“Here Am I. Send Me!”

Of all the voices in the world calling you to be this or do that with your life, how will you discern God’s call? While God calls persons into full or part time ministry, biblically God’s call has less to do with the job you get paid for and everything to do with the kingdom impact you were born to have on the world. Living in response to God’s call involves trusting the Lord in the midst of the darkness and waiting for the light to dawn. But how are we to discern God’s light, as opposed to the light of our own desires or our need to please others?

Isaiah’s Vision

Consider the prophet Isaiah, whose call story is found in Isaiah Chapter 6. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (v. 1). The mention of King Uzziah’s death tells us something about Isaiah’s state of mind. Israel prospered under Uzziah when he listened to the Lord, but he eventually ignored God’s commands, and died in isolation as a leper. And Isaiah had reason to be discouraged. The king was dead, a new inexperienced ruler was on the throne, the nation was drifting into idolatry (again), and their enemies were growing stronger. Where was God in all of this?

“Above him [the Lord] stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke” (v. 1-4).

God answered Isaiah’s question with a vision of heaven in which it became clear that while weak and sinful earthly rulers may die or be unseated, God reigns eternal. The angels proclaim His holiness, which extends throughout the world. The temple is shaken and filled with the smoke of God’s presence and power, echoing the pillar of cloud at Mt. Sinai, and the cloud of God’s glory that filled the temple (Exodus 13:21-22, 19:18 and I Kings 8:10-12).

Isaiah’s Reaction

In a time of uncertainty, God reveals Himself to Isaiah in His heavenly glory to confirm that He is King and reigns in heaven, regardless of what may be happening on earth. His sovereignty is never in question. This assurance is a prerequisite to hearing God’s call! And what is Isaiah’s reaction? And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 5).

Despite his intelligence, privilege, personal integrity and devout faith, Isaiah sees himself for who he really is, a sinful man among a sinful people. In the light of God’s glory, Isaiah’s sins and failings became evident… and damning. He was before God without a mediator, without any covering or sacrifice. And if the priests could only go into the holy of holies once a year, and only after making sacrifices for themselves and the people so they would not fall dead, there was no chance of survival for Isaiah, who was in God’s presence with zero preparation.

God’s Response

In response to this realization, the Lord acts. “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 6-7). The altar was the place in the temple where the people’s sins were dealt with through animal sacrifice, foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus’ death on Calvary as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  The angel takes a burning coal to purify Isaiah’s lips, which were the source of his sins and the instrument of his impending ministry. As a result of the angel’s action, Isaiah’s guilt is removed, his sins are forgiven, the source of his fear is gone, and he is fit for service.

The Call to Ministry

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, “Here I am. Send me!” (v. 8). God revealed Himself to Isaiah for the purpose of preparing him for ministry. Prior to his cleansing, Isaiah heard only the angels proclaiming God’s holiness, and of course, the accusing voice of his own conscience. But now he can hear the voice of the Triune God speaking to the council of angels, asking, “Who will be the messenger to my people? Who will go for us?” And this time Isaiah answers without hesitation or reluctance, “Here Am I. Send me.” The assurance of God’s absolution and a clear conscience are evident in Isaiah’s desire to answer the call. And from his experience we can draw three conclusions.

1. Worship precedes service – humbly seeking the Lord in worship is the first step in determining the what, where, when, why, and how of God’s calling in a particular season of your life. In Scripture, God’s call sometimes came through a vision, dream, or some other supernatural phenomenon. But most experience an urging of the Holy Spirit to serve in a particular way or to use a particular gift of the Spirit for the common good.

2. Self-awareness precedes action – understanding one’s current condition and circumstances will clarify what you lack that God must provide before he can use you for his intended purpose.

3. Formation precedes confirmation – formation refers to the process of preparation one undergoes in order to carry out their ministry/calling. But formation is not the same as confirmation. Some think that if you have a Bible college or seminary degree or if you have a special skill in service or leadership, you automatically qualify for a particular ministry. But no one in the church is self-appointed. God always uses the Church to confirm a person to ministry after a time of formational preparation, whether lay or ordained.

I pray that in this season of life, as you seek the Lord, His call to you will become clear, as it did for Isaiah. And that you will respond as he did, “Here am I. send me!”

Pr. Jeff Morlock is on the staff of the North American Lutheran Church and is Director of Vocational Discernment for the North American Lutheran Seminary. He may be reached at

Better Call Saul: Discernment at Damascus

Pr. Jeff Morlock

Ananias (not Sapphira’s husband, but the other Ananias) is an obscure figure in the New Testament. He appears only twice, for a total of eight verses. Yet Ananias is much more than the answer to a Bible trivia question. The Lord used this ordinary man to change the world in unfathomable ways. His story teaches us to listen for God’s call, discern our next assignment, and discover the astounding impact that obedience can have.

So what did Ananias hear God say? “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (Acts 9:11b-12 ESV). The obedience that the Lord asks of us is often counterintuitive. It is rarely easy, but it ends up being one thread in the glorious tapestry He is weaving. We may or may not get to glimpse the finished project, but if God is calling you, then the role you play in God’s plan will be important.

Yet not every thought and idea is from the Lord. So how will you know? Ananias had to discern his call. To discern means to perceive, recognize, or distinguish. Although filled with fear and apprehension, Ananias sought clarity regarding God’s will. Discernment is faith seeking understanding; not stalling indefinitely but listening for further direction and confirmation. So, Ananias asks, “Ugh, Lord, isn’t Saul dangerous?” And the Lord revealed His plan: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  (Acts 9:15b-16 ESV).

That sounds consistent with the witness of the Scriptures, which is another aspect of discernment. Beginning with Abraham, God gave His name to Israel in order to bless the nations of the world. And Jesus himself not only suffered for the sake of God’s mission, but declared, Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple ” (Luke 14:27). Biblically, to bless others and to suffer for the gospel are part of every disciple’s calling.

God is always calling you to join him in his work. To discern a particular course of action, then, means asking certain questions. Does it take me out of my comfort zone? Does it require sacrifice? Is it consistent with Scripture? Does it sound like Jesus? If the answers are “yes,” then it’s likely from the Lord.

But there’s one more question. What do other believers think about it? Ananias stepped out in faith and discovered that Saul was indeed at the home of Christian disciples who had taken him in and cared for his needs. With this confirmation, Ananias laid his trembling hands upon Saul, who had been blinded days earlier when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.

In that moment, God used Ananias to heal Saul, who regained his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Presumably, it was also Ananias who then had the privilege of baptizing the man who would go on to write two thirds of the New Testament! And Saul, who discerned his call to preach the Gospel, became Paul, the chief apostle and church planter for the non-Jewish world!

Although it was God who called Saul, He used Ananias to be part of it. After this brief episode in Acts, we never hear from Ananias again in the Bible. But where would we be without him? Where would Saul be without Ananias? Where would the Church be without Paul? Clearly, not everyone can be Paul. But everyone can absolutely be Ananias, who learned to discern, and who helped a brother do the same.

If this passage seems detached from present day reality, let me assure you that, in recently discerning my own call to the North American Lutheran Seminary, God used a number of “Ananias’s” to remove scales  from my eyes when I was blind to God’s plan, and how it fit perfectly with my gifts and passions.  Part of my role now is to daily be an Ananias for others who are discerning a call to ordained ministry.  

Recently, I spoke with a mid-career disciple named John, who had been praying about pursuing theological education. He told me how God used a stranger to confirm that this was indeed the Lord’s plan. John was traveling and when he arrived at the airport, he presented his boarding pass to the airline attendant, who repeated John’s full name and exclaimed, “With a name like that, you ought to be a pastor!” As I write this, John is completing his seminary application.

The fact is that God can and will use you as he used the people in my life, that airline attendant in John’s life, Saul who became Paul, and Ananias himself. My prayer is that all of us will learn to consistently ask, “God, is there someone you would have me speak with today? Is there somewhere you would have me go? Is there something you would have me do?” Be listening. Be available. Be ready. You never know what difference you will make.

Pastor Jeff Morlock is Director of Vocational Discernment at the North American Lutheran Seminary.