Quiet MY Soul A LENTEN DEVOTIONAL WEEK THREE | PURPOSE REIMAGINED
Quiet MY Soul
A L E N T E N D EVOTI O NAL WEEK THREE | PURPOSE REIMAGINED
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Scripture Quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.
HUMILITY AND SUBMISSION Is there ambition in my heart? Search, gracious God, and see; Or do I act a haughty part? Lord, I appeal to thee. I charge my thoughts, be humble still, And all my carriage mild, Content, my Father, with thy will, And quiet as a child. The patient soul, the lowly mind, Shall have a large reward: Let saints in sorrow lie resigned, And trust a faithful Lord.
PREFACE “God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Easter Communion” The great salvation we celebrate during Holy Week comes with a cost. A cost to God, of course, in the gift of his only Begotten Son. But it also comes at a cost to us. Salvation is a free gift, but it cannot be received with a closed fist. We cannot cling tenaciously to the false hopes of the world while receiving the hope of eternal life. To cling to Christ in faith is to give up on false gods and false hopes. Letting go in anticipation of receiving is what Lent is all about. The season of Lent is an invitation to slow down, reflect, and prepare to celebrate the life changing, history altering events of Holy Week. Lent is a reminder that the gift of Christ is not received with a closed hand, but in openness and humbleness before God. Just as Christ spent forty days in the wilderness in preparation for his public ministry, so too, the Christian liturgical calendar invites Christians around the world to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Like our Lord, the season of Lent calls us to a time of preparation, of self-denial, and a renewed recognition of our dependence upon our Heavenly Father for all things. In Lent we are reminded that man does not live on the bread the world gives, but by the Word of God who is for us the true Bread of Life. As Calvary enters into a corporate and personal season of reflection through the Antioch Process, it is fitting that our church’s season of reflection overlaps with the traditional season of Lent. We want to know what God has in store for us. We want to know how he would have us use our talents, our gifts, our passions in this place, at this time. But we can’t hear from God if our ears are overrun by the noise and cluttering sounds of the world. We need to quiet our souls in preparation to hear the word the Lord will speak to us; to hear the word the Lord is perhaps already speaking to us but that we have been too preoccupied to hear. Learning to hear requires learning to rest. And learning to rest requires us to trust in the God who meets all of our needs.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED CREATED TO NEED God has made us to be dependent creatures. (Can creatures be made any other way?) We are fundamentally and inherently needy. Every particularity of human need can be summed up under five core needs: the need for dignity, love, a sense of purpose, hope, and physical safety. These are not negotiable for the human being. We need these things as certainly as we need the air we breathe. God has determined it so. To deny a person love or dignity, or a sense of purpose, is to deny a person an intrinsic aspect of their humanity. But as dependent creatures, we are not able to generate these five core needs. Our ultimate dignity, need for love, sense of purpose, hope, and physical safety must necessarily come from outside of ourselves. Our temptation, of course, is to supply these five needs through the things of the world. We look to sex to meet our deep need to be loved. We look to our careers to meet our deep need for dignity and respect. We rely upon exercise and dieting to meet our need for physical well-being. We look to our children to provide a sense of purpose. We depend upon our retirement account as our hope for the future. All of these are fine as pointers to our ultimate hope. But the things of this world cannot meet the deepest needs of our souls. The stark reality of death is the ultimate reminder that everything in this world will one day slip through our grasp. The desperation we feel when these needs are threatened drives us forward into restless (and often reckless) activity. When our anxieties spur us on in a flurry of activity and noise, we lose the capacity to hear from the Lord. We are no longer led by his voice because our growing panic overwhelms our senses and sets our soul in turmoil. If we would hear from the Lord, we must learn to lay aside our fears and embrace a posture of quiet trust.
PREFACE QUIET MY SOUL Lent is a reminder that we stand in need of things that the world is unable to supply. It is an invitation to return to the truth that we stand in need of God’s help, and that he has promised to supply it. In Psalm 131, the Psalmist poignantly captures the Lenten posture. “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high I do not occupy myself with things too great for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Lent is an invitation to cease striving. In the spirit of the psalmist, we must humble ourselves, let go of vain ambition, calm and quiet our souls, and put our hope in the Lord. Lent reminds us that our ultimate hope for our deepest needs can only be found in the covenantal love of God expressed to us in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is only when we are in the Lenten posture, trusting in the Lord, “like a weaned child with its mother” that we are able to quiet our souls and open ourselves to hear the voice of God.
FACING OUR FEARS This Lenten devotional invites us to face our fears and to quiet our souls with respect to the five core human needs: our need for dignity, love, purpose, hope, and safety. Each week of the devotional will challenge us to think about how we are made for these things, how we lost them in the garden, how we strive in human effort to reclaim them, and how the promises of God through Christ calms our fears and allows us to quiet our souls. Each week of the devotional guide will follow the same pattern:
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SUNDAY | WHAT WE NEED MONDAY | WHAT WE LOST TUESDAY | HOW WE TRY TO COPE WEDNESDAY | THE FUTILITY OF HUMAN STRIVING THURSDAY | FASTING & REPENTANCE FRIDAY | EMBRACING THE SALVATION OF GOD SATURDAY | RESTING IN THE PROMISE OF GOD Do not rush quickly through the reflection questions. Take time to prayerfully consider what you truly believe about yourself, your world, and your God—not what you know you are supposed to believe, but what you truly do believe. As we learn to trust in God for meeting our every need, we are able to quiet our souls and prepare ourselves to hear from our Lord. May this season of Lent be an occasion for Calvary Memorial Church, and for each of us who call Calvary home, to lay aside our fears and anxieties, to trust in the provision of our Lord, and to quiet our souls. Bleating, panicking sheep cannot hear the voice of the shepherd. Crying, restless children cannot hear the soothing voice of the mother. May we come to hear in the quietness of rest the voice of our Heavenly father, and so come to find what God has in store for us.
FASTING Throughout Lent we are inviting the congregation to fast each Thursday. Following Jesus’ example during his forty days of fasting in the wilderness, fasting is a recognition of our innate dependence upon God, a way of reminding ourselves that what we ultimately need comes from the Lord. Indeed, what we need is God himself. Each person can determine for themselves how to fast (or if to fast at all). Fasting can be as basic as skipping a single meal, or can encompass the whole day. If fasting is not realistic for you because of health reasons, perhaps there is something else basic to your daily needs that you can forgo as a way of reminding yourself that your ultimate needs are met in God.
WEEK THREE | PURPOSE REIMAGINED
WEEK THREE | INTRODUCTION PURPOSE REIMAGINED
he future orientation of human beings is one of the things that makes us different from the animal world. We fret about, worry about, and contrive to make our future secure. We are creatures who plan. As such, human beings need an orienting sense of purpose. We need an end, or goal—a target that focuses our actions. Human beings, as uniquely made in the image of God, have a purpose built right into our DNA. We were made to be and do like God. Glorifying him is the guiding purpose of our lives, the sun around which we orbit. He himself is the gravity that pulls us toward our ultimate end. But the bondage of sin has cut us loose from our divine anchor. Adrift at sea, we no longer know the true North. And so we set our sails toward lesser earthly goals—the power of wealth, the recognition of fame, the comfort of material blessings, the relational warmth of family and friends. But none of these things can ultimately justify our existence or provide a legitimate sense of purpose. This week’s devotional invites you to consider your ultimate purpose for living, to reflect on and repent of, the vain purposes that tempt you away from your true purpose, and to hope in the promise of God that his purposes for your life will ultimately lead to blessing.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
hen God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
he creation account in Genesis culminates with the creation of humanity. Humanity is made according to God’s image. The image of God within humanity is then linked directly to the purpose that humanity is given: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion. . .” God is a God of dominion and sovereign love. It is fitting then, that human beings, made in his image, are tasked with exercising benevolent sovereignty over the world.
od created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God.
JOHN PIPER, DON’T WASTE YOUR LIFE 2
SUNDAY | WHAT WE NEED REFLECTION
e were made to be like God. Being made in the image of God isn’t only about who we are, but also about what we do. Our role as image bearers of God thus defines our purpose in life. We are to order our lives not as we see fit, to serve our own glory. Rather we are to order our lives as God sees fit, for his glory. We were made to be and do as God does.
How does knowing that you were made by God, to be like God, influence the way that you think about your sense of purpose? Do you find it difficult to think about your life’s purpose in light of your existence in the image of God. Why or why not?
overeign Lord God, you orient all things according to your purpose and your plan. You truly rule the heavens and the earth you created, and you guide all creatures who fill the creation you formed. Help me to grasp how you made me to image your creativity, to image your love, to image your rule—all of which I do according to your purposes, not mine own. Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
he Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
umanity was made in the image of God, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. . .” But the advent of sin disrupted the purpose for which humanity was made. Notably, the curse of sin impacts humanity in the very areas of their divinely ordained purpose. Dominion over the world is complicated by thorns and thistles; no longer will the earth yield willingly to human hands. And the human mandate to “multiply and fill the earth” is hampered by marital strife and birthing pain. No matter the best efforts of human striving, we are destined to return to the dust.
life without purpose is a languid, drifting thing.
THOMAS A. KEMPIS, IMITATION OF CHRIST 4
MONDAY | WHAT WE LOST REFLECTION
e were made with a clear sense of purpose—to glorify God by imaging forth his sovereign benevolence. This purpose remains, even after sin. But our fall into sin has complicated and clouded our sense of purpose. Cut off from him, we are tempted to chase after other goals, other sources of hope and comfort. We have traded out God for lesser ends.
In what ways do you feel a lack of purpose? Why do you think this is? In what circumstances have you felt frustrated in pursuing your purpose?
ord God, in Adam’s fall I not only became barred from the blessing of the garden, but my existence outside the garden is met with struggle and strife. These obstacles often cloud my sense of purpose, and I am prone to chase after lesser aims and lesser ends than the ones for which I was made. As I meander through this transient existence, I frequently make enemies, not just with a spouse or child, parent or sibling, but with neighbors and strangers as well. Pain is characteristic of my life, and the pain amplifies my despair over my sense of purpose. I may not struggle for a harvest, but I do struggle through a week of work—all to eat bread until I return to the ground. While I do yet live, show me how to live, not just to manage pain but to rediscover my purpose. Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
o Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had . . . and Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together . . . Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
he households of Abram and Lot had become too large for the two men to continue living together. Abram was a man of faith, a man of peace. He gave the choice to Lot, and Lot took the seemingly better way—Sodom, a well-watered valley like the lost Eden. Lot’s purpose in life was seeking his own blessing, his own wealth and comfort, and his overriding purpose was made known in his choice. But the choice of Sodom, however much it might have seemed wise at the time, proved ruinous in the end.
f you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail. . .
THOMAS MERTON, MY ARGUMENT WITH THE GESTAPO 6
TUESDAY | HOW WE TRY TO COPE REFLECTION
uman beings cannot live without a sense of purpose, however much it may be illdefined and poorly thought through. We need some goal, some target to orient our lives. Many things in this life offer themselves as viable goals, claiming to justify our labor and efforts. Work, wealth, family, fun, comfort, and prestige all present themselves as worthy of our life’s purpose. As Christians, we know what should orient our lives; but knowing what should orient our lives is not as easy as knowing what truly is orienting our lives.
Take time to reflect on what occupies your thoughts, plans, and passions—and what all of this says about how you truly conceive your life’s purpose. In what ways are you tempted to pursue something other than God as your ultimate purpose for living? What people or earthly goals do you look to as the “true North” of your life?
eavenly Father, I confess that my thoughts, my plans, and my passions are driven by me. I have used my vocation, my resources, my relationships, my leisure, and my success to fashion my perception of the good. Like Lot, I have plotted carefully and even attained, by some measure, the good life. In the process, I fear I’ve pitched my tent with the wicked. My heart is drawn to the good life in the same way a compass needle is drawn off of true North by a strong magnet. I am endangered by my present path, and I need a master navigator to put me back on course. Point me to that person to help me find my purpose. Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
hen the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
odom was a well-watered valley, resembling the lost Eden. But despite its earthly beauty and bounty, it had not escaped the ravaging effects of sin. God’s judgment fell upon Sodom. And Lot, who had pursued the pleasures and wealth of Sodom lost nearly everything in its fall. The Apostle Peter tells us that the judgment of Sodom is but a foretaste of the judgment of God that will one day fall upon the whole world (2 Peter 2:410). All earthly things will likewise fall.
ne thing I know: all the works of mortal man lie under the sentence of mortality; we live among the things that are destined to perish.
SENECA, LETTER, 91 8
WEDNESDAY | THE FUTILITY OF HUMAN STRIVING REFLECTION
o many things call for our allegiance. So many things promise a good return. But all earthly things will ultimately fail us. We set our course for an oasis in life’s desert, only to discover that it is a mirage. We travel down life’s highway only to find that it is a dead end.
In what ways have you set your purpose in life toward earthly objects that can never, in the end, satisfy? In what ways are you striving anxiously toward an end that cannot make good on what it promises? How have your efforts failed you, or how will they ultimately fail you?
ll Powerful God, I have discovered that I have sought my purpose in impermanent people, places, and products. All of these turn my heart away from you and towards myself, and they condition my heart to long for what will only disappoint. These pulls upon my heart have warped my purpose. I have fashioned relationships to meet my end. I have positioned myself in the spot of greatest opportunity to meet my ambition. I have gathered around me all the comforts that I need. Yet, none of these ends offer an escape from death’s sure approach. Fill me with a passion to pursue a surer purpose. Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
ommit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
he Psalmist is anxious when he sees the purposes of the wicked seemingly coming to fruition. But he stills his soul before the Lord and reminds himself that God will ultimately vindicate the psalmist’s trust in him. Pursuit of God and his ways will lead to the ultimate blessing, however much it might seem otherwise. It is only the meek and contrite, those who commit to pleasing God, who find abundant peace and fulfillment.
ow weary, still, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!
SHAKESPEARE, HAMLET 10
THURSDAY | FASTING & REPENTANCE REFLECTION
e are able to repent of vain purposes when we come to see how empty and unprofitable all the world truly is apart from God. Fasting can be a means of embodying repentance, a turning away from the things of this world. It is a way of reminding ourselves that nothing in this life is worthy of consuming our attention apart from God.
In what ways have you looked to the things of this world to give you a sense of purpose? Name these things. Do you recognize that even the best of these things will ultimately fall short? Confess your vain purposes to God. Let your fasting be a reminder that pleasing God alone is the only worthy and ultimate purpose of the human life.
atient One, I have set my heart on vain purposes. The ways in which I have done so are numerous. Had I gained the whole world, I still would have lost all because I would not have you. I regret this course that set me adrift towards empty purposes. Would you warm my heart and soften it as I prepare to receive your sure and lasting promise for my purpose? Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
hey came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit . . . And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea . . . As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
MARK 5:1-2, 9-13, 18-20
he story of the demoniac is a powerful statement about Jesus’ ability to transform a life. The man was so grateful for how Jesus had delivered him that he wanted to follow him as one of his disciples. And yet surprisingly, Jesus did not permit him, but sent him home to tell his friends how much God had done for him.
evertheless, not as I will, but as you will.
JESUS, THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW 12
FRIDAY | EMBRACING THE SALVATION OF GOD REFLECTION
he story of the demoniac reminds us that when God saves us he reorients our purpose in life. Often times this takes shape in surprising ways. The demoniac wanted to serve Jesus by following him, but Jesus sent him away to proclaim what God had done. God transforms us and saves us, and he has a purpose for our lives. Perhaps it will not be the purpose we first thought. But when we surrender our will to his will, we find our true purpose.
In what ways and circumstances do you most need to surrender your purposes to God’s purposes? In what ways does God’s call on your life give you a renewed sense of purpose, and new reason to live?
iver of Life, my purpose is reoriented, reformed, and reshaped by your Son—healer to the blind, the lame, the tormented, and the dead. Not only is my life resurrected by your Son, but my purpose is reimagined by him as well. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this. Whether a surprise for my purpose is coming or not, I bid you to direct my path according to your will. Amen.
PURPOSE REIMAGINED SCRIPTURE
nd I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. REVELATION 21:22-26
ohn gives us a vision of a future world full of purpose and activity. The Kingdom of God toward which all of existence is pointing is not a static kingdom. It is a vibrant, thriving, purpose-filled world of meaning and activity. The nations will continue to exist as nations, and they will walk by the light of the Lamb. The coming of Christ and his kingdom is not the end of a purpose-filled life, but the fulfillment and establishment of our true purpose.
o Trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust him in the dark—that is faith.
C. H. SPURGEON 14
SATURDAY | RESTING IN THE PROMISE OF GOD REFLECTION
t present we “see through a glass darkly.” Because of human limitations and the effects of sin, we are not yet able to live fully into all that God has for us. Like Adam and Eve of old, our best efforts to fulfill our true purpose are often frustrated. Yet God promises a better world, a world full of unending and achievable purpose. This is the believer’s ultimate hope.
In what ways do you need to rest in the promise that the coming Kingdom of God is full of unending purpose? How does this knowledge give you peace and contentment in the present?
lmighty God, I am elated by my present purpose reimagined by your Lamb, and I am overjoyed to know that the heaven I anticipate overflows with abundant opportunities to exercise this purpose. I long to enter this domain and fulfill my role as a vice-regent of your dominion. I sigh for it because I know that there I will experience no strife, no pain, no toil. Rather, I will partake in a flourishing communion that is lit by your glory. Would you endow me with patience and perseverance to endure what petty trials I must, until I am present with you in your heavenly kingdom? Amen.
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