Part 2 – How Do I Know God’s Call?

Puzzled Face WHAT IF YOUR CALLING ISN’T WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

Sometimes our calling causes us to cower under the covers. Sometimes we respond with uncertainty and fear when we hear Him speak our name. Sometimes, we respond with dread. Because sometimes God calls us to do crazy things. Sometimes He calls us to build that great big boat when there is no sign of rain. Sometimes He wants us to go to Nineveh and risk our very lives to share His good news. Sometimes He calls us to care for people who seem downright impossible to love. Sometimes those unlovables live in a distant land across the sea. Sometimes they reside right under our own roof. So we love, not because we feel compelled. Not because the prospect propels us out of bed at the first light of day. We love simply because He commands us to and because He loved us first.

Sometimes our calling doesn’t make logical sense. Sometimes when He blinds us with His brilliance and we fall to our knees—ready to obey, others will dismiss us and doubt our place. Sometimes our calling seems far beyond our reach. Sometimes we feel shockingly ill-suited to the task. Sometimes when the burning bush beckons, we think of innumerable excuses to explain why we are not the best person for the job. But we get up and go. We march into Pharaoh’s court with our knocking knees and our stuttering speech because He who calls will also equip. He promises His presence and His power. And these things are more than enough.

Sometimes we won’t get to see the results of our work. Sometimes we may not see any measurable effect. Sometimes we will labor for years and see not one soul saved. Sometimes we won’t get to build the Temple or enter the Promised Land. Sometimes our prophetic cries in the wilderness seem to fall on deaf ears. Sometimes our witness will land us behind bars. Yet we keep our eyes on the eternal prize and strain our ears only to hear the ultimate “well done.”

And sometimes we don’t feel His pleasure. Sometimes we sense only silence. Sometimes we endure only the piercing pain. Sometimes we sit in the slimy belly of the fish. Sometimes we may beg for the cup to be taken away. “My God, My God!” Sometimes we feel forsaken. But we take up our cross and we follow Him.

So, yes, sometimes God’s calling looks like a miraculous virgin birth or the parting of a sea. And sometimes it looks more like a wander in the wilderness. Sometimes it looks like a nail-scarred hand. And sometimes—blessed Sunday—it looks like redemption and an empty tomb. Always it looks like discipleship and requires obedience.

So may we have courage to face the furnace when necessary. May we have the tenacity to circle the city for the seventh time. And—regardless of whether it comes via an angelic announcement or a burning bush or a still small voice—may we have keen ears and willing hearts that will hear and heed God’s call.

Kelli Worrall is a professor of Communications at Moody Bible Institute. This essay is excerpted from Pierced & Embraced: 7 Life-Changing Encounters with the Love of Christ (Moody Publishers). 05.01.2018

 

 

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How Can I Know God’s Call?

Puzzled FaceProfessor Kelli Worrall explains how to discern God’s call on your life.

Jodie came to my office one afternoon last week, contemplating “the call of God.” She is preparing to graduate, and she doesn’t yet know what the future holds. Should she stay in Chicago and continue in her current administrative job? It pays decent money, and the ministry she works with on the weekends would also love to keep her around. Or, should she take a riskier route and pursue an unpaid internship with a ministry on the West Coast?

Working with this organization sounds like her “dream job,” but sorting out the logistics—the housing, the transportation, the funding, etc.—feels like an insurmountable obstacle. Or, should she return home to Tennessee to live with her parents for a while? She would treasure the time with them, and she could save money more quickly for graduate school. But other than family, there’s nothing much for her there, and moving home feels like taking several steps backwards.

At one point, Jodie looked over at me with wild eyes, grabbed hold of her hair with both hands, and pretended to rip it out at the roots. “Why can’t God just make it clear?” she cried. WHAT DOES GOD WANT ME TO DO?

As a Bible college professor, I have conversations like this on a regular basis. Several times every semester, students show up at my door, asking for help to discern: What does God want me to do? What is He calling me to? How can I know for sure? Or even—certainly He can’t want that!

Okay—let’s be honest—it isn’t only my students who are asking these questions. Even though I am well into my forties, I sometimes still wonder and pray in this way. God, should I continue down this path or should I take a turn? Should I say “yes” and walk through this seemingly wide open door, trusting that You will give the strength? Or, for the sake of my family, my health, and my own relationship with You, do I need to say “no”? Or, Lord, this is so hard; does that mean it’s not Your will?

In November 2015 Dee Ann Turner wrote an instantly popular Relevant magazine article called “4 Keys to Discovering Your Calling.” And because “calling” is often on my mind, I read with great interest her four points:

  • Your calling is the thing that gets you up in the morning
  • It’s what others tell you that you do best.
  • It’s the way you use your energy to make an impact.
  • And it’s the moment and the activity in which you feel God’s pleasure.

These are helpful points to consider. And I do agree with them—to a certain extent. Certainly it is wonderful when God calls us to something that lights a fire in our soul. Certainly people may occasionally acknowledge our strengths, and I enjoy pointing out the abilities I see in other people. God gave us those skills, no doubt, and He doesn’t intend for them to go to waste. Certainly, too, God sometimes allows us the satisfaction of experiencing our own effectiveness, of seeing a project succeed or a problem solved, and it is certainly rewarding when this is the case. And certainly there are seasons when we sense His great pleasure throughout the process.

Certainly these things are true. BUT…..(tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story)

Who God SaysYou Are

Who God says you areOne of the crucial issues in our walk with God is knowing who He says we are. Often we come into God’s Kingdom with a skewed understanding of who we are. This is a list from God’s perspective so we need to line up our thinking with God’s view of us. This involves renewing our mind, adjusting our viewpoint to agree with God. He is the One who created us and therefore who He says we are can be counted as absolute truth. So, read this over and if you find yourself hedging on any of these statements, ask Him to bring correction and new light to your understanding.

Hidden Treasure

Tulip2As I rummaged through shelves in the garage one day last week, I remembered I had stored a dirt filled container of tulip bulbs for the winter. Ah yes, there it was. Sitting in the dark on a shelf, I found the pot. Not only was it hidden in darkness but something had been placed on top that shielded the pot from any exposure to light. As expected, the dirt was completely dried out as there had been no exposure to water the entire winter.

To my surprise, when I removed the covering, I noticed about a half dozen tiny green stems poking through the dirt. How can this be? This plant had been hidden from light and water for almost a year. How is it possible that these bulbs not only weathered the winter in darkness but began new life without a trace of water?

I took the container into my kitchen and began a crusade of water and exposure to light. Slowly, the stems grew longer and others appeared as well. It looked like there would soon be a large crop of tulips in full bloom right in my kitchen.

In this process, I kept thinking there must be a spiritual lesson here. What was the Lord saying to me? Perhaps, it was a reminder to never give up on people. Even when their lives appear to be in a dark and arid land, a spark from God could be moving them upward. Maybe a little encouragement from a friend, a little watering would bring them to their destiny.

Or maybe the lesson is that just as the darkness of the dirt held a hidden treasure, so God’s word holds hidden wealth in a secret place as He speaks to us. The tulip bulb was pushing through the dirt to grow and reveal its glory in the beauty of its flower.

Isaiah 45:3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.” 

When God reveals hidden things to us, it’s so we can know Him more intimately, so we can appreciate and enjoy the beauty of Jesus. Watch for hidden treasures in your life.

 

The Cup

CoffeeThis is Easter Week and I wonder what you know about the cup Jesus had to drink. Do you ever hear a sermon that inspires your faith in God to new levels? I do…every Sunday a Brighton Chapel. Pastor Rustin used a visual aid by bringing in his favorite cup that he uses for coffee every morning. He shared how he looks forward to his first cup of coffee in the morning flavored with French Vanilla creamer. It’s a pleasant start for the day.

Then he reminded us of Jesus’ cup, the one that Jesus asked the Father to remove. In Matthew 26, Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow and said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Have you ever wondered what exactly was in the cup that caused Jesus to be so distraught? What was so distasteful about this cup? Rustin explained that Jesus knew what He would be facing at the cross, all the violence, false accusations, betrayal, rejection, humiliation, flogging and the excruciating pain of the crucifixion…all these awaited Him… in the cup. Beyond that, He would be carrying the overwhelming load of all the sin of the entire world, the very sin that beckoned God’s wrath. The One who knew no sin would literally become sin. II Cor. 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Did you catch the good news at the end of that verse? Jesus chose to drink the cup of God’s wrath so that we could be free to enjoy God’s righteousness, his mercy and grace. Jesus laid down His life so that He could give us the cup of the New Covenant, so that we would never have to fear God’s wrath. Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Jesus loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. What an amazing cup He drank so that we could drink from the cup of new life in Him with all the benefits of salvation.

Walking in Victory

VictoryRecently, I attended a conference put on by four local ladies. Three of them, Ingrid Lochamire, Connie Gochenhaur, and Donna Bontrager spoke about a difficult trial in their life. Two were still in the midst of the trial and one was on the other side. Yet, it could be noted that all of them were walking in victory because they saw Jesus at work in their midst and they had chosen to trust Him with every outcome. Yes, it is possible to live a victorious and triumphant life while in the midst of a painful trial. II Cor. 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

Connie had learned to praise and thank God that He was working even when no outcome was yet visible. This is what walking in faith is all about, believing in the unseen and expectantly waiting on and trusting the Lord. She went on to relate that we don’t need to pray like a beggar. When we know who we are in Christ, we can boldly approach God and bring our requests with confidence.

The concept that most struck me was when she said, “Satan wants to define us by our trials but God wants to design us through our trials. (I’ll let you chew on that for awhile.)

Brenda Yoder finished the evening with a compelling teaching from Genesis 22, the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Brenda expressed that worship is more than singing on Sunday morning. It has more to do with a lifestyle of giving God the sacrifice of what’s most precious in our life. Are we willing to worship by laying down what we most desire? She challenged us to think about what is most valued in our lives. Just as Abraham was willing to lay his only son on the altar of sacrifice, we, too, are called to do the same with relationships, finances, heart desires, pleasures, trials and difficulties, the things that we tend to cling to. It starts with a heart to lay it all before God and to trust Him. Then, just as God provided a ram for the sacrifice at the last minute, our trust leads to His provision in our situations. Phil. 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Thought Closet

Thought Closet“Yep” says Jennifer Rothschild, “between your pierced ears and beneath your colored hair, you have a thought closet. It is full of everything you say to yourself. And what you put in your thought closet is what you will wardrobe your life with. So, our thought closets need daily attention to keep them in the condition Christ intended.”

Last weekend, I attended a Jennifer Rothschild conference. Jennifer is a beautiful blind lady who has an amazing walk with God. In her recent blog, she spoke of a “Thought Closet.” I was intrigued and read on. Here are some thoughts that resonated with me.

“God declares that all has become new (2 Corinthians 5:17)! That means the old, grimy gunk is gone and you are clean, renewed, and fresh. Sometimes, though, our thought closets can get awfully cluttered. What God made “new” can become dingy and neglected. Oh, girl, when this happens, it’s easier to find ourselves struggling with self-loathing, negative attitudes, and accepting lies as truth. So, how can we keep our thought closets new and clean?”

“We must tell ourselves the truth about who we are and what we have in Christ. Scripture says that our newness comes with a beautiful wardrobe. We renew our minds when we speak truth about what we have in Christ.

  • A New Heart (Ezekiel 11:19)
  • A New Song (Psalm 40:3)
  • New Mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • A New Spirit (Romans 7:6)
  • A New Self (Ephesians 4:24)

If you lack any of these new things, “talk truth to yourself. Speak out loud to your soul statements that reinforce what God has given you: a new heart, a new song, a new soul, new mercies. That’s one way to keep your thought closet new and clean.

“In Psalm 57:8, David told his soul to “awake” in the midst of his failures. The Hebrew word “awake” is used 65 times in the Old Testament. It means to rouse oneself, incite, or to stir up. Sometimes we become sleepy and apathetic toward some of our poor choices and negative attitudes…. When we tell our souls to “awake,” as David did, we become alert…and are amazed by God’s grace.”

So, let’s allow God’s Word to renew our minds with Truth as we spring clean our thought closet.

Olympic Issue

A OlympicsHave you ever heard God’s voice as a voice of conviction and you knew He was right? I have to confess that recently, I lost my biblical perspective and actually enjoyed doing something that is counter to my belief system. We were watching the Olympics and especially enjoy the skiing segments. We all know that there have been some very vocal people from the American Olympic teams who have chosen to use their status as a platform for their vitriol against our president. They are happy to be part of the Olympics representing the American people, but wanted everyone to know they were in no way representing Trump. So, my thinking was, well, I and over 60 million Trump supporters are part of the American people that you are racing for. If you’re going to disrespect our president, then, I will pray that you do poorly in the Olympics. I hope you mess up your events and win no medals. I would rather see a foreign country go home with medals than someone who has contempt for our president. So there!

Throughout the week, I felt a kind of smugness about my prayer. I felt it was right to pray against this kind of outspoken poison. Then, we went out to dinner with some friends Saturday night and during the conversation, I self-righteously expressed how I had been praying a particular Olympian would lose and I gleefully shared how my prayer was answered and they came in 5th in their event which meant…no medal for them.

My friend didn’t say anything to my diatribe but gave me a pained look. I immediately recognized that look as conviction by the Holy Spirit. God was not happy with my attitude. My balloon popped. I knew that wishing and even praying for someone to fail is not a correct biblical response. God reminded me that we’re to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This person did poorly in her event and was dismayed and I was rejoicing. Right there in the restaurant, I quietly asked God to forgive me. Then I asked Him to bless her in any upcoming events. Later, I thanked my friend for that look and explained how I was convicted of my sin.

It was I who had been on a “slippery slope,” (pun intended) going downhill fast in my witness for Christ. I think there are times when we must be sensitive to and thankful for correction from God. This was that kind of time for me. While I still don’t like anyone’s vocal disdain of our president, I learned it’s important to leave them in God’s hands. By wishing ill on them, was I not doing just what they were doing? Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

New Book is Out!

Betsy with booksI’m excited to tell you that my new book, “Come Walk the Narrow Path with Me,” is now available locally at Great Lakes Coffee Shop where I will also have a book signing on Thursday, February 15th from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. If you are local, I also have books to sell. You can contact me through this website. And, of course, all three of my books are on amazon.com.

If you are looking for a book to encourage and inspire you in your walk with Jesus when it comes to sharing your faith, this book is for you. Most books on witnessing are “how to” books. This one is over 35 true stories of actually talking to people about faith. Each opportunity is unique, planned by God, and a rich hands on experience. You will see that when we listen for God’s nudging and step out in faith, He shows up and reveals what to say.

God calls us to be “fisher’s of men.” We are to simply deliver His message of salvation to people. You will read about everyday people that God has opened doors for me to talk to about Jesus. People on airplanes and in foreign countries, neighbors, friends, women in jail, relatives, grocery store, tow truck drivers. Jesus loves everyone and has a plan for every life.  Witnessing is simply partnering with the Lord, allowing God to initiate and then sharing who He is with people.

My New Book!

Book Cover1

I’m excited to let you know that my new book, “Come Walk the Narrow Path with Me,” will be available mid January. This book is filled with personal testimonies of unique opportunities God has given me to share my faith over the years. As Christians, we are called to be witnesses, simply telling others about Jesus. I think you will find my stories compelling as you read about various people God has brought across my path and their varied responses to Jesus’ offer of eternal life. I’ll let you know when it’s available.