Blogs written by Daira Curran for PurposeCity.

Amelia Earhart

What The New Amelia Earhart Can Teach Us About Being A Christian

William Shakespeare posed an interesting question once when he wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” I have often wondered if a name truly speaks volumes about who a person is. Those of you who have kids, perhaps you remember picking out a specific name for your baby because of its meaning. Or, perhaps, you recall not choosing certain names because of who that name was associated with in your past. We place such importance on names in our society, but what role do they play in our day-to-day lives?

As we explore the topic, I wonder if you have heard of the rather fascinating story making it’s rounds amongst internet circles – it’s one that bridges history with the present and it all revolves around the story of a young fearless woman with the very unique name: Amelia Earhart. The historical Amelia Earhart was first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and, today, her name is remembered for the legacy that she left behind which inspires woman to achieve greatness – whatever that greatness may be. However in 1937, as Amelia was bravely attempting to fly around the globe, she never completed her mission as she disappeared,  never again to be found. In fact, that very tragedy is still considered a mystery to this very day. Now, over seventy-five years later, another woman wants to fly the same route and essentially finish Amelia’s original dream. The catch? This new young traveler is also named Amelia (Rose) Earhart… but shares no DNA relationship to the first pilot. Amelia Rose will be the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft if she completes the flight plan of her role-model’s quest. She explained, “By recreating and symbolically completing Amelia Mary Earhart’s flight around the world, I hope to develop an even deeper connection to my namesake and also encourage the world to pursue their own adventures. Amelia believed that, ‘adventure is worthwhile in itself’ and it is that type of attitude that spurs us to seek the unknown, push our limits and fly outside the lines.” Therefore, truly, a name contains within it the potential to evoke emotion or even inspire average people to do great things.

Amelia Rose was inspired to fly because of her name and I wonder that if as Christians, have we generically labeled ourselves without truly being inspired to  fly outside the lines for the name of Christ? The name Christian means to be ‘of Christ’ and this means that there  is much expected of us when we say we are a Christian. We are, in effect, telling those around us that we are not only connected to Christ, but that we are of the same nature. It should be no surprise to us then that we are often called hypocrites by people far from God as we continually fall short to very definition of our name. Yet, the truth is, we aren’t defining ourselves by one mere act of bravery, such as Amelia is by flying around the world. Rather, we are labeling ourselves after a perfect man, in all His characteristics. It’s no wonder we are called ‘flawed’ so often! Yet, this is no excuse to sour His precious name. Like Shakespeare concluded, a rose is sweet regardless of what you call it and a true Christ follower displays His character despite the label. So, the question begs to be asked, are we living up to the name God has given us as His children? Are we following in Jesus’ footsteps, continuing to pursue the metaphorical flight plans that He wants us to finish? Are we seeking out the adventure He has for us? Are we honoring His name when we tell others that we are a Christian?

I have come to find that there is a lot that goes into a name and while we do come up short, as Apostle Paul also concluded in scripture, this does not mean that we give up. We are carrying the torch, leaving a remarkable legacy as we join our dying flesh with God’s sovereignty. We become a new creature, given a spotless name and a new start. We are Christians, not because we are good, but because we are His. Therefore, we must begin to make a conscious effort to give Christ’s name the honor it deserves, representing it well at all times. Paul encourages the new Ephesian Christians, who were once Gentiles like us,

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

We must remember that our name is tied to a new person, no longer bound by our former sinful ways, but rather evolved from corruptness to holiness because of God’s righteousness. This is the beauty of a name and the legacy that goes with it. While we may never fly across the globe and proudly boast that we have a heritage of adventure embedded in our name like that of Amelia Earhart, I would argue that we have something far greater and extremely newsworthy. We are Christians. We date back to the most remarkable time in history, when a perfect man asked a few average men to follow Him. Through this lineage, we are made into true followers and “Christians” – being of the very nature of God. How fascinating of a story is that? We bridge the history of one spotless man with the present and it all revolves around the very unique name we all share: Christian.

Failure

Failure and Succeeding at Things That Don’t Matter

What are you wonderfully failing at? I will ask this question again as surely you must be thinking you misread my opening line. What are you failing at? This is a question that I myself have wrestled with time and time again. However, after reading a quote by Bob Goff, author of the remarkably well-written book Love Does, I got a fresh perspective on this not so popular topic: failure. He concludes, “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I am more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” This quote hit like an arrow, straight to the heart. You see, I tend to get hung up on the first part of the quote: failing at something that matters to me. My guess is that I may not be the only one who lives with this burden and the ongoing pressure that comes from the need for approval and success. Yet, what about succeeding at the wrong things, isn’t that far more dangerous to the soul?

So I ask again, what are you failing at? Are you failing at a relationship with a loved one, a friendship, a job, a dream, finances, priorities, faith or another unmentionable roadblock that makes you pound your fists on the steering wheel as the GPS of life recalculates all your shortcomings? Personally, I have been there so many times, lost and devastated by the realization that I was failing, yet again, after so much effort was put forth. The truth is, man wasn’t made to be a punching bag and thus, failing should never knock you off your feet for long. Yet, how does any man have the determination to try, try, and then try yet again? The harsh reality is that some people do not recover from their failures, while others use their failures to propel them further ahead for the long-haul of life. Life requires the willpower to continue moving forward. God requires this too. After all, through failure and reliance on Him comes the character that only God Himself can bring beauty out of. I have come to see that while everyone loves success, a far greater man embraces failure. Likewise, Bob Goff takes it a step further when he reasons that it is better to fail and remain passionate, than to succeed in the wrong areas and not know that the triumph was pointless. It may be a blow to the ego to fail at something that matters, but to succeed and pat yourself on the back for the meaningless things in life is far worse. This, of course, reminds me of a story.

Paul, a Roman citizen and rather successful Jesus hater, radically changed the direction of his life when God intervened on the Road to Damascus. He went from succeeding in the wrong things to transforming millions of lives – a true way to measure success. Well, Paul was no stranger to listening to the voice of God, which in Acts 16:9-10 came to him through a vision:

“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

As the story moves along, we see that a woman named Lydia receives the Lord and opens her house to Paul and Silas. All is off to a successful start! Yet, the story is about to take an unexpected turn. As they are making their long trek, Paul’s second missionary journey from Jerusalem to Greece, they stopped along the way to minister to those the Holy Spirit led them to. One of these people happened to be a female slave who claimed to be a fortune teller. The Scripture tells us that this nameless woman was rather good at her profession and earned an abundance of money (talk about succeeding at the wrong things in life). Paul was bold in his faith and cast out the demons which possessed her. However, this angered the owners who were profiting off of this young slave girl. Next thing you know, Paul and Silas are being beaten for doing what God willed them to do and for following His guidance towards their end destination of Macedonia. Can you imagine being physically beaten for following God’s plan? This could have very easily felt like an absolute failure, but the reality was that God was about to turn what appeared to be a loss into a great victory. I am sure you have heard what happens next in the story. Paul and Silas are put into jail and they decided that instead of asking questions, complaining, or even becoming angry at God, that they would praise Him. Their lowest point, in what probably felt like a huge failure, became a moment of unfathomable success.  What if Paul and Silas had decided to just go through the city streets and tell nice looking people, “God bless you.” Sure, it may have felt like a success as people smiled, but would it have been what God would have called true success? Perhaps, playing it safe for temporary success is what Bob Goff would have considered pointless, more about a feel good moment than impactful Holy Spirit-led win.

The truth is, often times we look at life in the present moment and we forget that God sees the full story of what He is doing in our lives. This was the case with Paul and Silas.  Through their obedience, God displayed His glory and an entire family’s life was changed as Scripture indicates that the jailer and his whole family were saved. That was only made possible because Paul and Silas were willing to take what could have been considered a failed moment and instead allowed God make use of it. So, next time you look at your successes, measure them on how God sees them. Likewise, the next time you dismiss your failures, ask God if He could use them for more than a fleeting moment of sadness and instead, make a lasting Kingdom-building impact out of them.

Introverted Extroverted

Is It Better To Be Spiritually Introverted or Extroverted?

For those of you who have taken the Myers Briggs Test online, you may discovered what makes you, uniquely you. Everyone has a certain God-given wiring that makes them special and this wiring is necessary for reaching and loving others to whom they will be one day be sent to serve. As for me, I am an ENFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving) which means that I am people oriented with a deep emotional drive. The interesting thing for me personally is that some versions of the test will give you percentages and the last time I took it my test the results came back one hundred percent extraverted. This means that if given the choice to do any activity alone or with another person, I would always choose to be with someone else. The test was not lying as this is very true about my nature. You may be thinking – how cool is that? Or wow, that’s certainly not me. You see, this can be a doubled edged sword – especially when it comes to finding time alone with God. Now, for those of you who lean more to the introverted side of things, don’t worry, this isn’t all about extraversion. Instead, keep reading as you will learn that we all need to find a balance – we all need to become both introverted and extraverted at different moments throughout our days.

After expressing to a close friend my frequent feelings of loneliness, due to my need to be around people, she made a unique comment. You see, she could have easily agreed with me and said that this is just who I am and this would have served as an adequate response. Instead, she urged and challenged me to spend some time truly enjoying being alone. My initial reaction was simply, “easy for her to say, she tends to be much more of an introvert by nature than I am.” However, after giving it some thought, and some further discussion with this dear friend, I decided to look at Jesus’ life on earth for some inspiration on how to conduct our lives and govern our natural tendencies – be it extraverted or introverted.

So the question begs to be asked, was Jesus an introvert or extravert? What about when He ministered to others? Sure, we can argue that much of His story depicts time around his best buddies, the twelve disciples, and, therefore, this must mean He was a people person. Additionally, He clearly had no problem around the multitudes, speaking and sharing time with thousands of people, making any environment His home. Yet, we cannot write off that He also always made time to spend hours alone in solitude, praying to and worshiping His Father. Clearly, Jesus understood the value of both types of personalities: spending time around many people and rejuvenating through alone time. Here are two examples:

 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12)

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said…” (Luke 14:25)

Perhaps you know exactly where you fall on this spectrum and you are not sure what it means for your spiritual life. I, personally, have come to find that every personality trait is fair game for God to use. So if you find that you, like myself, desperately need people, don’t be afraid to be alone. God needs you to spend some time hearing His voice and being still. It is through the stillness that He ministers to you, so that, you can go back out and bless others. However, if you find what I am saying peculiar and your tendencies would be to stay inside  and read a good book as opposed to socializing, you are probably are more of an introvert and the idea of constantly entertaining seems exhausting. You probably find meditating on God’s Word and solitude much easier than being a social butterfly. And, sure, it may be easy to say that the extraverts can handle the crowds, but the reality is, God needs introverts just as much as He needs the person comfortable holding the megaphone.

We are all called to be missional and that means that we all must go out and serve others. Likewise, we are reminded through Jesus’ life, and those who faithfully followed Him, that nothing can replace time alone in His presence. It is through these encounters with His holiness that we receive strength to fight the good fight that He has called us to.  So discover who you are because God didn’t make a mistake when He made you – challenge yourself to grow by both taking in who He is through solitude and releasing His presence through the accompaniment of many.

Covenant

The Importance of a Covenant

“Do you promise?” Have you ever been on the receiving end of this question? Have you ever broken a promise or had someone break a promise to you? I am sure at one point or another we have all had our fair share of heartbreak when it comes to this word: promise. Thankfully, our relationship with God is not based on a halfhearted promise. Jesus didn’t pinky swear that if we loved and trusted Him, He would be in a relationship with us. No, instead He made much more than a promise, He made a covenant.

A covenant is different from a promise. A promise can be one sided and a promise is not dependent on another party doing anything. For instance, I can promise my husband that I will do the laundry and then not follow through with it. As you can quickly gage, a promise in today’s world does not mean it’s a guarantee. However, a covenant is much different. A covenant is made between two parties and is meant to never be broken. An example of this would be a marriage. However, because we live in an imperfect world, marriages sometimes fall apart. Yet, this is not the will of God. God desires marriage to be a covenant that reflects the relationship we have with Him. Often times in Scriptures, God refers to marriage as a picture of Christ loving His bride (true believers). Here is just one example of many,

 “Husbands. Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church….” (Eph. 5:25)

Therefore, because God made a covenant with us, and we are not in a one sided relationship that is based on promises, we must learn the value of what a covenant truly means for our walk with Christ.

Throughout The Old Testament Scriptures we can study many covenants that God made with men like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and David. The significance of these covenants still echo out and affect our faith today. However, the more I began to study covenants, the more I fell in love with the God I serve. I would like to share what I learned through a covenant made between two treasured friends: David and Jonathan. Here is what happened to signify the covenant that was transpiring,

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1Sa 18:3-4)

Now, at first glance, this may seem a bizarre way of beginning a covenant. Yet, this was very much based upon how God made covenants with men. Here are some questions you may be asking that I would like to answer:

Why did Jonathan exchange robes with David? What does this mean?

David was who God had appointed to be king of Israel through Samuel’s anointing. Yet, Jonathan was rightfully the next king in line. By exchanging robes, Jonathan was showing a sign of surrender, which was a way of giving his robe, or identity, away to David. In fact, as we go on in history, we see that Jesus, part of the Davidic family tree, did a similar thing for all of us. He became a man and took on our form  in order to cleanse us from sin. He humbled Himself and gave away His rightful rule and kingship (see Heb 2:14 and Luke 22:20).

What did the exchange of armor, sword and bow in 1 Samuel 18:4 symbolize?

When Jonathan gave David his weapons, it was a form of partnering and defending each other. Clearly, this was a risky move as David was still being sought after by King Saul. Yet, a crucial part of a covenant was protection (as the Scripture clearly stated). Likewise, Jesus came to defend and protect the weary and downtrodden, ultimately rescuing us all from our sins and becoming our one perfect defense.

David and Jonathan are good examples of keeping a covenant and understanding the importance of surrendering identity and defense. Likewise, we can see, with the example of a marriage, the importance of becoming one and honoring the other person by protecting their interests as your own. However, no covenant can be more powerful than a covenant with God. Think about the significance of God making a covenant with man (Abraham and therefore us also). When God made a covenant with Abraham there was one final step that must be mentioned: the shedding of blood.

In Gen. 22, when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a covenant is being made,

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.”

Abraham was confident that God would keep His covenant with him and provide an offering. There is power in a covenant and it cannot be easily broken. God Himself shed precious blood to provide not just a promise of Heaven to those who believed, but a covenant that they would be forever marked His beloved.

My hope for you is that you recognize through the example of marriage, friendship and God’s sovereignty with man through the shedding of blood, the significance of a covenant between two parties. We are able to enter into an impactful relationship with God because He exchanged garments with us, giving us new life for our old sinful rags. Additionally, Jesus became our defense to God, reconciling us back to Him. He shed his blood, a perfect sacrifice, to do much more than make a promise to us, rather He made a lasting covenant with us calling us His chosen people.

Spiritual Trash

Spiritual Trash

I have a confession to make….there is one household chore that I refuse to do. I try my best to contribute whenever I can, but this one thing falls on my husband… every time. What is this nasty chore that I wholeheartedly hate to do?  It’s a little thing called taking out the trash. Perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but the intoxicating smell of rotting old food makes my stomach turn.  I am thankful for the new Febreze trash bags, but honestly, they can only mask so much of the odor! Keep in mind, I live in the always sunny, forever warm, Florida – so the trash gets an extra boost during the summer months.  You are probably wondering by now though why I am ranting about something that everyone has to do….take out the trash. The reality is we would never dream about letting all of our physical trash remain in our house for weeks or months on end, but I would argue that we do this unknowingly when it comes to our insides. Sure, we put fast food and over processed carbohydrates in our systems, but I am speaking in a matter of the spiritual trash that we allow to rot and fester in our lives.  When was the last time you took out your spiritual trash? 

Back in the day I was a new, bright-eyed, ambitious youth leader and I had the great idea to test out this ‘theory’ with a bunch of good-hearted teenagers. I proudly announced, “Kids, this week we are going to take out the trash,” (as I carried in make believe trash bags stuffed with pillows). Let me tell you, I was in for quite the surprise. The challenge for all the kids was a week of taking out the trash in their spiritual lives. Every student was given a journal and they had to record everything that they digested that could possibly be poisoning their systems. The lists were long, to say the least, ranging from perverse music, to TV shows, to language that they heard daily and had become immune to at school. Some of the teens journals were pages upon pages for each day of that rather long week. However,  I wasn’t there to become their personal conviction – that can only come from the Holy Spirit.  Nor, was I there to point the finger, because I too decided to take out the trash in my own life and my list was just as long! It was a harsh wake-up call for us all.

So here’s where the challenge is passed on to you. First let me start by answering some questions that our flesh loves to ask in order to counter our spiritual need for purity:

Is this necessary?

This is vitally important as we honor God. Our bodies are His temple and we must realize that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth does speak. We are all filled with impurities that stop us from living correctly and we must attack these issues head on so that the enemy will not cause us to stumble. After all, who wants their life to smell like trash?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. “ Romans 12:2

Because of the fallen world we live in, is it possible to do this without becoming a hermit?

I am not going to lie, living life right is difficult and everyone has their own burdens to release at the foot of the cross. Most of the things we intake are not allowing us to be transformed but rather conformed. Yet, nothing is worse than living in denial. Nothing is worse than covering up layers upon layers of sins that rot away at our souls, without ever taking the time to clean up. It’s a clever trick that the enemy loves to play when you feel trapped by all of your sins (the trash in your life) without feeling God’s sovereign love and forgiveness that wants to cleanse you completely. There is freedom in taking out the trash.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Can I even do this exercise without feeling guilty and constantly falling short?

The reality is that even when we focus on this ‘exercise’ we will be reminded of just how tragic our shortcomings are. This sheds light on all of our fleshly cravings and all of our weak temptations towards sin. Paul was no stranger to this, especially when he spoke about doing the very things he shouldn’t do and not doing the things he knew he should do. In fact, it was a constant battle for him to choose God’s will over his desires and this is the Apostle Paul! So be encouraged, because Paul was constantly coming up short, just like we do, and he was in a constant state of preaching God’s good news.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

I encourage you to meditate on God’s word as you clean your life from its hazardous materials. Don’t be afraid to allow other strong Christians to keep you accountable, and remember to ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. There is no shame in admitting that this will be challenging and there is no condemnation when you are striving to honor God. He will honor your efforts and give you the strength you need when your flesh is weak. So, perhaps we should all go do my most dreaded chore. Let’s all go take out the trash knowing that when we do this, we will begin to look a little less like our filthy former selves and a little more like the God we love and serve.

Bride of Christ

The Bride of Christ

Let me paint a picture for you. It’s 10 am at a local coffee shop and the smell is intoxicating as espresso and sweet breakfast treats fill the air. I sit with my bakery indulgences and a warm latte waiting to meet a fellow Christian for the first-time. You see, I agreed to meet with a woman who was interested in learning more about walking with Christ. It wasn’t long before we began sharing snapshots of our lives and testimonies. Everything was off to a good start.

Then, the conversation took an abrupt nosedive as she said one of the most disturbing comments loudly for all the other listeners to hear, “the church is a whore.”  She said this statement without deep sadness, but as if she had determined herself the rightful judge over God’s universal Church. I immediately felt defensive, but I allowed her to continue. She proceeded to vent about the lack of correct Biblical teaching and how the Gospel has become so sugar-coated that we no longer, in her opinion, address sin head on. It took only a few seconds for it to become clear that she was angry! Flabbergasted by her persistence to point a finger at all the Church’s wrongdoings, I finally couldn’t help but say, “I understand your passion to see people live right before God, but remember God sees the Church as His bride and I am pretty sure, flaws and all, that He is madly in love with her.” Yet her comments resonated with me for the entire day.

Her statement, as offensive as it may be, is a bold one that makes my temperature rise. Surely I would never refer to the Bride of Christ in such a way as to call her this outlandish name, but I cannot deny that I and all of the true Christ followers are, for better or worse, unfaithful. In fact, it is in our very nature. While I disagree with the way in which the comment was presented (as I do not believe in bashing God’s places of worship), there is a story in the book of Hosea that could shed some light on her point. In Hosea, each chapter illustrates a comparison between the ever faithful Hosea and his wife (a former prostitute often lured back into adulterous affairs). The prophecy of Hosea centers on God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. Hosea 1:2 shares God’s agony over the betrayal of Israel,

 “For like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

Hosea was the prophet used by God to communicate these real emotions that he too had felt for his wife. One of my all-time favorite books is actually written about Hosea and is called, “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. This book vividly shows the relationship between Hosea and a fictional character (Angel) – a direct correlation to God’s pursuit of the Church. Can it be that God is constantly taking us back even when we deny Him our love? The answer is ‘yes’ – we are all unfaithful, yet we are still His spotless bride. This is so phenomenal to me that I thought I’d give a visual. If you are married, do you remember the moment before you said “I do?” Perhaps these are not the exact thoughts that were racing through your head, but the moment everything seemed new and wonderful. This is how Jesus sees us. He remembers the joy that He felt when we said “I do” to becoming His. We are not perfect; in fact, God was clear in communicating this through the illustration of Hosea and Israel’s disobedience. However, we cannot pain God by calling ourselves unclean when He has covered us in His righteousness through salvation.  There are two important points I would like to highlight:

We are unfaithful. (Romans 3:23)

If we were perfect, we would not need forgiveness; if we did not need forgiveness, we would not need a Savior. We are an unfaithful people. Don’t believe me, just look at our history, laced with wanderers constantly needing to repent for their sins. We too are these people who go astray, constantly falling short. Hence, the remarkable need for grace.

We are God’s spotless bride. (Revelation 19:7-9)

If you suffer from a constant cycle of guilt, this one is for you. You are God’s bride. He adores you and He sees you as His very own, for better or worse, as long as you remain in Him. Therefore, when referring to God’s Church, we must hold our tongue in bashing it for the sake of anger. We must be careful not to knock those in authority and those who God has called to serve His precious bride, us, the Church.

 

My prayer for you is that you remember God loves you enough to make it a permanent covenant. He did not give Himself because we deserved it, but because He saw us from the beginning of time as His and ‘very good.’ We must honor Him and His Church, always refraining from breaking His heart by lashing out against her. We are His beloved and may we never forget it!