Category Archives: purpose

Christian Hedonism (it’s a good thing)

chief end of manThe Westminster Shorter Catechism (a summary of Christian beliefs from England in the 1600s) describes the ultimate purpose of mankind this way: “The chief end of man (men/women) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

That’s a pretty remarkable statement. Our ultimate end/purpose is to enjoy God forever.

I’ve known a lot of Christians who didn’t seem like they enjoyed God very much. They dourly went about their faith with all the excitement of a dental patient, never seeming to delight in the life that Jesus claimed to offer. If following Jesus has become a grim, arduous affair for us, then we’ve somehow lost sight of what it really means to follow Him.

I mean consider what Jesus offers us: forgiveness…the guidance of the Holy Spirit…unconditional love…destiny…significance and purpose…the sense of God’s presence…the power to live in our higher nature. The Christian life is not easy to live–indeed every Christian goes through seasons of testings, trials, and tribulations–but when it is truly lived it is ultimately delightful.

King David said it this way “You fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). Pastor John Piper echoed David’s sentiment by popularizing the term “Christian hedonism.” Mr. Piper believes that we followers of Jesus Christ should unapologetically seek the joyous benefits associated with the Christian faith. Indeed, Piper believes that enjoying the benefits of a life with God are central to successfully living the Christian faith.

Understandably, some people criticize the linking of the words Christian and hedonism. After all, unrestrained, hedonistic pleasure-seeking is not a part of the Christian path. However, Piper is not wrong.

Jesus said that if we come to Him we would find rest for our souls, living water, and an abundant kind of life. Is it wrong for us to want the things that He claims to freely offer us?

Well what about selfishness? We don’t want a self-centered motivation for our faith do we? And we don’t want to elevate the gifts above the giver.

Those are great points! So let’s not do those things. Let’s not be selfish. Let’s not crave the blessings while ignoring the one who blesses. But let’s certainly not think that it is somehow more holy or pious to live a joyless, white-knuckle kind of faith.

Jesus is fun. God is the author of laughter as well as the comfort for our tears. And it brings Him glory when our ultimate delight is centered in Him.

Athletes and Artists

artistYou are supposed to be both.

For the masterpiece of your life to truly unveil, it will require the disciplined striving of an athlete and the detailed touch of an artist.

In Acts 24:16 the Apostle Paul declared, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” The phrase “take pains” comes from a Greek origin that means 1) to adorn as an artist, and 2) to exercise or strive as an athlete.

The Christian life requires the merging of both definitions.

You’re not just an athlete—the Christian life requires more than the rigorous pursuit of a workout regimen. And you’re not just an artist—you need something more than the creative expressions of your gifts, talents, calling, and personality.

Athletic artists. Artistic athletes. Right foot; left foot. Athlete-artist. Artist-athlete.

Athletes without art are mere machines. Artists without athletic discipline are too unstructured. Our challenge is to hold these opposites in tension, while recognizing that  they’re not really opposites—they are flipsides of the same coin.

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul urges us to an Olympic caliber of effort and self-discipline, and in Ephesians 2 he said we are “God’s workmanship” literally translated, “the poem that God is writing.”

Whether you naturally gravitate toward athlete or artist, consider merging their distinctives into one unified life.

John Wooden famously said we should, “Make every day our masterpiece.” However, that doesn’t happen through competition alone. And nor does it happen by simply giving vent to our more artistic side.

The Christian life requires us to be both athlete and artist, artist and athlete, thus creating a life that strengthens others and glorifies God.

Knight’s Code of Honor

knight in armor

In our recent men’s retreat there was much talk of honor, gallantry, and living as noble, courageous men of God. It got me thinking of the literal knights’ code of honor from the Middle Ages. This code continues to stir my own soul so I wanted to pass it on to all of you. Enjoy!

  • To never do outrage or murder
  • Always to flee treason
  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy
  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen, and widows succor
  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen, or widows
  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels or for love of worldly goods
  • To never lay down arms
  • To seek after wonders
  • When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all of one’s strength
  • To injure no one
  • Not to attack on another
  • To fight for the safety of one’s country
  • To give one’s life for one’s country
  • To seek nothing before honor
  • Never to lose faith for any reason
  • To practice religion most diligently
  • To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability

Get busy livin’

shawshank1_2772806bSweet spot.

You have one. It’s the place where your unique talents, gifts, experiences, and passions come together in the service and glorification of God. It’s the spot where you feel most like you—you’re alive and engaged and positively contributing to the world around you.

You don’t get as tired in your sweet spot. You don’t get as stressed out. Results come easier, and you’re happier, more effective, and more alive when you’re operating from this place.

As Max Lucado said, it’s the sweetest spot in the universe.

It takes a little effort to discover your sweet spot. It requires some internal exploration to identify all of the treasures that God has pre-packaged within you. However, it’s worth every moment of effort because once you start moving toward your sweet spot, you’ll be on the path toward an invigorating, significant, uncommon life.

Your kids have a sweet spot too. If you’re a parent, one of the wisest things you can do is to help your child identify his or her sweet spot, and begin living in it early on. Many heart-breaking endeavors come about because young people waste time exploring life outside of their God-prescribed sweet spot.

If you’re ready to get serious about living an uncommon life, there are some reflection exercises in the appendix of The Cure for the Common Life that will guide you into the identification of your sweet spot. By identifying “aha!” moments from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, and by highlighting the verbs (the actions you took that made you feel most alive), you can create a script that will startlingly identify the essence of who you were created to be.

Please avail yourselves of those exercises, and get started on the path toward an uncommon life. As Andy Dufresne said to Red at the end of the film, Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Let’s get busy living intentional lives that glorify God, bless the world, and bring life to our own souls.

Know you are loved!

(This officially concludes this summer’s all-church reading program)

Study your S.T.O.R.Y.

psycho dentistThe cure for commonness begins with strength extraction.”[1] Thus said Max Lucado in this week’s installment of our summer reading program.

What, exactly, is “strength extraction”? It sounds like a terrifying dental appointment with a vigorous, pliers-wielding dentist.

However, according to Lucado; strength extraction is actually something wonderful. It’s what happens when you identify your S.T.O.R.Y. by asking and answering the following five questions:

  1. What are your strengths? What “verbs” best describe your aptitudes—for instance, running, jumping, fixing, writing, or relating?
  2. What is your topic? What “nouns” are attached to your “verbs”? In other words, where and with whom and in what setting do you prefer to run, jump, fix, write, or relate?
  3. What is your optimalcondition? People can run, jump, fix, write, and relate in myriads of settings and conditions—which ones are ideal for you?
  4. What about relationships? What are your preferred relationship patterns? Do you work best alone or in a group? If in a group, do you like to chime in from the sideline or lead the parade? Are you a collaborator or a solo inventor. There isn’t a wrong answer to the question, but you do need to answer it.
  5. Yes! Identify some of your “Yes!” moments when your strengths, topics, optimal conditions, and relational preferences all came together to form a sweet spot that made you feel alive and flooded with destiny.

Life inside that spot—at the center of your S.T.O.R.Y.—is anyting but common!

 

Grace Church summer reading program, The Cure for the Common Life, Chapter Four: “Sudy your S.T.O.R.Y.”

 

[1] Max Lucado, The Cure for the Common Life, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2005, 32.

Which dream?

wall street

How well has the American Dream worked out for you?

Richard Stearns suggests that the great American Dream ultimately fails because it was never intended to be the end goal for our life. Although we are profoundly blessed to live in a country dubbed “the Land of Opportunity” we were created for something vastly more than merely working hard, accumulating stuff, saving for retirement, and then hoping we have enough health leftover to enjoy our savings and our stuff.

According to Stearns (and the epic message of Scripture), we were created to partner with God’s plan to redeem our broken world. We were uniquely called, gifted, and blessed to become a blessing to the world. Along the way we will experience highs, lows, blessings, droughts, exhilaration, and brokenness…and every step of the journey will ultimately prove to be absolutely worth it.

Let’s enjoy our lives—indeed, followers of Jesus should drink deeply of the joy and wonder of this life—but let’s make sure we’re moving ever closer to God’s Dream versus simply an American one.

The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Eighteen: Putting the American Dream to Death