James E. Woods

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When God Hooked My Heart!


When God Hooked My Heart!

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.
— Galatians 1:15,16

I know it sounds fantastic to believe, but the first time I ever saw a Russian Bible, I was instantly able to phonetically read it. I didn’t understand what I was reading, but phonetically, I could pronounce the words and read them out loud. As you may already know, I had studied classical Greek at the university level, but I didn’t realize the vast similarities between Greek and Russian. The two written languages are so close that I could phonetically read Russian the first time I picked up a Russian Bible.

I’ll never forget that moment. I was a speaker at a missions’ conference, and as I waited for my turn to speak, I noticed a Bible sitting on the pew next to me. I wondered whose it was, so I picked it up — and when I began flipping through its pages, I understood it was a Russian Bible. But as I looked at it, I realized that I could phonetically read the words. I was literally mesmerized by the fact that I was reading Russian! When the service was over and my time of ministering was finished, I quickly rushed to the front row, picked up that Russian Bible and “borrowed” it for a night so I could keep looking at it. I didn’t know to whom it belonged, but I took it home and read it for hours, planning to return it to the exact same spot where I had “borrowed” it that morning.

That night in my hotel room, I spent hours flipping through the pages of that Russian Bible. Slowly, I pronounced the words, fairly certain that I was accurately pronouncing what I was looking at. God knows I have a love for languages — and that night, God hooked my heart with the Russian language in a Russian Bible. The next morning, I returned that Russian Bible to the exact place where I had found it. But that experience ignited a desire in me to learn the Russian language — and that is really what started my love for the Russian language and people!

I searched for a system of learning the Russian language, and I found one that suited me very well. Every night before I went to bed, I began to memorize Russian words and study Russian grammar. I would practice my new words and phrases on Denise — all the while not understanding why I was so driven to learn this language. In just a short time, I had committed to memory 800 Russian words and could speak key phrases and sentences. Something inside me was calling out for me to learn this language.

 

Not long after I started studying Russian, I received a phone call from a dear friend, who invited me to join him and a few other men who were going to teach in the first aboveground Bible school established in the Soviet Union for more than 70 years. At first I didn’t want to go, but the idea of practicing Russian in real life had hooked my heart, and I found myself agreeing to join them on the trip. Within a matter of weeks, I was in the USSR, and to my delight, I spoke and understood some Russian without mistakes. That stoked the coals of the fire ignited in my heart on the night I started flipping through that Russian Bible, making me want to understand and speak the Russian language even better.

In Russia, I found myself in a land completely different from our own in the United States, but I supernaturally fell in love with the people, the culture, and even the inconveniences that existed at that time. It was like a spirit of adventure had been loosed inside me. It was, without question, a life-transforming moment in my life. But this divine adventure all started the night I “borrowed” the Russian Bible at the mission conference some months before. That I could immediately phonetically read the Russian language was a miracle to me!

Prior to this revelation, I had always assumed that my life and ministry would be based in the United States, and I never dreamed of ministering in Russia. But I learned that God has deep-laid plans for our lives that are usually revealed to us one step at a time.

This experience makes me think of the apostle Paul, who was perfectly trained to minister to Hebrew-speaking people, yet God sovereignly called him and separated him to minister to the heathen nations of the world. Although he was unaware of it, it had always been a part of the plan of God for his life.

Paul referred to this in Galatians 1:15 and 16, where he said, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

According to Paul, God had a plan for him from his birth, and that grace carried him toward his life call even when he was unaware of it. God “separated” him from his mother’s womb for a purpose. The word “separated” is from the Greek word aphoridzo, which means to mark off, to set boundaries around, or to specifically set aside and thus dedicate for a special purpose. Although Paul was ignorant of it, God had already marked his life and dedicated it for a ministry to the Gentiles. Heaven’s plan was set in motion by grace and ultimately led him to his place of divine destination.

Paul went on to say in verse 16, “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Paul uniquely understood that although his entire life had trained him to minister to Hebrew-speaking people, God’s hand was on his life to point him in a different direction: to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathen. The Gentile world was totally different from the world Paul knew and felt comfortable in, yet it was his place of divine purpose. When he realized it, Paul said that he “immediately did not confer with flesh and blood….”

The word “immediately” is important, because it tells us that when Paul first realized God’s call on his life, he didn’t confer with flesh and blood. A time came later when he sought the counsel and friendship of Jewish leaders who would affirm his ministry. But initially he simply embraced the call before the Lord with all of his heart. The word “conferred” is the Greek word prosanatithimi, and it refers to obtaining favor or approval from others to endorse one’s activities. Paul knew so strongly that he was called to the Gentile world that he didn’t need or seek the approval of others. This calling was seared into his soul.

Likewise, when I knew that God was calling me to the Russian-speaking people, I really knew it. I did seek the counsel of others out of respect for them. However, their answers wouldn’t have swayed me from my decision, because I inwardly knew that God was moving our family to the former USSR to impart the teaching of God’s Word at a crucial moment in the history of Christianity in that part of the world. I heard God’s call, and I accepted it. I knew that He had marked my life off, set His boundaries around me, and specifically dedicated me for this place of service.

For me, it all started with my picking up that Russian Bible — God used that incident to hook my heart with a love for the Russian language. As I think about my journey from that moment to this present day, I am in awe of God and His ways. How lovingly He works to hook our hearts and get us on the right path for our lives!

In what ways has God hooked your heart to get you pointed in the right direction for your life? You are not here by accident. God has a plan for your life. He separated you from your mother’s womb to fulfill that assignment. If you don’t know that yet, ask the Holy Spirit to begin to open your eyes to see why you are here and what you are to do with your life. Your life will begin to take on real purpose only when you know what you are supposed to do and you begin to follow that plan.

Like the apostle Paul, God’s plan may be different from what you had anticipated. But keep your heart open to Him, knowing that God only has good plans in store for you and that He wants your life to make an impact for eternity!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY


F
ather, I thank You for the plan for my life that is already written by Your hand deep within me. Father, I realize that Your plan may be different from what I’ve previously assumed. So I choose now, as an act of my will, to lay aside my own preferences. I make a conscious decision right now that my will is to do Your will. Set my feet upon the path of Your perfect plan for me. Holy Spirit, help me not to frustrate the grace of God, but to be open-minded so I can hear You speak to me. And give me the courage to obey what I hear. I know that You have marked off my life and set boundaries around me, preparing me for a special purpose. Help me have open ears and an open heart so I can hear and understand and follow exactly what Your plan is for me.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I boldly declare that I will continue to release my faith and believe for God to multiply the seeds and deeds I have sown in the past. At times, weariness has tried to attack me, injustice has been done to me, and other outside pressures have made me feel tempted to throw in the towel. But I will not surrender to any pressure to bend, break, or give up on God’s promise that I will enter a season of reaping a harvest from the good seed I have sown. The Holy Spirit will empower me to hold tight, hang on, and remain steady and steadfast until I reap my harvest and enjoy the fruit of my faith and labor!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that according to Ephesians 2:10, Jesus Christ has a predetermined purpose for my life, and His grace is carrying me toward that divine destination. I will not follow the voice of a stranger, but I will follow the voice of my Shepherd as He leads and guides me on the path to the center of His will for my life. I am so thankful that God’s grace is at work in me. I fully trust in this work of grace, and I declare that because of it, I will always be right on time and right where God wants me to be — doing precisely what He has asked me to do and thus fulfilling His will for my life.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Can you think of other Bible characters who were called out of their comfort zones to minister to people who were different from them? Who are some of those people? What can you learn by meditating on their lives and experiences as they followed God’s plan?
  2. Do you personally know people, like myself, who thought they knew the will of God, only to find out later that He had a different plan? Who are some of those people? What happened as a result of their redirecting the course of their lives to follow God’s plan?
  3. What do you believe God is calling you to do right now? Is there anything that has hooked your heart and God has used as a “lure” to lead you in a new direction? Pay attention when God hooks your heart, for this may be the way He is revealing the correct path for your life to you.

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