Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Genesis 48:1-4 PART 2

In this chapter, as Jacob is failing and preparing to die, we see him reminding Joseph about the special encounter that Jacob had with the God of Abraham and Isaac. He was recounting his own special encounter with El Shaddai, God Almighty. I wanted to tell you about another major encounter I had with God that changed the direction of my life.

In my mid-thirties I discovered Bible Study Fellowship. I love studying the Bible, and the discipline and intense challenge of BSF was the perfect place for me. By this time I had been a Christian for about ten years and had been completely involved in children’s ministries at my church (teaching and heading up Sunday School, directing Vacation Bible School, co-directing our mid-week children’s musical program, teaching the children’s sermon during the regular worship services), and in the community (Girl Scout co-leader, on the local Girl Scout Council executive board, classroom volunteer etc.). Being with a bunch of adult women in BSF was a welcome relief! I thought I’d had enough of children’s ministries! My passion had always been teaching women in Bible study, so after my first year in BSF, I was so hoping to be called into leadership as a discussion leader.

However, the LORD had been giving me clues that He had other plans. Over a two-week period I received several calls out of the blue from people just thanking me for working with their children, telling me how much it meant to them, along with a call from one of the church elders also affirming my gift with kids. You’d think this would have encouraged me, but it actually depressed me! I began sensing that God was telling me He wanted me to continue working with kids! Aaaugghh!!

It was not my habit to listen to the radio when driving to BSF, but one morning, while on the way to pick up my buddie, Carrol, with whom I carpooled to BSF, I was listening to Focus on the Family. On this morning, there was a woman being interviewed who was talking about the impact an adult can make in the life of a child. She spoke about a male student teacher who, during her fourth grade year in school, transformed her life in his mere eight weeks in that classroom. She had been emotionally abused by her father, so when this teacher told her that he believed in her and knew that she would do great things, it actually changed the direction of her life. As I waited for Carrol to come to the car, I sat there crying for two reasons: I was so moved by her story, and I was terrified that God was calling me to continue to work with kids!!

I shared my fear with Carrol as we drove to BSF. As the other leader of our scout troop, she totally got it!  Carrol and I had daughters in Kindergarten that year, so we always sat in the back row during the BSF lecture, because we had to zip out early to pick up the girls at the busstop. The teaching leader began her lecture on the passage for that day:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

As she attempted to apply these verses to real life, the teaching leader suggested that offering ourselves as a living sacrifice means that we do what GOD wants us to do for Him, not what WE want to do for Him. She said, “For example, some of you may be thinking that you would like to have a ministry with women, but God is calling you to work with children.” Oh my gosh! From about 200 feet away in the pulpit, her words pierced my heart like a sword! Carrol and I just stared at each other with our mouths wide open!

Now, did this confirmation give me peace and joy? No! I was more depressed about it than ever. A couple of weeks later, this teaching leader called me and told me that the leaders group had been praying about me coming into leadership, and they felt I was being called to work as the assistant children’s supervisor! The only plus in my mind was that the children’s supervisor, who would be over me, was an amazing Christian woman whom I greatly admired. She asked me to pray about it, and, wanting her to think I was truly spiritual, I told her I would - even though it was already perfectly clear to me what God wanted me to do.

When I got off the phone, I felt like a black cloud was hanging over my head! I had to go to the grocery store, and there I ran into another dear, dear friend, Pam, who was a fairly new Christian whom I had been discipling. I told her how upset I was about being called to work with kids. And God spoke to me directly through her when she said, “Sally, you know what your problem is? You are not submitting to God! God has obviously gifted you to work with children, and He wants you to obey Him. I know you! You want to be up there giving the lecture, and I have no doubt that someday you will be doing that, but right now you need to obey God!” Wow! That was it! I wasn’t submitting! DUH!!!

So I did answer the call to the children’s program, and it was there that God totally transformed my mind about children’s ministries and convinced me of the absolute priority He gives to the spiritual nourishing of children. Satan is ready with so many distractions for children - and he loves to convince adults that they have no gift for helping in Sunday School. As a Sunday School director, I knew how hard it was to get anyone to volunteer even one Sunday a month to work with the children! So, that’s the roundabout way I eventually went into teaching at the age of 42! And, after 20 years, I still absolutely LOVE my job, and thank God every day for giving me the privilege of working with kids!

Oh, and, by the way, I DID eventually get to give lectures at BSF! After one year with the children, I was called to be the substitute teaching leader. So, four times a year, I did get to teach women the Bible for several years (while I finished up college and earned my teaching credential)! Isn’t God amazing?? My lesson? God knows what is best for me, and it is His good pleasure to use me as HE sees fit! I’ve learned over the years to submit quicker, because that is where the blessings lie!

Sorry about this extra long personal story! I have been convinced by Jacob that we need to tell our stories of our encounters with God to glorify Him for what He has done and for His incredible faithfulness in our lives! Back to Jacob, Joseph, et al tomorrow!  By the way, I'd love to hear YOUR stories of your own God encounters!


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