Have you ever wondered about the balance between God's design for your life and your responsibility to actually walk that out? Well, I want to share what the Bible says about this balance and reveal the two things every believer must do if they're going to find it.
You know, I love talking about the Kingdom of God. It's so simple. It's so clearly laid out in Scripture. And yet, so many people, me included for many years, have no clue how the Kingdom works. But once you get an understanding of how the Kingdom of God works in your life. Wow, things really begin to change.
Ephesians 2:10 is one such scripture. It talks about the balance between the design of God on your life and your responsibility to walk it out. It says this, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
You Are His Workmanship
Now the first Kingdom truth I want you to grab onto is this: You Are His Workmanship. The Greek word for "workmanship" is poema, which we get the word poem. With that in mind, I want to paraphrase and expand upon the first part of this verse…
"You are a skillfully crafted artistic narrative that expresses the beauty and the heart of God."
You are not here by some random chance or happenstance. You are explicitly designed as a work of art by the Lord for His Glory.
You Were Created for a Purpose
The second Kingdom Truth I want to highlight is this; You Were Created for a Purpose. "Created in Christ Jesus" is how Paul puts it, but what does that mean for us today? That means we are one in Christ Jesus, joint-heirs with Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and fully able to receive and walk in the fullness of the Kingdom of God. But for what end?
"For good works, which God prepared beforehand." God designed, crafted, and fully equipped you to express His nature and His Heart to humankind in a way that only you can do. You are the perfect person for this mission, should you choose to accept it, which brings me to the next truth.
You Just Have To Do It
"That we should walk in them," or as another version puts it, "for us to do." Maybe you can relate to this, but for many years, I thought that because God had a plan for my life, that He was just going to make it happen. I believed that my role in fulfilling God's call on my life was to wait on Him to do it. Guess what? That led to a lot of frustration because that's NOT how the Kingdom works.
Overt action is implied at the end of Ephesians 2:10. While it's true that God has a divine plan for your life, one that He's had in mind for you for a very long time, His plan was for you to do it with Him. If you don't walk out the thing God created you to do, then you're going to miss the fullness of God's design for your life.
This Might Be Your Roadblock
But Matt, if it's that simple, why is it so hard to simply "do" the thing God has called and created me to do? The biggest roadblock most people face when fulfilling God's call on their life is their mindset.
So many good, well-meaning, Jesus-loving people simply don't know who they are in Christ. Despite being fully saved, they allow their old natural way of thinking, their non-renewed mind, to dominate their life. Things like...
No matter where people found themselves within the spectrum of art, one question remained: Is it ok to sell my art if I consider my inspiration comes from the Lord? To be more specific, the question was often “Is it ok to sell something that God gave to you freely?” As you can imagine, I definitely have an opinion on the matter and I hope this article can help clarify this for many of you out there who are struggling with this question.
In short, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! However, not every artist is meant to sell their art and herein lies the issue. It really depends on a few things, namely how an artist approaches their creative expression. For the purposes of this article (Yes, I know that there is a lot of crossover between these and yes, I understand that I’m going to have to speak in generalities since every situation is different) I’m going to focus on artists who approach their work in 3 different ways: their own personal spiritual experience, hobby, ministry to others and vocationally.
Art as Spiritual Experience
For most artists, the practice of art making is something that is innate. They can’t imagine life without it. It’s an extension of who they are and when they are creating, there’s nothing else like it! There’s an emotional release, a rush of pleasure and feelings of overwhelming joy that are rarely found in any other experience. Many times, artists also make a deeper spiritual connection with God during this process. Either intentionally or unintentionally, the artist may feel a real sense that they are not creating by themselves but are rather receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit and creating with Him. Although this is not an experience unique to Christians, I believe the Father is releasing more of Himself, more of His Kingdom and more of His nature to creatives who are taking the time to invite the Holy Spirit into the creative process.
When artists of all creative mediums enter in to this process, it’s an intimate place. Art making becomes a responsive act of worship where their ideas, tools, skills and processes become yielded to the movement of the Holy Spirit within them. There’s no faking it because an artist knows when it’s real. For many, there’s no greater place of connection with the Father than when they are creating; writing a song, painting, singing, dancing, weaving or just dreaming. To downplay this experience would be a huge mistake because it’s this process of connecting and creating that is so visceral and transforming for each artist. It’s foundational to our experience and essential for our ongoing growth and connection with God.
In this place of art as spiritual experience, there are don’t have to be any rules or expectations. The experience of creating with God with no boundaries is all that matters. Whatever comes out comes out. It’s all worship. It’s all valid. It’s all important to the artist’s spiritual journey. The artist probably has a vocation that provides income for them and spends their ‘free time’ pursuing their creative outlet. There’s never any pressure to sell or please anyone but themselves and the Lord. For these artists, growth happens as a result of a nurtured relationship with God and the art making process. There’s no timetable or requirements on how or when that growth happens. It’s art as worship, for the pleasure of creating and that’s enough.
For more information on creating with the Holy Spirit (or what some call "Prophetic Art") check out my Definitive Guide to Prophetic Art.
Art as Hobby
The good news is that all artists start here, creating from a place of passion, connection, and expression. There are usually no rules at this point, only a love for creating, experimenting and having fun!
You can probably relate, am I right?
The focus for most hobbyists is creating for their own personal enjoyment. You may find yourself pursuing your art at your leisure… when you have extra time or a few times a month. Many hobbyists don't necessarily have a dedicated studio space to create in and end up creating in the dining room or spare bedroom of their home (or if you’re like me, the back porch, garage, kitchen and the shed out back!)
Most hobbyists enjoy the freedom of creating when inspiration strikes, once a week, a couple of times a month, or even a few times a year. They often continue to create because of the spiritual connection they feel when creating.
Overall, being a hobbyist is an awesome place to be!
When you approach your art as a hobby, you're doing it just for fun. Again, no strings are required - just an enjoyment of the process. The time spent in the creative process is just for you. Sometimes you give art away to friends and family, other times you may sell a piece or two every now and again. However, art hobbyists rarely count on the income from their art sales to live. Usually it's about enjoyment and making enough to pay for materials.
Art as Ministry
It’s rare that an artist creates in a vacuum without anyone knowing about their creative expression. For most creatives, we enjoy sharing our creativity with others – friends, family, our faith community – and that only heightens the experience of creating. Nowadays because of the rise of acceptance of art as spiritual expression within the Church, many artists are finding they have the opportunity to share their art with others through doing things like art shows, painting on stage, performing on their worship team and many other wonderful expressions of creativity. This is an incredible opportunity for all creatives to take what’s been happening in their private studio time with God and welcome others into that process. Instead of their art simply being a place of personal connection with God, now it also has the potential to become a vehicle for others to experience the transformative Light and Light of God through their art.
As with most things that involve other people, sometimes this can get a bit hairy. What do you do when someone doesn’t understand or respond to your work in a way that’s life-giving for you? How do you receive compliments? What if someone has a major encounter with the Lord through your work? It’s never simple for an artist to put their creative expression out for the public to interact with because it’s not just about the work. It’s bearing your soul and allowing others to come into your special place of connection, judge it and many times judge you. Depending on how you’re wired, that can be exhilarating or a real emotional challenge.
Many artists now days are finding real acceptance within their faith communities as they create in the context of worship. People are inspired by their work, it heightens their own spiritual experience and allows them to create with others. It’s from these artists with whom we work most at The Worship Studio. They mostly create as worship and for the joy of the experience, have probably sold a few pieces here and there over the years but mostly enjoy giving their work away to others as a way to encourage them in their own spiritual journey. Artists in this place often struggle with the concept of selling their work because they don’t understand how they can or should sell something that’s such a natural expression of their own heart and given to them by the Holy Spirit in the context of worship.
For artists who are are creating for their own personal enjoyment and spiritual expression, I say “Don’t worry about selling you work.” Allow it to be what it is – a joyful, creative, spiritual experience that you’re sharing with others. Why put the pressure on yourself to sell or not sell when there’s no specific calling to move into vocational art making? For many artists who are, for lack of a better word, hobbyists, they tension of feeling like they should sell their work causes more frustration than anything which only impedes the creative process. I always encourage these folks to enjoy the process, freely give as you have freely received and don’t put undue pressure on yourself or your art making practice.
Art as Vocation
For most artists – especially Christians – who have moved into creating as their vocation, they still create from a place of spiritual experience and desire to connect with God through their own creative process. In fact, most, if not all began in a place of creating simply as a response to their own inner need to create. I call it the compulsion to make, always searching for something to do with their hands. These artists still value the joy, spontaneity and exhilaration of the creative process but at some point began to feel the desire to create as their vocation. It may have been the result of a prophetic word, a longstanding dream of theirs, the recognition that if they were going to keep doing this and getting better they needed to give more attention than just what they could do as a hobby or just because their work started selling and they followed God’s favor on their work. However it happened, did this decision to create for money diminish their spiritual experience? Was God somehow displeased with them because they were no longer just creating for the joy of creating? I believe the answer to that question is a resounding “No”!
Growth in the Kingdom is always based on stewardship of the gifts that a person has been given, regardless of where they find themselves in culture. For the artist, this most definitely includes their artistic gifting and their ability to hear, sense, feel and receive from the Lord. Let me pause and say, however, that I don’t believe becoming a full-time vocational artist means you’ve somehow achieved the ultimate maturity as an artist or as a Christian artist. Many of the best artists around choose to create as a hobby, for their personal enjoyment and have other vocations that they pursue to make their living. Many enjoy this because it allows them to come to their art making with no boundaries, requirements or pressure. It’s simply art for their personal enjoyment, sharing with others and even worship.
Other Considerations when Selling Art
Artists who have chosen to move into art making as their vocation however, don’t have the luxury of simply creating for personal enjoyment, although there is always joy that comes from the process. They have to consider the salability of their work, how it’s marketed, priced and presented to the public in a way that represents their values. Vocational artists can’t give most of their work away because for them, this is the primary way God has given them to make harvest their financial provision. They have to think about things like dedicated studio space, gallery representation or direct retail sales, inventory, shows and marketing their work. These artists have to pay attention to who’s buying their work, why, for what price and to be used in what context in order to continue to grow and thrive. To be successful, a vocational artist has to be both artist and entrepreneur. There is no either or if an artist is to be successful in the marketplace.
This is where a lot of Christians who are artists somehow jump ship. They have this notion that artists who have chosen the vocational art path have somehow sold their soul to the art devil and have lost the essence of creating from a place of spiritual connection. How ridiculous! In my opinion, that’s just a load of religious poppycock and emotional gobbledygook! No one would think of making this accusation to someone who gets a million-dollar business idea from the Lord yet somehow, because we’re creative our motives and intentions are called into question. Should a pastor not be paid because they receive inspiration from the Lord for their sermons and daily ministry?
Vocational but Still Spiritual
Yes, being a vocational artist requires a different skill set and thought process, but it’s no less spiritual for the artist who approaches their life and work as a Kingdom creative. Being a vocational Kingdom artist is a beautiful collaboration with God in which the artist has the joyful opportunity to see and agree with Heaven, co-create their experience with the Holy Spirit and enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom in their life while expecting transformation to be the result of their life and work. All along the way, they get to trust God completely for their provision, opportunities to sell their work and new creative ideas.
I’m one of these vocational artists who did what I do creatively now as a hobby for 15 years before it became my primary income source. For me, this journey of becoming a full-time working artist has required so much more faith and connectedness with the Father than anything I’ve ever done. I have opportunities each and every day to listen, trust and cooperate with the voice of the Holy Spirit not only as I create art but as I create a life and a business that God is using to bring finances into my family’s life. I love the adventure of being a vocational artist and can’t imagine doing anything else.
If you're interested in making a transition from hobbyist into art as your vocation, read this article about what I call "The Bridge" to seeing your dream come true.
Enjoy Your Art
No matter where you are as an artist – creating for the love of the spiritual experience, doing it as a part of your ministry or as a vocation – realize that God’s joy over you is the simple fact that you’re doing what He created you to do. As you grow and dream with Him, the ways you express and present your art will change. That’s ok! Enjoy where you are and enjoy the growth process without putting undue pressure on yourself to be someone you’re not. God has an incredible plan for your life and art whether you sell it for thousands of dollars around the world or offer it to Him as worship in the secret place. Just enjoy the Father, create with Him and follow His lead. You never know where things might lead!
All of us have a past; it's just a normal part of the human condition. But have you ever wondered how to let go of the past so that you are free to do all the things God has called you to do in life? I'm going to share a really practical strategy for renewing your mind, right out of God's Word, that will enable you to let go of the past and truly begin to thrive in all God has for you.
How God Sees Your Past
All of us have done things and have had things done to us in the past that we want to forget. We want to get rid of it, but the enemy loves to continually bring those things up over and over. He uses these images of the past to torment us in order to impede our walk with the Lord. It’s frustrating for many and for some, it can be downright paralyzing.
This may be your current reality, but it's not God’s best for you in the Kingdom!
I'm so glad that Roman's teaches us that:
And that Paul, in 2nd Corinthians, builds on this verse when he wrote:
But as helpful as these two verses are, I love Scripture that gives us real practical strategy on how to walk out a Biblical principle here in the real world. And Philippians 3:12 – 14 is such a passage. Here, Paul lays out a powerful strategy for walking in freedom from the condemnation of the past:
Forgetting What Is Behind Is A Process
That passage is such an excellent strategy for getting rid of, what is commonly referred to as stinkin' thinkin'. I love how this passage starts with, "Not that I have already obtained it or have become perfect, but I press on." Right at the beginning, Paul is letting you know this is a process, that he's still in process himself…
But Paul doesn't camp out there. He continues with, "forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." I love how Paul forgets with intent.
As he is laying things down from his past, it's as if Paul is intentionally saying, "You know, these thoughts, fears, and anxieties over my past that keep playing over and over in my mind, I'm choosing to and take those thoughts captive and forget it!" But he doesn't stop there.
Reaching Forward Is Key
What does Paul mention next? He exercises his faith, believing that God has so much more for him, and he leans into the process. Paul purposefully shifts his attention from the mistakes, hurts, junk from the past and begins to focus on:
Many of us have spent years focusing on the things we have done wrong. It's too easy to be wrapped up in all the ways that we missed it and walk in condemnation over the weaknesses and temptations we've given into in the past.
“Your outer life is the fruit of your inner life.” - Matt Tommey
Yet, if you allow those past failings to define you and dominate your thought life, then your life is going to be a mess. Why, you ask? It's because your outer life is the fruit of your inner life. That's why Paul talked so much about this in the New Testament.
Forget that junk! Press Into ALL That God Has For You.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8
So, I want you to get this concept deep into your spirit today as you read this. If you've been having trouble letting go of the past, there is an easy place to start. Take a moment to reflect on one anxiety, fear, or regret from your past. When you have that thing in mind, find a few quiet minutes and take it to the Lord in prayer…
Listen, friend! That's how you let go of the past. You take those old thoughts captive, you throw them out, and you replace them with the truth of God's Word. You make that vision, God's plan and purpose for your life, a reality by leaning into it. As you do, you'll begin to move forward.
Have you ever felt like your everyday experiences in life aren't lining up with your hopes, dreams, and the promises of God over your life? Many people feel that way, including myself over the years, until I discovered a key in 3rd John 2 that unlocked a Kingdom perspective on prospering for me.
"I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." 3rd John 2 emphasis added
I love how this verse so perfectly defines thriving in the Kingdom. This is the same way that I explain it to my Created to Thrive Mentoring Program members.
This verse begins by showing that prosperity in life and walking in divine health are both part of our inheritance in the Lord. They are both meant to be a regular part of every believer's life.
Over the years, I've found it's easy to believe that God wants to abundantly bless His people with physical health, healing, and wholeness. But the idea that God wants His people to "prosper in all things," financially, in the marketplace, and in life seems to be harder to accept for many people.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said this,
31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:31-33 Emphasis Added
Thriving in the Kingdom isn't a matter of working, sweating, figuring it all out on your own, and striving harder than everyone else around you. That's the world's way. That's operating out of the mammon system and John knew this when he first penned the letter that would become 3rd John.
John learned first-hand what Jesus taught on that mount; that true Kingdom prosperity begins when you:
That's normal in the Kingdom of God. God doesn't have favorites. God doesn't make some people sick and some people healthy. He doesn't prosper some and not prosper others just cause He's playing favorites. Nope, prosperity and health are your birthright; it's normal for every believer.
Helping Your Soul to Prosper
Have you ever taken a moment to think about what it means for your soul to prosper? And what does thriving internally have to do with prospering externally?
Everything that we do in the Kingdom is through faith. Meaning we see it, feel it, and believe it first, internally before we ever see those things manifest in our life, externally. That's just how God has set it up. It’s not something God does to us but rather something He does with us through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
I think that's why Jesus taught us in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." You see, prospering in your soul starts with renewing your mind and aligning your heart, will, and emotions with the truth of God's Kingdom. So when you pray, you pray like you already have the thing you’re asking for - from a place of gratitude - rather than begging God for what you need.
As you intentionally sow these Kingdom principles into your life, your thought life and belief systems begin to change. And over time, the internal prospering begins to manifest externally. Maybe that's why Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he."
People reach out and ask me all the time how to make money as an artist. Yep. Many well-meaning artists have asked this question and most believe that it's a single answer, like there's some shortcut or secret ad you can run to make everyone buy your art and make a million dollars.
SPOILER ALERT: There's no silver bullet for learning how to become a successful artist. However, after working as a creative now for over 25 years, speaking to thousands and personally mentoring thousands of artists via my books, podcasts, and online artist mentoring program, I've come to understand some of what it takes to really thrive. I'm going to share some of those insights with you right here.
Since I also believe no one person has the corner on success, I reached out to several of my thriving artists friends who are creating beautiful work and selling the heck out of it all while living an incredible life.
Based on their input and my experience, here's my top 29 tips for taking your artistic calling to the next level so that you can really start thriving in 2021.
As you probably know by now, information doesn't create change. Real change only happens when valuable information meets action and interaction; action on your part and interaction with others on your journey and an experienced mentor. Why, you ask? Most of the time, there are things in your life you just can't see by yourself. For those who are willing, God uses mastermind and mentoring relationships to bring you to the next level of growth.
If you'd like to make this year your breakthrough year and really start thriving as an artist spiritually, artistically and in business, check out my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program and read some of their stories! Thousands of artists just like you have made the decision to be a part and it's changing lives.
Thanks again to all my artist friends who contributed to this list. Each one is creating great work, thriving as a professional artist and a joy to call friend!
The essence of prophetic art is listening with the imaginative ears of your spirit to release the Light and Life of God through the work you create.
As artists and Kingdom creatives, we hear, see and feel what others tend to miss not because we’ve got the super spiritual mojo, but mostly because we’ve learned to listen with the ears we’ve been given. This is the essence of prophetic art: learning to listen with the ears of your spirit via your imagination in order to release the Light and Life of God through the work you create.
The goal of this ability is never to exalt ourselves or our work, but rather to sense what’s going on in the Spirit realm through our natural and spiritual senses and translate that reality – the Kingdom - into the earth realm. That’s essentially what prophetic art is all about – God using an artist to bring transformation into a life or situation here in the earth realm through their art, their art process or the interaction with an artist.
Operating Prophetically in Our Art
Operating prophetically is at the heart of the creative process – seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing in the Spirit and co-laboring with your unique skillset and design to birth it into tangible form.
Luci Shaw, in her incredible book “Breath for the Bones” says of this moving back and forth between Spirit and flesh, heaven and earth: “Sometimes I have seen myself as an amphibian, like a frog, created for two elements. I dive beneath the lakes surface, my earthly home so that my skin doesn’t dry out and wither, but I need oxygen for my lungs and have to emerge from below the surface to breathe. I discover that I am made for both earth and heaven.
"Like Enoch, like Moses; unlike Adam, unlike most of us, these extraordinary individuals moved seamlessly from restricted terrestrial living into the presence of freedom and life in its optimum dimension in the presence of God.” She continues “Not only are we responsible as artists somehow to demonstrate that it is possible to bring heaven to earth by living the life of grace in an ungraceful place, by gluing together the seen and unseen, but we are required to be links with the unlinkable, with otherwise disparate entities.” (Luci Shaw, "Breath for the Bones," 2007 Thomas Nelson)
Because the nature of the creative process is the prophetic “glueing together the seen and unseen”, we should always be enlarging and sharpening our unique creative language in order to be able to hear and sense what God is saying in order to release Spirit-led Kingdom expression in ways that people can respond.
“Artists are the life-givers in culture. We are a pivotal intersection point where the Kingdom of Heaven meets culture. It is there that we have the unique opportunity, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to translate the Kingdom of Heaven into a language that bypasses words and goes directly into the human spirit. When we collaborate with the Holy Spirit in this dance of Kingdom creativity, His power, His Life and His Light merge with our faith, creative thoughts, imaginations, desires and skill into art that carries the literal presence and power of God. It is in this context that our art, no matter the creative medium becomes prophetic.” - Matt Tommey, Creativity According to the Kingdom
Prophetic Art Calls Order Out of Chaos
Just like God did on the day of creation as recorded in Genesis 1, we are called to come into chaos, bringing order and transformation into them as we release of the creative nature of God.
In addition to bringing order and transformation to those things that are in chaos, our role as creative ones is also to be door keepers of the presence of God in the earth.
What does that mean?
It means we are called to release the presence of God in the earth through our creative expression and facilitate experiences where people can encounter the life and light of God as a part of their everyday existence.
This is the nature of the Kingdom!
Otherwise, what else are we supposed to be doing? When you reduce the Christian life to going to church and following a bunch of rules that you can never live up too, you embrace a dead form and deny the very power Jesus imparted to us through the cross, by the Spirit.
Your creative expression literally carries the life and light of God when you co-labor with the Spirit in your creative release.
Prophetic Art is Light in the Darkness
Remember in John 1:1 God is light and life and everything that was created was created through the Word, Jesus. Then in Genesis 1 God released his nature – Light - into the chaotic darkness and transformation occurred.
Just as sons and daughters of the Creator God are made in his image, so our creative expression carries His transformative nature through our prophetic voice. That process happens like everything in the Kingdom happens, by faith because faith IS the substance or the tangible evidence that the things we’ve seen, felt and heard in the Spirit realm are actually real. Our role is to bring them into the earth realm and allow our creative expression to be a conduit for the mountain moving power of God to be released.
Now, the degree to which we get to do this in our life is not a matter of God playing favorites, but it’s based on stewarding well the gifting God has invested in us. The more you enlarge your capacity for his presence by becoming excellent at what you do, the more the father will entrust to you.
That’s how you grow in the Kingdom.
Prophetic Art is About Stewardship
Remember the Parable of the Talents and the guy who didn't do anything with his talents? It wasn't because of his lack of ability, but his lack of belief. He told the master of the field "I knew you to be a hard man..." In other words, I knew i couldn't live up to your standards, so I just didn't even try.
Just like the men in the Parable of the Talents, you are I are responsible for the revelation God entrusts to us. It’s literally a Kingdom investment that the Father is putting inside of you, waiting to see what you do with it. That investment has the ability to grow, produce, multiply and expand when mixed with faith or it can just sit dormant. Remember, God’s Word says in Proverbs 25:2 NIV:
What Tools Are in Your Hands Right Now?
As you think about your own unique Kingdom design and how the Father has designed you for your Kingdom purpose, ask yourself what is in your hand right now? What is it that the Father has given you? Maybe it's:
Take these things and begin to steward them!
The Prophetic "Chipping Away"
Ideas that come from God are like diamonds in lumps of coal. There's a lot of potential beauty inside but much has to be chipped away and polished before it can be realized. Make sense?
So what needs to be chipped away in your ideas, process and art? What are the next steps you need to take to see that diamond begin to come forth and shine?
Don’t minimize this!
This is why we need the prophetic in our creative process, so we can sense where to move and what to do next.
Again, part of that prophetic “chipping away” is in our life too, because for all artists and Kingdom creatives, we’re on a journey of personal development, not just artistic development. We’re all growing in the gifts and talents that God’s placed within us, as led by His Spirit.
The great thing is that we’re not left alone in the process. Remember, it’s called being filled and skilled. It’s about operating at your fullest capacity, being totally filled with the Spirit of God and leveraging all the skill you have to release His Glory through your expression.
Building On the Prophetic Art Foundations
Ok, so you’ve got the foundation down, right?
Hear, see and feel in the Spirit, and develop a picture or impression of what you’re supposed to be doing creatively. Then, as you chip away at the diamond and co-labor with the Father with whatever He’s put in your hand, the life and light of God will be released through your creative expression as a natural outflow of the Kingdom.
As I think a little deeper about my own creative process, I recognize 5 signposts that may be helpful for you to look for in your process. They are:
Let's talk about each one of these! (But before we do, let me share some of my favorite prophetic artists with you...)
Some of My Favorite Artists
Before we continue, let me take a moment to share some of my favorite artists who are creating incredible work while engaging the Holy Spirit in their creative process. While each may not call themselves a "prophetic artist", God is certainly using their work to release transformation around the world. Click on the image to visit their website and purchase their work. (All copyright retained by the artist.)
“We are called to come into chaos, bringing order & transformation into them through releasing the nature of God.” - Matt Tommey
How do you know if you're creating art with the Holy Spirit of if it's just you?
If you'd like to dive in a little deeper on creating with the Holy Spirit, this is an episode of 5-Minute Mentoring I did on the subject.
5 Steps in the Prophetic Art Process
1. REVELATORY CREATIVITY
When a creative idea begins to percolate, it will usually come as some sort of inspiration. Maybe you see, know, hear, smell or sense something that catches your attention and you become inspired. It may be a place, a person, a song or a natural setting that you see every day or something that you’ve encountered for the first time. Regardless of how it happens, at that moment you have an encounter. The Spirit speaks and you have an “Ah-ha” moment – a light bulb experience where you know you need to pay attention.
Your willingness to sense and respond to that impulse is foundational in your ability to move prophetically in the creative process.
The Art of Imagination
Defined by Google Dictionary, imagination is “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.”
Your imagination is a God-designed engine inside of you that receives impulses, desires and information from yourself, others and the world around you and then formulates images based on the beliefs in your heart. The root word for imagination in Latin is imaginari which actually means “picture to oneself”. It’s literally a picture engine inside of you.
Your imagination is a part of you that interacts with the movement of God within you. It is a gift to every person ever created and gives you the ability to dream, to see and know before you actually create.
Just like every gift given by the Father to humanity, it has to be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and set apart for His Glory.
Imagination is the First Step
Imagining is the first step in the creative process and is centered in the human spirit. For the believer, imagination interacts with the Holy Spirit in our human spirit and is then processed through our soul and body. It creates an inner picture inside of us by which we create from.
This ability to see that which is not as though it already is, is the nature of God manifested through us; that is to imagine and see what is the highest, best expression of his Glory through our lives and creativity.
The Pictures Inside You
At the end of the day, it’s all about the pictures that live inside of you. Paul talked about this two times in particular as he encouraged early believers to mature in their relationship with the Father. First, in Romans 12:2 where he said “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In other words, don’t think like the world thinks, don’t have their picture of reality and possibility in your mind and heart, but rather renew your mind with the God’s truth, which brings Kingdom transformation.
Secondly, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV he exhorts the church, saying
Again, Paul knew that imagining or seeing an internal picture of that which is of no use or has nothing to do with the knowledge or God, the Kingdom or Christ has no place within the mind of the believer. Not only does it not have any place, but if left to germinate, it will eventually bear fruit.
Prophetic Imagination & the Kingdom Within Us
You see, it’s in our human spirit, through the process of imagining that we connect to the divine consciousness or the Kingdom within us. Instead of connecting to our rule and reign or, as Paul says “the pattern of this world”, we connect to the rule and reign of the divine Kingdom that lives inside of us through the cross of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s how we prophetically bring heavens reality and nature to the earth. This process of imagining is not only crucial to your creative process but to your whole life because creativity and living a life of passion and abundance are directly connected.
God’s purposes are always followed by His promises and His promises are always followed by His pictures. When His promises and pictures are mixed with faith, they transform our identity into what God has already declared is true – an identity that can fulfill His purposes and release the fullness of the Kingdom here in the earth. It’s a beautiful circle: purpose, promises, pictures, identity.
Consider for a moment, Abraham in Genesis chapters 12-17. God wanted to establish covenant with humanity and had to do it through a man. The purpose? Relationship.
Do you see? The picture took root in his heart.
Then what happened?
Changing a Name, Establishing a Promise
God changes his name from Abram to Abraham in Chapter 17 and with it comes a physical demonstration of the promise – circumcision – that showed the reality of the new identity which was rooted in the promise portrayed in the picture that was established by the purpose.
Just to give you another beautiful example of how this works think about when the angel Gabriel came to Mary in Luke, chapter 1:
Basically Mary freaks out, gets scared and the angel has to reassure her of God’s purposes again for her life and reassure of her of her identity in Him. Then, once that’s done, the angel gives Mary a picture – an expected end – that she can mix with faith in order to see God’s plan established in the earth. What happens then? She runs down the hill to her sister Elizabeth’s house in order to tell her the purposes of God over her life, stand in her new identity and give testimony to the promise and pictures the angel deposited in her heart.
So what’s the bottom line here?
Imagination is a Vital Part the Kingdom
Your ability to imagine – that is, see with God – is vital in your ability to creatively demonstrate the Kingdom and it’s tied to your acceptance of God’s purpose for your life, the identity He’s established in you through Christ and the promises He’s given you and a son and daughter in the Kingdom. Sometimes God will give the picture as with Abraham and Mary, and sometimes the promises and purpose produce the pictures like with David.
Think about it, David was a lover of God and a worshipper. Firm in that identity, I’m sure God began to give him dreams, visions and promises that began to take root in His heart. How do I know that? Because I know God and that’s what He does for anyone who asks.
As He mixed his faith with the promises and pictures began to form in His heart of what could be - worship, everyday, for years, with unlimited access to the Father – and sure enough the purposes of God were established in His generation. Doors began to open, people began to respond and affirm His purpose and eventually he fulfilled that purpose as King and the establishment of the Tabernacle. Why, just because God wanted it that way? No, it was because God found a man who would dream with Him to release His nature into the earth realm through imagination and see transformation happen.
Strengthen Your Imagination
There are practical ways to begin strengthening your imagination. Pray in tongues, ask God for pictures, meditate on His word and specifically His promises regarding your identity and your purpose. As you do, pictures will begin to form. Mix your faith with the picture and the promises and watch God begin to bring it forth.
How to Practically Partner with God
If you've been wondering how to partner with God in your life and creative process, this 5-Minute Mentoring episode will be an encouragement to you!
2. SKILLFUL CREATIVITY
The next step in the process of prophetic creativity is not just imagining what could be, but then stepping out and responding. You have to see and agree.
If you only see, then you’ll just be frustrated because hope (a picture of an
expected end) deferred makes the heart sick. On the other hand, you can go through a bunch of wrote motions but unless there’s a picture of your expected end mixed with faith, you’re going nowhere fast. This whole process of seeing and agreeing is explored in detail within my book “Creativity According to the Kingdom.”
Suffice it to say, within your life there has to be a constant infilling of the Holy Spirit through an intimate relationship with Jesus. That produces desires, dreams, passion and pictures. It affirms your identity and causes you to triumph.
Response is Required
At the same time “faith without works is dead.” There must always be a response and that response is based in your skill set. As you grow in being filled, you must also grow in being skilled. Giving attention to both simultaneously, as led by the Spirit of God produces maturity and brings you into a place of increase. Proverbs 18:16 NKJV says “A mans gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
If you want influence in the world system, if you want to be a conduit of Kingdom transformation then you must pursue skill.
3. INCARNATIONAL CREATIVITY
If imagination is source and skillful, Spirit-led execution is the process then surely art is the product. Your art, or whatever your creative expression happens to be brings into reality that which up until this point has only been a hope. The act of creating is by it’s very nature incarnational because it’s bringing the purpose and promise of God into the earth in tangible form.
No longer is this thing we’ve dreamed of just an idea, but now it has become an evidential reality.
This incarnational process is a core part of God’s divine nature. When we participate in His divine nature - through His precious promises - we then become participants in the incarnation, bringing the divine into the earth realm for all to see, interact with and be transformed by. God led the way and gave us the pattern. God wanted to redeem the world (purpose) and so began to let the word out through his prophets (promise) that there was a Messiah coming. Through the prophets of old, God began to give a picture of what this Messiah would look like, how He would act and what He would do when He came (picture). The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us (skillful execution on the part of God co-laboring with Mary resulting in the Incarnation.) Now through the Holy Spirit and our ability to co-labor with him in our creativity, our artwork becomes incarnational (because we are joint heirs with Jesus in the new covenant), revealing the Nature of God in the earth. This is not a one-time event but our new, everyday reality as sons and daughters of the King.
The Kingdom is Established through Sons & Daughters
For me, this is where the rubber meets the road. The Kingdom of God is established in the earth as sons and daughters release demonstrations of the reality of that Kingdom into the culture, regardless of their unique gifting or calling. Jesus promised that we would do greater works than He did, that signs and wonders would follow those who believe in Him. My friend, your creative expression was destined from the very foundation of the earth to be the incarnated demonstration of God’s Kingdom in the earth.
4. TRANSFORMATIONAL CREATIVITY
When your creation does come from that place of Spirit-birthed, skillfully produced incarnation, it literally becomes a conduit for transformation. Why? Not because of us, in and of our talent but because it’s carrying the very Light and Life – the very nature – of God. Just like the sacrament of communion, your art, like the simple bread and wine, becomes a means of grace whereby God can commune with his people.
Since Spirit-born creative expression is both prophetic and incarnational in nature our art has the capacity to speak and continue speaking to everyone who encounters it over time. It’s a lot like the stone cairns that you see throughout the Celtic landscape of Scotland that were created and placed there to show the way over time. These stacked stone monuments act as reminders that in the middle of what seems like nowhere, there is a trail. Our artwork and creative expression can be a cairn of sorts in the Spirit, declaring that there is a path that leads to life through the person of Jesus. Instead of just having a one-time encounters, we literally have the opportunity to set up these places of intersection in the Spirit for generations to come. Songs that would be sung for generations, buildings to be built that would declare the Glory of the Lord, even tangible objects used in daily life all acting as intersection points where God shows up and connects with His children.
Art is a Table
Our artwork literally becomes, as in Psalm 23 a table prepared to nourish those who come and sit before the King in the presence of everything that seeks to kill, suppress and confuse them. Oh to think of it! That the overflow of your life! The very expression of your heart and hands would be used as a demonstration of the transforming love of God. You see my friend, art and beauty are not ornamental, as some out suppose. They are essential for all life because it is through them that we touch the very nature of the creator God.
"God cares much more that you create than what you create. Having you fulfill your divine design is the desire of the Father." - Matt Tommey
5. ABUNDANT CREATIVITY
The result of Kingdom transformation is always life, especially when it comes through the creative expression of sons and daughters. Life abundant. Life everlasting. Life rooted and grounded in love and the abundance of the Father of all Life. God’s abundance overflows when it transforms the hearts of man and through His grace He activates the dormant places in the heart causing vision, purpose and desire to spring forth. Man fully alive, fully satisfied in God, fully loved by God and fully able to stand in His Kingdom purpose.
Cooperation, Not Performance
A life of abundance and creativity always manifests in our life when we come into alignment with the intention or design of God for our life, whether as co-creators or ones interacting with the Spirit-birthed creation. This doesn’t mean we’ll never have another problem in our life or that grace is some ticket to easy street. It does mean, however that worry is no longer an option because at the end of the day, you know you are secure, provided for and in the Beloved of Almighty God. Otherwise, we stay frustrated in the ego portion of our being - our soul, mind will, emotions - wresting with feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and frustration.
This understanding of how prophetic creative expression is birthed and transformation is released should encourage you because it takes the pressure off of you to perform. Rather, you just simply cooperate with the design of God in and through your life. You don’t have to be this or that, just stand as a son or daughter, receiving and stewarding that which God has entrusted to you.
Abundance is basically coming into harmony with the frequency of God in the earth and in our being. Otherwise we create dissonance by playing notes that don’t work together and tension, stress and anxiety are the result. I don’t know about you, but I want to be in harmony with all that God is doing!
PLEASE COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT CREATING PROPHETIC ART! :) - Matt
This blog is an excerpt from “Creativity According to the Kingdom: Connecting with Heaven to Create with God and Release Transformation”. To order your copy in print or on Kindle, visit Amazon.com today.
CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT EVEN MORE ABOUT PROPHETIC ART!
Healthy relationships are vital to thriving in life. We were created to form life-giving, meaningful, and deep connections with other people. It's just how we are wired as human beings, and we all need these bonds to be our best. God said it best, "It is not good for man to be alone."
One of the things that the Lord showed me years ago was that the principle of sowing and reaping is not just a financial principle, it's a Kingdom principle. It's a universal law, just like gravity, and it works with every area of life, including relationships.
If you're not actively sowing into relationships in your life, then I guarantee you're not reaping those healthy relationships and healthy interactions you need to thrive in life. We've got to intentionally cultivate the relationships we want in our life. And so, I want to give you a few tips that I've learned over the years that have helped me grow in my relationship with God, with others, and in my life as a kingdom person.
#1 – Speak to Their Design
God has a design and a purpose for every person on the planet, whether they're a believer yet or not, and whether they believe and embrace their divine design or not. God loves to speak to His people's purpose, even when they aren't living up to their full potential.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
Let's face it; we tend to react to others based on what we see happening in their lives, what they are demonstrating. Brokenness, bad-habits, and unhealthy choices are easy to see and even easier to point out in others. But that's not the way of the Kingdom. We have to look at others through the eyes of the Spirit to see past their current situation and speak into destiny.
In the verse above, God sent Jeremiah to speak life, destiny, and purpose to a group of isolated Israelites who were exiled because of a lifetime (actually several lifetimes) of brokenness. God's desired connection with His people, and in this example, He modeled one way to sow into relationships.
Here's What I Said On My Podcast About This:
#2 - Pull the Gold Out of Others
As we learn to see others from God's point of view, we begin to recognize their purpose and are in a position to bless their design. Think about where Gideon was when the Lord called him a "Mighty Warrior." Gideon couldn't see it at the time, but God acknowledged and blessed Gideon's divine design and purpose in that declaration.
Approaching relationships with the goal of seeing the best, or “the gold”, in others is a great place to start. But turning your attention towards and sowing into the best in others is vital to cultivate those healthy, authentic connections you're seeking.
#3 Don't Wait, Initiate
It's frustrating to be the one that always has to ask their friends out. Face it, we all love it when we get invited out to lunch after church or get asked to come over and hang out. It's an unspoken message that says, "Hey, you are someone I want to spend time with."
But what do you do when those invites aren't happening on a regular basis? Take a step. Ask the Holy Spirit:
Here's the thing: If you always wait on others to sow into you, a lot of times you'll be waiting a long time. And the enemy will spin that into offense, isolation, and the lie that something is wrong with you.
As you step out of your shell and begin to initiate instead of wait, bless others according to their design, and actively pull the gold out of their lives, you'll start to see incredible fruit coming forth in your relationships. By sowing into others, you'll become the person people want to be around.
By speaking into the divine design of others, looking for the best in them and initiating relationships you become a beautiful conduit through which God will release His Kingdom, not only in the lives of others but in your life, too. Remember, Proverbs 11:25 says”
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
Thanks for reading! Comment below to let me know how you’re cultivating intimacy with others. Together, we can be used by God to change the culture around us for His Glory.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.