Friday, July 19, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Three

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," is underway. This is our third week studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this next week from my own story, subscribe here

1 Timothy 6:12 reads, “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (NRSV). This notion of “fighting the good fight of faith” alludes to persistence—living our faith will not always be easy, for a fight is required and mustered courage is implied.

Theologian John Calvin cleverly picks up on these principles as he writes:
Nothing can fill us with courage more than the knowledge that we have been called by God. For from that we may infer that our labor, which is under God’s direction, and in which He stretches out His hand to us, will not be in vain. Thus, it would be a very serious accusation against us to have rejected God’s call. It should, however, be the strongest encouragement to us to be told, “God hath called thee to eternal life. Beware of being distracted by anything else or of falling short in any way, before thou hast obtained it.” *
According to Calvin, no labor is in vain when we are living our life purpose. He advocates honoring the primacy of God’s call and keeping from being distracted in any way. Persistence, therefore, is necessary for a genuine observance of faith.

Calvin wants us to live each day as if our decisions and obedience really count. Considering eternal life necessitates that we number our days this side of heaven. His writing encourages a sense of focus. 


In other words, we have to dig our heels in and keep going.



John R. Walchenbach, "Vocation," The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, edited by Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 233.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Two

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," began last week. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story, subscribe here!

While persistence involves our own action in obedience, it can also involve our willingness to wait for God to act. Is there a blessing you've been waiting for? Is there a dream that God has put on your heart? Have been several roadblocks and disappointments along the way? Just ask a toddler if waiting is any fun. The frustration and whining of the "terrible two's" really doesn't get any easier; the struggle just becomes more internal as we age.


Scripture reveals that we’re not alone in our waiting. The Psalmist yearns, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning" (130:5-6, NRSV). But the Psalmist also declares God’s faithfulness while we wait too. The Psalmist professes in 27:13-14, "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Asking us to “be strong” and “wait for the Lord” implies persistence.



This encouragement is important because waiting is often necessary, especially as it pertains to our life purpose. While we understand the frustration of waiting from an early age, the things we want as we get older usually take a bit more arranging. A dream come true takes more than a flick of magical wand or a cookie from our parent's hand. It's often a compilation of years of striving, faithfulness, and even heartbreak until we taste the sweet fruit of satisfaction. But the Lord promises, someway, somehow, that fruit will come. {Tweet that.}

The pinecone is an interesting metaphor for persistence. Notice that while the pinecone is one object, it's made up of many "leaves" called scales. Each scale must grow individually to produce the ovular shape we know as the pinecone. Its formation is a multi-step process. To uncover God's faithfulness in big ways, we need to be faithful in little ways. We need to allow each scale to form along the path toward the completion of our God-given purpose. Every decision matters. Frustration cannot lead to giving in or giving up while our formation is still in process. 

The Psalmist extols, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act" (37:4-5). Paul echoes the psalm in Galatians 6:9 by encouraging, "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up." Both verses, along with the pinecone, reflect the tension that persistence involves not only our continued action in obedience but also our willingness to wait for God’s action too.

The faithful have waited throughout the centuries and over the course of each lifetime. The Bible resounds with God's faithfulness all the same. Time and time again, witnesses prove it. If you are weary and ready to give up, be encouraged by the promises of a faithful God. Like the pinecone, you are forming. Commit your ways to the Lord and stay tuned to witness the full expression of God's artistry through you. You're going to see something beautiful.


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It's been a landmark week on the blog! It hit 200,000 views since its inception! Thank you to the thousands who are checking in each month! I pray God has been touching your heart through this series. Stay tuned for next week as we continue our study on persistence!

Monday, July 1, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part One

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," begins today. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story of finding and living my life purpose, subscribe here!

Our journey in this series began with a discussion of the parable of the pearl. You can find it here. The scripture itself, from Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV), records Jesus saying: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

I cannot imagine the resolve that the merchant must have had to sell everything he owned for the pearl. As he parted with each piece of property bit by bit, his fingers trembled as tinges of fear crept in. It is not hard to believe that he could have been experiencing full-blown panic. He was letting go of the security he had made for himself to receive far greater security solely by faith. He was being transformed. Now Jesus offers him as an example of how to respond to God’s call in our lives, because he willingly remains persistent even in risk to claim his prize.

The merchant’s parable understandably involves goods. His goods stand for whatever we depend upon for our livelihoods. God is the ultimate source of our security—not just spiritually, but physically and emotionally as well. God wants our relationship with him to be the guiding factor for our lives. For this relationship to mature and deepen, we must remain persistent in our obedience and pursuit of him. In so doing, we slowly draw nearer to the pearl ourselves.

Persistence is a rich biblical principle; growth in the kingdom of God requires it. When I was in high school, I remember feeling impatient to begin ministering. I saw what a difference I could make on a mission trip, and I wanted to feel that real-time difference everyday instead of being buried under mounds of future homework. But my youth pastor encouraged me to look to nature for wisdom in my frustration. A sapling, he said, springs up quickly, but its roots are shallow and its trajectory is small. A mighty oak, however, allows time for its roots to burrow deeply into the ground. These roots weather many winters, but that makes the tree stronger and eventually more productive: It has more shade, lumber, and beauty to share. The same can be said of us. The kingdom of heaven often hinges upon slow, quiet, persistent growth as God actively transforms us. {Tweet that.}



Our transformations will look different because we have different life purposes. Persistence may be needed in our training, in our work inside or outside of the home, or certainly in our diligent pursuit of God. The key is that we do not give up; we do not waver despite potential risk or actual cost. Paul agrees, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine). Here, perseverance and persistence are interchangeable. Paul is arguing that having persistence is inherent to the Christian call; it not only produces external results, it also develops an inner fortitude as we grow in relationship and trust in Jesus. Both are key to living our God-given life purpose.

Questions to think about this week: Can you remember a time when you were persistent and it paid off? How might God be calling you to be persistent now, and what might the benefits be?

Monday, June 17, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part Three

Step four in my "How to Live Your Life Purpose" series continues this week with risk. Did you miss the prior two weeks? You can catch up by reading week one and week two on risk. The final installment of this step will be sent exclusively to subscribers next week, so be sure that you have subscribed here!


Peter’s ability to walk on water in our study last week gave glory to God. Paul urges all Christians to “…do everything for the glory of God” in I Corinthians 10:31. Christian theology agrees. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the chief end of humanity?” The answer is our chief end is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” One way that we can glorify God is by offering him our very lives in obedience.

I love how the Directory for Worship for my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), defines the Christian life. It states, “Christian life springs from Christian worship, where we find our identity as believers and discover our calling as disciples. Christian life flows back into worship as we present to God the prayers of our hearts and the offering of our lives” (W-5.0101). Our lives become offerings when we surrender to God’s plan and show a willingness to hear him. Like Peter, this offering will sometimes call us to leave the safety of our boats and embrace risk at God’s direction. {Tweet that.}

Our obedience will not only help us; it will also benefit the church. As Christians, we obey and risk to fulfill our God-given purpose, and this purpose is connected to God’s larger plan for the world. Living out our life purpose enables us to be God’s redemptive hands and feet as we follow his direction. {Tweet that.} Our courage to counter risk by faith can inspire others to be bold and effect kingdom victories of their own too!

Questions to think about this week: Have you ever considered how what God is calling you to do could connect to his larger plan for the world? Have you ever observed how a simple act of your obedience to God produced a ripple effect that you did not expect? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part Two

Last week I introduced my favorite topic of the series...RISK. Did you miss it? If so, read here. Risk is step four in my six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." Want exclusive material from this series? If so, make sure that you have subscribed here. This week's post on risk focuses on a critical biblical story...Read on!

It’s natural that risk elicits fear. I like how Parker Palmer embraces fear with respect to living our life purpose. Reflecting upon Jesus’ command to not be afraid, he states: "'Be not afraid’ does not mean we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear…Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have…” * Palmer argues that fear is not necessarily an alarming sign. Mark Twain wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Faith can provide us with the courage we need to counter fear effectively. {Tweet that.}

Palmer describes what courage from faith looks like. He writes, “We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well—places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear…” * Where we choose to stand has everything to do with courage. We must not opt to stand on ground that is “riddled with the fault lines of fear.” Instead, we can stand on Christ’s firm foundation by choosing trust, hope, and faith.


There is a stunning story in the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33) that concerns where we stand as well. The disciples are on a boat in tumultuous waters. Early in the morning, Jesus begins walking on water toward them; the disciples think he is a ghost and are terrified. Jesus identifies himself and tells them to not be afraid. Peter responds by asking Jesus to confirm his identity by commanding Peter to step off the boat and walk toward him on the water. Jesus agrees and commands him. Peter walks safely for a little while until a strong wind blows and he doubts. His feet become shaky and he starts to sink as he cries out to Jesus for help. Immediately, Jesus offers his hand. As they climb into the boat, the wind stops blowing. Jesus’ response to Peter is: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Standing on water wasn’t the problem—it was Peter’s unbelief.

There are three significant takeaways to this story. First, it’s important to recognize that Jesus commands Peter to climb out of the boat. In other words, Jesus is calling Peter to risk at the sound of his voice. Peter will have to depend upon the firm foundation that Jesus offers by faith to stand upon the stormy waters. Second, Peter does not risk until Jesus commands him to do so. Peter is not jumping out of the boat and into tumultuous waters for his own name’s sake; instead, he wants to follow the specific call of Jesus. Once he hears it, Peter knows it is safe to counter his fear by faith and act courageously. Third, this leap of faith allows Peter to do something spectacular that gives glory to the power of God. It’s only when Peter doubts that he starts to sink, and this feat isn’t possible.

We are called to risk as Christians only at the sound of Jesus’ voice. Our own fear nor the stormy waters should not stop us when we hear it. As we discern God’s voice, as we surrender to our life purpose or God’s calling in our lives, our faith can equip us to respond with courage and carry out the impossible for God’s glory too! {Tweet that.}

* Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2000), 93-94.

Monday, June 3, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part One

Have you ever wondered whether you are living up to your full potential, particularly as you straddle the doldrums of parenthood? If so, I invite you to join me in this series entitled, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." This week we begin step four on risk. For material on the first three steps, be sure to read previous posts on my website. Also, subscribers will get exclusive material from this series emailed to them next week, so be sure that you have subscribed here. 


When I was younger, I loved to climb a tree at a neighbor’s house. You had to be a certain height to throw your arms around its lowest branch and hoist yourself up. I remember the day I was first able to do it and the fun that ensued. At first, I mounted up the tree slowly and carefully. But the tomboyish spirit of my youth quickly won out as I swung from branch to branch. I felt tall, strong, invincible. Luckily, the worst repercussion I ever experienced while climbing was a random splinter or scraped knee. 

There’s a balance of exhilaration and danger that a tree offers a young child, and I find the same to be true as I strive to fulfill my life purpose as an adult today. Daily, I need to have a comfort level with risk and sometimes, an appetite for adventure. From trying something new in ministry to writing vulnerable words on a page, when I get it right, the thrill feels like it did the first day on those high branches—it’s exhilarating! At the same time, some things don't work and some outcomes are disappointing. Pushing through those bumps and bruises is a part of the process.

American author and professor John Shedd once wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” I’m convinced that a well-lived Christian life will involve risk; otherwise, faith would not be necessary. It’s no mistake that “do not be afraid” is the Bible’s most repeated statement. In fact, Jesus says it and its derivatives three times more than anything else. He knew we’ll never know the fun—nor view—that awaits us if we don’t have the willingness to grab that first branch.

Grabbing a branch or being willing to risk is the next step on our journey toward living our life purpose. Up until this point, we have explored longing, surrender, and an inventory of our strengths to discern it. Now it’s time to use our strengths and implement what we’ve found; no doubt, this will involve risk. What’s key to our understanding is that this risk is not random—it’s calculated. It’s the very risk God is calling us to take. Being willing to follow God’s lead will bolster our faith and open new adventure. {Tweet that.}

A life of faith is supposed to be a life of adventure. God's call to action will require our dependence on him. It’s a spectacular dance of his call and our response that increases our intimacy. As we stretch for his hand of support in our obedience, we learn more about God’s trustworthiness and character. We experience the thrill of challenge side by side, together. We become more fully who we were meant to be. {Tweet that.}

The upside of healthy risk is considerable. Imagine the risk the merchant undertook to grasp the pearl; he sold everything he had, and his profession was dealing goods! While that must have been scary, he gained far more in return. We can too. In this step, I’ll explore risk using a contemporary example and scripture, continue our discussion of theology, and offer another life story. The latter will be for subscribers, so be sure you've signed up here!

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