Don’t kills do

For too many Christians, their life is defined by what they don’t do. “I don’t drink…I don’t smoke…I don’t steal…I’ve never murdered or committed adultery…I don’t watch sport on Sundays…etc.”

However valid such ethical deductions are, this imbalanced negativity devastates creativity. These powerful opposing forces simply cannot live together. One must die…and it’s usually creativity that’s the unfortunate victim. “Don’t” almost always kills “Do.”

Just think of a boy who only hears a steady stream of “Don’ts” from his parents. All day, every day, the child is subjected to unrelenting negativity. Even when the boy tries to nail some wood together, the Dad shouts, “Don’t touch my saw!” as the Mom joins the duet with, “Don’t cut yourself!” And so it goes on. Do you think that child is going to thrive and develop? Will he pursue innovation and development? Will he ever experiment or take a risk? Highly unlikely. “Don’t” kills “Do.”

Positive imperatives
For creativity to revive in the Christian community, there needs to be a resurrection of the Scriptural emphasis on positive commands, positive ethics, and positive imperatives (while not losing the necessary negatives along the way).

Think of our first parents. While they were given one negative command regarding eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the first and most prominent command was a positive: “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.”

The same command was given to Noah in the post-fall world, though additional negatives were also added to take account of the rapidly deteriorating conditions. Clearly, God’s purposes still included filling and ruling what he created.

Also, although most of the Ten Commandments are stated negatively, consider the positive way that Christ sums them up: “Love God and love your neighbor.” A large part of that double-love is expressed by multiplying, filling, and ruling the earth.

Creation Commission = Great Commission?
Even the Great Commission is such a positive command. Some might say, “Yes, but it’s got nothing to say about creativity, about filling and ruling the earth. It’s about baptizing and making disciples, spiritual activities within the church.”

However, there are some very obvious overlaps between the Creation Commission and the Great Commission. Both involve multiplying, filling, and ruling. Both share the same arena – the whole world.

Part of making disciples is teaching them how to fill and rule the world, and there’s no more effective way of filling and ruling the world than through making disciples.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks
Concrete or Crocuses

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Concrete or Crocuses

The planning process had been bumpy. The local council had delayed, objected, hummed, and hawed. At last, the congregation’s building plan for their new church was passed, with one proviso – that a landscaping plan be drawn up to include trees, shrubs, and plants.

As this was a perfectly reasonable demand, and would prevent a previously scenic site from looking like a concrete jungle, the church leaders approved the adjustment and building proceeded apace. Over the next 12 months, the congregation rejoiced to see the weekly progress and looked forward with eager anticipation to enjoying worshipping their God and Creator in the new sanctuary.

Then, just before the opening day, the letter came. “Why was so much money wasted on the landscaping? Why did the parking lot need plants and shrubs? I’ve been going to church for decades, and we’ve never had tubs of flowers at the front door.”

Tar or trees
Did a secular council have more desire and appreciation for the beauty of creation than a mature Christian? Looks like it. But no, this godly believer had a lovely garden around his own home! It wasn’t so much that he preferred tar to trees, or concrete to crocuses. It was a concern to “protect” the church from “outward adornment.”

That might be hard for most Christians to understand today. But for Christians who know their church history, it’s a perfectly understandable reaction – or, should I say, understandable over-reaction.

Word blocks
At the time of the Reformation, the church had become image-based rather than Word-centered. Paintings and models of Jesus, Mary, and other religious figures and scenes filled churches and were often worshipped, or at least venerated, while the Word of God was pushed to the sidelines.

When the Reformers restored the Word of God to its rightful central place in the life of the Church, many newly-enlightened believers ejected the images and models that had displaced the Word and darkened their souls. It was an understandable reaction against what had blocked and blotted the Word and worship of God.

It’s that sensitivity, that fear of image pushing out Word, of color canvases pushing out black ink, that continues to influence many parts of the church against art of any kind, and indeed against anything that is beautiful. Creativity is therefore often suspected and discouraged due to its associations with artistic idolatry and superstition.

Extreme art
But it wouldn’t be the church if we didn’t also fall into the other extreme at times! Yes, there are some in the church who want to revive creativity but they only associate it with artistic disciplines such as painting, sculpting, music-making, film-making, etc.

Creativity and beauty are then corralled into a small corner, frequented only by a tiny über-trendy minority. The thought of creative parenting, creative management, creative teaching, creative leadership, creative carpentry, creative caregiving, etc., wouldn’t cross their minds. They can find and beauty and creativity in the most violent and perverse films, but yawn at the manager’s innovation that saved his company a million dollars, or the fire-fighter’s ingenuity that saved a baby’s life.

I’m not that interested in the “trendy” creativity of a minority – there are plenty of books and blogs for them. Instead, in future posts, I want to focus on “ordinary” creativity for the majority – for moms, for teens, and even for seniors.

I want all of God’s creatures to create like their Creator in their own special corner of the creation.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks

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Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

Creationist Quarterbacks

Imagine a football coach who only works with the quarterback. Every day he devises training plans, tactical strategies, and plays for him, while hardly saying “Hello” to anyone else at the club. And – surprise, surprise – the team is losing games. The other players are growing fat and lazy. When they get on the pitch, they don’t know what to do or where to go, and even if they wanted to, they couldn’t because of their lack of fitness.

That’s how I see the state of play in the Creation v Evolution debate. We’re training a few creationist quarterbacks, and scoring the odd touchdown, but we’re at risk of losing the game (the doctrine of Creation) because we’re ignoring, neglecting, and forgetting the wider picture, the rest of the team.

Diversion by concentration
Although the Devil has so far failed to win the Creation v Evolution debate (largely due to the skill and courage of our creationist quarterbacks), by concentrating the church’s attention almost exclusively upon this issue, he’s often successfully diverted our attention away from the size, scope, and significance of the Bible’s teaching on what creation is, who is our Creator, and what does it mean to live as His creatures in His creation.

I’m all for training the quarterback debaters and apologists, and for supporting the ministries that do this vital frontline work. But I want us to build a much fuller, wider, and deeper understanding of creation, and to work out its massive implications for the Church, for society, and for our personal lives.

A creationist creates
I want to train the whole team and bring more players into the game. I want our apologists and debaters to continue their valiant fight, but I want ordinary Christians to move from being mere spectators of the debaters to being active participants in other creation-related areas.

To put it simply, I don’t want just a few Christians fighting for the doctrine of creation, I want all Christians to be creative. Or to put it another way, while some are called to defend our Creator, we are all called to image our Creator, to create like our Creator.

Being a “creationist” is a much larger calling than defeating evolutionists. A real creationist creates.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity

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Creatorless Creativity

For all the creativity enthusiasm evidenced in multiple creativity websites, blogs, books, conferences, and talks, there’s a black hole at the center of most of them.

There’s no Creator.

There are multiple creators but there’s no Creator. It’s a Creator-less creativity. It’s creativity hovering somewhere in mid-air, neither grounded in the creative work of God, nor aiming at the glory of our Creator. It’s a creativity that worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25).

Crippled Creativity
As long as it remains such, it’s going to be a crippled creativity. How can it be otherwise? If we deny or ignore the source of all creativity, and if we take to ourselves the applause for any and all creativity, can we expect the Creator to keep sharing His creativity with us?

Or to put it more positively, how much more might we create, discover, and invent if we started (and continued) by acknowledging our 100% dependence on our Creator, and if we gave the glory of our discoveries, inventions, and creations to Him alone?

Who knows how many diseases we would cure, how many energy problems we would solve, how many new masterpieces would be painted, how many new technologies would be invented, how many innovative businesses would be established, etc? On a more ordinary level, who knows how much more satisfaction we would get in our everyday callings by more consciously living as our Creator’s image-bearers.

Ground, Glory and Gas of Creativity
In future articles, I want to demonstrate that the ground, glory, and “gas” of all creativity is our Creator God. I want to pull creativity out of its present precarious mid-air uncertainty and to connect it, and all creatives, to our Creator.

It’s hard to understand anything without connecting it to the foundational biblical teaching on   creation. But it’s especially hard to understand creativity, or make any progress in it, without our Creator.

Creator denial
And, of course, if our Creator is not only ignored but his very existence denied, then we can’t reasonably expect Him to share much of His creativity with us, can we?

I know a pastor who used to be regularly invited to speak about theological and moral issues in universities and colleges. In one debate, the initially friendly reception turned hostile the moment he told the students that research did not involve creating facts or truths but only in discovering the facts and truths that God had already created.

The room temperature wasn’t helped when the pastor went on to argue that we were all dependent on God for revealing these truths and facts to us, and that without His revelation, we wouldn’t find out anything new!

But that’s the truth. And I firmly believe that if we acknowledged our Creator more and practiced such dependence upon Him, creativity would flow and flood, and our labs and workshops would be unable to contain the discoveries and inventions He would give us access to. It would also elevate the more mundane creativity we exercise in our daily callings.

Next we’ll we look at Creationist Quarterbacks!

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Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”

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“But I’m just a Mom”

“But I’m just a Mom!” “But I don’t have a PhD!” “But I work in an office!” “But I’m only 15!” That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it. Creativity is for boffins, eccentrics, artists, novelists, designers and geniuses. “Jobs, Gates, Ford, Edison, J.K Rowling, Gucci…me! My name doesn’t belong in such a pantheon.”

Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Every single one of us is a creator. Whether we are a plumber, an architect, a farmer, a secretary, a homemaker, a student, or a preacher, we are all creating something every day of our lives:

  • I see a muddy plumber creating a water-tight waste disposal pipe connection.
  • I see a suited architect creating an energy-efficient office.
  • I see a sweating farmer creating hundreds of perfect furrows.
  • I see a stressed secretary creating an efficient filing system.
  • I see a bedraggled homemaker creating a beautiful meal in the kitchen.
  • I see a diligent student creating an entertaining presentation on electricity.
  • I see a faithful preacher creating an engaging and attractive sermon.

Creators all!
And that’s how God views us too. If we could catch even a glimpse of how God views us as His image-bearing co-creators, it would not only revolutionize the way we view and do our ordinary everyday work, it would also inspire us to exercise our Creator’s creative gifts in all of life.

That’s because nothing is more powerful in our lives than the way we view ourselves. If I view myself as a passive cog in a machine, I’m unlikely to take much initiative, and I’m probably going to blame others for my problems. If I view myself as the center of the world, then I’ll spend my time trying to get others to serve me and to meet my needs. Neither of these self-images will help to produce personal creativity. Indeed they will block and stifle it.

Miss or Dismiss
Sadly, the Church has often failed to articulate our image-bearing in positive and practical terms. For example, if you look up commentaries on Genesis 1:26-28, where humanity made in God’s image is introduced, you’ll find that most of them get thoroughly bogged down in philosophical and existential questions about what “image” and “likeness” mean. However most miss or dismiss the connection between these two words and the immediate context of “filling” and “ruling” the earth.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines the image of God as follows:

God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Although this answer mentions our creation-dominion, most expositions of the catechism focus on knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and pay little attention to the last phrase “with dominion over the creatures.”

Such a one-sided focus on “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness” produces images of books, classrooms, and church services. However, when we add “filling” and “ruling,” we extend our image-bearing to the home, the office, the factory, and the yard, and in fact to “the whole earth” (Gen. 1:26, 28).

While the New Testament confirms that the image of God includes knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), it also connects that spiritual likeness with practical Christian living that manifests itself in managing and thriving in life’s multiple relationships and responsibilities (Eph.4:25ff; Col. 3:11ff). In other words, image-bearing creativity is exercised and demonstrated by ordinary people in everyday life.

Creativity Fuel
By including “filling” and “ruling” in our understanding of being made in God’s image, we pump gallons of creativity-fuel into our lives. For Adam, imaging his Creator meant innovating and pioneering in managing animals and cultivating the soil. For us it may mean displaying creativity in cooking meals, in administering an office, in building a house, in growing a garden, or in writing a term paper.

Though we are separated from Adam by thousands of years, and aeons of technology, our self-image remains the key to productivity and creativity. “Who am I?” will determine “What will I do?”

Tomorrow we’ll look at a second major creative block: Creatorless Creativity.

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Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity

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