Solomons Temple and the Modern Church

This is a guest post from our friend Thomas Loving (aka @DreadedRafifi). Thomas has a fantastic blog where he tends to pick apart obscure bits of scripture in a fantastic way.

Cherubim

Have you ever taken the time to read about the temple Solomon built for God? David spent the latter part of his life hoarding treasure and materials for the construction of the temple and Solomon took a little over seven years building it. To say the least, it was huge and amazing (you can read a full account here 1 Kings 6 – 7).

It was about 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. The inside of the temples walls were overlaid with gold. To light the inside he hung cross sections of gold chains that held golden oil lamps. Standing in the center of the temple, just before the inner chambers where the Ark of the Covenant rested, were two carved images of Cherubim (angels) standing 15 feet tall. Their wings were 15 feet wide each touching one wall with the inner wings touching each other. They too were overlaid with Gold.

The descriptions of the temple and its furnishings are both beautiful and detailed. They conjure images of holiness, beauty and a lavish grandeur the likes of which we may never see again in the world.

The imagery the artists used are such a contrast to today’s modern churches that sometimes don’t have any art or even a cross hung in their place of worship. Not that this modern style is a bad thing, but as a designer I can’t help but imagine the modern church as a blank canvas compared to Solomon’s temple. It’s almost as if the church is waiting for its artists and creators to wake them up to the beauty of God’s love.

We are made in the image of God and our God is a creator. We create because He first did. Sometimes I feel that the modern church has forgotten this aspect of God. But you and I-the designers, artists, musicians, writers, creators-we haven’t forgotten. How can we convince the church to not only make room for but also to encourage more art? Have you built any golden Cherubim lately? Think it’s time to try?

– DreadedRafifi

A Barnabus Community of Encouragement

Hands

Amongst our growing community here at Artists for Christ we may have some people with the heart of Paul – church planters, proclaimers, pioneers. We may have some people with the heart of Bezalel (Exodus 35:30 – 36:2) – wanting to prepare beautiful things for the Lord, creating physical art for reasons of worship and as a demonstration to others of God’s magnificence. We may have David’s and Asaph’s – anointed musicians and poets, forming masterful works of praise and celebration. But I hope and pray that in amongst all of these, we have some with the heart of Barnabus.

Barnabus only comes up a few times in the New Testament but is worthy of our attention. I want to highlight the two main passages in Acts that demonstrate his heart. Firstly, after Saul has had his amazing conversion on the road to Damascus (becoming Paul), he is healed and commissioned by Ananias, and then comes to Jerusalem. Acts 9:26 tells us that “he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple”. Stop for a minute. What could have happened next? Saul, the new believer in Christ could have become disheartened, and never come into fellowship with the other leaders of the early church. Now two important words in verse 27: “But Barnabus…”. Barnabus takes Saul, encourages him, and speaks to the disciples about all that God is doing in Saul’s life, how Saul has become a faithful witness. This is a pivotal moment in a pivotal life, and the encouragement by Barnabus is key.

Skip onto chapter 11. The first church in Antioch has been started, and it’s the first church that is formed of gentiles (non-Jews). This is another pivotal moment. The church leaders in Jerusalem are perhaps wary of what is happening, whether it is truly the work of the Holy Spirit – so they send Barnabus to check it out. Barnabus arrives and “saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”. And so began the church of Antioch, the missionary sending base of the early church and the first place that Jesus-followers were called Christians.  The key point of all of this: Barnabus was used by God for great and wonderful works through the encouragement he gave.

Friends, I think this is an area where we have to fight against the prevailing attitude of the world. Artists, writers and musicians in the secular world are often in fierce competition, trying to get “one-up” on each other. There is a slowness to encourage, as it might imply that others are better. Even encouragement given to one another can be empty, half-hearted, or with false motivation. Many of us are already on the right track in dealing with these issues, but I want to encourage us all to become a “Barnabus Community”.

What could this “Barnabus Community” look like? It could look like artists truly taking an interest in each other’s passions for what God is doing in them. It could look like creative people sometimes recommending other people above themselves, not because they’re lazy, but because they want to see others built up in their gifts. It could look like people laying down their desires to be centre stage, and learning how to rejoice in God being glorified, whoever is being used as the vessel.

It could look stunningly beautiful.

– Stephen

What you were made for

What you were made for

“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labour, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” – Ephesians 4:28

A Stolen Purpose

There is a beauty to be found in doing what you’re made for; in devoting time and energy to something that brings about a new experience or object, a thing to be shared and that reveals even the tiniest part of the awesome character of God.

Yet there are occasions when the amazing plans and designs of God are corrupted, distracted from their function, and their purpose is stolen from them.

Psalm 19:1 tells us that “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands”… I wonder if anyone has ever told that to newspaper psychics and horoscope writers, who tell thousands, maybe millions, of readers the disasters that will befall them over the course of the next 24 hours, or the way in which their love life is going to progress, all divined, apparently, from observing the heavens. Where did the universe go so wrong that we now look up to the sky and see not the wondrous God we serve but instead we seek direction from planetary movements and characters from Greek and Egyptian myths?

The same seems to have happened in many cases with art. Whatever its form, art has the power to convey any range of ideas. I have seen amazing work that has spoken to me of the power and glory of God, but I’ve also found so many creative works that are solely designed to destroy the image of the God who originally thought of them. When was its purpose stolen?

Gifted For Glory

The first account we have of God directly giving any form of spiritual gift is found in Exodus. After sharing instructions for His designs for the Tabernacle we’re told of a command that God makes; that “every skilful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”

God gifted artists and designers to build a dwelling place for Him, to construct somewhere in which His glory could rest and He could be worshipped. The middle part of this passage teaches us something beautiful about the purpose of art, that it is to be used in the building of a sanctuary, a place for people to seek God and hear from him.

Creativity can be used to create an environment where God is present, where we can seek Him, worship Him and where those in need can be supported, encouraged and built up. It is to be shared, to declare His beauty and power. That is the stolen purpose of art. What you were made for.

So let art tell of the glory of God, let creativity declare the work of His hands. Whether you are a painter, writer, musician, cinematographer, photographer or random scribbler, let that which you create speak of the one you love, the one who inspired all you make and He to whom all the glory is given. Our glorious God.

– Luke

Writers! Be Confident

Fountain Pen

“There is a conversation about God going on in popular culture that the church is not engaged in and is often unaware of.”

The above quote comes from a book called A Matrix of Meaning and is part of a call to Christians to start promoting work within [what Christians would call] the secular industry.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently, due to an essay I had to write on the engagement of Christians within popular culture and would like to share a little bit of what I have been thinking about with you.

I love reading. It does not really matter what it is that I am reading, so long as I am reading something. However I have always struggled to read christian fiction, possibly because I have an underlying belief that if christian fiction cannot make it into mainstream bookstores, it must be terrible.

I have made a mistake

I am beginning to believe that the trouble stems not from the fiction, but where the fiction is being aimed at. Maybe the reason why we do not see a large amount of christian fiction is because its aimed at the christian market within christian sellers.

Can Christians not write meaningful fiction that can be enjoyed by all? of course! I was very amazed to find a copy of ‘The Shack’, [for those that do not know, this is a recent book written by William Young, about a man’s encounter with God] in my local bookstore, which shows that such fiction can be aimed at the mass market.

Often we see everyone outside of church as just people we either need to avoid or evangelise till they become one of us. We could however choose to see them as people on a journey, just like us, searching for something bigger who might just find something worthwhile in something a christian has written.

What I am trying to do is encourage writers to be confident in their abilities to write. Enter competitions, get your friends to read your work, push boundaries and knock on doors.

It does not matter what we write, whether it be film scripts, poetry, fiction, comics, songs or whatever we should believe that God can break down any walls and allow his message to be read in all spheres of culture, not just our own christian culture. We need to start aiming bigger for the sake of others.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD  in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27

Lets start showing the goodness of God to the world through the creativity he has given us.

– Russell

Friday’s FYI – Jono Hale

Jono is a young Graphic Designer and Musician based in New Zealand. He has a passion for seeing the gospel shared through the creative arts and is particularly gifted at web design.

Jono Hale

Age? I was born on 11/10/1989(so for you guys in USA, 10/11/1989, October 11th 😛 ) so that makes me 19.

Where do you live? I live in Ohau, which is a little town south of a larger little town, Levin, in the great land of New Zealand.

What is your favorite colour? I love the metallic gradient, light grey – black, or um… black? not sure…

What is your favorite website at the moment? Right now… hmm… *looks at bookmarks* possibly, www.gomediazine.com & www.videocopilot.net

What are the 3 things that you most like doing with your time? Well, Gaming with mates (COD4, Halo, Xbox live gamer tag: otenic add me 😛 I’ll play nice first game, lol j/k no i won’t I’ll pwn ya 😉 ), working on designs for youth group, helping out at youth church & church with sound, lighting, drumming…

Living Victory Shirt - Jono Hale

More Than Youth Website - Jono Hale

Love Out Of This World Shirt - Jono Hale

When did you first start using your creativity for God, and how did that come about? When i started designing! 😀 around 5 years ago when my mates at school got me back into web design, then got excited and we started work on our youth groups first website!

What inspires you? God, the world around me, other creative peoples work and more then often while listing to music.

Who are some of your favorite artists? Definately God, Andrew Kramer(www.videocopilot.net), Aj Dimarucot & Danny Carlsen the designer for Parachute Music, www.parachutemusic.com, Andy Francis (Planetshakers designer, www.planetshakers.com) anyone that works hard to set new trends! oh and the guys over at RedisWhite.com!

What is the most amazing thing that you have seen God do? Gave me meaning and my talents! only 5 years as a designer and no formal education, that’s cos God isn’t dependent on what the world offers, he can use you any way you let him! oh sorry back to questions.

Do you have any particular projects going on at the moment? I recently applied for the position of Lead designer at NZ largest Christian youth mag (www.soulpurpose.co.nz) so hopefully get that, Working on Motion graphics for Youth of the Nation Conference including promo video, intro videos and graphics for during worship as well as being Visual Director (live video production etc). I also have another project that is secret so can’t say. sorry 🙁 + I’m working on getting my blog back on track 😀

What can we expect to see from you in future? Hopefully some cool new prototypes for sermon podcast stuff, social network stuff & even awesomer motion graphics! 😀 oh and if all works out a new Faith based T-Shirt company, check back here I’m sure I’ll let these guys know.

What would you most like to see come out of the Christian Creative scene in the next few years? Well what not? I want us to start setting trends, becoming the ‘beginning of art’ as God was and is, inspiring work that gets people thinking and brings them closer to God!

Where can we find more of your work? right now on my company’s website: www.finenoises.com (almost finished!), my new blog www.jonohale.finenoises.com oh and my CreativeMYK space: www.creativemyk.com/finenoises

Anything else you would like to say? Keep using our talents for God, but think outside the box, use thought provoking words and ideas to get your message across, and remember God deserves your all, don’t hold back on your designs. And don’t be afraid to use resources like CreativeMYK, Gomedia and others to help enhance your designs, underline the word enhance! and remember He loves you!

Dogs, Vomit, and Cheap Chinese Food

Today. I did something very stupid. Which I would like to share.

I love Chinese food, alot. Whenever possible I will drag my girlfriend/friends/family to Chinese restaurants, I just love it!

Chopsticks

There is a Chinese restaurant near to my office, which does a 2 course lunch for just £5, an absolute bargain. I had been there quite a number of times, and every time I came away feeling disappointed. So, a couple of months back I decided that I needed to stop wasting my time and my money going there because the food there is rubbish! It doesn’t taste good at all, and I always wish that I had gone for something different.

Then today, I felt the urge for Chinese, and besides that, my boss was going to the usual cafe that I go to, so I needed to find something different. I proceeded to hang around outside the aforementioned Chinese restaurant for about 10 mins, thinking “shall I, shant I”. I could taste Chinese food in my mouth. It was so appealing. And it was a bargain at 5 pounds. I went in, sat down, and ordered dishes that, surely, they couldn’t possibly get wrong.

I remember school dinners tasting better than what I ate at lunchtime today. I left half of my lunch, the waitress came over and said “is the food ok?” and my response…”Yes, very nice thank you”.

My nose is now 2 inches bigger than it was this morning, and I can’t get Proverbs 26:11 out of my head.

“As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” – Proverbs 26:11

This has made me think. Surely I do this kind of thing all the time in other areas of my life.

What is your folly?

– James

A geeky love for MOO – Business Cards

As a creative person, I often get really inspired, and certain clever ideas capture my imagination. As far as I am concerned as a creative person a business card is something that you shouldn’t be without. Bring on Moo

MOO Business Cards

Moo have been a recent discovery for me, and perfectly timely. They are a company who produce business cards, stickers, greetings cards and special “Moo Mini Cards”.

The other day I came across a blog post, “70 Amazing Business Cards“, it really inspired me and made me realise that I needed to get business cards for myself. All the time I am meeting new people and telling them about what I do, and end up writing URL’s and telephone numbers on scrappy bits of paper.

Artists for Christ Moo Mini Cards

After seeing the awesomeness of the Moo Mini Cards, and the buzz that is surrounding them amoungst creative-types online, I just HAD to try them out. It’s a shame that I didn’t have more that one design in mind, because a fantastic thing about the Moo cards is that in your order you can have as many images as you like, so if you wanted, each of your business cards could have a different image on the front.

I am really pleased with my cards, and so glad to have them for promotional purposes. The quality you get for the hugely bargain price is amazing, and their customer service is brilliant. Another cool thing is their blog which is full of really inspiring stuff like this.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is this: if you are a creative who doesn’t have a business card, I think it would be a very wise investment. The fun creative things that you can do with Moo cards (especially with the multiple image feature) are fantastic, and the quality of print is beautiful.

Moo are offering 20% off until the end of January 2009 with promo code: GE6X8C

If you do order something, we would love to see what you produce, and trade cards, so get in touch!

– James 

You’re Custom Made

This guest post comes from our friend Keni. Keni is a fantastically talented artist and is passionate about sharing the gospel through his art and design work. You can check out his website at www.keni.com.

Lummis Home

This year I will celebrate my 60th birthday. There was a time when I was in my early 20’s when I thought that I would not live to see my 30th. You’ve probably heard the ‘deliverance from drugs and a life of sin when I accepted Jesus as my Savior’ testimonies.

There certainly was a time when I thought all the vices I had would kill me, but I stopped doing them (almost all) before I came to Christ. Instead, I began to believe that a life of emptiness would kill me had it not have been for my art. In a crazy way, my art became my drug, or my ‘god’ as they say in Christian circles.

Several years of freedom from drugs and living like a lunatic allowed my mind to clear up enough to come to another frightening realization; that not even art could be fulfilling.

When I finally invited Christ into my life, it took about six months for me to finally be convinced that He was truly all the Bible and anointed Christians said He was. I didn’t make a deliberate decision to stop painting, but I found that it was so much less satisfying than getting to know Jesus that I didn’t paint for a year.

When I finally picked up a paintbrush again, I had a real reason for doing so outside of myself.

I once heard a Bible teacher say that God doesn’t care what profession you choose. The preacher said that God only called apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. If you’re not called to the ‘5-fold’ ministry office, pick something and just do it.

I’m glad Jesus told the ‘Parable of the Talents’ (Matthew 25: 14-30). That tells me that everyone has been given talent(s) according to our own particular abilities. In other words, God custom made our talent(s) for us.

The late missionary, David Livingston said, “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” We should hold hold in high esteem those called to be apostles, prophets, evangelist pastors and teachers, but it should be no sacrifice to live life in service to God and man with the talents He has given us as artists. It is indeed an honor and privilege.

– Keni

“Pre-evangelism” – Preparing people for the Gospel

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Mars Hill

I have almost finished a song with a difference. It’s the first serious song I’ve written for probably several years that does not mention God, Jesus, sin or any other directly religious language. Yet I have written it with the need for people to come to Christ in mind. What’s going on here?

A concept I recently heard spoken about (I think by John Piper) is that of “pre-evangelism”. This is basically the idea that there are certain truths that are helpful to prepare people to hear the Good News of Jesus, even if they themselves are not the Gospel. A good illustration of this is in the life of Paul. At one point, he is able to say to the Philippian jailer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” and see him come to faith. However, as he stood before the philosophers at Athens he did not mention Jesus’ name at all. Why? Because he saw that those at Athens were at a level of understanding so distant from the truth, that to tell them of Jesus would have sounded like nonsense to them. So instead, he starts to tell them of the personal God who created all things, who “even some of your poets” have spoken of (Check out Acts 17:22-34). If this type of thinking interests you, try checking out the work of Francis Schaeffer.

Many people around us may have an even more distant understanding than those listening to Paul in Athens. Some may not even believe that there exists truth, or goodness, let alone a creator and sustainer God who can be known personally through the work of Jesus. So how do we respond to this? I think it is important for us to recognise that whilst some people around us are ready to respond to art and music that directly explains the gospel (and praise God for how many people’s lives have been radically changed by this sort of creativity – so KEEP MAKING IT!), but that for others we need to adopt a different approach.

The song I spoke of at the beginning is about my wish for someone who would go beyond their fears, their self-interest and simply seek out the truth, “to see infinity and not to turn away”. The song talks of what it would cost such a person, and closes by asking whether such a person ever existed. I know the answer is yes. The listeners may not. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, the song could trigger a glimmer of hope in their heart, which might lead them to search – and perhaps a prodigal might return from the pigsty back to the arms of their Father….

– Stephen

Icons of the absence of God / Does Rothko offer consolation to a godless world?

Rothko

Before Christmas, one of my lecturers gave me a flyer for an arts and spirituality symposium that’s happening this Saturday (the 24th Jan) at Kings Collage. The symposium coincides with the Rothko exhibition currently underway at the Tate Modern, and will critically review the interpretations of his works and how they speak to out social and cultural context. I’m absolutely gutted cause I can’t go due to unforseen events, but I’m hoping that a good bunch of Christian artists will. I think it’s really important for us, as Christian artists to understand modern art, which has shaped our culture, so that we are more able to engage with it, and challenge it with a Christian world view. After all, hope in Jesus Christ is far more jolly than nihilism. I don’t think it’s gonna be from a Christian perspective, but it’s chaired by Ben Quash who’s the Professor of Christianity and the Arts at KCL, so he should at the very least have a vague interest in Christianity, and to be honest, it’s just as important to learn this stuff from a non-christian point of view as it is from a Christian one.

And so, the details are thus.

The symposium will run from 10am to 5pm, will take place at Kings Collage, Strand, London WC2, and tickets will cost you £25 (£20 cons & ACE members). You can send cheques made payable to ACE Trust to ACE, 83 London Wall, London EC2M 5ND. Or you can email them at E_projects@acetrust.org (although i’m not entirely confident that that’s an underscore as the bottom of my flyer’s been cut off) or, for that personal touch you can even phone them on 020 7374 0600.

The speakers will be :

Aaron Rosen – Finding Rothkowitz: The Jewish Rothko

Jonathan Harris – Mark Rothko’s good paintings about nothing

Daniel Glaser – Can neurobiology tell you how you feel about a picture?

George Pattison – After an end: unsaying painting.

If you do make it there, do tell us how it is, whether it was groundbreaking and changed your life or just £25 to get pins and needles.

– Miriam