Tag: Love others (page 1 of 4)

Stop Obsessing Over your Call from God


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 13:3

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

The Lie in “Practice Makes Perfect”

practice makes perfect

photo used from realfreewebsite.com

“Practice makes perfect,” right? We grow up being fed this idiom as the advice that will ensure our success. We’re told that no matter the skill, we are able to master it by simply repeating it over and over. We have taken this simple motivational saying and turned it into a life motto. But deep down we struggle with believing it is true. If it were true, then the American Idol audition episodes would not be as funny to watch. The truth is we know that we can’t be perfect, at anything, ever. But unfortunately so many of us still buy into this saying as an undisputable truth.

There’s a difference in wanting to do something well and needing to be perfect at it. One motivates you to continue to work hard and allows you to enjoy progress and success, even in the moments of failure. The other drives you to overreach in the area of practice, which often steals the joy of doing, creates burnout and causes feelings of never being “good enough.” When times of failure come; because they always do, even for professionals, or you meet the person that is better than you, it’s crushing. That often leads to more striving and more burnout or simply just quitting. Either way the potential for a defeated heart becomes greater and greater.

The Bible Doesn’t Necessarily Help

Unfortunately we’ve moved away from simply seeking proficiency toward seeking perfection. But, as previously mentioned, we know deep down that perfection isn’t attainable. Again unfortunately that doesn’t stop us. Sometimes it can seem like even scripture adds to this problem. Scripture like Matthew 5:48 only seems to feed our need for perfection. In that scripture Jesus actually says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” There it is, be perfect.

We automatically assume that He’s telling us to be perfect in all things, rightly conclude that it is not possible while on earth and often either ignore it and continue on our Christian way, or discount Christianity (or at least the Bible) as a whole. But, as with much of scripture it isn’t that simple and when we take a single verse out of context, we do more damage than good.

Biblical teachers have shared a couple different thoughts on what Jesus is talking about here. He says this while giving a long sermon (called the Sermon on the Mount). During that sermon Jesus elevates much of the previous laws that the Jews had been trying to live by. He equates hate with murder, lust with adultery and tells them that it is not enough to not wish their enemies ill will, but instead they must actually love them. Then, right in the middle of it, He says to be perfect.

I’ve heard it suggested that He is telling us to be perfect in our intent to follow the law as He explains it. The idea is, as humans, we are incapable of being perfect in action, but our intent can be perfect. It is basically us repeating Paul’s cry that, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” I do believe that this is true. As we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify and mold us into the likeness of Jesus, our intent to follow Jesus’ commands can be made perfect even though our ability may lack. But I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was talking about here.

Pursuit, not Perfection

Another way I’ve heard it interpreted is in the immediate context of what Jesus was talking about, specifically loving your enemy. The Greek word that Jesus used is different from other occasions when He said “perfect.” On this occasion the word means something closer to “mature.” If Jesus was saying to be perfect in the context of loving your enemy, then that changes the perspective on perfection. If this is true, Jesus is telling us to love perfectly; as the Father loves, so shall we. While that in and of it self is a hard task, if there is anything we ought to be practicing to perfection it is the ability to love. Jesus spends the few verses before v. 48 talking about how easy it is to love you friend, but the real defining factor of His follower is the ability to love their enemy. That is another blog for another time, but the good news in this is that He isn’t telling us that we need be perfect in all things.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive toward perfection. If we are pursuing Jesus we are moving toward perfection, but our goal is not perfection, it is Jesus; He is the prize, perfection is not. The best part is when Jesus talks about us being made perfect, as in whole and complete, He doesn’t say it to us, but instead during a prayer, He asks God that we, as a church, “may become perfectly one.” God never puts the onus on us to be perfect.

Practice for Pursuit

The truth is that we are not perfect and we can’t be on this side of eternity. Our flesh will continually war against our desire to do the will of God. We should strive to be perfect in the way that we love others. That should be the one area that we hold onto the idea that practice makes perfect. But, no matter how much we practice we won’t be perfect in every way it means to follow Jesus. We are going to fail. We are going to sin and fall short. We are going to be harsh with our children, upset our spouses, anger a friend, but God’s grace is sufficient for our imperfections. If He has that much grace for us, shouldn’t we have the same for each other and even for ourselves? It is in Him that we have the strength to keep on. Instead of holding onto “practice makes perfect” we would do better to view it as “practice breeds pursuit.” That means that as we repeat the things that Jesus modeled for us a desire is produced to pursue Him more.

Practice does not always make perfect, but it does bring us closer to the One who is.

How to Guarantee Success

SuccessThis past weekend I had the opportunity to hear Pastor TL Rogers, from The Triumphant Church in Washington D.C., preach on the importance of being a single, whole person before getting married. It was a great message in and of itself (you can watch it HERE) and there’s a ton more that could be said about the importance of wholeness, but there’s one thing that he said that I’d like to key in on. He said, “Success is predictable.” He was talking about success in marriage, but the idea spans the whole of following Jesus and Christendom.

He pointed to Joshua 1:8 as evidence. In that verse God is commissioning Joshua to lead the Israelites after Moses death. God tells Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” There it is. Follow the law then you’ll be prosperous and have good success. To be sure, God wasn’t simply talking about material success. He was telling Joshua what it would take to have success as His people and that started with following the law as He gave it to them.

If that’s true, we can extrapolate that out and apply it to the New Covenant in Jesus and use that verse as our guideline for success and prosperity. By the time Jesus hit the scene the Jews had over 600 laws that were required for “righteousness.” An impossible task, if ever there was one. When asked which is the most important, Jesus said, “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” If all the other laws depend on those two commands, then the promise of success found in Joshua 1:8 requires our continued obedience to them. 

What that mean in a practical sense is that as followers of Jesus our success, in everything, is dependent on not letting love depart from our lips, meditating on it day and night and being careful to do all that Jesus commanded surrounding love. That means being His witness to an unbelieving world by caring for widows and orphans, being agents of healing, loving each other well, displaying grace and forgiveness and not seeking to condemn others. Success looks like the love of Christ acted out by His followers. 

Let’s be successful.

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