Your Best Purpose Now?


Who are you? Do you believe you were created for a purpose or was it all just chance? This week on Let My People Think, Ravi Zacharias looks at how we were created for significance and what our purpose really is…

Ravi Zacharias is one of the few contemporary radio preachers I still listen to, primarily by podcast. We need more like him.

Work and life in a cubicleStill, in my listening to his two-part series recently rerun, I feel even philosopher/ apologist Zacharias seems ill-equipped to explain purpose amid our societal/cultural norms. The “how to live out that purpose practically” eludes even him. (Perhaps it’s because the talk was from 1992. I wonder how Zacharaias might speak about purpose in a more digital age.)

Purpose in life is an issue that I think bubbles under the surface of everyone’s thoughts, yet it is a question the contemporary Church in America fumbles.

Here’s what I see:

  • By reflex, many Christians will state their purpose in life is to glorify God in everything they do, but then they wonder why it is that what they do seems so insignificant and self-serving.
  • Many Christians struggle to make any sense of their own mission within the Church when they compare it against their actual day-to-day living.
  • Many Christians have been taught that God has a perfect purpose for their lives, what He created them to do that comprises part of “the abundant life,” yet this purpose eludes them, which means the abundant life does also.
  • That disconnect causes many to reason that if the life they have now reflects God’s purposes for them perfectly, it casts doubt on how faithful God has been to bring them into that promised life of fulfilling purpose. This leads to much of our modern angst in the Church.

Let’s be honest here. It’s hard to believe that assembling widgets on a factory line, going home exhausted after 10 hours, rushing perpetually here to there, and always having some expectation on you that you can’t fulfill is in any way reflecting the love of God for you through meaningful purpose.

Nothing saddens me more than to hear Christian leaders not only concede to this kind of industrial-revolution-inspired life but actually laud it. Doing so renders terms such as underemployed meaningless. I believe depression is rampant for the very reason that people are not finding any purpose to their lives. They labor, they consume, and then they die, having contributed little to the world.

How is it that the Church here concedes to that kind of drudge life and often holds it in high regard? Why are Christian thinkers and leaders not FIGHTING against the thinking, the systems, that create purposelessness?

Strangely, instead of working to change the way the system works, all we can do is point out that it’s broken. Then we teach some anemic coping mechanisms that we hope will work, at least until the next Sunday, when we will offer different, “better” ones. But we deceive ourselves, because men and women cannot keep adding tricks to deal with a purposelessness that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Does a person doused in gasoline and set ablaze want to receive either spiritual or secular suggestions on how to cope with being on fire? No, they need the flames extinguished, folllowed by emergency medical care. Yet most people are being burned by expectations and sociocultural conceptions of what their purpose should be. Who is calling out and saying that this experiment has failed? Shouldn’t that be the Church? Shouldn’t we be actively extinguishing false ways of living that create purposelessness and tending to the needs of those burned by the system?

The Church today in the West seems incapable of taking on systems of any kind. We simply are not up for that battle. But we should be. Instead, we tend to settle and make peace. Perhaps we, as a whole, have forgotten our purpose.

Can we at least start small? Just as each person in a church has God-given spiritual gifts that church leaders should be partnering to identify, I believe that each of us has not only a general purpose in life but a specific one. We used to name that a “calling.” If a person’s spiritual gifts are given by God to encourage and strengthn the Body, is not that person’s calling in line with those gifts? And is not the Holy Spirit able to help others to help us discover what God would have for us post-conversion?

I believe life in 2015 needs an infusion of purpose. If God has a wonderful plan for our lives, are we really living that way? Or are we lost at sea, hoping to crash on the shore of some future island oasis that seems so very far away?

The Kingdom Value of an Old Man’s Dreams


'An Old Man Asleep, Seated by the Fire' by Rembrandt van Rijn“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…'”
—Acts 2:17 ESV

I’ve come to the melancholy realization that youth is departing and old age arriving. Gray is the new cast of my hair. And are those…jowls?


At such times, I find comfort in the Scriptures, but even there resides the lament of the aging. Abraham and Zechariah leap to mind, with their “but” responses in light of God’s revelation. “Too old, God. Dried up. Useless for your task.”

Except it wasn’t true, was it?

I also recall the prophet Joel’s statement from God regarding old men dreaming, and Peter’s use of the prophet’s pronouncement as an anchor for the New Covenant.

The young men get the sexier, more startling revelation: visions. The future. The pressing need. The warning.  A guy walks into the room and proclaims he had a vision, and everyone perks up. Being called a visionary is a positive that sets one apart from the greater mass of humanity.

Not so the dreamer, though. Get called a dreamer, and it’s a knock. Out of touch. Tilting at windmills. Fantasies. Won’t come to much. Anyone can dream. Nope, nothing special at all.

Old men, the ones with gray hair and jowls, dream.

Hey, I may not be 21 anymore, but I’m not ready for a porch-based rocking chair yet.

God gives dreams to old men because young men can’t handle them as well. Here’s the truth about dreams and why the older, wiser man (or woman) receives them:

1. Unlike visions, dreams pose puzzling questions older people are more experienced to answer.

Both visions and dreams can be strange. The Bible is filled with bizarre imagery that people receive in dreams and visions. The difference is that God tends to narrate visions as they happen. Dreams don’t get that same explanation. There’s no hand-holding or convenient running commentary in a dream.

What is the point of experience in life? To apply it. Old folks dream because they have the life experience to make sense of the imagery in dreams without annotations for what they see. God trusts the elders who have walked with Him for years to understand more readily because they know the character of God. They understand life in ways the inexperienced don’t. God entrusts dreams to those who can call upon a storehouse of knowledge or who have the walk with God down pat and can more readily tap into His supernatural wisdom.

2. Dreams bring older folks—and those around them who will listen—peace by taking the community back to the past and to the familiar.

In our youth, we sought out our elders to reassure us and lend their wisdom to us when we were troubled and uncertain. Unlike visions that often show disturbing, confusing images, dreams are associated more with a peaceful repose. Dreams are a sanctuary, a nocturnal sanctum. In dreams, we may see unusual combinations of people, places, and things, but they are usually already known. The past lives on in dreams. We recall the good times. What is lost or gone is alive and present again, and we can find comfort in knowing that nothing good is lost forever in God’s economy.

Dreams are the means by which the elderly help others recall the good times. When times aren’t good, the old folks serve as the community well to bring refreshment to others through their dreams.

That noted, being old also brings the burden of having seen too much. Dreams are not a mind bleach, but they do temper all the horrors and sadness that come with accumulated wisdom and life experience. Dreams reframe the good times that are past by bringing them, again, into the present as a balm.

3. Dreams help us recall anew what once worked well.

We tend to forget past solutions. Even wise, old folks. A seasoned mind is a bit more cluttered, and like a closet filled to the ceiling with life’s accumulations, wading through that mess to find the dojigger that does that one thing we need to do right this second…well, it can seem a daunting task.

Dreams allow experienced folks to cut through life’s clutter. They help reconnect with the past and what worked once so we can reuse that once-buried truth again. Because there really is nothing new under the sun.

4. Dreams allow seniors to recast the past and what is already known to form new solutions.

You know what they say about deep waters. Because the well of a life lived long with God is deep, the raw materials for new solutions may exist, just unseen.

Dreams are God’s way of remolding those raw materials of the past into new realities. Yes, the young men may see in their visions what is yet to be, but through dreams their elders can see the truths of the past combine in new ways to make something just as fresh and exciting.

Aren’t dreams intriguing when they bring together the disparate elements of life into one, impossible tableau? In a dream, what does it mean when a deceased parent, your soon-to-be born grandchild, and an old boss from a summer job three dozen years ago show up at your dream breakfast table and chat about life? What may God be saying through that impossible encounter? And how may that help others?

5. Dreams can also reveal the future and alert us.

To the one God has given much, much is expected. A life rich in God-given experience is a bank from which the banker invests in himself and others. Visions aren’t the only means of seeing what is to come. Dreams also are revelatory—only they don’t come with as many footnotes. God expects the person made wise with experience to fill in the annotations that aren’t there. Visions are for the raw. Dreams are for the already tested.

One of the most visited posts on Cerulean Sanctum is “God Speaks Through Dreams.” It’s so highly ranked because it’s one of the most heavily Googled. People are looking to make sense of their dreams. And people wonder if God is talking to them in those dreams.

If you are older, know that your dreams matter. God has something to say to you who are experienced with life, and He can do it through your dreams.

You matter to God’s Kingdom. Your dreams, your experiences with life and all its joys and sorrows have value to yourself and to others. Visions from the young may look great on the surface, but there is a surpassing value in dreams that give relevance to the seasoned saint, because God needs the service of everyone.

The Missing Purpose of Church


Empty pewsThe lament we hear from many sectors in American Christendom is over the increasing number of people who shun church.

While the numbers seem to bolster this observation, no one can agree as to why the exodus is happening. Some say those who have gone missing have left the Faith entirely. Others point to a form of Christianity that has simply decided it doesn’t need the institutional aspect of “churchianity” to be vital.

I think part of the source of the problem is that the American Church can’t define what its purpose is. Many people are showing up on Sunday and asking themselves why they are sitting in that pew acting like nothing more than a flesh seat cushion, and the Church isn’t answering their question. After a while, with the point gone missing, people decide they could spend their time more effectively doing something else.

Turning church into another form of entertainment created some of this malaise. I think another piece comes from the American Church’s inability to answer in a practical way the tougher questions and needs of people today.

It’s not that the answers don’t exist. I believe only Christianity has those answers. But the Church here seems stuck on its image and not on its mission. It keeps trying to be hip and can’t seem to be relevant, no matter how much it claims it be (or is trying to be). And in those rare cases when it is relevant, it’s only so for the individual and not for something bigger. No matter what anyone contends, people really do need to be part of something larger than themselves.

People are not seeing the purpose. And until they do, the hemorrhaging of people from our churches will continue.

I think every church needs to have its leaders stand up each quarter of the year and reiterate the mission of that church, exactly how they are working to meet that mission, and exactly what they expect of everyone sitting in the pews to make that mission a success. You can talk about being missional all you want, but unless it is understood and owned, missional remains a buzzword only.

I also think church leaders need to get off their mania with programming fads and get back to something they stopped doing a long time ago: identifying the personal spiritual gifts of the people in their charge and helping those people put those gifts into play. I know too many gifted people who left a church because they had a gift to bring and that gift went unwanted.

Here’s a tip for church leaders: The gifts God has given the people in your church are a clue to what your mission needs to be. If you’re not aware of your people’s giftings, then you won’t see what your mission is. And if you don’t work to enable the fullest use of those people’s gifts, then your church will never be successful in anything it does.

There is purpose. Each church should know its purpose. Each person in that church should know his or her purpose. If that’s not happening, then it’s no wonder people question why they are sitting in that pew one Sunday after another.