Called - Not - Disqualified!
Norine Rae - Current Photo: 2016
Lifelong Learning for Ministry - Written February 19, 2010
Calling and Vocation Review
2 Timothy 1:8-9 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
The calling of God is for all those who believe. Is this calling as complex as we believers make it out to be or is it learning to hear His voice through communion with Him that we should aspire to? There are some things that we may never know with certainty, but with “pureness of heart” as we follow the Spirit and written Word I am confident that the Lord will not fail us nor we fail Him. Our heart to serve and love humanity should not be “according to our works, but according to His purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9) for this is where people stumble.
In striving to please God through our works (even with the best intention) - often believers “miss the point” which is communion (relationship, unity) with Him so that we can be given our marching orders. Micah 6:8, “And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humble with your God?” As we surrender our lives and walk with Him humbly, He will develop our character so that the work of the Kingdom can be fulfilled through us.
What you do best in the body of Christ by Bruce Bugbee
As a task oriented individual this can be difficult as I see that there is much work that needs to be done. Bruce Bugbee(2005) refers to this in his book, what you do best in the body of Christ when he discusses the Fruit of the Spirit as “Being qualities” and Spiritual Gifts as “Doing qualities”(55). He states, “Both the fruit of the Sprit and spiritual gifts are essential for effective ministry.” James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Here again, we see the importance of spending time with the Lord in order to hear(be) His voice so that we can in turn go forth and do what He has commissioned us for.
Jesus took time to bewith the Father before He went out. Jesus went forth so there was action that took place once He spent time with the Father. There needs to be a balance so that we are filled up so that we have something to give. Yet, some are so full giving nothing while others are empty from giving so much without taking time to spend with the Lord. Yes, both (doing and being) are necessary to “effective ministry”.
Bugbee’s (2005) prayers at the end of each chapter helped me to spend time with the Lord and request that He assist me in the pursuit of “calling” and “gifts”. Also his reflection questions and tests provided were thought provoking and informative. I agree with Bugbee (2005) that spiritual maturity will affect all the areas of service. He looks into developing people’s gifts, style, and passions. This book is effective for teaching others to find their spiritual gifts and give insight in how to use them in ministry. “The beauty of Network is that it is a process, easily implemented by church staff and lay people, which empower people to use their gifts to impact the church the way God intended” (160).
Courage and Calling by George Smith
In reviewing the three books assigned my personal preference was the working of Gordon T. Smith, Courage and Calling (1999). Here is a man that I would like to know and personally spend time with. In fact, I feel as though I do know him a little as I gleaned from each page that he wrote. In digesting the depth and value of his thoughts I found that, for the most part, I not only agreed with his philosophy, but that I hope one day that I to can articulate my faith and thoughts this competently.
The skillfulness of conveying his concepts such as, “… everything depends on our response. Suffering and pain either break us or make us. Through it all we either become angry, bitter and cynical or, with grace, grow through endurance, become people of character and signals of hope in a dark and dispirited world. The real test of vocational and emotional maturity lies in our capacity to handle difficult and painful times”(145).
Wow, I could write a book just on these two thoughts. He is speaking my heart, and I believe the heart of God. What is most important is our response to our life’s challenges. We are called to bring hope to the hopeless – to be light in the darkest and most discouraging circumstances. The Bible says that we are to be a “mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified, Isaiah 61:3. It is our attitude and behavior that demonstrates a positive productive witness for others. It is this positive “light” or “salt” that people are drawn to, learn from, given flavor or are preserved. As we show love in the midst of adversity and pain others will see the love of God and desire to know Him. Truly we do learn from our failures as much as we do from success and how we respond is the “salt” and “light” that people so desire to taste and see.
“With God there is no wasted time. We will be surprised by how the threads of our lives are woven together, how they unfold in the tapestry that God is creating in us and through us. We cannot always see how things are working themselves out. All we can do is choose, for now, for this day, to be true to who we are and who we are called to be. No education, however wonderful or expensive, should undermine our capacity to think clearly about that call” (104). As we explore our natural and supernatural gifting which are from our creature, we move forth confidently in our vocation and calling (not to be mistaken with our employment or occupation). Nothing is wasted as our heart and eyes are focused on the creature and not our circumstances. As saints this intrinsic desire to serve our Lord with gladness as the tapestry of our life unfolds leads us to opportunities to use these gifting to bless others. We must choose to give ear to hear what the Spirit is saying and learn to be effective listeners in both our doing and being.
I loved what Smith (1999) said regarding true courage, moral integrity, prudence and wisdom. They all work together and there are times that we must take a stand when is hurts and is uncomfortable (even painful). There are times that we must step away from a situation or move elsewhere when it is unhealthy. People may not understand, but to compromise ones values and integrity would bring death and destruction in our life. Sometimes it is the most painful decisions and stands that take the most courage. “Yet this vocational integrity- living in a way that is consistent with who we are – is only possible when we have a commitment to moral integrity (118).” As God is not in a hurry and desires good character more than works we can seek to please Him first - knowing that He loves us despite our failures, and the failures of others. To move forward may not be failure at all, but vocational integrity. No longer living a life victimized which only rob you, but seeing oneself as a victor finishing the race strong for Christ.
How the Lord Leads by A.W. Tozer
In the article How the Lord Leads by A.W. Tozer (1986) states, “The man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ cannot make a wrong choice. Any choice will be the right one”(2). I believe this is due to the fact that the person is at a place of surrender and desire to please the Lord. Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to (His) purpose.” When I finished my tour of duty in the Army I went straight into college. I choose to get my bachelors in Leisure Services because I saw so many people wasting their leisure time with unhealthy choices like drugs and alcohol.
It was my hope to help people to see that there were healthy alternatives in recreation to enjoy. Even though God blessed me in this career and others that I chose in the Human Service field, as I traveled, I continually felt that I was not walking in God’s complete will for my life. Was this the purpose for which God made me, was often my question?
As I was raising my children I had the opportunity to go back to school and attend Full Gospel Bible Assemblies International. Since I was very young I have felt a strong “calling” on my life, but since I was a woman being a pastor seemed outrageous. Raised in the Lutheran church, I did not really see any woman in ministry. My mindsets where such that women where to be quite in the church. Even though I am an ordained minister, I continue to struggle with this issue internally. When one reads these works the gifts are not distinguishable between men and women, yet we do it within ourselves. If someone were to ask me what I enjoy the most in my life or what gives me the greatest satisfaction it would be my relationship with God, family, teaching, and loving others. This is where I find joy and harmony in my being, and that is why I believe that I must embrace this “call” to ministry.
Margin by Richard Swenson
Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. (2004) was my least favorite book offered. I found it marginal (this is a play on words, but a bit strong) at best, yet many would most likely disagree with me as it has sold so many copies. Perhaps that is because people truly feel margin less. They are in a search for space with the complexities of life. They don’t feel they have room to breathe because their choices have made their life so complicated and they are in need of simplification.
Although there where parts that I agreed with fully, it just did not have the impact that the other works offered. Yes, there are many stresses in our society and there must be space (margin) within our lives or we become useless. In our futility we have great dreams, but nothing is accomplished for we are overwhelmed with the burden of stress, change, speed, circumstances, and sheer overload. He discusses clearly in regaining control of our lives that… “Jobs are only jobs that cars are only organized pile of metal, that houses will one day fall down- but that people are important beyond description. We once again assert that love stands supreme above all other forces, even to the end of the universe and beyond (page 27).” This is an amazing statement and many people are so busy trying to maintain their “stuff” that they miss the gems around them - Their rubies, emeralds, diamonds in their friends and family.
Swenson (2004) talks about measuring progress not through our education, but through our love for others. I concur with his hypothesis, yet where would we be if people did not continue to learn and grow with educational pursuits? Many of today’s miracles of modern medicine have come with the unyielding quest for knowledge and discovery. I believe that this too is a virtue of God’s character. It is not the quest of knowledge or “stuff” that is the problem, but balancing our lives and focus daily. Life does not have to become a “weight” if we surrender and listen to the King of Kings. Mathew 11:30 states, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Certainly, I agree that there is an importance for rest physically, spiritually and emotionally. Our preoccupation with success does deprive us of rest as we are forever trying to climb a bit higher and get a little more so that we can have a little more or a lot more – forever striving and never satisfied. The real problem is that people are somewhat selfish where they have so much and they don’t even seem to care about those around them that have nothing.
We must ask ourselves, what is our responsibility? Where can we help? I feel I am “called” to be like the “good Samaritan” for whomever God places on my path - where I have the means to help - I should help! – Unless, He tells me otherwise. This is a good time to use the Serenity Prayer.
I hope that at the end of the day that God will give me a “good report card” in that I did relate well to Him, myself, and others (208). But, I would add to that report card. Where you effective in teaching others to do the same? For I believe that what we teach others is just as important as what we do for ourselves as we are only here for a short time, and we need to think in terms of the generations to come. Our focus should not be merely on ourselves. To do this we must choose to live a life of balance and that is what I believe Swenson (2005) is trying to convey. He is basically asking us to rethink the structure of our lives to determine if our priorities are in order so that we can live holistically so that our “gifts” and “callings” can be effective.
The greatest epiphany that I take away from these readings concerning my own calling, giftedness and vocation is that I am gifted – I am called – I have a vocation. My journey is just beginning again. It is inspiring to grab hold of thoughts that cause you to realize that you have made wise decisions regarding your life and that you do have not only have a “capacity to learn”, but to “teach” that which you have learned so that others may flourish.
The wisdom that is accumulated from maturity as we come through the difficulties of life makes us sages or magi’s to encourage others that there is hope in the future. That even though the process of the journey may be rough at times in the end a diamond is produced from the pressure as the loving hand of the Father sees us through. You will find me “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute me; bless and curse not. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep” (Romans 12:12-15).
Bugbee, Bruce. What you do best in the body of Christ, Revised and expanded. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005
New American Standard Bible. The Open Bible Edition, 1977.
Smith, Gordon T. Courage and Calling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999.
Swenson, Richard A. Margin.NavPress, 2004.
Tozer, A.W. The Set of the Sail. “How the Lord Lead.” Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1986