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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Potential


What we are is not fully who we could be. But, if we are headed in the right direction, what we are is more than what we were.

Today, Next Generation Ministries took over the church. The youth led worship, ush-ed and all that stuff. They got donuts in the AM and pizza at the end of the day. I feel cheated (but not fat!) that I don't get that stuff! Reality is, I would rather have a good apple anyway.

As I watched these young guys and ladies, I reflected on what it would take for them to reach their potential. There are a lot of factors that can play into reaching potential but there are three essential elements that have to be taken into consideration. One we don't have control over, two we do.

Our potential depends upon our giftedness (we don't control it - God and the Holy Spirit do), our skill and our character (we have huge amounts of control over these two).

Giftedness
1 Corinthians 12:7 makes it clear that giftedness is an act of God in our life. And that giftedness is not for us, it is for "the common good." It is to build up community. So, there is spiritual giftedness that is promised for all followers of Christ. God chooses this for us and for our serving of others. I also believe God marries this spiritual gifting with our natural giftings as well. Each person is created in the image of God - we carry in ourselves the imprint of God. In that, we are unique with particular strengths. None of us is complete in ourselves (unlike God who is totally complete and self-sufficient). We have areas of non-strength, by God's design, so that we will need community and be blessed by others.

Skills
Proverbs 22:29 reminds us that skill is rewarded. Skill is the intentional development of the aptitudes and abilities we have. Skill takes work, it takes practice. I watched a documentary about Les Paul the other night. Anyone who plays a guitar is indebted to the skill, creativity and inventiveness of Les Paul, one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Les Paul died last week at the age of 94. He was still playing in jazz clubs up to the very end of his life. Although it was obvious he was a giftedness musician, he also worked extremely hard at his craft and he said as much - "Whatever I'm doing, I work hard."

One of the greatest sadnesses is observing someone with giftedness but no work ethic to develop their skills. No matter what area of life - musicians, athletes, businessmen, artists, engineers, scientists, parents, pastors, students - the best are not the best just because they have natural aptitude, they are best because they strive to be so. They take that which has been given them and leverage it through disciplined study, practice and learning. Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golfer - and he is one of the most disciplined athletes you will meet. He continues to develop his skills.

Character
Romans 5:3-5 lets us know that character is something that is formed. Character is the slippery one of the three because your character is a result of how you respond to life. Your character is a result of the disciplines you exercise in your life and then how those disciplines transform your experiences. Two critical disciplines are reading the Bible and prayer. In reading the Bible, we learn to see all of life through God's eyes and allow him to define reality. In prayer, we find comfort and wisdom as the Holy Spirit brings conviction, correction and guidance to our lives.

In Romans 5, Paul ties character to suffering. Suffering is the crucible that refines our character. Someone once said hard things in life can make you bitter or they can make you better. That is the character question. No one likes to suffer and, as a culture, we do everything we can to run from it, mask it, hide it and defer it. I'm not saying we should go out looking for difficulty in life but, we must remember that when it comes, God is not absent. He will use these experiences to transform our character if we embrace God in the midst of them.

What keeps you from reaching your full potential? There is a 66% chance it has to do mostly with you. What could you do to make a difference in your potential? It's never too late to invest in yourself. Start with your giftedness (if you aren't clear on this, ask someone who knows you well, they will be able to point you in the right direction), pursue learning so you can develop your skills, decide to be humble enough to allow God to transform your character - then join with him by exercising the appropriate disciplines (Philippians 2:12-13).

Where and when are you going to start?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Water

Jeremiah 2:12-13

Our thirst mechanism is one of the most finely tuned mechanisms we have in our body. When our body needs hydration, it lets us know it. Our body can tell us its thirsty but it doesn't control what we choose to drink.

The end of this month I am going to be running my first race in a long time. The last time I ran a race was in high school and it was 200 yards. (Yeah, I know they measure it in meters now but I'm OLD and, back in the day...). I purposefully chose the sprints because I hated the distance stuff. But, the end of the month I am going to run a half marathon. That would be 13.1 miles for the uninitiated. And it is a trail course so that means a fair amount of up and down. Should be fun. (http://www.brazenracing.com/bearcreektrail.html)

In running, it is important to "Obey your thirst." Water is truly life. And as much as the alcohol, sports drink and soft drink industries have tried to improve on just plain water, ultimately there isn't anything better. The water substitutes we are constantly marketed to purchase don't meet the need of that which we can get for free.

In the book of Jeremiah, God takes his people to task for two evils. God says that we should be "appalled, shocked and utterly desolate" that his people would do such a thing. What did they do? They rejected God's water.

Palestine had three sources of water: the best source of water was fresh water that flowed from a stream or a spring. It was called "living water" in Hebrew. Next was ground water that would be collected from digging a well. Lastly was run-off water that was collected in limestone holes in the ground that were plastered to protect from seepage.

God's condemnation was two-fold: first, they had traded the best water for the worst. They had traded fresh, living water for sludge pond water. Second, the holes they dug for their run-off water were cracked. In other words, they weren't even capable of holding any water.

The words are figurative to describe the trade-off God's people made. They traded the fresh, life-giving presence of God for that which was inferior and, ultimately faulty. There would be a day where they would seek to "Obey their thirst" and there would be nothing to drink because what they had created was cracked. Any life sustaining liquid collected had long ago seeped away.

We face a constant battle against forsaking what is best and creating faulty, cracked cisterns. They can be as simple as working too much - not trusting God's Sabbath principle of rest (which is an act of faith, trusting God to provide). Or they can be much deeper in trying to buy our relationships with our kids through possessions vs personal time or substituting porn or affairs for the true intimacy of a marriage.

As you read through the words of Jeremiah, it becomes clear that for the people of God in that time, they chased everything and everybody other than God.

We all thirst. It is the way we were created. What are you thirsting after? And what are you drinking?

John 4:10-14, John 7:37-38, Revelation 22:1-5