Have you had your Easter yet? Reflections on my first Easter as a Christian


Easter this year was different. As outlined on other occasions: I cannot look back on a religious upbringing. For me Easter was, actually similar to Christmas, a holiday related to the Christian traditions. Actually, very similarly to Christmas, Easter seemed more of a burden than a blessing.

I had been wondering what would happen to Easter this year, the first as a Christian and by now understanding that this is actually the celebration it all boils down to for the church. It seems strange how Christmas gets all the attention while in actual fact Easter is the most important period in the Christian calendar. This is the period of the death and resurrection of Jesus-Christ! The most important series of events in a foundational sense took place in the period leading up to the resurrection of Christ. It turned out that I was in for more than I anticipated.

Resurrection: the Main Event

The difference between this Easter and all the previous ones is that for the first time the resurrection story is the historic truth where in previous years I would have considered it all in a symbolic sense. My old Jesus is no longer there: the teacher, the healer, the advocate for the poor, the feeder of the hungry, the symbolic story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Easter, previously a badly timed holiday to break the year between two Christmases is now the main event. I realize now how without the resurrection, I would not have been in church celebrating Easter: there would not have been a church. The past weeks leading up to this first real Christian Easter have at the same time been restless, more than ever since my conversion. Not only did I come to realize how actually Easter is the main event; this is also the first time that Easter had become a personal matter. One of the most important realizations for me personally was that Christ did not just die for us; he died for each and every one of us. With that realization all of a sudden Easter, the crucifixion and resurrection get a completely different meaning; they become something personal. Without a doubt the resurrection is the foundational event for all the ways in which we may know God and  be known to Him; the crystallization of His reconciliation with His creation through a series of events that all form part of the price that had to be paid. When the penny drops as it did for me that this is all not just in a general sense but in a personal sense, the equation changes dramatically. You can’t help but standing back and be marvelled.

Have you had your Easter yet?

While we may want to stay on the surface, Easter is also a celebration that is preceded by a series of actually horrible events that form an integral part of the story. The events preceding the resurrection show like nowhere else the workings of evil in the world. They include betrayal, denial, trial, death, burial. Where Jesus’ death and resurrection become personal so do these less pleasurable events. This inevitably leads to the very important question: have you had your Easter yet, personally that is?

It’s actually very easy to say “yahoo, Christ is resurrected.” But, if Easter is something personal, the question becomes: “Ok he is raised from the death but is he alive in me?

The restlessness made sense. Almost as without realizing it, I went deep inside to seek those places where there are crosses, crucifixion, denial, betrayal, lies and other evil, buried so carefully in tombs with heavy stones covering the entry so as to avoid them opening up again. Finding so many opened and empty tombs, personal deaths conquered was a great experience. Christ’s resurrection as my own. Just imagine: Easter all of a sudden became about Christ at the door: wanting to be let in completely and fully, not settling for me trying to keep some of those tombs closed and hidden. You can run but you cannot hide from God.  And that same God seeks to love me in any way he can, invited or not. Just imagine!

The Easter celebration is all about the most foundational event for all the ways in which we may know God and be known by God. Without the resurrection there would not have been Christianity, a church. Christ would have been what he used to be for me: the ultimate guru, with his teachings as the ultimate guide for humanism. I doubt if we’d remembered it in the way we do at Easter. It is the moment of the paradigm shift, the moment where relation was placed before religion, since that is what Christ’s death and resurrection seems really about to me.
I have been celebrating a series of events that made God’s law the promise; the Kingdom of the Father for each and every one of us if we let it.

Burdensome and painful as it may be – in a sense I was walking the road to Calvary time and time again – facing my own hidden places of buried darkness and death for the sake of resurrection; it now seems to me like the required way to grow as a Christian. And while I have plenty of cause for celebration there is also still plenty of work to be done; plenty of deaths to be conquered, plenty of tombstones to be shifted. It’s quite something to realize I had my personal Easter. It’s even more stimulating to realize to know that I do not have to wait for the next one to come, I can have an Easter any day. With God by my side, Jesus as my Lord and saviour and the Holy Spirit to guide me, every day could become another Easter celebration: a personal celebration of conquering another cross of death inside. Praise the Lord.

Share

Love Needs No Reason


Cross

In a therapeutic culture in which psychology is the lingua franca, it’s easy to inadvertently subvert the gospel, to imagine we’re talking about the gospel when we’re really talking about the anti-gospel.

A few months ago when I was traveling, I attended a local church that was “the” evangelical church in that suburb. The text for the day was the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The preacher began by reminding us of the context—the search of a shepherd for a valuable sheep; the search of a woman for a valuable coin. We were then told that the father in the parable, when he saw his wayward son far off, did not see someone who was selfish or a loser. Instead, through all the junk, he saw something valuable: a son. The sermon concluded with a reminder that God gives us the ability to see the treasure, the value in everyone we meet.

I am one with this preacher’s motives and aims. But in his desire to proclaim the magnificent love of God, he inadvertently fell into language that actually proclaims bad news—all this talk of the intrinsic value in the object of love. This preacher did not go so far as to say it, but I’ve heard the following in sermons and read it in books by respectable evangelicals: “You are unique and valuable. You were worth so much to God that he was willing to die to redeem you, so you could be in his family.” And this: “We are worth the price God paid for us, the death of his Son.”

But of course this gets it exactly backwards. Unfortunately, in an attempt to convey the radical love of God, such well meaning Christians actually sabotage it.

Read the rest of this very read worthy article at Love Needs No Reason | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Book Review: Timothy J Keller, The Reason For God. Belief in an Age of Scepticism


Most recently I had the pleasure to read the book The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan New York.

The Reason for God is written for sceptics as well as believers alike. It responds to the the writings of popular authors like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  What I thought was especially attractive about the book was the currency. Many introductions to Christian belief were written longer ago and do not address what today’s skeptics are concerned about. The timing of the book is impeccable as it arrived in a time frame where both skepticism and conversion appear to be on the rise. More importantly the discussion is being polarized by popular fundamentalists of both camps.

Going over some apologetic notes that will probably be part of another post I noted that perhaps a lot of these books (and similar to what happens with many Christians in general) are focusing on fellow believers and not so much on the group that really deserves serious and respectful attention: the skeptics.All too often other (apologetic) books merely gloss over the important questions or come up with answers that may be convincing to the average believer but do not seriously address the questions by skeptics.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

Keller does not distinguish between believers and unbelievers. Instead he talks of believers and skeptics. His theory: we all believe something. And rightfully so I guess as the questions or concerns discussed by Keller are more than once similarly difficult for people that do consider themselves to be a Christian.

“If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs—you will discover that your doubts are not so solid as they first appeared.”

The first seven chapters of the book cover seven of the most common objections and doubts about Christianity and discerns the alternate beliefs underlying each of them. This section is titled “The Leap of Doubt” and answers these seven common critiques:

  1. There can’t be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can’t take the Bible literally

In the second half of the book, titled “The Reasons for Faith,” he discusses seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith.

  1. The clues of God
  2. The knowledge of God
  3. The problem of sin
  4. Religion and the gospel
  5. The (true) story of the cross
  6. The reality of the resurrection
  7. The Dance of God

This book places Keller’s apparent influence C.S. Lewis into this day and age and I could not help but thinking how in some respects the experience of reading Keller’s book was similar to reading for instance Mere Christianity.
Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity,
buy here>>>

Publishers Weekly has advises that this is a book for “skeptics and the believers who love them.” Believers will rejoice in this book that carefully and patiently answers the most important objections of their skeptical friends with integrity and grace and Biblically consistent way. Skeptics will see that even their skepticism may well be based on some kind of faith. They are challenged to discern those underlying beliefs. A GREAT READ. It is most certainly one of the most compelling and at the same time highly accessible apologetic books I have read so far, and one that mist certainly addresses the right crowd.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

But perhaps even better: why not let the author explain about the book himself.

An extensive chapter by chapter summary of the book can be found at the Set ‘n’ Service blog here >>>

Also highly recommended is the next video in which Keller visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book. This event took place on March 5, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.

I think that by now you should have enough reason to get the book for yourself. Follow the link below to order online. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

Share

Further Talk on the Cross, Gifts an Calling: Mike and John Exchange Thoughts


Yesterday I posted Thought on the Cross, Gifts and Calling: the Journey Continues. In response thereof I received very kind responses, amongst others from Michael Pokocky, my good friend, writer, diarist, philosopher and retired business man. His blog can be found at the Red Room (http://www.redroom.com/member/michaelwpokocky) and is listed here as it is one of my favorites. Here you will also find links to some of his beautiful writings. Anyway, Michael and I have been friends for a very long time and ever since our first conversation we committed ourselves to being completely frank and open with our thoughts, which has over the years lead to thousands of pages of very interesting communications (email and skype) on virtually any subject and which I from time to time still draw upon. With his permission I was allowed to give the readers here a peak into some further thoughts after the post referred to at the start. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Initial post Thought on the Cross, Gifts and Calling: the Journey Continues.

Michael Pokocky’s Reply

I read [it] with great enthusiasm.
I found your writing clear and your proposition inspired.
Thus having been inspired through you sharing with me, I will share what I know in this moment.
It changes all the time as is the nature that the only real definition of a moment to me is the NOW.
When you read this it will be a new moment and I will be in another.
Here is my moment:

There is a saying I use to explain how one knows certain things: When you know you know then you know. And therefore no further thought needs to be put into anything.  If no further thought then what?  Action is the anti-dote to thinking.  If for example one is to give to give then the action of giving requires energy.  Thinking about acting requires energy too, but in my view it does not produce any tangible results.  The action of giving does however.

How we arrive at what we know before action is unique for all of us.  Cultural diversity is religious diversity or spiritual diversity.  Buddha, The Dali Llama, God, Christianity, Protestant, and perhaps hundreds more.  In my view all of these are in fact pointers to that place where one feels bliss.
So what is purpose?  It is what each of us feels at the core we must do.  How do we know our purpose?  We don’t as you say, but in my view if we align ourselves with that which we perceive as a deeper or higher self where we sense a knowing we will see our purpose is to evolve.  The cosmos is order and man seeks to find order out of chaos and suffering in life.  But the cosmos is infinite is it not?
Infinite order out of chaos.  This is a choice for the individual.  But what kind of choice?  Alignment of the self with the undercurrent of the vastness of the cosmos opens up the vastness of the self inside.  When this is realized then knowing who you are is not what one originally perceived oneself to be.  We will never know who we are nor will we ever be able to fully explain it without relationship to form and content by which we now use to think about who we are.  It is freedom of the thought forms and freedom from the material associations and freedom from all associations man made that allows us to experience the inner bliss.  That is our purpose and from that very bliss which I arrive at from detachment from form and content where I become conscious of an infinite vastness of order which has already been in place but not seen in full by anyone.  It has been glimpsed.  And people like Jesus, Buddha etc. were real men who lived and found this vastness and said,”Look over there and see it.  Is it not beautiful?”

John responds

This is really beautiful and I am amazed again and again how much similarities I see here.

When you refer to the journey to get to the point of bliss and how that is something that is there in all religious an spiritual diversities you are right. As far as I understand it that is because all those different religions, belief systems and philosophies have one very important thing in common, that is straightening out man’s inclination towards self-centered thinking and actions  and from that selfishness.

I can’t help but seeing that in all of them the ‘point of bliss’ and the journey thereto is one in which you stop putting yourself at the center of the universe, on the throne of your life. Where Christianity is different is in that it seems that it is the only only that requires the lead guy Jesus Christ, without him nothing is left. You can take Buddha out and you are still left with a beautiful philosophy, you can take Mohamed out and there is still a way to Allah, but once you take out Jesus, the way to Go is closed off. That is the the essence of Christianity, no one comes to the father but THROUGH Jesus.

My point was that as self-centered people we often times THINK we know yet at the same time we end up in situations or places and actions that are a source of continuous unhappiness. That place of bliss is where you end up using your talents or gifts and are doing things at near perfection, but what causes the ultimate bliss is not the fact that you are acting like that and using your gifts like that, you do that for a purpose with a purpose. And this means in my view that anything like that is NO LONGER ABOUT YOU.

Evolving as humans is in my view not a purpose but a means towards a purpose.

The cosmos is order and man seeks to find order out of chaos and suffering in life.  But the cosmos is infinite is it not?

Yes I agree that man seeks to find order and I would even go as far as saying that we are getting further and further in that. At the same time many of these advancements do not brings us relief in our suffering, in fact many of these advancements, as you pointed out yourself on so many occasions have only made the suffering worse. Where the quest is fantastic on many occasions we could ask ourselves for whom actually. “Connecting with the vastness of the cosmos etc” as you called it is somewhat of the Einsteinesque approach and in the end lead to magic moments and not necessarily to a life of bliss. That is what I now see.

“It is freedom of the thought forms and freedom from the material associations and freedom from all associations man made that allows us to experience the inner bliss.”

I have to fully agree with that but what I found is that man is too imperfect or in Christian terms “fallen” to ever realize this without the help of what you would call the ‘cosmos’ and I would call God, a God that wants to be known and moreover wants to have the relationship with you. In my case this means going through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit. However beautiful terms we come up with, in the end it all boils down to who are you going to have in the center and who is supposed to be in control. So, we THINK that we may be able to connect with that “vastness of the cosmos etc…” but that is not how things work in my view. That vastness that Einstein refused to label is what I would call God and it is the other way around, we don’t connect to this vastness, that vastness is looking to connect to us and we can if we let it. This is the whole shift in paradigm that comes, with the New Testament, with Jesus.

I did not want to create an impression that we do not know our purpose. God’s provision of the Holy Spirit comes in here as the vehicle of inspiration or communication. Aligning ourselves with that whatever you call it is still departing from a human perspective with ourselves in the center. That is what I found in the last years, is simply not going to work, or better yet, not for me.

I wanted to convey that out purpose is pretty clear, be a child of God, be what He wants you to be, be in a relationship with him through Christ: a relationship with a God who wants to be known, personally. A year ago I would have said that this is a load of crap, I now KNOW and have EXPERIENCED the reality of having a relationship with a living God, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the God of the Bible, speaking to me and guiding me through the Holy Spirit.

That is our purpose and from that very bliss which I arrive at from detachment from form and content where I become conscious of an infinite vastness of order which has already been in place but not seen in full by anyone.  It has been glimpsed.

You are right, it has been “glimpsed” (that is what Einstein is referring to),

And people like Jesus, Buddha etc. were real men who lived and found this vastness and said,”Look over there and see it. Is it not beautiful?

I think indeed that Buddha could have said that that and yes Jesus said that for sure in words of similar meaning. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied:

“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20, 21).

I loved your reply and I love this exchange, as it forces me to have my thoughts clear. Thanks again for getting the better out of me. I love you for it.

With your permission I would like to get our exchange out on the blog (with all full credit and links to wherever you might like them). This was great stuff Mike you served up for me and I think it makes such a worthwhile read and forced me to go back in again myself.

Michael Replies

Yes your idea to post these conversations on your blog is fine by me.

Name: Michael Pokocky
…  Right now when I said in my comments I am actually aligning myself with the spirit and this allows me to connect deeply inside with my true essence which is slowly being revealed to me little by little the deeper I go through being consciously aware of it at all times.
In reading recently A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle — who is just an enlightened man like Deepak Chopra and other quality individuals like them and whom all convey through their writings the telling of their own personal journeys towards awareness or consciousness of God as I would call it while others call it the higher self or the inner self — I found three things that I practice from Eckhart’s journey and explanation of it to help me effect a deeper connection with myself and thus with God:
  • nonresistance — Is that so?
  • nonjudgmental — Maybe
  • nonattachment — This to will pass
The whole idea which I thought would be useful to me is that rather than use pills to numb me and prevent me from suffering I use this as a tool in living moment to moment to handle just about anything that comes at me from outside during the days.
In fact I think this is kind of a mental detox from my bipolar because there is less suffering all round and am able to keep at 5 pills from 16-18 a day quite easily.
Am I seeing results?  Yes and I can measure them by the way people — my family — are around me now.  PEACEFUL Laughter smiles connection and at moments the experience inside of total bliss or the totality of Gods love passing or living within me.
I don’t think ,”Oh what to do now?” anymore.  I just here my deepest voice speaking to me and follow that.  Action on what I hear.  I know this deeper voice is the re-conncetion I had to the Blessed Virgin Mary which I seemed to have lost for awhile.  Now I have re-connected once again.
I know that what I am suppose to be doing will be revealed after some time in this peaceful existence where the only thing I want to do was conveyed by that photo I sent to flickr or FB you commented on–the one writing at the ski resort while my kids ski.
As a matter of fact Nathalie just drove them and I am leaving soon to grab a coffee and bring my journal and books and will be sitting there again tonight.
I have been in the house since Sunday and only go out at night when after a day of rest from the cold I got I venture out into the vastness of the night stars and feel blissful knowing I will be near my kids in a short while.
Three people have given me idea without me asking of what I should be doing.  I liked that.
  • One__interviewer
  • Two__social worker with delinquent kids for rehabilitation
  • Three__a poet
I have felt the desire to live a intelligent life of sort of all three combined. We shall see and when I know I know you will know I know.

Final Comment

Whilst this exchange could go on for much longer I just want to highlight that where there is love, rules of engagement can go overboard and things are taken without any egotistic issues cropping up. This is an example of a very friendly and open one, there are others that are less friendly and way more blunt. But as always, what is being said is said on the basis of friendship, love, compassion and a deep mutual respect.

In more biblical terms: if you love your neighbor in the way it is meant to be, we can throw overboard all the rules of engagement as it is in the love that room for open honest communication is created.

I suggest finally that we all go and have a good look at the fantastic posts of Michael Pokocky:

http://www.redroom.com/member/michaelwpokocky

and check out the beautiful Sainte-Adele, Canada here >>>

And if you are in the neighborhood, take him out for a coffee and enjoy the company of a profound but very down to earth intellectual and loving human.

Thanks Michael Pokocky for being such an incredible friend.

WP.com Share Button

Share

Thought on the Cross, Gifts and Calling: the journey continues


The past weeks have been all about finding my way as a new Christian. It somehow doesn’t make sense to me that it would lead to no change and where this may be in my personal life inevitably I ended up thinking about my professional life as well. My mind works strange and from a fantastic service by David Ravenhill at Harmony Church on the importance of the cross, my mind wandered thinking about how being a Christian not only involves your personal life but your professional life as well. As it turned out the two appear more related that I anticipated.

The Cross

Some time ago now I received an email by John Beckett in which the importance of living near the cross was explained. The cross presented as the place where

death has been  swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

All as predicted by Isaiah hundreds of years before the actual event:

he will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:8)

I guess Paul explains it beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians:

God predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

And that is not all according to Paul:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

It is good to remember that Jesus did NOT die in the end however for our sake or pleasure.

…and with your blood you purchased men for God… (Revelations 5:9)

Through the death of  Jesus at the cross, God basically bought back his own creation; humankind as a creation BY God and FOR God. So while we may think God did us a favour, and it cannot be denied that that is the factual side effect of Jesus death on the cross, it was for God’s own benefit that Jesus paid the price with His life. Purchase is derived from the Greek word ‘agorazo.’ While there may be some theological discussions around the meaning of the world ‘agorazo’ (purchase) when translated from Greek to English as well as on whom God purchased us from, one thing is clear: all possible translations imply in the end transfer of possession and/or ownership. And that brings us back to where we were, we are OF God, FOR God.

For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … All things were created BY him and FOR  him. (Colossians 1:16)

All of this appears to imply that we ourselves, actually belong to God and exist for his benefit an pleasure. Handing over your throne, to live a God-centered life instead of a self-centered life in my view therefore nothing more than having the courtesy to give (back) to God what belonged to him in the first place; that is how I understand it. TO SERVE INSTEAD OF BEING SERVED.

According to Plan: Whose Plan?

The next question is of course and what’s next? God has a plan for you, and you will need to find out what that plan is in order to live it.

If it is God’s will, we will live and do this or that (James 4: 13 and further).

One of the things I certainly had to get head around that it is no longer up to me to plan my life autonomously. Sure I had some ideas on what to do especially after becoming a Christian but it did not take too much time to understand that I cannot do this any longer without involving God in that. I am probably not alone. How many are there out there that go plan and do their own thing and ask for God’s blessing, without consulting him. And then when things don’t work out we blame / judge God for our failures.  I certainly was one of them.  But, maybe there is a reason for these failures or job anxieties and unhappiness? Could they maybe be a sign that what you were trying to achieve was not in accordance with what God wants for you?

James, is not against us making plans for our lives. What he speaks out against is not consulting God in the process. James urges us to ask God for guidance, to help us understand God’s plan for us and after that make plans for that. Just imagine that, what could be greater, cooler, awesome or whatever you to call it, than living/being at the center of God’s will and purpose for you.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life , reflects on his own crisis of purpose in the wake of his book’s wild success. He explains his belief that God’s intention is for each of us to use our talents and influence to do good. I added in the his TED talk here because it is so worth while.

In this talk he explains how he understand the question God asked Moses:

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied. (Exodus 4:2)

Moses staff is not chosen by coincidence, the staff is a representation of Moses’ identity: a shepherd and therefore a representation or symbol for his income, and a representation or symbol for his influence. The question what’s in your hand is subsequently translated into what are you doing with what you are given?  God as I understand it wants you to be who you are supposed to be according to his plan, and not to what you think you should do. He wants you to use your gifts and talents. It’s not about doing things right but about doing the right thing; about being who you are intended to be and doing what you are intended to do, even when that is not what you had planned for yourself.

Our Vocational Calling

The concept of following God’s plan is illustrated beautifully in the ‘walkabouts’ of Paul:

Paul, initially a persecutor of Christians, ends up becoming what he persecuted, and moreover not just an ordinary Christian, but an apostle. Paul simply HAD TO FOLLOW his calling and preach his gospel to the ‘gentiles.’ And whilst that may seem like a clear path it was not always, it was not always according to his plan. In Acts 16: 6-10 we read how Paul and his companions planned to preach the word in Asia but ended up travelling around Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit prevented them from the Asia venture. They tried for Bithynia but again Paul got a “no go” from the Holy Spirit. God made his plans clear as Paul got a vision to go to Macedonia and Paul followed. Throughout the New Testament you will find examples of how Paul is very aware that his works have nothing to do plans and all with God’s plan.  Paul spend goo quality time in Ephesus with the Jews over there and they ask him for more time. Paul however had to follow God’s call and sailed off, promising that he would come back if that was God’s will (Acts 18:21).

Romans 12:1-2 read:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our Gifts

In verse Romans 12:6-8 we learn about seven gifts that could be used as the basis of our vocational calling, in that it is a calling to use our gifts (from God) for the glory of God:

6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Vocation is understood here as our divinely driven life’s purpose embracing ALL our human dimensions of existence towards our neighbours, the church and the world. Paul explains:

… I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)

He further expands on this theme in further verses but it seems to all boil down to serving God’s purpose in every aspect of your life. And one way to do this is by using your gifts or talents especially where it comes to your vocational calling. YOU CHOOSE A CAREER, BUT YOU ACCEPT A CALLING. According to Calvinist doctrine one should choose the occupations that yield the greatest advantage to your neighbours. In my view this would not be very helpful advice if it was not entirely clear what “the greatest advantage” is and who exactly your neighbours are. Moreover it still does not take us away from the concept of using your gifts.  His advice has been explained as that vocational career and your professional career may well end up being different things, without denying that vocation is important to job life as well. Where does such advice leave someone?

  • Career and vocation are one and the same (the life of Paul as an apostle).
  • Career and vocation are almost – somewhat the same but besides a career you use other means to live up to your vocational call.
  • Career and vocation end up being completely separate entities.

While this may seem logical from many people’s perspectives I could imagine how a separation of the two or the grey area of ‘almost – somewhat the same’ could lead to a job-life (my initial typo was job-lie which almost seems appropriate) that is unfulfilling and ultimately a situation that could de-motivate more than anything. YOU END UP DOING THINGS RIGHT BUT ARE YOU ACTUALLY DOING THE RIGHT THING? That brings us back to the gifts as a sign of where your calling may be.

These gifts as I read them appear to refer to your so called “drivers” or special talents that allow us to perform at our peak. When we use these gifts to serve God and others we will end up experiencing a deep sense of joy, in worldly terms: “we are in the zone,” the God-zone I may now add. Those gifts are with us since birth and show through certain patterns of thinking and acting that appear to be constant. What Rick Warren appears to talk about in his TED talk, at least where it relates to vocation is to allocate these gifts, filled with the Holy Spirit for God’s purpose.

As a Christian made a choice to ‘come unto the Lord, accept Him as Lord and Savior and to which you handed over your life.’ Should it not be the Holy Spirit then that will call you to your vocation? You handed over the wheel, so should we not let the other do the driving? You may not have expected what shows up during the drive or as your destination; you may well end up not liking it at all. But who are we to know better? Is it not true that we may need to get back to the drawing board and let the Holy Spirit guide you instead of your own worldly, fleshly emotions? Is that not what the commitment really entails? More than ever the quote of the week I published some time ago seems to make sense:

Nouwen: Prayer is first of all listening to God. It’s openness. God is always speaking; he’s always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity. … Prayer in its most basic sense is just entering into an attitude of saying, “Lord, what are you saying to me?”

And with that we see immediately that we are back to square one. Since is it not true that in order to see and hear what God is telling us through the Holy Spirit we will need to put our faith completely in Christ and hand over our lives? You can only come (close to) live up to your calling if you are willing and able to hear the guidance that is there for you AND have faith enough to follow it, regardless of whether that conforms to the patterns your worldly life or not. As Paul urges:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 1-2)

To me it seems like a world of opportunities and possibilities is opening up lately and perspectives I never considered and only because I am willing and able to listen, look,  hear and see. What about you?

  • Have you found out what your vocational calling is yet?
  • Are you actually living it?
  • Is Calvin right or is he being practical?

I’d be keen to hear your views and thoughts.