We are often defined by our roles in life.  Some of those roles come within our family structure: parent, child, sibling, close friend.  Others come with work: boss, laborer, innovator, number cruncher, paper pusher.  Yet, there are some roles that seem to follow us everywhere:  supporter, encourager, challenger, thinker, donut guy, leader.  (Note: One of those may just apply to me…you decide.)

Regardless of who you are, what you do, and whether or not you consider yourself to be a leader, there are people that look at you that way.  Maybe you aren’t a parent, but perhaps your siblings look up to you.  Perhaps you are not the boss in your office, but your coworkers respect your work and value your opinion.  You may consider yourself the donut guy wherever you go, but there are people counting on those donuts.

As a leader, you are held to a higher standard.  People are watching you to see how they should behave and react.  Others mimic your attitude and your approach to getting things done.  People may even look to you when things aren’t going well in hopes that you will turn things around.  Being a leader can be a lot of pressure, but our ability to influence others toward Christ is something all of us should cherish…and not take lightly.

People are watching.  And we always seem to think about that negatively.  We watch ourselves to guard our mistakes.  We mask our pains and struggles.  We worry that our leadership can lead people down the wrong path.  That often takes the focus off of leading them down the right path.

Just as quickly as somebody can pick up your bad habit, they can learn from your discipline.  As dangerous as it can be to risk sharing your flaws, the reward can be great when we allow people to see our victory over our struggles.  As much as we might be afraid that we will lead others away from God, it is our most important job to lead them to Him.

The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. (1 Chronicles 29:9a NIV)

Whether you like it or not, you are a leader.  Instead of worrying about messing up and having a negative influence on the people around you, turn your focus to all of the positive things that you can do.  Get out of your comfort zone and step out in faith, go out on a limb in love, take some risks and let others see you put your hope in the Living God.

What do you appreciate about the leaders in your life?  How have they helped you grow closer to God?

I’ll admit it.  I like some pretty weird music.  I got caught up in the boy band craze at one point in my life.  My dad made me a huge fan of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Men.  And, of course, being from southeastern Kentucky, I love country music.

More recently, I have begun to weave more and more contemporary Christian music into my playlist.  But as I have discussed it with some of my friends, I have seen some resistance on their part to make the transition.  They claim that many Christian artists simply aren’t as talented as mainstream musicians.  They have a hard time enjoying the variety as they believe the song themes are all the same.

I have heard similar complaints about Christian movies.  As the folks at Sherwood Pictures (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous) continue to gain momentum, I still hear people talking trash about their films.  They say the scenarios are too far-fetched or that the acting is unwatchable.

I will admit that some of the complaints I hear about Christian movies and music are valid.  There may some questionable acting and some repetitive song lyrics.  The production quality on either side may not be at the level you would expect from secular entertainment companies.  But that is not always the case.  In fact, I believe that the Christian entertainment industry continues to bridge the gap between its quality and that of secular production.

But even if it is not your cup of tea, or there is a noticeable difference in quality, is that really a reason to be negative about it?  Are these folks not using their God-given talents for His glory?  Is the industry not based on spreading the gospel?  Isn’t that what we are all called to do with our talents?

Look, if you can’t watch a Spirit-filled inspirational film and allow God to speak to you through it because one of the characters over-annunciates, you may need to check your priorities.  If you refuse to purchase music from a Christian artist because they are not on a top-tier label, you might want to take a moment and consider who gave you that money in the first place.

Watch what you want to watch, and listen to what you want to hear.  I am just saying that, if your relationship with God is your number one priority and you will do anything to see people come to know Him, your petty entertainment standards should not get in the way of you supporting entertainment ministries.  If you profess to follow Christ, put your money where your mouth is and support your fellow believers that are using their talents to advance His kingdom.  Don’t you expect others to do the same for your ministries?

Remember the time Moses parted the Red Sea?  That was alright, I guess.  And then the time he talked to a burning bush?  Yeah, not bad.  How about when he hung out with God on the top of a mountain and God carved out some custom commandment stones for him?  No big deal.

Man, Moses had some pretty cool experiences and was a part of some of God’s most famous interactions with people.  But there is one story that I feel we often overlook.  One that I feel shows the power of God in a way that we must never forget. 

So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him.  He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.  (Numbers 20:9-11 NIV)

Water from a rock.  How cool is that?  Sure, manna gave them sustenance.  But you can live longer without food than you can without water, right?  Come on.  Water.From.A.Rock.

Most people wonder why God does not perform miracles like that anymore.  Why doesn’t He wow us with His power?  Why doesn’t He make it obvious to us that nothing is impossible?  Why doesn’t He produce something from nothing like He did so often for Moses? 

In my opinion, He still does those things every day.  The difference between now and then lies in the fact that we view the world differently.  We feel powerful, entitled, and far too intelligent to rely on miracles.  We want to be in control, and we can manipulate any situation to make ourselves feel like we are.

Let me tell you, God still brings water from rocks all the time.  You and I are living proof.  If anything good can come out of any of us, that is a miracle.  We were born as slaves to sin and destined for failure in all things.  But God chooses to use us for His glory.  Sure, we get in His way more often than we’d like to admit.  But that does even more to prove this point.  If we are so flawed and incapable of producing good fruit, then anything Godly that comes from our existence must be a miracle. 

Each day, He is putting His power on display through our weakness.  By using us in His plan, He is constantly proving that nothing is impossible.  In producing good works through our meager efforts, He creates something from nothing every single day.  Water from rocks.

If you want to see a miracle, just open your eyes.  His power and glory are all around us.  We are usually just too selfish to see it.

_ We all have talents.  We all have gifts.  God blesses us with these gifts so that we can use them to serve Him.  And boy is it an amazing feeling when we absolutely love using doing so.  It is awesome to hear somebody use their amazing voice to sing praise to God.  I love watching passionate teachers share their interpretations of the Bible.  Talent paired with passion can create a very powerful combination.  But what happens when we don’t really enjoy our gifts? 

My first job in high school was at a department store.  I started working there in November and was quickly trained to prepare for the Christmas rush.  Part of that training was gift wrapping.  Since my parents had never really trusted me around expensive things, I had very little experience wrapping gifts.  However, I quickly discovered that I was really good at it.  Using minimal tape and just the right amount of paper, I could make a box look as though the paper was printed on it.  I could do ribbons and bows, even the curly ends on the ribbons that look so fancy.  I was a gift wrapping beast.

However, I still do not enjoy wrapping presents.  Whether it is my pulpuslaceratapohobia (fear of paper cuts for you lay folk) or the fact that football is constantly on television during wrapping season, I avoid wrapping at all costs.  This caught up with me in my second year of marriage.  My wife was wrapping gifts for my parents while I watched football on the couch when my parents asked her why I wasn’t helping.  She, of course, said that she did not want me to sabotage her fine work.  I’ll never forget the look on her face when my parents told her about my “secret talent.”  (I also became a world class shirt folder at that job.  Please don’t tell on me, I hate folding clothes.)

I was sandbagging.  I was hiding my talent because I did not want to be asked to use it.  How often do you think that happens with our spiritual gifts?  In a perfect world, our interests would be a perfect match with our talents.  But that isn’t always the case.  Far too often, we try to excel in our interests instead of finding interesting ways to utilize our talents. 

God has given us the talents we have so that He may be glorified, not us.  So the next time you are asked to sing a solo, find a way to get over your stage fright.  If you are asked to prepare a meal for a family in need, strap on that “Kiss the Cook” apron and make it delicious.  When you are invited to work on a Habitat for Humanity house, grab your paint brush and put your talent to work.  Whatever your talents are, you need to find a way to put them to use for the Lord.  Even if you are very interested in serving in other ways, do not ignore the gifts that God has given to you.  He gave them to you for a reason.

What gifts do you have that you need to put to use?