What did you expect…Unexpected promises kept.

IMG_2192When I was a kid I remember all sorts of catalogs of toys especially this time of year.  We would often get the big toys r us book around Christmas and circle all the things we wanted to get.  We were so excited when it came.  We probably circled 200 items in the whole catalog. It probably would have been easier if we had just crossed off the things we didn’t want.

What I found most amazing was often when I got that one toy I so wanted for Christmas sometimes it didn’t work out the way I tought it would.  Maybe it wasn’t as big as I had hoped or it didn’t look as shiny up close.  We all have expectations and sometimes those expectations aren’t realized because they aren’t the right expectation.

This week as I was preparing for Chapel I was reading the text from Luke 2:1-7. It is the simple story of Jesus birth.  What jumped out at me was this story is not something that people expected.  At least most Jews didn’t expect it to go down this way.  Here is some of the unexpected that maybe you just ran over on your way to finishing the text.

He was born in the city of David Bethlehem.  First of all the city of David in the old testament would have been Jerusalem.  His City was Jerusalem.  To hear him being born in Bethlehem was shocking. This was a tiny little back woods town of maybe 200-300 people.    This is crazy the king of kings born in such a place.

Or how about the wrapped in clothes a lying in a manger.  Ok this takes some explaining. How come no castle? How come not a palace, and beautiful bed?  Well he was placed in the feeding area for the animals in the small one room house.  Such a humble beginning for the prince of peace.

Wow unexpected for the king of the universe yet it is how He came.  It is how God fulfilled His promise.  It is how God is working in the lives us his people.  God will fulfill his promises.  He fills them in unexpected ways but he always fulfills his promises.

Jesus makes two other promises at the end of his life.  He promises to be with us to the ends of the age and He promises to come again.  Does God being with us always make sense or always look the way we want it. Probably not.  But we have a God who fulfills his promises yesterday today and always.

 

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Desecerning a Call…what does it mean?

20150608_224256_001So yesterday at St. Peter’s it was announced that I have received a call to serve as the Director of Child and Family ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rochester MI.  So at High School youth group we talked briefly about what that meant and a student asked me how do you know what to do? How do you know you made the right decision? I was very glad she asked the question because I think many of us struggle with this as well in our everyday lives.  I am not going to claim to be this great expert but I thought for many of us in ministry it can be helpful to hear what others go through in their process to discern a call. By the way I don’t believe their is any perfect way to discern a call. I thought I would just get some thoughts on the computer screen to let others see how I discern a call.

When I am discerning a call the first and most important thing I do is pray.  I pray, I ask others to pray, and when I think I am done I pray some more.  We cannot underestimate the importance of this step. Everything in the call may seem great, the money, people, location, ministry, and good for family. Its the perfect Church. (This doesn’t exist by the way)  The most important thing I do when I receive a call is pray.

For those who are praying for me it is ok to be selfish in your prayers.  You want me to stay or you want me to come, it is ok to pray that, but I would ask you add this one part to your prayer, may God’s will be done. If you care about me or any worker going through the call process to serve another Church please pray that we will be doing God will in this decision.  God’s will is ultimately done in all this, but we pray that God will let us see His will and follow it.

Every Church worker looks at different criteria for a call.  For me it has always come down to these few questions.  Can I serve this new Church in the way they are asking me to do it? Am I a good fit?  Is my move helping the Kingdom of God? The first question is normally fairly easy for me to answer. The second is the tougher question. The last question I ask myself was shared with me by a DCE friend and it comes from a book he read. (I am not sure of the book or I would quote it here) “Are we leaving a call at the end of the book or at the end of the chapter?” This is probably the toughest question of all to answer.  This is why prayer is so key to these types of decisions.  Most of the time I listen to people who are praying also.  I listen to trusted friends and fellow workers to answer these questions. I talk with my wife and kids about these questions.  I read the scripture in search of answers.  Most importantly I listen. I listen and try to hear God speak the answers to these questions.

Lastly as a point of practice I normally make a decision at night and take an evening to pray about it one more time. If I have that peace the passes human understanding the next morning, I feel comfortable I am following God’s lead. I then start to share with others around me what the decision is. If it is a tough night, and don’t have that peace, then it is time for more prayer.  I want that peace. At a certain point you have to make a decision and you do and then you pray some more that God allows everything to go smoothly no mater the decision.

By the way Church workers are not the only ones who go through this. All people have a call in their vocations. We should all be going through this process when we think about where God is leading us to be and work. It shouldn’t matter if it is a Church, or retail job, janitor or babysitter, we should all be discerning God’s desire for us and where to serve.

So I am asking all of you, will you pray for me as I discern my calling to serve in these two places. Help me to know where Jesus would have me serve his Church. May God lead all of us on the path he would have us travel.