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On Purpose

I often forget.  I get distracted, or sometimes discouraged.  Or sometimes just focused on things that don’t really matter.  Or, sometimes I’m just passive, waiting for something to happen.

And I forget.  I forget that God has given us an incredible capacity to grow on purpose.  God has given us the ability to choose to be better than we are.  All the self-help folks use this capacity, seeing it as a human feature of self-intended improvement.  Tony Robbins has made a fortune on it.

But, sometimes the self-help stuff makes me cynical about the possibility of growth, of positive change.  But, then I teach out of 2 Peter 1:1-11, like yesterday at the Gathering Church, and I remember.

There we are told to make every effort to add to the faith we’ve been given some pretty good qualities:  goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love.  Peter makes it clear that we have the capacity to add these qualities because God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  Matter of fact, the first several verses nearly obsess on the potential we have because of who God is and what God has done.  We received a faith because of his righteousness, been called by his glory and goodness, through which we have received his promises.

Hmm . . . . a pretty good platform for growth.  I can get into some growth based on God rather than on me.

But, adding these qualities?  How do we even begin to do that?

Well, take knowledge, for instance.  Living in a university area dedicated to research and knowledge makes that an easy one.  My local library has the most active circulation per capita of any library in the state.  People here actually listen to NPR on Saturdays, and not just to Car Talk, but the afternoon shows.  ( I sat in my car listening to one this past Saturday.)

What do you want to learn?  (BTW, when the bible talks about knowledge it means learning something that actually shapes our experience, not just information.)  Over New Year’s I made a list of all the books that I started reading over the past few years.  There were nearly fifty.  I always write on the bookmark when I started the book.  (Okay, I must have reading ADD, I admit it.  There is a list of books I've finished, but it's shorter.)  Out of that list, I made a priority list of about twelve, determined not to buy another book until I finish one.  I’m close to finishing Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Almost Everything, which I highly recommend, only it’s not that short.   I’m going very slowly through A Praying Life, by Paul Miller.  It contains the best description of the impact of cynicism in our lives that I have ever read.  I had a lot of underlining in that section.

What are your reading?

Adding goodness.  Plug a simple question into your thinking, “What’s a good response to this?”, whatever the ‘this’ is.  I thought about goodness the other day when I was tempted to say something critical about someone.  Silently, I began to congratulate myself that I had held back from saying it, but then a goodness question occurred.  “Wouldn’t it be even better to not be thinking it?” “Wouldn’t it be better to think more thoughts of understanding and grace?”  Suddenly, I was faced with a choice about adding goodness.  Don’t worry, I didn’t get obsessed with self-analysis.  Rather, I had a taste of freedom, and it tasted really good.

So, how can you make every effort to add good qualities to your faith?