WiRE eMagazine message: “Going Too Many Directions?”

WiRE eMagazine message: “Going Too Many Directions?”

The following is the content of today’s email message from WiRE
Copyright © 2017 Gather Ministries, All rights reserved.

Please visit www.GatherMinistries.com.

I found it particularly timely today, given my yesterday and some doubts I found worrying me. But, this is the way God in His timing works!

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Image from PXHere.com (CC0 license)

 

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Going Too Many Directions?
. . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us—Hebrews 12:1
Every man has a sweet spot—a skill, an aptitude, a function that results in maximum impact for a given amount of effort. We’ve all felt them, finding ourselves “in the zone.” We probably have one, maybe two, but our sweet spots are what make us indispensable to others—to our employers, our families, our friends, to the people we’re meant to serve. Of all the things we do, our sweet-spot activities are where we make a unique difference. They’re the things we’re made to do.

Sweet spots aren’t random, nor accidental. They’re crafted by our Creator. And they indicate where he wants us to focus our lives—for impact. You see, sweet spots are crafted with specific needs in mind. God cares about those needs, whatever they are, and he designs us to address them (Ephesians 2:10).

Identifying our sweet spots allows us to analyze our days, our weeks, and prioritize. It allows us to begin to concentrate our efforts on activities for which we were made. It also allows us to create margin in our work life. As Jethro counseled Moses, we can learn to curtail or delegate activities that fall outside our sweet spots and, thereby, keep our work from unreasonably impinging on other important areas of our lives (Exodus 18:13-27). We cannot eliminate all outside activities, of course; but, we can better manage our time to emphasize the inside ones.

Okay, so what do we do?

Spend some time pondering your sweet spots. Now, grab a piece of paper and sketch out an ideal job description, one that perfectly leverages you in those spots. You won’t be able to move into that job instantly, of course . . . but the description should serve as a reference for making future decisions, allowing you to move closer to it, over time.

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Answer Me These Questions Three

Answer Me These Questions Three

Matthew 22:36-40
New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Once upon a time, I thought of the Bible as the history of the development of recommendations for good and right living. It started with the Law of Moses in the Old Testament – an uncountable number of do’s and don’t’s. (Q: Is the total of all the Laws of Moses documented somewhere?) Then it was condensed down to Ten Commandments. And finally, in the New Testament, Jesus reduced it down to two.

Now, I find this a tiny bit deceptive, as I have found that this pair is actually successfully followed by asking three questions. (None of which is really prerequisite, but it makes sense to tackle them in order.)

How do I love God? …love myself? …love others?

The key to answering is time. Taking the time. Making, not finding, the time in my busy schedule. (Note, though, that the third, loving others, does not always need a great deal of time, since I can achieve it simply, in the way I interact with them – even strangers I meet only once.)

The end result of a large amount of time with someone is knowing him/her, so an accurate way to put the three questions is:

Know God, love God. Know yourself, love yourself. Know others, love others.

Whoever does not love God does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8

#1. Know God, Love God

I learn about God through the time I spend studying His Word, fellowshipping and worshipping with other believers, and through prayer and meditation upon the insights I receive. I keep coming back for more. I become thankful for any blessing. I realize how He, the Creator, sees His creations like a parent sees his child and grandchild. I know the feeling of holding forgiveness for them in their innocent childhood for anything they might do. (Of course, this is most difficult; I can have only a small sense of how much God is willing to forgive, especially as age introduces willfulness to the wrongdoing.)

#2. Know Myself, Love Myself.

As I begin to comprehend Him, I begin to see myself as He sees me. I look with His eyes and honestly examine my life, my choices, my deceptive attitudes about who I am and who I am not. I unravel the tangle of loving and caring for and about oneself. I take the first tentative attempts at forgiveness, mercy, and understanding of me. I grasp that each morning is a new day. The harshest lesson is that forgiveness and consequences are not at all the same. But I am somehow able to keep moving forward, rising – with His help – after every fall.

#3. Know Others, Love Others

As I come to embrace my own humanness, I figure out that I can give what I have received. I keep paying it forward. I understand the difference between needs and wants, and what amount is enough and how to release and share any overflow. I apply myself to servanthood instead of servitude. I can wait patiently and not give in to anger or frustration.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:31

Each moment is a test of my studies. Confident and content, I experience a peace I have never known before. And I am fully ready for every new “now”.

Spartan? Try Roman!

My wife, God bless every bit of her, has always been a fitness nut. She’s always felt driven to it. Before we were married, she worked aboard tanker ships, and would tell me about her off-hours on-board exercising. (There was not much else to do when embarked for months at a time.)

Mid-life has been no different. Several years ago, prompted by the sudden, shocking passing of a co-worker who had gone out for a jog, a group from her company started working out together. They set and accomplished goals, at first running 5Ks and 10Ks, and then getting into Spartan racing. This is a race on a course filled with obstacles of every kind: walls to climb over, barbed wire to crawl under, tires to pull, weights to carry, etc.

It was a time of great camaraderie, as family and friends got involved. Our son joined. Even I, just months after open-heart surgery, took up walking the 5Ks (and still do). Spartan races are held in specific locations, and sometimes there are multiple levels and lengths. Finishers are awarded medals. A series of three is a trifecta. There’s a shadow box here at the house, proudly displaying all of my wife’s hard-earned memories. Seasons have come and gone, and the group’s makeup has changed as members move away and change jobs, but a group it remains.

This morning I awoke wondering what (or who) inspires a Spartan. I immediately noticed that there are parallels with followers of Christ, because Jesus, our founder, ran a race very similar to the excruciating challenge of Spartan. Let’s call it “Roman”.

We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fail.
We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy that he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.
Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.
Hebrews 12:1-3 ERV

What Spartan racing is to full, comprehensive physical training, the Roman cross has to be to full, comprehensive spiritual training. And the biggest difference between the two is that the cross, for Jesus, was run to the death.

You are struggling against sin, but you have not had to give up your life for the cause.
:4

We Christians are called to die “in effect”.  To die to ourselves, to die to our own selfishness and goals, and instead to live in and for Christ, for God’s purpose for us. And in service to others. This is the biggest similarity between Spartan and Roman. Sure, there are elite Spartan competitors, but, by far, the “common” racers are not concerned with their own times; they’re only concern is surviving the race to the finish. And they willingly aid those running alongside them. Throughout a Spartan course, you will see nothing but one racer helping and encouraging another.

A Book of Cliche’s?

There are, of course, many cliche’s I’ve heard from my Spartan. Motivational sayings are printed out and tacked up on the fridge. You can google on Spartan race quotes and quips, and fill a book with such sayings.

Likewise, we have a book of Christian motivation, The Bible. But “cliche” doesn’t do either of these collections justice. “Cliche” has a negative slant. It’s definition is “a saying that is overused to the point of meaninglessness”. So I looked up some synonyms: platitude, banality, maxim, axiom, truism. I think I found the right word in “dictum”, which has two definitions. One, is like those other words: “a short statement that expresses a general truth or principle”; but the other is very definitive: “A formal pronouncement from an authoritative source”.

The Bible is our guide. It is full of advice and recommendations on life’s best practices. Can it function the same way for a Spartan racer? I think so, but I now know that in it, I have found another way to connect with my beautiful, hard-charging bride.