Monthly Archives: September 2022

We All Want Purpose

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” (John 4:34)

Jesus’ disciples were urging him to eat some food, and Jesus responds that his food was to do God’s will.  From his words and actions we know that God’s will for him was to save us from our sins, to show us “the way and the truth and the life,” and to defeat death by his death and resurrection.

I have never met anyone who didn’t want to have purpose and meaning in their lives.  Rick Warren has sold over 35 million copies of his book, Purpose Driven Life, indicating a fairly high level of interest in the subject.   

As Christians, the Church teaches us that we are called to come to know God, to love him and to serve him and others in this life, so that we can be with him now and into eternity.  How this plays out in real life varies with each individual, for God creates each one of us with unique characteristics, skills and purpose. 

For me, I came to know God through the Christian heritage of my parents, as well as through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ many years ago.  Early in my adult life my primary purpose was to love and support my wife and children and advance in my career as an attorney as far as possible.  I didn’t give much thought to whether those two objectives were God’s will for me.   

My wife and I practiced our Catholic faith by going to church every Sunday, raising our children with Christian values and getting involved in a few church activities.  It wasn’t until we experienced a renewal of our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit in our mid-30’s that I began to look at the purpose for my life through the lens of God’s will for me. 

Through that renewal experience, God enlarged my perspective of purpose.  Loving and serving my family, and serving my employer and others well were part of his desire for me.  I also came to understand that God wants us to be good stewards of the talents, time, possessions, responsibilities and people he entrusts to our care.  Just as he commanded Peter at the end of John’s Gospel to feed and take care of his sheep, he commands us to love and take care of the people and other responsibilities he puts in our lives. 

He also places us in the garden of his creation “to work and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)  Our work is important to God.  His plan is for us to be good stewards of his creation and the advancement of civilization that results from our work.  Like a cloth made up of a multitude of threads weaved finely together, each one’s individual work contributes to the civilization that has evolved from God’s creation.

What purpose has God revealed to you in terms of your unique characteristics and gifts?

A More Innocent Time

“You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalm 61:4 NIV)

Heritage and history are important to all of us.  They impact how we were raised as children and how we carry what we experienced into our adult lives.  If we marry and have a family it affects how we raise our own children, often repeating what we experienced with our parents or adjusting accordingly.

I am reminded of my 60th high school class reunion in Mason City, Iowa, which I attended a few years ago. Mason City is a town of about 30,000 in northern Iowa, known mostly for Meredith Wilson’s birthplace and being the model for River City in his musical, Music Man.

Out of a class of 340, one hundred ten of us showed up from California to Virginia and Texas to Idaho.   We came to catch up with old friends, become reacquainted with others we didn’t know so well and relive memories from long ago.

What was noteworthy was that everyone had a genuine interest in one another.  There were no agendas.  There was no competition in sharing about family or what was going on in people’s lives.  People shared more about family than careers or past accomplishments.  There was no discussion involving politics, the public arena or world affairs.

We reminisced about a more innocent time when as children we could walk several blocks to our elementary schools without our parents and concerns for safety.  We could ride our bikes to any part of town at any time of day or night without worry of being mugged or molested. 

We still said the pledge of allegiance in our schools “as one nation under God,” and we sang Christmas carols at school Christmas concerts.   God was not banned from the public square and the Christmas crèche still appeared in the town’s Central Park.

We said grace at the reunion’s dinner, and remembered the 95 members of our class who had passed in a beautiful slide show.  We parted with lots of hugs and well wishes, realizing that for those of us who came from quite a distance, it might be the last time we would see one another. 

In reflecting on the weekend, what struck me was that everyone present had worked hard all their lives at whatever their occupation was, raised and loved their families to the third, and even the fourth generation in some cases.  Whatever their religious faith or background, they evidenced a belief in God.  They experienced the challenges and blessings of life, but were still motivated to do the right thing.

How can we bring our heritage to bear on our current lives? 

Erroneous Assumptions

“Don’t be afraid, just have faith.” (Mark 5:36)

These were the words of Jesus to Jairus, a synagogue ruler whose twelve-year-old daughter was dying.  Jairus had come to Jesus pleading for him to come and lay hands on his daughter and heal her.  Shortly thereafter, Jairus’ friends came to say, “Your daughter is dead.  Why bother the teacher anymore?” 

Jesus ignored the friends and went with Jairus to his house, and found people crying and wailing loudly.  He said, “Why all this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him.  He put everyone out of the house, except for Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John.  He went to where the daughter was, took her hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you arise!” Immediately the daughter stood up and everyone was completely astonished. (Mark 5:39, 41)

Like the friends of Jairus, we too, may sell God short and assume that he can’t do something or won’t act in response to our prayers.  Therefore, we forgo praying for a loved one with a serious or terminal illness; we observe the actions of a friend and presume that our prayers for conversion will have no effect; we refrain from praying that God will change the heart of an adversary; or we neglect to ask God to give us the right words to diffuse a controversy.

A Christian friend, who specializes in physical therapy at rehabilitation center in Phoenix, tells the following story of a co-worker.  The co-worker had to have an MRI every two years in connection with brain tumor surgery she had a few years earlierIt is always a time of anxiety for her because there was a piece of the tumor that could not be reached in the surgery and continues to be seen on the MRI.  She always fears that a new MRI may show the tumor growing.

When the time came for the co-worker to have another MRI, my friend asked a small group of women that she meets with every week to pray in the name of Jesus that the tumor would be gone.  It just so happened that that my friend got to see her co-worker just before she left for her appointment.  “I kept asking the Lord if he really wanted me to share our prayer with her.  I didn’t want to hurt her with an incorrect word.  Well, there she was, telling me it was time for her appointment and looking very nervous.  I shared with her that our group had prayed that the MRI would show that the tumor was no longer there.  Then I placed my hand on her forehead and blessed her. She gave me a hug and went out the door.

“The next time we saw each other, I was walking down the hallway past her office when she yelled, ‘The tumor is gone!’”

My friend concludes, “This experience has also impacted me.  I am much more alert to whether the Lord wants me to reach out to others and be available to talk with them and to pray with them if the need arises.” 

How often do we sell God short by not praying for him to act? 

Light Piercing Darkness

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

This scripture reminds me of the people who rescued my brother, Jay, and his wife, Sharon, during the floods in Houston in 2017.  For more than a week we saw pictures of flat bottom boats rescuing people stranded in their homes by the rising waters of Hurricane Harvey.  What made this particularly challenging was that my brother was bound to a wheel chair with a medical pack continuously delivering medication to his heart, further complicated by a broken hip. 

Through a remarkable set of circumstances it appears that God’s protective arm was always close at hand.  Fortunately, my brother’s daughter was at their house as the waters started to rise.  She just happened to look out the front door and saw a man in a boat proceeding down their street.  She hailed him down and said she needed help in evacuating her parents.  She explained that my brother could not get out of his wheel chair, and somehow had to be lifted into the boat, wheel chair and all. 

She was told not to worry, that he would go get help.  He returned with three other men who lifted my brother and his wheel chair into the boat.  They then walked the boat through a swift current to higher ground quite some distance away. 

God’s provision did not end with the rescue.  Friends from their church took them in and gave up their first floor master bedroom.  During the flood, water reached five feet in their first floor destroying nearly all furniture, appliances, personal possessions, and their car.  The furniture and other items tumbled from room to room.  Almost nothing was found in the room in which it had been placed.  As the workmen were cleaning up, someone brought a large bucket with the label, “The Blessing Bucket from God’s Pit Crew” with the following message, “We pray that the contents will bless you.”  Among the contents was a new NIV Bible, the very kind that Sharon lost in the flood.

Sharon had a couple of electronic candles on the book shelves beside the fire place that could be turned on by a remote control.  As the workmen were cleaning up, the candles came on and started to flicker.  The remote was nowhere to be found.  No one knows how they came on.  Sharon thought the candles were letting the workmen know that in spite of all that had happened the light of Christ was still present.  The number of volunteers and circumstances would seem to confirm Christ’s presence.

How have you brought the light of Christ to others?