Remembering and Waiting

 

I love finding little notes in my Bible–like nuggets of gold, or better, stones of remembrance–reminding me of God’s faithfulness during certain periods of life. I came upon this yesterday, March 16, 2016, that pointed back to this date in 2011, 5 years ago.

In November 2010, I had been approached about a potential job at our church. Though I already had a job I loved as Director of Admissions and Marketing at a small classical school that my husband and I had been involved with from its start in 2006, we didn’t want to dismiss the opportunity without prayer. Over the next four months, we prayed and took each next step of a lengthy interview process. Somewhere along that path, I withdrew my name, but I didn’t have peace.

As I continued to pray, the Lord continued to speak and lead, and through a variety of circumstances, I re-entered the process. I knew that by putting my name back in, I was saying to myself if they offered me the job, I would accept it. That was a huge step, to be able to let go of something I loved, not knowing what the new job would really end up being.

Though I re-entered the process, it had been a few weeks, and they had moved on, and it was possible it was too late. I became stressed about the situation–that I might not be offered the job now that I felt it was so clearly from the Lord, and also that I would have to leave something that, through God’s grace and strength, I helped start and had invested my life in for 5 years. I would be giving up something that had almost become synonomous with who I was–part of my identity, even an idol to me.

As I went through those days of waiting, I came upon these two verses which God used to give me peace:

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:14

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. Psalm 28:7

These verses caused me to stop and reflect on all the reasons I believed this new job was from the Lord and right for me and my family. As I remembered each step of those four months He had brought me through, I was absolutely convinced this was the call He had for me. And so in that moment, I believed God. I trusted what He had shown me. And I decided that I would wait patiently for the church to come back to me with the job offer, recognizing and believing that would indeed happen.

It gave me total peace as only God’s Word and His Spirit can do. It was two days later that I was called and offered the job. I was told I could take time to think about it and pray. I remember replying that wouldn’t be necessary. I had prayed for four months, and I was confident this was from the Lord. I accepted on the spot, so convinced of God’s plan.

I guess a rather humorous point was that I was then asked if I would like to know how much money I would make! Oh, yes, forgot about that. That would be good to know! But when the call of the Lord becomes so certain, you know all the parts of it will work themselves out. And it’s been a great joy to have been serving in our church now for the last almost 5 years, seeing evidence over and over why it was from the Lord and the right thing. I love records like this that bring it back to mind, and I thank the Lord again for His gracious provision and clear leading.

Calling: The Spirit-Filled Life

This post is the next in a series on calling. We’ve looked at our identity in Christfollowing Jesus, finding our purpose and satisfaction in Jesus, surrendering our lives to God, and now the Spirit-filled life.

When my husband was in seminary, I invited a friend to a Christmas service at the church we attended. It opened the door for me to share the gospel with her, to tell her about Jesus dying for her sins and how by faith in Him she could be saved. At the end of our conversation, she asked, “So what’s the difference?” She wanted to know what the difference was between her and me, between a believer and an unbeliever, that was so distinct.

I had been raised in a Christian home, attended a Christian school for 13 years, grew up in a Bible-believing church, and always known about Jesus. I had had doubts at points, but I lived a life wanting to do what was right; there was no obvious rebellion. By nature, my personality tends to be a “rule keeper,” so it wasn’t hard to always look good. I had seasons where I attended Bible studies, particularly in college, and wanted to know and grow, and I wanted to see my friends turn to Jesus. There was authenticity in this. My life was committed to a certain direction. I had married the preacher’s son, and we had headed off to seminary to begin our own lives of ministry.

Looking back, I wasn’t aware of something I was missing: the Spirit-filled life. I was living life in my own strength, doing my best to keep the rules, and I don’t remember actually having much joy, much less a sense of calling or assurance of my faith in Christ.

When I returned home that night from the Christmas program, I shared with my husband about my friend’s question. I told him I wasn’t sure what to say. He said, “Well, did you tell her about the Holy Spirit?” And I honestly had to think about what he was telling me. Huh? The Holy Spirit, oh yeah. How had I missed this truth?

God gives us His Holy Spirit when we are saved. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live and guides us in truth. My Bible has a list of the works of the Spirit, and it includes: speaks in Scriptures, regenerates, indwells, anoints, baptizes, guides, empowers, sanctifies, bears witness, helps, gives joy, gives discernment, bears fruit, gives gifts, comforts, illuminates the mind, reveals the things of God.

Jesus said in John 14:15-17:

“If  you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  (NKJV)

We can quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or we can be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is an incredible gift, a gift of God Himself in the life of the believer. And it changes everything.

It would be about another 10 years before I came to understand more about the life of the Spirit, and it came through surrender of my life to God, on my knees, in obedience, looking to Jesus. The Spirit then came and began showing me the plans God had for my life, and they were good, and He brought joy. I really long for people to know this truth of God’s Spirit lived in and through us, not living in our own strength, but relying on Him. We can’t live this life in our own strength or with our own power. All of this is ours in Christ. Praise You, Lord.

Calling: Surrendering Our Lives to God

The last post alluded to this, but as we consider calling and these biblical realities of our identity in Christ, following Jesus, and finding our purpose and satisfaction in Jesus, we arrive at surrendering our lives to God.

While I don’t see the word “surrender” used in the Bible, I believe it is a biblical concept. To surrender (as defined at dictionary.com!) is “to yield to the possession or power of another,” “to give oneself up.” When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we give ourselves to Him, the One who gave His life for us.

In the book Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray, he describes surrender as saying, “I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God wants.” And then also saying, “I give myself absolutely to God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has promised to do.”

When we surrender our lives to God, He enables us by the power of His Spirit to live the life He has given us and called us to live.

We find our calling then from this place of surrender to God.

Because of Jesus and his perfect life, His death on our behalf, His resurrection – by faith in Him, we can know God and be rescued from our sin and death, restored to fellowship with the God who made us. When we cast ourselves in faith upon Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit to live within us to guide us, and we have God’s Word to teach us how to live in obedience to Him.

We see Jesus’ life, lived here on earth to the glory of His Father, surrendered to His Father’s will. He gave His life so that we could live. It’s too wonderful for words. And we can do the same, surrender our lives to the Father’s will and live for His glory. He will show us how to live and what our callings are as we surrender to Him, not just at the point of salvation, but day by day.

This kind of life brings great blessing and true joy. In my next post, I’ll share a little of my own story.

Calling: The God Who Satisfies Our Souls

This is the fourth in a series on “calling.” This post tells why this subject. In the first three posts, we looked at our identity, the call as Christians to follow Jesus, and our purpose

The first few posts on the subject of calling have been designed to lay the groundwork of certain things we can know as we consider “calling” in our lives.

Today, I’m reflecting on the God who satisfies our souls. You may be familiar with this quote from Augustine:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

In our broken world, part of the human condition is to look for things that satisfy us, that fill us. People look in all kinds of places for fulfillment and satisfaction: money, power, prestige, materialism, self, etc. And yet that void and emptiness can only be filled by God.

Blaise Pascal said:

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

In his book A Quest for More, Paul Tripp writes, “There is woven inside each of us a desire for something more – a craving to be part of something bigger, greater, and more profound than our relatively meaningless day-by-day existence.”

Tripp says that this desire is called “transcendence.” “This desire for transcendence is in all of us because God placed it there. He constructed us to live for more than ourselves. He designed us to want meaning, purpose, and consequence…. We were made for the one glory that is transcendent – the glory of God” (pages 14, 16-18).

If God alone can satisfy us, give us purpose and meaning, then He should be the desire of our hearts.

So consider the language of “calling” that you sometimes hear: “follow your dreams,” “find your true self,” “live your gifts and passions,” “journey toward meaning,” “become fully alive,” “go after the desires of your heart.”

Perhaps these distinctions are subtle, but I think they are important:

We want to desire God and seek Him who gives us the desires of our heart, not seek after the desires of our heart themselves.

We want to seek the Gift-giver, not the gifts He gives, though He of course can use those for His glory.

Our purpose and meaning are found in God, not something apart from Him that we elusively work to find.

We want lives centered around God and living for His glory, not lives centered around ourselves and our own glory and fulfillment.

God does give us dreams and desires, meaning and purpose, but it is all found in Him. When you want to know what you are made for, you are made for God. Yes, then for more, but in Him, and everything starts with Him.

In Psalm 27:4, the psalmist desires to be near to God and His presence:

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (NIV)

So seek the Lord and behold his beauty. Let everything else about our lives and calling flow from this: surrendering our lives to Him, then seeking Him in His Word and prayer. These are the means by which He gives direction and further calling to do His work in the world. 

John Piper says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Have you found God to be your soul’s satisfaction?

Psalm 107:9 “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

Calling: Finding Our Purpose in Christ

This post is the third in a series on “calling.” The first was on our identity in Christ, then the necessity of following Jesus, and today is considering the purpose of our lives. 

When my children were preschool age, our church (a non-denominational, gospel-centered, Bible-believing church) taught the first 15 or so questions of the shorter catechism for children. The first five questions were:

  1. Q: Who made you?  A: God
  2. Q: What else did God make?  A: God made all things.
  3. Q: Why did God make you and all things?  A: For His own glory.
  4. Q: How can you glorify God?  A: By loving Him and doing what He commands.
  5. Why should you glorify God?  A: Because He made me and takes care of me.

I love the simplicity of these true statements. God made us for His own glory. We glorify Him by loving Him and doing what He commands.  (1 John 5:3: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” NIV)

These catechism questions seem to indicate a purpose for those who are in Christ: to glorify God, to love Him, to obey Him. Our Creator and Savior is worthy of giving our lives to Him. When we have faith in Him, when we really believe that He is, then we will want to obey what He says, and this shows our love for Him. There is great blessing in following Christ in this way, for His glory.

1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV).

My Bible notes (the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV) say that glory is “derived from a Hebrew verb which is used to describe the weight of worthiness of something.” It says the word “glory” is usually “used to depict greatness and splendor.”

As I consider “calling,” I want to know my identity in Christ, my first call to follow Him, and my purpose to bring glory to His Name, to live in love and obedience to Him.

Isaiah 26:8 “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (NIV)

Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Calling: Following Jesus

This post is the second entry on the subject of “calling.”  Yesterday, the first in the series was on “Knowing Our Identity in Christ.” 

The first thing Jesus told his disciples when he “called” them was “follow Me” (Matthew 4:18-22).

He also said this to many people throughout the New Testament, such as in Mark 8:34-35:

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'” (NKJV)

Following Jesus seems to be a primary calling that He gives us as Christians. What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Looking at the verses above, and if we were to continue to read and study further, we would see that following Jesus, being His disciple (a word given to the original twelve followers, but now used for any follower of Jesus), is a call that costs something, that involves sacrifice, but that rewards greatly.

Following Jesus involves denying myself, taking up my cross, and losing my life for His sake and the gospel’s. Many places in the Bible add to our understanding of this, and other passages also describe the rewards for following Jesus. These rewards include not walking in darkness, but having the Light of life (John 8:12), being honored by the Father (John 12:26), and having our lives ultimately saved (Mark 8:35).

John 8:12: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’”

John 12:26: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

Though God may give us many “callings” in our lives, as Christians, we are all given this foremost call to follow Him. As we follow Jesus, we can trust that He will lead us into the other callings he may have for us.

This may go against other advice we hear in our culture such as “follow your heart’s desires” or “follow your passions” or “follow your dreams,” all of which sound potentially self-fulfilling, yet seem so abstract and elusive. Even in Christian circles sometimes, these messages can exist, a version of “you can be anything your heart desires” or “be all you can be” with Jesus on the side, endorsing our dreams.

As Christians, we should follow Jesus, not our passions, desires, or dreams, and He will develop in us godly passions after His heart that become our desires that He alone can fulfill. This is a Christ-centered call, not one focused on me.

There is much greater joy in following Jesus than what anyone or anything else can offer. And this is a straightforward, concrete call that we don’t want to miss or confuse with any other message being given.

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (ESV)