Discerning God’s Call
About the Guest
Are you cooperating with God's sanctification in your life? Mike Howerton reminds us that no matter how messy our lives have been, God is in the process of restoring and transforming us into something beautiful for His glory. But in order to discern God's call, we must be willing to spend time in the Scriptures and be obedient to His promptings. Mike encourages those who desire to know God's will to get quiet in His presence, invite God's spirit into their lives, take a personal inventory, identify their dreams and finally, set some goals.
Mike HowertonWinsome. Loving. Motivational. Uplifting. Fun. Jesus-Centered. Mike is able to offer unconditional love and relentless grace in his writings, because he has experienced them in his own faith journey. Mike Howerton loves wrestling on the floor with his kids, reading Tolkien, surfing, and traveling to Italy (this mostly in his mind while listening to Van Morrison). He's been working for God for over 20 years, much of that time focused on the under-24 demographic. Mike develops Ministry Resource...more
Mike Howerton reminds us God is in the process of restoring and transforming us into something beautiful for His glory.
Discerning God’s Call
Mike: With my first cast, I had nabbed a sixty-pounder! [Laughter]
He was so startled that he didn’t say anything—he was so startled. So, each time I pulled forward, his finger just thrust in the air, like a parody of an orator. He didn’t cry—I cried! I yelled out. My dad came running with pliers, and a Band-Aid®, and calming words—hopefully, avoiding litigation, in that moment—
Mike: I tell people that—in that moment—I realized that the Lord was speaking to me because I heard Him say, clearly, “You are a fisher of men.” [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s a bad story.
Mike: That’s a bad, bad story. [Laughter] Absolutely!
Bob: But the reality is that God’s assignment, to each one of us, is to be “fishers of men”. I think of the motorcycle gang couple—who were still processing their own issues—but they had found a little bit of bread. They went back to the motorcycle group and said: “Hey! We’ve got to share with you what we’ve found, even though our marriage is still messed up.”
Mike: There is this incredibly broken paradigm, I believe, in Christendom—which is this: “I need to have arrived before I can turn around and help somebody else on their journey.” It’s a false premise because, I believe, on this side of eternity, none of us will have ever arrived.
Mike: All we can do—the very best we can do—is simply invite someone else to journey with us as we journey with Jesus.
Bob: But you have met people, Mike, whose lives are messy—really messy. Would you say to some group of really messy people, “Okay, for you—you need to get some of this mess cleaned up before you can be useful for the King.”
Mike: My advice to everyone is to connect with Jesus and walk with Jesus. As you walk with Jesus, invite others to come with you because it’s in that process, where He’s doing the work of sanctification. He’s doing the work of cleaning us—always; right?—of restoring us, building relationship with Him, understanding His Word. All of these things are happening all of the time, simultaneously.
Bob: You see, this gets back to the motorcycle people in Colorado Springs because, as I remember the story, when they contacted you, later, to tell you about coming to faith at the Weekend to Remember and about leading a HomeBuilders group, the thing that they said was, “The best thing we did for our marriage was to lead a HomeBuilders group.” In other words, they got better as they did ministry. One of the ways God cleans up the mess of our lives is by getting us in the game, helping others; right?
Mike: Absolutely. You two can attest to this—who learns the most when you guys prepare a sermon and give it?
Bob: That would be us.
Mike: Yes, we’re the ones who are constantly preaching to ourselves. We’re constantly learning in the process of our own ministry. So, we have to recognize that’s true in others’ lives, as well. I think Paul is an example of somebody who really got that because he was launching people into ministry—Day One. You know, “Hear the Gospel,” and then, “Be released to it.”
Dennis: Paul said: “I didn’t just impart the Gospel to you. I imparted my life.” Paul had lived a rugged life. He’d been a part of stoning Christians. He was part of the opposition.
Dennis: So, if there was anybody who could have felt disqualified to be used—in fact, I think I would put it a little stronger than how you said it. I think you said it was a misconception—or it was false. I would use a little stronger terminology. I think, if you hear a voice saying, “God can’t use you,” that’s a lie—
Dennis: —because we do have an enemy who is the author of lies. He speaks into people’s minds saying: “You’ve fouled up! You’ve had an abortion,” “You’ve had premarital sex,” “You’ve committed adultery,” “You’ve stolen, “You’ve done—this or that. God could never use you!”
The reality is that, no matter at what stage of the sanctification process He does use you, it’s all still very broken.
Dennis: He’s the One Who has poured His glory, as you talk about in the book, into a vessel—a cracked pot.
Mike: You mentioned that verse from Ephesians, earlier, about how God is creating a masterpiece with our lives. The analogy, I use in my church, is we’re the ones who think that we disqualify ourselves by splattering black paint on a canvas—representing our murderous selfishness—or, you know, red paint—representing our jealous covetousness—or teal paint—representing our horrible style choices of the 1980’s. [Laughter]
You know—all of these horrific colors that we’re splashing on the canvas—not realizing that that’s simply the backdrop from which God begins to create an absolute masterpiece with our lives. It’s in our most broken and humble places that I believe the glory of God can shine the most clearly through. It requires us to really surrender to Him and begin the journey of obedience with Him.
Dennis: Let’s talk about how somebody can begin to find out where God wants to put them on the playing field. You talk about God speaking to us. We need to unpack that a bit because you, as a pastor, have had people come up to you, at church, and say, “Pastor, God told me to divorce my husband.” They want out of this marriage—or they want to go commit this sin or that—they can find a way to justify it. They use God to do it. Explain how a person can know that he or she is hearing from God. Then, let’s talk about how to specifically know where to get into the game.
Mike: In ministry for 22 years, I have seen a lot of that misconception. I’ve seen a lot of that abuse of using—sort of—well, I call it: “Playing the God card,”: “Hey, God told me this!” How can you argue with that because, if God really did tell them—you know.
I would just tell you that we do spend a lot of time unpacking it. One of the first things I will say is: “God’s call will never contradict God’s Word. God has already called us, generally, revealing His general call through the Word that we have today.” Knowing the Word—investing your time in the Word, meditating on the Word—that will be a great first step to discerning God’s call in your life.
Dennis: The Scripture is our plumb line for where we start.
Dennis: Not an experience.
Mike: Absolutely, yes.
Dennis: Although, God does, as you shared, speak to us through experiences that we have.
Mike: He does speak through experiences. He does, I think, speak directly into our hearts, as well. I believe that the Spirit of God is given to every single believer, dwelling within us. I would confess to you, and to all of those listening today, that I have never heard the audible voice of the Lord; but I have felt His prompting. I have felt His leading. There are times when I can’t describe why I would be pressed to reach out to a person, or to make a phone call, or to write a letter; and yet, I know, because of confirmation from the other end, that God was absolutely directing that moment.
So, I would have to say, it all has to fall under the general call of Scripture: We are called to love God. We’re called to love people. We’re called to serve the world. Underneath that general umbrella, I believe that God really does want a relationship with each one of us that’s intimate.
Bob: I think one of the words of caution, here, is that when you have that sense—that prompting—that, “Gee, is the Lord really leading me in this direction?” —God’s Word is certain. Those promptings are subjective and, maybe, less certain. That doesn’t mean that you don’t respond to the prompting. It just means that you don’t presume that the prompting is as authoritative in your life as God’s Word is.
Mike: Absolutely. Like I said, “It would need to submit to God’s Word.” For example, if you’re in a marriage relationship—if you’re being prompted or led to exit the marriage, or to flirt with somebody else, or to whatever that somehow discounts that marriage relationship—you can be certain that’s not the Holy Spirit of God working. That’s, actually, the enemy prompting us and urging us. I would just say that’s a temptation. That’s not a prompting of God.
So that’s where—when you talk about a plumb line—that’s where I would always come back to the Scripture. However, inside a marriage relationship, I believe that God is, actually, prompting us and leading us often. I just think we are not listening to Him. I mean that in terms of gift-giving, and honoring spouse, and how to serve—not just to do my own thing—sort of slipping into duty and role—but rather to be active and proactive, with the Lord: “How do I actively connect with my wife today?” “How do I actively connect with my husband today?”
I think that’s where God really is speaking to us, and prompting us, and leading us in good pathways. That’s the “hinds’ feet in high places”that I would point to—of God’s care and call for each one of us.
Dennis: I don’t know how to do marriage and family apart from that quiet voice of God. I love the Scriptures. I’m going to embrace the Scriptures because it gives me my assignment—my marching orders—how I’m to obey—but I’m going to tell you something—there were times, as a parent, when we were raising four teenagers, at one time—where it was like—if I hadn’t had the prompting of God to go inspect something—if He hadn’t helped me catch my kids—[Laughter] I would pray that prayer all the time, Mike!
Barbara and I would say, as we went to bed at night: “Oh, Lord, God, we know this kid is up to something! We pray that You, as the Hound of Heaven, would chase him down and You help us catch him so he doesn’t get too far”—or, “she gets too far away.”
Dennis: And I think God—I’ve said it many times—He feels sorry for the prayer of a helpless parent because He shows up in that moment. Circumstances do occur! I mean, He sets them up!
Mike: I have no doubt about that. That’s an amazing thing—the revelation of God. You know—how, all of a sudden—texts will pop up on the cell phone. You’re like: “Wait! Who are these texts from?”—you know? And then the kid’s trying to hide the phone—there it is! [Laughter]
Bob: Mike, you talk about people going rogue in their Christian life—what do you mean by that?
Mike: Well, I point to the example of Jonah. I point to him, actually, throughout this entire book, simply because he is a guy who is a beautiful picture of mess, all the way through. You know, the general picture of Jonah is he’s a mess, at the beginning. When he hears God call, he runs from it and winds up in a bigger mess of his own making. He repents for what amounts to maybe 20 minutes.
He gives the world’s worst message; you know? “Forty days and Nineveh will be overturned.” It’s literally the worst message we have recorded in Scripture. My buddy, Keith, says, “The only good thing about it is its length;” right? “If you can’t be good, be quick.” [Laughter] And then, he sees an incredible return on that obedience. We’ve got this incredible repentance of this entire city—a people group.
And yet, at the end, he is still a mess. That’s sort of a great foundation for what I’m talking about. God worked through Jonah’s failure because, as he was running from God, everyone on the ship ends up praising Him. Then, God worked through Jonah’s obedience because, when Jonah was doing what God told him to do, there was this incredible return upon investment. Even at the end of the book, when Jonah’s all upset because of God’s grace, God is still teaching Jonah and revealing His glory, in the midst of his mess.
Bob: So the “going rogue” is that running away from—
Mike: Thank you. Yes, exactly—the “going rogue” is thinking that, “Even though I’ve heard from God, I’m going to do my own thing.”
Dennis: Mike, there’s something that you do, in your book, that really helps the reader learn how to participate with God, in His call. It’s just five steps—very simple. What I’d like you to do is just tweet—like 144 characters—and we’ll not hold you to that, really—but I would like you to just tweet on each one of them. What does it mean? For instance, Step 1: “Get Quiet”.
Mike: Well, it’s so hard for us to get quiet in our daily lives because of the pace at which so many of us are running constantly—the bombardment of media, radio, internet, etc. In order to begin the process of hearing God, it really begins with prioritizing this in your own life.
Getting quiet is just what it sounds like. It might be that you need to set aside 20 minutes / a half hour, in the morning, before the kids get up. It might mean that, after everybody’s in bed, you spend some time in the evening. It might mean that, for you, you arrange for some childcare to spend half a day with the Lord. It’s just the idea of prioritizing listening to God.
Dennis: I like what you say, at the end of this section, in your book. You say, “You must try to flee the bonds of normalcy in order to quiet your mind.” I don’t think that comes naturally in this culture.
Step 2: “Invite God’s Spirit”.
Mike: It’s just beginning with an invitation: “Jesus, I want to hear from You. Lord, I want to hear what it is that You have for my life. I want to know what Your will is for me, personally.”
Dennis: Step 3—again, we’re talking about how you determine what God is calling you to do—you say: “Take a Personal Inventory”.
Mike: That’s right. The premise is that you are who you are because God is making that masterpiece out of you. Your life is the masterpiece that He’s making. So, know who you are—know what your strengths are, know what your giftings are, know what your talents are and your passions are—because where the world’s deep need and your deep passion meet is where your deep joy will be.
Dennis: Step 4: “Identify Your Dreams”.
Mike: You have to know what it is that you’re interested in—what makes your heart come alive. The questions are: “If you didn’t have limitations in your life, financially—if you weren’t bound by circumstance—what do you feel like God would be calling you into?” so that you understand what it is that, “Man! If I could really score big in my life, and bring Him great glory, what would that look like?”
Dennis: There’s a passage, I think, in Philippians, where Paul writes, “For it is He who is at work within you both to will” —that is to create the desire—“and to work”—that’s to create the opportunity to do it—
Mike: Oh, yes.
Dennis: —“according to His own good pleasure.” That’s what you’re talking about here.
Step 5: “Set Your Goals and Then Submit Them to God”.
Mike: This is an exercise I do with great regularity. I actually walk through a goal-setting exercise, but I always end that goal-setting exercise with truly submitting them to the Lord. The Lord, I believe, is the One Who prompts me and leads me to actually make these goals for ministry in my life; but I always want to submit them because I never want to get ahead of the Lord. I don’t just want to ask God to bless what I’m doing. I want to sense what He’s already blessing and then get into that.
Dennis: I’ll tell you something I like about this list. This is not only a great list for adults—young people, who are starting out their lives—but this is a great list to begin to train your children to know how to make a good decision. One of my concerns about the next generation, that is being raised today, is that we, as parents, are not doing a good job engaging them around taking the Bible—taking circumstances—and then, taking our children’s hand in ours and teaching them how to put their hand in God’s hand so that they end up—at the end of the day—making a decision that is filled with wisdom and not foolishness.
Mike: What we’re trying to do is—we are trying to train our children; correct? We don’t want to just make the decision for them. We want to help them to make the decision for themselves.
Dennis: Yes, and these five steps, I think, would be great to begin to walk your child through as they move into the teenage years about: “How do you make a decision about how you invest your life?” “…what you give your time to?” It’s all about being still, listening to God, taking an inventory, and then, ultimately, committing your way to Him.
Bob: Well, you have to start with the premise that, no matter what’s going on in your life—where you are, how messy things are—God has a purpose. He wants to use you to advance the Kingdom. I think a lot of people don’t start with that premise. They think, “No, I’m not sure that God can use me,” or, “Things are too messy.”
Bob: That’s the point of what you’ve written, Mike, in your book, Glorious Mess. I would just encourage our listeners—if you find yourself discouraged—really wondering, “Can God use me?”—get a copy of the book. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us, online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or, if you want to get in touch with us by phone to order the book, Glorious Mess, call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
You know, our team is very excited about what’s going on this fall and about some of the plans we have for 2014. We’ll be sharing a lot of that with you, in the days to come, here, on FamilyLife Today. It’s busy, here at FamilyLife; but in the midst of the busyness, we wanted to make sure that we said, “Thank you,” to those of you who make the busyness possible—that’s those of you who help support this ministry—our Legacy Partners, who are faithful to give gifts each month—and those of you who get in touch with us, from time to time, and help support the work that God is doing through FamilyLife Today.
When you make a donation, this month, we’d like to be able to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of a book called Anything. The book was written by Jennie Allen. It talks about a prayer she prayed that she said had a dramatic impact on her marriage, her family, and her relationship with God. The book is our thank-you gift to you, this month, when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
You can do that, online. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to make a donation over the phone. Be sure to ask for the book, Anything, when you do that. Or request the book when you write to us and mail a donation. Our mailing address is: P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. The zip code is 72223—P.O. Box 7111—zip code, 72223. I hope you can keep all of those numbers straight. We do appreciate you getting in touch with us. It’s always good to hear from you. Thanks, again, for your support.
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow. Mike Howerton is going to be here, and we’re going to talk about the glorious mess he got himself into in college. This is all about a mattress that he was trying to heist. You’ll hear the story tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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