The Day I Discovered My Purpose in Life

What is the purpose of life? I believe this question is embedded in the heart of every person. We are all asking and answering it, even if we are not aware of doing so.

As I have written before, believing that God created the world and human beings is foundational to finding any real purpose at all. Furthermore, I believe that the God who created us has revealed himself in the Bible. And in the Bible, he has also revealed his purpose for us.

I remember the day I discovered the simple and powerful answer to this universal question. I was in college, sitting in a Sunday School classroom reading the Bible before things got started. In the Bible story I was reading, an expert of the Jewish Law asked Jesus a question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” What an opportunity and what a question! God had given the Jews hundreds of commandments in the Old Testament. Here is Jesus, God in the flesh, and he was asked to boil it all down to the most important commandment of them all! His answer is no less amazing and satisfying. Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, Jesus answered,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:30

This is it. This is what God wants from us. God created us to have a personal, loving relationship with him. I’m not sure if I could have guessed what Jesus was going to say, but when I heard it, it answered the longings of my heart.

As I sat there in that Sunday School classroom as an 19 year old young man reading this passage, my life took a new direction. I had grown up in church and heard the Bible taught my entire life. I had undoubtedly heard these verses before. But that morning I understood them. I realized that I had been striving to “be good” or to “be a good Christian.” I was failing to see that there was something greater than doing the right thing. Jesus severely criticized the Jewish teachers for knowing the Scriptures, keeping the law, and failing to do what God really wanted. They failed to love him.

Hundreds of passages throughout the Bible reveal that God wants us to love him. The whole Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of relationship with God. We see it in God’s relationship with the Patriarchs, God’s covenant with Israel and hatred of idolatry, the sending of his own Son to take our punishment and provide forgiveness, the personal, indwelling presence of God by his Spirit, and the fulfillment of all creation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, uniting Christ and his Bride, the Church.

When we discover that God’s purpose for us to is love him, everything changes. Why we do what we do matters to God. Being good without loving God is empty. Loving God is the real good, without which being good doesn’t even count. And it is in love that we find the joy and satisfaction of life.

Is Your Family Stuck in the Raging River of Busyness?

Sometimes our lives feel like we have been thrown into a rushing river. We are just trying to survive, barely keeping our heads above the water and avoiding the jagged rocks. We have little control over our direction and speed. This is how we feel when we have surrendered to the tyranny of the urgent. We are at the mercy of deadlines, appointments, and activities. We are driven by what the culture says we must do, by what others want us to do and by the gratification of our immediate desires.

But I have had enough of this. I have sputtered and bumped along in these rapids for too long, watching my life whiz by, watching my children grow up. God has given me a call and purpose for my family, and it is not being accomplished in this raging river of busyness!

So I desperately swim for the shore, not even sure I can break through the powerful currents. Drenched, coughing and exhausted, I crawl out onto the bank. And now I am asking myself, “What is this supposed to looks like? How do I build a different life?”

First, I must refocus on my purpose and mission as a follower of Jesus Christ. My purpose and mission is to love God, love people, and make disciples. This is not only the purpose and mission of each of us as believers, but of our families as well.

Next, in order to see what my life is supposed to look like, I reflect on my biblical responsibilities and priorities. I have come up with five areas of responsibility and priority. These are the ways that we can fulfill our purpose and mission in our families.

  1. Relationships

  2. Discipleship

  3. Order and Work

  4. Education

  5. Ministry

Relationships

To be a family is to have relationships. To love others is to relate to them. How am I loving my wife and children? Am I treating them with kindness, patience and selflessness? Am I affirming and accepting them? What kind of relationships am I building with them? Are we making time to talk? Are we spending time together? Strong relationships are the foundation for the next category, discipleship.

Discipleship

To disciple others is to help them love God, love people and make disciples. This must be the ultimate goal of family because it is the ultimate goal of life. How am I helping my family to love God? How am I helping them to love others? How am I equipping them to know their own gifting, calling and personal ministry?

Order and Work

Loving God includes stewardship. All that we have is from God, and our responsibility is to care for what he has given us and use it to bless others. Stewardship requires work: cleaning, organizing and maintaining. Work is our contribution to the family and community and it is how we provide for our basic needs so that we are free to minister to others. A messy, chaotic home is not a place where discipleship, education or ministry can thrive.

Education

Education is the acquisition of knowledge and skill. These are tools for helping us accomplish our God given mission. Facilitating and leading our children in the acquisition of knowledge and skill is part of our responsibility as parents. Am I faithful in educating my children? Am I preparing them for a life of productivity and blessing to others?

Ministry

Ministry is the culmination of all that we have discussed so far. A spouse is a partner in ministry. A family is a ministry team. Are we joining God in his work to build his kingdom? Are our hearts beating with his for the nations? What are we doing as a family to express the love and truth of God to others? How much of our time is spent serving and entertaining ourselves? Are we intentionally giving our money, time  and energy for ministry?

By faith I am rejecting the tyranny of the urgent. I will break the patterns of busyness and reactionism. Instead of focusing on what others expect from me, I will focus on what God desires for me. By faith I am choosing a life of peace and purpose for my family. In order to do this, I will make these five building blocks my priorities: relationships, discipleship, order and work, education  and ministry. It may be a desperate swim to the shore, but God can help me make it. He can give me everything I need to live out his fantastic mission for my family.

God's Mission: To Bless All the Nations of the Earth THROUGH US

There is a strong movement in American Christianity that is self-serving. Many claim to know Christ and maintain serving self as their primary agenda. It is enlightening to observe the way that God establishes a covenant relationship with Abraham. God's covenant with Abraham is fulfilled in us through the New Covenant, and therefore sets the pattern for our covenant relationship with him.

We discover in Genesis 18:16-19 (again) that the purpose of God's covenant with Abraham, and with us through Christ, is to bless all the nations of the earth. Being in covenant with God means we understand and accept this purpose as part of our relationship with God, 

I hope you will receive clarity and passion for God's mission through us by listening to this sermon on Genesis 18:16-19. 

Could You Pray for a Whole Hour?

I am finally reading a book that my mom gave me 15 years ago. Not that I have not tried to read it before, I just never finished it. The book is The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer, written by Dick Eastman in 1978.

Mr. Eastman made a commitment to pray for one hour every day after reading Matthew 26:40-41 [ESV]:

"And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.
And he said to Peter, 'So, could you not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”

I have often come to the realization that prayer is the key to an intimate relationship with Christ, to joining with God in his work in the world, and to unleashing his power in my life. This book has reawakened this understanding and fanned my passion to seek God in diligent prayer. 

He suggests that you can easily pray for one hour by dividing sixty minutes into ten five minute increments devoted to different aspect of prayer. 

This format is not intended to be a strict structure to which we must adhere. It is a beginning point for understanding the various aspects of prayer and committing a particular amount of time for prayer. Many will find that an hour is just not enough!

I have been impressed and challenged by this book. It is simple and well written. It contains many powerful quotes and stories from historic prayer warriors and books on prayer. My understanding of the various parts of prayer has been broadened significantly. 

Family Homeschool Retreat!

The annual Family Homeschool Retreat at Cherokee Cove is just a couple weeks away, July 8-10!

I am so excited about the subjects we will be discussing. We will cover every season of life together as we go through the weekend, from handling discipline with little ones to preparing your older ones to be released with confidence and skill. Here are some descriptions of the sessions:

Session 1: Friday Night
How to Establish Peace and Order in Your Home

It's almost impossible to learn or teach anything in the midst of chaos! How do you get your children to do those math problems or get their chores done? In order to successfully educate your children at home, there has to be some peace and order. But how do we rightly and effectively discipline our children? How do we establish a well ordered home? In this session, we will discuss some biblical, practical strategies for creating peace and order in your home.

Session 2: Saturday Morning [for parents]
10 Essentials for Discipling Your Children

Most believers I have talked to say they have not been discipled. In other words, no one took the time to systematically teach them how to love God and what it means to follow Jesus. Our ultimate goal as home educators and parents is to raise passionate followers of Jesus Christ. In this session, we will discuss ten essential principles and skills for helping our children follow Jesus!

Session 3: Saturday Night
Raising Lifelong Learners

You will not be able to impart all the facts and teach all the skills your children will need for life before they leave your home! But you can give them the skills needed to be a lifelong learner. Do your children know how to find, understand, evaluate and synthesize information? We will discuss How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. This session will help you release your children into life with confidence that they can learn anything and everything necessary for success!

Session 4: Sunday Morning
Finding the Super-Power You Need to Raise a Godly Family

Have you run out of gas? Blown a fuse? Have you been tempted to quit? Have you tried and tried to do things right and can’t seem to get a grip? Home education and raising a godly family are hard. Actually, they are impossible to accomplish in our own power. This session will help you discover (or rediscover) how to tap into the power we have in Christ to do all he has called us to do!

How to Earn Trust from Those You Want to Influence

I remember holding hands with a sweaty African boy in Kenya in the summer of 1996. I had already learned during my stay that it was common for males to hold hands. This was a sign of friendship and alliance. So, when Norman reached out to hold my hand, I had to push down every cultural resistance bursting inside of me. Norman was highly respected among the other boys in the High School where I was trying to minister. We had been playing basketball, and as Norman and I waited on the sidelines to sub back in, we held hands. I hoped to get back in the game soon . . .

Let’s continue to take a look at the seventeen strategies for developing "better relationships faster" from the Business Insider article,  “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” You can read my first two posts here: Develop Better Relationships Faster and How to Be the Kind of Person Everyone Wants to Be Around.

We will continue to evaluate these strategies based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ. Here are the fifth and sixth pieces of advice from the article.

“5. Make friends with their friends.”

Here is the main idea: “Two people are likely to be closer when they have a common friend.” This is the power of a reference. If someone I trust trusts someone else, I am inclined to trust them as well. In his book, Making Friends for Christ, Wayne McDill  calls this “the web of relationships.” As we seek to influence others Christ, it helps for us to be aware of this natural dynamic. The people we already know, and their friends, are our mission field.

McDill writes, “Each of us lives in a ‘world’ unique to himself. No one else, not even your closest relative, knows the same combination of people. This special set of acquaintances is your world, your own everyday mission field. No one can influence this group of people as you can.”

So, I would suggest reversing the strategy from the article. Instead of trying to get to know the friends of a person we are trying to influence, it is more natural to make new connections with the friends of people who already trust us. These are paths of trust. New friends we make through our trusted friends provide us a beginning level of trust.

“6. Don’t be complimentary all the time.”

Here is the main idea: “Your positive comments will make more of an impact if you deliver them only occasionally.” A study is cited in the article which concludes that people like it better when others noted their negative qualities as well as their positive qualities.

This makes sense because we know that no one is perfect. If someone only states positive things about us, we conclude that they are not being totally honest or genuine. In my experience, the number one quality people want in a friend is honesty.

I remember talking with a few people at a wedding after I had enjoyed some cake. After several conversations, a good friend of mine approached and almost immediately informed me that I had icing on my face. All those people from the previous conversations just left me with cake on my face! It is not difficult to figure out who I counted as a true friend.

The Bible expresses this principle in Proverbs 27:5-6:

 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
 profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

If you want to earn someone’s trust, be honest with them. Real friends don’t flatter. Give them realistic feedback that helps them grow. They will count you as a trustworthy friend.

How to Be the Kind of Person Everyone Wants to Be Around

When I was in college, we used to have “laugh-fests.” It all started at a large gathering when my roommate Jarrod and I decided to do an experiment. We began to laugh together. We were not really laughing at anything, except each other laughing. It was contagious. People started to gather around and laughed at us laughing.

People love to laugh. They like to hear people laughing and be around happiness. This is just one quality of the kind person that everyone wants to be around.

I already posted my first installment discussing the article from Business Insider,  “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” Let’s continue to take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing "better relationships faster." Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ. Here is the second piece of advice from the article.

“2. Spend more time around them.”

This just seems obvious. If we want to build better relationships with others, then we will spend more time with them. This is easier said than done for Christians who spend almost all their time with their Christian friends. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the church’s influence in the world: staying in our closed Christian culture. Jesus addressed this very issue:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

If we want to influence others (salt and light), then we are going to be where there is need of flavor and illumination. We cannot hide under our Christian culture basket. How are you intentionally developing friendships with people who need Christ?

“3. Compliment other people.”

Here is the basic idea: "People will associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your personality."

I think there is a deeper truth here. The ways we compliment others say something about us. It tells others what qualities we value. If others value the same positive qualities, then a shared value system is developed, which is important for strong relationships.

Paul often spoke positively about others, in a way that he hoped would establish a shared value system and stronger relationships. When he wrote to the Philippians, he complimented Epaphroditus, the messenger the Philippians had sent to him. Paul described Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,” who “nearly died for the work of Christ” (Phil 2:25, 30).

“4. Be in a great mood.”

Just as people love to laugh, they love to be around smiles and happiness. People like to be around positive, fun people.

Fortunately for Christians, we have a reason to have joy and hope! Jesus said,

“These things I have spoken to you
that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11 ESV)

Peter expected others to notice the hope shining through the lives of believers, so he encouraged them to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

How is your joy and hope affecting the people around you?