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What Do You Want To Know About God?

I have to admit, there are a lot of questions I have regarding God and my faith. I have been a Christian most of my life. Thirty-Seven years to be exact. But I still have questions. Not doubts…just questions.

I sometimes wonder why God allows things to happen to certain people. Why do seemingly good people go through tremendous suffering while people I would consider not so good live lives of abundance. I know that not everything is as it appears to be. I also know that there is no one really “good.” We all have flaws and therefore have fallen short in many areas. But still…some things just don’t make sense.

So, I picked up a copy of Everything You Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask) by Eric Metaxas. I wanted to read this book for two reasons. One, because I have read two other books by this author that I have truly loved. The other reason, is because as I stated above, I still have some questions about God. The book is written in a Q & A format and covers everything from “How can I prove that God even exists” to “Does God hate gays and oppose women.”

He does discuss the topic of suffering. He attempts to answer the question, “Why would a loving God allow suffering” in chapter 2. This is a legitimate question that has been asked for centuries. Here is a portion of how the author answers the question of suffering…

Evil is not caused by God, and it doesn’t come from God. But God allows evil                                    to exist because He gave us all free will, and He wants us to exercise that will. It would be      meaningless to have the ability to make choices if there were only one option available—if, for example, there were only good in the universe. By giving us free will, God gave us           the ability to reject Him and all that is good, and thereby bring evil into the world. And all of us suffer in this life because of the evil that exists. (p24)

I’m not willing to say that this answers the question entirely for me. But it does bring comfort to know that all people, to some degree or another, will have moments of suffering and also moments of joy. Not that I am comforted to know that others will suffer, but I am comforted to know that I am not the only one that will suffer.

In conclusion, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), may not have answered all of the questions that I have. But I do have a better understanding of how I can answer questions about God that others may ask me. The book also affirms what has always been true. As the author writes on page 145, “ We can’t get fixated on unknowable details.”

Let Us Pray

I don’t know about you, but I always struggle with feeling I don’t pray enough. Or long enough. Or even good enough. “Why don’t my prayers sound like his prayers?” “He must REALLY love God to pray like that.” I often feel like my prayer life is short, rushed, and shallow at best. Which makes me feel ashamed and even a little embarrassed. I’m a pastor, I should know how to pray like a professional! At least that’s what the little voice inside me tells me.

Insert the book Talking with God by Adam Weber. I was initially intrigued by the title but it was the subtitle that sold me on the book. “What to say when you don’t know how to pray.”

That is me! That’s exactly how I feel…at least most of the time. I know I should pray. And I even want to pray. But sadly often I don’t know WHAT to pray. I’ve tried different formula’s. Like the A.C.T.S. prayer model. A.C.T.S. is an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. That works, at least for a while. But over time it becomes mundane. Almost a little too familiar and I tend to pray for the same things over and over every day.

I admit I tend to be a creature of habit. I find something that works and I just stick with it. Which admittedly isn’t very exciting. So I try to break out of that and try something new. However, I am also a little ADD and am easily distracted. For example, I am writing this blog while sitting at a coffee shop and am currently struggling to stay focused on the topic of prayer and the conversation of the young people at the bar which is going back and forth from a game show from the 70’s (which they cannot remember the name of and only remember because of YouTube clips) and the interesting names of dogs on Pinterest.

Anyways, back to the book, I knew I had to pick up a copy and read it to finally find the secret to a successful prayer life. I just knew that Adam Weber had the answers that I had been looking for. After all, he hadn’t written a book about prayer, he must be an expert right? Sadly, I was mistaken. He is not an expert. And I have to admit that at first I was a little disappointed. However, the more I read, I began to realize that I’m not alone in my feeling of having an inadequate prayer life. And surprisingly it’s not as difficult as I was making it.

Adam writes on page 48, “Don’t try to sound all prim and proper. Don’t use strange religious words. Just talk with God.” That’s it. It really is that simple. So if it’s that simple, then why do we struggle so much with talking to God? Maybe, just maybe it’s because we don’t see prayer as a priority in our lives. Adam writes on page 61, “Instead of making excuses, we have to get to the place where we so clearly realize our desperate need for talking with God that it becomes a priority.”

I want to get to the point in my life where prayer is so vitally important to me that it physically hurts when I don’t spend time with God in prayer. As David writes in Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (42:1-2 ESV) That’s what I long for anyways. How about you? Do you long to spend time with God I prayer? To get closer to The Creator then you ever have before? Then let me suggest you try something. Just do it! Don’t feel like you have to have a perfect prayer life or that you have to have it all figured out. Let me break it to you, that will never happen. Just begin now. Start spending time with your Father now. Talk to Him like your talking to a friend. You’ll be amazed how spending time regularly with God will cause you to want to spend more time with God. As Mother Teresa famously said, “The more you pray, the easier it becomes. The easier it becomes, the more you’ll pray.”

Chasing Dreams

When I was a little boy I dreamed of playing baseball in the big leagues. Since I grew up in Cincinnati, my dream was naturally to play for the Cincinnati Reds. Those dreams didn’t come to fruition, but I did get to play in college. And I continued to have dreams. As we get older, our dreams for the future may change, but we still have dreams.

I picked up a copy of Unlock Your Dreams by Philip Wagner because I’m a sucker for books that are written with the purpose of helping the reader discover their desired purpose in life. I’m not talking about self-help books. I don’t buy into self-help. I am referring to books that help the reader discover the person that God created them to be. You see, I think that each of us has a purpose. A God created and God ordained purpose. I believe that part of that purpose is to achieve the dreams that we have.

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, he plants within each of us a dream. Again, I’m not referring to a dream to be rich and famous. But a dream to use the gifts He has given us to make Him famous. As I stated above, our dreams and goals may change over time, but God still has placed them there and has a plan for us and our dreams.

On page 4, Philip writes, “Sometimes we go down one path, pursuing a vision of what we believe we are supposed to do, and then we discover we are meant to do something else. It may seem like a waste of time, but we likely would not have found the new path without taking the risk of pursuing that initial dream.” Remember, I dreamed of playing baseball. Not because I was good. But because I loved it. If I would have not chased that dream to college because I didn’t think I was good enough, I would not have met my wife (who I’ve been married to now for 24 years), which means I wouldn’t have had my sons. I may have missed out on God’s call on my life to be in ministry.

I know God is sovereign and He can accomplish anything in-spite of my choices. But I do believe we can miss out on opportunities that God has planned for us if we are not patient or if we are not in the place He can use us. Philip writes on page 16, “Sometimes God wants us to wait because of timing, and sometimes God wants us to wait because He needs to develop us into people able to accomplish His purpose.”

So, what is the dream God has placed within your heart? Are you chasing that dream or are you listening to the enemy when he tells you it’s a waste of time? God created you with a plan and a purpose in mind. He created you to live a full life. A life of adventure chasing after Him. Not because He’s running from you. But because He is leading you to be all that He created and saved you to be.

I’m not sure I agree with every theological statement that Philip Wagner makes, but I do believe that God gives each of us dreams that He wants us to pursue and achieve. I also believe that if you want help in discovering what that dream is and how you can unlock that dream, this book will not be a waste of time.

A Rich Life

Seventy-seven years ago, December 15, 1939 to be exact, a woman was born in a little obscure town in southern Kentucky. She was never wealthy, at least not by most standards of wealth. But she was rich and she would go on to influence an untold number of people and generations to come.

She was rich in that she had loads of talent. She had a soft, smooth alto singing voice almost like that of Doris Day. (Who by the way was her favorite actor and singer.) Although music wasn’t really her passion, at least in the time that I knew her, it was her escape. When she was troubled or worried, she sang or listened to music. Music would take her away to a much calmer and pleasant place. She taught me, maybe unintentionally although I’m not certain anything she did was unintentional, to use music as an escape too.

She was also rich in friendships. She had friends that she had known since childhood and still kept in touch with. This was long before the days of social media or even cell phones. She never allowed distance or even disagreements to have a negative effect on her loyalty to her friends. She seemed to only see the good in others even when they were clearly in the wrong. I’m not sure if this was intentional either or if it was just the way she was wired. (She still believed OJ was innocent!) I think she tried to teach me this as well, although this trait hasn’t seemed to have caught on like she would have wanted.

She was rich in love. Just as she was always able to see the good in others, she seemed to love unconditionally. I say “seemed” to because I’m still not convinced that unconditional love is humanly possible. But it sure did appear that way to her. It’s not that she never got angry or upset with others. Trust me, she did. And in most cases she had every right to. But her love for that person or person’s was still there. She genuinely loved others. Especially her family. In fact, family, or to be more specific her children, became her passion. Right, wrong or indifferent, her children (all 6 of them) was the reason she lived. At least that’s how she saw it. Outside of her love and devotion to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, nothing, and I mean nothing, was more important to her then her children. Loving Jesus and her children was definitely something she intentionally tried to pass on to me. However, once again, I didn’t catch it as passionately as she would have hoped.

You’ve probably guessed by now that the woman born in that city in Kentucky that nobody has ever heard of is my mom. Mom passed away in 1998. It’s unbelievable to me that she’s been gone 18 years now. I hate that my children never got to know her. I hate cancer and what it does to the body. I hate not being able to have conversations with her like I use to. I especially hate not having conversations that I needed to have with her but never did. But, I love that my life was so influenced by her. I’m not sure what I did to deserve to be her child, but I’m thankful that God allowed me that privilege. I talk to people often that have been, or at least feel like they have been abandoned by their parents. I have no experience in this area. That thought is so foreign to me.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom was not perfect. And yes I am biased. I’m sure most of us believe our mom is the best. I pray that you do think that about your mom. This would mean that you, like me, have experienced a rich life.

More

For several years now, I have felt God calling me to more. I didn’t, and really still don’t, completely understand what my “more” means. I just know that God has more in store for me. Even though I am not certain exactly what that means, I do know what it doesn’t mean. I don’t necessarily believe that my more is a bigger stage or bigger audience. It has nothing to do with more recognition or even more financial blessings. Although in could include any or all of these things, I don’t believe any are the basis for the “more” God has in store.

So when I saw the title of Greg Hawkins book More, I knew I had to pick it up. I had to see if this book could help me discover or at least understand what the “more” is that God is calling me to. Greg explains that the desire for more is natural and a part of how God created us. We are created for relationships and Christ followers are especially wired for a deeper relationship with God. Greg writes on page 10, “He (God) did not invite us into a relationship so that we could just make do but so that we could experience more.”

So the “more” here has nothing to do with doing more, it has everything to do with being more. God has called us to be more like Christ. And when we are more like Christ, we begin to do the things that are pleasing to Him. Andy Stanley is famous for saying, “Doing always flows from being.” In other words, when we are more intimate with God, we are closer to Him. And the closer we get to God, the more we act like Him.

In scripture, Jesus reminds us that He not only came to give us eternal life but He came to give us abundant life. (John 10:10) That’s life to the fullest here and now. We were created with the desire to want more. Again, not more stuff but more life.

So, what is the “more” that God is calling you to? I know for certain that it begins with growing closer to Him and knowing Him “more.” If you’d like to discover the “more” that God is calling you to, pick up your own copy of More by Greg Hawkins. You’ll be glad you did.

Displaying His Plan

The Biggest Loser is a pretty fascinating show.  I don’t watch it much but I have watched it enough to get the premise.  The Biggest Loser started in 2004.  The object of the show is pretty simple.  They take overweight people, in some cases extremely overweight, and through exercise and healthy eating, help them lose as much weight as possible in about 8-10 weeks.  People are losing massive amounts of weight.  The record for most weight lost in a season is 264 lbs.  Michael Ventrella started the show weighing in at 526 lbs.  When the season ended he weighed 262 lbs.  He lost half is body weight.  The results were pretty easy to see.

Google Michael Ventrella and you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s the point.  Just as the results of massive weight loss are easy to see, so should be the results of having a relationship with Christ.  If you are a Christ follower, it should be evident to others.  A relationship with Christ has to make a difference in our lives.  That’s right, I said has to.  In fact the Bible says, actually Jesus says, that if you truly have a relationship with Him you cannot hide it.  It will be seen.

Matthew 5:13-16,13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.”

This is the beginning of what is called the Sermon on the Mount.  The Sermon on the Mount is the longest recorded message that we have from Jesus Christ.  It takes up chapters 5, 6 & 7 of Matthew.  To paraphrase this passage, Jesus is simply saying that if you know Christ as your Savior, you have the Light in you.  If you have the Light in you, it cannot be hidden.  Just like a light from a city on the hill cannot be hidden, so to the Light within a Christ follower cannot be hidden.

I grew up in Cincinnati, OH. I don’t get to go home to Cincinnati very often, but when I do I love going into the city at night.  If you haven’t seen it at night let me explain.  When you are about to reach the city, you have to come over a mountain in Kentucky.  This location is referred to as “The Cut in the Hill.”  Before you cross the bridge leading into downtown Cincinnati, you are at the top of the hill.  From here you can see all of downtown easily.  At night it’s pretty awesome.  Cincinnati is not necessarily a large city but it sure does look like it is at night.

This is how we should appear as a Christ follower.  People should notice right away that there is something different about us.  Not because we are better.  But because we know Christ.  And because we know Him, we should want others to know Him too.  It’s not about us being noticed.  It’s about other people noticing Him through our actions.

Look at Matthew 5:16 again.  “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.” People should see us, but notice Christ through us.

That’s why 1 Peter 1:15-16 are so important.

1 Peter 1:15-16, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Our conduct, or our behavior, should point others to Christ.  That’s why God gives us gifts and talents.  He gives those talents to us so that we can use them to glorify Him.  Max Lucado writes in The Cure for the Common Life, “God endows us with gifts so we can make Him know.  Period.” (pg5)

What gifts do you have?  Are you using them to glorify God?

Spend a few minutes reflecting on your gifts and ways you can glorify God through those gifts.

So, our conduct is pretty important.  It’s vital to our witness.  What other people see us do is crucial.  Take a look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 2.

1 Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

So with our actions or behavior, we can silence people who try to harm us with foolish words.  Our actions are that powerful.  How have your actions and behavior been lately?  Have they brought glory to God?  Or have they hurt your witness?

Let’s recap.  We never again have to wonder if we have a purpose.  We know that God has a plan for us.  We are not an accident.  God created each of us with a specific plan in mind.  You may not know right now specifically what that plan or purpose is.  But in time, as you continue to follow Christ, He will REVEAL it to you.  First and foremost, we know that ultimately His plan for us is to know Him.  He desires to have a relationship with everyone.  Once we accept Him, He changes us.  We may not look different but we are to act different.  We now belong to Him.  We must live like it.

Then, as followers of Christ, we continue to pursue Him.  Knowing that He will REVEAL to us through our passions what He would have us to do.  Once we discern our passion, we use it to make Him known to those around us.  It’s not just something we ought to do.  It’s something we must do.  If Christ is truly in us, we have no choice but to make Him known to others.  So, whatever it is you do, make sure you do it to glorify God.

Look at how John Piper writes it in Don’t Waste Your Life,

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life, God created us for this  to live our lives in a way that makes Him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that He really is. (pg 32)

Don’t waste your life, God created you for more than that.  He created you to discover your purpose by following your passions and putting it on display to make much of Him.

So there you have it.  That is God’s plan for you and for me.  His will is that we would know Him and that we would make Him known to others.  That you and I would “be holy because He is holy.”

Discerning Your Passion

What are you passionate about?  Maybe it’s a sport or club.  Maybe it’s reading or writing. Maybe you’re passionate about music.

We all have passions.  We are not all passionate about the same things but we all do have things we are passionate about.  As you get older your passions may change.  Not because your passion is bad or wrong.  Just because you get older and they change.  For example, when I was younger I was very passionate about baseball.  In fact, that’s why I went to college.  It wasn’t because I was good at baseball, it was because I was passionate about it.  That was close to 25 years ago!  I still like baseball.  I love to go to baseball games.  But to say I am passionate about it would be wrong.  I’m passionate about other things now.  I’m passionate about my family, I’m passionate about preaching, and I’m passionate about seeing people know God and grow in their faith.  I’m still passionate, just about different things.

Do you think that your passion and your purpose are connected?  I think they can be.  Pastor Erwin McManus writes in his book Soul Cravings, “There is a reason why you have a sense of destiny.  It was placed there by God, and it woos you to pursue it.” (Entry 6)  There’s a reason why you are the way you are.  There’s a reason that you have the passions you have.  For some reason, God has placed them there.  Your job now is to find out what they are and then discover what you are to do with them.

Look at 1 Peter 1:13-14.  What do those 2 verses say to you?

Here’s what they say to me.  Before I became a Christ follower, I had passions.  They were passions of the world.  Now that I am a Christ follower, I must no longer have those passions.  I have new passions.  And my hope is that Christ will REVEAL His plans and His purposes for me regarding the passions that I have.  Hope here does not mean what we sometimes think it means.  In our world, hope means wishing for something to happen.  Not expecting it, but wishing for it.  But the word for hope used here is not wishing at all.  Hope here means waiting with confidence.  We know Christ will come again.  We know He will REVEAL our purpose to us.  We are just waiting for it to happen.  We’re waiting for Him to come.

Even waiting is defined wrong.  Waiting here does not mean that we sit back and do nothing.  I don’t think that God intends for us to do that.  To wait on the Lord means you are listening for God’s voice to stir within you.  Trying to discern what He is telling you to do.  Waiting means prayerfully seeking God and His direction for your life.

The word passion simply means any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling.  So let me ask you, what’s compelling you?  What do you feel compelled to do?  Answering this question will help you discern your passion.  To discern means to distinguish or to recognize or understand.  The goal is to recognize the passion God has placed within you and then be about carrying it out.

In Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado writes, “You cannot be anything you want to be.  But you can be everything God wants you to be.” (pg18)  So, knowing that God has a plan for you and unlimited power to carry it out, what is it He is calling you to do?  Well, I can’t completely answer that for you.  You have to discern that on your own.  But here’s what I do know.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  Did you catch that?  According to Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, it really doesn’t matter “what” you do.  “What” is not important here.  What’s important is “who.”  It’s not what we become, it’s who we become.  Let me try to explain…

When I felt like God was calling me into ministry full-time, I was scared to death.  I was 19 years old.  I felt there was no way that I could be a preacher.  All I knew that preachers did was preach and wear a suit and tie.  I didn’t even like to talk in front of others back then and suits just weren’t me, there was no way I could be a preacher.  As time went on I began to realize that is wasn’t about what I could or couldn’t do.  It had very little to do with me and my abilities.  God could use me to do anything He was calling me to do.  And He can do the same with you.

What is it that you feel compelled to do but also feel less than qualified to do it?  That could be your passion.  Or at least it could lead you to your passion.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel like you are able to do it.  In fact, I think that is by design too.  God calls us not because we are qualified and equippedHe calls us and then prepares us for that calling.

Remember Gideon?  The story about him is found in Judges 6-8.  Gideon was a regular guy.  An average Joe.  He was not a soldier or even a fighter.  But God called him and used him to lead an army of men to victory against a much bigger and stronger opponent.  Not because of Gideon’s great skill.  But because of God’s great power.

Don’t worry about feeling inadequate.  God’s got a plan.  And remember, His plan does not include wrath for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed.  God is there and will carry you if you need Him to.

Read this passage, Philippians 4:4-8, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness[a] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Still not sure about discerning your passion?  Listen to what Pastor John Piper says in his book Don’t Waste Your Life,

            But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturate passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it.  And you will make a difference that lasts.  You will not waste your life. (pg 47)

I don’t know what God’s specific plan for you is.  I know that He desires to know you intimately.  Beyond that, you have to discover on your own.  All I know is, whatever He is calling you to do He will see it through.  You just have to be obedient and follow the passion He has laid on your heart.

Chasing Lions

Have you ever chased a lion? Of course not. That’s a silly question I know. No one in their right mind would ever chase lions. At least none have lived to tell about it! But I bet you have chased a few dreams in your life. And sometimes those dreams have felt pretty big and overwhelming haven’t they? Did you know that fully grown lions can weigh close to 500 pounds? And even more amazing is that they can still run at close to thirty-six miles per hour. Why do I tell you this? Because sometimes the dreams that God places inside of us feel like they are 500 pound lions that we will never be able to achieve. Dreams that we run from instead of chase after. This is the premise behind Mark Batterson’s new book Chase the Lion.

Before I tell you more about what the book is all about, let me tell you what it’s not about. Chase the Lion is not about having dreams of health, wealth and prosperity and as long as you love God all your dreams will come true. Batterson never mentions that and never alludes to that false doctrine. I’m not saying that I personally agree with Mark Batterson on every theological thought. But I do believe that God places each of us here (earth, place you live, etc…) for a purpose. He has also placed within each of us dreams and aspirations. Your dreams may be different than my dreams and that’s ok. In fact, that’s more than ok, it’s normal. In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came so that we might have “abundant life.” To have the abundant life that Jesus speaks of we will have to chase after the dreams that God has placed within each of us. If those dreams are placed there by God, they will be dreams that focus on Him and bring glory to Him…not us. So, dreams and goals are not the issue. The condition and intent of our heart is the real issue. So let’s be clear, dreams and aspirations are great, as long as those dreams are to make much of Jesus and less of ourselves.

Now that we have an understanding of the premise of the book, let’s take a deeper look into the message behind the pages. I have read and enjoyed just about every book that Mark Batterson has written. And this one is no different. I love to be encouraged and challenged in my faith. Mark Batterson seems to do that with every book he writes. And like everyone else, I have dreams and goals that I want to achieve. However, I have found myself feeling guilty for having those dreams. I have felt guilty because I am afraid that my dreams are about me. But the truth is, the dreams I have are not just about me. They are about others. Most have to do with my family. And they are about making much of God with the gifts, talents and passions He has burned within me. So there is no reason to feel guilty about dreams that have to do with others and make much of God. Chasing the Lion settles that early on in the first pages of the book. On page 8 Batterson writes, “A God-sized dream will always be beyond your ability, beyond your resources. Unless God does it, it cannot be done!” He states over and over that God-sized dreams are not only about us. They always include other people.

So, what is the lion God has called you to chase? What are the dreams that you feel unprepared and unqualified to reach? The subtitle for the book states, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.” Have you ever said, or thought, the words, “I can’t do that.”? That may be an indicator that God is calling you to do something that will stretch you and glorify Him. I don’t like to be stretched. I like to be comfortable and on safe, flat ground. But the more I learn about God, (and I still have a long way to go) I realize that God hasn’t called us to safe. He’s called us to be obedient and to follow. If we are obedient and we do follow Him, sooner or later we will have to step out of our comfort zone. Peter had to step out of the boat. David had to step out onto the battlefield. We will have to step out and do what God has called us to do. Anything less would be disobedient!

On the very first page of the book, Mark writes The Lion Chasers Manifesto. I won’t write it all for you here. You can read it for yourself when you pick up your copy. However, I do want to share the parts that I underlined on my copy.

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.                                                                    Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God.   Don’t let fear dictate your decisions.                                                                                         Don’t try to be who you’re not.                                                                                                    Dare to dream God-sized dreams. Dare to be different.                                                       Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.                                                   Chase the lion.

God after the dreams that God has placed within your heart. Start by going out and picking up your copy of Chasing the Lion. You’ll be glad you did!

Discovering Your Place

Do you like trying new things?  Honestly…I don’t.  I know I know…that sounds boring.  But I just have to face the facts; I can be a boring person.  I’m not sure why I don’t like to try new things.  I guess it’s partly because I’ve always had a fear of the unknown.  Also, if I am not good at a particular task, I would prefer not to do it.  And I usually don’t.  Which makes trying new things extremely uncomfortable for me.  Let’s face it, the first time you try something new is usually not your best effort.  Most tasks take time to master.  Trying something for the very first time makes you vulnerable.  It opens up opportunities for failure.  None of us like to fail.

When my wife Lourae and I were first married, I worked road construction.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  I had no idea what I was doing.  Almost every task I was asked to do I was doing for the very first time.  One particular task I had to learn was to pull a 24 foot trailer behind a pickup truck.  I know that sounds easy.  But trust me it’s harder than it sounds.  Especially when it came to backing up with the trailer to a loading dock.  One day I had to back up the trailer in between 2 semi-trucks.  It literally took me 30 minutes but I finally made it.  I got better as time went on but that first time was brutal.  The point is, the more we do something, the better we become at doing it.

Think of all we miss out on by not trying new things.  I’m not talking about performing stupid stunts or dares.  I believe God gives common sense as a gift and we should use it regularly.  However, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to try something new either.  Especially when God is calling us to do it.

In trying to discover God’s purpose for our lives, we must be willing to try something new.  Even if it makes us feel uncomfortable.  Francis Chan writes in Crazy Love, “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.” (pg 124)  Gods not really concerned with our comfortHe is concerned with our calling and obedience.

We discovered in my last post that we are all created with a purpose.  We are not an accident.  (No matter what your older brother or sister has said!)  But just because you are not an accident, doesn’t mean that your purpose will fall into your lap.  It must be sought out.  We have to discover our purpose.  If the end result for us is to be “Holy” as declared in 1 Peter 1:15-16, what does that look like right now?  How do we get there?  Scripture gives us some answers here.

John 3:16 is a very famous and familiar verse.  If you are new to this church thing you probably know at least some of this verse.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)

According to this passage, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world for one reason.  So that all might know Him.  It does not say that all will know Him but rather all might know Him.  There is a reason that you have been created.  That purpose begins with knowing Christ as Savior and Lord.  The Bible is filled with passages that support this truth.  Here are a few…

1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV)

1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (ESV)

That last verse spells it out plainly.  It is God’s will that we be sanctified.  We don’t use that word much.  Do you know what it means?  Sanctification means to be set apart, to be free from sin, and to be made holy.  It’s God’s desire that you know Him.  Not just know about Him but really know Him.

How does that happen?  How do we know God or better yet, how does God know us?  You need to understand that God is pursuing you.  That’s why John 3:16 is so powerful.  Let me explain…

The Bible tells us that we are all sinners.  (See Romans 3:23)

Sin means that we have messed up.  We have missed the mark.  And because of this sin, someone has to pay for it.  God is Holy and cannot have anything to do with sin.  So we have a dilemma.   God is Holy, we are sinners, He desires a relationship with us, and He cannot look upon sin.  Insert Jesus.  God loves us too much to leave us without a chance to know Him.

Read Romans 5:8, “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)

Did you see it?  Even though we are sinners, God loves us.  Because we are sinners, God loves us.  Jesus died on a cross for your sins and for mine so that our sins would be paid for in full.  His blood pays for our sins.  All of them!  It is vital that we understand that.

Once we understand that, all we have to do is allow Him to save us.  We cannot do it on our own.  We don’t earn the right to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  If we could earn it with good choices we could lose it with bad choices.  Look at this passage…

Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not on your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)

Did you see it? We are uniquely created by God for God.  He has a purpose and plan in mind.  He desires a personal relationship with each of us.  Not because we are good enough because honestly we aren’t.  We can’t earn or buy eternity.  It has nothing to do with what we do.  It is only by God’s grace and His mercy that we are saved.

So here’s what you do…

Understand that you are a sinner in need of God’s mercy.  Romans 3:23

Acknowledge the fact that God loves you and is pursuing you.  Romans 5:8

Ask God to forgive you for your sins.  2 Peter 3:9

Realize that you are now a new person.  2 Corinthians 5:17

1 Peter 1:14 warns, “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance (life).”  Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we change.  Some habits maybe hard to die but inside we have changed.  Life for the Christian has a new purpose.  We are no longer living for ourselves we are now living for Him.  We cannot walk with Jesus and continue to walk in the world.  Our old self is gone and we are now a new person.

Got Purpose?

Have you ever wondered what your purpose is?  Sure you have.  We all have at one time or another.  Maybe you have even wondered if you had a purpose at all.  I have wondered that.  Not about you…but I sure have about me.

I guess it’s normal to think about what our purpose is.  I personally think we’re all wired that way.  We all want to know why we are here.  It can’t be just by accident can it?

This past weekend I had the difficult opportunity to go back to my hometown and preach the funeral of a friend from high school. Tommie was a great friend to many people and he died way too soon. Here’s the reason that I share this story.

While I was driving around my hometown, a place that I haven’t lived in over 26 years, I was reminiscing of the days when I was growing up. I drove around town trying to remind myself of some memories of my friend that I could share at the funeral. But mostly what I remembered was that my time growing up was filled with doubt and wondering what my true purpose was. I didn’t know enough, or care enough, to realize it then, but that’s what it was.

While my childhood was mostly filled with good memories, there were also moments of difficulty. Difficulty has a way of adding to our doubt and struggles with discovering our purpose.

When I go through difficulty, I often turn to scripture for comfort. One particular passage that I lean on is found in 1 Peter.

1 Peter 1:13-16, “13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

I love this passage of scripture.  Let me give you some behind the scene info…

Peter is writing to a group of believers that are apparently struggling with their faith.  It seems they have lost sight of God’s grace and mercy.  If you read through the entire book, you will find that the topic of suffering comes up often.  Obviously, the people were suffering for their faith and had lost focus of their Savior.  That’s funny.  We do the very same thing.  At least I do.

When I go through struggles, I tend to take my eyes off of Christ.  I get so consumed with my present circumstance or situation that I can no longer see God clearly.  It’s not that He has moved.  It’s simply that I have lost my focus and have begun to look at other things.

The first real difficult situation that I remember having to go through is when my parents divorced.  I was 18 years old and a senior in high school.  That’s supposed to be the best year of your life.  At least that’s what I had been told.  It sure didn’t work out that way for me.  I felt so discouraged.  It had a negative effect on every part of my life.  My life was turned upside down.  I began to sink deep into depression.  This led to irrational thinking.  I not only lost my sense of purpose, I wondered if I ever had a purpose at all.

Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe something tragic has happened to you or your family that has caused you to travel down the same road.  Has it caused you to lose focus?  If so I have good news.  I believe God does have a purpose for you.  Scripture affirms this…

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)

You were created by God and for a specific purpose.  What that purpose is specifically we will get to in a later session.  But before we go any farther, you must know that you are not an accident.  You didn’t just happen.  You may have arrived in this world unexpected to your parents or family but not to God.  God knew you were coming.  He even planned it.

Isaiah 44:2, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you…”

So maybe the difficult situation you are in, or have been in, is there for a purpose too.  I’m not saying God caused it.  But maybe He is using it to “REVEAL” Himself to you.  Pastor Mark Batterson writes in his book Soul Print, “When was the last time you praised God for your perceived disadvantages or thanked God for the challenges in your life? (pg20)

Can you imagine?  Praising God for something that seems like a disadvantage just doesn’t sound right does it?  But if God had planned us from the very beginning, and if He has a plan for us, then He must have a plan for our situations too.  Nothing catches God by surprise.  That statement is both comforting and puzzling.  It’s comforting because it helps us to see that God is really in control and we are not.  It’s comforting to know that He is bigger than all of our problems.  It’s puzzling because many things that happen in life are painful.  How can a loving God, that has a plan and a purpose for us, allow painful situations to take place for us?  It’s all a part of His plan to “REVEAL” Himself to us.

Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Did you see that?  “All things work together for good.”  Good things and bad things.  Situations we like and those we don’t like.  They are all part of the plan.  God is showing us that we are not an accident.  No matter what our situation is.  No matter what the world tries to teach us.  God’s plan all along has been for you to be here.  Right here…right now.

So when you go through difficulty, and you will go through it, remember, it may be part of God’s plan. His plan is to reveal more of Himself to you and to prepare you for the purpose He has planned for you.

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