Archive for the 'Purpose' Category

What’s Up — Your Library

Over the weekend, Tim read an obituary in which the writer said, “Every time a person dies, it’s like a library burns down.” The gist of that statement was that each person, at any particular time in their life, has a huge amount of knowledge, skills, talents, gifts, and revelations – provided to them by God – that don’t necessarily get experienced by anyone in this world after the person’s death. Think about yourself. You have this huge amount of knowledge – true gifts that nobody else has – that we would lose if you were to die tomorrow. This struck me as an even bigger tragedy based on the high cost of our losing over 100,000 people to Covid-19, seeing innocent persons murdered by police, and noticing the unnecessary loss of life for any other reason on any particular day.

The good news is that as followers of Christ, this information – these skills, talents, gifts, and revelations – are not lost when we die, but continue on as we get to live in eternity with Christ. Nevertheless, I’m interested in seeing the things in your library in this life. And to make sure I walk the walk, I’m going to start putting more information on this blog (like shorter pieces) just to let you see a bit of what’s in my library. I’ll probably just title these things “What’s Up,” like I did above.

So, over the weekend, I started watching free online classes from Dallas Theological Seminary, which you can find here. There are about 16 of them so far, but I’m going through the one on Revelation while I also press into a bunch of my more, shall I say, “spirit filled” materials. One thing this pandemic has done is open my eyes to all the resources out there from which you can press into God. Lots of seminaries are doing lots of great things, so check it out. I asked Tim what he watched yesterday, and he said he “went off on a tangent” by watching one of his favorite apologists – William Lane Craig – in a fascinating interview about all manner of things by a guy named Matt Frad on a show called “Pints With Aquinas,” which you can find here.

What was interesting about the two things was that we had a short discussion on miracles, modern-day prophets, and healings, and realized that we came up with the same answers on various theological issues despite our different paths.

Keep pressing into God, Saints!

A New Start, Courtesy of the Best Job Recruiter in the Universe

I’m back, and I sincerely apologize for my long absence! I’ve had a bunch of challenges over the past several years, but many, many opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. In this blog I’ll try to get you caught up bit by bit on what’s happened to me and what God is doing in my life.

The gist of it is that a few years ago the Lord placed me in a really great job, but I allowed that job to consume all my time and distract me from my focus on Him and my calling. Later, though, after humbling myself through submission and prayer, God gave me another job – the best job I could ever ask for.

At the time it happens, we don’t always see why we’re placed somewhere, but there’s always a reason and a time for learning. In fact, for the last 20 years or so, I had seen God place me time and time again in jobs that seemingly had no unifying thread. Over time, though, I began to recognize a supernatural pattern. God was placing me in place after place so that I could finally achieve my life’s desire to spend more of my time with Him.
This last job, however, was a real test. I mean, I knew I was there for a reason, and over time I came to realize that it was partly the Lord building my work knowledge and confidence so He could possibly move me to something better. Looking back, I could also see that I had that particular job so I could take care of the household finances while my husband worked on his frequently non-paying job, which is what he often calls “God’s Project.” It involves making sure people aren’t in jail just for being poor, but that’ll have to be the subject of another blog. Still, my job was hard.

It wasn’t like I didn’t belong there. In fact, when it came down to that job, I was uniquely qualified for it due both to world credentials (I’m an accountant), and spiritual gifts. My main gift, by the way, is administration, which apparently can be really helpful in the natural world – I don’t know, there just seems to be a lot of chaos that can use a bit of administering! Trying to use your own unique spiritual gifts in the world can also be really satisfying, which is why I constantly urge people to discover their gifts and try to weave them into your daily lives.

Over time, though, I could tell I was letting the “world” part of the job eclipse whatever spiritual benefits I could derive from using my gifts to help others. I worked long (60-70 hours per week), and hard (I actually got a bunch of natural world awards and commendations for how hard I worked), but I could tell my priorities were way off track. I missed God. And physically I was becoming a bit of a wreck. I found myself seeking worldly approval, even though the Bible clearly warns against seeking praise from men over praise from God. (John 12:43)

In fact, about this time I started to clearly see the enemy hard at work in my life. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic, type A, perfectionist – you know the type, and maybe you can relate. Well, Satan definitely knows that type of person, and he’s quite willing to load them down with just enough work to make them think they’re doing good, but with too much work to spend time seeking God. That was me. Loaded down with tons of work, scrambling over deadlines, and with absolutely no time for God. And it’s not like I didn’t do anything about it. I prayed. I tried to keep myself walking in the Spirit. I even rebuked demons, but WOW the evil one was busy! I felt like I was in the second inning of a 1,000-inning baseball game with no mercy rule! All of this caused me to start losing sight of my dream, which is to minister and train others about the supernatural (you know, Arming the Saints!).

Fortunately, I was often reminded of the line, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” (John 14:1) And so I knew I could trust God to move me when the time was right. In fact, He usually gives me big, supernatural signs when it’s time to actually leave. In my book, I talk about seeing the supernatural and doing the natural in tandem with God. Well, the way God works with me is that He shows me it’s time to move, I do the natural world work to get the job (you know, apply and everything), and when I’m following His lead, He lines everything up so that it moves quickly and with supernatural ease. In this case, all I had to do is pray to God, submitting to His will and timing in my life concerning my work. Suddenly, within about one week, someone I knew (a sister in Christ) retired from her job, called me on the phone, and told me that I should apply for her old job. I did, and I got the new job faster than any other job in my life.

This is where I really had to push past the natural-world-praise thing. From the world’s point of view, this job looked like a step down. It was less of a title, less money, seeming less of everything. But I accepted it. And wouldn’t you know? As soon as I started working there, God showed me how wonderful the new job was, how much time I would now have to devote to Him and His word, and how little I needed the money! Looking back, I can honestly say this job was custom made for me, brought to me supernaturally, and designed to afford me the time to continue with my walk. I even feel better physically! With this new job, I have a new start. And with a new start, I can get back to investing in all of our spiritual growth.

I suppose the moral of this blog is that no matter where you are or what you’re going through, getting back to basics by pressing into God through submission and prayer can turn your life completely around. Specifically, if you’re in a job that’s consuming you and you feel your grip on your spiritual life is slipping, now’s the time to get on your knees and ask our Lord where He wants you to go and what He wants you to do. Then be prepared to humble yourself. That might mean a worldly, status/title change and pay cut, but it’ll be worth it. In the end, God will provide for you and your family, and the whole thing will provide you with a spiritual lesson that can help you in the future.
If you need a new job, or really any job, pray and believe for a new start, a do-over. Seek guidance from God, and you’ll quickly receive supernatural guidance from the best job recruiter in the Universe!

A New Year’s Resolution

new year

I’ve been thinking about the one thing I would tell followers of Jesus Christ to start off the New Year, and my decision will shock you!

Did that introduction make you want to click on a link to see more? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to click on anything to read what I’ve written, and I won’t bombard you with ads in any event (you can tell I’m getting a bit sick of the Internet lately, can’t you?). So let’s get to the point. The one thing I’d like to tell followers of Jesus to start the New Year is this: remember the Judgment Seat of Christ!

“Oh no, he’s going to preach! And if it’s about some sort of judgment, then I’m hosed. I don’t want to be judged, and, frankly, I’m not really keen on anyone else being judged either!”

I suppose at least one person out there may be saying or thinking these very things right now. Give me just a minute, though, and I’ll explain why you should really look forward to this particular judgment and why you should try to remember it every day.

I’ve been thinking about the Judgment Seat of Christ (also known as the Bema Seat of Christ) because I’ve been trying to figure out why God has me working so hard on criminal justice reform when I’m not so sure that we’ll even see true reform before the rapture and tribulation. If it’s true that we’re really that close to the end (like I think we are), then why bother, right?

The answer came to me as I awoke the other day. And it starts with an understanding of the exciting judgment for followers of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

We know that there’ll be judgment even for believers of Christ because in the Bible, Paul wrote:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  (2 Corr. 5: 8-10)

On its face, this judgment can seem a bit intimidating, but if you read other parts of the Bible and various commentaries, it becomes clear that this judgment is only for determining a believer’s rewards in heaven. It doesn’t include judgment for sin, because sin is taken care of by Jesus’s death on the cross. I repeat – it doesn’t involve judgment for sin. Jesus is your proxy on that matter through your belief in him. Like Denise says, belief and faith in Jesus Christ is the golden ticket. Leave it to Denise to dream up a Willy Wonka reference.

So even though the passage above says that you’ll receive what is due to you for things done “good or bad,” it doesn’t mean morally bad. Instead, it means that certain things have eternal rewards in heaven (the good) and certain things don’t (the bad).

Think of it this way. You’re going to do a lot of things during your walk in the world, and you might consider some of those things to be really, really good things. For example, you might think that holding down a particular job your entire life is a pretty good thing. And to the world, it is. But it might not be the thing that gets additional rewards in heaven. That makes sense, right? The Bible talks about building a foundation on Jesus, and if you build your foundation on anything else, a fire will burn away all that is worthless, which will include things you may have thought were pretty good but that simply don’t measure up to reward-giving status.

Paul often likened our journey on earth as a race to be run, so imagine it that way for a minute. As a runner, you might do tons of good things to get ready for the race – lift weights, stretch, practice your starts – but in the end, you get a reward for winning the race. Those are the rules. It’s not that stretching was a bad thing – heck, it may have been crucial to winning – it’s just that you don’t get the reward for stretching. You get it runnerfor crossing the finish line first. Likewise, there are certain things that God finds deserving of rewards, such as winning souls, developing your spiritual gifts, showing love and sacrifice to others, etc., but there are also things that you might think would be deserving of a reward and aren’t. So when you think of the distribution of rewards for “good and bad” things done in the body, think of it simply as receiving rewards for eligible things that you actually did in the world. If those things weren’t eligible, or if you didn’t do them even if they were eligible, then you don’t get the additional rewards.

Remember when you were a child? I don’t know about you, but when I was a child and I did something I thought was a big deal, I went running to some adult to tell it to. Usually that was my mom or dad. And when I told them what I did, I found out that sometimes it wasn’t a big deal at all to my mom or dad. But sometimes it was. And when it was, I got a reward. And man, I wanted to get those rewards! Even when I was fifty years old, taking care of my dying dad in the world, I was constantly trying to impress him, looking for those rewards – like a smile or a laugh. Believe me, when I get to heaven I want that same feeling of “reward getting” from God as I got from my dad here on earth.

“Hey wait, does all of this mean that I’ll be compared to other people?” No, so you should think of the race as being your own personal race, like running against the clock. This is between you and Jesus. You won’t be envious or jealous of others getting rewards, and, in fact, whatever regret you may think you feel from not receiving a reward that you could have received will ultimately be wiped away from the overwhelming joy of being with God. As Denise often says, it’s like having tickets to the Super Bowl. Your seat may be right on the 50 yard line, or your seat may be up in the nosebleed section. Either way, though, you’re at the freakin’ Super Bowl!

Now when it comes to figuring out what God will deem pleasing or not so pleasing in your life, I’ll leave it up to you to do some further biblical research. But you should remember the following cautionary note that has people like me needing constant reminders about what God thinks matters: Throughout the Bible, people were told that because they received an earthly reward for something they did in the world, they’ll receive no reward for it in heaven. Holy smokes! This makes everything a bit more complicated, doesn’t it? Oh well. As I’ve said before, Christianity is simple, but it isn’t always easy.

So what does all of this have to do with my criminal justice job and whether that job even matters? It matters because every day God gives us opportunities to add to the tally of things that will bring us rewards when we stand before Christ. That’s how much He loves us. And that love and those opportunities will continue right up until the day of Jesus’s return. Every day God allows us all to decide whether or not to do something that is pleasing to Him and worth eternal reward. And my work, helping people to see why we need criminal law reform, is just one more opportunity that God is presenting his children – through me – to do something eternally worthwhile.

opportunity

You and I are basically in the same earthly business when it comes to other followers of Christ – the “opportunity for eternal reward business.” Every day you will likely give someone an opportunity to do a good thing, and I or someone else will likely give you the same opportunity. And because every opportunity will only help the body of Christ, it should be our intense desire to keep expanding our business. Every day, look for opportunities to do things pleasing to God. Every day, look for ways to give other people those same opportunities.

So this year, remember the Judgement Seat of Christ! Work each day on earning your rewards. And, please, work each day to help me earn mine!

God’s Purpose, Your Purpose, and Julian Bond

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Part of walking in the supernatural involves doing the “world thing,” which is really just the supernatural walk’s counterpart in the natural world. There are times that you don’t have to do anything in the world to watch and enjoy the supernatural realm working around you, but a lot of the time you have to do something. But if walking in the supernatural sometimes depends on what you do in the world, then what, exactly, should you do? In its broadest sense, this question raises the important topic of your purpose in this world.

When I was younger, I asked my dad, “What’s the meaning of life – what’s the purpose of everything?” Sadly, he answered only in terms of the natural world. He said the purpose is to get a good job, have a family, use that job to provide for that family, work hard, etc. Later on, when we talked more and more life and God, I’m pretty sure he changed his mind a bit and would have answered the same question quite differently.

In my opinion, we’re here to learn God’s purpose as provided to us in the Bible, and then to discern our own purposes for this world that God has selected for us. You can get into the weeds pretty fast by trying to pin down God’s purposes (and you can read all of the detail about both God’s and our purposes in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life), but most every follower of Christ thinks that God created men and women to love them and for them to love Him – to have a relationship, or, as some would say now, a reconciled and restored relationship. It’s a lot like an earthly father or mother. Why would they have a child? Mostly, it’s because they want someone whom they can love and who will love them back. But God’s purpose goes further. Whereas an earthly mom or dad might want good things for their child and have some general ideas about what they want them to do, God has a very specific and beneficial purpose for your life and you were born to achieve that purpose and to follow His will. Figuring out that purpose becomes the key to doing things in the natural that run smoothly parallel to the supernatural.

Discerning God’s purpose for you can take a moment or a lifetime; it can be placed in you as a “desire of your heart,” or it can be thrust upon you and constantly established as a supernatural desire of God that you can’t deny. It can line up with what you thought you wanted to do in your life (such as, to make a bunch of money) or it can be what you never thought you’d ever do in your life (such as, to live meagerly and help the less fortunate). The key is to figure out that purpose, make sure it lines up with God’s will, and then do it.

As Denise wrote in her book, you can make sure that things line up with God’s will generally by simply following a couple of broad boundaries. For example, when asked about commandments, Jesus summed up everything found in the OT law and prophets into two: love God, and love others as yourself. This one boundary, alone, can help you decide whether the thing you’re doing in the world is something that might be a part of your supernatural purpose. First and foremost, does it show love for God by glorifying Him? Does it please God?  Hint – if it’s not biblical, it probably doesn’t.

This command will automatically put pressure on you to do God’s will for you in the world. Whatever you’re doing – and even if follows biblical principles – if you don’t feel God’s pleasure (and believe me, God will let you know his pleasure or displeasure through the supernatural, even if you might be ignoring it), then you need to re-assess. When I practiced law in Washington D.C, I had a few friends who said, “I’m not sure that what I’m doing is helping anyone.” These kinds of thoughts likely represented God talking to my friends, and ran counter to any thoughts they might have entertained that God’s purpose for their lives was making sure that extremely wealthy people had good federal representation. On the other hand, I knew other people in the same firm who constantly felt that they were helping people and were using the law practice even to witness for Christ. They felt the pleasure of God in the work they did, and were likely coming quite close to fulfilling God’s purpose for their particular lives. There wasn’t anything necessarily unbiblical about the work in the law firm, but some of the people simply didn’t belong there. It wasn’t their purpose.

Pleasing God is good, but even those of us with the best intentions us can do awful, horrible things and justify that we are somehow pleasing God. That’s why I think Jesus also emphasized the second part of the command/boundary – love others as you would love yourself. It’s hard to do, but if you constantly do it, I think it’ll change your life. It’s this command that causes people to switch careers, to start missions, and to find blessings in a life that the world might scorn for its lack of material gain. It’s also the command that changes the way you walk down the street, that tells you not to write nasty comments on the Internet, and that keeps you from honking and swearing at people for how they drive.

This second part is also important because, despite talking about loving yourself, the command is not about self-love. This is incredibly relevant today, an era defined by Facebook pages, selfies, Twitter followers, and sharing information more to show one’s own interests than to disseminate knowledge. Quite simply, it’s awfully hard to do God’s will when all you’re thinking about is yourself.

Overall, you’re lining up what you think you should do with whether it follows biblical principles, whether it leads to inner thoughts of contentment showing God’s pleasure, and whether it shows love for others. That may seem to limit your options, but knowing that you are following your supernatural purpose will make it all worthwhile. Think of it this way – the world has plenty of things for people to do who don’t believe or care about God. But you, a follower of Jesus, should be looking for all of those other things that do.

I say all this because just a few days ago, amid all the trending stories of movie stars, musicians, athletes, and others trying to capture clicks, views, and likes, I saw that Julian Bond had died. For all I know, those other people might be following God’s will for their lives and doing all they can to love others as themselves, but it seems to me that Julian Bond, in particular, took a walk in the world that likely pleased God. Some of Julian’s purpose was likely thrust upon him. Who, in their right mind, would want to have the kind of hatred and scorn heaped upon them that was likely heaped upon the person that helped lead the civil rights movement, founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, and ran the NAACP? There’s a lot of natural world selfishness these days, too, but I think Julian Bond mostly stayed away from it and lived a life focused mostly on others.

By the way, even though my dad had told me that the purpose of life was to have a good job, provide for family, and other things in the natural world, he never mentioned any of those things at his death. As he was dying, I was with him constantly, and he only wanted to talk about God and people – what God and people meant to him, what God and people did for him and what he did for them. My dad was focused on a boundary that helps us to walk with purpose in the world, and he wanted to know whether he had lived a life that had pleased God.

I imagine that the same thing happened to Julian Bond at the end of his life, and I can only assume that the same will happen to you and me.

Priorities

This is a moment of truth. Denise has been so busy that she asked me to take over writing about God. Then I became so busy myself that I had a hard time doing it, too. But that’s unacceptable.

I was recently reminded of what really matters when I was out of town at yet another gathering to talk about criminal justice reform. It’s what I do for my day job (piano just doesn’t always pay the bills), and so I travel around the country trying to get justice leaders to take more of a compassionate look at how they treat people who get wrapped up in the criminal justice system.

At that particular gathering, a prosecutor – clearly upset at having someone like me questioning how he does his job – asked me (in a tone that only a prosecutor can take), “How do you define ‘justice’”?

He interrupted me to ask it, and the question clearly was designed to throw me off, because that’s a tricky term for anyone to define. There are regular dictionary definitions, legal definitions, famous people definitions, and collaborative definitions, but I asked him, and he made it clear that he wanted my personal definition of the word justice.

And for a second, it did throw me off. But at that moment a small voice inside me (quite obviously the Holy Spirit) said, “Just tell him the truth.” And so I did. I said that I was a Christian, and because I had a biblical worldview, I defined justice in a way that would honor God. I told them that perhaps the best way to encapsulate it would be through an articulation of the Golden Rule.

Well, a few things happened because of that. First, it silenced the prosecutor. It’s hard to argue against the Golden Rule, right? Second, several people came up to me afterward and said, essentially, that they were followers of Jesus, too, but they thought that I’d been brave to say it out loud. I hadn’t thought it as brave – I just figured it was what the HS wanted me to say. Third, I started getting some flak from people who didn’t think I should have said it at all. I fretted about that last thing a bit, but then I quickly remembered Matthew 10:32, which says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father.” It was then that I realized that I had done a bit of ministry that night, and that it was worth any negative consequences.

It turns out that the ministry was primarily for me. When I came home, I told Denise that I was sick of being too busy to talk about God, sick of being too busy to learn about God, and sick of being too busy to worship God. Long story only somewhat shorter, I’m taking six months off starting in June to focus on God. I’m going to complete my fourth album, read and write about God, and basically get my priorities straightened out. I’d tell you to wish me luck, but we all know luck has nothing to do with any of it. Instead, pray that I can set aside all the trappings of the natural world to do what I think God really wants me to do.

God bless all of you!


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