The What and the When of a Calling

~ I am listening to Conrad Mbewe’s testimony on SermonAudio.com. He is the pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church out in Lusaka, Zambia.  In his testimony, he talks about his calling to the pastoral ministry and in the process passes on something that I think is sage advice. This is something I wish I had heard years ago and so I am noting it down here.


“I then moved over to start studying Mining Engineering at our local government owned university. About a year later, I began to sense in my own spirit, that God may be calling me to Pastoral Ministry. You have to appreciate that I was only a year old in the Lord and I didn’t know anything about how God calls men to the Preaching Ministry.

So I sought the counsel of an older Christian who was in our hall of residence whose understanding of the Bible I really admired and he – if I could summarize the way he put it to me. He basically said:

“It is one thing to know what God wants you to do. Its another to know when He wants you to do it.”

He basically used Romans 1 and argued for the fact that if I thought it was the Lord calling me, then I should go and have dealings with Him in prayer, but then wait for Him to open the door.  And between that point and His opening the door, I needed to be faithful to all the responsibilities that He would give me.

And thats what I sought to do for 7 solid years. From my first year in the University to the time that God finally opened the door for me to enter into the Pastorate of Kabwata Baptist Church.”

Getting back to the bold-faced statement up above:

~~> “It is one thing to know what God wants you to do. Its another to know when He wants you to do it.

I find this thought to be quite a powerful thought.  Its one thing to know what what God is calling you to do, but quite another to know when.  There are several stories of people who sensed God calling them to missions and what not in another country. However it was not about to happen overnight.  Patience would be needed as the call would only be realized many years a later.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

BTW, here is ~~> Conrad Mbewe’s site

And … Here is a another post I wrote on a related topic: The Long Hard Wait.

Paul’s Mystical Experiences…

In Chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks about a man who he knows, who was caught up to the third heaven about fourteen years ago. This man apparently “…was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”

Who is this man that Paul talking about? If you read the prior chapter to get some context and then keep reading forward, you will realize that Paul is really talking about himself. One indication of this is that Paul shifts his language from speaking in the 3rd person to the 1st person.

Now here is a question: How long ago did Paul have these remarkably great experiences and receive “surpassingly great revelations”?

Veil Nebula ~ Courtesy Pixabay

Ans. Fourteen years ago.

” …I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…” ~ 2 Cor. 12:2

And another question: Why is Paul telling us this now?

Why has Paul kept silent for fourteen years? I mean should he not have written whole epistles and books on the subject matter. Why so much silence? Why just a bare paragraph’s worth of information – no details given – and all this fourteen years later! Why?

Ans. I can’t say I know 100% why, but we can gather at least this much. Part of it was this it was not God’s will that he speak of these things. Another part of it is that Paul did not regard these experiences as particularly important to the furthering of the Gospel. He simply did not think that these subjective, and if you will – mystical – experiences were anything worth talking much about or anything that would help his neighbor in some special way.

Other wise Paul would have been the last person to hold back. If one reads the New Testament and gets a feel for Paul’s personality and temperament, one will realize that Paul would have been the last person to hold back on anything that will help you get to know God better. So for me the question becomes – just how important are mystical experiences?

I opine that they are not of much value. They simply are not. At the end of the day, our most important need is salvation from our slavery to sin. This comes from the Cross.

Here is a sermon, Strength In Weakness by Kent Hughes that in part discusses said issue:

Karen Swallow Prior and the “Difficult” Call …

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior

~ Karen Swallow Prior is a Professor of English at Liberty University. She got her PhD in English Literature (I assume) from the State University of New York at Buffalo – my alma – Woohoo! Anyway…  Very recently she wrote a short article, Called to childlessness: The surprising ways of God for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. I find the article very convicting and I think she says a lot that needs to be said. She points out a lot of things that rarely if ever are pointed out. Its worth reading!

I will post the beginning of the article here and you can follow the link to read the rest.  You can also read her other writings for The Atlantic here.

God’s model for the family is beautiful and good, the very picture of the union of Christ and his church: the fruitful marriage of one man and one woman.

Yet, the church often doesn’t know what to do with those who—whether by circumstance, conscience, choice or simply through the brokenness of creation—fall outside the mold that shapes this ideal of family life.

There is an unspoken assumption that this failure to fit the pattern is just that—a failure. To be sure, sometimes we break the mold by our choices, even our sins. But ours is a God of great imagination and infinite surprises. He sometimes calls us out of the standard mold and into a new one.

The primary calling of God for all Christians is, of course, the call to salvation, followed by the call to obedience to his will as revealed in his Word. This mold is for every believer. But the way in which God further refines and shapes that mold in calling each believer individually to serve the kingdom—through our vocation—can sometimes upend our expectations and even our desires.

It would be nice if God’s call on our life always coincided neatly with our passions and talents, but that’s not always, perhaps not even often, how it works. While it’s certainly true that our passions and talents hint at our calling, God sometimes calls us to things we don’t want to do and don’t have a knack for.

Just ask Moses.

Just ask Martin and Katharina Luther.

Just ask the fast food worker pulling long hours in order to put a roof over the head of the child God called him to father.

Just ask my many, many single friends who don’t have any particular passion or skill for being alone (quite the opposite, in fact) but have yet to be called by God into the office of marriage.

Or just ask me.

I believe God has called me to childlessness.

 


~ Read the rest here.

 

 

C.S. Lewis on Joy

pbs~ I need to think about this later… its a quote from C.S. Lewis that I am excerpting from PBS.org which in turn is excerpting from Lewis’s book, Surprised By Joy.

I perceived (and this was a wonder of wonders) that just as I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. I had tried everything in my own mind and body; as it were, asking myself, “Is it this you want? Is it this?” Last of all I had asked if Joy itself was what I wanted; and labeling it “aesthetic experience,” had pretended I could answer Yes. But that answer too had broken down. Inexorably Joy proclaimed, “You want — I myself am your want of — something other, outside, not you nor any state of you.”

Eternal Life & Abundant Life

The following stems from a conversation I had with someone. Had to do some digging around and reading after words.  A couple of things  or points emerged basically.

The First Point: The Bible teaches that there is such a thing as Eternal Life.

~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Eternal Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its living endlessly. Never dying. Being immortal.”

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches.

And .   .   .   Annnnnnnnd . . .

Second: The Bible also teaches that there is such a thing as Abundant Life.

jesus_love_life_5___wallpaper_by_mostpato-d4ylhwx

~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Abundant Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its having a nice, big, fat paycheck. A good retirement. Lots of money in the bank. A fancy sports car.  Etc.” I.e. An abundance of goods.

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches – not that having an abundance of things in life is bad… (Its about the why’s of it all)

~~~>So what according to the Bible is Eternal Life?

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ~ John 17:3

And what according to the Bible is Abundant Life?

jesus_love_life_by_mostpato-d4sw8e7

We are not given an exact definition, however it is mentioned in John 10:10:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The word abundant as used here has the idea of fullness. It means something along those lines. It is as if Jesus says “I have come that they may have life and have it exceedingly.” (I am going literally from the Koine here.) To understand better what it means however, we also have to look at how John uses the word life all through the Gospel of John. Do that and you will find that Abundant Life = Eternal Life and Eternal Life = Abundant Life.

*The amazing(!!!) artwork is by  Mr. Mostpato (Hernan Jacome) whom I follow out on DeviantArt.

WHY SEX ISN’T THE BEST THING EVER

The following is an excerpt from a blog post, titled WHY SEX ISN’T THE BEST THING EVER that is well worth reading in its entirety.  Not only that Lore Ferguson of Sayable is generally worth reading always.

” . . .

Sex is good, God created it, he blessed it. He made it the integral piece in the procreation of humanity—science thwarts it and succeeds it but even science admits the masterful design of two humans making more humans. Sex is great, but it does not make all the angsts of longing for intimacy before marriage go away. All those angsts still exist within marriage, they just take different forms.

I know it’s easy for the married person to say this, you protest, because at the end of the day I can still have sex. But what I wish I could tell every unmarried person I know is until we realize our issues are much deeper and more profound than a sexual itch for satisfaction, we will still find our desires unmet. Within marriage and without.

. . . “

 

The Guitarist (1)

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso
~ The following is an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend:
\\~~>
I remembered a friend of mine from a long time ago who was a trained guitarist. This guy was having trouble finding steady work and income via guitar playing. I mean he played solo at times and was a part of some bands but that did not cut it. There was just no bread being put on the table.
~
Howevvvvs . . .  He would not look for any other type of work. He only was looking for more guitar gigs.  His wife was very frustrated.  However… he had to stick to his God given calling!  “This is my calling! God has gifted me with musical ability. This is what I am supposed to be doing in life!” Yet, as they sunk into a deeper and deeper financial hole, the tension, anger, fighting, etc., increased and a divorce ultimately resulted.
 <~~//
Now ~~~> That all said: What is wrong with this picture?

Flannery O’Connor & Peacocks…

This woman just rocks!

Flannery O'Connor

Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater; the opposite is what sin is…. The struggle to submit… is not a struggle to submit but a struggle to accept and with passion. I mean, possibly, with joy. Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy – fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

~ I found the quote in John Piper’s book, When I Don’t Desire God. You can click on the link to dl a pdf copy of his book.

And here is a book I will have to read…

FOC1

Joy in James ~ CB2L8R

zecntJames

~ The following is a clip from Craig Blomberg & Mariam Kammell’s Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on James. For now I just want to note it here. I will comment on it later.

“This verse starts off with the command to “consider it all joy,” an imperative that has been highly abused in interpretation. First, the word for “all” (πᾶσαν) does not mean “everything” in this context, but functions adjectivally here, implying “pure” or “entire.” In other words, it does not form part of the direct object (“ Consider everything”) but identifies the type of joy one should have. 12 “Joy” (χαράν), in turn, speaks of a state of being rather than an emotion. 13 Joy proves quite different from happiness, so that this verse does not support the idea that a Christian must smile all the time! Joy may be defined as a settled contentment in every situation or “an unnatural reaction of deep, steady and unadulterated thankful trust in God.” 14

The third key piece of this opening command is the verb “consider” (ἡγήσασθε). This is a verb of thought rather than emotion. James is not commanding how one should feel, but rather how one should think about one’s circumstances. 16 Thus one is to “consider” or “reckon” any given difficult circumstance as “pure joy.” 17


Blomberg, Craig L.; Kamell, Mariam J. (2009-10-06). James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 16) (Kindle Locations 751-772). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The references cited:

12 . Johnson (The Letter of James, 176 ) offers “consider it entirely as joy” as a translation of this line.
13 . Patrick J. Hartin (“ The Call to be Perfect through Suffering [James 1,2 – 4]: The Concept of Perfection in the Epistle of James and in the Sermon on the Mount,” Bib 77 [1996]: 477) notes that in James, “joy emerges as the proper response in situations where one’s faith is tested.”
14 . Derek Tidball, Wisdom from Heaven: The Message of the Letter of James for Today (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2003), 22.
16 . D. Edmond Hiebert (The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith [Chicago: Moody Press, 1979], 71) calls this a settled conviction because of the aorist tense of this command. While in many contexts, this may be to “abuse” the aorist, here it seems to work well.
17 . William R. Baker (“ James,” in William R. Baker and Paul Carrier, James-Jude [Cincinnati: Standard, 1990], 18) notes that “problems are to be viewed with joy not because we actually enjoy them, but because they are part of God’s plan for us.”

Blomberg, Craig L.; Kamell, Mariam J. (2009-10-06). James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 16) (Kindle Locations 1178-1193). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

 

The Green and the Grey – tentative thoughts

John Hancock Bldg
John Hancock Building – Chi-town

 

The green and the gray…

The garden and the city

The forest and the metropolis

I am not sure how to explain this.  I just saw this video which I absolutely loved but… but for one tiny nit: It has a bit too much grey-ness at times.

Takuya Suzuki 2014 Modeling Reel from suztak on Vimeo.

~ I think that there are two different (perhaps opposing?) impulses found in humans.

An impulse to greenery and an impulse to grey-ery. That is we have an impulse towards nature and an impulse towards the city. What I am trying to say is that we have a impulse for the silence and solace(?) of nature and an impulse for the hustle and bustle of of the metropolis.

metropolisfritzlang~ Its more than just an impulse. I would say it is really a longing. There is something to the healing solitude one can find in the woods. (Spend time in nature and you will find that the healing just seeps into your soul.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters” ~Psalm 23:2)  And yet there is something to the dive-into-life quality – “Ah… life!” –  found amidst the crowds and cabs of the concrete jungle.

What is interesting is that the first book of the Bible, Genesis begins with a place that is primarily a garden – the Garden of Eden.  It is primarily a garden and secondarily a city (or something that is hand-built).  Yes – there is a city like or a design like quality to the Garden of Eden.  An Indian would understand this because in India we have so many incredible gardens like the Brindhavan Gardens. In the US they don’t have such types of gardens. Here quite often a garden consists of just grass!

brindhavan

The Bible on the other hand ends with the book of Revelation. Here we are presented with a city, the New Jerusalem. This place is primarily a city, and secondarily something that is garden-like.

I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ~ Revelation 21:2

~ Interesting that I have a nature wallpaper on my laptop. I live in a small city. I bet if I went out the country and took a look at the laptop of some woodsy farming guy, he would have on it a city wallpaper.

(Not 100% sure about this.  Still need to research this, especially New Jerusalem. Also wonder if Eden is obsolete as it is found in the infra-strictures of the Old Covenant (e.g. the tabernacle). Life is not so much about the echoes of Eden, but more rather about the stirrings of the New Jerusalem.)