religion


God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. He has a specific role he wants each of us to play. That role is the purpose for which we were created. If you are not sure whether you believe that God has a specific purpose for each individual he creates, I suggest you read the Bible. The concept of God having a plan and a purpose for everyone he creates is referenced throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.

The prophet Isaiah was one Old Testament figure who believed this. Isaiah told Cyrus, a pagan king, about God’s purposes and plans for him. The people of Israel then began to question God for working through a pagan king. To them, Isaiah said, “Destruction is certain for those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying ‘Stop, you are doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be!’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father and mother, ‘Why was I born? Why did you make me this way?’ This is what the Lord, the Creator and Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Do you question what I do? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the millions of stars are at my command. I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide all his actions’” (Isaiah 45: 9-13). Isaiah told the people of Israel, and us, that God is sovereign, that he knows what he is doing, and that he chooses whoever he wants to do whatever he wants.

Jeremiah was another Old Testament prophet who also believed that God has a purpose and plan for everyone he creates. Jeremiah relayed this truth in a letter to the Israelites when they were in exile in Babylon: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

A New Testament figure who believed that God has a specific purpose for everyone he creates, and who had a very clear understanding, as well as an acceptance of the role God wanted him to play, was John the Baptist. “At this time, John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim… John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Teacher, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you said was the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.’ John replied, ‘God in heaven appoints each person’s work. You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for Him—that is all’” (John 3:23-28).

The Apostle Paul also believed this. In a letter to the church at Corinth, he stated, “But we will not boast of authority we do not have. Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us” (2 Corinthians 10:13).

If you want to know God’s purpose for your life and don’t know how to discover that purpose, here are some suggestions:

“Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. He planned exactly how he wanted you to serve him, and then he shaped you for those tasks. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry…God never wastes anything. He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory. By identifying and understanding these factors, you can discover God’s will for your life.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life)

“God has created every person with a purpose. But not everyone discovers what that purpose is. To find out, get to know yourself—your strengths and weaknesses. Look at your opportunities. Examine where God has put you. Then seek His counsel. He will give you a vision for your life.” (John Maxwell, Becoming a Person of Influence)

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Another excerpt from manuscript I’m currently working on:

A very important and difficult part of my spiritual journey has been coming to terms with my Catholic upbringing. The Catholic Church did not lead me to God. On the contrary, the Catholic Church erected many obstacles on the path to God—roadblocks that seemed impossible to overcome.

As I read and studied, I came to see how the Catholic Church took very simple concepts and complicated them to the point where it was next to impossible to understand them. The Church instilled fear and apprehension in me and solidified the toxic shame that developed as I grew up in my family. Rather than teaching me that God loved me, the Catholic Church taught me that I was not good enough for God and would never be good enough no matter what I did. The whole concept of having a personal relationship with a loving God was totally absent. It was nowhere on my radar screen.

As the discrepancies between Roman Catholic doctrine and Scripture became clearer and clearer to me, I became very angry at the Catholic Church. I was angry at them for teaching me and countless others a distorted gospel—a gospel that leads to fear, anxiety, and shame rather than peace, joy and love. My anger at the Catholic Church simmered under the surface for years and would flare up when I would attend a Catholic Mass or observe other Catholic rituals or ceremonies. As my family of origin were still practicing Catholics, all family weddings and funerals were held in Catholic churches. Each of those events became times of much internal struggle for me. At times I was able to hold my anger in check, at other times I was not able to do so.

It eventually became clear to me that I needed to make peace with the Catholic Church if I was to grow in faith and truly walk the walk. With God’s help, I was able to accomplish this by learning to see the cup as half full rather than half empty. I began to look with appreciation at what the Church did do, rather than look with anger at what they didn’t do. What the Catholic Church did do is: teach me that God exists; that he made me; and that spiritual matters are important. The Church also instilled in me a belief that church is where one develops good morals. If it were not for the second lesson, I would never have brought my children to church and I would never have been led into a relationship with the real God.

I am now at a place in my faith journey where I am grateful to the Catholic Church for what they did teach me. Though anger at the Church still rears its ugly head from time to time, it is quickly replaced with a deep sadness for the multitude of faithful Catholics who do not know the joy and peace of resting in the certainty of their salvation and the unconditional love of their heavenly Father. At the same time, I am extremely grateful to God for leading me away from the Church and teaching me that it is not about religion, it’s about relationship.

Any body, if it is to function properly and fulfill the purpose for which it was created, needs to be healthy. The body of Christ is no exception. If a local church is to be effective at continuing Christ’s work the world, it needs to be healthy

Note: Families tend to be classified as either functional (healthy) or dysfunctional (unhealthy). In reality, no family is one-hundred percent functional or one-hundred percent dysfunctional. Every family has functional characteristics and dysfunctional characteristics. It is a continuum, and each family falls somewhere on the continuum between functional and dysfunctional. In my opinion, the same holds true for church families. For the purpose of this discussion, church families will be referred to as functional or healthy if they have more functional characteristics than dysfunctional ones, and vice versa for dysfunctional or unhealthy.

Characteristics of a healthy (functional) church family:

1. Open communication is encouraged. Members feel free to talk about anything.
2. The structure and operating principles are not taken from a denominational blueprint. They are designed to fit the needs of that particular congregation and to aid that congregation in fulfilling its specific God-given purpose.
3. Members feel both accepted for who they are at present and supported to become who God created them to be.

My experience as a family therapist convinced me that any organization or system is only as healthy as its leaders. I saw this evidenced countless times with families. If the parents, the leaders of the family, were sick or dysfunctional, the whole system was sick or dysfunctional. When a parent or parents brought a child in for therapy, claiming the child was the problem in the family, I didn’t have to look long or hard to find the dysfunction in the parent or parents. As a result of these experiences, I have an unshakable belief that the marital relationship is the most important relationship in the family. It is the foundation of the family. The health of this relationship determines the health of the system. In order for this relationship to be fully functional, the mother needs to have a healthy relationship to herself, to God, and to the father; and the father needs to have a healthy relationship to himself, to God, and to the mother. If this is the case, the family is likely healthy, and the children have a better than average chance to be functional. If the opposite is true, the children will likely be stressed and will adapt in dysfunctional ways.

The same holds true for church families. I firmly believe that the relationships among the leaders of a congregation are the most important human relationships in a church. If the leaders of a particular church body or church family are sick or dysfunctional, the body will be contaminated, and the church family will likely be unhealthy. If the leaders are healthy and functional, the body will likely be healthy, and the church will have a better than average chance of bringing people into relationship with Jesus and helping them grow into mature Christians.

In my opinion, the health of leaders in a church family can be measured according to the same criteria as the health of parents in a biological family, that is, each leader needs to have relationships—with God, self, and the other leaders of that congregation—that are marked by love, trust, respect, and acceptance. When this is not the case, agendas other than God’s tend to take center stage.

I have been in the writing zone all day. I would like to share an excerpt with you. Here it is:

A very important and difficult part of my spiritual journey has been coming to terms with my Catholic upbringing. The Catholic Church did not lead me to God. On the contrary, the Catholic Church erected many obstacles on the path to God—roadblocks that seemed impossible to overcome…The whole concept of having a personal relationship with a loving God was totally absent. It was nowhere on my radar screen… As the discrepancies between Roman Catholic doctrine and Scripture became clearer and clearer to me, I became very angry at the Catholic Church. I was angry at them for teaching me and countless others a distorted gospel—a gospel that leads to fear, anxiety, and shame rather than peace, joy and love. My anger at the Catholic Church simmered under the surface for years and would flare up when I would attend a Catholic Mass or observe other Catholic rituals or ceremonies. As my family of origin were still practicing Catholics, all family weddings and funerals were held in Catholic churches. Each of those events became times of much internal struggle for me. At times I was able to hold my anger in check, at other times I was not able to do so.

It eventually became clear to me that I needed to make peace with the Catholic Church if I was to grow in faith and truly walk the walk. With God’s help, I was able to accomplish this by learning to see the cup as half full rather than half empty. I began to look with appreciation at what the Church did do, rather than look with anger at what they didn’t do. What the Catholic Church did do is: teach me that God exists; that He made me; and that spiritual matters are important. The Church also instilled in me a belief that church is where one develops good morals. If it were not for the second lesson, I would never have brought my children to church and I would never have been led into a relationship with the real God.

I am now at a place in my faith journey where I am grateful to the Catholic Church for what they did teach me. Though anger at the Church still rears its ugly head from time to time, it is quickly replaced with a deep sadness for the multitude of faithful Catholics who do not know the joy and peace of resting in the certainty of their salvation and the unconditional love of their heavenly Father. At the same time, I am extremely grateful to God for leading me away from the Church and teaching me that it is not about religion, it’s about relationship.

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I’m de-Christmasing the house. As much as I love Christmas (and believe me I do LOVE Christmas), I am looking forward to putting the busyness of the holidays behind me and returning to my regular routine. Even though all the outside trappings of Christmas will no longer be visible, I hope the spirit of Christmas will be visible all year long through my regular routine. How? You might ask, well …

As we know, Christmas is really about celebrating the birth of God’s Son, the long awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son to bring light to a dark world. We celebrate His birthday one day a year on Christmas Day. Those of us who are Christ followers, however, can make Christmas last all 365 days per year. How?

Individuals who have experienced spiritual rebirth carry God’s Spirit, His light, inside us. That light comes with marching orders. We are to let His light shine in us and through us so we can light up a dark world. We allow God’s light to shine through us when we choose to love/give regardless of how we feel. Real love is a verb. It is a choice. It is selfless. It is choosing to do something for someone else regardless of the cost to self. It is not a feeling. It is an action. It is this love that brings light to a dark world. When we do that Christmas can last 365 days a year.

Chris Rice sings about this in his song Go Light your World. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsM5lt9tCFo

Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization based in Minneapolis, posted an awesome review of my book When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, on their website. For those who are interested, here is the link to the review: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/review/book-review-when-going-flow-isnt-enough

What’s more, they are now stocking that book in their online bookstore! PRAISE GOD!

I am currently reading Lisa Bevere’s book Lioness Arising. The following excerpt particularly caught my attention: “Consider the word submission for a moment. What comes to mind? Probably Ephesians 5:22, about wives submitting to their husbands. Interestingly, many Christians have taken this verse and created an extreme and limiting definition for the word. I believe the word submission has been distorted beyond God’s intent for it. Many Christian women have believed their primary value lies in their ability to serve men. They have not realized that speaking in the church, respectfully voicing their opinions, or taking on the responsibility of a leadership role is serving. I heard a definition of submission that framed and aligned it with God’s plan for all Christians…Consider this: the prefix sub means under, and mission is an assignment.”

According to this definition then, submission means under assignment. I take this to mean assignment from God. Therefore, to live in submission means to be obedient to your assignment or purpose or calling from God.

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