Blog

My Purpose Is Not My Own

It is a well-known fact for anyone who knows me in the slightest that I love my books. It could even be said that I have the makings for my own personal library, as my bookshelf is nearly overflowing with these wonderful gateways into other worlds; into the sagas of our past, the present realities of others, and many marvelous future creations.

I love my books.

I also love sharing my books. As with any library, I encourage friends and family to borrow any book that catches their eye.

I wasn’t always like this though. In fact, I used to be extremely stingy with my books and sometimes even now I revert back to that.

It all changed when someone lent me a book. It isn’t necessarily the book itself that sticks out in my memory but rather the selfless manner in which it was given.

I remember this friend handing me this book as I promised to return it as soon as I was finished. I can clearly recall their words as they told me to pass it on rather than return it.

God had used that book in their life. Now it was time that it be used in someone else’s life.

A number of things come to mind when I think of what God has done in my life to get me to where I am today. The string of events that had to take place for me to be who I am and to do what I do can be traced as far back as I can remember, all of it forming in front of me a purpose.

We get wrapped up in this though, don’t we? We get wrapped up in this ideology of purpose.

Our God-ordained mission in life.

Our ministry.

What our impact in this world might be.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” right?

Fueled by this mindset, which only seems to be further stimulated by the national stance of self-empowerment and social tolerance, we find ourselves contorting the whole idea of God-ordained purpose.

We build up such complex, detailed images of what we think our purpose in life should be that we miss it all together. When manufactured in our own minds, our purpose will naturally bend towards self; centering on self-glorification and praise.

That is not God’s purpose for your life.

Consider Joseph. He actually saw his future – his purpose even – through the lens of visions and dreams. In his mind, the only way to a life of power was through self-empowerment.

His dreams showed that others would bow down to him, therefore he was destined for a life of authority and praise. However, in his decent to the lowliest status of all, his expectations for what he thought his purpose was created a sort of blindfold over his heart.

He couldn’t see God’s purpose for his life but only the pitiful remains of his.

Through many years of trials and lessons, God slowly removed that blindfold to reveal the glory of His purpose – the preservation of His people.

We find in Genesis 45:4-5 that underneath all the heartache of betrayal and abandonment, God had a purpose; a redemption story if you will, for Joseph’s life.

“I am your brother,” Joseph said, “whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

That’s the thing about God’s purpose for our lives though, isn’t it? Very rarely do they actually have anything to do with us, but rather for those around us; those we touch and those we have the chance to inspire and love.

Joseph could have easily missed this had a remained self-absorbed. He could have missed all that God had in store for him and for His people if he had remained stubbornly focused on his self-proclaimed purpose.

Whose purpose are you focusing on?

Is it the purpose you have created in your own mind or is it God’s?

It could even be a purpose contrived on God-given insight, but has since evolved into a self-righteous, self-glorifying purpose that has no resemblance to God or His glory.

To align with Christ, our focus must remain outward towards others instead of inwards toward ourselves. It must remained fixated on His glory and on loving those around us.

This is not an easy thing to do and often it is the most selfish endeavors that are the hardest for us to see.

But God reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God does not bring us through the fire solely for our benefit and for our growth.

He does not show us love and mercy just so we can bottle it up for ourselves.

He comforts us and strengthens us so that we can then go and do the same for others.

Marshall Segal, an author for DesiringGod.org considered that ‘maybe the greatest earthly good that God will do through the things we have endured will be in someone else’s life and not our own.’

God’s will for your life; His very purpose for your existence may in fact have very little to do with you. -Anonymous

This Mountain in Front of Me

This mountain in front of me

A fear, a sorrow, an internal game

Ever growing in greatness and degree

Every day it’s all the same

 

I struggle, I climb, I slip, and I cry

Everything I do bringing me closer to reprise

The smile on my face is just a lie

This too will become my demise

 

I fight to find the prayer oh so deep

The truths of knowledge so far from the heart

My faith in Him I desire to keep

From the love of my Savior I do not wish to part

 

I pray, “God, can you please move this mountain?”

And frantically read of a mustard seed

The thoughts “if only…if only…” through my head they ran

Faith oh so small is all I would need

 

But the mountain is still there God

Why is it still there?

The questioning begins – “Do I not have faith?” “Am I a fraud?”

Either that or He is just not fair

 

“Don’t go there,” I say

Oh, but I can’t

Don’t believe those traps the dark one lay

Don’t trust the lies he is sure to plant

 

My God is more

He is more than the mess I’m in

My body may be poor

But Abundance flows from within

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

He is more than the devil’s scheme

I will put my trust in the life-giving Fountain

If only to see His glory gleam

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

His power knows no end

He knows the names of stars by the thousand

And I know my heart He will defend

 

To see the powerful glory of God Almighty

I will calm my heart and bid it still

This mountain is oh so tiny

In light of His perfect and glorious will

 

Be it mountain, valley, or ocean

In His loving hands my future I see

His glory is my soul’s devotion

Even with this mountain in front of me

Stop Drinking the Salt Water

Science has shown that the effects of drinking excessive amounts of salt water can be very serious. In order for the body to rid itself of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, one would have to dispose of more water than consumed, eventually causing dehydration as the body becomes thirstier with every swallow.

When Peter stepped out of his boat and walked on water in Matthew 14:29, he sank only when he was distracted by the wind and waves around him.

Every day brings with it a whole new set of distractions; some old that continually bombard us and some new that take us by surprise, and sometimes they even take on the appearance of life-giving water.

These are what I like to call the ‘satisfiers’ of this world.

Satisfiers have many different characteristics, but they all have one thing in common:

They promise fulfillment but only dehydrate our bodies as we thirst for more.

Relationships, success, that ‘dream job,’ wealth, even experiences – these are all satisfiers that vie for our attention, sucking the life out of us as we immerse ourselves in the gratification of their empty promises.

Anything that draws our attention away from Christ will cause us to sink; it will bring death.

It was only when Peter took his eyes off Christ that he started sinking and it was only when he cried out to the Lord again that he was rescued.

The thing about these satisfiers though is that they look good, don’t they? All we see are the benefits we might reap if we only submit ourselves to their pleasure.

The salt in salt water is absent to the naked eye.

We don’t see it.

All we see is something that resembles the fulfilling, life-giving water of Christ that will refresh us and nourish our souls.

The salt is an invisible killer just as satisfiers are invisible, silent killers.

They promise fulfillment and even take on an outer resemblance to the One who can truly satisfy, offering us the hollow promises of love, fulfillment, purpose, peace, and happiness.

Diluted into the satisfaction we might gain from these worldly pursuits is the salt; the drawbacks and the consequences of our narrowly, presently preoccupied focus.

Satisfiers can be good things though. These ‘holy pursuits’ such as healthy relationships, success, achievements, positive experiences, etc. – these are good things; they are good priorities, but are easily mismanaged.

One ‘holy pursuit’ in particular that I have found to be severely dehydrating to the soul is loving others and putting others before oneself.

Now, don’t freak out and please don’t unsubscribe!

Allow me to explain.

Putting others before yourself and loving others more than yourself is good! It is, after all the second greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matt. 22:39).

However, in order for there to be a second, there must first be a first.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment’ (Matt. 22:37).

Anything, and I mean anything that replaces the first and greatest commandment, even the second greatest commandment, will dehydrate you.

So yes, I stand by my original statement. Loving others more than ourselves is a ‘satisfier’ because done without first loving Christ is done solely for our glory instead of His.

There’s a reason loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind is the first and greatest commandment –

In order to do all else we must first find life in Him.

John 10:10 explains that Jesus came that we might have life and have it in full. Through Him who fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:23), we have life.

It is when we go about this backwards that we find ourselves dehydrated, gasping for a sip of life-giving water but only sucking in more salt water in hopes of quenching our thirst.

It’s funny how drinking the wrong thing only makes you thirstier.  -Jennie Allen

These things in and of themselves might not be bad, but when mismanaged and placed at higher value than knowing and loving Jesus Christ is when we start to sink.

When we drink the salt water this world entices us with, we will without a doubt always remain thirsty. But this does not mean we have to live a life forever in thirst. We have this hope in John 4:13-14 –

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I [Jesus] give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Not only is the water that Jesus offers to us life-giving, but it wells up to eternal life!

Our God is such a BIG God.

He promises to sustain us, provide for us, and give us abundant life.

Drink in; better yet, inhale the life-giving water God is offering you. He is so much more than anything we can obtain here on earth.

Don’t let the water around you fool you; don’t pursue in vain these satisfiers that vie for your attention.

Remain fixated on Christ and walk on water.

She Speaks to Inspire

As I swept the crumbs off my dress and finished my last bite of cake, the best man at my dear friend’s wedding stood up to give his toast.

I had known this friend since my early teen years. Unbeknownst to her, she had inspired me in so many ways to be the best woman I could; seeking God with everything I had and living each day with grace and purpose.

She’s the closest thing I have to a big sister and I have always loved her for that.

She’s naturally a pretty quiet person though and as the best man recalled their first introduction, he recounted how he was oddly suspicious, wondering why she spoke so sparingly.

What he said next took me by surprise but I’ve held onto it ever since –

“I [the best man] realized that she didn’t speak not because she had something to hide, but rather because she had nothing to say. She has such a quiet confidence and wisdom about her that she only speaks to inspire (paraphrased).

Even today I find myself remembering this friend and the influence she continues to have on my life, praying that God would grant me the same inner confidence and wisdom as her.

We have the power to speak life into people.

Did you know that?

Sometimes it doesn’t even have to involve words. A simple smile could be the spark that ignites a renewed hope in the depths of a dried soul.

That happened to me once. In fact, it was this same friend who was my first summer Bible Camp counselor. I remember watching her one time, thinking how cool she was and how much I wanted to be just like her when suddenly, she glanced my way and smiled at me.

That changed me.

As a 13-year old, it meant the world that someone I admired actually took notice of me; actually saw me for who I was, and liked me for it.

A simple smile changed that ornery little 13-year old girl then and still causes joy to swell in my heart ten years later.

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart…(Prov. 15:30) and a person’s words can be life-giving water…(Prov. 18:4).

Just as the genuine smile and gentle words of this friend inspired many, so too can the mocking glance, disingenuous conversation, and harsh word cause destruction.

I’ve been hurt by words. Even more so, I’ve been hurt by the lack of words.

I also know that I have hurt others with my words and harsh reactions.

Speaking words of hope and life into someone is so easy to do, and more often than not, those words will never be forgotten. Same goes for a harsh, mocking word – so easy to spit out but severely detrimental and almost impossible to forget.

Imagine though what might happen if we took one day – 24 hours – and dedicated everything we said and did to the purpose of inspiring others; to pointing others to the love of Jesus Christ.

To say something uplifting when a mocking remark is more natural.

To speak truth when lies are easier.

To be genuine when sarcasm might get more laughs.

To smile when disapproval seems necessary.

To remain silent even when the world beckons us to speak.

There is unfading beauty in a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4).

This kind of spirit is not natural. In fact, it is very unnatural. That’s why when someone like my friend exhibits this kind of gentle and quiet behavior every day, it is not easily forgotten and is cherished by all those who know her.

I read an article by Jon Bloom the other day that delineated the difference between a ‘presently preoccupied’ mindset and that of an ‘eternally focused’ one.

A presently preoccupied focus – Do, Have, Be – I do ‘this’ to have ‘that’ in order to be ‘this.’

However, an eternally focused approach would be just the opposite – Be, Do, Have – I am ‘this’ so I do ‘that’ which results in me having ‘this.’

In order for us to respond to people with gentleness in our voice and a smile on our face, we must first remember who we are.

Something I like to do in my time with God – and I encourage you to try this sometime – is take a piece of Scripture that reminds us of who we are in Christ and make it personal. I’ll give you an example:

Deuteronomy 7:6 –

For you, *insert name,* are holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you, yes you *insert name,* out of everyone on the face of the earth to be his treasured possession.

This is who you are!

You are a treasured possession.

Doesn’t that just make you feel awesome on the inside!?

Does it not just instantly calm your spirit; perhaps cause everything that you’re fighting to be and to achieve grow dim in light of this beautiful truth?

What are you trying to be friend? Where do you feel you aren’t measuring up?

Believe it or not, in the eyes of God Almighty, you are enough. You are holy and you are treasured above all the nations in the arms of God.

So take a second, remember who you are, and allow that to seep into your soul, because a heart that knows it is treasured by the most loving God will naturally speak life because it has life.

Harsh words come from a disrupted spirit. However, a spirit confident in who he or she is in Christ will be calm and gentle, overflowing with words that speak wisdom and inspire for years to come.

People remember kind words.

They remember a genuine smile.

I remember my friend and she continues to change my life even today though we are miles apart because she speaks to inspire.

Stay Gold Ponyboy

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold

Her early leaf’s a flower

But only so an hour

Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was my favorite book in High School and still has a place in my ‘top five’ list today. I read it several times; over and over again, willing the story between the two worn covers to never end. I fell in love with the honesty expressed by Ponyboy as he retold his story and how it coalesced with the stories of Sheri Valance, the Socs, the rest of the Greaser gang, and of course with Johnny Cade.

I related to Ponyboy at that time in my life, and even still do now because he stood apart from the average hoodlum that he was commonly associated with. He saw deeper, he allowed himself to feel stronger, and he loved longer and harder than any of his counterparts.

I admired Ponyboy.

I wanted to see beauty even when life got ugly. I suppose that’s why the scene in Chapter 5 was always my favorite when Ponyboy recited the poem by Robert Frost as shown above.

He was in the deepest, darkest time of his life; having simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now paying for it. Yet, what does Ponyboy do?

He watches the sunrise.

The whole point of Robert Frost’s poem titled Nothing Gold Can Stay is one about the fleeting essence of this world.

Life is fleeting.

Good is fleeting.

Nothing good can stay.

Johnny remarks that the mist of the morning sunrise was the prettiest part; how it gleamed golden and silver hues.

Mist is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. In fact, it fades as quickly as it comes, gracing the watchful eye with its beauty for a few precious moments.

Later on, as Johnny is lying on his deathbed, he pulls Ponyboy close and whispers the iconic saying,

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Johnny knew that Ponyboy was unique; that he stood apart from the rest of the gang. He knew that Ponyboy saw things differently than the others.

He was innocent.

He was like a child with uninhibited and untarnished faith in all that was good in the world.

He was golden like the mist of an early morning sunrise. Though his innocence, like the mist threatened to vanish at any moment with the coming of day; the coming of judgment.

The coming of a life hardened by the harsh realities of their world.

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Hold onto the good.

Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Though our lives here on earth are fleeting, our spirit and our faith is not. We can stay gold. With the renewal of our minds, our hearts and our hope for greater things can remain untarnished by the dark and evil of this world.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Our hearts and minds are renewed when we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). When we set our minds on things above; when we look deeper, allow ourselves to feel stronger, and love longer and harder, we will be graced with the knowledge of a love that surpasses all knowledge.

We will be able to know that which is unknowable.

We will be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.

This truth; this very reality that is ours for the taking is what sets us apart. It is what allows us to walk on water; to have a faith that is completely uninhibited and untarnished, even by the deepest of depths and the darkest of times.

Nothing gold can stay?

I beg to differ Mr. Frost.

While this world around us is fleeting, and yes indeed, even the good in the world is brief all the same, there is eternal good that will never fade.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…(1 Peter 1:4).

We have this living, everlasting hope that not all that’s good will fade. We have a goodness in us that is eternal and unending.

We have a King whose love for us will never fail.

We have a Home that will never perish.

We have a faith that can never be spoiled.

Hold onto all that’s good. Remember to watch for the golden hues that the Lord graces us with, reminding us of all the good that is yet to come.

Don’t stop looking deeper into the hearts of others, feeling the strength of the Holy Spirit within you, and loving the Lord your God and those around you longer and harder.

Stay gold my friend. Stay gold.

When Jesus Gets Up to Greet You

Imagine yourself walking into a room filled with all those you hold dear.

Your friends, family, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and Jesus Himself are all there.

Now imagine you walk into that room and are immediately surrounded by all your loved ones. Everyone is so excited to see you. They want to be near you, talk to you, laugh with you, and simply enjoy your presence.

Pretty great, right?

But then you notice something.

Jesus didn’t get up to greet you like everyone else did.

Suddenly the euphoria of attention fades as you begin to wonder why He didn’t greet you. Nothing else seems to matter except for your growing desire to be greeted by Jesus; to simply feel His embrace.

No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because He didn’t get up to greet you.

I have often found it to be my strivings for social acceptance, approval, and praise that draws my attention away from Christ. This is not to say that these things are bad. I truly believe that God places the blessings of friendship and opportunity in our lives to help us grow and prosper. However, they must be approached and valued in moderation; never to be valued greater than the One who gave them.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

All through college and even into the first several months of living on my own, I can see how much of what I did and set out to accomplish was for the sole purpose of social approval.

I went into college with a major that I didn’t particularly like, but it sounded good and looked nice on paper.

I involved myself with a group of people that didn’t necessarily bring out the best in me, but gave me the sense of acceptance that I so desired.

I pushed myself to the limit because it was socially frowned upon to not be as involved as possible; to not do everything I could to have that “college experience.”

Even now, I have found myself striving so hard to be that person that I think will be better accepted and celebrated that I forget to rejoice in the woman God has made me to be.

Being presently preoccupied with our social status keeps us from being eternally focused on Jesus Christ and our heavenly status as Children of God.

In reading through the Psalms, I found a time when David struggled with this very issue of social acceptance. In Psalm 142, we find David crying out to the Lord, expressing his soul aching pain of being overlooked by the world.

Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. (Psalm 142:4)

You can practically feel the pain in his words. While this may not resonate with everyone in the here and now, I can guarantee that at some point in your life, there will be a time when it feels as if you’ve been entirely overlooked by the world.

I’ve felt this way many times in the past and fully anticipate feeling this way again in the future. However, my favorite part about this Psalm is that David doesn’t stop there.

He never ends his prayers with a complaint and he never leaves us feeling sorry for him. In every Psalm, David returns to the glory of God, reminding himself and his readers of God’s perfect and holy character.

I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

As David expresses the pain of being forgotten, in the same breath he also expresses the joy of being remembered and known by the one true God.

In the land of thriving and amidst the exhausting strivings and pursuits of the American Dream, Jesus Christ is our portion. He alone is our refuge.

Every day we find ourselves in this fight to gain or maintain social acceptance. I’ll admit to that – I’m one of the worst. I like to think that I am confident in myself, but when put in a position to either stay true to myself or gain further acceptance and praise, I will naturally fault to the latter.

This is simply the human condition.

Our human tendencies kick in when life tosses us to the side. Our natural reaction to being overlooked is to create for ourselves our own platform and our own source of glory, because as Pastor Austin Edwards from CityLight Church puts it –

We love our own glory more than we love His glory.

We like to create for ourselves a platform on which we can shine when we feel forgotten by the world and hidden in the shadows of others. We love our glory more than we love His glory, so we speak out, vying for attention and glorification. We scramble to do this and be that to ensure that we won’t be forgotten when we should instead be focusing on the truth that He remembers us and that He loves us.

Consider Noah’s story (Genesis 8:1), or perhaps Abraham (Genesis 19:29). Think about Rachel (Genesis 30:22) and the life of Sarah (Genesis 21:1). God is gracious and does for His people what He promises.

He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8)

David shows us in Psalm 142 that even when we do feel forgotten by the world, God sees us. He knows us, He loves us, and most of all, He is sufficient for us. The God who remembered His covenant to Abraham and all those ‘Hebrews 11’ heroes-of-faith also abides by His covenant with you – that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

So when we find ourselves in these moments where we feel discounted by the world; cast to the shadows and forgotten – instead of trying to manufacture some means of being noticed, we should seek to praise and glorify His name for reminding us through the solitude that He is enough.

We have this hope that we can find sufficiency in Christ alone; in knowing that none of it really matters because any worldly pursuit, no matter how good it may be, is only secondary to knowing Christ and praising His name.

David knew this and prayed in verse seven that God would set him free from his prison, that he may praise His name.

The prison of social acceptance and approval is a condemning one; one that leaves us feeling empty and broken inside. But God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt.11:30) and the praising of His name will bring with it freedom from our bondage and relief from the chains of worldly pursuits.

When the presently preoccupying things of this world are disregarded, we are freed to look farther and deeper into God, His love, and His Kingdom’s purpose.

So let’s go back to our story and flip the imagery this time – now you walk into that same room, filled with the same people, yet this time, only one person gets up to greet you.

Jesus gets up off the couch and gives you a big hug as everyone else continues on with their own conversations. No one is showing any interest in the fact that you have just arrived, but it doesn’t really matter does it?

No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because Jesus got up to greet you!