purpose

The Next Thing

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In my last blog entry I talked about Being Youfor such a time as this. For the last year or two, I’ve been observing friends and family members who, just like me, are in transition from one season to another. It seems like so many of us are on the brink of the next thing, as we wait with breathless wonder on how things will work out. Where will we be in our careers? Will we get that promotion? Do we even want careers? What will our ministry look like this time next year? Will we be in Africa? In Nebraska or North Carolina? Married? Enrolled in a graduate program? So many questions and not enough answers. As I continued to ponder Esther’s life, it seems like her story is more significant to me than I realized. Entertain a corollary, if you will.

Each of us has questions about what the future holds, and certainly the economy and ideological changes in our country encourage that sense of uncertainty, or at least confirm it. No longer can you assume identity with a company to the extent that you *know* you’ll be with them for 30 years, and then retire. Even more challenging is when life throws a curveball and you find yourself struggling to put food on the table. I’ve been there. Suddenly, the focus shifts from the future to making it through the day, and the goals become more short-term, like paying rent this month, or avoiding shut-off notices.

The reason Esther found herself in the king’s palace to begin with was because the king was seeking a woman who would set a godly example for women throughout the Persian empire. Esther’s beauty surely played a part … natch, the king wanted a beautiful chick. But it was Esther’s character that caused her to find favor in the eyes of all who saw her. The thing is, Esther stepped into the position of queen long before she was ever acknowledged and crowned. She had one requisite visit with the king, as a part of the campaign, but “she would not again go into the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name … So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month… The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:14-17 pp.

Esther spent four years in the king’s palace before something happened.

God leads us in ways that surprise us but He doesn’t leave us hanging…for long. Imagine how Esther must have felt, waiting four years to meet with the king and then having just one chance to make a good first impression. Somehow Esther must have understood that the crown would be hers and she stepped into that authority, that confident knowing where she was headed, and the position that would be hers. Amazing. Yet the same is true for each of us. We can prepare ourselves, we can knock on doors, we can try different things to make our destiny happen. But there comes a point when we have done all that we can do and we must simply stand. Ephesians talks about being strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might, putting on the full armor of God … and, having done all these things to stand firm. It’s really a profound concept because it forces the realization that the journey that we’re on is in the Lord’s hands. Sure, we make choices and influence the twists and turns that it takes but if we have a truly yielded lifestyle with the Lord, He’ll take us into king’s palaces and other places of influence. Then we can only humbly stand back and be amazed at His goodness. Psalms reminds us also, where it says, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Do your homework, prepare yourself. But when the time is right, take your position and simply stand.

What Are You Prepared to Do

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The movie, The Untouchables, might not be to everyones’ liking in terms of entertainment and yet it teaches valuable lessons about life. One of my favorite movie quotes is by Jimmy Malone, the Irish beat cop, played by the one of the darlings of my parents’ era, Scot Sean Connery.

In the very violent scene depicting Malone’s death, he is discovered by his protege, Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and George Stone (Andy García). Seeing Malone stopped in his tracks is heart-wrenching because it is not just the death of a friend and colleague, there is an un-premeditated passing of the mantle from one generation to the next. Enforcement of the law is no longer an assignment that Ness can walk away from. Losing Malone makes the battle become personal. Malone’s last words contain the answer to Ness’ conflict as well as a missive to become fully engaged in this fight. Malone, with a raspy voice, challenges Ness, “What. are you. prepared to do?” This is the second time they’ve had this conversation. And this time Ness is prepared to do an end run for justice.

If you remember the movie, when Ness and Malone first have that conversation, Ness is very philosophical about his involvement. He’s prepared to do anything within the law; yet the objective of his mission is to enforce the law. He soon learns that his oppponent doesn’t operate within the confines of the law, and Malone instructs him to bring a knife to a gun fight, and so forth. Somehow this movie says a lot about our western culture. We’ve been taught to color inside the lines, to drive the speed limit, to make a career with a single company, and dream about a home with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a 52″ television, and a dog. Yet, like Ness, we are completely unprepared when it turns out that the rest of the world doesn’t think the same way. Seriously.

I can’t help but think about destiny these days, and calling. What kind of a legacy will I leave? What kind of a mark will I leave on the world? Will I have told you about the things that compel me? Will I have told you how much your Heavenly Father loves you? Will you know a journey of your own with the Father? Will you know about the orphaned children in Africa, and how they sing before daybreak? Will you weep with me as I tell you about the Mozambican babies scandalized by AIDS, left hanging on fence posts in a plastic grocery bag, abandoned by their mothers?

Engaging in this war we call life is not an assignment we can walk away from. It’s deeply personal, and our opponent doesn’t operate within the confines of the law. Yet neither do we. Our most powerful weapon is love. And it changes everything. Love beckons us to lay down our lives, sell our possessions, and live life on the edge.  Dare to look. Dare to be affected.

What. are you. prepared to do?”