A God-Sized Dream, a Servant's Heart and a Warrior's Passion: The Pursuit of a Heroic and Humble Life

Gifts I'd Give My Children

Most communities of faith (i.e. churches) are thought to be places where service - if you have the bad luck of getting roped into it - is drudgery, performed out of obligation and absent of creativity. Todd makes the case that while certain low-profile jobs in the church must be done with humility, we are to be place where the deployment of God's gifts should not only transform those in our immediate circle, but where His glory is revealed through heroic, mind-blowing, life-altering ministry.

Todd WagnerDec 2, 2007

In This Series (11)
A God-Sized Dream, a Servant's Heart and a Warrior's Passion: The Pursuit of a Heroic and Humble Life
Todd WagnerDec 2, 2007
The Grateful Heart: A Real Simple Way to Avoid Being Seduced
Todd WagnerNov 25, 2007
The Gift of Community: An Artery of Grace that Must Never Get Clogged
Todd WagnerNov 18, 2007
Serving all Men without Shorting any Truth: The Gift of Relevance
Todd WagnerNov 11, 2007
A Passion for Prayer: It's Not What You Think
Todd WagnerNov 4, 2007
The Gift of Authenticity: The Freedom to Show Our Scars
Todd WagnerOct 28, 2007
The Gift of Grace: Believe it, Receive it, Respond to it, and Pass it On
Todd WagnerOct 21, 2007
We Must Work it Out: Learning to Deal with Conflict
Todd WagnerOct 14, 2007
A Love for Those Who do not Love God: Commitment to the Uncommitted
Todd WagnerSep 30, 2007
God's Authoritative Word: A Product That Can't be Beat
Todd WagnerSep 23, 2007
Living a Life of Full Devotion to Christ: Out of the "Limbo Line" and into the Party
Todd WagnerSep 16, 2007

Kami: Do you have the front page?

Paul: What?

Kami: Do you have the front page?

Paul: No. I haven't seen it. By the way, what time is it?

Kami: It's about 7:30.

Paul: The game is going to be on. I'll get us something to eat.

[Phone ringing]

Paul: No, don't answer that.

Kami: Why? What's the matter?

Paul: Because I don't want to be interrupted.

Kami: I didn't realize we were doing something significant.

Paul: Well, we're going out.

Kami: Out? I thought we were going to watch the game.

Paul: I changed my mind.

Kami: What?

Paul: Yeah, well, I'm just feeling romantic.

Kami: Sit down. It'll pass. Gosh. I'll get us something to eat.

Paul: I have to get out of here. Come on. Ugh. Shoes. Why did I tell him that I'd be home tonight? Why didn't I work late? And he's not going to stop until he gets me.

Kami: Where are you going?

Paul: Well, I'm just going jogging.

Kami: You don't jog.

Paul: Well, it's never too late to start.

[Phone ringing]

Paul: No.

Kami: Hello? Oh. Hi, Pastor Wagner. I'm fine. No, everything is great. Yeah, we were just about ready to watch the game. Uh-huh. Paul? Oh, sure. He's right here. Paul? Paul. Paul! Well, that's funny. He was here just a minute ago. I guess he went jogging. Well, he doesn't. It's never too late to start. Oh, sure. Yeah, I'll have him call you tonight. Okay, no problem. Bye-bye.

Paul: Found it!

Kami: Oh my gosh! Found what?

Paul: Front page. Didn't you want to see it?

Kami: What's going on, Paul?

Paul: Look at the time? Isn't that game going to start now?

Kami: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. You're not doing anything. You're not watching any TV until you tell me what's going on here.

Paul: Kami…

Kami: Now.

Paul: I don't want to talk to Pastor Wagner. There I said it. Are you happy now?

Kami: Well, why not?

Paul: Because he wants me to work with those terrorists.

Kami: Terrorists?

Paul: Junior high boys.

Kami: He wants you to be a junior high leader?

Paul: Yeah.

Kami: What's the problem?

Paul: It's not safe. That's the problem.

Kami: You're scared of 12-year-old kids?

Paul: I'm scared that I might wind up killing them one by one, execution-style.

Kami: Oh my gosh. Stop talking crazy.

Paul: Kami, I hate kids.

Kami: Well, of course, you do. Why else would Pastor Wagner want you to do it?

Paul: Huh?

Kami: Suffer the little children. Take up your cross. Your burden is heavy.

Paul: So, because I hate it, I have to do it?

Kami: Exactly.

Paul: Why can't I do something I like?

Kami: Because this is not the country club, Paul. This is church. If God wanted us to be happy, he wouldn't ask us to serve. That's what service is all about.

Paul: How do you know?

Kami: I grew up in the church, Paul. My father hated serving. His father hated serving. I come from a long line of unhappy servants, but somebody has to do it.

Paul: So why do it if we hate it?

Kami: Because Paul, we love God.

Paul: Why do you get to do what you like to do (going to the hospital and all)?

Kami: Who said I liked it?

Paul: Well, you leave here singing every time.

Kami: Well, of course, I do. People aren't supposed to know you hate it. Now, okay. Come on. We're going to call him back right now, and we're going to tell him you are ready to go. Come on. Come on. Come on. Happy. Teeth. I want to see teeth. Hey, this is acting, Paul. You can do this. Well, I think you can. Come on. Come on. Smile. Here we go. Here we go. Here's his number. Jewels are being made for your crown as we speak. Okay. Here you go. Smile.

Paul: Hello, Pastor Wagner. Todd. You want me to call you Todd? Sure. Yeah, this is Paul. I'm sorry, I just stepped out for a second.

Kami: Don't lie to the reverend.

Paul: Yes, I'm ready. What? Well, sure I can do that. Tomorrow night? Sounds great. Sure. I'd love to do that. Yeah, well, thanks so much for calling. We'll talk to you soon. All right, bye-bye.

Kami: Paul! That was fantastic. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought you loved the whole idea.

Paul: But I do.

Kami: What?

Paul: Yeah.

Kami: That's not right.

Paul: He wants me to paint.

Kami: Paint?

Paul: Yeah. They're doing a little junior high production, and he wants me to paint some sets. That's something I can do without wanting to kill anyone.

Kami: You're scaring me, Paul.

Paul: Yeah, I think I might really enjoy doing this. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go check on my paints.

Kami: What about suffering little children and taking up your cross?

Paul: Come to think about it, I think I need some new paintbrushes too. I think I'll go buy some. Yeah.

Kami: Paul. If it doesn't hurt, it doesn't count.

[End of video]

Oh man. Isn't that amazing? The way that we think about what it means to serve God? I can't tell you how many folks who I have talked to who have said all along that one of the reasons they did not really want to trust God is because they knew as soon as they did they were sure he would ask them to go somewhere and do something they didn't want to do. The classic picture we all have is as soon as we ask God what he wants us to do with our lives, we're all headed to Africa to live in a mud hut with grass on the top. Right?

You need to know something. That comes from a really wrong view of God. What we're doing is today we are wrapping up this little series that we have just had a ball since we've started meeting in this facility called Gifts I'd Give My Children. What we've done is we've talked about things we are passionate to communicate to those who we love. I, as a dad, want my kid to have these commitments to these right values, these right characteristics, these right ideas, this worldview. I, as a friend of yours who gets to share life with you here, am passionate for you to embrace these different understandings God wants us to have.

How many of us have this understanding that all God wants to do is make our lives miserable, and the more we love him, the more we'll serve? I love that little drama in there that in the midst of it, three different verses were referenced to support the idea that God wants us to serve humbly and miserably. They're all pulled out of context, and they all add to this wrong thinking about God.

This idea of serving faithfully does seem like this awful task instead of this life-giving moment. Let me pray for us so that God would use just the rest of our day to help us this morning to get a right view of God and maybe unleash us in a way we've never really been unleashed before.

Father, I thank you for these friends, and chances to gather together and to laugh and to see maybe a little bit of ourselves up there in that little drama, and to be reminded now through some time in your Word what you really want our lives to be about. How you are a good God, how you care for us, how you want to set us free and help us experience life to its fullest.

Lord, I'm grateful that I'm a part of a family here that is made up a core group of people who have it right, who really understand that you're not just some taskmaster who wants to find the place that's going to make us most miserable to show the world how you can get folks to do things that, apart from being a wonderful God, they wouldn't otherwise do.

I pray that today we get our mindset right. That what you are is a wonderful Creator who wants to place people for exactly where he created them to be placed that they might have a full life and may not waste it on lesser things. Lord, would you just correct our thinking and unleash our gifts so others might be served, and we might experience the joy that you created us to walk in. For your glory and the good of others and ourselves we pray these things, amen.

Just this idea is rooted in a wrong idea of God. If I have a little life phrase that I've embraced lately, it is this one. God is not looking to rip you off; he is looking to set you free. You see, one of the things that the Enemy does is he's a liar. He's not creative. All he does is take whatever God said, and he twists it and changes it.

If God says something is good, he's going to want you to believe it's bad. If God says, "Forget what lies behind," he's going to tell you to be stuck in your past and to never be able to get over it. If God says he wants to lead you to life, the Enemy convinces you, "No, God is the one who's looking to rip you off."

This is what Jesus said. Look. John 10:10 is a seminal verse. It's a central verse that we have to get our arms around and understand it. Jesus says, "I have come as you might have life and have it abundantly," but he says also, "It is the thief, the Enemy, who has come to steal, to kill, and destroy." We have this idea that is just the opposite. We believe that it's God who wants to steal our joy, he wants to kill our freedom, and he wants to absolutely destroy anything that we ever were going to do with our lives that we thought was going to give us life. It's just the opposite.

There's a great little message that Jesus himself delivered right out of the chute when he was speaking. It's in Matthew 7:7-11. This is what it says. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Let me just say this. This is not a health, wealth, and prosperity text. In fact, you can't find one of those in the Bible because it's a completely unbiblical idea as it's related to material possessions and physical health.

But this is a verse that says, "You want to have a life that is full and rich in the sense of the way you experience a sense of loving your life? You want a life that is prospering in the sense of being grateful for today? Then you have to reconnect with God. You have to ask God how you experience that life, and where that abundant overflowing life comes from?"

He says, "You have to come to me because I am the author of your life, and I am the one who can perfect your life, but your life lived apart from me, or even if you know who I am, not living in my will, you're not going to have that kind of life. So ask me, 'What, God, does life look like that is rich and full and prosperous and successful?' Seek it from me. Knock on the door of my heart and my wisdom, and I will give it to you."

He says, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you…" This is what God does. He says, "I am a good God. I'm a good Father." So he says, "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?" You guys are idiots. You're selfish. You're moody. You don't do that to your own kids? Why would you think I would?

"Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father…" Your good and perfect Father, who is altogether different than you, who only does act out of others' best interests, who is isn't needy, who doesn't grow tired or weary. He didn't tell kids to shut up and give him some time alone but is a perfect Father.How much more will he then give to you what you ask?

Do you want a life that is glorious? God wants your life to be glorious. You were made in the image of God, and because you're made in the image of God, you desire glory. Let me just say this. God doesn't desire glory, God is glorious. You are made in the image of God, so you long to be like him. Everything God does is about his own glory.

I want to explain this. Every time I say it, it's so important that I unpack this for you because when we think of people who seek glory and do things for their glory, we confuse when we hear about God doing everything he does for his glory. Here's the gig. Look. Men do seek glory, and they often seek it in a way that's going to make others bow before them and exalt them so they can feel good about themselves.

When we think about men seeking glory, we think about Donald Trump. We think about the old TO (now he's Dallas' favorite son, so we have to say the "old TO"). We think about guys like Deion, who it's all about him, man…Prime Time. "Look at me. Check me out." That repulses us a little bit. We're saying, " I don't want to worship a God who is about seeking his glory."

God has never been about seeking his glory. God is about revealing his glory. God is not trying to establish his glory in the sense that it doesn't exist, and he wants you to think he's great, so you would worship him. God is trying to tell you who he is. He is pulling back the veil and revealing himself so you will seek him because in seeking him, you will find life. Do you get that?

God is not trying to establish his glory so you might be impressed by him. He's trying to show you, "I am good. I am perfect. I am loving. I am a God who takes others' interests in mind. It is a glorious entity, being, person that I am. If you would know that, you would want to love me. If you love me, you'll find life, healing, forgiveness, and hope." Do you see the difference? God wants you to know, "This is the kind of Dad I am. If you just ask me how to live this life, I'll tell you how to live this life."

Here's the other thing about your Dad that's so amazing. He gives gifts. He gives the gift of forgiveness. He gives the gift of the provision that might pay your infinite debt before him. He gives the gift of wisdom, and he gives the gift of success and richness and fullness of life if you walk with him.

Here's the other deal. He says that he's given each of us gifts, that if we use them in accordance with his will, it will bless others, it will glorify him, and it will give us exceeding joy, and it will store up for us treasures in heaven. Watch this. We love to talk about this one little verse. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this. It's a wonderful verse.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith [through believing in the goodness of God] ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works…" You don't earn God's favor. "…so that no one may boast." We love to quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but we so often stop, and we don't quote to ourselves verse 10. Watch this. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

That word walk is peripateō. It means step-by-step, everywhere you go, how you move, everything about your life would be defined by your response to what God has done. When you live the way God designed you to live, you become this glorious and beautiful work of God. Here's what I want to share with you this morning.

You are his workmanship. He is a divine artist who has perfectly created and designed you for something great. Let me say that again because most of us don't believe that. Your Father doesn't make mistakes. He is a perfect creative artist, and you are his workmanship. The question is not, "Are you a valuable, infinitely beautiful, divine work of God? The question is, "Where should you be displayed and hung to give him the greatest glory and you the greatest good?"

God has a place for you. It's ours to discover where that is so that we can go, "This is the life. Where I'm hung, where I'm walking, people go, 'You are in the right place.'" I was talking to the folks who serve with me up here on Sunday mornings, and I was talking about, "In the mess I'm going to talk about today, especially you all who have the gift of song and can really sing…" Everybody goes, "I wouldn't know how. If I could sing like that, I would love to be able to sing like that. If I could sing like that, I'd serve God just like they do."

You wouldn't believe how many folks think they can sing like that that we have to love them enough to go, "Well, you can sing, in the shower maybe or to your kids when you put them in bed, but you can't sing up here, as much as we love you because if we hang you out here, we're going to hang you out to dry." We love you enough to have that conversation. But we all think, "Gosh, that's what I want to do."

I want to tell you something, and I'm going to be careful when I do this. There are thousands of folks here who are already hung in the right place, but some of them don't get to come up here on stage. One of my favorites (I'm going to embarrass him when I say it) is Jim Morgan. I don't know if you know Jim. He was in the Watermark News a number of weeks back. Jim is the kind of guy who is whole life people told him there was something wrong with him.

In this Watermark News, he shared a story about how his dad beat him into the ground and told him he wasn't much of a man. This brother sings at Watermark. He is out there greeting people, loving people, quietly setting things up in a way. I just look at Jim Morgan and go, "I hope that my gifts sing as much as Jim sings," because this guy loves people. This guy does things so quietly, with such excellence, with such consistency. If you have Jim on something, you never have to ask if it's going to be done. I just go, "That brother sings."

I think about how there are some people who sing with my kids. I just got a note here. I have a note that is written in very small font, if you will, on front and back. It's signed by sweet Haley Cobb, who teaches my kids (at the time, my 3-year-old son). He won't be able to read all the words that are on here for seven years.

She wrote him this note because she observed something in his life that he was struggling with one particular morning and the way he was interacting with his mom as he was getting dropped off. She shepherded him through it in that moment, and then she followed up with a note that my wife and I got to read to my son in a way that he could understand it. I go, "That woman sings where she's serving." You'll never know it unless you have a 3- or 4-year-old boy here at Watermark.

I think about the folks who write in the Watermark News. I think about the people who do the graphics work. I think about the people who are humbly learning how to work these incredibly complex lights. I think about the people who make the audio work. I think about the folks who clean. I think about the folks who want to do beautification around this area.

I think about the folks who serve quietly in CR on Monday nights. I think about the people who are part of the worship setup on Tuesday nights for The Porch. I think about all the people who greet when you walk in. I just go, "There are some people who are really singing," and it encourages me so much.

There are two things I want to talk to about this morning. If you get it, if you understand the grace of God, and you understand who your Father is, then your life ought to be made up of two things in the way that you serve. Firstly, you ought to have a humble heart. Humble hearts are like, "Where do you need me? I'll do anything."

There's another piece to that. I'm going to unpack the humble heart real quick, but the other piece is just a heroic vision, a sense of, "I'll do anything anywhere, but I don't want to do more than just faithfully serve to help." Because not only is our children's ministry made up of people who have heroic visions to change the life of young kids (like Haley Cobb; that's where she sings), it is also made up of humble servants who are like the guy in the drama. "I'm not the right guy to lead out with junior high kids."

But there are people over there who know that for us to do what we need to do on Sunday morning, we need to be in the room with Haley Cobb to help her and to manage and love kids. "I don't have to prepare it all. I just have to be there just to do crowd control, just to be Secret Service, just to enforce, so she can do what she needs to do over there," and to be present, so our numbers are right in a humble servant kind of way, because we are a family.

I'll say it to you this way. If you asked me what my real gifts were at the Wagner household, I would not tell you it's by default washing dishes or taking out the trash. In fact, if somebody came, and he said, "Todd, I have a great vision for you. I need you to live at this particular address with this woman and these kids, and I need you to take out the trash, every now and then walk in the backyard, scoop up the remanence of your canine. I need you to lift heavy things and on a periodic basis, at least, help your exhausted wife by doing the dishes and loading the dishwasher."

I can do all those things. I have what it takes to execute in all those things, and I'd better do it. I'd better do it really, really well, because that's what you do when you're part of a team and a family to make that household run. I'd better do more than just the dishes when my wife is exhausted. I better look for ways to humbly serve and pick up things and move them around, but if that's the only thing you called me to do, my gifts, the way God wired me and shaped me as a man, would be really left wasted and unemployed.

So God says, "I want you to lead well. I want you to be a humble servant. You'd better be a humble servant, but I want you also to have a heroic vision because I've built into you some really amazing gifts that I want to lead and shepherd that family and other families that you're a part of." Let me say something to you this morning.

Probably all of us struggle, maybe some of us in both of those areas, but all of us probably struggle in one of those more than the other. My knees buckle in confusion whenever we have to tell you that we need folks helping over there with the Haley Cobbs in this world in our children's area. Is it a surprise to you that we have over 1,000 kids here on Sunday morning, so we need hundreds of people to humbly serve alongside the folks with a heroic vision for one of the best ministries to kids I've ever seen?

We should never have to ask. My wife should never have to ask me to take out the trash, ever, because I'm a part of that family. We should never have to ask folks to greet people here. We should never have to ask folks, "We're a little low on these weekly tasks that have to happen to keep this house running."

When you go to be a part of the greeting team, there are people who are absolutely wired there to lead that group, inspire that group, and set that group up for success, but you need humble servants. In areas you're not designed to be a chief, you have to be a faithful Indian. So in other areas where you are a chief with a heroic vision, those humble servants will be a part of your team. Is it a surprise to anybody here that we need humble servants to make this family work?

I want to share with you, if you're not doing something as a humble servant here somewhere weekly, biweekly, once a month, then you're just not tuned into what it takes to run this family. Your wife is exhausted and probably a little bitter. I just want you to know that. There is so much more. This is a both/and by the way and not an either/or. I want to capture the heart on the other side because some of you guys are faithfully serving.

I don't want to embarrass Frank Schubert, but Frank is a founder and leader in one of the largest development companies in the world. I love watching Frank Schubert go over there and see him with our 0- to 5-year-olds with 6 kids loaded up in some little kid push train (I don't even know what it is), and he's just walking around. I've seen him do it with a smock on. I go, "That's unbelievable that Frank is humble enough to serve that way."

If that's the only way that Frank served this church, it would be a tragedy, and it's not. Frank was the one who, from the very beginning, began to dream with us about one day we think we'll need some land, we think we'll need a facility. He has development gifts. So he, along with other real estate experts, looked at over 25 different sites around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, put together bids on about 5 or 6 of them, all of which we never even got a contract on.

Then one day, with a group of guys from a bunch of different development and real estate companies around town, saw this little piece of land that had been put together in little fractional different areas with different ownership, and they combined them in their insights. They put them together, and they got this land at an incredible price.

Then Frank led us on our entire phase one development of that building and phase two development of this building. Now, he's handed it off to an incredibly gifted team who has taken it over for phase three, and Frank has used his gifts to serve this body. I'm talking about in the hundreds, thousands of hours of investment with his expertise, his insights, and his professionalism.

The old saying goes, "You build a church, you lose a pastor," meaning your pastor gets so involved in the intricacies of building the church that he stops being a pastor. That's never happened at Watermark because from the very beginning, I know I have insights. I understand about functionally how we need to use this thing. I have some real ideas about how the face of it should look and the feel of it should be.

I gave a strong voice into that. I would walk in. I would give a strong voice. I would walk out. They would come back, and they say, "This is what we think we're going to do. I, along with others, would speak into that." I'd go, "I think you guys are off the mark here a little bit. This feel wouldn't be exactly right. We need to warm that up. No. That's a little bit too hard. It's a little bit too mechanical. That's a little bit too this. Come back this way a little bit." I'd walk away, and I would spend 15-minute shots in the context of their 150 hours where experts executed.

That's what happens every year with our budget. That's what happens with our human resources. That's what happens with our areas of insurance, the way we care for our staff. That's what happens with so many functional areas in our church where experts rise up and go, "I am gifted at this." We say, "Go. Let us serve you by giving you the input and resource that you need to effectively lead us in that area."

Our elders here are not involved in the budget oversight process. They give vision and direction to it, but gifted leaders in those areas come back through and look at that, manage it, audit it, make sure we honor God with every penny and every resource. An elder shepherds the flock and study the Scriptures and deal with conflict and care with people through their times of struggle because that's where they're called and they're gifted. But other gifted, godly men are serving in other ways unleashing their gifts.

When you get a chance to go, "Okay, I'm going to be a part of just running this house." I'm going to say it again. If you're a member here and you're not doing something to make this house work on a weekly or monthly basis, come on. Just come on. Just say, "How can I humbly serve?" Write that down. We'll get back with you for a place of humble service. But if you're here, and you're humbly serving already, and you're wondering where your chance for heroic vision is, listen to me this morning. Listen to me.

One of the reasons we started Watermark is because of the way I'm wired as an individual and what Dallas is set up as. I go, "There is an entrepreneurial spirit in this city that doesn't exist anywhere else I know of." There is no reason for Dallas to be a thriving city in our country. There's no major port. There's no major natural land resource before we found the Barnett Shale about 30 minutes from here.

But Dallas has always had a can-do spirit and an entrepreneurial spirit to do something, and this city has had such incredible success as the men and women of this city have dived in with their resources for the furthering of our own indulgences often and pleasure, and it's known as one of the most materialistic, fast-paced cities in our country.

There's nothing wrong with having incredible success as a businessperson. You ought to be incredibly successful if you used your gift. I'm not surprised at all to see the giftedness that makes up this city has such incredible productive success financially. But God would tell you this. If your dream is to only become successful in a worldly way, then your dream is too small. You were desired for something great. You could be successful in this world, but don't be successful in this world absent of being successful at making an eternal difference.

Let me say it this way. If your dream does not involve changing the course of somebody's eternal destiny, your dream is too small. If your dream is to be a millionaire before you're 30, your dream is too small. I don't care if you are a millionaire before your 30 or a billionaire before your 50. I hope for God's glory you are, but let me tell you something.

To whom much is given, much is expected. I'm not even talking about the money in the bank. You know, don't you, that you're accountable for that, and that if you build up silos and say, "Now I can rest," that's the only place in Scripture God says, "You fool. Are you kidding me? Who knows that you'll be around tomorrow to enjoy that. Put it to work."

I'm talking about the gifts that you have that allow you to establish silos. If you only use those gifts to produce material worldly success, your dream is too small. God says, "How about if I used you? Not just give people great places work and employ so they can provide for their families, which is a really good thing. How about if I used you to participate in something that would change the courses of somebody's eternity?"

I want to tell you this morning that we are ready for you. Like I've never seen before, this little community of faith, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well right here. We have, by the grace of God, attracted that spirit in men and women like I've never seen happen before in a local body, but it's time to unleash it. It's time to get it moving. I am inviting you today. If you ever wondered what the church wants for you, I have to tell you something. We want for you something great.

My favorite story of Abraham Lincoln (there are a bunch) is a story of Lincoln during the Civil War. He had just lost his son. He was in need of spiritual encouragement and refreshment himself because of the stress of being a leader of a nation that was fractured and because of a daddy who had lost his little boy.

He would sneak out often during the middle of the week to a little Presbyterian church in Washington DC. He'd take an aide with him, and he'd sneak in back. He'd sit in the pastor's study, which had a view into the little congregational area there because he didn't want to disrupt the body and cause a buzz that the president was there. He wanted them to focus on the fact that God was there. Lincoln would go and sit and listen.

One day he heard this guy preach this message, and as Lincoln sat in that pastor's study, the pastor ended his sermon, he stood up with his little stove hat, he knocked it off and got ready to go, and his aide said to him, "What did you think Mr. President? Was that a good sermon?" He said, "The sermon was delivered with excellence and eloquence." The guy then said, "So it was an excellent sermon, then?" He said, "No, it was not." The aide said, "Well, why not?" Lincoln said, "Because the man failed to ask of us something great." God never makes that mistake.

Can I tell you? Listen to this. When you go and look at the words that God uses for his people in Scripture, it's the word… I'm going to speak to the men, especially. Okay, ladies? He uses the word soldier. He uses the word farmer, which means you produce life-giving materials for others. He uses the world athlete, which means you can compete to win the prize. He uses the word leader, which means strong deliverer.

He does not say, "Faithful attender." He does not say, "Giving enough to keep the lights on her. He does not say, "Polite." He says, "I create champions who war for me." It's all there in Timothy. Those are the words that God uses for his people.

When we were driving to St. Louis with my family, one of the things I did so my kids aren't just staring at a dumb TV the whole time, I think of questions to ask them and games we can play. One of the things I did was go, "Let's go around the car and talk about what we think everybody will be when they grow up.

My little 4-year-old now was sitting in there, and everybody would go through, and they'd get to him every time… Somebody said, "I think Camp is going to be a teacher." Somebody said, "Camp is going to be a doctor." Every time he said the same thing. "No. I'm going to be Spider-Man." He wouldn't let anybody tell him what he was going to be.

"I want to be Spider-Man. I want to be something great. Don't tell me, Dad, I'm going to grow up and be something less than a strong deliverer, a heroic deliverer for people who go, 'Here he is. There's chaos all around, but that guy has a word, that guy has a servant, that guy has a life. Let him swing in and save us.'" That's who he wants to be. He doesn't want to just go to a conference and listen and go, "Nice speech. Nice job." Neither do you.

I want to tell you something. If you have a view that church is a place where you come and sit, shut up, and pay up, you have missed God's call. This is a place to be a man right here and to unleash your gifts in a way that the world will go, "Who are you people who are so innovative for things that aren't fleeting and selfish but eternal and transformational."

A lot of you all are like me. You work from paycheck to paycheck. When you talk about building a place like this, we go, "How in the world are we ever going to that without incredible amounts of debt?" Well, because God has resourced some others here with incredible amounts of material resources. We should do our part. I gave generously to this thing, but I could give generously for a long time, and we wouldn't be in here.

Some of you feel just like that. I want to tell you there are others of you who have given generously…or at least given. I don't know if you've given generously. I just know you've given. And we're in here. That's an amazing thing. It's great. But I want to tell you there are resources both physical and immaterial here that we have not begun.

People ask me, "Todd, are you amazed?" I am not amazed. I have to make a confession to you. I am not amazed there are 4,000 folks who are here hearing about Christ. I'm not amazed that we're in this amazing transitional building, and we're likely going to start come January (based on the response that you guys have given us) to add to this so we can have 10,000 people here who can hear about Christ and can make a difference in this community.

I don't think this is the tip of the iceberg. I don't even think we've seen the tip yet. If we start to settle down for what God has done right here… I'm not talking about bigger facilities. I'm talking about bigger impact. I'm talking about more stories that fill up these Watermark News issues that are backlogged for months already because there are so many stories here of life change, of families that are healed, of wives saying, "You've given me my husband back," and of kids saying, "I have a relationship with my dad that I used to have."

A dad grabbed me and stopped me and said, "I've restored my relationship with my son because, for the first time, I'm leading the way God wants me to lead." Ministries around Dallas where gifted men and women in this body are starting to show up and serve because God is capturing their hearts like never before. I don't think we've even begun to deploy the hundreds of millions of talents that are here, physically and immaterially, and I'm calling you onto the team.

While we all continue to be humble servants, I want to get you to get in the game with a heroic vision. I'm inviting you into rooms with whiteboards and saying, "What do we want to do?" There's a group of us this Friday who are meeting. For weeks, we've been asking them this question. "What do we need to do to cast a bigger shadow for God's glory in this city? What can we do?"

I'm not asking you to do church? I'm asking you to be the church. God has something in you that if you stay out of the game is going to keep us from being the body that God wants us to be. Romans 12:1-2 says this. "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God…" Because of all that God has done to bring you back into relationship with him. "to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

All that means is it's the right response going all in with God, saying, "Everything I have that's made me a millionaire/billionaire, everything I have that's made me faithful leader in my industry making $70,000 or $80,000 a year or everything that's made me a fantastic teacher who's making $60,000, $70,000, $40,000 a year (I don't know) or everything that's made me a fantastic individual, entrepreneur who owns my own auto-care business…

I want to also unleash that gift to be a part of making an eternal difference in folks' lives, both by the way I run my car company with excellence and charge people what they should be charged and treat them with respect when they come in and help them figure out how to fix their car if that's what it takes if they don't have money, and the way I live my life day to day but, also, by the way I dream and think with my body and go, 'What can we do over here?'"

"And do not be conformed to this world…" The world is all about you and what can you do to make yourself more comfortable and yourself famous. "…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Listen to this. A little bit further down in verses 6 through 8, it says this.

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…" All of us have different gifts. "each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith." Meaning, if you're a truth-teller, do it in accordance to the ability to have truth about to other people.

" If service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." All of us, let's go all-in with our gifts. With everything we have, let's dive in and yield them for his glory. I'm just inviting you in. I'm not asking you to do what you think we want you to do. I'm saying, "How can we serve you?"

Do you know what haunts me? I lay in bed at night, and I realize the Scripture says, "I'm going to give an account for you." God's not going to say, "Way to go, Wagner. Way to get that guy to church. Way to get that guy to be a member of your church. Good job. Do you how many people you had sit before you and listen every week? That was well done. Nice job. Way to fill up seats and get people to show up on Sunday morning."

He doesn't want that from me. I don't measure my success by how many people are sitting in these seats. I measure my success by how many people I'm setting up, equipping, so one day when you stand before God, he'll look at you and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You unleashed your life for my glory." Meaning, "You, through your life, revealed my goodness to other people, so the course of their eternal destiny was changed forever."

It's my job to teach you God's Word, so you'd be inspired to do that. It's my job to help you understand your spiritual gift to discover it, to develop it, and deploy it so when you stand before the Lord, he'll look at you and say, "You did awesome." There are no ribbons for perfect attendance in church in heaven. There are crowns for perfect yieldedness to the Spirit of God. I don't maybe know how to use your gift. Get in a room with me and dream. I'm not afraid. It doesn't cost us anything to dream.

I believe God wants to make himself more famous. I said to the Lord eight years ago with a group of friends, "Why not with us, Lord?" I'm not telling you you need to do anything with us, but you have permission. If you want to do something amazing and great, if you want to awaken this dead over-churched city and call people to live biblically, why not with us? Why not with us? But don't let us, Father, just create an institution that folks come to. Let us be your body, which gives glory to your head. So let's go.

I'll give you a classic example of this. One of my good friends here is a buddy named Clint Bruce. Clint is out there loving guys. Clint hangs out every now and then at a little shooting range here in Dallas. I love that. He just goes and fires his guns. While he was there, he hooked up with a guy one time. I started talking to this guy who happens to be a general manager of a rather large hotel here in Dallas, the Fairmont.

This particular Fairmont had about 900 people who were at their hotel when Hurricane Katrina hit down there in New Orleans a couple years back. They started getting calls after a day. "This thing is not going to break. These people are stranded here, and this city is going crazy." They sent word over to the Superdome with the National Guard, saying, "We have 900 people over here." The National Guard shot back and said, "Don't tell anybody, and lock the doors. If word comes out that you have food and provision, your hotel is going to be overrun."

The GM at the hotel in New Orleans called the GM at the hotel in Dallas and said, "What do we do?" He said, "We have rooms here. Can you get them here?" He goes, "We don't know how to get these people out. We're stranded." He calls his buddy who he met that firing range and said, "Hey Clint, do you think you could come help me get some folks out?"

"How many?

"There are 900 in New Orleans. No one can get into New Orleans. The National Guard can't even get in New Orleans."

Clint said, "I can do it. Can you give me a lead vehicle." He said, "Okay, yep." He called his friend over at Carl Sewell and got a Hummer. Clint equipped 10 other guys who have Special Forces and service backgrounds with the United States Navy and Army and other places. Clint happens to be a Navy SEAL. He calls himself a financial advisor with a unique skill set. Within 72 hours, 900 people were extracted from New Orleans before our government could get water in there. It's an amazing story.

Here's what I want to say to you. I want to be careful when I say this. I'm not saying that being a financial advisor is a place where you go to die, but it was a place for Clint. He got out of being a Navy SEAL, and he goes, "I think now it's a time for me, as I put my life at risk this country, as I was overseas in places I still can't tell my wife when my daughter was born. I'm out of the service now. It's time for me to be a dad, so I'm going to do what good dads do. I'm going to wear a coat and tie. I'm going to go to work at 8:00 and come back and at 5:00. He was dying because he's a SEAL.

He was doing what he thought he was supposed to do. Clint and I have talked about this many times, so I said, "Clint, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but here's what I think I'm going to say. I say, "Is there any way you can go back and bullet it out for me so these are your words?" He goes, "Absolutely." I said, "Because Clint, what you found out was happening your life…" and through a group of us who encouraged Clint right after that event happened and others, we said, "Clint, go ahead and chase your dream."

So what Clint did is he developed a company called Trident Response Group which is providing world-class security consultation and extraction involvement when they need to do that, but they're really about making you so you don't have to get involved in an extraction or a high-need intervention event.

He's all about helping you think through so those things don't happen. He now is employing a bunch of guys who are warriors who come out of the services and say, "Come here and do this with me." He took a great deal of risk. But this is what he said. Watch this. He said, "I realized I was not being the person God created me to be."

These are some bullet points. "I was doing the safe thing because I thought it was the right thing and normal thing for me to do. What I didn't see was that my bride did not fall in love with or need a safe man. In trying to provide for her something I thought she wanted, I was becoming less of the man she needed. I was not being the man she could point to and say to my daughter, 'Look for these things in a man.'

God purposed me to live, not exist. I was dying every day because I'd chosen to exist and not live. Rocks exist. Lions live. I wanted to be a lion. I wanted my daughters to look for a lion as they chose their husbands. I was raised by a father who had taught me to be a lion and had surrounded myself with lions my entire life. I had been a lion once, and my fear of failing in the private sector had driven me to be something counter to everything I'd been taught and everything God had purposed for me to become.

Not being true to who I was was too simple a way to put it. When I was outside my purpose and passion, I was so disoriented that I not only didn't know who I was or where I fit in, I had forgotten the man who I had been drawn my whole life to be and who drew my bride to me in the first place. I had forgotten what life was supposed to taste like and smell like. God was allowing me to drain the color from my world because I was looking to become what I thought the world wanted me to be and not what he created me to become."

This is a great statement. Let me say something to you. If you're here as a guy, if you have friends who don't want to become part of the church because the church is a place where you go to die, tell them they're wrong. This is the place you come to live.Let me say that again. This is not a place you come to die; this is a place you come to live like you've never lived before.

Are you sick of making money? How about making an eternal difference? Let's get after it. We have not seen the beginning of what God will do with a group of people who say, "I'm going to use my giftedness, my passions, my interests, my wealth, and I'm going to sit in a group of men. I'm going to share my resources and say, 'What should we do with this?' I'm talking about my life, my gifts, my talents, and I'm talking about my goods. Let's go."

Not in isolation where you respond to some flyer that comes in the mail and you write a check, so you feel better. I'm talking about getting in the room and going, "I'm a part of this body. We're family. What should we do for our head?" Do you want some of that? Come on. I love this last statement he wrote.

"I don't think God cares what we do professionally. I think he cares that we are excellent at what we do. My talents and passions were inconsistent with what I was doing professionally, and because of that, there was a real good chance I wasn't going to be excellent in doing it or passionate about it." Being excellent and passionate about something gets you asking the question from others, "What's different about you?"

When's the last time somebody asked you, "What's different about you?" If they've been asking you how come you got to drive a Lexus when you were 26, how boring is that? How about how come men who are 45 come to you when you're 26? How come other guys who are making all the money are miserable, and they come to you and say, "How do I make my life count the way you make your life count? How come you, extremely successful in business, can walk away from business to shepherd your sons and be present with your sons the way you're supposed to be and not trapped still making more money? What's different about you?"

I love this. I close with what Clint said, which is so good. He said, "When you live this way, that gives you the chance…" When you live the way God wants you to live… When Clint came to Christ and he began to lead and be a SEAL informed by the Spirit of God, he said, "That gives you the chance and the credibility to say, 'It isn't what, it's who. It's Jesus in me. Mediocrity never gets asked its secrets.'" That's a great statement.

Do you know what Jesus wants us to be? He wants us to be a church with folks going all the time, "What is going on over there?" We go, "It's not who. It's not where. It's Jesus." It's us being in a room together as a family saying, "This is what I have. I'm a humble servant, Todd. I'll do whatever you need me to do to keep the trash out of this house, but I have more. I can lead. I have more. I can think. I have more. I can strategize. I have more. I can mobilize."

Come on. How many of you are so frustrated that your husband won't go to church with you? Why? Because men are not wired just to sit. Neither are you, ladies. Please, you're not wired to sit either, but I want to tell you something. Churches, notoriously, have been just the graves for men. Why? Because all pastors want to do is reel a guy in and put him in a live well and go, "Look at that big one I have in there. Did you know this guy goes to my church?" You get fish in a live well, they start to die.

God wants those fish to go out and tell other fish there is life out of these murky waters, "If you swallow the hook of faithfulness, you won't believe where we can go together. You can walk and talk and live as a fish and live in ways you never thought. They're not looking to put us on some wall and mount us like we're theirs. They're looking to set us free and not just make us mounted fish. They're looking to make us trophies of God's grace."

You guys know we have guys who sometimes are going to Africa to teach and lead nations right now. Do you know that you're doing that as a church? We're going to tell you more about that on a Sunday to come. One time, we took over a guy who happened to be an attorney. So before we went over there, we said, "Look, we have passions to equip your attorneys," so we have a group of attorneys in Congo.

The most dangerous place on the face of the earth right now, they'll say, is in a little area of Goma, Congo, where a group of us have been. They thank us for coming. They say, "Nobody comes here anymore." When we were there, we met with 30 or 40 attorneys and with Van Beckwith, a partner at Baker Botts. Van mobilized them. Together, we gave these guys a vision for what they could be in a country where there's so much injustice, where rape and abuse of women is happening like nowhere else.

There was just an article about it in a number of national magazines. We have been there. You are there, and we're equipping those guys to put their life on the line to stand up against injustice. Are you an attorney and want some of that? Come on. Are you a schoolteacher and want us to rock the school system in this city? Come on. Let's get you in a room with other teachers. Are you a doctor that wants to do something different with a group of us? Get in the room with some other doctors. Come on. Let's rock this world. Do you want to live? That's how you do it.

You don't do it in isolation. You do it with other guys, and you dream. If you think what the church wants you to do is show up and be polite, you have it wrong. We want you to be a humble servant and do your part, but we also want you to have a heroic vision, and I'm not afraid of that. I'll get out of your way. If there's somebody who has more gifts to do this than I am, I'm sitting out there figuring out what else I can do for this body. It's not about me. Come on.

God, unleash these people for your glory. Help me, other leaders, quicken their hearts by the power of your Spirit, so each of them who has received a gift may employ it for your glory and their good. In Christ's name, amen.

Let me say this. Look at me on this one. People ask, "What are those puzzles for?" These are puzzles in our house. We spent yesterday doing puzzles, and I did it on purpose. Those are just some of them. You see one stack of puzzles that look just like these, but there's a difference.

These are the puzzles that have all the pieces. These puzzles we put together and my kids put them together, and they get frustrated because there was a piece missing, and it didn't look right. Can I tell you a truth? One of the things that happens in a big group like this is you think there are so many pieces in this puzzle your piece doesn't matter. The 100-piece puzzle, if there was a piece missing, it would be frustrating. But the 1,000-piece puzzle? You put a 1,000-piece puzzle together, and you can't find those last pieces, it wears you out. The bigger the piece puzzle (we had some 30-piece puzzles), when you have one of those big pieces of puzzles missing, that's Spider-Man's face missing.

If you think you don't matter, you couldn't be more wrong. Those puzzles were headed to the trash. I go, "Save them. They can illustrate something tomorrow." Your face is missing, and it's screwing up the picture. God says, "This is my puzzle, and I don't want you to do that." You let us know. All you have to do is say, "I'm in. Help me discover, develop, and deploy. Get in the game. Have a great week of worship.

About 'Gifts I'd Give My Children'

What's the best gift you've ever received? What present is so special that you'll never forget the moment or the person who shared it with you?In this series, Todd Wagner overviews 11 gifts that the Lord desires for us to have. This collection of gifts forms the foundation that any pastor would want for a church and any parent would want for their child. In short, these gifts represent 11 non-negotiables in a life that is committed to full devotion to Christ.