Sometimes, life gets in the way...it comes at us with a wind of force, and the unexpected change of winds require that we change course and tack into the headwind to push through. That reality for me last fall, required that I step away from writing this blog or a while. As we begin a new season of the Purposed 365 Podcast, it is also the right time to resume the blogging as well. Thank you for coming back...join me as I resume this series I intended to write throughout last fall. For a fresh start, I am reposting the initial installment so that we can begin from the beginning. Please read on...
If you know, you know...that's real. In that moment...with that image, or that situation, or that result...in that moment, you realize something that only someone in your shoes could appreciate. Only that person who gets it will know exactly what you are talking about. IYKYK!
It's almost like Deja vu...you come to that moment of familiarity, but newness, all at the same time. It dawns on you and you realize that this journey you're on is in the hands of a God who understands and knows you better than you know yourself.
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.
My first time at a Disney theme park was in the summer of 1973. My family took a vacation to the Florida resort that summer. It was so exciting, as we rode the monorail from the parking area to the main entrance, the recorded voice welcoming us to the park and giving instructions. As our train passed through the lobby of the Contemporary Resort Hotel, I was in awe of all that I was experiencing...and I wasn't even inside the theme park yet!
On that trip, and a subsequent one years later, we enjoyed experiences there that were mesmerizing to me as a kid, and even intriguing as an adult. Experiences like Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Star Tours, were amazing. It truly does feel like a magical place.
Last Sunday, as my wife and I were returning home from church and having lunch with friends, I did something I seldom do on a Sunday afternoon. I set my GPS to lead us home. We were on the east side the city, and we live on the northwest side. Sometimes interstates can get backed up on Sundays, with summer travelers either heading out for their week of vacation, or going back home. So, I thought Siri would make sure I detoured any standstill traffic and get us home more quickly. About an hour and fifteen minutes later, we were finally arriving at our front door...a trip that typically takes about thirty minutes. The kicker was, there were no traffic jams or heavy-traffic slow-downs. Apparently, I had accidentally set the maps app to avoid highways. I think we explored every back road and country avenue there was between Old Hickory and Ashland City. We saw countryside we had never seen before. What should have been about a thirty-minute trip, ended up being 1 1/2 times longer. A GPS navigation device can be a helpful tool...as a matter of fact, I have become accustomed to using them extensively in my day-to-day work as well as any road trip we take. I follow the directions without much thought, unlike the days when I had to read a paper roadmap. As you can see, sometimes that can be a problem. As a matter of fact, it could be dangerous, if one doesn't remain alert. On at least two occasions, while traveling, I have had the GPS navigation device tell me to go the wrong way on a one-way street. As much as we rely upon navigation technology, we need to be intentional and alert in order to stay on the right path...the one that gets us to where we need to be.
A few years ago, I was taking a long run through the little Arkansas town in which we lived. I was running a route through a neighborhood I had passed through many times on my runs. On this particular day, as I listened to my running playlist on my earbuds, pacing my breathing with each stride, I was enjoying the beautiful weather of the day, the sunshine and the light breeze that was blowing. Just as I passed behind Sequoyah Elementary School, at the intersection of Sequoyah Way and Neptune Drive, I was suddenly inundated with a childhood memory and emotion. It wasn't something I saw or a sound that I heard. I wasn't reminiscing about days gone by. This sudden experience of nostalgia, memory and emotion, came as the result of a smell...yes...a simple odor. That gentle breeze wafted across my path, brining with it the smell of the pine thicket bordering the street. I immediately looked to my right, seeing the pine trees, with the ground covered by a brown carpet of fallen pine needles. In this moment, I was taken back to my elementary school days on the playground behind King Springs Elementary School, in my hometown. I remembered the pine thicket that was a part of that playground and, upon which I had spent many hours playing with my classmates during our daily recess. It was a powerful moment as that smell triggered such vivid memories and happy emotions about those childhood experiences.
The Power of Olfactory Memory
Olfactory memory is memory that is triggered by smells from past experiences. It is said to be one of the most powerful of memory triggers. The reason is easy to explain. In the brain, the senses of sight, sound, and taste go to the thalamus, which is the relay center of the brain. The thalamus sends these messages to the various centers of the brain, including the amygdala (responsible for processing emotion) and the hippocampus (responsible for memory). However, when we experience the sense of smell, the signal bypasses the thalamus and goes to the olfactory bulb, which is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus. There is no slow down or filtering by the thalamus. This explains why smells can trigger very strong memories and associated emotions. This is why certain aromas at Christmas are so meaningful to us due to being connected with pleasant experiences of our childhood, or, why a widow may sleep with the shirt of her late husband for months after his passing, or a mother becomes nostalgic and wistful when she smells the familiar fragrance of the baby lotion she used when her child was an infant. Olfactory memory is a powerful influence.
The Power of Christ-like Fragrances
It is no coincident that this is the very imagery that God inspired the Apostle Paul to write about as he described our lives as followers of Christ in the letter to the Corinthian church.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
Have you ever considered yourself a perfume? A fragrant aroma? As a follower of Christ, that is exactly what you are...or should be. Think about the significance of these words that describe us as a "Christ-like fragrance."
Our Purpose and Influence for the Gospel
On this week's Purposed365 Podcast, Jasman Rolle interviews musician, community youth worker and entrepreneur, Ronald Morrell, Jr. (listen here). Morrell shares about his journey of ministry and purpose through music, church, working with youth and starting and growing a business. He touches on...
The question we need to ask ourselves is..."How do I smell?" We can do a lot to try to smell good...put on lots of cologne, make sure we use deodorant, or just stand downwind from others (haha). However, those efforts only cover up the real odor, or try to redirect it. If we are living in purpose that is centered upon a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ...our Redeemer and King...His Spirit within us will produce an aroma that is pleasing to the Father and will waft over those around us. That aroma will trigger a response that can open the door to their entry into eternal life...making you a fragrant reminder.
You Had to Be There
It was our first time in Arizona. My family and I had stayed in Flagstaff the previous night and arose bright and early that morning for the next leg in our journey. We had packed up the Aerostar and set out across the country, on a journey of discovery and fun. Our daughter was 11 years old and my mom and stepfather traveled with us as well. We can recount many memories from that trip in 2000...laughs we had, funny things we teased one another about, seeing landscapes that we had never seen before. The beauty of New Mexico was amazing. The heat and barrenness of the Mojave Desert were awe-inspiring. We have talked of this trip many times over the intervening years with fond memories and laughter. This particular day, however, stands out in my mind with special significance.
Having left I-40, we were making our way up highway 64 toward our destination. We passed through the little town of Tusayan. By area, it is the smallest town in the state of Arizona, with only 144 acres, or .225 square miles. The town boasts a population, according to the 2010 census (when it was incorporated), of 562. I mention this little town because it stands in stark contrast to the destination to which we were traveling.
As we rolled into the national park, the foliage and terrain of the area were unique in this high desert Kaibab Plateau. Our anticipation of our destination made our hearts beat a little faster in our chests and we searched for glimpses. Traveling along a park road, we caught a slight glimpse, but the full view of this, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, would elude us until we had disembarked from our vehicle and walked the trail among the trees.
Then it appeared. As we approached the rim of the canyon, the immensity of this vast river gorge overwhelmed me. My emotions caught in my throat and my eyes scanned the view to try to take it all in. Frankly, it was difficult to fully grasp what I was seeing. The Grand Canyon is grand indeed. That day, as we walked along the rim, stepped out onto an observation point with a clear floor, looked into the vast 6,000+ feet drop from rim to floor, I immediately thought of the greatness of the God who created the earth. We drove to the east, around the rim of the canyon, until we came to a place where there was an observation tower. From that vantage point, we watched a thunderstorm, lightning and all, make its way across the canyon in the distance. It was truly an awesome sight to see. No words can do justice to what I experienced. You had to be there...I was...and I worshiped.
Have you ever been in that kind of situation...an experience that was so moving and impactful in your life, but, as you tried to describe it to others, you were at a loss for words? You have probably said, "You just had to be there." I think I've had several of those experiences over the years. I've found myself in experiences that have moved me to turn my eyes to the God of the universe and...worship.
What do you think of when you hear the word, "Worship?" For many, it may bring images of Sunday gatherings at church, singing in a congregation, or maybe rituals that are meaningful in turning our hearts toward God. I would challenge you to consider a much broader and, frankly, more biblical view of worship. The Scriptures teach us that worship begins with a presentation of ourselves to God in service...a daily abandonment of our will to His and a seeking of His will in each of the moments of our day. The words of Romans 12:1-2 put it succinctly..
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
So...we are taught that the true way of worship is to give ourselves as an offering to God...daily. As we do so, our "living sacrifice," made holy by the blood and sacrifice of Christ, is received by the Father as worship...the kind that really matters. It matters because it leads us into the process of transformation...in our actions and our thinking. It opens our hearts and minds to know and follow the perfect will of God...that which is good and pleasing to Him. In turn, we explore the journey of His purpose in our lives and that brings great joy to us. I know because I've been there, and I've worshiped.
So, the next time you find yourself in a place that captures your attention...something about God's creation, a critical turn in life's road, or maybe just a conversation with a friend over coffee...abandon yourself to God in that moment, worship Him, allow Him to work in you and through you to fulfill His "good and pleasing and perfect" purpose. You will be there...and you will worship.
“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Have you experienced one of those "You had to be there" moments? Where was it? How did God speak or impact you? What did you learn about Him, and about yourself? Comment about your experiences. Like and share as well to get a conversation going.
Great is Thy Faithfulness
This morning, my wife, Cindy, and I were sitting on our patio, enjoying the morning breeze and a few minutes together before starting our day. As we sat there, I read aloud, the first chapter of a new book written by our Teaching Pastor, Robert J. Morgan, entitled The Jordan River Rules. We bought the book in order to read it together as a part of our devotional time. The subtitle of the book is, "10 God-Given Strategies for Moving Forward." The first chapter begins to unfold Rule #1: Realize God Means for You to Move Forward. As I read this section of the book, it quickly became apparent to us that we had lived out exactly that, about which Rob was writing. As he discloses his transitions of life and the challenges they have presented for him, upon finishing the read, we too, began to list the changes and challenges we have experienced as a couple, over the past three years.
To say the least, these fifteen changes that took place over the period of three years were extremely impactful. Every one of them, most of which were challenging, and some which had the potential to destroy life as we knew it, included the most difficult things Cindy and I would ever face. The words of God, spoken to Joshua, remind us that these challenges and changes, while difficult and potentially devastating, were opportunities for us to experience the leadership and powerful grace of our Lord.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Pastor Morgan instructs us that God leads us in stages, in steps and in person. Cindy and I certain have experienced that truth over these past few years. Frankly, we've seen it over the course of our lives, but most intensely in this small sub-section of our journey together. He led us into the stage of relocation and new connection with a community of faith. He led us step-by-step, as we placed all of our trust in His faithful guidance and provision through very uncertain times. He led us in person, as we worshipped and spent time before him in prayer and spiritual communion. The bottom line...He was faithful...and continues to be. Like his words to Joshua, He promised, "...I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." God is faithful. When you face the most difficult and potentially devastating moments of your life, God is there in the midst of it, and He has promised to lead you into the next season...He will never forsake you.
We laid everything in God's hands. We abandoned our solutions and our expectations and learned to trust God on a level we had never done so before. When you have everything you've come to lean upon and expect as the norm, taken away from you, the realization becomes clear that God is the only faithful rock upon which you can depend. In those early weeks of the "new norm," Cindy and I adopted the hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" as our theme. We determined that we would start each day in prayer, even before rising from our bed, and we would sing that hymn together, tears filling our eyes. It wasn't just empty words...it was the truth we were living each day. We were trusting the One who was faithful to meet our every need and lead us to the next step in His plan. Were we in this situation because my own making? Yes. But that didn't stop God from having a plan for us, despite that reality. All we had to do was trust Him and let Him take the lead. He was faithful and He remains so unto this day.
The closing paragraph in that section of Rob Morgan's book says it well:
Prepare for what God is preparing for you. Your next stage in life is God-planned. The One who knows the way through the wilderness also knows the way into the Promised Land.
How has God shown His faithfulness to you? What wilderness has He led you through? Maybe you find yourself in a valley now and need to trust the faithfulness of the Savior. Comment your experiences and even ask for prayer, if needed. Share the post as well, to encourage others to join the conversation.
Two of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever visited, as an American, were thousands of miles apart, but their impact comes from the same source. Those two locations were Arlington National Cemetery and Normandy American Cemetery.
I remember my first visit to Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, DC. Observing the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier was a moving experience. The solemn silence of that ceremony, with the precision performance of the guards, punctuate the purpose of the place...to honor all of those who have fallen in battle, who's bodies are lost or who were unable to be identified. Taking that into consideration, as I stood and gazed across the rolling hills lined with more than 14,000 white grave markers, I was struck by the reality of the sacrifice and investment made by millions of people over the history of our nation.
Fast-forward two decades and 3,749 miles, I find myself standing on the grounds of the Normandy American Cemetery. There, as in Arlington, I saw the perfect lines of white makers, identifying the graves of over 9,000 troops who died in Europe during World War II. These were individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice to insure freedom for millions who were being persecuted, oppressed and murdered by the advancement of tyranny and dictatorial evil intent on taking over the world. As I stood that day, looking out over Omaha Beach, where allied troops landed to make headway in driving back the advancement of tyranny, a Frenchman stood next to me. Knowing that I am an American, he looked at me and said, "Thank you for what your country did here for the people of France."
On this Memorial Day, we must continue to be reminded of the value of those who have served our nation well as members of the armed forces. Most importantly, we remember the great price paid by many who have given the most...by giving their lives. Their sacrifice has helped to preserve freedom for Americans and others around the world. When we stand in places like Arlington National Cemetery, there is a sense that those who have sacrificed for our freedom, stand in the stadium of the heavens looking on, cheering us on, to continue to fight for liberty and defend against the evils of those who are intent upon destroying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all in this world who cherish freedom.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
The writer of the book of Hebrews also spoke of a "stadium" of onlookers who cheer for those who are in the fray of the daily pursuit of our life of faith. In this visual that the Hebrews writer gives us, the context is that of an athletic race of endurance. This race of the life of faith is from salvation to our eternal destination. As we run this race, were are being cheered on by this huge crowd of witnesses who have gone before us...they have completed the race. Now, they cheer for us to complete it as well.
Others Have Pioneered the Way
One of the things that Memorial Day does for Americans is to remind us that others have paved the way for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. In some ways, we realize that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This inspires us to continue to stand strong for freedom and strength as a nation. In the visual of Hebrews 12, the same thing is provided. We are reminded that we have this legacy of faith because many have gone before us to lay the foundation. We are inspired to follow in their path of the race that has been laid out before us. They surround us. They encourage us with their faithful race. They remind us that we do not run in vain. Our hearts are inspired. Our faith in spurred on to strengthen our race.
They Remind Us What is Required
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4). Those who serve our nation in the military, do so with a commitment and lifestyle that sacrifices the things that civilians take for granted. They volunteer to place themselves under the direction of a commander who expects their complete loyalty to the cause...to the mission to which they have been assigned. In this race of faith...this warfare that we fight...the cloud of witnesses reminds us that we are called to make the choices to live a disciplined and dedicated life of faith.
So, let's stick with one metaphor here. The Hebrews passage is using the metaphor of running a race. He tells us that there are two things we must do in order to run this race well...running with endurance. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5). Let's consider the "rules" given here in Hebrews 12:
1. Lay aside every weight
No runner, wanting to finish the race of endurance well, wants to carry extra weight. Rather, a runner makes sure that they have nothing to hinder their performance. For the follower of Christ, running the race of faith, the same is true. We are encouraged to lay aside anything that will slow us down in our race. The Apostle Paul wrote about this principle, "Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is helpful. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be brought under the control of anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). To run well means that we sometimes we make decisions about what is best, not just what is right. So, think of what areas of life that may hold issues for you here. Are there things that distract you from priorities? Are there activities that prevent you from focusing on what is really important? Are there involvements that become addictive? These aren't sin in themselves, but they are weights that slow you down in running the race well. These are the things that need to be laid aside.
2. Lay aside every sin
This is a little more clear...usually. As a follower of Christ, we accept the Word of God as our guide for faith and life. It is the truth that instructs us concerning right and wrong...the absolutes and the laws that lay out for us how to live a life of holiness that benefits us and fulfills our calling. As Ephesians 4:1 reminds us, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." Through confession and repentance, we can lay aside the sins that, don't just slow us down, but which entangle us...presenting the danger of causing us to fall. We cannot hope to run our race of faith without giving attention to this process. The promise we are given, when we commit ourselves to holiness, is forgiveness. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 1:9-2:1). So, you see, laying aside the sin that entangles us is a matter or confession and the forgiveness of God. It is as simple as that.
We Have the Perfect Champion
This is all about focus. The soldier on the battlefield is attentive to the orders of the commander. The athlete on the field must be focused on the instructions of the coach. In our race of faith, we have the perfect "coach." He has "initiated" and "perfected" our faith. Jesus is not a "religious leader" who just demands and orders his followers to blindly do things that keep them under his control. Instead, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to initiate and complete the faith that we have acquired. Therefore, we can run our race with our eyes fixed upon Him...we listen to His voice...we watch for His hand at work in our lives. It is His work in us, and His power in us, that enables us to finish the race successfully. He is in the place of power and status, at the right hand of the Father. The good news is, we are seated there with Him. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus... (Ephesians 2:4-6). Being seated with Christ at the Father's right hand means we have access to all the power, covering, wisdom, grace and sustenance that we need to run well and to finish well.
What an amazing visual to imagine, that all the saints of the ages past are gathered around us in the heavenly realm, cheering us on to victory as we run our race of faith with endurance. That race is possible because of the One who's Spirit lives in us. We can finish the race well...we can fulfill our purpose for which God designed us. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:8-9). We will not grow weary in living our purpose as long as we allow His Spirit to fill us daily.
Who are the specific people who have gone before you to pave the way of faith? What have you laid aside that has helped you to run more effectively? Comment, like and share this post to get the conversation going!
"Living the dream!" I don't know if I ever heard him say it quite that way, but in every sense of the phrase, that is what Billy and his wife were doing. They were living the dream in the unique way they were meant to do so. But, you may not have recognized it quite that way.
The first time I visited their new home, then still in the final stages of construction, it was a slight challenge to get there. Making my way north on Highway 7, out of Russellville, Arkansas, I eventually made my way onto a gravel road that snaked along the base of a mountain to the right and looked out over a grassy field to the left. It was a sunny summer afternoon and the dust rolled up before me, stirred by the vehicle I was following to show me the way to Billy's home. After a few miles drive on the dusty gravel road, we turned left, down an embankment and into the pasture field that lay between two stretches of the Ozark mountains. We made our way across the field, coming to a creek of considerable size that flowed along at the base of the mountainside. Stopping to survey the terrain and determine how to proceed, I decided that my four-wheel-drive SUV was capable of continuing the trek. Billy and his sons had carefully rearranged and placed river rock in the creek to make for a low water crossing that was sufficient to allow us to ford the creek. Immediately on the other side of the creek bed, a steep pathway had been cleared of trees, brush and obstacles, wide enough for a vehicle to climb up about a hundred feet to the site of the home that he was building.
Yes. You heard that right...Billy was building this home. He designed, plotted and built, with the help of his two adult sons and his wife, this quaint home that was perched there among the trees and overlooking the creek and meadow below. Billy had not only designed and built the home, he had even utilized an old sawmill to cut the lumber from timber harvested from the area. He had determined that the home would be an adaptation of the homes of an earlier era in which oil lamp light and woodburning fires provided light and heat to its inhabitants. The water supply was fed by a spring and a cistern, as such, was used for storage. Plumbing with a gravity system would make possible the modern conveniences of running water in the kitchen and bathroom, complete with shower.
As I emerged from my vehicle, perched on the incline, I saw the cabin that had been erected there on the side of that mountain. It was an impressive site to see and to know that it had been produced by the skill and hard work of this man, his wife and sons. When I would visit them again on later occasions, I saw the beauty that had been integrated into the structure. Things such as an ornate repurposed front entrance door, stained glass and other furnishings and fixtures, added a rustic, yet artistic ambiance. I've always considered Billy somewhat of a rennaisance man of sorts. He is intelligent, a skilled craftsman, musically talented, a writer and an artistic story teller. He is a man of the earth and yet a man who has traveled outside his culture and country. He has served as a pastor, a mail carrier, a musician, teacher and a youth worker. But, no matter what course life has taken him, I would venture to say that he would tell you that he is "living the dream."
Think about your life. "Living the dream" means so many different things to different people. I suppose my point in using that phrase, which is flippantly tossed around tongue-in-cheek, is that there is a life for each of us that is the right fit. There is a pathway and a plan that has purpose and produces good things.
In this installment of the P365 Blog, I have asked travel photographer, Elliott Chau, to share some thoughts about how he has discovered purpose and joy in the unique pathway he has taken. Watch what he has shared with us in the video below. Then, we will wrap it all up on the other side with some closing thoughts.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Elliott challenged us to consider the overall question of the purpose of life...Why am I here? In considering that question, he directed us to the words of Jesus, as he responded to a law expert about the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus, without hesitancy, quoted from the Shema (a portion of Deuteronomy 6 that became a part of the daily prayer of Jews), that stated that loving the "Lord your God" is the first and greatest commandment. He then went on to paraphrase Leviticus 19:18, saying the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." As Elliott explained, and Jesus taught, when we redirect ourselves to that overall purpose of loving God and loving others, "everything else lines up."
Brennan Manning, author or The Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote, "My deepest awareness of myself is that I'm deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I've done nothing to earn it or deserve it." 1 John 4:19 states, "We love because he [God] first loved us" (bracket added). The only way that we can love God and love people, in the powerful way to which we are called, is to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is the God who pursues us...who pursues that relationship with you.
This really is the over-riding determiner of living life to the fullest and with blessing...to live a life of love. Elliott reminded us, just as Jesus taught, loving Him leads us to obey his commands. Obeying His commands, leads us to love Him and others. We can't go wrong with that perspective and pursuit. No matter what direction our unique pathway of life takes...based upon our experiences, opportunities, families, passions and skills...when it is lived within the context of the Great Commandments, it will be lived well...we will be "living the dream." The beauty of that reality is, whether you're a renaissance man living in the Ozark Mountains, or a travel photographer living in the tropical resorts of Bali, God has a plan that is even better than "living the dream."
Elliott Chau is a travel photographer who circles the globe, capturing the beauty of God's creation to share with the world. He lives out his purpose by sharing the love of God with those he meets. Check out his Instagram account here. You can also check out his website at www.lifewithelliott.com.
What does loving God and loving others look like in the purpose you are living? How has the love of God impacted your life and led you to love others? Like, comment and share to get the conversation going.
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!