Jarena Lee

Nothing is Impossible

Read John 4:1-30; Acts 11:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Jarena LeeThere once was an African-American woman, named Jarena Lee (b. 1783), who felt the call by God to preach the Gospel. The only problem with that was the fact that women were not permitted to preach anything during that time period; only men were permitted to preach. What’s more, she was not just a woman, but an African-American woman.

“Go and preach the Gospel,” she heard God tell her. “But no one will believe me,” she replied. And one can understand why she was afraid to approach anyone about her call to preach. But God persisted in calling her through her dreams until she finally decided to approach the Rev. Richard Allen about it. Initially he put her off, telling her that there was no room in the Discipline for a woman preacher. At first, she was thankful, as she thought Allen’s answer would put the calling to rest. But it did not.

Eight years later, during a sermon in which a minister lost the spirit to preach in a sermon on Jonah, Jarena jumped up and began to preach in his place. She proclaimed that she was like Jonah, running away from the call that God placed on her, and preached on the importance of answering the call of God.

Following her exhortation, Rev. Richard Allen, who as the Bishop of the African Episcopal Church at this time, confirmed that she indeed did come to him eight years earlier and that he had put her off. He confessed that he was mistaken and that she was as called to preach as anyone he had ever ordained as a minister. Later writing of this event, Jarena Lee wrote: “For as unseemly as it may appear nowadays for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God.” Indeed, God had done the impossible in the life of Jarena Lee!

Often times, we stand in the way of God with our rules and regulations and man-made doctrines and traditions. We determine who is worthy of being called by God, who is worthy of God’s presence, and who is worthy of God’s grace. On top of judging others, we often deem ourselves as unworthy too. Yet, who are we to decide such things? Jesus broke the man-made barriers and engaged in religious dialogue with a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria in a day and age where women were property and Samaritans were considered less than worthy of God. And Peter saw the Holy Spirit filling Gentiles, breaking his prejudice against their worthiness.

Time and time again, Scripture shows us that nothing is impossible with God, and no one is unworthy enough to be called by God. Abraham was a polytheist and a fraud, Joseph was a prisoner and slave, Moses was a murderer and stutterer, Rahab was a prostitute, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. All of these people and many more were called to serve God in vital and important ways. Which one of us can be the judge against God working in another’s life? Which one of us can be the judge against God working in our own lives? Which one of us can be a judge against God?

Remember, God loves us all and calls us all to serve him. Each calling is unique; however, each calling is equally important and special. No rules or regulations can stop God from calling you or others. No rules or regulations should stop you or others from answering that call. Do not judge yourself or others; just answer God’s call and let God do the rest!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Oh how careful ought we to be, lest through our bylaws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the world of life.” — Jarena Lee

PRAYER

Lord God, help me discern your call and refrain from judging, whether I be judging myself or others. We are all worthy. Amen.

7 thoughts on “Nothing is Impossible”

  1. There are so many ways that I can relate to this devotion. Sometimes I find it hard to understand God’s call for me. Sometimes I believe I read too much into what I believe is God’s call for me. Thank you for this devotion for it reminds me that God is still in control!

    1. Absolutely Debbie! God is in control! There many voices calling us, but only ONE is God’s. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns song, “The Voice of Truth”. Like Jesus taught…he is the Good Shepherd and his sheep will know and recognize his voice. We just need to let go and listen.

  2. That is a very good question, Debbie. And ‘letting go” has kind of become one of those phrases that gets tossed around and never really explained. I can only answer this from my perspective, and perhaps others have other ways of “letting go”, but here is what I mean when I say that.

    There have been many times in my life when I have generally had an understanding of what I needed to do; however, that has often also gotten clouded with many other things. For instance, I have known from a very young age that I was called to be a Pastor. But between the first time I felt that calling, until now, lots of other things clouded my mind. There are the obvious things such as what I wanted to do. People telling me…”gee you have a talent for web design, you should go that route”…or people telling me, “make sure you get into a lucrative business where you can make money.” So there were those things; however, I also didn’t believe in myself (and, ultimately, I didn’t believe in God). Of course, I said I did…I even felt like I did. But I would question whether I really could be up to the task of doing what it was that I felt I should do. I would find reasons not to be a pastor. I could go on with all of the different voices that clouded the voice of God. And we are good at trying to tune out what it is we know we should be listening to.

    Another thing that blocked me was my fear of failure. What if I become a Pastor and find out God wasn’t calling me to that? What if I fail and look foolish? What if God isn’t calling me at all and I just think God is? So many layers of clouding; yet, let me say that the calling never went away. Even when I worked overtime on ignoring it, the call still was there in the midst of the smoke and the clouds. Deep down, I could not forget the moments in my life where I knew God was calling me to be a pastor.

    Finally, after years and years of trying to do things my way, after years and years of being like Jonah running in the opposite direction of Nineveh, I had a humbling experience. For all of the things I tried to attain, for all of the failures I tried to avoid, for all of the voices I tried to listen to over God’s, I found myself lost and at a dead end. It led me nowhere. It felt like I was in a dark alley, vulnerable and alone. Yet I was not alone because, there in the dark with me, was that very same voice that was there all along.

    Though there were still other voices clouding my mind (as is the case throughout our lives), I knew I could no longer ignore what God was calling me to do. So, at that point I decided that no matter what doubts filled me, no matter what voices confused me, no matter what “failures” might befall me, I was going to let them all go and step out in faith. I was going to do what it was I knew I should do.

    Did that mean I would walk forward and never stumble? Did that mean I would never make mistakes or have “learning experiences”? Nope. Obviously, walking in faith does not mean one is perfect…nor does it mean that one is always thinking with 100% clarity. It just means that you know God is calling you for a purpose and that you are going to trust God to lead you there. You are not alone.

    Now, how do you know what God is calling you to do? Specifically, that is up to each individual to discern; however, through Scripture, we do know God’s character and the kinds of things God has called people toward. Justice, resisting oppression, compassion, love, presence, etc. A couple of discerning verses for me are:

    Micah 6:6-8: “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

    Luke 4:14-19: Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (NRSV, see also Isaiah 61:1-2a)

    Now, how this plays out in each individual person is different; however, God is calling us all to be witnesses to God’s love and Grace, in one way or the other. So, I am not sure if this helps. I tried to give you an experiential anecdote to explain what I have in mind when I say “let go”. I do want to add one other thing, often I find that God does speak to us through other people (so I didn’t mean to imply earlier that people who suggest things to us are always suggesting stuff that is against God’s will). If you know the character of God, you can sense when this happens. For instance, people have affirmed my calling as a pastor. I often passed it off or scoffed at it because the prospect of it frightened me and I had other ideas for my life; however, deep down I knew God had such a purpose for me. God uses people all the time to speak to us. But God is not speaking through everyone…so that takes a bit of discernment. But if you know God’s character, and what God is generally calling us to do, it becomes evident which voices are God’s and which are not. And if you don’t always discern correctly, we have the hope that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. The point is that we never remain paralyzed for fear of making mistakes. To err is human, and God is always with us to pick us up when we fall. Hopefully, I have made some sense of it. If not, do not hesitate to let me know. 🙂

  3. Pastor Todd,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer this for me. You certainly have answered God’s call in your life. I am thankful that Harmony Hill church called you for their Pastor. I will continue in prayer and reflection as I discern God’s call in my life. Thank you again.

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