For the Journey: Souls are Waiting

Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning before leaving for church, I worked on a Sunday School lesson for teens from Acts 16, and since it won’t turn loose, I thought I’d share.

In this chapter, Paul and those traveling with him go from place to place as the Holy Spirit directs sharing the gospel.  They come to a place called Troas, and Paul receives his Macedonian call.  He has a vision of a man from Macedonia pleading with him to come to Macedonia and help them.  Paul and those with him waste no time making their way to Macedonia, knowing this is where the Lord wants them to be.

When Paul and his company arrive in Philippi of Macedonia, it doesn’t take long for them to discover why God called them there.  When the Sabbath rolls around, they go to a place of prayer outside the city by a river and speak to the women gathered there.  One of the women, Lydia, a seller of purple, already worshipped God but apparently hadn’t heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Lord opens her heart, and her whole household is saved and baptized.

The Lord calls Paul to Macedonia because there are souls waiting there, souls in need of help, souls ready to receive the gospel.

Later in the chapter, in the midst of being beaten and imprisoned for doing the work of the Lord and then miraculously freed, Paul and Silas are able to lead the Philippian jailer and his entire house to the Lord.

Again, we see souls were waiting in Macedonia, souls desperately needing to hear the gospel.

All over the world today, souls are waiting.  Precious souls.  Souls loved and valued by God.  Souls waiting for God’s people to go where He says go and do what He says do.  Souls waiting for Christians’ actions to match their words.  Souls waiting for believers to hear and answer the Macedonian call in their lives.  Souls waiting to hear the gospel.  Souls that if not reached will spend eternity separated from God.  Don’t fail the souls waiting on you to answer God’s call.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Called

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while now, but due to the million other things clamoring for my attention, I haven’t actually sat down to attempt writing it until now.  But, since I haven’t been able to get away from it and since I was blessed to attend an ordination service for a young man this past Sunday whose family are dear church friends which brought it even more to the forefront of my mind, I figured I better give it a go.

My younger brother is also my pastor, and from time to time in his sermons, he shares his testimony about being called to be a preacher.  Though I’ve heard it on more than one occasion and though I was there the night he answered the call, I still never tire of hearing his story, nor did I tire of hearing my Dad’s story when I sat under his preaching all my growing up years.  Every time they share their testimonies, you can feel the passion they have for their call.  You can tell it has their heart and their soul and that they are completely devoted to it.  Perhaps it comes from so much time surrounded by people called of God to a special work, or perhaps it comes from striving, and sometimes struggling, to live my own calling, but I’ve recently been fascinated by the various accounts in Scripture of God’s calling men and by how many there are.  Some He calls to be prophets, some judges, some kings, some disciples, and others missionaries.  Their calls are personal, unique to them, and they certainly don’t all respond in the same way.

When God calls Moses, he has a whole string of excuses and finally just begs the Lord to send someone else.  When God calls Gideon, he wants to know how he, the least of his poor family in Manasseh, can possibly save Israel.  Then, he consistently struggles with serious doubts.  Samuel receives his call at a very young age, and his first assignment is a doozy.  He has to tell his mentor, the major father-figure in his life, that judgment is coming and no sacrifice or offering can purge the sins of his house.  David receives his call when he’s still a young shepherd when this same Samuel comes and anoints him to be the next king of Israel.  It’s a call that puts him in mortal danger on multiple occasions and for the longest time seems like a call merely to wait.  When Isaiah receives his call, first, he recognizes his undone condition.  Then, he eagerly says, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8), but he still wants to know for how long.  And God says until there’s nothing left.  When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, it’s a call for them to leave their livelihoods behind.  When He calls James and John, it’s a call to leave their livelihoods and leave their father sitting in the ship.  When God calls Paul, it’s a call to suffering (Acts 9:16).  Over and over, God chose to inspire the writers of Scripture to include God’s call to various people and how they responded to it, which leads me to believe being called by God is extremely significant for several reasons.

Callings are scary.

There’s a reason Moses immediately jumps to excuses and begs God to send someone else.  The Lord calls him to leave where he’s safe and comfortable keeping his father-in-law’s sheep and jump into a role that seems so far beyond his capabilities.  Gideon, too, felt completely inadequate.  Callings are scary.  Whether it’s the call to be a pastor or the call to be a Christian scientist proving faith and science are not mutually exclusive, callings come with a huge weight, a terrifying weight, of responsibility.  They come with the knowledge that if you fail, you didn’t fail a mere man; you failed an almighty God.

Callings are hard work.

Because there’s so much at stake if you fail, because the call is so important, callings are hard work.  It wasn’t easy for Samuel to go to Eli and tell him there was no hope for his household.  It wasn’t easy for David to spend years on the run.  It’s not easy for a pastor to comfort a couple who’s just lost their child.  It’s not easy for someone called to be a missionary to leave their family behind and travel to the other side of the world.  Sometimes callings look like sleepless nights.  Sometimes callings look like working nights and weekends.  Sometimes they look like feeling like you’ve given all you can possibly give and still having to find a little more to give.

Callings are costly.

After His resurrection, Jesus comes to Peter telling him to feed His sheep.  In the midst of this conversation, Jesus tells Peter following Him will cost Peter his life but to follow anyway.  Peter, knowing the cost, obeys.  And, Peter is far from the only one in Scripture who’s call costs him his life.  There’s John the Baptist, Stephen, Paul, and the list goes on.  Your call hopefully won’t cost you your life, though it certainly could, but, it will cost.  It’ll cost you time and energy.  It may cost you friends.  It may cost you a job.  It may cost you your dreams, your timetable, your plans and aspirations…  It’ll cost, and you’ll feel the cost.

Callings are worth it.

As I just mentioned, Peter knows without a shadow of a doubt because he hears it straight from the Lord’s mouth that his call will cost him his life, yet he follows anyway.  Callings must be worth it.  In Philippians, Paul, who’s suffered and suffered greatly (stoning, beatings, imprisonment…), tells the church at Philippi that he wants to die and be with Christ, yet he wants to remain because there’s still work for him.  He’s torn.  His sole desire is not to escape, which would seem perfectly natural given his circumstances.  Callings must be worth it.

In 2015, I began writing Sunday School literature in earnest, but then most of you already know that.  It’s what I felt called to do at 17.  It just took me awhile to actually get started.  Trust me; that call is scary.  What if I write the wrong thing?  What if I can’t meet my deadlines?  Or, there’s my biggest fear.  What if I sit down one day and the gift is gone because I wasn’t a good steward of it or because I got prideful?  What if God took it away?  Could I even go on living?  That call is hard work.  There have been numerous occasions when I genuinely wanted to cry because I was so tired but didn’t really have the time to do so.  That call is costly.  Ask me if I’m where I wanted to be at 25 or if I even know how or if I’ll ever get there, and you will get a resounding, “No!”  It cost my plans.  It cost some goals that weren’t bad in themselves.  All that said, that call is so very worth it to me.  In the midst of pursuing my call, God has opened up doors and provided opportunities I certainly didn’t deserve.  He’s allowed me to do things I didn’t even think I was capable of.  He’s been with me in an incredible way.  And, when I most need it, He’s proven over and over that He is faithful to send just the right encouragement at just the right moment.  But, more than that, in calling me, He gave my life purpose.  And, that is priceless.  There’s a contentment I never knew before For the Journey.  That thing that was lacking that I couldn’t put my finger on isn’t lacking anymore, and I wouldn’t trade being called for anything in the world.

I didn’t share all of that to brag on myself.  If anything, I hope it was very obvious that it’s a God thing, not a Sam thing.  I did share it to say, if God’s calling you to something, you better answer.  It may be scary.  It may seem downright impossible.  But, if God’s doing the calling, He’s already got it all worked out.  You can trust Him.  And, the blessings that will come from your obedience will be incredible beyond words.

In case you read this whole post (Sorry, I got a little carried away.) thinking, “But, I’m not called to be a preacher.  I’m not called to be a musician.  I’m not called to be a missionary.  I don’t feel like I’m called to be anything in particular,” you’re called to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.  You’re called to live the Gospel.  That’s plenty to keep you busy.  And, that’s scary, hard, costly, but worth it as well.  You’re called.  Living that call is entirely up to you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For the Journey: Share your struggles

My mother informed me earlier this week that it had been awhile since I blogged.  After a fun, three-day vacation to Branson, I’m not sure blogging was the best use of my time tonight, but while I was working on a Sunday School lesson from Daniel 4 earlier this evening, this touched my heart, so I wanted to share.

If you haven’t read Daniel 4 in a while, it’s King Nebuchadnezzar’s letter to “all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth” (Daniel 4:1), in which he shares the story of his being humbled by God and then restored to his kingdom. 

After this experience, Nebuchadnezzar is so changed from the arrogant and proud king who said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) that he’s humble enough to share what had to be an absolutely humiliating experience with the world.  I mean, going from being a mighty and powerful king to living as a beast and eating grass until “his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:33) gives whole new meaning to the word embarrassing.  In his shoes, most of us would probably make forgetting said experience our number one goal.  Yet, Nebuchadnezzar chooses to share it with the world because he wants the world to know the King of heaven, the God of great signs and mighty wonders, the God able to abase those who walk in pride.  He wants the world to learn and grow from his struggle.

In our own lives, there are times when we need to be humble enough to share our struggles.  Sometimes our missteps, humiliating experiences, and secret battles with temptation can be used to God’s glory when we humbly share them and the lessons we’ve learned with others.  Our job as Christians is to strive for perfection, not pretend to have already attained it.  And, although it can be extremely difficult to own up to our faults and be vulnerably honest with another person (or persons, as the case may be), if doing so helps a brother or sister in Christ who’s struggling or helps a lost person view Christians in a new and better light and long to know more about God, then it’s worth it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For the Journey: Just You

Last week, I started working on a lesson for teens from 1 Samuel 17, the very familiar story of David and Goliath, because I’m doing a set of lessons for teens from childhood Sunday School favorites.  The idea is to go deeper, emphasize how much these stories still have to teach us.

In the story of David and Goliath, after David convinces Saul to let him go out and fight Goliath, Saul arms David in his armor.  David has the helmet on; he’s wearing the coat of mail; he has the sword.  But, he can’t go.  He hasn’t proved Saul’s armor.  It’s not what he knows, what he’s accustomed to.  So, he opts for his staff, his sling, and five smooth stones.  If he’s going to go out and face Goliath, he has to do so as David.  Fighting Goliath is the work God has for David at this particular moment.  The armies of Israel have already passed up chance after chance to go out and face the giant.  After all, Goliath has presented himself to them morning and evening for 40 days.  That’s 80 missed opportunities.  God doesn’t need a soldier.  He needs a young shepherd who will prove that the battle is the Lord’s.

Now, obviously people grow and change.  In time, David, who had already served as Saul’s armorbearer prior to facing Goliath, becomes an incredibly successful warrior, one who only stops fighting when his men tell him he can’t go to war with them anymore after he gets tired in the midst of a battle and is almost killed.  But, he wasn’t that experienced warrior yet, and he couldn’t pretend to be.  He meets Goliath simply as David, a faithful shepherd, and God uses him to bring about an incredible victory.

Whatever work God has for you to do, He needs you to do it as you.  Just you.  You can’t do the work God has for you to do dressed as or acting as someone else.  You can’t do the work God has for you longing for the talents and gifts He’s given someone else.  And, you can’t do the work God has for you to do convinced you’re not capable.  Whatever work God has called you to do, He’s equipped you for it.  He made you for it.  Your talents and abilities, your life experiences, even your struggles and quirks are exactly what you need for the task.  God needs you.  Just you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For the Journey For Kids: Sneak Peek

I’ve mentioned working on children’s literature in a few previous posts.  I think I’m far enough along to share a sneak peek.  Each lesson obviously has a story from the Bible along with a worksheet of review questions and an application section to help the kids know how the story applies to their everyday lives.  The lessons also have a craft, activity, and/or coloring page.

I wish I could put into words how much of a blessing this process has been for me.  I was so sure children’s literature was absolutely impossible, that there was no way I could do it.  I had a list of excuses a mile long:  I don’t have time; I’m not artistic enough; writing on a child’s level is difficult for me; I’m not creative enough; the list went on and on.  Then, there was this moment where I couldn’t help thinking, “But, what if with God’s help I can?”  And, in that moment, I knew I had to try.  Since then, I’ve been learning that sometimes God lets us do our impossible, which as far as life lessons go is pretty awesome.

“…for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)

 

Illustration for Lessons in Faith: “Midwives and a Mother Demonstrate Great Faith”

 

Craft to go with it!

 

Coloring page for Lessons in Faith: “Fishing for Men”

 

Lessons in Faith tags for classroom

 

Illustration for Lessons in Parables: “Pride and Humility”

 

Craft for Lessons in Parables: “Where’s Your Treasure?”

 

If you like what you’ve seen and would like to see a sample lesson, feel free to contact me.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For the Journey: A Matter of Timing

I recently quit my primary job.  (For the record, I wouldn’t recommend doing that before you have another job.  I wouldn’t have recommended it before I did it and certainly wouldn’t now.  But, when you’re angry and frustrated all the time and don’t even feel like yourself anymore, something has to give.)  For about the first two weeks, I did really well.  Other than trying to process the wave of emotions that comes with losing something you once genuinely loved and frankly being pretty hurt about it, I was excited to not be working three jobs and putting in an insane number of hours.  I felt like I could breathe again.  I was eager to get to focus more on writing Sunday School literature.  (I’m so much closer on children’s literature and crazy excited about it.)  I was telling myself I was not the fresh-out-of-college 21-year-old kid I had been the last time I was looking for a job and that it would not be the nightmare it was then.  And, for me at least, that’s doing really well.

But, two weeks turned into a month and then a month and a couple of weeks, and I soon realized I wasn’t doing quite so well anymore.  I applied for a few jobs without hearing anything, went to a couple of interviews that didn’t result in a job, didn’t apply for a couple of jobs I thought I could really enjoy because they would require working on Sundays, etc., etc.  Now, I’ve decided while I may not be that 21-year-old kid anymore, job hunting and interviews are still a nightmare.

So, lately, I’ve been trying to channel all my stubbornness into not letting myself get depressed, having faith that there’s going to be a job I can enjoy (and hopefully soon), and continuing to enjoy writing and working at the store, two of my favorite things, in the meantime.  So, that’s kind of where my head’s been of late.

Last week, I was proofing and putting finishing touches on the lessons I wrote from John for the upcoming quarter so I could start printing this week.  When I came to the lesson I wrote about the raising of Lazarus, I couldn’t help thinking that I’m pretty sure I write more for me than for anyone else.  I started to share then but decided that would require being more open and honest than I cared to be.  Then, this week, my brother used the story of Lazarus Wednesday night at church, and then it came up in conversation at the store again today, so I can’t seem to get away from it.

I’m sure you know the story.  Mary and Martha are both so sure Jesus is late, so sure that nothing can be done at this point.  I mean, their brother’s dead–four-days dead in fact.  But, Jesus’ actions are completely intentional.  He purposefully stays two days more where He is when He receives word Lazarus is sick.  He knows before He goes that Lazarus is dead and tells His disciples as much.  Yet, He still goes because God’s plan was never for Jesus to heal Lazarus.  He had something much better in mind.  His plan was for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, displaying His resurrection power.

Waiting on God’s timing is often just plain hard.  Mary and Martha are completely devastated by the time Jesus arrives.  However, that changes very quickly when they realize firsthand that God’s timing is perfect.  In life, there will be times when we are sick and tired of waiting, whether that’s waiting on a job, or waiting for answers, or closure, or any number of things.  There will be times when it seems like surely God must be running behind.  But, He never is.  And when the timing is right, we will know that firsthand, and the wait will have been more than worth it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For the Journey: Knowing God

As far as new literature for adults goes, this quarter I’m writing lessons from the Gospel of John, and earlier this week, I worked on a lesson from John 17, which is a pretty incredible chapter of Scripture.  Jesus’ death is fast-approaching, and knowing all that’s about to transpire, Jesus prays for Himself but also for His disciples and for believers all the way up to us today.

At the beginning of His prayer, He mentions that God has given Him power over all flesh to give eternal life, and in the very next verse, He says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).  He defines eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son.  He doesn’t talk about Heaven or streets of gold or rejoicing around the throne or reunions with loved ones who’ve gone on or any of the things we, as Christians, often think of when we think of eternal life.  Rather, He says this is eternal life:  knowing the true God and Jesus whom He sent.

This verse, this definition, jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since.  Without knowing and believing in the true God and in the work of His Son, there’s no hope of eternal life.  Then, at death or the end of time, those given the gift of eternal life will get to know God in a way we never even came close to knowing Him in this life.  We’ll get to see and be with our Savior forever.

Here’s what bothers me, though:  if eternal life is knowing the true God, why are so many who claim to be Christians not hungry to know more about Him right now?  Why are so many Christians sporadic in their church attendance and simply not delving into God’s Word to know more of Him in the here and now?  If we don’t want to devote time to knowing God and having a close personal relationship with Him now, how can we expect an eternity of knowing Him in all His fullness?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized