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Tag Archives: Obedience

When God Opens a Door

Bad Alley

Credit: Bad Alley, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/7zhC67)

“If I hadn’t been on board, I would have just missed out on a blessing.”

One semester after the prayer group began, my friend Anneliese volunteered to keep the nightly meetings going while the founder studied abroad in China. While she felt called to the task, Anneliese also thought she would be the only person to show up at all.

Her roommate committed to come with her, and soon Anneliese began inviting other friends from the campus. By the time the group’s founder returned, the group had attracted a core of students.

“They wanted to have that close-knit friend group where they knew each other intimately and wanted to be able to not only pray together but live together and live out what God was calling us to do,” Anneliese said.

She realized volunteering had been a small act of obedience to God’s will that had blossomed, but she knew the prayer group would have happened somehow, with or without her. “It might not have looked the same way,” she said, “but God definitely wanted some people to be gathering in prayer, because there were just so many aspects of students wanting to reach out more, to come into a deep relationship with Christ…through prayer specifically.”

When the Jews in Persia were threatened with imminent death, Queen Esther was in a unique position to appeal to the king on their behalf. It meant risking her life, but her adoptive father warned, ““Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).

Esther had a choice. She could use her position to save God’s people, or she could ignore God’s call and stay where it seemed safest. But without her help, the roles would reverse. God would still rescue his people, and she would be the one who would suffer.

Anneliese told me, “I’m so glad that I did not miss out on the blessing and to realize that tiny acts that I might not realize now…that those are opportunities to continue to get on board with what God’s doing.”

Lately, God’s put several choices in my lap. But it’s been clear which ones were doors God, like a modern gentleman, held open for me. If God’s will is “good, pleasing, and perfect,” then it’s just stubborn ridiculousness to turn away from his open doors (Romans 12:2). As Paul argues, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

I don’t believe God will curse me if I don’t take the open doors offered to me. Then again, it might be enough of a curse to miss out on God’s plans.

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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

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“Here I Am”

After my boss told me about the company layoffs, I realized that I have the time to write this post. For one reason or another, I made other priorities. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

My job required frequent reading and study of the Bible. Some months back, I can’t remember exactly when, I came across Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of God’s throne. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the creatures worshiping the Lord purifies Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, thus making the prophet able to stand before God’s throne without guilt. Then in verse 8, God speaks from his throne, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah volunteers without hesitation, like a child eager to please his father. “Here I am! Send me.”

For the child, any opportunity to work with his father feels like a special mission just for him. It is an honor. Isaiah doesn’t know the job description yet. All he knows is that God has accepted him, and now he will take any task from his Father.

As I read this scene, it reminded me of God’s call to Samuel. He responded in a similar way even before he realized he had heard God’s voice. In 1 Samuel 3, the boy runs to his guardian, Eli, crying, “Here I am!” Confused, Eli sends the boy away. This happens twice more before Eli guesses that the Lord is the one speaking. Samuel had mistaken the voice, but he still had the right response. He got up from bed every time to obey the call. He came to Eli ready for whatever the priest had to tell him.

“Here I am.” These three words stuck with me ever since. Recently, I decided to see where else it appears in the Bible. It turns out that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and lesser-known Ananias all used this simple prayer. In each case, these words mean more than, “I’m listening.” Three short words succinctly express a willingness to hear God and a submission to his direction. These are words of obedience and service. The longer version would be: “Here I am, ready and willing. What do you desire or request? Say the word. Everything I am is yours.”

This prayer is not for the faint of heart. Abraham was told to sacrifice his heir and beloved son (Gen. 22:1-2).

Jacob was sent to his homeland, which he had fled in order to escape his brother’s vengeance (Gen. 31:11, 13). Later in his life, Jacob prayed this after hearing that his son Joseph was alive and a ruler of Egypt. God tells him to not be afraid to go to Egypt, where he would die and his descendants later became a nation in slavery (Gen. 46:2-3). Several generations later, Moses prays the same way when God calls to him out of a burning bush, and God sends him into Egypt to free his people. When David’s son Absalom rebels against him, David is forced to

A reminder I made for myself

A reminder I made for myself

retreat from Jerusalem. But he trusts God’s judgment and tells his priest, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam. 15:25-26, emphasis added). Finally, there’s Ananias: the disciple in Damascus whom God chose to visit Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish militant arresting Christians (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias essentially says to God, “Are you kidding me?”

With these “encouraging” stories to guide me, I decided to take up the challenge. I re-evaluated my life and asked where God wanted me to go next. I prayed, “Here I am.” Pretty soon, God presented me with the opportunity to be a small group leader with students at my alma mater. The offer took me by surprise, and I had to stop and ask if it was really God’s voice. Sure, I had said the prayer, but this wasn’t the response I had expected.

Then this past week, my boss told me the bad news. Another surprise. Several positions, including mine, had to be cut from the company budget. Suddenly, I didn’t have work the next day. One phone call, and I had 40 extra hours of free time each week.

So here I am, Lord. Say the word.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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