Category Archive: Purpose

That They May be One

‘Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell’. 

Psalm 43:3

A devotion from Seeds of the Kingdom explains that in Scripture light often symbolizes well-being. So walking in the light of God’s presence illuminates the deepest secrets of our hearts, and carries with it day to day benefits for us. First, it keeps us in the truth. We live in a world of compromise and relativism and more than ever before we need to know the truth so we can walk in God’s ways. Second, it dispels our fear because His presence is always with us and we will not lose our way. Third, walking in the light of God’s presence is the way of obedience. In Scripture obedience and blessing go hand in hand. https://seedsofthekingdom.org/devotionals/0140/walking-in-the-light-of-god%E2%80%99s-presence.php

How can we walk in the light of God’s presence in a world, a country that is deeply divided right now?

Our small women’s Bible study group studied Jesus’ prayer in John 17 this week. He prays that we will be one, as He and the Father are one. He prayed for us, for me–“for those who will believe in me through their message.”

He prays for this oneness so the world may believe God sent Jesus, and that Jesus loves us even as the Father loves the Son (John 17:23)

This weekend a local pastor shared some letters he has received in the past two weeks. Each said she was questioning her relationship with God because of the divisions, the anger she sees within the church over politics.

Hearing these letters hurt. How tragic if our disagreements, my desire to be ‘right’, causes others to turn away from rather than to Christ!

So how do we move forward? We know we have political differences in the church. I think most families have some level of political difference. We don’t have to think alike. And yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 MSG

When injustice occurs, we need to hurt with those affected, and work for justice. When righteousness blesses someone, we rejoice exuberantly with them! We can look for opportunities to be intentional about loving someone with whom we disagree, especially politically.

We can also focus on relationship. There are differences within my family, but we have agreed that our relationship is more important than our differences. We’ve agreed not to discuss politics or, if we do, we work to do it briefly and in a spirit of respect for the other’s point of view.

Politics is not our savior; a political party cannot make us right with God. His purposes go beyond what happens in the November election. We don’t have to think alike; but our focus needs to be on Jesus and on the mission He gave us to share His love and truth with the world. If we do this, we can lay some of our differences aside and love each other.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headedthat exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

What are you finding in this divisive time? Is your family all on the same page politically? If not, how do you handle those disagreements?

WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

These last few months when we have been sheltered in place, have increased a sense of purposelessness for many. Limited in our ability to connect with family and friends, we wonder how to love on neighbors beyond asking how they’re doing, praying for them, and offering to do a shopping run for them.

  • Children are out of school. They haven’t been able to play with their friends for some time.
  • Young adults have missed being in class with their colleagues.
  • Employees work from home and miss the camaraderie and stimulation that being together in the workplace brings.
  • We watch church on Facebook Live or Zoom and miss the hugs and face to face greetings we usually give and receive.

Many parents are doing all in their power to enhance their children’s online learning and develop creative, fun activities for their kiddos.

But my brother, a retired police officer, tells us the incidences of abuse and domestic violence are increasing significantly. People feel the pressure of our current social isolation.

And while we need to address social justice issues, it feels like the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be more open to conflict, confrontation, and aggression–on both sides!

God’s Word assures us that His purposes will be accomplished. I find myself asking “God, what is Your purpose in all this turmoil? What is it You want to change in my heart, and in our nation and the world?”

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

When we focus on God, our perspective shifts from our own fears, concerns, actions, to watching for ways to get on board with his purpose and plans. One day all men–believers and unbelievers alike–will bow before Him in all His glory.

I read of a police officer who was afraid. He asked Siri (on his smart phone), “How can I be saved?” Siri directed him to the Billy Graham online site, where he learned how he could have a personal relationship and peace with God (https://peacewithgod.net/). God is at work through this time. Let’s not lose sight of what he wants to do in and through us.

God has not promised to remove the storms from our lives; but he has promised to be with us in each of them.

So let’s start a dialogue:

What do you want/need from me? How can I encourage you as we navigate this difficult time together?

Undivided Attention

As I sat behind my desk, ready to write, Paigey (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) looked up at me from beside the desk. Then she pulled her ball out and brought it to me.

“Okay, here you go.” I tossed it over the desk and our pretty red and white girl chased it. But she wouldn’t bring it back to me behind the desk, no matter how much I cajoled her.

Paigey

Finally I got out of my chair and walked around to stand in front of the desk where Paigey had my full attention. We played ball ’til she tired and lay down on her carpet.

Don’t we want that from those we love, and who love us? I love it when Don sits and listens with undivided attention. I feel heard, understood, loved.

And God has promised that kind of attention to us. “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). We can approach the throne of God with confidence, knowing He hears, loves us, and cares about our needs. And while His answer may at times be different than what we ask for (my first husband died despite thousands of prayers wending heavenward for his recovery), He has promised always to be with us, never to leave nor forsake us.

His goal for us is not to be our personal genie, but to work in our hearts and lives, purifying us for His purposes–and for heaven!

I love the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 71, his confidence in God, his Rock and Defender!

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth…

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone…

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
    of your saving acts all day long—
    though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 71:5-24

The Psalmist reminds me to praise God for His faithful works in my life and the lives of others, for His comforting hand in all my ways, His ears that hear my heart’s cry for His complete love and attention.

So I will praise Him.

God Uses Pain

I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.

C.S. Lewis
Joy Davidman Lewis

Secrets. Deadly. C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife, Joy, to cancer. But he didn’t hide his grief, writing about it in A GRIEF OBSERVED. His wisdom is meaningful because it comes out of his own life experience.

A Grief Observed

Our culture tends to think of pain as a negative, as something to sweep under the proverbial rug.

“How are you?”
“I’m fine thanks. And you?”

We may not want to take someone else’s time to share the truth of our journey, the faith crisis we’re in, the pain of loss, a wayward child, bankruptcy, or challenges within a community, a ministry, a marriage.

But secrets divide us. They raise barriers. Don’t go past this point. No more questions. Change the subject.

Have you been there? I have. In my last three posts I’ve written about being part of an inner city ministry for ten years, years that included times of significant joy and reward as we helped people through times of personal crisis, led children’s clubs and adult Bible studies, a teen choir, food and clothing distribution, and started a school in the ghetto. Joy as some committed their lives to Jesus Christ and started to walk a new path, making different, more positive choices than many around them.

But those years also included times of pain, with a controlling leader who told us not to talk to family or friends about doubts or issues with his leadership. So, along with others, I held a lot inside. I kept secrets. Was I fine? Definitely not. Did I tell anyone? Not for years.

So being with other women who were part of that organization two weeks ago was extremely meaningful. We shared honestly and openly, asking and answering questions and also sharing about our current lives. Although I know there was and is more to share, we spoke the secrets aloud. And it was healing.

Someone said when people speak about their joy, people listen and affirm. But when we speak our pain, people lean in. All of us have experienced pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. And pain spoken loses some of its power, while pain held in spreads like a cancer.

Obviously we need to be wise. Sharing everything with everyone is neither prudent nor effective. But we do need safe places where we can be authentic with a few trusted individuals.

When we speak of our pain (within appropriate boundaries), others want to hear. They may be experiencing something similar, and they want to know how we overcame. What gave us the strength to move through the pain to new understanding, to finding hope again?

Perhaps we can begin to welcome pain as a gift to help us grow or warn us of needed changes. The child who places her hand on a hot stove learns not to do that. The pain of betrayal may caution us against trusting too quickly, about delving more deeply into a person’s integrity before getting too involved.

These are some of the women in my life now, who challenge me in my walk with God and relationships with others. Our “Fab Friday” bunch is a gift!

The pain of distance from God may remind us that we need to spend regular time with him, enjoying this most important of all relationships.

None of us wants pain. Few of us invite it. And God doesn’t send it. But he can use it in our lives as it reminds us …

  • that God is our comfort as we move toward rather than away from him. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7)
  • to serve others–God comforts us so that we can pass that comfort along to others in need (II Corinthians 1:3-5)
  • to patiently endure–“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) and
  • to rely on God–“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:12).

Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.

Billy Graham

Those are reasons to be thankful for pain’s impact in our lives.

May God guide you as you open your heart’s secrets to him, our ultimate Counselor; and to trusted confidantes, so that you may be healed.

Process, or Purpose?

Computer problems prevented my posting the last two weeks. My apologies … but I’m back!

Before leaving for Mexico I determined that on our return I would make a concentrated effort to lose weight. And so I began a weight loss program that has worked for me in the past.

I’m encouraged to have started. But a dear friend reminded me that there is a bigger picture involved.

  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to encourage and bless my husband in every way possible.
  • I want to help and serve my mother.
  • I’m writing a novel that’s been in the works for awhile. I want to finish it before next year’s Spring Christian Writers’ Conference.

As we talked about these goals, Grace looked at me with love and said, “And in order to finish that book, Carol, you need energy. So is weight loss the overriding purpose?”

And I realized it’s not. My purpose, for which weight loss is one part, is to become healthier so that I can complete these other goals…supporting and encouraging those I love, completing my novel…all for the glory of God.

Delicious – but does it feed my goal to become healthier?

How often do I set targets and stay focused on little goals without putting them in the context of a bigger picture. In what ways do I sabotage my overall purpose in life, which is to honor God and delight in Him forever? Is it by eating foods I know are unhealthy for me (i.e.too much sugar, too many carbs)? Is it by staying up too late (although there are nights, like tonight, when I can’t sleep and so I do get up and work or relax), by filling my mind with unwholesome reading or TV? Is it by filling my schedule with “good” projects that prevent me from doing the best thing(s)?

Being challenged to look at a purpose beyond losing weight or finishing a novel helps me prioritize, determine how and where I expend my energy, and make wise choices along the way. In order to accomplish what God has called me to, I need to take better care of myself in the ways that I can, not out of selfishness or ego, but for the glory of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23a

I’m trying to look at each day in light of this larger purpose of increased health, and I look forward to what I will learn in the process.

Is there an area where you need to review your deeper purpose and put it in writing to help you remember?

*I apologize for not posting the past two weeks. I had a glitch in my program that took awhile to resolve. I’m back!