Is Your Spirituality Sufficient for Your Vocation?

This is a weighty question.

I gleaned this question from Eugene Peterson in a statement he makes in the introduction to his book Under the Unpredictable Plant.

Let’s break it down.

Spirituality is the ways we intentionally respond to God’s presence and activity in our lives. God always initiates. We always respond. When I take time to pray, I am not initiating relationship with God. I am responding to his presence and wooing in my life.

What is the state of your spiritual life? What are your regular practices? How are your responding to God’s pursuit of you?

Sufficient doesn’t mean good enough, rather more like robust enough.IMG_9055

I am learning that the further I get on this journey, the deeper he invites me into communion with him. And the deeper he invite me in, the less my past spirituality suffices.

Vocation does not merely mean one’s job or career. Our English word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare. I am no Latin guru but my understanding of the word is more akin to “calling.”  Our vocation encompasses all of our lives.


For example, here is my vocation
: I am an adopted son of the Triune God, a husband, a father, a friend, a shepherd-teacher – and I hold various roles along the way.

As I mature in my true identity, my life responses will dynamically mature as well. Well, neither of those elements – my identity nor my responses – automatically mature. That is why this question deserves some lengthy pondering. Otherwise we age without maturing. We can become older and NOT wiser.

Thus, is how I am responding to God’s invitations into deeper communion with him sufficient to that invitation as it is lived out in the breadth and depth of who he has created and is redeeming me to be?

Is your spirituality sufficient for your vocation?

How would you like to reflect upon that?

How is God inviting you to experiment with some new responses to him in life?

Remember, part of our response to God is sacrificial service to others. This is also a key aspect of our response to God, of becoming matured.

Is your spirituality sufficient for your vocation?

I’d love to hear what God is showing you in this stage of your life.

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Lively Interview on The Uninvited Companion with Sarita Hartz

Sarita Hartz has a sharp mind and heart and has seen some of the tough side of life in the Kingdom. She graciously approached me about an interview related to my book. Her questions are thoughtful, provoking, and laced with experience of her own hard-earned hurts serving others.

Please check out the interview and her stellar blog.

Suffering, The Uninvited Companion: A Scott Shaum Interview

suffering shapes us

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Your Life, a Message

I have been reflecting on the reality and impact of long-term, unresolved adversity in life.

We all know someone, you might be that someone, who lives with unresolved physical ailment – the kind that alters how one goes about life.

Others live with internal scars from relational abuses or neglects.IMG_8499

Maybe its childlessness or singleness or any of a number of long griefs we carry.

What if…..

What if this reality we find ourselves in is the very context in which we are now invited to walk closer with God and others? What if these are the means to such a way of a deeper, matured life?

What if he does not heal the hurts but the hurts are a way he draws us in to heal our souls of deeper ills?

I submit some personal musings from a journal entry during this past Advent:

Musings on a Life as a Message – What If?

What if my health challenges are not meant to be cured?

What if walking with prolonged mystery is to be my life message, a message of hope and consolation and contradiction to the world?

What if God is not after a resolution, but rather a stewardship of this mystery?

This is now a relational issue, not a knowledge or skill-based issue. I am ushered in deeper with the Triune God – Father, Son and Spirit. My spirituality – that is the way I respond to him in this beauty and muck of life – requires a deepening as well.

I am invited to steward all that God offers. When mystery (that which I cannot control nor explain) goes my way, I love it. But when it brings pain and suffering, I resent it. I want answers and resolution. My growing sense is that I am to rather receive it, embrace the adversities – to steward this “calling”, this “vocation.”

This calling, this vocation, this stewardship, this path, this cruciform life (is this an accurate usage of this term?) requires a deeper well to draw from.

Is my spirituality sufficient for the path God lays before me?

God is inviting me deeper in, how am I responding?

The old ways will not suffice. There are elements of my life that serve God’s purposes and myself well. There are also elements of my life that choke God’s seed in the soil of my heart. These briar patches are to be avoided, denied, resisted.

I will continue to need the Spirit to give me fresh, new, unimagined vision for how I live out all the details of my life. I sense that if I am given the eyes to see the prize, specific, daily choices might be easier to make.

Yet, I do not want a prophet’s life. Prophet’s are social misfits, misunderstood, rejected, eventually silenced. I can easily fantasize about the impact (i.e fame!). But this path is far more costly than I have yet known or am likely willing to pay.  Hebrews 11:35-39 comes to mind.

 

IMG_8406Is this the path to becoming (not in a self-actualized way, but in a Spirit-formed way) an elder in the faith, a person of true wisdom?

We tend to think its our strengths and successes that shine forth, what if its our brokenness and weaknesses that are the greatest message for others to see?

What if?

These are some of my current wonders. I’d be grateful to hear some of your wrestlings of late. Thank you for responding and sharing.

 

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2017 Reads List

photoEvery year I send out an annotated list of some of the books I read. Attached is my annual reads list from 2017. In case you missed last year’s, I have added 2016’s as well.

I am always on the hunt for good books – please do share.

Scott E. Shaum 2017 Reads List

Scott-e-shaum-2016-reads-list

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Renewal In the Trenches

We are in a war. And the main enemy is within. 
Let me clarify, because this is not a trendy idea.

The Word is clear. We have three enemies which stand against us in our relationship IMG_5299with God. Each is to receive an appropriate response.

We are to resist the devil (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:10).

We are to resist the world and its seductive influences (See Galatians 6:4; 1 John 2:15-17;
5:4-5).

But the flesh, that requires a different response. We are clearly instructed to mortify our flesh. Yes, mortify – as in the really dead kind of dead.

The spiritual forces around us get a great deal of air time. 90:1 I hear people lay their life problems at the feet of the enemy and not their own choices. How many times do we hear ourselves pray publicly (or privately) against the forces of darkness vs. the number of times we pray for the Spirit to deliver us from our own turned-in-on-oursleves desires?

Yes, I believe in a literal Satan and his legions. I honor the authority of the Word of God on the topic. I don’t require logical, cognitive understanding to accept truth.  Mystery abounds. Besides, I have seen and heard and felt realities in dark places of this world.

However,  of our three enemies – the flesh, the world, and the spiritual forces of darkness – we are told to pursue elimination of only one of them. Paul says that by the Spirit we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:9-13). Sobering. But that is the point.

Essential is vigilance about what desires are surfacing in us and what is driving those desires. We tread thin ice here. Too easily are we duped by our own selves.

Persistent Pursuit of Renewal
Throughout the New Testament Epistles we are exhorted to pursue renewal.

Research has shown that one of the key markers of those who finish well is regular seasons of spiritual renewal.
Finishing well is here defined as living one’s life to its end faithfully walking with God and doing what he has show one to do. Such a journey is primarily a relational one, not a knowledge- or skill-based one. Yes, we need knowledge (e.g. Word, doctrine, Theology, history, self-awareness, etc.) and skill (how to do certain spiritual practices, relational skills, professional skills, etc.), but all of this is sourced in relationship. The Trinity is the basis of all reality.

IMG_3522Thus we seek constant renewal. We are in a war. The enemy never stops. There is no half-time or or vacation or sabbatical from the war within. We are utterly, continually dependent on God in this war. He is not lobbing rations from the back line up to the trenches where we live and die. No, he is in the trenches with us. Jesus lived and died in this very trench. He invites us to draw near.

Statistically, Odds are You Won’t Finish Well
Dr. Bobby Clinton’s research has shown that 2/3 of leaders do not finish well. The majority of us will fail at finishing well. What are you doing to be part of the minority? Statistically, the odds are against each of us.

Deliberate, budgeted, scheduled seasons of renewal are in order. These practices happen daily, weekly, monthly annually and seasonally. That sounds like massive investment, maybe a tad self-absorbed, so let’s break this down.

Ways of Renewal – Are your life/spiritual practices sufficient for your life-ministry responsibilities?*

Daily – Word, Prayer, exercise, core relationships, rest, diet, and, yes, sacrificial work

Weekly – Sabbath, day of to play, and rest. Do not be accessible via tech all the time.

Monthly – a day of prayer and solitude, time with community, hobbies

Yearly – Vacation, times to reflect, pray, plan, extended retreat,  intake events (where you receive not give as the main purpose of the event – such as a conference or guided retreat).

Seasonally – Sabbatical, further training, extended retreats…

There is much to reflect on here. If you are too busy to live into these let alone to reflect upon them, well you are just playing into the enemy’s hand.

The principle is this: We are in a war and renewal through deeper communion with God and others is key to finishing the fight well.  

What facilitates your renewal? Please comment and share. 

* Eugene Peterson first put me onto this question in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant.

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Interview on Personal Hardships

I was recently interviewed at Grace Community Church, Detroit, MI by Lead Pastor Doug Kempton on the topic of God’s purposes through personal hardships.

Doug’s questions were framed from 2 Corinthians 1 and the recently released book The Uninvited Companion: God’s Shaping Us in His Love through Life’s Adversities (available on Amazon).

IMG_8626 2

You can watch the interview here
Audio version is available here

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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The Ministry Of Reminding

We sure do forget easily. As an attempt at anti-forgetfulness, I will pray Psalm 143:8:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,                                                              for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (NIV).”

We need to be reminded every single morning of God’s love. We too easily lose track of this one central reality that orients all our other life circumstances.

IMG_5278Peter Taught Me This Shepherd’s Role
In 2 Peter 1:12-15 Peter states three times that he will constantly remind the sheep he cares for of central truths:

“12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things (NIV).”

Refreshing the memory of believers of Gospel truths was a central feature of Peter’s ministry. It helped orient their perspective in complex, fluid times. We need that orientation too.

A New Testament Theme
A quick survey of the New Testament reveals that many of the writers took this reminding role seriously.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to remind the believers there of core tenets of their faith (15:15).

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to remind them of his ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17).

In 1 Corinthians 15:1 Paul writes, “I remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… (ESV).”

To his young proteges Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6, 2:14) and Titus (Titus 3:1) Paul wrote to remind them of their calling and that in their role as leaders they were to remind the churches they cared for of how to conduct themselves.

Fiery Jude wrote to remind his readers of the prophecies of Jesus concerning the last times (1:17).

The church in Sardis is reminded through John of what they have received from Jesus  in Revelations 3:3.

In Hebrews 10:32 the readers are reminded of earlier days in their faith journey when they endured hardships to encourage them as they face a new round of trials.

Hebrews 13:3 reminds us to not forget those imprisoned for the name of Jesus.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember the modeling of faith we have received from our spiritual leaders – Jesus being supreme in that category.

Shepherd’s are Refreshers of Minds
This quick, incomplete survey, shows that shepherds keep reminding others of central spiritual truths. We are easily distracted so we need others to point us back to our essential focus.

Sadly, we will get bored communicating the same truths over and over again long before others have adequalty appropriated them. We are too often on the lookout for new and dazzling messages. But we all need to keep hearing the gospel – what God has done and is doing and will do on our behalf and his new-every-moment invitation to receive him.

Keep reminding yourself and others every where you go of the Father’s love which he has clearly displayed in his Son (Romans 5:8) and constantly spreads abroad within us by the Spirit (Romans 5:5). In so doing, like Peter did, you will help to firmly establish others in the truth.

How has God been reminding you of his love of of late? Who has he used to refresh your mind of his love?

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Recognizing God’s Presence in Our Suffering

The Following is an excerpt from The Uninvited Companion: God’s Shaping us in His Love Through Life’s Adversities  © 2017 Scott E. Shaum pp. 113, 116-117.  

The book is available from Amazon.com in print and Kindle versions.

Earlier in this book, I made several references to the silence I experienced during the Printearly days of my illness. Though I can now look back and see God’s loving hand doing a deep work in me to open me and draw me into his love,

at the time the sensation of God’s absence simply piled on top of the physical challenges I was facing. On top of all the physical discomforts, God seemed to have up and left.

I often describe the experience in the following manner: It felt like I had been riding down the road of life with God, and then one day he pulled the car over and told me to get out. So I did. Then he drove off. I looked in every direction and had no idea where I was. All I saw was a barren, featureless terrain I had never been to before. This barrenness went on to the horizon in every direction. I sat down and waited for God to return.

And I waited.

I cried out to God in anger and confusion. The silence was simply overwhelming.

It was one of the most confusing, disorienting, and disrupting times of my life. What was God doing?

A Better Offer

Frankly, this passage (John 16:33) was a confounding one to me during the time of sitting in that barren and silent place. God was not speaking to me. I could not sense his presence. I did not have the discernment at the time to sense his abiding presence and work, but he was there all along. Herein lies an important spiritual reality: We often want from God what he can do for us, more than we want God himself. In my case, I just wanted all the pain to go away—and fast.

But God’s primary longing for us is not for our comfort; it is for our communion. He is not merely extending his gifts to us, but he is extending himself. His primary desire is always relational. Suffering is but one means he uses to catch our attention and draw us deeper into himself. It was in this barren landscape that I was being awoken to the greater gift he was extending to me than the mere removal of suffering. I wanted resolution. He invited me to an enduring companionship with him in the midst of suffering. I wanted explanations. He offered his presence instead. He was using all the disorienting, painful stripping of my inability to solve my own problems to invite me deeper into his loving presence.

A New Recognition

There are spiritual truths we will otherwise never learn unless we find ourselves in similar barren places. Our life situations are as varied as could be, yet God is up to something beautiful in each of us. What is common to all, though, is his unbridled commitment to draw us into his loving presence. This is one of those unforeseen gifts of our sufferings.

 

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