A Crisis of Purpose

When I got pregnant with my son, one of my closest friends said to me. “Oh, Pam, you had so much potential.” It’s something that’s stuck with me. Perhaps why it stuck is because I’m part of Generation Y. I was raised with the ideology that “one person can change the world” and that we are all uniquely gifted to do so.  The problem with that thinking is that if you “miss” your calling, you’re purposeless. In essence, my friend was telling me that I was going to miss my purpose and settle for something else. She couldn’t have given me a bigger lie.

If you want to talk about purpose, you have to see it from God’s perspective. What does God want you to do? Well, God wants His will — He wants you to grow and change and become the most authentic, loving, kind, generous, anxiety free person you can be. He wants you to grow to trust Him more.  And that can be done in lots of different ways at lots of different times.

The better question for us becomes what do we “do” to aid in process of trying to conform to His will? For Christians, the Bible tells us to do lots of things. We’re to pray — for ourselves and the people that are part of our life. We are to be like Jesus and be a bridge — bringing people to God. We are to be salt and light, preserving the life in people and guiding others to a path of true fulfillment. We’re to be harvesters, bringing people to understand this life they’re given and showing how to give glory to the master. We’re to be stewards, caring for the things and people we’re given responsibility for.

The common denominator in all of these metaphors is that we are to interact with each other. The problem is that most of us see these actions as a “do.” We meet and interact with people and do a mental “check” as we leave them. And that is not from God.That won’t lead to fulfilling his will. It leads to a crisis of purpose.

As we enter fall, I’m realizing more and more that God is begging us to be relational with one another again. If God could get pissed off, then He’s pissed off at how isolated we’ve become. He’s sitting up in heaven going, “I’ve given you life — I’ve given you each other — WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

It’s not a matter of community. We all have churches and jobs and neighborhoods that we have to interact with others in. It’s about voluntarily getting uncomfortable. Letting other people see us. Being together. Not to share your latest story, but to just be together. Let other people see you raise your kids. Not because you’re having a half an hour coffee and talk session with them in your home, but because you’re spending the day together. Invite someone over on a Saturday to just hang out the whole day. It’ll change your life. It’ll change how you measure the happiness in your life. It’ll change how important you feel your life is worth living.It’ll change how and what you praise God for. Truly, it’ll have you giving more glory to Him.

Stop with the scheduling. Stop with the planning events to go to. Get in other people’s homes and start being.Go out in the wilderness and hang out. Be real. Be authentic. It’s the only way to find out what God made you for — to LOVE others and to love Him.

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Rule Me

The ideas represented below are property of Beth Moore and were first delivered at a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan in Spring. I will do my best to differentiate her ideas from mine.

One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

“The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

-Judges 9:8-15

This story, known as Jotham’s fable, is the oldest tale written in all of history…and it’s been simmering in me for months now. Beth Moore used this as the set-up for some really powerful teaching at the Living Proof Live back in spring. She presented the idea that man was created with a longing to rule, but that we also have a desire to BE ruled. Now, you can argue whether you think she’s right or not, but I think she’s dead on.

She broke down this story to say that we either let God rule us, or one of the things in the story. For some of us, we are like those who want to bow to the oil, which stands for religious life. Now, she nor I mean that in the way that our culture means. We both understand the thought to mean those that bow to “church” before we bow to God. Church life — BIBLICAL COMMUNITY — is good. But just going to church is not good. In my history, I have discovered that you can smell a person who is ruled by religiosity a mile away. It’s a person who is willing to go to church, but isn’t willing to have their heart probed by God or by other people. They’re judgmental and cold. They’re pharisees, for short, and Jesus wasn’t too pleased with them. He loved them, but his constant message to them was “What are you doing!?!?!? STOP IT! It’s hurting you, and it’s hurting others.”

The second group of us bow to the fig tree: indulgence. Because the fig was code for ancient candy, Beth demonstrated how those of us who bow to indulgence consciously or unconsciously say “Just for this moment, make me forget.” If it comes to God pressing in, or having an out to escape the pain or the probbing, they’ll run.

The third group, those who bow to the grape vine, are asking to be ruled by intoxication. They’re constant cheer is: “make me feel different.” Just give me that food, that money, that drink, that drug and make my thoughts about my self and my current circumstances different. Our media machine drives off of people who are tangled up in this mode of thinking. But there is a conscious choice, too.

The last group is the group that bows to the buckthorn. The thorn is the mark of affliction on the earth. It’s those people who are ruled by their circumstances. We all know these people. They’re the Eeyore’s of our society. They always have something that got them down, with no hope of it changing. You try to cheer them up, but they almost get mad at you for doing so.  Somehow, they believe that living with problems is better than getting over the problems, because at least they feel they can control the problems they have.

Now I’m not presenting this to get anybody down or to judge anybody. I’ve bowed to religious life. I’ve bowed to the buckthorn. And I think I’m still battling bowing to indulgence. But I think the woman had a point. If we’re bowing to these things, we’re missing out.

She reminded us that God promised in 1 Samuel 12:12 that “The Lord GOD was YOUR king.” He was your king before any of these other things came into our lives. He’s promised us that if we live under Him, that we’ll never meet a foe we can’t conquer.The question then becomes “Do we want to conquer it?”

For me, the past couple of months has been about stopping the bowing to anything other than God. It’s been about identifying when I bow…because a lot of times I do it unconsciously. It’s been about stopping this mad behavior of screeming “RULE ME!!!” every time I get frustrated or angry or overwhelmed. It’s about realizing that I don’t need to bow to anything else for security or love because I already am secure and I am loved.

I hope her ideas will help you as much as they are me. We’re all in process.

Peace,

Pam

The Purpose of Prayer

I’ve needed to write this post for awhile now. But I’ve been putting it off because of fear. I was afraid of spouting something off that someone will say is “incorrect doctrine” or, on the other hand, offending someone because they’ll take it too personally.

I’m sick of living in fear. This is what I know to be true.

Most of the people I know that know “about God” think of prayer like some kind of wishing well. They say some words, cross their fingers, hope God hears, and half-halfheartedly believe that He’ll actually do something about it. When God does move, they make comments like: “See! Prayer works!” As if it were like turning on a light switch. Do “X” and “Y” will happen, right? Buzz. Wrong. While God does “answer” prayer, He’s not a gumball machine.

The other large percentage of people I know pray in some sort of Christian language that comes from a deeply religious (read: Pharisee-like) place.  Their words come from the Christian Book of Acceptable Doctrinal Vocabulary, but as you’re praying with them, you just want to slap them around a bit and scream “What are you saying!!!??” You can tell that they’re not connecting with you, God, or their own heart.

The purpose of prayer isn’t to work some sort of Christian witchcraft — say a few chants and poof! our desires are met. The purpose of prayer is not for God to think about what we want and offer it to us because we asked the right way.

The purpose of prayer is to move us closer to God and closer to each other. Yes, that was a period.

We go to prayer because in prayer, He unites us with Himself. And since He is at rest, because He is in control, and we are uniting with Him, we get to feel where He’s “at”.  We get to experience His wisdom, His self-control, His assurance, His confidence. We grow to trust Him more because we “see” His character.

When I go to prayer, I expect God to talk. I expect Him to bring assurance and encouragement. I expect it because that’s who He is. He’s relational. He’s an exhorter. He wants what’s best for His children. Remember, He’s offering me Himself, so He’s going to offer me His character traits.

I also expect that when I ask for His will to be done, that it will be done. What is the will of God? The will of God is for people to be the best that they can be. Not by self-striving, of course, but by a transformational process. So, when I pray, I don’t just say ” I pray that your will is done.” That would be Christianese. I say “let your will be done by the abolishing of their anger issue, or my issue with bitterness. Remove the hindrances, remove the agreements, remove the spiritual forces that stand in the way, and get everybody in line behind you.” And because it’s already in His will, He says yes.

As I said before though, it’s not just about God and us. It’s about us and others, too.

When we ask others to pray for us, it’s should be so that they will experience God’s presence and offer us the fruit of that experience when we talk to them. After praying, God often has shared something of Himself that keeps them from caving in, sitting silent, or offering brutal judgment. Instead, they will be able to offer the life and light they’ve received and remind us of who God is and what He’s capable of. Can you imagine how powerful the church could be if our communities of believers actually understood the gift of prayer? And because we’re functioning off of the best of ourselves, ta da!, we actually like each other more.

When we ask others to pray with us, it’s to invite Jesus in. Our “job” in prayer is not to comfort, or console, or to say the right words. Our job is to bring people to Jesus. That’s it people. If I ask you to pray with me, it’s so because I’m having a hard time remembering how to talk to Jesus. Just bring me to Him. He’ll take it from there.

I know this is a bit of a rant, but it needed to be said. The LORD is a mighty God. It’s about time we realize that the communication we have with Him is more powerful than lighting a candle.And He wants more than nice words. He wants us. He’s willing to offer us Him, surely us doing the same is not too much of a price.