Monday, 24 December 2012

Te Karanga | The Call - Part Two

My previous posting introduced the concept of "calling" or vocation by merging ideas from Welsh, Latin and Maori uses of similar words. We saw that it was a device by which one person or group would communicate their intention to another person or group and stated our belief that God does just that with us as we seek to glorify Him. On the eve of Christmas Day 2012, a year when the world was supposed to have ended several times over it's appropriate that we pause to reflect on the effect God's call should have on our everyday lives heading in to 2013 and beyond!...

Career or Cause?

And so we come to the impact the meaning of vocation/calling ought to have on our lives. Unlike the way 'vocation' is often used in the mainstream marketplace it doesn't equate with a 'career'. A career is too connected with economic return. Vocation on the other hand is a summons to an activity in the world that is divinely inspired and directed. It’s a summons to activate love. From your conception God has invested in you gifts, talents/strengths, personality preferences and experiences designed to help you contribute to the improvement of the world according to His Kingdom values - His cause. Without getting too self-helpish, you really are God’s gift to the world! You have a unique contribution to make and a responsibility to find out what He’s asking you to do. As His love flows through you it will express itself in unique ways via your unique abilities to lovingly help repair the sin damage around you. Now that's a cause worth dying for - tens of thousands of Jesus followers throughout the ages and even today are proof of it.

I like to define love as “a compassionate intentionality to bless”

It is action that is motivated by something deep inside of your being and consciously brought into reality, leading you to do God-inspired good. That motivation is indicative of your calling. It grows out of an innate sense of purpose. It’s different for everybody, but few ever bother to go looking for it. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “The gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:14). True life is living true to your God-given purpose: your calling. Only in Jesus can that be properly fulfilled. HE is the gateway to life.

Hongi: A traditional Maori greeting.
The sharing of breath or life force with one another
to create relationship bonds, to cement unity.
Discovering your vocation was never meant to be a solo activity. Unlike Buddhism, which encourages adherents to separate themselves from intimacy with others, Christ requires his followers to make deeply intimate connections with others. Only then can they help you discern your calling. Only people who know you well can reflect back to you who you are. As the Maori do when the greet with noses pressed (Hongi), Christians are expected to share each other’s breath.

If it helps, I think of a calling as “a supernatural conviction that grows over time, confirmed by the community of God’s people, Scripture and circumstance towards loving involvement in extending God’s influence in the world.”

You can spend a lifetime refining your call but it becomes apparent very early. If you don’t want to miss walking through the gateway to life, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you start questioning yourself like this…

“What do I love to do?”
“What sort of activities do I prioritize over others?”
“What things make me feel strong, enlarged, expanded?”
“In which activities do I lose sense of time and don’t care?”
“What do I think is wrong with the world?”
“Why do I feel so worked up when I see … happening?”
“In what ways do I feel uniquely able to help solve those problems given the chance?”

Inverse questions can be insightful too…
“What do I hate to do”
“What makes me feel constricted and closed in?”
“When does time drag on for me?”
“What don’t I give a toss about?” etc.

Then you need to get Godly people around you, who know you pretty well, people with some life experience and spiritual maturity who you trust to speak into your life. Ask those people to confirm whether or not your answers to these kinds of questions resonate with what they see in you. Ask them to suggest what God might be equipping you for. Keep in mind that some people will feel free to share their wonderful plan for your life, but if something synchronizes with what you sense God is saying to you grab hold of it and build it into the direction of your life.

So. What has this got to do with mission? Your vocation IS “mission”. We often equate mission more with location than vocation, but we must not conveniently extract location from vocation and ignore a crucial aspect of our calling. His calling includes a location (or many over time). You need to be open to the possibility that it may be somewhere different from where you currently stand.

Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:4). 

Follower of Jesus, as we cross the threshold into a new year the challenge for you is to take time to listen and seal that friendship with Jesus by reciprocating God’s karanga with “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).


Monday, 17 December 2012

Te Karanga | The Call - Part One

In last week's posting I completed the two part series that introduced a Christian worldview construct that I find helpful in understanding what it means to be a "follower of The Way" and how Scripture unfolds the purposes of God for followers throughout history. I nicknamed it the Life Spiral aka a Missions Cycle. In this post and the next I want to briefly hone in on our sense of vocation, our "calling". It arises out of a state of seeking to glorify God and it is rooted in a particular location determined by Him, not by our own priorities or preferences...

Tangata whenua (indigenous New Zealand Māori lit.: “people of the land”) know well the importance of a call. It features as an integral part of relationship building between residents of a place and strangers seeking to become friends. The online Māori dictionary explains that the formal Karanga is,

“…a ceremonial call of welcome to visitors onto a marae, or equivalent venue, at the start of a pōwhiri (welcome ceremony). The term is also used for the responses from the visiting group to the tangata whenua ceremonial call. Karanga follow a format which includes addressing and greeting each other and the people they are representing and paying tribute to the dead, especially those who have died recently.”

The English word “call” is probably derived from the Welsh “galw”. In English we intermingle this Welsh with Latin so that “calling” is related to many words with the Latin root “voco”: vocal, advocate, irrevocable, provoke, revoke, equivocal, even vowel and vocabulary. It is also the root of vocation.

The Māori use of “karanga” is similar to the Welsh “galw” but does not completely match the Latin “voco”. Nevertheless we can marry together two converging ideas and explore what this can mean for followers of Jesus in a spiritual sense, especially when it comes to thinking about why God has put us on this earth – why God has put YOU on this earth.

The Apostle Paul shared some of his testimony with first century believers of Galatia who lived in the highlands of what is now the region Anatolia in modern day Turkey. In Galatians 1:15 he declares something that is true for all of us… “But even before I was born, God CHOSE me and CALLED me by his marvelous grace.” He goes on to describe his specific calling, “Then it pleased him to reveal His Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.”

A “call” is an intention made known. 
It is directed at an audience, whether of one or many people. An integral part of relationship building for Māori is acknowledging and respecting the separate lineages represented by the people meeting. Those lineages carry a certain social currency that helps cement relationships. It locates the people in a place and time. It provides important context, making the encounter real, and establishes who they are. It is witnessed by all present who confirm the “call” via the rest of the pōwhiri (getting-to-know-you ceremony). Acceptance of the reciprocated calls is confirmed via the sharing of breath (hongi, a nose pressing greeting) then sharing of ‘bread’ (kai).

When God calls He intends to be heard. It’s primarily a desire for relationship, an invitation for you to join Him in something eternally wonderful. No kidding. We’re not talking some fantasy game wordplay here. It’s “all-or-nuthin’” real-life action time. You could choose not to listen but you won’t be satisfied until you do. He’s placed a desire to fulfill His call in your DNA. “Even before I was born…” Paul said. The sooner you get in the game, the better.

Next week we will look at how this works out in your daily life. In the meantime...

Follower of Jesus, what might it be that God is saying to you? 
Have you got your fingers in your ear for fear of what you might hear? 
Do you surround yourself with 'white noise' to block out His whisper? 
Do you engage in manic activity so you don't have time to sit and listen?
Let me assure you, until you listen, you will never be able to satisfy that nagging sense of "surely I was meant for more than this?" Because YOU ARE. 


Monday, 10 December 2012

The Missions Cycle - Part Two

In my previous posting I introduced you to the concept of the Missions Cycle which represents the "spiral of life". I find these sorts of constructs helpful in guiding my interpretation of reality according to a Biblical perspective. The models provide a reference point for me as I assess the alternate realities we're bombarded with on a daily basis.

To recap, here's the Missions Cycle again:

So the Spiral of Life | Mission Cycle is: Glorification (why) => Vocation (what) => Location (where) => Salvation (how) => Glorification… and on it goes as more people enter his Kingdom, discover their purpose, and work it out in a specific place to extend his influence.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Missions Cycle - Part One

In my previous posting I discussed the meaning of “mission” and its relationship to God’s unfolding plan for the world. Since we are ‘in’ the world that plan affects us and since we are ‘in’ Christ as believers we play a role in fulfilling that plan. Our role? To replicate ourselves as disciples.

Follower of Jesus, why are you here?
If you’re a Westerner you’d probably think of history in linear terms and think the Bible supports that worldview. In the Biblical narrative the world has a start, there is some history in the middle and there is a description of the world ending. If you’re a non-Westerner chances are that you’d take a more cyclical view of reality and read the Bible from that perspective. There is a “first cause” but it reveals a history that repeats certain things over and over again. There might be an ending but the main thing is to try and learn from the often-repeated mistakes of the past. Yes this is oversimplified and a tad dualistic but let’s roll with it shall we?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mission (re)Defined - Part Two

In the previous post we looked at the Old Testament with a very wide-angled lens and saw that God moves people for His purposes. The prime example being Abraham. The Old Testament reveals that God is intent on repairing the "Eden incident" by revealing His ways and asking Israel to live according to them. The Law and the Prophets set the bar, but humanity failed to meet it.

Enter Jesus, stage right. 
Jesus is the epitome of what we now understand a “missionary” to be: one sent forth by God for a specific purpose. While being God He was sent by God to activate the next part of God’s grand plan. Jesus was God’s weapon of mass Sin destruction, and He knew it. Jesus’ entire ministry was a message from the Father about what the Great Change would look like. “The Kingdom of God is like…” Jesus would say. Then Jesus would do, and people saw for themselves what life would be like with Sin vanquished.