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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life: Purpose #4 
Thursday, February 7th, 2013 | 08:08 am [purpose-driven life, video, vlog]
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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life

Purpose #4: You Were Shaped For Serving God


  • Hey, the first chapter title isn’t a repetition of the section title! Rick Warren, busting out the moves late in the game, keeping me on my toes! Don’t get fancy, Warren!
  • God didn’t put us on Earth to consume resources. He put us here to make a difference.
  • How does the concept of “making a difference” have any meaning at all in a predestined universe?
  • Making a difference, giving something back to our fellow people, is known as our “ministry,” and Warren gives us four reasons to live for this purpose:
  • You were created to serve God. The Bible says we were created for a life of good deeds. Whenever we serve others — in any way, Warren says — we are also serving God. So if I talk a Christian out of his or her faith and they become an atheist, I’m serving God? That’s weird.
  • You were saved to serve God.

    “It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. . . . We don’t serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he’s done for us.” (Rick Warren, THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, p. 228)
    • Joy and deep gratitude we are commanded to feel. Also, Jesus’s death was a sham, it cost him nothing, he even got his physical life back after a few days.
  • You are called to serve God. And just in case you missed that call,
  • You are commanded to serve God. It’s not an option. Jesus said he came to serve, and we’re supposed to be like Jesus, so we’d better get to servin’ if we know what’s good for us.
  • “Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. . . . We expect others to serve us, not vice versa.” (p. 231)
    • Again, we see Warren’s dim view of humanity coming through here. Human nature is more complicated than “people are selfish.” People are selfish sometimes. Some people are more selfish than some other people. But people are also giving and selfless sometimes, and there are many people who are downright driven to help and serve others. Both impulses are a part of human nature, we all feel them, we all act on them at various times, one is not more or less natural than the other.


  • Hey, there’s the repetition of the section title! That’s my boy.
  • “God formed every creature on this planet with a special area of expertise. Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed, or ‘shaped,’ to do certain things.” (p. 234)
  • Whoa, slow down there, David Attenborough! That’s some pretty heavy, sophisticated zoology you’re hitting me with. Some animals run? Some animals hop? I learned to read with books that had a more advanced grasp of nature than this.
  • This quote is why I find this book to be contemptible. I know it’s only one passage, maybe it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but the whole book is full of examples just like this, where Rick Warren doesn’t merely employ a dumb illustration to make a point, he treats his audience like not very precocious children and in doing so encourages them to think about things in simple, unsophisticated, storybook terms. He’s actually trying to make people dumber.
  • Warren says that God shaped us to serve him. He reminds us yet again that our lives have been planned out by God ahead of time:
  • “Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, ‘Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.’ This means that nothing that happens in your life is insignificant.” (p. 235)
    • Actually, it means that no one has any control over anything that happens, that our free will is an illusion — not because of any inescapable natural forces, but because an intelligent, intentional God has scripted everything out ahead of time solely for his own amusement. Does that make you feel significant?
  • Warren says we are a combination of five factors, which he will explain to us using an acrostic: SHAPE.
  • S is for Spiritual Gifts. What are spiritual gifts? They are gifts that God gives to every believer to help them to serve him. We don’t get to choose which gifts we have, and no one person can have all the spiritual gifts, but we all get some! We just need to discover what our spiritual gifts are. Would some examples of spiritual gifts be helpful in this discussion? Rick Warren doesn’t think so, because he never says what spiritual gifts are, specifically, just sort of blathers on obliquely for about a page and a half, then moves on to the next letter.
  • H is for Heart.

    “The Bible uses the term heart to describe the bundle of desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have. Your heart represents the source of all your motivations — what you love to do and what you care about most.” (p. 237)
    • In other words, the Bible uses the term “heart” exactly the same way we all use it when we aren’t speaking anatomically. Thanks, Rick, explaining that was very worthwhile.
  • God has given us each a unique “emotional heartbeat,” that draws us toward certain subjects or activities.
  • “When you were growing up, you may have discovered you were intensely interested in some subjects that no one else in your family cared about. Where did those interests come from? They came from God.” (p. 238)
    • Did you hear that, compulsive hoarders? Are you listening, coprophiliacs? These activities you’re intensely interested in come from God! So use them to God’s glory! Remember what Rick Warren says: There’s a reason you love to do these things!
  • How do we know when we’re serving God from our heart? Two signs will show themselves: enthusiasm and effectiveness. Our passion will both encourage us and improve our abilities.
  • “We have all heard people say, ‘I took a job I hate in order to make a lot of money, so someday I can quit and do what I love to do.’ That’s a big mistake. Don’t waste your life in a job that doesn’t express your heart. . . . Meaning is far more important than money. The richest man in the world once said, ‘A simple life in the fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches.’” (p. 239)
    • And what about the people who take jobs they hate in order to earn enough money? Not everybody is faced with the wrenching choice to “make lots of money doing something I hate or make less-but-still-sufficient money following my heart.” Check the mirror, Rick; your oblivious rich white guy is showing.
    • Also, that quote within the Warren quote is from the Book of Proverbs. The richest man in the world Warren refers to there is Solomon, who never actually existed. It would be like if I said, Remember, the strongest man in the world once said, “I can’t stand to fly. I’m not that naïve.”
    • I’m just out to find the better parts of me . . .
    • I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane, I’m more than some pretty face beside a train . . .
    • And it’s not easy . . . to be . . . me . . .


  • Before we get back to the SHAPE acrostic, here’s this little bit of wisdom:
  • “Only you can be you. God designed each of us so there would be no duplication in the world. . . . That means no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you. If you don’t make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, it won’t be made.” (p. 241)
    • Which would then also be a part of God’s plan. I don’t see the problem here.
  • A is for Abilities. Three things about abilities: our abilities come from God, every ability can be used for God’s glory, and if you’re able to do something, God wants you to do it. And again, the childish simplicity of Warren’s thinking can be revealed with only a moment’s contemplation. Suppose you’re an awesome lover, the best lay anyone could ever have. Should you use that to the glory of God — have all the ladies in your church cryin’ “Jesus!” on a regular basis? Do you get an exemption from the ban on fornication if you’re really, really good at it?
  • P is for Personality. God made everybody with a different personality, we’re all different on purpose, use your own gifts, don’t try to be someone else, be who God made you to be, we’ve been over this before, hey, what’s E stand for?
  • E is for Experience. Most of our experiences are beyond our control, but not God’s control — as previously stated, God uses our experiences to shape us into who he wants us to be. Warren delineates six types of experience to be aware of: family, educational, vocational, spiritual, ministry, and painful, and emphasizes that God uses painful experiences the most. (Thanks, God!)
  • Warren advises us not to hide or be ashamed of painful experiences in our past. This is actually good advice. But as usual, he ruins it:
  • “For God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them. . . . Doing this will probably be your most effective ministry. People are always more encouraged when we share how God’s grace helped us in weakness than when we brag about our strengths.” (p. 247)
    • Don’t share your pain with others for your own good, for your own emotional well-being. Don’t share it with others for their own good, to let them know you’ve been where they’ve been, to show them there’s another person who understands. Share your pain with others not for your sake or their sake, but for God’s sake. Because if we ever opened up and tried to help one another out of simple, basic fucking human compassion, well, that would just be the worst thing that ever happened, wouldn’t it?


  • This is reportedly the chapter read by Ashley Smith to Brian Nichols in 2005 when Nichols held her hostage in her apartment after shooting his way out of a courtroom where he had been on trial for rape. Nichols eventually let Smith go and surrendered to police when they responded to the scene. So this must be one hell of a chapter.
  • So, as we’ve already heard, God created us to serve him. The best way we can serve him is to do so according to our shape — if you were made to run, don’t try to serve God by hopping, if I may harken back to the nursery school lesson from a few chapter’s back.
  • So we have to discover our shape, and this brings us back to those spiritual abilities Warren never quite got around to talking about earlier. Unfortunately, this is mostly just more of the same, with Warren walking around the subject and never really getting at it. He mentions things like teaching or singing, but are those abilities or spiritual gifts? A spiritual gift sounds like it should be something special, like healing the sick.
  • And in fact, that’s precisely what a spiritual gift is. Warren doesn’t get that specific, but if you look elsewhere for examples of spiritual gifts, you find things like the gift of prophecy, the gift of healing, the gift of speaking in tongues. In other words, the spiritual gifts mostly belong to the real hardcore nutcases among the brethren. Maybe that’s why Warren avoids getting too specific about them — he wants to pull people in with the happy talk and the guilt-tripping, not scare them off with the really crazy shit.
  • But not all the spiritual gifts are crazy. Some are a little easier to swallow. For instance, one of the only gifts Warren mentions specifically: leadership. Or another one: teaching, which I guess is a gift, not just an ability:
  • “I could have taken a hundred gift and ability tests as a young man and would have never discovered that I was gifted at teaching because I had never done it! It was only after I began accepting opportunities to speak that I saw the results, received confirmation from others, and realized, ‘God has gifted me to do this!’” (pp. 250-251)
    • You dear, sweet boy. Don’t ever lose that self-effacing sense of humility. It’s one of your most charming qualities.
    • That quote reminds me of the time I saw Carman (and if you don’t know who Carman is, he’s this ridiculous Christian pop singer, do yourself a favor and look him up if you’ve never seen him) — I saw Carman on TV, on TBN, since that’s the only place he could ever get on TV, saying, “You know, I never wrote a single song until after I was saved,” as if that’s supposed to just blow our minds!
  • Also, consider your heart and your personality. This is more repetitive filler, Warren’s been over all this already — basically, play to your strengths.
  • Examine your experiences, extract lessons you’ve learned. Second verse, same as the first. Been over this already, although Warren does have this little tip:
  • “Extracting lessons from your experiences takes time. I recommend that you take an entire weekend for a life review retreat, where you pause to see how God has worked in the various defining moments of your life . . .” (p. 252)
    • Yes, learning those life lessons takes time — an entire weekend!
  • Accept and enjoy your shape.
  • “Since God knows what’s best for you, you should gratefully accept the way he has fashioned you. . . . Your shape was sovereignly determined by God for his purpose, so you shouldn’t resent it or reject it.” (p. 252)
    • If God made you a pedophile, accept it and be the best damn pedophile you can be to the glory of God!
    • By the way, applying that same logic in a less deranged direction, it also follows that if someone is gay, or transgendered, that they should gratefully accept it and, by extension, so should the rest of us! Good on you, Rick Warren! I’m sure the LGBT community appreciates your support!
  • Finally, keep developing your shape. This is important, because your gifts and abilities are going to be put to eternal service once you get to Heaven. Warren compares this to Olympic athletes training for the big day — the big day that never ends. Like Brian Nichols’s prison sentence.
  • If Nichols turned himself in because of this shit, he deserved to get caught.
  • Of course, he deserved to get caught anyway . . .


  • We serve God by serving other people . . . but only if we serve others in order to serve God. If we serve others for our own reasons, or for its own sake, or for their sake, then it doesn’t count. God, as we’ve seen, is extremely picky. Doing the right thing isn’t enough; you have to do it singing the right song.
  • Unlike our self-obsessed, me-first culture, God measures greatness not by how many people you can get to serve you, but by how many people you serve. Jesus was a servant, and that’s what we’re supposed to be.
  • “God often tests our hearts by asking us to serve in ways we’re not shaped. . . . Your primary ministry should be in the area of your shape, but your secondary service is wherever you’re needed at the moment.” (p. 258)
    • Are you writing this all down? Because if you’re not going to be able to remember it, you should write it down.
  • How can you tell if you truly have the heart of a servant? Rick Warren has six clues to look for:
  • Real servants make themselves available to serve. “Are you available to God anytime? Can he mess up your plans without you becoming resentful?” (p. 259)
    • Oh, you mean like he would be if I messed up his plans? Assuming I could, which I can’t, because everything I do is a part of his plan — including whether or not I’m resentful over him messing up my plans.
  • Real servants pay attention to needs. Be on the lookout for opportunities to serve, because those opportunities don’t last long and once you miss a chance to serve, it might never come again.
    • Also, Warren doesn’t say this explicitly, but I think it’s only natural to assume that God, as a part of his ongoing evaluation of everything we do, will be deducting points for missed service opportunities.
  • Real servants do their best with what they have. Cut the excuses, because God don’t wanna hear it. “You may have heard it said, ‘If it can’t be done with excellence, don’t do it.’ Well, Jesus never said that!” (p. 260)
    • One could easily imagine many things Jesus never said:
      • “Your microwave pizza is ready.”
      • Allahu akbar!
      • “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
    • What’s the point?
  • Real servants do every task with equal dedication. All that matters to a real servant is that it needs to be done. The size of the task is irrelevant. Nothing was beneath Jesus.
    • Nothing other than providing the people of his hometown with proof that he was the messiah, that is.
  • Real servants are faithful to their ministry. They aren’t quitters, they don’t leave shit half-done. They see it through!
  • “Faithfulness has always been a rare quality. Most people don’t know the meaning of commitment. They make commitments casually, then break them for the slightest reason without any hesitation, remorse, or regret.” (p. 261)
    • More cynical generalizing about human nature based on absolutely nothing other than Rick Warren’s need to make a point.
  • “By the way, faithful servants never retire. They serve faithfully as long as they’re alive. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.” (p. 262)
    • In that case, I don’t think “servant” is the word you want there. Also, no, you can’t retire from your career. Remember? You told everyone they weren’t allowed to save for retirement.
  • Real servants maintain a low profile. That’s right. Real servants don’t call attention to themselves. In fact, Warren says, most real servants avoid the limelight whenever possible. They’re happy to serve quietly in the shadows. And you know what’s really sad? When people start to get attention and then they become celebrities, unaware of how the spotlight has blinded them.
    • Now, I know what you’re thinking — Rick Warren, best-selling author and megachurch pastor chiding others to avoid the limelight and keep a low profile. Crazy hypocritical, right? I mean, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this guy? How can you have so little self-awareness? Well, you’re wrong. Warren’s got that covered. While he’s telling people to keep their service to God on the D.L., he also says this:
    • “God put you where you are for a purpose! . . . You had better stay put until he chooses to move you.” (p. 263)
    • See? So, no matter where you are — toiling in obscurity, or raking in millions as the face of modern Protestantism — it’s where God wants you to be.
    • Sometimes . . . I mean, I’m not saying that I would punch Rick Warren in the face if I saw him, necessarily. I am saying that if I happened to be in the same room as Rick Warren, and some other person stepped up and punched Rick Warren in the face, I would want to find that person afterwards and give them money. That’s all I’m saying.


  • If you want to act like a servant, you’ve got to start thinking like a servant. Or better yet, like a slave. Warren doesn’t use that word, but it is what he means, and what he’s been talking about for this entire book. So what sort of mindset should you have as a slave — pardon me — servant for God? Warren describes five attitudes:
  • Servants think of others more than themselves.
  • “Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for his purposes.” (p. 266)
    • You don’t fuck God — God does the fuckin’. A couple of episodes back I compared Warren’s description of our relationship to God to comfort women. Someone else suggested fleshlights, we are God’s fleshlights. I like that one better.
  • Servants think like stewards, not owners. Because remember, none of this stuff is ours, it all belongs to God, he’s only letting us borrow his stuff — we are staying at a friend’s house in a foreign country. Also, stop worrying about money:
  • “Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. Most people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than by anything else. They say, ‘After I achieve my financial goals, I’m going to serve God.’ This is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity.” (p. 267)
    • Could Rick Warren be a bigger asshole about this? You know who says money shouldn’t be a big deal? Someone with enough money. What if your financial goal is to eat? To have a place to sleep? To have clothes? Is it a foolish decision to put those things before serving God?
  • Servants think about their work, not about what others are doing. God’s servants don’t compete with each other. And they don’t judge each other, either — that, as we have heard many times by now, is God’s job.
  • Servants base their identity in Christ. Servants for God need to be secure in their self-image, Warren says. And what better way to be secure in your self-image than to define yourself totally according to what someone else wants?
  • Servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation. Rick Warren has certainly taken that attitude to heart.


  • Warren begins this chapter by telling us that God loves to use weak people. God wants to use our weaknesses — including our financial limitations, which is the first time in the book Warren has acknowledged that such things exist — for his glory.
  • “If God only used perfect people, nothing would ever get done, because none of us is flawless.” (p. 273)
    • And God’s sure as shit not going to do it himself!
  • Be content with your weaknesses, Warren says. They make us dependent on God — which we inescapably are already, according to Warren, so I’m not sure what difference it makes. Our weaknesses also keep us humble (some of us), and allow us to draw closer to and empathize with other people. Weaknesses are just awesome, which is why we should also:
  • Honestly share our weaknesses with others. Vulnerability is the beginning of ministry. It’s a form of humility — being honest about your weaknesses. And God gets off on that. Plus:
  • “The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection, but credibility. People must be able to trust you, or they won’t follow you.” (p. 277)
    • And getting people to follow you in your ministry devoted to kissing God’s ass — God really gets off on that!
  • Glory in your weaknesses. Don’t pose as some invincible big-shot! Brag about your shortcomings and weaknesses and how they make you a testimony of God’s grace, because without God’s help there’s no way you’d ever make it, you pathetic sack of shit, you.
  • To illustrate some kind of point, Warren tells the story of Jacob wrestling with God:
  • “One night [Jacob] wrestled with God and said, ‘I’m not letting go until you bless me.’ God said, ‘All right,’ but then he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and dislocated his hip. What is the significance of that?” (p. 277)
  • That God is a sore loser and a cheater?
  • “God touched Jacob’s strength (the thigh muscle is the strongest in the body) and turned it into a weakness. From that day forward, Jacob walked with a limp so he could never run away again. . . . If you want God to bless you and use you greatly, you must be willing to walk with a limp the rest of your life, because God uses weak people.” (p. 278)
    • Including people who are weak because God fucking crippled them. Good. I will add this to my list of reasons to be grateful there is no such god as the God of the Bible, and to be proud to tell that God to go fuck himself and walk through the gates of Hell with my head held high just in case there is.

Next: Purpose #5: You Were Made for a Mission

Friday, February 8th, 2013 | 04:14 am (UTC) - an atheist reads the purpose driven life purpose # 4
as i've been listening to your videos on the purpose driven life i believe that drivel like this is not good for people when there is much better non religious books that will lift a person's confidence and i thank you for sharing these videos steve.corey donaldson
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