Tag Archives: calling

Today’s Scripture – January 15, 2018

Luke 13:31-35 (NIV) At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Jesus was almost to Jerusalem, His final destination. His face was set steadfastly toward that final goal, including toward the suffering and death that He knew was waiting for Him there.

Herod was waiting for Him too, but not to kill Him, as this Pharisee indicated. Herod had been trying to see Jesus for several months (Luke 9:9, 23:8), hoping to witness a miracle. The Pharisee was being deceptive, because He had been watching the excitement grow among those who were following Jesus as they got closer to Jerusalem. They believed that Jesus was going there to set Himself up as king, and the Pharisees wanted nothing to do with that.

But Jesus responded to the urging of the Pharisee on its face. Suppose Herod really was trying to find Jesus to kill Him. It did not change Jesus’ plan one iota. Jesus had two more days on the road, days that would be filled with driving out demons and healing people, in precise obedience to His Father. On the third day, Sunday, He would enter Jerusalem in triumph, and set events in motion that would lead to His arrest and crucifixion. Nothing, no plans of men or kings, could move Him away from that course now that God’s plan had entered its final stages.

In any case, Jesus knew that no assassination attempt on Him could succeed outside of Jerusalem where He was destined to die. Jerusalem, the city where God had chosen to manifest His presence 1000 years before, had a terrible reputation. Many, many prophets had been killed there by wicked and rebellious kings. And now the leaders there were going to kill the very Son of God who was coming to save them, but whom they were rejecting, just as they had rejected Him over the previous three years.

Surprising to some is the fact that this rebellion broke God’s heart, and Jesus accurately expressed that heartbrokenness in His lament over the city. God loved His people. They were the ones that He had chosen to be the channel through which salvation would come to the people of the earth. But they were still stiff-necked and rebellious. And that rebellion would, in the end, lead to their destruction.

Father, Jesus was single-minded and totally focused on Your agenda. How I wish that all of us, Your Church, were the same today. But we tend to let our hearts be pulled in all different directions. Forgive us, Lord, and help us to catch Your vision for the kingdom, and to translate that vision into concrete action every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 22, 2017

Luke 12:13-15 (NIV) Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Jesus spoke so powerfully, and with such authority, that this man was hoping to enlist His help in his own conflict with his brother. There was a disagreement about the allotted shares of an inheritance, a very serious matter.

But Jesus, as much as He was passionate about what some today term social justice, would not allow Himself to be drawn into this conflict, even insofar as giving a single opinion as to the merits of the man’s case.

Part of the reason for His reticence was that He was focused on His mission, and any pull toward other things would only end up being a distraction (compare with Acts 6:2-4). Even good things can get in the way of the best thing, stealing time, energy, and resources away from what someone is actually called to do.

But the other reason for Jesus’ unwillingness to play arbiter in this situation was that the man’s plea did not originate from a desire to follow God more closely, but was motivated by greed, which militates against everything that God’s kingdom stands for.

People can persuade themselves that their motives are selfless, but often, despite our rationalizations, the motive for pursuing financial gain is not altruistic at all, but is greed. And, for the people of God’s kingdom, greed must never be allowed to take root in our hearts. God can make a person a great, powerful, and effective witness without giving them more materially than simple “daily bread,” just what is essential. But, often, the pursuit of “just a little more” in the way of resources or funding can become a distraction from the real work of the kingdom at best, and an outright idol at worst, taking the person clear out of action, leaving them worthless to God.

Father, we really can delude ourselves in our pursuit of the money or “stuff” that we swear will help us to be more effective in ministry, and in reaching out to those who don’t know You. But we have thousands of times the resources and technology that those in the first century had, or those during the reformation, or even those during Wesley’s day or the days of the great revivals. We should thus be thousands of times more effective at growing Your kingdom than they were. But the truth is, we are a small fraction as effective, showing that the “stuff,” the resources, isn’t the answer. The only way to be effective witnesses for You is to leave all of that behind, to stop pursuing resources, and simply pursue You, rely on You, on Your provision, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. And all of that You give without cost, and throw in “all these things” that we legitimately do need (Matthew 6:33) for free. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 27, 2017

Luke 10:1-3 (NIV) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Jesus had earlier sent the twelve out ahead of Him. But the work was getting more and more urgent the closer that He got to Jerusalem, and he needed His followers to pave the way for His own arrival in each town and village along His way.

This time He sent out seventy-two in pairs. He began by telling them to pray for more workers, as the available workers (the twelve) were too few to get to everyone that needed reaching. No sooner had He instructed them to pray, He informed them that they themselves were the answer to their own prayers. They were praying for more workers, so Jesus was sending them.

It is very often the case that the people praying to God for solutions are themselves the answer to their own prayers. We saw this earlier in the feeding of the five thousand: “Send the crowd away so they can…find food and lodging.” “You give them something to eat.” Luke 9:12-13a) We look at our own small resources and lack of power, and plead with God to do something about the situation. But if God is truly with us (an assumption we make in the first place when we pray to Him), then it is entirely likely that WE, empowered and supplied by God’s grace, are the solution to the problem we are praying about. Often what is needed is not someone praying for a bolt from the blue, but someone willing to pray, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8b) “I will feed them with Your resources. I will pronounce healing for their bodies in Your power. I will command the demon to flee in Your authority. I will provide clothing for them from my excess. I will provide shelter for them in my spare room. I will buy them a tank of gas from the resources with which You have entrusted me.”

Father, this is true. In the realest sense possible, we, as Your people, have all been called to continue Jesus’ ministry, to go ahead of Him in our world to prepare the people for Him to enter their hearts, and to be His hands, His feet, His voice to all of those around us. To meet their needs in the same way that Jesus did, with the power and authority that He has instilled into our hearts. Help me to be bold and powerful in obeying Your call on my life, no matter where that call may take me. Here I am. Send me.

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Today’s Scripture – October 24, 2017

Luke 9:61-61 (NIV)
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Again, a man is called by Jesus, but begs to defer his whole-hearted service until he gets things in order back home. And, again, such pleas for delay in responding to the call of God are met by His disapproval. Once Jesus puts His call on a life, the call to follow Him, to leave all behind, take up one’s cross, and become His disciple, His apprentice, that call must be followed at once.
Part of this is logical. If a person goes back to try to tie up all the loose ends before starting to follow Jesus, they will often get enmeshed again in their old life attachment, find more loose ends that need to be tied up, further delay obedience to the call, until the call is all but forgotten. Their look back ultimately costs them their place in the kingdom.
But part of this is spiritual. Jesus’ call to follow is God’s own call to become one of His people. And when the call comes from God, it is incredible that the person would say, “I’d like to be one of Your people, Lord. But I’d like to do it tomorrow, or maybe next week.” As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV): “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Remember that Jesus, at that very moment, was on His way to Jerusalem to die. In just a few days He would be hanging from a cross, and the opportunity to follow Him would be lost (at least until after Pentecost – the post-resurrection appearances seem to have been limited to those who were already His followers – 1 Corinthians 15:4-8) Even though few understood it at the time, the time was very short. The call had to be followed “now or never.”

Father, still today we have no right to delay our answer to your call for a day, or a week, or longer while we tie up loose ends. We may not even be alive tomorrow or in a week! Today really is the only day we are guaranteed an opportunity to respond, and we must take it, or see the opportunity lost while we decide. And I can see that this is not only true of salvation (as this passage is usually applied to), but to the call to do anything in Your kingdom. Lord, I commit myself to faithfulness in this, too – so that hearing Your call, understanding Your will, and obeying, is all a single motion. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 20, 2017

Luke 5:6-11 (NIV) When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Jesus had no experience as a fisherman; Simon had spent years learning the trade. But when Jesus, Simon’s master, commanded him to put out into deeper water and let down the nets for a catch in the middle of the day, Simon’s protests lasted only a moment, and then he complied. After all, he had committed himself to following Jesus, and a student didn’t say no to his master.

It was only a few minutes after the nets were let down that Jesus signaled for them to be brought back up. Simon started to pull, and then felt and unexpected resistance. As the leading edge of the nets cleared the water, he could see that they were crammed full of large fish, and that the nets themselves were in danger of tearing.

Quickly Simon signaled James and John in the other boats to come alongside, and between them they got the huge haul of fish into the two boats. In fact, there were so many fish that both boats sank down under the weight until the gunwales were barely above the water.

In that moment when he saw the impossible take place, Simon had a brilliant flash of insight. This man seated calmly in the boat next to him was no mere man. John the Baptist had called Him “The Lamb of God (John 1:29),” and had urged Andrew, Simon’s brother, and John to follow Him. Andrew had breathlessly brought Simon to meet Him (John 1:40-42), and Simon had gladly followed Jesus back up to Galilee. But looking at the two boats full of fish convinced Simon that Jesus was more than a mere man, more than a rabbi or guru; He had to be the Messiah Himself.

And in that same instant, the contrast between Jesus’ purity and holiness and his own sinfulness washed over Simon like a wave, dropping him to his knees among the fish that filled the boat and opening his lips in a humble confession: he wasn’t worthy to follow Jesus, to be one of His disciples. It would be better if Jesus just left him alone to continue to be a fisherman.

But Jesus had always known precisely who and what Simon was (John 2:25). And, what’s more, He knew who and what Simon could become as His follower. And it was that knowledge that caused Him to tell Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

That was the moment when Simon, Andrew, James and John all went all-in for Jesus. They left their old lives behind and determined that they would follow Him no matter where their journey took them.

Father, I know that some people follow You because of promises made to them regarding forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and even a more successful here and now. But You have more than that for each one who follows You. You actually have a calling that You want us to fulfill as Your people. And I know that in my case, that clear calling has made all the difference. It has helped me to stand strong when life has thrown me curve balls, temptations, and even tragedies. Help us all, Lord, to listen carefully until we hear Your calling on our lives, and then to move forward to fulfill that calling in Your power. Amen.

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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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