Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Do you have a specific calling from the Lord?  All followers of Jesus have the great commission which applies to the Church universal and we each have a gift or gifts that God has given us for the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Church.  However, I suspect that many of us are uncertain whether we have a specific calling from the Lord.  You see, this morning it just became very clear to me what my calling is even though I have been a follower of Jesus since 1983.  The fact that I just received this crystal clarity doesn’t mean I have not walked in my calling.  As I think of the times in my life that I have felt the most joyful, the most fulfilled, they have been when I was walking in my calling.  Before I go further I will tell you that my calling is to be an Encourager.

Looking back on one of my formative God stories I realize that God spoke the call to me, but I concentrated on the wrong part of the word He gave.  In May or June of 1989 I awoke in the middle of the night knowing God was present.  I slipped out of bed and onto my knees ready to pray for whatever burden the Lord put on my heart.  But no desperate need arose for me to pray about.  I remember thinking / praying, “What is it Lord?”  Then I heard Him speak to my heart.  “I am going to have you say special things to special people.  And to prove it, I’m going to take care of your house today.”

For years I have paid more attention to the miraculous provision God made in providing a home for us out of the blue the next day.  But I am struck this morning by the truth of the calling captured in that first sentence.  “I am  going to have you say special things to special people.”

A few years later I experienced another profound revelation from the Lord.  I was feeling led to undertake a three day fast for the first time.  As I pondered this, a friend who attended a Pentecostal church approached me at work one day and said, “Dan, during worship in our service last night, the pastor had a word for you.  He said if you will fast for three days on water only, then the Lord will show you what you are to do.”  I was blown away.  Until that time, I had not mentioned to anyone what I was considering.  So during Holy Week that year I undertook a three day fast.  I will never forget it.  Most importantly I did receive a clear message from the Lord.  Funny thing, it was while I was mowing the lawn on Saturday toward the end of the fast.  The Lord said, “I have not called you to be a preacher and I have not called you to be a teacher, I have called you to be a man of prayer.  You will preach and you will teach, but first and foremost I have called you to be a man of prayer.”

You see I had the notion I was waiting for God to call me into the ordained ministry.  I loved Him.  I thrilled at reading and sharing the Word.  And I desperately wanted people to experience the new life in Christ, the abundant life in Christ that I had found.  My vision of calling and ministry was fairly narrow and was confined to becoming a minister in a church.  Even as my understanding grew, I did not grasp the fact that I had a calling and, with some degree of consistency, I was walking it out.

So the point of today is simple.  God has a general calling on your life which is to honor and glorify Him, but He also has a specific call on your life.  The following steps will help you find your specific calling.

1) Begin by asking Him to guide you and use you.  As you lean on and trust in Him, He will lead you to your calling.

2) What are you passionate about?  What brings you the greatest joy?  For myself and for many others, we are most alive and impassioned when we are doing what God has created us to do.

3) What are you good at?  The talents we possess are gifts from God.  They are given to us, first and foremost, to glorify Him.  They generally also help to provide for us, although that is not always true.  An example comes to mind.  Early in my faith walk, I told God I would gladly go into the mission field.  I pictured using my engineering skills during the day to help people in a third world country build wells and construct homes by day followed by bible studies and preaching at night.  But the call for me to actually go into foreign missions has not yet come.  It seems likely to me that one of the reasons is my struggle with languages.  For some, like our youngest children and my cousin Richard, languages come very easy, but not for me.  In lieu of actually going overseas on foreign missions, we have been able to support and encourage others who have that calling.

4) What do other people compliment you on?  Sorry, while this can include your mother, it has to be more than just her.  When we walk in our giftedness, it will bless others and some of those people will let you know.  I am not talking about stroking our vanity, but words of affirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Our calling will in some way support the Great commission – the growth and building up of Christ’s body in the earth.  Don’t limit this to just the preaching and teaching of the Word though.  I know God is the great physician who ultimately heals us, however He most often uses doctors and health professionals to be His agents of that healing.  The difference between a person who is walking in their calling as a medical professional and a person who does not recognize what they do as a ministry is the motivation.  One seeks to minister to people and meet their needs through God’s strength and provision.  The other does not have this foundational truth driving them.  I have heard of doctors who pray with their patients through the healing process.  To me that is a great indicator that they are walking in their calling.

Just because you have a specific calling does not mean that these are the only ways God will use you.  He is the omnipotent Creator of the universe.  If you are available and obedient He is more than able to give you the grace in any and every situation you find yourself.  However, recognizing your calling and seeking to put yourself into positions to grow and use the talents you have is a sure path to fulfillment in God’s amazing economy.

Have a blessed day today and may you flourish in the place where God puts you.

Read Full Post »

I am moved by how deeply, how passionately God loves us.  As we approach Holy Week I invite you to pause each day and plumb the depths of what God did for us… for you 2000 years ago.  He literally dealt with sin once and for all.  Jesus, God’s Son, performed the most gracious act ever undertaken because He loved and obeyed the Father and because they both love us.  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

I heard a story about a Railroad switchman many years ago that has stuck with me.  Back in those days switching a railroad from one track to another was accomplished by manually actuating sets of large, open gears that literally shifted the rails from one set to another.  The switchmen were the railroad employees responsible for knowing which tracks went where and how to keep the trains flowing smoothing through the yard without incident.  While this is all automated today, back then it was a task that rested upon the knowledge, quick-thinking, and physical strength of the switchman.  The story told was long before OSHA rules and regulations.

As the story was told to me one particular day a watchman had decided to take his young son to his work to show him the trains and give him an idea of what his dad did for a living.  The young lad was thrilled to see the engines and all new things in the switchyard.  While they are there another railroad employee approached the switchman with a question to which the switchman responded.  His son saw his chance to “explore” and slipped away.  The question it turns out reveals a significant drama unfolding.  A passenger train is barreling into the switchyard and has had a brake failure.  The father’s presence becomes providential in that he understands the gravity of the situation and is able to quickly determine what must be done to save the train and it’s passengers.  It’s fairly complicated, but with a few rapidly executed track switches he can prevent a certain crash and derailment which would injure and kill many passengers.  As the father runs from switch to switch making the necessary changes, he is barely ahead of the speeding train.  At the last switch he arrives with only a moment to look up before he must throw the switch only to realize making the last switch will send the train down the track where his son is seated playing with a piece of coal.  He has only two choices – either save his son and watch many people crash and die or make the switch and watch his son die.

I heard this story before I had children and it was hard to fathom the sacrifice the father made even then.  Today I have four children and it is even harder.  But this gives us a sense of the sacrifice our heavenly Father made in sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  Why did He do this?  The answer absolutely blows me away.  He did it because He loves me.  He did it because He loves you.  He did it because it was the only way we could be reconciled in our relationship with Him.

Sin… my sin, my choices to go my way, had put a barrier between the God who loves me and me.  But God never stopped loving me.  He never stopped loving you despite your sin.  In fact He knew we would be separated from Him so He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  He called a people group to be His chosen people.  Through this group He set up the process where by a substitution, a perfect lamb, could stand in the place of a sinner to take their deserved punishment.  The code of justice was served, the penalty was paid, and mercy was extended to the sinner.  But the blood of goats and lambs only rolled the penalty forward.  It foreshadowed God’s ultimate plan to send His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect sinless life among His chosen people.  And at the right time to become the one, perfect sacrifice for all people, for all time.  AMAZING… AMAZING LOVE!

For the person reading this right now, I believe God put these thoughts in my heart and encouraged you to read this so He can get you this message.  “He loves YOU with an amazing, hard-to-fathom, but true love.  You are so precious to Him that He gave that which was, and is, dearest to Him – the life of His Son, Jesus.  He purchased your salvation at the highest price imaginable because to Him, you are worth it.”

“Father, this day we thank you for your amazing love.  You absolutely overwhelm us with your goodness, your kindness, your mercy.  Although we don’t deserve it, we will receive it with thanksgiving.  And we love you in return.  Imperfect as it is, we offer you our love, our lives, our obedience.  God, please deepen our knowledge of You.  Help us to be transformed by Your Holy Spirit through the reading of Your Word and obedience to what it says.  Jesus, make your life inside of us grow more and more each day.  Let your love do its work in us and through us.  And love others through us today so that they might know You – the Lover of our soul.  Jesus, I pray this in Your mighty and powerful Name.  Amen.”

Be blessed and be a blessing today my friend.

Read Full Post »

As some of you know I had a miraculous intervention last March where the Lord used a dream to send me to the doctor where they found and corrected three blockages in my heart with stints.  Since then I have been on medications, I changed my diet, and I have worked to remain consistent in my exercise regimen.  What I did not change until the beginning of this year was the stressful work situation.  I have exchanged what was a stress-filled job with a slightly less stress filled beginning of a new career as a Reliability Consultant.

One week ago today as I was driving to meet two of my three brothers for breakfast I felt a twinge of pain in my chest.  It lasted about 10 – 15 seconds, but it was a real pain right above my heart.  It was not unlike other pains that anyone who is over 50 has periodically, but the fact that it was where it was caused me to take note.  As time went on, I began noticing this pain come more frequently… 2 or 3 times on Wednesday, 5 or 6 times on Thursday.  It was not severe pain, more like a slight crick in my chest.  The pain was not nearly as bad as the thoughts that began going through my head.

Now some might ask why I didn’t go to the doctor immediately to have it checked out.  Well, I was praying for guidance, the pain was really minimal, I didn’t have any other symptoms, and I didn’t want to be like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling.

Friday night I woke up with some pain.  At that same moment with no words spoken Lisa reached over and put her hand on my head.  I remembered thinking, “Well the Lord has Lisa praying for me, it’s going to be fine.”  When she pulled her hand away I was fine.

Saturday morning I told our daughter Christin who had come down for a weekend visit about it.  She has completed a year of graduate school for Physical Therapy.  She performed some checks and found that I had tenderness in the connecting tissue around my ribs right above my heart.  That made me feel better mentally, but when she asked if I had hit my chest or done something to cause this I couldn’t think of anything.

Saturday was a great day as we visited with lots of family.  The only problem was that the pain in my chest was the worst it had been.  So while Christin’s diagnosis gave me some sense of relief that it wasn’t my heart, the fact that I couldn’t think of what I had done to cause it still had me concerned.

Now I know the Lord is able to make things clear enough that I truly trusted Him to let me know if I was supposed to go to the doctor.  Since He was not leading me to that I knew the answer was either that the pain was not something to worry about or He was about to take me home and He would use my home-going for good in other people’s lives.  That didn’t remove the niggle of doubt that kept trying to creep in periodically, but it did give me a place of faith to stand.

Our Pastor felt the leading of the Lord to change the service on Sunday.  The new message was one of God’s Grace Gives us Freedom.  It was specifically aimed at proclaiming God’s promises that as believers we can walk in healing, deliverance, restoration, and wholeness.  I am a member of the Care Team and at the end of the service all Care Team members were invited to come down front to be ready to pray with people that come forward asking for prayer.  It was also mentioned that if we needed prayer that we were to simply face the other way and other Care Team or staff members would pray for us.

Well I really wanted to pray for others.  But I also had the question about should I get prayer for my heart.  When I went down front I decided I would pray for others and then afterwards I would ask for prayer.  A staff member I had never met brought a young man in front of me and was talking with him.  I couldn’t hear them over the music, but I felt a prompting to go up and join in agreement with them for whatever the need was so I stepped up to lay hands on and pray with the young man.  I did not know either of them and when I came up they already had eyes closed and were praying.  This is what I heard immediately upon stepping up.

“Lord, I know you love Dan (my name is Dan for those who don’t already know) and you desire wholeness in his body.  You have knit his body together and you know how he was made.  I ask now for healing for all stomach and digestive issues (I had also been having some stomach and digestive issues which I had only mentioned to Lisa because they were just a nuisance).  Father I pray for every cell in his body which you have created to function as it is supposed to and that he will know complete health.”

By this time I was weeping because our Father was allowing me to both pray with someone who needed healing, but He had brought forth someone with my name so I was being prayed for too.  I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to know the Lord had orchestrated this.  Afterwards I shared with the staff member my story an we prayed again.

When I came home my daughter-in-law, Jordan came in.  I told her about what I had been feeling in my chest.  She said said, “it sounds like you have Chondritis.  That’s inflammation of the cartilage around the ribs.  I had a friend who would swim in the morning and she would sometimes get that from swimming too much.”  With that she provided the final piece of the puzzle.  Christin had diagnosed me correctly, but didn’t offer the link to swimming.  On the Monday before I started feeling the pain I had swum 32 laps at the Y in training for possibly entering a sprint triathlon this spring.  I even remember pulling particularly hard trying to improve my stroke.

Now I share my stories because I am absolutely convinced that if the Lord loves a lug like me enough to intervene in my life like this, I know that He loves anyone who has read this far.  If you are already a believer take encouragement that God knows every situation and circumstance you are going through and He walks them with you.  He is your healer too.

If you have never met the Lord, I encourage you to reach out to Him right now.  God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to be our Savior.  He died in our place.  You see God is absolutely Holy and sin cannot dwell in His presence.  If it were left at that we would be doomed to live in separation from God for eternity.  However His love for us is so great that He chose to send His Son to actually live on this earth as a man.  He was perfect and He always lived in unity and harmony with His Father.  But His ultimate purpose was fulfilled on the cross.  Jesus let Himself be captured, falsely accused, judged, beaten, and then crucified because it was the Father’s plan to fulfill the requirements of justice.  And while Jesus was on the cross, God put all sin – every sin that had ever been committed, all sin that will ever be committed, upon His Son,  When Jesus died God judged the sin and the penalty was paid.  On the third day after His death God raised Jesus back to life.  Before Jesus returned to heaven He was seen by hundreds of people.

Our act to have our sins covered in this is really very simple.  We simply recognize that we have sinned, we decide to turn away from our old life of sin and we chose to follow Jesus.  Romans 10:9 says it like this – “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

If this encourages you or helps in some way please let me know.  If the Lord tugs at your heart and you want to talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, please send me a comment and I will be happy to correspond with you.  Jesus loves you and He wants you to know that.

Be blessed and be a blessing today.

Read Full Post »

On my last flight home, I arrived in the Atlanta airport early enough to jump on the flight an hour prior to my scheduled flight.  “Now your backs probably won’t make it until your scheduled flight” the agent said.  “Do you still want me to book it?”  I paused only briefly before saying yes.  I figured I could eat supper in the airport restaurant while I waited for my bags.

We arrived and sure enough the bag did not.  However I hadn’t counted on all the restaurants being closed.  As I headed to my car in the economy parking lot my dilemma was how to pick up my bag when I came back without having to pay an extra parking tab.  Now as silly as this is to say, this was a big deal in my mind.  I saw an airport employee and mentioned my concern.  She told me surely the officer who monitors the pull-up parking area would be understanding and let me zip in and get my bag.

A Chic-fil-a sandwich later I arrived 10 minutes before my bag was scheduled and I parked in the “Absolutely No Unattended Cars” area in front of baggage claim.  I quickly ran in to verify that my bag hadn’t arrived, which is hadn’t.  I also looked for but didn’t see any police officers.  I waited in the car until I saw people begin streaming out with big roller bags and I realized my bag must have arrived.  As I hustled back to the door I saw a large, very observant policeman constantly scanning the cars at the door.  As I tried to scoot past him he said, “Is there someone in your car?”  I’m just running in to…  “Is there anyone else in your car?”  I’m caught and I know it.  While I am committed to the truth I have to admit the thought zipped through, “Say yes and you can probably run in and get the bag before he knows any different.”  Instead I began “No, but I…”  “You can’t park here.  You have to move it.”  But where am I to park?  “Pull into the parking garage. it’s only a dollar.”  Aaargh – that’s NOT what I wanted to do!

Admittedly this sounds so silly now, but I was angry.  I have to admit I gave the guy one of my best, steely glares…  Okay maybe it wasn’t that intimidating, but it was shouting my displeasure.  Of course it would only work if he would make eye contact which he never did.  He was too busy being observant and watching for “parkers and leavers” such as myself.  I pulled away mad, but immediately the Holy Spirit started correcting me about my attitude.  I turned on the radio as I pulled into the parking garage right next to the baggage claim.  Not surprisingly there was Focus on the Family interview in progress where the husband was explaining how the Holy Spirit had helped him see the error of his ways in being a-less-than-understanding husband.  Aaargh again!  Can’t I just be a little angry about not being able to rush in and get my bag.  I walked briskly up to the door which took an entire 45 seconds.  The Holy Spirit was beginning to get through as I realized it was only a dollar and I WAS trying to break the well-intentioned rules.  Of course I then spent a little mental effort casting blame on terrorists and I still thought the officer was rude, so I didn’t even try to make contact as I walked past him into baggage claim.  (I really showed him what happens if he is rude to the paying customers.)

It took me all of 20 seconds to find and pick up my bag and I was right back out.  While I was feeling good that I was finally heading home, I was beginning to feel some regret for my thoughts and even a few of my actions… the old steely glare, while not noticed, was really a bit rude.  By the time I was pulling out of the parking spot and figuring out which way to the exit, I had to admit the police officer was only doing his job, I was trying to break the rules, and it didn’t really cost me much time.  I was moving toward contriteness as I pulled up to the booth to pay my dollar.  I handed the woman my ticket and a five.  The guy on the radio was still explaining in rather humorous terms what a dolt he had been (somehow it sounded vaguely familiar).  The woman in the parking booth smiled sweetly at me as she handed me my five back and said.  “You get it all back.  There is a 15 minute Grace Period so nothing is owed.”

Okay Lord, hit me with a two by four, I think I get this one!

My daughter recently put in her blog how she desires to go beyond just controlling her actions and reactions to having her thought life under control.  I can identify with that desire.  I know that I have made progress in submitting much of my life to the Holy Spirit and there has been transformation, but as this painfully true story illustrates I still continue to be challenged.  I doubt I am alone but I am determined that I will press on until every thought has been brought into submission.  Two scriptures come to mind as I wrap up.  Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  This is my step 1.  And when I do slip up I go to step 2 – Philippians 3:13  “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

God has created a grace period in this life for us to benefit from.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit is persistent, loving and kind.  He wants to meet with us, to relate to us, to live IN us.  I encourage you to live large in God’s grace today.

Have a blessed day.  God’s peace in abundance to you and yours.

Read Full Post »