I love almost all forms of music, from polka to rock, funk to fusion, country to soul, even elevator music (yes, I may be guilty of riding up an extra floor or two if the groove is right).  And music is powerful. The right vibe can change my mood, help me recall good times, provide a tangible defense against those not so good memories, and can in general set things right with the world. Music is also magical, it can superimpose me onto a stage where I am playing bass for James Brown or Tower of Power or even back to the 70’s when I desperately wanted to play bass for Rick Derringer or Ted Nugent. I love music.

For my wife, Charlotte, music is like a time machine. She can recall her weight, age and what she was doing at that time from just hearing an old song. I’m not kidding! I’ve been married for 33 years and her ability to recall certain things just from hearing songs is amazing. Some of her best memories of her mother who died in her early teens years can be recalled with a song. It’s kind of crazy how her mind works, or maybe, it’s more on the amazing side.

Perhaps that’s why music is on my mind today, it’s the potential of it. It can do so much. It can turn back time, it can be a friend in low places, it can change the world. Those are things music can do, what it is at its peak, at its highest potential. So, because it has the potential to do so much, we come to expect so much from it. And with great anticipation, great potential, comes disappointment when that potential isn’t met.

You recognize this, right? It’s why you’ll bounce from station to station in the car, giving each only a few seconds worth of judgment, until you land on a tune that fits the vibe of a windows down, sunglasses on kind of day. When you find that one song that fits, it caps the moment. Failure to find it can often kill the mood. What a waste of the breeze coming in the windows! What a waste of a perfectly good volume knob that has a few more cranks in it! The stage was set, missing the right tune was a serious waste of potential!

Of course, this isn’t just about finding the right song on the radio and music doesn’t have the market cornered on having the potential to change the world in any number of positive ways. In fact, where we recognize music at its most potent is where it is the soundtrack to the amazing things people do when they are pushed to make the most of their potential. And yes, when I say “people” I mean us as a collective group of skin and bones roaming the lands under God’s good purpose, but as members of that group I also mean you and I as individuals. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the potential things the team can do that we forget that we are all individual contributors who, by living up to our greatest potential, bring everyone up with us.

It’s hard to start, or to even see things that way. Everything seems like a bummer. The problems around us are too big, too heavy, too much. And that’s just the problems themselves and doesn’t account for having to try and corral and lead various rowdy groups of people who are making matters worse by doing too much of the wrong thing or, most likely, nothing at all. Where we lack hope, potential seems a far-off dream. But we have no right to lament as if we have no hope, we are the followers of principal Maker and Dealer of Hope. Where hope has died in Christians, it’s dead to the world. That mustn't be! There is most certainly hope, which means we have a proper foundation to reach our potential, even as we look out at the complicated world that surrounds us.

That’s the complication, perhaps, even the distraction. Potential is local. It’s personal. It’s being faithful in the means that God has set before you and trusting Him with the rest. It’s recognizing that your means and your situation may be different than someone else’s. Your job is to reach, to squeeze every ounce of action and love and steadfastness out of the situation you’re in; to walk willfully and confidently under the grace of God and the boldness of the Spirit. We can’t carry the world, God must do that. And He’s on the task, choosing to use those who are in His service as the means through which His will shall be done. That is the output of our potential. Could there be a greater honor than to be part of this Kingdom of priests, used to bring wandering image-bearers of God back to right relationship with Him?

In western Church culture (Christianity) we have displayed great propensity to both shine brightly at the apex of our potential and cower under a basket, hiding it from view. However, what is more and more prevalent is a potential that is widely acknowledged and celebrated but never actually pursued. It is lukewarm, the kind of thing Jesus spews from his mouth. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the potential that fills half of the books on our shelves, the ones that we read so we can know how to witness to our neighbors, how to fight for the least of these, how to get our finances in order so we can be a blessing to others. We devoured the contents, made notes in margins, talked about them over coffees and Rice Krispies Treats at small group. Yet, we’ve still never even invited the neighbors into our homes for a meal, let alone introduce them to Jesus. We’ve started to notice the least of these more but used it as merely a reminder to plan on how to help them next time. And things just keep coming up, there just hasn’t been the right moment to be a blessing to someone else. Such potential! But it’s lukewarm.

Just think what it could be like if we lived our lives within the good potential that our Heavenly Father has stored up for us. It really is possible! It is what the Spirit is to help us do! Often, we feel the gap rather profoundly when we go to church. We’re there to recharge but instead find ourselves filled with guilt around the obvious distance between who we are created to be and who we are living as; the potential we have been blessed with and how we are currently using that blessing. The core thing here is that living is a verb, it’s an action. You can’t live up to your potential without doing anything. Our faith isn’t solely one that lives in minds and hearts. Jesus walked the earth so that we might be saved and to leave footsteps for us to follow as we walk the earth after Him.

So how is it done? How do we make the most of our potential? Let’s look at Jesus to test this thought.  Jesus gave us a great pattern to model our lives after:

1. He walked according to the will of the Father

2. He cared for people

3. He preached the good news

4. He formed leadership to carry on after he left

5. He gave everything to accomplish the mission

You see it. All we need to do is prioritize our lives around these 5 attitudes.  Can you think of a better way to live your life then to live in faithfulness to God and for the betterment of others? Those two things are the focus of the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and Jesus’ summation of what the whole Law was getting at. Whether a person knows Christ or not this push to better others will have tremendous trans-formative impact on our culture. Good News changes the world, that’s a guarantee.

So how can you be the soundtrack in the lives of those around you? How much higher can we reach cultivating the better in the lives of everyone in our community? Each person you connect with in your life has crazy wonderful and possibly frightening happenings in their lives every day.  Go connect with them.  Find out who they are and what makes them tick. Build good things into their lives and share your life stories with them. You will be astonished how similar your story is to the stories of the Bible.  The Bible is full of God moving people forward. Think of all the men and women in the Bible. They suffered kept moving, the protected kept screwing up, yet God gave them a vision of potential to be a people of greatness and backed that up with a Savoir/leader in Jesus.

As we move forward in faithfulness, striving to win the race and not only reach our full, blessed potential but to bring it out in others, lets:

Accomplish the mission.

“You shall love the Lord your God”

Connect with other along the way

Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Influence other to do the same.

Use all your heart, all your

Soul, all your strength and all your mind

Oh, and remember, sometimes in order to have the right song available at the right time, you must bring it with you. Preparation isn’t a lack of trust, it’s a commitment to not miss out on an opportunity to make the most out of every moment. You keep a Tower of Power CD in the car in anticipation of a sunny day, you keep your bass playing chops up to snuff in case Rick Derringer calls, and you keep the love of God and the Good News of Jesus ever on your lips as you most certainly will meet someone who needs to hear it.