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Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Category

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The Masters golf tournament ended yesterday (yes, I got to roam the grounds of Augusta National Golf Course!).  Patrick Reed won his first major tournament.  In doing so, he overcame many obstacles:

  • He was NOT the one the crowds wanted to win.  Again and again, the crowd favorites were greeted with roars of approval when they were introduced and when they made a great shot.  Patrick, on the other hand, was given only “polite golf applause” when he was introduced or when he made a great shot.  It was evident to all that he was not who the crowds were rooting for.  One of the headlines on CBSsports.com even read, “How a Villain Won it All” in describing Patrick’s victory.
  • The pressure of some of golf’s best players gaining significant ground (one even getting tied with him) when he faltered early.  When Patrick began the day with a bogey and a par (on a hole in which he should have had birdie), it looked like he would wilt under the pressure.  Instead, he steadied himself and made the shots he had to over the next 16 holes.
  • The challenge issued by one of golf’s best golfers, Rory McIlroy, with whom Patrick was partnered on Sunday, the last round of the tournament.  Rory was playing the “mental game” against Patrick.  Patrick stayed mentally tough throughout.

How did Patrick Reed manage to overcome all of these obstacles?  He won because he remained focused and committed to his purpose.  As I think on this, I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortations to us as Christians:  “Do you know know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.”  (1 Cor 9:24)  “Run in such a way that you press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

The need for Christians to live up to our identity and calling in Christ in today’s deteriorating culture cannot be overstated.  Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, the April 8 reading, states: “[Jesus’] resurrection means for us [Christians] that we are raised to His risen life, not to our old life….we can know now the [power and effectiveness] of His resurrection and walk in newness of life.  Thank God it is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Ghost can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey Him.”

Like Patrick Reed, we will face significant obstacles in seeking to live in (and live out) our new life and identity in Christ.  There will be those who root against us, those who actively work against us, those who try to bully and pressure and shame us with “mental games.”

But Oswald Chambers is right … we can know now the power and effectiveness of His resurrection, we can walk in newness of life and the Holy Spirit work in us the very nature of Jesus … if we obey Him.

Patrick Reed won the Masters because he “ran the race” focused and committed to golf’s ultimate prize.  As Christians, we must run for a greater calling and prize.  We do this that we may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4) and because if we don’t, we simply deny the light culture so desperately needs.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. [We are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Are you (am I) “too easily pleased?”

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I was in a Target retail store today walking down a main aisle to get to school supplies (looking for a graphing calculator for one of my boys).  As I looked ahead, I saw an elderly lady with a shopping cart stop and begin to eye me.  I could tell she thought I might be a Target employee.  Sure enough, when I was close enough for her to make herself heard, she inquired as to whether I worked at the store (as I was wearing khaki slacks and an orange-red shirt, her thought was understandable).

However, how she phrased her question caught me up short — and has had me thinking ever since.  She asked, “Are you a customer, or are you a real person?”

After confirming with her I was a customer, I began thinking on the latter half of her question — “are you a real person?”   Oh, I’m definitely flesh and blood, but that simply means I’m existing.  In looking for descriptions of a “real person,” I came across words like genuine, authentic, giving, loving and vulnerable.  If those words characterize a “real person” (and I think it certainly encompasses those things), then I sometimes struggle.

I naturally lean toward a “type-A personality,” but I’m also introverted by nature.  The results of such a combination are often stoicism (lack of showing emotion) and introversion.  I can often seem unapproachable, difficult to talk with, interested in people only in terms of how they can contribute to tasks at hand (a commodity).  When emotion does come out, it can often be in the form of impatience and/or frustration.

As I’ve reflected on this, I can think of many times when I’ve not been a “real person,” but rather a brooding, self-absorbed person.  Times when I’ve gotten frustrated and impatient with my wife or boys because they haven’t gotten something done or because they don’t get what I’m trying to explain after they’ve asked me to help them with their homework.  Times when I’ve “withdrawn” rather than drawn close.

I remember a time awhile back when a friend from work and I were talking.  This friend was trying to help me see why sometimes I could be intimidating or thought to be unapproachable.  As she was talking, I remained impassive.  I offered no words or facial expressions/body language.  Exasperated, she said, “See, this is what I’m talking about.  I have no idea what you’re thinking and wonder whether you care at all.”  I wasn’t being a real person.

As I’ve continued to think, the apostle Paul’s words on the fruit of the Spirit keeps coming to my mind:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….”  A real person is one who exhibits these characteristics.  Such a person is genuine and values people as people (versus a commodity useful in accomplishing tasks).  Such a person is one who enriches others’ lives simply by how they interact with others – exhibiting the fruit outlined above.

As a Christian, I should be, by-and-large, a real person.  None of us is a perfect real person, but as a Christian, being a real person (defined by the fruit of the Spirit) should be the norm.  Christ says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that you can recognize a people by how they act — as you can identify a tree by its fruit.  A good tree (real person) bears good fruit (love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, etc).  A bad tree, on the other hand, produces bad fruit (self-centeredness, impatience, anger, indifference, harshness, etc).  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to answer that elderly woman’s question with, “Yes, I’m a real person.”  I can’t do that in my own strength, but only by walking in and with the Spirit of God.  May I, may we all, do so and be “real people.”

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The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and it will feature the New England Patriots — a franchise that has had an extended run of greatness, unlike any in team sports over the past quarter-century.  The owner of the team is Robert Kraft – who took a losing team and made it a winning one.

“Winning football games has been more important to me than making money. Winning is what turns me on. Money is pretty good, but a shroud has no pockets.” – Robert Kraft
There is great wisdom here. No, not winning football games, but rather, the realization that you can’t take it with you — “a shroud has no pockets.” So, what turns you on?  Is it something that you can’t take with you — or is it something of eternal value.
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” – Jesus

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“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter…..God led the people around by the way of the wilderness….”  Exodus 13:17-18

This Scripture tells us Israel was going from Point A (Egypt) to Point B (the edge of the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds).   Now, we all learned in geometry that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  And, generally, we all like to get where we’re going in the least amount of time/distance as possible.

What is true in travel, is true in life.  We make our plans and we think we know the best way to achieve them – the “straight line” to getting there.  But sometimes, God gives us a detour.  A life detour is an unexpected event that changes your life’s course.

The election of 2016 represents a detour for many in the country today.  For some, it is a devastating detour; for others, a detour pointing to promise and validation.  For most of us, regardless of who we voted for, the 2016 election is a detour we will be coming to terms with, and impacted by, for some time to come.

But God may be using this detour for good to get us to the right destination.  I suspect God could be at work bringing better unity to the church in this detour.  Better unity by using this detour to cause us to see differing, valid perspectives; to be transformed individually and as a whole as a result in order to bring about positive impact for eternity.  For our Point B is not “to make America great again,”  but to “seek and save the lost”.

Can we make a difference?  Does your life matter?  Absolutely.  If we are willing to take the way of Romans 12:2 and take Philippians 2:1-8 to heart, we will leave a lasting legacy and impact.

 

 

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This is Living!

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I recall a vacation Mary and I took many years ago.  We “splurged” and stayed at a fine hotel/spa. It had the best of everything — the best food, the best golf, the best massages, the best pool, the best hot tub.  I recall at one point saying to her as we entered the spa — “This is living!”

And while the vacation was wonderful, if that was living, then we’d really missed out on life.  If we really want to live, we can’t look to the world (and thus it’s values) as the source and purpose of life.

Henri Nouwen in his book, Life of the Beloved points out that one of the great struggles facing believers in Jesus is not to isolate ourselves from the world — not to reject our ambitions and aspirations, or to despise money, prestige, or success — but to live in the world as someone who doesn’t belong to it.

And how do we do that?  May I suggest John 20:20-21 provides insight to the answer?

We have been sent!  Sent by God into the world!  Why?  Read John 3:17.  As God sent Jesus, so He sends us!  Not that the world will be saved through us — but that we will reveal Jesus, through whom salvation comes, to those around us.  Read 2 Corinthians 5: 17-20.  This is why we are sent!

Everything will begin to change radically for you when you know yourself as being sent into this world.  YOU have a purpose!

“When we realize that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger eternity that stretches out far beyond our birth and death, life will cease to be a “losing battle”, a hopeless struggle, a journey of despair.”  (Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)

When we live our lives as beloved ones of God sent into this world, then we live life with a mission, a purpose.   And we live a life that cannot be conquered by this world or by death.

To paraphrase from Nouwen:  The world may consider our lives little and insignificant.  BUT when we realize that God has chosen us from all eternity and sent us into the world with His blessings and that we are His beloved ones, we can then begin to imagine and trust that our “little lives” will multiply and fulfill the needs of many people — will have real impact for and in God’s Kingdom.

Imagine, imagine, imagine — imagine that in dying to self, in giving of yourself, you will have impact that far exceeds your life — there will be ever-widening ripples like that of a stone thrown in a still pond.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …” Philippians 2:3-7

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