Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
— Acts 2:17
I’ve often struggled with discerning God’s call in my life, as I’m sure many of you have experienced as well. Since I’m so close to the issues, and because I’m human, I tend to put too much of my feelings, wants, and desires into the situation. I’ve remarked many times that if God is going to call me into full-time pastoral ministry he is going to have to smack me in the head with a 2×4. At times I’ve felt the call into ministry only to eventually talk myself out of it. Convincing myself that what I was feeling wasn’t really “The Call”, but merely a moment of spiritual high. These…. let’s call them “spiritual whispers” … were often following a very uplifting event in my life. Often times following a Sunday in which I preached a message, lead a mission trip or outreach event, I would go to my pastor and excitedly tell him, “I’m ready, put me in Coach!”. He would give me that “look”. I’m sure you’ve seen that look… you know the one…he grins, but on the inside he’s thinking “son, you have no idea what you’re saying”. I’ve gotten that look many times over the last six years.
This time was different. This time there was no doubt what God was telling me to do. This time there weren’t any murky “signs” to decipher or discern. This time there weren’t even any feelings involved. This time God called me by name… literally.
Please allow me to explain.
On March 8th I was given the opportunity to preach at Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana (https://www.facebook.com/asburyumccol?fref=ts&ref=br_tf) in place of the head pastor Dave Blystone (Dave’s Blog) who was traveling in Israel. Dave mentioned that he would like me to teach on John Wesley’s Prevenient Grace. I had no idea what prevenient grace was (it’s divine grace that precedes human decision by the way), but I set about learning all I could on what John Wesley had to say about it. Little did I know at the time, but God was nudging me along a path.
Before I even started preparing this message I stopped, humbled myself, and prayed that God would remove me from the message, that the words I wrote and the words I spoke be his and his alone. A peace settled over me and I wrote out the entire message word for word in one sitting. Understand though that there were hours spent researching the many forms of grace our Lord provides. My time spent preparing messages in the past have always been when I feel closest to God. It feels like I’m having a two sided conversation with him, rather than just me doing all the talking. For this message I felt especially close to him.
March 8th quickly was upon me, but there wasn’t the usual nervousness or tension that comes with public speaking. The people at Asbury UMC were open and welcoming, even allowing me to play my bass guitar with their worship team in second service. I delivered the same message to both of their services that day (March 8th Sermon) and let me tell you it was both exhausting and exhilarating (for more insight into that read: 10 Things You Forget About Pastors) . Monday morning saw me back in my pastor’s office. Before I could even finish walking through the door, my pastor fired off the question, “so… ready to go into full-time ministry NOW?”. (I have a feeling he was expecting the usual “put me in Coach” conversation we have had every other time I’ve preached). This time…again…was different. I told him (paraphrasing here) “nope, not this time, it was a great experience, but I’ll stay with what I’m doing”.
Oh how I was in for a shock…
I was just two weeks from the events detailed here: Part One: And it all started in a Captain D’s.
Let’s skip ahead to the end of Part One where I have now had God show up in my life in a very real and physical way (well he was always there, but I wasn’t as open to him as I should have been.. see the definition of prevenient grace again). God has just revealed to me that he finds me worthy. Worthy of doing His work and worthy of being used in his plans. It’s around this time that I come to the realization that it’s time to start paying back this kindness. It’s time to do more than just float through life accepting all these gifts, but not passing them on to others.
At this point let me point out a couple of things. I know that I can never repay God. I know that I do not have his power or ability to even come close to paying the price that Christ paid for us. So let me describe it this way… it’s time for me to start thanking God in more than just words.
With these thoughts spinning in my mind I went to sleep one night… and I dreamed dreams.
In a dream God came to me as a ball of light too bright to look at directly. An arm reached out holding a bible that was open, but the words were in a language I could not read. At this point God spoke and said “Jason, open your bible and read Tithus Chapter 2”. I instantly woke up, then woke up Jennifer to tell her what had happened. I’m sure she thought I was crazy as I described this dream to her at 2am. I reached for my bible turning to the Table of Contents to search out this book of Tithus. Turns out there isn’t a book of Tithus, but there is a Titus. While it is technically a “book” of the bible it is less than two pages long (depending on your version). For those of you that don’t know (as I myself didn’t until I did the research) the book of Titus was written by Paul to encourage a young pastor on the island of Crete. Here is the contents of chapter 2:
Teach Sound Doctrine
2 But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. 2 Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
3 Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
9 Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,[a] 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior,[b] Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority.[c] Let no one look down on you.
There it was in verse 1… But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine.
I’ve often read of others that have had God appear to them in a dream, hear an auditory voice when no one was around, or see a vision. I never thought I would be blessed with such an event in my life. I spent the next 48 hours floating around on a spiritual high. I’ve describe it this way to others… this was my burning bush moment. It’s moments like these that make me scratch my head at non-believers. How can one doubt the presence of our Savior?
But again… God wasn’t done yet. I thought he had hit me upside the head with a 2×4, but it turns out he was just merely winding up his swing.
Next up in PART THREE…God prepares the path.