Friday, October 18, 2013

Understanding Purpose (Part 2)

Understanding Purpose
Understanding Purpose

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave...” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV)

There is competition in all facets of life; one might even say all life is rooted in competition. Being competitive requires discipline. An undisciplined competitor, regardless of their talent, will not be successful. I have seen athletes with far less talent succeed where athletes with far greater talent have failed. Sports, business, technology, science, medicine, and education all require a level of discipline in order to succeed. Even societies require discipline to sustain success. When there is a fundamental breakdown of discipline, failure soon ensues. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying regarding societies. I do not refer to oppression as a form of discipline.

Last week, I spoke about the importance of knowing God’s word and applying it in my life. Additionally, I indicated how closely prayer is tied to knowing God’s word. The bible speaks of how God’s people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge. Jesus spoke of our spiritual enemy, referring to him as a “thief”, Jesus says, “The thief comes to rob, kill and destroy…” To rob me of God’s joy and peace, to kill all my love and desire to please God with my life, to destroy my hope of salvation; the thief is very disciplined. If I am to pick up my cross and follow Christ to Calvary, I’d better have a disciplined life to do it!

I can remember when, I struggled to pray. I would often go to the church and assemble with others, listening to the prayers offered to God. I was in awe of the men and women I heard praying prayers of intercession on behalf of others, our schools, teachers, students, families, political leaders, the nation, our economy. These were prayers which inspired me, encouraged me and taught me that this was an area of weakness in my life. Often, I would kneel, but not knowing what to say. I studied references to prayer in scripture, I bought books on prayer, but I failed to understand the fundamental principal of prayer; consistency.

I can memorize many scriptures so that I know what God says regarding His promises, how He has saved others, the power of His healing touch, and His divine grace; but without a disciplined, consistent prayer life I will never fully apply my faith in action. I had to learn, not to rely on the prayers of others (although it is good when others agree with me to pray), but to rely on my own will to come boldly before the throne of grace and plead to God on my behalf or on the behalf of others as an intercessor.

How do I establish discipline in my life as a Christian?

Pick up your cross daily and follow me.

These are more than the words of Christ; they are the instructions to every believer to maintain discipline in my life. Each day, I should eagerly seek God’s presence and call upon Him to guide me throughout the day; my thoughts, words and actions. Now I’ll be the first to admit that even with this thought in mind, I don’t always uphold my words. Like everyone else, I face trials; so in addition to discipline I need patience.

Patience will enable me to avoid the trap of discouragement. Every one of us have expectations; of ourselves and others. When these expectations aren’t met, we face discouragement. Discouragement plants the thought of giving up. Have you ever made the decision to lose weight, get healthier through diet and exercise? You begin with such good intentions, but soon, you find yourself craving that favorite food or you say, “I don’t feel like exercising today”. My thought gives way to lack of discipline and then I find myself discouraged. As I yield to this thought, I soon discover that I’ve given up totally with my goal and I am even more discouraged. Instead of acknowledging to God that I need Him even in this area of my life, I may blame it on my diet being too difficult, the exercises too hard, not having an exercise partner, or someone else.

Patience helps me recognize that although I failed, I must not give up; I must press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I don’t have to pray for hours, I can pray anywhere at any time! That’s the marvelous gift of prayer which God has given every believer; open access to Him. If you don’t have discipline in your life, start praying to God; practice daily prayer! Don’t focus on length or quantity of words but the quality of what you say to God. Open your heart up and genuinely speak frankly to Him. Do this every day and you will discover a powerful spiritual tool in your arsenal. You will also recognize a more disciplined life.

Next week, I will discuss the importance of obedience to understanding purpose.

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say that I appreciate each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your schedule to read a post on this blog is encouraging to me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment. Whether a comment is left is not important. What is important, is that you came. I do hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Understanding Purpose

Understanding Purpose
Understanding Purpose

I remember as a boy how much I loved model planes and cars. There was always a sense of excitement when I opened the box and looked at all the small pieces of plastic which had to be assembled together to become the finished product. Always, without exception, I would open the folded piece of paper which provided the assembly instructions and a diagram of each piece included in the kit. I would meticulously follow the instructions until I had an exact replica of the image on the box.

I didn’t know then, but I believe God was preparing me to be both analytical and solution-driven by learning the procedures for doing things correctly. I'm certain you'll agree with me that knowing and doing are not the same; still the seed was sown in me. I wish I could say that I have always followed procedures correctly, but I would be lying. As a Christian and as a software engineer, I have had my share of failures when I didn’t follow the correct instructions.

I once heard a minister say, “If you don’t know the purpose of a thing, you will only abuse it.” I believe that whenever we see the word, “abuse” used as the suffix of a word, it is the result of someone not understanding the true purpose of a person or thing. Child-abuse, spousal-abuse, parental-abuse, alcohol-abuse, and drug-abuse are just a few of the obvious abuses we are most familiar with; I’m certain there are many, many more.

How does one avoid becoming abusive?

There has to be a way to bypass what Hosea the prophet wrote in Hosea 4 when he said:

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6, NIV)

There are three keys to understanding purpose: knowledge, discipline, and obedience.

Knowledge: To know the true purpose of anything, I must have knowledge which equips me with a level of understanding so I am successful in what I endeavor to do. A small child may not understand the difference between a left shoe and right shoe, but we would think it quite odd to see a man wearing his shoes on the wrong foot. I have watched hunting programs where men sit in trees or hide in tall grass waiting for the exact moment to shoot a deer, bear, moose or other animal. But those who would use weapons on humans, like what happened in a Kenyan mall, or here recently in DC, tells me that people lack an understanding of the purpose of human life. There is no honor in killing. Those who commit such acts dishonor not only themselves, but all life which the Lord created.

The opposite of knowledge is ignorance and ignorance can be quite damaging. I remember attempting to fix a leaking pipe once. I’m no plumber and I have no knowledge of plumbing, but I told myself I could fix this pipe. I approached the problem analytically, using my own knowledge of software solution problem solving: Remove a portion of the leaky pipe, replace it and presto change-o, problem solved! Unfortunately for me, I didn’t realize that pipes have to have exact fittings, exact lengths, everything must be precise; I wasn’t precise. I stripped the threads on the pipe and couldn’t remove it. The leak was now worse than before; I failed to use the proper tools and parts correctly to remedy the original problem because I lacked the requisite knowledge.

I didn’t know and in my ignorance, I caused a bigger problem for myself.

What’s the typical response when we’re stopped by law enforcement for speeding?

Officer, I had no idea I was speeding.

Our excuse is ignorance, but there is a purpose for posting signs to indicate the maximum speed. Perhaps there are children in the area, perhaps there is road construction ahead, or perhaps the road curves. Whatever the reason, there is a purpose for it. Have you ever come close to hitting another car or pedestrian because you failed to look left or right before turning? The purpose in doing so is obvious but sometimes, we’re in a hurry and purpose becomes secondary to what I want to do.

As a Christian, it’s vital that I understand the importance of God’s word and the correct application of it my life. You see, if I don’t understand the importance of prayer, I will abuse it through neglect. I will have a multitude of excuses for not praying. I don’t know how to pray, I prefer someone with faith pray on my behalf, or God doesn’t hear my prayers. These excuses are born from my ignorance of God’s word because the bible says:

...the prayer of the upright is his delight.” (Proverbs 15:8, NIV)

God delights when He hears you pray!

Why pray?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NIV)

When you know God will hear you, you get excited about praying! My Father, the Creator of heaven and earth hears me! When a person doesn’t know that God not only hears, but listens with keen interest in hearing what you say, then prayer for you is erratic, it lacks consistency, and is too often uttered with little sincerity or depth from one’s heart.

Prayer is a strategic weapon God has given each believer to fight the good fight of faith. Prayer defeats the spiritual forces of darkness which oppose your life. There is a common enemy to every believer. This enemy seeks to undermine the purpose of prayer in your life; and the common method of spiritual attack is your own ignorance. You’ve heard it said that, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to knowing God’s word.

Jesus said:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NIV)

The opposite of freedom is slavery and when I live my life in spiritual ignorance, I am a slave to sin, unbelief, doubt, worry, fear, and spiritual defeat.

This is why knowledge is so necessary to understanding purpose.

Next week, I will discuss the importance of discipline to understanding purpose.

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say that I appreciate each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your schedule to read a post on this blog is encouraging to me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment. Whether a comment is left is not important. What is important, is that you came. I do hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, October 4, 2013

Designed for Purpose

What is Your Purpose?
What is your purpose?

Michael Jordan: Hall of Fame basketball player and globally recognized as one of the greatest all time players

Michael Phelps: World Class swimmer, multiple gold medal winning Olympic Champion

Ludwig van Beethoven: World re-known, famous and influential composer; principal figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras of Western Music.

Paul Gauguin: World re-known French artist recognized for his experimental use of colors and synthetist style which led to the Post-Impressionist style of art.

Albert Einstein: Nobel Prize winning, German Born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and is recognized as one of the world’s most intelligent men.

Martin Luther King Jr.: American clergyman, theologian, Civil Rights Activist, and Nobel Prize winner, who is recognized as the leading figure in the civil rights struggle of African Americans during the decade of the 60’s.

Leonardo da Vinci: Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer.

Throughout the history of civilization, men and women have done amazing and incredible things that have advanced civilization and in doing so became historical figures. Each recognized their purpose. I don't know if they heard a voice within crying out for expression. I don't know if they understood that they were designed for purpose; but I do know they were enabled to achieve their purpose.

I would like to believe that all individuals recognize their call to a purpose. A purpose some have answered and in doing so, achieved what they were created to do. Many people don’t ever win a Nobel Peace prize, Olympic Gold Medal, compose unforgettably timeless music, champion the cause of human rights, or make discoveries in science, medicine and technology; and yet they still have a purpose. I say this because we are all custom-designed for purpose by God. He has put purpose in you!

The bible itself speaks of purpose:

But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth…” (Exodus 9:16, NKJV)

God has placed a purposeful gift of talent within each of us so that the revelation of His tremendous love, power and grace is made known through you via your talent.

God has a purpose for each of our lives!

Knowing God’s purpose makes all the difference between living in fulfillment of His will and living in a way which never recognizes someone greater than myself is at work in me.

How do I discover my purpose?

I believe that in each of us exists a burning desire, a passion crying to be fulfilled. This desire and passion is good, but it can become perverted, corrupted and ultimately, unfulfilled through my own lack of understanding.

"my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6, NIV)

But God wants to inform you that you do indeed have a purpose; He Himself has placed it within you. Though it lies dormant within you, your purpose is ready to be cultivated by you that it will one day spring forth like a downpour of rain from heaven.

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.” (Palm 20:4, NKJV)

God wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; having placed in your heart that very desire to achieve it.

As a young boy, I read about computers and was captivated by this new technology. This desire burned inside me causing me to seek outwardly what was deep inside my heart. I see now that God opened the door of opportunity which allowed me to fulfill the desire within me. Knowing that God is no respecter of anyone, I know what he has done for others, he also did for me; and he will do the same for you.

I can remember speaking with others about purpose and being amazed at their confusion in knowing what God’s purpose was for them. Purpose is not some mystery which remains hidden from one’s eyes; purpose cries out from deep within us. It is always there, seeking expression from us. It is the voice of one's hidden talent, a God-given gift that wants to rejoice in the knowledge that I not only have a gift from God, but I use it in the way it was designed in me: as my gift to God.

Paul writes:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus...” (Colossians 3:17, NIV)

My purpose is an expression of my appreciation for God’s love and grace. I don’t do it for the admiration of others; I do it to reveal the awesome power of God.

How do I fulfill my purpose?

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3, NIV)

Dedicating myself and the works produced from my life requires my recognition that God supports me. God wants me to fulfill that which answers the age-old question, why am I here?

What is it that cries from the depths of your spirit? What is it that you have not fulfilled, yet cannot escape the thought of doing?

It’s in you, no matter how much time has elapsed since the thought first occurred. You know it’s there inside you, needing you to express what only you can.

Art, music, sports, medicine, science, technology, service to others, janitor, cook, housekeeper, father, mother, caregiver; whatever you do, do as unto the Lord. You were designed for purpose by God, it's up to you to fulfill it, but you're not alone. God wants to help you realize the very reason you are here. God will help you cultivate your gift, your talent, your purpose; so that you will express it as a gift to Him.

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say that I appreciate each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your schedule to read a post on this blog is encouraging to me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment. Whether a comment is left is not important. What is important, is that you came. I do hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).