Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Calling

A little over two years ago God led me to this verse:

“But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:19

It changed me. Changed my perspective. Changed my views. Continues to change me.
You see all of my life had been about being great on earth, not the Kingdom.

God started stirring in me. I hung out with God more. I learned to listen to His still, small voice.

In February of 2005 I took a trip to see Andy and Mike, they are former staff who in the early days of Parkway Church were part of our leadership team, who both were called by God at the same time to leave Parkway for different churches on the East coast. After my visit I felt like we (Parkway) needed to return to our roots. And so I came back and we started a process to reorganize our structure to return to the vision that God had given us.

Then in May of 2005, after just having completed our organizational makeover and feeling pretty good about myself, God rolled me on the floor at a conference at Saddleback. It was the first time I heard about the Peace Plan. I realized that I had no idea how big God really was and what He was doing in the world. Rick Warren gave a message entitled “How to get ready to be used by God”. I started applying the steps he outlined.

Step 1 – Purifying my heart – started confessing sins specifically, my prayer every morning “God make me a man after your own heart.”

Step 2 - Sanctifying my body – to dedicate for special purposes, to be used by God.

Step 3 – Simplifying my life – I had to limit the distractions (the opinions of others or the desires of God) and debt.

Step 4 – Fortifying my faith – Study the Bible, read Christian books, my prayer life had to improve.

Step 5 – Applying what I already know – Jesus I am yours.

My walk started to change. And those around me noticed it.
I also started doing some unusual things for a boy raised Presbyterian. I started being on my face before God, fasting and prayer walking. I also started having a conversation with God instead of a monologue.

I learned that God wanted my obedience more than He wanted my worship. I felt He was testing me to see if He could trust me before He gave me the next step in my journey. The passion was growing greatly in me, it was a consuming fire. There was something rising up in me that I want to call a spirit of Holy discontent. In my passion to be obedient my values started changing – I was consumed with being used by God to change His Kingdom. Tami told me once, “you’re constantly thinking about changing the world; I just want to change the paint color in the kitchen.” I no longer valued the things that used to bring me pleasure. My passion to be obedient was so consuming that people didn’t get me and I started facing criticism.

But my relationship with God was becoming more and more intimate and I craved more. I really started to hear His voice.

The call in my life was becoming clearer – to move a younger generation to be on mission for God through the PEACE Plan.

A year ago in January of 2006, I told Scott that I felt that God had told me clearly that the face of our staff was going to change and that the way we do church would totally change within 2 years. Little did I know at the time it would come to this.

Over the next few months God repeatedly revealed things to me that eventually came to pass.

· In June, after watching a Fox News report on the PEACE Plan, God told me He would use me somewhere in the world. He was asking me to get ready, He was going to take me somewhere. He did. He took me to Virginia to stay in a house with 16 of the most influential Christian leaders from Nigeria, Congo, India, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Dubai, & Russia.

· In July, He asked me to fast, take my Bible and prayer walk the property, and to go up on the roof and pray – As I looked out I saw my path in the dew, I felt God was leading me away from home, but that He would bring me back but through a different door.

· In August, He told me that I would travel the globe to have my wisdom built, and that He would use me greatly when I was 50. I got the opportunity to travel to India and train 3,000 leaders for Purpose Driven.

· That friendships would change. They did, my best friends turned against me.

· That He would use Jimmie Davidson greatly on a particular Sunday. Jimmie is a friend who pastors a great church called Highlands Fellowship. I felt awkward but I e-mailed Jimmie and told him what God had told me. He called me that afternoon and told they had the most incredible Sunday in the history of their church. God told me not to doubt even the little things He tells me.

In September, I laid the church on the altar for the first time. This was huge for me, because this was the church that changed my life, in my hometown, I thought I would never leave. I remember prayer walking @ 4:00 in the morning down a golf cart path listening to the song “Enough”, realizing that if Jesus was all I had would that be enough?

In January at our Executive Staff Retreat we spent our entire time on bringing glory to God. We spent time looking at a passage of scripture referred to as the Doxology.
One of my favorite things growing up in the Presbyterian Church was singing the Doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Today I am really beginning to understand it and try to live it out.

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[
d] knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"[e] 35"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"[f] 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36

Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as being a pastor, leading, teaching, the church) or to somewhere (such as Parkway or India).

You see I had confused my secondary “callings” as primary, Parkway, this family, this community, the next generation, the PEACE Plan, as good and noble as they maybe, they are not my primary calling.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him…The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him.”
God was asking me again “will you really lay Parkway on the altar?” I remember Joanne Hickman asking me almost 9 years ago, if my calling was to the ministry or to Parkway. I said that it was to ministry, but that I was called to this place. I said that, but I don’t know if I was ready to live that.

The call of God in our lives means to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself.

During that retreat I started doubting my leadership. Prayer walking at the retreat, I asked God to light my path, He told me that He already had, well I said “then God give me a people to lead.” Scott told me the next day he was going to Tallahassee.

We started to put the house on the market because of Dave Ramsey and trying to get debt free. I also felt like God was going to allow me to see so much poverty that I would have such a distaste for materialism. But, I had no peace about the timing. No peace about the houses Tami wanted.

Then the week before we go to India, Scott calls and says God told me “you are supposed to go with me and to give you the campus”, click. I grabbed my MP3 player and walked out to pray and the song that came on was “It’s Time” – I can hear the calling, it’s time.

I felt like God told me He would reveal something to me in India. And He did. When we were in India, we learned that the Holy Men there pray and then plan, we usually plan then pray. Trust me I didn’t have a plan.

The house sells while I am in India; we have a 60 day close.

Genesis 12:1 - The Call of Abram
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

"Abraham believed God …." (Romans 4:3)

Abraham believed God to be a loving Father;

Abraham believed God wanted fellowship with him;

Abraham believed God would speak with him;

Abraham believed God would listen to him;

Abraham believed God wanted to use him in a great mission;

Abraham believed God knew more than he did when he was called to birth a great nation;

Abraham believed God was telling him to go, even if it was to a land he did not know;

Abraham believed God would guide and provide step by step.

Abraham "went out, not knowing where he was going. " (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham acted on his belief because he was in intimate fellowship with the Father, and this up close and personal relationship showed Abraham that God could be trusted to do the things he said he would do and to fulfill the commitments he promised to complete. Abraham believed God. I believe, God; help me overcome my unbelief.

"Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led," wrote Oswald Chambers. "But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason – a life of knowing him who calls us to go."

At this point in my life, I have felt a freshened call to offer myself as a living sacrifice and to serve my King and to a secondary calling to do whatever I can each day to encourage and cheerlead a younger generation to be on mission for Christ.

On the way driving to Tallahassee over Spring Break, I kept thinking about a name for this movement. And the word “gathering” kept coming up. Somewhere about Alabama God reminded me of Hebrews 10:24-25:

24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

This is a time in one’s life that we come to a crossroads and we choose a path that effects us for the next 20, 30, 40 years. We usually quit gathering together, or going to church. God is asking me to be a guide and point out the right path for this generation.

This is a generation that wants action. I stepped foot on campus for the first time last Wednesday. They were having a fair of some type and I found several Christian organizations who were doing acts of compassion, but were not united with each other. It is then when God revealed the plan to me, to use the PEACE Plan to unite the groups on campus and to bring in others who wanted to make a difference with their lives to a relationship with their Lord and Savior. I believe that God is asking me to go and unite the tribes and start something that might spread across every University campus in our nation to move a generation. God is asking me in a 4 year period to bring them in, build them up, train them for, and send them out to plant seeds that future generations will harvest all across the world. My hope is that when God sends them out they will either plant a church or a small group wherever the Lord leads them. I truly want to be a planter.

The other morning as I was on my face, I started weeping because of how God had used me in people’s lives, Richard and Donna, Liz…we shared our lives with you and God did miracles. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” 1 Thess 2:8

The overwhelming feeling that God would use you to touch someone’s life in such an incredible way is so overwhelming. I was reminded that He takes what we have, he breaks, he blesses, and he multiplies.

He multiplies…I was standing in His way, you see I like watching the crop grow, the fruit of “your” labor, God was saying I want to use you to multiply, not add, “Brian, I am really Big and it’s not about you, your labor, or your desires.” He wants me to plant seeds that I may not get to see, until possibly Heaven. He is asking me to trust Him and his timing, not mine, and not to seek my glory, but His alone.

I must answer the call of God in my life and be obedient.

I have been in Victoria for 43 years, this is the community that I was born and raised in, this is the church that saved my life, this is the church that took a risk on me and allowed me to grow, this is a church not only for my friends but of my friends, this is the only community that my family has known (me, my wife, my kids, our parents), this is a great church with a great future, Tami owns a business here, it makes absolutely no sense for me to leave, we could be comfortable here the rest of our lives.

I am going to a place where I know no one, where I have no income, where housing prices are double, to a university that I’ve only stepped foot on once, to a calling that I don’t feel I am adequate for.

15 years ago a young man answered a call to a place he knew no one, to do something he had never done before, to do something almost everyone said was foolish. I thank God that Scott answered that call; I am one of those lives that was changed because of his obedience. It is time now for me to be sent out from here as a missionary to a foreign land to plant seeds for my King.

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