more information please visit the Firestation website.

– James

Lyrical theology, part 2

Following on from my earlier post on shai linne, I want to let you all know about another very exciting hip-hop project. It’s by a group that shai linne is part of, known as the 116 clique (refers to Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel….”) and the album is called “13 letters”. Each of the rappers in the group takes on one or two of Paul’s 13 letters and summarises their main thrust in a hip-hop track (i.e. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon) and then a few other tracks on different themes such as “Evolution” – talking about sanctification of believers.

13 letters: an excellent example of lyrical theology

13 letters: an excellent example of lyrical theology

 

So why is it so good? Firstly, it is a superb piece of artistry. The 116 have brought together a varied bunch of rappers and producers that gives a very different feel to each track, but ones that keep you interested and fit the theme. So one minute you have the thoughtful and touching track “It’s yours”, looking at Paul passing the baton onto Timothy in the book of 2 Timothy (Paul’s last letter in the Bible). Next you’re listening to Json’s treatment of Colossians as a banging beat that laces a strong rebuke against the false teaching in the church. Of special mention is also Lecrae’s “Break it down” – it’s not my musical style, but is a very clever treatment of 1 Corinthians…I won’t say any more, you’ll have to find out yourself!

These men have really, I mean really got into their Bibles on this project as well. They’ve got a good idea of context and of the main thrust of the letters, and have brilliantly transferred this to a rap format. They’ve also stuffed the letters full of scriptures straight from the word which don’t sound jarring at all. A good example of this is shai’s coverage of Romans – probably the best summary of Romans you are likely to get in under 5 minutes (and shai in his encouragement for further study at the end of the track even gives a list of useful commentaries – “my man John MacArthur” is a line you don’t often hear!).

I genuinely believe that I have a much greater understanding of what is in each of the 13 letters after hearing this album, and even better I have a renewed excitement about studying the Bible after hearing it (which is exactly what listeners are exhorted to do on “Dig in”). Check out the linked video below for the 2 Corinthians track and if you like it then go and buy it (you can get it from http://www.direct.crossrhythms.co.uk/product/48658/116+Clique/13+Letters)

– Stephen

Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

-J. Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor - a humble, obedient and inspiring servant of Jesus

James Hudson Taylor, the British doctor, pioneer missionary and founder of the China Inland Mission (today OMF International) sets an inspiring model for modern day Christians “in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). It is likely that what God accomplished through his life in sowing seeds across China (both personally in through the organisation he founded) is a major factor in the revival seen in China today. From a personal perspective, he is quite possibly the person who has most inspired me outside of the Bible.

This biography is beautifully written, and feels neither over-long nor superficial. Roger Steer (the author) shows real discernment in picking out important parts from Taylor’s life, and you go from reading of his conversion experience, through his early explorations in depending on God for finances (this bit really challenged me to do the same!), to his time over in China. It follows Taylor through fierce persecution, the heartbreak of losing his first wife to illness, the excitement as the mission flourished, many amazing moves of God, and finally a tender treatment of Taylor’s final years and death that will leave the reader in reverence of the Lord who can show men how to use a life so beautifully.

Read this book. Be challenged and inspired by it. Ask God what it means for your own life. You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/J-Hudson-Taylor-Missionary-Stories/dp/1850784086 or direct from OMF (http://www.omf.org/uk). To give you an idea of how important I believe this book is, I ordered 28 copies of it to distribute to people at university. For as you finish reading and think upon the short life God has given you, it is not with self-despair, but with a renewed recognition of just how much God can do with a life which is truly surrendered to Him. I’ll leave you with this quote by Taylor – ask yourself whether you can be one of those he talks of:

“All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”

The Elements of Vastness

This is a fantastic piece of art. The artist [Jeffrey Baker] works very much in layers, and tries to capture the landscapes of his native country of Australia.

Below is a quote from Jeffrey:

The use of our imagination should never be restricted or hindered. Freedom of expression and the understanding in one’s ability is a life time goal we should all try to achieve with the gifts we have been given from God

If you want to see more of Jeffrey’s work please click here

Lyrical Theology, part 1

Greetings all!

I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself: I’m Stephen, also known as the centurion (my rapping alias). I hope to make a regular contribution to this exciting new blog in opening readers up to areas of Christian creativity that they haven’t come across elsewhere. My particular interests are in Christ-centred hip-hop, preaching and books, and these are the areas I hope to cover in my posts.

…Right now, my focus is the Man who took the three nails

Two through His wrists, One through His feet

The wrath of God satisfied, the work of the Son is complete

– shai linne, The Solus Christus Project

I would like to introduce you today to an area of current Christian creative expression that you may be tempted to turn away from without a second thought simply because you haven’t liked hip-hop music that you’ve heard in the past. shai linne, the artist who wrote the line above is one of the best examples of a quickly-evolving field of God-glorifying, scripture-heavy, well produced and basically fantastic Christian hip-hop that I think can be appreciated by any person who is hungry to see more of God, whether or not they like hip-hop.

Much of modern day Christian music is very simple, and tends to focus on a small list of topics: thanking God for forgiveness, overcoming difficult times, praising God for His love and creation and other important topics – key themes, but a fairly small list. In contrast, just on the forementioned album Solus Christus Project you will hear “Angelz” – a three way conversation between shai, a demon and an angel discussing the justness of God in election; “Dark Night of the Soul” – an anguished cry in which the rapper laments his own sinfulness; and “Justified” – a lyrical verse by verse exposition of Romans chapter 3. Not only is it theologically profound, but musically accomplished and a real joy to listen to shai’s wordplay (“Crime rate – evidence of our depraved mindset; ‘cos sin got us hypnotised like chlorohydrate. Grimy associates, high off of opiates procreate within a kaleidoscope of hate”). This is the sort of album you can listen to ten times or more, and get something new from it each time. I can honestly say that I have seen more of God through listening to this album – probably the highest accolade I could give to it!

Whether you are a seasoned hip-hop head, or someone who runs at the thought of words without a tune, I cannot recommend this album highly enough to you. Get it off iTunes or http://www.spiritdistribution.co.uk/acatalog/Red_Cloud_Travelling_Circus.html and listen to it through several times. Then when you’ve listened to it, get his next album (like I’m about to do) – The Atonement. To get you excited I’ve even left a video link below to one of his newer tracks. Listen closely my friends, there is much to learn here….

– Stephen