This is part 2 of 2, in the series "Mapping Our Journey." You can read part 1 here.
Sitting around a campfire, watching the flames dance and the sparks rise into the night sky, you find yourself mesmerized by the flickering colors and the glow of the embers. Whether you're roasting a hotdog on a stick, toasting a marshmallow for s'mores, or just relaxing in the warmth of the burning logs, one or two things are bound to happen at some point. Either someone will start a song, perhaps with guitar accompaniment, or someone will tell a story.
Growing up, camping as a kid, teenager, and into adulthood, I've come to love these experiences of sitting around a fire at night and basking in the glow. I've enjoyed playing my guitar or mandolin along with others and singing familiar songs. I've listened as someone has told a story...maybe a scary story or an account of a childhood memory, or just a story of a hunting trip when they bagged the big one. Those stories are usually entertaining and captivating.
More Than a Noise
Childhood music lessons are something that many of us have experienced/endured...take your pick. For me, it was guitar, starting at about third grade. For my sister, it was trumpet in elementary school and, later, piano. Guitar and piano aren't too difficult to tolerate in the early stages of learning...trumpet, on the other hand...well. Sorry Angie :-) At least the trumpet phase didn't last very long as I remember. Can you imagine the budding percussionist practicing? Ear plugs, please!
There is something annoying about a screeching violin, buzzing trumpet or crashing cymbal. It grates against the auditory nerves. It sends us running from the room with hands on our ears. It is unpleasant and we want to escape it if we can. This means no disrespect to the young musician in their formative years, but it is what it is.
Those clanging, screeching, squeaking instruments, as annoying as they are, have a message for us in our fulfillment of purpose. They teach us a very important lesson as we seek to engage our gifting in the purposed living we pursue. You see, it is important that we understand how our gifting informs, supports and empowers our purposed living. Whether you have the gift of teaching, shepherding, or administration, for example, that gifting will be an integral part of the purpose you have for your life. We have talents of all kinds to enable us in the work we do, but as a follower of Christ, you have spiritual gifting that is endowed by the Holy Spirit who indwells you. He empowers you to make a difference. However, there is another aspect of our gifting that trumps all else.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
As we read in this passage, that aspect of our gifting that overrules all others is LOVE. Yes, love. Without it, we are like those annoying, clanging, squeaking instruments. So, it is not enough just to be gifted. We must exercise our gifts in the context of love.
Miraculous Communication without Love
No matter what your perspective on the gift of tongues, one thing is central...it was intended as a sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:20-25). We can see then, that the use of this gift outside the context of love, makes it like the babbling of pagan worshipers much like the indiscriminate sound of a gong or cymbal. There is even the connection that could be made of the use of gongs, cymbals and trumpets in pagan ritual. Therefore, if we exercise a miraculous gift of communication without the motive of love, we are just a noise to those who hear us. No benefit will come of it.
Prophecy, Knowledge and Faith without Love
Prophecy is a gifting of both foretelling and forth telling. The prophets, for example, wrote the Holy Spirit inspired prophecies of things to come. But, every time a person declares the Word of God...any time the Gospel is preached...they are engaging in prophesying. Related to this, is the gift of knowledge...to understand the mysteries of God. Finally, the gift of faith...a faith that comes out of one's preaching and knowledge...opens the door for God to move and work in miraculous ways, is highlighted. As we declare the truth of God's Word and the good news of salvation...as we plumb the depths of the deep mysteries of God...as we exercise a miraculous faith that moves mountains...if we do so without the saturation of love, we are nothing. We have nothing for which to be recognized. We have nothing to show for our efforts.
Extreme Generosity and Self-Sacrifice without Love
The apostle Paul reaches the height of religious expression as he brings this paragraph to a close. Neither would volunteering to give all of your possessions to feed the poor, or offering your body to be burned, produce any spiritual benefit if not done out of love for those who are being served. Such efforts would be fruitless and empty. It wouldn't purchase acceptance with God and it would result in little impact for eternal benefit to others...all because of the lack of the motivating factor of love.
Is love really that important? Does it really make that much of a difference? The answer...yes. When you listen to the words of God, you find very quickly that love drives everything He has done.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:7-12
Love drives the plan of God to redeem His creation. Therefore, love is to drive all that we do as we fulfill our purpose in the master plan of God. How will you love through the purpose to which you've been called? We must ask ourselves what drives our passion and life? If it is anything less than love, we will find that our lives have become noisy clanging that accomplishes nothing.
How has God's love impacted your life? How do you want to make a difference through living your purpose in love? What challenges you to love well? Comment and share!
I stood at the end of a road that used to lead to one of the most popular resort areas on Mindanao, Philippines. This road was well traveled because it led to the mountain resorts that Filipinos and international tourists would flock to in search of relaxation, leisure and escape from the heat, in the mountains near New Bataan. But, this day, the road was not traveled by tourists and people on holiday. Instead, it was a dead end, as the roadway literally disappeared into a sea of boulders (some the size of an automobile), tree trunks, mud and debris. There was an earie quiet as people stood, or slowly milled around among the scattered items that had been left in the aftermath of the raging avalanche of water that had devastated this region just a month earlier.
On December 4, 2012, Typhoon Bopha, nicknamed "Pablo" made its way across the southern Philippines island of Mindanao and left a path of destruction that wiped out coastal villages, flattened banana plantations and destroyed the homes of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. After the storm had passed, and days of search and rescue, and weeks of recovery efforts were made, this category 5 storm had killed over 1,000 people and displaced more than 400,000. Standing there in disbelief at the destruction I was viewing, trying to imagine this massive river of water, a mile wide, that had swept boulders, trees, structures and people from the mountains into the valley, two filipino men walked up to talk with our team (I was with a Christian humanitarian aid team from the U.S.) and share their stories. With them was an older man, who was blind, being led by his grandson, a young man in his twenties. As they told the story, they described the impact of the storm, the chaos of its violent force as 160 mph winds ripped through their house and uprooted trees. They talked about loved ones who were swept away and never found. The elderly gentleman, who spoke no English, shared with us through a translator, how he had been swept from his home and family and carried by the flood waters for miles before being rescued, along with his grandson. They were the only two surviving members of his family. As we stood in awestruck silence, listening to their stories, we were astonished at their survival. Because we were obviously not Filipinos, they knew we were there as a part of recovery and support efforts and they thanked us for our work. In a bit of a spontaneous response, we stopped to pray aloud for the victims and their families in the aftermath of this catastrophic experience. When we uttered the final "amen," one of the young men picked up a small smooth stone and handed it to me. "Take this with you to remind you of the people of New Bataan," he said. I smiled and assured him I would do so, and to continue to pray for their healing and recovery. We shook hands as he smiled and thanked me once again.
They're called "the smiling Asians," I'm told...Filipinos. Typhoon season is an annual experience in southeast Asia, and especially among the Philippine islands. Every year they brace themselves for the storm systems that make their way through this region of the world. It is a part of life in this country that ranges from remote primitive villages to sprawling, modern cities. If there is one word I would use to describe the Filipino people, it would be resilient. My job as part of the humanitarian team was to do crisis counseling with the people who came through our mobile clinic. After receiving medical care, they would meet with me and (usually through a translator) I would explore their support network, provide mental and emotional processing for grounding and spiritual counseling of hope and the gospel. I always offered to pray with them, and I don't recall anyone refusing. But, one thing struck me through all the hundreds and hundreds of people I met over those days of ministry...it was the HOPE that they held in spite of immense odds against them. The experience taught me what hope looks like and, because many of them found their hope in Jehovah Jireh (The God who Provides), that lasting hope comes from the One who has us in His hands. It was a beautiful intersection of purpose...I was living out my purpose in serving the needs of the Filipino people, and they were living out their purpose in demonstrating the powerful hope of the Savior in the midst of trials! What a lesson in God's sovereignty!
Though this storm was the most powerful to hit the Southeast Asian islands to date, they had no idea that, just a few months later, on November 3-11, 2013, super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) would strike further north in the islands of the Philippines bringing destruction. Haiyan resulted in over 7,300 casualties and over 28,000 injured. Yet, the faith and hope of the Filipino people remained strong. Take a moment to watch the video below and note the hope that is expressed by those who were in the midst of suffering! I'll wrap this up on the others side.
Without hope, all is lost. It is hope that has kept people strong and resilient through the most difficult of circumstances. Prisoners of war survived their captivity because of hope of rescue. Cancer survivors have persevered because they had hope of healing and recovery. The greatest obstacles we face in life can be overcome because of hope. This is no surprise to those who have experienced the redemption of Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ...Messiah...is a story and message of hope.
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
You see...God has made a promise and, as the scriptures tell us, He cannot lie. In Him...that is in Jesus Christ, we find refuge, hope and access to the Father, therefore, His eternal life. That is the hope that anchors our souls. Perhaps a quick acrostic will help to drive it home for us.
We have hope, no matter our circumstances, because...
Honesty Opens the Door to Hope
In the video clip above, and in my experience in talking with the Filipinos I met in 2013, I realized, if anything, they were brutally honest with themselves and with God. They didn't sugar coat their situation, or try to explain it away, or live in denial. They faced their situation head on and were honest enough to say, "This is how it is." But, those who followed God (or at least acknowledged Him) were also honest enough to look to Him rather than blame Him. That's a huge lesson for us...when tough times come, honesty with ourselves and God is the first step to seeing our situation through eyes of hope.
Openness to God's Plan
God is always working out His plan in our world. He desires that all people come to Him and receive the salvation Jesus purchased (2 Peter 3:9). God is also working out His plan in and through you as His follower. Our hope is predicated upon the reality that we are in His hands and we are a part of HIs plan. Knowing that He is in control and is working all things for our good, provides hope in the bleakest of times.
Perseverance Through the Tough Times
Perseverance is both learned and enabled. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that we do our children a disservice by "rescuing" them from every tough moment that comes their way. When the going gets tough, parents sometimes step in and remove the struggle or remove the child from the struggle. That is the worst possible thing to do in those moments. Our children need to learn to persevere through hard things and to learn to wait, push through, figure it out, and ultimately, trust God in those circumstances. Paul recognized this value when he wrote the message Jesus gave him about persevering, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Hope enables us to persevere, and perseverance sustains our hope.
Entrance is Made Possible by Jesus Christ
The writer of Hebrews 6 (above) informs us that when Christ died for us, He tore the curtain that separated the Holy Place, from the Holy of Holies, in the temple. That area (Holy of Holies) was the most sacred place in the temple. It contained the Ark of the Covenant, atop of which was the Mercy Seat. This was the place where God exhibited his presence and where, twice a year, the High Priest would go in to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice to atone for (seek forgiveness) the sins of the people. This most holy place was so sacred that the priest would wear a bell on his garment so that those outside would know that he is still alive, and would have a rope tied around his ankle so that, if he went in without having been cleansed from his sin through repentance, he would die and they would have to pull him out with the rope. Suffice it to say, going into the presence of the Most High God was a serious matter.
However, when Jesus paid the final sacrifice, doing away with the animal sacrifices that had only pointed forward to His ultimate provision, that curtain that separated all people from the presence of God, was torn down. He made it possible for all of us, through His redemptive work, to have access directly to the Father. We no long have to have another man go to God for us. This Hope we have in Jesus has delivered us directly into the presence of our heavenly Father and we can communicate with Him directly. So, in life...through all of our ups and downs...no matter the situation...we can go to God with our needs and our hurts and our failures...we have hope because we have access to the One who gives abundant life through Jesus Christ. That is a hope that endures...the anchor for our souls!
If you haven't done so, hop over to our podcast and listen to the latest episode as Christian Hip-Hop artist, Kyren Monteiro, shares his story of "Hope for the Broken."
How has hope sustained you in the dark times? Where did God show up in life to bring hope for you? How have you had the opportunity to fulfill your purpose and share the Hope of Jesus with someone? Share your stories in our comments and let's get the conversation going!
Have you ever found yourself in a moment where God had so orchestrated every aspect of your experience that it became a profound milestone in your life? I'm not talking about an experience like the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus...hearing the audible voice of God. However, not unlike that experience of the apostle, it was a moment that created a new awareness for you, or opened a door, or changed the course of your life. One of those moments for me occurred in January 2010.
That cold January day, I found my self sitting in the midst of 21,000 college students and workers, at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. I had taken a group of college students from our campus ministry at Arkansas Tech University to Passion Conference...a gathering of students from 37 countries and all across the United States, along with ministry leaders, speakers, and musicians. This gathering was for the purpose of challenging the next generation of world changers...to make an impact upon our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The conference was an amazing experience as we were challenged by speakers to embrace the gospel, live out our faith in real ways and to give ourselves to make a difference in a dark world that desperately needs the light of Jesus Christ. The messages were inspired by the Holy Spirit and there were many, on the last day of the conference, who stood as a testimony to how the Spirit had worked in their lives...some, to accept Christ as Savior, others who had wounds healed, and still others who's eyes were opened to the need for a generation to bring the love and good news of Jesus Christ to the world. In amazement, I saw this group respond to a challenge to give financially with $668,000 to fund 12 global causes (a couple in attendance matched this giving to total $1.3M)! That's college students giving over half a million dollars! Wow! What a move of the Spirit upon their hearts.
A Time of Awakening
These causes included things such as digging wells and sponsoring children in developing countries, building an education center for the Dalit people in India, sending men to seminary in Muslim countries and rescuing women from human trafficking. And that...that last thing...human trafficking...that grabbed my attention.
Woven throughout the three days of the conference was a series of video clips that followed a particular young woman's story. The videos chronicled her situation of living in poverty. Her family told of their desperate need and the promise that came from people from the city, that their daughter could go and work for a family there, doing domestic work, so that she could send money back to support them with food and other necessities. However, as the story unfolded, they lost contact with her and, to their horror, heard stories that she may have been taken into a sex slave trade industry. As these vignettes continued throughout the conference, information about the proliferation and immensity of human trafficking was shared...helping us to understand just how enormous this tragic situation is and what has to be done to combat it around the world...even right here at home. As these series of video presentations came to a climax on the third day of the conference, it was revealed that this particular young woman had been rescued from her captors and, in that moment, she was introduced to the gathering, standing in person on the stage. You can imagine the response of the conference attendees as they erupted in applause and celebration...even now, as I write this, my eyes fill with tears at the memory of that moment. And at that moment, something else happened...I began to ask myself (maybe it was the voice of the Spirit asking)..."What if that were my daughter? Or my wife? Or any other of the women I know personally in my life? What would I do to go and find them and rescue them?" I immediately realized that I would stop at nothing to do whatever was in my power to find them and bring them to safety. That was my awakening!
Awakening Leads to Seeking
It was at that moment that I began to ask, "What can I do?" I wanted to know how I could make a difference. I prayed for God to show me His plan...open doors...give me opportunities.
Fast-forward two years. In the two intervening years, I never lost sight of this thing God had placed in my heart...I educated myself, I had conversations, I contacted people and organizations who were doing the work of fighting against human trafficking. Then, my opportunity to go to the Philippines in 2012, as part of a humanitarian aid team, opened the process of making connections and giving me experiences in developing countries. I was being exposed to life in the culture of Southeast Asia, where much of the world's trafficking takes place. This would eventually lead to the opportunity to go to Thailand and be involved in researching the need, searching for actual evidence of human trafficking and consulting with one of the leaders of an organization that is rescuing, educating, and bringing to justice, the perpetrators. I had the opportunity to assist a daycare that provides childcare for mothers who are in aftercare and to consult with two foster care missionaries who care for children who are rescued from trafficking situations. It was only a scratch of the surface, but it was a way for me to be involved and to use my experience to highlight and promote the need. Putting a spotlight on support and action to reach those who are enslaved and feel hopeless. Below, you can see a video that I did to share some of what I had learned and what we can do to make a difference (the email address at the end is no longer valid).
Social Justice is at the Heart of the Father
As followers of Christ, who are seeking to pursue our purpose daily, we find that what is at the core of the Father's heart becomes the core of our heart...it is a process, and we must be willing to let Him do the work of transforming our hearts and shaping them to look like the heart of Christ.
This past year (2020) has been a challenging year...a worldwide pandemic, social isolation, fear of health crises, racial tension, political unrest, public vitriol and division. There is no shortage of needs when it comes to caring for the hurting, advocating for the oppressed and disenfranchised, and speaking against injustice. These needs are as old as humanity and they have always been at the heart of God's plan for all people. His heart and mission is the redemption of all, through the message of his gospel.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
A part of this mission to redeem all who will come to Him, is His concern for justice and care for the hurting.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
As people who are seeking to live out our purpose in this life and for our world, that purpose will have at the heart of it, the passion for people to know the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and for them to experience the love of a God who knows where they are and desires to administer healing and hope to their situation. Let's ask ourselves, how does my purpose incorporate and live out that core mission of the Father?
A Process of Being a Purposeful Change Agent
When it comes to the idea of social justice and caring for, and doing something about, injustices and oppression in our world, I have been thinking through the process that is involved...at least how I am experiencing it. When things came to a head with the death of George Floyd and the focus on many other similar situations...there are many other names I could list, like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery...I began a process to understand, respond and be intentional as a person who wants to live my life with purpose. I will share with you, my process and, perhaps, it will be a catalyst for others to consider the same path of growth and purpose as well. I have developed a graphic that helps to describe this process that I am pursuing. The pyramid suggests two things about the process.
This is foundational to the process. We can't hope to make any real difference, if we don't start here. I realized very quickly as I was pondering the issues of social justice, that I have to look at my own heart and thinking first. I had to face the perspectives, prejudices, blind spots and ways that I had abdicated my responsibility to advocate for change. I needed to listen to those who were suffering. I needed to re-examine what I viewed as normal and consider whether I was seeing through eyes of reality, or through a perspective that was skewed or tainted by years of injustice and was accepted as the way it should be. I needed to be educated and I needed to be honest with myself. This isn't a pleasant process, but it is a necessary one. Frankly, it is one that continues.
This is where interactional change begins to take place. While I was experiencing internal change in the first step, this is where I would begin to make a difference through the relationships of influence that I have. Through conversations with my family members, friends, and people of color, I began to speak words that confronted ingrained racism, made myself vulnerable to listen and learn, and speak some small measure of healing to those who have experienced oppression and prejudice themselves...whether in overt ways, or in their identification with those who were very public victims. Because of the love of God in my life, I want to express that love to others in real and concrete ways. That will continue to be a process.
This is the step where we move into the realm of advocating for change in our culture. Whether it is through social media, public protest, or influencing political leaders, at this step we begin to take measures to speak for those who experience injustice. For instance, in the issue of human trafficking; communicating the need, supporting the organizations that address the need, and partnering with those who are on the forefront of the effort to make change, are all ways that we engage in social advocacy. A life of purpose looks for ways to make a difference through the avenues that we are afforded in our culture.
Frankly, this is the level at which many people may not have the opportunity to effect change in the world. We are not all pastors, politicians or social media influencers. However, if God gives us a platform with a public voice, our purpose calls us to speak the heart of the mission to the world: God wants to redeem every person and He wants that redemption to include the demolition of that which oppresses, kills, marginalizes or discounts the value of even one life...from the womb to the tomb. If God chooses to give you that platform, be a voice of love, truth and healing to a world that uses people as stepping stones for success, wealth and power.
What did the prophet Micah tells us in his message from God?
That is a great description of a person who is pursuing their God-given purpose 365 days a year.
What was an awakening moment for you? What organizations have you partnered with to make a difference in supporting justice and healing? Have you had conversations with people about your response to the needs of those who are voiceless? Share in the comments below...we are excited to hear your thoughts!
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!