Category Archives: A Sense of Call

Focusing on the Journey or the Destination?

Writer Philip Yancey refers to a friend of his who uses the analogy of a tour bus headed to the Grand Canyon. The tourists keep the shades down on the bus, ignoring the beautiful scenery along the way. They’re intent on getting to their destination and that’s all. In their longing and impatience to get to the Grand Canyon they end up squabbling over the seats, who’s spending too much time in the bathroom, and generally having a miserable time of it. (Christianity Today magazine, Philip Yancey, Oct.08, p.102)

Most of us have goals, “destinations,” to which we’d like to arrive. This is good. We need something to aim for. On the other hand, we can so look forward to arriving that we miss the opportunities, the gifts, of the present time.

I believe God has a great future for us, but I also believe God has a great present for us! Philip Yancey, in his article, states, “The Christian life is about the journey as well as the destination.”


Different by Divine Design

One of the daily devotional books I use is Companions for the Soul, edited by Robert Hudson and Shelley Townsend-Hudson. Each day’s devotional is from a different classic Christian writer, speaker, or influencer through 2,000 years of Christian history. 

The authors say in their preface, “Saints come in all stripes. Some saw visions where others saw nothing but darkness. Some heard angels singing, others only silence. While some journeyed to distant lands, others meditated in lonely desert huts…Historically, many of these writers were at odds with each other.” They go on to say that they’ve put next to each other in their devotional book great saints who, in real life, “would probably have refused such proximity. But Jesus made no such refusals. He stood shoulder to shoulder with each of them.” 

I find great comfort and encouragement in the fact that God delights in such diversity in those to whom He has given new life in His Son. To think that both the desert fathers and social reformers were close to God and used of Him! This means that there’s hope for you and me. We don’t have to be like someone else in order to live a God-pleasing life. We can all be very different from each other in all kinds of ways. We can be different in background, in temperament, in looks, in social status, in our economic situation, in our giftedness, in our struggles, and in so many other ways and still all be like Christ! 

No one else can be YOU! YOU are the only YOU God has ever had in this world or will ever have. 

We waste who we are when we wish to be like someone else!
(Photo by me, taken at a cemetery)

Choosing Our Path

I love hiking paths. I’ve hiked in many a park, pasture, woods, and other places. I got to thinking about this earlier today, while taking my morning walk on the path on the edge of a bean field out back of our place. 

Sometimes when starting out on a hike there are a couple of options or more. You can go to the left, to the right, or maybe take a path straight ahead. Some are marked “easy” and some are marked “challenging” while another might be marked “moderately difficult” and you need to make a choice. Often, after going but a few yards, you can still see the other paths and can easily decide to cross over through some undergrowth and take a different path. But as you walk further the paths grow farther apart until you’re committed to the path you chose.

It reminds me of the poem by Robert Frost. The last lines go like this…

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – 
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.” 

Each day, every hour of each day, yes, every moment, we make choices about what to think, what to say, what is really important to us and what is not. We choose our own path, and the longer we keep choosing the same way the harder it gets to change the direction we find ourselves going. This is both good and bad. 

It’s bad if we allow ourselves to continually make bad choices, many times little choices, that seem inconsequential at the time. We can find ourselves habitually thinking or acting in ways that are destructive to ourselves, others, and God’s great destiny for us. The longer we do so the more difficult it becomes to change the path we’re on. 

It’s good if we’re intentional about making seemingly small choices that are right and good. We’ll find ourselves going down a path that’s leading us to good places, where God wants us to be. 

There are many diverging paths ahead of us even yet in this day. What will we think about? How will we respond to that person or challenge? What will we allow ourselves to fixate on? What will we reject as “stinkin’ thinkin'”? The easy path is almost always not the best path. Jesus says, “Follow me!”  We’re called to take the path marked “challenging.” If we do we can affirm with Robert Frost, “and that has made all the difference.”

Focus on the “What” and Not the “How”

Recently Rupert, my friend and fellow pastor at M-P, showed me a book he’s reading for his PhD program.  We got to talking about a point which the book makes, that we put too much focus on the “how” in our lives.  When I think of a problem or a challenge I immediately want to answer the “how” of it.  “How will I get the money?”  or “How will I find the time?” or “How will I explain what I want to do?”  “How?”  “How?”  “How?” 

I suspect it would have been very easy for Moses to have asked “How?” when he led the huge crowd of probably over a million people of God to the edge of the Red Sea, saw the Egyptians in hot pursuit, and knew they had to cross.  When Moses considered leading this huge group of people into the wilderness he must have been tempted to ask “How?” in reference to the feeding of so many. 

I sometimes resist acting in positive and creative ways because I don’t have a completely satisfactory answer to the “how” of it.  I’ve come to realize that when I have a greater concern of how I am going to do something rather than the doing of it, I’m beaten before even starting.  It’s easy to give too much leadership to “How?” in life. 

“What am I supposed to do?” is the first question that we should be asking.  Its answer deserves our total commitment.  The “How?” question needs answering eventually but it must never be allowed to take away from the “What?” question.  Giving leadership to the “What?” question will best guarantee that we will find an answer to the “How?” question.

Delayed Gratification of a Divine Order

I’m writing this on Wednesday morning because I’ll be in surgery for the removal of my gall bladder this afternoon (1:30). I appreciate your prayers! 

It’s rather strange preparing for surgery and hospitalization (hopefully, just one night) when I feel perfectly fine. The gall bladder’s caused me extreme pain on three occasions, however, and so needs to come out. 

This business of voluntarily subjecting myself to surgery when I feel great got me to thinking about how this is so much like our experience with the Christian walk. Following Jesus often seems to require of us that we think and act in ways that are difficult and seemingly costly. The easy way would be to follow our own whims and wishes which, often at the time, seem to be just fine, even desirable. The Lord’s teachings that we follow warn us, however, that we should know better. 

We try to teach children about the value of delayed gratification. Sometimes you have to put off what seems to be the good that is at hand for the very best which is in the distance. We call it part of growing up. This, it seems to me, is what the Lord often asks us to do. 

God frequently calls us to work hard and wait long. We, on the other hand, prefer results now, instant satisfaction and immediate gratification with a minimal of work involved. It may be something as simple as wanting to tell a person exactly what’s on our mind at the moment instead of holding our tongue and giving it some prayerful thought. It may mean we want to buy an item we really don’t need with money which we really don’t have, putting it on the credit card. It may mean fantasizing about the ideal friend, relative, co-worker, or mate instead of investing the time and effort in the relationships the Lord has put into our lives. 

Jesus is the ultimate example of seeing beyond the moment who“for the joy set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2) Part of faith is trusting God when He says time and time again in His Word that we are to deny and resist that which would be easy to give in to and aim, instead, for His best that will take some time, effort and sacrifice. Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) 

The doctor says that the surgery should take care of my problem. I believe him. I’ll go through with it, though it won’t be easy. I believe Jesus even more! I want to carry through with His plans for me, though I know it won’t always be easy. You too?

A God of Surprises

“The high spots of my life present themselves in retrospect as a series of surprises.”

So writes one of my favorite authors, 67 years a Christian, J. I. Packer (author of the best selling book Knowing God)  His recent article in Christianity Today Magazine (March 2008) describes the various turning points in his life that were unplanned on his part, but apparently not unplanned on God’s part.  He goes on to state that “believers serve a God of happy surprises.”

It occurred to me once while reflecting on the miracles of Jesus that virtually all of them were not planned by Jesus.  The miracles happened when Jesus met people who were in need.  As far as we can tell He didn’t plan on meeting the people, it just happened.  Jesus’ life was filled with surprises that He took advantage of, surprises from the Heavenly Father.

I prefer to plan ahead and don’t care for a day with a lot of surprises.  That’s going to limit what God can do with my days!  Apparently God likes to plan surprises.  In other words, He likes to plan for me what I haven’t planned for myself!  I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it put this way but it seems to me that part of faith is a willingness to be flexible!
(Photo is of our grandson Casey)

Palm Sunday Reflecting

I find it a fun challenge as a photographer to capture a fresh interpretation of a palm frond.  This picture was taken last week while visiting our daughter and family in Mexico.  The palm frond is, of course, the classic symbol of Palm Sunday, which is this coming Sunday.

It’s one of my favorite Sundays because it has such an upbeat theme.  We celebrate, as they did on that first Palm Sunday, the kingly power and hope that Jesus expresses.  It just goes to show how greatly we misunderstand Jesus Christ when we resist giving Him control over our lives.  He wants nothing but the ultimate best for us!  When we resist His will for us we reject His best for us!

Let’s take this Palm Sunday as an opportunity to renew, or establish for the first time, the rulership of Christ in our lives.  No one can give better leadership to our lives than He can!  Happy Palm Sunday!

We’re Back!

Diann and I returned last night from a week’s vacation to Iowa visiting our families. It was a long trip from Iowa to Michigan with the snow slowing our journey so that what should have taken 9 hours took 11 ½ hours of tense driving. We were reminded by the sight of some 50 + cars we saw in the ditches along the way that the road was treacherous. Taking a journey is not always easy! So it is with the journey of a lifetime of being a follower of Jesus. It’s easy to fall into the attitude that our relationship with God is one in which He is primarily our rescuer and helper in difficult situations. He is this, but He is also to be so much more! He calls us to be more and more like Him. It could be called a journey toward spiritual maturity. This is no easy task, but it is the most rewarding of all efforts. There is no greater accomplishment than to be more like Christ, to love Him more, and to serve Him more effectively.

How will we face that new challenge, that new problem, that old problem, that new opportunity in 2008? We can give it our natural, automatic knee-jerk reaction (the easy way) or we can determine, with the Lord’s help, to live it out as He would live it out if He were us.

It was a tough 11 ½ hours of driving yesterday, but we had as our goal to get back home and climb into our own bed for the night. We did it! We could have given up and stopped at a motel for the night, but we didn’t. We persevered. We made it home!

I like how the apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Philippian Christians. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

2008 is a new journey for all of us. Let’s follow after Him who deserves to be followed.  Journey with Jesus in 2008!


Working at Directing Our Lives

After watching a movie on DVD Diann and I like to look at the “extra” material usually included on the DVD.  Often, there are behind the scenes material where you see just how much work went into making the movie.

Sometimes they’ve had to film in very bad weather.  Other times they’ve filmed in countries where conditions have been far from ideal.  Much money and effort goes into the making of most of the movies we just sit back in our living room and enjoy.

Diann and I have often commented about the fact that so much work goes into making something that is often nothing more than pure entertainment.  We’ve asked ourselves whether those of us who are people of faith put that much work and sacrifice into doing that which we feel we are doing for the Lord.  Sometimes the secular world can put to shame those of us who seek to live lives from a sacred basis.

“Only one life, it will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

In many ways we have been called to direct our lives, unfolding the story in a way that’s pleasing to God.  Are we putting forth the effort?  After all, ultimately, we’re playing to an audience of One!

Of Pillows, Feathers, Churches & People

I got to thinking about feathered-filled pillows and church. A collection of people gathered together in a church is sort of like a pillow stuffed with feathers, we’re all together in one place. I like that, being all cozy and together, just as I like a nice and softly stuffed pillow.

Now picture taking a feather pillow, opening it up, and shaking it out into the wind. Imagine the feathers flying far and wide. We may all be in one place at a worship service, like feathers stuffed in a pillow, but by Monday, my fine feathered friends, we’re scattered all over the greater Toledo area being a “little Jesus” to those God has put around us! This is as it should be. Wow! The power of the many each doing their “little” part! So, fellow feathers, fly, fly fly!