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February 5, 2008
Column #1,380
Advance for Feb. 8, 2008
Lent Can Change Your Life!
by Mike McManus

This Lent could be a season to deepen your walk with God.  How?  I suggest reading - or re-reading - the most significant book published in the last century - "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren. 

With more than 25 million copies in print, it is the best seller of all time other than the Bible. It quotes a thousand Biblical verses to help answer one question, "What on earth am I here for?" 

The opening sentences of the book are stark: "It is not about you."

"The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness." This is not a self-help book, for you to focus on yourself or your ambitions.

Scripture says, "For everything, absolutely everything , above and below, visible and invisible, everything got started in him, and finds its purpose in him," Paul wrote to the Colossians. Therefore, we must find out what God's plan is for our life.

Why is this necessary if one is an active Christian?

I recently heard Warren speak at a Forum in the majestic National Cathedral where he outlined some of his concerns about the state of Christianity in America.  When he founded Saddleback Church 28 years ago, with "no money, no members, and no building," one of his goals was to "restore credibility to the church.  For 50 years, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been cut off. We have been a Big Mouth, and are known more for what we talk about than about what we do."

He's right. In this political season, commentators have filled the airwaves with speculation on why evangelicals split their votes on Super Tuesday between Huckabee, McCain and Romney.  However, this is all about opinions and attitudes of evangelicals - their Mouth.

But what have believers done with their faith?  Two-thirds of Americans are members of a house of worship and 40 percent attend weekly.  Yet our divorce rate is double that of France or Germany where few go to church.  Our teenage out-of-wedlock birth rate is triple that of those countries and nine times that of Japan.

Warren has been so successful in challenging his parishioners to "Love their neighbor as themselves," that his church has 400 ministries in the community with 13,000 lay ministers who serve the sick, needy, retarded, and people at every age of life. In fact 7,760 of the 22,000 who attend his church weekly - have served overseas at their own expense to minister to the needy and equip others for ethical leadership in 68 countries.

Consider one stark fact. There are 14 million orphans in Africa because their parents died of AIDS. Worldwide, there are 150 million orphans.  Have you or your congregation spent a dollar to help?

In Chapter 1 Warren writes, "You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world's standard, and STILL miss the purposes for which God created you."

New England Quarterback Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to three Super Bowl trophies and had an undefeated season this year until this Super Bowl, acknowledged before the game that he had not found his purpose in life.  Indeed, the handsome, 30-year-old bachelor is the father of an out-of-wedlock child.  Despite his achievements, he is lost.

Warren quotes the Bible: "Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way to finding yourself, your true self" (Matthew 16:25, The Message).

He argues that to discover your purpose in life, you must turn to God's Word.  How?

My wife and I are reading a chapter a day of "The Purpose-Driven Life."  There are 40 short chapters, perfect for the 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays!). The book often quotes from paraphrases of the Bible, offering fresh meaning to familiar verses, such as this from Ephesians 1:11 from The Message:

"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."

A personal example: I began writing this column in 1981 in a response to a sermon in which my pastor asked, "What are YOU doing to take your talent and experience that makes you unique as a person, to serve the Lord?" 

Writing this column is one way I serve the Lord and readers like you!
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