At a young age I felt like I was called into ministry. I began preparing and practicing, but honestly I was afraid of it. It was a dream that was in front of me, but the older I got, the further into the future this dream seemed to go. Then in a single day, the dream died. I went through a divorce that couldn’t be avoided. The denomination I was a part of at the time had a rule back then that you couldn’t be a minister if you were divorced. I was devastated by both the divorce and the fact that I could never be in ministry. All my life had been pointing to the dream of ministry and it was gone. Not only was I having to start life over, I was lost without a dream to guide me. That is until a friend told me,”Do you really think that man can negate God’s calling?”
In Ezekiel 37, God showed Ezekiel a valley of very dry bones. I imagine it was quite a sight to see. Dead people’s bones were scattered everywhere and there were none connected together I’m sure. As God showed him all these bones, He asked him a question in verse 3. “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (NLT) You and i both know that humanly it impossible for them to be brought back to life, but that’s not how Ezekiel answered. Instead of stating the obvious, he replied, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that.” At that answer, God told him to speak to those bones and prophesy to them to come alive and live again. Just like that the bones all came together and were covered with flesh. Then he was told to speak and prophesy the breath of life back into them and they became a living army.
You may be where I was once in feeling like your calling or the dream God gave you is dead and in the past. It doesn’t matter whether it’s anything you’ve done, someone has done to you or if it’s from not going after it in time. Man, including yourself, cannot take away God’s promises, nor His plan for your life. You may be looking at a valley of the dead bones of your dreams today, but God can make them live again. Speak to your dream. Speak life into it. If God has placed it in you, it will happen no matter what things look like today. Be like Ezekiel when you’re looking at what seems dead. Don’t pronounce that it can’t live again. Let God answer that question and watch Him begin to bring the pieces back together again.
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All of my life I felt called into ministry, but I kept putting it off until later. I figured I’d do my own thing first and then follow my calling. That was working until I got a divorce. I was devastated because I grew up in a denomination that at the time would not allow divorced people to be in ministry. I was discussing my plight with a friend one day about how I had waited too long to fulfill my calling. He almost chuckled and then said, “Do you really think that man can revoke God’s calling on your life?” It was the slap I needed to bring me back into reality.
God has numbered each of our days before we were born. He knows our future and the choices we will make. So when He makes a promise to us, He does so with full knowledge of the mistakes we’re going to make. He created each of us with a purpose to fulfill that only we can fulfill. He knows the bumps in the road we’re going to face, the sins we’re going to commit and the set backs we’re going to have when he gives purpose to our lives. Those things don’t revoke your purpose. They actually validate it and give your life the depth needed to reach people you otherwise couldn’t.
Psalm 138:8 says, “You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!” (TPT) God has not revoked your calling, nor will He walk away from the promises He made to you based on what you’ve done or been through. He will be faithful to complete it. He has not stopped loving you, and He still has a plan. Any mistake you’ve made has not nullified your calling or revoked any promises. Seek forgiveness if you haven’t already, and ask God to finish what He started in you.
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To me, one of the most challenging things God has spoken to anyone in Scripture is in Genesis 12:1. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you’” (NLT). He was 75 years old at the time. He was well established, and yet God asked him to pack everything up and go to a destination that would be shown to him at a later time. His faith in action is inspiring to me. The Bible later says that his faith was counted at righteousness. That’s a faith we should all aspire to have.
Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus spoke something very similar to all of us. In Luke 14:31 Jesus said, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Every one of us who follows Christ is given the same call that went out to Abram. I believe it’s God’s reminder to us that this place is not our home. Everything we have here is temporary and we can’t take it with us. We must be willing to let go of earthly things so we can receive from God the spiritual things that matter for eternity.
My wife and i try to keep an open hand for the things we have. When your hands are open to God, He can place things in them and take things out of them whenever He wants. Faith is trusting God with all you have and with the direction of your life. You may not get to know the destination. You may he asked to walk away from everything that’s familiar to you. God’s greatest blessings are stored up for those who are willing to give God whatever He asks for and for those who follow Him wherever He leads. What are you willing to let go of should God ask for it? Pray that God would help you keep an open hand and heart.
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Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”
What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.
Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.
That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.
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I’m often guilty of wishing I had someone else’s giftings. Have you ever felt that way? I can hear someone preach, and wish I could explain things the way they do. I’ve read other authors and thought, “If only I could write that well.” I’ve heard people give some wise advice and wondered why I can’t think of things like that. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into because I’m failing to be appreciative of the gifts God has given me. In those moments, I discount the very things God wants me to use for His glory.
If you look back across the years of your life, you will see a lot of ups and downs, mountains and valleys. In the low moments, God is smoothing off your rough edges and is sharpening the gifts He placed in you. It hurts to go through those times, but it’s in those valleys that God prepares you for your calling and destiny. Coming out of the valley, it’s natural to think you have nothing left, but even the little you have, used for God will be enough to fulfill your purpose.
2 Corinthians 8:12 says, “If you are eager to give, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you don’t have” (GNT). In other words, God isn’t expecting you to give Him someone else’s gifts. He’s expecting you to give Him what you have matter how small you think it might be. It’s time we quit comparing ourselves to each other when it comes to gifts. God didn’t give you their gifts because He didn’t call you to reach the same people they are called to reach. Give what you have and God will use it in ways you can’t imagine.
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Many years ago, I went through a divorce. Along with all of the other baggage that comes with it, I struggled with its affect on God’s call on my life. I had been raised in a denomination that did not allow people who were divorced to minister. As the reality of my divorce set in, so did the reality that I would never be able to minister to others. I was devastated all over again. I had felt the call of God on my life since I was young, and now I felt like I couldn’t fulfill it.
As I was lamenting to a friend about it, he gave me one of those verbal, snap out of it slaps across the face. He said, “Do you really think that you can do anything to revoke the call of God on your life? Who has more authority, man or God?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. Man does not have the authority or ability to revoke God’s call, yet our enemy lies to us to make us ineffective.
I believe this was something the apostle Paul struggled with. I’m sure the enemy tormented him with thoughts like, “How can you be a minister when you’ve murdered so many Christians?” I believe the churches also must have struggled with it because he had to bring it up in a lot of his letters. In Galatians 1:15 he reminded them, “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace” (NLT). Even his years of persecuting the Church couldn’t revoke God’s calling.
If Paul’s murders and persecution of the Church couldn’t revoke God’s call on his life, then nothing you or I have done has revoked it on ours. If you’ve been believing the lie that your past sin or circumstances have prevented you from fulfilling your calling, today is your day of freedom. Before you were born, God called you and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to revoke it. If you’re in sin, repent and fulfill your calling. If you’re a Christian, but haven’t been walking in your calling because of your past, today’s your day to start walking in it.
In Luke 1, two different people are told by the angel Gabriel that something amazing will happen to them. They responded almost identically, yet one was punished and one was praised. One spent the next several months unable to speak, while the other used their voice to praise God. How we respond to the plans God has for us matters. When God first puts them in our heart, they scare us because they seem impossible to accomplish on our own. Through the years, I’ve discovered if God put it in you, it’s impossible to do on your own.
Zechariah was a man who was up in age. He was a faithful servant of God and even served as a priest in the Temple. One day, while performing his duties, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary to burn incense before God. After he entered, Gabriel appeared to him to bring him the message that his wife would become pregnant and have a son. In verse 18, Zechariah responded, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years” (NLT). It seems like a logical question, but it upset Gabriel to the point that he made Zechariah mute until the baby was born.
Mary was a young lady who was engaged to be married. She believed in God, but wasn’t involved in ministry. She was going about her normal business when Gabriel paid a visit to her. He gave her the incredible news that she would become pregnant while still a virgin. In verse 34, she responded, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Again, this is a logical response to the angel, but this time he wasn’t angry. Instead he gave an explanation. So what was the difference? Their responses are very similar.
One was born out of doubt and one out of faith. One saw the impossibility and questioned God’s ability, while the other’s faith made them curious. Look at their responses again. One wanted proof it would happen and the other wondered how God would accomplish His will. There’s a significant difference, and I think it’s important how we respond to the things God reveals to us. So many times we want proof from Him instead of trusting that He’ll do what He says. I don’t know what God placed in your heart, but I can imagine it’s pretty big. Instead of asking Him for proof, trust Him to do it, and be available as Mary was.