Friday, October 04, 2013

Missions Conference Time and “The Call”

This article will appear, or so I'm told, in The Moody Standard, and in-house publication at Moody Bible Institute. Isaac asked me to write a bit about missions conference, which will be happening next week at MBI. Here's the article. Thanks to Alyssa Miller at Real Eyes Editing and Writing for a quick review (and corrections) on this document.

Ah, missions conference time! I remember the zealous comments on the elevator descending from the heavenly dwellings of Colby 19. “I’m ready to go!” or “Send me God!” Although I was a missions major, I responded to the zeal with more questions than readiness. Where was God calling me to serve? What exactly would I be doing in the future. Most significantly, how would I know?

I heard testimonies of people who talked about their “call” into missions, or their “call” into ministry, and they always seemed so sure about God’s direction for their lives. But how did they know? Sure, the basics were in the Bible, and revealed Word talked about salvation, sanctification, service, submission and suffering. Got that. But where, when, how and with whom? Somehow all the real Christians seemed to have that figured out.

It has been a few years since I attended the school that D.L. Moody founded. I can honestly say that my years at MBI were some of the best years of my life. I would love to share some stories, but most of the men at Moody do not need ideas of how to make dorm life any crazier. Instead, I would like to share a bit of perspective on “the call.”

First of all, most people that talk with such clarity about “the call” are old. Or at least older. If anyone under 25 years old talks with astounding clarity about God’s call for their life, well, they either are in for a rude collision with reality, or they are bluffing. Why do older Christians talk about “the call?” Because they’ve lived it, that’s why. Hindsight is 20/20. Older, more mature Christians can look back and understand seemingly unrelated or even contradictory life experiences, and see how God was working all of that together for good, and for guidance. I learned to play the guitar, and then I met this professor, the broken engagement, the short-term trip, and WHALAH! Twenty years later I’ve planted a couple of churches in Mexico City.

But when you are in the process of decision-making, it’s not that clear. Is it? God says in Psalms that his word is a lamp to our feet, but that was back in the day before flashlights and batteries. No slipping out your cell phone for a little extra illumination. People used candles, lanterns and torches back then. Candles flicker. Sometimes you have to take a step or two in the dark. Almost a good definition of what faith is. 

A few departing thoughts. First of all, God loves you. Please believe that. He desires the absolute best for you. In a very real sense, if you follow Jesus, you cannot go wrong. This is not to say that life will be easy, fun or even make sense all of the time…but it will be solid, eternally productive and useful. It will be glorious!

Second, take risks. Life in the Spirit makes you…invincible! Don’t live a virtual life waiting for the next opportunity to update your online game; take the truth that gives you hope and the joy that comes from knowing God to a dark world. Jesus is light, and darkness cannot stand against even the weakest light. God rewards faith, indeed it is impossible to please him without it.

Third, do it with the church. Older generations need you, but you need them more. You will find your calling in the context of relationships with your (spiritual) family members. You will hear Christ whispering to you through the timely council of God’s sons and daughters. Pay attention.

I’ve never heard anyone tell me that after genuinely seeking God’s face in prayer, soliciting godly counsel and fasting that…OH NO, I MADE A TERRIBLE DECISION! No, what you always hear is that God takes the believer from one crossroads to the next, making something beautiful of our lives. The call will become clearer, but if there were no mystery to it, we would not need to walk by faith.  What fun is that?
The picture below...on campus with Daniel and David...from last summer during a brief visit to Chicago with our friends Matt and Laura Steele. Nearly impossible to get a good picture of David! 


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