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Experiencing The Power of Prayer

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”

~ Oswald Chambers

Yesterday, a complete stranger who had been receiving our newsletter wrote us an encouraging note and promised to pray everyday this month for our financial support goals to be met. At church yesterday, we talked to many others who committed to pray for our finances as well. Those messages in themselves were inspiring to us. But God quickly reminded us that prayer is not simply idle talk.

Today, I received a message that a single supporter has pledged 20% of our remaining financial needs. I was shocked, even stunned. But then I remembered the promises of those who said they would lift our needs in prayer and that shock was replaced by gratefulness and joy about how the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. The Bible speaks countless times about God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness”, yet when you experience it, you understand why. The Word simply points to the truth, that God is steadfast in His love and faithfulness to us.

I don’t want people to read this and come away with the idea that if we pray for stuff, God automatically gives it to us. There is certainly no Biblical basis for that assumption. Right now, we simply acknowledge that our financial situation is in God’s capable hands. We believe he wants us to go to Japan, and if he wants something, we believe he has no difficulty in making it happen. Our prayers are us saying, “We can do nothing more, but you, O God, can do everything.”

At every opportunity since we committed to going to Japan, God has provided beyond every expectation we had. We’re not there yet, but we are so thankful at how God gives us encouragement at each step in the process. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf; they are certainly being heard.

What Is the Role of Art in Worship?

Somewhere, somehow, we simply lost our way. They understood the power of art as a form of worship in the Renaissance, when Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were prolific in producing works of art for the glory of God. For centuries it seemed that art and religion could not only co-exist, but magnify the beauty in each other when practiced together.

Yet inevitably, the separation came and the Western world has never again been able to realize the power of combining art and worship as it was done in glorious history.

One only needs to read through the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, to realize that God, the most powerful being in existence, is an incredible artist. Genesis 1 takes us step by step through God’s creative process for creating everything, and the level of detail He used in making the created world. Taking it one step further, you don’t even need to read the Bible, just take a walk in the forest or along the beach. Dive into the depths of the seas or climb the highest mountain. The glory of God’s creation is everywhere as only an Artist-Creator can imagine it.

And then we read that mankind was created in God’s image, which means, among other things, that all that creative capability God used to make everything is also inherent within us. We were made to be creators. We were made to be artists.

Yet the typical church in modern days is sadly lacking in artistry as worship. Church leaders are faced with difficult financial choices these days, yet it seems art generally falls to the bottom of the priority list at most churches. Looking around the typical church, you will find signage and materials derived from Christian clip art. Store bought posters with Christian phrases or Scripture passages. Powerpoint slides with stock image backgrounds. Art in church is no longer something to be created, but something to be consumed, purchased in packages from companies who sell the same stuff to thousands of churches.

Certainly most churches do not have the budget to hire graphic artists, art directors, interior designers and the like. But not all art is produced by professionals and some of the most beautiful pieces of art come from the hearts of children who see their art as an act of worshiping Jesus. Yet somehow, we don’t encourage people to worship God through art. Arts and crafts in most churches are just a fun thing to do to fill time at the end of Sunday School hour or an event to outreach to the community. What if we elevated art back to the level it once held during the Renaissance, art purely as a form of worship?

A few years ago, Crossway took this very idea and did something with it. They commissioned a Japanese Christian artist named Makoto Fujimura to produce a special edition of the Bible called “The Four Holy Gospels”. Basically, it is an edition of the four gospels of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) printed in art book format and illustrated by Fujimura. “Illustrated” is actually a bit misleading because Fujimura is an abstract artist so much of the art happens in the wide margins of the pages of the gospels and is designed to interact with the text on those pages. The product was an incredible work entwining art and the beautiful message of the gospel in a form that would compel you to open and read it daily. You would never use your Bible app if you had a Bible as beautiful as this.

A video made by Crossway further explains their motivation behind this incredible project.

I believe this is one small way that reveals how bringing art and worship together elevates both acts. Art doesn’t have to be a secular activity and worship doesn’t have to lack in creativity.

Ultimately, the question is have we downplayed the role of art in worship too much in the modern church? And if we have, how do we reintegrate art and worship in our churches in ways that engage people and allow them to participate, as artists created in the image of God?