A Mission that Fits (pt. 4a)

Making the most of your Roles

In our previous post we encouraged you to have 5 roles, less is more but more is less.  We think having too many roles will lead to stress and frustration.  No one wants to be frustrated.  We all want to make a difference.  How do you make a difference in the roles that God has for you on this earth?  Like a padlock on a fence, your love can be full in each of your roles.


We are well on a way to Designing Purpose.  Our values help form our mission, our roles will lead to goals, and these goals will eventually make it to our calendars.

Our roles can have direction and clarity.  Consider the following as it relates to our roles:


Jesus says in Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength.”

  • Heart- How will you love God with your heart?
  • Soul- How will you love others with your soul?
  • Mind- How will you love God with your mind?
  • Strength– How will you love God with your strength?

This brings clarity to your role as a Child of God.


  • Prophet– How do you lead or live with your spouse?
  • Priest- How are you going to stand before God on behalf of your spouse?
  • Provider – How are you going to provide for your spouse’s physical needs?
  • Pal– How are you going to have fun with your spouse?


  • Prophet– How will you lead or live with your kids?
  • Priest– How are you going to stand before God on behalf of your children?
  • Provider- How are you going to lead your kids towards independence but also meet physical needs?
  • Pal- How are you going to be friends with your kids?


  • Supplication- What are your needs?  Work associates needs?
  • Study– How are you improving yourself in your job?
  • Shepherding– Who needs to have a friend, how will you bring light to your work place?
  • Supervising– Who do you need to communicate with to make your company flourish?


  • Supplication- Who needs prayer?
  • Study- How are you sharpening yourself for discipleship?
  • Shepherding- Who are you discipling?
  • Supervising- Who are you leading or leading with?

Our next post will focus on fleshing these roles out in goals. We will simply build on these questions.

A Mission that Fits (pt.3)

Exploring Phrases by Voting with Sticky Dots

The problem with Designing Purpose is not in not having any ideas or content to draw from, it is having too much.  Too many phrases.  Too many values.  One of my professors used to say about writing and preaching, “Ya gotta have the guts to cut.”  This is the phase in writing your Family Mission Statement that takes guts.  This can be easily completed by having another family meeting and give everyone sticky dots.  Sticky dots are amazing.


Sticky dots have so many uses.  Meta planning or getting all of the ideas out on a table or on a large piece of paper for all to see and then giving everyone an equal amount of votes can be done with sticky dots.  Of course, who doesn’t want to have a family game night where you try and stick the most dots on each other’s face?

Tools Needed:  Butcher paper, Markers, Sticky Dots, Willing participants.Sticky dot voting 4

Pick 10-12 of your most favorite value ideas and phrases that you think represent your family well.  Write them down on cards or butcher paper.  Here is the fun part:  Give everyone 10 dots and let them vote on what they think are the best ideas or values that they want to have representing their family.  A person can put one dot on 10 different values or 10 dots on one specific value or anywhere in between.  Once that is completed, the family can step back and see themes and trends.  It doesn’t take long at all.  The only caveat is to give everyone the freedom to think independently.  There is always 1 domineering person that has a hard time not talking during the voting process and seeking to sway the vote.  Nip that in the bud.

HOMEWORK- Go by Sticky Dots and have fun voting on things.  Get some practice for the big meeting where your family votes on the guts of your Family Mission Statement. Designing Purpose IS NOT BORING!



A Mission that fits (pt. 2)

Steps to writing your families' Mission in this world.

We are talking about Designing Purpose for our lives and families.  Why?  Because Family’s Matter.  We are in the midst of thinking through writing a Mission that fits your family or yourself.  The first step is rallying the troops then truly nail down values.  This post is simple and very applicable.  It asks a ton of questions to help you refine and nail down values.  The journey of 1,220 miles is accomplished one mile at a time.  There are key steps to take along the way:

  1. Rally the Troops
  2. Nail down Values
  3. Explore Phrases
  4. The Place of Roles
  5. Sleep on it
  6. Make it Public
  7. Make it a Daily Reminder
  8. Make Adjustments


Nail Down Values

I’m not sure enough can be said about determining values.  If you and your kids designed your values, now is the time to discuss those values and why they are so important to you and your family.  If you haven’t nailed down values quite yet, here are some questions that will assist you in having real and not just declared values:

Questions for Couples only:

  • What kind of marriage partners do we want to be?
  • What is the purpose of our marriage?
  • How do we want to treat each other?
  • How do we want to resolve our differences?
  • How can we both support each other in our respective goals?
  • How do we want to handle finances?
  • What kind of parents do we want to be?
  • What principles do we want to teach our children to help them prepare for adulthood and lead responsible, caring lives?
  • What traditions do want to keep and create? What traditions are we bringing into the marriage?
  • Are there things from our respective family histories that we’re happy or unhappy with? How can we change them if we’re unhappy?

Questions for Families of kids:

  • What is the purpose of our family?
  • What kind of family do we want to be?
  • What kinds of things do we want to do?
  • What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home?
  • What kind of home would you like to invite your friends to?
  • What embarrasses you about our family?
  • What makes you want to come home?
  • What do we want to be remembered by/for?
  • What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
  • How do we want to treat one another and speak to one another?
  • What things are truly important to us as a family?
  • What are the unique talents, gifts, and abilities of family members?
  • What are our responsibilities as family members?
  • What are the principles and guidelines we want our family to follow?
  • Who are our heroes? What it is about them that we like and would like to emulate?
  • How can we contribute to society as a family and become more service-oriented?

Question:  Does your family have values?  What are they?  Are they real or declared (are they lived out or only talked about)? 

A Mission that Fits (pt. 1)

Steps to writing your families' Mission in this world.

There is a difference between a compass and a map.  A mission is more like a compass than a map.  A compass can get you started in the right direction when you head into new territory.  One must learn how to hold a compass, learn which way you are facing in the first place in order to find true north, and give you confidence that you on the right path.  Just like there are steps one must take in order to use a compass, there are steps an individual or a family takes in order to design a mission.

KompassTaking the First Steps:

Each year, I drive my family to Raleigh, NC to visit my mom, dad, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.  It is a 1,220 mile journey, door to door.  A journey of 1,220 miles begins with the first mile but there are many potential pitfalls along the way.  A mission statement has a beginning as well.  There is one principle that must be understood so you don’t get tripped up on the journey, the number one reminder is to understand that it is a living document.  It is not so important that it sounds good but that it is applied.  Designing a Mission has a built in feature that allows a family to tweak the wording from time to time.  Don’t sweat it, you are not locked into words that no longer communicate what you want them to communicate.

In the coming posts, I will be writing on steps a family, couple or individual can take in order to Design Mission and develop a purposeful life.  Here are the steps that can be taken in order to Design Mission for your family or your life:

  1. Rally the Troops
  2. Nail down Values
  3. Explore Phrases
  4. Write it Down
  5. Sleep on it
  6. Make it Public
  7. Make it a Daily Reminder
  8. Make Adjustments

Rallying the Troops:

My wife and I have been working on a family mission statement for nearly twenty years.  We started during our pre-marital days.  Our mentors encouraged us to have special times to discuss what we want our lives to look like.  We come back to it on an annual basis during family vacation.

This process can be an entire family adventure.  It could be extremely strategic to give everyone a voice.  The youngest to the oldest will be effected by the statement as well as give affect.  Make it fun if young kids are involved, have realistic expectations, listen for common themes and write things down.  One way to get more people involved is to have different people writing things down.  Sometimes the louder and more outgoing personalities can overwhelm the quiet, so instead of having brainstorming times, consider having write storming times, same thing as brainstorming but everyone is quiet and writing instead of a couple sharing their ideas out loud.

Someone, likely the leader, mom or dad, will take what has been written down and make summary statements.  A family mission statement will not be decided upon in a single sitting.  Time is not your enemy, it is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  The slower the better on this journey.  It is nothing like our trip from H-Town to Raleigh, NC.  I always try and beat my previous times.

Things to Consider:

Make family meetings short if you have young kids (15-20 minutes).

Have the expectation that kids will not be adults and give kid type offerings.

If you have older and younger kids, have coloring pages for the younger kids, so they can be around, while you work with the older kids in forming the statement.

What are other ideas on setting up a family meeting time?


Inward, Outward, Upward, Onward

The Importance of Mission in Designing Purpose

One family ingrained four words in their children’s hearts and minds as they were growing up.





It went something like, be a strong person inwardly, let it show outwardly, honor God upwardly and pursue your goals onwardly.  This is a type of mission statement that gave solid direction to this family.  What is a family mission statement?  Why this chapter is so important?


What is a Family Mission Statement

I like Stephen Covey.  I think he was the first person that I read that got me excited about goals, mission, time management, etc.  He wrote a great deal on developing mission statements.  He said, ” A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about.”  A company designs a mission to communicate their “reason for existence.”  See if you can match familiar mission statement mottos with companies.

  1. The happiest place on earth.
  2. Leave the driving to us.
  3. Betcha can’t eat just one.
  4. The taste of a new generation.
  5. A passion for the road.
  6. Get your own box.
  7. Does she or doesn’t she?
  8. Play. Laugh. Grow.
  9. The best a man can get.
  10. Let your fingers do the walking.

Match with- Greyhound, Pepsi, Fisher-Price, Clairol, Yellow Pages, Gillette, Lays, Disney World, Cheez-It, Mazda. (ANSWERS BELOW).

Why is a Mission so Important to You and Your Family?

Many people have trouble deciding what’s right or wrong, and have difficulty making choices as to what they should do. Perhaps one of the reasons is because they grow up without clear values. The foundation of effective decision-making is having a set of real values and a clear mission statement to guide them.

Mission statements are like traditions.  Children will remember them when they get older and when they need to draw on their upbringing.  A mission will reinforce their values and who they really are, and will help them to make positive decisions.


A mission statement is like a compass that guides the course of an individual or a family.  By defining timeless values that do not change, it provides direction for strategies that do change. A mission statement incorporates values and roles (more on this in a future post).  It is actually better to call it a Categorized Mission Statement.

ANSWERS to Mission Mottos

Greyhound (2), Pepsi (4), Fisher-Price (8), Clairol (7), Yellow Pages (10), Gillette (9), Lays (3), Disney World (1), Cheez-It (6), Mazda (5).

Questions- Do you have a mission statement for yourself or your family?  What would you add to the positive reasons for having a mission statement? What other way would you describe the definition of having a mission?

Upcoming Posts- Is there a biblical basis for a mission statement? What is a categorized mission statement?  How does a couple or family design a mission statement?

Learning from Lemmings

Why Not Following the Crowd Comes From a Values Decision

Case Study in Values- Why are values so important?  Have you ever heard of a Lemming?  You know those short-tailed, thickset rodents found in the Arctic tundra?  There is such mystery surrounding these unsavvy creatures.  No one could understand why Lemming population fluctuated dramatically, from massive herds to near extinction.   ABC News in 2004 reported and some popular opinions:

“In the 1530s, the geographer Zeigler of Strasbourg, tried to explain these variations in populations by saying that lemmings fell out of the sky in stormy weather, and then suffered mass extinctions with the sprouting of the grasses of spring. Back in the 19th century, the Naturalist Edward Nelson wrote that ‘the Norton Sound Eskimo have an odd superstition that the White Lemming lives in the land beyond the stars and that it sometimes comes down to the earth, descending in a spiral course during snow-storms.'”

These were before some of more modern mythical understandings that lean more towards mass suicides as thousands follow one Lemming over a cliff to their death.  If one is described as a Lemming then they are considered a person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a head long rush to destruction.


Standing Out may mean you are Standing Alone

I learned from a really young age what it means to stand out or up for your values.  I went to a high school in Raleigh, NC.  The school had great spirit and a great many students.  We laughed out how many trailers the school had.  I think it was in the 30’s.  It was mostly an anglo school whose athletic programs were second to none.  Having been raised to compete, I had the privilege to play Football, Basketball, and Baseball all throughout high school.  Me and another guy were the only ones in this high school.

Through the work of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), I became aware of my need to have my sins forgiven and that receiving the gift of eternal life offered to man through the words and works of Jesus, I trusted in His work and received His gift.  I was instantly changed.  I changed both spiritually and socially.  Although I was among the few in the school who participated in varsity athletics, I was rather shy.  One of the breakthroughs that occurred in my young life was replacing my insecurity with confidence in the Lord.  Previously my confidence only came from competing and winning.  Spiritually I understood I had nothing to prove with the Lord and therefore nothing to lose.  My relationship was secure.  A huge confidence booster.  Socially, I began to share my new found relationship with my friends.  My bible study leader said it should be a value of every Christian, to share their faith and not be ashamed of knowing Jesus.  I made a promise with the Lord that if He would take my shyness away, then I would speak up and keep Him center.

I learned early that few people make it a real value to verbally communicate the importance of their relationship with the Lord but I still refused to follow the Christian crowd of staying silent.  However, that is not the lemming sighting.  That came during the Spring semester at a baseball practice.  Just prior to practice as we were warming up our arms and legs for practice a few of the guys asked me a very pointed question.  They knew I was in a dating relationship with a young lady.  Perhaps it was assumed (because everyone was doing it), but they asked, “Have you gone all the way with your girlfriend?”  I remember it like it was yesterday. For some reason, I was not embarrassed and to the best of my recollection I did not even hesitate.  I simply said, “No!”  I did not stop there.  No I remember saying, “Truth is, I can become like you anytime I want, but you can never become like me again, if you have sex with your girlfriend.”  That is the power of values.  Values have a way of empowering you at the point of greatest need.


Have you gone through the values exercise?  Was it easy?  Did you learn anything about yourself?  About your spouse?  About your relationship?

My suggestion is to take some extended time thinking through the exercise on the previous post.  If you are working through this with your spouse, I call it knee-to-knee time, then give yourself some time.  Set a goal, a good month, where you both talk off and on at times.  You will be glad you did.

The next set of posts in Designing Purpose deals with Designing a Mission Statement.  Not just any old mission but one that is based on your roles.

Values: Real or Declared?

An Exercise in Developing Values

There is a difference between real and declared values. Real values are those that are true about you in every day life. They are lived out.  If you want to know what is really your vales, ask your wife or your closest friends.  Declared values are the ones people hear about but never see. We all have real values and declared values. A person can declare all they want about having solid values but until those values actually begin to show up on their calendar and in their life, they are only declared, not much to show for with these kinds of values.

Brooklyn Bridge

Determining Values

What is a value? How does a person or a couple determine which values to adopt?

Values provide you with a strong foundation for living your life to it’s fullest. Values will also help you in finding your purpose in life.  Like a rudder on a ship that helps steer a boat through the water, values are guiding principles that steer us toward our purpose.  They are the attitude behind our lives.  They are the uniqueness of who we want to be.  If our lives were a MacDonald’s Big Mac, the values would be the special sauce.

How many values should a family, person, couple have?  Values are like hats, if you are trying to wear too many, it gets cumbersome.  It is best to have a handful.  These values may change and adapt but they should always be real and not just declared.

God is the author of values.  Romans 2:14-16 points to our design.  It seems our hearts and consciences reveal the fingerprints of a moral God.  C.S. Lewis notes that there appears to be uniformity among most cultures on what uniform moral absolutes look like.  Most cultures do not honor treachery, selfishness, cowardice or deceit. (Lewis, The Abolition of Man).

Here are a list of verses to consider when understanding a Biblical perspective on values:

Just a few really.  There are myriads and myriads more.

Homework- Deciding on Your Valuess485964786236544819_p1_i1_w1100

Here is an exercise to help you choose your top values and live by them. If you already have values that you use, confirm that these values are indeed Real and not just Declared.  As we move along in this process, these values will be aligned with our mission and goals.  It will be difficult to be a bank robber and think you can save the world. There’s no alignment there.  No one is going to ask you to rob a bank but they also won’t ask you to be intentional with your values either.

Rank the Following Categories for your family life! You may want to distinguish between what you do now and what you want to be doing…



Making Money

Mental Well-Being

Physical Well-Being

Social Well-Being

Spiritual Well-Being

Now take each of these areas and fill in the blanks:

The ____________ Category we would love to be ____________

(i.e. Spiritually we would love to be Authentic, Committed, Passionate, Growing, etc.)

How do you know what to put in the blanks?  Consider the Following:

  1. You may want to think of a person who has been influential (for the good) in your life.  What about them made the biggest impact?
  2. What do you want to be remembered for?
  3. What things would you be doing in each of these categories if you knew failure was not an issue?
  4. If you were the President of the country, what would you make a requirement for everyone to be doing in these categories?

Here is a List of Value words to draw from (or make up your own):

Accepting, inspire, accomplished, intelligent, kind, aware, knowledgeable, beautiful, leader, brave, loving, calm, motivated, compassionate, observant, organized, connected, original, cooperative, passionate, courageous, patient, creative, peaceful, decisive, perceptive, devoted, persistent, disciplined, playful, discriminating, prepared, receptive, energetic resilient, enthusiastic, respectful, excited, responsible, expert, risk-taker, satisfied, flexible, sensible, sensitive, fulfilled, spiritual, generous spontaneous, graceful, strong, grateful, happy, thoughtful, harmonious thorough, humorous, trusting, independent, willing, insightful, wise, intentional, authentic, pure, shrewd, adventurous, dangerous, hungry, etc.

Narrowing Down the Values that Define YOU!

Take the top 2 values from each category and write them down.  Take some time (days) to sleep on and talk to others about which one is really your value.

This is not a test or a race.  Time is your friend.  Breathe easy, you will be evaluating these values annually.

FINALLY:  Make sure they are your values and not someone else’s values.

Where Does Your Time Go?

Paper Clips and Time: Are they similar?

Paper clips and Time are synonymous sometimes.  Time flies away much like the mysterious nature of paper clips.  Where do paper clips go?  Lloyd’s Bank of London undertook a study to find out what happens to a typical batch of paper clips as they are released throughout the workforce. Out of their original batch of 100,000 paper clips they found that:

  • 3,916 were used to unplug tobacco pipes;
  • 5,308 were used to clean under fingernails;
  • 5,423 were used to pick teeth or scratch ears;
  • 7,200 were used as hooks for belts, suspenders, or bras;
  • 14,163 were snapped, broken, or otherwise twisted during phone conversations;
  • 19,143 became mock card game chips; and approximately
  • 25,000 became lost, swept up off the floor or thrown away.
  • 20,000 of the original batch of paper clips were actually used to clip papers together.


Kyle MacDonald and His Red Paper Clip

Have you heard of Kyle MacDonald and his Red Paper Clip?

Stuck in a dead-end job and strapped for money, Kyle MacDonald came up with an improbable plan: starting with one red paperclip, he would trade on the Internet until he exchanged it for a house.

First, he traded the red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen. Next, he traded the pen for a doorknob. He traded the doorknob for a Coleman stove. He traded the Coleman stove for an electric generator. He traded the electric generator for a Budweiser sign and a keg of beer, which he then traded for a snowmobile and so on.  His goal was to turn it into a house.  He did just that when he won a movie roll and somehow that turned into a house.  Kyle MacDonald proved that paper clips are important.  Using your time is important as well, little and big amounts are important.  Time is like an ever moving locomotive that continues to move, nothing stops it, but we can get in front of it and enjoy the time we have.

You may be shocked to know how you spend your life. Wouldn’t it be encouraging if we spent all the 78 years (the national average of Americans life span) to being productive? Where does the time go?

  • We spend about 25 years sleeping
  • We work about 10.5 years (40hrs/week from 20-65 yrs old) (2 years are spent sitting in meetings)
  • We spend about 17 years trying to lose weight or thinking about losing weight
  • We watch about 9.1 years of TV (2 years watching commercials)
  • Drive about 4.3 years, Cook about 2.5 years, Clean 1.1 years (in some homes)
  • We will spend about 1.5 years in the bathroom (92 days on the toilet)
  • We will spend 14 days kissing
  • Men spend zero days shopping (they hunt), women spend 8 years shopping

Don’t forget we all have the same amount of time. When I share these facts with folks, a look of distress comes over their face. Guilt and despair are two feelings that can be avoided. Someone once told me that if I don’t plan my time, someone stronger than me will plan my time for me. I’m talking about Designing Purpose that works with your current schedule, your job, your hobbies, etc. We are not adding anything we are simply being wise with what we have. All of us have dreams and hopes; but hopes that are deferred and unmet make our hearts feel awful. It can all be avoided. We can live full lives. We can be busy but not feel busy. That is what Designing Purpose is all about. Time is not your enemy. The problem of busyness is not handled properly. We shouldn’t react to our schedules, we should be proactive and Design Purpose in our lives. We live our lives with a month in a view and week to week. If that is the case, let’s plan our lives before the month begins and evaluate week to week. The first step is deciding upon values that will guide your life through thick and thin.  My next post will be about Designing Values that are real and not just declared.

The Problem We All Face

Importance of Purpose

The most important thing about anything is its purpose. What we live for and what we would die for reveals our purpose. Purpose is simple but powerful. The purpose of basketball shoes is to protect ankles and feet, tap shoes would be terrible basketball shoes (I am sure that Lebron could still take me in tap shoes). Point is purpose reveals use and direction.  The problem we all face is we lack value based purpose.


AW Tozer writes about the potential abuse of purpose (Tozer, Man- The Dwelling Place of God):

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LATELY CARRIED an interesting if somewhat depressing story out of London about a certain British peer who had died just a few days short of his eighty-ninth birthday.

Having been a man of means and position, it had presumably not been necessary for him to work for a living like the rest of us, so at the time of his death he had had about seventy adult years in which he was free to do whatever he wanted to do, to pursue any calling he wished or to work at anything he felt worthy of his considerable abilities.

And what had he chosen to do? Well, according to the story, he had “devoted his life to trying to breed the perfect spotted mouse.”

Now, I grant every man the right to breed spotted mice if he wants to and can get the cooperation of the mice, and I freely admit that it is his business and not mine. Not being a mouse lover (nor a mouse hater for that matter; I am just neutral about mice), I do not know but that a spotted mouse might be more useful and make a more affectionate pet than a common mouse colored mouse. But still I am troubled.

The mouse breeder in question was a lord, and I was born on a farm in the hill country of Pennsylvania, but since a cat can look at a king I suppose a farm boy can look at a lord, even look at him with disapproval if the circumstances warrant. Anyway, a man’s a man for a’ that, and I feel a certain kinship for every man born of woman; so I cannot but grieve for my brother beyond the seas.

Made in the image of God, equipped with awesome powers of mind and soul, called to dream immortal dreams and to think the long thoughts of eternity, he chooses the breeding of a spotted mouse as his reason for existing. Invited to walk with God on earth and to dwell at last with the saints and angels in the world above; called to serve his generation by the will of God, to press with holy vigor toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he dedicates his life to the spotted mouse not just evenings or holidays, mind you, but his entire life.

According to Psalm 90:10, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” According to USA Today in 2012 life expectancy in America was at an all time high at 78.74 years. It is 81.50 in the United Kingdom, lucky them right? The Psalmist seems to think that the average life is filled with toil and trouble. While that might be true for outside circumstances, it doesn’t have to be that way internally. The problem we all face is an exaggerated culture of over-productivity and over-stuffed calendars of busy people who feel guilty when they relax.  Do you feel guilty when you relax?

The most important question is not whether we have purpose but do we have the right purpose.  Having the right purpose is a question of values.  Time and value go hand in hand for the most part.  A man can have a dead end job but because he values his family he will invest the time in order to continue to get paid.  My next post will be focused on considering where and how we spend our time, you will be amazed really.

Secret to Satisfaction

Insights on Time from the Bible

Each morning we wake up and a thousand and one thoughts come rushing through our minds.  You maybe one of the lucky ones that actually made it through the night without being awakened by a few of those thoughts.  These thoughts are like wild animals.  C.S. Lewis says, “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life coming flowing in” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 168).  Designing Purpose is not automatic.  If we want to pursue our biggest dream, no matter what they are, we are going to have to get in front of the busyness beast and slow it down or feed it less.



Many of us in the modern world are doing more than we should and are leading busy, hectic lives. This kind of pace is the kind of pace where men and women survive by living off of adrenaline and stress.  Our companies and our churches are just fine with us producing.  However, the first thing to be left by the wayside is soul work.  What many call time to sharpen the saw.  We live with a preoccupation with what is seen and give little thought to what is unseen.  Lewis encourages us to push all that back and listen to the “other voice” and allow God’s quiet strength to come flowing in.

Lewis’s insight points the way for us to break out of this cycle and begin to grow in our lives.  If we want to Design Purpose, then we must start with the foundation; our understanding of satisfaction.  The reason most people live at such break neck speed is because they want to be satisfied.  This process takes time to produce change in us, but over time it has a profound effect. As Lewis goes on to say, “We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments a new sort of life will be spreading through our system because we are now letting him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface and a dye or stain which soaks right through” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 169).

The Secret of Satisfaction and the Message from Haggai 1

The Book of Haggai, second shortest in the Old Testament, has a powerful message. It tells us to put first things first in our lives.  It was written to people who would have told you that God must be first.  They may have forgotten that message being held captive for 70 years in a foreign land and needed a reminder.  But they believed that and we believe that.  This is the foundation for which Lewis says takes time to soak into our lives.  They had drifted into a way of life where their intellectual belief in the supremacy of God was not reflected in the way they were living.  We drift when we do nothing with the LORD.   They gave lip service to the priority of God, but in fact they lived with other priorities. God sent Haggai to help His people get their priorities in line with what they knew they should be.

The historical setting is the early chapters of Ezra (see Ezra 5:1). In 536 B.C., a remnant of about 50,000 Jews had returned from Babylon to Judah under the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia. They quickly rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. Two years after returning, they had laid the foundation to rebuild the temple. Their Samaritan neighbors had offered to join in the work, but the Jews refused their offer. The Samaritans, in turn, threatened the workers and sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt.

At least 14 years had passed. The people got caught up in the routine of life—farming, building houses, raising families, and that sort of thing. They got used to life without a temple. Even their leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, had gotten used to things as they were. Into that scene, God raised up Haggai and (two months later) Zechariah to proclaim His message to this returned remnant.

We pick up the story in Haggai 1:1:

 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

This message is simple.  The people said, “We can’t afford to rebuild the temple.”  God said, “You can’t afford not to!”  What was the issue?  They had plenty of excuses but out of sync priorities.  Excuses have been around since Adam and Eve.  Adam said, “It was the woman’s fault.”  Eve said, “It was the serpent’s fault.”  We say, “I know I am a little overweight but I worked hard and deserved those donuts on the smorgasbord line, it isn’t my fault I am heavy.”

It is always easy to make an excuse when we don’t want to obey God.

  • God wants us to take care of our families, doesn’t he?
  • The job is way to big, we will never finish it.
  • Someone else will do it if we don’t.
  • We need to spend more time praying about doing the work before we start.
  • What do we need a temple for anyway?
  • The time just isn’t right.

Today this is the same as someone saying, “I will get to work on my marriage soon but first I need to make sure we make ends meet at work.”  Or another who says, “I will figure out how to get back in shape once we get past the holidays.”  Another says, “I know I lack depth with God, I’ll get to that once I figure out things with my girlfriend.”

This was the Lord’s house.  To leave the Lord’s house in disrepair was the same as showing disrespect for the occupant of the dwelling.  Consider this:  They were saying, “We don’t have the time.”  But this is false, remember, we all have the same amount of time.  We all have 168 hours/work.  The issue is not time, the issue is priority.  They were pursuing their comforts and God says, “Is it a time for you to live in luxury while my house remains in ruins?”  Please don’t answer that.  That may be the biggest rhetorical question ever.

Paul reminds us in Phil 2:21, “That everyone seeks their own interests rather than the interests of Jesus.”  This is foundational stuff in the making.  If Lewis is right and wild animals come at us in the morning, then we will need a plan to keep them back.  I want you to consider what that might look like each day.  Every morning when you awake there is a figurative committee meeting.  You are not even dressed to impressed.  You are still in bed and are starting the process of distributing your time for the day.  What do we give our time to?

  • Appearance
  • Family
  • Work
  • Hobby
  • Sport
  • Media
  • Technology
  • Entertainment

The problem we face is simply one of priority and satisfaction.  We tend to divvy out time to what we think is most satisfying.  Then God comes on the scene.  His love is everlasting and full.

He reasons with the people of God two times in this passage, “Consider your ways.”  Take careful thought to your ways.  Literally set your heart upon your ways.  How is your life going?  How is it working out for you?  This reads more like an imperative, consider your ways.  Is it possible to be oblivious to the source of satisfaction in our lives?



  • They planted much…but not much harvesting.
  • They ate much…but are still hungry.
  • They drank much…but are still thirsty.
  • They wear clothing that doesn’t keep them warm.
  • They make money for it only to burn a hole in their wallet.

Here we come to the sobering reminder that what happens in our hearts effects every other part of our life as well.  Because the people had pushed God out of the center of their lives, they are now suffering in every other area.  They had fields but no produce, action without satisfaction, labor without profit, fruitless toil, fleeting riches, unsatisfied hunger and futile defenses.

This the law of the unproductive harvest.  It happens to us over and over until we learn that God will not be mocked.  Why would God do this?  He allows us to suffer the results of our wrong choices and wrong priorities in order to get our attention, to convict of sin, and to lead us to repentance.  God knows how to ring your phone.  He knows where you live and knows how to reach the private line of your heart.  Here is an awesome thought:

God could have his hand on the valve of satisfaction in your life.  We could work our fingers to the bone and be working against God.  He has his hand on the spigot of satisfaction.

Consider your life currently.  Are you satisfied?  Are you frustrated?  Do you have peace?  Do you want the things that God gives, peace, joy, power, without investing in the things of God?



What is the Solution?

We often define our lives around what we want our future to be like.  We want a car so we go get a job.  We want to get into a good college, so we work hard to get good grades.  This is great but don’t forget God’s business and your investments into His work.  God gives us the solution.  God says, “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified” (1:8).  This is not a suggestion.  This is a command. 

In all of life there is a time to talk and a time to act.  There is a time to consider and a time to stop talking and start doing.  This was the time to act.  Today is the day to do the right thing in life.  Because they had not honored God, every area of their life was suffering.  The only remedy was to stop making excuses and start doing what God had told them to do 16 years earlier.


All great actions start with beginnings not excuses.  Designing Purpose must have a beginning.  Become the leader of your life.  You may need to step up and lead your family or relationship.  Zerubbabel and Joshua committed themselves to stepping up and honoring God and everyone else followed.  Everything in Designing Purpose rises and falls on leading oneself or leading others.  God will honor those who do His work.  Check out the stories ending:

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord‘s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

Do everything you can to make God look good.  Put first things first.  You and I can always get started again.  These Israelites needed a second chance and God gave it.  Don’t every line yourself up with small things.

I read a story online about Robert Jaffray, check it out:self-discovery

Robert Jaffray was an intelligent and well educated in Toronto at the turn of the 20th Century.  He was heir to the Globe and Mail, a successful Toronto newspaper and was fleuent in Chinese as well as English. Despite having family fortune and ample political connections he knew a worthy task when he saw one. He was offered a huge salary by the Standard Oil Company of New York and was asked if he would help them set up an office in Hong Kong.  He said, “No thank-you.”  They later returned and doubled the salary offer.   “No thank-you” Finally they sent him a telegram with one sentence: “Jaffray, at any cost.” He replied with one line, “Your salary is big.  Your job is too small.” Robert A. Jaffray was instead a missionary in China for more than 35 years.  He worked in translating the New Testament into Cantonese and He wrote for and edited Bible Messenger, published by South China Alliance Press He used this publication to send training materials to Cantonese Missionaries and then later to others, reprinted in their “colloquial language versions.” He was arrested in 1942 by the Japanese, he was kept in internment camps, until he died in 1945 from illness and malnutrition.  Jaffray said, “The supreme and crying need of this lost world is the gospel. Shall we not rise at Christ’s command to carry the blessed saving news to every perishing one?” Don’t ever let yourself get distracted into doing a job that is too small.