One of several books that I have been perusing recently is Erwin McManus’ 2014 The Artisan Soul, wherein Erwin beautifully describes the interplay between hard work and talent. He writes:
“Eventually art becomes craft. The combination of talent and passion funneled through the crucible of discipline and determination resulted in an expression of skill and execution that was later deemed greatness and genius.” (p.126)
Then later, “If we work hard enough, hard work will eventually be mistaken for talent. And if we refuse to give up, perseverance will eventually be mistaken for greatness.” (p.133)
Let’s keep working hard. Let’s keep marrying our talent with effort and discipline, so we can offer greater, more excellent service to God and humanity. Our talents and aptitudes were God’s gift to us; our dutiful honing of them can become worship that we offer back to Him.
God certainly deserves our best, and the world around us needs our best. Let’s give it. Let’s labor to do and be the best we can be for the glory of God and the blessing of our world.
Michelangelo once laughed when people praised his brilliance. He said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” If we too work hard enough and long enough our work will be mistaken for talent and our determination will be deemed greatness.
Have you ever done the limbo and tried to see how low you can go? During junior high roller skating outings my friends and I used to limbo on roller skates, testing our coordination and risking injury as we contorted our way below the ever-lowering limbo bar.
How about in life? Have painful life circumstances ever drug you lower and lower until you wondered, “How low am I going to have to go?” Have you ever gotten so low that you thought, “Surely this is it—this is rock bottom. There is no way that anything could be underneath this low. This is as low as I can possibly go.”
There is actually something lower than your low. There is something deeper than your rock bottom. And you will love it. Psalm 95:4 says, “In God’s hand are the depths of the earth.”
Think about that. Your deepest depths actually have something underneath them—God. His hand is upholding you even when you feel that you’ve gone as low as you can possibly go, and His hand will eventually lift you up.
That’s the next part of the verse. “In God’s hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.” When we are languishing in the depths it feels like we will never see a mountain peak again, but we will. If we could fast-forward through our life we would eventually see that there was something lower than our low, and we would also see that the hand that sustained us in the lows also lifted us back up to the mountain peaks again.
If you are in the depths hold steady; there is something lower than your low. And if you are on the heights remember that the same God you are experiencing there will still be present even if storm clouds reappear and threaten to hide Him from your view. The Scripture is true: He will never leave you or forsake you.
I am a “fixer” are you? My nature in nearly every situation is to try to help people “fix” whatever problem they’re facing. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dad or a pastor, or it might be from all of my years coaching various sports teams. Regardless of its origin, it is part of my nature to try to remedy broken situations.
That’s why it kills me when I can’t.
The most difficult situations for me are the ones that I can’t fix with wise words or encouragement. And that’s terribly problematic given my life vocation because in pastoral ministry I am constantly faced with both natural and spiritual problems that I’m not able to fix. I can hardly ever fix a spiritual problem on the spot. Sure, I can point people toward the ultimate answer, Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t always fix a problem in the moment. And quite frankly, people probably need my counsel far less than I think they do.
Fortunately, God is teaching me something in this season of my life that is freeing me from the pressure of being a self-perceived fixer. He is teaching me that sometimes love, not answers, is the best offering I can give. Yes, people need counsel. Yes, they need wise instruction, but sometimes they just need to step into a moment or an atmosphere of love.
Lately, when I leave a meeting or an interaction wishing that my prayer or counsel had changed everything in a moment, I am sensing the Spirit whisper to me, “Love-fueled listening and affirmation is never wasted.” It’s never a waste of time or effort to love and support a person. Even if we can’t immediately fix their problem or move them more quickly through their process, we can sustain them along the way. We can be a voice of faith, hope, and love that whispers in their ear, “You’re going to make it! You’re not alone in your struggle. I’m not the fixer but I know who is and someday you will see His remedying power again.”
If you have the answer for someone, great let them have it! But if you don’t, you still have what they need. Love.
Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is delicious!
That’s what the ancient proverbs writer said, and it still rings true today. We, humans, love the illicit and the forbidden.
Why is this?
Why is forbidden fruit so tempting? Why do we crave the things that aren’t healthy for us? Why do we want what we probably shouldn’t have?
The answer is…we actually don’t. We don’t want the illicit; we don’t want the counterfeit—we actually DO want the authentic and the good.
The problem is that goodness usually requires some up-front payment, whereas the illicit doesn’t charge us until a little later on—it’s like a quick and easy credit card transaction that satisfies today but makes us pay tomorrow. Goodness and beauty make us work for it on the front end, and if we aren’t willing to pay that price we’ll turn to lesser substitutes that can hurt us on the back side.
King David understood this. Throughout his life, he walked both paths: the illicit and legitimate, and his conclusion was clear. True satisfaction (the kind that lets you sleep at night and brings life to your soul) only comes from what is good. In fact, David said that when our desires touch God’s goodness it’s so satisfying that it’s almost like we start aging in reverse. He said that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:5).
Jesus agreed with David. He said the Kingdom of God—the reality of the goodness of life in God—was like a treasure buried in a field. It took some work and it cost a life to find it, but once found, it was worth every cent of payment.
Do you remember asking the question, often with an accompanying small, awkwardly sized card and a box of tasteless, sugar hearts?
“Will you be my Valentine?” It’s a pretty vulnerable question to ask when you are in grade school and your heart is on your sleeve (I still remember the 4th grade when Dalene Whitney told me yes then no then yes again all in the same day).
It’s even more vulnerable years later when you ask a variation of the question: “Am I still your Valentine?”
Today is the 22nd year that Jessica has been my Valentine, and I’m desperately hoping that I’ve been a good Valentine for her. I hope that her years of having me as her Valentine have reinforced in her the reality of God’s overwhelming love. When she stops to count her blessings I hope she has overwhelming evidence that God—through me—has been good to her.
And this isn’t just a post about Jessica and me! It’s a question for all of us to ponder as we think about our many sweethearts today. Have we made them better? Have we been agents of healing? Have we lived and loved so well that our children, students, friends, family members, and loved ones have evidence of a good and gracious God? God is good and gracious and loving and kind; the question is: have our lives highlighted that reality?
One of the most remarkable things about the Gospel story is that God allows us humans to represent Him to our world. Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we fall down on the job. If you’ve fallen down on the job it doesn’t mean the story is over. Valentine’s Day is a perfect day for refreshing resolutions and charting the courses in life that we truly want to follow.
There are two kinds of new songs: re-treads and originals. Which one is your soul singing?
Psalm 149:1 exhorts us: “Sing to the Lord a new song” but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean learning the latest Hillsong or Bethel tunes, or finding a contemporary way to sing the old hymns, or is it something more?
It’s okay to sing re-treads. It is good and helpful to re-package classic hymns for a new generation, and it can always be helpful to revisit the songs that sustained our soul in the past; however, those songs aren’t original. They aren’t truly new.
A new song is a song that flows out of a new encounter with God; new songs follow the fulfillment of our supernatural goals.
This month at Grace Church we are setting some supernatural goals—we are asking God to do some things in our lives that are beyond our natural ability to accomplish. We fully intend to change our lives via the strength and ability of our humanness, but we are also looking for something much greater than that. We want some new encounters with God that generate new songs and new expressions of praise.
Remembering the past is a crucial part of the Christian life. God constantly reminds us of yesterday to encourage us for today, but He is not stuck in our yesterday. Yesterday’s faithfulness is following us into today, and it will still be waiting for us tomorrow.
I wish I knew what new songs you will be singing at the end of 2017. They probably haven’t been written yet, but they will be. Whether your supernatural goals occur exactly as you want or not, there will be new things worth celebrating and singing about.
“God has not called us to be successful, He has called us to be faithful.” –Mother Teresa
Do you agree with her? Do you think that Mother Teresa, whose ministry touched millions, knew what she was talking about?
Or how about the Scriptures? Did you know that the words “faithful” and “fruitful” occur in the Bible 78 and 35 times respectively, whereas the word “successful” doesn’t appear even once?
OF COURSE we want to be successful. OF COURSE we want to do a good job, hit the bull’s eye, be effective, etc., etc. But we’re not supposed to worship success. And it’s not supposed to be our highest aim.
It is possible to be successful without necessarily being faithful; however, it is impossible to be truly faithful without touching success. God’s definition of success isn’t derived from strategic thinking workshops or effective branding campaigns; it’s defined as faithfully discharging the duties of our calling. Many of the most successful police officers, parents, educators, friends, business owners, or neighbors will never dance in the spotlight. Their lives and ministries will be conducted in relative obscurity, unchased by news crews or paparazzi. They will be “known” somewhere else.
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name. ‘They shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession.'” (Malachi 3:16-7)
Let’s beware the siren of success, opting rather for faithfulness where success is merely a byproduct.