Finding Purpose

I thought Little Ricky on the “I Love Lucy” show was the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Not true. His name is Keith Thibodeaux. Keith’s life almost became a far worse Hollywood tragedy than mistaken identity.

Arnaz selected him for the popular show in 1955 because he could play the drums. Later, he made appearances on “The Andy Griffith Show” as Opie’s friend Johnny Paul. As he aged, Keith began to realize his good fortune. He asked his father, “Why did God pick me to do this?” His father answered, “God’s got a purpose for you.”

That line can a platitude, a throw-away response from someone who doesn’t know what else to say. But that doesn’t make it less true. That thought became a lifeline to Keith after his parents divorced due to his father’s infidelity. He was angry at his father, show business, Hollywood, and ultimately at God. He turned to the party scene and the occult. He admits he began to hear tormenting, suicidal voices.

At the point of despair, Keith thought about God’s purpose. He prayed, “If you’re real, if you take me out of this mess I’ve made of my life, then I’ll serve you.” He attended a church service and had an intense experience. Sensing he was in the presence of Jesus, he felt unworthy because of his sinful lifestyle. He felt the Lord saying, “That’s why I died.” That day, he placed his faith in Jesus as his Savior. He said, “I had a whole new perspective on who Jesus is and what He did for me on the cross in dying for my sins, taking my sins.”

At the time, he was the drummer for the rock band, David and the Giants. He shared his faith with them and they also trusted Christ. In 1977, they became a Christian band. Keith married dancer Kathy Denton, and in 1986 they founded Ballet Magnificat!, a Christian outreach ministry. His search for purpose begun as a child bore fruit in his life as an adult.

What is your ultimate purpose? The Bible says you are “created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand.” (Eph. 2:10). It says, “He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit” (John 15:5). The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches your purpose is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Taken together these mean you find fruitful purpose by abiding in Christ, which glorifies God and brings joy into your life.

Looking over his life Keith concludes, “God has used dance, he’s used Ballet Magnificat, he’s used David and the Giants to change people’s lives, through what the Holy Spirit does through us. It’s all about Jesus.” If “Little Ricky” can find purpose, so can you.

Not Going Away

I admire Peter Boghossian.  The atheist professor refused to be muzzled and resigned from Portland State University.

He couldn’t continue teaching critical thinking and ethics due to university policies.  He said, “Students are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions.”  He called the school “a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.”

Boghossian joins Christians in advocating for open inquiry. Censorship prevents strong arguments from seeing the light of day.  It shines the light on pre-determined conclusions, allowing weak evidence to be the only evidence. When people are denied access to robust dialogue about what’s true and what matters, they parrot as their own the opinion of those who control the dialogue, all the while believing they are expressing an autonomous opinion.

We are left with a culture that mocks the Creator’s design for humans and the best expression of our humanity. That disordered view of reality creates victims. Christians engage our culture, but changing culture is not the end game.  We want people to rise above the cultural confusion, to escape the cultural triviality and idiocy that leads to despair and hopelessness. Those victims need to hear the real story.

We tell that story with scientific evidence that supports intelligent design. We appeal to the logic of objective moral values pointing to God. We share historical evidence that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. We respond to our friends’ opinions asking, what do you mean? How do you know that is true?  What difference does that make? What if you’re wrong? The Truth will set you free!

Jesus engaged skeptics.  He identified the problem – “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin,” and offered the solution – “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). Even though people refused to believe Him, He lived, died, and rose again to make it real. Paul reasoned with thought leaders in the Areopagus. He mentioned “the times of ignorance,” and the coming judgment. They sneered when he revealed that God raised Jesus from the dead. But Dionysius and Damaris heard the real story, and believed (Acts 17).

To follow the examples of Jesus and His servant Paul, we continue to engage the world we live in.  We are called to such a time as this.  With joy and hope, we beggars show other beggars where to find bread. Intolerance and cancel culture will not muzzle us. We love and are willing to associate with people who would shut our mouths. Our lives make the truth real, and we are not going away.

Season of Light

The nip in the air and the Labor Day weekend signal a new football season. Hope springs eternal for sports fans. For some it’s a fun game, but others look for a psychological boost from their team’s wins. The new season is their window of hope.

This year, Tim Tebow had a shot at restarting his NFL career as a tight end for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but no. Tebow and Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence have both been outspoken about something unaffected by the football season – their faith. Lawrence said, “I put my identity in what Christ says, who He says I am.”

I recently became aware that basketball standout Stephen Curry is also an outspoken Christian. Curry began his professional career in 2009. He has been named an NBA All-Star seven times and the league MVP, and has won three NBA championships. He said, “I think God has put me in this situation to change this perspective on what it is to be a man of God and a player in the NBA.  I want to uplift His name.  That’s at the forefront of why I play the game.”

What matters most to these men is not an athletic season but a life of walking with the Lord. Because they responded in faith to the gospel of Christ, they see life in the light of God’s sovereignty. That can work for you, too, as life comes at you in seasons. Your children leave childhood behind. You change jobs. Retirees contemplate what is next. Relationships change. Loved ones pass away. You have successes and failures.  But these are only temporary seasons.

Jesus said, “For a little while longer the Light is among you…While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light” (John 12:35-36). He is that Light, and He invites you to embrace this as your season of response. To believe in Him is to join Tebow, Lawrence, and Curry as a son (or daughter) of Light. Seasons come and seasons go, but the season of Light is forever.

Your Ebenezer

God help us. That’s a prayer, not a swear. How often those words escape our lips upon hearing news of Afghanistan, COVID, and American politics. You do remember He already has helped, right? You have to remember that to keep your sanity.

God’s people wanted to remember. In ancient times, God gave them a victory. He sent thunder to confuse their enemy so they could reclaim their cities. Samuel set a symbolic stone near the scene of the victory and named it Ebenezer, which means “rock of help” (1 Sam. 7:12).

One evening when I lived in Haiti, I noticed the reflection of a significant fire nearby. I went outside and saw in the middle of the dirt road a fire consuming household items and various containers. A local voodoo practitioner was burning his occultic paraphernalia. In his advanced age, he embraced faith in Christ. The fire was his public recognition of God’s help. It was his Ebenezer.

The U.S. has its Ebenezer, too. At 555 feet atop the Washington Monument, the highest structure in Washington D.C., an aluminum cap displays the words “Laus Deo,” meaning “praise be to God.” In 1885, Americans reached to the heavens with the moving sentiment. It was their Ebenezer, and ours.

We have a rock of help that is more than symbolic. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He could promise that because as He said, “I and the Father are one” (v30). Jesus shows you a reality that is beyond what you see, beyond what happens today, and beyond the bounds of time. Your response, your Ebenezer, is to present yourself as a holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). The beautiful hymn lyrics say, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by Thy great help I’ve come. And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”

Whenever the news makes you want to utter, “God help us!” let it remind you that He already has. Raise your Ebenezer by presenting yourself to God as a living sacrifice, your greatest act of worship.