I visited my sister’s family in Michigan this spring, and saw that my brother-in-law, Loren, has developed an amazing green thumb in recent years. The results were spectacular! His front and back yards were bursting with hundreds of flowers—including morning glories, lilies and tulips—with colors so rich and varied that you would think he was running a botanical garden. The beauty of bright yellows, stunning magentas and deep lavenders seemed to gently massage my eyes. The display filled my heart with an overwhelming joy. As much as I was inclined to compliment Loren for all his hard work, I first had to give praise to God. I knew I was witnessing the wonder of His creative genius through the incredible variety of hues and colors, delicate patterns and shapes. How does He do it?
No one on earth can match the creative power and artistic glory of the Lord of the Universe. We glimpse a fraction of His glory through His creation, but that glimpse is enough to provoke wonder in our hearts and teach us something about our great God. Creation teaches us about His power and might. Imagine the strength of the One who not only conceives of such delicate and complex beauty, but can bring it into existence just as He imagined it.
Creation also teaches us of God’s love and care. He has shared this amazing beauty with us because He loves us and wants us to enjoy the pleasure of His creation, just as His own handiwork pleases Him. But there’s another way in which creation speaks to us of God’s love. Jesus pointed out that our Lord’s attention to detail in creation shows how certain we can be of His care for us:
…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Every time we look at a beautiful flower or see a magnificent sunset we should recall how much God loves us. These wonders should also remind us that God wants us to reflect some of His glory as creative beings who were made in His image. That can be downright intimidating. How can we begin to represent the Master Creator in the things we do? Our efforts seem futile in view of the surpassing greatness of His creative power. Think about the most beautiful photograph of a sunset you’ve ever seen and compare it to what you experience in looking at the real thing. There is just no comparison. But even if what we do is a dim reflection of His magnificence, it is wonderful to reflect that magnificence to any degree. To do so brings honor to the Lord and draws others to His glory and greatness. That is the challenge.
Creativity has always been important to us in Jews for Jesus. One of our core values is a commitment to creativity and that takes a real intent to pursue innovation and encourage the creative process. We value creativity because we want to do our best to reflect the glory of our Messiah and provoke wonder and praise to Him through our efforts. We don’t always succeed. I wince a bit in pain when I remember an album of Liberated Wailing Wall music I produced back when I was serving as the music director of Jews for Jesus. We had gathered together some really terrific music and talented musicians, but I didn’t know what I was doing in the recording process as is evident in the final product. Some of you may have a copy of the recording. We called it “He Will Return” but to this day I doubt the Lord would want to return if that recording was playing at the time.
Thankfully, we have gone on to record other albums. In fact The Liberated Wailing Wall has just completed work on a brand new recording entitled “Behold Your God.” It may not be Handel’s Messiah, but I think it’s pretty good.
God deserves our very best, but sometimes that just isn’t good enough and we need to be a bit more careful about what we dish up in His name. I have often heard people introduce musical numbers by saying, “The Lord gave me this song.” There have been times when after hearing the song, I might be embarrassed for God if I thought He had really given it. Now, I know that people introduce songs that way because they want to be humble and not take credit that belongs to God, and I appreciate that. But sometimes we do not discern between God’s gifts and our own, at times mediocre, efforts. Occasionally, I have to bite my tongue to keep from being rude when the two are confused.
Yet, God is gracious and I am trying. He seems to accept our feeble artistic efforts and stabs at creativity regardless of how dimly they reflect His creative power. But I do think He wants us to continue to stretch so that our best efforts tomorrow are better than they were yesterday. Maybe it is similar to the refrigerator covered with little Johnnie’s finger paints and primitive drawings. Parents who love their children, love their children’s artwork and seem to detect qualities in it that others may fail to see. As a parent, I understand that. But if Johnnie is still producing the same quality of art 20 years later, my guess is that it doesn’t hang so proudly on Mom and Dad’s refrigerator.
We need to keep on striving and stretching to better reflect the glory of our Creator God. Some of our most creative and innovative periods in Jews for Jesus came in our early years of ministry. Sometimes it is hard to improve upon excellence but we need to keep trying. God deserves our very best efforts and I don’t want us to settle for less through laziness or lack of attention. I often remind myself and our Jews for Jesus missionaries that the best songs have yet to be recorded, the best gospel literature has yet to be produced, the best books have yet to be written and the best methods of outreach have yet to be developed.
As we enter our third decade of Jews for Jesus ministry, we have a tall order to continue to develop new and creative ways to make Messiah known. But the great Creator of the Universe has an endless supply of inspiration to share if we will expend the energy to tap into His vast creative resources. By His grace, we will continue to compose songs, write gospel literature and use all of the creative arts to make His name known. May the artistic endeavors of our mission, like the lilies of the field, serve to assure people of God’s love and care. Please join me in praying that God will enable that spark of creativity to continue and increase until we have the privilege of seeing the wonder of His glory face to face.