Universal: of, pertaining to, or characteristic of all or the whole: universal experience. (2) applicable everywhere or in all cases; general: a universal cure. (3) affecting, concerning, or involving all.

Many of us have heard it said time-and-time again: “there are two things we can count on; death and taxes.”  I’ve always found it somewhat humorous that the sentence is phrased in the order that it is; death and taxes. It had always been my belief for some time that the word “taxes” should come first in that phrase because you can’t – or shouldn’t – pay taxes once you’re dead? How naive I was. The (G)overnment – Big G – will always get theirs. The “estate tax” code and the  laws governing them in this country are embarrassing. I think it’s atrocious that I can work my entire life and be fortunate enough to leave something, anything, financially substantive to my children only for the government to tax it in access of 35%, that number will be 55% in 2013. Just a little IRS historical reference and sidebar, under President Bush the taxable amount was 45% after a $2 million allowable credit. Thank you President Bush. The “death tax” was repealed by President Obama in 2010. He did however throw a bone to all that would have the misfortune of dying in 2012 allowing a credit of $5.12 million before being taxed at the rate of 35%. In 2013 the allowable amount will be reduced to $1million with everything over that amount being taxed at the rate of 55%. Thank you President Obama. Appreciate it.

I’m going to stop here.

The minute I start to talk about taxes my chest gets tight and my left eye starts to twitch.

Again, I will stop here.

What I set out to accomplish when I began writing this book was to discuss some of the “commonalities” that we as human beings become intimately acquainted with during our lifetime. I’ve often said we as humans have much more in common than not. There are many experiences that are universal to every person on earth; birth, joy and pain are just a few of those examples. All of us were born to a mother and father, and we all share the common trait of holding dreams and aspirations close to our heart. We all share the fate of experiencing life’s many storms so much so that each person reading these very words right now are either in the midst of a storm,   just got out of a storm or one is on the horizon. Unfortunately, this is an undeniable fact. We all have flaws and shortcomings, some people’s are more noticeable than others, but in the end we all have them. We all are more like each other than we would ever want to admit. That is universal.

And oh yea; death and taxes are universal too.

I also believe that all us share a common trait in that each-and-every one of us was created by God for God.

We were created in His imagine. Scripture states in Genesis 1:27 this truth: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Not only were we created by God, but were created with specific purposes in mind:

“He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” –Ephesians 1:4-7

And though there are many other scriptures I could share supporting my beliefs about creation and purpose, and the simple truth that there are more universal truths than just taxes and death, such as, the sun rising in the east; setting in the west, cats hating water and the fact that every child hungers for the love of their parents, I wanted to focus on three universal questions we should all ask ourselves at some point in our lifetime. Hopefully, we will ask these questions sooner rather than later.

The three questions are; Who are you? What do you believe? What is your purpose?

My intent isn’t to produce anxiety if one doesn’t know how to answer these questions. Moreover, my purpose isn’t to tell you who you should be, what you should believe or what your life’s purpose should be. I believe in Jesus Christ and his redemptive, transforming and forgiving power. I believe He died on the cross for me and my sins, and if I believe in him and invite Him into my heart I will have eternal salvation. That is what I believe, but how you answer those three questions will be specific and unique to you. In the end, that is a journey you will travel many miles discovery the truths in, and for, your life. How I answer those three questions is how I answer them, how you answer them will be your life’s greatest challenge; potentially your life’s greatest accomplishment.

The true sadness is that many people spend an entire life without asking themselves those three questions. This is where I like to say; “ Don’t panic; you’re not alone.” Far too many people never find out who they are, what they believe and what their purpose in life is. I find that to be sad. I have no doubt that many people live a rough draft versions of what their lives could be.  I should know, I was one of those people for a better part of my adult life that didn’t know who he was, what he believed or what his purpose in life was. And if I did, for a short time, have concrete answers for those three questions I didn’t have the courage, consistent behavior or commitment to live it out on a daily basis. But the sermon notes shout; that was then and this is now, and because of the fact I’ve experienced first hand that power of God in my own life I’m prepared to make a case for Christ. The power of Jesus Christ has transformed my life, and His unmerited grace, mercy and forgiveness can produce the same transformation in your life.

Like I said, I’m prepared to make a case for Christ, but ultimately you will be the one who chooses who you want to be, what you decide to believe and what purpose you will pursue during your lifetime.

In the end, the good news for me is that I now know the answer to those questions for my life and just as important, I understand why now it is so vital to know, and to share, these truths with everyone and to live out these truths, beliefs and purposes on a daily basis.

Emily Dickinson once said these perfect words of proper perspective; “We turn older with years, but newer every day.” So true. I have to agree with Ms. Dickinson that depending on our perspective we really do have a grand opportunity to become newer every day. I also have been reading Rick Warren’s book; “The Purpose Driven Life” I too realize that when I gain the understanding that I was created to have a purpose, that my life should have meaning, and that I play a vital role in identifying my purpose, I begin, and only then begin, to grow.

And the growth happens daily. I become newer every day.

In my search to bloom and blossom as a man, and mature spiritually, my life has become more focused; refined and defined. Eliminated is behavior that is counterproductive, attitudes that weigh me down and activities that waste precious time. My life has increased in value and in turn has become more valuable to those around me. When we have no real driving force, no real focus and direction, everyone involved in our life suffers.

I’ve come to realize that for the believer and the non believer alike God will only ask us two questions someday. Two crucial questions, two important questions: first, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” and secondly, “What did you do with what I gave you?” Those two questions help me realize that my purpose is more than just being a father, more than being a spouse, friend and more than being an employee. Please don’t misunderstand me, these are very important, and critical, callings and functions ones life, but my main purpose is more than what those areas encompass.

I believe my main purpose is to serve Christ and encourage others, and because of this, I want to be able to answer both of those questions honestly and without any hesitation or reservation. I want to answer them well.

What did I do with Jesus Christ?

I accepted Him into my heart. I did not tell Him that I would be perfect the rest of my days. I did not tell him that I would display Christ like qualities every day and in every situation. I did not tell Him I would be obedient to his “word and will” every day. In the end, I realize that my works will never be enough even though I so desperately want to be all those things I just listed. What I do know, and what I did say, is that I believe in Him and I accept Him, Jesus Christ, into my heart.

What did I do with what God gave me?

There were times I squandered, ignored, was at times shamefully unappreciative; abused, hoarded, hid, lost and wasted what God gave me. But because of God’s mercy and grace I realized that every relationship, opportunity, material item, money, adventure, experience and the very breath that I breath was only made possible because God allowed it to be possible.

Through God’s wonderful grace He has showed me that life is truly a test. He has also showed me life is also a trust and it’s temporary.

Each success and disappointment, every trial and tribulation is another test taking opportunity. A test that God wants us to pass, but nonetheless it is a test that we will either pass or fail. And if we pass, it doesn’t mean that we have mastered the task and when, not if, but when, we fail that failure isn’t necessarily fatal or final. We will have many other opportunities to get it right.

Life is a trust.

Life is the trust we put in others, in ourselves and, most importantly, the only trust that will not fail us is the trust we put into Jesus Christ. God has also entrusted us with relationships, opportunities and treasures. We will all answer to God on what we did with these entrusted gifts.

Life is temporary.

This leads me back to the “purpose thing”. Life is short. We all have heard that, but many don’t embody that statement on a daily basis. I know I didn’t for many years. Since life is temporary I truly believe it is vital that we all discern what our purpose is while on earth. Before we can surmise our purpose we have to understand who we truly are and what we believe, and because we are created by God, for God, I believe it is our purpose, if not our ultimate destiny to serve Christ. Colossians 1:6 states; “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible,… everything got started in him and finds its purpose in Him.” Everything includes me. My success and failures are temporary, and so is my life, and because everything around me is temporary, except God’s love and my soul, it paramount that I spend my time here on earth purposeful and engaged in living a certain way that has eternity in mind.

As I previously mentioned , my purpose is to serve Christ and others. I want to serve and encourage others instead of discouraging them. I spent enough time disappointing and discouraging people.

The main reason I started writing was in effort to leave something tangible and real for my children, and to encourage and affirm someone, anyone, that might take the time to read what I have written. I will say it again, I believe this to be my purpose while here on earth; to serve Christ and encourage others. Proverbs 18:4 explains, “A person’s words can be life giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” It is my sincere hope you feel better after you read this book than you did before you began to read it. I hope my words refresh and inspire you to think seriously about the meaning of your life, to think deeply about your life’s purpose.

I want to encourage you. I hope I have thus far. It is my goal to continue to encourage you. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look to me in earnest you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you, says the Lord. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.”

Remember, God is longing to affirm you right now. Let Him. Let Him into your heart.

Invite Him into your heart and life, and ask Him what now? What do you want me to do? He will wonderfully and precisely direct you in the path that will deliver you to the greatest gift you have will ever receive; the gift of eternal salvation and the gift of a life that truly has meaning; purpose.

Your purpose is awaiting you.

Don’t waste another moment.

I can honestly say, that at 47, asking Jesus Christ into my heart many years ago is the single best decision I have ever made. And because of this I know who I am, what I believe and what my purpose is.

Allow me to share. (2376)

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