EXPERT INTERVIEW: Brian Thomas

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Brian Thomas and his wife Denita founded God1st.org in 2009 and have been coming along side churches to help them teach on various topics including Salvation, Christian Living, Bible Prophecy, the Biblical mandate and Importance of Blessing Israel, Marriage and Family, and Social and Moral Issues among other topics.

Brian has taught at several national prophecy conferences, is a personal friend of mine, and has an almost photographic memory of scripture as it relates to Bible prophecy. He is a great teacher and has the ability to unpack Bible prophecy in a non-sensationalistic and thoroughly Biblical way. He was kind enough to answer some questions relating to Bible prophecy. This post is long, but well worth the read. I have categorized the questions incase you would like to read it in chunks or skip to a specific topic. I guarantee you will learn a lot from this gifted teacher.


BIOGRAPHICAL

How did you become interested in Bible Prophecy?

Well believe it or not, I have had an interest in Bible prophecy from as early as about seven years old. We often hear Bible prophecy teachers point to a particular event in the world or in their life that sparked their interest in this subject, causing them to “see the light”. But I honestly never had such an event. The best answer that I can give when people ask this question is that the Holy Spirit placed the desire for the Lord’s return in my heart at a very early age. So early that I do not recall when the desire began. But one thing that I do remember is a conversation that I had with my cousins as a young boy. I was about ten years old, one was about eight and the other about seven. We were out riding bicycles, doing what most young boys do outside. We came to a stop to take a bit of a rest break and for some reason, Bible prophecy came to mind. I started speaking to them about the 7 year Tribulation that is to come, and several other future prophecy events. When I finally finished speaking after several minutes, they just sat there on their bikes in silence with the “deer in the headlights look”. It was as if I could read their minds saying, “This guy has really lost it!”

So the interest was there from my childhood but in 2007, the Lord began pouring the burden into my heart. My craving for prophecy came like a flood and in 2008, I accepted God’s call to proclaim the message of Bible prophecy to the world.

What impact has the study of prophecy had on your personal walk with the Lord?

It has caused me to live with a sense of urgency and preparedness. When a person truly believes in their heart that Christ could return at any time, it makes one want to always be ready. For example, I may be tempted to be impatient or unkind with my wife over a disagreement. But then I think, “What if Christ returns and finds me in this state?” Of course, my salvation would not be nullified but I think it would really dampen my first face to face meeting with my Lord if He were to return to find me in a sinful state.

It makes me think about the Jewish wedding tradition that Christ alludes to in the scripture. When a Jewish man and woman would become engaged for marriage during the Bible days, the groom would depart from his future bride and return to his father’s house to build a home for them. What the bride didn’t know is when he would return for her. It could be days, weeks, or months so it was critical for her to always be ready. She wanted to make sure that she got her marriage off to a great start by being prepared for him, excited to see him, looking her best, dressed in her finest clothes so that her groom would be pleased to make her his bride. It is important for me that Christ finds me in my best state as well when He returns for His bride, the church.

And lastly, studying prophecy has given me an urgency to reach the lost. So many prophecies are being fulfilled today in our lifetime that the Bible declares would be the final stages just before the return of Christ.  Many have not accepted Christ as Savior and therefore will not be ready when He returns. I have a strong burden on my heart to reach as many as possible because I truly believe our Lord will be coming back any day now.

What ministry, event, or project are you working on right now that you are excited about?

I will be speaking at a church in Baltimore, MD in December at their 2nd annual prophecy conference. Wonderful congregation there that I really enjoyed fellowship with on my first visit.

I am in the process of working out a partnership with Blessings of Israel, which is a ministry that provides food and products from the Promised Land of Israel. Our ministry Blessings to Israel emphasizes the importance of supporting God’s chosen people and their significance in Bible prophecy so I think it is a natural fit that I am excited about.

We will be launching a new podcast soon at God1st.org where listeners can find brand new shows related to current day events.

What other prophecy experts have influenced your understanding of end-times prophecy?

Dr. David Reagan – I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference a few years ago and we immediately hit it off. He has sort of taken me under his wings and provided a lot of encouragement and support. I guess it is safe to say that he is a veteran amongst prophecy teachers and he sees the need to pass the torch to the younger generation. Upon meeting me, a young man, which is a rarity in Bible prophecy, he has been a strong advocate and encourager to assist me with reaching the young generation.

Nathan Jones – I had the privilege of interacting with Nathan online and upon meeting, we found a lot of common ground. Nathan focuses on using today’s technology (internet, social media, mobile devices, etc.) to spread the word of Bible prophecy. I have developed a great relationship with him in that we often bounce ideas and new discoveries off one another concerning avenues for sharing Bible prophecy with the world.

Dr. Tim LaHaye – Like millions of others, I have been a longtime fan of his Left Behind series. His work has had a great influence on me for teaching Bible prophecy as many have been saved through reading his books and watching his movies. I have an excellent commentary that he created, Revelation Unveiled that is a frequent go-to resource when I study and teach Bible prophecy.

Others like Donald Perkins and Grant Jeffrey are individuals that I have gleaned much knowledge through their teachings.

What would you say is your unique calling in the area of Bible prophecy?

The importance of the nation of Israel. Our Lord placed a strong, almost unexplainable desire in my heart for the Jewish people which is spelled out in our mission statement:
Our mission is proclaiming the soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel lies in the center of events that point to the second coming of our Messiah. Therefore, this ministry seeks to raise awareness as to why all Christians should place a special focus on the Jewish nation while anticipating the return of our Lord.
We encourage all Christians to pray without ceasing for Israel and bless their great nation. The Lord told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:3.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

People often find it puzzling that I am a mathematician in that I received a BA degree in Mathematics. What’s the connection to Bible prophecy? None whatsoever as far as I can tell…I’m just one of those strange individuals that loves math!

What is your favorite Bible prophecy resource or study tool?

Revelation Unveiled by Dr. Tim LaHaye. If you want to really understand the prophecies of the book of Revelation, this resource is a must-have for your library.

HERMANEUTICAL (Proper Biblical Interpretation)

What are some important things to keep in mind when studying Bible prophecy?

Always keep the word literal in the forefront of your mind when studying and interpreting Bible prophecy. There are numerous belief systems that sprung up all do to overly symbolizing scriptures. Of course we know that there is symbolism in Bible prophecy and we are called to seek the meaning when detected. But I love to refer to a saying that my friend Dr. David Reagan coined which states, “When the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense or else you end up with nonsense!” This is a very true statement. The eschatological view Preterism, for example, is the belief that all prophecies of the Bible have already taken place. Obviously Jesus Christ has not returned to earth but Preterism explains everything away by way of spiritualizing passages which leads to a circus of interpretations and belief systems. So in summary, always first look to interpret Bible prophecy for its literal meaning. When a literal interpretation is not possible, we then look to symbolic meanings. This way, we avoid interjecting our own preconceived notions onto the meaning of scriptures.

What errors of interpretation have you seen that make Bible prophecy inaccurate, inaccessible, or confusing?

Allegorical interpretation. This approach has led to all kinds of wild theories. Harold Camping is a classic example. Camping insisted that the real meaning of any passage is to be found in its hidden spiritual meaning that can only be decoded by true believers. By doing this, Camping could impose whatever meaning he wanted upon scriptures, which is what he did. He is infamous for having numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. He also taught that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent the Church which is far from the truth.

Allegorical interpretation has led to the rise of false doctrines like Replacement Theology which argues that the Church has replaced Israel in the eyes of God. A quick reading of Roman 9 -11 clearly proves Replacement Theology to be incorrect. Preterism, the belief that all prophecy of the Bible has been fulfilled, is another false teaching that came about due to allegorical interpretation.

What is the most compelling reason (or two) that you see for a Pre-Tribulation rapture?

This is one of my favorite points of discussion. There certainly are many compelling reasons for the Pre-Tribulation rapture but I will narrow it down to what I believe are the two most compelling: (1) Imminence (2) Primary Purpose of the Tribulation.

Imminence

The Apostle Paul gave an account of being taken from earth to be with the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. We see that Paul is speaking of a resurrection that will occur quickly, in the twinkling of an eye. When the dead in Christ rise, there will be no corruption associated with their bodies. They will have glorified bodies at that point.

This account from Paul continues a common theme in the scriptures: Imminence. Post-Tribulation & Mid-Tribulation raptures do not have the imminent tone because calculations on timing can be easily made. We know that the seven year Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27). If the rapture only occurs at the midpoint or end of the Tribulation, we could easily calculate the event to the day based on when the Antichrist makes the covenant with Israel. Imminence is displayed in the message that Christ gave to the church at Sardis, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you”. – Revelation 3:2-3.Other accounts of this being an imminent event are found in Matthew 24:27-28, 42-51; Luke 12:35-40. The recurring theme is to watch and be ready.

Primary Purpose of the Tribulation

Symbolism is found between the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Marriage Supper, and the Jewish wedding. The marriage supper is spoken of in the book of Revelation, “Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” – Revelation 19:9. The marriage supper will occur in heaven. Those who are invited will be called blessed because it means they have received eternal salvation through Jesus Christ and have gone to live with the Lord in the eternal state. This event is called a marriage supper that will celebrate being joined with Christ just as we have earthly wedding receptions between husband and wife. There was a Jewish wedding tradition during the time of Jesus on earth. Once an engagement period ended, the groom would go to his father’s house and prepare a wedding chamber. When the chamber was ready, he would go to get his bride to bring her to the chamber. The bride would know he would come for her at some point but did not know when so she had to be ready at all times. When the groom returned for his bride, he would take her to the wedding chamber where they were sealed for seven days. After the seven days, the bride and groom would exit to a large wedding celebration. It may very well be that this same event will occur in a spiritual sense when Jesus raptures the Church. He told us He will return but at a time unknown, so we must be ready. He will take us into heaven to wait out the seven year Tribulation that will be taking place on earth. At the end of the seven years, all those that were raptured will participate in the marriage supper in heaven. At the completion of the supper, we will return with the Lord to earth to defeat Satan (Revelation 19:11-21). I think the Rapture/Marriage Supper will parallel the Jewish wedding tradition.

Confusion surrounding the rapture is settled once it is determined who the event is for. Is it for Israel, the Church, or both? The Rapture is an event that was promised to the Church of the New Testament. For this reason, it was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. A review of the Old Testament reveals that the focus was on the Jews. But with the New Testament, the focus shifts to the Gentiles and the establishment of the Church. The reason for this shift was because God temporarily suspended His plan for Israel due to their continuous rebellion. In reference to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, Apostle Paul wrote, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” – Romans 11:11. This verse reveals that God presented salvation to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected Jesus. The Gentiles did what the Jews did not do by accepting Jesus as the Son of God believing that He died and rose again. For this, their reward is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 as being caught up to meet the Lord. The “dead in Christ” refers to the Church Age Saints (Christians). This is a reward because it means Jesus will take Christians out of the earth before having to suffer through the Tribulation.

Some incorrectly believe the Church permanently took Israel’s place in the eyes of God due to Romans 11:11. But as stated in the verse, even though the Jews stumbled, they did not fall meaning that God will restore them and fulfill His promise to Abraham once His plan for the Church is completed. We are seeing that fulfillment in this generation as God returned the Jews to partially claim their Promised Land in 1948 when Israel officially became a re-born nation. But there is more land that He promised them that they do not yet have. Once the Church (Christians) is removed, God will complete His plan for Israel during the seven year Tribulation when they will finally accept Jesus as the Messiah and enter the Millennium with all of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). Daniel 12:2 reveals that the Jews will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation.

The Rapture occurring before the Tribulation becomes apparent after carefully studying the Seventy Sevens prophecy from the book of Daniel. Daniel received this prophecy from an angel over 500 years before Christ would first come to earth. The Jews were in captivity at the time to a foreign nation. Their captivity began when King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire invaded Israel. The Babylonian empire was later conquered by the Medo-Persians where the Jews remained under oppression. God had allowed this as punishment to the Jews for repeatedly rebelling against Him through sin and worshipping idol gods. The angel Gabriel came to Daniel and revealed that God would give the nation of Israel seventy weeks to accomplish certain tasks. These seventy prophetic weeks are actually 490 literal years. The seventy weeks were broken into three segments (7 weeks, 62 weeks, 1 week). One of the tasks was to repent of their rebellion. The angel revealed to Daniel that Jesus Christ would come someday but would be crucified because the Jews would continue to rebel and display their rebellion in rejection of God’s Son. This would occur after the 62 week segment, meaning one week (7 literal years) would be left of the prophecy. Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago but the events detailed in the last week have not yet occurred. The last week is the seven year Tribulation that is still to come. The time between the end of the 62 week segment and the beginning of the last week is known as a prophetic gap. This gap was filled by the Church age. God brought salvation to the Gentiles as a result of the Jews rejecting His Son Jesus (Romans 11:11). His plan for Israel was put on hold as a result of this. But once the Gentiles (Church) is removed by way of the Rapture, God will complete His plan for Israel. When the Church age is removed from the timeline, the seventy sevens prophecy of Daniel perfectly continues from the end of the 69th week (62 week segment) into the 70th week (Tribulation) without a break. God still has a “score” to settle with the nation of Israel and with Satan. Since the Church was not involved in the rejection of Jesus when He first came to earth, it makes sense that the Church will be taken out of the way so as to not get “caught up in the cross fire”. The purpose of the Tribulation (70th week of Daniel’s prophecy) is to bring the Jews to repentance and finally accept Jesus as the Messiah that they have rejected for hundreds of years.

Please understand that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews does not mean that every single Jew rejected Him. All of Jesus’ disciples were Jews and there are many Jewish Christians throughout the world today. But the majority of them have never accepted Jesus as the Messiah. God will unleash tremendous wrath on them during the Tribulation and allow the Antichrist to bring down the worst persecution the world has ever seen. Two-thirds of them will be killed and at that point they will finally turn to God who will open their spiritual eyes to realize Jesus is the Messiah they have always looked for. The scripture states that the remaining one-third will accept Christ and be purified at that point (Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:10; Zechariah 13:9). Jesus will return to earth at the end of the Tribulation and they will then mourn for Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7), finally realizing their mistake of crucifying Jesus. Satan will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years at that point. He will be released at the end of the 1,000 year period to receive his final defeat (Revelation 20:1-10).

So it is clear that the Tribulation is designed to bring the Jews to repentance. God will do this out of love, in the same way a parent disciplines a child when he or she is disobedient. This is why Matthew warned the Jews to watch for the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15). They will be on earth when the Antichrist comes to power. The Church is not warned to look for the Antichrist but is told repeatedly to watch for Jesus. The reason being that Jesus will come for the Church before the Tribulation begins. Although the Tribulation is to bring the Jews to accept Christ, non-Jews should NOT be complacent. If a living Gentile has not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, they too will suffer through the Tribulation period. So it is important that all immediately accept Jesus and become a born again Christian if you have not done so already.

STATE OF PROPHECY IN THE CHURCH

How would you encourage a pastor or church to begin teaching on prophecy?

I recommend that a pastor or church bring in a Bible prophecy expert to hold a weekend conference. God has raised up numerous individuals that have dedicated their lives to studying and teaching Bible prophecy, meaning Bible prophecy is their area of focus. I will admit that understanding and teaching Bible prophecy requires a tremendous amount of preparation and study. Many pastors are already stretched thin with juggling the demands of shepherding their flocks and therefore find it somewhat difficult to get motivated to delve into Bible prophecy (not that I’m making an excuse for so many pastors that dismiss it, just stating that I am understanding to a degree). So I recommend that they bring in a Bible prophecy teacher on at least a quarterly basis to present a conference. But the teaching should not only occur during the conference weekends. In between conferences, the pastor should piggyback on what was presented by being a student of the information himself while expounding on it to his congregation. Many people are perplexed by things that are going on in the world today. I think that pastors will be pleasantly surprised to find that parishioners are eager to learn and will be intrigued upon learning that events in our world today are prophesied in the Bible. So to summarize, (1) bring in a Bible prophecy expert to get the ball rolling, (2) expound on information from the conference, (3) relate current world events to prophecies of the Bible.

Do you think the teaching of prophecy will lead to church growth (in numbers and maturity)? Why or why not?

I do believe it will lead to church growth in numbers and maturity. I think this will happen because a lot of people have questions concerning why certain things are taking place in the world. Many wondered why terrorists intentionally flew planes into buildings on September 11, 2001, why the Palestinians and Jews are in constant conflict, why marriages are failing at a high rate, to give a few examples. Well the answers to these questions are found in Bible prophecy and I think the hunger for these answers and for what the future holds will draw people to the church. I think the 12th chapter of Daniel alludes to this. We find in Daniel 12:4, “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” I believe this is referring to the Tribulation. As devastating calamities are coming upon the earth during that time, people will seek out answers as to why the events are taking place. Many will “run to and fro” to the Bible trying to figure out what is happening and knowledge of end times events will increase.

What do you see as the top reason churches should consider teaching Bible prophecy?

Bible prophecy gives hope for the future. People often portray prophecy as gloom and doom and I have often heard pastors say prophecy is just a distraction. But to those individuals, I say God must have wanted us to have a lot of distractions because He placed lots of prophecy in the Bible. Nearly a third of the Bible is Bible prophecy. And I think pastors are doing a great disservice to their congregations when they choose to ignore Bible prophecy because what hope, what true hope can one have if you take away Bible prophecy? For example, think of a person who has lost a loved one who is a Christian. That person has died. You can have great hope and the grieving is not so devastating when you know that at the return of Christ, prophecy says that person will be resurrected, they will rise again and you will be reunited. I’ve heard pastors dismiss prophecy in many ways such as they must focus on issues of today like immorality with children, rebellious children, problems in marriages, unemployment, financial troubles, sickness, etc. But what better hope can you give a person then to say when Christ returns, instantly all these problems will come to an end? So I say that Bible prophecy is where we get hope, we get incentive that we can keep pressing forward even through the struggles of today. Bible prophecy lets us know that in the end, Jesus wins and therefore we as His followers win as well. Trouble will not last always. A perfect existence is coming.

Do you think talking about prophecy and end-time events will make a church seem weird or scare away seekers? Why or why not?

I do think that unfortunately some will view a church that teaches prophecy as weird and scare some people away. The reason for this is directly due to people like Harold Camping. Camping, who recently passed away, claimed to be a Christian and authority on Bible prophecy. He made numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. Many in the world laughed at him and laughed at us as Christians, putting us all into the same “company” when it comes to Christian beliefs. Any true Bible believing Christian knows that we cannot predict the return of Christ. The Bible makes that very clear. But Camping has caused many to view all Christians as quacks. But on the flip side, true seekers, meaning those that truly hunger for God’s word will not be turned off by a Church that teaches prophecy. They will be drawn to it and not be afraid of being ridiculed by non-believers for an association with a prophecy believing church. Just like the Apostle Paul, true seekers will be excited about the return of Christ and look forward to that event.

What topics or common mistakes should churches avoid when teaching Bible prophecy?

Avoid the temptation to view & interpret Bible prophecy based on one’s own personal experience. One mistake concerning interpreting the Bible in general is that many do not view it through the eyes of the culture of the day in which it was written. The Bible has numerous parables that directly relate to the Jewish culture of that day. For example, to get a clear meaning of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, one must understand the Jewish wedding tradition and how it relates to the return of Christ. Understanding the Feasts of the Lord that were commanded for the Jews to observe is critical for understanding the correlation to Bible prophecy. But many in the western world, read the Bible through the eyes of our western culture and we therefore miss interpretations.

Another common mistake is reading news headlines into prophecy. It is good to view current events in light of Bible prophecy as many prophecies are being fulfilled in our day. But some go overboard and try to make everything a sign of the times or fulfillment of prophecy when it really is not.

And lastly, a common mistake that has led to all kinds of false interpretations is Replacement Theology. The fact that Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah resulting in their world-wide dispersion, has led to a great satanic deception which has invaded the Christian Church with many teaching that God’s covenant with Israel no longer exists. This is known as Replacement Theology – the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded Israel as the people of God. This belief causes one to misunderstand the Tribulation, end time events concerning Israel, etc. Romans 9 – 11 makes it clear that the church has not replaced the nation of Israel.

How can we best reach Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy?

I must admit that I have found reaching Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy to be a real challenge. The majority of Millennials have bought into the belief that morality is based on feelings rather than the truth of God’s word. Many deem that what is right or wrong in life is determined by whether it feels good or not. Being a follower of Christ requires that we deny our own agendas. Jesus in Mark 8:34 tells us whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Accepting Bible prophecy means being willing to be ridiculed and persecuted for standing for what’s right. We already see persecution of Christians in the world today and it will climax during the Tribulation when all on earth will have to make the decision to choose Jesus Christ or the Antichrist. Choosing Jesus Christ may mean, going hungry because we may not be able to buy food or missing out on a job for refusing to compromise on a moral issue. So the first thing we must do is get Millennials to accept the “denial of self” frame of mind.

Secondly, Millennials are much less likely to read a 200+ page book on Bible prophecy. Social media, text messaging, smart phones have sort of conditioned us to only digest things in bite sized pieces. Anything that takes more than a few minutes to listen to or read, the Millennials likely will bypass. So I think the message of prophecy needs to be delivered to that generation in bite sized pieces via social media. I have found that video / animation social media posts that run 30 seconds to a minute seem to be effective in reaching the short attention span that we often see in Millennials. There are always exceptions to the rule but this seems to be the common theme.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

What is the most compelling end-time sign you see taking place in our day?

The rebirth of the nation of Israel. Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-35 in His Olivet Discourse. A day earlier in Matthew 21:18-19, He had put a curse on a fruitless fig tree and immediately the tree withered away. He did this as a prophetic symbol that God’s wrath would be poured out on the Jewish nation due to their spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ. Many Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah at that time and most present day Jews still reject Him as the Son of God. But they will realize He is the Messiah at the end of the Great Tribulation.

So Jesus told the disciples to watch the fig tree. When they saw it bloom again, it would mark His soon return. The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The blossoming of the fig tree was symbolic of Israel “blooming” into a nation again. Jesus stated when they saw these things to know that His return is near and that He would be waiting at the gate of heaven, waiting for the command from the Father to return (Matthew 24:33).  He went on to say that this generation shall not pass until all these things happen (Matthew 24:34). He was referring to the generation that sees the fig tree blossom. The wrath of God was poured out on the Jews in 70 AD and they were driven into exile away from the Promised Land. But after 1878 years, Israel blossomed into a nation again on May 14, 1948 as fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus told us what to look for, therefore prepare yourself because our Messiah is coming for us soon!

How do you think Christians should respond to what we’re seeing in the world today?

The late Pastor Adrian Rogers coined a phrase that I really love when it comes to prophecy and the conditions of the world today. He would state, “It is getting gloriously dark”. It is getting dark in that immorality continues to get worse and worse and our hearts grieve as we see the rebelliousness to God and the tremendous suffering that it is causing in people’s lives. But the flip side of that is that the Bible declares things would happen this way just prior to the return of our Lord. So we Christians should not be discouraged. Yes, our hearts break for the darkness that is occurring and we do not delight in people’s suffering. But we should be extremely excited over the idea that our Lord may be returning for His people any day now. And I truly believe we are the generation that will witness the return of our Messiah to earth.

What is the most encouraging advice you can give to Christians right now regarding the times we live in?

Bible prophecy is a message of hope & comfort. We find that in the words of Apostle Paul: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Notice that Apostle Paul concluded his message by stating to comfort one another. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an event of comfort knowing that we will rise to be with our Lord and saved loved ones. Paul wrote the above text to the Church at Thessilonica in response to their sorrow/concern. The people there were troubled believing they had missed the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Apparently an imposter had written to the Church stating that Christ’s return to earth had come and gone. This imposter signed Paul’s name to the letter. So Paul is comforting them to let them know that day has not come. In verse 13, Paul refers to those that have died as “those who have fallen asleep”. He is instructing the Church to not be sorrowful as if there is no hope for them. He continues in verse 14 by stating that if they believed Jesus died and rose from the dead (meaning they were Christians), God would also resurrect those who had accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah before their death. These people will be resurrected and taken up to live with the Lord. Paul then speaks of the sequence of the events. There will be the sounding of a trumpet, the Lord will descend from heaven, the dead in Christ (Christians) will rise from the grave first, then those who are alive will be caught up (raptured) with them into the clouds where all will meet the Lord in the air. From that point forward, Christians will always be with the Lord. Paul gave these words so that we would comfort each other knowing that we will be with our Christian loved ones that have passed on and we will all dwell with the Lord forever.

The Apostle Paul preached about hope in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. He was addressing those who said there was no resurrection and told them that we know there is a resurrection because Christ rose from the dead. Since Christ was resurrected, we have hope knowing that all who have died in Christ (Christians) will be resurrected also to eternal joy. This pertains to the raising of the dead when the rapture occurs. Christians who are alive will be caught up to the Lord in the air after the dead rise (1 Corinthians 15:23). The unsaved will also rise from the dead (Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). But their resurrection will occur at the end of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth. They will face the opposite fate of resurrected Christians, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”. – Revelation 20:13-15.

1 Corinthians 15 makes it crystal clear that Paul is referring to those that have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior when he wrote “the dead in Christ”, which is the Church of the New Testament. This does not apply to the Old Testament Saints (Israel) because Christ had not yet come to earth during their time. Therefore, they did not yet have an opportunity to receive Him.

Jesus stated that He would return from heaven for those who believed in God and accepted Him as the Son of God, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” – John 14:1-4. I believe Jesus is referring to the Rapture before the Tribulation with these words. So although times may look very dark for Christians today, it seems that every segment of society is pushing against the ways of God and promoting immorality, great things are on the horizon for those of us that put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

How close do you feel we are to the Lord’s return and why?

I feel we are extremely close to the return of our Lord. I am cautious to not make a prediction because the Bible makes it very clear that we cannot know the day of His return. But the Bible makes it clear that we can know the season. Jesus told us in the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35) that the season of His return would be marked by the blossoming of the fig tree. I believe this fig tree is the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The generation that sees it reborn as we did in 1948, would be the generation to see His return (Matthew 24:34). Israel’s rebirth happened 68 years ago. How long is a generation? Well, it is up for debate. Depending upon context, 40, 70, 100 are all cited as length of years in the scripture for a generation. But I think it is important to not get caught up in the exact number. But instead, realize and recognize what Christ told us to look for. We are excitingly close!

OTHER

Is there anything else you would like to share or comment on regarding Bible prophecy?

Bible prophecy is a message of joy and happiness. I feel so disappointed when I hear people describe Bible prophecy as gloom and doom and I often hear people in the church portray it that way. But I can honestly say that when I go to Bible prophecy conferences and have fellowship with attendees, that those are some of the most joyous events that I have ever seen. You want to see a group of happy people? Go to a Bible prophecy conference. Why are so many of the people there so filled with joy? It is because we all know the end of the story. And the end is that Jesus returns to proclaim the earth. Satan will be defeated and we will live in a perfect world right here on this earth for all eternity, living in the presence of our Lord! What a great picture to have in our minds of what is yet to come!

10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.32.17 AMLast month I led a leadership class for two weeks (of a six week class) and talked about 10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership. I hope to write a post on each key at some point, but in the mean time here’s a brief overview of the 10 keys.

Spirit-Led Leaders…

1. …Walk Closely With The Lord

John 15:5
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Luke 6:47-49
47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

This passage is true for life and it’s true for leadership. Jesus tells us how to lead. He demonstrated how to lead when he washed the disciples feet. Servant leadership is not of this world.

2. …Discover Their God-Given Potential

Judges Chapter 6 (Read the whole chapter for context). Basically Gideon was hiding from the enemy just trying to survive and fly under the radar when God showed up and called him to his purpose as a leader. When Gideon was anything BUT a warrior, the Lord said to him “The Lord is with you mighty warrior.” (Vs. 12) God sees our potential, not our current state. He shows us HIS vision for our leadership, not how we view ourselves.

3. …Lead Those Closest to Them Best

Our leadership is only as good as our closest relationships and we’re only as deep as the last person we served. Our definition of success needs to be similar to leadership expert John Maxwell’s. “Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.” If we’re building an empire but our family is a wreck we have failed. If we’re doing something “great for God” but our marriage fails we have not succeeded. If we’re pioneering new ventures but have to step on people to do it, we’re losing.

4. …Know Themselves

As leaders we need to cultivate self awareness especially in the areas of personality type, spiritual gifts, awareness of our blindspots, and an understanding of our unique experiences and weird combinations. For example, David was a warrior…and he played the harp. Weird combination but God used both in his life to position him.

5. …Grow

We need to grow in our knowledge of scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

6. …Attack Fear

We shouldn’t just “deal with” fear, we should intentionally attack it. Read Mark Batterson’s “In a Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day”. Beneniah (one of Davids mighty warriors) didn’t just kill a lion that came at him. HE went after the Lion. The only antidote to fear is heading straight into the very thing we are afraid of. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s action taken in the face of fear.

7. …Encourage, Inspire, and Mentor

Encourage literally means to “add strength” or to “spur on to courage”. It’s not a Hallmark card, it’s a call to be strong, to keep going, to make a difference.

8. …Cast Vision Effectively

The prerequisite to casting vision is seeing the big picture. The prerequisite to seeing the big picture is spending time with the Lord.

9. …Are Essentialists

Leaders understand the power of  focus and clarity. We can go 50 directions an inch deep or one direction a mile deep. Know your core strengths, core values, marketable skills, and God-induced passions. Spend 80% of your time doing what only you can do. Delegate or cut the rest. Read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. See also, Good to Great, by Jim Collins.

10. …Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Leaders should set 3-5 goals (covering each leadership role or life area) each year that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to your calling/purpose), and Time-bound.

I hope you enjoy these leadership keys. Feel free to leave a comment or question below!

Don’t Wind Up In A Small Mountain-Town ER! Go With Your Gut!

You may remember the series of funny Direct TV spots that ran this year tracing a cable users small reaction to a frustrating cable TV event that leads to a large scale bad situation.

Today as I was thinking through some milestones for my 2015 goals and a recent life event much like the Direct TV commercials (detailed below), it hit me how important one rarely talked about aspect of leadership and pursuing your calling is, and how this one small thing has big implications.

Gut-Instinct. It won’t scream at you. It won’t throw a fit. It won’t force you to take action. It’s not “fight-or-flight”. It’s a low simmer. It reminds me of “the still small voice” or “gentle whisper” the Biblical Old Testament prophet Elijah wrote about.

As I was analyzing one of my goals and thinking about how it logically fit into my plans, it struck me that I couldn’t explain why some decisions and opportunities seem to draw me more than others. I just know in my gut when the moment is right to pursue an opportunity. There’s an excitement and a draw that occur but it’s deeper than that. There seems to be a strong underlying mature passion and willingness to take on certain challenges.

Some opportunities look great on paper, but in my gut I know something isn’t right with it. By contrast, there are other opportunities that may seem less strategic, but I know in my gut that it’s the right call.

I can honestly say that every time I have neglected to go with my gut, the results have confirmed that I should have. Take this past Saturday for example. After four days of snowboarding at a Christmas family get together in the mountains of PA, we wrapped up our last run of the morning and were about to head in for lunch. My kids wanted to do one last run because we had about 20 minutes to spare so we went.

In my thinking, there was no logical reason not to go for one more run, but in my gut I felt we probably shouldn’t. Logic won out over gut and we went.

Twenty minutes later when we completed the final morning run, I had added a third degree (aka “type III”) separated shoulder and spending a few hours in a small mountain ER to my list of life experiences. Call it intuition. Call it gut-feel. Whatever it is, go with your gut and learn to trust it! It’s a God-given gift. Don’t wind up in a small mountain-town ER! Go with your gut!

S.M.A.R.T. Creative Career Goals, Part 2

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This post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of my book Calling All Artists. November is the perfect time to start planning goals for the next year! In part 1, I shared what S.M.A.R.T. goals are and the benefit to using this method. Here in part 2 I want to show specific examples and an exercise for you to work through to develop your own S.M.A.R.T. goals for next year!

Here are examples of 3 of my goals for 2014. Two are professional goals and one is a personal goal. Notice the specificity of each and see if you can confirm that each of the 5 S.M.A.R.T. components are present.

1. Identify my thought-leadership niche and start a blog by January 31, 2014
(I launched my first post on January, 15th 2014 and the blog has already gone through two major alterations.)

2. Write and release a thought leadership e-book by September 30th, 2014.
(The book officially launched on July 28, 2014.)

3. Plan and go on an adventure that helps others and is physically demanding by July 31st, 2014.
(I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my oldest son in June, 2014.)

For the sake of transparency, I have also missed a goal. I had planned to write and illustrate a children’s book this year as well. The skill of goal setting is a process of learning how to make sure your goals are Realistic. That goal by it’s self is realistic, but I discovered that all four goals together in the same year (along with client work, being a soccer dad and running a company) were not. Realistic goal setting helps temper ambitions so that we don’t take on too much at once. This skill, like any other, is honed and refined as you use it.

What I have learned is that it is better to have one to three goals that you can complete with a level of excellence, than it is to have too many goals that risk being half-baked or completely unobtainable. I also learned the importance of prioritizing goals so that the goals with the most important impact, or that are most strategic, are completed first. Pushing less strategic goals off until next year is not the end of the world.

Goal Setting Exercise
1. Take some time to list five to seven goals (in all areas of your life, not just professional) that you would like to accomplish in the next year. Spend time rewriting them with more specificity until all five S.M.A.R.T. goal components are present.
2. Once you have a draft of your five to seven goals, share them with someone you trust and get some feedback.
3. Refine and finalize your goals.
4. Put them somewhere you will see them every day.
5. List the next single step toward each goal and put a due date next to it.
6. As you complete an action step, write the next single step along with a due date. Rinse and repeat.
Remember that the only way to move a mountain is one shovel full at a time, and the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Start digging and start chewing and before long you’ll see yourself moving closer and closer to your creative career goals.

S.M.A.R.T. Creative Career Goals, Part 1

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This post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of my book Calling All Artists. As we approach the end of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to start thinking about goals for next year. I suggest doing this in November before the holiday season begins so you can hit the ground running in January! Enjoy!

You’ll fail at 100% of the goals you don’t set.  —Mark Victor Hansen

Once you are clear on your calling, you set goals, plan your work, then work your plan. In order to plan, you have to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. I was introduced to this goal setting system last December when I went through Micheal Hyatt’s five day goal setting course. Prior to that my goals were usually missing on of these 5 very important components, but I didn’t even realize it. This simple system took my goal setting to an entirely new level.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are:
1. Specific: Your goals must be clear and detailed, not broad, general or vague.
2. Measurable: You must be able to measure progress toward your goals.
3. Achievable: Your goals must be realistic and attainable.
4. Relevant: Your goals must matter. They must line up with you overall plans and strategy.
5. Time-bound: Your goals must have a time frame and a target date or deadline.

I honestly didn’t know how powerful each of these components was until I implemented them into my goals this year. I have been setting goals for years, however I have found this method to be revolutionary. I wish I would have learned it years ago. It’s amazing what one small pivot can accomplish in a short time.

What I’ve found is that even some great goal setters and achievers, are missing one of these components. Leaving one component out won’t kill your goal setting but it weakens it’s effectiveness. This method just flat out works.

Next week I’ll share more from that chapter, but in the mean time if you haven’t read the book you can get it here. Goal setting really should come after the hard work of nailing down your creative calling. Stay tuned!

Key Advice From 12 Industry Leaders

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In addition to 20 chapters of practical content, there are also 12 interviews with some key creative industry leaders in my new book “Calling All Artists”. One question I asked each  of the interviewees was this;

“If you had one overarching piece of advice for an artist trying to find their way, what would it be?”

I don’t have the space here to include their full answers, but I wanted to grab one or two lines from each to provide an overview. Even in these short statements, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience. These are in reverse alphabetical order (I thought that would be fair since they are in alphabetical order in the book :).

Note: If you would like to see a list of credits, click the contributor’s name.


The word Animation means the state of being full of life or vigor; liveliness. What could be more fulfilling and joy-filled than being part of a process that creates animation? So have fun!
Marcelo Vignali — Production Designer, Sony Pictures Animation

Try to always have fun and enjoy creating art. Try to turn even a small project into a great oportunity to learn and advance.
Narina Sokolova — TV animation background artist, Disney Television

This is not a career where you can be lazy. It requires determination to push you through your goals you must set, it requires passion, because you have to love what you are doing or you will give up to soon.
Stephen Silver — character designer, drawing teacher, entrepreneur, author

When does time stop and the world become quiet? That’s the discipline for you.
Ashley Postlewaite — Co-founder/Executive Producer, Renegade Animation

Study story structure. Write!
Michael Maurer — film and TV writer

I would say, be humble, be good at what you do.
Heather Martinez — director, writer, story board artist

My advice to writers would be to read scripts and watch cartoons.
Shea Fontana — Children’s TV writer, development and distribution consultant

Do it everyday. You’re competing with people who take art seriously. If you’re not serious, go sell insurance. It will be a lot easier.
Phil Cookefilmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do

Build relationships by being humble, willing, and then once you get the job over deliver.
Kathleen Cooke — Co-Founder Cooke Pictures

Always bring you’re “A” game. Be the absolute best you can be in all that you do. It’s hard work, but again, it’s worth it.
Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.

You must have a tremendous amount of passion and drive to be in the business. You must also have an outstanding work ethic.
Amick Byram — feature film and theater actor and singer

To go out and do it. Don’t feel like you have to research, research, research.
Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


There are 10-14 questions in each interview and some great back-and-forth discussion. To read the full interviews along with the rest of the book, click here to go directly to the Amazon page.

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


ENDORSEMENTS

I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!


An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?


When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do


Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com


Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.


Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!

 

 

Calling All Artists! (NEW E-book Coming Soon)

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If you are fuzzy about your specific calling as an artist, feel stuck or confused, want to take your skills to another level, wonder if you were built for something more, or if you need advice and direction from a trusted voice to figure out which way to go with your creative career, this e-book is for you.

To be honest, I hate talking about my experience, but I want to leverage every experience I’ve had in my education and career to help you discover your strengths, thrive as a creative, avoid pitfalls, and use your gifts to make the world a better place. In a career of over 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in animation, illustration, graphic design, book design and layout, oversize print design, exhibit design, themed environment design, mural painting, art direction, visual development, character design, prop design, layout and background design, voice acting, voice directing, creative project management, IP development, motion graphics and compositing, sound design, writing, consulting, and creative coaching.

I have also led creative teams; taught workshops at large events, executive produced, marketed, and sold animated DVD and online products; been a commercial and short format director; licensed artwork, characters, and content; developed IP’s for Timbuktoons and several other companies/organizations; worked with an agent, pitched concepts to major kids networks including Cartoon Network, Disney Television, Nickelodeon, The Hub, PBS Kids, and more; worked with government agencies, for-profit companies, and non-profit organizations; branded and/or rebranded local, and national organizations; incorporated 3 companies in 2 different states; developed financial plans and secured intellectual property investors; worked with intellectual property lawyers; interviewed and hired creative employees; worked on multiple interactive/game projects for all key tablet and phone formats.

If you are a “creative” of any stripe, this e-book was written just for you. If you want to find a sense of clarity, purpose, and passion, and if you want to develop a practical game plan to help you move forward with motivation and intentionality, you simply must have this e-book!

You were born at a great time. In many ways, we are in a modern day Renaissance for creatives. There are significant cultural, economic, and technological factors that have converged in this generation that provide an opportunity for you like no other time in history. With the number of new found opportunities for artists, supported by creative industry reports predicting continued growth, it is critically important for creatives to find clarity.

There are hundreds of ways to make a living as an artist, so it’s more important than ever to figure out exactly what you were built for. You need to discover your calling and identify your core creative marketable strengths, then you need to set goals, plan your work, then work your plan. This extensive e-book is designed to help you do just that.

Please share this with other artists and stay tuned. I’m putting the finishing touches on a release date and we’ll announce that very soon. I want as many artists as possible to know about this book because I believe it will change the trajectory of their career. More importantly, I believe it will give them a sense of purpose, passion, and motivation like they have never had before. I can’t wait to launch this e-book. Please help get the word out!

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How Mike Wazowski Can Help You Discover Your True Identity

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines identity as: “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual”.

Chances are you haven’t ever really thought much about this. Most people don’t until they face a crisis, major transition, or are facing some other decision that will impact their life in a significant way.

For some people their sense of identity is wrapped up in their career, for some it’s wrapped up in being a parent…or a soldier, or an artist…etc. But identity really goes much deeper than that.

Identity has to do with who you are at the core level as a uniquely designed individual. You are a one-of-a-kind masterpiece with hardwiring and experiences that no one else has.

Occupations, roles, seasons, and situations change, but your identity remains constant.

I always find that abstract concepts are better explained by specific examples. Since I’m an animation nerd, I thought I’d use an example from an animated movie.

Learn a lesson from Mike Wazowski from Pixar’s Monsters University. (Forget what you know about him from Monsters Inc. for a moment.) His whole identity was wrapped up in becoming a scarer. It’s all he thought about since he was a kid. His story arc (and Sulley’s as well) in the film is all about finding his identity.

This example is relevant to you and I. If you identified with any of the S5 categories I mentioned in an earlier post, I think you will relate to Mike.

You have a dream of becoming a certain type of creative, but you’re not 100% sure if that is your identity or not. Interest and desire do not equal identity. Identity is only found in the journey and is usually different that what it appears to be on the surface.

At a critical moment in the film, after several suprise wins in a fraternity competition, Sully realizes they have won through a combination of luck and hard work.

He realizes that their team does not have what it takes to win the final challenge. He turns to Mike and says, “You can train monsters like this all you want, but you can’t change who they are!”

Even the initials of the fraternity they belonged to pointed to how they were percieved by others and how they felt deep down. Oozma Kappa (OK). Their motto was “We’re OK!” That was their identity. We’re just OK. Nothing special. No real talent to share here.

Later, after coming to grips with the fact that he was not a natural scarer, Mike says to Sulley, “I thought if I wanted it enough I could show everyone that Mike Wazowski is someone special.”

Mike’s sense of self worth was wrapped up in his identity as a scarer. But his real identity was as a forward thinking coach. He brought out the best in others, taught them how to work as a team, and found a way to win. Infact, during one of the very last shots of the film, at the end of a montage of scenes showing how Mike and Sulley climbed the ranks from the mail room to the scare floor, just as they are about to step foot on the scare floor as official scarers, Sully looks at Mike and says, “Are you ready, coach?”

You’ll miss the line if you’re not paying close attention, but it punctuates Mike’s mature acceptence and celebration of his true identity.

All along he was bringing out the best in everyone around him. All along he was studying every angle of scaring. All along he was finding a way to win. But it took a journey of self discovery to understand his true identity.

I would describe Mike Wasowski’s identity as: “a fearless and unconventional, motivational catalyst”. If you were to put your identity into words, how would you describe it? Take some time to reflect and talk to others who know you well. Take a crack at writing out your identity statement. Try to use as few words as possible, write a few versions, sleep on it, then come back to it to come up w/ a final version.  Feel free to post your identity statement below. I’d love to hear from you.

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5 Reasons To Start Your Personal Renaissance

I finally had a chance to watch The Monuments Men, a film about an unlikely World War II platoon tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners. I loved this film because not only is it based on a true story, but it highlights why art is so important in terms of history and culture. Appreciating beauty and art, and exhibiting creativity are some of the key things that make us human and display the fingerprint of a creator. The Monuments Men saved works of art from several key time periods including the Renaissance.

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THE RENAISSANCE

The period of history known as the Renaissance, which began in 14th century Italy and expanded throughout Europe until the 1700’s, was a historical game changer for all aspects of culture, but especially for the arts. Renaissance essentially means “Rebirth”. This period spawned a continent wide resurgence and appreciation for the arts. The net effect of this seismic shift allowed creatives to pursue new forms of art as a career and a calling.

In college, one of my favorite classes was “The History of the Renaissance and the Reformation”, I remember our professor pointing out that if Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donotello, or Raphael would have been born a generation earlier, they would have been farmers or blacksmiths. Both incredibly noble professions, but their calling and talent would never have seen the light of day.

However, during the Renaissance several cultural, economic, and technological shifts coincided to establish optimal conditions for artists to thrive.

THE NEW RENAISSANCE

You were born at a great time. In many ways, we are in a modern day Renaissance for creatives. There are significant cultural, economic, and technological factors that have converged in this generation that provide an opportunity for you like no other time in history.

The animation, gaming and interactive industries are expected to continue experiencing meteoric growth for the foreseeable future due to the proliferation of second screen devices, games, apps, and other interactive media.

Major companies such as Apple, Google, Starbucks, Disney/Pixar, Amazon, and the like, value creativity at every level in their culture and products, and the commercial success of these entities have garnered the attention of the world. Industry used to value the cog in the wheel, performing a singular function with no thought of or room for applying creativity. Now, most major industries foster and reward creativity.

Think about how many things we use every day that required creativity at some level. Whether it’s the chair you are sitting in, the computer or tablet you are reading this on, the music you are listening to, the design of the cup you are drinking coffee from, or the flavor of the coffee you are drinking…someone applied creativity to concept, develop, and produce it!

In addition to the new found respect for creativity, there see also technological reasons why now is a great time to be a creative. Technology and art are inherently connected. They always have been. Art needs a medium. Mediums present themselves thru prevailing technology. From clay pottery and textiles to print making; from forging metal to producing CG films; art and technology are always historically connected. One influences the other. One pushes, stretches, and challenges the other. Here are 5 reasons to start your personal Renaissance.

1. Never before have artists had such affordable and powerful hardware and software available to them.

2. Never before have artists had access to so much electronic communication and electronic file transfer capability as we do today.

3. Never before has there been such a widespread opportunity for creatives in so many fields and industries.

4. Never before have there been so many schools and universities that value the arts and offer so many creative degrees.

5. Never before have there been so many ways a single artist can connect with opportunities and build their own platform. Social media and the internet level the playing field and there are more independent artists working than every before.

This is a great time for artists of all stripes. Determine to make this season a new birth as you decide on what goals to attack and how to become a master at your craft. Work hard, capitalize on your opportunities, and enjoy the creative journey. If you so choose, your Renaissance starts now!

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