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Do you have oil in your lamp?

Allow the oil of God to flood into the lamp of your spirit.

In relevance to the events of Hurricane Sandy and being entrenched in darkness, as many were without electricity, even still, Jim Lafoon visited msny yesterday to prophesy over us.  I say prophesy because he doesn’t preach or speak…he tells us exactly what he’s hearing from God…and he hears. from. God.  He’s been gifted with the gift of prophesy, for sure, but after listening to him yesterday, I realize that he works hard with his gift as well.  His words were all beautiful, and he continually addresses the congregation as “my beloved” throughout his talk…it’s so unusual, but is rolls off his tongue quite well!  I was riveted to Mr. Lafoon, only glancing away long enough to jot notes down on my phone.  Here is what I caught for us!
  • We all pray to “be the light,” right?   Well, here’s the “stinking thing” about “being the light:” in order for the light to shine, it has be dark!  Light works best in the dark!  So, remember when you’re asking for miracles and being lights, that these things require dire circumstances in order to happen!
  • Sometimes, the greatest thing is to have the world suffer and you suffer along so that the world can witness God’s deliverance through you.  Your crisis is a setup for a miracle.  So, we can thank God for the privilege of shining in the dark.
  •  With that said, you need oil in your lamp in order to be the light.  Jim says, “No matter how dark it gets around me, I’m never dark on the inside.  I stay well-oiled so that when darkness comes, I’m lit on the inside.”  Too often, we rely on our own analysis and carnal minds during hard times.  Trust in the name of God; keep oil in your spirit.  You never have to be blind; walk in the light of the spirit
  • However, it took Jim years to be able to hear God.  How can we do it?  He says to read the Bible daily.  And as a practical tip, Jim says to try different ways of reading it: out loud, by taking notes, by taking notes w/ your non-dominant hand.  It’s just all about engaging yourself in the Word. every. day.
  • Then he says to get quiet and allow the Word to work in you, allow His spirit to work in you.  Practically, you can read the Word, then pray and stay quiet or play a worship song and then get quiet.  He says that even if you feel like you didn’t read well, the Word can still get in.
  • He talks about building your spirit now: put oil in your lamp while it’s still light be sons and daughters ready for when the dark times come.  Because trying to put oil in when it’s dark is like trying to build a bomb shelter when the bombs are falling!
  • He talks about remembering it’s not about your strength/talents/abilities.  If you only work to the point of your ability, you’ll never accomplish what God has for you.
  • Spend time with God, worshipping, spending time in His presence.  Then let your light shine before men.
  • Allow the oil of God to flood into the lamp of your spirit.
Thank you Jim Lafoon.

How Many Jars are you Putting Out?

Pastor Alan Platt flew in from South Africa last weekend to ask us “How many jars are you putting out?”  He retold the story of the woman in the Bible instructed by Jesus to fill up empty jars with her oil.  First off, it amazes me when preachers such as Platt retell Bible stories with such vivid detail, inspired with visions of how the event took place, providing incredible insight and new appreciation for the story…amazes me!  As such, I will never think of this story in the same way again.  I will even think of it again…that in itself is an accomplishment! LIVE A LIFE OF EXPECTANCY So, Platt starts out his message with “Live a life of expectancy,”  because God will meet you at the level of your expectancy.  And he goes on to give examples in the Bible: Jairus, the Centurion, the women who touched Jesus’ robe, the city of Capernaum, etc, where people set their level of expectation high and Jesus met them at the level of their faith. USE GOD’S VOCABULARY TO CREATE YOUR EXPECTANCY Furthermore, your expectancy is to be based on what God says; not on our circumstances.  Because when God speaks, it changes the picture of our future.  If you listen to God, He’ll put pictures of great expectations on your mind and you will carry that.  Conversely, if you have the wrong source of information, you will carry the wrong pictures, and ultimately have the wrong expectation.  So, what are you basing your expectations on and what is your expectation for your life, your church, your city? EXPECTANCY CREATES AN ENVIRONMENT FOR THE MIRACULOUS TO HAPPEN Platt illustrates how this applied to him in real life.  He is most well-known for the work he has done in South Africa.  He has literally changed the city through his Godly work.  And this first started in 1994, when God gave Platt the illustration of Mark 6: the feeding of the 5,000 in the Bible.  From this story, Platt was shown how the disciples, given 5 loaves of bread, were instructed to feed 5,000 people.  He imagined how timidly those disciples must have approached the first group of 50 people, holding out his one loaf of bread.  Platt imagined how meticulously they must have torn off the first morsels of bread, attempting to naturally somehow tear of nearly a thousand more pieces.  And then, Platt saw how the disciples must have suddenly become aware of something miraculous happening right inside their hands.  And as they realized that this bread wasn’t going anywhere, they must have stood up straighter and torn off pieces more boldly, probably at one point, encouraging people to “take as much as they wished!”  And truly, the disciples had grown bolder, because 12 baskets were leftover once everyone was fed.  The takeaway from this story?  The disciples had to at least start breaking the bread in order to experience the miracle that God had in store for them. 2 KINGS 4:1-7: THE WIDOW’S OLIVE OIL Platt gives his final illustration…the one that impacted me the most.  And again, I am moved by the amount of detail and insight Platt and other such speakers have into these stories…truly, as if they are relaying a story from their life!  So, in this story, Jesus instructs a widow who has no money, to use the little jar of oil that she has to fill as many jars as she collects and then sell the oil for money. “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”  Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”  “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”  3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”  5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”  But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.  7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”  And so, the widow’s first task is to collect And so her first task is collecting jars.  Now, here is where Platt’s God-inspired storytelling comes in again.  He envisions this woman going around to her neighbors, asking for jars.  And as she does, they must ask her what she is planning to do with them and when she replies with Jesus’ instructions, Platt deduces that those neighbors must have thought to themselves, “Boy ever since her husband died, this woman doesn’t quite have her head on straight anymore!”  Once all the jars are collected, Platt then goes on to see this woman telling her two sons to help her fill them all and being met with similar sentiments of skepticism from them.  Platt describes the woman pouring out those first few drops of oil timidly, just a tiny stream, probably with one eye closed…and then, just as with the disciples with the loaves, suddenly realizing the the oil was not stopping, that the little jar of oil was miraculously ever-flowing.  She must have excitedly gestured to her son for the next jar and quickly they must have switched the full jar for the empty jar, never interrupting the flow of oil.  And this must have gone on for some time, during which the atmosphere of that household must have been electric.  The skeptical sons were probably screaming, “It’s working, Mom!” And inevitably, there came a point when the widow asked for another jar when her son looked around and said, “There are no more jars, Mom.” The takeaway from this?  This is very important.  The oil only stopped flowing when they ran out of jars.  When there were no more jars is only when the oil stopped flowing.  That means that it all depended on how many jars they had collected at first.  They dictated the capacity to which God could fill them.  They set their expectation for God and He fulfilled his promise and met them there.  Now…what is the capacity for which you are setting God up for?  How many jars are you collecting?  Collect those jars, pray over them [Jesus prayed over the loaves and the widow prayed over the little jar of oil] and expect God to fill those jars.

There is power…in Christian Women In Media

Megan Alexander, oftentimes seen on “Inside Edition” stood before us last night at the Christian Women in Media Dinner and did not begin spouting news stories or “stories from the front lines” or behind-the-scenes gossip.  No.  She got up and quoted 1 Peter 3:15: “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  but do this with gentleness and respect…”  She brought us back to her humble beginnings in San Antonio, where she had to first make a decision as to whether or not she was going to be “Megan Alexander, the Christian, or Megan Alexander, the fun, quirky, hip tv host of “Good Day, S.A.!”  She decided that she was going to be Megan Alexander, the Christian, and never looked back.  She struck the balance between thriving in a secular industry and striving inspired by God. Megan gave us homework, as well.  “Do good work,” she said.  She went on to explain that especially in New York City, where the sharpest minds are, it is essential to be able to hold your own.  And she doesn’t believe it’s the case that Christians are not welcome in the industry, but rather that they are not “in the mix,” and so she instructed us to us to get in the decision-making chairs, get in the meetings, and be in the rooms where things are happening.  In addition, she stressed the importance of building long-lasting relationships.  “See relationships as ends in themselves,” she offered, noting the radicalism of that in a city where everyone wants something from someone.
Christian Women In Media
She encouraged us to fight.  “When you’re proud and you know that something is right, fight for it.”  Alexander fought for a pastor to be featured on “Good Day S.A.” and ended up having a hand in one of the show’s highest-rated episodes.  She fought for an interviewee’s testimony that included mention of God because she knew that it was crucial to the story…and for a greater purpose.  Her final message to us was to “master our crafts” because we can “preach the gospel, and use words when necessary.” Last night was incredibly encouraging because in a room full of producers and reporters and hosts and writers and singers and creatives in the media industry, we shared the ultimate bond: love for God.  And so, in every success story, credit was given to Him.  In every piece of advice, reference was given to seeking God’s guidance.  Punctuating every powerful moment was a sealing prayer.  It was like a networking party where everyone worked for the company, God Inc! I’m a devour-er of inspirational information, whether I have to read it, hear it, attend it, or travel to the Himalayas for it, I always have an appetite and aspiration for greatness.  And to be around women who possessed greatness in the industry as well as in God was awe-inspiring.  I took away from last night that God and media can not only co-exist, but are actually complimentary!

the surefire way to “Be Great”

Excerpts from Pastor Adam’s message at msny on Sunday, June 12, 2011: Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This verse asserts and promises us that God has a mission and a purpose for everyone’s life. Interesting fact: Only in the case of Christianity is it the case that the same gospel that saved before is saving today.  For example, Islam has remained in Arabia & Mecca.  Buddhism is still in the Far East.  Hinduism began and still is in India.  Christianity, however, began in Jerusalem and is now everywhere.  It jumped over seas, across the world, and seems to work for all people. Pastor Adam tells the story of a woman in the gym [as an ex-hockey player, “the gym” doubles as his missions field!] in which she garners the respect and interest of everyone around her, men & women alike, when she proved extremely successful at achieving her goals.  The takeaway?  Pastor Adam says: Be Great.  The Gospel should be producing amazing fruits in your life.  Let people see that and evangelism becomes much easier.  If you are not, ask yourself “Why not?!”  As per the parable of the sower [Matthew 13], could it be because you don’t have roots?  Let the Holy Spirit work in you. It’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to be ok with not being ok. Being OK w/ just Jesus Jesus cannot be a means to an end.  ie: I will believe in Jesus so I can be blessed.  I will do this so that I can get that.  He is the end.  In the story of Job, he loses everything, but as long as he had God, he was ok! Paul wrote the book of Paul from within the confines of a Roman prison!  Let your roots run deep so you can understand the true gospel. Adam jokes that in a marriage: “mine” becomes “hers!” Un-jokingly, however, in the same way, our relationship to Christ is a marriage and we must give it up to Him.  Don’t let the pursuit of competing gods choke your relationship w/ God. The thief comes to steal, kill, & destroy. Jesus comes to give peace, joy, & abundance. John 15 says that if you obey his commands, He will give you abundance. As I was swimming last night, during the last 10 minutes, I hit my stride and realized to myself that being great for God is probably the most motivating reason to be great.  Doing it for myself, selfishly, starts to lose its luster after a while.  But doing it for God never gets old.  I realized that no matter what I’m doing, if I think about doing it for God, I can always find the wherewithal to press on.  And so, Pastor Adam’s call to us to allow the amazing fruits in our lives be the testimony that draws people to ask for “some of what what you’re having” is all that I need to “be great” and to do it “for God!”

Winning in Life

Some gems from Pastor Adam Burt this A.M.  Thank you for speaking these “words of life!” NEVER RETIRE: You never retire in God’s Kingdom.  You just get a new job…your mission remains the same.  The statistics on the number of people who actually use their retirement plan is small because they’re pushin’ up daisies too soon after to do so.  It’s because we’re intrinsically wired to do things…too long without doing something and you’re disengaging from life.  In the same way, when we retire, we are still doing God’s work THE PURPLE AVENGER: At a laser tag game, Pastor Adam was on a team with a 14-year old kid who jumped up on a stage, strapped on a purple headband, and started taking control of the team.  He told everyone what they were going to be doing, whether they were his age or 36 and as comical as it was, it worked, and by the end of the night, everyone was frantically asking, “What do I do, Avenger?!”  In the same way, Paul, while in prison, was still leading the apostles who were outside of the prison walls.  He sent apostles to Ephesus and other cities, told them to take his Bible, and was just still in God’s game.  Paul never retired. MIXED MARTIAL ARTS: While watching a certain MMA fight, Adam witnessed the pursuer became the pursued and the final win was sealed when one competitor ran up on the side of the cage and with a powerful kick, knocked his opponent out.  In the same way, we are told in I Peter that we are being hunted by Satan,  who is stalking us like a lion, hiding in the grass.  But we can overcome! THE NAVY SEALS: Pastor Adam goes to San Francisco to minister to the Navy Seals and realized that he would never want to do some of the things they do in training.  In one part of their training, they swim underwater until they pass out and then their dive partner will give them oxygen and when they come to consciousness, they’re on the boat.  In the same way, we have to do life with people like this.  We need “Lukes” who will be there when the times get tough. FACING YOUR FEARS: Once upon a time, a pre-pastor Adam asked Pastor Ron Lewis to be his mentor.  Adam expected that he was going to be following Ron around and soaking up great life lessons.  But Ron instead, forced Adam to do all this work he didn’t want to do.  Stricken with a fear for public speaking, Ron forced Adam to share his testimony before large groups of people!  And the one time Adam thought he was “off the hook,” Ron asked him to pray The Prayer for some new believers.  Adam said it was a sad display of the Sinner’s Prayer, but he’s so glad that he went through all of that.  And he’s an amazing speaker today! SPEAK LIFE & DESTINY: Someone (DL?) once told Pastor Adam that he was going to be an influencer and inspiration to masses.  As a young person, hearing this was life-changing and life-giving.  But it’s not just kids that need this.  Adults are hungry for words of life.  So speak life and destiny into people! WANTING HATERS: If you stand for God, you will have haters.  The Bible is offensive.  If you want everyone to love you, then just be the most agreeable person you can be.  But if you want to stand up for something, you will inevitably offend people.  And that’s a blessing…the concern exists when someone is too well-liked.  Adam had to choose to offend a very key player in his hockey career when he was told to put the Bible down to prevent offending someone.  As Adam looked around at some guys “reading” “picture magazines,” he realized that he would have to choose what he wanted to stand for.  Luckily Adam did not get traded for his conviction, and God traded that man instead! My recap does Pastor Adam’s messages no justice, as his strength is in his enthusiasm and talent of story-telling.  Please check this sermon out when it comes out on podcast or just come to an MSNY service to get a front row seat!

Be Brilliant…be a “Brillionaire”

Simon T. Bailey…what a force…what a presence.  His words mobilize crowds towards brilliance…his catchphrases ignite them to live out their messages…his anecdotes are rich with relevance and hope…and his infectious giggle thankfully makes this larger-than-life presence relateable.  His challenge to the millions who have heard him is to believe that you are designed for brilliance and live out that truth.  It’s something we all know, but can never hear too often.  He came to MSNY today and told us once again.  Thank you, Simon T. Bailey, for this… Just because I lose doesn’t make me a loser. A setback is a setup for a comeback Ask yourself, “What is my universal assignment?” The greatest tragedy is not to be dead.  The greatest tragedy is to be alive and not know why. When you tap into your brilliance, everyone that you need will come into your sphere as if summoned to…because where there is vision, there is provision. To tap into your brilliance, ask yourself these 4 questions:
  • where have I been?
  • why am I here?
  • What can I do?
  • Where am I going?
Believe that you are a “brillionaire” and “people need to know me.” Studies have shown that as kids, we work at a genius level, but by the time we grow into adulthood, only 2% of us operate at our genius level…because society tells us we “can’t have that,” or to “put that back,” and tells us about all the impossibilities. But Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” When you know who you are and Whose you are, you dominate the marketplace. Ask God to help you dominate the marketplace in your generation to change nations, generations, and systems. The future is for sale, go buy it! Be the difference that makes the difference. When you have the Holy Spirit, he will teach you things that you don’t know about. You are supposed to be the best of the best Take on the posture that: “I am a big deal in the kingdom of God” and people will ask you for help.  Your life may be the only Bible they are reading. You can be a public success, but a private failure.  Too many are overexposed, but underdeveloped. When you tap into your universal assignment, God’s brilliance will shine through you. Become intentional about creating your present Act local, and think global. When you solve a problem or provide a solution, people won’t care about the price [as opposed to selling service/product] The stream from which you drink from is the stream you think from is the stream that you become. Whoever has your ear has your life. You may have a 50×60 dream, but be telling someone with an 8×10 frame of mind. The word “education” comes from the Latin word “educo,” meaning “to draw out” Someone has to ask you the questions to draw out your brilliance/ to stretch you You have to know someone who knows more than you Leaders are readers and readers are leaders. You cannot lead if you do not read When the brain is worried, the brain is not creating new neurons.  Read The Harvard Business Review or Fast Company. Realize that as you’re reading, your brain is creating new synapses and brain cells. Books to read:
  • Positivity
  • Practically Radical
  • Synchronicity
  • The Power of Pull
  • The Word of God
Create a mastermind group that will entertain the question “What are you going to do to change the world?” Make a date with destiny: On 11/11/11, where do you want to be?  Where do you want to be socially, spiritually, financially, in education, in wellness, etc? What difference do you intend to make in life?  Some people plan their vacations better than they plan their lives. [In terms of thoughts] for every 1 negative deposit in your mind, you need 3 positive deposits to negate it The stream from which you drink from is the stream you think from is the stream that you become. When Simon was having a tough time in marriage, upon closer examination, he was hanging around guys who were married, but not marriage-minded. What stream are you drinking from? Pablo Picasso: A woman asked him to draw her a picture in a cafe and he drew an image of the waiter and when she went to take it, he clarified to her that it would cost her $10,000.  “But it only took you 10 minutes,” she said.  “No,” he corrected her.  “It took me 50 years.” How you value yourself determines how you speak to yourself determines how you treat yourself. When you know your value, you unlock your inner Picasso. Language is the software of the mind You become programmed by what you are told and what you say. How you start your day determines the day. Wake up 15 minutes early: for 5 minutes each, meditate/ pray, read something that inspires you, stretch/ embrace the day You decide your habits, your habits decide your future. Upgrade your verbal software Death and life is in the power of the tongue Create 2-3 affirmations and say them to yourself each morning Simon’s is that he aspires to inspire 10% of the 7 billion people on the Earth to reach their brilliance before he expires. Speak life into your life Transformation & deliverance are 1 inch from your nose…your mouth Find a mentor: a person you admire who has developed skills that you want to have. An open hand is always full: constantly give away to be constantly filled up A closed fist belongs to someone who lives on the mindset of scarcity I have highlighted the questions that need to be asked and the actions that need to be taken.  I will begin doing these things tomorrow.  I have ordered the books [use thriftbooks.com for $4 used copies!] and will begin reading them as soon as they arrive.  I will begin following Simon T. Bailey on Twitter.  I’m making sure that I’m on the path to brilliance…and you better do it too!

MSNY Skit “By the Book”

Morning Star NY is just chock-full of talent! And unsung talent, at that! I have been woven into the fabric of a hidden script writer’s scheme by way of in a certain Kendria Smith. She has great a great comedic sense in her writing and is able to incorporate elements of Christian dating, worldly dating, and lol humor into the story of “Julie” and “Rob,” a boy and girl lost in the throes of the confusion of dating…something we can all relate to!  Check it out!

What drives you?

Inspired by “the Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren: Everyone’s life is driven by something.  What category do you fall under? Guilt: Your life is cat-and-dog chase of running from regrets and hiding from shame.  Your past controls your future and you sabotage your own success.  We are products of our past, yes, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.  God’s purpose is not limited by our pasts.  He turned a murderer named Moses into a leader.  God specializes in fresh starts! Resentment and Anger: You hold on to hurts and never get over them.  Instead of releasing your pain through forgiveness, you rehearse it over and over in your mind.  Resentment always hurts you more than your offender because while it may have become an afterthought you them, you are stewing in it.  Your past is your past!  Nothing will change it.  For your own sake, learn from it, and then let it go.  “To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.” Fear: You’re afraid to venture out, playing it safe and avoiding risks.  But fear is a self-imposed prison sprung from traumatic experiences, unrealistic expectations, or even a genetic predisposition.  But you must move against it with faith and love.  “Well-formed love banishes fear.  Since fear is crippling, a fearful life-fear of death, fear of judgement-is one not yet fully formed in love” Materialism: Your desire to acquire is the whole goal in your life.  Having more is synonymous with happiness, importance, security, etc.  But possessions only provide temporary happiness and because nothing changed, we will bore of them.  Net worth and self-worth are also not the same thing.  And wealth can be lost instantly, so there is no security there. Approval: Expectations of parents, spouses, children, or teachers control your life.  Unfortunately, those who follow the crown usually get lost in it.  Being controlled by the opinions of others will impede your view of God’s purpose.  “No one can serve two masters.” Purpose: You live a life guided by God’s purpose for you.  Neither success, wealth, fame, or pleasure can entice you because you are operating at your full potential and nothing matters more than that. What purpose-driven living feels like: meaning: Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning.  Without meaning, life has no hope.  Hope is essential to life.  You need hope to cope.  Hope comes from having a purpose. simplification: purpose defines what you do and what you don’t do.  You have a standard with which to evaluate what activities are essential and which aren’t.  You have just enough time to do God’s will and so purpose-driven living leads to a simpler lifestyle and saner schedule…and peace of mind. focus: purpose concentrates your energy and effort on what’s important.  You won’t inexplicably change directions to settle confusion or emptiness.  Your focused life is potent and impactful.  You don’t do it all, you do less, pruning away even good activities to maximize only that which matters most.  You don’t confuse activity with productivity. motivation: purpose produces passion.  nothing energizes like a clear purpose.  It’s usually meaningless work, not overwork, that saps our energy, and robs our joy. preparation for eternity: You don’t live for a legacy here on earth, but for what God will say about you.  You live to prepare for eternity.  You live to pass these two questions: Did you accept Jesus?  What did you do with what I gave you: talents, relationships, opportunities, gifts, resources?  Did you spend them on yourself or use them for God’s purpose for you?

the “parable” of the pastor and all the prostitutes

Pastor Bruce told an unforgettable story yesterday to illustrate loving the unlovable… There was a pastor in Hawaii, his name was Tony.  One night he couldn’t sleep at all, just tossing and turning and finally he just got up and went for a walk.  He ended up at this hole-in-the wall coffee shop and sidled up to the counter and said, “just give me a coffee and doughnut.”  So here he is at 3:30am, at a mom-and-pop joint, with his coffee and doughnut.  In walk some prostitutes, loud and rambunctious, dressed like prostitutes, and they sit on either side of Tony.  So here he is, a pastor, at 3:30am, at a hole-in-the wall, with three prostitutes.  They’re talking animatedly, and then one prostitute says at one point, “You know, it’s my birthday tomorrow.” And the others tease back, “What do you want us to do, throw you a party, get you presents, what?”  And the first woman says, “No, no, no, I was just saying that it’s my 39th birthday.”  And after a while, they leave, just as abruptly as they came.  The pastor turns to the short-order cook and asks him “Do those girls come in here all the time?”  And he replies, “Yea, yea, yea, every night, 3:30am, when they’re done with their shift (sidenote: i guess prostitutes work in shifts?!), they come right in here and get some food, every night, same time.”  Then Tony asks, what about the girl whose birthday is tomorrow, does she come in every night?”  And the cook answers, “Oh, Agnes!  Yea, Agnes comes in every night, 3:30am, like clockwork.”  Then the pastor proposes,” What if we were to throw her a birthday party at 3:30 tomorrow?  I’ll go buy some decorations and we can get a cake and when they come in, they’ll be so surprised!  How about that?”  The cook thought quizzically about it for a moment and then offered, “That’s a crazy idea.  But I think we should do it.”  And so the next evening, Tony pulls up with decorations and soon after, prostitutes come pouring in to attend the party. (apparently, word had spread!) They get everything ready and then at 3:30am, in walks Agnes and her friends and everyone screams, “Surprise!”  A dumbfounded Agnes blows out the candles and when asked to cut the cake, she pauses, staring at it, and then asks,” Do you mind if I take this cake home to show my mom?  I’ve never had a cake before.”  And of course, Tony graciously tells her to do so and off Agnes runs with the cake and then there Tony is with a room full of prostitutes!  So what does one do?!  Tony take the opportunity to say, “Well, I’m a pastor at church here and I would like for us to pray for Agnes.”  Suddenly, the cook chimes in, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re a pastor?! What kind of pastor are you?!  Here you are, in the middle of the night throwing the prostitutes a party…I thought maybe you were trying to get a quickie in there or get a freebie or something.  If you’re really a pastor, then I want to know of what church; because I’ll join that church”  And Tony told them which church in Hawaii he pastored and that night, he gained some followers. The point of this story?  Get out of the rules and get into LOVING PEOPLE.  If more people showed their love like Tony did, I bet you that we would have a lot more people going to church. Bruce said that we get into trouble when we compare ourselves with others.  Just like Cain and Abel ended up embroiled in envy and spite and violence, so will we suffer if we delude ourselves by thinking that our sin is greater than God’s love.  Our acceptance isn’t based on our sins; it’s based on God’s love.  Oftentimes, we don’t accept ourselves.  And that makes it impossible to accept others.  But if we use God’s love towards us as the guideline for how we are to love others, then we should love everyone. Religion by rules is what got the world into so much trouble.  It’s faith by living sacrificially that is what God wants for us.  Jesus crossed the universe to show us His love.  So do we have to get up.  Oftentimes we sit at home thinking, “Woe is me, nobody loves me.”  So, do something about it.  Reach out to your community, grab a cup of coffee with someone, look for the love, build the love. Small groups are not meant to be bible studies for Christians.  They’re meant to be times to outreach and form relationships.  It’s all about the relationships formed. Again: Get out of the rules and get in to loving people.  We cannot mess up so much that He doesn’t still come running after us.

march madness…at church

At church yesterday, the message opened up with the opening song of a football game.  Of course, Pastor Adam had something up his sleeve again!  He had invited some of his “friends:” football players Kenyon Coleman of the Cowboys and Ryan Neill of the Rams, to come share their stories with our church.  I was captivated by these men standing just several hundred feet from me, who had succeeded against incredible odds, as they testified about God’s role in their life and victory. Kenyon Coleman towered at 6’10”, 310 lbs, and 31 years.  He boasted 9 years in the league, 7 years in his marriage, and 3 kids and a beautiful wife in his family.  He spoke about the “epidemic” plaguing our nation today: this obsession with “making a name for ourselves.”  Everyone from the reality stars of “Jersey Shore” to kid with no sort of musical legitimacy who wants to be a music producer, is chasing after making their names “known.”  But this epidemic is nothing new.  In Genesis 11, the Babylonians wanted to build a tower that reached the heavens and said, “Let us make a name for ourselves.”  Kenyon said, “God is more devoted to your dream than you are.  But he doesn’t want you to love the dream.  He wants you to love the Dreammaker.”