The God of Purpose

Before believing in God, I thought life was a series of random, chance events. I’m sure most people would expect atheists to see life this way. But I am concerned by how many Christians are still living with this same worldview. All too often we are still looking at life through glasses that say, “Everything in life is luck,” as credited to President Donald Trump.

This morning, while reading Ephesians 1, I was impressed by how many words of “intentionality” are used. God blessed us. God chose us. God predestined us according to the purpose of His will. God works all things according to the counsel of His will.

If you find yourself going through a struggle today, remind yourself that God has a will and a purpose. Tell your own soul that God is always at work even when you can’t see Him. Choose to believe the truth that life is not “all about luck.”

– TWIG

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” – Ephesians 1:3-12 ESV

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV

The Testing of my Faith

When I was an atheist, I thought Christianity was primarily a system of rules for good behavior. To me, Christianity was mostly about going to church and reading the Bible and not cussing or sleeping around. And I’m afraid that I thought that because so many of the Christians I met thought that.

Now, I understand that Christianity is actually a religion of faith, believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him, believing that Jesus Christ is Almighty God taking on human flesh and dying in my place, believing that the Holy Spirit really does live in me and guide me in all truth. And this faith leads me to obey God and follow the rules that He has laid out in the scriptures, trusting that these rules are for my good and ultimately for the glory of God who made me and cares for me.

But, my Christian faith doesn’t stop at just believing in the triune God and His revealed Word.

My Christian faith leads me to follow God wherever He leads me, even if that means a trip halfway around the world to stay with people that I’ve never met before (or even spoken with over the phone).

A year and a half ago, I started teaching English online to students in China. This led to chatting online with several of my students’ mothers. This led to having a new Chinese “little sister,” a 30-something nurse with one elementary-school-aged son. This led to ever-deepening conversations about parenting and patience and life as a working wife and mother. This led to a presentation of the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus which led to a new life in Christ for someone who (for all intents and purposes) was still a stranger to me.

When my husband and I began considering a visit to China, my heart was cold toward all things “vacation related.” I dreaded the flight and the jet lag. I dreaded the crowds of people and the air pollution. I dreaded sore feet and sickness. I dreaded chicken feet and pig ears.

And yet, I had God’s perfect peace and genuine excitement about this step of faith. I wholeheartedly believed that God had opened this door for us and that we were supposed to walk through it. I truly wanted for my little sister’s good. Even if all of the circumstances truly were as bad as I feared, I still wanted to go because I knew it was what God wanted me to do.

So we went.

In so many ways, our trip to China was exactly what I expected. But in so many other ways, it was nothing like I expected. The flight was long and the crowds were horrible. My feet were sore and the pig ears were gross. Communication difficulties were real and we weren’t able to chat as much as I wished. (Did I mention that my Chinese sister and I communicate through translation software?)

But, through it all, God has grown my faith. God has shown me that He is unquestionably the sovereign sustainer of my life. He is the lifter of my head. He is the giver of every good gift. He is my refuge and strength.

God sees me in China and God sees my children back home. God loves the people of China and God loves me. And I’d do it all again.

So, this morning as I was working on a passage I’m memorizing, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4, I saw how sometimes the testing of my faith isn’t just in going through cancer or baby loss or difficult parenting situations. Sometimes the testing of my faith means to take that next step of faith, like starting a new job or flying to China. This time I think testing of my faith looked more like Abraham who “obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Is there something God is calling you to do that feels scary? How is God growing your faith as you step out into the unknown, being daughters of Sarah, choosing to “not fear anything that is frightening?” (1 Peter 3:6b) I’d love to walk this road with you. How can I pray for you?

I’d love to walk this road with you. How can I pray for you?

God made sloths, elephants, and YOU

Today at lunch time, I was reading a new devotional book with my kids. It mentioned how creative God is and how He created all different kinds of unbelievable animals.

If you’re like me, you, too, love the incredible variety of animals in our world and find it fascinating how different they all are.

But, have you ever thought about why people don’t want to all be different? As humans, we all want to be like everybody else! We think we should all be tall and thin and have the intellect of a genius. None of us want to be a slow-moving sloth or an enormous elephant.

Friends, God has a purpose for the sloth and for the elephant. God has a purpose for every, single human being that He creates, no matter their physical appearance or mental ability. God has a purpose for YOU.

Are you feeling unnecessary, unimportant or not good enough?

GOD, the Creator of the Universe, made YOU. That’s enough for you to be necessary, important and valuable.

How can I pray for you today?

How can you encourage someone else today? Pass it on!

Expectations

After returning home from spending a week caring for my dad in the hospital, I’ve been wondering, Why is it so much easier for me to love and serve my dad than my husband? I understand that this may never have been a struggle for you, but for me, it requires a conscious, daily choice to put my own selfish wishes aside to love my husband. Why is that? I may have finally found the answer … or at least one answer.

I expect nothing from my dad except for the most basic level of kindness.

I expect him to remember my birthday with a phone call and a gift (and to be honest I bet even that comes from my mom). I expect my dad to be happy to see me and to enjoy the few days a year we’re able to spend together.

Yep. That’s about it. Done. Expectations met.

Now, let’s see, what do I expect from my husband? Are you ready? This may be a little longer.

1. I expect him to notice when I need some help, picking up the slack when I’m busy with kids or errands or Bible study or even fun time with my friends.

2. I expect him to care about how I’m feeling, asking questions about how I’m doing and listening attentively.

3. I expect him to express his love for me with hand-written notes or flowers on random occasions, and to go “all out” for Mother’s Day and my birthday.

4. I expect him to know what I would want to order at my favorite restaurants … and to know what restaurants I’d want to go to for a regularly scheduled date night away that he has planned.

5. I expect him to tell me how beautiful, smart, funny, and all-around fantastic I am and that no one could ever take my place.

6. I expect him to express gratitude for all the little things I do at home, cooking meals, cleaning up, caring for our kids.

7. I expect him to have his own daily quiet time with God, and to share his Biblical insights with me, praying for me and with me, and to lead our children in their faith in God.

8. I expect him to take care of his physical body, exercising on occasion, eating somewhat well, using sunscreen, going to the doctor and taking whatever medicine he needs.

9. I expect him to be interested in our children, asking about their day and listening attentively, giving discipline, counsel or encouragement where appropriate.

10. I expect him to encourage me to spend time with my family and friends, as well as attend two women’s retreats a year and have an overnight away for some alone time.

11. I expect him to take care of all the “manly jobs” around the house: mowing the lawn, changing lightbulbs (he’s 10 inches taller than me!), as well as minor wood, electrical and plumbing work, home improvement projects and the like.

Well, that about takes care of it. ?

Honestly, I don’t think these expectations are unfair for a wife to have of her husband, but the point is this: The reason it is easy for me to just love my dad right where he is, is because I’m not constantly frustrated that he’s falling short of my expectations for him.

Ultimately, God is the only one able to meet all of my needs … and the only one able to change my husband. I have to choose to focus on my own walk with God and my own shortcomings, rather than my husband’s, and that is HARD TO DO!

Hope this encourages y’all, like it’s encouraged me!

What expectations do you have of your dad or husband that I left off my list?