Have you ever walked into the middle of a forest and looked up through the trees to see the beautiful, deep blue ceiling of a sunlit sky? Can you picture the sunbeams reaching down like searchlights through the varied shades of green leaves? The light touches here and creates a soft shadow, it touches there and turns a leaf translucent. Or have you stood atop a cliff overlooking an endless expanse of ocean, breathing in the refreshing scent of saltwater as the mighty surf pounds out its never-ending symphony on the rocks below?
Our world is a canvas in the hand of the Master Artist, the Grand Designer, the Lord of the Universe. Through His creation, God provides us a tiny glimpse into His imaginative power, the wonder of His aesthetic sensibilities and His love for all that is truly beautiful. The psalmist said it most eloquently: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). What a marvel of creative mastery is this world in which we live!
That Master Designer also pours His artistry into human beings. We are the pinnacle of His creative work; we possess the capacity to reflect bits of His glory through our own lives. What arrogance it seems for us to imagine it so—but we need not imagine. Genesis 1:27 clearly states that we were created in God’s image.
I believe that part of being made in God’s image is our ability to share His creative nature. Some members of the animal kingdom have creative instincts. A spider can weave a beautiful web, but she does so for her survival. Human beings create for pleasure or to express our thoughts and feelings. In this, we seem to be unique among all of God’s creatures.
God creates, I believe, partly for His pleasure but also to convey His message. The pageantry of the Tabernacle and the Temple show God’s attention to artistic detail. While I imagine He took pleasure in the beauty of the carved gold, the artistic hangings, etc., He was also making a statement. The place of meeting between God and His people was holy, set apart. And part of the “set apartness” was its stunning beauty, created by God’s people who willingly parted with their gold and gave of their talents to make these holy places as glorious as they possibly could.
Think of the high drama that God used with the prophets, especially with Ezekiel. It wasn’t enough for Ezekiel to speak the Word of the Lord. He had to literally make a spectacle of himself. Our creative God conveyed His message in ways that were calculated to get the people’s attention.
There exists another rather creative being—Satan. He creates illusions, lies and counterfeits. He does not use his talents to proclaim the truth, but to distort it. Unable to create anything on his own, he twists God’s creations. He bends beauty, perverting it so expertly that it does not lose all of its appeal, but it loses its ability to reflect truth, to reflect God. Because we human beings are bent from the weight of sin, Satan’s work often appeals to the perverse tastes and pleasures of our fallen race. We hear his distortions in music that glorifies evil and violence; we see it in art that appeals to raw sensuality or in the pandering of Hollywood to any one of our baser sensibilities. Some of the most creative achievements of our culture do not reflect the glory of God but the distortions of Satan. The enemy of God is using every means at his disposal to disseminate his message of hate and rebellion.
That is why it is so very important for God’s children to employ God’s creative gifts in proclaiming the life-giving message of salvation in Christ. And that is why one of Jews for Jesus’ Core Values is creativity. Moishe Rosen once said, “It is a sin to bore people with the gospel.” God came up with an amazingly creative plan of redemption, and yet if we are not careful, we can turn our proclamation of it into dull religion. Not only that, but our Jewish people are raised to resist the gospel. If we are to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people who are committed to avoiding it, we must bring to bear every ounce of creativity we can.
We at Jews for Jesus want to be on the cutting edge of creative communications and that is not an easy task. We expend a good deal of effort to develop music, drama, art, writing and multi-media. Yet, it is easy to become complacent, to be satisfied with the status quo, to allow the sharp edge to become dull. But we must continue to push ahead and strive for that creative edge. One way we do that is by telling one another, “Good enough isn’t.” We have a creative and editorial process that puts every project through the wringer of critical examination. All our staff members know, “The only one who doesn’t get rewritten around here is God.” Yet that kind of quality control cannot produce creativity, it only hones it.
To keep our creative edge, we need to keep a couple of things at the forefront of our lives. One is the joy, the exuberance of our own salvation, that leads us to be almost playful in proclaiming the truth. The other is the pain, the anguish that we feel over the lost, that leads us to keep digging deeper to find some new way of challenging people to consider Jesus. These are the elements the Holy Spirit uses to guide and draw forth our creativity. When I ask you to pray that we in Jews for Jesus will continue to strive as a creative communications cadre, it is a spiritual request. Complacency is the enemy of both joy and anguish. It can dull our sensitivities and our edge—and it is inevitable apart from spiritual renewal. So, please continue asking God to renew us!
When I became the executive director of Jews for Jesus, I told our staff that I believe the best songs have yet to be recorded; the best books have yet to be written; the best literature has yet to be developed and the best methods of outreach have yet to be employed in proclaiming the gospel. The staff took that as a real challenge and I’ve been encouraged by the results. Some of you have read the new books, heard the new music, seen the new web site, etc. Since this issue of the newsletter celebrates creativity, you can read a bit about our new “webzine” and Multi-Media Department on pages 6 and 7. I hope you’ll look at the photos of some of our more unusual outreaches over the years too (pp. 4, 5). I still believe the best is yet to be. I only hope that we will be “tuned in” enough to what God wants, to have His inspiration and blessing in forging ahead.
When I compare our efforts to some of the brilliantly creative talent the world produces, I am thankful that God does not need slick, Hollywood-type productions to accomplish His purposes. I don’t expect that we’ll ever have a Shakespeare or Spielberg on our staff. But we do recognize the Lord as the source of all that is truly creative and good. We need to reflect His glory in all that we do. We have a long way to go, but we continue to strive and we continue to treasure that God-given creativity as a key component in making Messiah Jesus known.
The great artist Michelangelo produced an enormous cache of beautiful artwork. Yet there is an entire hall in Florence, Italy filled with his “unfinished work.” We will never fully “finish” our work either. Only the Master Creator was able to rest from His creation, and He has promised that He will one day bring to completion the good work He has begun in us. Then, and only then, will we fully and truly reflect His glory.