What is the Purpose of Life?

what-is-the-purpose-of-life-photo-of-man-watching-the-skyMany people throughout history have asked the questions, “Why are we here?”“Why did God create the earth?” “What is the purpose of life?” “Why did God create man?”

People have tried to answer these questions using scientific knowledge or philosophical theories, but they have fallen short.  Finding purpose is a lifelong journey for many.

We can only find the real answers to these questions by understanding the true nature of God. what-is-the-purpose-of-life-photo-of-man-holding-bible

That is first and foremost God is a Father. In the Bible we can find over 150 times where Jesus referred to God as “Father,” but we’ll look at that in more depth later.

God did not create the universe, stars, planets and the earth we live on because He was bored in heaven. He did not need something to do. He was not lonely. God created the earth and everything in it as a home for mankind.

If we read Genesis 1 and 2 we’ll see that God created everything else before He created man and woman. He made the sky, the earth, the plants that cover the earth, the sun, moon and stars, the sea and everything in it, the animals, and then He made man. He didn’t just create Man and place Him randomly on the earth to fend for himself. No, God created a special place just for Adam and Eve: The Garden of Eden.

what-is-the-purpose-of-life-photo-of-earthGod prepared the earth before He made man.

He also gave man power and authority over the earth and everything in it in order for man to prosper and multiply.

This does not sound like the actions of a distant or unconcerned god. All of the preparations, empowering of mankind and the freedom are evidence that God is truly a loving, heavenly Father.

However, people have created false doctrines based on their personal experiences or the misinterpretation of God’s Word to say that God is angry, condemning and unfeeling toward His creation. If you struggle with seeing God as your Father I encourage you to consistently read the posts in the coming weeks. I’m going to show you how that revelation can change your life.

Fear Begins As A Seed

Everything in life is a seed.

Seed of Fear - A photo by paul morris. unsplash.com/photos/c9OfrVeD_tQWhile some seeds are larger than others, it is rare that a seed takes root, grows and bears fruit in a short amount of time.  This is how fear can control us: it gets planted as a seed early in our lives; we allow it to grow up into a mindset and now it influences the way we live our lives. The Bible calls these mindsets “Strongholds”.

 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

A stronghold is a thought or way of thinking that can control our behaviors, emotions and ultimately our lives if we allow it to grow to that point.

How do we know if we’ve let fear become a stronghold?seed-of-fear-photo-of-chains

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear,” (Romans 8:15a NKJV).

Fear always brings bondage. It ties us up and holds us back from what God intends for our lives. Our Heavenly Father wants us to live an abundant life of joy, prosperity and freedom. We can know what areas of our lives are controlled by fear by having an understanding of the lack of these three characteristics.

Fear will stop us from having joy in our relationships.

This happens because fear will begin to influence us to be suspicious of our spouses, friends and coworkers. Instead of enjoying the people we live and work with, we will be closed off.  We then become cautious for the purpose of protecting ourselves. What we’re really doing is allowing fear to steal the joy from our lives.

It can hold us back on the job by making us feel like we are inadequate to perform our work. This can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy and we’ll miss out on promotions and bonuses because fear birthed a mindset of unworthiness in us.

How can we overcome this?

“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”               (2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV).

seed-of-fear-photo-of-man-arms-up-on-rock-in-front-of-waterfallWe have to stand up to the fear in our own mind. We have to know who we are and what we have in Christ. When we know these things, we will recognize when our thoughts and emotions are not in line with the Word of God. When our minds have been shaped by fear, we need to use the Word of God to reshape them.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2a)

Only the Word of God will give us the wisdom and power we need to tear down the stronghold of fear and live the abundant life Jesus bought for us.

Like I said earlier, everything in life is a seed. The fear in your life started as a seed a long time ago and grew into what it is today. The Word of God can and will do the same thing. It will start small, but eventually it will grow into an unstoppable force. It will dominate your believing, your thinking and your speaking. However, it must be planted first. I encourage you to plant the Word of God in your mind and your heart every day, and allow it to transform you.

Where Does Anger Come From?

Where does anger come from?

Anger - Photo of Man's Fist on DeskThere is anger that comes from pride. There is righteous anger at injustices and evil, and there is anger that comes from fear.

Many times anger grows out of a fear that we are the victims of injustices.We think that people are always plotting against us, talking about us behind our back or trying to give us less than we think we deserve.

This fear stops us from being able to see the good in anything, because we’re too busy trying to find out how we’re being shortchanged.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you’ve been waiting on a promotion at work and it finally happens. This should be cause for celebration, but when you allow this anger to control you you’ll obsess over how you should’ve been promoted months ago rather than how you are being blessed with a promotion.

The problem with this kind of anger is that we devalue the blessing of God in our lives.

A few weeks ago we talked about how Eve was deceived into believing that the way God made her wasn’t good enough. What this fear-driven anger will do is look at what God has given us and say “It’s not good enough,” or “It should’ve happened earlier,” or “It’s not the way I wanted it to go.”

It saps the possible joy out of every good situation. Our lack of joy is always everyone else’s fault because we are convinced that the entire world is against us.

One name for this kind of fear could be a victim’s mentality.

It gives us an unwillingness to take responsibility for our own lives. It makes us like wild animals backed into a corner. The irony is that we put ourselves in the corner. So, we lash out at anyone who comes close to us.

It will ultimately make us unapproachable and lonely. All the while we will be fully assured of our lack of culpability in our own negative situation.  

The cure for this is the very thing that anger robs us of: Joy.

Anger - Photo of Man watching sun burst through cloudsInstead of looking for the negative in every positive, joy will shine a light on even the smallest good thing. It will look at the darkest of situations and magnify the possibility for God’s power and love to work.

If we read that last sentence and think, “That sounds nice, but I don’t have any joy,” we’re wrong.

The Bible shows us that joy is already ours.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior He gives us the joy of the Lord. Our part is just to let it flow out of us. We have to make a conscious decision to stop seeing what’s wrong with everything and everyone and allow joy to be the lens through which we view our lives.

I encourage you to pray and ask your Heavenly Father to help you with this. It will definitely  change your life.

Remove the Power of Sudden Fear

Sudden-Fear-Image-of-woman-with-head-down.jpgFear tries to dominate our lives in many ways.

There is a slow, steady fear that tries to stay with us throughout our day-to-day lives. This fear’s goal is to convince us that we’ll never achieve our dreams, never overcome our problems and spend the rest of our lives stuck exactly where we are right now. This fear is the quiet voice of insecurity that keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.

Sudden Fear - Photo of man stressed looking at laptopAnother form fear takes is what the Bible calls sudden fear.

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear, Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes,” (Proverbs 3:25 NASB).

This kind of fear is unexpected. It brings alarm and shock to our lives. Sudden fear often comes in the form of negative reports from the doctor, getting fired from our job, bad news about our family, etc. It catches us off guard and tries to elicit an emotional response from us.

The devil uses this kind of fear to blindside us. He hopes that he’s going to catch us with our guard down and throw us into a downward spiral of anger, frustration and depression.

Sudden Fear - Photo of Man in dark surrounded by smokeThe natural, human tendency in these situations is to think of every possible destructive outcome. Our imagination wants to run wild, creating scenarios in our head that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen. However, once we think of one that seems logical, even if only slightly, we latch onto it, foster it and place our faith in it.  

This is the devil’s strategy when he throws sudden fear at our lives.

He wants us to respond naturally with exaggerated negative thoughts and emotions, because they will open the door to further attack.

What we’re actually doing when we react this way is taking a step back in our faith.  This allows the enemy to advance in our life. We are shrinking back in intimidation while the devil puffs himself up to seem much more powerful than he is. One sudden attack can lead to an onslaught, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Proverbs 3:25 tells us to not be afraid of sudden fear or of an onslaught and the next verse tells us why: Sudden-Fear-Image-of-Rainbow.jpg

“Because God will be right there with you; He’ll keep you safe and sound,” (Proverbs 3:26 The Message).

The enemy’s goal with sudden fear is ultimately to make us forget that God is always with us.

When sudden fear attempts to blindside us we need to remind ourselves of Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” As soon as we come into agreement with this verse we stop placing our faith in the words of men and place it on the Word of God. This removes all power from the sudden fear.

We need to know that at some point we’re all going to receive bad news about something or someone. This should not cause us to fall apart and forget that we are sons and daughters of an all-powerful God. We should look at these situations as opportunities for God to show His power and love in our lives.

Fight Off Fear-Driven Dissatisfaction

The Devil tries to bring fear into our lives through dissatisfaction. 

He uses dissatisfaction to introduce fear into our lives by convincing us we’re missing out on something we deserve to have. The devil tells us that other people are enjoying something that was meant for us. He makes us think that because we don’t have what other people have we are less than they are.

In fact that was his strategy when he tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-woman-blindfolded.jpg  A photo by Oscar Keys. unsplash.com/photos/AmPRUnRb6N0“One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” The woman answered the snake, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God told us, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch it, or you will die.’” But the snake said to the woman, “You will not die. God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree, you will learn about good and evil and you will be like God!” (Genesis 3:1-5 NCV).

The snake (Satan) twisted the words of God to make Eve think that God was holding something back. He tells her that God hasn’t given her the whole truth and that her life would actually improve by stepping out of the will of God.

Satan does the same thing to us every day.

He tries to make us believe that our life doesn’t quite measure up.  Satan tries to convince us that we are less than sufficient, and that what our heavenly Father has provided isn’t enough.

This isn’t the kind of fear that brings nightmares and cold sweats. It’s the kind that breeds a subtle dissatisfaction with our lives.

This dissatisfaction will cause us to question everything we have: Our house, our salary, our friendships, our parenting, our marriages, etc.

We should absolutely desire to improve in all these areas, but fear and discontentment will never bring growth. Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-man-with-dog.jpg

Instead of growing, we will diminish. We will become angry, closed off or overly competitive.  We will begin to think the reason that we don’t have enough is because we aren’t enough.  These emotions can drive us to do unreasonable things and the whole time the force behind our negative emotions is fear.

If you were to ask an adulterer why he had an affair it’s not likely he would answer, “Because I was afraid.”  When you ask someone who was recently fired why she lost their job she wouldn’t say, “Because I was afraid.”  If you ask someone who has no friends why he pushes people away he wouldn’t tell you, “Because I am afraid.”  These people would give you a litany of other reasons: They were unhappy in their marriage; They didn’t get along with their coworkers; Other people don’t understand them.

The real reason is fear.

They are afraid somebody is using them, lying to them or has something they believe they should have.  They’ve fallen into the same trap as Eve. They’ve allowed fear to stop them from seeing the blessing of God in their lives.

That’s really what Eve missed. The Devil told her she was going to be like God and she forgot that she was already made in His perfect image.

Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-woman-blindfolded.jpg  A photo by Jared Erondu. unsplash.com/photos/j4PaE7E2_WsWe can fight off this fear-driven dissatisfaction by knowing that we are the righteousness of God in Christ. The feeling of not having enough is destroyed by knowing that we are enough in Christ. We are made in the image of God the same way Adam and Eve were.

We need to remind ourselves of 2 Peter 1:3, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that we are always missing out on something. God has already blessed us and will continue to do so. We only have to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

More than a Shallow Understanding

One of the simplest things we can do to follow the plan for our lives is to know and understand the One who created it.

If our relationship with our Heavenly Father is something we only think about on Sunday mornings, then we’re going to have a shallow understanding of His plan for us. However, the more time we spend getting to know Him, the more revelation we’ll have about His specific will for our lives.

More Than a Shallow Understanding - Photo of Stacked Rocks

Knowing, understanding and acting on God’s Word is the rock whereby we lay the foundation of our lives. If the foundation is small, we won’t step into the fullness of everything He has for us.

That’s why Jesus teaches us to build our lives on the rock of His word.

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,” (Luke 6:47-48).  We need to be like the man in these verses.

We need to dig deep and lay the foundation of our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  We do this by renewing our minds to God’s word.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2)

Before Jesus saved us, our minds were formed and influenced by the ways of the world. We lived by the world’s standard and desired what the world told us was valuable.

We have to change our standard and our desires through reading and meditating on God’s Word. It’s not going to just magically happen. No one becomes like Jesus on accident. It is a conscious decision we make every single day to leave behind the old way and live by the wisdom that is available to us in God’s Word.

As we do this, we will find ourselves being made into the image of Jesus more and more every day. Reading, understanding and meditating on God’s Word literally changes us from the inside out.

The devil will attempt to downplay this fact in our lives, though.

He will try to convince us that our daily Bible reading and the time we spend in prayer is inconsequential; it isn’t. He’ll try to lie to us and tell us that we aren’t understanding what we are reading, making it impossible to change, that we still make the same mistakes and we’re still the person we were before we got saved; we aren’t. Don’t give in to the lies. Keep pressing forward.

Look at the verse from Romans 12 one more time. Our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds. When our minds are made new by God’s Word, our actions will follow. It’s a process; one that we must commit to if we’re going to walk in God’s plan for our lives.

So, I encourage you, dig deep to lay the foundation of your life upon the rock of Jesus Christ and He will reveal His specific plan for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a better understanding.  Be patient; God is more than capable to do what He has promised.

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Walk by Faith

Walk By FaithEvery child of God has a desire to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

However, when we’re young in our relationship with Him we can have trouble knowing what this means and how to begin to walk by faith. The word “ walk ” in the New Testament means “our daily manner of living”. So, to “ walk by faith ” means to live every day of our lives trusting in our heavenly Father. We go to Him first in the decisions that we make. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, help us watch over what we say and open our eyes to opportunities to share the love of God with the people we meet.

Until we became Christians we lived our lives totally by our emotions and our five physical senses.

Living by faith is the exact opposite of living by sight, so we can struggle at the beginning.  The same way that we don’t just wake up physically fit one day, we also don’t just happen upon mountain moving faith.  It’s a process of strengthening our faith and removing our doubt and unbelief. We start to trust God by taking small steps of faith toward Him.

“I will run the way of your commandments; for you will enlarge my heart,” (Psalm 119:32).

This verse shows us that when we move towards God our ability to receive His promises increases. We shed the doubts of our old life and take on the strength and humility of Jesus. Our small-minded, fearful thinking is replaced by faith that receives what would have once been impossible.

The only way to get to this kind of faith is simply to begin trusting. You give the control of your life over to God. Most of us aren’t able to do this all at once. We insist that we can take better care of ourselves than God can. Our heavenly Father lovingly and patiently allows us to surrender our lives to Him one area at a time.

The irony of this is that once we do give Him control we realize that He does more than we ever could have asked of Him.

We see that we should have just let Him handle it all along.

When we realize that we can trust Him in one area, we will give Him more and more. This is the process of being fully surrendered to Him. But it starts with the first step.

I encourage you to begin to walk by faith today. Make a decision that you’re going to give God the control over an area of your life: your marriage, your job, your finances, etc. Watch what happens when you make your heavenly Father the chief decision-maker. I promise He never disappoints.

 

Staying Connected

Mark 4:1-9 is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus used it to teach about the four different kinds of hearts. It’s a parable about the ways people respond to God’s word.

The first thing Jesus says in this parable is that the sower goes out to sow. Later, Jesus explains this statement by saying “The sower sows the word,” (Mark 4:14). This shows us that the Word of God is available to all of us.

Jesus doesn’t say that the sower only went to a certain race or gender. The sower went out to all people. God offers His power and promises to everyone.

The issue is not with the availability of God’s word. It’s how we receive it.

The first three hearts described in this parable are either totally incapable of receiving the Word or cannot grow in it, all because they are hardened.

The first heart can’t receive because the devil immediately comes and steals the Word.

The second heart can’t receive because it’s too shallow to let roots grow.

The third heart can’t receive because the worries, distractions and desires of this world come in and choke the Word.

The fourth heart hears the Word, accepts it and produces thirty, sixty or one hundred times more.

All four of these hearts hear the Word of God. Only the fourth one accepts it and produces fruit.

We all want the Word to have an effect on our lives. However, many times we feel like we’re one of the first three hearts. We forget what we hear in teachings, the changes we make don’t last or we get distracted by everything going on around us. We allow all of these things to push the Word out and stop its power from working in us.

This happens because our heart is clogged up by everything else we hear and see. We hear the words of the world more than the Word of God, so it’s easier to accept.

Jesus proves this later in the chapter when He says, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them,” (Mark 4:24-25).

This is why we need to constantly hear the Word of God. It prepares our hearts to receive and produce. But hearts that are overflowing with the world will bear little to no fruit from the Word they receive.

This week I encourage you to turn off the radio and listen to solid Biblical teaching. Skip one of your shows. Don’t get on Netflix. Instead, sit down by yourself or with your family, and read the Bible. In a world where it’s so easy to be plugged into something, the children of God should be plugged into the Word. When we do this, we’ll see our lives begin to produce fruit thirty, sixty and one hundred times over.

Keeping a Cheerful Heart

A cheerful heartWhen God’s vision for our lives seemingly is not coming to pass, we can become callous and condition ourselves to expect failure, making it very difficult to maintain a cheerful heart.

God did not create us to expect loss and disappointment.

So, when we find ourselves looking for the negative in every positive, and pointing out every reason why something won’t work out for us, we know that we’ve gotten off track. We aren’t tuned into our Father’s love for us. We’ve lost hope.

“A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song,” (Proverbs 15:15 The Message).

The first half of this verse is a sad but accurate description of a heart that has lost faith. Faith is the ability to receive from God creating a cheerful heart and cheerful disposition. When we lose this we become miserable.

One of the saddest parts of living a life like this is that we lose our ability to enjoy the good things in life, our ability to be cheerful. We don’t fully experience joy because we’re always expecting the next storm to hit our lives.

We think that this makes us logical, and that we’re smart for readying ourselves for life’s inevitable disappointments. What we’re actually doing is hardening our hearts to the grace and joy of God. So, we’re weakening ourselves because we’re more sensitive and responsive to failures and setbacks than we are to the power and goodness of God.

To change this we have to make a choice. We have to decide that we’re tired of living a miserable life without faith.  We have to choose to be cheerful.  When we make this decision our Heavenly Father gives us the remedy in His Word.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord, In the land of the living,” (Psalm 27:13 NASB).

The solution for despair is faith. Look at the verse again, “I would have despaired unless I had believed.” Despair only survives in the absence of faith. As soon as we decide to start believing God over our fears, our past and our circumstances, we’ll stop living hopeless lives of despair. Instead we’ll have faith that God’s

goodness, or His grace, is working for us and through us.

When we live by faith it doesn’t stop bad things from happening. It means that we no longer expect them to control our lives. All of our expectations are now in Christ.

If we lose our job, we have faith that God will provide a better one.

If we, or any of our family members get sick, we have faith that God will heal them.

If our marriage is in trouble, we have faith that God will show us how to repair it.

Living by faith means that we receive all the good things that God has for us. It means that when tests and trials come against us, we don’t believe that our world is falling apart. We see it as another opportunity for God to show Himself strong.

A life of faith is not miserable or filled with despair. It fills our heart with joy and expectation. It “…fills the day with song,” (Proverbs 15:15).

Joy of the Lord

When we don’t tap into the spiritual fruit of joy, we negate our source of strength. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b)

The truth of this verse turns the world’s definition of strength upside down. The world wants us to think that strength is the ability to work harder than anyone else. We believe that if we can just hold out longer or put in more hours than others, then we are stronger.

That might mean that we are physically stronger than others, but if we put all of our faith in physical strength, what do we do when it fails?

We’re not going to find lasting strength in ourselves, our jobs or our relationships with people. Like Nehemiah 8:10 reveals, we’re only going to find true strength in the joy of the Lord.

This is because everything that’s in the world is temporary. We won’t always be as strong as we are

right now. Our job will eventually change. People will walk in and out of our lives. We will be weak when our strength is found in these temporary things.

However, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8).

We can and should make the joy of our heavenly Father our source of strength because He never changes.

But a hardened heart doesn’t look for joy. It’s too busy looking at all the negative circumstances and people surrounding it, and is blinded to the work of God’s grace.

That’s why a hardened heart is a weak heart, because it is a heart without joy.

It’s only when we begin to open our eyes to the amazing work of God’s grace in our lives that we begin to be joyful. Instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how far we need to go, we see how far we’ve come. This causes us to praise and thank God for everything He’s already done.

If His grace has already brought us this far, wouldn’t it make sense that it would continue to work in our lives?

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6).

God is perfecting His good work in us. This is where we place our faith. This is where we should find our strength. When we do, we’ll also find our joy.