Purpose

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

It’s a question that most people ask at some point in their lives, “Why am I here?”  I think the search for meaning in life is something that God has hard-wired into every person. The thing is, you do have a purpose in life.  The prophet Jeremiah was a young man when he first heard God’s voice.  God Himself told Jeremiah that he had a specific calling on his life and that it was something that God had planned all along for Jeremiah, even before he was born.

Now be careful that you don’t confuse Jeremiah’s call with your own call.  Jeremiah had a specific purpose at a specific point in history. Though you may not have Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet, you do have a call on your life at this point in world history. Your call might be something big and splashy, but God has also called many of us to serve Him behind the scenes, furthering His kingdom purposes on this planet.

Like Jeremiah, you might question what God has called you to do. Like Jeremiah, it may take some convincing to get you on track. The true fulfillment you’re looking for doesn’t happen until you get on the path God has designed you for.

Love of Money

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)

It’s not easy to avoid being a “material girl” when you’re living in a “material world”.  Or a “material boy” for that matter.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “just a little bit more” would make us happy.  They say that the difference between a man with six kids and a man with six million dollars is that the man with the money wants more.  And more.  And more.

Even in the church, you can see the root of greed continually attempting to get its foot in the door. A pastor might tell himself he’s trying to advance God’s kingdom, but all the people hear is the church asking for more, more, more.

Now don’t misunderstand me here.  Money in and of itself is neither good nor evil.  It’s the love of money that causes us so much heartache. The rich, young ruler was told to sell all he had and give it to the poor, not because he had money, but because he loved money more than God (Lk. 18:22).

Contentment in life starts with finding joy in where you are, not where you think you should be.  Take the focus off of “me” and put it on those around you. Find joy in walking with God.

Loving the Truth

“…and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10)

Paul was writing about an individual we have come to label as the “antichrist”.  One day a real, live, flesh and blood individual will emerge, not only to conquer the world, but get the world thinking that he is the true savior.  He will be the embodiment of evil and, in fact, will be “possessed” by Satan himself.

How could the world fall for something or someone so evil?  Paul said that it would happen because the people will become detached from truth, starting with the truth about salvation.

Have you noticed how difficult it is for our culture to decide on what is true? We live in a world where people are satisfied to call something “true” simply because they “feel” it’s true, regardless of any actual empirical basis.  We want some notion about a person we despise to be true simply because we don’t like that person, and not whether the idea is based in fact.

Here’s a piece of truth.  There was an actual, historical person named Jesus. Records of His words and life continue to be proven accurate.  He claimed to be God. He claimed to die for our sins.  He rose from the dead.  Will you trust the truth?

Focus Determines Your Outcome

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Daniel Grant:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

What are you focusing on? What is it that holds your attention? There are a great many things that demand our attention and some of them may be worthy of great consideration! However, beloved, we need to keep the most important thing in focus, and that is Jesus.

Colossians 3 is my favorite chapter of Scripture, hands down. It starts with this fantastic admonition to set our minds on Christ and to seek the things above (kingdom ways). Then it goes on to remind us of all the other things that we need to think and put into practice! IF we have our focus right, then the rest of the instructions find their rightful place. Paul urges us to put off the old ways of the flesh and to put on the new kingdom clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. What is the lynch-pin that holds these precious virtues together? Paul artfully lands that final stroke with the admonition to love and forgive one another just as Christ has forgiven us. This is not another “To-do” list, but it is our new kingdom identity in Christ. Beloved, keep looking up, because our Savior is coming back for us! The darker things get in our culture, contrasts with the beautiful, stunning, and eternal light that comes only from Jesus. So, keep your eyes and mind set on Jesus. May God help us to do it!!

The Fixer

What’s wrong with this world?  There seems to be so many broken things all around us.  We see such destruction in the natural world with hurricanes and earthquakes. We see savagery in the animal kingdom when that wolf hunts the defenseless lamb and tears it to pieces.  In the world of humanity, we see great evil in wars, sexual assault, child abuse, disease, and suffering.

Some people look at these things and wonder, “Where is God in all of this?”  They will say, “If there is a God, then why doesn’t He stop all of this?”

Much of the pain we see in the world can be traced back to mankind’s own rebellion against God. Adam’s sin in the garden “broke” the perfection in Eden, and the entire planet has gone downhill ever since. Doesn’t God even care?

God does indeed care.  He sent His Son to deal with the root of the problem, our sin. God is patiently giving people a chance to turn to Him to find the healing from brokenness that only He can give. Best of all, Jesus will one day return and fix all this mess.  Isaiah described what a “fixed” world would look like: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Do you need the “Fixer”?

Quenching the Fire of Lust

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

These last couple of months, California has been rocked by fires. The Mendocino fire was the largest complex fire in CA history. Watching the firefighters put out these flames, we become very aware how hard it is to get a fire under control. Whether outside or in the kitchen, our methods for controlling the fire depend on the fire. For example, we can’t pour water on a grease fire, it only gets worse!

How many times do we feel like we are trying to contain the wildfire of lust in our life? Does trying to contain it make it grow or splatter into other areas?

Paul’s encouragement was “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)

Paul didn’t say “Try harder! Be stronger!” In fact, it isn’t about using our strength at all. Instead of focusing on what not to do… Paul focuses on what we ought to do. The way I defeat the desires of the flesh is not to try control them, which leads to frustration, exhaustion, and failure. Trying not to do something makes me want to do it even more.

The secret, Paul tells us, is that when we are walking and fulfilling the desires of the Spirit, it defuses and diminishes the desires of my flesh. Let the Word of God be the “spiritual sonogram” that reminds us that the extra heartbeat in us is the presence, power and promise of His Spirit! We are not alone! His Love and not the law will quench the fire of Lust!

Weak

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It is the strangest of paradoxes.  How could something that makes you weak give you strength?  How could something that is difficult be good?

For Paul, one of the issues in his life involved pride.  There came a time in his life when God allowed something painful into his life to cultivate humility.  Paul never tells us what it was.  He left it vague.  He called it a “thorn in the flesh”, even a “messenger of Satan”.  I’m kind of glad that Paul didn’t give us any more details, other than it made him “weak”.  Weakness is something I identify with.

I’ve never preferred being “weak”.  Weakness makes me vulnerable and needy.  I’d rather be “strong”, so I can fight the battles that I think need to be fought.  Ironically, being “weak” makes me lean more on Jesus to fight the battles for me.

Do I like being “weak”?  Not really.  On the other hand, there is nothing in life that tastes better than grace. So maybe my times of “weakness” should be something to embrace rather than shun.  If weakness leads to grace, then bring it on.

Such a Deal!

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Advertisers are constantly trying to get our attention by floating some new “deal of the century” before our eyes.  “Brand new big screen TV for $299!”  “Trade in your old electronics for a deal on a new phone!” “Sell us your old clunker and buy a new Tessla!”

Some of these deals are probably too good to be true.  Other deals are just what they promise, an amazing offer you just can’t pass up.

God has made us such a deal.  It’s so incredible, that some folks think it’s too good to be true.  God promises to take all our sin and exchange it for the righteousness of Christ.  This deal has already been made, so all you have to do is accept it.  God gets all your guilt, shame, and sin, and you are credited for all the good things that Jesus has ever done.  Could you pass up such a deal?

When I come across one of those amazing deals that are just as good as they promise, I find myself calling, texting, or emailing some of my friends to get them in on the deal while it lasts.  The great offer that God has made us is that kind of “deal”.  Whether it’s bringing the offer straight to our friends, inviting them to church, or bringing them to the Harvest Crusade, share the goodness!

Part of the Whole, a Holy Part

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant:

First Corinthians 12 encourages us that we are all essential parts of the body of Christ. You might not see yourself as such, but you are one of the essential puzzle pieces that makes the body of Christ whole. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

You are an essential member of the family of God. We meet together regularly in order to stay connected to God’s family and to what God is actively doing. We meet to encourage, exhort, protect and pray for one another. That is why Paul in 1 Corinthians calls us ‘a body’, not many bodies.

Paul goes on to make the point that even though we are all part of the same body, we have a variety of essential giftings and roles to play within that body. He says that if every part of the body was an eye, then how would we hear, and if every part was an ear how would be able to smell?

Are you engaged in using your spiritual gifts for the body of Christ? I hope so, and I further hope that you are connected to the body. An ear cannot do much by itself, on the ground – ask Malchus – a lonely ear makes one irritable. What did Jesus do with a disembodied ear, he reconnected it to the body. Don’t disconnect from the body of Christ but stay connected to Jesus as the head of the church and stay connected to the body – that we all may bear much fruit for our Lord and King.

Married or Single

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

1 Cor 7:7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

To be, or not to be” Shakespeare famously penned in Hamlet. Many today are struggling to find contentment in their lives. The “singles” contemplate marriage, the “married” at times envy the singles. It is easy to look at others and think, “I wish my life was more like (fill in the blank).”

Paul makes a powerful point that helps anchor our hearts from drifting into envy. Paul says that each has his “own gift.”

Are you looking at your marriage today as a gift from the Lord? Do we recognize the call of being that gift to our spouse and that our spouse is a blessing and gift, too?

Are you looking at your singleness as a gift from the Lord? People often feel like singleness is a curse and not a blessing. Paul challenges us to see our singleness as an opportunity, not for self-enjoyment, but for fulfillment in Christ.

The key point to Paul’s exhortation in chapter 7 is that whether married or single our primary goal is to point people to Jesus. If God’s design for my life is about holiness and not happiness, then whether single or married, Jesus must be the object of my heart’s affections.

May we seek today to cherish the gift we have been given and use it to honor the giver.