Recently, I spoke at the Yahweh Book Club in Fort Wayne, IN. It was a fun evening with some sweet ladies as I shared from my book, “Come Walk the Narrow Path with Me.” This book is composed of close to 40 stories God has given me opportunities to share my faith. You can see the video at: https://www.facebook.com/HearingGodsVoice/
Sometimes God uses a sermon to speak a life changing word into our hearts. Last Sunday we visited our daughter’s church, Maple City Chapel in Goshen, IN. What an amazing sermon we heard as the associate pastor, Gary Miller, talked about Lamentations 3:22 -23, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.”
If Jesus is faithful to extend compassion to us every morning, then that means we never run out. God’s compassion is renewed to us each and every day in the morning. So, when we get up, we are immediately endowed and filled with all the compassion we will need for that day. It is a continual, renewable asset that God makes sure we receive every day of our lives.
Since we have never ending compassion poured into our lives, does that mean there is an expectation that we will then use it to pour out onto others? Are we like David who, though he didn’t have to, chose to seek out someone to show compassion to? In II Samuel 9:1, David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” David was the king. He didn’t have to reach out with compassion but he chose to.
Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son was crippled yet was shown great favor by David as he invited him to his house to live and restored his land to him. What motivated David? Compassion.
In the New Testament, we could ask, “What motivated the good Samaritan to help out the man along the road while others passed him by? Why did the Samaritan offer help? What was in it for him? Nothing, except the opportunity to show compassion.
Interestingly, neither David nor the Samaritan counted the cost before they offered compassion yet both paid a price for their kindness. Nevertheless, the motivation to show mercy was strong.
I guess the question for us is: Since God promises to fill us with compassion each morning, how are we using it in practical ways to serve others? Jesus’ exhortation to His listeners as He told the Samaritan story was, “Go and do the same.” Maybe we could start off our days by asking, “God, who would you like me to show compassion to today?”
Grace Requires Nothing of Me
“The list goes on forever
of all the ways I could better
in my mind.
As if I could earn God’s favor given time
or at least ‘congratulations.’
Now I have learned my lesson
the price of this so-called perfection
I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”
– “Atlas: One” by Sleeping at Last
(A young friend, Kat Lovell, shares a clear word from God regarding grace.)
The words of this song brought a serious, much-needed perspective shift to my life last week. They were first read aloud to me by a friend while I sat on her bed and cried as I shared the frustrations sitting on my heart. Throughout the week I continued to pull the lyrics up, quietly considering them again and again.These are the words that stuck out to me, that really hit home: “Grace requires nothing of me.”
Hearing those words felt like remembering something that I had almost forgotten––something very important. It felt like waking up. So, some context: I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist for years. I used to think that I simply had high expectations for myself, and that it was a good thing (and don’t get me wrong, that can be a good thing). However, there is a major pitfall to all those expectations, and it really sneaks up on you.
Here’s what happened, as a result of my perfectionism: I developed this image of who I thought I should be, and whenever I didn’t live up to that image, I criticized myself relentlessly. I was always trying to be “enough.” Kind enough, smart enough, thoughtful enough, good enough. To be the perfect teacher, friend, student––everything. And when I didn’t feel “enough,” I berated myself and tried harder. But that didn’t make me better––it just made me a tired, striving, burnt-out girl.
By beating myself up for perceived imperfections, I had become subconsciously convinced that God would not really love me unless I was perfect. But oh, how far that is from the truth.
We say “comparison is the thief of joy” a lot. It’s easy to notice comparison when you’re comparing yourself to another person and judging your qualities against theirs. But a more subtle type of comparison comes when we are judging ourselves against the person we’re convinced that we should be. But grace does not require us to be perfect in order to receive it. It is so good to recognize weaknesses, and to seek growth in those areas. But when your full focus is on your own weakness, that can so easily become how you define yourself.
Habbakuk 3 says:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
YET I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Worth does not come from success.
Value does not come from accomplishments.
Purpose does not come from a completed to-do list.
There will still be crappy days, low grades, cranky moods, gloomy skies. And if you and I are trying to glean satisfaction from ourselves and what we can do on our own––we’re going to feel like straight-up failures. But when our worth/value/purpose/joy comes from knowing that there is a God who is with us and doing such great, wonderful things in us, even when we don’t feel it? THAT brings a sweet relief and a calm that whispers into the gloom: “It’s okay. I AM enough. Trust Me.”
To live a life that speaks a message of grace, we must first have grace with ourselves. Self-betterment is a good goal––but that doesn’t mean pushing yourself down whenever you mess up. It means looking at your messy places with compassion. It means seeing yourself exactly as you are, and saying: “I am not all that I think I should be. But I am also not who I once was. I am growing. I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately,
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”
With Easter coming up and our thoughts on Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is something else said about Jesus that we often overlook and seldom, if ever, talk about. It’s something that, if noticed, could bring profound comfort and freedom. Can you find it in Isa. 53:4, 5?
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Have you ever considered that Jesus not only carried our sin to the cross, but He also carried our sorrow and grief? Read the verses again. Do you see it? Jesus is acquainted with our emotions. Who has not felt the darkness of sorrow or grief, alone in loss, regret or disappointment?
What comfort to recognize Jesus not only understands but actually bore our mourning, our heartache and anguish on the cross just as surely as He bore our sin. This is a beautiful, seldom recognized benefit that we must not trivialize.
It’s not just the sudden tragedies that produce profound darkness. Sometimes grief and sorrow stretch out over years or even an entire lifetime. A dying marriage, the silence from a prodigal child, the paralyzing fear of a son or daughter on drugs, the pain of failure, or financial loss of a job …. Darkness produced by a deep and terrifying sorrow.
The Suffering Servant, Jesus, was Himself “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…,” the One who willfully embraced our sorrow and grief on the cross just as surely as He carried our sins.
Jesus bore the burden of our grief’s and sorrows every bit as much as He bore the full weight of our sins and iniquities! If Isaiah got it right that, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities …and with his wounds we are healed”, then he was also right about Jesus bearing our grief’s and carrying our sorrows! And if sin shall not have dominion over the believer because He healed us of our sins, then neither shall sorrow and grief continue to have the power to bury us in darkness. That is a thought worth celebrating. What joy to contemplate what Jesus did to set us free!
Yes, there is a way out from the prison cell of sorrow! Praise God! It’s the same cross that sets us free from the consequence of our sins. And it’s also the same faith that does it. If you let Jesus bear your sins on Calvary’s cross then you must let Him bear your sorrow and grief as well.
“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12).
Sometimes, remarkable things happen in life where God speaks with such a quiet voice that we need to be alert or we will miss that it is He who has directed. Sometimes, these situations are more like guidance. Let me share an example that recently happened to me.
I had been involved in jail ministry for close to 4 years and was sensing my time there was coming to a close at least for a season. Abruptly, one Sunday, I knew I was done and felt the Lord had a new direction He was about to take me. Within a few weeks, a friend from Florida, Aly, who is president and CEO of Prayer Sisters International called me. She had recently returned from Africa where she had been asked to speak at a conference. “Betsy, I met some amazing women in Kenya who have been praying for someone to teach them the Bible. Would you be interested?” She went on, “While these women are leaders in their churches, they need someone to teach them.”
“I’ll pray about it,” I said. “That sounds right up my alley.” I love spiritual adventures and this definitely sounded intriguing. Two of the women, Josephine and Salome, are pastors along with their husbands, and the third lady, Grace, along with her husband, had started a Christian school with over 800 students. Two of the ladies are conference speakers with rigorous schedules. Wow! I felt humbled that God wanted to entrust such spiritual women to me for ministry in the Word. Of course, I said, “Yes.” So, each week I email them a lesson and then meet individually with them to study the book of Colossians. Our time together is sweet and God’s presence is evident.
But that’s not the end of the story. In conversation with Grace, she mentioned to me that her son lives in Atlanta, here in America. Until recently, he had been working with the Dream Center of Atlanta, a non-profit that reaches out to the homeless, addicts, at risk children, and trafficked women. “How, interesting,” I exclaimed. “It just ‘happens’ that I’ll be in Atlanta in early December. Our women’s ministry leader, Carolyn, is taking a team of us to work at Samaritan’s Purse processing center for the children’s Christmas shoebox ministry. I would love to meet your son.”
With that, Grace gave me her son’s contact information which I immediately followed up on. Carolyn and her team are always looking for new missions projects. Arrangements were made and we had an amazing time with the Dream Center staff. Carolyn felt it was an anointed time and her team, upon arriving home, immediately began forming a plan of how we can reach out in our community.
I tell of these events because this is how God often works. He is all about people and loves networking. God was at work when He spoke to me to teach the Kenyan women. It wasn’t a loud voice I heard. It was more of a knowing. Something in my heart felt a passion to do this. Nor was it a loud voice that said go work at Samaritan’s Purse in Atlanta for a week. It was an inner desire to help with that ministry. And it wasn’t a coincidence that a connection from Africa to Atlanta landed us at the Dream Center. God was moving all the pieces into place. Sometimes, His guidance doesn’t require a “voice” but rather a confidence of heart. Proverbs 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
During my first six months in Israel I lived in a house on the Mount of Olives owned by our family friend, the Keeper of the Garden Tomb. Sadly he had been killed in the Six Day War, fought just four months before I arrived in Jerusalem.
Every morning I would wake up and open the shutters of my large window, for a straight-on view of the Mosque of Omar. It was like a dream—hard to believe I was here…on the Mount of Olives—a few yards away from where Yeshua will stand when He returns.
In 1967, the Arab population was still in shock over the totally unexpected collapse of the Jordanian attacking forces. Instead of the Arab Muslim victory they were all expecting, the Israel Defense Forces defeated Jordan, Egypt and Syria and retook Israel’s ancient homeland of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert—in just six days.
I noticed the Arabs would drive their few cars very carefully and politely—so as not to anger any Israeli driver! I could walk all over the Arab-populated Mount of Olives and felt perfectly safe. That was then.
I used to walk north towards Mount Scopus—which is really just an extension of the Mount of Olives. I would walk around the Hadassah Hospital which had laid in ruins since 1948 when Jordan conquered the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem. They had destroyed everything belonging to the Jewish population living there before 1948.
I loved to look down from the mountain towards the Dead Sea and across from there to the land of Moab. It was always a breathtaking view—Jerusalem situated on the cusp of the heights that separate the watered west side all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, from the desolate and barren Judean Desert to the east.
Believe it or not, I had brought my dog Mimi with me from the U.S. He was such a cutie that the pilot of the Alitalia flight invited me and Mimi to 1st class and insisted my dog could sit freely on the chair beside me.
So Mimi and I would roam the Mount of Olives taking pictures. At one point, I tied Mimi up to a pole of some kind, as the whole Mount was empty of anyone else as far as I could see, and I wanted to be free with both hands on my camera.
After a little while, I went back to get Mimi, but he was nowhere in sight. I ran around the whole area, but never saw a single person. My dog was just gone.
I sat down on the mountain and began to cry and cry. I said, “Lord, Mimi is the only “person” I have. He is all I have in this new land. I hardly know anyone here, and my dog is so important to me. Lord, someone has stolen my dog…” I was heartbroken.
Suddenly I got to my feet and said to myself, “I’m going to believe God to find my dog.” I started praying in the Spirit, and saying, “In the Name of Jesus (back in 1967, Israelis had not yet gone back to using Yeshua’s original name!) I ask you Lord to find my dog. I know you know where he is, and I proclaim in your Name that You will lead me to my dog!”
I looked around and still didn’t see a human being. I just started ambling down the hill in the direction of the Old City, praying my heart out and proclaiming in faith that God would restore my dog to me.
I hadn’t gone far when I saw a youth walking a half block ahead of me. I yelled at him and he turned around. When I walked up to him, I wanted to ask him if he had seen my dog. But I didn’t know a word of Arabic, or Hebrew, for that matter.
So I just waved my hands like I had lost something and I started saying “Erf Erf Erf.” I didn’t think that “Bow Wow” would be a word that an Arab could figure out.
He looked at me for a minute. And then he waved with his hand for me to follow him. Still on the mountain, he began to take me through alleys this way and that, winding around a crowded neighborhood of housing I didn’t know existed. I was proclaiming victory with every fiber of my being. Finally he pointed at a door and left.
I knocked. No answer. More knocking, until finally a woman dressed in a traditional Arab garment opened the door. I said, “Erf Erf Erf!” I made my hands like I was carrying a small animal. The woman shook her head as if she didn’t understand. I continued, “Erf Erf Erf!” Now my faith was working, and I had no intention of leaving the place without my answer to prayer.
Finally she disappeared for a minute and voilà! Out came Mimi! I smiled at the lady and without waiting for a response, took off with my dog.
At that moment, I felt the Lord clearly taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. I heard Him speak to my heart: “If you had just sat down on the mountain and cried your eyes out, sobbing and wailing, you would not have gotten your dog back. When you stood up, spoke out your request in faith, and then just started moving, I guided you back to Mimi.”
And Mimi lived to a ripe old age in Jerusalem.
Just start moving! Faith and action is what we have lived by all of these years in our ministry in Israel.
Sometimes, it takes many years for a prayer to be answered and interestingly, when we cry out to God, sometimes, we aren’t even aware of how amazingly He will answer in His time. Such was the case in 1988 when the first Messianic Jewish Conference took place in Jerusalem, a conference to celebrate Israel’s 40th year of independence.
As preparations were being made for the conference, the planners ran into a difficult and seemingly insurmountable problem. In searching for a motel to house the attendees, not one hotel would house such an event for Messianic Jews. Beyond that dilemma, the event was planned on the Biblical holiday of Shavuot and on a Sabbath Eve when it would be against the law to use any electrical equipment. No microphones, loudspeakers or musical instruments allowed.
One hotel, the Diplomat hotel, who was filing for bankruptcy, didn’t care about the law and agreed to host the event. Quickly, the hotel filled with guest registrations. Finally, an overflow hotel was needed for 50 Hondurans. Eden hotel, located down the street served that purpose.
The evening of the event arrived with hundreds in attendance. After a passionate teaching by Dr. Michael Brown, the Spirit fell on the congregation with many praying in tongues until the wee hours of the morning.
While seemingly nothing notable came out of the prayer time that night, by faith, many felt they had seriously impacted heaven in the spirit.
Now, jump ahead 30 years to 2018, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The U.S. is moving their embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. After TV coverage of the building that would be the temporary embassy, they noted two other buildings that would be used for added space. Yes, you guessed it. The Diplomat Hotel and the Eden Hotel that had housed the Hondurans.
So, what do you think? Could God’s ultimate purpose in bringing together the first Messianic Jewish conference in Jerusalem have been for what is happening today in the restoration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the U.S embassy to Jerusalem? By the way, Honduras is the third nation to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Never underestimate the power of prayer.
Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.”
(The full article can be found at: https://www.maozisrael.org/magazine_issues/august-2018/ ).
Recently, we visited our daughter’s Vineyard church in Grand Rapids, a church that’s stepping out in the gifts of the spirit and finding blessing in the process. We were intrigued that the pastor is also empowering the children to minister in the service. No, I don’t think it was “Kids Sunday.” I think this is an intentional move to train the children early that they are an important part of the body and have much to offer.
Here’s how they involved the children in three ways. First, two children led the scripture reading and involved the congregation with responses written on the screen. Then they had communion with about half a dozen children picking up a cup and small roll and moving about the congregation serving us as we partook by pulling off a bit of bread and dipping it into the cup. Finally, at the end of the service, the prayer team came up front to pray for people and any children who wanted to join them in praying were invited as well. I needed prayer for an issue and felt the Lord wanted me to ask a couple of children to pray for me. Their mother was with them (as it should be) while her children prayed the sweetest prayer with such boldness and confidence. Their child-like prayers brought tears to my eyes.
Then an interesting thing happened. Bill and I both felt we had prophetic words for one of the children, a girl about 10 or 11 years old. We told her that we felt God was developing her into a leader and that He would continue to give her confidence to step out in ministry, that God had special plans for her in leadership and that He would use her gifts in the church. Bill told her he sensed a special anointing on her to speak into other’s lives, to call forth what God had put in them.
At that point, her mother became very excited and told us that she and her husband have been training their children in the gifts of the Spirit and that they had been praying that someone would bring a prophetic word to their daughter. And there we were. God had sent us to that particular child because He knew that she needed encouragement to step out in faith. Her mother was so grateful that we had stepped forward with a word in season.
With that, I felt strongly that the Lord wanted me to give her one of my books, “Speak to Me, Lord, I’m Listening.” It could be another tool for this family as they sought to hear God’s voice.
Can you see how gratifying it is to be used by God in people’s lives, all by partnering with God, listening for His voice and allowing and using our gifts to build up the body of Christ.
Let’s be a people tuned in to God so that when He sees someone needs a word of encouragement or comfort, we will be available for His use. All glory to God.
1Corinthians 14:3, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
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
Professor 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)