Journal entry 052710: Called

I was reading I Corinthians 1:1 where the Apostle Paul described himself as being “called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.”

I wrote in the margin, “He is confident of his position.” For myself, I often choke on the phrase – called by God. I’m not sure I have a right to make that claim. I believe it intellectually, but struggle with it practically.

It is easier for me to say “I am a petroleum engineer” since I have a university degree to back it up. Easier to say “I am a marathoner” since I have a collection of finish medals to prove it. Easier to say “I am a deacon” or “I am a teacher” since I have a certificate in my file cabinet and a class full of people.

But to say “I have been called by God,” to teach or write, is harder. I’m not sure why. Now that I have published my first book I can say “I am an author” with confidence, but to say “I am called” is harder.

Maybe making a claim to have been called by God, like the Apostle Paul did, assumes an endorsement by God, implies a level of skill and talent that seems presumptuous to claim for myself.

Yet I can describe multiple distinct encounters in my life when God spoke to me about my life as a writer and as a teacher in unmistakable ways. When he told me to start publishing weekly journals and when he called me out on that picnic table at Wild at Heart camp, just to mention two. While I may be reluctant to claim being called by God because I don’t have a medal or a success to show off, I cannot deny those encounters with God.

I doubt I’m alone in my reluctance. I imagine most people feel the same way I do. It is always easier to see God’s calling on someone else’s life than to see it in our own. More than one person in the Bible resisted being called by God.

For example, Moses argued with God about his calling even while standing barefoot in front of the burning bush. You’d think that would’ve convinced him. And Gideon pulled a double stunt, the wet fleece/dry fleece bit, hoping to understand the call that he feared. He’s lucky he wasn’t slapped down by the angel sent to give him the message. And even though God called Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was born, as soon as he was old enough to object he said, “I don’t know how to speak’ I’m only a child.”

Maybe some level of reluctance is a good thing. Maybe that’s what keeps us leaning into God to fulfill the calling rather than using our own ego. Maybe the humble spirit God is looking for is hidden within that reluctance. That is, as long as reluctance doesn’t turn into rebellion.

Well, I was thinking about this journal today while I ran. And while I ran I listened to a podcast by Erwin McManus who asked the question: “Are you doing what you were born to do?” I couldn’t believe it. How did McManus know I needed to hear this very question back on May 9th when he preached it?

He asked, “Are you doing what you’re doing on purpose?” Otherwise we are like a big log floating downstream wherever the current takes it, hanging up on brush, bumping into rocks, jamming with other logs. Understanding what God has called us to do demands intentional action on our part.

McManus said, “We all want to be the guy up front swinging the ax, but few have the discipline to sharpen their skills.” He quoted Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NIV): “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.” Realizing your call from God can be frightening, since with great power and energy comes even greater obligation and expectation. We have to hone the skills God has given us.

So I’m headed north to Colorado this weekend to attend a small gathering of men where we’ll explore this very notion of our calling. The retreat will be led by Gary Barkalow (, whose voice has been one of the most influential in my life these past ten years. I am excited about the opportunity to understand more.

And so I’ll ask you, where do you see yourself in this discussion? What has God called you to do? Is it too scary to talk about yet? Are you sharpening your skills? Are you waiting to hear?



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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