Tag Archive: purpose


The Answer to Our Question

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” -Matthew 4:18-20

I remember talking to my dad about my future a while back. “I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life.” I said. I was very frustrated (as most college kids are) about the fact that the choices I make now seem to pigeonhole me into one vocation or another, seemingly permanently. I didn’t feel prepared to answer the question: “What are you going to do with your life?” I was surprised by my dad’s response to my request for guidance: My dad, a successful doctor (with a Master’s Degree in Architecture on the side), who has all of the signs of cultural success, said,

“Adam, I’m 50 and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

I share this moment with you all because I think that the question as to our purpose here on earth is one that is burned deep into the soul of all human beings. Most often, we seek to find our ultimate significance through what we do. Isn’t it true that one of the first questions asked of us when in college is “What’s your major?” and, once in the workplace, “What do you do for a living?” I think (and I think that you’d agree with me) that our culture places immense value upon our occupation because it has nowhere higher to look when trying to answer the question:

“Why am I here?”

Enter the Reversal. Look at Matthew 4, where Jesus begins his ministry on earth and calls his first disciples to follow him. “Follow me” he says. You see, without some source of significance, without a caller to give us a calling, we create it on our own. For Peter and Andrew, their purpose on earth was probably something along the lines of “To be an honest, hard-working fisherman, God-fearing Jew, and steady provider for my family.”

Sounds great, right? Not when compared with what Jesus had in mind. You see, he calls us to so much more than a vocation or even to his mission. Jesus’ answer to our Question isn’t even on our level. He doesn’t answer primarily with a task but with himself. He gives more than a calling. He gives the opportunity to walk with the caller. True significance in this life can’t be found in a job, but in a person.

And our task flows from Him; to be his humble disciples, spreading his word to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:12-20), in whatever vocation we find ourselves. He doesn’t just say: “Follow me” He gives a completely new level of significance to the familiar task of fishing.  You know what I love about these verses? He didn’t say : “Come with me, I’m going to make you a Rabbi” as would have been the custom for a Rabbi to do when gathering disciples. Translated into today’s terms, he didn’t call them necessarily to be “Pastors.” He called the fishermen to be… fishermen. Brilliant, right? Jesus called them to do what they were already doing, but to do it with Him and For Him and in a way that Honors Him Alone.  Not all are called to be preachers, but all are called. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on the fact that the Lord has bigger plans for your vocation than you currently imagine, be it student, businessman, engineer, janitor, whatever.

And there’s the reversal: Jesus calls us to be… us, but to do it for Him. And that is the trick to deep significance in this life. Follow the Call closer and closer to the Caller. Jesus answers our question with nothing but himself.

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Great Success?

Ambition is a sneaky thing. It’s one of those words that seems to have both a positive and negative connotation. As I think about my life, one of my greatest prayers is the request that God would simply show me the calling that he has waiting for me. What is it that he wants me to do? Where do I go next? There is a whole wealth of christian literature out there that strongly promotes a mentality of working hard and achieving great things for God’s kingdom in one’s life. Immediately what comes my mind are the books Don’t Waste Your Life and Do Hard Things by John Piper and the Harris brothers, respectively. Though these influences play somewhat of a role, I think it to be interesting that the strongest thing that screams into my ear “DO SOMETHING!” is not a christian source, but the world. Within that question, “What’s your major?” lies a whole world of meaning. “What will you do with your life?” That question scares me. One of my deepest fears is being pigeonholed into a job. On the one hand, I desire to be a provider for my family and seek stability. On the other, I can’t bear the thought of reaching the end of my life and having missed out on some grandiose calling and adventure that the Lord had for me. I want to do something big.

But where is the calling? “Just show me, Lord, and I’ll do it!” I say. quietly, the Lord responds: “If I gave you a calling, you would forget the caller.”

 

Oh.

 

You see, God isn’t in the business of giving us idols. If my future could be an idol, He will teach me to say, “All my hope is in you, not my future.” Think about Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says the the evildoer, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” At the end of time, what matters isn’t what I’ve achieved but who I know. Do I believe that God has a great, awesome calling for each one of us? Absolutely. Do I believe that he has placed some call upon my life? Certainly. I do know that he wants me to get to know him and to spend time with him.This is the most important call upon our lives; to know God.

To paraphrase Os Guiness, “As we fulfill our calling, we do not tire, for we get closer and closer to the caller.”

Knowing God comes first. If we try to find significance in what we do with our lives, we will fail. Our significance must come from an inward relationship and connection with the very person who created within us the need for significance. On our deathbeds, we will only be able to say, “My life was a success” if we have realized our true, primary calling, which is to know and to love God.

 

When Sir Winston Churchill was called to head up the war effort for Great Britain, he remarked that all his life had prepared him for this hour.  Churchill knew his calling, as I believe we can all know the call that God has for us.  In the past year God has been teaching me about one of His callings  in my life – building community.

I met my current roommate while we were neighbors living in the dorms at the University of Illinois.  His name is Bofan but most people call him by his English name Dean.   He is Chinese but has lived all over the world including China, Japan, Canada, and various states in the US.  He doesn’t have an accent and he acts American in most ways.  For the first half of the semester we were acquaintances but did not see very much of each other.  I got to know Dean during daily meetings with another guy named Daniel.  We met an hour every day for prayer, sharing, and quiet time with God.

The idea for us to become roommates came from Daniel.  After one of our meetings,  Daniel suggested, “Why don’t you two room together?”  I freaked out about how to respond.  I thought, “Me room with Dean, what have you gotten me into now Daniel?”  I worried about Dean’s habit of gaming late into the night and that he would never leave the room.   I worried that he would not want to build a community like I felt called to do.  On the bright side Dean could not be any more messy than my current roommate and the more I thought about the proposition the more I felt led to accept it.  I cannot exactly put into words how my fears were calmed, I believe that God was pushing me in the right direction for His plan.

My plan was to stay on the 4th floor and continue the work that had been begun by Daniel, and others.  God had other plans.  During the second semester, a few Christians from Blaisdell met to talk about our vision for the dorm.  It was decided that we wanted to take  the spirit of community found on Blaisdell 4 and spread it to other floors.  During that meeting, Dean and I were nominated to start the new floor!  Neither of us were very enthusiastic about leaving the 4th floor.  During the next week we considered if this was the right idea, if God was calling us to go.  We determined it was, and late in the registration period I became official roommates with Dean on the second floor of Blaisdell, room 228.

The issue was laid to rest as we went home for the summer.  We returned three months later and moved back in to PAR.  The first few weeks of the semester were hard for me.  Again, I was full of doubt.  What if we had made a mistake?  We left a great floor and community to move here among strangers.  What if we had gotten the message from God wrong?  I doubted for two weeks.  Then I met Josh one of the twin Korean guys living down the hall from us.  This was the first sign from God that He had a plan.  We talked for over an hour and I found that he was a strong Christian!  I was amazed that God had brought such people to our floor.  I had nothing to do with it, I just moved in.  In the course of that third week of school I met 4 Christian guys and over 10 guys who would later become instrumental to building our community.

During the year I saw God build community despite my fears.  It turned out that Dean did game a lot and never left the room but his gaming turned out to be one of the gifts that brought the floor together.  We ended up playing 8 person HON (a multiplayer game) matches.  We played the entire storyline of a really scary game called Amnesia – The Dark Decent.  We gathered 7-10 people in our room, turned the lights off, and freaked out together when monsters chased after us.  A friend of mine a floor below us asked what all the screaming was about!  Dean and I played through Portal 2 together while a bunch of people watched and helped solve the puzzles.  It was amazing what God did with Dean’s gift despite my doubts!

Blaisdell 4 was amazing, I made lifelong friendships there, and I will always fondly remember the time I spent there.  In the end Blaisdell 2 was not the same as Blaisdell 4.  The communities were built with different gifts.  I think that this is very exciting because it means that all of us are able to build our own unique community, with our own unique gifts.  It’s an invitation and a challenge.  Will you be a gatherer for God’s kingdom work?

God’s Calling

What always amazes me when I think about God’s calling are the “random coincidences” that line up to bring us to the place we need to be.  There were many of these random coincidences that brought me to room 228 Blaisdell Hall.  The University of Illinois was the only school that I applied to because I felt called there.  I was randomly assigned to a crazy roommate who I chose to room with a second year.  He decided, without much consulting me, to move back to Blaisdell 4 where he had roomed his freshman year.    I took a chance by becoming roommates with Dean and we took a chance by moving to the second floor.  More than 10 great people came to the second floor which formed a core group to drive the building of a community.  The last coincidence: we pulled it off!  God’s direction is clear in this set of circumstances; He called me to build a community on Blaisdell 2.  I think that Frederick Buechner’s advice sums my point up, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

What’s in a name?

When we decided to start a blogging project, one of the first questions that we faced was what we would call the blog.  It had to be deep, thought provoking, scalable, and original – quite a bit to ask for from a name!  After brainstorming up a bunch of ideas, a verse from Matthew was suggested: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  One of us had heard a sermon that taught the idea that this verse described God’s reversal – that those who the world deems to be first will be last in the kingdom, their place reversed.

The Reversal is a call to humble living.  It is a daring commitment.  To think of others first and yourself second.  To lead from the back of the parade and out of the spotlight.  It goes against the grain and common sense.  It’s not natural; if it was, a reversal wouldn’t be necessary.  We think it’s time to join this Reversal and we want others to join with us.

In our first meeting we shared what we thought we would gain from writing this blog.  The list was huge.  Amazingly, we discovered another reversal – a blog to help others in turn helps us.  A great quote goes like this: “The best way to get what you want out of life is to help other people get what they want.”  We believe the world is ready for these ideas; that we are a product of people who came before us and shared their understanding.  We’re going to thank them by spreading that understanding.

So what should you expect from The Reversal? For now we’ll post three times per week, once per author. Each post will be a brief, down-to-earth discussion of a theme in Christianity and/or leadership. Eventually we would like to add more authors and to continually grow our reader base. We hope that by sharing what we are learning, we can spread the idea of God’s Reversal in our lives and the lives of others.

So what’s in a name?  A lot after all.