Category Archives: 3 Purposes

Having Days in the Valley

We all long to be on the mountaintop, but most days are spent in the plains, and some, even in the valley. It is very easy to realize the nearness of God’s presence and fellowship with Him (purpose #1) from the summit. Not as easy in the valley. In fact, Our Enemy would have us perceive God’s absence, and despair in the plains and valleys.

In the Old Testament, Syria is Israel’s enemy and continues to assail them, just as Our Enemy does us.

And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. . .muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so. (I Kings 20:23-28 mouseover reference for whole verse)

The Israelites were people of the high hills. Moses was given the Law on a mountain. Jerusalem lay 4,000′ above sea level.  The Psalms consistently celebrate the heights and the mountains. The prophets were called to and from the mountain. As the mountains are around Jerusalem, so God is around His people (Psalm 125:2). It would be easy to conclude that God is mainly God of the heights, those mountaintop experiences we have when all appears to be going well and His nearness to us is easily realized.

That is exactly what King Benhadad of Syria thinks. ‘If I can just get the Israelites down off the mountain, things will change and I’ll have victory.’ Our Enemy seeks to do the same thing, to pull us down into the valley to see if our faith holds, to see if we really believe the Gospel we so easily espouse from the mountaintop. And so when Our Enemy is able to pull us into the plains and valleys, he stands and gloats like Benhadad presuming we are heading to our doom, outnumbered by our own sinful failure and lack of hope.

But there is one thing Our Enemy has forgotten, our God is not just a God of the mountains but a God of the valleys.

  And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.
(1 Kings 20:28-29 ESV)

The God that marches the heights also lies where the shadows are the deepest. He is God of life’s hilltops, where it is easy to believe. But what of life’s gorges, when circumstances or our own sin has brought us to a dark place bereft of natural light–can we then believe this Gospel? Can we have hope? Yes, he can provide us victory in the valley!

James S. Stewart points out a foundational fact.

The God of our joys is also the God of our sorrows. The God of the radiant times when it is easy for our heart to sing is also just as near when the foundations are shaking and our song seems a million miles away. Yes, He is with us even when we are in the self-created valley of our own sinful behavior. The valley is precisely why Jesus died and didn’t come merely teaching a good ethic–to offer us salvation and not merely morality. How do we know this? Jesus the revealer of God the Father shows us this, for Jesus performed miracles at both weddings and funerals. He is with you on your best day and worst, calling you to realize His nearness and His provision of victory!

So whether on the mountain, plains or in the valley, realize his nearness and don’t stop worshiping and trusting.




Quick Inventory

How well am I surrendering to God so that I am able to:

Purpose 1. Realize the nearness of His presence and fellowship with Him?

Purpose 2. Live in authentic relationships with others and invite ‘outliers’ into the family of God (community)?

Purpose 3. Steward His rule by reflecting His character to all of creation that I encounter (people and otherwise)?

Waive the white flag to God today. Allow empowerment.


A Deep Breaking of Purpose 3: Stewarding His Rule and Reflecting His Character

God originally designed us with the three purposes in mind, the third purpose being:

To steward his rule and reign in creation by reflecting His glory and character to creation.

God placed our great-great-great parents in the Garden of Eden to have dominion over the creation.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:26-28)

Humanity was called to steward God’s rule on behalf of God to the Creation. God shared this privilege with mankind. We were to have have dominion over creation as His caretakers, not to dominate it. And we were not to confuse our role with God’s role. We are the stewards, God is the owner. We are the managers, God is the Creator, for that is God’s position alone.

And how were we to steward his rule and reign? By providing creation a glimpse of God. We were created in His image so that we might reflect His glory and character to all of the Garden–His goodness, kindness, and mercy. We possessed that ability as we lived in His presence (purpose #1) and in authentic relational community (purposer #2). So as the moon reflects the sun, we were to reflect the care and supervision of God to the creation.

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . 
    So God created man in his own image,
        in the image of God he created him;
        male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:26, 27 ESV)

We were to be stewards of the King and His Kingdom, to ‘image’ God to the creation. And it was good…

But Then the Fall Happened

After the Fall, humanity ceases to steward God’s Kingdom and instead we begin to attempt to build our own kingdoms. We ceased to graciously have dominion over creation and instead tried to dominate it for our own benefit. We tried to play the role of God. This is clearly seen in the Tower of Babel account (Genesis 11:1-9 mouseover verse), where man decided they would be ‘just like God.’ Of course this leads to disaster, and we, when we choose to live apart from Christ, continue to take the same tact and yield the same results on a global scale–wars, terror, genocide, abortion, etc.–and on an individual level–dominating others for the almighty dollar, sexual gain, or position. We build our own castles and bastions of power. Our ability to accurately reflect God’s glory and character to creation was distorted like a tarnished fun-house mirror.

The Fall also affected creation as it attempts to dominate us. Instead of willfully yielding as in the Garden, the post-Fall creation requires man to toil to receive its fruits. To Adam, God says:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
        in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
    thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
        and you shall eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your face
        you shall eat bread, (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

And so Our Enemy used fallen creation to rail against humanity with disease, distortion, defects and yes, even  brains that are biologically susceptible to addiction, habitual sin, and hurting others. This biological crash-and-burn does not render us free of culpability, but it can compound our willful capitulation towards sin. As Christians, we don’t have to totally discount the addiction-as-disease model but we cannot completely concede our wrong behavior to it either.

So, here ends Act 1 of the Three Purposes. Humanity is left beaten and broken, exiled from Eden and aliens to the ability to fulfill God’s intended purposes. BUT GOD is infinitely good and had foreseen the Fall, and He had a rescue plan in place for us before He ever began creation. All was not lost, and all is not lost for you or me no matter how far we have drifted from God or sunken into the mire of our sin. There is Good News coming….stay tuned.




Circles: Who is in the Ring With You?

As I fight the brutal yet beautiful fight to live in grace and allow God to bring me to Christlikeness and to resist sin and addiction, I have noticed that there are three concentric circles of people with whom I must relate. I start with the outer circle and move inward.

The Circle of Concern

Those that hear of your struggles, addiction, battles and are truly concerned. They will call or text, and if they cannot reach you, they’ll begin pinging others who know you to see if they know anything about your condition. Often they feel they need to fix the situation. Many times they are attempting this fix to fix how they feel–ex. so they can feel better they did “something,” at least. Oftentimes, I am tempted to meet with them when their voice their concern, even if I know this isn’t healthy for me to spread my battle this thin. These people were frequently not deeply involved in my life before and perhaps something within me knows they shouldn’t be  in a more inward circle–geography, loose lips, lack of wisdom, or simply because my inner circles are already full of good folks , etc. I need briefly thank them for their concern via text or email and let them know you people supporting you. I feel I don’t owe them long explanations, if any.

The Circle of Care

These are the people who I do talk to much more often. They are typically those who were already deeply involved in my life, maybe before they knew all that was going on or maybe not. I need to let them remain in my life and interact with them, not push them away in shame or embarrassment. Some don’t know how to relate to what I an going through and some do. I need to simply receive their love.

The Circle of Accountability- 1/2 the Bullseye

This, for me, needs to be a much tighter sub-group of one or two people in my circle of care.  In the past I would do my spread my accountability across too broad a group of people. In this way, different guys no different slices of what I was struggling with, but no one really had the “whole pie.” I am know realizing the importance of having a single point of accountability or what some call a sponsor. I need this to be only one or two men. I don’t want them to do it if they are merely doing me a favor or if they feel they don’t have the margins of time to function as in the role well. I am also very selective and have some key criteria for who this needs to be. I feel like God has provided 2-3 people who fit and desire to ask two of them to serve in this role. Spill your guts to these people, the good, the bad and the ugly. Deal with both inner-emotions and outer behaviors.

The Circle of Family- The other 1/2 of the Bullseye

The brutal, bloody fight against sin most definitely impacts and involves my family to a larger degree than anyone else. These are the most important people in my life. While they cannot be my primary accountability, as that is not healthy for me or them, I need to be open with them to foster intimacy, by letting them “in-to-me-see.” I want for them to feel and understand, and me to feel and understand the deep sense of attachment and love I have for them. Be open about what I am learning and listen to them. Love them and receive their love.

I don’t need to confuse these circles or spend the wrong amount of time and energy with the wrong circle. Understanding my circles will be valuable to my journey and fight. This will provide me a clear community map.

A Deep Breaking of Purpose 2: Relationships and Community

Sin breaks down our ability to live out purpose #2: To live in authentic community (relationships), and to multiply that community by including others.

Perhaps one of the most damning things about sin is the fact that no matter how much we feel it to be a private event and struggle, it never is. Sin–even when committed in the most secretive manner–always effects others, particularly those that love us most. The damage done to the relationship might be because they become aware of a sin that deeply wounds them.  But even if loved ones don’t have an awareness of our sin, our sin causes such an inner decay that we cannot relate to them as we should. My sin causes great damage by eroding intimacy in all my relationships, especially the most key–my wife and kids. My sin has deeply altered those relationships. It has always been this way. Sin is never truly private. An individual’s sin always goes communal in its damaging of relationships.

The First Sin

The first sin affected intimacy and affection. Listen to Adam’s tone in terms of his wife. It shifts dramatically post-Fall as he blames God and passes the hot potato of responsibility straightway to Eve.

He [GOD] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
(Genesis 3:11-12)

But that is not the end of the descriptive breaking that sin brings with it.

To the woman he [GOD] said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
    Your desire shall be for your husband,
        and he shall rule over you.”  (Genesis 3:16-24 mouseover)

And so we see the damning relational aspect of sin. Some commentators state this is a sexual/love desire for her husband. But that explanation does not make sense in our given context. Instead, I take “desire”– hqvwt in Hebrew— to mean that sin brought with it a contest of wills, of power, as Eve now tries to ursurp Adam’s leadership to gain his position. And Adam, instead of kind servant leadership, now leads with a degree of tyranny and despotism.

The Second Sin

Sin’s relational breaking effect continues, as Adam and Eve’s eldest child Cain, becomes enraged that his younger brother’s offering is accepted and his is not. The effects of sin, in this case, lead to the ultimate in relational breakdown–murder.

    The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:6-9 ESV)

My Sin

When I examine my sin, particularly as related to addiction, I clearly see the damage it causes my loved ones. I see it in their pain and sadness. I see it in my physical absence. I hear it in their voicing loneliness while in the midst of my “presence.” I see it in their eyes. This now haunts me (yet I do possess hope in Christ!). In the midst of living in an addictive state, I  discounted this fact, self-rationalizing that my sin was contained in some kind of deep, inner compartment that didn’t have to affect my family and friends. This is one of the great myths of sin. Part of the engaging in the beautiful fight is looking clearly in the face the fact that my sin does cause relational damage. It cannot be contained. The antidote is to repent, turning again from our sin to the Gospel that in Christ, living in real, authentic relationship is possible, though no guarantee that this will come without struggle. In the classic twelve step world, this is the 8th step and 9th step. In my personal recovery, I have participated in counseling but never a Christ-centered twelve step program. I now am. I know it will be a painful yet joyful journey for my loved ones and me. Yet I am looking forward to God using it to keep me engaged and victorious in the beautiful fight and to undo the damage I have done to my most important relationships.

Lord, thank you for the hope you offer to undo this breaking and establish your purpose for me to live in healthy, transparent relationships. My flesh resists this, seeking the myth of protecting myself from emotional vulnerability and the urge to believe my sin only affects me. Shine your light clearly on this untruth and its ugliness as the enemy’s weapon. Let Truth prevail. Bring healing and empower me to daily surrender to You and to have this surrendering empower within me the passion and ability to be the husband, father and friend that I should have been. I trust this possible in Christ. Amen.


A Deep Breaking of Purpose 1: Broken Fellowship

In the Fall seen in Genesis 3, there was a deep breaking. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they passed on an ugly gift to each of us–a sin nature. For a long time, I viewed sin as something that made God angry–a wrong thought, attitude or behavior. I also clearly understood I had a sin nature as it raised up its head so often in my life. But there was a deeper breaking than this. What I have to consider fully is the degree that sin had broken or distorted God’s three purposes if we are going see victory and freedom.

P1: To fellowship with God in the nearness of His presence.

After Adam and Eve sinned, God appeared in the garden for another walk in the cool of the evening as He had time and time before. However, this time Adam and Eve, in shame, had hidden themselves realizing that they were naked. God asked them  the question that we, too, must answer, “Where are you?” An Adam did what we all tend to do. He pitched the blame like a hot potato elsewhere (Genesis 3:12 mouseover verse). And in doing so

The Fall continues to affect us in the same way. I, like others, tend to hide in shame in when I sin. I tend to make excuses and pitch blame. These actions only serve to make me less aware that fellowship with God that is available to me through Christ. At these times, I find myself being more of a deist, thinking that God is out there watching, rather than a theist, knowing that He is intervening and available. I tend to try to take control of things–attempting to covering myself like Adam in order to please God. I do what I heard a member of my recovery group recently say. I attempt to have a good day and then ask, “God, what do you think of me today?” as  if I were participating in some kind of giant make-it-up-to-you-God exercise. This is of course, ultimately ridiculous and futile.

God’s availability to me and my awareness of the nearness of His presence is only because of Christ and what He has accomplished that I cannot. He has restored the potential of Eden to me and to you as we live in union with Him. More to come on that hope in future posts. For now you and I must continue to dissect what is broken in us if we are able to have victory over our sin, our habits, our hurts, and our addictions.

Before the Beginning

Why did God create us? Was it because He needed another automaton to control so He could feel more Godlike? Was it because He thought He something was missing? No.  To understand His purpose we must go before the beginning. Before God created the universe and us, God was not lonely. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–the Three in One– ived in perfect relationship, perfect fellowship, perfect community.

John 1:1 gives us a veiled glimpse into this rich fellowship that God had with Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

“The Word” is Jesus, the Son of God. John writes that the Son of God was “with” His Father. John doesn’t use the typical Greek word for with. Instead, he uses the word pros. In selecting the word pros, John shows us that Jesus was not merely existing alongside the Father but that there was deep intimacy between them. Pros carries with it the meaning toward or facing a thing.

With this language, John paints a beautiful picture for us. Before anything was created, Jesus the Son was always turned toward the Father in intimate, personal relationship. The three persons of the Trinity enjoyed one another. God was fully satisfied in “hanging out” with Himself. He lacked nothing. He had no needs outside of Himself. He didn’t need to create us to be fulfilled or to give Him something to do on a particularly quiet day in Heaven. Thomas Scirghi offers us a beautiful metaphor of what God was doing before the beginning, “In love, the Father and Son [were] intertwined like dancers moving to the music of the Spirit.” God was having a eternal party with Himself.

If everything was perfect as it was, why did God create us?  

God is love (1 John 4:8 mouseover vs) and love always gives of itself. God, in love,  wanted to create the opportunity for us to share in the richness of the fellowship He was experiencing with Himself. If you are a parent, you can relate to this in some measure. You don’t have children because you are unhappy. You have children because you want to share the richness of our fellowship with them.  In this giving spirit, God created the heavens and the earth and put us, humankind, as the centerpiece of His creation. He wanted to multiply the eternal community and offer us the abundant, eternal life He was experiencing.

God’s Original Purpose for Us, Made Simple

God has a purpose for creating us. In the garden of Eden, He tells us that purpose through a narrative of humanity in a perfected state, unstained by sin. This is what our full humanity is to look like. These purposes are what God is moving us towards, even as sin and addiction fights against it. This is what we are battling for  in the beautiful fight.  Many times, we approach Genesis 1-3 as a modern Christians wearing our apologetic sunglasses. Our main purposes seems to be using the text for wrestling with those who are of a naturalistic evolutionary bent. This is a huge mistake, for this is not the prime reason Genesis 1-3 made it into our Bibles. YES, God is Creator of all things. That fact is vital.  (And whether you believe it occurred in six literal days or leave open the potential it happening over billion of years does not matter to me. In fact, for the point I am making here, your view of whether there was one literal Adam and Eve or the first couple were a metaphorical type of humanity doesn’t  matter, though I fall into the first camp.

 God established three purposes for us that are clearly seen in the story of Adam and Eve in Eden.

P1. To fellowship with God as we realize the nearness of His presence.

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day

P2. To live in authentic community (relationships), and to multiply that community by including others.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Genesis 1:28 …And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…

P3. To rule and reign on His behalf, by bearing and reflecting His image (character).

Genesis 1:26-28

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
    So God created man in his own image,
        in the image of God he created him;
        male and female he created them.
    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Throughout The Wretched Saint blog, I will reflect on the 3 purposes and what it means for recovery and the beautiful fight. You can follow this series by clicking on the category drop down category menu at the right. As I reflect on my own brutal yet beautiful fight to be who God desires me to be, I am realizing my processing of what sin–both Adam’s and my own–has done to distort these three purposes AND what God has done, is doing, and will do to restore me to His original perfected purposes is crucial to victory and freedom.