Military Ministry at the Wagner's

Military Ministry at the Wagner's
Thanksgiving Day 2017

Write the Vision and Make it Plain!

The Key to the Vision















I like George Barna's definition of vision in his book The Power of Vision. He said, “Vision is a picture held in your mind’s eye of the way things could or should be in the days ahead.” In 1993 Yvonne and I were pastoring in Grand Junction, Colorado and going through a period of transition in our ministry, and trying to determine God’s direction for our lives. During my Bible reading and prayer times God spoke to my heart and gave me a vision. The vision was huge! So huge in fact, that I was overwhelmed! I knew that if it would ever be fulfilled it would have to be God that made it happen. I could never accomplish it in my own strength. Initially I thought the vision applied to our ministry in Colorado, and at first it did, but it wasn’t until seven years later, after God brought us to Virginia to minister to the military, that I understood where the vision really applied. Even then, the fulfillment of the vision unfolded gradually as we stepped out and obediently followed God’s direction. I’ve carried this vision in my heart for twenty three years now. The parts of the vision that have been fulfilled have encouraged me to go on and believe that the rest will be fulfilled too.
            
In this section of our blog I want to share that vision with you to the best of my ability. It comes out of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the time I spend with Him in the Word and in prayer. The vision is personal. And sharing anything personal comes with a certain amount of apprehension, because there is always the risk of being misunderstood, or having what is shared misinterpreted.

Let me begin by saying I worship the Lord every day; I talk to Him in prayer, and believe He talks to me. Do I hear an audible voice? No. What He says to me comes primarily from the pages of the written Word of God, the Bible. I understand that the Bible has a contextual and historical meaning. I have spent most of my adult life studying it and preaching and teaching it to others. And it is within that understanding that I read and re-read the pages of the Bible. But to me the Bible is more than just a historical document with a specific context and meaning to people who lived thousands of years ago. It is also the living and active Word of God for the world, the Church, and each one of us specifically.

When I read the pages of the Bible, depending on what I am experiencing in my life at any particular moment, passages often ‘stand out’ to me, and I see parallels between the biblical text and my current life situation. Those parallels affect me, both mentally and emotionally. When a scripture passage I read stands out to me, or impresses me in some way, I believe it’s the Holy Spirit taking the words I’ve read and applying them to the current context of my life. The particular application may challenge, convict, encourage, strengthen, and even rebuke me. Or, it may provide the specific guidance I need at that precise moment in my life. I read and re-read those passages, pray about them, and ask God to show me how they apply in my life. Sometimes I struggle with the implications of a passage for days or weeks at a time. I ask the Lord to confirm the application of the verses to me in some way, because I don’t want to apply a passage of scripture to my life just out of ‘wishful thinking’.  Hopefully, from what I’ve just said you can get a sense of how personal and intimate this process is as an expression of my relationship with Jesus Christ. And, I trust my explanation gives you some understanding of what I mean when I say, ‘God spoke to me’.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m sharing this vision and why I would make something so personal, public. The answer is very simply ‘because God told me to’. He spoke to me through the words of Habakkuk 2:2-3 in the King James Version of the Bible that says,
"Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."

God said I was to ‘write’ the vision and make it plain so that “the person who reads the vision” might run with it. My reason for sharing the vision is so that those who read it might be inspired to get involved in Pentecostal hospitality house military ministry. In other words, I’m sharing this vision so that those of you who are reading the pages of this book will catch the vision and ‘run with it’.

I envision churches, families, couples, and even individuals involved in Pentecostal hospitality house military ministry all over this country. I see Pentecostal people who are faithfully involved in good strong Pentecostal churches opening their hearts and homes to young, single, military men and women. I see a time when Yvonne and I can say to a sailor, soldier, marine, or airman who has been part of our fellowship and who gets transferred to another base or post in another part of the country: “When you get there call Bill and Nancy, they’re doing the same thing we are.” And, we can pick up the phone and call Bill and Nancy and say: “Hey Bill, one of our sailors is coming your way. She’ll be there next week.” And we’ll know when she gets there, that a family will be waiting to invite her in, love on her, and help her grow in her relationship with Jesus Christ, or help her on her journey toward Jesus Christ.

As far as I know right now (2016), Yvonne and I are the only Pentecostal couple involved in hospitality house military ministry in the United States. I realize this is a pretty bold thing to say, and I don’t mean to sound arrogant or presumptuous when I say it. I’m simply emphasizing the need that exists. I would love to find out I am wrong! Right now, when one of our soldiers, sailors, or marines, gets transferred to a base somewhere else in the United States, we have no other Pentecostal families involved in hospitality house ministry with whom we can connect them for fellowship and ministry. We’re often told by the young men and women who have been through our home that they miss us, and wish there were someone in their new location that did what we do. Right now there are none. But I believe this will change!

I know it will change because God said it would. In Isaiah 51:1-2 He told me, 
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord; look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one and I blessed him and made him many.”
Through these verses I believe God said He would bless us and make us many. As we cast this vision I believe God is going to speak to the hearts of people around the country, and call those He wants involved in this work. He will call people into Pentecostal hospitality house military ministry. And, as they respond to His call, the specifics of the vision I am about to share with you will apply to them as well; and the vision will move from being just a personal one to a broader, shared vision of the future.

In Habakkuk 2:2-3 God included a word of encouragement when He said the vision is true and that there is a definite time set for its fulfillment. And even though it may take time to fulfill, we are to wait for it, for He said it will surely and certainly be fulfilled. I share this vision without pretense, and as humbly as I know how, but with the confidence and faith that it is the vision God has put in my heart.

This vision originated after a major physical crisis in my life in 1990. I had just come through extensive neurosurgery on my spinal cord, which resulted in my being medically retired from the United States Navy. After my surgery, on our way out of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Yvonne and I stopped in the hospital’s gift shop. There, taped to the wall behind the cashier, was a scripture verse: Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV).” 
Standing there, the words of that verse made a powerful impression on me. I believe stopping at that gift shop was not a coincidence, but a divine appointment.

After retiring from the Navy Yvonne and I moved to Grand Junction, Colorado to plant a church. My daughters Sarah and Elizabeth suggested we begin by inviting high school friends of theirs to our home one afternoon a week to eat, play games, and have a short Bible study. Yvonne and I liked the idea with only one stipulation: the girls were not to invite friends who were already involved in other churches or youth groups. We did not want to build our church by drawing people or teenagers from other churches. For three years we had as many as twenty-five high school students in our home every Thursday afternoon. When they came to the house, some of them told their parents they were ‘going to church’. Several accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and were later baptized in water.

As with so many things in life, however, there was a definite time and season for that outreach. Gradually the young people who were coming to the house got involved in other activities, graduated from high school, and went on with their lives. So we found ourselves in a period of transition. I admit we were disappointed and wondered what we should do next. That’s when God again spoke words of encouragement to me. This time it was from Habakkuk 3:17-19,
 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
God knew exactly where we were, and what we were going through. Obviously, the teens in our ministry were not figs or grapes or sheep or cattle, but figuratively the situation was the same. God was telling us to keep our attention focused on Jesus Christ, our Savior, and rejoice in Him in spite of the circumstances we were facing. Because He was our strength, He would enable us to be as surefooted on the road that lay ahead as a mountain goat climbing on rocky mountain heights.

During my daily devotional times I began reading the book of Isaiah and felt as if the Lord were again speaking directly to me through one chapter after another! The majority of our vision for this ministry comes from passages in these chapters. In the rest of this section of our blog I’ll share those passages with you, and explain how they apply. Again, this is a very personal process, but I hope that after reading these articles you will understand the vision; and if God stirs your heart, that you might pray about and consider getting involved in Pentecostal hospitality house military ministry too.

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