Archives For Purpose

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.

It’s that time of year where many people are focused on their recently made resolutions to improve themselves or their lives. As has been well-documented however, these new-found commitments can be difficult to maintain. Adding another to-do to an already crowded list is a struggle for many people and the motivation that led them to make the goal can often wane as the difficulty of keeping it becomes apparent. Sometimes these resolutions are superfluous and our lack of success in keeping them is inconsequential. Other times, we may be convinced that we are pursuing a path or direction that God has ordained and yet we still wrestle with seeing it through to completion. As we struggle we may begin to question whether we can really do what God has called us to, and our trust in His good plan may weaken.

However, God does not call us to certain ministries or tasks in a vacuum. As the One who names the stars (Ps. 147:4) and who clothes the lilies of the field (Mt. 6:28), He is well aware of the responsibilities and challenges that we face. Therefore, when we struggle with all that is on our plate it seems to me that it is likely that one of two things is occurring – Either we are doing things that we have not been called to do and we are taking on tasks and commitments that God does not intend for us to bear. Or, we are not managing the time and resources that God has given us effectively and we need to seek His wisdom in how we manage our days. Our Heavenly Father is well aware of what we need (Mt. 6:8) and of the constraints that we face, including the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. While He may call us to something that will stretch us, if He calls us to it, He will work through it to bring about His good purpose (Ro. 8:28).

Practically, this means that for many of us we probably need to be more mindful and prayerful about what we commit to do. We may eagerly say “yes” because we like the feeling of being needed or because we hate to disappoint other people. While there are many good things that we could be investing our time in, we need to humbly ask God to direct us to those that He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). At the same time we shouldn’t think that because we don’t know what God has called us to that this is an excuse to either not do anything or to simply pursue things of temporal pleasure. As a child of God, He desires to use you for His Kingdom’s purpose (I Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6). As He does so we need to trust that He will provide everything we need to accomplish the things that He has set before us to do. When we struggle, we need not try to manage it ourselves, but to seek His perspective on our time and our to dos.

Being Moved

August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

When we hear a great piece of music or watch a compelling movie, we often talk about how we were “moved.” It’s an interesting choice of words since there was probably very little actual progression on our part. Our emotions may have been stirred, our thoughts may have been captivated, but it is likely that any migration was theoretical in nature. Our physical position presumably remained stagnant.

Christians often talk about those who don’t know Christ in much the same way. We ask that God would move in our hearts to reach the lost so that our motivation for spreading the Good News would increase. These petitions not withstanding, our attempts to manufacture a sense of urgency portends that we have little appreciation for how critical the subject is. After all, people don’t have to request a feeling of compulsion for leaving a fiery building. It’s a natural reaction to recognizing the exigency of the circumstance. Similarly, our stated desire to reach the lost shouldn’t only result in our emotions be heightened. Our feelings shouldn’t just move; our feet should. As Christians we are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor (Mk. 12:28-31). Both of these things will result in us telling others about what God has done in our lives, and what He desires to do in theirs. Both of them will result in us sharing the Gospel with those who don’t believe.

The danger is that if we are only concerned with our feelings, they won’t result in the requisite actions. We may be content with a heart that wishes for others to be saved, without doing anything to help ensure that this happens. People do not respond to the Good News of Christ because someone wishes that they would. They respond because the message of the Gospel was shared. God has the ability to do this without our help, but as children beloved by Him and desiring to serve Him, He graciously grants us the privilege of participating in this mission. If are satisfied with only feeling for those who don’t know Christ, we miss out on the joy that comes from watching others reptant and put their faith in Him.

It’s one thing to feel saddened for those who don’t know Christ; it’s another thing altogether to be willing to sacrifice our friendships and reputation so that they may hear of their need for a Savior. However this awareness (and hopefully a repentant response) will not develop simply because we are sorrowful that there are those who don’t know Jesus. We must be wiling to go to them, talk to them, and be intentional about displaying Him in their lives. It is fine if we ask that our hearts would be moved, but we should also make sure that we do.

“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and lthe wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
– I Cor. 1:23-25

Busy & Blessed

July 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Life is busy.

Often times it feels that just when we have managed to complete one task, three more pop up on the to-do list.

We use technology to organize and prioritize, all the while giving ourselves more projects to complete than we will ever have the opportunity to commence (I’m looking at you, Pinterest.)

We shuffle back and forth thinking that our multi-tasking makes us more efficient, meanwhile we never give our full attention to any one thing.

And we often find ourselves complaining about all we have to do, and all that is left to complete. Our obligations grow longer while our time seems to shrink. We don’t get to do all the things that we want to do, because we are so focused on all the things we haven’t yet finished.

Yet in all of this, what we fail to realize is that our busyness is often a sign of blessing.

The fact that we have so many places to be – it’s an indication of the community that God has graciously provided.

The chores and home repairs that never seem to end – they’re a result of God’s provision in giving us a place we call “ours.”

The bills we pay, the obligations we keep, the work that we must get up for each day – they are a result of God’s good gifts.

We may feel like we’re flailing in the wind, but more often than not that rushing we feel is the whirlwind of God abundantly pouring out His blessings. Those who have little, don’t feel busy. That is reserved for those who have much. 

So the next time I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the tasks that I still haven’t done, or the goals I make little progress towards achieving, I hope I remember that the reason I’m tired when I lay down to sleep isn’t because of what I lack in life; it’s the result of all I have been graciously given. While I may wish I could do more, I am grateful for all that God has seen fit to fill my life with.  After all, those who have been given much, are those God has generously blessed.

Wanting Something Less

June 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

It is not uncommon for people to express a desire to want more out of life. This is the impetus for why many people switch jobs, careers, churches, or marriages. For one reason or another they believe that the proverbial grass is in fact greener on the other side, if only they could get to it. Of course many of them find that once they cross the chasm their unfulfilled desires still exist. It turns out that long-term contentment is not a result of the circumstances you are in.

On the other side of the spectrum you may find Christians who talk about how they wish God didn’t trust them with quite so much. We know that no trial or travesty comes to us without it being under the purview of God’s sovereign plan and it is His desire that our lives would be a glorious reflection of Him. Knowing that He will equip us to do the good work that He has called us to do (Eph. 2:10) and that often times it is through the difficulties in life that our mettle for ministry is formed, we may wish that God’s plan for us were a little less grand. Given enough time most Christians can articulate how God used difficulty to accomplish good things in their lives, but sometimes we may wonder if we can withstand the problem long enough to get to the payoff.

In His wisdom and graciousness though, God is not prone to letting us off easy when it comes to accomplishing His good purposes in our lives. He knows that when we get to eternity the difficulties will seem inconsequential compared to the eternal glory that they produced. As C.S. Lewis stated, “It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” God wants us to experience the full expanse of His love and despite our short-term desires to the contrary, He is not willing to let us sacrifice eternal significance for temporal comfort.

It may be tempting to wish for less of the responsibility of trials; it is understandable why we would desire that hardship be reserved for another. However, let us not forget that it is often through difficulties that we experience God’s love, grace and kindness in ways that we neglect to pay attention to during times of ease. May we desire that our lives be filled with His glory – by whatever means will produce it.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19

“Relax,” people say. “It’s not that big of deal.”

And in regards to many things that we spend our time worrying and fretting about they are right. Unfortunately often times when we hear this remark it is not in response to our fear but in response to our adherence to God’s standards. If Satan can convince us that it is not a big deal to ignore one of God’s rules than it is a short trip to believing that it is not a big deal to ignore many or most of them. Yet, loving Jesus means devotion to the same things that were important to Him, and the passage above and others (for example John 6:38) make it clear that doing the will of the Father was of utmost importance to Christ.

There are many things in life that we should probably be more relaxed about, but our commitment to obeying God’s commands should not be one of them. Because of our deep love for Him we should desire to do the things that please Him, and to teach others to do the same.

Working with college students it is not unusual for me to encounter individuals who are struggling with their purpose in life. Many of them recognize that they are at a crossroads and that the decisions they make regarding their major and course of study will in some ways dictate the trajectory that their life will follow. Although from my perspective I can assure them that the choices they make are very likely not permanent (I know many successful people who work in fields unrelated to their college major), I understand the pressure that they face. The realization that adulthood is upon them is hard to contend with. They don’t want to make the mistake of pursuing the wrong path.

It’s not just college students who struggle with the question of purpose though. Many individuals in all walks of life ask themselves whether they are in the right field, at the right company, or in the right job. Stay-at-home parents may wonder if they should consider employment outside of the house. Working parents may ponder whether it would be better if they were at home with the kids. Ministry participants may struggle with whether they are serving in the right capacity. Others may wonder if the neighborhood they live in is the best for their current stage of life. Questions of how we spend our time, where we live and what we should invest in are integral to who we are, and they are often the most difficult questions to fully feel at peace with our answers.

The Christian, however, can find assurance in the midst of these questions because we know that regardless of where we are, our task is clear.  In whatever situation we are in, in whatever circumstances come our way, our goal is to share and reflect the Good News of Christ. While we may not know the specific reasons for the places that God puts us, we can know that He intends for us to be an ambassador for Him wherever we are (2 Cor. 5:20). It is not so much a question of whether we are in the right place, but whether we are doing the right thing with the place that God has put us in. Our circumstances may seem uncertain, but our calling isn’t. Even when we don’t know the “why”, the “what” is abundantly clear.

For those that follow Christ this should be an encouragement. As we passionately pursue God’s will for our lives, we can trust that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Ro. 8:28). Therefore, while we should be listening to Him to determine if He has called us to something new, we should also be committed to obeying Him in where we are today. It is important that our focus isn’t so much on “what’s next” that we forget what we are to do now. Namely, that we should be intentionally and explicitly sharing the Gospel with those that He brings across our path. He has not placed us where we are by accident. There are individuals that He desires to reach for the sake of eternity, and He uses His children to accomplish that purpose.

It’s easy to get caught up in wondering whether we are where we are supposed to be because of the many options that seem to exist. Perhaps though, the enemy would rather we spend time contemplating whether we are getting everything from life that we want that we neglect to share with those that have no hope except in what this life affords. Perhaps if we spent more time contemplating their future in terms of eternity, not only would our purpose become more clear, but we would concentrate on fulfilling it, and not on musing where God may lead us next.

 

Royal Position

April 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

When Kate Middleton wed Prince William in 2011, the world received a crash course on the bestowing of royal titles. It wasn’t long after they said their “I dos” that it was announced that William and Catherine would henceforth be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, respectively. For those in the global audeince unfamiliar with the customs of a monarchy, it seemed like a strange pronouncement. We know about kings and queens, princes and princesses, but that’s generally as far as our knowledge of such things goes.  Additional titles seem unnecessary. However, this practices confers upon an individual honor, prestige and significance. The titles that one accumulates dictate their place in society.

Because we may be unfamiliar with this practice, we may not give sufficient weight to the title that we have been given as Christians.  Scripture tells us those who have repented of their sins and placed their trust in God are children of the King (See Gal. 3:26, John 1:12, Col. 1:13). We are called the heirs of Christ, and as heirs have been given an eternal inheritance (Ro. 8:17, Eph. 1:11-14). This title was bestowed upon us not because of any greatness or achievement that we obtained, but because God in His great mercy loved and saved us even while we were His enemies. Whatever title or position we might have here on Earth it pales to the royal position we have in eternity.

It is important, however, to realize that unlike Earthly titles which confers prestige upon those that bear them, the children of the King are called to be servants (John 12:26; Gal. 5:13). It is their humility, and not their self-esteem that is to increase as a result of their position. It is acknowledging our own inability to be significant enough to earn God’s favor that prepares us to accept the sacrifice that His Son made on our behalf. The honor that accompanies our title is not ours, nor is any prestige. The One who gave us the right to be called His kids is the one to Whom all glory and praise should be attributed.

So when the days are tough and the miles long, let us not forget that it is not our position that we have achieved on Earth that is ultimately going to matter. However, lest we think that our royal position is caused for arrogance or conceit, let us also remember that it is Christ alone who deserves exaltation for the fact that we are children of the King.