My Purpose, My Calling

We hear a lot about hearing God’s call, following God’s calling for you, receiving the call to ministry, finding your purpose in life.  Are you looking for that dream job, the career of a lifetime.  Well hold on to your seats kiddies!

I have the answer for those who are searching.  And if you thought you found your calling and now feel unfulfilled, I have an answer for you too.

I know, who knew such wisdom rested in this earthen vessel but, prepare to be amazed.

Your calling, your purpose, your life’s ambition is fulfilled in following the same call that Jesus yielded to.

Your purpose, my purpose, your calling and mine, is to die.

Well that just sucks!

Yeah, I wanted something cool and amazing, preferably center stage and that paid well.  Second best would be something behind the scenes, you know, nobody sees you but you’re making things happen.  Those on stage depend on you.  You are needed.

But then I looked at Jesus.  His calling wasn’t to do miracles, though he did some of those as well.  His purpose was clearly not to be king, or even start a religion.  He stated that his purpose was to “do the will of the Father.”  And the final act of that was to give his life up.

I saw “the Passion of the Christ” one time.  As I watched what happened to him, I cried.  I balled.  And I kept asking why?  Why would he do that for someone like me?  Why would he do that when he knew how I would receive it?  How I would throw the shit of my sin on the priceless gift of his love?

There is no explanation for why that my mind can comprehend.  But he accepted that price.

And now he calls to me.  He beckons me with his scarred hands, with the love, that held him to his purpose and to the cross, shining over me.

How will I answer him when He longs to take me through the cross?  How will I submit when it is more than my salvation that is at stake, when it will cost me everything?

“Not my will but yours, Lord.”

The Weight of the World

I deal with depression from time to time.  Things don’t always seem to go the way I want them to.  It can feel so heavy as to be unbearable.  I remember the times that taking my life was a better alternative than facing one more day.

I have looked at Jesus.  I have scoffed at the verse that says he was tempted in the same way I am tempted.  He never knew failure.  He never knew guilt and shame.  And because of this, I minimized his sacrifice on the cross.

He died.  Many people during the Roman occupation died, suffering for longer than Jesus did.  They were beaten too, mocked, humiliated.  It becomes a common theme when a ruling force ceases to value life, to respect something other.

I have looked at it differently this year.  God has been teaching me.

I know what it feels like to be rejected for a job, a ministry position, a loved one.  He knew the rejection of every person he had come to save.  They didn’t want him.

I know shame and failure from my own sin.  He knew the shame and failure of being the King of Creation and being nailed to that cross.  At some moment, though he knows all things, must have hoped that his love, his miraculous power, his wisdom and grace should have been enough to reach the world.  But it wasn’t.  His closest friends denied him.

And then I think about the weight of what I carry, the burdens I carry.  Then I multiply by the number of people living right now and add that to those that lived before, knowing that I am not alone in what crushes me.  And in that moment on the cross, I see him lifting that weight.  Not just the weight of the crossbeam of the cross but the weight of guilt and shame, the weight of failure and sin, the weight of hatred and lust and fear and every sin under the sun.

I see my Hero standing up under what would crush the rest of us.  And not only did he lift it once, he carried it and HE DEFEATED IT!!!

Amazing, truly awesome!

He did it all to set us free from it.  No one could do what He did.  I can not loose the chains that have bound me.  But He can, He did.

I don’t even know what the proper, appropriate response to this should be.  My singing, my dancing, my bended knees, my clapping and every note I could ever play, my life is not enough.

I will give it anyway.  It is all that I have.

Control Kills Compassion

One of the worst moments of my life…

He came up to me all smiles.  I was a young dad and to me his look was pure guilty.  He was three years old and you know how they are.  I immediately questioned him.

“What did you do?”

He continued to smile.  The same smile I have grown to love as he has grown into a man.  But at the time…

“What did you do?”  I asked again.

Smiles.

“Son, if you don’t tell me, I’m going to have to spank you.  I need you to tell me.”

Smiles.

So as a strong father who demands respect and wants his children to grow and honor God.  I spanked him.

My wife then came out of the house.  “Why did you spank him?”  She asked.  “He wouldn’t tell me what he did,” I replied.

“He wanted to show you that he just dressed himself for the first time.”

Good job dad!  Great work!

So I’ve been thinking about that lately and how it changed my parenting, changed me as a person.  I’ve been looking at my struggles and the things that weigh down my heart and here’s what I’m seeing.

The more I try to control the outcome of any situation, the more my heart dies.  I see people in leadership as enemies.  I see peers as competitors.  I see people under me as just that, beneath me.

Why?  Why would I do that?  Why can’t I trust God with outcomes?  Why must I push and grasp and worry and listen to so many lies?

Pry my fingers off my life Lord!

Break the hold that sets me on the throne and you out the door!

Free me from my desires and set my heart on You!

I need that.

God’s Not Dead

My wife and I were watching the movie again.  I love the picture of a young man standing strong in the face of great opposition, defending God, believing no matter what.

I don’t find myself liking the movie very much.

Yep, I’m still a Christian.

The scene that kills it for me is the final argument between the mean, atheistic professor and the noble protagonist.  He asks the villain, “why do you hate God?”  And when he finally gets his answer, he finishes off his foe with one fell swoop.

We see him as standing against an intellectual Goliath.  I see him as winning an argument against a twelve year old boy who lost his mother to cancer.  And, I think Jesus would have handled it differently.

I also am bothered by the fact that the end is summed up by our hero receiving the praise he is due, being lauded from the stage by both a big name band and a video from Willie Robertson.  Now my appreciation of the Robertsons and the News Boys should not be diminished by the fact that this is simply not how it normally happens.

When we stand for Jesus, we stand alone.  The movie producers caught that part.  What they didn’t catch is that we fail our classes too.  We are mocked and shamed and no one stands with us in the end.  We die in the arena.  We are beaten, burned, broken.

It is the blood of Jesus that flows through our veins and pours out on the ground that stands as our witness to a dying world.  It is our life given up that gives life to those around us.

And we shouldn’t expect anything else.

Please don’t miss the blessing of what God would do because you’re waiting for man to tell you, “well done.”

God’s not dead.  But we are crucified.

Why Must We Suffer?

We are in the throws of raising twin baby girls.  I’ve been working a lot of third shifts and no one in the house is sleeping very much (I get more than anybody).  We’re a bunch of zombies and cranky zombies at that.

Why?

It seems like a loving God would make children sleep more, at least more consistently.  And twins!  That’s just cruel.

But it got me thinking.  I love my wife more than anybody in the world.  And, in large part, that’s because we’ve been through hell and back together.  We have suffered, even at our own hands, but done it together.

I think that the reason children are so difficult to raise when they are first born is because it immediately binds our hearts to these little blessings.  If it were easy, if we had a nanny, if we ignored their needs, the strings that tether us to each other would be weakened and easily broken in the storms ahead.

I’m pretty sure that’s why God allows suffering in the world.

I’ve heard so many using that argument to prove He doesn’t exist.  I’m pretty sure that it proves His existence and the type of God He is, that he puts us in a crucible that draws us to depend on Him completely and never want to stray from His side.  I’m pretty sure that we see Him more clearly and love Him more because of the suffering He allows.

Yeah…

No doubt!

One Day

I had a good day yesterday.  The day before pretty much sucked.

Yesterday ended with worship, standing strong, knowing the goodness of God and His faithfulness to me.

The day before, I just felt so lost.

So today….

Yeah today.

Paul said it a great way, ” 12  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3)

“Forgetting what is behind..”

I had a bad day.  Forget it.

I had a good day.  Forget it.

Do you know what I have right now?  I have one day, one moment.  The moment I am living in right this second.  I can become discouraged my the days and moments I’ve lost in this war.  I can become conceited, self-confident because of the moments I’ve won.  I have only this moment right now.

What will I do with it?

That’s the big question isn’t it.  What will I do with each moment that God gives me?  Because, in case you didn’t know, if you aren’t dead, God hasn’t given up on you.

And, I’ll let you in on a secret religion keeps from you.

God is excited about the time you have left.  He can see what a life lived for Him will be like.  He already knows the joy that can be yours as you give Him each moment, as you live each second seeking His face, wanting to spend one more minute with Him.  He can’t wait to spend a day with you.

He’s not concerned with what happened to you, how you failed, the weights that you carry.  He’s just ecstatic that you have stopped long enough to listen, to hope that He is there, to believe that He loves you.

See, it’s in that moment that He comes rushing in.  It’s in the moment that we give to Him that we find Him.

Yesterday was good.  The day before sucked.  Today…

I have today.

 

Infection

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom and addiction.  I mean, once someone is free why would they ever return to their addiction.  Why do so many addiction programs fail to set people free in the first place?

Here’s my theory…

The heart that is not pursuing God can not be set free.

So only Christians can be free from addiction?

Yep.

So why do so many Christians struggle with addiction?

Because they stopped pursuing God, or never really started.

Going to church is not pursuing God, though it is a part.  Just like reading the bible, praying, worshiping, studying, memorizing.  They all have the potential to draw us closer to God but none can make us pursue God.

And maybe you’re like me.

I love God and want to pursue Him but fear hinders me.  I would love to blame others, my mom and dad, my wife, my job, my church to name a few.  But, I really can only blame myself.

Water is refreshing, life giving.  Food provides nutrients and tastes yummy.  I love milk.  I love chocolate.  But not after any of it has been sitting out for thirty days.

A wound will heal due to natural bodily processes if the infected tissue can be removed, drained, replaced.  But if it can’t, it will become gangrenous, poisonous.

That is what our lives are like.  We were designed to pour into others.  We were not designed to bury guilt and shame.  We were created for community, not isolation.  We came into the heart and mind of God with a specific purpose that can only be recognized as we are connected to Him.

God has invested so much in us through His word, the leaders He has given, the very life of Jesus given to us, the presence of His Holy Spirit inside of us.  We can live with what many would consider reckless abandon.

Or we can be an infection.