“He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross.”  Philippians 2:8  (Good News Translation)

So many things in life are easy to say and really hard to do.  This is certainly true in the life of the disciple of Jesus.  Just take “Love God, and love your neighbor” as an example.  There’s a lifelong learning curve on those two.  And so, when we hear some teaching on a Sunday, or we’re convicted of some need for change, or find ourselves in a Kairos moment* – it’s easier to cognitively agree than it is to put those things into practice.

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Recently I read an article entitled “The #1 Reason Why Students Leave the Church Could Surprise You.” The title is click bait for sure, but for good reason — many people realize that students are leaving the church at an alarming rate. In fact, the 20-year youth ministry veteran interviewed in the article mentioned that good research indicates that at least half of students leave church and faith in young adulthood.

Something about the way most churches approach student ministry isn’t working.

What was the youth ministry veteran’s #1 reason?

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Dwelling in the Word is a spiritual practice of taking a text of Scripture and meditating on it over an extended period of time. Neil Cole observes that many Christians are “educated beyond obedience”. They know a lot about the Bible, but they actually practice a small percentage of what they know. Dwelling in the Word helps believers to simmer and stew and marinate in one section of Scripture in order to work out its implications in their lives — so that they begin to intentionally practice what they sense God saying in the text.

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Baby sleeping

I’ve been reflecting lately on the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4. The temptation that grabs my attention right now is when the tempter takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple – the center of religious and spiritual life in Jesus’ day — and challenges him to jump off and let God’s angels catch him.

The devil even quotes Scripture to Jesus, from Psalm 91, about how God commands his angels to keep his chosen one from dashing his foot on a stone. Temptations wouldn’t be so significant if they didn’t sound good; if there wasn’t a dash of truth thrown in there. One of the lines in Ben Rector’s song “If You Can Hear Me” says: “Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus.”

The heart of this temptation for Jesus seems to be the invitation to prove himself. To show, in the middle of the crowds at the temple grounds, that he is someone special. To start his ministry off with a spectacular, miraculous bang. Who wouldn’t respect Jesus and listen to him if they saw angels rescue him in mid-air as he launched himself off the top of the temple?

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Mack was a tall man – really tall. He had a deep echoing voice…Darth Vader material. And he was opinionated. The combination of these qualities made him quite intimidating, but they also helped me listen to him. Mack told me that he had been a successful businessman for several years but his heart wasn’t in it. His real passion was kids. So he quit his job and started working as a school administrator. What I won’t forget is what he said next. “Charles, don’t choose a job for the money. Do something that you love and the money will sort itself out.”

Do something that you love. That’s the stuff of calling. That’s what the word “vocation” actually means — hearing a call to do something you were meant to do. It’s not limited to what you get paid to do, though the two can overlap in different ways. Sometimes a paying job supports a broader calling beyond the job. Sometimes we get paid to pursue our calling. Sometimes it’s a combination of both over time.

For disciples of Jesus, regardless of compensation, calling always relates in some way with the mission of God to make all things new in the world that have been ruined by the reign of sin and death.

So how do you find your calling? Consider these three actions that I have found helpful in discovering mine.

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