Shaun McDonald

About Shaun McDonald

Shaun's Blog
Shaun McDonald began his ministry in 2004 working and traveling with a Youth Evangelist. Following that he worked at a Christian Children’s Home where he ministered to abandoned, neglected and abused children. His most recent position was as Youth Pastor at a church in upstate NY where he served for the last ten years. Currently, Shaun is focused on his family and his writing until God shows him what is next.

Shaun received his AAS in Pastoral Ministry from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, his BS in Religion from Liberty University, and is currently pursuing his MA in Youth and Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shaun and his wife Christine live in upstate NY with their three children.

New Creation, Same Old Person: The Danger of Self Help

Bruce Banner is a small, meek, educated man. He is not a warrior. Bruce Banner is a scientist, and as a scientist, he is not very well known. The Hulk, however, is famous. He is huge, aggressive, and brave. He is a warrior. The Hulk lives inside of Bruce Banner and comes out from time to time to do what Banner cannot. When caught in a battle, Banner is useless, but the Hulk is a living weapon.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). I am so thankful for this truth. When I put my faith in Christ some 14 years ago I thought different, talked different, and had new passions and desires. I was truly a new creation. The trouble didn’t come until years later.

Rather than seeing myself as Shaun, a new creation in Christ; I saw myself as a new Shaun. I’ve had many people tell me over the years how impressed they are by how I have turned my life around – by how I have changed. That is a nice sentiment, but the truth is I have not really changed at all. Deep down, I am still Shaun. The old Shaun still lives down in there and is daily trying to claw his way out.

And, sadly, when he does make his way out, I am reminded of who I am apart from Christ. The old Shaun is the one waging war against the Spirit within me (Romans 7:22-23). The only hope I really have in living as a new creation is in putting the old Shaun to death daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). He needs to be stripped off regularly lest he deceive me into living according to my old, sinful desires (Ephesians 4:22).

Self-help books are popular. Everyone loves learning 10 ways to improve their marriage, sex-life, finances, and a litany of other things. We like to make changes to ourselves and pride ourselves in how well we have done; how far we have come along. Self-help is appealing to the world but an enemy to the child of God. It is when we believe in ourselves that we lose who we are in Christ.

Paul did not simply say we are new creations, he said we are new creations “in Christ.” Jesus is the strength that lies within. He is not only the One who makes us new, He is the newness in us. Jesus Himself said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV) To be in Christ is to abide in Christ. To abide in Christ is to so live our lives in Him that He lives His life through us. And apart from our being in Christ in this way we can do nothing of what He can do through us.

In a self-help culture where we pride ourselves on our inner strength, the message of the cross is completely counter intuitive. At the cross Jesus did what we could not do by taking our sin on His sinless self and nailing it to the cross. He offered us His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. We add nothing to this exchange.

Further, Jesus then tells us to link ourselves to Him in such a way that He can live for us as we rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-29). What we struggle to do is to let Jesus be the all-in-all. We try to earn our righteousness. We try to live out His sinlessness. And we try to do this on our own to prove that we are strong enough.

The Apostle Paul struggled with this too. We don’t know what it was that he was ailing from – whether sin or infirmity – but we do know that he wanted to be strong enough not to struggle anymore. Jesus’ response to this Super Apostle is a lesson for all of us. Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV) Jesus didn’t tell Paul to muscle up and pull his weight, He told him to let go and allow Him to do the pulling.

We don’t know how long it took for Paul to yield in this way to Christ, but we do know that when he finally did his tune was changed from help me be stronger to this: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NKJV)

Our greatest strength does not reside within ourselves. Even as new creations, we still need to remain in Christ. Apart from Him the old man lies lurking in the shadows, just waiting to make a comeback. Don’t make it your aim to be a better you. Make it your aim to see less and less of you. For, as with John the Baptist, the more I decrease, the more He increases (John 3:30). And the more He increases, the more of the new creation the world can see.

By | 2018-07-22T23:54:28+00:00 July 23rd, 2018|

Less Worry, More Witness

Acts 1:6-8 (ESV)

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The direct context of this conversation has everything to do with the consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Psalms speak much of this Kingdom, with Zion as the Holy City at the center of it all. Indeed, all of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is the unfolding of this amazing plan. This is what is referred to as Biblical Theology.

However, for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on a more personal application to this text.

Less Worry, More Witness

If you are like me, like most of us, you want to know what is coming. That is the reason we all invest so much money in our retirement, health insurance, car insurance, home owner’s insurance, etc. We want to know that everything is going to be okay. We go to the doctor for regular check-ups, the dentist for regular cleanings, and for those who are really motivated, the gym for regular maintenance.

The disciples were like most of us. They wanted to know what was coming too. Not only what was coming, but when it was coming. They asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They wanted to know when their nation’s day of exaltation would come. They were hopeful that they were standing right on the precipice of its inauguration.

What I want us to note is the way in which our Lord answers this question. He does not give them a “yes” or “no.” It would have been easy enough for Him to do so. He knew that the time had not yet come, just as He had known His time had not yet come to begin His earthly ministry. Even so, He chose to not give them a definitive answer. Not only does He not give them a “yes” or “no,” He doesn’t answer them at all. Rather than answer their question, He corrects their thinking.

To the disciples, their main concern was when Jesus would restore the Kingdom. Not to Jesus, and He makes that abundantly clear. He says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” In other words, not only was the timing not their main concern, it wasn’t their concern at all!

He could have ended the conversation with that response, but He doesn’t. He goes on to reorient their thinking to what their concern really was. He told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were not to sit around trying to figure out when the Kingdom would be restored. They weren’t even to spend their time being concerned about it. They were to use the power given them by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witnesses everywhere they went. This, and this alone, was their concern. This is reinforced later after Jesus ascends before their eyes.

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:10-11 ESV) The angel was both reinforcing the words of Jesus and calling them to move forward.

So, what, then, is the personal application for us? Well, have you ever wondered what God was up to in your life? Have you ever wondered when the next door would open for you?

Have you ever spent time trying to figure out where God is leading you and how to best prepare for the destination? Most of us have! I believe this brief exchange between Jesus and the disciples can help us in this area.

It is really not our concern what is next in life, where God is leading us, or when we will arrive at the next destination. Our concern is to “be [Jesus’] witnesses” everywhere we go. God has things all figured out, we don’t need to. What happens when we try to get in on God’s blueprints is frustration, stagnation and even devastation. What never happens, is peace, prosperity and productivity – not in God’s economy anyways.

This is similar to what Jesus told the disciples earlier in His ministry. He said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26 ESV)

When we begin to concern ourselves with where our finances will come from, where we are going to live and for how long, and every other thing the average American worries over, we begin a dangerous cycle. Our job is not to chart the course of life, it is to walk the path set before us.

This is a daily walk. One of the most over-used prayers in all of Christendom is also one of the most under-contemplated prayers. When Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He was pointing us to the reality of a daily trust in God. This is reinforced by Jesus’ words from His famous Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

How do we apply this today? Stop worrying about what is on the horizon. God knows. It is enough for God to know. Another over-quoted Scripture is equally under-contemplated. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) You may have heard someone correct the misinterpretation of this passage.

It is easy enough to correct by simply reading on. But have you ever cut off the second half of this passage and simply believed the beginning? “For I know the plans I have for you.” If you can believe those words, you can rest in them. Meanwhile, like Jesus, let us “be about [our] Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49 NKJV)

God knows what is coming. He knows how it is coming, when it is coming and why it is coming. In all of this, God also knows the plans He has for us in the midst of it all. Let’s leave all of that to Him and simply live, in the power of the Spirit, as His witnesses today. He is taking care of everything else.

By | 2018-06-05T08:50:22+00:00 June 8th, 2018|

Living to Share Our Hope

I was a pastor for ten years. As a pastor, I was told that I was the physical representative of God to many people. Not that I was the pope or anything, but that people knew I walked with God and felt that I was their only connection to Him. I understood that… to a degree. What I did not understand is how true that is, and more, how true it is for every believer, pastor or not.

Now, I am working at a Barber Shop. I am not a pastor. I am just another guy at the shop. Or so I thought. Whether a pastor or not, I am always a Christian, and I am always out front about it. I don’t shove it in people’s face, but there are plenty of situations where my faith comes in and demands an explanation.

I never shy from explaining. That said, I have realized something in my few months here at the Barber Shop. Simply as a Christian, people still look to me as a physical representative, an ambassador (1 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20), of God.

Living to Share Our Hope

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6 NIV) The outsiders to the believers in Colossae would have been anyone that was not a Christian. The outsiders to believers today… are the same. And at the Barber Shop, I spend the whole day with “outsiders.”

The challenge to all of us, wherever we are, is to “Be wise in the way we act toward outsiders.” If we are the physical representatives of God to those around us, we need to be careful in how we represent our King. The way we act directly impacts an “outsiders” view of Jesus Christ. That impact can be positive or negative. For that reason, we need to “make the most of every opportunity.”

That means that each moment is a potential opportunity to shine the light back onto Jesus Christ. Our actions and reactions can either point to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, or as the leader of a pack of hypocrites, liars and self-righteous critics.

One area that Paul highlights is our speech. He says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” Our mouth is the most difficult thing to master. A reading and reflection on James 3:1-12 gives us a good picture of just how difficult. And, sadly, our mouth is often the most misused part of our body. But here, Paul exhorts us to have two things define our speech: graciousness and purity.

The first thing people are looking for in our speech is graciousness. The guys at the shop love to “rib” one another. They poke and prod, in fun, and almost make a sport of it. However, I did notice something the other day. While they may poke and prod, in fun, at me, they don’t want me to do it back. Not if they are honest with themselves. I did it only once and saw that reality. The face of one of my co-workers dropped when I ribbed him back. He pressed on and it wasn’t a “thing,” but I could see the adverse impact it had on him. The question is, why?

I believe the answer is the same as in every other area of our life as God’s ambassadors – we represent the King. There was an unspoken, perhaps even unconscious expectation that no matter how much I am ribbed, I will not rib back. No matter how much I am insulted, I will not throw insults back. No matter how much I am wounded, I will not strike. Sound familiar?

It is the description of Jesus Himself, Who, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV) What people are looking for from us is graciousness. And the thing about graciousness is that it is most gracious, most “full of grace,” when it is undeserved. And when we are gracious, we are shining the light back to Jesus.

The other thing people are looking for from us in our speech is purity. These guys love to joke. Not just with and about each other, but about all things. And there are not a few times throughout the day that the joking takes a crude turn. I have been guilty of contributing to those conversations at times. Not to the same degree, mind you, but crude nonetheless.

Many today believe that joining the fray will make us more relevant. If we get down in the muck and mire with those around us they will feel more akin to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. They will simply never feel akin to us because… in Christ… we are no longer kin. We have been moved out of the world and into the family of God. This is not only true of us outside of the home, but even, at times, within it.

Jesus spoke to this when He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36 NIV) When we say yes to Jesus, we are married into His family and removed from all others – so-to-speak.

When we jump in and begin speaking as crudely as the world around us, we go from being set-apart to being set-apart and useless. Paul tell us that our speech is to be “seasoned with salt.” This would bring us back to Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13 NIV)

We associate salt with flavor, especially here in America. However, salt in New Testament times, was not used primarily for flavor, but rather as a preservative. Therefore, when Paul spoke of our speech being “seasoned with salt” he was referring to our speech being a preserving agent. Our speech is such that it preserves the holiness and purity of God. And, as Jesus said, “If the salt loses its saltiness… It is no longer good for anything.” And, so it is with us. We are neither good for the world or the Kingdom when our speech loses its purity.

All of this is leading up to the moment when an “outsider” will potentially ask us about our faith in Christ. The apostle Peter wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV) Notice what leads up to the question – a life that “revere[s] Christ as Lord.”

And what backs up the answer we give – “a clear conscience.” This is the same as what the apostle Paul is getting at. We are living carefully and speaking with grace and purity “so that [we] may know how to answer everyone.” We simply cannot go wrong when we are answering with grace and purity, and our answer cannot be discredited when our lives back up our words.

My pastor, Dr. Sean Pierce, said something that transformed this passage, and even my life, this past Sunday. He said, and I am paraphrasing, “Live your lives in such a way that every day is a potential opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus.” My job is not ultimately about money, it is about opportunities to speak with grace and purity, leading to answer the ultimate question – “What is the reason for your hope?” Really, everything situation we find ourselves in is for this same purpose – to point others back to Jesus.

Are you living each day with purpose? Wherever you are, whatever you do, are you “Be[ing] wise in the way you act toward outsiders; mak[ing] the most of every opportunity. Let[ting] your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone”? If not, there is no better day to begin than today. We are God’s ambassadors, lets represent Him well. And in so doing, let’s be looking for opportunities to bring others to Him along the way.

By | 2018-04-28T04:47:31+00:00 May 8th, 2018|

I Am Not a Pastor

I Am Not a Pastor by Shaun McDonald

I Am Not a Pastor by Shaun McDonald

Consider these statements that I’ve heard over the last decade:

“You’re a pastor though, so you can’t do that right?”

“I can’t lie to you, you’re a pastor.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t talk like that in front of a pastor.”

These all have one thing in common. The assumption is that being a pastor means that there is a different standard. There is a different standard for how one ought to conduct themselves in front of me, and there is a different standard for me than for everyone else. Both of these assumptions are false. The same standard has been set for all people. God delivered the standard at Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:3), Jesus fulfilled the standard in His life and ministry (Matthew 5:17), and by the Spirit’s power, we are to be conformed to that standard day by day (Romans 8:29).

When I teach the New Testament, there is always that time when you approach the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). At that point, well-meaning church members can tend to see this as a time to “check out.” After all, these letters were written to pastors, and they are not pastors. It has nothing to do with them. Or does it?

Someone said to me, “Pastors have a higher calling.” No, pastors do not have a higher calling. We have a higher accountability. There is a difference. We are all called to live the same way, to the glory of God, in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17). Just take the lists given to Timothy and Titus concerning the pastor’s conduct and compare it with the rest of Scripture pertaining to every believer:

1 Timothy 3:2-7 (NIV)

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”” (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV)

not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)

“Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” (1 Timothy 2:8 NIV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3 NIV)

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:18-21 NIV)

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.“And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 NIV)

If you took the time to read all of those Scriptures (and the parallel passage in Titus 1:5-9) you will see that the calling of a pastor is the same as the calling of every other believer. Here are the differences though: vocation, proclamation and education.


A pastor is called to an “office.” That office cannot be held if he is not all of the things above. You can be a Christian and not be all of those things, but you cannot be a pastor if you are not all of those things. That is vocation.


In addition, a pastor is called to teach. The office of pastor cannot be held by one who is unable to teach. Again, you can be a Christian and not be able to teach Scripture, but you cannot be a pastor if you are not able to teach Scripture. That is proclamation.


And finally, a pastor needs to be one who is seasoned and well-acquainted with Scripture. Not only does he need to have a firm grasp of the gospel and an adherence to the truths of Scripture, he needs to also have been tested and proven as a faithful and humble believer. You can be a Christian and not yet have a full grasp of the gospel and other major truths of Scripture, but you cannot be a pastor. You can be a Christian and have only been one for a day, but you cannot be a pastor until you have been tested and proven. You can even be arrogant and be a Christian, but you should not be arrogant and be a pastor! All of this is education. It is the education of study and experience.

Why this article? Because, as many authors have sought to address, we seem to be lacking in our understanding of holiness when it comes to all believers. Paul’s attitude ought to be the attitude of every believer, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV) Not one of us, pastor or church member, has “arrived,” but we all ought to be on our way more and more as The Day approaches.

Recommended Reading:

The Hole in our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung
The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Don Whitney
Slave, John MacArthur

By | 2018-01-31T02:31:03+00:00 November 25th, 2017|

Help Us Jesus, You’re Our Only Hope

Help Us Jesus, You're Our Only Hope by Shaun McDonald

Help Us Jesus, You’re Our Only Hope by Shaun McDonald

“And what would you like to be when you grow up?” the first grader was asked.

“A dinosaur!”

“Well, little one, you can be whatever you put your mind to.”


Is that really true? The last time I checked I am not able to transfigure myself, make myself taller, or give myself any special abilities. Even more, try as I might, I cannot seem to change the very basics of my personality. I am a strong leader with an indecisive bent. I am a sensitive lover with an Irish temper. I am ambitious with a need for safety and security. How do I become someone else?

We all know the answer to this. We don’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe we were intended to either. Scripture tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV) Of course that doesn’t mean that God was afraid He’d break us when He made us; nor does it mean that He was afraid we’d break the world. The fear is referring to a very careful, very intentional creative process. His eyes were squinted and His brows were furrowed as He knit each one of us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And what He knit together wasn’t just good – it was wonderful – and it was you, and it was me.

The narrative that undergirds our young people is not one that gives them more freedom, but rather more anxiety. Depression, anxiety and bi-polar medications are going out the door like Tylenol once did. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, and the age keeps dropping. This narrative has been promoted by Disney for years and our homes, school systems and even churches have all bought into it. Be what you want and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not right, best or possible. I mean, a bunny rabbit arresting a lion… really?

What has happened is this. Little Eden wants to be a famous singer one day, but the poor girl can’t sing. To keep in step with the narrative, her parents, teachers, and even her pastors keep telling her what a beautiful voice she has and how she should “improve” it with some lessons. Sadly, we all know Eden can’t sing. That’s why everyone has a love/hate relationship with Simon Cowell. He says what we all know to be true but have been taught not to say. Meanwhile, poor Eden is getting more and more frustrated because she just can’t land a gig! Eventually that leads to depression because she feels like a failure, which leads to bitterness because the world just doesn’t understand, which leads to another all-too-young obituary.

I know, that’s a little heavy. How about Little Jude? Jude just wants to be a boxer. The only problem is that Jude is only a little guy and he hates getting punched. Not only that, but he is too soft and sweet to want to fight anyone. Or how about Olivia? She wants to be a chemist someday. Unfortunately Olivia cannot do math. I mean… cannot do math. So, to help her achieve her goals, her parents get her the best help available. She has tutors, private classes, and even one-on-one aids in her class to help her get better at what her brain just doesn’t seem to want to do. The result? Not only does Olivia never gets into the program she wants to because she cannot do the math on her own at the level required, but she spent all those years as the “special kid” who needed all the extra help to become something she was not created to be – good at math. And who does she have to blame?

As a last example, let’s take Lorna. Lorna was told that she has to make a good income to be happy. To do so, of course, she needs a college degree. So Lorna chooses the degree she thinks will set her up for the most money in the end. She graduates Magna Cum Laude, but there are simply no jobs in her market. Lorna leaves friends and family in search of a job to pay the debts she accumulated getting the degree she needed for the job that doesn’t exist. She is now living away from home, not doing what she set out to do, nor what she wants to do, all to make a check that barely covers her debts, let alone allows her to enjoy her life.

What a sad narrative. When will we wake up to see that God has made each of us on purpose, for a purpose? And the purpose is simple – to enjoy Him. What if Eden, Jude, Olivia and Lorna were all told from the very beginning, “Follow what you are good at, what you enjoy, and what allows you to love God and your neighbor (including friends, family, co-workers, etc.).” What if each of them was simply encouraged in what they excelled at and lovingly told the truth about their whims? What if each of them was told that a college degree and six-figure salary will not make them happy, but a life of contentment with Christ surely will? The end of each story would change.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV) Don’t believe it? Consider the man who wrote those words. Paul wrote of himself, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12 NIV) To an American, comfort is the meaning of life. In comfort we will find fullness. Perhaps full stomachs and waist lines, but not full lives. Paul was filled to the brim, yet, read what his life was like, “… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV) To an American, Paul had nothing. He lived a third-world life with first world stress. But, of this type of life, here is what he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV) This was Paul’s secret. Learning to be content had nothing to do with circumstance and everything to do with Christ.

True fulfillment, true contentment, does not come through a degree or a salary. It does not come through possessions or positions. It does not come through fame or martyrdom. It does not come through anything, but only through One Person, the God-man Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

So what does all of that have to do with a kid wanting to be a lion when he grows up? Good question. Everything. The end goal for every human being is to know God and be made like Him. The recipe for contentment and a fulfilling life is always the same – Jesus. It begins with an introduction to Him. From the very beginning our children need to know Who Jesus is, why Jesus came, and what that has to do with them. They need to know of His infinite love for them, proved on the cross. His definite plan for them, modeled in His life. And His ultimate destination for them, displayed in the resurrection.

If our children can truly grasp the first question in the New City Catechism and say that it is true of their own life, they will live the most fulfilling lives possible. “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong to God.” Do you want to know something? My three year old already has this memorized. The rest of her life, for me, is about helping those words make their way into her heart and life. Everything else is trivial.

For two great resources on this topic see:
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Ordinaryby Michael Horton

By | 2018-01-31T02:31:22+00:00 October 21st, 2017|

Life on Purpose

Life on Purpose by Shaun McDonald

John Piper wrote the famous book, Don’t Waste Your Life. That is a pretty good summary of what the Bible says to God’s people. God has a purpose for His people, and His purpose has less to do with our comfort and entertainment than it does with the expansion of His Kingdom and glory. As a matter of fact, His purpose has everything to do with the expansion of His Kingdom and glory. Our lives are intended to be a part of that purpose, and each day He has given us is intended to move His purposes forward in one way or another.

For the purpose of this article we are going to operate under the assumption of Biblical Theology (see From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by T. Desmond Alexander). That is, that the Bible, from Genesis 1 – Revelation 22 is a movement from the Garden to the Heavenly City, with the purpose being the expansion of God’s Kingdom and glory across the whole of creation. With that assumption in place, we will first look at what Scripture says about how we ought to view each day of our life. Then, we will apply that to a few different areas of our everyday life.

From the moment Adam took that fateful bite, mankind has been deserving of death and destruction (Genesis 2:16-17). What that tells us is that each and every day that we wake up is a gift from God. Every breath we take is a breath of grace. We are literally breathing in God’s grace every moment whether we realize it or not. My family and I are going to attend a wake later this very night. Tomorrow we will attend a funeral. The recent and unexpected death of a close family member is a painful reminder of everything I just wrote.

After having been seized by the Philistines and survived, David, the King of Israel, wrote, “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalms 56:13 ESV) This is more than just a praise to the God who Rescues. It is a statement of the purpose for which he was rescued. He was delivered from death so “that [he might] walk before God in the light of life.” He was allowed to live another day to walk before his God, not in pursuit of his own pleasures. David seemed to recognize this truth as he reflected on his salvation from his enemies.

This same David took what he had learned and applied it to all of mankind. He wrote, “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. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:10-12 ESV) More than 2,000 years ago this ancient king wrote modern science has proven about the lifespan of man. But, even more, he attached a charge to this sad declaration. Man would only live seventy to eighty years on average, so we ought to count how many days we have left and live them wisely. David knew that life was short. He also knew that life was meant to be lived on purpose.

David’s descendant and Lord, Jesus, spoke to this when He told this parable, “He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’” (Luke 16:1-2 ESV) As stewards of every breath and heartbeat we are given, we would be wise to not waste these very precious possessions we are allowed to manage each day. If we are not careful, the day will come when God no longer sees fit to allow us to continue stewarding the life He graciously gives us.

Finally, let’s look at what Paul wrote to the church in Colossae. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison–that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6 ESV) While we don’t have the space for a thorough exegesis of this powerful passage, we will try to take the main idea in regards to the purpose of this article. First, note the intentionality and intensity Paul calls for in prayer, “Continu[ing] steadfastly… being watchful in it.” This is all the time and with purpose.

Second, reflect on what it is they are to be thankful for – namely the very life they have, and specifically their life in Christ. Then, observe the purpose for which they are to live their lives, imitating Paul as he lived his, “declar[ing] the mystery of Christ.” With all of this in place we can better receive Paul’s charge to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” The time is the 24 hours we receive each day. We are to use that time to seek the expansion of God’s Kingdom through the declaration of the gospel. And it is with this in mind that we will now turn to our everyday lives and how we can better use our time for God’s purposes.

The mystery of the Gospel is declared in more ways than one. As we live our lives on purpose we can find ourselves declaring this mystery as we sit in our house, as we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise (Deuteronomy 6:7). Here are 3 ways we can live on purpose to declare the mystery of the Gospel for the expansion of God’s Kingdom:

  • Pursue Christ in your home. This means that we read our Bible in plain sight of our family. We pray in plain sight of our family. We admit our faults and seek forgiveness in front of, and from our family. Our home and family is the primary calling we have as believer’s to see God’s Kingdom expand.
  • Present Christ in your relationships. To present Christ means to present truth and grace. We are honest in our relationships, and we are honest in our speech. We do deceive, nor do we flatter for our own gain. We cover over the imperfections of others as Christ has covered ours. We are patient and forgiving as we wish others to be with us.
  • Proclaim Christ in your circles. Proclaiming Christ is done in a multitude of ways, but it is best done in our own circles. We have each been uniquely placed in a different circle of people with similar interests, life situations, and even trials. It is within these circles that we share Christ.

God has instilled in mankind the search for more. We all know deep down that we are meant for more than the consumption of food and drink, entertainment and luxury. We all return to our beds at one time or another reflecting on our life and wondering what on earth we are here for. We are here to see God’s Kingdom and glory expand across creation. Let’s live our lives intentionally, recognizing we are stewards of every breath and heartbeat, calculating the reality of the days we may have left, and knowing those days are given to us on purpose, with purpose and for purpose.


Recommended Books

By | 2018-01-31T02:38:48+00:00 August 17th, 2017|


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