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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Steward Your Gifts

Stewarding Your Gifts: Where To Begin

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. --Colossians 3:23-4 

Summer music camp show and tell: discovering the pipe organ
You are a young person involved in vocational preparation. You have many years ahead in life, God willing, to establish yourself as a professional. Do you know your temperament --are you more passive, more aggressive, more right-brained and therefore artistic, more left-brained and therefore more rational/logical? You gifts are incredibly important --do you now what they are? For the next several years you will be looking to your community, to friends, mentors, people you trust, to discern just what it is you are good at.

If you are a Christian, you have an obvious need to discover the gifts God has given you, to submit to Him in humble response to his gift of grace. Even if you are not, you could benefit from Christian wisdom for vocational preparation. Regardless, you need clarity, and right now, to avoid potential pitfalls and disappointments inherent to vocational pursuit in the 21st century, in the current culture.

For the next few weeks I will be posting on the subject of vocation. I am addressing primarily artists, musicians, actors --people who are gifted in some obvious area and who would benefit from finding a way to work with them, whether for a career or for an avocation. And I am addressing Christians who find themselves in the arts, and need clarity of thinking as they prepare for the future.

Here are some basic foundational questions you might want to ask whether you are 19 or 39, just starting out on a journey in the arts, or experienced as an artist, but perhaps lacking clarity.

  • Who am I by temperament, gifts, established interests, primary goals?
  • Where am I going as I pursue using these gifts, in this culture?
  • How will I get there as I trust that these are my true gifts, and follow my 'calling'?
  • What must I do right now, over the next few weeks, and for the coming months, to make this calling as a gifted professional/semi-professional a reality?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reconciliation: Where Does it Come From?

Is the ministry of reconciliation a priority for Christians in the arts?

"There, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation..."              (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) 

When God sets his purposes in motion (as we perceive time) he does so with absolute, thorough, intentional design. Not only does he redeem a wandering sinner. He redeems a family, a community, a nation. Not only does he put his redeemed subjects to work in gathered worship, but far more, reaching out, discipling, transforming culture one act of beauty at a time.

God reconciles everyone whom he enfolds into his family through adoption. He reconciles all things ruined in the fall of Adam in the garden. That includes enemies estranged from him. He reconciles dead people to life through the blood of his only Son, Jesus Christ.

Stay with me here. There is more reconciliation going on. In God's thoroughness there is reconciliation available for all things at enmity: dark and light, ugliness and beauty, suffering and comfort, joy and sorrow. But we have a problem often with this plan for creation. We get in the way.

ur religion, improperly applied and executed, may inhibit a ministry of reconciliation. Sometimes dogma, poor theology, and pride marginalize reconciling activity in a church. In healthy churches, Christians eventually find a place to work toward this reconciliation --they are in fact simply doing God's bidding. It is ministry done in gratitude for what God has done for us.

We can be effective reconcilers. Begin by giving up particular preferences, for example musical style.  But to be truly useful, we need to move out of God's way. We may then join with Christ as co-reconcilers:

"...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19) 

When can we join this reconciling work? When we have removed ourselves --our expectations, our sense of entitlement, or our aesthetic preferences, from the clear path of God's plan for reconciliation. We can just get out of God's way.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

                                         What is Beauty?

Music is far from a solitary art. It will never exist in a vacuum void of the contemporary culture's influence. Even the rare genius, the trailblazing composer or the eccentric rock star has a stake in what is happening in the culture they inhabit, and often will respond to what is happening in contemporary society. Creating and even copying music can never truly be "just about the music" in a transcendent sense. If that statement sounds too generalized, just imagine what it takes to write a children's song. It must be appropriate in the culture or it will never be accepted as legitimate art, even if the song is a childish tune made for one specific purpose. This illustration exposes a larger question, however: what is beautiful music, beautiful poetry, beautiful literature, fine art? Is beauty totally subject to the individual's opinion and taste, or is there more to the idea of beauty?

                                                 Biblical Concepts of Beauty

God's ideas of beauty remained changeless throughout all of antiquity. In the book of Leviticus, God gives extremely specific instructions to the Levitical priesthood to wear certain garments and decorate the tabernacle with precise measurements and specifications on the ceremonial furnishings in the Holiest sections of the tabernacle. This may seem irrelevant to the discussion of art and it's cultural relevance, but the fact that God specifically makes authoritative decisions on what is and is not allowed in His dwelling place should be taken seriously. Human standards of beauty and excellence change with different eras and cultures, but God's word is eternal and unchanging. If art is purely subjective, wouldn't it make sense that God would remain silent on the topic of aesthetic preference?

                                                  Cultural Concepts of Beauty

This conflict should make us think about what God deems beautiful and what human culture has often deemed artistic and beautiful, contrary to the evidence of God's desires for His creation. In terms of the beauty of nature, God is consistent in His handy work, with nature being ordered and full of breathtaking symmetry, even down to the microscopic level. There is little wonder why so many artists paint landscapes and nature scenes, and musicians camp out in the solitary confines of a wilderness setting to find inspiration in writing music. God uses the general revelation of nature to inspire and elicit worship, but that does not mean that the beauty of nature cannot be distorted by the sinful mind of man. It is often the sinful desires of rebellion and anger towards God that lead both artists and non-artists to find the distorted beauty of nature pleasing, despite God's original intent in the created order.

                                              Convergence in Art as God-generated

 God is the most beautiful being in existence (Psalms 50:2), and is the author of all beautiful things in nature, including the human mind that conceives and creates art. All art, therefore, should be held not merely to a human standard, but to God's standard of beauty in nature and the created order. To view art in any other way leads to the disintegration of true beauty and excellence, not simply in the realm of art but in all of society. As the rap artist Propaganda once stated, " we make lofty art. See the presence of good art will unconsciously refine a community and poor art will do an incalculable harm." 
How, then, should Christian artists distinguish between art that is beautiful merely from a subjective human standpoint, and art that is divinely inspired and transcendent?

Kulture Kafe welcomes your responses to this post.

Phillip Kinkopf, new to Kulture Kafe, is a thinker and writer who is affiliated with Saint Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, FL. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hello Kulture Kafe posters and readers:

I'm returning to blogging after a 2 year hiatus, and wanted those of you who don't know what I look like to see a picture. You'll be seeing less of me and more of others who are invited to write.

Want to contribute? What I need are careful observers of current culture: trends in the academy, the law, government, the arts, the church. I would like us to involve a broad spectrum  of contributors from across the globe.

Here's what to do. I'll need a sample of your writing, a topic you wish to explore, and a brief summary of your article. Don't be concerned about length.

What I have discovered is that sound bites and tweets work for some people, and are utterly frustrating to others. We need room to explore and expand topics in greater depth, and this is one of the places that can happen.

Thank you for your encouragement of Kulture Kafe, and I look forward to moving into a renewed time of creative posting with you.

Terry Yount, DMA

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Article from Psalm 119: An Exposition by Charles Bridges,
originally published in 1827 when the author was 33 years old. It has become an international classic of devotion and spiritual encouragement.

32. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

    A glowing picture of the Christian's delight in the
ways of God! If we "have chosen the way of God's com-
mandments," and have been able to "stick unto" this way,
surely we shall wish to "run in it" with constancy and
cheerfulness. We shall want to mend our pace. If we
walk, we shall long to "run." There is always the same
reason for progress, that there was for setting out. Neces-
sity, advantage, enjoyment, spur us on to the end. What-
ever progress we have made, we shall desire to make more;
go on praying and walking, and praying that we
may walk with a swifter motion; we shall be dissatisfied;
Yet not discouraged—"faint, yet pursuing." (Judg. viii. 4.)
Now this is as it should be. This is after the pattern of
the holy Apostle:—"Brethren, I count not myself to have
apprehended: but this one thing I do; forgetting those
things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which
are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philip. iii. 13, 14.)
But the secret as well as the pattern of Christian progress
is—looking beyond the Apostle, and the "so great cloud
of witnesses, with which we are encompassed"—and "look-
ing unto Jesus." (Heb. 1, 2.) Faith is the principle
of life, and supplies the daily motion of life; directing
our eye to him as "the Author," until he "becomes the
Finisher," of our faith. This is at once our duty, our pri-
vilege, our happiness, and our strength. This is the
point, at which we begin to run; and we "so run, that we
may obtain." (1 Cor. ix. 24.)
    But let us more distinctly mark the medium through
which this spiritual energy flows—an enlarged heart. With-
out this influence how could we run this way of God's com-
mandments? Such is the extent and latitude of the course
(see verse 96), that a straitened heart is utterly inadequate
to carry us through. There must be large treasures of
knowledge, in order that from a rich "treasure-house the
good things" may pour out abundantly. (See 1 Kings, iv.
29; with Matt. xii. 35.) For indeed spiritual "knowledge"
is the principle of "multiplied grace." (2 Pet. i. 2. Comp.
Col. i. 10.) Scriptural truths, divinely fixed in the under-
standing, powerfully influence the heart. Christian pri-
vilege also greatly advances this important end. In season
of depression we are "so troubled, that we cannot speak.
(Ps. lxxvii. 4.) We cannot pour out our hearts, as at
other times, with a large measure of spirit and life. But
when "we joy in God, having received the atonement"
(Rom. v. 11), the spirit is invigorated, as with oil on the
wheels, or as "with wings to mount" (Isa. xl. 31) on high
in the service of praise.
    Very different, however, is this enlargement of heart from
enlargement of gifts. Fluency of utterance is too often
fearfully separated from the spiritual life, and utterly un-
connected with delight in the way of God's commandments.
It is expression, not feeling—counterfeit grace—public,
not secret or personal, religion. The yoke of sin is not
broken, and the self-deceiver will be found at last among
the deluded throng of gifted hypocrites, "punished with
everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord."
(Matt. vii. 22, 23 with 2 Thess. i. 9.)
    Indeed the spiritual principle is far too little realized.
At the commencement of the course, conscious guilt
straitens the approach to the throne of grace. Unbelief
imprisons the soul. And even when the deliverer is known,
who "sets at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke, iv. 18),
still the body of death with all its clogging burden and con-
finement presses down the soul. Unbelief also continues
to work, to narrow the conceptions of the gospel, and by
the painful recollections of the past, to bring in distrust,
distance, and bondage. And most painful is this restraint.
For the soul, which is but beginning to see how desirable is
the favour of God, feels also an earnest desire to honour
him. And to him who—having fully "tasted that the
Lord is gracious"—asks, "What shall I render unto the
Lord?" (Ps. cxvi. 12), this remaining influence of "the
spirit of bondage" is more afflicting, than perhaps was a
greater measure of it in a less enlightened stage of his
way. Still, however, this legal spirit pursues him. His
comforts, ebbing and flowing, according as he is dissatisfied
or satisfied with his Christian progress, clearly evince a
secret "confidence in the flesh," greatly hindering that
"rejoicing in Christ Jesus," which so enlarges the heart.
(Philip. iii. 3, 12-14.)
    Thus by the shackles of sin, unbelief, and self-right-
eousness, we are indeed sore let and hindered in running
the race set before us.' (Collect for Advent.) The light
is obscured. Faith loses sight of its object. What
otherwise would be a delight becomes a weariness. Obe-
dience is irksome; self-denial intolerable; the cross heavy.
The heart is, as it were, "shut up, and it cannot get forth."
(Ps. lxxxviii. 8.) Faith is so low: desires are so faint;
hopes so narrow, that it seems impossible to make progress.
Frequent defeats induce despondency. The world is resorted
to. Sin ensnares and captivates. Thus "we did run well;
but we have been hindered." (Gal. v. 7.)
    This sad evil naturally leads us to inquire for the remedy.
The case is backsliding, not apostasy. The remedy there-
fore is in that engagement, which embraces a wider expanse
of light, and a more full confidence of love. We find that
we have not been "straitened" in God, but "in our own
bowels." If then the rich fool thought of enlarging his
barns, when his stores had increased upon him (Luke, xii.
16-19), much more should we "enlarge the place of our
tent," that we may make more room for God, encourage
larger expectations, if we would have more full manifest-
ations of him. Let not the vessels fail, before the oil stays.
(See 2 Kings, iv. 6.) Continually let the petition be sent
up —"Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge
my coast!" (1 Chron. iv. 10.) Whatever cause we have
cry out —"My leanness, my leanness!" (Isa. xxiv. 16) —
still let us, in the exercise of faith and prayer, be waiting
for a more cheerful ability to love, serve, and praise. Let
us be restless, till the prison-doors are again opened, and
the command is issued to the prisoners—"Go forth: and
to them that are in darkness — Show yourselves. They
shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all
high places." (Isa. xlix. 9.) Who knoweth but the Lord
will once more shine upon us; once more unloose our fetters,
and renew our strength?
    But again and again must we be reminded that every
motion must begin with God. (Prov. xvi. 1.) I will run
but how? not in my own strength, but by "the good hand
of my God upon me" (Ezra, vii.. 9), delivering and enlarging 
my heart. He does not say—I will make no efforts, unless
thou work for me; but if thou wilt enlarge—I will run.
Weakness is not the plea for indolence, but for quickening
grace. "Draw me"—saith the Church—"we will run
after thee." (Cant. i. 4.) Effectual calling will issue in
running. (Comp. Ps. cx. 3; Isa. lv. 5.) "Where the Spirit
of the Lord is, there is liberty." The secret of Christian
energy and success is a heart enlarged in the love of God.
    Let me then begin betimes—make haste —keep straight
on—fix my eye on the mark—"endure unto the end." I
may yet expect in the joy of blessed surprise to exclaim-
"Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots
of Ammi-nadib." (Cant. vi. 12.) Godly sorrow had made
me serious. Now let holy joy make me active. "The joy
of the Lord is my strength" (Neh. viii. 10); and I am
ready, under the power of constraining love (2 Cor. v. 14),
to work and to toil —to run without weariness—to "march
onward" without fainting;* not measuring my pace by my
own strength, but looking to him who "strengtheneth with
all might by his Spirit in the inner man." (Eph. iii. 16.)
    Happy fruit of wrestling prayer and diligent waiting on
God! Joy in God, and strength to walk with him, with
increasing knowledge of him, increasing communion with
him, and increasing confidence in him.

    * Isa. xl. 31, "m

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer as an arts retreat

It's been a while since anything new came up in this forum. Don't worry, we haven't given up on the arts. In the next few months, many of us will be going on trips, attending seminars, workshops, conferences, festivals, masterclasses. Having the summer months for a period of retreat and refreshment vocationally is vital for people in the arts. As you come and go, please log in with your thoughts or reflections for the rest of us. We might benefit from your experiences. You may grow from expressing how the events you attended stimulated you in some way. In any case, don't keep the good things you experience in the vault of your mind when they could be enjoyed by the whole community. Write something.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Beauty and the Gospel

Some of the time, I think the people who read these posts never finish them. So this one is quite short. There's an article about this subject in the July 2010 issue of Tabletalk.  The author may amuse, anger, or encourage you depending on your world and life view. Curious? Go to this link and check it out:

I welcome your reactions in the comment box. You may want to email the author (me) with a personal comment, which is also okay.