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That the next generation will be inspired and prepared to live God's call and meet the challenges of their season.

 

 

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Daniel Allen 

Resourcing Leadership and Faith Formation 


Thursday
Apr242014

Listening for God's Call - Part 2

A fifth way that God’s call emerges is when we recognize God’s shaping of our lives.

One of my mentors was guiding me through a life planning process when he said: “Let’s connect the dots, Daniel, from your story. Let’s see how God has been at work in your past and how that points to your future.” He understood how God uses the people, circumstances, and experiences of our lives to point us toward the work God calls us to do.

Dan Allender agrees. He writes in To Be Told that we discover our calling by listening to our stories: “We begin with our stories, always. So read and reread your story. In due season, some of the patterns and the trajectory of your life will begin to appear through the fog. At first there will be only a shape, but with time, prayer, and reflection, you will see the contours of your path come into focus….We don’t find our calling; it finds us.”

By reading your story you can find indicators of what you’re passionate about, what your gifts are, how you prefer to interact with others, and which experiences have most clearly directed you thus far in your life. Put these together and you can often start to discern God’s call. Chuck Colson realized how God had used his story to prepare him to establish Prison Fellowship. Gary Haugen connected his story, especially his 1994 investigation into the Rwandan genocide, with his call to found International Justice Mission.

Joseph also discerned God’s call by looking at how God had shaped his life (see Genesis 37-50). Joseph was shaped by God to bring him to a place of leadership in Egypt. God blessed him with dreams, with the capacity to interpret dreams, with access to the Egyptian Pharaoh, with favor with leaders, and with world-class administrative skill. When Joseph looked back over the events of his life, the painful and the positive, he concluded that God had been working through those events to summon him to provide for the Egyptians’ and Israelites’ welfare. As he put it to his brothers, who had years earlier tried to take his life then sold him into slavery: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….So then, it was not you who sent me here but God” (Genesis 45:5,8).

“Not you…but God” Joseph told them. His life is a witness to how God uses the events of our lives to direct and guide us. As Dunham and Serven put it in TwentySomeone: “The truth is, God tends to take us from point A to point Z through points B, C, D, E, and so on. In other words, we don’t just arrive somewhere; we go through a process along the way. Sometimes God’s call becomes clear to us as we reflect on that process, as we read the lessons and turning points of our story. I often use a timeline to help people tell their story. You can access a free version here.

Have you read your life? Have you heard God’s call through your story?

Monday
Apr212014

On Monkeys, Adam, Eve and Jesus

Today's post is from my friend Nicole Unice who works at Hope Church in Richmond, VA, and mentors a boatload of 20-something men and women. She's coauthor of a new book, Start Here, that I'm using with college students and others who want to address questions about the Christian faith. Nicole writes...

It was late on a Saturday night and we were sitting at a bar. There were six of us crowded around, and conversation drifted, the men talking among themselves while the women turned to the normal topics, of marriage and mothering and work. And then she turned to me pointedly and told me about a recent conversation with her kids, about monkeys and people and evolution, and she confessed that she didn’t get it. And maybe it was because of the wine or the time of night, but she spit it out. “If the museum display says we come from monkeys, then who the (bleep) are Adam and Eve?”

That conversation is just one of many I’ve had in my ministry life, over French fries with middle school girls, over coffee with college students, and even over the crowded noise of a bar. As human beings, we’ve all been wired to pursue purpose, to satisfy the inner ache in us that wants to find real, true, full life. And I’ve become convinced that everyone has questions, no matter how far they may seem from finding God. Even if you’ve been following Jesus for years, we can find ourselves asking some of the same questions—who are we? How did we get here? What gives life meaning? It’s in these questions that we can find a common language with our friends who don’t yet know Jesus. It’s in the yearning of our own hearts that we find passion to help others find their way.

I have a friend who once taught that faith is like a treadmill. We all get on the treadmill and can be moving at different speeds and distances—but no matter where we are on the treadmill, at one point, we all have to hit the “start” button. As believers in Christ, we’ve all hit the start button—crossed over from death to life. Some of our friends might be standing on the treadmill but need to be encouraged to start. Hitting the start means going from nothing to something—even if we doubt, even if we have questions, even if we aren’t 100% sure—we can still hit “start”.

After Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman about the water—and life—she was thirsty for, she immediately went back to her town to tell everyone she knew about meeting Jesus. Did she have it all figured out? Would she have called herself a “Christian”? I have no idea—but I do know what the Bible says—“many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). Before she even knew what was happening, she had hit the start button, because she started talking to Jesus and started talking about Jesus.

We can encourage our friends that they don’t have to have it all figured out before they join our bible study, come to church, or start praying. They can just hit start and we can trust that Christ will meet them there. My friend who wanted to talk evolution on that Saturday night is still seeking. And I hope I’ll be one who can help her press start, trusting that God is the author of our hearts and our faith, and He is always working to draw us to Himself.

How do you sense God's drawing in your life? Where do you see God drawing someone you know? 

Nicole Unice is on the ministry staff at Hope Church and co-author of “Start Here: Beginning a Relationship with Jesus.” Find out more at nicoleunice.com or Start Here book.

Friday
Apr182014

The Crowds and Good Friday

Christians around the world call this Friday "Good" because of Jesus - his suffering and sacrifice for humankind.

Many will offer to God a prayer like the following, adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold the crowds, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross. Behold them - and us - and draw us once more into the life that Jesus poured out through his suffering, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

I was in that crowd, as were you, the crowd for whom he was willing to suffer betrayal and crucifixion.

"Thank you, Jesus, for your willingness...for all you suffered...for your total surrender...for the life of the world. Amen."

How will you observe Good Friday today? Holy Saturday tomorrow?

Thursday
Apr172014

Listening for God's Call

Notice that in the Gospel of Mark (1:16-20) Jesus calls his followers to relationship, partnership, and leadership. But how does that call come to each of us? Where can we "listen" to hear God's call? Here are five ways God might speak to you...

  1. Through awe-inspiring encounters (think burning bushes and bright lights from heaven)
  2. Through a growing inner conviction (in your heart)
  3. Indirectly, through others
  4. Through providential circumstances
  5. Through recognition of God’s shaping of our lives – seeing God at work in our story

Awe-inspiring encounters are unmistakable experiences of God’s presence that show God is with us and has work for us to do. Like Moses and the burning bush or Saul on the road to Damascus, God might meet you in an undeniable, unforgettable, awe-inspiring way. Such a dramatic calling experience will shape your life from that point forward.

I’ve worked with many young adults who think God only calls through awe-inspiring supernatural encounters. I don’t blame them for thinking this way. The supernatural encounters get all the press. But we don’t see awe-inspiring experiences in the Bible with Timothy and Titus, or Daniel and Esther. They were each called, but in less dramatic fashion.

Through interviews with undergrads in courses at Liberty University, Elmer Towns found that only about 10% of those who expressed a call to a ministry experienced it in a sudden (awe-inspiring) fashion. The majority noted that their call came to them gradually, over time. They experienced a growing conviction about devoting their life to a particular cause or group of people. 

At other times God calls us indirectly, through other people. These are occasions where other people take actions on our behalf to dedicate us to God or recruit us into a specific work, like Hannah dedicating Samuel, Mordecai engaging Esther's help, Paul recruiting Timothy, or when John the Baptist was given to the Lord at birth. The calling then becomes actualized when it’s accepted and embraced personally.

You could also experience God’s call through providential circumstances. That is, you might look back at different circumstances in your life, or look around at current factors, and conclude that God is directing you toward a particular cause or group of people. This was the case with Nehemiah when he discovered how poorly Jerusalem and Judah were faring in the mid fifth century BC. Nehemiah was serving King Artaxerxes, with access to the king and the resources of the Persian kingdom. He found himself, providentially we would say, in a position to help. His concern for the residents of the city, coupled with his period of prayer and access to resources, led him to discern God’s call to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and also to catalyze a spiritual renewal initiative (Nehemiah 1-7).

A fifth way that God’s call emerges is when we recognize God’s shaping of our lives. More on this fifth way in my next post.

Have you heard God's call? In what way did you hear God speak?

 

Tuesday
Nov122013

Remember Your Leaders

Remember your leaders. That's what the Book of Hebrews tells us (13.7-8). Remember those who spoke the Word of life to us. Remember their way of life and imitate their faith. Why? Because the Jesus who worked in their lives is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." 

We remember their testimony, reflecting on what they taught us, how they lived, and how they finished.

We remember Jesus, who worked in and through their lives. We take courage, knowing that Jesus is at work in and through us as well.

Today I join the worldwide Anglican Communion in remembering and honoring Charles Simeon, priest at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, for 54 years.

I first met Simeon during seminary when I did an advanced leadership development review of his life and legacy. Historians tell us that he was one of the prime leaders in the renewal of the Church of England. 

I remember his:

  • crisis of conscience that led to his conversion to Jesus while at Cambridge
  • biblical preaching
  • steadfastness in the face of spirited opposition
  • strategic mentoring of young leaders
  • planting of seeds that eventually grew into InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

 

Today I pray, with the Anglican Communion, the Collect of the Day for Charles Simeon, Priest, 1836:

O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Which of your leaders are you remembering today?