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.
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!
Bloom Where You're Planted
In the summer of 2000, my family and I made a trip from middle Tennessee to Los Angeles, crossing the western states by car. It was our first time making this trek and we loved seeing the beauty of the terrain, the mountains, the rock formations and the desert. As we passed through Kingman, Arizona, we approached the stretch of highway that crossed the Mahave Desert. For all of us, this was our first experience being in the desert environment. I remember feeling a little nervous about the drive as we stopped to make sure our fuel tank was full and our water supply was sufficient.
The beauty of the landscape was breathtaking. Even in an area that was so barren and hot (116 degrees F), it was awe-inspiring to see the mountains, cacti, and the colors of the terrain. We stopped at one point to take a break, pulling off into a small town along the way. As we stepped out of the vehicle, the heat and warm breeze felt so different from anything I had ever experienced. As we always say, "It was a dry heat." There was no humidity in the air that made it feel muggy and sticky, as we were accustomed to in the southeastern part of the country. Instead, it was dry and arid. There was almost an eerie feeling of being caught in this oven, where, if your air conditioner failed, you would not survive. These were not necessarily rational thoughts, but felt real just the same. It is hard to imagine that flowers could survive in such harsh conditions. Yet, it is possible...and even natural...for flowering plants to exist there. It is a beautiful illustration of being able to bloom where you are planted. Even the same desert place in different years can produce very different vegetation. When the rainfall varies between 0.2 inches and 4.7 inches, as these two photos show, the same location can look very different (photos from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).
In this week's podcast, Jasman interviews award-winning contemporary gospel artist, Chesternique, about the seasons of life and how God works through them in our journey (take a listen here). As she unfolded her journey that has led her currently to the work and ministry of serving as a social worker, I was struck by her sharing of three things she has learned, that can be summed up as "blooming where you are planted."
Humility - Sprout Before You Can Bloom (Contentment)
Every beautiful rose, or towering oak, starts out as a tiny sprout. Small, easily overlooked, and seemingly insignificant, they break through the soil and poke their heads into the sunshine to start their life of destiny...being the American Beauty or the acorn-producing home of the squirrel family. But, the beginning is a humble one.
Just as Chesternique spoke of the season of being a background singer and what she learned in that experience, in our journey of fulfilling our purpose, we will likely find ourselves in the background at times. We may see that our journey is taking us through a season of serving and wondering, "How does this fulfill the purpose to which God is calling me?" (I wrote about that in a previous post). In those seasons, if we will find contentment in humbly being our best in that role, we will be able to soak in all of the nutrients and resources that will enable us to thrive and bloom when our time comes. These seasons are just as important as the others. We can be just as productive and influential. But, it is all about our attitude and approach to that time in our life. Humility and contentment is the key.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Time is Valuable - Give Yourself Time to Grow (Development)
I remember learning the "Laws of the Harvest" many years ago. They are simple truths that are valuable to learn early on in life. I have found them to be true...both for the positive and negative outcomes they represent. They are:
1. You always reap what you sow.
2. You always reap more than you sow.
3. You always reap later than you sow.
That third law is the hardest. I remember the few times that I attempted my hand at gardening, as a kid. I loved the tilling, preparing and sowing of the seed. Waiting for the harvest was excruciating to me. I guess I was a little impatient. But, when those plants started to break through the soil, or when those plants started to produce blooms that were going to bring fruit, I got excited.
As we pursue our purpose in life, we often expect results and a great harvest right away, not thinking about how much time is involved in growing into that place of abundance. One of the struggles of many newly married couples is the expectation that they should immediately enjoy the lifestyle and amenities that their parents afforded them at home. They forget that it took decades for their parents to be in a position to provide the blessings that they enjoyed while they were at home with them.
Give yourself time...time to grow, time to learn, time to develop into the person God intends for you to be. Waiting doesn't mean being idle, it just means being patient and being willing to work well with all that God has placed within your hands at that moment, making the most of it for His glory. He will take care of the rest.
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Your Gift is Valuable - Value What You Have to Offer (Opportunity)
There are currently approximately 374,000 identified species of plants in the world, with approximately 80% of those being flowering plants. Can you imagine all of the varying flowers that represents? When most of us think about flowers, we have maybe 10-12 variations that come to mind, which we plant in our flower garden or use to adorn our patios and homes. However, if you used all 295,000 flowering plants to decorate your home and garden, you would be overrun with a jungle and no place to sit, eat or sleep! But, think of how beautiful all of those flowers would be. Each one unique, exotic and colorful in its own way.
You are a unique creation of God. He has designed you, gifted and equipped you, with all of the special traits, abilities and characteristics to be the person He has called you to be! That means your gift is valuable...the gift you have to offer and the gift you are to the world...to His kingdom. Don't sell yourself short, or underestimate the person He is making you to be, and the great things He wants to do in and through you for His glory. I've said it before, but it bears repeating...you are a masterpiece. Just as the Stradivarius has the sweetest sound and the most expensive price because of the master who made it, you will exhibit the most beautiful life with the highest value because of the Master who has made you and who has called you to a special role in His plan...a plan to bring eternal life to the world. Whatever your gift...whatever your role...it is valuable, and God wants to use it in amazing ways.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
So, there you have it...bloom where you're planted...whether you are just sprouting, in the growing season, or filling out your life with beautiful flowers for all to enjoy. It is all a fragrant aroma to the Father who has planted you and continues to nourish your growth for the harvest that He has ordained. Bloom beautifully, my friends! Your beauty is needed in our world!
Check out the biography and music of this week's podcast guest, Chesternique at her website: www.chesterniquemusic.com.
In what stage of growth do you find yourself? There are cycles of seasons, so you may have been in full bloom, and now find yourself back at the sprouting stage. How are you handling the transitions and the process? Let's share in the comments below and get the conversation going! Please comment and share, if you find our content inspiring.
God, Let Me Help You Out!
It was September 18, 2010. My wife and I had traveled from our home in central Arkansas to middle Tennessee, for a weekend of ministry. We had been invited back to the congregation we had served for 10 years, as they were dedicating a new facility to serve their community. As I prepared the message I would share that Sunday morning, I had no idea how the truth God showed me would be a test of my own trust in His sovereignty.
The dedication message on that Sunday would come from Joshua 4:1-11. It was a challenge and encouragement to stack the stones of life that represent how God has worked in us, so that they offer a memorial/testimony of praise to His glory. I encouraged the people to glorify God because He is faithful, honor Him as the Great Provider, and to glorify Him for the sake of future generations.
...“Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
God has a knack of bringing the truth of His Word into the reality of our daily lives in ways we might not expect. Saturday night, prior to my sermon presentation, the process began to do just that. I would have the opportunity to have my trust in God's sovereignty tested and tried and proven. That evening I received a call from a pastor of one or our churches in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. As the call unfolded, I learned of the tragic accident that resulted in the death of one of their high school students in the church and school. The loss of this young man was having a ripple effect among the students and the community. They needed someone to come and provide crisis/grief counseling to their students and families. He asked if I would come and help.
Take Charge and Get Things Planned
Time was of the essence. The students, staff and families needed support and counseling as soon as possible. There was no time to waste, so we went to work trying to plan the logistics of getting me to St. Croix and getting my wife back home. I had to re-pack and arrange my flight out of Little Rock, once I returned home on Monday. It was a 7-hour drive back to our home, the best I could do was to arrive on the island on late Tuesday evening. This was at least 24 hours too long. But, what could we do? How could we make it work? We were working as hard as we could to come up with a plan. Nothing seemed to work to make the timetable meet the need. Our best efforts were coming up short.
Life is like that sometimes...we think we have it figured out, or we give our best effort to make things work out as needed. Our best efforts sometimes fall short. But, when we trust God's sovereignty, things come together in ways we can't imagine. That's because He isn't limited by the same things that limit us.
God Already Has It Worked Out
As we were developing the plan, it was in a conversation with the travel agent with whom we were working that it suddenly occurred to us...we were thinking about this all wrong. The agent pointed out to us that we were already in an ideal location to make the timetable work perfectly. Flying out of Nashville provided a flight schedule that was perfect for our needs. So, I booked my flight for 6:00 am on Monday morning, heading to St. Croix. My wife booked her flight to Little Rock for 6:30 am. Our vehicle was left at the airport for me to drive home upon my return. Friends picked her up at the airport to get her home. I was on the ground on Monday afternoon in St. Croix, at 2:45 pm...over 24 hours earlier than we could have made possible with our original plans. What about my clothes (I had only packed for a two-day trip)? The ministry in St. Croix purchased clothes for me to wear during the week I was there. You see, God already had me in the ideal location at the ideal time to make it possible to go and minister to the needs of hurting people. God's sovereignty is perfect as He goes before us to prepare the way...His faithfulness is sure, His provision is enough and His timing is perfect.
Does God Need Our Help?
I was reminded that week, that God is always at work to accomplish His plan. He isn't surprised by the unexpected circumstances of our lives. I've found that there is tremendous comfort in the reality that God is already present in the moments we have yet to experience. He is already there to be present with us when we arrive. That means He already has it under control. He is already there with the resources we need to be sustained and equipped for the moment.
The next time we face those unexpected challenges...the struggles or opportunities that life presents...let's lean into His sovereignty and trust His goodness. He doesn't need us to help Him out. He just wants us to look for His hand at work...and find peace. That is how we know we are living a life of purpose.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
How have you experienced the sovereign hand of God...working in your circumstances? Are you in a place right now that you need to trust the guidance of God's Spirit? Share your thoughts and experiences to encourage or be encouraged. We would appreciate if you would like and share the post as well.
What do you get when you cross a cognitive psychologist, a neuroscientist, saxophone player and record producer? You get Daniel Levitin, a American-Canadian university Dean of Social Sciences and Professor Emeritus. Levitin has written extensively on the impact and integral thread of music in our lives. In an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, he talks about how he fed over 500 musical scores into a computer and discovered that musical compositions that spanned centuries actually reflect a rhythm we find in nature. He says, "You can see it in a snowflake or the leaf of a fern, where the smallest part of an object repeats itself over and over again to create the whole. Scientists call these patterns fractals, and that kind of pattern is buried in the music's rhythms, whether it's Bach or Chopin."
Think about it. Rhythms are so imbedded in our experience that we may not give it a lot of thought at first glance. However, consider how rhythms permeate our daily lives. There is the cardiogram that assesses the rhythm of our hearts. Biological rhythms manage and coordinate the functions of our bodies (Circadian Rhythm and REM cycles of sleep), the behavior of animals (bird migration, salmon spawning), and marine life that reacts to the lunar tidal cycles of the oceans.
We also have the seasonal rhythm of our year. For those of us in the mid-latitudes of the earth, we experience four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Those who are in areas closer to the equator, experience less variation and have the rainy season and dry season. The latitudes near the poles, generally have colder, less variable seasons that are more discernable by the amount of daylight and darkness they have. Regardless, however, of where you live on the globe, you can see a rhythm of the seasons that creates a predictable cycle...therefore, a sense of cohesion and continuity.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
God inspired King Solomon to write about the seasons of life when he stated, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." He goes on to talk about all the varying "seasons" that we experience in life. While he lists a vast array of "opposites" in our life experiences, the purpose is simply to teach us that things change in various seasons of our lives and to assure us that it is natural. Whatever those varying seasons, God remains the constant through them all. That gives us peace. When we see that creation is replete with the rhythms that reflect God's design, that gives us security and a sense of the bigger picture of His Plan. That is the perfect context in which to pursue our purpose...fitting into God's big plan and depending upon His faithfulness.
Reflecting the Rhythms in Our Daily Lives
God has designed rhythms into His creation. Doesn't it make sense that developing rhythms in our daily lives, reflecting the rhythms in creation, would create a sense of cohesion and security? The more in touch with God's plan that we are, the more potential we have for understanding how to live out our purpose.
Life feels more balanced when we develop rhythms that support our wellbeing. God's rhythms in creation make things operate in concert. When something gets out of sync, the operation of the system is thrown off. We all know when our life gets out of sync. It shows up in a lack of peace, feeling incompetent in fulfilling our purpose and experiencing dissatisfaction in general. On the other hand, living our purpose is enhanced as we develop certain rhythms, because a balanced life is an effective life.
Worship is the act of giving ourselves to the One who has redeemed us through his gift of love, and Who's Spirit lives in us and draws us into relationship with Him. We thrive as we develop a rhythm of daily personal worship and weekly corporate worship. In doing so, we maintain our relationship and intimacy with our heavenly Father through His Son...we commune in the quiet place that we set aside for that connection. Through praise and prayer, we practice the presence of our God. Starting the day with Him, seeking Him throughout the day and ending the day with Him creates a rhythm that keeps us connected to the One who loves us radically.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
Reading after others, studying in groups, taking courses, whatever fits your lifestyle and circumstance, incorporate growth rhythms in your life. In our information-saturated age, take advantage of the myriad options to read, learn and grow. Do it regularly.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path...I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
Psalm 119:105, 147-148
H - hungry
A - angry
L - lonely
T - tired
All of these signs of vulnerability to temptation are addressed through self care. Whether it is the rhythm of getting enough rest daily, or taking a break to rejuvenate weekly, or a "sabbatical" of vacation annually (or semi-annually), rest and recharging is essential to healthy living, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Give yourself permission to rest! Don't buy into the lie that the successful and fruitful life is the one that is lived non-stop. If you crash from fatigue or from a failure in sin, your ability to live your purpose will be limited or damaged.
Take care of yourself...your family will appreciate you, your Father will affirm you, and your future self will thank you.
And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the LORD, who had set them apart to be holy.
And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
What are the rhythms you have developed in your life? How have rhythms of worship, growth or self care made a difference in your life? What rhythms do you want to create? Share your thoughts in the comments...our community is eager to engage!
Never Too Broken
A man and his wife, from Holland, sat down in the workshop of skilled craftsmen to share their story. The place was filled with the tools that fit the skilled hands of women and men who have spent decades studying and refining their craft. The couple opened a small box and carefully unveiled a gold pocket watch. The timepiece showed the age it carried and reflected the story they unfolded for the interested clock maker and his associate. The watch was discolored by years of grime, the second hand and crystal were missing, but there, in the fob on the end of the watch chain, was the picture of the grandmother, holding guard over the treasured keepsake. The Hollander told the story of the grandmother from Indonesia who had been taken from her home and family, during World War II, and imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. Having been taken quickly from her home, she grabbed the only thing she could that would represent the connection to her family, uncertain what the future would hold. Taking the watch, she sewed it into the hem of her dress, where it remained, undetected, for four years until her release after the war ended. She then passed it down to her son, who had left it to his son, as the only family heirloom that connected them to their family history. The grandson left this precious piece in the capable hands of the craftsman to do his magic.
In the following days, the expert clock maker and another craftswoman who restores clock faces, meticulously, and with care, brought the watch back to life. They restored it to working condition with cleaning and repair that was just enough to give it the life it once had, while preserving the integrity of its history and age. When the day came for the reveal, the grandson, his wife, and his mother, were moved to see the watch once again working...as if each tic of the second hand represented the heartbeat of the grandmother who had survived such tragedy and miraculously preserved this artifact that would connect her generation to the many to come. (You can see this story on the BBC program, The Repair Shop.)
This BBC program is a new discovery for me, but I'm intrigued by it. Taking something that is old, broken and no longer useful in the eyes of the average person, and turning it into something of restored beauty or usefulness, is a joy to watch! I wish that I had been a master craftsman. To have studied a craft for decades, honing my skills and developing myself as an expert who has the ability to bring items "back to life;" to be able to restore things to their former beauty, to be able to bring joy to someone when they see the history come to life in that heirloom that connects them to their own history; that would be such a satisfying process.
God Restores Broken People
Watches and antiques aren't the only things that deserve to be restored. Something is of value when it is desired enough that someone takes care of it, cherishing and utilizing it in their life. Sometimes we may get or send the wrong idea in our realization that without Jesus, we are nothing...we can do nothing. We acknowledge that He is everything that we need...He takes us from the realm of death and hopelessness, to life and eternal hope. However, that does not mean that before we come to Jesus, we are worthless or not of value. The opposite is actually true! Consider what gives us value:
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
God Uses Broken People
Somehow, there can be this image in the church world that a person has to be perfect before God can use them...that we have to have it all together or God has no use for us. While I'm not suggesting that we give ourselves a pass for sin, I am declaring that being sinless, free of hang-ups or struggles, is not the prerequisite of being useful in the hands of God. The fact is, that the Bible is full of examples of how God uses imperfect and broken people. For example...
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God...
1 Corinthians 3:3-5
Spend Time in the Master's Workshop
The watch that spent four years in the hem of a prisoner's dress had to undergo a transformation to be restored to its usefulness and beauty, and to fulfill its purpose to connect the generations of a family. This transformation required extended time in the workshop of very skilled craftsmen. They painstakingly worked to carefully bring the watch to life...giving joy to those who were connected to it.
The Father has a workshop where he does His masterwork in each of us. He is working to make us that masterpiece that brings glory to His name. We are freed to fulfill our purpose and to see Him work through us to accomplish the things he has planned for us in this world! How does He accomplish this? Again, Paige gives us some insight...
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
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!
No More Auto-Pilot
It was a near miss! A sunny summer afternoon on I-40, my family and I were heading east on vacation. My wife and daughter were whiling away the time, napping, as the radio played softly and I was clicking off the miles toward our destination. Not realizing it, I had succumbed to what has been called highway hypnosis. Also called "white line fever," it is the mental state in which a driver can operate a vehicle for extended distances, responding to external events in the normal, safe and expected manner, without having recollection of doing so. Perhaps you have experienced this...you're driving along on the interstate and suddenly you realize, "I can't remember anything about the last 30 miles I've driven." It's a little unnerving when you recognize it. Most of the time, things are okay, and we don't experience this state for long. On this particular day, however, it didn't take long for the situation to turn critical in a matter or seconds. As I crested a rise in the highway, I suddenly saw the rear of a travel trailer at what appeared to be a dead stop, directly in my lane. Without thought, as a spontaneous response, I swerved the vehicle into an adjacent lane to avoid a collision. Thankfully, there were no other vehicles in the lane beside us, and we avoided a very critical situation. God's angels of protection were on their toes that day!
This is an example of how operating on "auto-pilot" can be a dangerous thing to do. While airliners rely on computer assisted navigation every day with high levels of safety, and we now have self-driving and self-parking cars that amaze us, living our lives on auto-pilot is not the best way to go! At best, it can lead us to undesired circumstances. At worst, it can lead to a crisis. Think about it, regardless of the good that auto-pilot, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence serve, they are limited in their usefulness. At some point, a human must intervene. Otherwise, there is going to be a crash!
In life, it is easy to live on auto-pilot. We've probably all been there. At some point, we look back and ask ourselves, "Where did that time go?" We wonder what happened to all that time...with our education, career, leisure time, family? We can sometimes live life with "highway hypnosis."
Turning off the Auto-Pilot
In contrast, the person who is living a life of purpose, recognizes that we do so by choosing to live life with intentionality. Simply put, the "why" that we are discovering, is informing the "what" of our daily lives so that there is meaning for all that we do. It's almost like a roadmap that helps us navigate our journey...remember the days when we used those? Roadmaps? That was before GPS and smart phone navigation apps. We had to plan out a trip by reading a roadmap and determining the best route to take to our destination. Sometimes, there would be an obstacle or situation that required us to re-route our journey in order to make the best possible time, or avoid unnecessary delays or, even worse, getting lost! Of course that never happened to me. *wink.
When we speak of living with intentionality, we aren't referring to time management. Though that is a worthwhile topic to consider, that is a discussion for another day. Intentionality actually comes out of the uniqueness of our Creator and our design as His creation.
Our Creator is the most intentional being in existence. Think about it, the Scripture tells us that, even before time began, He had a plan that would transcend time (1 Peter 1:10-21), and that plan was blowing the minds of His angelic host (1 Peter 1:12). Consider, for a moment, just a few examples of the intentionality of God:
Intentional in his Creation
So God created man
in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female.
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth. Genesis 1:27-28
Intentional in His Plans
For I know the plans I have for you" --this is the Lord's declaration-- "plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Intentional in His Timing
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Galatians 4:4
Intentional in His Sacrificial Gift
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. 1 John 4:9-10
Like Father; Like Child
We are unique, in that, we are created in the image of God. No other member of God's creation can claim that distinction. He invites us into relationship with himself, through his Son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, out of that relationship, comes our opportunity to live with intentionality like our Creator. Intentionality is essential to the understanding and pursuit of our purpose. The greatest expression of ourselves and, in turn, expression of God's glory, is to reflect the Father's intentionality. It brings us fulfillment, peace, joy and, most of all, brings the presence of God to a world that desperately needs Him. I love what the Apostle Peter wrote:
Since we are approaching the end of all things, be intentional, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer. 1 Peter 4:7
He places an urgency on our calling to be intentional and purposeful. It seems to say that we don't have time to waste. We can't afford to live on auto-pilot...risking white line fever. The time is now...to care about how we live, to prayerfully pursue our purpose and to make a difference in the lives of others. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 4:15-17
In other words...
It matters that you choose to live your life intentionally.
Make the most of your time.
Make an impact on others as a result.
We always ask, what does it mean for me? What does it mean to live my life with intentionality? The answer to that question is as unique as you are. But there are three things that will help you figure it out.
Think Intentionally - develop the mindset that daily values and seeks to know why you are here on this earth.
Plan Intentionally - make your plans in the context of understanding your purpose and filtering them through the truth of God's Word and the leadership of His Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Act Intentionally - Ask yourself, "Is what I am doing, fulfilling God's purpose in me?" (Micah 6:8)
What is one thing you will do intentionally this week to pursue your purpose and make a difference in our world?
More Than a Self-Help Strategy
With a visit to your local bookstore (if you can find one), you will quickly find that there are shelves loaded with what will likely be labeled as "Self-Help" books. From the latest in weight-loss solutions, mindfulness, and positive thinking, to strategies for organizing your home, being more productive and making a fortune.
We often peruse these titles, looking for a way to improve our lives...lose weight, gain skills, or sharpen our business acumen...desiring to become the best version of ourselves. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don't. Some of the advice we find in these books is beneficial and may lead us to greater understanding and strategies to make definite improvements. However, some of them will lead us to a self-absorbed focus on the things that only end in emptiness and disappointment.
Purposed 365 is more than a self-help strategy. It goes beyond the idea of becoming the best version of ourselves. P365 is about each of us understanding our reason for being...answering the question of why I exist. While it is true that understanding our purpose will make it possible for us to be the best version of ourselves, it goes so much further than that. Living a purposed life makes it possible for us to be keenly aware of how we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves...something that makes an eternal difference in the world in which we live and the people with whom we interact. No matter what journey we are on, what career path we traverse, or what stage of life we are in, when we understand our purpose lived out in those unique and personal avenues of our lives, we become partners with the God who created all things and wants to bring life, peace and fulfillment to each of us. That is why we believe the things we write about and talk about here in the P365 community are of the greatest importance...that's why we are excited to invite you to join us in this pursuit.
Where Does it Begin...This Pursuit of Purpose?
Understanding and pursuing our purpose is not just a decision to turn over a new leaf or set a few new year's resolutions. It begins with transformation and renewal. When we come to understand our need to be connected to our Creator and receive his life and peace through His Son, Jesus Christ, we undergo a transformation as a follower of Christ. That means that our thinking begins to change and our perspective on the world morphs. As we are reminded in the letter to the disciples at Corinth...
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
This new perspective begins the process of discovering our purpose and the call to live it out in the daily functions of life. Our relationships, our careers, our ambitions, and our choices become intertwined in this greater purpose of making a difference in the world in which we live. We become representatives of the very One who has designed us uniquely and planned ways for us to uniquely impact our world and the people who inhabit this planet. The Apostle Paul continued in the passage from which I quoted above...
Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ... (2 Corinthians 5:18-20a)
Now, before you run the other way, thinking, "I'm not a preacher!"...or, "That's too much responsibility for me!"...let me assure you that these words are not just for career ministers and pastors. Just remember, anything God has called us to do, He will equip us to complete. The exciting thing is, when we begin our journey of faith and the life of a follower of Christ, we get to be representatives of Him to our world. Being His ambassador is at the center of living out our purpose, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.
What Does that Mean for You?
Whether you are a long-time follower of Christ, or you are just stepping into this journey of faith, your renewal makes it possible to see your life through the lens of purpose. I like what a pastor said about the Scripture passage I referenced above...one way to live our purpose as an ambassador for Christ is to "be a loving friend, who is available to others." No matter what your current situation, career, or life stage, you get to live your purpose as an ambassador of Christ, being the unique individual God has created you to be, living the best version of yourself. There is nothing more fulfilling and more impactful than that!
Where are you on this journey of faith...seeking, learning, serving? What is one thing you've come to view differently as a result of becoming a new creation? How are you, or how could you, be a loving and available friend to someone today? Share with us in the comments and let's 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!