Posts Tagged ‘Call’

Misinterpreting Requests

February 17, 2014

I was perhaps eight or nine. On first base in a Little League game. Don’t remember how that happened, since it was not a common occurrence. The next kid hit a pop fly. The coach (my dad) yelled, “Tag up.” Well, I knew to go back to the base and wait. So, I interpreted that as “tag up and go.” So, I did. Got thrown out at second. Dad asked what in the world was I thinking. I said, you told me to go.

We were discussing the story of the wedding feast in Cana as told by John. Mary, being one of the few people perceptive of other people’s situations, noticed that the wine was about gone. That would result in humiliation for the bridegroom. She knew that.

She asked her oldest son (or only son if you’re Catholic, but we won’t go there) to do something.

At this point, we all know the story, so we assume that she meant for Jesus to perform a miracle. Someone suggested, we don’t know what she had in mind. Maybe she just meant for Jesus to gather his new friends and run to the store and buy some more. The writer never says.

We just know that Jesus interpreted it as a strong request to perform a miracle. He said, “Woman, my time is not yet come.” Weird comment.

But then he began issuing commands. He took charge of the situation. Mary tells the others to do what he says (good mother, she is).

I love theology and literary tricks. I take the miracle from that point of view that Jesus, whether he knew it there or not but probably did, changed water meant for Jewish purification rites into Communion wine (you saved the best wine for last, said the steward to the bridegroom, surely an ironic statement). A different sort of purification.

But what if it all started because he thought his mother meant one thing, and he interpreted it as another?

I’m Doing a Great Work

December 30, 2013

I’m Doing a Great Work

“I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.”

What is your great work for 2014? Can you see it in your mind?

Nehemiah saw a problem that troubled him greatly. His brother returned to Susa in Persia where Nehemiah was an official in the Emperor’s office with disturbing news about the state of affairs in Jerusalem–the ancient capital of his people.

He prayed and meditated on the problem for several months and came to focus on fixing one big thing–rebuilding the walls of the city. In those days, cities of any importance at all had walls. Jerusalem’s walls had been in shambles ever since the Babylonians had conquered the city some 100 years before.

One day while he was supervising the rebuilding of the walls, his enemies sent a message requesting a meeting in a village down on the plain. Nehemiah responded, “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.”

This year’s work

This is the time of the year for reflecting upon the past year and resolving to do better next year. I will adjust my schedule at the gym to allow for an influx of optimistic people next week. My Yoga class will double in size for the month of January.

People will make resolutions to lose weight, get fit, be healthier. But they won’t focus on the great work, and they’ll quit.

What is your great work for the coming year? Define it. Write it down and keep it in a place you’ll see daily. For in the coming time, every day you must make decisions–almost hourly–that will determine the outcome of your great work.

Do you need to have a better relationship? Deal with an alcohol or other addiction problem? End a toxic relationship? Start a new ministry? Define it, pray and meditate on it, ask God to bring people into your life that will help you.

My great work

Last year at this time, I heard Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries teach on this verse. I also read Henry Cloud’s book “Necessary Endings.” A friend had advised me to pray intentionally for God to bring people into my life.

Also last year I had been praying for God to open up some sort of ministry and to deal with a toxic relationship that I had found myself in. And to bring new people into my life.

It was an interesting year. I ended the toxic relationship, started a new business, accepted a request to re-start a ministry at church and started the process of turning around another business and to buy it.

My great work this year is to digest all that, achieve focus and purpose on each, and make them all successful. At the core, I pray to become a better communicator.

What’s yours? Are you stepping out in faith?

What One Thing Would Make Your Life Better

December 5, 2013

What one thing that, if you gave it up, would make your life better?

I read that statement this morning and started thinking. This is a perfect season of the year to think about this. Those of us who attend any sort of Christian church are going to hear at least one message on simplifying our lives. On not letting pervasive advertising persuade us into thinking giving and getting more stuff is better. It may be better for the economy, but is it better for us individually?

There are now two open seats on the five-member school board in my small city. Bev wanted to know if she should keep the newspaper out for me to read about it when I get home. I told her no. I know as much as I need. I served eight years; I have no interest in going back. Besides, I’m in a season where I’ve become very busy already.

I gave up a job that paid well, but the atmosphere (to me at least) was toxic. For peace of mind as well as the chance to be creative again, I quit. Then I spent several months making money through writing while I invested money in starting a small business. No sooner had that kicked off (finally), when another opportunity came my way. Now I’m executive director (and future owner with my partner) of another business. Meanwhile, I asked an associate pastor whatever had happened to the mission trips that people went on and returned so on fire in the Spirit. No leadership, she said. So…another job. All because a man I know said, “Pray for God to bring people into your life.”

This was a lot to digest over the past 7 months. My thing is to say no to anything else.

I gave up one thing and gained a new life. This year has been a blessing. But I do need to look over everything I own and everything I do and simplify. We call it an iterative process. That means the process is never done. Once you simplify, then you look for new things to simplify. But also to say yes to the appropriate opportunities. Sometimes God’s call is too powerful to ignore.

So That You May Bear Fruit

November 1, 2013

“You may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”

Paul wrote to the Christ followers in Colossae that he prayed for this for the people. I know of people who think that this is the end of the sentence. The purpose of life is to be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Some of these people live as though they have achieved this state and this gives them permission to tell others about how they have not achieved such a state. They either implied or stated boldly that this made them better people.

Do you know people like that? I certainly do. And Jesus met them every day. Back then, they were called Pharisees. And he told many stories about how they were wrong.

How wrong? Well, Paul finishes his sentence, “so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in knowledge of God.”

So that! The end is not wisdom and understanding. These are only the foundation, the means, the tools, for living a life pleasing to God.

And what is a life pleasing to God? Paul tells us. “Bear fruit in every good work” and “grow in knowledge of God.”

What are good works? One story Jesus told was of a man beaten by robbers. Three men passed by him as he lay bleeding. Two were from the higher ranks of Jewish society–they did nothing (and they were listening as Jesus told the story). One was an outcast in the eyes of Jewish society–a Samaritan. The Samaritan took care of the man. That was a good work–as well as a teaching that our neighbor to be helped is whomever we find along the road of life.

Another good work comes from Jesus’ words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew where he tells us to make disciples. Preaching at people does little to no good. Helping them through example, teaching, love, mentoring to be like Jesus is what our work in life is.

What will be your so that today? Will you recognize it?

Leadership and Vision

October 11, 2013

I’m reading in the book of Exodus for a while. Interesting stories. Familiar to many of us. Overall, it is the story about a leader. A leader who was reluctant to lead, but whom God convinced was the one man who had the talent and upbringing to be that leader. He grew into the role and became a great leader, the builder of a nation, and the builder of a religion.

He was Moses, of course. A great prophet in the sense that he spoke with God. He accepted God’s leadership and vision. He was to form the diverse tribes of Hebrews into one nation who worshiped the one true God.

From the text, I have to believe that the 400 years spent in Egypt, much of it as slaves, separated the majority of the people from true worship of God. Moses had to convince them in the desert that God was real. I think the detail about priests, garments, alter and so forth–remarkable that it was written and preserved–was basically a leadership method to instill the habit of worshiping God into future generations.

Moses had the vision from God, totally incorporated into his life, of leading the people into the land promised to Abraham centuries before. He overcame opposition to God from people who wanted a god they could see (the golden calf). He formed them into a structured society. He led them to the edge of the Promised Land.

But, he still could not instill in them the courage to take the land and believe that God could be trusted.

That was left to the next generation of leaders–primarily Joshua.

But think about Moses.

  • He had early training in leadership as a member of Pharaoh’s household
  • He served an apprenticeship under a God-fearing man
  • When God talked, he listened and obeyed
  • He remained focused on God and God’s vision for the people
  • He built new habits within the people who had left security–albeit one as slaves
  • He built a structured way for the people to remember God and to worship Him
  • He persisted for the remainder of his life

He remains a great example for us no matter what we’re leading. Grounded in the right motives, firm vision of the future, building the right habits among his followers, persisting until the end.

Being Rewarded Without Showing Loyalty

September 9, 2013

“The loyalty program that doesn’t require loyalty.”

I don’t watch much TV. Sunday Masterpiece Mystery. Occasional Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. Maybe Sunday afternoon soccer. But I entered Saturday TV wasteland last weekend watching part of a college football game. My attention was jarred by this ad. Wow, this fits it all, I think, this Age of Narcissism.

You get all the benefits without the commitment.

Is your church this way? Your business? Your non-profit organization. What’s that old Dire Straits song, “Money for nothin'”? In addition to a great guitar line, the song really rips into people who think it’s all easy.

Luke writes about a time Jesus was walking along a road and meets several people (end of Chapter 9):

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Looking at these thoughts from the point of view of a leader, I want only those people who are committed to the cause. Of course, like Jesus we as leaders need to define the cause and make it compelling for our followers. But we need followers who are committed.

Looking at this from the point of view of an individual, I need to make the commitment. It’s not all about me. There’s no loyalty reward in life where I don’t have loyalty. As you sow, so shall you reap. The decisions you make today determine what will happen to you tomorrow.

What is your level of commitment?

Make Yourself a Blank Slate

January 4, 2011

Jon Swanson posted a thought on Levite Chronicles that got me thinking. He was talking about giving a gift of blank paper and colored pencils and adding an note, “Sometimes the best gift is a blank slate.”

A new year is beginning. Think of yourself as a blank slate beginning the year. What will be written upon it? Will you control the pencil? Will you let Jesus fill your slate?


Forget Goals, Find Your Passion

November 27, 2010

I returned to the US from Germany just in time for Thanksgiving. Sorry, I didn’t do an obligatory post on thanks. When I’m traveling–especially to these conferences–that extra hour to work on one of these posts just seems hard to come by. Plus I’m working on recovering my stamina after a fairly bad muscle pull Sept. 1 that but me on two weeks of bed rest, a week of physical therapy before I started a series of 6 trips in 9 weeks. In December, it’s two trips to Chicago and a trip to Tennessee/Florida over Christmas.

If I made goals like all the self-help gurus tell you to do, I’d make a goal to come up with a better schedule of how to work on the road. But that leads to my thought for day. Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent. This is a season of preparing for the future. Many people use this time in their personal lives to take stock of what they have done and think about what they’d like to accomplish. Then they make goals (sometimes called “New Year’s Resolutions”) to focus them for the coming year.

The church had a future-looking committee many years ago. As people talked, it became obvious that there were many people with many great ideas for ministries. But the committee leadership was fixated on developing a five-year plan of goals. (Or, as I have been known to observe–this form of planning worked so well for the Soviets…) But a new pastor came to town who did one pretty simple thing–he gave people permission to pursue their passions. And, wow, what a change.

So, here is some practical advice for you for the new year. Or the rest of your life. Don’t set goals. Find your passion and accomplish what you want in life while having fun doing it. My favorite lifestyle writer, Leo Babaueta, says this:

Goals take credit for our accomplishments. We give them a lot of credit for our accomplishments, but they didn’t do the work. They might have given us a direction, but in the end, the work is done on a daily basis. Goals also require that we do a lot of admin work — assess and report on how we’re doing with our goals, etc.

But remove goals from the picture and look at the gritty details of how work gets done and accomplishments happen:

  • You get excited about something. Sometimes that’s through setting goals, but it could be other ways: inspiration from someone else doing something, setting a challenge for yourself, joining a group doing something exciting, or just waking up and wanting to do something great. Or you put on ‘Hey Mama’ by Black Eyed Peas and start shaking your booty and want to get moving.
  • You take action.
  • Maybe you report your new thing to others — on your blog or Twitter or Facebook or an online forum, or just telling your friends.
  • You might make it a part of your life for a little while.
  • You take more action.
  • You tell people about how you’re doing.
  • Pretty soon you’ve done something amazing.
  • Notice that goals are only one way to do this.

So, here you go. I wish you all the best in finding your passion while you meditate on Jesus’ coming during this Advent season. You might spend the month asking what he wants you to be doing. Oh, yes, but then you have to listen. Then, do.

Doing for others, doing for Jesus

October 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about living a life with God. This was started by peering into the attitudes of people who claim Christ as their leader, but their actions appear anything but Christlike by exhibiting hate, malice, arrogance and the like.

Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill, has been speaking on Matthew 25:31-45. This is part of Jesus’ final teachings as he prepares his followers for life on their own without his physical presence with them. He taught on watchfulness and using your talents wisely. Now he discusses how God will judge you at your resurrection.

Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. Our first act is to acknowledge God and ask to partake of that gift. But God expects much of us. Not to just sit still in his grace and condemn others. He expects us to get off our butts and bring love and grace to those whom we meet.

As I typed these words, I realized that there are some who like to separate themselves from others. They might narrowly define what Jesus means by “members of my family.” But the Old Testament and New Testament are united in stating that God’s desire is for all humanity to know him. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan precisely to show that we must think beyond the boundaries of our tribe.

These words also challenge me. I give money. I give time. I try to serve others where I am. But is it enough? Am I squandering the talents God gave me? How about you?

New Leadership Rises

August 24, 2010

I’m still contemplating the end of the gospel of Mark. So the group has an intimate, friendly if not joyous, but yet strange Passover meal. The leader is acting a little strangely, what with washing their feet and all. They whisper about betrayal, but still don’t really know what to expect. Little do they know that by tomorrow night they will be leaderless–sort of. Or at least temporarily. Little did they know that they had to go from student to leader almost overnight. It’s sort of like going from adolescence to maturity in the space of a month.

Think about high school athletics. OK, maybe a stretch, but consider this. One year there is senior leadership of the team, but they inevitably graduate (or get too old). But the next year, last year’s juniors are this year’s seniors, and new leadership arises.

While the disciples had Jesus, they didn’t have to think. Jesus made the decisions. Jesus did the teaching. Jesus chose the inner circle. Jesus arranged the Passover dinner. And the next night he was gone.

So we sit in our comfortable homes and churches and criticize the disciples. What would you have done. You don’t become a leader overnight. Think of times in your life when there was a leader and then she or he was gone. Died. Moved away. Whatever. Wasn’t there a period of time for adjustment?

So they gradually regrouped. Then they experienced the new Jesus. Then they started to exercise their own leadership muscles. And in only 40 days came the day of Pentecost when they announced to the world, “We’re back.” And they each went out and started faith communities. And Paul, Barnabas and others were called, and they traveled the world establishing faith communities. And so, here we are.

The thing that grieves me personally is this thought–what have I done to start new faith communities and raise up new leaders? Have I done enough? Have you? That is one of our tasks–to bring up new leaders to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is here.