Tag Archives: calling

Today’s Scripture – June 27, 2017

Luke 3:1-6 (NIV) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'”

God’s call came to John in the wilderness at exactly the right time to get a sizeable number of people ready for the Messiah’s appearing. During the time when John was preaching, Jesus was still living in Nazareth. He was constantly listening for God’s voice telling Him that the time had arrived, and was keeping Himself physically and spiritually strong, so that nothing would have to be one when God’s call came except to go.

John’s job was to prepare the people for the coming of the one who was greater than him. His focus was to show people their sinfulness, all of the places where their actions and attitudes did not comply with God’s law, and urge them to repent, to turn away from those sinful actions and attitudes, and turn back to God. And when they agreed, he baptized them in the Jordan River, symbolizing both a washing away of their sins and a fresh start.

Isaiah had been shown John’s preparatory ministry, and wrote a picturesque description of it in chapter 40, verses 3-5 of his book. He heard a voice crying out from the wilderness that the Lord was coming, and that it was time to prepare the way for Him. The picture is one of getting the roads ready for a visiting potentate, with all potholes being filled in, the low places in the road that tended to become muddy being filled in with rock, and all of the bumps being smoothed out.

But Isaiah went even further, painting a picture of such thorough preparation that the hills themselves were torn down and the valleys filled in to make a level road that would be welcoming to the arriving King. And this was actually a very good picture of the preparation work that John had been sent to do. The average person didn’t have just a few small potholes to be filled in, just a couple sections of washboard road to be graded. The average person then, like today, had mountains of sin that needed to be brought low, and deep holes in their relationship with God that needed to be filled in, as well as numerous crooked ways that needed to be straightened. John’s job, his whole purpose for being, was to help people to recognize these realities, and to help them begin the process of renovation and restoration by leading them to repentance.

Father, this really is quite a graphic picture of what sin does in our lives, raising up high mountains of brokenness and dysfunction, and putting large holes in our relationship with You and with others. And what a great picture of repentance, as preparation for the coming of Jesus into our lives and hearts, recalibrating our lives so that they are reoriented and realigned with You and Your commands. Help me to always stay alert to any place in my heart where I am allowing sin to degrade Your ways. And if I find any, help me to repent immediately, so that Your ways are always straight and smooth in my heart. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 14, 2017

Luke 1:76-80 (NIV) And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

When Zechariah had thought of having a son, he dreamed of a son who would take up the “family business’ and succeed him as a priest of God. But ever since the angel Gabriel had announced John’s conception and birth, his mind was filled with a different vision: John would become a prophet, like the priests Isaiah and Jeremiah. Zechariah knew that a prophet, one whom God used to speak to His people, was an even higher calling than that of priest, and rejoiced that his son would be someone who would be that important in God’s plans.

He could already see that John would go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 4:5-6, to prepare the hearts of the people for the soon-to-follow Messiah. This was essential, but would be challenging because too many of God’s people were content with the status quo. They were comfortable living out lives that included Him in theory, but in which He was only really a factor on the holy days, or when they were in trouble.

John’s job would be to hold up the mirror of God’s standards, of His word, to their lives, helping them to see that, instead of being at the center of their lives, God had become a bit player, an add-on, and that without a vital, ongoing, 24/7 relationship with Him, they were just as lost as the pagans at whom they sneered.

But it was not just a message of condemnation that John would bring. It would also be a message of hope laced with warning. Hope because the Messiah was coming to show them the way of salvation. And warning because if the people refused to repent and get ready for Him, they would find themselves under His judgment instead of His blessing.

Zechariah knew that all of this was happening because God was keeping the promises He had made to His people centuries before. The time had finally come.

As John grew into strong, early adulthood, God drew him out into the wilderness to spend quality time with Him, to teach him complete dependence on Him for his every need, and to teach him all that he would need to know when the time came for him to begin his mission.

Father, Your plans are always perfect, always perfectly designed to accomplish what You intend for them, including the people whom You choose to play pivotal roles. Help me to faithfully do what You, in Your wisdom, have laid out as my role in Your plan, so that I never become a blockage that You need to work around to accomplish what You want to do. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 12, 2015

John 3:22-24 (NIV): After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.)

Even though the Messiah had come and was actively ministering, John continued to work his ministry.  Many wonder why, but the simple answer is, God had not told him to stop, or to do something different.

John was the kind of person that is hard for people today to relate to.  Many people pick out strong personality traits in John, such as His ability and willingness to speak the truth clearly and without compromise; his boldness in speaking even to kings, and his individuality, continuing on in his work no matter what others thought, and because of those traits, they believe that he was a rugged, powerful, independent kind of guy.  But over all of that was John’s meekness before God.  He was always 100% attentive to God’s voice, and 100% obedient to His every command.

In this way John was very much like Jesus.  Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He never decided on His own what to do or where to go (cf. John 5:19).  If God told Him to do something, He kept doing it until He was done, or until He received new instructions.  The last direction that God had given John was to go and baptize all that came to Him, and to preach about the Messiah.  The people were still coming, and he hadn’t yet received additional or different instructions, so he kept his ears open, and kept carrying out his task with all that he had to give it.

John’s days were short; he suspected that they would be.  But he never complained or asked for more or better things to do.  He knew that God was moving His program forward, and that what He was doing, regardless of how minor it might seem to others, was playing a role in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan.

Father, help me, help us all, to be like John.  Help us to be so committed to You and to Your agenda that we waste no time worrying or wondering how our part fits into the whole; that we waste no time looking for the next thing, but simply focus on the thing You have given us to do right now.  We can trust that, if we are faithful and attentive, You will guide us to the next thing when it’s time, and that You will help us to do our absolute best until then.  Help us to always keep our focus on You and your agenda, as good and faithful servants.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 16, 2013

Exodus 4:1-3 (NIV):  Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.

 

Moses was a shepherd that God was calling to far greater things – from overseeing sheep and goats to overseeing a nation of 2 million people.  And Moses was uncomfortable with the whole idea.  He could only see the downsides of the situation.  He was comfortable where he was at, capable at the job he was doing, and unwilling to step outside of his comfort zone..  This was the third reason he had given for God to leave him alone and choose someone else to do the job.

So rather than talking any more, God decided to give him a live illustration of His ability.  Moses’ staff was a tool of his current trade.  It not only provided him with stability over rough terrain and defense against enemies of the flock, it also helped him to keep the flock in line, out of trouble, safe.  He had learned to use it well over 40 years, and he not only relied on it, but saw it as the emblem of who he was.  He was a shepherd, and his staff proved it.

So God had him throw his staff on the ground.  That act of obedience was the first real crack in his defenses.  In changing his staff into a snake as a miraculous sign, God showed him how the tool he had relied on so strongly, the tool that, to him, signified his identity in his work, could be used to an even greater advantage in the new job to which God was calling him.  The things he had learned among the sheep, the ability to use the “tools of the trade” were all transferable to the new and much higher calling God was placing on his life.  It’s no wonder that when  Moses headed for Egypt to take up this new calling, that he now called the staff that he carried “the staff of God.”  (Exodus 4:20)

It was the same way with Jesus when He called His disciples away from their nets and boats, telling them, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:20)  In this case, the physical tools that they laid down, the nets and the boats, were not the “tools of the trade” that God used.  Instead, it was their patience; their stamina; their willingness to fish all night long without a catch, and then go out the next night and do it all again; their awareness that it was God who provided every catch, but that they wouldn’t catch anything if they didn’t put out into deep water and do the hot, sweaty, exhausting work of casting and hauling nets.  All of those skills, the thing they had learned over years of fishing, were all transferable to the new and much higher calling Jesus was placing on their lives.

When God calls people today, whether it is to become harvesters in the ripe fields, shepherds of the flock, teachers to help new believers to start producing fruit, God will turn all of the knowledge that we have and enhance it.  He will take every skill that we have learned over our years, and back it with miraculous power.  He will take every passion that drives us, and give us that same passion for the hearts and souls of people.

The kingdom of God has no sidelines, no cheering section, no concession stands.  Every single Christian is called to get in the game, to be a player in the program of making disciples of all nations, rescuing them from their slavery to sin and death, and then helping them to grow into powerful, godly, witnessing disciples.  If we are willing to respond to this new and much higher calling that God is placing on our lives, we will see how He will use us and all that we bring to the table to spread His kingdom all over the world.

 

Father, this is exciting stuff! Help us all to be willing to be used by You to spread Your kingdom.  Help us to hear Your call, and to throw down our old identity, so that it can be refilled with Your miraculous purpose for our lives.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 22, 2013

Romans 12:4-5 (NIV):  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

 

The imagery that best illustrates the relationship of Christians with each other is the body.  Just as God has put all of the various parts of the body together, each with its own abilities and functions, so the Church is composed of all kinds of people, each with their own abilities and skillsets.  And, just as each part of the body is essential, each kind of person that I have put in the Church is essential as well.  (Yes, there are parts of your physical body that you can survive without, even arms and legs.  But removing those parts, make the other parts of the body have to adjust, and, even though you can survive, things don’t work quite as well as when all of the parts are present and healthy.)  Since every part is essential, each must value the others for the part that they play.  And we must realize that, since the body rises or falls as a unit, each part of the Body of Christ belongs to all of the rest, and are accountable to the whole body for their spiritual health, as well as for the job that they are called to do.

Just as the human body, as it was originally designed, had one overarching job to do, one primary calling on it (to reproduce offspring to ensure humanities survival – Genesis 1:28), so the body of Christ has one overarching job to do:  to spiritually reproduce, making Christ-like disciples, to ensure the survival of God’s people.  And every part of the Body of Christ must contribute to that purpose for the Body as a whole to be effective.  If only 20% of the Body was involved in reproducing disciples (actually high for most congregations), and the other 80% was focused on some other goal, the reproduction effort would be hampered, fall behind the rate of population growth, and ultimately fail, leaving only a remnant of God’s people struggling to survive in a largely pagan environment.  And the Church in America, due to a lack of focus on its primary mission for the last several decades, is headed to that point very quickly.

We, as God’s people, need to understand that we have a very specific calling to fulfill, a very specific mission to accomplish, a very specific commandment to obey:  to make disciples of all nations.  All else needs to be done in that context, and activities that take time, resources, and focus off that primary mission must be avoided at all costs.

God has provided the whole Body with all that it needs to thrive, and multiply, and grow.  Every congregation has all that it needs to at least get started, and will gain more needed resources as the people obey and the congregation grows.  We must work together and focus on the main thing in order to bring in the harvest, to multiply, to do all that He has commanded us to do.

 

Father, thank You for providing all that we need to succeed.  Forgive us for letting ourselves get distracted, for focusing on things that do not contribute to Your real agenda for us.   Help all of Your people to hear You voice loud and clear, calling us back to our real calling in life:  making disciples.  Amen.

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