Value and Purpose

We tend to struggle with the idea of value. We often based our value on what others think of us. Our value is placed based off of rejections and approval. I think there is another set of words that connect with, and perhaps even better summarize our real question. What is my purpose? What do I have to offer, and who is interested in it?

Humankind was created with purpose. God was intentional in the act. It wasn’t a simply reaction to an event, but rather was the final act over a giant canvas being painted on. We were also made with purpose. Adam and Eve tended to the garden and ruled over it. There was work involved, and there was satisfaction in that work. It was work meant solely to honor and please God. The purpose was clear. It was recognized. It was loved.

The fall changed everything. It changed purpose. Adam suddenly became confuse din his purpose. His purpose for a singular moment was to love Eve more than God. His value for one moment was defined to have her love him in return over God. Since then our value and pu8rpose have been thrown into turmoil and chaos.

It seems hopeless sometimes. How can we find these innate truths of ourselves in a world that constantly pulls us in the wrong direction? Matters grow even worse when we realize we cannot even trust our own heart in these matters. It is liable to go towards immediate and temporary satisfaction. We grumble and grown wherever we are because those core questions do not seem to be getting answered in the deepest part of our hearts. Who think I have value, and what is my purpose?

We can catch glimpses of these answers if we know where to look. We find it in our relationship with Christ. A relationship that is the sole definition to our value. A value that says we are priceless, but not the only one in need of this answer. That last part is the key. I have become to individualistic at times in my ideas on value. That core question can become dangerously corrupted if I am not careful. My value alone is not necessarily the most important thing.

This is where purpose comes in. We can find purpose in community. In Acts believers found purpose in community. They valued others more than themselves. They cared for the poor in their community. They fed the hungry. They clothed the poor. They went out and shared the salvation story with the world.

The purpose and value are connected, and they are not determined based off of our circumstances. We often assume this to be the case. Rejection from a loved one, a friend, a job application, a local church, a clique, or whatever it may be was always destined to fail because they are all incapable of answering these questions. Value is defined by the cross. Purpose is defined by what I do to tell everyone else about their value.

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Why Are You Choosing Strife?

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Proverbs 10:12.

For a long time I have dealt with some issues on bitterness. Bitterness towards others requires a lot of effort. It is draining, aggravating, and develops some pretty vicious cycles. Letting go of it requires more than just saying you won’t do it anymore. For me it required some pretty active confession on my sin. My bitterness was a sin.

It was hard to confront. I wanted be justified in my feelings. I wanted to hold my grudges. I wanted to live in my negative thoughts, because it seemed to give me a sense of control. Something peculiar happened though, as my bitterness grew, so did my guilt. I began to fear how the same individuals viewed me. I was suddenly caught in this horrible cycle of holding bitterness towards others, and at the same time craving approval from them.

A few weeks ago after wrestling over this for months I went to the prayer team at our church and asked for prayer over this issue. The gentleman told me exactly what I needed to hear. He told me he wants ti pray for me, but I need to take the first step and confess my sin to God. Very blunt, and it stung. I wanted to react negatively at first. Why should I confess sin? I am justified in my feelings. I just wanted God to give me peace. It doesn’t work that way though. I confessed right there. All of the pain and weight of that sins was lifted off of me.

A few weeks later I noticed something else. My fear and anxiety on how people viewed me was different. Because I let go of my bitterness I was no long trapped in a negative outlook.

You see, as long as I only looked at the flaws of others it was impossible for me to assume that they were doing anything, but the same to me. Often we think hatred and bitterness bring up strife in confrontation, but it does a lot more than that. It affect our outlook of the rest of the world. We are often only capable to imagine what other think based off of the way we think. Freeing up my own views and capability for forgiveness outwardly extended my thoughts on what others are capable of as well.

Maybe it is time to let that anger go. Maybe it is time to take a step into the light, and realize not every thought is covered in darkness. Perhaps people will change just by the fact that you change. What if the shackles you have others place on you could be broken if you just unlocked your chains on them. What if you could end the strife right now?

I waited way too long to deal with it. What are you waiting for?

A Story of a Boy Named Micaiah

On Easter Sunday at 10:23 PM our second son Micaiah was born. It was an unexpected event. That afternoon we had already been to church, and spent the day with our good friend Karch, and Emily’s parents. There were hopes for Micaiah to come soon, but there wasn’t particularly any expectation to it.

We had already chosen to do a home birth. My wife felt that is what would make her the most comfortable, and I wanted to make her as comfortable as possible through the process. We had learned a few things from the first pregnancy, but only enough to know that this one could be wildly different. It was.

The labor was short. The quickness unexpected. Our new son was going to follow the beat of his own drum. In reality, this is fitting considering his name. We named him Micaiah. Don’t recognize it? I don’t blame you. It’s not a well-known name from the Bible. It is often used for side characters that have little not do with the overall plot. There is one Micaiah that he is named after that has a brief, but impactful appearance.

It is found in 1 Kings 22. Ahab wishes to go to war with Syria, and attempted to convince Judah to join him. Jehoshaphat is willing to give it a go, but require Ahab to consult with the prophets first to make sure this is a good plan with God. Ahab consults with 400 prophets who all tell him to go for it, and that he will be victorious. It would appear that these prophets were more of yes men because Jehoshaphat challenges Ahab to find someone who will actually tell him what God thinks.

This is where Micaiah enters the scene. He is already in prions because he has a track record to tell Ahab what God really thinks, and because Ahab is wicked he does not take too kindly to God’s opinions. Micaiah tends to look like he goes along to the beat of his own drum. He is living in a period where the people who are interested to hear what god has to say are few, and the people actually speaking for God are even fewer.

Ahab drags Micaiah out of prison, but not before one of the prophets tells Micaiah that he better go along with the positive message from God or else. Micaiah proceeds to give a sarcastic message to Ahab. It is almost word for word what the prophets said, but commentators think his tone was likely dripping with sarcasm since Ahab told him to stop goofing off and tell him the truth.

Micaiah’s serious message? Ahab was going to die in battle, and these other 400 prophets were a joke. Micaiah spoke up with the kind of boldness that only a true prophet of God can do. What is crazier is he said this to two kings who were sitting on thrones in front of him. He didn’t cave under the pressure. He didn’t worry about getting sent right back to the prison. He spoke freely and truly. He later explains that while he was in prison he Saw God sitting on His heavenly throne. He understood that these kings on their thrones were only siting there because they were lent out to them. The one true king even oversaw them.

Our little Micaiah is already following the beat of his own drum. He is already paving his own path. Our prayer is that as he goes through life he can also see God seated on his heavenly throne, and will follow the beat of God’s drum even if it seems to be off from everyone else around him.

Micaiah means “Who is like Yahweh?” We have gone through a heavy period of change over the past couple of years since our first son was born. Ezra was named for the Ezra who taught God’s word, and did so with boldness. It was a brave name from a brave man, and during that time we needed a little bit of courage and bravery. Since then we have had to go to the beat of a different drum. A drum that we have strived to listen to since it is God’s rhythm. It has lead us on some crazy adventures, but we have constantly had to remind ourselves that no one is like our God. He is worth serving because of who He is.

We love both of our sons. Micaiah has entered into this world in a bold quick way, and on a really big note. We only pray that he can live as large of a life moving forward. Micaiah, perhaps you will one day need to stand in front of kings of your own, but may you always follow the path of the only king worth serving.

Micaiah

The Final Note

There must have been a sense of finality following the death of Christ. Jesus had spoken the words “It is finished.” It must have felt finished for the disciples. The man they had been following had been killed. The man they gave up their lives for was no more. There was more than a loss of a friend and leader. There was a loss of purpose in these men.

How guilty Peter must have felt. I can only imagine he sat hiding with the other disciples wishing he had an opportunity to take the last 24 hours back. Wishing he could have the opportunity to tell Jesus he was sorry. Begging for a second chance to do better, but that is the thing about death. It removes the opportunity for second chances.

That was the law of nature as mankind new it up to that point. Death was the final note in a short song of your life. When someone final note hit it had consequences on the opportunities of those around them as well. Never again could you hear that loved one laugh. Never again would you be able to experience the warmth of their hug. Never again would you experience the joy that came from being near them. Because death is final, and that is all there is to it.

It was so normal, and so real that it seemed impossible for people to believe things could be any different. Most of us would have been like Thomas. We would have demanded to put our hand on the piercing hole at Jesus side when hearing of this crazy resurrection. It sounds like a conspiracy theory cooked up by the fanatics. A desperate last attempt to cling on to some hokey religion. After all, it goes against everything our world knows. Death is it. The final note in the short song of your life.

That is what makes this event that we celebrate the most earth shattering event in history. When Christ died Scripture says that the earth shook. It was as if the earth itself understood that this death was unnatural. Death came as a consequence of sin, but suddenly there was a man who took on that consequence without ever earning it. The death itself was exceptionally abnormal. It needed to be completely foreign to the rules in order to allow what happened next.

The story of Christ is not simply the story of a man who taught some lesson on treating people well, and died. It is a story of a God who came down, invaded this earth to take back his kingdom, and was daring enough to offer the opportunity for mankind to live twice. Suddenly it was no longer the death of the body that was the swan song for your life, but rather the death of sin that was the final note in your old life. Suddenly your life is more than just a simply song, but rather one piece of melody in a grand symphony that echoes through the ages with one grand message. A message of a God who lived the life of a man. Who humbled himself to think of us. Who died on a Friday, but had the earth itself pules with the war cry that Sunday is on its way. Darkness has hold of Friday, but the breaking of dawn will fill the earth. If you thought nature went out of sync on Friday, but wait until Sunday.

It is a song of second chances. The song of Peter that cried out that God can still use a man of brokenness. It is the song of Saul the persecutor beckoning us to a new life. It is the song of Stephen that is cried out to a Christian brothers and sister dying for their faith today. It is the song of redemption, and it’s building up to this moment. Tomorrow is not just any Sunday. Tomorrow is Sunday, and tomorrow we will once again lift our voices as one across the globe of the church joining with those who are broken, changed, and facing death to cry out to the world that this is not the end. This is not the final note in a short song. This is the mark of the next step in the grandest story the world has ever known. Tomorrow we as a church will sing as one.

He Did Not Look Like a Savior

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 3:5

Hanging on a cross. A man who is exposed, bleeding, and dying. A man who is facing a death of humiliation. A death of a criminal. A sign hangs above him full of sarcasm, “Jesus, King of the Jews”. A man who was chosen to be crucified while allowing the freedom of a murderer. A man who had to do everything he could just to take in another breath. A man who is completely helpless. Here hangs the savior of the world.

He didn’t look like much of a savior. He certainly did not look like any messiah the world expected. He was not a military leader. He did not possess the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel to freedom like a Moses. He did not reign over Israel into an era of prosperity like a David. Jesus appears to be the least of the bunch. Let’s face it, this man hanging on a cross does not seem to look like a savior.

What is a savior? Is a savior one who comes in the form his subjects demand? Does he simply try and meet the needs of those who ask? Maybe a savior is meant to be something more. Perhaps this savior hanging on a cross is more than He appears to be. There is a story behind this man’s life that you may not have known if you were simply passing by. This man claimed to be the son of God. He didn’t look like any son of God we would have imagined.

The greatest hope of the world did not look like any sort of hope at all. A helpless man hanging on a cross. A man destined to die a painfully excruciating death. Abandoned by his disciples, denied by his closest friends, and alone on a cross. No, wait, not entirely alone. Two men are being crucified with him. Two common criminals hang on crosses next to this savior of the world.

One criminal can only see what hangs in front of him. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior to this man. He looked like a helpless criminal on a cross. This common man mocked and ridiculed this “Savior of the world”. This common criminal played a crucial point in the telling of the story. He was pointing out the clear truth of the situation. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior this world needed.

The second man saw something different. He was another criminal who had earned his punishment on a cross. He recognized something in Jesus. Perhaps he looked past the mere image he saw before him. Perhaps he simply realized some innate truth residing inside the core of his being. The truth set him free. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

It is true Jesus did not have the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel into freedom like a Moses. He did not reign on a throne in an era of prosperity like a David. The only thing he had in common with these other men was death. This common criminal noticed the true diversion of the similarities though. He grasped that even in the one common thread between Jesus and these great men there was a huge difference. Samson, Moses, and David all died as sinners. They were some of the greatest heroes of Israel, but they each had huge flaws. Jesus was facing death, but he was facing death as an innocent man. He was facing death as a sinless man.

Jesus did not look like a savior, but he was the very kind of savior the world needed. A savior does not simply give what others think they want. A savior meets the core need. Jesus was the savior the world needed, but never realized. That was what this common criminal saw. A common criminal who realized the need for a true savior. The kind of savior that was required to look nothing like Samson, Moses, or David. He realized he needed a savior of souls.

You need to understand the need for a savior in order to realize that Jesus was a savior. Without knowing the need you will never fully see Jesus as the perfect savior. He was the perfect savior because he was the perfect sacrifice. He paid our debt for our sin. He brought peace between God and humankind.

Thank God Jesus did not look like a savior.