An Invitation from God, Part
By Larry L. McSwain and Kay
In part one
of this article, the authors explained what is meant by a "call."
In part two, they examine how you distinguish God's voice to determine
what He is calling you to do.
Call is an invitation. The invitation comes from God.
Let’s visit Moses in the desert again to learn more about
call. He is standing on a quiet hillside with one task to focus
on—caring for the flock. The only sounds in the air are
the bleating of the sheep and the call of birds. Perhaps a snake
through the rocks or grasshoppers leap from bush to bush, but
otherwise everything is still. A burning bush would be pretty
hard to miss.
Call begins with an awareness of God.
How does Moses’ experience compare to your daily life?
Your generation is one of the busiest, most programmed, and overextended
ever. It has been estimated that the modern teenager, whose days
are filled with school, homework, extracurricular activities,
Internet surfing, email, text messages, radio, television, books,
newspapers, and magazines, receives more incoming information
in a single month than a person in Bible times received throughout
his or her entire life. Thanks to flip phones, MTV, BET,
VH1, honking horns, woofers, advance-placement classes, soccer,
math club, part-time jobs, and church, the life of an adolescent
today is seldom still and rarely quiet. In the midst of a busy
and noisy life, deliberate action is necessary to find time and
space to become aware of God’s presence.
For centuries spiritual people have practiced meditation to draw
themselves away from the world and become open to God. Meditation
can be as simple as a quiet walk, focusing on your breathing,
praying in a quiet place, or listening to relaxing instrumental
music. The meditation outlined below is based on the familiar
children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,”
so it is easy to remember. It can be done seated or lying down
and takes only a few minutes. Why not try it out before you read
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable spot and take two slow,
2. Continue breathing deeply and picture the golden light of
God’s love moving with relaxing warmth from the top of your
head. . .slowly down to your shoulders. . .to your knees. . .and
to the tips of your toes.
3. Take two slow breaths, and with each breath, imagine the light
glowing stronger and flowing through the muscles of your neck,
arms, tummy, legs, and back.
4. See the light spreading relaxing warmth to your eyes, ears,
mouth, and nose as you continue to take slow, deep breaths.
5. Inhale slowly and think to yourself, “God loves me.”
6. Continue with slow, deep breaths, mentally repeating, “God
loves me,” for as long you want to. (See
The image of the burning bush in the Moses story tells us
something about God. A bush that is ablaze but does not burn up
is something completely outside of human understanding. The term
holy comes from the Hebrew word for “other.”
To say that God is holy is to say that God is completely other
than us, that the reality of God cannot be contained within human
ideas. Awareness of God helps us to remember that we are not in
charge. In God’s presence we can be led in ways beyond the
limits of human expectation and understanding, which is a
handy thing when the future is unknown and uncertain.
During their encounter in the desert, God told Moses to take
off his shoes because he stood on holy ground. Holy space
is wherever people and God connect. It is in these connections,
these holy spaces, that our awareness of God can move us toward
our callings. Being aware of God is a beginning point, but it
is not enough.
Sometimes people are aware of God and even have a relationship
with God but still get off track. One of Christianity’s
earliest heroes was a man who headed down the wrong road but found
out that even the wrong road could become holy space.
The Call of the Apostle Paul: Acts 7:58; 9:1-31
Like many Jews in his time, Saul had a Hebrew name and a Greek
version of his name—Paul—that was used in the larger
Roman society. Saul was a well-educated, devout leader in the
Jewish community and also a Roman citizen, so he had quite a bit
of power and freedom. The first Christians were Jewish, and they
practiced their faith in Jesus in synagogues and house churches
in Jerusalem and in the rural Jewish communities that Jesus had
visited. Saul eventually became known as the apostle
Paul, and he was responsible for spreading Christianity and establishing
Gentile (non-Jewish) churches throughout the Roman Empire. But
this apostle started out with a very different mission.
Saul had a relationship with God and, according to his Jewish
faith, believed that blasphemy was a capital offense. He was convinced
that the people of “the Way,” as the first Christians
were known, were committing blasphemy by preaching about Jesus.
After Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr
of the Christian church, Saul was sure he had found his mission:
He was to travel to the rural communities, arrest followers of
Jesus, and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial. So with letters
of authority from the high priest in his pocket, Saul headed off
for the synagogues of Damascus.
Along the road, Saul was knocked flat by a bright light, and
he heard a voice ask, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul replied.
“I am Jesus who you are persecuting,” was Jesus’
Paul, still blinded by the light, was led to the home of a follower
of Jesus. There he sat alone, without eating or drinking. After
three days, Ananias was sent by God to heal Saul’s eyes.
Ananias also baptized Saul, and the two men shared a meal. Saul
stayed with the followers of Jesus for a few days, took some time
to make sense of his new experience, then began his work as Paul,
apostle of Jesus and preacher to the Gentiles.
Discovering your call is grounded in a lifetime of getting
to know God.
Saul had spent his life in relationship with God, but he found
out there was so much more of God to know. Just like any relationship,
a relationship with God takes time and effort. Have you ever had
a conversation like the following?
“Hey, do you know Troy Brown?”
“Well, I know who he is, but I don’t know him.”
Knowing someone is more than knowing who he or she is. Knowing
someone involves an ongoing relationship. Let’s look at
four ways people have been getting to know God since the beginning
CELEBRATION. Have you ever heard someone say,
“I feel so bad that I skipped church,” or “Well,
at least I go to church!” Somehow “worship”
has become “going to church,” which sounds kind of
like doing a duty. If you’ve ever heard news reporters talk
about the pope leading Mass, you may have noticed them say, “The
pontiff celebrated mass.” Celebrated!
Worship is indeed celebration. When the Hebrew people worshiped,
they sang, danced, told stories, and participated in rituals
that reminded them of what God had done. The early
Christians partied in joyful celebration, singing songs, telling
the stories of Jesus, and eating meals together. True worship
reminds us of God’s love and draws us deeper into relationship
PRAYER. With all the books on prayer and workshops
for prayer, it could seem like prayer is complicated. But it isn’t.
Prayer is just conversation with God. There are no magic formulas.
No things we must say. No things we can’t
say. Prayer can take place when we are seated in a church, walking
in the woods, or lying on our beds. Prayer can be private or shared
with others. It can be silent or expressed in words, music, or
Prayer begins with knowing that God accepts us exactly as we are
and finds joy in spending time with us. In prayer we can talk
to God about anything. And in prayer we can listen to God. In
the quiet, still moments of prayer, God can break through the
many voices that fill our thoughts and speak to us with the voice
that is heard in our hearts.
STUDY. The main written source for getting to
know God is the Bible. The stories the Hebrew people told at their
celebrations were eventually written down and became part of what
we call the Old Testament. The stories of Jesus, along
with stories and letters from the earliest churches, became our
New Testament. Any call will be in keeping with who God
is as revealed in the Bible. The Bible is a storybook that tells
about God’s dream for
the world. The stories also tell about people, who sometimes were
and sometimes were not in tune with God’s dream. So getting
to know God through the Bible means exploring, sometimes using
tools, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias; asking questions;
and learning from others. It also means using more
than our minds. If we let the stories touch us and connect with
our hopes, joys, fears, and disappointments, the Bible can draw
us closer to God and can even change us.
ACTION. Think about a close friend. How did
you get to be friends? Friends often get to know each other by
doing things together. This is true in a relationship with God,
too. It was when Saul was doing what he thought was the business
of God that God redirected him. Then, when he came to understand
that Jesus and God are one, he took action. He met with followers
of Jesus. He was baptized. He traveled around and preached the
gospel. Through these activities, Paul came to know God more and
more. Actions that help us grow in relationship with God include
participating in rituals, such as baptism and the Lord’s
Supper; serving in the church; and reaching out to help
Call begins with an awareness of God.
Discovering your call is grounded in a lifetime of getting to
Read part one
of this article, An
Invitation from God.
peace with God.
Want more articles for teens? Visit CBN.com
1. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes Meditation,”
© 2001 Cassandra Williams, (email@example.com) used and
adapted by permission.
Excerpted from Call
Waiting: God's Invitation to Youth by Larry L. McSwain
and Kay Wilson Shurden, Copyright © 2005, published by Judson
Press. Used by permission.
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