Category: Life Purpose and Mission

Finding Your Spiritual Home

Read Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Children shouldn’t have been throwing the ball in the church’s fellowship hall downstairs, but they were… and the inevitable happened: striking the wall by accident, the boys left a small, indented “crater.” One of the older men came in the next morning with his tools, calling out to me as he went downstairs “I’ll have it fixed in no time.” Several hours later he emerged covered in white dust. “You’ll have to call a professional,” he said as he exited the building, “I’ve done all I can do.”

I went downstairs to survey the repair attempt, only to find a hole that was four feet across! Rather than admit he was powerless to remedy the situation, my brother’s best efforts only made the hole larger and harder to repair.

Many people are searching for answers to their deepest questions and heartfelt longings. In this passage, Jesus gives instruction on how to find just such a spiritual “home.”

Jesus begins by exposing five attitudes that will keep you from finding your spiritual home. Like my well-intentioned church member, you might discover that your very best efforts to get answers about God have only served to carry you further away from Him.

1. “It’s all about me.” (vs. 16-17) Jesus compares some of the people in His day to children playing in a large open marketplace. One group of children chides another for not playing the game they want, the way they want it played, at the time they want it played. This attitude may be cute in children, but it is spiritual suicide to a real seeker of God.

2. “I know what an authentic religion should look like.” (vs. 18-19) The generation rejecting Jesus also rejected John the Baptist. Preaching a message of repentance, John was rejected for being too austere. Preaching the good news of redemption and forgiveness, Jesus was rejected as having too much fun, eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus wasn’t religious enough!

3. “I know what I am talking about.” (vs. 25a-26) Later Jesus praises God for revealing truth, not to the ones who thought themselves to be wise and learned, but to the “infants” in the crowd. People who think they already have the answers have stopped asking questions. This is deadly to a genuine pursuit of God.

4. “I do not need anything from you.” (vs. 25b) God chooses to reveal Himself to the “infants”—the ones who are most dependent on another for life and survival. The difference lies not in the intellect, but in the consciousness of need. The more conscious you are that you need a Savior, the more ready you are to recognize Him when He comes.

5. “I already know what God must be like.” (vs. 27) Jesus states in the clearest terms that He alone knows what God is really like. You must be willing to lay down your assumptions about God in order to learn the real truth from Jesus.

The call to your spiritual home is an invitation to:

Enter into an Intimate Encounter with Jesus Christ. (vs. 28)

Jesus says, “Come to Me.” He does not call us to a religious tradition or set of man-made practices, but to Himself. The qualified respondents will be those who are tired of keeping rules without a real relationship with a living God. Jesus also issues His invitation to those who have been loaded down by the religion-mongers of the world. His promise is real and simple. Literally, He says: I will rest you.

Embrace the Mission of Jesus Christ and Your Personal Assignment. (vs. 29-30)

Jesus says, “Take up My Yoke.” Like two oxen teamed together to plow a field, Jesus invites you into His work. For the seeking ones, He gives direction to God. For the hurting ones, He offers relief from God. His mission worked out through your life will be a unique one. In verse 30 He explains that His yoke is “easy” and the burden is “light”: literally, He means that it is “form-fitted” for you alone.

Experience His Guidance Through Every Step of the Journey. (vs. 29)

Jesus says, “Learn from Me.” The mission of Jesus and the person of Jesus are inseparable. You cannot serve Him without His help and power. He will guide us to not only do His will, but to become like Him in every area of our lives: self-controlled in action and humble in attitude.

If you will respond to this very personal invitation from Jesus, He promises you will find rest for your soul (vs.29): a true spiritual home.

Mission Possible!

Read Isaiah 6:1-8

In the TV series Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps received his secret mission assignments from a mysterious voice on a tape recorder. Listening carefully, Phelps would hear the voice say “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it…”

Wouldn’t it be great if God sent out tapes like that? Yet, God has His own process for revealing our mission. He has a purpose for your life for you to discover and fulfill. He doesn’t ask for your ideas or plans; He asks you to seek Him! How can you discover your mission in the heart of God?

Get to know God personally. (vs. 1-5)

Do you have a spiritual hero? I believe Isaiah carried a deep respect for Uzziah, who reigned 52 years as a godly king. When Uzziah died, Isaiah’s hero was gone. Great uncertainty must have filled his heart, wondering what would happen to the nation with the passing of this great man of God.

Perhaps for the first time in his life he was placed in a position of seeking to hear from God on his own—with no help from a spiritual leader. When we lose our spiritual bearings, we should follow Isaiah’s example: he goes where God is. He seeks Him in the temple. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can seek God in prayer anywhere. In James 4:8 we have this promise: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

When Isaiah encountered God, what did He discover? First, he experienced God’s holiness. Isaiah writes that he saw the Lord sitting on a throne. He saw God in human form! How is this possible? Years later, the apostle John explains that Isaiah actually saw Jesus Christ on that day in the temple—a pre-incarnate appearance of the Savior (John 12:41).

Isaiah felt the building shake as the angels proclaimed that God is holy. Isaiah was experiencing the presence of a pure, unstained, uncreated, perfectly good Being: a holy God!

Isaiah immediately became conscious of his own sinfulness. As we draw near to a holy God, we can expect to become increasingly conscious of sin in our own life. In much the way that bringing the lights up in a dimly lit room exposes details we had missed in the darkness, so exposure to the holiness of God will cause us to become painfully aware of our own sin.

As you seek God’s face for specific direction in your life, do not be discouraged when the feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy erupt. Expect this to happen as you approach a holy God.

Be honest with God totally. (vs. 5-8)

Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me” as he begins to confess his sin in detail. He is broken over his sin. He does not try to hide it or dress it up. He exposes his sin before God. If I want to hear the heart of God, it is vital that I confess every sin that comes to mind.

In some cases, repentance may mean going to someone and asking his forgiveness for an offense. It may mean returning or paying for something stolen years ago. When John the Baptist preached the Jesus-endorsed message of repentance, the first question new converts often asked was “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14). John called these actions the “fruit” of authentic repentance (John 3:8).

Confession leads to cleansing. In the moment of repentance, an angel grabs a coal from the altar (a place where things died for sin) and touches Isaiah’s lips. His sin is purged. He is forgiven. He is clean!

Obey God carefully. (vs. 8)

The cleansing cleared the way for communication. Isaiah suddenly begins to hear the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I believe God had been speaking all along, but Isaiah was out of touch and failed to hear the heart of God.

God’s heart to speak to a generation that is disoriented and devastated by sin is consistent and does not fluctuate. As Isaiah began to align his life with the heart of God—dealing thoroughly with sin and self-centeredness in his own heart—then he began to hear God.

Isaiah’s heart cry–“Here I am, send me”–was the beginning of a lifetime of responsiveness to God’s heart. No longer were two wills vying for control of Isaiah’s life. Now there was only one: Isaiah set his heart to obey God carefully for the remainder of his life.

In Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps had to quickly review the details of the mission, before the tape self-destructed at the end of the message. Phelps and his team had to come up with a plan. They were always on their own.

While God does not send out tapes that self-destruct, I like his method of making mission assignments much better. Unlike Jim Phelps, I don’t have to come up with a plan—God already has one. I’m not on my own either—God goes before His people to accomplish everything He asks them to do. This is Mission Possible!

The Cemetery Next Door

In 2003 my wife and I made a run down to Yazoo City, Miss. for the funeral of her grandmother. A wonderful believer born in 1916, she lived her entire life in the hills just above the Delta cotton fields with a simple faith and an unconditional love for people.

Conducting her funeral in a little Methodist church near her home, I was reminded of something often lost to congregants of newer church buildings: the cemetery next door.

When the old timers built their churches they didn’t worry about parking or a premium location. They didn’t have a website with streaming audio of the most recent sermons. Nor did they have projected images for sermon outlines or song lyrics.

But the old timers who built their churches with the cemeteries next door lived with a stunning, weekly reminder that death was near and life was short. Each time they entered and exited the church building, the markers of the dead stood before them as silent messengers of a very real eternity awaiting all of us.

As I stood before family and friends and reminded them that “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54), I looked out and saw that cemetery. To emphasize Christ’s victory over death in the face of a constant reminder of death was a little easier there–with a cemetery next door.

You may not have a cemetery next door anymore, but the need for that weekly reminder remains–as much as ever.

Do You Have a Spiritual Elder?

Being the youngest of six children, our daughter Abigail has many models around her to draw from when learning her way through this world. As a result, she has developed faster than the other children in many ways — both positively and negatively! :-)

This is a family secret to rapid, solid growth — and it applies to our work of building saints too. Business people call it “mentoring”; Christians call it “discipleship.” We are encouraged in the Scriptures to draw from older Christians (“spiritual elders” or “Pauls”) life lessons that we can, in turn, pass on to younger Christians (“Timothys”). For men the key passage is 2 Timothy 2:2; for women a central passage is found in Titus 2. Both ministries are often neglected.

One of our men in our church approached me about entering into a mentoring relationship. I was absolutely delighted, knowing that God will always fill a thirsty heart. This man is on the grow and is tapping into one of the growth principles of the Scripture.

God has blessed me personally with 2 mentors who have invested their lives in me. In my first pastorate and throughout my ministry those men have protected me (through wise counsel) and prayed for me again and again.

We will grow more… we will grow faster… if we will embrace, pursue and model a biblical form of life change and development.