Category Archives: Calling

How Gratitude Catches Up to Us as Leaders

Frodo had leadership thrust upon him, and his long journey is, in one sense, a process of his acceptance of his own leadership. He can’t escape it, even with the Ring, and he certainly wasn’t sufficient for it alone. One dear Christ-like figure in the story is Frodo’s friend, Sam.

My dear friend, Will Coats, pictured them this way.

We all rage against God at some point after we were converted, called, and empowered to lead in our particular place. God shows us favor when He chooses us in love to fulfill His gracious plans to many. Some times the person runs ahead of God’s plans, presupposing that they are entitled to it and quite self-sufficient for the task (i.e. Moses; cf. Acts 7:25). Other leaders attempt to manipulate the blessing out of His Hands with an outrageous mo for strategic planning without God’s wisdom. For example, Rebekah and Jacob. God particularly loves to invite reluctant leaders like Moses, Jonah, and Esther to courageous lead for the sake of others’ welfare, but reluctance is yet another way we rage against God’s timing and call on our lives.

What we need is Gospel-rest that comes only after we have raged against God to the point of futility, only to finally realize we were already given the favor – already discovered and wanted and secure in God’s redemptive story. One of my favorite authors, Dan Allender writing on leadership, put it this way:

“Remember, only repeated encounters with our furious flight from God can bring us the genuine rest we seek . . . God invites the one who rages to collapse in his arms of love. Rest comes when we can no longer sustain our flight, and we find God waiting for us. But rest is not true rest without surrender.” How do we surrender? “We must eventually be caught face to face with God and be unnerved by his kindness. Only then will we surrender” (p. 104).

Do you know when a leader knows that she knows she has surrendered to God? When he has assurance that the calling and place and people God gave him to lead was a gift? It is when the leader is thankful, even for the furnace of affliction that has forged her to become the leader she now is, and worn out from avoiding it. Allender adds: “The funny thing about gratitude is that it is not earned or deserved; it, too, is a gift. We can’t force ourselves to be grateful, but we can stumble into the arms of gratitude when we’re exhausted from our running” (p. 108).

Dan B. Allender, Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness (The Crown Publishing Group).

Four Seasons of Spiritual Formation

https://www.amazon.com/author/robert_davis_smart

Our identity, besides being one of the most precious things to prevent from theft, crisis, or loss, is extremely important to God. The Father has given his children an identity in Christ that will shape us on our journey to heaven. If in the process of identity formation we ignore what God says concerning our identity, then we may expect confusion in other seasons of spiritual formation. four-seasons-chart_print

Just after birth, a child is given an identity. Identity formation, however, is a longer process. When Jesus Christ was approximately thirty years of age the Father spoke of his identity at his baptism just before entering fully into his calling. In the same way, identity in Christ ought to precede our calling to Christ. It is at this important season of identity that Satan challenges each of us, as he did our Lord. The devil’s first attacks on our Lord were aimed at his identity: “If you are the Son of God.”

The evil trinity—the world, the flesh, and the devil—is seeking to kill and destroy us in each season of spiritual formation. In the spring they confuse our identity, in the summer our calling, in the autumn our intentionality, and in the winter our legacy. The world escorts us to the pit; the flesh entices us to fall in; and the devil pushes us over the edge. “The pit,” as it were, represents a dark and slimy collection of lies, condemning thoughts, and foolish strategies designed to confuse and distort our identity formation.

Start a spiritual formation group on your campus or in your church this Fall by ordering a book designed for each season. See the following link https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Davis-Smart/e/B005SXVJI6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

An Identity Group is the first of four spiritual formation groups designed to shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It assumes that you have to begin here before asking the next three major questions of the Christian life: Where’s my place (calling)? How do I steward all my gifts, resources, and efforts with intentionality in the light of eternity (intentionality)? What inheritance, testament, and benediction do I leave behind as I prepare to cross the river of death in order to gain eternity (legacy)?

Does Your Work Answer God’s Call On Your Life?

God has a call on your life, but what is it? Why did God put you in that place and in that job? The question of God’s call is what we are to make our whole lives answer.

As the Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer pondered as he wrote from a prison cell in Germany, “Who stands fast?” Bonhoeffer asserted, “Only the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.” https://www.amazon.com/Calling-Christ-Robert-Davis-Smart/dp/1512780413/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Christian ought to not feel secondary if they do not have a full-time Christian vocational calling, which most do not have. In fact, in scripture the bible highlights how most leaders had significant roles in God’s kingdom without serving God as priests, prophets, apostles, or pastors. They were mothers and fathers, shepherds and farmers. They were fishermen and government officials.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

A leader at my church has worked his entire career at a major corporation. At a recent and helpful seminar he taught to pastors and elders at our annual General Assembly to make sure our sermons have more to do with people in the work place than pastors and missionaries. Although he has a seminary degree, he sees every work (paid or not) as sacred to God.

Bill Pence has a blog that will assist the reader in this area so that people see that every calling is sacred before God’s Face (Coram Deo). Check out his blog and resources. https://coramdeotheblog.com/tag/faith-and-work/

 

You Really need to make up your Mind

 A debate with Jesus began when an Old Testament scholar brought an old chestnut; a repeated and tedious debate about the 613 commands of God in the scriptures at that time. Which one was the most important? Jesus cited two in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the scriptures” (Matthew 22:37-40).

The scholar was overwhelmed because he understood that every command was motivated and practiced by perfect love. He responded, therefore, saying that all the burnt offerings in the world would not be sufficient to make up for the human deficiencies in loving well, let alone perfectly.

Jesus, gladdened by the scholar’s response, said: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). This man made progress because he saw he needed Christ’s righteousness and death to pardon his sins. We are half way to heaven when we admit we are not saved, but we are still not all the way until we receive the free gift of salvation by faith alone.

There once was a dear man in this condition. One Sunday night he went to church, and God spoke to him through the sermon. Christ was striving with him that night. The pastor invited people to meet with him in his office to receive the free gift of eternal life.

The Service finished, and out he went on his way back home. Sliding down the row, walking out the aisle, pushing open the doors, and marching along the sidewalk, he found himself unable to walk out the gates. He suddenly turned! He went marching back along the sidewalk, pushing open the doors, and walking up the aisle. As he was approaching the pastor’s office door, he was struck with the thought: “This is crazy.” So he went back out the church, walking out down the aisle, pushing open the doors, marching along the sidewalk, and finding himself unable to step through the gates. He suddenly turned back!

This went on for two or three times while a church officer was tending the gates, and was watching this guy. He looked, to him, like a man pursued by an unseen being. That is because he was. The officer said to him: “Listen, you really will need to make up your mind. Is it going to be in or out? I am shutting these doors and gates soon.” And the man, who was not far from the kingdom of God, replied: “By God’s grace it will be in!”

The man at the gate is Jesus, and you may be the one not far from His kingdom. Jesus says to you today: “Listen, you really will need to make up your mind. Is it going to be in or out? I am soon shutting these gates.” You better at least come to the point where you are prepared to say like the man, who was not far from the k, in reply: “By God’s grace it will be in!”

Risk: There is a tide in the affairs of men

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Brutus and Cassius are discussing the final phase of their civil war with the forces of Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Cassius has been urging that they group their forces at Sardis and take advantage of the secure location to catch their breath. Brutus, however, advocates heading off the enemy at Philippi before Octavian can recruit more men. Brutus’s main point is that, since “the enemy increaseth every day” and “We, at the height, are ready to decline” (lines 216–217), he and Cassius must act now while the ratio of forces is most advantageous. “There’s a tide in the affairs of men,” he insists; that is, power is a force that ebbs and flows in time, and one must “go with the flow.” img_2862

Waiting around only allows your power to pass its crest and begin to ebb; if the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), you’ll find yourself stranded in miserable shallows.

Ships usually need high tides to enter a port or leave it. We cannot control these tides. When these tides come or leave the coast, the ships in waiting must use this opportunity by making no delay. Brutus here says that it is the ripe time, and their army should tackle Octavious and Antony’s forces. However, if they wait further, then they would lose their soldiers and might face defeat. Are you trusting God when opportunities arise? Ecclesiastes 11 warns us about delaying: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”

This is a metaphorical expression of ebbs and flows helps us to recognize whether the tide is an opportunity or an obstacle. This requires us to risk and interpret providence, and avail it as an opportunity or a warning sign.

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest (June 8th) above offers discerning thoughts on the nature of risk.