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?

Purpose—And Why Christian Men Don’t Always Live Theirs


Another day selling widgets to people who don't need them?At a small group meeting this weekend, we watched a video on bettering one’s marriage. One of the comments the speaker made concerned finding one’s purpose in God, and that this purpose comes from no one else.

And this bothers me. Not because it’s not true, but because one of the most common discussions I have with other Christian men concerns their nearly universal sense of purposelessness. In fact, I would say that at least 70 percent of the Christian men I know have this nagging feeling that they’re not doing what they are supposed to be doing. And this usually means in their careers, in their walk with the Lord, or in both.

I brought this issue up in the discussion that f0llowed the video, and the general response was that men who felt that way were not close enough to God or else they wouldn’t feel that way. God doesn’t leave people twisting in the wind, they say.

Sadly, I think that’s the common perception. But I think there’s a deeper issue here.

Many of the Christian men who struggle with their sense of purpose do so not because they haven’t already caught a vision from God, but because they have. The problem there is they have no sense of how to make that vision a reality, especially when confronted with a common set of dilemmas. Ask a Christian man who struggles with purpose what he suspects the problem might be, and I believe he’ll give you one of these five answers:

1. His wife doesn’t support his vision

“Hon, I think we ought to sell our 5,000 square foot home, move out of the gated community, and buy a tiny brownstone apartment in a poor neighborhood downtown so we can minister to the underprivileged.”

In a lot of households, such a proclamation would exemplify the phrase went over like a lead balloon. In a few, it might also spell divorce.

I think a lot of men who catch a real vision from God see it die on the vine right here. If the wife doesn’t agree, that’s the end of it. Better to keep her happy and stay in the megachurch with all the best people rather than risk her cutting you off—and some of you know what I mean.

While this may not be true for all men, it’s true for enough. It may even be true for you, but you’ve been afraid to tell anyone.

It’s a sensitive issue, isn’t it? Lots of possible damage if handled poorly.

But then, consider Job and his wife. What would have happened if he had listened to her rather than sticking with what he knew was the right thing to do? (For all their talk of men being prophets, priests, and kings, Evangelicals seem to go mute when Mrs. Prophet/Priest/King objects to her hubby’s vision for the household.)

Still, most men aren’t as righteous as old Job or as steeped in their convictions. So the vision goes on hold. And with it comes that nagging sense of purpose gone missing, a relentless ticking clock, and more frustration than some men can bear.

2. Following the vision may mean a non-traditional upbringing for his children—one that may be generally disapproved of

You have to have your kids in private piano lessons, select sports teams, Chinese language tutoring, and on and on so the little darlings can make it into an Ivy League school right? Isn’t that what Focus on the Family teaches?

What to do then when God gives you a vision that may take you and your wife to the jungles of Africa while your kids stay behind in boarding school?

Ooh, boarding school. How 19th century.

People chosen by God to do a special work used to do that, though. And their kids grew up to be normal and happy in about the same proportions as kids today whose parents would kill to get them into Harvard, ministry be damned.

I read a story of a family that packed up their eight kids into a car and traveled around the country singing in churches or wherever people would have them. No RV, not even a sense of where they would sleep for the night or where the money would come from, they counted on God to provide food, clothing, and shelter.

That would get you tarred and feathered in some churches. You’d be called every lousy parent name in the book, and then some names people would coin just to spite you in particular. Some withered prunes might even call the government down on your head and accuse you of child abuse. Bad, dad!

Somewhere, someone’s sharpening the knives for a man who discusses that kind of greater vision. And rather than risk being publicly eviscerated, that man backs down, and his sense of purpose goes kaput for the sake of the “perfect” Evangelical nuclear family, no matter what Luke 18:29-30 says.

3. His church, the one he’s been a part of since forever, disapproves

A man sits in front of church leaders and pitches his vision…

MAN: “I’d like to start a church ministry to the local gay community.”

LEADER #1: (Nervously) “Doing what?”

MAN: “Evangelism and outreach. We could begin by inviting some from that community to our church functions, like the next father/s0n baseball game.”

LEADER #2: (Also nervously) “But that’s next month. And it will expose our kids to a sinful lifestyle.”

MAN: “Gay men have sons, don’t they?”

LEADER #3: (About to wet himself) “Yeah, sometimes, I guess. Still, I’m not sure our people are ready for that kind of…uh…”

LEADER #2: (Claiming to be wise) “At this point, I think we need to table this measure for our next leadership meeting and discuss it privately.”

MAN: “Does that mean I should come back then?”

LEADER #3: “No, the leadership team will talk it over privately and we’ll let you know.”

A couple years later, that man is still waiting.

It happens, folks. It may have happened to you. I know it’s happened to me.

4. He’s hit with “If you’re providing for your family, spending time with the wife and kids, attending church weekly, and involving yourself in a church-sponsored ministry activity once in a while, why would you possibly feel a lack of purpose? That’s the dream Christian life right there.”

Well, it’s the dream Christian life according to some folks. Not all would agree. In fact, in a lot of ways, it doesn’t vary much from the “self-serving” life of the average pagan, except that instead of church, Mr. Average Pagan is in the Kiwanis Club (which in some cases may be as involved in helping others as the local church).

Some men dream bigger. They’re thinking outside the church box. And like the proverbial square peg, others are trying to jam them into a cultural Christian round hole.

Isn’t it odd that Evangelicals laud men like Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell, then turn around and repeat the words above to other men? What would have happened to those heroes of the faith had they heeded the words above and exchanged their vision for one of average suburban Christianity?

5. He pursued a vision once before—and failed

Does a genuine vision from God ever fail?

That’s a question some are not willing to deal with honestly. Do God-honoring churches fail? Do Christian companies go out of business? Do Christian marriages end up in divorce? Does the long-prayed-for child born to the long-childless couple get sick and die? Does the pastor who loves Christ with his whole being ever get lynched by the very congregation everyone agreed he was called to serve?

Nothing crushes an earnest Christian man more than to step out in faith and get steamrolled by a sin-filled world. And too often, in the aftermath of that failure, people won’t let him forget that the thing he longed to do for God more than anything somehow didn’t turn out. In many cases, the pain is amplified because others spiritualize the reasons for that failure and use the sanctified explanation against him, which only makes his reluctance to follow a new vision even more paralyzing.

I’ve known a lot of good, God-fearing men who have been stymied by one or more of the five items listed above. These are not stupid, lazy, cowardly, weak-faithed men. They’re just finding that the very people or situations that are supposed to be most helpful to them are actually not. Those men may very well have a genuine vision that will lead to the ultimate purpose of God in their lives, yet they fear they may never get there, finding themselves stuck in a gray place with no easy answers.

If that’s you, please drop me a line. I want to pray for you. I can’t promise a solution to your situation, but I can pray. God may indeed step in and clear that pathway so you can finally walk in your God-given vision.

My word to you is Don’t give up. I know the pressure on you is enormous. You have so many people to satisfy, well-meaning Christian people who may not understand your vision. Please, don’t give up.

God can make a way where there is no way. It may mean laying down more than you are willing to sacrifice at this time, but God can mold you and take you to that place of ultimate sacrifice.

God is good. And He’s given you a vision. Trust Him for the fulfillment.

In the Bedroom


Ssshhhh! It's happenin' behind that door!Ah, that special someone!

You receive a letter, read it, and you’re smitten. The words. The passion. It’s love!

Your heart knows no limits when it comes to that special someone. Discovering little details about that unique person. It’s a thrill, a preoccupation. You can’t go even five minutes without thinking about that one who makes your heart leap.

Every day that passes you dedicate to making yourself the right person for your special someone. You get buff, become your best.You throw yourself into doing nice things for the one you love and for any friend associated with that perfect person.

And isn’t that dull ache of longing rapturous? Just to catch sight of that radiant face from far across the other side of your church! It’s delicious, isn’t it?

So the years go by, and the dull ache lingers. At some point, all that longing keeps going unmet. You catch glimpses of that special someone, and you read all the love letters, but frustration sets in. Talking about your frustration…well, most people don’t talk about it at all. Sure, a whole lot of others are in your same shoes. They have that perfect person in mind, too. They’re achey, and maybe even breaky for it. But the whole lot of you keeps a stiff upper lip while each talks about that special someone glimpsed once from across a crowded room. Some enchanted evening. A long time ago.

And the hope chest gets bigger—but emptier at the same time.

I’ve been married now for eleven years. First met my wife a little more than twelve years ago. If you asked me what it would be like to still be engaged after twelve years, never having made it to the bedroom, I’d say it would be a sort of living hell, actually. (Or something like this.)

I know too many Christians who have never made it to the bedroom with the Lord. They may very well love Him with a passionate love, but when you get right down to it, they’re missing out. They may be able to talk for hours about the Lord, but you can almost tell that something’s missing. They’re a lot like that poor fellow in the link. Hyped up, seemingly aware, but ultimately clueless.

And Adam knew Eve his wife….
—Genesis 4:1a

Now it doesn’t take a genius to comprehend the kind of knowing Adam and Eve engaged in.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me….
—Jeremiah 31:34a

Yep, same root Hebrew word for know in both those cases. But then, you already knew that. 😉

All kidding aside, getting to the bedroom is vital:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
—John 17:3

Eternal life is knowing the Lord. Not knowing about Him, but knowing Him intimately. Yet how few people ever get to that intimate place! They go years and decades and it’s a life filled with frustrated longing that eventually turns to numbness and duty. The truly sad truth is that many Christians drown in that numbness and duty. They put on their game face every Sunday, but go home feeling like Charlie Brown trapped in an endless string of losses, back to the cold ground, naked save for boxers, staring at the sky from the pitcher’s mound after another line drive up the middle tore the clothes off again, all the time wondering, Why do I do this?

But who wants to admit to that kind of perpetual defeat? So the fake smile comes out until five minutes into the drive home. Then it’s packed away until the next Christian encounter.

So how do we end the frustration and make it to the bedroom?

We’ve got to want it. More specifically, we’ve got to want Him. No lukewarmness. No pretenses. We need a burning desire, and…

We need to drop the fear. I think the world is probably filled with nervous brides and grooms who while trying to find an outlet for their ardor on their wedding night are practically eaten alive by butterflies. Sure, it may be a bit nerve-racking that first time in the bedroom, but if we let fear consume us, we’ll never know consummation. Nor can fear be mitigated by controlling the circumstance of getting to the bedroom. Instead…

We need to allow the Lord to lead. He knows His way around the bedroom. He made the bedroom! In fact, He created what goes on in the bedroom. We simply can’t be like the bride who locks herself in the closet and then proceeds to tell her groom exactly how this thing is going to proceed. No, if we’re going to make it to the bedroom, we need to abandon the idea that we’re in charge. We need to relax our hold on our sobriety because the bedroom overflows with wine, the drink of gladness and joy, not duty and rules. We’re not to dictate to God what we will and will not accept. Nor do we need to be in control because…

No shame exists in the bedroom. One of the blessings of being married for several years years comes from the total freedom experienced in the bedroom. Freedom exists where shame vanishes. Each of us can be carefree in the presence of a spouse who has no agenda, who willingly and continuously says, “Yes, love.” In the same way, in Christ there is no shame for the one who trusts Him unconditionally. And this is a necessary understanding for us because…

Only in the bedroom is life created. The circle completes. We must want Him if we desire life. Rivers of living water flow out of even the dryest eunuch who finally enters the bedroom. Life is there—and life is birthed through the ones who dwell there. We must desire that life flow through us as if our very next breath depends upon it. Because it does.

I don’t know many people who make it to the Lord’s bedroom, but they’re unmistakable when I encounter them. The smell of the Lover’s cologne lingers on them. Their faces shine with the warm anointing oil of the Spirit. And their words drip with life and healing.

That person God uses for His glory.


Time for us all to forsake the question, “So what’s it like?” and take the Lover’s hand.

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards. You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices—a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
—Song of Solomon 4:7-16