Stop Obsessing Over your Call from God

Call

Like many Christians, I used to worry a lot about my “calling”. Most of the worry has to do with the pressure leaders place on the importance of finding and fulfilling that “one thing” we are supposed to do for God. These leaders never intend that to be the case. Most, if not all, simply want us to realize and accept the invitation that God extends to us to join Him in His work. Unfortunately, it can often come off in a way that it is the most important thing we need to figure out. Almost as if not figuring it out makes us ineffective in God’s kingdom.

So we wrestle with it and pray about it. Then we seek counsel on it and listen real hard to hear God call us. And we get frustrated because we do not hear it as clearly as Moses did with the burning bush thing. But the thing is, I think it is a lot easier than all that.

The Clarity of Our Call

In fact, I think He has pretty clearly outlined our calling in the bible. For the last few years I’ve had this conversation with people: lots of young adults, my kids, newly married couples, my middle-aged friends. After awhile I started to become more frustrated with how none of us realize how simple God has made it. So I decided to write a book about it. Well, the book is actually about how Jesus only gave us three specific commands and how one of them, I think, is the key to obeying the others. But, the undertone of the book deals with our calling as followers of Jesus. I’m hoping to have the book done by the end of August and ready for release by early spring 2018, but until then, I wanted to share this secret. Ready?

As Christians, we all have one calling. Yep, you read that correctly. We are all called to one singular thing and it is the same for all of us. Actually, to be fair, our calling is truly made up of a few different elements. Specifically it is made up of three commands and one commission. That is our calling, obedience to three commands and one commissioning. So what are they?

Three Commands and a Commission 

I know this seems too easy to be true, but it really is not. I am confident that God was clear about two things: 1) how to get to Him (spoiler, Jesus) and 2) what we are supposed to do after we confess Jesus, so others can get to Him. Number two is our calling. It is THE thing that God is calling us all into. We, as Christians, all share in the exact same call of Christ. Here they are:

He commands us to:

  • Love God – Matthew 22:37
  • Love Our Neighbor – Matthew 22:39
  • Love Other Christians – John 13:34

He commissions us to:

  • Be my Witness and Make Disciples – Matthew 28:19 & Acts 1:8

Jesus was pretty clear at the end of Matthew 22, after he acknowledged the two most important commands. In verse 40 He said, “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” He was saying that our obedience to everything in the Old Testament depends on our understanding of and obedience to these two commands. Then He gave His followers the new command to love each other. I think there is a lot in that, but you will need to get the book to read my thoughts on that. In the big picture those commands are not always easy to follow, but I think they are pretty simple to understand.

After identifying the commands that we ought to be obeying, He commissioned us to be His witnesses to an unbelieving world and teach others to obey those commands. That’s our calling. Simple, right? I know some of you are saying, “But, I know my calling is to youth ministry.” So let’s talk about that.

Your Call to Youth Ministry

Really it can be any call, youth, any other vocational pastorate, para-church ministry, or even Taco Bell. I am not suggesting that God is not calling you to any of those things; there is a high likelihood you are, again I am not arguing that. But, the context & setting in which we do “ministry” is inconsequential if we do not accept loving & going as our call. More and more, I am certain that when you understand and accept that this is what God is calling us to, He will direct that call toward a specific group or cause. Chances are you probably already care about the thing you feel “called” to; you just need to align it with what God has already commanded and commissioned us to do.

My hope is that this frees someone who feels like they are not doing something “impactful” for the Kingdom. Here is the truth, the most important thing you can do for God, and other people, is whatever you are doing for them right now, as long as it is done with a lovingness that introduces people to Jesus. If you are not doing anything right now, just pick something. What you do and where you do it is often of little concern. So, just do something that puts the love of Jesus on display for others to see and feel. That is your call.

 

photo: Flickr/Sean MacEntee

Divine Frankenstein, Chapter 1, Darkness

Darkness

A New Thing

A few years ago I had an idea. I was reading a critique on Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein, and the writer mentioned Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s very obvious god-complex. I remember thinking at the time that what Victor was trying to do was far more similar to what God does than the writer was suggesting. Specifically, just as Victor was using dead and broken parts to create his being, God uses our broken and dead parts to rebuild us. The difference being, while Victor only reanimates death, God creates something new out of it and gives it real life.

As I thought through that idea and tried to figure out how to structure it as a blog post, I started to realize that it was a longer story. One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis. What I like most about it the way it’s written as a conversation between two main characters. As I thought through the idea of God as a divine version of Frankenstein, I began to see a story that was centered around a conversation between my own two main characters, one a more mature Christian and the other, a new Christian just waking up to the work of Christ in him. Almost immediately this “conversation” became one that I wish someone would have had with me when I was a new Christian.

So I started writing a book and called it Divine Frankenstein. I am currently working on another book, that will be out before this one, but I felt like I needed to share this first chapter. I have only ever shared it with a few other people (5 exactly), but here it is… Divine Frankenstein, Chapter 1.

DARKNESS

It starts in darkness; creation always does. The second creation can only ever start with darkness. For it’s only in the darkness that the genuine need for hope is realized. Before that, hope is simply an impression that, when the synthetic light we manufactured in the first creation begins to dim, causes us to momentarily ponder what might happen if the light is extinguished. That dimming causes us to search out something to grasp. We look to anything that might help us maintain our bearings, should the darkness come. As children, we seem wiser with regard to understanding darkness. We approach it with a healthy fear or at the very least caution.

Eventually though, somewhere between the nightlights of our childhood and the reading lamp of adulthood, we lose our fear of the dark. We forget that scary things lurk and skulk there. We dismiss that it is the preferred method of cover for the ominous creatures that seek to undue and destroy us. Somehow it simply becomes an absence and we ignore it; sometimes we might even welcome it.

Collapse of the First Creation

But the truth of it is, darkness entering into creation was the most dreadful of things. Darkness in creation reveals void. It exposes the created to emptiness, ultimately ending with the death of all that was intended to be good in the first creation. It stifles the life that creation brings, choking and pressing out every bit of it, until all that remains is a distorted reflection of what once was. Creation was not meant to function in darkness. It was light that was introduced into creation first. Creation was intended to flourish in the glory of The Light.

All created eventually collapses into darkness. Truth be told, darkness has already consumed the first creation. If this were not true, there would be no need for hope. And seeking something like peace, specifically in this world, would be a frivolous pursuit. Likewise there would be no need for the second creation. But we seek hope and we do desire the comfort of the light. The second creation is necessary.

The Second Creation

The desire of The Creator is for His created to release its tight-fisted grip on the first creation and welcome the dying that darkness brings, ultimately surrendering to the work of His second creation. It is only in this second creation that hope can be truly experienced and peace, which until now has only ever been spoken of around treaty tables as a fanciful and utopian idea, becomes a reality. It is in the second creation that we realize the wholeness and peace, we have so long hoped to experience, first occurs in us. Then, and only then, is it able to work its way outward into all of creation.

Peace is grown in the light of the second creation. Light is always brightest as it extinguishes darkness. The only way for second creation to come about, is for the first to end in darkness; there is no other way. And that end of the first creation results in void and emptiness. On the surface this seems a dreadful thing. But without void and emptiness, filling and fullness cannot occur. If we are filled with the trappings of the first creation, what room is there for the second creation? The work of the second creation requires the first to end. And the first ends in darkness. Only after this end can hope take hold and peace become tangible. So it is that your second creation starts in the midst of darkness.

Does the Counsel You Give Justify or Challenge?

 

Counsel

When I approach a friend for advice, I usually want them to give me a clear answer for what I should do. It always seems easier to not have to wrestle with making the “right” decision. Then, if it happens to not be the right decision, I do not have to be fully responsible for the outcome. But, as easy as that would be, those I count as my best friends never just hand me an answer. And I appreciate them all the more for that.

A Counsel of Friends vs. An Over-Saved Response

The way they do this is instead of just delivering me up an answer, they typically walk with me through the issue. That involves asking a lot of thought provoking questions and sharing perspective. One of the best parts of our interaction is the amount of thought and prayer that goes into their end of the discussion.  And, they never flippantly use scripture as a mask for not knowing what to say. But, because they care about following Jesus well and being Him to others, when God does reveal wisdom through His word, they obediently share it. Which, again, I appreciate.

And when it comes to scripture, we all have a friend that is really, really religious. You know, the over-saved friend. The one whose advice is drenched in scriptural references, most of which  doesn’t even make sense for the issue I am dealing with. Something like, me: “Should I take this job or that job?” Friend: “Jesus said, ‘I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” What? In hindsight those are my favorite bits of “scriptural wisdom”, because they are hilarious. If we are honest, we are all guilty of this.

Scriptural Counsel

When an issue comes up, one of the easiest thing to do is throw a few bible verses at it, regardless of whether they are contextually applicable. We all do it, as both the seeker and giver of counsel. As the seeker of counsel, we look to scripture that justifies our behavior or response, rather than letting Holy Spirit speak to our actual need. To be clear, I am all for using scripture as the foundation for the counsel we give. I wish, as a community of believers, we were more dependent on the word of God for how we are to live out our daily lives. How much fuller would our life in Christ, both individually and communally, be if we sought counsel from the word of God on an everyday basis? After all, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and understanding comes with knowledge of Him (Prov 9:10). So to be clear, using scripture is not the issue.

Scripture that Justifies

The issue is when we mis-contextualize scripture for our benefit. If you feel like someone has wronged you, how much easier is it to find a scripture that justifies our anger, rather than let God lead you in how to handle it? If you did, the possibility exists that God may require you to let it go, like, to just drop it. Or worse, He might ask you to forgive the offense and reconcile. Those can be jagged pills to swallow. Instead, we recall our favorite scripture verse to justify, rather than challenge. But comfort, in that sense, is never God’s desire for us; Christ-likeness is. And it has always been that idea that has always been the foundation of some of the best counsel I have ever received.

Counsel that Challenges

I do not remember the issue I was dealing with at the time, but I do remember the counsel. Whatever the issue was, my friend’s counsel came in the form of a question. He asked, “Regardless of the situation and how you feel, what actions would honor Christ?” Bam! Hard question to answer if I am looking to justify myself. It brought me to 1 Cor 10:31, which says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you want a bible verse that can apply to a whole host of issues, this is one. And, while it does not provide an outright answer, it does force you to ask a better question.

Rather than throwing scripture at each other in an attempt to justify, our love for one another ought to compel us to challenge each other toward Christ. I am not suggesting that there is never a time to use scripture to comfort. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit is our ever-present Comforter (John 14:16) and Counselor (John 14:26). There are occasions when it is more than appropriate to use scripture as a healing salve. But, scripture was never intended for use to justify our actions. If we desire to “walk as Christ walked” (1 John 2:6), asking “what would honor Christ”  is a question that we should ask each other often.

 

photo: Flickr/Bill Strain
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