Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Purpose

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, "Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish." So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him. (Acts 13:36; Esther 4:13-17, NASB)


"Concretely, abandonment to the will of God consists of finding his purpose for you in all the people, events, and circumstances you encounter. If God tears up your beautiful game plan and leads you into a valley instead of onto a mountaintop, it is because he wants you to discover his plan, which is more beautiful than anything you or I could have dreamed up. The response of trust is 'Thank you, Jesus,' even if it is said through clenched teeth." (Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins – July 18 entry)

Recently, I had the opportunity to join my wife for a chapel service at the local seminary. It happened to be the very last one for the year and their speaker was Dr. Tony Evans. I had not heard him speak, but his reputation certainly preceded him. As he began, he read the verse above from Acts as his text and began to speak to us. I'm not one for taking a single verse out of its context, but this was some remarkable insight, especially given some of the students sitting there were ready to embark on careers in various ministry opportunities. Dr. Evans plainly speaking about God's purpose for our lives was more than just a passing challenge. He spoke with passion about how God uses our individuality to fulfill what He ultimately sees fit to happen as His greater story unfolds around us.

As I listened again to the recording of this message, my thoughts drifted to the story of Esther and, in particular, her exchange with her uncle regarding whether or not she would go into the king and make a request. The story is unique among canonized scripture in that the actual name of God isn't mentioned even once. Yet the presence of the Almighty could not be more obvious. And Mordecai might has well have said, "Who knows? Perhaps God has specifically put you in this position to serve His purpose for this generation of Israelites." Knowing the story, it most certainly would fit.

Then there was my daily reading from Brennan Manning's writing. The July 18th entry is titled "Abandoned to His Will". At that point, all three of these things converged in my heart and I knew I needed to write about God's purpose for us. Frankly, it seems hard to believe (at least completely) that God not only has a specific purpose for us, but that He takes our individuality into full account when He sees it done.

And while this may sound like some fatalistic situation, nothing could be further from the truth. God does not sit there like some cosmic dictator and puppet master … the fact that He can see all points in what we call "time" from His perspective is something that we will likely never comprehend. I quit trying to do it – it made my head hurt too much. It is just another point where I choose to trust Him to be who He said He is and leave it at that. In doing so, I place myself in a far better position to submit to His purpose for me so that I can fulfill it for my generation just like David and Esther did.

The Crooked Path will be lonely and uncertain at times, but that doesn't mean I am alone or need to lack confidence. My Divine Brother travels with me and we both walk to the rhythm of Our Father. Jesus fulfilled His purpose so that I have the opportunity to fulfill mine. I need only to turn to Him and ask for the courage to persevere until I reach my mortal end. At that point, may it be said of me that I served the purpose of God for my generation.


  1. Have you thought much about your purpose, what God intends for you to do for the generation around you on His behalf?
  2. What would it be like for you to "abandon yourself to God's will" as Brennan Manning suggests? Can you see past your fear to do that and embrace the possibilities God has in store?
  3. Do you hear God's invitation to rely on Him, to embrace His purpose for your life? Can you trust Him enough to let that invitation take root?

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Timothy, I thank God for you - the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:3-7, NLT)


It was most definitely a mixed marriage. Perhaps it was a broken home as well. The young woman had fallen for the Greek man (probably against her own mother's advice) and the union produced a son. He wasn't a strong boy physically, but the evidence we see tells us he had intellect, spirit, heart, and above all a great legacy of faith handed down to him.

Paul has known Timothy for some time when this second letter was written. He has helped to guide the young man's spiritual formation and has come to trust him implicitly to carry forth the Gospel when Paul either cannot or is no longer around. But the statement he makes regarding Timothy's heritage come as a challenge to me. Both Lois and Eunice are specifically tagged as having "genuine faith" and Paul explicitly states that they passed it on to Timothy. I can only infer (though logically so) that Lois passed this on to Eunice and they both participated in doing so with Timothy.

Mind you, this isn't a model family being called out here. That isn't Paul's point at all. We know the family is mixed with Timothy's father being a Greek. Since there is no mention of him participating in the legacy of faith, we can safely assume he either has ignored what is being taught by Eunice and Lois or that he simply isn't around any longer. Yet, the choices of these ladies to invest in Timothy are clear and they obviously produce lasting results.

Lois and Eunice have risen above whatever has happened in their lives to that point and embraced what God has offered in His love through the story He has given them. They have chosen to live in this better story rather than create their own. Paul sees this choice, the honoring of God in the way they have raised Timothy, and he latches on to it. He, too, will invest in Timothy's part in God's story and this second letter serves as the summation, starting with Timothy's legacy of faith. He goes on to encourage this young servant to be faithful and true to that legacy and to reinvest in others so they also might see the benefits of a personal faith in God.

As I write this post, there is activity in the house by my two daughters. It causes me to think about the legacy I provide for them, how I invite them into God's bigger and better story for their own lives. This is an intensely personal thing to be certain (meaning the choice is ultimately theirs to make), but we still have a charge to pass what we have learned on to coming generations. God has placed us in a relational world for just that reason. Timothy didn't grow up the way he did all alone and we shouldn't expect others to do so either. The legacy we leave is important.

My travels on this Crooked Path are sometimes lonely, sometimes filled with people, but they are never alone. In addition to my Older Brother who travels each step with me, I have a legacy of family and influential people who have crossed my path and traveled with or ahead of me. Some have traveled well and given me much to ponder for my own journey. Some have not traveled as well and end up being more like adversaries or stumbling stones. Some will approach and try to get me to quit the path as futile. I am the sum of the life I have lived and I need to pass what I learn on to those who follow and those I come across. We never know when a single encounter will produce something that lasts for eternity. Legacies speak volumes. What does yours say about you?


  1. Did somebody invest in you? Was it a positive, enduring experience that shapes the way you think and act today?
  2. Does it surprise you to know that Timothy's upbringing was as mixed as it was? Are there points in what we know about it that you can identify with?
  3. Have you thought about your legacy much lately? Are you taking the time to invest in somebody else so they might learn and grow?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Status Change

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God."

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (John 15:15-16; Romans 9:25-26; Galatians 4:4-7, NKJV)


The rise of the social network has given those of us who indulge in it the opportunity to declare our "status" to anyone and everyone willing to listen. We share our changes in moods, jobs, places to eat, relationships, and a host of other things that come across our minds. Frankly, it has watered down what "status" once meant.

I recall several changes in status across my life that I might consider significant. The move from high school to college – followed a short time later with the change from college student to drop-out. I changed status from being a single man to a husband (twenty-five years ago) and then from having a living father to being without one. Two of the bigger changes turn fourteen and twelve respectively this year. And all these changes in my status marked passages of time in some way or another. But they all pale in comparison with the status change that I did nothing to achieve – it was granted me as it was granted so many others by pure Grace alone.

Imagine the confused band of students in that upper room who had watched their Teacher ride into the city in triumph. A few days later, He is telling them of His death and departure. In the midst of all this, He also tells them He has changed their status. They are no longer to consider themselves students or servants. They are to think of themselves as His friends. Paul echoes this type of thought in Romans when he quotes the old prophet Hosea. God had formerly cast away His people, but, in an enormous act of Grace and Love, He promises to call them back and make them His people once again. It's a fantastic promise that He is keeping to this very day.

Again Paul, writing to the churches in Galatia, calls out the essence of the Gospel of Christ – a legal transaction changing the status of people from slaves to sons with all the rights, privileges, and duties associated with that position. In fact, he calls them out as joint heirs with the Son of God, making Jesus our Divine Older Brother … the one who made Himself a prodigal for our sake so we could be rescued once and for all.

The books I've been reading (Keller, Nouwen, and Manning) all speak to this change in status and, at times, I'm afraid we've overlooked it. Sure, we give great lip service to the miracle of Grace, but we then go about as if we were still slaves, having to prove something or earn our way out of bondage. As a result, we live lives of fear instead of victory. We need to come to terms with the fact that we don't have to be perfect; we just have to accept that Jesus was perfect on our behalf. And, in doing so, He changed our status to friends, sons, and daughters – joint heirs with Him of all Heaven has to offer.

The Crooked Path surprises and challenges me on a daily basis. One of the most recent challenges is to look at my relationship with my Father in a different way. I need to understand just how much He gave up for me personally so that I could be counted as His son. I need to stop and thank Him regularly and call Him by the most intimate name a child can use … Daddy. That's what it means to be a son of God. That's what my status should read when people see it … Daddy's child!


  1. If you try to call God "Daddy", does it make you comfortable or uncomfortable?
  2. When you think of all the times Jesus has called us friends, His brothers/sisters, or God's children, does it excite you? Or do you find yourself feeling at odds with the whole idea?
  3. Are you looking at yourself like some peripheral member of God's household, perhaps relegated to hanging around the fringes and doing the "dusting" or "cooking" or some other task of a servant? Are you looking at the family celebration going on right now and wishing you could join in the dance?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Biggest Celebration

But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' (Luke 15:22-32, ESV)


It's a familiar story, to say the least. We've heard it in Sunday School, listened to sermons, and even read books about it. But two particular books I've read recently (one new to me, one a re-read) have caused me to look at this parable with fresh eyes. And what I see is a portrait of the biggest celebration we'll ever know.

Recently, my wife read Tim Keller's Prodigal God and asked me to read it as well. We found a cheap copy on Amazon and I took it with me on a business trip. To say I "devoured" the small book is probably an understatement. Keller brings things into focus in so many ways I hadn't really considered before (or at least for a while). And he brings the book to a point where he describes the older son's actions as being just as rebellious as the younger son's. The younger son had overtly said (in cultural terms), "Dad, I'd like to see you dead. Give me my third of your estate now." But on his return, as he is taken back into the family he abandoned, the father restores him. This causes the older son to say, "Dad, I've slaved away without a complaint and now you are giving away a third of what is mine? I don't want any part of you anymore." And so, the younger son is celebrated in the great feast and the older son stomps away in disgust, never entering the door.

Henri Nouwen wrote Return of the Prodigal many years ago after seeing the painting by Rembrandt that hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. In pouring out his heart about the parable of the prodigal and the impact this painting has on his own life, Nouwen also points to the ridiculously generous and forgiving father who throws a feast to end all feasts at the return of his previously "dead" son. The older brother is portrayed as an aloof character, watching with absolute disgust on his face. The author writes much about how the father begs him to join in the celebration, but he staunchly refuses, considering the old man as either crazy, too lenient, or both. The feast, the representation of our home with God both now and in a permanent future, goes on without him.

Both authors (Keller directly, Nouwen more subtly) talk about the unspoken older brother from the parable. In the Luke passage, this story is the "feature" told after two similar warm-up parables that both end in a celebration over recovering something that was lost. But the Teacher who is telling them is also playing a significant role, not only in the telling of the story, but in the Great Story they are all caught up in at that very moment. He is the True Older Brother who, when we younger siblings have gone off to a far land and squandered all we had, said to the Father, "Don't worry about it. I'll go bring them home again."

And that's exactly what He did. He became Heaven's Prodigal, came to us as the Perfect Older Brother, paid for our ransom, and invites us back Home to the Father's celebration feast. We have the opportunity to participate both now and, ultimately, in the biggest celebration we could ever imagine. Our invitations were delivered by hands scarred and pierced with nails yet filled with the Father's eternal love.

Don Miller (in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) talks about a death in his family where a cousin asked where the departed relative was. Miller spoke softly and kindly about Heaven but later, as noted in the book, knew that he should have said, "He's at a celebration." As I travel my own Crooked Path, I need to check my pocket from time-to-time and pull out the invitation I hold to come celebrate with God. It is a personalized offer to join in the Eternal Dance that is going on now and will only get bigger as time rolls to an end. I have friends and family already there and my anticipation grows. There is a huge party going on … and I'm invited to join in!


  1. What's your view of the Father who lavishly offers a celebration on our return to His House?
  2. Do you see the part of the celebration that is happening even now? Does it call to you to join in, or do you find yourself standing outside for some reason?
  3. Are you ready to accept the freedom and joy that the current and future celebrations express? Is your perspective of God big enough to see that is what He is doing for you?