Chapter 1: Who Created You?
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”
- John 15:16
You are here on this earth. You know who your parents are and the circumstances that brought you into this world. But your parents just followed the laws of nature to bring you into this world. Who established those in the first place? Who really created you?
This is a question that we all must answer in our lives. The answer is simple but has profound implications for our lives. God Himself created you. Psalm 139:13 says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Who knows you more deeply and intimately than anyone on this earth, even your parents or yourself.
Now, that may sound like a charming story to warm our hearts. But truly consider the implications of this. God envisioned you before you were even conceived. He put together a divine plan and purpose for your life that only you can fulfill. He brought you into the world and raised you up and nourished you until this very moment where He is calling you into your God-given mission.
Why did God do this? Why did He create you? Again, the answer is simple yet profound. God created you because He loves you. You are precious and irreplaceable to Him. He created you with His image upon you because you were that special to Him. God desired that you would be a person living with His likeness radiating from you. There’s nothing God wants more than to share that special bond with you.
This means that God has designed us and brought us into this world to love and be loved. He created you for a personal, intimate relationship with Him. As you go through life, He desires nothing more than to walk by your side through every moment. God isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and watch the events of your life unfold. His vision was that He would be part of every page of your story.
Who is this God who created you? He is the one and only God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it. He is three, yet He is one, as expressed through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful mystery and unlike anything else we have ever known. Through the person of Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself to us and brought us ever closer to Him.
God has helped me to write my own story. He showed me in a profound way that He is my Creator. He did so through my upbringing and relationship with my parents. I’d like to share the first part of my story with you here.
I was born on August 15th, 1972. During delivery, I literally cracked the bottom of my mom’s tailbone. Let’s just say I was born a big baby with an even bigger head. What this meant is that my mother was bedridden for the first couple of weeks of my life. This situation had Mom confined to the bed and I had her full attention. This has an impact on me to this day – for those of you who have read The Five Love Languages from Gary Chapman, physical touch is my love language.
Here are a couple of things about me that have been a part of my qualities since day one. The first is that my greatest strength is my greatest weakness – my pride. This helps me do things that so many others would not try to attempt. Yet, at the same time, this has been the biggest obstacle to building my relationship with Jesus. The second thing that you need to know is that I have always been called to fatherhood. I have known this since day one.
During my formative years, I went to elementary school at St. Joseph’s in Marietta. A story I like to share from my childhood has to do with one of my first experiences at confession. I remember being terrified, waiting in line for confession, because I could not think of anything I had done wrong, and therefore I had nothing to confess. I proceeded to make up a story about dropping my mom’s flower pot and blaming it on my brother. Of course, I had no idea of how to handle this moral dilemma once I had said this – I guess that looking back on it I got what I was looking for- something to confess.
My first experiences of God’s love came from the relationship with my family and especially my parents. I have always felt that no matter what I did – they would love me. My parents raised me with a sense of responsibility and they challenged me to a higher calling. They raised me to believe in my innate goodness – that I was a good person, and that I was worthy of love. They provided a spiritual foundation that would one day become critical to my journey.
My story and identity started with my parents, but it came into its fullness in God. The first place we form a sense of identity and purpose is with our family. The place we find our ultimate identity and purpose is in the Lord. This is the path to finding and living out our God-given mission.
This is the reality we all must live out, and it starts with knowing who created you.
Chapter 2: What is Humankind’s Backstory?
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
- Genesis 1:26-27-
We all have a personal backstory that has come to shape our lives. Those experiences have made us who we are, right down to our core. It’s important to reflect on and understand how our backstory has brought us to where we are today.
But we also share a collective backstory. We, as people, have come to the day and age we know today through a common backstory that has come to define the world we live in today. That story is told throughout the Bible. If we are to live out our God-given mission in this life, we must understand the circumstances that brought us here in the first place.
It all started in the Garden of Eden. God created the world and everything in it. His crowning achievement of creation was humanity who He made in His image. He shared a personal and profound relationship with these people, Adam and Eve. The Bible even tells us that He would take walks with them in the Garden in the cool of the day! That is a beautiful scene to imagine.
Sadly, things change when the people God had created chose to be disobedient to His single command: Not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve was deceived by the serpent and Adam followed her in her sin. Because of this, they were banished from the Garden of Eden. Their relationship with God was fractured. Sin then came to taint human hearts, and the world itself, in a way that people could no longer control.
The problem became worse and worse. No matter how many chances God gave humanity and no matter how many times He intervened on their behalf, they continued to get lost in their sin and disobedience. We see this throughout so many stories in the Bible.
For instance, things had become so dire during the life of Noah, that God found nobody but him to be righteous. God decided a reset was necessary, washing the earth clean with a flood and leaving only Noah and his family to start things anew. Things must have been pretty bad for such a drastic measure! But that’s just how bad sin had infected the beautiful world God had created.
Then there’s the story of God’s people, the children of Israel. There can a time when they found themselves captive and living lives of slavery in Egypt. As you can imagine, this was a crushing and tragic way to live. They had no freedom, they had no homeland, and they endured frightening cruelty by their Egyptian masters on a daily basis.
They cried out to God in the midst of their pain, and God responded in a remarkable way. He intervened on their behalf, bringing about a chain of events that led to their subsequent freedom from slavery in Egypt. Not only that, but He promised to lead them to a land that would become their very own, what would come to be known as the Promised Land!
God makes all of these things happen for the people. They have the freedom they so desperately asked for. They have a homeland that brings them a place to call their own and the prosperity of God on their side. God has brought them abundant blessings in every way!
But what happens? Sin rears its ugly head in their hearts nonetheless. They contain to live sinful lives of idolatry. They grumble and complain to and about God. Then, the fruit of their sin manifests in their lives and they experience trials of many kinds because of the lives they are leading.
This all sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s our story as well, and it has led us to where we are as a people today. We are still stuck within an endless spiral of sin. It has tainted the hearts of everyone in the world. This tendency toward sin has led society as a whole further and further away from God and His truth.
This is precisely why our God-given mission is so crucial to find and live out. The world is in desperate need of God’s children to raise up and manifest the reality of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Our God-given mission has been given to us in order to combat the darkness that enshrouds our world in light of our common backstory. Through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can make changes for the better and set history on a different course.
In Matthew 11:2-5, we hear a beautiful story that shows us the power of the Kingdom of God as it breaks into our world:
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
This is the power of God’s Kingdom breaking into Creation. This is the kind of work that He empowers and calls us to do. Yes, we live in a fallen world as determined by our collective backstory. But we together, as God’s children on a mission, have to power through Christ to write a new chapter in our story going forward, something that’s going to change the world for the cause of the Gospel. That’s what living out your God-given mission is all about.
Chapter 3: How Did God Come and Fix the Problem?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
- John 3:16
Before Jesus’ birth, God knew that something different, and unprecedented, had to be done. Because of this, God chose to take on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ in order to bring us salvation. This is what is known as the incarnation, and it is at the center of our faith.
Why is that? Because it changes everything. Jesus was fully human. He grew from being an infant to an adult. He experienced all the realities and challenges that exist being a person living in a fallen world. Through it all, He led a perfect, sinless life. Then He offered Himself up for all of us, taking on the punishment we all deserve, paying our debt, and breaking the hold that sin had over our hearts.
Through this, He won us victory over sin and death. That’s why we experience boundless freedom in Christ. This is all possible through the story of how God came to fix the problem we experience because of our common backstory.
Before Jesus’ birth, the people were anxiously waiting for the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament to arrive. This Messiah was promised to them through the prophecies they held dear in the Scriptures. Time and time again, they had broken their covenant with God, becoming exiled from their land and living under the oppression of foreign nations. Each instance this occurred, their hearts longed more and more for their savior. They began to realize that they could never repair their relationship with God on their own. They needed help, and thankfully, God was eager and able to provide it.
The Jewish people were serious about their religion. They held fast to the many laws within the Old Testament. Their entire experience of connecting with God revolved around keeping the laws to an extreme degree. But sadly, no number of laws could ever truly bring them into a right relationship with God once again. The darkness that had entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience had separated the people from God, and this is what they felt they needed to do in response to it.
But they didn’t realize that it could never be enough. The fall of humanity tainted people’s hearts in such a way that something miraculous needed to happen to cleanse them, something far greater than the law. Thankfully, God had something much bigger planned for them. Redemption would come soon, along with a profound change in God’s relationship with humanity.
There was the promise of the Messiah who would come to save humanity long before His footsteps imprinted the Earth. This Savior was needed because of the power sin had gained over people’s hearts. Ever since sin entered the world in Eden, people’s hearts had become tainted with it. No matter how many laws they strictly followed or how holy they attempted to live, nothing could bridge the gap between them and God. Only Jesus could do that.
Then came Jesus, the one who was promised. He was both man and God. Jesus was God’s answer to the plight humanity faced. It’s a beautiful mystery how Jesus was both God incarnate and God’s Son all in one. He lived a perfect life and reflected God’s love in every way. His physical lineage can be traced through history, coming from the line of David as promised to God’s people. His spiritual lineage can be traced to all of us who profess His holy name.
Jesus brought light to pierce the darkness that had enveloped the world. He brought hope to people who had lost all hope. Most importantly, He brought passion back into people’s relationship with the Lord. He taught the people that having a relationship with God was about much more than keeping the law. He called out their error, pointing to the fact that they had focused on the law so much that their hearts had slipped far away from God.
Jesus’ mission was to correct this grave error and provide a new way of approaching God unbound by the law. That’s why He gifted the people with grace. He gave people the opportunity to let their eternal punishment pass them by, instead taking it on Himself. On the cross, Jesus bore the full weight of humanity’s sin and took the punishment meant for everyone else. He did it as an act of love and as a way to break the chains of sin that had bound the people’s lives.
In doing so, He brought everyone true freedom. God’s people could now have a passionate, intimate relationship with the Lord once again. Instead of focusing on the limitations of the law, they could now focus on the boundless love that God has for them. Jesus also sent the Holy Spirit to guide them, imbuing them with the spiritual gifts to do powerful deeds for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. The entire framework of faith in God had been changed. Through Jesus, God created a new and more powerful way to connect with the people He created. He did it all because of His unconditional love for them.
God’s people no longer had to be lost and distanced from God. Jesus used grace to bridge the gap the law could not bridge. This is the reality that we find ourselves in today. When we accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives, our relationship with God is restored. We can approach Him directly through prayer and live out our days by His side. We can embrace the grace He so freely gives and take hold of eternal life. The promise has been fulfilled, and the Messiah has come.
This promise from the Scriptures is foundational for our faith. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection provide the very basis of our faith. We have the opportunity to step fully into our role as children of God and enjoy a personal relationship with Him all through what Jesus did on the cross.
Jesus offers us freedom, the freedom to realize the full extent of the God-given potential that’s been placed within us. When we live by the ways of the world as we did in our life before Christ, what seems like freedom is what is truly holding us back. We are sucked into the meaningless, unfulfilling, and harmful spirals of the world around us. We think we are living and acting in freedom when instead we are merely bound to life-draining sin.
But Jesus comes and breaks those chains. When He does, we no longer have to return to them. We are truly free! That’s why it says in John 8:36 that “If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” He grants us the power to walk forth boldly into the new life He has won for us with His victory on the cross. He has broken the power of sin and death forever, meaning that we are no longer slaves to it. Now, through Him and only through Him, we have the ability to once again walk in our true purpose as children of God.
Chapter 4: How Do We All Share the Same Mission?
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:19-20-
Every follower of Jesus is on the same team as us. When we unite with one another, we are that much more powerful against the forces of the enemy.
In Romans 12:3-21, Paul speaks about our unity as the body of Christ and how together we can stand tall against the forces of our enemy:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Together, as God’s children, we can overcome evil with good. We can flood this dark world with the light of Jesus. Just as Jael secured victory for God’s children and renewed their hope for the future, we as women of God can rise up and make astonishing things happen for His Kingdom. We can restore light and hope back into the lives of all of God’s children.
The greatest weapon against evil in God’s armory is love. If together, we arm ourselves with love, no force of evil can ever defeat us. We will be victorious in the Lord!
Chapter 5: How Does Jesus Use Parables to Communicate This Mission?
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.”
- John 16:25-
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus often speaking in parables as He teaches. Jesus knows the power of a good story, and He used them for good measure.
Just think about our society as a whole for a moment. We LOVE stories. If you need proof, just look at the money that is made at the box office. All the big movies thrive because people have latched on to a story or character that moves them in some way. Stories have the unique ability to help us process life through the experiences of another, whether that story is fact or fiction. Jesus knows this about us, and that’s precisely why He chose to speak mainly in parables when He did His teaching.
In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells us a parable that is crucial to our understanding of our mission and the challenge that we face in the spiritual life:
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
“His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
“‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
This parable and the lesson Jesus is teaching us is crucial to our understanding of our God-given mission. We have been called to be the light of the world, messengers of God, and heralds of His coming Kingdom. This mission is essential because the eternal destination of countless souls beloved by God is at stake.
We have a choice to make as we live our lives. Will we choose to honor the mission God has given us, becoming like the men in the parable that invested wisely and earned interest on what was given them? Or will we be like the one who stuffed the coins away and did nothing with them?
If we are like the ones who were rewarded by their master, we will take the gifts that God has given us and invest them richly into ministry and service to others. We will be reflections of God’s light and love, meeting the needs of others while sharing the immeasurably powerful truth of the Gospel with them.
If we are like the one who was punished, we will not utilize our gifts as we have been called to do. We will sit back, looking only toward our own self-interest and squandering the opportunities that God has placed before us to make an impact for His Kingdom. This type of lifestyle will not bear godly fruit in our lives, and we’ll never experience what it means to live a purpose-filled life for the Lord.
This parable also shows the struggle that we face in our mission. Notice how the people were not interested in this King and His ways? When we go out into the world, we will encounter this as well. A lot of people won’t want to hear the message we are preaching because it is contrary to the way of the world and the life they are leading.
But don’t be discouraged when met with this kind of resistance. God will give you all the strength you need to complete the work He has put on your life to accomplish. Even Jesus Himself felt extreme opposition along His journey of seeing God’s will through. But the work we have been called to is still crucial to work toward in every way!
Chapter 6: Is Your Mission Unique?
“’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-
God didn't need to create us - He is perfect. But, in an act of superabundant love, He put in place the opportunity for us to become part of His story by uniting our Wills with His.
In the beginning, before the heavens, earth, and humanity were created, God already experienced perfect and complete love within the beautiful mystery of the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have worked in complete harmony and unity for all of time. So, why then would God feel the need to create us? Have you ever asked yourself why you’re really here in the first place?
The answer to this question is simple yet profound: God loves you! You’re here because He desires that you would exist. He envisioned you before you were born, He loves you, and you were created for a purpose. You are unique, special, and irreplaceable to Him. You have a special place in God’s heart that’s for you and you alone.
In light of that special place within God’s heart for you, He put together a purpose for your life. He desires that you would utilize your unique traits and skills to further His will for this world. As His children, He commissions us to continue the redemptive work He has accomplished in this world through the person of Jesus Christ.
God's calling on our life is both profound and unique. He knows you better than anyone, for He made you Himself. He fashioned all of the intricate parts that make you who you are. You are destined to do work that will influence the world for the Kingdom of God. The Lord has put dreams in your heart and a vision in your mind to make this happen. Now it's time to know, take ownership of, and walk in that purpose.
When we read Paul's writings in the New Testament, we can find great inspiration in his focus. In Philippians 3:13, he writes, "No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (NLT). Paul had yet to realize the full potential of God's vision for his life, and he was willing to admit that. He was merely beginning on the grand journey his life would become.
That’s the same place we find ourselves at. No matter what step we are at along our journey, there are many more to come. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what God has called us to do! While that may seem intimidating at first, let it be exciting instead. God’s plan is to take all of the skills, experience, and passion that make you who you are and put them to work for a divine plan! What greater purpose could we ever live for?
We must never forget that the work we do here has eternal consequences. The impact we make here has an even more profound impact in eternity. We must keep that truth close to our hearts and minds at all times to fuel us in our calling. It can be hard to do so, because it’s a lot easier to get wrapped up in the challenges of the moment than it is to remember the promise of a future that we have not seen yet.
Faith bridges the gap between our current reality and the future one we are yet to see. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” If we hold onto faith, we can rest assured in God’s promises. If God has promised something to us, we can trust that it will come to pass. That’s precisely how, even in the midst of life in a fallen world, we are able to look toward eternity instead. We will have eternal life in God’s everlasting Kingdom, and that’s what truly matters in the end!
Paul shows us by example how it is that we must walk in our purpose. He says that he is "Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead." We know from Paul's life that he sought out the Lord and the work that God called him to do until the very end. He was laser-focused on God's plans, and because of it, he accomplished remarkable things. God gives us all the same opportunity when we follow the calling He has laid before us.
No matter how hard it can be not to, we don’t have to look back toward the past. In fact, we must fight against that tendency at all costs. God has called us toward what lies ahead, not what is already behind us. Nothing will derail
Discern your calling in the Lord. Take ownership of your purpose. Equip yourself through the power of the Holy Spirit, then march forward boldly into the purpose that God has called you to. The journey you embark on will change lives as well as the world around you. You must ask yourself this question: Are you ready to follow God wherever He guides you?