Life on Purpose: Identity Check

Written by: Emily Pelley

What defines who you are? What role, what responsibility, what title, defines your identity? We often play many roles in life- wife, mother, daughter, employee, friend, etc- all of which carry with them different expectations and benefits.

As a new mom, I feel like my sense of identity has been tranformed. For so long, my life was about myself and what I could do, but now…I find myself consumed with someone else’s well-being. Is she happy? Is she healthy? Am I being a good mom? I’ve realized that a big part of who I am now is defined by my little girl.

So what does this mean for my identity? I’m still the same person as I was before I became a mom, with the same past, but now suddenly I feel the enormity of my responsibilities to this little life. And it has pushed me to try to better understand…what makes me…me?

Is it my abilities? Is it what I do? Or who I love?

All of these things make up our story, but I think we need to be careful in what we point to as our identity. Because as followers of Jesus, we have adopted the identity Jesus gave us when He died on the cross for each of us.

In several places, the Bible talks about who we are as followers of Jesus:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 1 John 4:15

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17

And we are also reminded that this identity is not just a label but a source of strength:

With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.     2 Chronicles 32:8

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

You are a daughter of God- a “co-heir” with Christ. Before any other responsibility or identity you carry today, this is who you are. To live our life on purpose, we need to be confident in this identity; it needs to be at our core. If we can keep this as the centre of who we are, all our other roles will benefit from it. For myself, being a mom is so very important to me. Which is why I must, first, see myself as a follower of Christ. A close relationship with Jesus will empower me to love and serve my daughter, and fulfill all the other responsibilities I have in life. The strength God promises us will spread and reach into our families, our friendships, our responsibilities. What would it look like if we allowed our beautiful God to power our lives instead of relying on our own strength or resolve? We would live lives at peace- godliness with contentment (1 Tim 6:6).

Friend, discover who you are, believe who you are, and walk in who you are- the redeemed and loved child of God. Because nothing can change that.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  Romans 8:38-39

Life on Purpose: God’s Presence

Written by: Emily Pelley

This fall marks an important change for our family. We are a part of a team here in Halifax that is planting a new church, and we have just begun our weekly meetings last month. We are passionate about reaching people in our city with the hope and love of Jesus, and we are excited about what this next chapter will bring!

Mark 16:15 in The Message says,

“Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.”

I am excited for the churches in Halifax, for the people who are busy loving God and loving our communities. The heartbeat of our God is to see broken people restored and brought into a beautiful relationship with Jesus. And any way we can be a part of that is a huge blessing.

I want to challenge you today, wherever your journey has brought you, to not shy away from what you feel God has asked you to do. Being brave enough to step away from the comfortable or familiar is necessary for us to truly trust God. How else can He get all the glory from our lives? He is with us every moment, and asks us to get our strength, our peace and our hope from His alone. We need to be careful what we embrace in life. If we embrace security or comfort, it will not give us the strength we need. We must embrace Jesus- build our relationship with Him by reading His word and spending time with him.

I do not believe that the purpose of God’s presence with us is for Him to be some silent, passive observer. I do not believe that Jesus came to earth to die just so that we could have something to do on a Sunday morning. Jesus came to earth to change EVERYTHING. He opened up our access to God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 1:17). Ephesians 3:12 says,

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

Jesus changed our future, giving us a glorious destiny (Ps 73:24). Such amazing grace calls for more than polite reverence or passive acknowledgement. Jesus laid it all down for us and promised that if we do the same, we will inherit the earth (Matt 19:29). Your church, your family, your community needs you to be exactly the person God has made you to be. Be one who lives life on purpose- who does not shy away from the uncomfortable.

“Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”      (Joshua 1:9 MSG)

PS- I ask you all to pray for my church. It is called Nova Church. Here is the website with all the details: http://novachurch.ca/

Chapter Seven: That God May Be Glorified

Written by: Emily Pelley

Chapter 7

One of the pieces that stood out to me in this chapter is that people are watching me (que The Police soundtrack, 1983). But seriously, the people in my life- my family, my friends- as well as those outside my immediate sphere- my neighbours, my colleagues, the barista, the cashier…there are so many people with whom I cross paths who know me and watch my life, along with many others. What do they see? What stands out as my distinguishing feature? Is it my love for people? Is it my commitment to my church? Or is it my snarky remarks, my readiness to listen to a juicy tidbit about so-and-so, or to laugh at someone else’s circumstance.

According to Isaiah 61, followers of Christ are meant to be a reflection of Him to the people in our community, in our city, in our country. It goes on to say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord in them will be called oaks of righteousness that God may be glorified. This shifts the focus away from us to the God we serve. All we do, all the Spirit of God equips us to do, comes back to the glory of God.

Being a new mom has really made me check myself. Now I have a little girl who is learning and watching everything I do. What am I modeling? What words does she hear? What attitudes am I allowing to influence my behaviour? Like we have talked about in this book study, I am asking God to check my heart- to show me what sin or negativity has crept in that might impact how I live and speak. Because it’s bigger than me. This is her life too. And how am I setting up my daughter for success in both life and relationships?

If there was anyone who had an audience for his life, it was King David. I enjoyed reading Psalm 31 in this chapter, with an eye for what is being said about our words. In this psalm we hear David’s prayer to God about the difficulty he is going through. In verses 13 and 14, it says:

I have heard the many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror. My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life.  But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!”

Can we lay down our need for revenge, or our pride, long enough to trust God? Whether we feel justified or not to spread that piece of gossip because “she deserves it”…can we pause and ask God to direct our hearts for how we are to respond? Because above all else, He is listening. He walks with us every moment of every day. He is our strength, our courage, our hero…and He hears every word we speak.

Chapter One: Death and Life!

Written by: Emily Pelley

Chapter 1

I have been reminded a lot lately that the public front which we spend so much time and energy projecting. Like the face of a clock, it is probably the simplest, least influential part of a clock’s function. The small, intricate pieces that are hidden from sight are what actually makes a clock work.

The same can be said about our words. Our words are small, but it only takes one thoughtless word or comment, one hurtful piece of gossip to de-rail an otherwise positive conversation, to damage a relationship, and to break down what was given to us to build up. And we are warned about this in the Bible. Proverbs 18:21 says:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

As we begin this study of Karen Ehman’s book, we need to understand how influential our words are; more so than any public persona or image you may have created for yourself. What we say is important to God. I was amazed to learn from Karen that the words tongue, talk, speak, words, mouth, and silence occur 3,500 times in the Bible! I believe that what the scriptures emphasize we need to take careful note of.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.  Luke 6:45

I think Karen points out the key concept in this discussion of controlling our words- long before our words go wrong our hearts are in the wrong place (page 18). Our words reveal so much of who we are, what we care about. If we are struggling to control the words we speak perhaps there is an opportunity here for some self-reflection. Ask God to show you what has crept into your heart that is feeding the negative words of gossip that have more power in your life than they ever should.

As we read this book together, let open our hearts. Let’s be willing to be wrong and open to correction. We all have something to learn because we are all human who fall far short of perfection. I want my words to build up, to strengthen. I want my words to be tools God can use to help someone else.

 

 

Life on Purpose: Drop the Expectations

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life grappling with expectations; expectations I have for myself, and expectations that people have of me- of my behaviour and my achievements. As the church, we so easily slip into this “expectations” model, setting impossibly high standards that keep people in prisons of inadequacy and defeat. Even though we know that Jesus died to put the law in its place- that our salvation is by the grace of God requiring only our acceptance- we hold tightly to our set of rules, demands, restrictions and expectations. And this robs us of the joy and peace that Jesus has made available to us.

As followers of Christ, we know that it is not by our own goodness that we are saved. In fact, if it were, none of us would make it, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). So when we put Jesus at the centre of our lives- our imperfections, our issues, our mistakes all get swept under His perfection and love towards us. It is a beautiful picture- this Amazing Grace.

According to Isaiah 61, followers of Christ are meant to be a reflection of Him to the people in our community, in our city, in our country. It goes on to say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord in them will be called oaks of righteousness that God may be glorified (verse 3). This shifts the focus away from us to the God we serve. All we do, all the Spirit of God equips us to do, comes back to the glory of God.

Living life on purpose requires us to re-examine the expectations we have heaped on ourselves and on those around us. Why? Because if our purpose is Jesus, than our lives do not have room for anything that does not point back to Him.

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what you do, where you’re from, because the one thing that sets the church apart on the planet is the grace of God extended to anyone- ANYONE- who would believe. We have Good News to declare to the poor- that Jesus has paid the price- we get to walk in all the strength and power that is His because He is our Father (Rom 8:15). Wow.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1

Life on Purpose: Where dreams begin

Written by: Emily Pelley

One of the things I truly love about God is that His dreams and plans for us are way bigger than we could ever come up with (Jer 29:11). I think sometimes we pray that God would just help us out so we could just barely manage to achieve that personal goal, or get that job, or heal that broken relationship. I think what we forget a lot of the time is that God is not at all worried or stressed about His ability to come through. We make the mistake of seeing an all-powerful God through the lens of our own human frailty.

God desires our lives to be lived with Him. That every day we would know Him more and understand His character. When we are in this relationship with Jesus, He puts dreams in our hearts for what this life could look like when we are surrendered to His plan. He wants our lives to be beacons of hope that point back to Him. So, what do we need to understand about the dreams God has put in our hearts? The vision that God has given us for our lives and the lives of our family members?

While we trust in the dreams and vision He gives us, the answer is not in seeing a final picture, but in the daily experience that contributes to the intricate tapestry of our lives.
If God has put on your heart the people in your community who are in need, you need to ask yourself- what do you have to contribute today? What love can you show? How can you make a difference? I find a lot of people become overwhelmed with these questions, often sighing with discouraged resignation, but how can I fix things? How can I make anything change?

Let me encourage you. God is not asking you to fix everyone’s problems, to heal broken hearts, to restore what was lost. No, that’s His job.

What He is asking you to do is to be faithful and take a step out. Love someone. Show kindness. Write that song that has been on your heart. Have that conversation you know needs to happen. In the book of Zechariah, it says:

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
Zechariah 4:10

This verse is really calling out our pride which so often points us away from what needs to be done today with an attitude of, “oh someone else can handle that”, or, “God has something bigger for me to do”. Let’s examine our hearts. What are we not doing today because we feel God has something bigger and better for you to do?

Who knows…maybe someday you will lead the biggest rescue mission in the country, or be a world-famous author, or the prime minister of Canada! But today…what does today look like? It looks like living life on purpose- not dismissing anything as too small or ineffectual. God rejoices to see the work being done. So if it is in your path to do, could this not be an important piece of the larger picture- the dream- that God has for you?

The whole point of this life is to walk each day, each moment, with Jesus. Don’t put off an opportunity today to work, to show love, to believe God for your dream. And trust that God will bring together all things for your good (Rom 8:28). Trust Him with your dreams and walk faithfully- purposefully- through each day.

Have you never heard?
 Have you never understood?
 The Lord is the everlasting God,
 the Creator of all the earth.
 He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
 He gives power to the weak
 and strength to the powerless.
 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
 They will soar high on wings like eagles.
 They will run and not grow weary.
 They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Inspiring Justice: Living out God’s call to His Church

Written by: Emily Pelley

Proverbs 31:8, 9 has profoundly impacted my heart:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

This passage has become a “life-verse” for me; one that I am seeking God in every day for His direction. I have grown up in the church, and have seen programs come and go. But what remains constant is the mandate on the church to care for the poor and to stand up for justice in our communities. I believe this is constant because it is in line with the character of our Amazing God to bring restoration and hope to a lost and broken world.

Over the years, God has impressed on my heart a passion for social justice. One issue that has grabbed my attention is human trafficking. The majority of my research in my career thus far has been focused on children in armed conflict and the impact of human trafficking in their lives and their communities. It was a startling realization for me when I learned of the extent to which human trafficking exists here in Canada, not to mention in my home city of Halifax.

Global estimates range from 10-30million victims of human trafficking- which is essentially modern-day slavery. The sex trade, forced labour and domestic service, child soldiering, organ trade- all of these make up this overwhelming number. The RCMP estimates that there are approximately 800-1200 people who are trafficked in Canada every year- a significant number of those victims are themselves Canadians. As our law enforcement and policy makers work to combat this crime, there is a role for us all to play in prevention. Helping to raise awareness about this problem, identifying what makes people vulnerable to being trafficked, and discovering how we as community members can do our part to fight human trafficking.

I read an awesome quote recently by Francis Chan:

“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
I am challenged by this as I am so often tempted to figure things out on my own; waiting for God to come through is not my natural response to a challenge. One of the main lessons I have learned recently is that God has been actively working in my life even in moments that seem ordinary, or opportunities that seem random. Looking back over my work, my volunteering, and even my relationships, I can see God’s hand guiding me through to the place He has me today. This challenges me to trust Him because He is a faithful God!

I am learning that if I want to walk in the fullness that God has promised me- if I want to see social injustices end, see healing in my city, see brokenness transformed into a glorious destiny- then I need to leave my comfortable way of thinking and living. When people disappoint, God never disappoints. If His faithful promises are our armour and protection (Ps91:4) then all we have to do is find our strength and purpose in Him, and our faith will be secure.

Life on Purpose: Being Courageous

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have always been intimidated by the idea of courage. Whenever I heard that someone was courageous, I always pictured a strong, powerful individual who despite all odds persevered through a challenge. Having recently watched the new Wonder Woman movie, that character embodies what I always thought courage looked like. For a long time I never considered myself a courageous person because I was fearful. I saw a challenge and I felt afraid. And while sometimes I was successful, I always thought I missed the “courageous mark” because of my fear.

The mistake I made was thinking that courage is an absence of fear, when in fact that is not true. Courage is the resolve to move forward despite fear.

Joshua 1:9 says,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Here is we see that we are commanded to be courageous. We are also commanded to not be afraid. Being afraid means we are in a state of fear where it controls us and guides our actions. This is what we are instructed to overcome. However, we are not asked to conquer fear through our own awesomeness. Look at the end of this verse. Be courageous and don’t be afraid because God will be with us wherever we go.

There is so much we can be afraid of. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be an easy, default reaction to many parts of life: relationships, motherhood, finances, etc. But a life lived on purpose is not characterized by fearful decisions but powerful ones. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are reminded that as followers of Jesus, the spirit that we have been given by God is not defined by fear, but by power, love, and self-discipline.

Does this mean that you will now never be afraid? No. But being courageous means that we will move forward despite the fear that could so easily cripple us. We move forward because we do not go alone. This beautiful saviour, Jesus, has given us the greatest call- to know Him and walk with Him, whatever may come our way. This is the picture of a life on purpose.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
Mary Anne Radmacher

Life on Purpose: Snapshot

Written by: Emily Pelley

I recently downloaded transcription software on my computer. The purpose of it was to take audio files and transfer them in to text. How it does this is the software will search your computer and try to learn how you talk and what words and subjects you use often. I even had to read one of its prescribed texts so that it could learn my voice and intonation.

Pretty impressive, right? A great idea in theory, I grant you. But sadly it failed; comically failed. When I uploaded an audio file to be transcribed, the text that was produced had NOTHING to do with the audio content! After I had a good laugh, I uninstalled the software and got on with my work.

As I read the garbled text that was produced, I noticed that there were definitely some themes. Looking at this text you could see what I spend a lot of my time talking about and working on: babies, Jesus, refugees, love, gluten free, trafficking, church. While the final product didn’t make sense, I could see that it had drawn from real emails and documents on my computer.

This got me thinking. What would it look like if this transcription software could be used on your life? What words would be drawn to the surface? What attitudes? What dreams?

In the book of Luke, chapter 6, it says this:

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

If we are going to live life on purpose, we need to look deeply and honestly at where we have placed our heart because from it will come the rest of our lives.

Life on Purpose: Compassion

Written by: Emily Pelley

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of compassion. What is it that moves us beyond feeling to action? We see so much heartache through our news channels, on social media, and right here in our own neighborhoods. The overwhelming deluge of pain often leaves you feeling stunned. And so we are often left in paralyzed apathy, never thinking we can actually do something to make a difference.

I know I have been guilty of this- of turning my gaze away from what I thought was an indistinguishable haze of pain. That was someone else’s problem, someone else’s mistakes, someone else’s misfortune. Yet in my bible I read that it is to “the least of these” (Matt 25:40) that I am called to show love and compassion. Because the spirit of God in me actually has the power to set people free. Because, after all…that’s what He did for me.

The purpose of God’s presence with us is not for us to be some silent, passive observer. I do not believe that Jesus came to earth to die just so that we could have something to do on a Sunday morning. Jesus came to earth to change EVERYTHING.

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matt 20:34

If we are to live our lives on purpose, we do need to be people of compassion. Let compassion grow in your heart. Allow yourself to be affected by the needs around you, and ask God to show you what you can do to make a difference. Though we have missed the point if we think it is not “big” or “important” enough to bother doing. There is something we all can contribute to our world. Let’s be compassionate people not just in word but in deed.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish.” Henri Nouwen