Fitted for a Purpose

By now, I believe many of you know that I have a deep passion and interest in presidential history. This has been a fascination throughout my life. I remember that as a 5-year old, I would readily read the entries on the various presidents in the encyclopedia. There may or may not be a small collection of presidential Pez dispensers in my office. And yes, I see Election Day almost like the Super Bowl, just without the food and halftime entertainment.

One of my favorite presidents is Abraham Lincoln. I have long admired his presidency and how he led the nation during the Civil War. As I have progressed in ministry, my admiration of Lincoln has only grown. I believe his administration is a case study for pastors in leading churches through conflict and casting a vision that moves people into a new direction.

With my admiration of Lincoln, you can only imagine my excitement a few years ago when the movie “Lincoln” was released. Now, I was one of the ones who was waiting for years for this movie to come out through various cast changes and production issues. When it was released, I found myself moved and gripped by the story and its presentation of one of the key moments in Lincoln’s administration.

This morning, I showed you a clip from that inspiring movie. I did not show the clip in order to share with you my love of Lincoln, though that has its merits. I showed it because the question Daniel-Day Lews’ Lincoln asks is one that, I believe, we all ask. “Do we choose to be born or are we fitted into the the times for which we are born into?” As he is deliberating what to do about the 13th Amendment and how to end the Civil War, Lincoln asks if life is just a series of consequences or chances or was he placed on this planet and in that time for a specific purpose.

All of us have asked something similar to these words from Lincoln. Does our life have a purpose to it? Did God place us on this earth and in this time to fulfill some grand purpose or mission, or are we just here by chance waiting for the day until we can see God in person? These are questions of identity that we have all asked. They seek to define who we are and why are we here.

They are questions that we do not just see Lincoln asking in this clip. They are not just questions that we ask. Indeed, I believe they are questions that we can assume Moses asked of himself. Our passage from Exodus 3:1-15 catches up with Moses after a time of major life transitions. He has been pulled out of the Nile River and made a part of the Egyptian court, yet exiled after he killed an Egyptian who was being abusive to a Hebrew. Now, some years past, Moses walks the wilderness around Midian, caring for the sheep that belong to his father-in-law, Jethro. Maybe Moses has asked the questions we ask. Why did all of this happen? How do I make sense of my life? Is there anything for me to do? What Moses, and we, find out through this passage is that in fact there is a purpose for our lives. God has a deep desire for each and everyone of us. A desire for us to join with the Lord in sharing hope in our communities and “making disciples of Jesus Christ” through the use of our gifts and talents.

The story that comes to us this morning is one of the most familiar of all Scripture. Moses is out with the sheep and comes upon a bush on Mount Horeb, which is also called Mount Sinai and is the same mountain Moses would receive the Ten Commandments on, which is on fire, yet is not consumed by the fire’s flames. It is an unusual sight, and it has intrigued Moses. He turns to move toward the sight and see what is taking place.

It is here, at this moment, that the story begins. God begins to engage Moses’ fascination by speaking to him through the bush. What God says is that he has heard the cries of his people. They are hurting. They are in physical and emotional pain through their enslavement in Egypt and are in need of help. God has heard their cries. In the midst of their pain and in the midst of their hurting, God speaks a word of his presence and action. God is about to redeem the people and he wants Moses to join him in this effort.

God is calling Moses. God tells Moses that his purpose is to help bring hope and redemption to the people of Israel. All of us have a calling or purpose for our lives. In fact, we have two of them. Our first purpose is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is our primary purpose – to have faith and to be in a relationship with the Lord. Our second purpose is how we response to our love of God to share our hope in the Lord. All of us have gifts and talents that God has endowed us with in order to serve the church and to bring hope into our communities. What God has given us, talents and abilities that make us special and unique, God desires for us to use them to grow the kingdom of God and to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ through our words and actions.

Moses’ purpose was to respond to his faith to rescue his people from slavery. God wants Moses to go back to this familiar land and to get the new Pharaoh to release the Hebrews, the people of Israel, so they may leave to worship the Lord. All of Moses’ talents and gifts were give to him for this purpose – to lead the people out of slavery and into a new hope centered on God’s everlasting love and presence.

Yet, Moses has some doubts. Just like we do when we think about whether God has a purpose for our lives. We start to question and wonder if we are really up to the task. We may even say that there is no way that God has called us, because we just cannot do that which God has asked us to do.

That is much like Moses. Moses, the one who first responded to God by saying “Here I Am,” is now saying “Who Am I?” Moses questions his ability to lead the people out of slavery. He questions whether Pharaoh would listen to him. He wonders if God should have asked someone else, maybe his brother Aaron, to do this task.

Throughout this interaction on Mount Horeb, Moses levels a series of objections at God as to why he cannot perform his work. How does God respond to his objections and to our own? We see God enter into a dialogue with Moses. A dialogue where God shows that Moses is fitted, equipped, and able to do this work. He is fitted and able to live out his promise because God will never abandon him. God promises Moses that he would never be alone with Pharaoh. Just as God was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so would God be with Moses as he went about this work.

That promise is the same for us. We are fitted and able to live out our purposes because God is with us. God does not give us some task such as, for instance, “bring in new people to the church,” and leave us to figure out the work. He walks with us and gives us the tools, abilities, and connections to live out our purposes in relationships with others.

At the same time, we see that Moses is fitted and able to do this work because not only is God with him, but also God is partnering with him to redeem Israel. It is not just on Moses’ shoulders to do this work. God uses Moses to bring redemption and a new life to the people. Through Moses’ life, God will do the work of leading the people into a new way of life and getting justice for the injustice done towards them.

God seeks to work in and through us to do some amazing things. Each of us have different gifts and talents. Some of us have great financial abilities. Some of us are great with our hands and labor skills. Some of us have gifts of teaching. Some of us are empathetic. We could continue. Whatever gifts that we have, God seeks to use those gifts and us to bring forth a new reality of hope into our communities. The talents that we have enable us to live out the purposes God has for us to serve the church and our communities. They are tools for which God seeks to partner with us to make the name of Jesus known to all people.

The way Moses would live out his purpose will be seen as we continue our journey through the book of Exodus. The way we will live out our purpose will be seen in how we answer the question asked of us in the clip this morning. “Do we chose to be born or are we fitted for the times for which we are born into?”

I hope that you will see that God has a purpose for you. A purpose to be about the work, in big and small ways, to helping us “make disciples of Jesus Christ” here in our community. No matter how old or young we are, no matter how rich or poor we are, no matter how busy or relaxed we are, God has a purpose for our lives to share hope into our world.

This week, I want to invite all of us to ask God what purpose he has for your life right now. Ask God to show you his desires and how he seeks to use you here in our church or in our community. As you do so and if you have any questions about how God might be leading you, give me a call and let’s talk.

All of us are fitted for a purpose to love God and to serve the Lord. All of us have gifts and talents to be used in that work. What is God calling you to do for the church and our community?

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The Story of Exodus: Five Women and a Baby

Of all the books in the Bible, of all the books in the Old Testament, none tell the story of Israel quite like Exodus. Through its pages and chapters, we are surrounded by an intriguing story that is filled with danger, political intrigue, a massive rescue effort, and internal conflicts. It is the story of God’s effort to redeem the people of Israel out of slavery.

Those reasons, and others, are why the story of Exodus has held a central place in understanding God’s ways of redeeming us through the Lord’s grace and love. It is the story of Moses. It is the story of Israel. It is the story of us. For the story of Exodus reminds us of how God continually reaches out to us and seeks to redeem us.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at this fascinating story of faith and see what Exdous has to say to us today. My hope is that we will find ourselves in these narratives that are important to our faith. As we do, perhaps we will see how God continually seeks to redeem us and how the Lord gives us a new hope through faith everyday. Continue reading

Persistent Faith

There are passages of Scripture where we find ourselves uncomfortable. It could be a scene that describes something we find difficult to understand. Stories, as well, where we are left wondering if God’s holy love could be seen. There are also moments in Scripture we find uncomfortable because we wish Jesus had not said what we did.

We find ourselves, this morning, looking at one of those uncomfortable passages. Not because the story’s outcome is uncomfortable. Indeed, it is a wonderful and powerful moment where Jesus heals a Canaanite woman’s daughter who was demon possessed. What we find uncomfortable is how Jesus interacts with this woman. He ignores her. At first, he seems to dismiss her concern. He even goes so far as to call her a dog.

It is difficult to read these words and reconcile it with the Jesus we know to be the author and giver of unconditional love and grace. Because of this we have spent centuries trying to analyze Jesus’ motives and interactions. Some have argued Jesus was only testing the woman to determine her level of faith. Some have said Jesus was simply following the customs of the day. Others have said he wasn’t dismissive of the woman’s concerns at all. Continue reading

Learning from Robin Williams

This week, we are all mourning the loss of comedic legend Robin Williams. Words cannot being to describe what we lost in his passing. He made generations laugh and, as one friend said, was beloved by all corners of society (which is saying something in our polarized climate).127135a

As we reflect on Williams’ career and share our favorite movie moments from his many movies, I hope we will reflect on his passing in a way that allows us to look at our own hearts. What I hope we see is that what we we often see on the outside is often not always a reflect of what is going on inside a person’s heart. Continue reading

Faith in the Storms

Back in 2006, I began to really experience God’s call to ministry. At the time, I was living in North Carolina and was starting to make a name for myself as a public policy writer. It also came during a time when I was coming out of a difficult season of life, where I had dealt with the failure of my first marriage and the harsh realities of some bad financial decisions.

As soon as I began to sense this call to preach, teach, and lead, I tried to find all the reasons I could to suggest I wasn’t actually hearing God. I went to a public university and didn’t go to a Christian school. I had never led a large group of people. I had never read a book of theology. I am not the best singer in the world. I kept going on and on with these reasonings to the point where my initial reaction to my calling was that there was no way that I could do it. It would be too difficult and too challenging.

Sound familiar? I think all of us, from time to time, have found ourselves thinking that there was no way we could do certain things in our lives, whether it involves our faith in God, our personal lives, or even something involving our careers. We are most likely to find ourselves believing our given task or challenge is too difficult. When that is the case, we start to think about what is being asked of us and wonder if there is any way we can actually do this.  In doing this, we might even believe that we cannot do it, so we will say things like, “I can’t,” or “We can’t.” Continue reading

Compassion for All

I have a lifelong fascination with the news. Even as a young child when my friends were watching cartoons, I was watching the local news, CNN, or Peter Jennings. I had a thirst for understanding the world and learning about what was taking place whether it was in the United States or around the world.

To this day, I still have this fascination with the news and understanding what is going on in our world. My Twitter feed is full of news feeds from major media outlets and I still would rather watch the news than some of the other things we find on television. Abbi will tell you that I am always looking for a reason to turn it on the news.

Recently though, especially over the last 17-and-a-half months, I have found that I am less aware of what is going on in the world than I would prefer. Being a parent has taken my focus away from keeping up on the day’s events and onto other things of importance. I find that I am more aware about the various issues plaguing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than I am about what is going on across our world. Continue reading