Burning Bushes & holding on to your calling



Are you working according to your calling?

Would you feel guilty for asking such a question of yourself? I mean, let’s get real, places of work – be they churchy or secular – have jobs of work that need doing. Are we really just being self-indulgent post-moderns to even consider whether such or such a job or work-need might fit with our own personal sense of call? Don’t we need to “get over ourselves” and do whatever is asked of us. In fact, doesn’t the Scripture say that “whatever we do we should give it our all as if working for the Lord and not for people – because it is the Lord we are serving…?” And the Scripture said that to slaves!

I guess there are seasons for everything. Seasons for searching and seasons working for “the man”. Jacob has to work for “the man” for fourteen years before gaining the freedom to chart his own course with God and become the Israel God intended for him to be. The story of his “working for the man” shows his character – the great qualities embedded within the mix of good and bad that made him human. So those chapters are important in Jacob’s journey and in our understanding.

But in the final analysis you and I are God’s servants. And whether I give my life over to God’s call is ultimately not a matter of self-indulgence, but obedience. I am His Slave. His Servant. I am also His Friend – meaning that I actually want to obey Him!

God equips us and even wires us for our area or zone of calling. If we spend too long doing something else or get too far off track from it we will feel the effect. A significant part of us will shut down and we will feel its loss, like the dull ache of a hunger or the flatness of a mild depression. And just like a blade used for the wrong purpose – a steak knife used for cutting cardboard or a shaving razor used as a wood plane – we will lose our sharpness and our cutting edge. We become scarred and blunt. For all those reasons remaining alive and responsive to the voice of God’s call is vital.

In her recent book “Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership”, Ruth Haley-Barton (president of The Transforming Center) talks about how to stay alive and responsive to God’s calling. She does that by looking at the journey of Moses through the lens of leadership-development. And it as an eye-opening read. (If you were blessed by Parker J Palmer’s paradigm shifting book about calling, “Let your life speak”, you will love this offering.)

Ruth HB draws our attention to the image of the burning bush as a type of communication from God that relates to the communication of calling. As a type, a burning bush is something that catches your attention. Something odd. Something you can’t make sense of. Something that puzzles you and makes you stop and look and wonder. The text in Genesis says that “When the Lord saw that Moses had stopped to look at the burning bush,” that’s when the voice of God spoke to him. God responded to Moses stopping to look at the sign.

This year I am taking time with our staff team at Yarra Valley Vineyard to notice the “burning bushes” God has put before us. I want to make sure that we stop at these signs to give the Lord fresh opportunity to speak. Why? Because obedience must always be fresh and God is always calling!! (Isaiah 43:19, John 5:17-19)

The other image Ruth HB offers in her book is of burning hearts. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?” This was what Cleopas and his friend said to each other when they realised it was the resurrected Jesus who had met within them. “Of course!” they were saying. “Our hearts burned within us. Of course that was a sign that Jesus was speaking to us!”

Twenty years ago I began noticing a canon of stories that had this effect on me. So I decided in the quietness of one summer to take two months to give my full attention to these stories and to ask God what this burning meant. The lessons that emerged from those two months of attention resulted directly in twelve years of fruitful ministry through the agency of Jesus Generation.

When does your heart burn within you? What are the stories, people, situations that do this for you? Is the Lord, perhaps, speaking to you in those moments?

And what are the burning bushes in your world right now?

For my money these are good questions because they freshly draw us into a place of obedience to our Master, and the fruitfulness that flows from that! So Godspeed on your journey and keep your eyes peeled!