The Universal Call

Jack Wilson

Today I received calls from Oregon, New Jersey, a very small town in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Jamaica. No, I don’t know people all over the US or the Caribbean – these are dreaded telemarketers who keep offering me “better” interest rates on [credit cards, mortgages, car loans] and warning me about the perils of continuing to operate in the world while unprotected from [hackers, scammers, the dark web]. One call was even so kind as to offer a consolidation loan for my husband’s school loans. Only problem is, he doesn’t have any.

So, note to all my friends who may be calling from a number NOT in my caller ID: I’m sorry you’re [in jail, caught under something heavy, running from reality] but I no longer take calls from numbers I don’t know. If you’re actually someone I’ve been in contact with at some point in my life but for some reason I don’t have your current phone number in my current cell phone, you’re just gonna have to leave a message and wait for me to call you back.

Hopefully you won’t have to wait long, because I totally understand your frustration if you do. Waiting for people to call me back is an irritation that runs a close second to telemarketers blowing up my phone and filling my voicemail. I tell myself it’s building my capacity for patience, but in reality I’ve chewed all ten fingernails while waiting “patiently.” (And I’m eyeballing my toenails.)

I have a bad habit of anthropomorphizing God, so I find myself envisioning his response to waiting. Does he flop on a cloud with the remote dangling off the edge in his hand, mindlessly scanning through the cable channels? Maybe he cuddles with a cat, perusing Instagram photos, mildly annoyed when he discovers his ginger ale has lost its punch from all the melting ice (and passing time)? The impressive thing is, no matter how long we keep him waiting… no matter how many infomercials he watches, or how many watery drinks he ends up pouring out… God continues to wait for all of us to answer his call. And don’t ever doubt that you’ve been called!

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul literally begs them to lead lives worthy of the calling to which you have been called (4:1). Paul isn’t talking here about “calling” in terms of what profession or career each person chooses. He’s talking about the one call that everyone has received: God’s call to join the one, unified body of Christ. It’s a call to everyone – and it’s a call everyone can accept.

I think the problem might be that we forget (or don’t realize) that God called us first. Through Jesus, God called us and offered his gift of reconciliation – a gift that we have done nothing, nor can do anything, to earn or deserve. It’s not like first opening a new credit card and then getting six months without interest. God asks nothing of us in advance for us to be given his gift of love, reconciliation, and redemption. He’s already called and left a message. The next move is ours.

God called you up a long time ago and not recognizing the number, fearing what it might be or what it might mean, you let it go to voicemail. Now that you’ve figured out who’s calling – that it’s an old friend who needs/wants nothing other than just to get everyone together again – how long will you wait before you answer? How long before you begin living a life worthy of the call to which we have all been called?

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Lent – Day 19

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Today’s Thought: What does it mean to be “holy”?

Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  (1 Peter 1:14-16)

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter echoes God’s words from Leviticus 11:44, cautioning new believers about the unwanted desires they had before choosing to follow Christ. Their behavior was conformed to those desires out of ignorance, he says. Now, they are called to be different, to set themselves apart… to make themselves “holy” like God. So, what does it mean to be “holy”? Well… that’s sort of a trick question…

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Lent – Day 14

March 21

Today’s Thought: Are you brave enough to ask in faith, believing in nothing less?

From there [Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice; a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. (Mark 7:24-25)

Some of my favorite stories of Jesus are those where his humanity is on full display: when he’s so shaken by the death of Lazarus that he weeps; when he’s so angered by the moneychangers in the temple that he overturns their tables; and—in our story today—when he was so tired, all he wanted was to be left alone.

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Lent – Day 12

March 13

Today’s Thought:  Sometimes good messages come wrapped in conflict.

Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household. (Micah 7:5-6)

In Luke 12, Jesus reveals his frustration. Much like God said when he told Moses that the Israelites were a “stiff-necked people” who wouldn’t listen to him, Jesus says, I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled… Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! Bring division to the earth? How can these be the words and mission of Jesus?

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Behind the Scenes

While I know how convenient (and useful) it is to have a short devotion every day, I have to tell you: There’s nothing more powerful than sitting with a segment of scripture for an extended length of time, and there’s no replacement or shortcut or quick-n-easy substitute for unhurried, uninterrupted time spent thinking about scripture. Put the time in, commit to it, and I promise that you will absolutely hear the Holy Spirit in every word while gaining insights that you never even anticipated. I promise. It’s what lies behind every word I write.

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Big Goals

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.   (Proverbs 16:9)

About two weeks ago, a whole lot of people with good intentions sat down and wrote out goals for the upcoming year. Whether it was to lose 30 lbs. or to gain self-esteem, we decided to focus on at least one big thing to (hopefully) achieve by the time December 30 rolls around. It hasn’t been that long ago, so maybe you’re still successfully moving in the right direction toward achieving your goal. Good for you! Or, like someone I know, you might be staring at a new treadmill every morning with a cup of coffee in your hands wondering how hard it would be to walk and drink simultaneously, while calculating how much time is actually available before work and then deciding it’s not nearly long enough to get your heart rate up to calorie-burning speed. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow.

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Too Much Togetherness

A friend and I were talking about the complexities of showing kindness to strangers, especially in this sometimes scary world we live in, when she said, “You know… It’s not really strangers that I have the most problems with.  It’s my family!”  We shared a knowing glance.  “Christmas dinner is always the worst. I am not looking forward to it this year.”

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Paul’s Outlandish Joy

Paul was coming up on two years in a Roman prison when he wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. Unlike many of his dealings with other churches, this letter wasn’t written to help with problems or to defend his own ministry; this time, Paul wrote to a thriving church whose members needed counsel on how “to walk worthily of their heavenly citizenship” (Phil. 3:17-21).

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