Christ is calling you!

A minister, arriving at a new pastorate, was invited to join a civic club. Introducing him, the speaker facetiously said that they were electing him “chair of the board” for the club. The minister said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate the great honour that you have conferred on me. When I came to this community, I expected to be the shepherd of the flock. Our text from John reminds us that Jesus is not the Chairman of the Board, ‘ but is the Good Shepherd of the flock. I like that because shepherds take care of sheep. The shepherd:

o Leads the sheep,
o Provides food for them,
o Finds them safe lodging,
o Searches for them when they are lost,
o Tends their wounds when they are hurt,
o And protects them from wild animals.

People didn’t think very highly of shepherds in Jesus’ day.

o Shepherds sometimes allowed their sheep to graze on other people’s land.

o Shepherds were here today and gone tomorrow, moving from pasture to pasture. Sometimes they left town without paying their bills.

o Sometimes people found prized possessions missing after a shepherd had moved on.

o Shepherds lived lonely, isolated lives. They seldom developed much in the way of social graces.

o Shepherds were sometimes not allowed to appear as witnesses in court, because people didn’t trust them.

But Jesus called himself not any old shepherd, but “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He was glad to identify with shepherds despite the shepherd’s humble status–or, perhaps, because of their humble status. Jesus had plenty of pride, but none of it was false. He could identify with shepherds because shepherds nurtured and protected their sheep. That is what Jesus came to do.

Jesus said that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” (v. 3). Day in and day out, Jesus calls us. A shepherd calls sheep that have wandered away so that they might return to his protection. Fanny Crosby captured the image well in her old gospel song….

Jesus is tenderly calling you home–
Calling today, calling today…
Jesus is pleading, O hear now his voice–
Hear him today, hear him today.

When Jesus calls us, he calls us by name. Our names are important because they identify us personally. A church bulletin board read, “Everybody welcome!” That sounds friendly, but the Good Shepherd doesn’t say, “Everybody welcome!” The Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus says, “Sam, follow me! Jack, follow me! Sharon, follow me! Sue, follow me! Carol, follow me!” He knows us personally and calls us by name.

Jesus not only calls us by name but also calls us to live extraordinary lives. Some years ago, a large oil company needed a public relations officer in the Far East. They needed someone familiar with the language and customs; they needed someone who knew the local people. In those days, not many Americans knew the Orient, but the company located an American missionary who seemed perfect. They offered him the job and named a salary several times his missionary pay. He turned them down. They increased the offer, but still, he declined. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary thought for a moment, and then responded, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t!”

When Christ calls us, he calls us to more than a large salary. He calls us to large lives.

Today, many seminarians are people in their 30s or 40s or even older. Many of them determined that their lives had been too small, so they answered Christ’s call to a larger life. Some have made great sacrifices to do so.

I visited London and worship in the church that had a guest preacher–a man from the congregation who had been recently ordained. Christ had called him to ministry, and he had quit his job to attend seminary. By the time I heard him preach, he had completed his studies and was preparing to take a church. He preached a good sermon and shared his story. The man had been a corporate lawyer , earning a six-figure salary. Six figures is a lot of money. Not many ministers make six figures–and this man had the potential to earn millions as a lawyer. But, at some point, he said, felt the call of God on his life. After much soul-searching, he quit his job and enrolled in seminary. Christ had called him from a generous salary to a great life and he is a blessing to those who benefit from his ministry. Christ doesn’t call all of us, to study for the ministry, but does call all of us, to the ministry of one sort or another. It is not important whether he calls us to things great or small, because God enlarges everything that he touches.

o God called a widow to put her last penny in the collection plate. Jesus pointed her out to his disciples and said that people would remember her for the rest of time.

o Christ called a boy to give five loaves and two fishes. When the boy obeyed, Jesus used the child’s lunch to feed five thousand people.

o Christ called a man to use his gift of hospitality. That man put two extra plates on his table every Sunday and invited two young people from a nearby school to share his Sunday dinner. He did this for many years, and in the process led many young people to Christ. When he died, the funeral home ran out of space, because so many people came to honour the man who had honoured Christ with an extra plate.

o Christ calls each of us to some sort of service. David McKenna, in his book, Love Your Work, tells of a tombstone in a village graveyard. The epitaph read…

Thomas Cobb mended shoes in this village for forty years to the glory of God!

Imagine that! If you needed a pair of shoes mended–or a car repaired–or a house built–or your plumbing unstopped–wouldn’t you like to meet a cobbler–or a mechanic–or a carpenter–or a plumber–whom Christ had called to practice their trade to the glory of God! I have known people like that. It’s a joy to work with them.

o Just think of the many acts of Christian service to which Christ calls people every week in this church. People prepare and serve communion, cook dinners for homeless people, sing in the choir, plant flowers, pay bills, pull weeds, clean toilets, attend meetings, type minutes of meetings, and a perform a host of other duties for the glory of God. (NOTE TO THE PREACHER: Tailor this list to fit your congregation.)

o Each of these small duties might seem inconsequential by itself but, woven together, they become a chorus of praise. Jakob Boehme put it this way. He said:

We are all strings, in the concert of God’s joy.

And so we are. Choir members know how important it is that each voice be precise in pitch and timing. One person’s hesitancy muddies the whole line. Each of us must answer Christ’s call as precisely as possible–to be in perfect harmony with his will. George Eliot wrote a poem about the great violinmaker, Antonio Stradivari. God had called Stradivari to craft fine instruments. Eliot put these words in his mouth……….

If my hand slacked I could rob God – God could not make Antonio Stradivari’s violins – without Antonio.

Jesus says that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” He calls us, each of us, to use who we are and what we have to bring glory to his name. He calls us to obey him–to go where he calls–to follow him faithfully–even foolishly.

What has God called you to do for him? (NOTE: Tailor this list for your congregation.)

o Has he called you to serve as a deacon or an elder?
o Has he called you to serve on the church board?
o Has he called you to cook for a church dinner or for the homeless?
o Has he called you to keep the financial records or to fold the bulletins?
o Has he called you to teach a Sunday school class or to sponsor a youth group?

God calls each of us to some sort of Christian service. But first, he calls us to receive his transforming love into our lives and to love him in return. First, he calls us to let Him be Lord of our lives.

Today, Christ is calling you! He is calling you by name! He is calling you to love him and to serve him. Listen carefully! Listen prayerfully! And answer his call today.

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Live Life on Purpose in Hope. Faith. Love XX


Check it Out! I am editing my new book Psalm 23 Unwrapped which will be published on Amazon in December, ready to order for a Christmas gift. This book will be a wonderful lift to someone’s spirits, giving them hope in difficult times. Watch out for it in mid- December on Amazon.

Psalm 23 Unwrapped – Taster 3

Hello Again! Below is another snippet from Psalm 23 Unwrapped

Hello, I am editing my new book Psalm 23 Unwrapped which will be published on Amazon in December, ready to order for a Christmas gift. This book will be a wonderful lift to someone spirits, giving them hope in difficult times. Watch out for it in mid- December on Amazon.

TASTER THREE

Psalm 23 Unwrapped

We have explored the God is our Shepherd in the first part of verse one. Now we will examine the second part and ask the question, why do we have no need. Needs are a part of our human existence. From the time we draw in our first breath to our last, we have need. Humanity has one main thing in common, and that is to fulfil our needs so we can survive and thrive. When David says “I shall not want” he is acknowledging how completely reliant he is on God as his Shepherd. “I shall not want” because God, as a good shepherd, will ensure I have everything I need. “I shall not want,” not because of what I have done or can do, but because God loves me. “I shall not want” because I know God personally as Shepherd. This is comforting indeed and makes sense in the light of the first part of this verse. However, how might this look like in the highs and lows of everyday life? 

Social scientists, Medics, philosophers, and theologians alike, tell us that the fundamental human needs are not individual needs but categories of needs. It is generally recognised that there are seven categories of basic human needs, as shown below. These needs are interrelated and form a system that may look slightly different for each individual, and yet these needs are the same in all humans across all cultures and all times. People in different periods of life will fall at various places on the scale of needs. This is the reason why there is no set order, which is why I have not numbered them. The categories of requirements are represented by S.U.C.C.E.S.S,

Subsistence

Understanding and growth

Connection and love

Contribution

Esteem and Identity

Self-governance (Autonomy)

Significance and Purpose

We will take these points individually to decipher their meaning, determine the relevance to us, and where verse 1b fits into this.

Subsistence is the need for survival, safety, security, self-care, structure, and control. Generally, it incorporates everything needed to sustain life. This includes physiological needs like food, water, air, breathing, excretion, reproduction, warmth, shelter, rest, and sleep. Personal security, work, resources, property, and health are the to thrive. It also covers self-care needs, like leisure, entertainment, and healthcare, etc. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide have significantly increased across the world. To survive and thrive, we have the need to control the structure of our lives because that makes us feel safe and secure. During this pandemic, we have experienced imposed locked downs and social restrictions. The control and structure of our daily life have mainly been taken away, increasing vulnerability to negative influences and not all of us can establish those structures for ourselves. Therefore, to find help of some kind is especially important. It has been said that people search for meaning in religion at the most vulnerable times in their lives. This is true. 

Our need for control and certainty is always unsettled because we live in an ever-changing world. The only thing we can guarantee is that change will happen. The people around us and our environment are always changing, and we can become exhausted with it all. Change can be of benefit, it is not until we run out of our own resources do, we then search for something outside of ourselves, and many people look to God. Jesus taught the eight beatitudes, which are in essence, about beautiful attitudes. We find these in the gospel of Matthew:1-12. Beatitude 1 v 3 says this… “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “The poor in spirit are those who feel a deep sense of spiritual destitution and need before God. Another word for this is ‘humble’. It is an intentional approach to gaining meaning and purpose. The kingdom of heaven is theirs, because they seek it, and therefore find and abide in it. There must be the emptiness of self (ego) before there can be fullness, and so poverty of spirit precedes riches and grace in the kingdom of God. In a sense, we have no need. The Lord, who is our Shepherd, becomes and provides all we need. This is because the supply emanates from our relationship with him, we have put God in control of our lives. We have placed our subsistence issues in God’s hands. We are following the Shepherd despite the dark valleys of life. Consequently, we feel secure and safe. We adopt the conviction of needing nothing because the Lord is the Shepherd taking care of things, gives us a personal sense of life meaning and a greater sense of individual agency. Pause and think about your life and experiences to find a unique sense of life purpose and significance. Give it some thought to how your Shepherd is providing for you.

Understanding and Growth

This is the need to learn, understand, develop competence, and grow to become all we can be. All human beings have a need to learn, grow, and fulfil their potential. If they do not, they feel aimless. 

Proverbs 29;18 –Where there is no vision (foresight, imagination), the people perish: but he that keeps the commandments, is happy.

We study, investigate, educate, experiment, analyse, and meditate because of this inner curiosity and need to understand the world around us. Schools, colleges, universities, on the job learning programs, mentors, apprenticeships, disciples, teachers, coaches, parents, communities, and national education programs are just a few human attempts to meet this need. An infant has an incessant curiosity and drives to understand everything around them. They feel things, put things in their mouth. Almost without trying, children are moved by this need to explore, experiment, and understand the world around them. That is how growth happens in children, and that’s how change happens in adults. This is God’s gift of supply to us. God implants in our psyche ‘vision’ so we can grow into successful adulthood. 

Connection and Love

Psalm 23is about our relationship with God. The author David knew that the Lord is his source as Shepherd and so would unconditionally supply his need. He does not want for anything because God has everything all sorted, he is the loving Shepherd, he has got David’s back. David has all he needs from the Shepherd who meets those needs, and one them is connection and love. Without good relationships, you cannot have this unconditional love. Relationships are the arteries that carry the healing balm of love because good relationships are the secret to a good life. We need good relationships to be healthy and happy. In fact, research has also shown that babies fail to thrive, and sometimes die when they are not held and loved. This need is about belonging to a group or connecting with other people deeply. It is a social need we all have. That is why, during the isolation of COVID-19 lockdown, many are struggling. We all need emotional relationships. Some of the relationships that satisfy this need include friends, workgroups, social groups, community groups, family, romantic relationships, churches, religious organisations, sports teams, book clubs. For others, they find love, connection, and sense of belonging in gangs, cults, etc. John Lennon sang- all you need in love. But we also need a deep sense of connection. Connection and love are shown through deep, enduring relationships with others. It is love from people who you know you can count on, no matter what happens, because they love you unconditionally. Good relationships are channels that carry that kind of love. God also is a source of pure love channelling it to you if you will receive it. I am not sure that God created love because love just IS. God IS the essence of love. 1 John 4:16– We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 

Like many teenagers, I looked for love and connection in all the wrong places and people. Then one day in 1976, I meet the Lord of love, and my empty, searching heart found peace. Love comes from God, who is its source, and since God is love then we, his followers who are born of God, will also love. God loves us, so we must love one another. A true Christian, one saved by love and filled with God’s love, must live in love toward God and others. The entire passage found in 1 John 4:7-21 speaks of God’s loving nature. Love is not merely an attribute of God; it is part of his very soul. God is not only loving; at his core, he is love. God alone loves in the completeness and perfection of love, fulfilling our inherent need to be loved and to love. The complete description of how we express true love towards fellow human beings is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This passage teaches us ‘how’ to Belong in the right way. We need to feel that we belong somewhere, and to be connected to a group of like-minded people. Friends and family are a platform to give and receive love. We all have needs but are they are fulfilled differently for each individual. Some people prefer one-on-one relationships. They feel stressed within groups but comfortable one-on-one. Other people are just the opposite; they like group relationships. Some people just love hanging out with people. They have a higher need for visible relationships. Part of the expression of love is empathy, approval, and acceptance. Some people have a much higher demand for these than others, and sometimes they are also more tactile. All of us need touching and physical contact. A kindly ‘hug’ from a loved one goes a long way. If a small child spontaneously hugs you, then this is a sign that the child has a need to be tactile. It is a discerning parent that will regularly fulfil that need. If that need is met within the family, the child will not look elsewhere. The need for love and connection can also be met by volunteering in a nursery or orphanage, getting a pet, getting a massage, etc. Jobs, like nursing, are good jobs for tactile people. At the level of human physiology, we are designed to need love. This is because God created us, who is love, and we are in his image. Hormones like the ‘feel good’ hormone, are released when humans connect and touch. Human touch is so vital that brain development in children can be impaired without it.

If you enjoyed this please watch out for Psalm 23 Unwrapped available on Amazon in Mid December.