Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Go

This is my final blog in the Awakening series. I have been sharing about ways to wake up to all that God is doing around us. Too often we sleepwalk through our faith and just go through the motions. God wants us to wake up and be fully aware of what he is doing.
I was looking at the call of Levi from Luke 5:27-32 and I thought this was a wake up call. Levi is sitting at his tax collector's booth. All of a sudden Jesus shows up and says, "Follow me." We are not told how long Levi took to answer. But in that time, whether it was seconds or minutes, I see Levi's life flash in his mind. After reflecting on his past and catching up to the present, Levi decides what he has been doing was not what he wanted to keep doing. I wonder if he had been searching for God's call, but had not heard it until Jesus came. The passage says that Levi left everything and followed Jesus.
Maybe God is calling you to leave everything as well. Or maybe God is calling you to make some changes to be more aware of what God is calling you to do. I hope you have heard this call and I hope maybe this past month God has awakened you to a new or more meaningful call than before. I know I have felt a deeper sense of my need to listen more carefully to God's voice each day. If you have heard a call I would love to hear it either in person or in response to this blog.
Now that we know God wants us to be awake to all he is doing, let's go. Let's follow him as he leads us to love the people around us. Let's follow him as we serve those in need. And let's follow him as we transform this world through the grace of Christ. Let's go!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Ready

When I get up in the morning it takes me a while to really wake up. I have to go through my routine of getting ready. Not until after my shower, brushing my teeth and getting on fresh clothes, that I am fully ready for the day.
As we are awakening to God's call in our lives one thing that can help you get ready to hear God's call is to know yourself. Not just on the surface because we all should know ourselves, but really get to know who you are and how you operate.
I think David shows us this in the passage about David and Goliath. This passage is 1 Samuel 17. You probably know the overall story. David is a shepherd boy and Goliath is a giant warrior that stands over 9 feet tall. Goliath has been challenging the warriors of Israel to a battle, but none will take the challenge. David finally says he will face Goliath.
In verses 32-40 we see the conversation David has with King Saul about accepting the challenge. First, Saul tries to talk him out of it, but then he gives David his armor. David tries it on, but it does not fit him. David is not a warrior and not used to wearing armor. Instead of facing Goliath as a warrior, he takes his shepherd's staff, 5 stones and his sling. He faces Goliath as a shepherd. And it is as a shepherd that he wins the battle.
It is a good thing that David knew he was not a warrior. If he had tried to battle Goliath with armor and a sword, he probably would have lost. But because he knew he was a good shepherd and faced the battle that way, he was victorious.
As we listen for God's calling we need to know who God has created us to be. We need to be confident in how God designed us. When we know ourselves we can know better how to work in our strengths, and we will know how to handle our weaknesses. So I encourage you to use tools that can help you get to know yourself.
In a small group on Wednesday nights we were looking at our time styles. This little test showed if you see time as scheduled or unscheduled and if you focus on the future or the present. I found out that I am unscheduled and live in the present. Then I read about the Accommodater style of person. It helped me realize why I do things the way I do.
Little surveys and tests like those can really help us know how God created us. I have also taken the Myers-Briggs test and several Spiritual Gifts Inventories that have been helpful.
I want to encourage you to keep getting to know how God put you together. When you know who God made you to be you can be confident in yourself. Then you can be confident in the plans God lays before you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Ya Gonna Call?

As we continue to think about Awakening to all God is doing around us I want to continue to look at Samuel's call story found in 1 Samuel 3. There seems to be three people actively working in this chapter. Of course, Samuel and God are present as God is calling out to Samuel. But if we think this passage is only about those two we are missing an important person, Eli.
Eli was the priest of the temple and Samuel's mentor. He should have been the one God was talking to, but instead God called out to Samuel. However, Samuel did not know it was God calling him. Eli then helped Samuel hear his call by instructing him to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." If Eli had not given Samuel guidance he may not have ever responded to God's call.
So I want you to think about the people who have played Eli's role in your life. Who has helped you to hear God's voice? Who has given you spiritual guidance?
Then I also want you to think about who God has placed around you for you to guide.
The United Methodist Church of America is facing a tough time getting young people to hear a call to full time pastoral ministry. Here in Iowa I believe we have 20 pastors under the age of 35. In Iowa we have over 800 churches to be served, so you can see that we quickly will not have enough pastors if we do not get more young pastors.
Helen and I went to a conference that was geared to speak to this issue. One survey they mentioned looked at the instruments God uses to help people hear their call. Common responses were parents and pastors. However, there was a trend that they noticed as they looked at the year of a person's call. They noticed that decades ago a major influence was lay people, but that lay people were not mentioned as much by people hearing a call more recently. What they took from this survey is that fewer lay people are helping youth hear God's call to ministry.
This stuck me with two thoughts. First, we do need more lay people involved in encouraging young people with gifts and graces for ministry.
Second, it told me that the voice of lay people is important to those around them. People will listen when lay people speak about spiritual things. As a lay person, your voice needs to be heard. You need to be guiding and encouraging others around you.
So again, who can you help hear God's call? You can be an "Eli" to someone around you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hear God's Voice

As we focus on awakening to all God has for us, a good place to start is hearing God's voice. I believe God wants to speak to each of us. God has a calling in all of our lives. God has a plan and a purpose for you. However, we often miss that calling because we are not awake to the fact that God is calling us or we may not recognize God's voice when he calls.
The passage of 1 Samuel 3:1-11 tells the story of Samuel being called by God. It is the middle of the night, so Samuel is sleeping when he hears a voice calling his name. Three times he thinks it is his mentor the priest, Eli. So Samuel goes to Eli's room, but Eli says he did not call him. After this happens a couple more times, Eli realizes that it must be God calling out to Samuel. He encourages Samuel to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Samuel does this and God shares with Samuel his calling.
As God calls out to us we need to be able to recognize his voice. I believe a way to know God's voice is by reading his Word, that is the Bible. As we read God's Word we recognize how God works. We notice the way he calls and the instruments he uses to wake us up. So as this new year begins I recommend getting into the discipline of reading the Bible.
I have found a wonderful website that is helping me with this discipline. This free Bible website has many versions of the Bible available to read. I am currently reading the Message paraphrase. It also has daily devotions. I personally use a reading plan. You can choose from several options of reading plans which tells you each day what chapters to read. I am reading the Bible in one year through the Historical plan. That means I am reading the Old Testament in a similar order to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in the order scholars think the books were written.
One of the best features of this website is that it has apps for your mobile devises. So I have the app on my i-pad and it can go with me wherever I go.
Samuel did not recognize God's voice as he was called and we may often miss God calling us. However, if we read God's Word we will learn to hear his voice and recognize his call. As we are awakening to more of what God is doing around us, we need to know his voice.

Monday, January 3, 2011


January is a great time of year for me. I do not like New Year's Resolutions because I am not good at following through on those. However, I do appreciate having a time that I can look back and evaluate how my life is going. I can look back over the past year and celebrate the good times and victories. I can also mourn the tough times and see what I might learn from those experiences.
As I look back there will be experiences I will say, "Let's do that again!" Other experiences will remind me to, "Never do that again." I hope you have taken time to consider what you accomplished in 2010 and what you have learned. I also want you to think about what God did in and through you in 2010.
During January this year I want us to focus on this idea of awakening. I believe that we often end up sleep walking through parts of life. We get into a routine and we go through the motions in order to get by in life. This really is not a great way to live and it is not what God intended for us. God wants us to be fully awake and aware of what is happening in our lives.
Paul calls us to this in Romans 13:11-14. He calls us to wake and not miss what God is doing. God is always working for the good in our lives, but we often sleep walk right by.
In January we will be focusing on how to wake up and join in with what God is doing around us. I also hope we will learn to pass this on to help others wake up as well.
So take time to look back and reflect on 2010, and then throw some water on your face and get ready to wake up to what God's Spirit will do in 2011.