Monday, October 28, 2013


A month or so ago, I was thinking about love and the list of its traits. I went through the list and described each of its traits. Now, I find myself reading through the same passage of Scripture. (Don’t worry, I am not going to describe each trait again.) This section about love is situated in the middle of a passage about the special abilities God gives his children.

One of the most commonly used metaphors to describe God’s family is that of the human body. The human body is one unit, one whole, but it is made up of many different parts. And each part has a different function. In the metaphor, each person is like a different part of the body. And the different function of the part is like the special ability God gives.

In the beginning of this section, the writer describes:
• The cohesion of God’s family;
• How God gives these abilities;
• How each person is strategic in God’s family;
• And how the abilities enable his children to meet needs, provide mutual service and interdependence.
But, as the writer transitions to his discussion of love, he explains how if the special ability is not accompanied by, supported by, empowered by or run through the filter of love, it is worthless!!

Which says to me, in God’s kingdom, these abilities are important, but love is more important. It would be better if a person acted in love, without the special abilities, than if he acted with the ability and no love.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Calling - X

We conclude with three attitudes\practices that are intended to put our call into effect.

The first attitudes\practices is “surrender.” The term has the connotation of defeat and giving up. But in a spiritual sense, it is a voluntary laying down of rights, goals and privileges, leaving one’s hands empty to pick up something else more important. When we choose to follow Jesus, we laid down our original allegiance in order to take up our new allegiance to Jesus. We surrendered our first allegiance to take up another.

Here is something similar. We choose to lay down our vision of our life, in order to take up God’s vision of our life. It becomes our vision, our way to love God and people. It becomes God’s personal command to us.

The second attitudes\practices is “focus.” There is a story of a CEO of some company who said that the bottom line dealing with any issue is – giving it attention. Living one’s call requires daily practice. Each person has to focus consistently and regularly on actions that will build the necessary skills, character and habits. There are tools that help filter out distractions (which could be activities that are harmful or activities that are good, but detract from the end we are aiming at) and activities that build. This doesn’t give anyone an excuse to avoid their responsibilities. They still need to be spouses, parents, bosses\employees and citizens. Still, if it is God personal command to us, it is something that requires daily attention.

The last attitudes\practices is “renewal.” Essentially, it is actions that helps one maintain momentum toward walking out the calling fully, achieving one’s potential. There are two aspects to this. One is renewing a person’s energy and enthusiasm towards the call. This can encompass all phases of a person: physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual. Each person has a rhythm of rest, exercise, nutrition and spiritual input needed to perform the best.

The other is a renewal of perspective. Are there changes needed? Should some activities be discontinued? Some new ones be started? The whole process ought to be reviewed, evaluated and adjustments made.

Community also becomes important as people are supported, loved and served – both giving and receiving. Special relationships are formed. Not only friendships, but also people will need guides to help fulfill the calling. There will be both short-term (for specific areas) as well as long-term.

As we choose to embrace our calling, we practice it, giving proper attention and review it wisely, we walk in God’s purpose for us, we receive God’s “fuel” and we live as we are designed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Calling - IX

At this point, walking out one’s calling lies entirely in the imagination. We have an idea about where our energies should be focused. The next suggested step is to imagine life in the future. Imagine if one’s call works out ideally, what would one’s life look like? How would one’s relationship with God be like? Marriage? Family? Church? Neighbors? What fruit would be borne? What self-image?

If a person can see where he is supposed to wind up, then he can begin to plan how he is supposed to get there. He can develop a strategy. Does he need to alter his approach to God? His family? Work? Does he need further education? Does he need to stop certain activities? Start certain activities?

As you can see, this all sits inside one’s imagination. Having a big picture of who you are and what you should become is not a bad thing. A person’s imagination is a powerful tool. Everything, good or bad, big or small, began in someone’s imagination.  The real trick is getting the contents of one’s imagination and making it real.

This is usually where living out one’s calling fails. It would be nice if we could jump straight to that idealistic future. But we can’t. We need to walk the first baby steps. We need to work through the intermediate steps. There is much praying and much planning. And there is too much expectation in many people for quick results.

Walking out God’s call on our lives at this point begins to become work. But without the work, we will never reach that future, and never experience the joy of being in the optimal place of God’s will.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Taking a brief hiatus from the “Calling” series …

I attended a seminar about diversity at work recently. Rather than focusing on “race” or “disability,” like others I have attended did, this seminar focused on “difference.” The point of the seminar was to make us aware that there are dozens of ways people can be different from one another. (Height, weight, age, race, gender, religion, politics, handed-ness, economic status, work ethic, cleanliness habits, punctuality, etc. In the seminar, during one of the group activities, we compiled a list of 58 unique things.)

Each set of “this\that” represents different perspectives, values and experiences. Each set can produce different expectations, actions and reactions.

There is a lot of debate currently about one particular subset of the general population choosing a particular lifestyle. The family of God believes this lifestyle is wrong. A lot of the general society believe the lifestyle is OK. Part of the debate is how God’s family should respond.

A part of God’s family believes this lifestyle should be condemned loudly and frequently. Another part of God’s family highlights God’s love and acceptance, and maintains that we should behave the same way towards these people.

I would like to share a few points  that seem to me to be pertinent to this discussion.

(1) God is holy. He does say we should expose sin. So, why is part of God’s family busy exposing “this” sin, and ignoring stealing, lying, gluttony, and greed? God commands us to live a life of thankfulness. Anyone rememb4er hearing sermons condemning negativity? Scripture says be holy and expose sin. It does not give us the right to pick and choose.

(2) God is love. He commands us to walk in love. The family of God is commanded to love everybody … including sinners.

(3) Jesus condemned sin and he loved and accepted sinners. What God commands seems to be in tension. Jesus was able to obey both commands perfectly; but we probably will not be able to do so. But we are called to work through the tension and obey the whole counsel of God. We don’t have the right to choose what command we obey. If we are part of God’s family, we are required to submit to the Father and obey him … in whatever he says.

(4) It was probably the diversity seminar, but I was reminded of a passage of Scripture, where the writer condemns “favoritism” or “partiality.” The example given was giving the rich favorable treatment over the poor. But given multiple passages of Scripture that demonstrate that God accepts all cultures, classes, and all types of sinners, maybe we need to make sure we are not giving favoritism to one group against another group. In that passage, God says that favoritism is sin

Monday, October 07, 2013

Calling - VIII

A third vista is our heart focus. This is a difficult thing to discover. We have discussed here in the past that God desires us to live from our hearts. He puts his spirit into our hearts and generates life moving from inside out. This is why Satan attacks our hearts. God wants our lives to be controlled by love – of God and of people. As God gives different gifts, he gives different ways to express this love.

Satan wants our hearts to be controlled by anything else: guilt, fear, hate, lust, pride, etc. So, he attacks our hearts to smother love, if he can; and to generate some other counterfeit. So, people build protections over their hearts. And Satan confounds, confuses and distorts. So, we either cut through the barriers to uncover our heart focus; or we peel back all the layers. All of which God seeks to do.

It is not totally possible to shut down the expression of our heart focus. It peeks out from underneath the pile in a number of ways. To get a glimpse of your heart focus, ask yourself questions like these:
  • What are your dreams? 
  • Who are your heroes?
  • What are your favorite stories? (Bible, movies, books.)
  • What do you hope your future becomes?
  • If guaranteed success, what would you do?
  • What do you want written in your obituary?
This obviously requires using our imagination and a lot of quiet reflection. We need to remember that God’s desire is his glory and the advancement of his kingdom. God’s route for this is through his family – controlled by love, and attaining their potential. Scripture says that God has put eternity in people’s hearts, so the people are moved to seek him. Moreover, he puts a passion into people’s hearts, so we are driven to actualize our potential, give him glory, and love and serve people.

Calling - VII

Another tool set God has given to view our lives (another vista to make sense of our personal landscape) is our talents and gifts.

If God has given us a special niche to impact the world from, he will certainly equip and enable us to complete the work by providing us with skills. (Either natural skills given at birth, or spiritual skills given at re-birth. Or both.)

There are many abilities that can compile our skill-set. Some abilities are given at birth, eg. a musical ear or good hand-eye coordination. Scripture speaks of abilities given when we become part of God's family. Special skills that God empowers and works through, because his Spirit dwells in us.

Part of a skill-set involves a particular perspective (a set of lenses) to view the world through. For example, some people have a skill-set involving the maintenance of the physical environment. So, they see needs that should be attended to. They hear a noise in a car, and know how to fix it. They see "signs" in a house or yard, and know how to correct it.

Needs, concerns and areas for improvement occur in every area of life. So, an important part of this vista is an understanding of a person's heart, as well as their successes and achievements. 

Are there areas we are practiced and successful in? We probably have skills in that area.

Are there areas we have longings or strong desires about? We may have skills in that area, that we have not tapped into. God instills desires in our hearts to give us direction.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Calling -VI

There are several tools God has given to help determine the calling God has given us. The first is our life history, our life story. 

Let's pretend for a moment that there is an infinite, personal God, who made man-kind, designed them to have a relationship with him, and designed everything about individual people ... including what will enable them to live to their greatest potential. And since he is an infinite, personal God, he can give each of his children moment by moment attention. He can tailor a detailed program of training for each child, so they fill that spot that we have given the term "calling:" fulfilling their potential, acting in the most effective and efficient way to complete God's purpose and mission, maximizing joy and giving love in an individual and unique way. 

If there was such a God, and he had such a purpose for his children, we should be able to see his hand in their lives. There should be lessons, themes and patterns. There should be experiences that unlock doors to unseen, unknown vistas. There should be principles that are etched indelibly on hearts. 

Now let's pretend there is an enemy. One who want to detract from God's glory, thwart his purposes, disrupt his mission and generate as much misery as possible. And since God's glory, purposes and mission are bound up in people, (people choosing to align themselves with God in a new allegiance, to live in a new life that points others to God and to partner with God in restoring his kingdom) the place the enemy will attack is people ... especially his children. He will try to disrupt their training, distract them filling their place, confuse their identity, and interfere with their relationship with the Father.

If a person charted his life, there would be a number of ups and downs. And a number of these ups and downs would affect decisions, changing the direction of life. Some decisions would be based on fear. Some on faith, love or any of a number of practical considerations. By charting these transitions, a person could begin (repeat: begin) to see themes and patterns. One might also see places of disruption. To see the place of calling, one needs a panoramic view. There are motivations, and contexts. So, a person's life story is a view from one mountain top.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Calling - V

We discussed how each Jesus follower has a common core identity or common primary fuel. There is also a common purpose. This is simply to live a life that honors God. How do we do that? What does that look like?
  • We love, obey, serve and follow God.
  • We are serious about knowing and understanding what he says.
  • We make his purposes, our purposes.
  • We make his heart, our heart.
  • We make his values, our values.
  • We make his priorities, our priorities.
  • We live a life of love.
Or, to quote David Putnam, "We live like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We leave what Jesus left behind."

The first one is vital. It is what our heart should be focused on. It is the bull's eye of our life. The second is very important, because too many do not understand the rest of the list. For example, for many Christians (sincere, serious, genuine followers of Jesus), it is essential the the life of God's family is centered in a special building. (Please understand me. A special building is NOT evil. I am NOT advocating the all-out abandonment and destruction of special buildings.) However, if one looked at the family of God in the US, one would assume that one cannot follow God if one did not have a special building.

If one looked at the practices of certain subsets of God's family, one would assume that God considers certain cultural practices to be evil. And that might not necessarily be so. That does NOT mean that if something is accepted by the culture, it ought to be accepted by the family of God. More ... because something is right and proper in God's eyes to practice in one city, it does NOT mean it is right and proper to practice in another city. We need to understand what God says. Walk in understanding, wisdom and love, so he gains glory in ALL settings. That is our purpose.