Presenting testimonies to this generation

Vintage Mic

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” – Psalm 77:11

Testimonies are powerful things. Check out the outcome of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: her testimony is part of a great move of God in a Samaritan village. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you all this. Other than the Bible, the books that have most transformed my Christian view and walk have been the stories of God working in people’s lives. These have included gangsters becoming evangelists (“Run Baby Run” – Nicky Cruz), the beginning of modern missions to inland China (Hudson Taylor – “A man in Christ”) and stories of what God is doing in modern day China (Brother Yun – “The Heavenly Man”). Not only these famous ones, but also testimonies from friends of things big and small. Stories catch people off-guard who are otherwise closed to talking about God. It is easy to argue with a theology. It is a lot harder to argue with that theology when it comes through in someone’s story.

I am aware that many people do find reading difficult, or are just too busy to sit down and read an entire book of someone’s testimony.  This is particularly true for non-Christians who are interested in exploring the Christian faith. Also, just the nature of distributing books means that people are unlikely to come into copies of testimonies unless someone gives one to them directly (side note: give out testimonies! It can be a powerful ministry in itself!). Finally, many encouraging testimonies of our friends may never be written up and published.

So how can we address these difficulties of presenting one of our most powerful tools? This might be where you come in. An encouraging trend recently has been the production of testimonies in non-book forms. The story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and the other men martyred in Ecuador during the 1950’s was recently made into a film. Brother Yun’s testimony has been produced as a manga comic. David Wilkerson’s “The Cross and the Switchblade” was even made into a theatrical play. I see openings for more innovative presentations like this.

Consider over the coming weeks translating your own story, that of a friend or of a Christian who has greatly inspired you into whatever you do best. If you’re a painter, paint a testimony. If a musician, sing or rap it. If you’re into poetry, video making, drawing, sculpture or whatever else, there is so much room to tell of the “deeds of the Lord”. Like the Samaritan woman or the many others who had their lives changed through meeting Jesus, we don’t have to say anything too complex. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good – let us share our discoveries with those around us!

-Stephen

Friday’s FYI – David Wierzbicki

David is one of my friends on Twitter, and a fantastically talented artist. I personally really love his style and want to own all of the artwork that I have seen of his!

David Wierzbicki

Age? 30

Where do you live? Brantford, Ontario. Small-ish city southwest of Toronto.

What is your favorite colour? I’ve never been able to answer this question. When I was in grade school I always thought there was something wrong with me because all the other kids could tick of their favourite colours immediately. That said, when I play RISK I’m always red.

What is your favorite website at the moment? Twitter. I really enjoy the blog at http://www.colourlovers.com/blog. There is great, creative conversation going on at http://missionaltribe.org. If you have any connection or attraction to Missional Church that is the place for you. (Artists especially) Overall, I think as of late I’ve been more intrigued by social networking projects such as twitter than by any one website.

What are the 3 things that you most like doing with your time? I’ve been reading more in the last couple years than I have in my whole lifetime. Drawing and sketching. If I have a surface within arm’s reach it will be doodled upon. Relaxing with my wife, Amy.

Illustrator

Blueface

Battle of the holidays

When did you first start using your creativity for God, and how did that come about? It took me a long time to understand that God really did have a use for artists. It wasn’t something that was explicit in my upbringing. Artists were generally seen as being on the outside, discontent with the respectable plan that God really had for their lives. When I went away to art college I began to see again the creative draw that God has and has put inside all of us as co-creators and imaginers. While in school I had the opportunity to illustrate a calendar for Wycliffe Bible Translators. That was the first time I had ever used my art in an expressly Christian avenue.

What inspires you? When I start a piece I often just let my pencil move. As it creates I draw from that energy and begin listening to where I’m heading. In addition: conversation, dreams, music, long drives in the car, smells, sounds, hot showers, good drink, good food, the river…

Who are some of your favorite artists? Much like the colour question, I have don’t have a really solid answer for this.
I could say Egon Schiele for the incredible life and linework of his figures.
And Gustav Klimt for inspiring Schiele.
Ralph Steadman’s influence on the world of illustration is hard to deny.
Also, my friend Ben Weeks (benweeks.ca) is a massive inspiration for the life of his lines and the freshness of his approach and our conversations on art and faith while in school.

What is the most amazing thing that you have seen God do? I’m amazed at how he sprouts faith in the dirtiest corners of our neighborhood streets. The places where faith, hope and love have no business being are the places where they seem to be most often found. I don’t thank God enough for the times when he makes that apparent to me. I don’t know. The most amazing thing I’ve seen God do might be the way he has used the smile of a poor child to change the atmosphere of an entire room.

Do you have any particular projects going on at the moment? The biggest project I have going on right now is my work toward a theology degree. Other than that, I’m working on a variety of ideas and projects with friends; ranging from book covers to animated shorts.

What can we expect to see from you in future? I’m fascinated with the idea of creating a space for creativity, art, interaction, conversation, community, help, prayer, danger, safety, disagreement, and agreement. Oh… and firstly, LOVE.

A group of friends and I are currently dreaming of a church community that emerges out of the neighbourhood garden that surrounds it. Creativity and neighborliness are our number one motivators. Church is Art.

What would you most like to see come out of the Christian Creative scene in the next few years? Connected to our dreams of a church plant is the concept of being deeply local.

I have a real hope for a more radical localization of Christianity. While the past couple decades have seen incredible bursts of creativity from Christianity in everything from music to film it has also been a time of cultural homogeneity and borrowing.

We have been losing our locally unique characteristics as we have been told that we have use such and such music and such and such presentation software and such and such graphic appearances etc… I would love to see our church communities really embrace their local-ness and encourage the creatives among them to develop and design art and creativity that is unique to them; and not just so they can farm that talent out to entire continents.

If we can stop leaning on the creativity of a few “professionals” and start recognizing the deep pools immediately around us we could see beauty and art re-engaged by the Church.

Where can we find more of your work? My main online hub is found at http://davidwierzbicki.com. My twitter account (twitter.com/diecast), art portfolio, blog and more are all linked from there.

Anything else you would like to say? …Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Interview with Chad Jarnagin

In this post our friend Carole Hicks interviews Christian musician Chad Jarnagin.

Chad Jarnagin

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your heart with the readers here at Artists for Christ! We are honored to have you here. Would you start off by giving us a bit of info on your background, where did you grow up, what is your life like now, that sort of thing.
I am a songwriter, lead worshiper, pastor, & artist.. I’m passionate about mentoring young musicians, writing songs, and leading The Church in worship to their Creator. I grew up around Cincinnati, OH, and now live in Franklin, TN / Nashville where I am the Worship Arts Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church (www.rollinghillscommunity.org)

I’ve toured over 1800 shows / events over 10 years including major sporting events with the NBA playoffs w/ the New York Knicks & Indiana Pacers, NFL w/ Tennessee Titans & Kansas City Chiefs, MLB w/ Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, the NHL, AFL, and more. I’ve also led worship for conferences and conventions including Youth Specialties, State & National Evangelism conventions, as well as many worship & leadership conferences. Most of which happened while with my old band Among Thorns.

What kind of training or schooling do you have that has led to your current success or situation in life?
I went to Carson Newman College. Much of my education has come “on the job”, I have done some schools of music, conferences, & leadership training programs as well. I will truly be a student of life until I am done in the world.

What one thing do you do to find creative inspiration?
I have to find time to be in silence… while reading, writing, or whatever. When I make time for that, all the noise tends to fade so that I can sense the “still small voice”. The true translation of that really means in the “stone silence”. I believe God speaks through many things, but we have to stop ourselves to see and hear Him. With Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, and video gaming we all have our share of distractions / entertainment.

Would you mind sharing the story of how you came to know Christ and how he shows up in your day-to-day life as an artist?
When I was 15 I went through the motions of saying a prayer, doing the “right” things and trying not to do the “wrong” things, but came to find that by the age of 22 I hadn’t surrendered me to Him. I found freedom when I began a relationship at that point when I was 22. Funny thing is, I had already been in Christian music for 3 yrs at that point. I’m glad God is bigger than the religion we substitute for Him sometimes.

I create space in life to read the Scriptures, books, and meditate as much as I can. God is everywhere everyday. He shows up in conversations at coffee shops, pubs, school, and even Urban Outfitters if we pay attention. <smile>

Do you now or have you ever felt isolated as an artist in the world, or do you have a strong community of believers that you stay connected with throughout the day?
I do have some amazing friends. Most of which have their own artsy tweaks to them. The sense of community in my town of Franklin is pretty rad. There is a Godly synergy that is sometimes unexplainable.

As artists we will probably always feel a little different, which can lead to isolation. I have worked on staff at churches and have been made to feel alone. The bigger picture is to be aware of who God has made us to be. He wired you the way you are for a honkin’ reason! I am still wrapping my head/heart around that.

Do you ever use your art as a medium to help others and share the gospel?
I hope so! It’s my heart and strategy that my music, writings, and art relates to people where they are. I hope it engages Believers to respond in worship to their God. For others, I can usually begin to connect just b/c of my appearance. In other words, I probably don’t look like I just walked out of church. <wink> Music is something that everyone can relate to. When people hear that I’m a musician they are 95% willing to converse b/c they are genuinely interested in the music.

I have a few plans to use music to influence positive change in my community through my church I might add.

Do you have any nuggets of wisdom, any tips for young artists who are just starting out?
I started out in music when I was 15. Begin as young as you can, b/c you will be learning forever. Make time to read, listen, love, and create. Whatever you are dreaming, go for it. With the technical tools at our disposal today, you can do it all. If you are a song-writer, write and record it with your Mac (or a friends Mac). If you are an actor, act. Be it at school or wherever. Filmakers, shoot, film, and edit away. Designers, create, craft, and dream on.

The world is waiting for you to show up to the party. If you are a Believer, wear His name well. Don’t run from the world b/c it is different from you. Run TO it. Love it b/c it needs loving… and it needs inspiration with new beautiful, thought provoking art.

…If you are on Twitter you can follow both Carole and Chad – James

What is Color?

What is Color?

Before we attempt to control it, let’s explore a bit about what color is and how we sense and specify it.

Light

Light is actually “electromagnetic energy,” of the same general category as X-Rays, AM/FM Radio Waves, and Microwaves. Visible band light occurs between the wavelenghts of approximately 400 billionths of a meter and 700 billionths of a meter. Blue/Violet light has the shortest wavelength, Green an intermediate length, and Red the longest wave. Visible band light just happens to be the range of electromagnetic energy we collect and sense with our eyes and brain.

Just beyond the visible band’s Blue area is Ultraviolet. Infrared exceeds the visible band as wavelength increases. The wavelengths of light are very important when dealing with optical systems because light of various wavelenghts acts differently entering particular mediums (such as lens glass, lens coatings, and even the air between lens elements).

One of the most important fundamental issues about color-one that will appear in this series of basic tutorials regularly-is that while light is remarkably reliable our ability to sense it is not. Vision may vary drastically from individual to individual-reasons may include pathologies (such as diabetes and color blindness), environmental conditions such as how dark it is or the color of ambient light, and even psychological states (the viewer’s mood)!

One of the most common methods of portraying color is called the Color Wheel. Think about a compass: The top will be 0 degrees (or 360 degrees if you wish), with Green at 120 degrees (1/3/ of the 360 degree wheel) and Blue at 240 degrees.

Color WheelThis is consistent with Adobe’s Color Picker layout:

Color Picker

You’ll notice that Blue’s Hue value in the Color Picker’s “HSB” section is showing 240 degrees, corresponding to our Color Wheel above. Hue is the technical name for what you may think of as fundamental color, while Saturation (S) is the purity and Brightness (B) is the luminance value of color-they’re expressed in percent. More on what a Gamut is and how it is measured later…

You can identify color by a number of different methods. The HSB system above is not as common as the RGB system (RGB obviously represents “Red, Green, Blue”) in which Red, Green, and Blue are used as the underlying mixing system. There are other color schemas such as CMYK, L*a*b*, and even schemas for individual devices (such as your monitor and printer). Don’t be intimidated-the strange language we use to talk about them gives a false impression of their actual complexity.

Note this Color Picker showing the HSB and RGB values for a particular color:

Color Picker HSB and RGB values

All four color systems (HSB, RGB, Lab, and CMYK) are actually reading values for the very same color. The value at the bottom of the Color Picker, which is preceded by the pound sign (“#”), is a hexadecimal notation for the specified color used in applications such as .xml and .html.

On your own study: A human vision primer

– Leo

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