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Archive for the tag “wisdom”

What Does a Call Look Like?

I’ve been talking to several people over the past couple of week about that term “calling.” Just what does a “call” look like?

In baseball, they have the “call to the bullpen” where the old pitcher comes out and a new pitcher comes in to take over the rest of the game.

Then there is another way to use the word:

“My name is Zebediah, but you can call me Zeb.”

In that case, the person wants you to call them by a certain title or nickname.

Then you have the doctor version of it. “I am on call.”

And there are multiple other uses of the word…

“’Should I call the men from up on the hill?’ he called out.”

But what about in Christianity? Let’s look at a couple verses and determine what this word actually means and if it is even biblical to say “I have a calling to go into the ministry.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

2 Peter 1:10 – Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

That is a lot to digest!

Let’s unpack each of these verses and throw in some of the church history as well.

To begin, the general call in the Bible is to a live with Christ. That is the first and foremost call in the Bible.

Romans 1:5-6 – through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ

Belonging to and in Christ is a much deeper calling than anything else in there. When one starts to discern a calling from a Christian standpoint, we need to make sure they have first a restored relationship with God and with His people.

This means that the primary call of the Christian is to respond to and act upon the call to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world.

This means that whatever work we choose must be integrated with the participation with Christ Himself. We could be a plumber, but as a plumber, we can work for the Kingdom by repairing relationships, showing justice, acting with mercy and grace and other components of the kingdom.

Next, God has given us a call to work. God created us to work. It started all the way back in the Garden of Eden. In Exodus, we are told that we are to work for 6 days and then rest. So you could say that it goes beyond calling, we are created to work. In the very beginning the call to basically be a farmer was the highest calling there was other than unity with God (until Eve came along that is).

Next, we are called to, well, life. Our work is not merely the job from which we get a paycheck. We raise families, have a spouse, and have friends.

Eve came along and Adam was then so smitten with her that he gave his time and attention to her as well as working his job in the Garden. This means we should balance our paid work and personal work with our families and friends.

So, to this point, we know that we are called to belong to Christ. We are created to work. And we are called to have a full life, filled with family and friends.

Knowing what kind of work you do is probably not that high on God’s list of things that are of critical importance.

But let’s look at whether God calls us to particular work.

We do know it does happen. God has called several people in the Bible to specific work. He called prophets. He called Noah to build an ark. He called Moses and Aaron to their roles. Many of the political leaders we see in the Bible, God elevated them to their roles. Even though the word “call” is not used here, there is no mistaking that God called those people to their roles.

I have read several commentaries that said that God called very few people in the Bible. And, I guess He didn’t call a lot of people numerically. But if you take that as a percentage of the people mentioned in the Bible, it is actually pretty high. And if you include the people we don’t get to “meet,” then that is a very high number. We don’t see all the people who went on to plant churches  in the New Testament or all of the Israelites whose sole job it was to protect the Ark of the Covenant.

But were many of these calls a direct “voice from heaven” moment or were they more subtle, such as being attuned to the heart of God through Scripture and meditation? There are several ways to discern where God wants to place you as far as a career goes.

First, we need to look at the needs of the world. We are told in Scripture that we should support ourselves and our families.

1 Timothy 5:8 – But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Titus 3:14 – Let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

We also are expected to meet the needs of those who are not part of our family.

Proverbs 14:21 – Happy are those who are kind to the poor.

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.

Or what about working to be productive in society? That is Scriptural as well.

Jeremiah 29:5-7 – Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Next, God gives us each talents and gifts. We should use those gifts not only for the edification of the body of believers, but for the society as a whole.

Isaiah 28:24-26 – Do those who plow for sowing plow continually? Do they continually open and harrow their ground? When they have leveled its surface, do they not scatter dill, sow cummin, and plant wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border? For they are well instructed; their God teaches them.

1 Corinthians 12:7-10 – To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

This is where knowing what you are good at and what spiritual gifts the Lord has given is important. This happens by talking to those closest to you, realizing your talents and spiritual gifts tests.

For example, I know that God has given me the ability to take large tasks and get them accomplished. I have managerial skills and leadership ability. I also have the ability to preach and to teach. That is what has helped me to confirm my calling into ministry. But similar skill set could be used to be a training manager for a company or a military commander.

Finally, what has God given you as your desires? Your fulfillment of purpose is vitally important to God.

Psalm 37:4 – Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

John 16:24 – Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Because of sin, however, our desires can get all screwed up. Doing what makes us happiest will not always bring the greatest fulfillment. God is looking out for our fulfillment of purpose, not mere happiness that comes and goes with the circumstances.

Does this mean that being “called” into the ministry is a higher calling? Around the Middle Ages, becoming a monk or a nun was considered a higher calling. Even to this day, we still see that played out. I have been fairly consistent in believing that while I welcome the benefits that the government affords those in ministry, they further create a divide into calling versus higher calling, and that is a mentality that needs to stop.

But fact of the matter remains, God does call people into vocational ministry.

Exodus 28:1 – Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests — Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

Mark 1:16-17 – As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Acts 13:2,5 – While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” ….When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.

Regardless, Christians are called, yes called, to conduct themselves to the full-time service of Christ.

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.

But, Fred, what about 1 Timothy calling out those who are elder or pastor as it actually being a higher calling?

1 Timothy 5:17-18 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.”

This should be translated more in line with pay rather than about comparing their work with other peoples’ work. The true comparison in this passage is about pastors who rule well versus those who don’t instead of pastors versus the rest of the world.

Whew….That was a lot. But I believe this will give some insight, mostly to myself, about the word calling and what it is to the Christian.

Take the first step

Proverbs 1:7 – Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.

I’ve been silent for a very long time on here. I lost a lot of followers because of it. But it hasn’t been without reason or without merit.

I sometimes have a tendency of speaking first and using wisdom later. That isn’t always the best choice, especially for a ministry professional.

I’ve spent the past few months simply seeking God where He has me and not trying to place God in my own purposes.

Today, though, it was like God was telling me to write and giving me very clear word pictures in my dreams and mind.

Let me back up a little.

Since you last heard from me, a lot has continued to happen. My dad moved down to Maryland to be closer to us. My wife lost her job and has been searching for a new one. My ministries have been ebbing and flowing as ministry usually does. Our kids are growing up even quicker now than they were before (that is the byproduct of pushing 50).

Meanwhile, I had hoped to be David Platt’s “mini me” by now. I had hoped to have all these churches asking me to come and preach on Sunday. I had hoped to have the likes of Ed Stetzer, Louie Giglio, and others asking me to write the forward for their books.

Man, I was looking at the top of the staircase!

But last night I was asleep. I was actually awakened this morning by my dream.

By the way, God, when you go to wake someone up from their dreams, next time can you make it on a day that I have to be up early? Not a day that I am able to sleep in? Thanks.

My dream started with me standing in from of this large staircase.

Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

When you go into a building and see an impressive staircase, do you immediately look at the first step? No, you look to see where the steps lead and you focus on the top of the steps.

That’s what I was doing.

This staircase was ornate. It was gorgeous! But it was also weathered and aged. It was like I went into a preserved mansion from the 1800s or something.

When I saw the staircase in front of me, I took in the panoramic view, but my eyes fixated on trying to see the top.

But what I realized is that the last step never came into focus. I couldn’t see the final step that would get me to the top of the staircase. All I could see are the steps leading up to it and I wanted to fix my gaze as high up that staircase as I could.

But then the steps started to disappear. From the upper parts of the staircase down, the steps slows disappeared. It was like watching the Avengers movie after Thanos did his snap. The steps just faded away into dust and blew away.

I felt my anxiety rise as I watched all these beautiful steps disappear!

By the time all the dust had blown away, I was left with one lone step in front of me.

The first step.

God was removing the distraction of all the other steps to show me that the first step is the one that matters.

The beauty of ministry (or the job search for my wife, or the struggles that anyone is going through with marriages, drugs, alcohol, or anything) is not in walking across that final step.

The beauty of ministry et al comes in taking the first step and learning all you can while standing on it.

When I stepped onto the fist step in my dream, the walls around me came alive!

There were portraits on the walls. They were kind of like in Harry Potter when the portraits moved and they are vivid scenes. Mine were from both ministry and family life. While they showed me the bumps in the road, they were exceedingly beautiful!

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

The first step isn’t writing a forward to David Platt’s next book.

The first step involves the printers in children’s ministry breaking down because of the new WiFi system and having several new teachers and some of the veteran teachers calling out. The first step involves I Sunday service with a lot of moving pieces that had several technical glitches along the way. The first step is not seeing people in the service who normally attend because they don’t like the topic that was discussed on that Sunday. The first step involves seeing someone you, and others, have been working with intently making the decision to get baptized and having the baptismal set up because your senior pastor felt God was telling him to do it.

The first step is the minutia.

The first step is the stuff that ministry is really made of.

Mark 5:2 – And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.

When Jesus went to go and seek the lost, the first step involved Him taking several steps to get to them. But for the person on the other end of the conversation, the first step was simply accepting Christ.

I realize that the Bible says we need to have a vision because if we don’t then the people will perish.

I still have a dream of one day writing the forward for one of my favorite author’s books. I still have a dream of getting the call from Moody Bible Church, Saddleback, Camino de Vida or many others and having them ask me to come preach one Sunday morning.

I still dream.

But the dream is becoming more well-rounded now that the focus is off the dream and is on the people who are walking with, beside, and around me at this time.

The first step is seeing people take the first step of their own.

The first step is resting in that place that God has you.

The first step is contentment with what you have and who you are, knowing that being content is truly the dream come true.

1 Corinthians 14:40 – But all things should be done decently and in order.

Respecting my Wife does NOT Hurt all Women

I am really taken aback by the amount of negative press about VP Pence refusing to dine alone with women.

To me, it is a no-brainer.

It has nothing to do with holding women back. It has EVERYTHING to do with two points:

  • There is an off chance, albeit a small one, that I will begin to “feel” something for the person or vice versa.
  • It is simply showing my wife that I love her so much that I won’t risk anything that could damage that.

But the negative words about his, and my, choice to not be alone with a woman is surprising.

As a Christian, I am used to world have a negative view on my beliefs. Sometimes, I get surprised.

For example, I was surprised by a culture that says they want everyone to be free, but when you claim to have a belief that is different than them, they shout bigot. But this one even surprised me more than that.

The world makes a very good argument.

Title VII claims that it is unacceptable to discriminate in the workplace. By law, a working dinner with the boss can be considered an opportunity in which both genders must have equal access.

And in 2010 a Harvard Business Review article says that men avoid sponsoring women from key advancement opportunities because that sponsorship can be “misconstrued as sexual interest.”

This shows that women do have a barrier placed on them because of personal rules like Pence’s and mine. And because of that, it is potentially illegal to “discriminate” in that way.

So…

How does a Christian follow a traditional belief to not be in the same room alone with a woman and follow the world’s rules?

We need to change the rules.

The way I see it, we have 2 choices. We can either choose what the Amish have done and completely separate ourselves from the world. Or, we can choose to maintain a traditional value in a world that doesn’t believe in our values through changing how we meet with all people together.

I will tell you that I will never betray the trust my wife has given me by meeting alone with a woman in any circumstance. In ministry, there are many times I have had a woman come to me for spiritual guidance. In some of them, the woman wanted to go somewhere private to talk. I wouldn’t do it. I would tell her that we would need to meet in a place that has an open door and I would tell someone else in the church to sit outside the door for me.

In business, the same thing. The other day I was training a woman on making cold calls. We were in the conference room. I left the door open as we did the training.

Now, can I say I did that when I trained a guy the week before?

No, I didn’t.

And therein lies the problem.

I should treat all the situations equally.

I am NOT going to change my traditional value. I will never be alone in a room with a woman. I will never eat one on one with a woman who is not a relative. But now, I find I need to change how I deal with men as well.

What would have happened if the man I was training a few weeks ago was gay? What would have happened if he started having desires or feelings for me? I am pretty good looking (I couldn’t even say that with a straight face) (oh the puns).

If he was gay and started to desire me, then I have just committed a sin. I am enabling that other person to sin. We need only look to 1 Timothy 5:22 for the answer to that.

I Timothy 5:22 – Do not participate in the sins of others.

If the Bible commands us to do something, then we have the responsibility to set a boundary to honor God. Learning to set those boundaries is imperative to living a life of victory in Christ. Boundaries show us our responsibilities. The Bible is literally a book of boundaries for people. And every boundary, according to the Bible, has a consequence for disobeying it. Participating in sin, of any kind, including enabling, is not an option for a Christian.

Avoiding sin is tough. Thankfully we have James 1:5 to teach us.

James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

When God provides wisdom, we have a responsibility to move forward on the basis of that wisdom.

Everyone has the choice to make their own decisions as to whether to sin or not. We, too, have the choice whether to enable the sin of another person or not. Too many times we have allowed the fear of losing a relationship or job take precedence over not sinning or enabling another’s sin. When we do that, we allow something else to take the place of God on the throne. When the desire for someone else, or their views, supersedes the desire of God, then we have moved into idolatry.

If we want to avoid the ridiculousness of this conversation, then we need to show an equal view on this and make the decision on who directs our lives. If we have given our lives to Christ, then that person is the final authority.

Jesus wouldn’t make it easier for someone to sin. Why should we?

A Study in James 3

James 3:1-2 – Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

This week is a tough one for me. The majority of James 3 is spent with James telling us that we need to control our tongues. I know for me, especially in my relationships, I like to talk. And not all of what I have to say is earth-shattering (right now, my girlfriend is screaming “Amen” at the top of her lungs). But I like to think that what I have to say is pretty important.

And so does everyone else.

Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. The majority of what we have to say is not really that important after all.

And some of it just isn’t even true!

Here are some statements made by people before they had all the information:

“The phonograph has no commercial value at all” – Thomas Edison

“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” – President Grover Cleveland

“Airplanes are interesting toys but have no military value at all.” – Marshall Ferdinand Foch, World War I commander in France

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein

“(Television) won’t be able to hold any market it captures after the first 6 months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” –Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox in 1946

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” – W. C. Neuper of the National Cancer Institute in 1954

“We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.” – Decca Records rejecting the Beatles in 1962

“There is no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home.” – Kenneth Olsen, President and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation in 1977

I wonder, years after they had said their words, if any of those people wish they could go back and edit what they said.

I know I have a LOT of moments like that.

How many times have you hurt someone you love because of your words?

Let’s look a little closer at what James has to say.

He starts off saying that not many people should become teachers because they will receive more intense judgment on what they say. James explains that we all stumble. He includes himself in there. But those of us who teach must take our role in the church very seriously.

When James is talking about stumbling, the Greek word used for “stumble” here describes a falter, not a fatal fall. As he continues into v.4, he explains that those who do not stumble are perfect. When looking at the context he is writing, it is easy to see how James feels that teachers need to show spiritual maturity and not stumble with our words.

James 3:6 – The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

For next few verses, he uses illustrations of common everyday items to explain the importance of the tongue. The first is a horse’s bit. It is small, but it is used to turn the entire horse. Next we have the ship’s rudder. It turns the entire ship. Next is a small fire that can light an entire forest ablaze.

Have you ever noticed how your words are atomic?

I know just from my past marriage, and even my current relationship, that when I do not choose my words carefully, we can end up in an argument that could last a long time.

The one difference between the tongue and all of the illustrations above is that mankind has been able to tame everything.

But we have not learned to tame the tongue.

James 3:7-8 – All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

The only trainer for the tongue is the Holy Spirit. Only God can overcome the human tongue. We cannot, because it is filled with all manner of evil, pride, deceit, and anger.

A woman once came to John Wesley and told him that she knew what her talent was. She said, “I think my talent from God is to speak my mind.” Wesley replied to the woman, “I don’t think God would mind if you buried that talent.”

Speaking everything that comes to our minds is not wisdom. It is the opposite. Even if you feel it is helpful or beneficial to the moment or even used for correcting, the timing or delivery or approach may be wrong.

Our speech, our tongue, can only be tamed by the Holy Spirit. When we choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His timing, His delivery, and His words, then we are using His wisdom.

James ends his section on the tongue by explaining that we as humans use the tongue to both bless and curse, yet no fountain can bring forth both salt water and fresh. While James is going to be discussing wisdom right after talking about the tongue, it is important to realize that true wisdom tells us that a man’s character is found through his tongue.

James 3:9-10 – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

If a man is a very different person at church than he is at home or at work, then that man’s character is shown through the words he chooses. For example, if at church he chooses to glorify God through his speech, he should find himself doing that each day, day in and day out. But what happens on Monday? The man is no longer at church and goes to work. When his employees call in sick, you may hear a four letter word. Then when a project gets messed up, he may try to save face by lying about who actually did the project. Then when he goes to the grocery store and sees the cashier give him back an extra $20 bill but he says nothing to her about it, then we begin to see the real character come out.

The man who is praising God on Sunday is the fake person. The real person is the one we see when he is away from the church.

James 3: 13 – Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

This leads James to his next topic for godly living, wisdom. James discusses that there are two different kinds of wisdom, earthly and heavenly. The earthly wisdom is filled with envy and is self-seeking.

James 3:14-16 – But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Living in this day and age (and I am sure days past as well, but I can’t speak to that as I wasn’t there), the world would constantly give us pearls of wisdom. You’ve seen it on Facebook or Twitter. Phrases like “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do,” or “you are the most important part of your life,” or “why let others delegate their (stuff) to you, go out and do your own thing.” But listening to that wisdom can get things accomplished, and we have seen it time and time again. Incredibly self-serving men and women can do great things. But look at the end result of them. James tells us that a self-serving wisdom leads to confusion and every evil thing.

James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

On the other side, we have heavenly wisdom. This is wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and without hypocrisy. This wisdom is consistent with the nature of God, filled with giving and a loving heart. This wisdom also does something the worldly wisdom can never do, and that is bring peace, not division.

Next week, we will look at James 4 where we are told to not boast about tomorrow and simply submit ourselves to God.

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