During our kids’ service at church yesterday, I was scheduled to emcee as usual. For the most part, that involves introducing an entertaining video that has been an effective way to engage the youngsters in the Word before going to a small group setting for more intimate learning. Circumstance had a different plan though. The video was no where to be found. The Adventures of Johnny Rogers has been canceled, at least for this week.
Big deal, right? If you’re picturing a handful of preoccupied kids “watching” a VHS on a 26 inch TV strapped to a rolling cart, try this on for size: 40+ high-energy first through fifth graders with their eyes fixed on a propped out, pimped out stage with over a half dozen accent/spotlights where I stand with my hands-free microphone projecting out of the bumpin’ sound system in front of two 10-foot hi-def projection screens displaying first-class custom media related to the day’s message; and this is the regular routine that most of these neophytes have come to be familiar with and even expect. (That’s just how we do church at Elevation). Therein lies the problem though, or part of it anyway. They are expecting all the bells and whistles that they are accustomed to.
The other part. We need to be on our game; how we play is crucial, especially this week. This is a “must-win” for a play-off berth. From holiday travelers to C.E.O.’s (Christmas and Easter Only visitors) to hearts that just seem softer around this time of the year, the Christmas season tends to bring added opportunities to reach the lost. Now is not the time to fumble the ball; it’s time to throw a touchdown pass.
With the intention of killing time while an alternate video (or plan) was found, I hopped back onto the stage when it hit me. (And this is what I tried to convey to the kids, I think successfully). The Lord often speaks to us through rather ordinary circumstances. There were no videos during Jesus’ times, just Jesus. It seems that a tool that we routinely use to present the Gospel can also divert us from that same Gospel. But not today, not when the message must be clear, concise, and undiluted. Jesus needs no video to capture hearts nor do we to meet Him. He needs no embellishments. He’s Jesus and He is all we need. And that’s what the message was about. I guess you can say it was a pretty good Christmas message!
As you walk into the worship experience at my church on Sundays, they hand you an ink pen along with the worship guide (bulletin) with which to take notes during the service, write prayer requests, etc. Two weeks ago, Tina got a faulty pen. You could click the pen open but you couldn’t click it closed. The only way to close it was to press the tip against something. At one point, she actually pressed the tip of the pen into the cover of my Bible to get it closed (for that, she’s going to hell I’m sure).
Well this week, I was the victim. After taking my first note, wouldn’t you know it, the pen wouldn’t close. With a couple of thousand people coming through two different entrances at two different services each week, I quickly dismissed the possibility that I got the same ink pen as my wife did the previous week. So as the pastor was preaching on debt and how blessed we are, I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to how cheap these pens must have been. As I continued to play with the pen during the sermon, I got it to close (on accident of course). It turns out that the pen closes when the pocket clip is pressed. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t the pen that was broken, but my thinking; my perspective was second-rate, not the ink pen.
Have you ever done that? Do you sometimes have stinkin’ thinkin’? Do you count your costs when you should be counting your blessings? Is there an area in your life that might appear to be a burden but is actually a blessing if you examine it more closely or look at it from a different angle?
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2
Open mouth, insert foot. That’s what I needed to do Sunday at church. I volunteer as an MC for the children’s program (grades 1 thru 5). My job is basically to introduce the video lesson that gets projected onto a huge screen and then to quiz the kids when the video is over. The kids are divided into teams and each team is given points, awarded with plastic balls, for each question answered correctly. When it came time to tally up the points and find a winner, this is what I said, “Being on God’s Team, we are all winners but let’s see which team here has more balls.” Apparently, kids aren’t the only ones that “say the darnedest things.” The moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I made a boo-boo; and that was confirmed by the expression of silent chuckles on the faces of all the adults in the room. Thankfully, I don’t think any of the kids are familiar enough with the lewd figure of speech to understand it. Thankfully, God has a sense of humor (I’m proof). Most importantly, God is a God of second chances so they may still let me work with the kids again next week.
Sunday’s message was the start of what’s sure to be one of my fav’s. Coming off a spellbinding and soul-finding series called The Gospel, where we saw over 900 people come to Christ and record attendance of over 4,500 people in the short life of our church, this week begins a series on what I believe to be one of the most important issues of the day concerning the proliferation of the life-changing gospel (talk about a run-on sentence). Visionary Love, Dream Sex, believe it or not, is about family. More specifically, it’s about the relationships that embody family like finding the right partner with which to start a family, dating, maintaining purity prior to marriage, nurturing your relationship, and how to be the best spouse you can be.
The deterioration of the family unit is a cause of many of today’s social issues. With divorce at an all time high, even in the church, you have fatherless homes like never before, increased pressure on single parent families, a rise in teenage pregnancy, more people finding fulfillment in illegal substances, sexual immorality that is off the chart, and a resulting stress on our social programs and subsequent effects on the economy. Personally, I’m a divorcee who’s been both a victim and offender of infidelity so I have seen some of this first hand. With courage and God’s grace, I am now a victor and that’s much better. Love, marriage, and where they intersect with sex are a big deal.
This series has a message for all stages of life and all but the youngest of ages. While other churches find speaking of sex to be taboo or tip-toe around it when they do, Elevation Church shoots straight; instead of running from the culture, they speak into it. And Pastor Steven Furtick has a brazen, take no prisoners style that allows him to deliver the message with a conviction that will grab hold of anyone who listens. I thank God for him and Elevation.
Listen to the message in its entirety right here:
Cool Pastor, Hot Church
Also, Elevation made the front page of the Charlotte Observer for the second time this year. Not for scandal or heresy, but for dominating the city of Charlotte with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise God!
I know everyone is sick of the Wendy’s meatatarian commercial but it hits home lately, as the leadership and other obedient participants of my church engage in the Daniel Fast. In short, the Daniel Fast eliminates all foods that are sinfully delicious––no meats, no deep fried foods, no bread (unless unleavened and whole wheat a.k.a. cardboard), no refined sugar (or substitutes even), no caffeine, no processed foods, and no ice cream to name a few. It’s a heart healthy (and colon cleansing) diet. It’s a meat-lover’s nightmare!
Thankfully, I’m still sleeping well. But I do have to give props to those who have made the sacrifice to do this for 10, and some for 21, days. I applaud your obedience and I pray that you will hear from God and deepen your relationship with Him. As for me, I’m probably going to Hell for my disobedience. Really though, I’m struggling enough right now simply to not gorge and to just eat my adequate portions. There is certainly no excuse for disobedience and I’m not trying to make any. All I can say is, thank God for His amazing grace. I have made some sacrifices in the past and my next season for an Olympic-caliber sacrifice is probably right around the corner. Of course, no sacrifice would ever be big enough to come close to that of Christ’s.
To anyone making the Daniel Fast sacrifice at Elevation Church, only eight days to go. I cheer you on and admire your efforts!