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5 ignition points for personal passion | calling


Scroll through Scripture and take note of the ways God expressed his call to the great leaders of history. There are mountaintops, burning bushes, giants, the throne room of heaven, blindness, ladders, angelic visions, and being swallowed by a big fish. In spite of the particulars, his call is always miraculous. Some are more dramatic than others. Yet, even in that still small voice many of us hear his call is a miracle.

Every believer is called by God. The church is ekklesia, the assembly of the called out ones. What is more, the New Testament records pages of proof texts to indicate the special nature of the relationship established by his invitation. My purpose here isn't to provide a full apologia of his calling. However, here are some text references to support and verify his call to every believer (Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 2:9); 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:10-11;

2 Thessalonians 1:11), just to mention a few.

Just as clearly, however, there's specificity to his calling beyond that which is issued to every believer. Romans 12: 3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:1-16 are clear explanations of his church gathered and the way he has called and equipped his people for mission. This differentiation in gifts and calling is affirmed again in 1 Corinthians 7, when Paul wrote about marriage and the unique circumstances assigned to every believer: "Only let each person live the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him" (v. 17). It is to this call, his invitation to serve beyond the life circumstances of every believer, that these thoughts are addressed. His call should be the ignition point of passion in those he has identified as his chosen spiritual leaders.

Yes, his call should ignite in every Christ follower. That he has specifically set any of us apart for ministry doesn't for one moment diminish the power of the new creation in the life of all disciples. Every Christian should walk in the light as he is in the light. Yet, even though his calling to discipleship gave me and millions of others new life and turned our passions from self to him, there was something more radical and effective when he set me apart for ministry. His call to serve as a pastor ignited new passion in me that I had not experienced previously. Like the leaders of the Bible this passion re-directed my life, changed my entire orientation, gave me new perspectives about mission, and generally re-focused my whole life. Suddenly, this college educated hospital administrator wanted to learn more, and proclaim the truth of his word to the world.

What is this call, and how did it happen? Was there a burning bush or divided sea, a voice in the wilderness, water from a stone, fish vomit on the beach? No, for me it wasn't that dramatic. It was profound, however. It played out like this---

[1] There was a "aha" moment when I sensed he was calling me. It was on a Baptist

Men's day and I was asked to deliver the morning message. The minute I stood

in that pulpit I knew he was calling me. [2] This sense of calling inhabited me. Suddenly, I dreamed ministry. It wasn't

something I planned intentionally, but I re-preached every sermon our pastor or

other teachers and preachers delivered.

[3] He gave me opportunities to speak, preach, or teach. Our church staff

invited me to teach a Sunday School class, which I eagerly accepted. Other men's

group opportunities became available, as well as some after dinner speaking

with local civic organizations and professional groups.

[4] Our pastor and I met to explore what would be necessary to enter ministry. He

explained the ordination process and highly recommended attending seminary

for preparation.

[5] He created a deep desire in me to go the next step. Which we did in June, 1979.

This call moved Harriet and I into a totally new life direction. It ignited a passion in us that resulted in 32 years of pastoral ministry and 3 years of denominational service. No, it wasn't a Billy Graham Crusade every day and there were some tough times along the way, especially in leading churches in highly transitional areas. Mine is not a template for calling either. Many others are more compelling and inspiring.

The point is simple: our calling in life should be an ignition point of passion for us. Whether we are called to a legal career, education, law enforcement, city sanitation, or pastoral leadership, this sense of purpose should light our fire. And, this, of course, is a stall point for many people today. What in the world is my purpose? Why did God put me here? Sadly, many people cannot answer those questions. What is even more shacking, many ministers and spiritual leaders cannot define their calling. When I'm consulting pastors and ministers I always ask them to relate their call in a paragraph. Far too many of them cannot.

At the point of my calling, April 14, 1979, he gave me ministry verses that have been very solid, reliable handles for the journey. They are Ephesians 3:8-9 (NIV)---

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to

preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to

everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in

God, who created all things.

My experience isn't normative or anything all that profound. It is what it is. But, it does illustrate how calling ignites passion.

Paul said it well, "I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Pursue is an active word picture, meaning, to seek after eagerly, to earnestly endeavor to acquire (Strong g1377).

To have passion for.


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