(and incidentally is anyone else having trouble posting to xanga?)
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Yorkshire Publishing; 1st edition (September 5, 2008)
Lawrence Powell is Pastor of Agape Family Worship Center in Rahway, New Jersey; a multi-ethnic ministry, that is home to thousands throughout the Tri-state region. In partnership with Oral Roberts University, he is also founder of Pneuma Life School of Ministry, an accredited teaching and training institute, equipping Christian men and women for missions, outreach, and church planting. Powell is a much sought-after speaker and respected Biblical teacher. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a Master’s degree from Oral Roberts University. He resides in New Jersey with his wife Vanessa, and their three lovely children.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $ 19.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing; 1st edition (September 5, 2008)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“Not called” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say.
~ William Booth Founder of the Salvation Army
It was a clear sunny day and I could not have been any more than about 5 or 6 years old. I was out in the backyard playing alone in the warm summer breeze. I do not remember why I was alone, but if you ask my mother, she will say that my sister and I used to get into petty squabbles. Our peaceful times of playfulness would somehow decline into: No! Stop! Move! Get off! Mine! Ouch! Mommy! And then, we were separated…for safety purposes of course.
This particular day in the backyard was probably no different.
I had an active imagination and I did not really mind playing alone. My “imaginary friends” and I climbed onto my little blue and white, double-seat glider swing set, and I had a captive audience.
That day I was performing live in concert, making up one song after another. As I was belting out my original tunes underneath the midday blue sky, I remember hearing myself repeatedly singing these simple lyrics: “Nobody knows me well like the Lord.” Now, at the time, I did not realize the profundity of the words. After all, I was just a kid. But somehow, I remember the lyrics so vividly. As I sat there on that swing, I began to sense the presence of the Lord. Everything grew quiet and still, and then, something peculiar happened. The heavens opened up and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased!” No, no, no…I’m sorry, wrong story. That was Jesus.
No, really, I did have an unexplainable encounter with the Lord that day. It was like the old saints used to say, “Somethin’ got a hold of me.” It reminds me of the Old Testament story of the young prophet Samuel. God called him long before he knew how to distinctly recognize and respond to the voice of God (1 Samuel 3:4-9). Reflecting on that moment in the backyard, I know now with a surety, the Spirit of God was depositing a seed in me, predestined to bloom at a future time.
I grew up in and around the church, but early on I did not have a clear understanding of God. And I certainly was not aware that I had been divinely selected to touch nations with the message of the Gospel. But by degrees, the Holy Spirit would beckon me more and more, and over the years I came to know His voice better. I wonder, do you remember when you first sensed the majesty, power, and call of God on your life? Where were you? What were you doing? You may not have understood it at the time, and if someone asked you to explain it, you would not have been able to put into words the depth of the encounter.
It is similar to the blind man in the book of St John, who was challenged regarding the healing he received from Jesus. Although he could not explain the experience well enough to satisfy his detractors, his response was simple yet profound. “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25b NKJV). After all these years, I’ve still not found words to sufficiently express the awesomeness of an authentic God-encounter. But one thing I know, though I was blind, now I see. Take this opportunity to reflect on the moment God began to open your eyes. Remember how you felt? Now softly thank Him for altering the very course of your existence.
His presence changes you, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Any true visitation from God alters the way you see, think, and experience the world. Although the full revelation of His will does not happen immediately, once He deposits His purpose in your heart, you will never be the same again. For me, it was a process that occurred over time. I had to grow, learn, and mature before I could begin fulfilling the call of God on my life. The same is true for you. Don’t be discouraged just because you are unable to fully grasp His purpose and plan for your life right now. All you need to know is He has one.
You may not feel that you have a specific calling, and yet, you do. Or, you may not feel like you’re qualified, and experienced enough to do what He’s chosen you for, but don’t worry. He will provide you with everything you need to fulfill your life’s purpose.
Perceive the Call of God
There is a story found in Mark 8:23–25 about a blind man in Bethsaida, who was brought to Jesus by a group of people. They were begging on his behalf for healing. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town, much the way He leads you and me. He takes us by the hand when we cannot see our way clearly. That’s one thing I love about our God. He will never leave you alone, groping in darkness. He will always be there for you.
Jesus began the process of opening this blind man’s eyes. The Bible says, “And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking’” (8:23b–24 NKJV).
It’s important to recognize that there was nothing lacking in Jesus’ power, only in the man’s perspective. The very first time Jesus touched him, he miraculously received his sight. Now, Jesus had to clarify his perspective.
Sometimes, God is dealing with you and showing you things, yet, you don’t possess a clear view of His vision for your life. But if you stay in God’s presence, He will reveal His will to you. Like this blind man, your vision may be clarified in gradual stages; nevertheless, God will complete the work He has begun in you. Look at what happens in the story. “Then He put His hands on his eyes again, and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly” (8:25 NKJV). I speak victory over your life today and declare that, if you can look up with eyes of faith, God will cause you to see what you were not able to see before!
God wants you to recognize His call on your life and begin viewing things from His perspective. Are you ready? Let’s continue along the path to perceiving and understanding your calling more clearly.
As you embark upon your own journey, remember to keep your focus fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Only He can show you who you really are. I’m not saying that there aren’t valuable books, trainings, and other resources available to assist you in enhancing your life in some way. In fact, I encourage you to be a life-long learner and seek out practical tools to help you grow and advance. Be aware though; you cannot depend upon self-help books, advice columns, and the well-meaning opinions of close friends and family members, to help you understand and fulfill your Divine calling.
Outside of God, there is no real revelation of truth. His purpose and plan is the only one that will help you live the abundant life He intends for every believer. You may wonder how can you begin truly understanding your purpose and calling. There is a clue found in the book of Ephesians 1:11. The word “purpose” in this passage of Scripture is the Greek word “prothesis,” meaning “to lay out beforehand,” much like the blueprint of a building. Thus, it conveys the exciting idea that your life has been designed with forethought, predetermination, and deliberate intention. (See also Ephesians
2:19–22.) Isn’t that wonderful to know you are no accident? You are not here by happenstance.
The Lord, the Master Architect, has created you with a specific plan in mind. No one else understands the intricacies of your design quite like the One who created the blueprint. This is precisely why positive thinking, dreaming, goal-setting, planning, and networking, without God is grossly overestimated. Remember, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1a).
Time in His Presence
God is the only legitimate source for discovering your purpose and calling. As you come honestly and humbly before the Father in pursuit of His will for your life, the Spirit will teach you all you need to know. Paul prayed to this end, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17–18 NKJV). Please understand—the wisdom and revelation for which Paul prayed only comes through time spent in the presence of the Lord.
The more you are in His presence, the more you learn His voice. The more you learn His voice, the more you understand His will. As you grow in your understanding of God’s Word, you will begin walking out the steps He has ordered for you before the foundation of the world. You indeed have a set path and it’s your job to seek God for direction. This is something I learned early on in my personal pilgrimage. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5 NKJV).
Growing up in the church, I remember having a sincere desire to understand the concept of spirituality and what role it played in my life. As I matured, I moved from mere curiosity to genuine interest, and finally, to a deep longing to know God more intimately. Having said that, allow me a moment of transparency. In all honesty, it was the tyranny of my “Dear Mother” that kept me in church every time the doors opened. No, I’m kidding…well, half kidding.
In the Pentecostal church I grew up in, Sunday service was an all day affair. The old saints used to sing a song that said, “Put yo’ time in. Pay day is comin’ after while.” And on Sundays, I think they meant it—literally. I often preferred going to church with my father, because at the particular Baptist church he attended, morning service began at eleven o’clock sharp and it was over at one o’clock on the dot. But don’t get me wrong, even though it was only a couple of hours, it felt more like the long, hot summer road trips we took from New Jersey to Florida each summer for vacation. During these excursions, the only question on my mind was, “Are we there yet?”
If I could have combined the excitement of my mother’s Pentecostal church with the abbreviated schedule of Daddy’s Baptist church, it would have been a near perfect worship experience!
Although I did not enjoy the excessively extended hours at Mommy’s church, I had grown quite accustomed to, and fond of, the energy and exuberance of the Pentecostal style of worship. The distinct rhythmic beating of the tambourine and drums, the syncopated sounds of the Hammond B-3 organ, and the lively demonstrations of praise, were thrilling. But I would soon discover that the thrill was far more than the music.
Little did I know then, you cannot be in the presence of the Lord and not be impacted by the experience. A transformation was taking place in me before my very eyes. God was actually molding me into a vessel of honor to be used by Him, but I did not perceive it at the time. Even as you are reading this book, God is working on you— reshaping your mentality and calling you to a new place in Him. You may not fully understand His plan at the moment, however, just as the aforementioned blind man did, you too must grab hold of His hand. Let Him lead you out of your Bethsaida into a new dimension of revelation and clarity.
Accept the Call of God
Whenever you branch out and chart a new course along the road God has laid out for you, it is natural to feel some uncertainty. It seems so tough at the time, because you are challenged to do things you have never done before. All kinds of thoughts run through your mind. You wonder if you are really capable of doing what God is challenging you to do. You know you don’t want to remain in your current position. At the same time, you feel too afraid to go to an unfamiliar place. You also do not have a single ounce of tangible evidence that God is even speaking to you. How do you get to the point of fully accepting the call of God?
Abraham, who is called the Father of Faith, would probably give you a very concise answer. It would sound something like, “Just do it.” How do you think he must have felt when God told him, “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NKJV). Sure, Abraham obeyed, but the decision certainly wasn’t an easy one. He was being pushed to embark upon a new journey, with most of the details missing. Sound familiar? You see, God knows the end from the beginning. You just have to trust Him. The most important thing is that Abraham obeyed God, accepted the call, and stepped out in faith. God expects no less of you.
You may not have all the particulars. However, God will unfold His plan as you progress along the path He’s chosen for you. If you are waiting for Him to perfectly map out the course before you respond to His call, then you’ll be left waiting forever. He develops and strengthens your faith as you walk with Him daily. But you have got to start walking.
Whether you are launching a ministry, business, career, product, service or other venture; the same is true of each. You have to start somewhere. Although you may not have all the answers, that cannot be your excuse for doing nothing. You will no doubt make some mistakes; it happens to the best of us. Still, you can’t let that stop you.
I remember one day, I got a call from my good friend, Pastor Donnie McClurkin. He is a world renowned Gospel singer, songwriter, and recording artist. On this occasion he was invited as a special guest at a White House Christmas dinner and invited me to tag along! I thought, why not? What an opportunity. I had not visited the Capitol since my ninth grade school trip. Of course, I wanted to make sure I was appropriately dressed. I asked what type of clothing I should wear and Donnie told me it was a black tie affair.
On the day of the event, I made sure I looked the part. I got a fresh hair cut. I put on my black Versace frock coat, custom-tailored shirt and pants. If I had to say so myself, it looked as if I had just fallen off the cover of a GQ Magazine. I must admit, I was feeling pretty good about going to the White House that day. When I walked, it was as if I had my own theme music playing in the background. It was that serious!
We arrived at the White House, went through the security check, and then, on to the room where the dinner was being held. Quickly, my eyes spanned the room. Then, the record scratched. My theme music abruptly stopped. And I knew…Donnie had not been given the correct information about the evening’s dress code. Everywhere I looked, the men were wearing blue and grey business suits.
At that very moment, I knew the answer to the riddle, “What’s black and white and red all over?” Me. I felt my face flush. My palms got sweaty. If I could have slid under a table without being noticed, I would have. To say that I was embarrassed, would be putting it mildly. I was utterly mortified. As I stood there in my formal wear, I expected someone to hand me a serving tray at any moment. Clearly, I looked like a resident butler, much like Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In that instant, I had two options. Either I could play “Cinderfella” and storm out of there like it was midnight. Or, I could laugh about it and still choose to enjoy the evening. After I got over the initial shock of it all, I chose the latter. Consequently, I met great leaders from around the country, took pictures with the President and First Lady, and no one seemed too put off by the fancy threads. Despite being overdressed, to my surprise, the evening turned out great. As the lyrics to one of Donnie’s hit songs say, “We fall down, but we get up.” If you don’t always get things right, it is not the end of the world. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and “Keep on truckin’”, like Eddie Kendricks used to say.
There may be a few missing details along your path, but don’t worry. Things will still work out. Rather than focusing on all you don’t know and how out of place you may feel, begin to see the opportunity in front of you. Surely, I could have high-tailed it out of there, but what good would that have done? It really was not that major. At least I can see that now. While it was happening, however, it appeared much more important than it actually was.
Similarly, when you are called to take on a new position, it may seem very intimidating at the time. You may not feel prepared, or qualified. Still, you have been singled out for the job, so you might as well face it. Own it. Trust me, I know it can be difficult to overcome paralyzing fear and the haunting sense of your own inadequacy; accept the job anyway. Ignore that nagging voice whispering in your ear telling you, “God didn’t say that. He’s not really speaking to you. It’s all inside your head.” Although you may not feel completely confident, trust God anyway.
Are you familiar with the story of Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel? He was challenged by God to go into battle and defeat the Midianites, on behalf of the nation of Israel (Judges 6:36–38). When Gideon received his assignment, he was ambivalent about the mission. Gideon was not sure that he should be the one leading Israel into battle. After all, of his own admission, he was the least likely choice. He could not imagine why God would hand-pick him for the job.
Gideon was by no means a great warrior and naturally he was confused about why God called him to complete a task that was way out of his league. He was very distraught about the whole thing and could not resist sharing his dilemma with God. Gideon thought that he should probably give God a heads up to help Him understand why choosing him was such a huge mistake.
He said, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 NKJV). What did he think God was going to say? “Oh Gideon, you’re so right. What was I thinking? I had no idea about your deficiency. Whew! That was a close call.” Now, of course, God was not going to agree with Gideon’s excuses, just as He’s not going to agree with yours. Here is what God actually said, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16 NKJV).
Let me help you with something. God is not put off by your (what I call) leastlikeliness. It does not matter that you have been considered least likely to succeed, least likely to get the promotion, least likely to survive in business, or least likely to make an impact in ministry. God has called you and He is on your side. It’s time to change your attitude and your words. Yes, you are the least likely; that’s right. You are the least likely to fail, least likely to quit, and least likely to be defeated. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37 NKJV).
It does not matter if you feel unqualified. Being unqualified does not disqualify you from being called by God. He is not deterred by your lack of experience and credentials. God is not limited by your natural limitations and He is in no way restricted by your restrictions. All you have to do is accept His call and He will take care of the rest. As the story continues, we learn that Gideon got cold feet before it was time to go to battle. He asked God to provide some kind of sign to let him know if He had truly called him to embark upon what seemed to be a kamikaze mission.
“So Gideon said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said—look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said’” (Judges 6:36–37 NKJV). Verse 38 of that same chapter tells us, that God indeed provided the sign exactly as Gideon requested and everyone was happy, right? No. Not quite.
Actually, verse 39 shows us that Gideon still was not satisfied. He still needed more proof. He asked God for another sign. Essentially, Gideon wanted God to give him a confirmation, for his confirmation. He knew that he was in no way cut out to do what God called him to do.
God did not get frustrated with Gideon; rather, He provided him with another sign to demonstrate that He had indeed called Gideon to do His will. When God calls you, He always puts you in positions you feel woefully inadequate to occupy. Not to worry, because whomever He calls, He equips to do the job—and do it well. Israel went on to win that battle against the Midianites, because Gideon was finally obedient to the call of God.
I’m sure you can relate to the emotions he felt. You may be experiencing a situation in your life where you need God to confirm that He is indeed with you. God has strategically orchestrated this moment to let you know that He is going to complete His work through you. You do not have to fear. He is ushering you into your destiny.
God is speaking to you and He will not be silenced. He is ministering to you right now and He wants you to embrace what He is doing. His call on your life is for specific reason, a distinct purpose, and a set time. God is calling you. Trust me. He will stop at nothing to get your attention.
Think for a moment. Have you been bombarded with confirmations of God’s promises? Has He spoken to you in dreams, in visions, or through others? Be sensitive. Be open. Be prepared to fulfill the call. It is time to do what He has instructed you to do.
I know that you, like Gideon, just want to be sure. You want to “know, that you know, that you know” it is truly God. How many times and ways does God have to reveal Himself, before you will say yes to His call? When the voice of the Lord spoke to Isaiah and said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah told God, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 NKJV). God wants you to tell Him the same thing, “Here am I! Send me.”
When I was coming up in the Church of God In Christ, we would repeatedly say, “Yes Lord,” and “Have your way Lord,” in times of prayer and worship. That simply meant we were assuming a position of complete submission. We were giving up our own will in exchange for His. If you are going to experience God’s best, you must strive to let God have His way in every area of your life. Give Him the opportunity to speak to your heart. Remember the old hymn that says, “Have Thine own way Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me, after Thy will. Whilst I am waiting, yielded and still?” (Have Thine Own Way, Lord, Adelaide A. Pollard and George C. Stebbins, Hope Publishing 1907, 1935). Let God know that you willing to receive everything He has for you and open to the new dimensions to which He is calling you.
Pursue the Call of God
When I began growing in my understanding of God, I knew that His call was on my life, but I still wrestled and wondered, “Could I really be called? Me, Lawrence Powell? Could God really use me for His glory? Could I be singled out to make a difference in the world?” You may ask some of these same kinds of questions. I want to assure you the answer is yes! God has great plans for your life—much bigger than you can imagine. So big, in fact, they would overwhelm you if He revealed them all at once. You are going to have to passionately pursue the call through intense prayer and supplication.
I recall my earlier days, attending graduate school at Oral Roberts University. I was experiencing a time of tremendous spiritual growth and development in my walk with the Lord. Still, I was seeking to understand exactly how God wanted to use me. One day, while I was in my room alone, I went into my literal prayer closet for a time of deep reflection, introspection, and prayer. That day, I was intent on asking God for direction. I was so full of questions and I really needed to gain a grasp of what He was calling me to do. I began to pour my heart out to Him. I said, “God, whatever You want me to do, I’ll do, but I need to know that it’s You speaking to me.”
I diligently sought the Lord and pushed past my fears, my anxieties, and my concerns. God spoke to me and assured me of His plans for my life. However, this was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that I sought God for His direction and confirmation. You see, I had a constant battle raging in my mind that kept me feeling uneasy, uncertain, and unsure about the path I should take. But I never stopped pursuing His call, even when I didn’t understand.
Don’t worry just because you don’t completely understand everything about your purpose today. You can still apprehend what you cannot comprehend. Simply respond to God as young Samuel did by saying, “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10b NKJV). This kind of act puts you in the right place to receive a word from the Lord.
Pause for a moment now and sincerely ask God to supernaturally develop your ability to discern His voice. Once you recognize His call and become more open to hearing from Him, you will realize that He wants to take you under His wing as His dear child and impart His purpose into your heart. From this day forward, become resolved as never before to pursue your calling intentionally, passionately, and relentlessly.
When it comes to going after God’s will for your life, you must possess an unquenchable thirst, unwavering perseverance, and unyielding commitment. Showing up on Sunday mornings out of
habit and mere obligation is not sufficient. Reading a few verses on a bi-monthly basis from your over-sized, large-print family Bible on the living room table won’t cut it. An occasional, “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer is not enough. Quoting, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), will hardly sustain you during your times of uncertainty.
Pursuit is the proof of desire. Thus, if you approach your quest with a nonchalant attitude, devoid of the true passion it takes to ultimately realize God’s plan for your life, you will be met with frustration. Your yearning to understand His calling must infiltrate the very core of your being and cause you to seek Him with true sincerity and fervency in prayer. As you seek God, He will reveal the mysteries of His will in a way that only He can. But you must remain steadfast. You can do it! Just the fact that you are reading this book shows that you have what it takes to overcome adversity, pursue God, and fulfill your destiny.
I cannot tell you how many times I cried out to God from the depths of my being, as I struggled to know exactly what He wanted me to do. I heard His beckoning. I sensed His will. I wanted more clarity, but the answers continually eluded me. I knew God was leading me on a path, but like the proverbial “carrot on a stick,” the answers I so desperately craved, seemed to be dangling just beyond my grasp. Yet, I could not quit. Why? The call of God penetrated the very fiber of my being. The passion to pursue His plan became like an unquenchable fire that burned deep inside the recesses of my soul.
God will ignite a burning desire in you to fulfill a higher calling. He will stir up a fire in you to fuel your faith through times of fear and ambiguity. On this journey to discover and fulfill the call of God, you may feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, but continue to press on. Remember, when you are serious about seeking God, you are guaranteed to go through periods of uncertainty. Still, don’t be deterred. Just keep seeking Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (NKJV).
Know that even though things may not come together all at once, God will complete the work He has begun in you. It pays to seek the Lord. Don’t give up your search to understand His call. When you seek Him, you will find Him, and when you find Him, you will find you. Then, the details of your call will be made clear.
These foundational principles are so important. Remember and rehearse what you have learned in this chapter. These principles will assist you in developing your faith during every stage of your journey. Never forget, God has indeed chosen you to complete an assignment that was laid out before the foundation of the world. As you walk with Him, He will continue to unfold His plan.