Friday, June 25, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 1

(Author's note: This series is an expansion of a message given at LTCF on 6/23/10. It would be a good idea to have your bible out to follow the scriptures used in this post. J)

Ok, I know what you're thinking. Entire books have been written on this subject by much smarter people than an old football coach. I entirely agree. So why am I dealing with this topic? Well, is there any more important question to ask than why are we here and do we have a purpose? If so what is it, how do we find it? All of the great philosophers in history have wrestled with that question. I think that every person on earth must think of that at some point in their life. If you have not yet settled this is your mind and heart, I believe that this series will help.

Have you ever thought about how an atheist, who believes in evolution, must answer this question? After all, if we are a cosmic accident, evolving over billions of years from some other life form, then we couldn't possibly have a soul or spirit. If that is true, then how could we have any purpose other than what we ourselves might decide to have? The famous atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell once said, "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless." How depressing is that? But it's true.

Let's think for a minute about what people who don't believe in God might decide their purpose is. I often ask my students what they would like their future to look like. Many would say that the sole purpose of their life is to become rich, famous and powerful. That can end in a couple of ways;

  1. It never happens in which case they may become depressed, angry and sometimes become self-destructive
  2. They reach their goal, but they find out it doesn't satisfy them.

We have all heard testimonies of people like this. People, at the pinnacle of worldly success, admit that they are empty inside. They realize that all they have achieved does not bring them the fulfillment that they thought it would. They still must ask themselves, "What is my true purpose in life?" Even people who have a more noble purpose than fame and riches, still find themselves unfulfilled in the end. I recall at the end of the movie "Schindler's List", the scene where He is being praised for his good works. His statement was "I SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE!"

Well, as Christians, we receive our purpose from God. Rick Warren, in his bestselling book, "The Purpose Driven Life" begins chapter one with the title, "It All begins with God". So true! Maybe you have read his book so you think that you can go ahead and take a nap now, but I hope, that in this series, I can share some important things about this topic that were not discussed. SO, STAY AWAKE! Pastor Rick is right, fulfilling life's purpose does begin with God, but it's more than that. Let's start with what God's word tells us our purpose is.

Eph 2:10 says: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Our purpose then is really quite simple. Do those good works that he has prepared in advance for you to do. The question is, how do we accomplish this? Notice it says that we are created for good works. I believe that the context of this word "created" is speaking of our recreation at the point of salvation, being born again. Why do I say that? Look back at verse 1 in Eph 2

(1) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

We were dead (spiritually) in our transgressions. DEAD! Not mostly dead like in Princess Bride, but DEAD! A (spiritually) dead person cannot do good works. Before being born again we cannot do any truly good works. You say "but what about non believers who give to feed the poor or save the whales or find a cure to cancer?" Well, I am glad that people do these things, but remember that God judges the intent of our hearts. Even if we think our motives are pure, there is always some selfishness involved.

Jer 17:9-10 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

Truly good works always bring glory to God, not man. We don't have it in our human nature to do good works without wanting some glory for ourselves. But, praise be to God he saves us from this plight and recreates us to do good works

2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. We are new creatures, recreated. All of this done by His grace!
Look back at Eph 2:7-9 "in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Therefore, when we are born again we gain the ability to do good works that bring glory to God, not us. So the first step in fulfilling our purpose in life is receiving Jesus as our savior and becoming a new creation in Christ. If you want to find your purpose in life, you must take that first step and receive Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord. If you have never done that I pray that you would take that step right now. You can follow the steps listed in the left hand column of this blog entitled "How to become a Christian" Then you will be ready for step two in fulfilling your purpose in life, which will be in the next post entitled, "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit"

May God bless you as you follow His leading in doing the good works He has prepared in advance for you to do! Coach

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Farewell, Coach Wooden

As many of you know, we lost a wonderful Christian Coach last week when John Wooden went to be with the Lord. Many people have been influenced by his life and I am certainly one of them. For you younger folks that were not around in the 1960's and 70's, I want to tell you a little about "Coach". I use that term because back then that's all you would need to say when referring to him. Everyone involved in basketball during that period knew who you were talking about when you said "Coach". His autobiography was entitled, "They Call Me Coach". It was the second book written by Coach that I read during that period, the first being a textbook entitled "Principles of Modern Basketball". Now you might be saying, "I thought you were a football coach?" I will let you in on a little secret. I actually started coaching basketball before coaching football. In fact my first coaching "job" was as a player/coach for the men's basketball team at 1st Baptist Church in Fullerton. I was seventeen years old, in my senior year of high school, coaching men from the ages of twenty to thirty five, some who had even played in college. Sometimes, when I look back, I wonder how it was that these older men ever paid any attention to me at all, but I had played so much from the time I was young that I had an intuitive sense of the game. I also coached basketball at three different high schools from freshman to varsity levels. During that time, I went to several clinics, some that featured Coach Wooden and had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times.

Coach Wooden's success at UCLA was unparalleled. He won 10 national championships. For those of you not familiar with college basketball, that is the most of any college coach in history. The best coach ever! But that is not what set him apart from everyone else. It was his example as a person that made him so unique. Here was a man that lived the type of values that he taught. As competitive as he was, it was more important that his players play the game correctly, than to win. He believed that if they did this, they would succeed, but more importantly they would learn lessons that would see them through life. His philosophy, contained in his now famous "Pyramid of Success", influenced my style of coaching tremendously as it did many other young coaches of that day. Most importantly, he set an example of how a Christian should conduct himself as a coach and as person. I will always be grateful for that example.

When the apostle Paul was in prison he wrote these words to the church in Eph 4:1-2 "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." These words describe the life of John Wooden. Humble, gentle, patient and truly loving. He believed that the most powerful way of being a testimony to Christ was by the way you live your life. I think of Paul saying "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."(1Co 11:1) This is the desire of my heart, how about you? It puts a lot of pressure on you when you tell to someone to follow your example. It certainly means that you better follow Paul's words in the Ephesians verses!

The good news is that God sent His Holy Spirit to work inside of us to help us live that life. We could never be this kind of example otherwise. That's what takes the pressure off of us and brings us joy. We just need to spend time with the Lord and allow His Holy Spirit to control our lives. That is how we can live a life worthy of His calling. I encourage all of us to look at the effect one person, living out his walk with Christ in humility and purpose can have in this world. Let us live our lives with that same determination, to follow "Coach" as he followed Christ. Let us seek daily to live and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

GAME PLAN: I highly recommend reading the book entitled "Coach Wooden: One on One" written by Jay Carty. It's very short, but contains a lot of Coach's ideas on how to live life according to the scriptures. LADIES it's not just for the guys. You will be blessed by it as well!

As always, may God bless you as you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ

Coach (the other one J)







Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Does Prayer Really Change Things, Pt 3

OK, I guess the time has come to answer the question. Does prayer actually change events that occur in this world? I guess what we are really asking is, since God is sovereign and His will is going to be done, can we change His mind? Do our prayers affect what He does?

Well, if you remember what we looked at in part one of this series, we can see that only prayers that are "according to His will" are going to actually happen. So what we should be praying for, are things that are in His will. That leads us to continually seek to know His will and partner with Him in that will. I would much prefer that the omniscient, omnipotent, loving God change my mind than for me, with my limited knowledge and often selfish heart, change His.

I think where the confusion comes in is that in some events in the bible, it appears that man can get God to change His mind. The first one that comes to mind is in Genesis 18. The Lord tells Abraham that the sin in Sodom and Gomorrah is so great that He is going to destroy them. Abraham brings his petition to God to not sweep away the righteous with the wicked. He did not want to see his nephew Lot and his family destroyed with the wicked. It looks as though God changes His mind and says that if he can find even 10 righteous people in the city, He would spare it.

Then there is the remarkable account in Exodus 32. God is so angry with Israel; He tells Moses that He is going to destroy them. But Moses pleads with God and it says in verse 14 that, "The Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened." So, did Moses' prayer actually change God's mind and change what would have taken place? Or is it that God used the situation to bring Moses to the place that he would plead for the lives of the same people that he had been so angry with earlier.(See Ex 16:20 and 17: 1-6)

I think I will pull a Fox News on you and say "I report, you decide." I do know that God's sovereign will is ultimately going to be accomplished. For some reason, He allows us to be involved in accomplishing His purposes. I don't think that we can really change God's mind, even though at times it may seem to look that way. We know that God is omniscient. That means He knows all there is to know. There is nothing for Him to learn, especially from us! We are told in scripture to pray continually, bringing our petitions and requests to Him. (Php 4:6) But Matthew 6:8 tells us that your father knows your needs before you ask. He then gives us our prayer model in the next few verses. It is no coincidence that He includes the phrase "Your kingdom come, your will be done". Once again, this should be the goal of our prayers, that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

One of the most interesting incidents concerning prayer in the Old Testament is a situation that happened with King Hezekiah. We are told in 2nd Kings, chapter 20 that Isaiah the prophet told Hezekiah to put his house in order because the illness he had was going to lead to his death, that he would not recover. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, asking him to remember how he had walked before him with wholehearted devotion and served him faithfully, which was true. God spoke to Isaiah and told him to tell Hezekiah that he would be healed and that he would be granted fifteen more years of life. However, God said that he would do it in order to deliver Jerusalem from the King of Assyria and that it was for His sake and the sake of His servant David.

Now, many people teach that Hezekiah should not have prayed to be healed because during that period of fifteen years, he had a son, Manasseh, who became King when Hezekiah died. Manasseh was a terrible ruler and led the people back into idolatry and other detestable practices including human sacrifice. However, when you read the verses, Hezekiah never specifically asked to be healed. It may have been in his heart, but that is not what was spoken and even though Manasseh was evil, he was in the line of David, which God had said would be preserved all the way to the birth of Jesus. I don't know if all this has helped or just confused you even more, but the major point is that God's sovereign will was once again accomplished.

Let's look at a New Testament example of "answered prayer." In the book of Acts, chapter 12, Peter had been put in prison by King Herod. In verse 5 it says that the church was earnestly praying for him. Well, God miraculously delivers Peter, using an angel to rescue him. When Peter got out, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where people were praying (presumably for his release). When he got there, at first they didn't believe it was him! So much for their unwavering faith, but again their prayers worked in conjunction with God's plan. I believe that sometimes God just waits for us to pray for that which He is already going to do. After all, He knows when and if we are going to pray in His will.

Can you see why theologians have discussed the mysteries of prayer down through the ages? It is both a wonderful and amazing mystery. The main thing we should keep in mind is that when we pray, we are following the instructions given to us in God's word. Eph 6:18 says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

GAME PLAN: I strongly recommend that you go to click on sermons and listen to Pastor Brian Richard's message on praying in the Spirit. You will be blessed!

God bless you as you continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord. Coach