Tag Archives: purpose

What’s Your Role on the Stage of Life?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

It’s been said that the “whole world is a stage and everyone plays a part.”   Within my immediate family, I am the heroine playing many different roles–wife, mother, daughter, sister.

Some roles I “rehearsed for”.  For the role of wife, there were several callbacks and a few rejections.  The other roles, I inherited on the day that I took center stage (my birthday). These roles are challenging, requiring much prayer and patience.

As I reflect on the activities of this week, I considered this thought.  What role did I play in the life of those I came into contact with this week?  How well did I play my part?

  • Was I the villain–the antagonist who is always trying to interrupt the plans of others?
  • Was I a supporting actress–insuring that the lead actor and actress had what they needed to “shine” and deliver the story line?

We have a choice as to how we respond to those God places in our path.  We can either be a help or a hindrance; a bearer of encouragement or the purveyor of strife.

The word encouragement originated in the 15th century from the French word encoragieren which means “cause” and corage that means “courage.”  As I look around our world and yes, our churches too, there is a need for us to “cause courage”.  The role requires minimal rehearsal time and is easy to play–a kind word, a smile, a soft touch on the shoulder.  Let God’s Word begin to frame your role.

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Apostle Paul spoke often about encouragement.  When his plans to visit the church at Thessalonica fell through, he sent in his place Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.  Timothy played the supporting role of “brother, minister of God, and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

Everyday we are to go forth in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to play a critical role in this fallen world.  Jesus’ message to His disciples in the 1st century hold true for believers today:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

How well are you playing your part on the stage of life?

The Road to New Things

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the

LORD hath created a new thing in the earth,

A woman shall compass a man. Jer. 31:22 (KJV)

A road is literally defined as a wide way leading from one place to another. We also think of roads as access to new opportunities of commerce or development.

A road can also describe a series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome. In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck uses “road” figuratively to describe the sometimes hard and often painful process of change. Peck uses the “road less traveled” as a illustration of the journey this requires.

In Jeremiah 31, the prophet speaks to the people of God in Babylon to prepare them for a “road”—both literally and figuratively—that would return them to their own land after their 70-year exile.

Jeremiah’s message is clear. They are not to be afraid or lose heart. They are to be focused with a firm resolution to rebuild the nation of Israel. In today’s text specifically, Israel is called to reframe from falling back into their old rebellious habits as God creates a new road to their salvation—a “new thing” that had never been done before (or since).

Israel is warned against potential backsliding which is interpreted as “faithless”. In the past both Israel and Judah had consistently failed to “holdfast” to God and depend solely on Him for their every need. (Job 27:6) The results was always disastrous as proven by the conquest of both nations.

Where are you placing your faith? Is it in people—elected officials, family members, or friends? Is it in things—bank accounts, social status, or professional affiliations? Is it in self—your intellect, looks, or personality? When Jesus returns, will He find you faithful? (Luke 18:8)

Israel is encouraged to trust God, Who would create a “new thing”—interpreted as strange and surprising—in the earth. God would create a woman who would “compass” or protect man.

Many interpreters understand this “new thing” to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  A woman, the Virgin Mary, enclosed in her womb the Might One. This was to be their incentive.

They would know that with their return from exile came the promise of not only their physical restoration but the spiritual blessing of the Mighty God (Is. 9:6). God would not cast off His people but bless them. This was to be their assurance.

And what is the road for us today? How do we live in the knowledge of this “new thing”? Knowing the blessings of being in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).

We live attentively in God’s presence. Assured that He is creating new opportunities for us if we would but listen for His voice and watch where He is working. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We live expectantly in God’s provision. God has provided all that we need to live godly lives and to accomplish His purpose in our lives. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

We live faithfully in God’s purpose. As the elect of God we live by faith. We do not backslide or “draw back unto perdition” but trust that He who began this “good work in us” is able to complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

Our journey to understanding “new things” has hopefully provided incentive and inspiration to walk in the divine purpose God has created for our lives. When we as believers trust God and understand God’s reason for “new things”, we can move forward joyfully in faith and confidence.

The Reason for New Things

But if the LORD make a new thing and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.  Num. 16:30 (KJV) 

It is human nature to resist doing new things even if new things offer more than the status quo.  Our text takes us to the Book of Numbers where we observe the impact of a nation’s resistance to God and His divine purpose for their life.  What should have been an eleven-day journey resulted in a forty year “funeral procession” (Num. 14:28-29; 32-35).  Regardless of Israel’s opposition, God would show them a reason for His new thing.

From the time of their departure, Israel complained and was rebellious against not only the leadership of Moses and Aaron but also against God Himself.  Israel had seen the many miracles of God yet “Israel had Egypt in their hearts, regardless of what God did for them even as they marched into the wilderness.”[1]

Where is your heart?  When God attempts to move you to your divine purpose, do you complain and murmur?  Is your affection set on the things of this world when God’s plan offers much more? (Col. 3:2-4)

Motivated by jealousy and envy, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram attempted to seize the priesthood from Aaron and his sons. In so doing, they also challenged the sovereignty and authority of God. In the wilderness, God would teach Israel a painful lesson about the reason for “new things”—about sacrifice, authority, and responsibility.  [Read Numbers 15:1-20:13]  That “new thing” would come with a price—it would cost Korah, Dathan, and Abiram their life, their families’ lives plus the lives of 14,700 people within Israel’s camp.

One of the reasons for God’s severity in punishing Israel was to prepare the way for His new thing—a people who would accept the “new beginning” He had readied for them in the Promised Land.  It would be there that Israel would experience new victories, a new priest (Eleazar), a new leader (Joshua), and a new generation.

How does God use “new things” in our life?

  • God might need to reset or reboot our current efforts. Stalled plans, ungodly influences or fleshly lusts can often take us off the path God sovereignly chooses for us.  God’s intervention will guarantee success. (Phil. 1:6)
  • God may desire to take us out of our comfort zone. He may even allow “trials and tribulations” into our life to move us forward.  In trusting and waiting on the Lord, we find courage to persevere as we pursue God’s plan for our life.  (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
  • God could choose to introduce us to an opportunity that may not have been on our radar screen. It is in those moments we can depend wholly on God to bring prospects into our life that will result in our good and His glory.   (Matt. 7:11)

God always has a reason for introducing new things into our life.  They may not be easy but they are always worth it.  We may not understand “why” but we can trust “Who” (God).

In the past when faced with new things, I was like Israel, guilty of complaining and murmuring.  Out of fear and frustration, I would cry, “Lord, why me?” I now choose God’s path for my life and when faced with “new things” I sigh in faith and confidence, “Lord, it’s YOU and me!”

[1]   Wiersbe Bible Commentary

Invitation to a New Thing

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Is. 43:19 (KJV)

Do you need inspiration and purpose for your life?  You’ve finished 2018 and here’s another year—like the other “new year” and you’re asking this haunting question, “What can I do to make this year better than the last?”

You may have made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, gain more faith, or increase your personal time with family.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of your annual fast and prayer effort to discipline your body and renew your spirit.  Good for you!  But isn’t that the same thing you did last year?

Maybe it’s time to change your thinking as you create ways to make this year better.  Maybe it’s time to do a “new thing”!   In this mini-series, we will examine three (3) Old Testament scripture to develop new thought on how to walk in God’s divine purpose for your life.

It’s been said, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got!”  So do a new thing!  God’s thing!  Walk in the divine purpose God created just for you—from the beginning of time (Eph. 2:10).

In the Old Testament, the use of “a new thing” is cited in only three (3) texts:  Isaiah 43:19, Numbers 16:30, and Jeremiah 31:22.  Here they describe situations where God’s greatness and sovereignty is on display as He “invites man” to move into His designated purpose.

In the New Testament this concept of “a new thing” is manifested in the fulfillment of Messiah who came to gift us with salvation and to restore man to God’s original purpose—to glorify Him and live with Him forever.  God was unable to fulfill His purpose through families, tribes or kings; through prophets, mediators or priests.  God brought salvation to earth through Jesus Christ—“God’s new thing”.

This “new thing” would result in:

  • The Kingdom of God coming to earth. (Matt. 4:17)
  • Mercy, grace, and truth. (Ps. 85:10)
  • Man becoming a “new creation”. (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • Freedom from the penalty and power of sin. (Rom. 8:1)

Now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” See what happens when God does a “new thing”.

In our text today, God is promising to retrieve and restore Israel from their 70-year exile.  Their deliverance out of captivity would be more famous than that from Egypt (Jer. 23:6-8).  Israel thought they knew God but He was about to show them something different—“a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert”.  To do this would be humanly impossible but God alone had the power and authority to do “a new thing” (Is. 45:7, 12).

Are you “lost in the wilderness”—trying to figure out which way to go?  Are you searching for “rivers in the desert”—relief from dealing with the struggles and setbacks in your life?  God wants to do a “new thing” in your life so you can walk in His divine purpose.  How will you know your divine purpose?

Here are a few thoughts to begin your journey:

  • Position yourself to hear God speak to you—pray, read and meditate on His Word.
  • Reflect on where God has been working in your life.
  • Humbly confess areas of sin in your life that are interfering with your hearing God.

Then, ask God how you can serve in His Kingdom (your purpose), wait patiently and listen attentively.  God invites you to join Him in doing a “new thing.”  When we trust God with our lives, we can look forward to an exciting future with purpose (Jer. 29:11).

What I Learned in 2018

This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.  Isaiah 43:21 (NKJ)

Yes, it’s that time again.  Another year has passed and I find myself asking, “where has the time gone and what did I do with it?”   As I glance over at the grocery store newsstand, I see the various renderings of what 2018 has been about—politics, weddings, and celebrations of life.

As it is with the dropping of the New Year’s ball in Times Square, it is the tradition of In the Word Ministries to mark the start of the New Year by asking, “What did I learn this past year?”  This year, I avoided looking back at 2018 WordBytes or my journal to give me a hint.  Instead I simply asked the Holy Spirit to distill all I had experienced in 2018 into two or three areas I could share with you.  The Holy Spirit (as usual) exceeded my expectations and gave me one word—PURPOSE.  Although one word, my learning about purpose could fill volumes.  I will attempt to be succinct.  See if any of these resonate with you.

  1. It is critical to understand God’s purpose (Acts 17:28). Every New Year a dear friend asks me what I am believing and depending on God for in the upcoming year.  The better question should be, “how can God best use me for His purpose in the upcoming year?” Key to understanding purpose is accepting the sovereignty of God—the “True Source” of our purpose.  As we begin our year fasting and praying, we should seek to understand our purpose as a direct outgrowth of God’s divine plan (Eph. 2:10).
  1. It is important to pursue God’s purpose (Heb. 11:13). Not to follow God’s purpose is willful disobedience that can result in negative consequences.  This year, God challenged me to undertake an area that did not “fit” the core competencies or strategic plan developed for the ministry.  God had spoken this new direction to me in three separate prophetic messages over a four year period.  I knew it was a mistake—mine!  But God was patient.  And yes, God has the authority to “change our direction” and do a “new thing” in our lives (Is. 43:19). I finally accepted the direction although I haven’t a clue as to where God is taking me.  God, however, knows and that’s what is important (Gen.12:1-4).
  1. It is essential to position ourselves for God’s purpose (Heb. 12:1). In Isaiah 43, God shares His future plan to redeem His people, Israel, now living in captivity.  They had historically rejected God’s purpose which was to reflect God goodness and glory to the world ultimately bringing them into His eternal Kingdom.  But Israel pursued its own purpose (Jer. 17:23).  They were not in position to accomplish God’s purpose, therefore they were sent into captivity for 70 years.  Their disobedience and distrust of God deprived them of God’s glorious purpose.

Like the children of Israel, we as believers often miss God’s divine purpose for our lives because of a number of factors.

  • We may operate out of fear. We are afraid of God’s purpose.  We fear we may not have the skills and capability to what God desires.  You may not have what you think you need, but God, through His Holy Spirit within us, will equip us for every assignment He gives.
  • We may lack trust. We’re afraid God won’t give us what we want.  God may not give you what you want but, be assured God will always give you what’s best for you.  Learn more about the nature of God—His goodness and His greatness.
  • We may be bound by sinful habits and relationships that we aren’t willing to release. Even King Solomon in all his wisdom was hindered from fulfilling God’s purpose because of willful disobedience and sinful patterns in his life.  Confess, repent, and lay hold of the extraordinary purpose which God has for you today.  Trade in what you think is “good” for the “best” God has in store for you.

The Westminster Catechism is a series of questions and answers (proof texts), on which Believers, affirm their faith in God.  The first question (out of 107 questions), is this:  “What is the chief end of man?”  In other words, what is man’s purpose?  The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

“To glorify God” is realized when we represent His rule and presence on the earth.  Created in God’s image, man can bring into reality the kingdom of God on earth and be in intimate relationship with Him.  With and in Christ, we now can pursue God’s unique purpose for our lives (1 Pet. 2:9).

“To enjoy God forever” has begun with the presence of the Holy Spirit with us—a foretaste of the ultimate glory that we will experience in full when we next meet Jesus—in heaven (upon our death) or in the air (upon Christ’s Second Return) (John 14:3).   The end will be the same—“eternal enjoyment.”

In 2019, I am living to understand, to pursue, and to position myself for God’s purpose.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ” (Matt. 6:10, 13)

What did you learn in 2018?

Discovery While Desperately Seeking

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,

And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

Psalm 63:5  (NKJ)

Our series, Desperately Seeking, has focused on what people frantically pursue yet never seem to acquire.  It is in pursuing worldly counterfeits that a vicious circle of dissatisfaction and discontentment is created.  While these imitations may promise well-being and contentment, they can never deliver on their promises.  So what did we discover while desperately seeking?

The first thing we discovered was that we were desperately seeking in the wrong place.   Identifying with society, men seek to satisfy their heart’s desires with “tangibles”.  Yet each day the tabloids are full of stories of people who by the world’s standard “have it all”, yet still are searching for contentment and peace of mind.  It is in the “intangibles” that true satisfaction can be found.  King Solomon explains the reason for this disconnect in Ecclesiastes 3:11.  It is a matter of the heart: “He (God) has planted eternity in the human heart.”  Created in His image, God has made us restless for that which transcends this world.  It can only be provided by our Transcendent Creator.

Secondly, we discovered that we were desperately seeking the wrong thing.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us of a foundational teaching from Jesus:  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”.  Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—Kingdom Living.  Believers are to prioritize and focus on those things which further the Kingdom of God and not their personal agenda.

The Message paraphrase for this text reinforces this understanding:  “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provision.  Don’t worry about missing out.  You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Finally, we discovered that we were desperately seeking for the wrong reasons.  Unfortunately many of us believe our life belongs only to us and we can do whatever we want with it.  For some reason, we believe that our sole purpose in life is to be “happy.”  That is the worldview of purposeful living.

However, for believers, Jesus is the model we are to follow if we are to understand our purpose in life (Eph. 2:10) and our role as citizens of God’s kingdom (Phil. 3:20-21).  In John 6:38, Jesus clearly articulates His purpose and His role:  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”  We are to seek to do the will of God wherever it may lead us.

So what have we discovered in our desperate search?  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we are to no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lust of men, but for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2).  It is in Him that we live, and move, and have our meaning (Act 17:28).   We no longer need to “desperately seek” for we have found in God more than we can ever hope for.  Only God can satisfy those desperately seeking because God is the only True Source of Satisfaction.

Satisfying Restless Hearts

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

He has planted eternity in the human heart,

but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)

In what is now becoming an endangered means of communications, the newspaper offers a service known as classified ads.  The “classified’ allows individuals to list requests for particular services or products they want.   If you were to purchase a classified ad, with regard to “desperately seeking”, what would you request?  What is the motivation behind your request?

Motivation is the force that initiates, guides, and maintains behaviors. It is what causes us to take action.  The forces that lie beneath our motivation can be biological, social, emotional, or intellectual in nature. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the best-known theories of motivation, states that our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs ranging from basic needs for survival to the highest level of motivation dealing with self-esteem and the need to be “all one can be.”

How does this theory of motivation square with the biblical explanations for our “seeking” behavior?  The Words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (Solomon) gives us the answer.  In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is desperately seeking what is the true source of meaning and happiness in life.  Much like those in last week’s WordBytes, he is seeking those things he “can’t seem to get”.

Solomon investigates those things which his “lusts” have directed him to pursue:  pleasure-seeking (2:1-11), wisdom (2:12-17), and labor for reward (2:18-6:9).  In the process of his search, God slowly reveals the explanation for Solomon’s restlessness.  God’s revelation begins in Ecclesiastes 3:11:  “He (God) has planted eternity in the human heart.”  God made men for His eternal purpose, and nothing in this fallen world can bring men complete satisfaction.  I visualize this fact in the picture of the heart with a missing piece exposed to the world.

Many times we pursue counterfeits instead of God—the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16)—thinking they will satisfy our deepest needs.  This pursuit, unfortunately, can prove to be a dangerous path to follow.  We witness the lives of celebrities and social icons whose needs have been met through fame, fortune, and influence yet still voice dissatisfaction with their life.  Many have fallen victim to addictive activities, broken relationships, and suicidal behavior.

Can you image driving your car without an engine?  You put new wheels on it but it won’t go.  You park it in the best garage money can buy yet it still won’t move.  It can’t go!  It cannot accomplish its purpose without an engine.  God created us for His specific purpose that includes a personal relationship (not religion) with Him (Is. 43:21; Eph. 2:10).   It is in daily discovering God’s unique purpose for our life that we find meaning, satisfaction, and contentment.

God is the missing piece in the life of those who are desperately seeking. God is the critical, life-giving piece.  In Him, we live and move and have our meaning (Acts 17:28).  The restless heart can only find satisfaction in God.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430), like Solomon, offered a “faith nugget” for the desperately seeking heart.

Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

Now that we have THE ANSWER for those who are desperately seeking, we will focus the remainder of our series on the specifics of how God satisfies the desperately seeking heart.  Please share this devotional with friends and family.  Also let us know what you think of the series by writing your comments below—we’d love to hear from you.

Life Lived Desperately Seeking

What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?

Ecclesiastes 1:3 (The Message)

I recently read an article entitled The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get.  I was amazed in reading the responses to this informal survey that probed a number of “critical life and career questions.”  This further piqued my curiosity leading me to find other “lists” of how individuals might feel about their current lives.

As I read the various articles, the words “desperately seeking” came to mind.  Therein was the birthing of this new series entitled, Desperately Seeking.  During this series, I’ll be using three (3) lenses to examine the real issues behind our desperate search for the things we feel will make our lives better.  They include:  (1) the current situation, (2) the worldview, and (3) God’s view.  As you follow with me, it is my hope that you will better understand God’s plan for your life and be able to quickly extinguish any desperation you might currently be experiencing.  Let me begin by sharing the current situation.

Desperation is defined as a state of despair or distress, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior—even reckless or dangerous. Desperation is sometimes described as hopelessness.  How would you describe the world today?  You need only look at your phone, notebook, or other source of information to experience the alarming state of our world.

As we view the larger global issues of this nation and world, it is evident that the current political, social, and financial climate cannot be resolved through traditional methods or approaches.  Our hope that technology would offer the panacea to all our problems is daily being dashed as it presents its own set of “new problems” in the form of ethical dilemmas, moral failures, and social shortfalls.  Tricia McCary Rhodes in her book, The Wired Soul, captures this feeling of distress.

I am not personally prone to panic attacks, but these days there are moments when I find myself out of sorts, almost as if I can’t quite catch my breath. I don’t think I’m alone in this. People of all ages seem terminally distracted, perpetually hurried, and often harried.  It is rare for an answer to the question “how are you?” not to include the word busy and elicit some degree of angst. Collectively it feels as if we are losing something important in the name of progress, as if life itself is slipping through our fingers.

But the real challenge of desperation comes, not only globally, but “up close and personal”.   It comes as individuals look in the mirror and ask, “What about those things that I want in life but can’t seem to get?”  From my reading, I compiled (in their order of importance) the top five (5) areas people are feeling desperate about:  happiness, money, freedom, peace, and joy.   I’ve included a sixth, since it seems the focus of many Millennials and Gen xers—balance.

Examination of this list resulted in the following observations.  What’s surprising are the things missing from the list.

1)  The list contains more intangibles that tangibles (money).  Why?

2)  The list is more subjective (what I can feel) than objective.  Why?

3)  The list focuses on “internal” versus “external”.  Why?

What can be said about a “life lived desperately seeking”?  Why are we desperate?  What’s missing in our lives and why can’t we get it?  Join us as we “desperately seek” answers to these and other questions.  Please share this devotional with your friends who might be feeling desperate.  Feel free to share your thoughts on this new series  in the “Comments Box” at the bottom of this page.

Finding Your True North

“Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.  ”      1 John 2:15-16 (New Living Translation)

As part of my Girl Scout experience, I was given the opportunity to earn several merit badges.  I specifically remember working on my camping badge and learning how to utilize the North Star if I found myself lost in the woods.  Later I discovered that there was another “north”.  It’s called true north.  It differs from the compass north I used in Girl Scouts in that true north is depended on the traveler first knowing “where they are”.  It is important to know our “spiritual true north.” Not knowing our true north leaves us vulnerable to Satan lies and exposed to misdirection by the world.

What does finding your true north mean?  In Bill George’s book, True North, he says, “it’s the internal compass that guides you successfully through life.  It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track.  It’s based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations and the sources of satisfaction in your life.”

In our text, the Apostle John warns this early church to guard against allowing the world to define who they are (their values and beliefs).  John’s warning is still valid in the 21st century.  The world (its systems and influences) attempts to define what’s important to us in three (3) areas:  the lusts of the flesh (what makes us happy), the lust of the eyes (what we have) and the pride of life (who we are).  Like the world, believers are tempted to base their happiness, their security, and their significance on the things that the world offers.  These are the “luxurious lies of money, materialism, and marketing.”   The results of these misguided beliefs are an exhausted workforce, financially overcommitted families, and angry, disillusioned individuals.  They need to find their True North.

Solomon found neither happiness, nor security, or significance in the things the world offered.  On the contrary, he described the pursuit of these things as “vanity” or meaningless (Ecc. 12:8).  We need only to peruse the latest tabloid headlines at the grocery checkout to see the broken promises of fame and riches in the lives of individuals who thought “having it all” would make a difference.  Unfortunately they failed to look at the only Person who is able to make good on that expectation—Jesus Christ who came to provide life more abundantly (John 10:10).  They failed to find their True North.

Believers are not to “love” (agapao) the world or the things in it.  This is not a statement of a “minimalist” but the wisdom of God who warns that we are neither to focus on nor be envious of the things of this world—especially the things that are counter to the will of God (Rom. 1:25) .  Paul warned the church at Rome (and us today) not to be conformed to the world (in its thinking and behavior) but transformed by the renewing of their mind (by the revealed Word of God) (Rom. 12:2).  While we as believers cannot divest ourselves from the world, we are not to look like the world.  Our lives are to be a reflection of who we are—the redeemed children of God (Luke 1:68; John 1:12).  We are to keep our eye on our True North, Jesus Christ.

Happiness, security, and significance can only be found in God.   He is our exceeding great reward (Gen. 15:1).  We are complete in Him (Col. 2:10).  He is our strong high tower (Ps. 144:2).  Jesus understood the challenge of living in this fallen world.  That why He prayed to the Father not to remove His disciples (including future believers) from the world but to “keep them” from evil while living in the world (John 17:15).   Knowing our True North, Jesus Christ, will enable us to follow the right path.

SELAH:  In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going or what is the right path for us personally.   Meditating on God’s Word will help you to “remove the cobwebs” and see more clearly.  Meditate on 1 John 2:15-16 in your favorite bible translation.  Begin with prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to join you in this time of meditation.  Read the text aloud and slowly; note “any word or phrase” that seemed to capture your attention.  Read it a second time paying attention to “the tone and emotion” the Apostle John used in this text.  Read it a final time and then sit silently and expectantly for one minute.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word.  What does He have to say to you regarding your “True North”?   Journal what you hear—share it with a friend.

Begin with the End in Mind

Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,   that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  Ephesians 1:9-10 (NKJ)

A child gazes into a new box of Legos and begins to fantasize about that special robot he’s always wanted.  A young lady searches for that one “special” dress—she knows the silhouette, color, and fabric.  She has already envisioned wearing it on Saturday.  I stare at the picture of shrimp and grits (a special recipe from my girlfriend in Georgia).  Reviewing each ingredient, I imagine its succulent taste in my mouth.  All three of us with our own unique desire will bring into reality what we have each imagined by beginning with the end in mind.

“Begin with the end in mind” is one of the principles from Steven Covey’s best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey puts forth the idea that by clearly seeing the goal we desire at the beginning, we will more likely be able to accomplish that goal in the end.  So it was and still is with God.

Before the foundation of the world, God had a specific end in mind.  It was two-fold:  first, to redeem mankind, and secondly, to restore the kingdom of God.  Both purposes were fulfilled and will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ (Is. 9:6-7). 

The mystery made known.  “Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself”.

The mystery (musterion) of God’s will can only be known as a result of God’s willingness to make it known.  The word literally means “to shut the mouth” and in this context, it refers to a truth once hidden but now made known (Rom. 11:25, Col. 1:26).  The mystery “was made known” when Christ came in the flesh (Titus 2:11) and the long awaited plan of redemption was initiated according to God’s good pleasure.  God knew what was needed to resolve the issue of sin and “purposed in Himself” a plan that was to be carried out in Jesus Christ, His Son, the second person of the Trinity.  This mystery has now been revealed “to us”—His Church.

The purpose realized—in part.   “That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him”

Dispensation refers to the management or oversight of other’s property.  God gave Christ oversight over all the elect—not only in the physical world but also those already in heaven.  The apostle Paul revealed to the church at Ephesus God’s eternal purpose to “gather together” not only them, but all who have by faith accepted Christ.   This “gathering together” began with a chosen people who ultimately become a nation called Israel (Ps. 132:11-13).  This “gathering together” continued with a rejected people (1 Pet. 2:10) who became heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).  The “fullness of times”, however, is yet in eternity future, when Christ begins His reign in the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 21).  Then the purpose which God began before the foundation of the world will be realized in full.

Mystery made known. Purpose realized—in part.  What now?   Begin with the end in mind!  What has God purposed for your life?  It’s much more than “living happily ever after”—that’s only a fairy tale.  God’s has gifted us with spiritual (and material) blessings in order to bring into reality what was always the plan—the redemption of man and the restoration of His Kingdom.

  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Matt 28: 19-20 (RSV)
  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10
  • But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
  • Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Hebrews 12:28

Begin with God’s end in mind.  Let your life in Christ be centered on Christ!  2018 is a great time to realign and reprioritize your plans with God’s plan.  Remember to keeping the “main thing the main thing.”

SELAH:  Beginning with “God’s end in mind”, what are your top three (3) priorities for 2018?