Our Personal Purpose Statement

He was on his way to Jerusalem. How come? He was compelled by the Spirit. That’s a good thing, yes? Hmm . . . depends how you wanna define good.

While he knew that he was bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, he didn’t know what he would encounter there. Okay, so at least that’s a benign thing . . . a 50/50, could be good or bad thing . . . an it-might-work-out-okay thing? Hmm . . . probably not.

Because what the Spirit had also made clear to Paul was that “in every town . . . chains and afflictions are waiting for me” (Acts 20:22-23). Okay . . . now that’s definitely NOT a good thing, right? Hmm . . . not necessarily. Depends, apparently, on your purpose.

“But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

(Acts 20:24 CSB)

This morning, I’m chewing on Paul’s personal “purpose statement.” Wanna know how Paul viewed his life’s mission? Want insight as to how Paul defined success? Want a bit of inspiration through some divine illumination? Want a bit of conviction on the sort of scales one should be using to measure what’s ultimately good or bad in life? Acts 20:24 probably isn’t a bad spot over which to hover and meditate.

In an age where our culture says our goal in life should be to find ourselves and express ourselves in order to fully realize ourselves, Paul — whose been known to be counter-cultural at times — would indicate that our life’s mission might best be found in losing ourselves in being faithful stewards of what the Lord Jesus has given us to do. Even if it means going to Jerusalem knowing that what awaits us are chains and afflictions.

Could it be that flourishing in life really is found by forsaking our lives? Yeah, could be . . . if you believe Jesus.

“Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” ~ Jesus

(John 12:25 NLT)

Paul valued his life, after all he was an image-bearer of God. But the value was not in how it was ultimately invested in himself, but in how it was stewarded in the context of the ministry Jesus had given him. His mission was not to fully cater to himself, but to faithfully consecrate himself to Jesus.

Sure, we don’t all have the same Damascus Road experience that Paul did, clearly defining the course (and consequences) Jesus had purposed for him (Acts 9:1-15), but we do all have a course. Each of us has a ministry from the Lord Jesus. It’s found as we give ourselves to the Scriptures instruction. It’s formed as we yield ourselves to the Spirit’s leading. It’s realized as, by faith and through His enabling, we too aspire to a personal purpose statement to finish the course we’ve received from the Lord Jesus.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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Clothes Make the Man

According to a blog I came across, its origins go back to the 1500’s. Apparently a theologian, Catholic priest was the first to note, “vestis virum facit” meaning “clothes make the man.” Mark Twain would expand on it some 400 years later in his short story, The Czar’s Soliloquy: “[One] realizes that without his clothes a man would be nothing at all; that the clothes do not merely make the man, the clothes are the man; that without them he is a cipher, a vacancy, a nobody, a nothing . . . There is no power without clothes.”

There is no power without clothes. True, apparently, according to Twain who was known towards the end of his career for his white suits, but true also according to Moses who was known during the latter part of his life for speaking for God.

Make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and beauty. You are to instruct all the skilled artisans, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom, to make Aaron’s garments for consecrating him to serve me as priest. These are the garments that they must make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a specially woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aaron and his sons so that they may serve Me as priests.

(Exodus 28:2-24 CSB)

The priesthood was going to be a pretty big deal for post-exilic Israel. When it came to representing God to the people and bringing the people before God, it was not something that just anyone could do, nor was it a role that could be fulfilled in just any way. What’s more, it certainly couldn’t be done with just any old clothes on. For Aaron and those who would follow in his footsteps, they could only serve as priests on earth before God in heaven if they were clothed in holy garments. In a sense, they too had no power without the right clothes.

This morning, I’m chewing on what the LORD had Moses record concerning priestly garments. And I’m doing so through the filter that I too am a member of a holy priesthood foreshadowed by Aaron & Sons (1Peter 2:5). So, if they needed special garments in order to enter where they were to enter and do what they were to do, and that without dying (Ex. 28:35), then I’m reminded that I too need to be clothed with holy garments in order to access my privilege and fulfill my calling. Reminded that for me too, the clothes make the man.

Not clothes I can manufacture. Not garments that I merit. Nevertheless, gifted with holy garments for glory and beauty.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

(Isaiah 61:10 CSB)

Garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness provided by the Father Himself through the finished work of His Son. The glory and beauty of Christ covering my redeemed, yet still being renewed self. Clothes fitting for a new man in Christ which I can put on each day even as I battle to put off the filthy rags of the flesh clinging to the old man. The holiness of Christ credited to my account, draped upon my shoulders, adorning me so that I might too enter the holy of holies and fulfill my calling as part of the priesthood of believers.

Worthy of such clothes? Nope. But am I wearing the right clothes? Do I have the clothes needed to make this man? You bet!

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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The Course of My Life is in Your Power

The words jump off the page because they are so very familiar, indicating that Psalm 31 is a Messianic psalm.

Into Your hand I entrust my spirit . . .

(Psalm 31:5a CSB)

Jesus spoke such words from the cross (Lk. 23:46). Whatever practical circumstance prompted David to write the song, the Spirit prompted him to also foreshadow the Christ. Thus, you can read the psalm extrapolating the inner thoughts of David as the inner thoughts of the promised Son of David — “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3), “tested in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). And once you’ve applied the song to the Savior, it seems to me you can then apply the Savior to your sorrow.

Jesus knew what it was to be disgraced and put to shame (v.1, 17). He knew what it was to have a “troubled soul”, to be “consumed with grief” to the point where His strength had failed (v.8, 10). He experienced what it was to be ridiculed not only by His enemies, but also by those who should have known Him well, his neighbors. So much had the gossip spread, He was even dreaded by those who barely knew Him (v.11, 13). Not only were His “eyes worn out” from the frustration of accusation, His “whole being” was as well. Sapped of strength inside and out.

So, does Jesus know something of what we might endure in our times of disgrace? I’m thinkin’ . . .

So, does Jesus as the perfect man have something to say to us as to how we might endure our seasons of shame? I’m thinkin’ again . . .

But I trust in You, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
The course of my life is in Your power; . . .
Make Your face shine on Your servant;
save me by Your faithful love.

Love the Lord, all His faithful ones.
The Lord protects the loyal . . .
Be strong, and let your heart be courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord.

(Psalm 31:14-16, 23-24 CSB)

Trust in the Lord. Double-down in declaring He alone is Your God. Know that the course of your life is in His power. Seek afresh the shining countenance of His gracious face, confident in His faithful love.

Love the Lord. As much as lies within you, purpose and persist to continue to walk in faithfulness with Him as your ever-abiding “rock of refuge” and “mighty fortress” confident that He will lead you and guide You for His name’s sake (v.1-3). Be strong, be courageous, put your hope in the Lord.

Somehow an encouragement that the Son of God needed as He walked as the perfect Son of Man through all that surrounded Calvary. Though our cross not comparing with His cross, somehow an encouragement to us in whatever season of distress we might endure as those who know also that “the course of my life is in Your power.”

By His grace. For His glory.

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Questions Worth Pondering

Rhetorical questions asked in the afterglow of victory. Answers unnecessary because, being on the other side of the sea, they’re obvious. Faith afire because the wonder of deliverance is fresh. But walking between walls of water will soon be a thing in the past. In only a few days, before the chapter is even done, they’ll be walking in an arid land with no water to drink. The songs of praise but a short time ago give way to the grumblings of complaint as the next challenge is faced. Seems to me, that’s when asking the questions again might make sense.

Lord, who is like You among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?

(Exodus 15:11 CSB)

Easy to ask such questions when the answers are obvious because the power has been experienced and your circumstance is favorable. But more needful perhaps to ask the questions when there are no answers, heaven seems silent, and you’re parched and panting for something to quench the thirst.

Even when it’s dry, there is no God like the God who is in our midst. Especially when the next challenge overshadows the last victory, we need to chew on the reality that our God alone is glorious in holiness. When everything in you wants to throw a pity-party and murmur about how much you’re having to put up with, that’s the time to know again that He is always worthy of being revered with praises because He is unchanging in nature, steadfast in love, true to His promises, and more than able to still perform wonders.

Questions for the mountain top? For sure. Questions for the valley? Even more so, I’m thinkin’.

Questions worth pondering? Always!

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Distinguishing Mark

Okay, I don’t know why the CSB translators break ranks with every other translation, but they do. And for me this morning, as I read in Exodus, it pops because it connects two important dots.

Dot number one? The LORD makes a distinction.

There will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before or ever will be again.  But against all the Israelites, whether people or animals, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

(Exodus 11:6-7 CSB)

Nine plagues down, one to go. Through Moses, God has repeatedly commanded Pharaoh to let His people go and Pharaoh has repeatedly refused. Time for talking is done. Time for deliverance draws nigh. The final display of the LORD God’s might? The Giver of Life will take the lives of the firstborn. And when He does, all of Egypt will wail as no nation has ever wailed before. And yet, next door, in the land occupied by the Israelites, not a peep. Not a whimper. How come? Not a death. So that all would know that the Lord makes a distinction.

But on what basis? Nationality? Ethnicity? Geography? Nope. Cue dot number two.

“I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, both people and animals. I am the Lord; I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

(Exodus 12:12-13 CSB)

The blood. That’s dot two. The Israelites were to, by faith, trust the lives of their firstborn to a self-applied ritual. Take a lamb, a year-old male without blemish, slaughter it at twilight, apply its blood to the doorposts and the lintel of the house, roast it and eat it, and then stay put under the protection of that blood-covered home. Because, as every other translation puts it, the blood on the house would be a sign. Because, as the CSB renders it, the blood would be a distinguishing mark.

The applied blood of a spotless lamb, the distinguishing mark upon which the Lord makes a distinction between His people and the world. Not their nationality. Not their ethnicity. Not their geography. Not even their piety. But only the blood of a lamb on their house.

I sit here this morning confident in my eternal future. Not because of who I am or where I live or what I’ve done, but because I too am under a distinguishing mark. Because I am covered by the blood of the Lamb — Jesus, the perfect Son of God, without spot or fault, who came to take away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29) and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). My sins atoned for, I fear not judgment. My Savior risen, I know death’s bondage has been broken.

I sit here confident this morning because I have, by faith, personally applied the blood. The blood of the Lamb being the sole distinguishing mark assuring my deliverance. The blood of the Lamb the only basis upon which the Lord makes a distinction.

And that, only by His grace. And that, only for His glory.

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Vindication and Trusting

It was certainly a prayer of David’s back then. Is it to be a prayer for today? Chewing on it.

Read between the lines in Psalm 26 (vv. 4-5), and it sounds like the accusations were flying against David. He hangs out with “the worthless”, they said, his buddies are those marked by emptiness, vanity, and falsehood — no substance in them or him. What’s more, he pals around with hypocrites — find those who are playing games and living secret lives, and you’ll find David. Wanna know where he abides when no ones looking? Find the wicked and you’ll find him.

The word was out. The shadow of suspicion cast. No taking it back. No corralling it to minimize the compounding, collateral damage of questioning his character. For, while the original accusers may have only “shared the truth” with one or two, those one or two, in turn, passed it on to one or two. Reputation in ruins.

So, what’s a guy to do? Commence prayer . . .

Vindicate me, LORD,
because I have lived with integrity
and have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Test me, LORD, and try me;
examine my heart and mind.
For Your faithful love guides me,
and I live by Your truth.

(Psalm 26:1-3 CSB)

Vindicate me. Set the record straight. Clear my name. How come? Because I have lived with integrity.

David wasn’t claiming perfection, he knew better. But, as much as he knew his own heart, he tried to lived in sincerity. And what he didn’t know about his heart, he invited God to reveal to him. Walking in integrity equaled walking in truth.

So, he prays, Vindicate me.

A prayer for here and now? I’m thinking. To be realized in the here and now and just how we want it to be realized? Not necessarily. That’s why David knew that the way of vindication was the way of trusting in the LORD without wavering. That having the record set straight could be left with the One who had promised to guide David with faithful love. True of David and true too of the Greater David.

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. . . . when He was insulted, He did not insult in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the one who judges justly.

(1Peter 2:21, 23 CSB)

Mine, it seems to me, is to seek to live with integrity. His is to assess it. Mine is to entrust myself to Him.

But I live with integrity;
redeem me and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
I will bless the Lord in the assemblies.

(Psalm 26:11-12 CSB)

By His grace. For His glory.

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Four Friends

A bit out of context. Probably more me-focused than the “Thee-focused” they deserve. But this morning some old, familiar friends from Exodus 2 are who I needed to hear from this morning.

After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor, they cried out, and their cry for help because of the difficult labor ascended to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and God knew.

(Exodus 2:23-25 CSB)

God heard . . . God remembered . . . God saw . . . God knew. And I sit back and whisper to myself, “Self, God hears, God remembers, God sees, God knows.” Yes and amen.

Sometimes you just gotta know again that God knows forever. And know that He knows not only in an encyclopedic, data storage type of omniscience, but with an engaged, empathetic, ready, willing, and able to get involved type of omniscience. And that what He knows, and how He engages, is in the context of what He has promised.

So, while these four friends — Hears, Remembers, Sees, and Knows — are really about exalting Him, I can’t help but inviting them to minister to me.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Gathered to His People

Euphemisms, we use them all the time. Using a word or phrase in place of another word or phrase that makes us uncomfortable. In my corporate life, we often preferred to talk about “downsizing” rather than “job eliminations.” For those who were caught up in the “downsizing”, they weren’t “fired” they were “let go.”

So, as I’m reading in Genesis this morning, I encounter a phrase that, at first, might appear to be a euphemism. But given that I’m reading the inspired word of God, perhaps I should be chewing on it as a true-ism.

When Jacob had finished giving charges to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, took his last breath, and was gathered to his people.

(Genesis 49:33 CSB)

Jacob didn’t die, he was gathered to his people.

It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this phrase. Abraham was gathered to his people (Gen. 25:8). As was Ishmael (25:17) and Isaac (35:29). And, looking ahead, Aaron and Moses too will both be gathered to his people (Num. 20:24, Deut. 32:50).

Hmm . . . just trying to soften the harshness of an eventuality awaiting all of us? Or, intentionally trying to say something of the reality beyond that eventuality awaiting all of us? Perhaps saying something like, “It ain’t over when it’s over.”

Whether speaking about the favored son, Isaac, or the cast out son, Ishmael, when they died they were both gathered to their people. I don’t think this means they were interred where their ancestors were interred. Instead, I think it may be intended to remind me of an existence beyond this existence. A reality beyond this reality. That death, whether it’s for those owning God as their God or for those whose god is themselves, is but a doorway to being with their people. That breathing our last on this earth is but an entrance to something beyond this earth.

So, the question then might be, “What people am I going to be gathered to?” What reality beyond this reality can I anticipate?

For followers of Christ — for those who have trusted in Jesus as their Savior and have owned Him as their Lord, we have our own set of non-euphemisms. For us, we’ll talk about “going home.” We’ll say a departed brother or sister has been “promoted into glory.” Paul says it’s to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2Cor. 5:8).

We use such terminology not to lessen the harsh reality of death, but to remind ourselves of the wonderful reality of life everlasting beyond death. And that’s why we are able to “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1Th. 4:13). Because, for those who have “fallen asleep” in Jesus (1Th. 4:14), we know that they too have been gathered to His people. A people of faith in the finished work of a cross. A people who trust in the power of an empty tomb. A people who rest in the One who said,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:25-26 CSB)

Yes Father, I believe this. I believe that Your Son is the risen Savior for all who believe. And I believe that one day I too will be gathered to His people.

Only by Your grace. To You be all the glory.

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Tethered by a Promise

Had one of those “Don’t think I’ve ever noticed this, much less thought about this” encounters with the Word this morning. Reading in a passage I have read in many times before. Seeing things in it I had seen many times before. But then, an encounter of the divine kind with a verse I’ve always skimmed over many times before.

Passage in question? Genesis 48. Big idea? A dying patriarch, Jacob, blesses the boys of his “resurrected” son, Joseph, adopting them as his own and grafting them into what would eventually become known as the twelve tribes of Israel. What’s more, the theme of “the son of favor” continues in Genesis as, rather than following the ways of men and conferring the greater blessing upon the firstborn, Jacob switches hands and blesses the youngest above the oldest. So far, so good. This I remember.

But then, this . . .

Israel said to Joseph, “Look, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you back to the land of your fathers. Over and above what I am giving your brothers, I am giving you the one mountain slope that I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”

(Genesis 48:21-22 CSB)

I am giving you the one mountain slope. That’s what grabbed me this morning.

One mountain slope — not even the whole mountain — that’s what Jacob the head over “seventy persons” (Gen. 46:27) gifts to Joseph the ruler over all of Egypt (Gen. 41:41). A piece of land where he pitched his tent that held all his earthly belongings, that’s what Jacob gives to the man who for years has been building grain silo after grain silo and then accumulating, literally, the world’s wealth. One mountain slope in a foreign land — out of sight, but evidently not out of mind — given to one who seemingly already has everything.

Not much to look at really (actually nothing to look at as long as you’re still in Egypt), but what a powerful tether to Joseph’s true identity, himself a favored son. Though Joseph literally has the world at his feet, his father gives him a double portion of a land of promise. Though Joseph is firmly entrenched and preoccupied with a place that has provided for him abundantly, his father reminds him of place God will bless him with eternally.

Hmm . . . sounds familiar.

This world is not my home. No matter how much a part of it I feel, no matter how much of it I’ve accumulated, no matter how much it preoccupies the daily affairs of my life, I too have had one mountain slope, a slice of another land, promised to me.

“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” ~ Jesus

(John 14:2 CSB)

For Joseph, it was a bequeathed hillside in his father’s homeland. For me, it’s a room being built in my Father’s house. A tie to another place, a reminder of a yet to be realized future. An incentive to not get too entrenched in this place because I was born again for another place.

Being tethered by a promise to a land I’ll live in someday has a way of keeping my internal GPS fixed on my true north today.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Taking Pride = Trusting

At first, this CSB rendering of a well-known ESV verse seems so different. Initially, I’m thinking that the two sets of translators seem to have ended up in very different places. But the more I chew on it this morning, the apparently different things of trusting and taking pride can actually be the same thing.

Psalm 20 is a prayer for those entering into battle, or as the songwriter puts it, entering into “a day of trouble” (20:1). It’s a cry for God to answer, for God to protect, for God to send help, and for God to sustain (20:1-3). It’s a prayer for God to grant the heart’s desire of the king and that the king would know victory (20:4-5, 9). But here’s the thing, it’s not an “I wish I may I wish might” type of prayer, it’s a prayer that is confident God will engage.

Now I know that the Lord gives victory to His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
with mighty victories from His right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses,
but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God.

(Psalm 20:6-7 CSB)

And there it is, verse 7. I recognize the verse because I recoginze the chariots and horses. But it’s not the verse I know. Cue the ESV translation . . .

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

(Psalm 20:7 ESV)

Hmmm . . . trusting . . . taking pride. At first blush, those don’t seem to line up to me.

Dig a little into the original and you can see why the variation in translation.

Some of chariots, and some of horses, And we of the name of Jehovah our God make mention.

(Psalm 20:7 YLT)

Doesn’t use the word for trust in the original. Nor the word for take pride. Instead, it’s the word remember. As in, when talking of an outcome you remember it or make mention of it.

Okay, so I put myself in the songwriter’s sandals. I’m praying a prayer for victory in a day of trouble. I know I will enter the battle with whatever resources I have, but I am appealing to my God to be there with me, to go there before me. And I anticipate victory. So, how do I anticipate later talking of that victory? How do I anticipate remembering it? How do I imagine boasting about it? Well, if I imagine that I won’t be taking pride in my resources nor in how well I waged warfare — if I’m prepared now not to take pride in my chariots and in my horses but take pride in my God as the One who gives the victory, then am I not trusting in the Lord our God. Thinkin’ I am.

Preparing in advance to take pride in the Lord’s victory there and then has got to be one of the signs that I trust Him for the victory even as I pray for it here and now. Knowing now that my resources and my strength and my abilities are not what will ultimately win the day, even though I am certain I will win the day, is only possible as look to Him alone to win the day. Taking pride in what God is going to do only happens as I am trusting in what God is going to do.

Taking pride in what God is going to do before God does it. Hmm . . . sounds like trusting to me.

By His grace. For His glory.

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