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.
Three words can sure say a lot. Especially if they are clarifying words that follow a comma. Examples:
“She is my mother, an amazing lady.”
“It’s my hometown, glad I left.”
“They’re serving Thai food, my favorite kind.”
A simple post-comma, three-word supplement can change the entire emphasis of a sentence. Consider the list of Jesus’ original twelve apostles as found in the third chapter of the Gospel of Mark. The final name on the list belongs to Judas, and in verse 19 it reads this way: “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.”
It’s not just Judas. Nor is it just Judas Iscariot. It is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
That was his legacy. Those three supplemental words describe how Judas Iscariot will be remembered all throughout human history. He was the one who betrayed Jesus.
While we are still living we have a chance to answer the comma and determine what gets written after it. Someday our parenting will be described after a comma. So will our relationships and our ministries and the way we’ve lived our lives.
Let’s determine in advance what gets written there. It could read like the Apostle Judas’ or it could read like the Apostle John’s. Of John, the Bible says, “One of them, whom Jesus loved, was there…” (John 13:23 ESV)
If there is still breath in our lungs there is time to alter what comes after the comma. If you regret the words that are following you, it’s not too late to become a writer, and craft a different ending with your life.
YOU are the one whom Jesus loved.
Reflex is a great revealer of the deeper layers of the heart. My calculated responses are one thing; my gut reactions are another.
Anyone can choose to be gracious or humble or kind, and to present certain appearances if they are given enough warning. However, the people who are truly gracious and humble and kind will be that way even when they are surprised by adversity.
The Apostle Peter and King Herod presented a startling contrast in instinctive reactions when in Acts 10 and 12 they each responded differently to praise. In Acts 10 Cornelius the Centurion greeted Peter with some well-intentioned praise, but Peter instinctively dodged it, saying, “Stand up, I am only a man myself.” He instinctively understood that praise belongs to God alone.
In contrast to Peter, King Herod was praised—hailed as a god by an admiring crowd—and instead of instinctively deflecting that praise back to God, he absorbed it, basking in the adulation of the masses. Unfortunately, his pride was his downfall because before the praise had even soaked fully into his arrogant soul he was struck by an angel and keeled over dead. Immediately following Herod’s death, the Scripture says this, “But the word of God continued to spread and flourish” (Acts 12:24).
Let’s keep an eye on our instinctive reactions this week. They’re telling us things about the internal states of our heart. Perhaps we will be pleased with what emanates from inside us, or perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to grow and work a little more Christ-likeness into the deeper places of our soul.
Do you ever forget that Jesus is Way and not just Truth? Sometimes I think we forget that He is both.
Jesus called Himself “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” and I think we do a pretty good with the Truth part. Most people who are familiar with the teachings of the church grasp the idea of Jesus as Truth. They know that He is the standard and that we are supposed to follow His teachings and His word, etc.
But what we sometimes overlook is the Way part of the equation. We forget that the Way Jesus lived and spoke and related was just as important as the Truth that He proclaimed. We can’t separate the two. If Truth isn’t presented in Jesus’ Way then it’s incomplete.
Jesus’ Truth was always embodied in His Way. They were twins, sibling characteristics of the Kingdom of God.
Far too often throughout our history, the church has alienated people because we railed on Truth without touching the Way. We held up Jesus as a truth standard to achieve without holding Him up as model to become. Everything about Him—His treatment of women, children, the broken, and the unfortunate—revealed God to us. His Way was God’s Way, and when we cradle Jesus’ Truth inside Jesus’ Way then Jesus’ Life—not condemning alienation—can come more powerfully to the world.
Let’s live and embrace and embody His Way.
In our recent men’s retreat there was much talk of honor, gallantry, and living as noble, courageous men of God. It got me thinking of the literal knights’ code of honor from the Middle Ages. This code continues to stir my own soul so I wanted to pass it on to all of you. Enjoy!
- To never do outrage or murder
- Always to flee treason
- To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy
- To always do ladies, gentlewomen, and widows succor
- To never force ladies, gentlewomen, or widows
- Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels or for love of worldly goods
- To never lay down arms
- To seek after wonders
- When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all of one’s strength
- To injure no one
- Not to attack on another
- To fight for the safety of one’s country
- To give one’s life for one’s country
- To seek nothing before honor
- Never to lose faith for any reason
- To practice religion most diligently
- To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability
Would you rather be judged from afar or misunderstood from up close?
Would you rather have someone draw faulty conclusions about you from a distance, or misinterpret your expressed intentions?
It’s not a fun “would you rather” question because both options stink. We’ve all had people make unfair assessments about us from afar, and we’ve all had people misunderstand the good things we were trying to communicate or do.
It hurts to feel stereotyped, judged, or misunderstood and it elicits the cry: “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t think those things about me!”
- If you understood my heart, you wouldn’t question my motives.
- If you understood my introverted temperament, you wouldn’t mistake it for aloofness or disinterest.
- If you understood how deeply I think and feel, you wouldn’t think my sanguine nature is shallow or insincere.
- If you really knew me, you would love me.
Do you think that’s true of God?
Do you think our current view of Him accurately reflects His character and nature, or have we inadvertently judged and misinterpreted Him?
A low or warped view of God will keep us from taking risks and spending our life in His service. And the tragedy of those low or warped views is that they’re usually formulated through misinterpretations or judgments from afar.
The cure? Relationship. The best way to shatter a faulty perception is to relate with reality. When I truly get to know you my inaccurate perceptions of you fall by the wayside.
How well do we know God? How intentional are we about knowing Him more?
The cure for the common life is a life lived out of our sweet spot for the glory of God. However, in order to truly live for His glory we must know and trust Him. Perhaps this point in our summer reading program is the perfect time to press in to know Him more.
Grace Church summer reading program, The Cure for the Common Life, Chapter Three: “Read your life backward.”
No, this isn’t a self-portrait (although I’d love to have his biceps and he does rock the bald head). It’s a portrait of what I hope we are all aspiring to be.
There is nothing like knowing that we are clean.
I worked with a pastor once who was urging me to be Mr. Clean in my ministry and he said, “I’ve slept soundly with a clear conscience every night of my life.” That’s a pretty awesome testimony. And whether we can make that boast today or not, we can start living that way now so it can become our testimony tomorrow.
God has made a way for us to be clean.
The first step to being clean is to get clean.
- We need to open the door of our inner lives to God, exposing our sin and asking for His total and complete forgiveness.
- We need to accept His forgiveness by faith and then reject our affiliation with those sins by closing every open door that entices us to return to them.
- We need to find a wing-man/girl to help us live in our new, cleansed identity.
- And then we can shave our head, wear a gold hoop and buy a skin-tight T-shirt…sorry.
“Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (Jesus to His disciples in John 15:3).
“To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (from the Doxology of Jude 1:24)