Life's Meaning Is Found In Its Purpose

It's Not About You
By Rick Warren

The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It's far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.

The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That's because we typically begin at the wrong starting point--ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life's purpose. The Bible says, "It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power."

Contrary to what many popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won't discover your life's meaning by looking within yourself. You've probably tried that already. You didn't create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn't know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn't be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner's manual could reveal its purpose.

I once got lost in the mountains. When I stopped to ask for directions to the campsite, I was told, "You can't get there from here. You must start from the other side of the mountain!" In the same way, you cannot arrive at your life's purpose by starting with a focus on yourself. You must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God--and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.

Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not your using him for your own purpose. The Bible says, "Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life."

I have read many books that suggest ways to discover the purpose of my life. All of them could be classified as "self-help" books because they approach the subject from a self-centered viewpoint. Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life's purpose: Consider your dreams. Clarify your values. Set some goals. Figure out what you are good at. Aim high. Go for it! Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up.

Of course, these recommendations often lead to great success. You can usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life's purpose are not at all the same issue! 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. You need more than self-help advice. The Bible says, "Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."

How, then, do you discover the purpose you were created for? You have only two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people choose. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize. When people say, "I've always thought life is...," they mean, "This is the best guess I can come up with."

For thousands of years, brilliant philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. Philosophy is an important subject and has its uses, but when it comes to determining the purpose of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.

Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, once wrote to 250 of the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, and intellectuals in the world, asking them, "What is the meaning of life?" He then published their responses in a book. Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless. In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked Professor Moorhead to write back and tell them if he discovered the purpose of life!

Fortunately, there is an alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life. It's revelation. We can turn to what God has revealed about life in his Word. The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the creator of it. The same is true for discovering your life's purpose: Ask God.

God has not left us in the dark to wonder and guess. He has clearly revealed his five purposes for our lives through the Bible. It is our Owner's Manual, explaining why we are alive, how life works, what to avoid, and what to expect in the future. It explains what no self-help or philosophy book could know. The Bible says, "God's wisdom ... goes deep into the interior of his purposes.... It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us."

God is not just the starting point of your life; he is the source of it. To discover your purpose in life you must turn to God's Word, not the world's wisdom. You must build your life on eternal truths, not pop psychology, success-motivation, or inspirational stories. The Bible says, "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." This verse gives us three insights into your purpose.

1. You discover your identity and purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don't have such a relationship, I will later explain how to begin one.

2. God was thinking of you long before you ever thought about him. His purpose for your life predates your conception. He planned it before you existed, without your input! You may choose your career, your spouse, your hobbies, and many other parts of your life, but you don't get to choose your purpose.

3. The purpose of your life fits into a much larger, cosmic purpose that God has designed for eternity.

Andrei Bitov, a Russian novelist, grew up under an atheistic Communist regime. But God got his attention one dreary day. He recalls, "In my twenty-seventh year, while riding the metro in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) I was overcome with a despair so great that life seemed to stop at once, preempting the future entirely, let alone any meaning. Suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: Without God life makes no sense. Repeating it in astonishment, I rode the phrase up like a moving staircase, got out of the metro and walked into God's light."

You may have felt in the dark about your purpose in life. Congratulations, you're about to walk into the light.

Thinking About My Purpose

Point to Ponder: It's not about me.

Verse to Remember: "Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him." (Colossians 1:16b)

Question to Consider: In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?


Character, Not Charisma, Is The Critical Measure of Leadership

By Sankar, Y.

Charisma is not connected to ethics, moral literacy, mentoring or the design of an ethical culture for the organization by the leader. It is the character of the leader that is connected to these elements of a leader's behavior. Leadership, variously and however defined, has been well researched. Leadership, especially since the end of the last world war, has become the object of intensive and extensive scrutiny. The tendency is to concentrate the study under the rubric of psychology so there has come about a certain specialization and monopolization: what we might call the psychologizing of leadership. What began in antiquity as a profoundly philosophical concern - how to find the guardian - has become demythologized, secularized, empiricized, democratized, and psychologized, and now flourishes as a thickly tangled web where the notions of values, ethics, and morality have been leached away, ignored, or depreciated as irrelevant (Hodgkinson, 1993).

The underlying value system of an organization cannot be managed in the traditional way. Issuing an authoritative directive, for example, has little or no impact on an organization's value system. Organizational values are developed and reinforced primarily through value based leadership, a relationship between a leader and followers that is based on shared, strongly internalized values that are advocated and acted upon by the leader. Leaders influence cultural and ethical values by clearly articulating a vision for organizational values that employees can believe in, communicating the vision throughout the organization, and institutionalizing the vision through everyday behavior, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols, as well as through organizational systems and policies (Daft, 2002).

Charisma focuses on personality attributes such as dynamism, style, image, inspiration, symbolic behaviors (House, 1977) impression management, emotional intelligence (Coleman, 1998), extroverted style, self-confidence, empathetic understanding, and admiration for articulating a vision (Shamir, 1995). Leaders whose personalities are characterized by a high degree of narcissism are driven by intense needs for power and prestige. The use of coercive power, intimidation, and deception are some of the strategies used to enhance the power visibility of these charismatic leaders. As seen by most researchers, charisma is not a concept that is feasible in today's modern workplace. Charisma draws its motivational power from the followers' adoption of the transcendent mission of the leader and their belief in the divine source of this transcendence.

The dark side of charisma is essentially a crisis in character or character flaws of the charismatic leader, which neutralize his/her core value of integrity and his search for excellence. Charismatic leaders can be prone to extreme narcissism that leads them to promote highly self-serving and grandiose aims. As a result, the leader's behaviors can become exaggerated, lose touch with reality, or become vehicles for pure personal gain. In turn, they may harm the leader, followers, and the organization. House et al (1991) have gone so far as to speculate that there is a unique set of personality characteristics and behaviors that distinguish these positive and negative forms of charismatic leadership - are as they term them, socialized and personalized charisma. Their theory holds that although the socialized charismatic leader has a high need for power, it is counterbalanced with high activity inhibition, low authoritarianism, an internal locus of control, high self-esteem, and low Machiavellianism. In contrast, the personalized leader has a high need for power that is instead coupled with low activity inhibition, high authoritarianism, an external locus of control, low self-esteem, high narcissism, and high Machiavellianism. These characteristics promote leadership behavior that is largely self-service.

Character is based on the core values of the leader. Character influences his/her vision, goals, self-concept, strategies, work ethic, attitude, perception, code of ethics, behavior, and the search for excellence (Sankar, 1997). Character, therefore is an evaluation of personality. Becker (1998) grounds character of the leader on integrity 'Good character' means at least in part, that the individual has integrity. This is directly related to performance on the job.

Zauderer (2000) identifies specific behaviors of a leader associated with integrity as a super ordinate value on which character is rooted. How does one's integrity affect the trust of others and the strength of the commonwealth? In attempting to identify specific behaviors, a far-reaching search of literature that included religion, philosophy, biographies of great leaders, psychology, and business and government ethics was conducted. Cross-cutting moral themes and principles were identified and described in the following list: (The behaviors are expressed in a negative form - the opposite behavior follows in parentheses and italics) A leader's integrity is compromised when he or she: displays arrogance (possess humility), promotes self-interest (maintain concern for the greater good), practices deception (be truthful), breaches agreements (fulfill commitments), deals unfairly (strive for fairness), shifts blame (take responsibility), diminishes dignity (have respect for the individual), retains envy (celebrate the good fortune of others), neglects employee development (develop others), avoids risks (reproach unjust acts), holds grudges (be forgiving), declines to extend self (extend self for others).

A strategy based on integrity holds organizations to a more robust standard. While compliance is rooted in avoiding legal sanctions, organizational integrity is based on the concept of self-governance in accordance with a set of guiding principles (Paine, 2000). From the perspective of integrity, the task of ethics management is to define and give life to an organization's guiding values, to create an environment that supports ethically sound behavior, and to instill a sense of shared accountability among employees. An integrity strategy is characterized by a conception of ethics as a driving force of an enterprise and the leader. Ethical values shape the search for opportunities, the design of organizational systems, and the decision-making process used by individuals and groups. Kets de Vries (1994) connects some sub-values of a leader's character. Among the traits that have been discerned regularly among effective leaders are conscientiousness, dependability, achievement orientation, dominance, self-confidence, energy, agreeableness, intelligence, openness to experience, and emotional stability.

The current ethical - moral crisis in many occupations, business law, medicine, politics, and education can be partially attributed to the absence of moral leadership in these occupations. The crisis is a crisis of character. Many charismatic leaders suffer from basic flaws in their character and these impact on their vision, goals, strategies, judgment, choices, ground rules and behavior. The character of the leader is the building block or root system of his/her personality and of leadership excellence. Excellence unlike efficiency and effectiveness is a value based construct, it is the ethical ground rules of the leader that guide his vision, style, commitment, and the design of the corporate culture. Character is the missing critical variable in leadership research.

The leader can be a mentor or role model because of his/her character not his charisma. Mentoring is a value-based concept. The leader's credibility as a mentor is enhanced by her core values, ethical vision, moral commitment and her conception of her duty to organizational members. A leader's behavior speaks louder than his personality. Behavior is a function of values. To change problematic behaviors, such as mistrust, malice, manipulation, deceit, etc…, on changes such values as egoism, power obsessions, and greed. One practices one's moral calculus or virtues in the search for effective mentoring.

Virtue based ethics is the moral guidance system for changing the negative elements of one's character (MacIntyre, 1985). Character is grounded on virtues such as love, integrity, duty, patience, compassion, peace, fortitude, trust, truth and right conduct. Charisma is not connected to virtue-based ethics but to personality ethic focusing on etiquette, courtesy, style, image and dynamism. Character leads to transformation of one's personality, primarily to self-transformation of needs, self-concept, habits, moods, values, attitudes, perception, goals and style. Values or virtues are also the building blocks of a leader's self concept and therefore her self esteem and self confidence are more positive than if these were based on elements of charisma - image, style, and dynamism. As a mentor, the leader with a virtuous character will promote empowerment of his/her followers rather than a culture of silence because of intimidation and the coercive use of power and deception.

The moral intelligence, insight and imagination of a leader are connected to his character not charisma. What the CEO needs today in the business world is not more information but transformation, transformation of his vision, goals, intelligence, core values and behavior. The transformational leader is one who couples information with insight and ideals. Moral literacy consists of the basics of ethics, ethical principles, rules of conduct, conceptions of right and wrong, moral intelligence, imagination and moral commitment to our moral heritage and ground rules for decision-making. Moral literacy is connected to character, not to charisma. It is from moral literacy that a leader can articulate the core values that drive his or her vision and the ABC of ethics namely, the essentials of an ethical culture of his or her organization.

Leadership is crucial to the organization's ethical culture, as integrity (or the lack of it) flows from the top down. According to a report from the Business Roundtable, a group of senior executives from major American corporations, leadership is crucial to organizational ethics. The report issued by the Business Roundtable - also - discussed ethics, policy, and practice in one hundred member companies, including GTE, Xerox, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, and Hewlett-Packard. In the experience of the surveyed companies, the single most important factor in ethical decision-making was the role of top management in providing commitment, leadership, and example for ethical values.

This article contributes to our understanding of leadership excellence by providing a more comprehensive focus on two variables, namely, character and charisma, than previous research. Another contribution of this article is the integration of ethics, personality and mentoring literature. Finally, the greatest contribution of our research may well be the generation of future research. In future research, an attempt should be made to further define the elements of the key construct, namely, character in terms of core values.

The leader plays a critical role in the propagation of an ethical culture within his/her organization. In view of the ethical-moral crisis in many occupations it can be deduced that this crisis is indicative of the absence of moral leadership in these organizations. Too often, the emphasis has been placed on the expertise, power, charisma, information, personality traits, strategic vision, and organizational characteristics in leadership research at the expense of the leader's moral character. The leader's character is a strategic source of power for in fusing the culture of his/her organization with a code of ethics, moral vision, imagination, and courage. Leadership excellence cannot be evaluated without an assessment of the leader's character.
Reference: Sankar, Y. (2003). Character not charisma is the critical measure of leadership excellence. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 9, No 4.


To Muslims "Allah"; To Christians "God"

Eight Malayasian Churches Attacked after 'Allah' Decision

Jasmine Kay
Compass Direct News

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CDN) — In unprecedented acts that stunned Christians in Malaysia, suspected Islamists have attacked eight church buildings since the country's High Court ruled that a Catholic weekly could use the word "Allah."

Firebombs were thrown into the compounds of four churches in Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Petaling Jaya on Friday (Jan. 8); three more attacks occurred on Sunday (Jan. 10) in Taiping, Melaka and Miri; and another church building was hit today in Seremban. There were no reports of injuries.

Judge Lau Bee Lan delivered the controversial court ruling on Dec. 31, arguing that the Herald had a constitutional right to use the word "Allah" for God in the Malay section of its multi-lingual newspaper. The ruling caused an uproar among many Muslim groups widely reported to have called for nationwide protests after Friday prayers, asserting that "Allah" can be used only in the context of Islam. Among groups calling for protests were the Muslim Youth Movement and the National Association of Muslim Students.

Inflammatory rhetoric has emerged in the escalating conflict; at a protest in Shah Alam since protests began on Friday, a speaker at one rally urged listeners to "burn churches," according to the online news site Malaysian Insider. The crowd reportedly stood in stunned silence.

Malaysia's Home Ministry filed an appeal against the High Court decision on Jan. 4. Two days later, the court allowed a freeze on the decision to permit the Herald to use the word "Allah" pending hearing in the Court of Appeal.

The attacked churches were Metro Tabernacle (Assembly of God) in Kuala Lumpur, and three churches in Petaling Jaya: Life Chapel (Brethren), Assumption Church (Catholic) and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Lutheran); also damaged were All Saints' Church (Anglican) in Taiping, Melaka Baptist Church in Melaka (vandalized but not firebombed), Good Shepherd Church (Catholic) in Miri (pelted with stones) and Sidang Injil Borneo (Evangelical Church of Borneo) in Seremban.

Though there were no casualties, a number of the church buildings were damaged in the attacks. Metro Tabernacle suffered the worst damage, with the ground floor of its three-storey building, which housed its administrative office, completely gutted. The main door of the church in Seremban was charred.

The Rev. Ong Sek Leang, senior pastor of Metro Tabernacle, reportedly said that the church harbors no ill feelings toward the culprits and would forgive those responsible, but that it does not condone the acts.

Most of the other church buildings suffered minor damage, though the Assumption Church was spared when the Molotov cocktail thrown into its compound failed to go off. The Melaka Baptist Church building was splashed with black paint, while stones were thrown into the Good Shepherd Church building in Miri.

The Malaysian Insider reported on Friday (Jan. 8) that two other churches received telephone threats from unknown sources.

Christian leaders, government and opposition leaders, and Non-Governmental Organizations have condemned the attacks. Police have promised to increase security around church buildings, but Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan told the Malaysian Insider that churches must beef up their own security since there is a shortage of police personnel.

Malaysia's population is about 60 percent Muslim, 19 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian. About 6 percent are Hindu, with 2.6 percent of the population adhering to Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. [...]

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