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Guilt-Free Ministry: Can You Serve God and Make Money?

Guilt-Free Ministry: Can You Serve God and Make Money?

As a Christian creative, I’ve often grappled with the idea of earning money from ministry work. This internal struggle, born from the belief that financial gain might taint the purity of spiritual service, is more common than we might think. Today, I want to share my journey of reconciling faith with finances, and offer insights for others facing similar challenges.

The Biblical Perspective:
To address these conflicting feelings, we must turn to Scripture. The Bible offers a balanced view of work and earning. In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul writes, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.'” This verse, quoting both Moses and Jesus, affirms that those who work deserve compensation.

However, Paul also speaks of preaching the gospel free of charge: “What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” – 1 Corinthians 9:18 ESV. This seeming contradiction has been at the heart of my struggle.

Personal Reflections:
For years, I’ve freely shared God’s truth in my work outside of education. But as I’ve ventured into creating media with explicit spiritual content, I’ve felt uncomfortable with the idea of monetization. The constant inner dialogue questions whether it’s right to accept payment for something I felt called to do freely.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that financial stability is crucial for sustaining and expanding ministry work. This shift was sparked by a message from an international microchurch leader in India. He prayed for my business efforts, noting that as God blesses me more, it allows their ministry to bless more people.

This was a lightbulb moment. By developing better business acumen and increasing my own resources, I could be used by God in greater ways to impact lives in need.

We’re meant to be rivers of blessing in God’s economy, not dams. God is the water source, and as He flows into us, we should allow that blessing to continue flowing downstream. Rejecting opportunities to increase our capacity might actually limit our ability to bless others.

Last week, we discussed stewardship and how God blesses those who multiply what they’ve been called to steward. But what if those blessings come as opportunities to increase income for the sake of increasing our capacity to give? We need to consider: What is our generosity level? What impact are we looking to have with our resources? Who gets blessed when we get blessed?

Overcoming Guilt:
It’s time to come to terms with the fact that God wants to bless His creation and His people specifically. We should never feel entitled, but our work does earn us the right to wages. As Erwin Raphael McManus advised me:

1. Embrace the truth that creating value for others takes real work – and you can do it.
2. Understand that you deserve to be rewarded for your efforts.

Balancing these truths helps to mitigate both entitlement and low self-worth, allowing us to experience the next level of growth and success. We must understand and embrace the truth of reaping what we sow. If we sow in hard work, we should expect to reap the reward of our work. We shouldn’t expect to reap where we haven’t sown, nor should we neglect to reap where we have sown.

Practical Steps to Overcome Guilt:
1. Seek Scriptural Guidance: Regularly study Bible verses that affirm the value of work and earning, like Proverbs 13:11 and Ecclesiastes 3:13.
2. Embrace a Stewardship Mindset: View financial resources as tools entrusted to you by God to further His work.
3. Share Your Story: Be transparent about your journey and struggles with your community.
4. Regular Self-Reflection: Continuously evaluate your motives and intentions through prayer and reflection.

By addressing these feelings of guilt and misconceptions, we can embrace a balanced approach to earning money while serving God. This mindset not only sustains individual ministries but also strengthens the broader Christian creative community, enabling it to thrive and make a lasting impact. We must all remember, it’s not about becoming rich for personal gain, but about increasing our capacity to bless others and further God’s kingdom.

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Whose Is It Really? Exploring Creativity as a Stewardship

Whose Is It Really? Exploring Creativity as a Stewardship

Is It mine? Isn’t it mine? God blessed me with it, didn’t He?

This is a question and conversation that we all need to engage with throughout our lives.

A core question, or truth, that we must face, whether you are currently a believer or not, is: Who/What is the source of life?

If you reach the conclusion that the source is Father God, the creator of all things, the big questions shouldn’t stop there.
Our next question should be…If God is the source of our lives, why were we created? What does our creator expect of us?

I think the last is an important question that has significant implications on how we live our lives. Those of us who believe in Jesus and trust Him with our salvation should also understand that we have surrendered our lives to Jesus. God’s Word reminds us that this means the end of self, that we die, and it is now Jesus who lives in us. (See Galatians 2:20)

The world may not recognize God the Father, the creator of all, as the owner and operator of all that He created. But we in Christ should, because we intentionally return the deed of the house back over to the Creator.

One of the places that makes the most sense for this conversation is found in Matthew 25:14-30. Let me read this passage and then talk about the implications for our lives.

Starting in verse 14:

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

What we see here in the plainest language is God asking those who He’s invited into His kingdom to take what we’ve been given and treat it like an investment. To use it, to multiply it. This reflects the very first command that God the Father gave to humanity in Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

He told them to be fruitful and multiply. But this isn’t simply a recommendation of what we should do with our property. Instead, these are commands given by the One who still owns that which we hold.

As you saw in the parable in Matthew, this property still belonged to the master. And he, at a moment’s notice, could decide to reward the steward for excellent stewardship or remove the property and place it in the hands of one who has demonstrated they know how to invest and steward that property wisely.

This clearly makes sense as we engage in the conversation regarding our finances, even though we still struggle with the foundational truth that any finances God has given us, He has really just asked us to hold until He needs to use them again. It’s never that we have a certain amount of financial resources and decide to give a portion of it, even giving a portion of it back. All of our resources are His, and we have relinquished the illusion of control over them. Recognizing that at any moment, God has full ownership over those resources to do with them as He chooses for the betterment of His kingdom.

But let’s take that application even further. Why do we only engage with this conversation around finances?

What has God given us? What is the extent of His creation?

The truth is, everything we have, everything we are, is from Him and thus His. He has not relinquished ownership of anything that He has created. Therefore, everything is a question of our stewardship and not our ownership.

In the same way that each of the men in Matthew 25 had a responsibility to use what they were handed wisely, they were not owners of those resources but simply called upon to be managers of them.

For some, this can be an easy way to sidestep responsibility. But that would be making the same mistake as the one who buried the talents in the ground. He decided that he was not going to trust the heart and wisdom of the master but would instead give back exactly what the master had handed him. From a worldly perspective, this sounds fair and reasonable. But God called this servant worthless and slothful. While these are not identity statements, they are statements regarding this servant’s activity. The identity statement here is servant. Has that servant actually lived out the truth of who he’s called to serve? He disrespected the intent of his master and stopped truly serving him, instead serving his own fears and desires for self-preservation.

The master says to his creation, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

 

What if we applied that to our thoughts that He gives us? How do we ensure that each one of the creative ideas that He gives us is multiplied? How do we ensure that our character, our leadership skills, and our experiences are fruitful and multiplied?

Just like the wise servants, we can take those ideas, thoughts, skills, and experiences and invest them into different people and different work with intentional plans for them to bear fruit and multiply. So let’s apply that to every aspect of our lives and for the context of this conversation, specifically to our creative endeavors.

1. Recognize the Real Source

Recognize the source of our creativity is God. Acknowledge our creative abilities as gifts from God. This recognition helps us shift our focus from our often self-glorifying ways to making sure that all of our work truly glorifies God, the source of our creativity.

2. Develop and Hone Your Skills

It also means that we would have an intent to develop and hone our skills. 2 Timothy 1:6 says to “fan into flame the gift of God.” That gift Timothy spoke of is the Spirit of God poured into each one of us, but the gifts of God are numerous. They include every aspect of creation. Let us take those sparks and fan them into even more. Let us not be complacent with our creative ideas and skills. Let us invest time and effort into improving our skills—not for our own glory, but as an act of stewardship. He put that creative talent within us. Investing time in growing it is one way that we can steward it so that it can be fruitful and multiply.

Whether through formal education, simple practice, or seeking mentorship in how we use it, we would honor God by moving towards excellence in the use of our creative skills and using those skills to serve and inspire others.

3. Serve With Your Art

As we channel our creativity towards serving others and not just about creating a work of art, this could be another way to make sure it is fruitful. It could be through creating art that inspires, writing that encourages, or music that uplifts. Creating art for beauty’s sake can glorify the Father, but let us make sure that we lean in with the intent that it would be fruitful and multiply God’s glory as well. By doing so, we reflect God’s love and grace to the world, making sure that it multiplies more and more.

Engaging in community projects, collaborating with other creatives, and using our platforms to address social issues, spread the gospel, and bring about positive change are all ways to make sure that our creative gifts are fruitful and multiply.

4. Manage Your Creative Resources

What about managing the creative resources that He has given us? We all have the same amount of time, but are we using it wisely? Are we planning and prioritizing? Are we allocating specific times for creative work, knowing that we can get more out of it as we focus? Are we applying principles of financial stewardship that will help us get more out of our creative efforts as well? Managing our creative resources wisely is another way to ensure that our creativity is fruitful and multiplies.

5. Cultivate A Heart of Gratitude

Truly, cultivating a heart of gratitude and contentment should be where we begin. Being grateful for the gifts and content with what He’s poured into us, what He’s placed in our hands, can fuel the joy that will really mark everything we create. Joy that is birthed through God’s Spirit alone. Embracing a mindset of gratitude for the opportunities to create and sharing our work can help it truly be fruitful and multiply, as this is where the fruit of the Spirit will really live out its beauty through each work.

 

Take every gift, take every piece, take every aspect of the life that you may have thought was yours, and surrender it to the Father. Let Him have His way with it, as we continue to steward it for His glory. And as we live life this way, let us continue to recognize that His commands for stewardship are across all of creation, and let us lean into the question, “Is it mine?” Knowing that the answer is, “No, it’s His.”

 

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Is A Lack of Graitude Keeping You From Creating Your Best Work?

Is A Lack of Graitude Keeping You From Creating Your Best Work?

“I feel bad.”

Unfortunately, this is a common phrase spoken in my house, frequently expressed by my wife and daughter. My wife has always struggled with feeling guilty about everything, and there’s even been a sense of celebration when my daughter says she feels bad because, at least, it’s an emotion beyond a self-centered place.

But today, I had an epiphany.

My daughter has been moving towards turning her social media influence into an actual business. She currently has a brand deal that could allow her to create content at a K-pop conference in LA. It’s an exciting prospect for her, to say the least. However, my wife is not too thrilled about the idea of our Caribbean vacation becoming a three-day trip to LA so our daughter can experience this without being so far away from us. When my wife looked at activities she might enjoy in Los Angeles, she came up empty, despite there being plenty to do for my son, who loves amusement parks and pools.

When I reminded my daughter of this reality for her mother, the first thing she said was, “I feel bad.”

For whatever reason, that really resonated with me today. Maybe it’s because I’m fresh off a really engaging group coaching call from Phil Jones and Erwin McManus on communication. But today, I was listening more closely, and I found myself quickly refuting her statement and encouraging her not to feel bad, but simply to feel grateful.

It’s funny, the difference that gratitude versus guilt can make.

Guilt produces shame, which in turn produces separation, negatively affecting any relationship you want to develop. Gratitude, however, draws people closer and makes connections stronger. This positive emotion can propel and empower so many great things. Much more beauty is created in this world as a result of gratitude than from guilt and shame. So, I began to preach to her and to myself, and now to all of you, about the importance of changing the narrative from negative feelings of guilt to positive feelings of gratitude.

Gratefully receiving a gift calls us to joy and makes us want to give in return, either to the giver or by paying it forward to someone else who could use the blessing. Not because they deserve it, but because it would be our joy to give.

It’s interesting how powerful these stories are over us. You can refer back to a previous blog post I made when this blog began, where we discuss how these stories shape not only our emotions and actions, but our memories and perceived identity. But I want to settle in today on the thought about the unworthiness to receive the gift.

When I think about the guilt one feels instead of gratitude, it’s often because they know they are unworthy of the gift being bestowed. I can’t help but make the obvious correlation to the greatest gift of all—the gift of life and, more specifically, eternal life with God. None of us were deserving of that gift when it was sacrificed by Jesus on the cross. We could easily feel guilt and shame when reflecting on this, but doing so would cause us to miss out on the amazing benefits that come with receiving the gift with joy and gratefulness. Besides Jesus literally died in part, so we could be free of these same crippling emotions.

And we don’t receive the gift based on our worthiness. It is a gift not based on our worth, but on God’s joy in giving it. Do we understand that right now? That in receiving a gift from anyone, we are also giving them the gift of being able to exercise their joy on our behalf. It continues to be Jesus’s joy that we gratefully receive the gift.

It’s so amazing that right now, as I record the audio for this post, I walked down the block and saw two young boys playing catch in their yard. Their ball had been stuck in a tree. They tried and tried to get it down but couldn’t. When they saw me, they asked, “Can you help? Can you help, sir?”

Without thinking and with a smile, I walked up and showed them that if they just shook the right branch, the ball would eventually come down. As I shook the branch and the leaves fell, the ball finally came loose.

You know what they didn’t say? “Sir, I feel so bad about interrupting your recording.” They didn’t say, “Sir, I feel so bad that you have to stop your walk.” What they did say, multiple times with smiles on their faces, was, “Thank you. Thank you.” Then they joyfully returned to their play.

The narrative they are walking in right now is one of receiving joy in their life’s experiences versus feeling bad about the goodness and guidance God wants to bestow. We can’t fully experience an abundant and joy-filled, creative life with God while guilt and shame dominant their narrative.

Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

We could spend so much time mourning what could be lost by ourselves or others, or we could focus on celebrating what we’ve gained and what we’ve had the opportunity to give.

What’s the narrative that you’re writing?

Alphonse Karr said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”

Get out of guilt and shame. And instead take the trip of a lifetime…Go to grateful.

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Can We Embrace the Unfinished as Masterpieces?

Can We Embrace the Unfinished as Masterpieces?

Last night, in a discussion with my Beats, Bars and Bible community, I shared my struggle with finishing Beats.

One of my passions is hip-hop production, but I really love creating the first draft of a beat, finding the initial sound, finding ways to make them harmonize together, creating thumping or soul-grabbing drums. However, when it comes time to create a full song, when it comes time to mix and master, tweak and finalize, I stumble.

Or better yet, I choose to simply start over on the next song because I hate final drafts. If I can embrace the fact that a song is a first draft, for me that comes along with an expectation. There’s an expectation that it is rough around the edges, that it is filled with small little errors, mistakes and imperfections. That expectation allows me to just freely play with this draft. It also comes along with that same expectation for others who engage with the content. It shouldn’t be taken that seriously. That there’s still more to be done before they should even consider engaging with it.

The body of work that an artist puts out should not be a collection of rough drafts. Right?

When something goes to a final draft, that’s when my own self-judgment kicks in, and the old nasty critic gets loud, and those who engage with my art now also believe they’re engaging with the final product, and their expectations of finality kick in as well.

But I wonder if both realities can be true at the same time. That I can continue to work on, perfect, clean up something, but never actually call it the final draft. Have the understanding that all of my work, as I am God’s work, is an incomplete work, an unfinished work, a working draft, if you will. Knowing that it is something that can function, that can operate, that can go out into the world as something to be used and even evaluated with the understanding that it will never be done.

Is that a false reality I’m creating? Am I just simply creating a workaround so that I don’t have to stamp something as complete, as finished, as beautiful? It’s way more comfortable to create good work. To create something that you simply can say this is good. That’s much more comfortable than working, pouring yourself completely into something, bringing it to a place where you believe this is great.

That’s a dangerous place. And I’m not quite sure I’m resolved on how to think about it. So I’ll leave it to you. Even better still I’ll leave it to God, the author and perfector of my faith. THE FINISHER. Let’s let God redeem our broken mindsets and finish our imperfect creations.

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Are You Bold Enough to Risk It?

Are You Bold Enough to Risk It?

Driving home from celebrating birthdays with my mom, I was tempted to not stop for gas, despite the fact that we were on E. If I were driving solo, I probably would have tried to make it all the way nearer to home where it’s a lot cheaper.
And I mentioned that thought to my wife, Lariza. She said, “But babe, why risk it?”
And that’s an important question in a lot of different ways, but not specifically related to running out of gas.

The answer for me is often…”Because it’s worth it.”

So that is the work of the Christ-centered Christian. To discern with the Spirit of God whether or not the risks being proposed, the bold ideas being considered are worth it.
I often like to ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” When I play out the worst-case scenario all the way through and find that at the end of the day, I’m still the same child of God I was to start, it makes me all the more confident to step boldly into some risky business.

The Innovative Mind
Last week my wife and I discussed getting gift cards for a friend and looked at the value of gift cards. They really are a brilliant idea for businesses as well as for consumers. We decided to ask ChatGPT who created gift certificates. We discovered that the concept of gift certificates was reportedly initiated by none other than Blockbuster Video.
That got me thinking on how innovative Blockbuster was in the end of the 20th century. And then somewhere along the line, the innovation stopped. It’s like the same bold risk-taking mindset when there’s not much on the line, runs and hides once the stakes are raised. The play-it-safe mentality takes over, looking to maintain versus pioneer.

While we need maintainers and implementers, but it is the pioneers that build tomorrow.

The Bold Question
So is there something that you are contemplating right now? Is there a bold move you’re considering going all in on? Is there some creation that it might be easier to play the safe route and do it just like everybody else?
I want to encourage you to ask and answer the question, “Why risk it?”

Christ-centered creatives, let us continue to be risk-taking, dreaming pioneers that boldly build a world that is a blessing to the kingdom.
Keep creating for God’s glory. Be blessed and be a blessing.

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