Archives For Purpose

Run to the Battle

April 19, 2017 — Leave a comment

Often times when our country experiences destruction we hear about those rare individuals who run into mayhem in order to save others. With seemingly little regard to their own personal interests, men and women set aside fear and safety. and risk harm and sometimes even death, in order to assist those who are caught in the proverbial cross-fire. Even when ruination seems imminent, there are people who will run into the fire, or the collapsing building, or the literal onslaught of bullets, with the hope that another’s life may be spared.

For many of us this seems unfathomable. We may be willing to consider it for those we love, but it is hard to imagine the fortitude that is required to set aside one’s own well-being in order to help unseen strangers. And yet, these men and women are rightly celebrated for what they do. Their commitment, their earnestness and their courage should be applauded.

And when we are caught in our own battles – when there are souls to be won and sin to be defeated-  they should serve as an example of how we should behave. 

This was David’s approach. When the giant needed to be slayed, he ran towards Goliath (I Sam 17:48). Not only was he willing to face what seemed like certain defeat, he was so confident in his Father’s ability to conquer any foe that he hastened to the fight. What must have seemed like foolish brazenness was anything but. David knew that his slingshot and stones didn’t stand a chance – except for the fact that God was on his side. And because God was on his side, his victory was already assured. David wasn’t arrogant; David had trust.

And perhaps what is most telling about all this is what is missing from the narrative. There were no excuses; no four-step plan. David was not going to wait for the most “ideal circumstances” (from a human’s perspective), nor was he going to delay with strategies and personal agendas. David didn’t build a coalition or offer alternative explanations. David knew what needed to be done, and he obeyed. With eagerness and conviction he did what God desired him to do.

As should we. 

Is there a sin that needs to be eradicated and you have been making excuses? Run towards its defeat.

Is there a person that needs to hear the Gospel and you have been obfuscating or delaying? Run to them with the Good News.

Is there a ministry that God has given you and you haven’t been stewarding it faithfully? Slaughter halfheartedness and hasten to faithful service.

Whatever it is that God is calling you to, don’t delay; don’t linger, don’t wait.

Run to the battle.

And as David knew – if God is calling you to it, you can trust that victory (by His terms) is already yours.

 

If you know the account of Gideon in the Bible you probably know that he was a man who set out a fleece in order to determine whether he could fully trust the word that he was receiving from the Lord. Although Gideon is rarely used as an example of someone who is a pillar of faith, it is not uncommon to point to reference his story when we aren’t sure what we should do. After all God provided Gideon with two clear signs that was his job to conquer Midian. Then God fulfilled His promise by giving Gideon victory after drastically reducing the number of armed men that went with him to fight (Judges 6:36-7). “Putting out a fleece” has become Christian vernacular for seeking a sign from God regarding the action someone should take.

What happens to Gideon after God uses him is often left out of the Sunday School stories. After returning from victory, Gideon used the spoils of war to create an artifact (called a ephod) which soon became an object of worship for the Israelites. The man who had been so afraid to go to battle set up a symbol of his conquest and as it says it Judges 8, “it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” The implication is that, along with the rest of the nation of Israel, Gideon and his family begin to trust in the symbol of victory rather than the One who provided it.

It is tempting to wonder how Gideon could possibly do this (after all – he clearly knew at one point that he was incapable of winning the fight), however it is a enticement that is not unique to him. We are all apt to rely on on our abilities, insights, and talents to do the work that God has set before us. We are all prone to forgetfulness about Who is accomplishing the task when we begin to receive accolades for the outcome. Like Gideon, we go from wallowing in our inadequacies to trumpeting our abilities. And like Gideon we may go from relying on God, to trusting in ourselves.

But we must fight this.

Because as the rest of Gideon’s story demonstrates, self-trust is a futile endeavor. Gideon was right – he was incapable of taking on the Midianites – but God was not. Gideon wasn’t the main actor in the story – he was the instrument that God used to accomplish His purposes. Trusting in the tool is short-sighted; it assumes the instrument has power and intentionality all on its own. But it is only when the tool is wielded by the hand of the Master that it can accomplish its purpose.

So while we may be tempted to trust in ourselves and our successes, we must remain steadfast in relying on the One who not only provides the success, but equips us with what we need to accomplish it.

Dual Role

April 14, 2017 — Leave a comment

 

When we present the Gospel we often focus on the message of salvation.

This make sense. After all – what we want people to know is how they can be saved from their sins an spend eternity with God.

It is this message that they are most likely to respond to because it is in their self-interest to do so. It may be what first attracted us to a relationship with Christ; we realized the depravity of our sin and the need we had for a Savior.  Understanding how Christ’s death and resurrection provided our redemption is critical in coming to a place of repentance and faith.

And while the Gospel is clearly the anthem of salvation, the biblical Gospel also hearkens another tune. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

In other words – the Gospel is about salvation – true. But the Gospel also broadcasts God’s righteousness. His justice is on display, as is His mercy and grace. His love is proclaimed, as it is goodness, kindness, patience and peace. The truth of His Word is herald and His faithfulness is trumpeted.  All of Who God is, is demonstrated most clearly to us through the fact that He sent His Son to die a death that He did not deserve so that His enemies might be called His kids.

The Gospel is about how God provided a way for us, but it is also gives us the most powerful expression of the God we are called to serve.

And when we tell the Good News to others we need to make sure both these things are made clear.

Re-prioritizing

April 10, 2017 — 2 Comments

I like checklists. As I have probably mentioned before,  I am the type of person who will write something down on a list for the pure joy of being able to cross it off. There is a sense of accomplishment in completing a task and there is a feeling of resolution in being able to remove it from my list. For many this might not make sense, but for some, I’m sure it does.

The challenge is that sometimes the state of my to-do list is reflected in my attitude. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or ineffective at getting things done, I can get frustrated, discouraged and snippy. Even when I’m able to prayerfully fight these tendencies there still can be a feeling of uncertainty as I look at what I wanted to accomplish and compare it to what I actually did and the amount of daylight I have left. Deciding what I’m going to push off until tomorrow can become another chore and impetus for annoyance unto itself.

However, what I need to remember is that my job is not first and foremost to get things done. In whatever sphere of influence you consider – as a wife, as a mother, as an employee or as a church-member, I’m not primarily a task completer. Instead, my main objective is to glorify God. Therefore, my main to-do isn’t to finish a task, but to please Him.

George Müller said it this way:

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.

Did you catch that? Three words are used to describe this purpose: first, great and primary. And the aim is clear – to find rest, contentedness and peace by trusting in God. No other task is of greater import; no other objective supersedes it. When the Christian starts by focusing on Christ everything else falls into its rightful place; everything else becomes secondary.

This may not always be easy. And we can only accomplish it through prayer. But aiming first and foremost to find our happiness in Christ will not only help ensure that our days align with His plans, it will help ensure that our words, actions and attitudes do as well.

Grace Upon Grace

April 7, 2017 — Leave a comment

Recently I have been thinking a lot about grace. Grace, as I have often heard defined, is “getting something good you don’t deserve.” Obviously, the best and most obvious example of grace is salvation that has been afforded us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet oftentimes, this is where our consideration of grace ends.

 

John 1:16 however states that through Christ we have received “grace upon grace” (ESV). God’s ultimate grace comes through repentance and faith in Christ, but God’s grace is lavished on us through the fact that the sun shines another day, through the encouragement word of a friend, and through the comfort He provides the brokenhearted. God’s grace is abundant. And as the Psalmist often writes his “steadfast love endures forever” (see Psalm 136). God’s grace and love are extravagant, abounding and eternal.

 

What this has reminded me of is that we can be tools of God’s grace. Again, while the most excellent example of this is sharing the Gospel, we can also be instruments of grace by being quick to forgive, by showing love to those who don’t show love to us, and by serving others even when we can’t rightly expect anything in return. To do these things, and to do them for the sake of Christ, makes us ambassadors of His grace. And as we pour grace into others life, we will appreciate the grace that God gives us even more.

And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.”  – Genesis 37:13

As any parent can tell you, when your kids are young you spent a lot of time saying their names. I mean it. More than you ever think you will, their names will frequently be on your lips. That’s because when they are young, things need to be said to them directly. Over time, they will learn social cues and the meaning of “your look” but as toddlers, they need to be told forthrightly, and forthright conversation, requires attention. Hence, their names will become some of the most frequent words you say.

In our household, when we call our children’s names my husband and I have taught them to acknowledge that we’ve called them. Immediately upon hearing their moniker, they are supposed to respond “Yes, Mommy” or “Yes, Daddy.” This has very practical significance; we want to make sure that they hear us before we start talking to them. However, there is a parental concern as well. When they hear their name we want them to answer in the affirmative because we want to make sure that they are prepared to follow our instructions. With their words, and hopefully with their hearts, we want them to be ready to obey.

It’s a model that we see represented by many people in the Bible. When Israel called Joseph to go to his brothers who were tending their flocks, he immediately said “Here I am.” His words represented the commitment that he had made in his heart to do what his father would ask. Similarly, we see Samuel and Isaiah respond this way when God calls them. Their words weren’t intended to give their location; after all God knew where they were. Instead, their declaration was a verbal commitment that they were ready to hear from God and willing to do what He would call them to do. It’s an affirmation that they are prepared to do what God tasks them with, sometimes even before they know what it is.

And the same should be true for every Christian. Every follower of Christ should be ready and eager to say “here I am” to God. We should be eager to listen to His instructions and have hearts that are committed to doing His will. We need to be ready and eager to obey God even before we know the specifics of what He will require of us. Because He is good, we can trust that His commands will be too. Because He is God, we can trust that what He requires of us will be used for His Kingdom’s purposes.

 

Singular Focus

March 28, 2017 — Leave a comment

Focus.

It is a word that is talked about a lot. People know that they need to focus on their work, on their family, on their friends, and on their responsibilities. Even though the word denotes a singular ambition, when people talk about what they are “focusing” on it usually involves a multiple of priorities and ambitions.

Jesus made it clear, however, that the focus for the Christian should be singular in nature. Although many people have tried to “balance” their commitment to Christ with their commitment to something else, Christ deserves and demands supremacy. In Luke 16, He said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (V. 13, ESV). Jesus was revealing what countless generations of lives have proven – a person truly committed to serving Christ will not be pursuing any other interest. Everything in that person’s life will pale in comparison to their devotion to Him.

This can seem to be a hard truth. After all, the Christian has relationships and concerns just like the non-Christian, and Jesus was not dismissing those. Instead, He was teaching His disciples that pursuit of anything in place of or in addition to Him would bound to be a disappointment. No one can fill the “God-shaped hole” that we each have except for God Himself. When we seek Him first, and He is the focus of our pursuits, our passions, and our petitions, than we can trust that our hearts will be satisfied and that He will provide all we need to live the life He has called us to live.

Fearfully & Wonderfully

March 24, 2017 — 2 Comments

Recently, my oldest child joined AWANA. For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it encourages children to memorize Scripture while at the same time playing games and learning more about God. One of her Bible verses was Psalm 139:14a – “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (ESV). Although I have heard this verse countless times, it took on a new meaning when I heard it out of the mouth of my three-year old because as I have matured, I have realized the beauty of this truth, and how few people actually embrace it.

Part of what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” is that God has given us unique talents, skills and opportunities. He has not made you to be someone different; instead He has formed you to be who He intended for the purposes of His Kingdom. He desires to use you in a way that He doesn’t intend to use anyone else. Ephesians 2:10 says that He has planned out the “good works” that we are to do. This means that my job is not the same as yours. And just as He has created you “fearfully and wonderfully” for what He has called you to do, so He has created me. We are different partly because God intends to use us in different ways.

Of course the temptation is to compare assignments and capabilities, giving truth to the old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We may look at the family of God and wish that we had someone else’s role. But imagine what an affront that must be to God! He has given us the privilege to be used by Him – and equipped us to His work – and yet we want to argue over who gets the better gig.

Instead, may we all rejoice that God has gifted us in unique and purposeful ways. And may we use what He has given us for His Kingdom’s purposes. That others may know Him more, and that His name may be praised.

Godly Goals

January 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

I have never been a big fan of New Year resolutions. There are several reasons why. First, I never understood why I should wait until the calendar changed to make a change in my life. If there was a goal that was worthy enough to work on, then it seemed I should start working on it now, rather than later. Secondly, New Year’s resolutions seemed to be rather dichotomous – either you achieved them or you didn’t. Most changes are gradual in nature, and I didn’t like the sense of “failing” if I happened to have a day when my resolve waned. I am the type of person that likes to keep on making progress. I didn’t want to forgo my goal in its entirety simply because I had a day or two when my focus wasn’t as it should be.

My lack of appreciation for this annual ritual has grown in recent years because I have increasingly realized that most people make their resolutions based on what’s important to them. This may seem obvious, but if you listen carefully, rarely will you hear someone’s whose list of desired achievements has to do with anyone besides themselves. Perhaps there are good reasons for this – after all you can only change yourself – but it seems that there is not even attempt to do anything beyond that which will make the individual happy. “I want to lose weight.” “I want to read more.” Even the seemingly altruistic resolutions that focus on “becoming a better person” often have a lot more to do with the perception we want other people to have of us than we may be willing to admit. When I sit down to think about my plans for the coming year, it is tempting to consider my perspective alone – and what will give me a feeling of satisfaction if I achieve it before the calendar changes again.

As Christians, however, our agenda is not our own. Our focus shouldn’t be on what we want to achieve, but what God wants to achieve in us. Resolutions of any sort, shouldn’t happen without spending time in prayer and without careful contemplation of Scripture. We should be seeking God’s wisdom for the goals that He wants us to focus on, and we should be aligning ourselves with His stated intentions, not asking Him to align with ours. Our “resolutions” shouldn’t be an attempt to help secure more of our own happiness, but instead our focus should be on how we can obtain more Christ-likeness as we seek to serve and honor Him. We should be pursuing godly goals – and not just at the beginning of a new year.

I Thessalonians 4:3a states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” In other words, if you are a Christian, God’s plan for your coming year (and any years that follow that) is to make you more like Him. My goals should have them same focus. And the good news is, even if I have failed to keep my new year’s resolutions, it is always a good time to make a goal to become more like Christ.Godly goals

The Measured Life

January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

There’s a truism in business that what gets measured gets managed. In other words, if you want to make sure that something is getting done, that a goal is being worked on, make sure you quantify your expectations for it. If you do so, and you regularly check whether progress is being made towards that goal, people are more likely to focus their attention on its completion. It’s an approach that we utilize in our own life as well. We assess our life based on the numbers on the scale, the dollar figures in our bank account or the worth of our house. We quantify our expectations so we know how close (or how far away) we are to fulfilling them.

Sometimes we are apt to try to take a similar approach with our spiritual life. We look at how many times we have read our Bible or how long our prayer time was and we extrapolate these figures to measure our walk with God. Unfortunately, while these things can certainly be utilized as benchmarks for a deepening relationship with our Savior, they are too easily “faked” much like we may choose the scale that gives us the lowest figure. Time invested does not necessarily equal quality of investment and if we simply just watch the clock we may miss the point of our spending time with God altogether.

The other challenge with this approach is that we are not in a position to fully assess the impact of our obedience to God. When God calls us to do something, it may seem like a “small” deal to us and therefore unworthy (from a purely statistical viewpoint) of our time and attention. However, God is often in the business of multiplication. He is not beyond using small acts of obedience to have long-lasting results. Abraham’s son and heirs were all blessed because of his obedience (Gen. 26:4-5). Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s friends and not only healed their friend, but forgave him his sins as well (Mt. 9:2-6). Both of these stories, and countless others, have been retold for generations and have taught others what a life of faith looks like. There is no way that the primary actors in these instances could have accurately predicted these results. If they had attempted to do so, their measurements, and perhaps their obedience, may have fallen short.

Jesus told His disciples to let their light shine before others so that “they may see good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). How far and wide God chooses to cast our light is up to Him. Our job is to faithfully live our lives in keeping with what He has called us to do. We will likely be unaware of the full measurement of that faithfulness this side of Heaven, but we can trust that God will use in for His Kingdom’s purposes.