Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | July 2, 2013

Discipleship or Indoctrination

As many of you know one of our goals as a family is to go as missionaries to somewhere (prefer Africa, but I don’t like to make definitive statements). In thinking about going to Africa a responsible person also has to think of the history of the culture you are entering. For example, if you were to go to most countries in West Africa you would find that they had been colonized, and then dropped like a hot potato in the 60’s or 70’s. You would find that the pattern of colonization started out with missionaries who were not only missionaries for the gospel, but western culture. The two had become rather conflated, and as a side point often still are. From here the missionaries would open schools which ended up training in a western strain of Christianity, and for slightly educated help for the developing European elite. To be fair the missionaries did not necessarily go to be forerunners for their governments, but from an African perspective it is all the same. An interesting novel written by a Nigerian, Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (http://www.amazon.com/Things-Fall-Apart-Chinua-Achebe/dp/0385474547/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top). I read this book in high school, and again recently. Basically it is a story of what it looked like to go from pre-colonial to colonial Nigeria. I highly recommend it.

For a lot of time in missions, changing the culture of the native was thought just as important as changing the belief system. Perhaps, this was framed in terms of helping the native, but it seems that acting European was equated with being Christian. Today, missionary work takes a different form, or at least a number of the missionaries I have encountered. Cultures are much more respected, and people are beginning to understand that Jesus was not European or American, and that he would stick out in our culture. However, I have also observed that there is still an insidious form of colonization found in modern missionary work, and that is in theology. Most of this observation comes from growing up in the Presbyterian Church in America.

What I have noticed at times is people thinking in terms of being missionaries for the reformed faith, or being very excited about planting Presbyterian churches. This has concerned me because you are no longer just bringing the Good news of Jesus, but telling them what they have to do with it. Your goal from the outset is not just to disciple them to live in the ways of Jesus, but to accept the theology of your particular denomination as well. To me this is problematic because in terms of knowledge in the field of theology you are in the seat of power. To be clear the power is that if you bring someone to Christ, you have a person that quite possibly does not know the Bible or options in theology very well.

Having power gives you responsibility in how you use that power. What I am saying also applies to parenting, and what happens when you bring a new Christian into a church. Are you willing to let them work to their own conclusions about theology, even if they end up disagreeing with you, or is your goal to indoctrinate them? In this case I would say it is indoctrination to take someone who may not know there are other options and posit your view of doctrine as the right view. This is a different form of colonization, it takes away autonomy. You have used your power in a way that does not give full information about the options available.

I think the underlying assumption that drives this is the thought that going deeper into theology means deeper faith. I posit that understanding various aspects of theology and growing in faith are two separate (thought connected in some ways) processes. Growing in faith can be done without having a set view of the atonement, or any other number of doctrines. If it were true that better theology equals better faith, then the faith of children should be weak, but it is my observation that their faith is the strongest of all. Their faith is not in words or ideas, but simply in Jesus.

Of course, my intention here is not to say that theology is unimportant. If you spend much time with you you’ll find that I spend a lot of time thinking about various theological points, but I have given up on the idea that getting it all right will really strengthen my faith in God.

So connect this back to missions, parenting, and bringing someone new to church; What is your goal? My goal is to show them Jesus, and to teach them to live in the ways that Jesus taught us to live. This is the Gospel that the apostles taught, and it is the Gospel of Jesus that I intend to teach. In the realm of theology it is my goal to give options as to what people could think on various topics, but not to tell them what to believe. I think for their beliefs to be firm, they have to wrestle with the topics for themselves, and in conversation with others. If they end up in a different camp than me, that is okay because we are still following Jesus together. In fact, in a setting like post-colonial Africa it is even more essential to give room for developing their own sense of theology.

I am assuming at least a couple people are reading. What are your thoughts?

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | June 27, 2013

Blogging Through Unclean by Richard Beck

Well, it looks like a couple weeks have turned into a couple months again. The second half of that term seems to have been particularly long and grueling. I have had so many thoughts that I want to write. I am on summer vacation now, so I hope I have a bit of time to get to at least some of them. I wanted to get back to writing about Inspiration and Incarnation, but I have read a number of books since April and I need time to go back and look through it again.

Currently, I am reading Unclean by Richard Beck. Beck is an experimental psychologist and has a blog (http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/) that is pretty interesting. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but he does write a lot of thoughts that I find interesting. One of Beck’s bigger interests is studying the psychology of the church and Christianity. This is an interest that I have as well. This can sound dangerous, but people don’t stop being themselves when they enter church, or in their relationship with God.  Questions that are worth looking at are: How does the physical format of church affect us? How does the way we do church affect us? What underlying principles are being played off of here and should we do that.  I think that the field of psychology could help inform the body of Christ about what patterns (good or bad) have developed over time and can give insight into relationship dynamics.

The core concept of Unclean is the psychology of disgust. (I am only half way through at this point). Thus far he has given four features of disgust. 1. A boundary Psychology 2. Expulsive 3. Promiscuous 4. Magical Thinking.

I’m already getting long here so I’ll just focus on the first one. A Boundary Psychology – An example he uses is that of giving someone a Dixie cup and asking them to spit into it. After they have done this he asks them to drink the saliva. While I do not find this very disgusting, it seems a large number of people do. Even though we know we swallow or saliva all day there is something that seems different about it once it leaves the boundary of our body. My daughter has little to no sense of disgust about what she will try to incorporate into her body. It seems that this is not innate but learned.  This sense of disgusts originates with food, but doesn’t seem to stop there. As Beck puts it (pg 27) “Disgust regulates the act of incorporation and inclusion.”

One boundary is who you will let touch you or be around you. Matthew 9:9-12 shows an example where the Pharisees are really having trouble with Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. These people were disgusting (in that they were not clean and could be a pollutant) to the Pharisees. Obviously, we want to avoid that which pollutes our body. We don’t want to get sick or eat rotting food, it disgusts us. A question to ponder is, Who or what type of person would make you feel uncomfortable if they sat down near you in church?

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | April 5, 2013

Incarnation

A couple weeks ago I wrote about looking down on past cultures in light of our advancements. https://dsmccurdy.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/our-time-and-place/ I would like to continue this line of thinking in this post and future posts. My wife, Rebekah, introduced me to a very helpful book Ministering Cross-Culturally by Lingenfelter and Mayers. This is a book that can be helpful for anyone because it is about working through differences in perspectives that people have.

The concept of the Incarnation is that Jesus took on human form to serve humanity. Jesus emptied himself of his heavenly position, took human form, and died, on a cross no less. Jesus was, and is the 200% person, 100% God and 100% human. Of course, this is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. Jesus was not some sort of ideal human in the sense that he completely shed time and culture. Jesus came as a second temple Jew with Rome as the governing body. Jesus shared a particular time, place and culture with those around him. When Jesus spoke, his words were geared towards that time and culture. This does not mean they are irrelevant now, just that we need to understand Jesus was incarnated in a different time and place from our own.

Why did Jesus take a particular culture? Isn’t God above culture? Well, yes, God is above culture, but humans are an integral part of culture, and Jesus is human. To be human inherently means that you are part of a culture. Another reason for Jesus to take a particular culture is so that he could communicate effectively and relate to people. If Jesus were to come into our culture now, he would look and speak differently.

Lingenfelter and Mayer suggest that when we wish to help other people we need to become 150% people. Their goal here is to be 75% what you started to be and 75% whatever people group you are trying to reach. This concept follows from Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus humbled himself and adopted another culture. Now, we are not the God/man so we can’t go all the way. We also can’t completely leave behind our own cultural background. In humility we can to understand our own cultural ideas, and give some of them up to love others well. At the same time we should also learn about the culture we are trying to reach and adopt their ways of doing things. This is a rather basic statement of what they write a whole book about.

I’ll give a visual picture that one of my professors in college gave me. Imagine that the truth of the gospel is a peppermint. That peppermint resides in a green wrapper (the color is arbitrary). This wrapper represents my culture, my time and place. The Gospel is necessarily wrapped in culture. To transfer the core truth to someone with a blue wrapper  culture I would first have to unwrap the truth from my cultural ideas. The same truth can then be held by someone with a blue wrapper culture, but it will look different because their culture is different.

Our default position is that how our culture is intertwined with the Truth is the best way. We equate our culture with the Truth. When we see another culture differently intertwined with the Truth we think that they are doing Christianity wrong. This is prideful and arrogant. One of the historical struggles of missionaries has been giving up the idea of what church and Christianity must look like from a cultural perspective. This also applies to theological traditions. It would be easy to think that Western traditions of theology are simply the best and right. What we often neglect to see is that these traditions cannot be divorced from culture. We can’t do culture-less study of the Bible or discussion of God. In a lot of ways our theology has been shaped by greco-roman philosophy. This may sound controversial to some, and I invite you to comment on your thoughts.

Part of the reason that I am writing this post is to begin the discussion of Incarnation. In the next couple of weeks I am hoping to blog through some of my thoughts on the book Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns.

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | March 12, 2013

Counseling Countries?

Today I had the opportunity to reconnect with a friend I made on a missions trip to Nigeria. He happened to be in the area so we got together for lunch and had the afternoon to talk. Diane Langberg also spoke in my psychopathology class about Dissociative Identity Disorder and its connection to complex trauma. I don’t have the time now to go into what complex trauma is in detail, but I will briefly describe it as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that comes out of the chronic abuse of what should be a care giving figure. If you are interested in more information on this I would send you over to my professor’s blog where he has slides entitled “New Advances Complex Trauma”. Here is the link:

Now you may be asking what does my friend have to do with complex trauma? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if it had to do with him individually. I am going to theorize that some countries seem to have a form of complex, or at least, severe trauma. Let’s start with a short history lesson.

African nations were once independent, living on their own. Then a number of European countries decided that they should colonize any land regardless of who happens to live their already. Slave trade came out of this, crops were sent out of the countries, social structures were destroyed, and this is not all that happened. The Europeans tried to westernize Africa, they tried to take what made the people groups distinctive away from them. They tried to take their music, culture, and history. They told them that without Europe they would be nothing. If you would like to read a book about this I would encourage you to read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe who also happens to be Nigerian.

Now in the 1960’s and 70’s these European countries basically abandoned their African empire. You may have noticed that Nigeria, Mali and many other countries are showing up in the news for their civil unrest. It seems that these countries are a mess, and a lot of them are. Some of the poorest countries in the world are found on the African continent. Why after 40 years have they been unable to “pull themselves together?” I would say it is because they have been abused, and need healing before they can fully function.

I’m at a loss for where to start, so I think I’ll give you a couple examples of what my friend was saying. He told me about a trip he took to England where he saw a beautiful building that was 180 years old and said that in Nigeria they can barely boast of something that is 10 years old. It seems to him that the designer of this magnificent building had access to something that Nigerian’s and other African nations just don’t have the capacity access.

I told him that sometimes survivors of abuse feel that they are dirty, and filthy, unable and unworthy to do the things others do. I asked him if this sounded similar to what he was saying, and he answered that it really did. He went on to say that he felt that he feels like Nigeria will just always be a third world country; that there isn’t anything that can change this.

Here is a description of a common trauma experience from the slides I mentioned before (slide 7 if you are looking at them). Intense fear, paralysis/helplessness, inability to effect any change, threat of annihilation, leading to experience of, Loss of voice, control, connection, and meaning, resulting in, disorganized physical, cognitive and emotional response system thereby increasing, Relational pain, distrust, self-contempt, overwhelming anxiety, evidenced as, Running from the past, afraid of the future. Now I would like to give a few caveats before I continue. I am not saying that every person in the country feels this way, but that the country functions, and its society as a whole thinks this way. I am also not trying to say that this is exactly like what an individual experiences as trauma. I am just trying to apply the model of trauma to a larger scale because I think it fits.

We’ve already talked about how it seems that there is a perception of inability to effect change. Next comes loss of control, meaning, voice and connection. Does it seem like some countries have lost control? Seeing as there is so much unrest, and often civil war I think we  can say yes to that. There is often a loss of meaning and voice in Africa because so many of these countries are caught between having been colonized by another country for so long and whatever comes next. There is not a strong cultural identity, it is confused and when this confusion exists its hard to have a voice.

Let’s talk about how disorganized the response systems are. My friend was telling me that in Nigeria there are just layers and layers of bad policies, of corruption. This is even true with the physical infrastructure. The roads are not well kept, and people drive like crazy. A once active rail system is in shambles because people just can’t get together to get it going again. Elections (which I was present for) bring about the unease of violence. Electricity goes on and off at the drop of a hat. The politicians don’t respond effectively to the needs of the people. Justice is not served. I could go on.

Relational pain, self-contempt, distrust, especially towards other countries. In a number of books I have read a common theme of doing work in Africa is that people don’t trust that you will be there for the long run. You have to prove that you really do care and that you’re not just there to make yourself feel good. We also talked about before how my friend feels that his country can’t do anything right, and won’t be able to do so in the future.

This last point is a really interesting one, running from the past and afraid of the future. I asked my friend if they talk about what things were like before and during colonization, and he said they didn’t really talk about it other than just a couple dates. This sounds just like running from the past to me. It sounds like repressing a memory because it is just to painful to live with. I can’t speak as much for fear of the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

So what do we do with nations that have been traumatized? If there were an outbreak of cholera you wouldn’t just bring in a doctor to treat individuals. You would bring in a public health systems expert to also look for the cause and work towards prevention in the future. Counseling is generally focused on the individual, but does have the systems approach of Marriage and Family Counseling. Within this view problems are seen as part of a larger system such as the family. To solve these problems effectively you have to work with the family. So I suppose to solve a national systems problem you have to work with the nation. But that is rather complicated.

In individual counseling we would start with safety and stabilization which is composed of alliance building, support networks, coping, grounding, and education about the nature of trauma. This is the longest and most important phase. While immensely difficult, this can work with the individual. I’m not sure you can do the same thing with a country, but I am not an experienced counselor of any variety so I may just be showing a lack of understanding.

On the national scale it seems that education about the nature of trauma, about what happened, may be the most useful. Telling the story of what happened seems very important. If safety and stabilization can take years for an individual, maybe it will take decades for a nation. Maybe it takes educating students and giving them a voice to begin the process of stabilization. I am still working from the slides I mentioned. Increasing self-reflective capacities and increasing positive coping skills are important initial goals.

The focus of telling this story should be on grief, loss, and shame rather than anxiety. Nigerians, and many other countries, need to mourn what was taken from them, they need to mourn what was done to them. Great loss has occurred, and that needs to be addressed. Civilizations that once were, have been forever changed, the chance to grow in their own way is gone. They have been changed by what happened. The goal cannot be to go back to what was there before Europe showed up, it is gone.

Telling this story is important because it supports grieving. It also gives voice. Previously, I mentioned that trauma can result in a loss of voice. I have studied education and theology in Africa through a number of courses and one of the recurrent themes is that for growth Africa needs to form African ways of doing things. Too often the infrastructures that are in place are based off of European models, and they don’t work for Africans. Educational theorists call for Africans to develop their own systems of education based on what works for Africans. Similarly, theologians call for Africans to develop their own theological models instead of being reliant on western theology. The theme here is that they need to develop their own voice. They need to develop a strong concept of the self and who they are.

So, telling the story isn’t enough, but it is a start. In telling the story of what happened a voice will develop. Hopefully, the idea that I don’t have to be ruled by the evil done to me can begin to take hold. Out of this can develop new skills, and a new identity. People from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mail, Nigeria and many other countries can begin to say what it means to be part of their country today.

Some of you may think that I’m off base on this, and I welcome your comments. I would love to hear what people think about this idea.

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | March 10, 2013

Our Time and Place

Today’s post is about philosophical trends, specifically how we always think the new trend is better than the older. That is, at least in our youth. Take the example of a parent and child as an example. The child wants to do what is new and take on the new philosophical view of the day (even if they wouldn’t phrase it that way) just as the parents did in their youth. At the same time the parents yearn for what they have deemed the right and good old days (the truth is they probably did the same thing their kids are doing now). The kids view the old way as outdated and stodgy. This is also true of philosophical movements. People holding a postmodern viewpoint think that a modern viewpoint is outdated. A more insidious thought is that the postmodern viewpoint is inherently more developed and enlightened than a modern viewpoint.

The idea that this embraces is that through history humanity is constantly on the path of self improvement as a whole. Slowly but surely we are growing as a race. Examples that could be given are the reduction of slavery, racism, and women’s rights. Now, it is true that as a country we have made many advances, it certainly isn’t my intention to talk down the work that has been done on racism and sexism. However, I do not think that we are so much more advanced than people of the past.

Take the example of slavery, which is illegal in our country. But I would say that we certainly still support slavery, and many people would support me in this. The reason that we are able to keep the cost down on so many items is because we ship out production to other countries. While we don’t have slaves on plantations anymore we do support a new type of slavery. (Feel free to disagree with me here and leave a comment).

Another pattern I have noticed is that because we are more technologically advanced than other societies, we are inherently more advanced in all ways. Not only does this lead to a sense of superiority towards other countries, but the past. I do not think that the thoughts of people in the past were so different from our own thoughts.

People are people no matter the time and place. The core of the challenges, and good things that people face now are the same ones that people have faced all through time. The face of the problem is different due to different cultures, but I would guess that we are not so far removed from our ancestors. The sense of superiority that people have about our current era bothers me some because it assumes we are so much better than others.

Do you think we are more developed than those who have come before? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | March 5, 2013

How do you read the Bible?

As part of my training in counseling at Biblical Theological Seminary they have us take a couple Bible and Theology classes. This makes sense since I am getting a degree from a Seminary. My first Bible class which was about interpretation of the Bible, and my current Bible class which is about the Old Testament have really challenged the way I read the Bible. The professor of these classes is David Lamb (http://davidtlamb.com/). I haven’t read his book yet, but I will be starting it this week.

There are a couple different ways I have viewed reading the Bible through my life (short though it has been so far). I have read it in a way that looks for proof of my theological concepts. I have read it for personal, and corporate instruction and I have read it to learn about mystery. In order I would say i have read for theology/answers, growth, and to learn about the mysteries of God. I’ll address what I mean by each of these.

When I was younger I really wanted a lot of answers out of the Bible. I wanted to know for sure how God did things. There was a time when I would dogmatically raise the Calvinist banner and be able to give a great Biblical proof for my stance. I could even come up with different understandings for any chapter and verse that seemed to contradict my viewpoint. I wanted to get the Bible right, and show my full understanding. I gave systematic theology a very high importance in what the Bible was about.

When I went to Messiah College I encountered a number of new viewpoints in how to understand the Bible. Christians that I respected held extremely different views than I did, and I thought that maybe there was another way to read the Bible. I didn’t give up my views, but I did realize that there was more to the Bible than getting theology right. It may be more accurate to say that I lived this because it is something I already knew. I strove more and more to apply what I read in the Bible to my life. I think there were times where I treated the Bible more like a self improvement type book.

Now I find myself reading the Bible for the mystery of it. I find that there are some simple truths, a lot of story and a whole lot of mystery in the Bible. The reason there is so much mystery is that the Bible is about God, and God’s interactions with humans. I don’t claim to understand God or how God does much of anything. We can sit and talk about what we see God doing but even that isn’t definite. In reading the Bible we are trying to understand and know the incomprehensible.

Hopefully, I haven’t upset anyone by now. I’m certainly not saying reading the Bible for theology or answers is wrong, or that it’s wrong to read for improvement, or that I have it all right now, I just want to discuss pros and cons of how we read. I’m also not saying that there isn’t plenty of truth to be found in the Bible, because there is.

The weakness that I found when I read the Bible pretty much for theology was that I often found myself reading verses. Having the Bible divided into chapter and verse is helpful for references but horrible for reading. You would hate it if your favorite novel had extra numbers and breaks in the middle of paragraphs. It makes for noisy reading. It also makes for incomplete reading when you read a small section here and a small section there. You lose a lot of context this way. If you’ve never tried it, I would encourage you to either listen to an audio Bible, or get a Bible that doesn’t have the chapter and verse marking (Such as The Books of the Bible) and see what you think. I would also encourage you to read in terms of a whole book of the Bible from time to time, especially if you are reading letters in the New Testament as they were written as one flowing work.

The other issue was that I had the mindset that I could understand the Bible right, that there was one mode of theology, and if I could just bring it all together I would have all the answers. The Bible was never about having all the answers. I certainly haven’t given up on theology, but I have become significantly more humble about it. I realize that I will not understand everything, and that I am not meant to.

The problem with the way that I read the Bible as a self help book is that I read it as if it was written to me and now, but it wasn’t. There are lots of ways the Bible is useful for our growth, but we need to remember that there are very few books of the Bible that are written to individuals. Most of them were written to parts of Israel/Judah, and later the early churches. Learning and application need to keep these ideas in mind.

I like where I am in interacting with the Bible right now because it is more balanced and focuses more on Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit and letting the Trinity be the Trinity. I focus more on living life in love, and seeing how God has loved through the Bible. I do still strive to apply the Bible to my life, and try to find some answers in the Bible. I am much more comfortable to let God work however God works, and not try to define how exactly that happens.

What about you? How do you read the Bible?

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | February 26, 2013

Blogging Again and Why did Israel have so many laws?

I have been encouraged by a couple of my friends to start blogging again, and so I think I will. I am looking at my blog and I realize that I never finished the series I started, but I would still like to come back to that. The few posts I have written tend to be a bit long, and I think I may have to do shorter posts for a while. Topics will probably include the Bible, counseling, cooking, parenting and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Today I would like to write about the books of the law in the Bible. If any of you reading this don’t know, I am in the first of two years in the M.A. in Counseling at Biblical Theological Seminary. For the Bible class I am currently taking I am required to read through most of the Old Testament. This past week I read (actually listened to an audio-book) through just about all the laws found in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I have often wondered why there were so many rules given to Israel. I often don’t like rules. I simply find them constraining. I highly dislike the idea of a legalistic religion. Christianity is not about a list of do’s and don’ts. If God values the heart, like He says He does all through the Bible; why does Israel get so many rules?

I have encountered a number of theories on this. The one that I have heard most growing up is that God gave Israel these rules to promote social order, hygiene,  food safety, and otherwise take care of Israel. I do believe that there is merit to this idea, however, it does not seem complete. There are a number of rules that seem arbitrary under this paradigm. Take Leviticus 17 for example. Semen and a woman’s period both make a person unclean. Clearly, these are natural functions that it seems like God is condemning. While this may be a part of the reason God gave all the laws and commands, it is not complete.

Another idea that I have heard more recently is that all religions of the era were very ritualized, and that God spoke to Israel in the context of their era. This would later be reflected in how Jesus came and preached in an era appropriate way. In doing this God also made some strong distinctions from the religions of the nations that Israel would face. I think that this theory is much closer to the truth.

The reason God gives for the law is to be holy as He is holy. God was doing something that none of the other gods had done before; He was traveling with Israel. God was clearly among His people, and He had set this people aside. There were requirements that came with this presence. The people needed to purify themselves before God. They needed to be set aside and clean. The ceremonies were not just there because they were familiar customs but because there had to be ways to be cleansed before God.

Having read through all the laws I really wonder to myself, “How could I ever be clean or pure before God?” All through the New Testament this point is addressed, the law was not there to save us but to show us our need to be saved. Israel was not being called to legalism or salvation through acts. Later through the Old Testament God says that it wasn’t all about festivals and offerings but about their hearts. God wanted His people to see that there was a deep need for God.

These rituals to make Israel holy were very important, seeing as God commanded them. Holiness is not a topic I have heard come up very much in the modern church, but it seems important that when we are in the presence of God we need to present ourselves as holy. The kicker is that as Christians we have God with us through the Holy Spirit, I don’t exactly know what this means or looks like, but I can accept it as true. How do we present ourselves holy before God, who is with us, keeping in mind that God desires our hearts? Please comment and discuss this because I am asking for myself as much as you. And if you aren’t a Christian and you got this far, well I appreciate that you are reading what I’m writing, but what do you think a Christian’s life ought to look like?

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | May 23, 2012

Temporary Calling

What you are called to now may not be what you are always called to. One idea we often have about God’s calling for us is that it is a straight line from here to there. I think that is a limited viewpoint because life is rarely that simple. Firstly, I wouldn’t say it is God’s calling but God’s callings. God calls us to many different things in different areas of our lives. Also, God does not generally call us to one thing for the rest of our lives. Even if you work the same job your role and interactions with people will most likely change over time as you are called into different situations. Instead of thinking of God’s calling as a straight line we should think of it as a series of lines.

Now, that seems simple and reasonable, but I’m going to make it more complicated. We have all these lines and then they bend, squiggle and just go all over the place. Sometimes the intersect and sometimes they come together for a long time. Other times they don’t meet up other than they are part of you. What you get is a big, tangled ball of yarn that you are trying to put into straight lines while you are holding an infant…it just doesn’t work. This picture is what I imagine some of us trying to do when we are discerning God’s calling. We try to put everything into neat rows with long term plans.

Keeping this in mind, lets go down to the level of one strand, vocation. From middle school I was pretty sure that God was calling me to be a secondary biology teacher. With this in mind I pursued Biology in college and then began working on a graduate level certification. As I wrote before, this didn’t work out so well. I don’t think this is because I pursued the wrong option. Even though I was unsuccessful I do not think that I was, “outside of God’s calling,” or that I was not following God’s calling. Sometimes, possibly most times, God calls us to things for the journey, not the destination. We don’t understand everything we need so God puts us on a path that intersects with the things that we need. For example, I met my wife, which I think is a pretty wonderful thing. I have learned a ton about myself, others, the world around me and I have grown in my faith. God has used this part of my vocational strand to teach me much.

Some might feel betrayed or confused when they feel God calling them to something that doesn’t quite pan out. We have to go back to the first post and remember that God loves us very much and cares for us more than we can know. If we think of things as a parent or leader on a project this may make more sense. Sometimes you need someone to do a task for reasons they don’t understand. For children we may want them to learn something so we ask them to do a task that will teach them. The end goal wasn’t the completion of the task but the skill learned. We couldn’t have accomplished this goal by explaining what we wanted them to learn because the learning was based on their experience and growth. Like a parent sees things a child doesn’t God sees even more. God leads us in ways that will teach us and bring us closer to Him. This won’t always be clear but we need to put our trust in our loving and caring God.

That brings me to the title of this post, “Temporary Calling.” When God calls us to something it may very well not be for forever. That is why we have so many twists, turns and squiggles in our yarn strand. When we look to the future we think in long term goals. For example, Rebekah and I have the long term goal of moving to Africa as missionaries. We do not know if this is where we will end up but we know that it is the path God has placed us on for now. It might happen that we never end up going to Africa. What we need to keep in mind with God’s calling is that when we feel God calling us to something it isn’t a promise of attaining that end. It might happen that we do but it is not a promise.

While it is wise to look ahead to the future and plan for that we should spend most of our time living in the present where God has us. What are we doing right now to glorify God? How are we following Jesus’ teachings? These are the questions that we should spend more time answering.

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | May 23, 2012

God Loves You More Than You Can Know

God loves you and cares for you more than you can know. What we do know is that God loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us, and that Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead. If this is true than you can be pretty sure that God loves you and cares for you. When we are struggling to discern God’s calling for us we need to remember to rest in His arms. It is essential to go to God in prayer and place all our cares, concern, sin and joy at His feet. Then we should trust God to guide us.

Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | May 23, 2012

God’s Calling Introduction

In the past couple weeks the topic of God’s calling has come up in conversation a number of times so I decided to write some of my thoughts on the topic. Understanding God’s calling in our lives is a topic that causes many people angst and confusion. A large part of this confusion comes out of our culture’s fascination, or even obsession with objectivity, and certainty. While there is plenty of subjectivity in our lives we like facts, and figures. We run on data. The trick with discerning God’s calling is that it is incredibly subjective. As my pastor says, “it is messy.” We can’t just fit it into a box. In writing this short series I hope that I can improve my own understanding on the topic and be an encouragement to others.

As I have a lot of thoughts I will be doing this in more than one segment. I will give a table of contents here which I will update with hyperlinks as I write the segments.

1. https://dsmccurdy.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/god-loves-you-more-than-you-can-know/

2. http://wp.me/psy0G-Y Temporary Calling

3. There is rarely a clear-cut path.

4. You can’t, “miss out on God’s plan for your life.”

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