manifest

Tomorrow, Today

In 2010, one of my closest mentors gave me a piece of advice that I won’t soon forget. I was asking him why I hadn’t been given the career title that I thought I deserved and He told me to forget about the career title I desperately craved and start being who I wanted to be, regardless of anyone bestowing upon me the label. He said, “Be the person you want to be tomorrow, today.” He went on to tell me that titles and positions will come and go and not to get caught up with where others are at and focus on developing the habits and skills to become the person God created me to be, not who others would tell me I could be. It seems simple in hindsight but is still something that needs remembering.

An area I’ve often struggled with, primarily as an adult, but surely throughout my entire life, is comparison. More than I’d like to admit, I find myself discontent with certain aspects of my life. If it’s not noticing someone a few years younger than me with the career title I think I deserve; it’s questioning why my ‘big break’ hasn’t come in some area I’ve wanted it. Even more subtly though, it can come across as comparing where I’m currently at with where I once was or where I ache to be. Why don’t I have the faith I used to have? Why aren’t my friendships as strong as they once were? Why can’t I find the right city to live in or church to belong to? I find that the little comparisons I make or think about during the empty moments of my day are the ones that have the most significant impact on who I am and my life’s direction.

When we consistently develop habitual lifestyles emphasizing what we lack, we end up building our identity around that absence, and in-turn, become defined by it. Instead, we should focus our attention on developing into who we see ourselves becoming and who we are created to be. To start, we need to realize that we might not be where we want to be. It doesn’t move anything forward by convincing ourselves we are somewhere we aren’t. I can tell myself and those around me that I’m a photographer, but until I start making images and learning the craft of photography, I’m not. Another example would be that I can’t become a husband without first going through the stages of dating and engagement. When we aspire to jump from the start to the end in one fell swoop and leap over everything in between, we only cheat ourselves. The process is important. For those I know who were handed things without the work, almost every time it ended poorly for them in some way or another, even if later down the road. It’s in the process we are refined. It’s in the process we overcome the small challenges that prepare us to surmount the significant struggles.

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I remember once watching a video from Casey Neistat early during his daily vlogging days that echoed a similar sentiment. He said, “The only thing standing between you and everything you’ve ever wanted in life is doing it.” For many, myself included, it seems that we all have aspirations of where we want to be and who we want to become, but we ourselves are typically the guilty culprits of limiting potential. We define ourselves by who we are not instead of who we are. Words carry power. More than naught, the words we speak over ourselves are words of doubt, frustration, fear, and condemnation. Because we so often repeat the areas of failure in our lives, we become more prone to fail while striving to achieve greater heights. The glossary of words we use for self-description needs updating with words of life, meaning, and truth.

To realize our potential and reach our objectives, we need to set our sights beyond our desired horizons. It’s imperative to fully believe, with both head and heart, that we can achieve our goals and walk into that destiny. However, if deep within our core, we don’t suppose we have what it takes or that perhaps God created us incorrectly without the necessary skills or ideas, we won’t reach our goals or ever even take the first steps toward them. A penetrating understanding of who God has created us to be is required. When we have misaligned perspectives surrounding our identity as people, we are prone to compare and become discontent because we are unable to see value in the things we have or who we are. There’s a never-ending amount of words written and ideas shared around practical strategies to becoming the people we know we can be. However, if we don’t have the proper foundation and identity, we may just be building houses of passion and determination which easily fall flat when challenged by the first or second storm that comes our way.

It’s true, the only thing standing between us and our dreams is doing it. We can become the people today who we know we want to be tomorrow, but if all we are doing is building monuments to ourselves in an attempt to quench our comparison thirst, then we’ve never arrived at our ultimate goal. What is desperately needed to succeed, avoid comparison, and become who we are meant to be, is a right understanding of who we are in light of who God is. We are all shaped by something. Either our identity will be fashioned by God, in whom all things consist, or it will be formed through comparison and by a world that is always telling us what we have is never enough. Today is the day to become who you want to be tomorrow.

 

Carter Moore


God is the First and Ultimate Creator

We are created beings and God is not. The difference between God and man is not one of degrees, but of kinds. God is wholly other than us. In this way, God alone is the Creator. All things are a result of His will to create. Our own existence is found in God. Yet, even though we are not supreme creators, in God’s kindness He has granted us the ability to be creative. We can be creative with our words, body language, photography, paintings and clothing, because God first and foremost granted us the ability to do so. 

 

With that being said, the creative process is best done when it finds its starting point in God’s act of creation. God created man so that man might worship him. We too, when we engage in creativity, should utilize it so that it may help push man unto the worship God.

 

God’s act of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) was an act love and goodness, and demonstrates His own unity. The persons of the trinity exist in an eternal and loving relationship. It was out of this loving relationship that God created. There was no malevolence or anger in God’s act of creating—it was done out of love. As we involve ourselves in creativity and the arts, it must be done out of a place of love. As Christians, there is no room for vanity or self-glorification in our creative endeavors. Our works of creation should reflect God’s own love, and man’s evilness. God alone is good, and we are not. Good art, in whatever way possible, ought to communicate the gospel truths of God’s goodness and man’s futility.

 

Similarly, God did not create so that He might be good, but rather out of His own goodness, He created. Creation is a result of God’s goodness, not vice versa. Our creative undertakings should be in the pursuit of goodness, purity, justice and honesty. What we create needs to be a product of the grace and goodness God has bestowed upon us, not a fruit of our own pride.  

 

Importantly, creation was one act that was done in a perfect unity that represents God’s own unity. While God exists in three persons, the work of creation is not reducible to three separate acts. The late theologian John Webster noted that God's “creation is a common work of the undivided Trinity; there are not three creators. But there are three who create.”[1] It is vital to know that God created in perfect communion and unity within Himself. The unity that is visible in God’s creation ex nihilo must be visible in our own creations. Art, music, poetry, photography, etc., should promote unity and break down hostility. This is not to say our own creative projects should refrain from proposing truths that can be divisive, but rather, our end goal as creatives should be to unify. Just as God created in perfect communion between all three persons of the trinity, we too should create in communion with others. Creativity flourishes in a space that has various perspectives, opinions and styles.

 

As creatives, we are to find our passions and motivations in God himself. Artists are not to produce work in vanity but rather “to manifest what is expressly revealed in the Scripture concerning God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so as that we may duly believe in him, yield obedience unto him, enjoy communion with him, walk in his love and fear, and so come at length to be blessed with him for evermore.”[2] Christian artists are to be communicators of divine beauty. We are to represent God and what He has done in Christ.

 

We are to be thankful that God has granted us the ability to create. We get to go about our creative processes out of that very thanksgiving. Through and through, creativity is nothing less than finding oneself in awe of God’s beauty and having no option but to communicate that beauty to others.

 

[1] Webster, John. 2010. "Trinity and Creation." International Journal of Systematic Theology 12, no. 1: 4-19.
[2] J. Owen, A Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity [1669], in Works, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), p. 406.

 

Neal Spadafora



Creation in Our Life Blood

“I’m not artistic”, “I can’t draw, paint, basket-weave, fill-in-the-blank-with-traditionally-creative-skill.” Do these phrases sound familiar? Perhaps they’ve come from the mouths of family members, or perhaps co-workers or friends, when you share your love of creativity. And, let’s be honest, there were probably a handful of times when you’ve said that to yourself, perhaps when you’re blocked, stuck in a creative slump. Sometimes it feels like creativity is this reclusive beast that we must coax out of hiding. And for many, this makes sense. If the world was made by sheer accident, a combination of molecules colliding and exploding, creativity does seem rather extravagant, unnecessary, and certainly not the mindset we should naturally live in. What need would we have for art if the world were a purely utilitarian kind of place? To create would be an addition to the natural order, a non-essential. But you know that isn’t true. Because the original intent of the world was creation.

The first words in the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is how we are first introduced to God, before Lord, Almighty, Father. Before we knew Him in those ways, we knew Him as Artist. The very world we live in is a product of the Artist, bearing His signature. And twenty-seven verses later, we read, “So God created mankind in His image…” Thus, we are also art made by the Artist. And after He created us, He gave this command: “Be fruitful and increase in number…” To bear fruit and to multiply, yes applies to child bearing, but is that not also a general term for creation itself? Really, to create is to multiply oneself, so that reflections of you can be found apart from you in what you made. Which is exactly what God did as the original Artist; He made creation as a reflection of Himself, different parts of Him, humanity being the pinnacle in that we bear the image of God. And in bearing the image of the great Artist Himself, we are reproductions of Him, mirroring facets of Him.

One such facet is creativity. God commanded the first man and woman to create, to make new things that would bear their image. Our origin is a creative one, and since that is where we came from, that is what we are called to do. You are created by the Creator to create. Creativity isn’t something we do; it is who we are. But why create? Why make? Essentially, what’s the point?

As we look back on our origin story, and the origin of creativity, we notice that after God creates each part of creation, He declares that what He made was “good,” and that creating humanity was “very good.” God, in His goodness, made good things. And these good things, in turn, served as indicators of a good Artist, as they were essentially reproductions of Him. And these good creations were to create good things of their own.

“Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photos of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things who connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable,” said Elaine Scarry, in her novel On Beauty and Being Just. God, as beautiful, made beautiful things from the formless chaos of the uncreated universe. We, as the beautiful creation of God, the ultimate beauty, are not only called to make more beauty - because to say ‘called’ alone would indicate simply duty - but we are also compelled. Because, as you know, when something is beautiful, it generates reproduction; we long to recreate what is beautiful. And when a person gazes upon something beautiful, they too, long to become beautiful themselves. Beauty doesn’t just beg to be looked at; it causes the viewer to become a participant and be transformed themself. What do we call a devotee to beauty who longs to become beautiful? A disciple.

All of creation, all things that have been multiplied in beauty, point back to the original Creator and Beautiful One. When we take a photo, when we craft objects made of metal, wood or cloth, when we create images with our words, graphite or paint, we are replicating His beauty and sharing it with the world, a world in chaos that longs for beautiful things. And what happens when we declare the beauty of God to the world? That’s called worship. We were created to create beauty so people can gaze upon it, so people can be moved to partake and transform, becoming a disciple, as they as they see the face of God looking back at them.

Creation is not an extravagant human addition to a pointless, utilitarian world; it has no human origin at all. It was the first move of God, out of His love, to multiply, to replicate and it is in our life-blood to do the same. 

 

Tayllor Lemphers



A Creative Gospel

Everyone is creative. You don’t believe me? Observe your day with fresh eyes and you will see creativity everywhere and in the most unusual places. You might not be able to paint, play music, write or act but your own creativity will be wonderfully expressed in different ways. The reality is that you hold the dynamic ability to produce something from a simple thought. This unique gift is due to you being crafted in the likeness of a God who is in his very essence creative.

The Apostle Paul highlights the creativity of God in his passionate and open letter to the followers of Jesus in the region of Ephesus:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2.8)

Paul is declaring to a community, in a city that worshipped the creative results of their hands, that the way we have been made right with God isn’t by our own creative ability that God has given to us. All have sinned and are in desperate need of being made right with God, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do but trust in God to do the saving. We are saved through repentance and faith.

God’s creative genius is marvelous. God knows that we can’t remove our own sin. So Jesus, his son, is beamed into the world by supernatural conception, becoming a creative man just like us! A man that is created in the image of God. A man with no sin. A man who is in perfect relationship with his Father.

Jesus’ final act of dying on the cross is harrowing, but it contains a beautiful display of creativity unparalleled. Through his willing execution, the depth of God’s heart for us is on display. The mystery alluded to down the ages to the Jews is now staring us in the face. Jesus removes all our sin by willingly dying in our place. He collects all of our surrendered rebellion against His own Father and attributes it to himself. He then gift-wraps and presents his righteousness, the holy, pure and spotless living that pleases his Father. The door to knowing God is suddenly swung wide, the curtain barrier is torn down, the old has gone and the new has landed. All that is needed now is faith that says, “YES!” to Jesus.

Actively placing our trust in our Creator God is the way we are saved. You can try and make it more complicated by applying your own works, but real grace doesn’t take additions. Only when we decide to surrender our pride and begin to trust like a child do we receive the grace of Jesus, which saves us from eternity without our Heavenly Father.

Saying “YES!” to Jesus means we are restored and forgiven. We become God’s workmanship. A beautiful poem. A wonderful work of art that takes on a story of restoration. The Father views us as a masterpiece through the action and gift of Jesus. Salvation is from him, through him and to him and it is available to ALL. There is plenty of room in God’s gallery…

So if we can’t save ourselves through our own creativity why do we have that ability? Surely God has given it to us for a reason? Our creativity enables us to actively worship God, reveal Jesus, and practically see people restored. It isn’t about being saved by works but saved FOR works. Knowing Jesus makes us a living invitation to know Him via our creative lives.

We, the Church, sometimes make the most precious, adventurous and wonderful gift of new life in Jesus a snooze fest. It is anything but boring. When God gave us his one and only son, Jesus, he invited you to be his adopted child, full of creativity that points to Jesus — the image of the invisible God. Are you ready to walk in the good works that God has prepared for you for?

 

DAN LEE