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Posts Tagged ‘Purpose’

monkey-with-hand-trapped-in-bottle-grabbing-bannana-with-sign“we are tempted when we are dragged away by our own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is brought to completion, it brings forth death.”   — James 1:14-15

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   — John 10:10

“…choose life…by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him…” — Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a

 

In Southern Mexico lies the Cueva de Villa Luz, or Cave of the Lighted House.  I’ve read that as you make your way to the cave you walk through a veritable paradise of tropical birds and lush rain forest. Underwater the cave is fed by 20 underground springs, beautiful watercourses which teem with tiny fish. The cave itself is home to spectacular rock formations and beautiful ponds. The environment is inviting. Yet accept the invitation and you’ll soon be dead. You see, the Cueva de Villa Luz is filled with poisonous gases.

Temptation is just like this. It presents itself to us as something inviting, attractive, lifegiving. Yet in reality it’s poisonous and toxic.

Now squarely in mid-life, I, like many others before me, am examining my life — in particular, what have I done, if anything, of lasting meaning — and what, if anything, can I do with the time remaining to me that will be of lasting meaning. In this lengthy (and still in-progress) exercise, I’ve had to admit the painful truth that, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 4, I’ve often given the devil a foothold, following the path that James outlines in his first chapter (and quoted above).

The result has been, indeed, death.  Death of dreams, death of opportunities, death of fulfilling my role fully as husband, father, and friend.  I reflect on moments in which my words and actions can only have negative impact they are modeled by others such as my children.  In the opportunities and ministries God has provided, I see responsibilities only partially fulfilled and effectiveness compromised.

All too often, I’m like the monkeys that are caught using candy or other sweets and a bottle. You see, old milk bottles are tied to the ground, and then something sweet is placed inside the bottle.  When a monkey comes along and sees the sweet he places his hand inside the bottle, but with the sweet enclosed in his palm his fist is too big to get back out the bottle. The  monkey will pull and push in an effort to get that sweet out, but he will not let it go, not even as his captors approach. And so the monkey is caught, literally with “his hand in the cookie jar”!

This represents perfectly the contradiction of temptation and integrity.  As Dr. Jim Denison notes, “temptation seems to benefit more than it costs at first, but its disastrous consequences always outweigh the reward. Integrity usually costs more than it benefits at first, but its positive consequences always outweigh the cost.”

Our enemy is always a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He wants, as Jesus told us (also quoted above), only to steal from us, to destroy us. Thus, we can know that any offer of good from our desires which contradict God’s word to and design for us must lead to a greater harm.

Theologian Lyman Abbott noted that “every life is a march from innocence, through temptation, to virtue or vice.”  In my self-examination, I’m looking at where my march is headed.  It’s a question I urge you to consider as well.

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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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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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