Seeing the Beginning from the End

Isaiah42“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” – Isaiah 42:1

The summer I was 15, God spoke this verse into my spirit and it changed my life forever. Last night, 28 years later, the same verse did it again.

The summer of 1985 I was your typical church-going teenager. We were at a summer camp at Christian Retreat in Bradenton, Florida for a week – it was actually one of two separate camps there I went to that summer. I was interested in having fun, enjoying the services, and meeting girls that would come from around the country. I was also at a place of just generally trying to figure out what life would look like in a few years after I would graduate from high school. Again, I was pretty much the typical church-going teenage male.

I had considered things like architecture, graphic arts and design, and even being a commodities broker. OK, maybe that last one isn’t typical of someone 15 – but the desire to make money WAS, and there happened to be a flood of films I’d seen with that job in them. And the people in the films were rolling in the dough. So I added that one to my list.

God had a different list in mind for me. It had just one thing on it. But, I’ll come back to that.

For now, let’s get back to camp.

So, I was having the fun at camp I’d wanted. I was enjoying the services. I met the girl, and was actually sitting with her in service that second night of camp. Winkie Pratney was speaking that week and he had my attention. He was talking about the call of God on your life… not just the “God wants your heart and you to live for Him” kinda thing, but the SPECIFIC, COMPLETE call to a life of full-time ministry. At the end of his message he asked for a response, but warned that only those who KNEW that the Holy Spirit was speaking to them should come forward. Out of hundreds only a few did.

I remember sitting there next to this girl and her friends – we were towards the middle, about the 8th or 9th row back. And I remember it feeling in that moment like the room darkened and just the area around our seats was lit up. My heart chair_02was pounding, and I felt that gentle but steady tug of the Holy Spirit urging me to stand and go forward. But I also felt the not-so-gentle, steady tug of my flesh urging me to stay so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of this girl I was trying to impress. My flesh and the girl from Texas won out that night.

The next night, there we were again. End of the service, the same call – and the same struggle, with the same result. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, but He was having none of this behavior out of me. The next day I wrestled quietly with what I knew God was doing in my heart and asking of me, trying to weigh out the pros and cons… and thinking about all that money I was supposed to make that I’d be giving up instead. But God kept drawing me in a loving way.

That fourth night of camp, my heart was pounding all the way through service. I don’t remember what Winkie preached on, but I knew the question would be coming at the end – and it did. This time, I found myself standing and making my way forward. In a way, as I left that row, I was leaving all of MY ideas of what was best for me behind… the girl, the jobs, the money. And there I stood at that altar surrendering my life to God and His plans for me. It was an epic moment I’ll never forget.

I was also like your typical teenager in not wanting this to just be an emotional experience. I wanted to KNOW that this is what God was speaking to my heart – so I spoke with our youth leader, some other godly adults, and even my pastor about what I’d experienced. I asked them all to pray for me, that God would confirm to me that this is indeed what He was speaking to my heart.

It was a few days later that as I was just going about daily life and simply thinking about what had happened, that the Holy Spirit dropped “Isaiah 42:1” into my spirit. I don’t remember where I was, only that I had to write that down because I wasn’t near a bible at the time and would have to look it up later. When I got home, I ran to my room to grab my bible and find out what it said.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

Reading those words sent a jolt into my spirit. In that moment I just KNEW God was speaking that confirmation to me, and there would be no turning back. Well, at least that was the plan anyway.

The following teen_strugglesemester at school I wrestled with the weight of this call, now not wanting to stand out from my peers again. I gave in to a couple of months of drinking on the weekends and going to parties after football games, and found myself in the same spot as I was at camp that summer – asking myself, “Do I stand, or do I sit and let my flesh win?”

On New Year’s Eve a handful of us went down to Clearwater Beach to drive around, get someone to buy us alcohol, and just have a good time. I found myself more than buzzed and standing in about 8 inches of water and not realizing it – and in the process ruining a new pair of Nikes that I’d been given at Christmas. Definitely not what I was hoping for, and not what God had in mind for me.

Going back to school a few days later, I was sitting in fourth period English class and quietly wrestling again with this call. And right there in the middle of class, I quietly prayed and asked God to forgive me, telling Him that if He’d still have me I’d like to respond to that calling again.

Literally in that next moment the Holy Spirit dropped “Matthew 12:18” into my spirit – and again I had to write it down because at this point I wasn’t carrying a bible to school with me. I remember writing it down on the inside of a light blue, three-prong, two-pocket folder. And again, when I rushed home after school that day I found myself in my room, bible in hand, and looking up this verse. No lie, here is what it says:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

The same verse but now in the New Testament. BAM! Another jolt went through my spirit – I was His.

Fast-forward 28 years to last night. The blur in-between is images of mission trips, marriage, 4 sons, 23 years of ministry and pastoring, and even writing my own book and having it published. In that time I’ve had some of those same moments like from camp where I wrestled with wanting to make the right decisions, and sometimes missing it. But the same Holy Spirit has been just as gentle and just as urgent in His tug on my heart.

The last couple of years I’ve not been identityactive in ministry. After stepping away for a year of much-needed sabbatical rest, I simply haven’t felt led to just pick up doing what we did before. In the midst of this, we’ve also been in a period of transition – finding a new church, laying down old identities, and praying about a big move after 30+ years of living in the same small area. But just like that summer at camp, we did it because the Holy Spirit led us to.

So, here we are now living in Tallahassee for the last 3 months, and part of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) mission base and community. Last night was our weekly “Friday Night Burn” service at the director’s house. Their son Jared was speaking and he started off by saying, “It’s gonna be like we’re around a campfire tonight.” Camp? Hmmm.

He then ministered about God’s desire to birth a move of justice through those who bear His image. And somewhere near the middle of his message, Jared brought us to Isaiah 42:1. As he began to read and minister out of it, it was like camp 28 years ago – the lights dimmed a bit again and the end of the couch I was sitting on lit up. It’s honestly like I’d never realized the latter part of the verse existed – even though it was my calling verse.

“…I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

Why is this so profound to me? Well, it’s because my book is about justice – actually 7 different injustices – and about how God sees them. The name of the book is The Justice Revolution and it has done very well – more than 5,000 copies sold. But the last 18 months or so have been full of promises and plans for the book that haven’t come through, and I’ve found myself lately wondering what God wants to do with it.

In the midst of all this I’ve been working for a large health insurance company. Initially I did customer service, but for a little more than a year I’ve been what’s called an Instructional Designer. Our team works remotely, and two of the other designers are from India. On a team call a couple of months back it was my turn JRbook_01to show a slide I’d created that told some more personal info about myself, and on it one of the images I shared was that of my book. The next day I get a message from my website that someone had posted some comments, and when I went to look I saw it was one of the two girls I work with from India.

Turns out she is a Christian and very active in ministering to the hurting in her community. Hearing about my book, she got excited. Then she went to the website, and got really excited. So, we began to talk about what we could do to get a copy of the book to her, as she wants to do it with her church. We both committed to look into things and then just kind of let it go for a bit.

Then, this past Thursday I really felt the need to follow-through on this, and realized the easiest way was to just send her a PDF of the book and allow her to print whatever copies she needed. That’s what I did, and she was thrilled. She actually told me, “Barry, you’ve just made my week – no, my month!”

So, in hitting “SEND”, I was literally “bringing JUSTICE to the nations”. This part didn’t hit me until I was typing this out this morning.

God reminded me last night about my call – no, He actually shone the light on the bigger call He has had for me all of these years.  It’s hard to step away from a specific ministry identity after more than 2 decades, and then to wonder what it is (who it is) you are supposed to be. I wasn’t destined to simply be a pastor, He wanted me to write a book about justice that would go to the nations – and He had just the right verse to use to confirm that to me. So God breathed fresh on it for the third time in my life. I’m blown away to see that when He first whispered it to me 28 years ago, HE knew the details of how my life would play out today even when I didn’t.

In His omniscience God can see our end from our beginning. It’s His mercy, though, that let’s us have moments when we can see our beginning from the end.

Truth is, though… I’m just getting started.

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UPDATE: 10/22/2014

IMG_2196

Winkie Pratney and I at the IHOP Tallahassee Relentless Conference

We currently are on staff with the International House of Prayer (IHOP) Mission Base in Tallahassee, which recently hosted a regional conference from October 9-11. Winkie Pratney was one of the keynote speakers, and I had the privilege of driving Winkie and his family around over the weekend. It was truly awesome connecting with this amazing man of God again after 29 years!

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4 thoughts on “Seeing the Beginning from the End

  1. Donna Pratt says:

    I am truly enjoying this. I just kept thinking- Justice is the name of your grandson. You, someday will send hm to the nations.

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