Calling – It Starts in the Clutches of God
Mark Erickson and Rock Messina have a weird place in my mental hall of fame. They’re the only two people I’ve known who can take the old thick glass Coke bottles in one hand and, squeezing slowly, crush them into tiny pieces. I’m glad to say that both these men are my friends. In fact, Rock comes straight out of “The Sopranos”; he would hurt anyone who tried to hurt me or mine. When they have you, you are thoroughly gotten and going nowhere. I said last time that the main thing for Christ followers at university is to mine the calling of God for their lives. Calling starts with the God Who rescues with a strong hand.
We’ve made the salvation of God an anemic thing across the Western Christian landscape. Everything gets compressed into the nanosecond of “the decision”. If we can’t isolate and name that moment, maybe we’ve not dealt biblically with our sin. Maybe we raised a hand with “every head bowed and every eye closed.” While many have walked both these paths in meeting Jesus Christ, most Christians in the history of the faith did neither of these things. Salvation becomes something we do and then move on, muddling around for decades if not leaving the faith altogether. It cost little, blesses no one very much and provides lots of excuses and opportunities for our critics. This refrain echoes through a lot of the “I tried Christianity but it doesn’t work” memoirs floating around.
Jesus draws a stronger picture. He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28,29) No one will peel Mark or Rock’s hand off once it closes on my arm; I can’t peel it off either. Here’s where John Calvin groupies glance at each other and get misty eyed while “free will” people get as antsy as a Vegan in a White Castle. But Paul says the same thing and more. “…I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12) Jesus “laid hold” of Paul for something and Paul pushed to “lay hold” of it too. This means to seize with considerable force with an aim to take possession. He was mining his calling.
Bypassing all the stuff as to whether we accept Jesus or He accepts us, Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.” (John 15:16) To be chosen stamps us with value. (Well, most of the time. The next-to-last guy picked in a playground game knows they only took him because they didn’t want the other guy.) To choose means to exercise intent moving into action driven by desire. To be chosen means that someone wants us. When we really want something badly, we think about it and maybe do some crazy things in the eyes of others to obtain what we want. Sort of like God becoming a run of the mill, blue-collar guy in the backwaters of the Roman Empire in the first century. Ridiculous, right? It gets better. This guy dies a horrific humiliating death where everybody thinks he’s in the deepest slime pit of hell, a death He could have avoided or dodged like anyone with half a brain would have done. He claimed it was so the manure of the sin of every human being who ever lived could be smeared on Him and be forgiven. It means that when Jesus says, “…I chose you…” He wasn’t playing around.
My daughter worked with a group of teenage moms who lives were caked with the debris of bad decisions, hamstrung by the helplessness of the consequences of those decisions and imprisoned by the fallout (often generational) of the sins of other important people who had failed or victimized them. One night in a bible study, Karen asked them, “What do you think God thinks of you?” It got quiet. One spoke up in a trembling voice, “If He knows us or anything at all about us, He must be awfully disappointed in and disgusted with us.” I…chose…you. “It’s to die for.” Isn’t that one way we say how good and desirable something is? It’s the main thing that was on Jesus mind on the cross. We’re to die for.
On a whitewater trip in the mountains of North Carolina, we piled into rafts and got last-minute instructions. If anyone fell into the river, we were to immediately hold our paddles in the air so everyone would know and someone could fish them out. Suddenly paddles shot into the air all around us and I raised mine thinking this was a drill. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the guide, the person responsible for getting a raft full of rookies through a few miles of class III-IV whitewater, just fell out of the raft. I looked at our guy; he looked at me as if to say, “I’m not going anywhere.” I didn’t know where we were going from there – just that the way held big rocks and cold water. Just like this calling that we should be digging up while on campus. Some bumps, bruises and soakings lie just ahead. But Jesus will never fall out of the raft. And neither will we; we’re hot in the grip of His love and nothing can peel His hand off us. Where are we going? He knows. And next time we’ll start unpacking this calling of Jesus He speaks into your life and mine.
Some cool things for you to check out –
gratefultothedead.wordpress.com – Not a website for old rock band groupies but a cool look into the history of the Jesus followers.
ted.com – A secular website featuring addresses by cutting edge thinkers. Since Jesus is Lord of the world and all truth is God’s truth, the things discussed here should be on the lips of Christians as well. Before we chafe at this being a secular website, ask ourselves why (aside from secular bias) religion isn’t considered worth thinking about or being invited to the table as part of the conversation. What you will see here is the Image of God in fallen humans on display. Human brilliance in all forms merely shows God’s masterful work in making humans in His image. Many of these people wrestle with theological themes without knowing it. The website crackles with electricity. The people on the speaker’s list would make a great prayer list.
A special group of people get this hot off the press every post. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). I bring my tin to the equation against their iron and I come away sharper every time. I hesitate to think what our encounters produce in them but I can provide a list of good counsellors who charge on a sliding scale. They push me to think well out of respect for the vital places Christ has called them to in His Kingdom. Most serve invisibly, and/or love deeply, the most significant and strategic mission field in the world – university students. They don’t know how good they are. If you would like to be part of that thereby getting this as soon as the nubs on my hands can pound it out, yell at me at firstname.lastname@example.org or “friend” me on Facebook. After we receive a saliva sample and run you through Interpol, you’re in. It’s that simple.
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Please return your seat to the upright position and return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant at the rear as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.