Calling: The Move from Praying For to Praying With

Tonight in our Bible study at Houston’s First we are going to turn our attention to calling. Calling is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of the Christian life. For many, calling is only something that pastors or missionaries get. For others, a calling is always something extra-ordinary…calling only happens when it is something earth shattering and crowd gathering. And for most, calling is something mysterious, hidden from us by God so that we have to hunt to find it.

Yet, while calling may be any of those things it is often none of them. A simple way to explain calling is the move from praying for to praying with. As Christians, we are commanded to be in prayer and most of us have a long list of things we are praying for. Our church asks us to pray for a new ministry opportunity. A mission organization asks us to pray for the people they are reaching. The news reports a tragedy and we pray for those involved. A neighbor, co-worker,or whoever expresses a struggle or need in their life. The list could go on but I hope we get the point…we should be in prayer for all these things. We should have a list somewhere, by the bed, in your journal, on your phone, or in your Bible where we write all these things down and we should consistently pray for them.

But there will come a moment when praying for will not be enough. The Holy Spirit will lead you to do something,

-to be involved with a new ministry opportunity,

-involved with reaching a certain people,

-involved with responding to a tragedy,

-involved with meeting a need.

These are moments of calling. Calling is basically when we are moved by God to get involved. And we fulfill our calling in those moments when we move from praying for to praying with…when we move from asking God to provide for them and allow ourselves to be used as God’s provision.

Purpose = Excuse

“I would be willing to do God’s will if I just knew what it was.”

As a (former) minister and teacher, I have heard this phrase countless times (to be honest many were by me), and over the years, I have given both good and bad advice to those trying to find God’s purpose for their life. But as of late I have noticed something about many of us struggling to find God’s will or purpose for our life…we want to know what it is before we do anything.

Our life is spent trying to understand our purpose in our head and there is nothing happening with our feet or hands. We sit around waiting for a word from God promising that when we get it we will jump to it! There are obviously problems with this mindset, let me unpack one of them:

I am not a physicist (physics almost kept me from getting my undergrad degree!), but I think I have this right…it is easier for an object to stay in motion than to get a stationary object to start moving. I am not discounting the ability of God’s wind to blow as it wills, but for those of us who sit and wait, it can take a lot of wind to get us sailing.

In reading scripture, however, what we find is the meaning is often found while doing. Some, like Paul get a clear word from God, but even then the specifics came from doing not from waiting. But most are not told their purpose but to get going and to believe God’s promise, “No matter where you go, I will be with you!” God is working to bring about his purposes in and through you, what he is longing for is not people who understand but people who trust and obey.

I love the mindset of the missions office at my church: we won’t always know where we are headed,but we commit to always doing the next right thing. And this is the simple advice I now give to those struggling to find their purpose (myself included) – do something. Find the next right thing and Just Do It, maybe Nike was right all along?

Help my unbelief…when good things happen

Is it strange to discuss unbelief connected to good things? Many of us would argue, “Of course I believe when things are good. That is when believing is easy.”

But is that really true? When the going is good is believing easier?

I know that in my own life that is not the case. As a matter of fact, I am better at believing during struggles than during success. Struggles break me, lead me to submit, lead me to ask for help…but success, it empowers me, leads me to trust in my own talents, leads me to think I do not need any help.

John Stott, in Basic Christianity, writes, “True faith with translate mental belief into a decisive act of trust.” Believing requires trusting. Believing certainly requires giving mental ascent to certain truths about God revealed in Jesus Christ, but mental acceptance without soulful trust is still unbelief.

Success, at least for me, guides me to rely on myself, to trust in my own strength. Success guides me to turn from giving God all the glory to trying to make a name for myself (Genesis 11, 1 Samuel 15). In other words, success is cause of my unbelief. Thus, although we are saying it for different reasons, I can proclaim like the father in Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I pray that God will confront me with my tendency to blame him for struggles and praise myself for success. I will rethink what I am striving to achieve. I will consider is my life being lived in vain or on purpose.

Blogging 2013

I have finally moved into the New Year and slowly getting back to doing all those things I should be doing.

No, blogging is not one of them, but it is something enjoy. This year I am going to be very intentional in my blogging and have three posts a week each tied to a particular topic.

Metaphor and Biblical Interpretation

The beginning of the week post will be about my academic research. The first set of posts is going to be about how we employ metaphor theory in biblical interpretation. It is the methodology section of my thesis and part of a paper I writing for submission to SBL. (Will post later today to set this up.)

The Link

The mid-week post will be from the class I teach at Houston’s First Baptist Church on Wednesday evening. This semester we are studying Ecclesiastes and the Sermon on the Mount together. We are going examine the difference between living life in vain and life redeemed.

Warp and Woof

The end of the week round-up will be a sampling of stuff from around the web, quotes from books I’m reading, and/or where God is working on me.