Friday, December 14, 2012

There is Hope – His Name is Jesus

When the headlines break – when they sicken, anger, or frighten us – you can be sure of two things.

1) You are not alone in that you have an entire nation of people experiencing the same crisis in their own ways – finding out through an email, jolted by a newsfeed sent to their phone, shocked by a call from a friend or a nervous-sounding anchor interrupting with “breaking news.”

2) No matter what…there is hope.

Tragedy that affects the innocent is a deeply saddening thing – always difficult to process or bear. When the innocent victims are children…the mind races, the spirit drops and prayer is fervently lifted. It shakes us to our core – as individuals and as a nation. The enemy knows where to hit us – most often where we think we’re not vulnerable. A small town. Places we trust. Our staples. Our children. Today, a little elementary school in Connecticut will join forever the ranks of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora Colorado’s Century 16 Movie theater and countless other places both in sorrow and infamy. 

We are too often reminded why our nation needs Jesus Christ! 

This is why the mission of our church—New Venture Christian Fellowship--and the other 350,000 churches across the United States have a significant and critical responsibility.  We are called to be Ambassadors of Hope to a hurting world.  And yes, there is an Answer! There is Hope – a real and tangible hope that we can grasp firmly. His name is Jesus. As much as He is the answer – He is also the “how” that equips us to get through these heartbreaks and empowers us to reach out to others. There is an urgency we too often forget. In this sad moment of remembering why the message of Christ is so desperately needed, we merely need to be prayerful, passionate and above all, fully committed in getting that message out a pained and sickened world.

Our Lord says

“…If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
(2nd Chronicles 7:12-14).

Praying for Hope, while knowing we have it…

Praying for Healing, our nation needs it...
Tell someone else today who needs to hear it from you.

Let’s get busy! 

Unwrap Your Joy

What an amazing time of year it is!  As we’re running errands, planning get-togethers, cooking meals and wrapping gifts,  it is my hope that we don’t forget to take joy with us.

I heard a powerful statement the other day: “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”  Within moments it was evident to me that God can use as little as 15 words to vault me into a more highly sensitized awareness of “I’m still breathin’ thinking”..  Not only do these words carry a poignant message of gratefulness and humility, they also come with a challenge that I hope we all as Christ followers are challenged to consider.

Just for today…designate a couple moments to reflect on what you’re grateful for.  Keep an ongoing “gratitude list” to remind yourself of both the calming and chaotic moments of life, that we’re really more blessed than we often consider.

Reflecting further on  these thoughts, my own gratitude list immediately grew. My top gratitude list items include…  

  • My great God, who daily affords me “Mercies which are new every morning” (Lam 3:22,23)
  • Jesus – who not only is the Lord of the universe… but the King over my life! Wow, simply… amazing!
  • My wife of 25 years and best friend - Laurie, and an amazing son that I’m so proud of and grateful for  - Shawn Jr. (see picture)
  • For one of the most loving and amazing groups of people you’ll find anywhere… the incredible family of New Venture Christian Fellowshi
  •  Having a place to call home, a bed to sleep in, food in the cupboard
  • Health (for me - that’s a miracle and a real big deal!)
  • Vehicles
  • And the list goes on…
But then I thought…if this was all I was grateful for, I’d be forgetting all the countless other blessings the Lord graciously gives to me… and they’re everywhere! James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father… Although our circumstances may change from time to time, our joy doesn’t have to.  During these busy moments (be it at Christmas time, or just everyday living), take time out for God. And start counting -  your blessings. 

A wise person once said that the quickest way to realize you’re rich is to count our blessings. Thinking about that – I’m feeing like God’s answer to Donald Trump or Bill Gates about now!   The Bible says that “the JOY of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10). Begin with how you’ve been blessed and you’ll get there a lot quicker. Are you ready? Let’s start counting… “Two eyes to see, two hands to write, one mind to believe, one heart to love and one life to live out His message”. Feeling better? Don’t stop now – there’s a long list left to go.

May your joy light the world this season and always! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life 97!

Well it happened. My dad went to heaven today. June 26, 2012. 97 years old. What a day. What a Homegoing. It was perfect.

If you were with us at New Venture last weekend, you know that I told the story of how I received a call from the hospital on Father's Day that my dad had taken ill and was being admitted to the hospital. Obviously that changed the Father's Day luncheon that Laurie, Shawn Jr. and I were enjoying. I was told that his health was failing fast. In fact, his decline was so rapid that 24 hours later, the hospital informed my family that he was on life support and we would have to make a decision about pulling the plug.

That was over a week ago. The great thing was that we didn’t have to make that decision. He was taken off life support and the Lord kept him here with us another week – and what a week it was! Holding his hand, reading him the Word, singing songs, and speaking words of love into the ear of a great dad who was unable to speak or move, lying in that hospital bed waiting for heaven, and who undoubtedly heard every word that his grandson Shawn Jr., Laurie and I, and many others had a wonderful week to express.

Even as I write this, I’m smiling. Have you ever been both happy and sad at the same time? That was me when the nurse called and said, “Mr. Mitchell, I’m sorry, but your father passed a few moments ago. But he went peacefully.” I was immediately sad that he has left us for a little while…but oh so HAPPY as to where he is at this very moment!!! Reunited with my mother and two brothers, and most of all…being in the presence of the one he loved most – Jesus Christ. There’s no sorry in this story!! \

The Bible says, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8) I’m so happy my dear dad made it. He saw almost 100 years of life – but now…he REALLY begins to live!!

Thanks so much for your prayers for me and my family. We really feel them. I look forward to seeing my dad again, but there’s still more work for all of us to do down here first.

Tiffany, I hope that when you read this, that you will be as blessed and encouraged as I have been today, basking in the assured promise that, as Christ followers, we never fully die.

I’m reminded of what we discussed at last weekend’s Celebration Service:

Dance like No One’s Watching…
Sing like Only God’s Listening...
Serve Him, like it’s your Last Day…
Live like Tomorrow’s Not Promised...
Ad Enjoy Life…Like You’ll be Living Forever – Because You Will!! (John 11:23)

Much love to you. I’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

So Long...Superman

I write this at the end of an unprecedented week of sadness, anguish and heartbreak over the tragic passing of Junior Seau, who was a close personal friend, and a friend to many at New Venture.
Wednesday morning, I received a phone call from the Coroner’s office informing me of his tragic end and asking if I could quickly drive to his home and break the news to his parents before they were informed by the media. When I arrived – it was obviously too late, as the street was cordoned off with hundreds already gathered, helicopters flying overhead and media from everywhere arriving in news vans.

The most important act you can do in a moment this intense and heartbreaking – is to pray. I sensed God’s strong nudging to graciously but firmly call everyone to gather hands, bow and PRAY. The Seau family is a spiritual family, they understand where the Source of their comfort and strength comes from, and they all found it in that moment, as the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) supplied it, in the midst of unspeakable despair.
As the saddened crowd of family, police, and emergency workers quietly bowed their heads, I read out loud the 23rd Psalm, followed by the respectful, hurting throng making their way to say “So-long” to their “Superman.”

The world witnessed the anguish and tears of a broken mother, as she took to the microphone and cried out to God for her son, whose body was inside with the authorities. That moment began an avalanche of calls from TV, print and radio – as the world searched for answers to “how could this happen?” – untold hours of being a quiet support to family, speaking with Junior’s beautiful children about love, loss & longing, dealing with funeral plans and much, much more. If it wasn’t for New Venture’s Great Week of Prayer, and the support of a church family like you and all the wonderful people that make up NVCF, I have no doubt that I, and more importantly the Seau family, could not have been sustained through this incredibly trying week.

Through all the pain, I am most grateful that we at New Venture have been able to be a voice and a comfort for this entire city – and beyond, as God’s words of comfort have gone out over the airwaves here and across the nation. I have been contacted and/or interviewed, by personalities as diverse as Piers Morgan, Dr. Phil, Geraldo, ESPN and brain specialists from La Jolla to London. Tomorrow morning, Saturday, the TV interviews continue again bright and early – and every one is a chance to speak of Jesus Christ.

A noted pastor prayed for me the day I wrote this, that God would use all of this to “touch America.” I am aware that a prayer like that is only answered when a group of people believe that God works miracles when people pray. Without a doubt, “the devil has meant this for evil, but God means it for good” (Gen. 50:20). We can’t bring Junior back, a man who was an extraordinary athlete, and exceptional person. However, I’m so glad that Jesus Christ promises to “never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5).

Whenever you read this, would you remember to keep the Seau family and Junior’s children in your prayers? They need them during this very difficult time -- but the need for prayer will also never go away. At New Venture, we spent the first weekend after this tragedy talking about God's strength “In The Midst Of Life’s Storms.” It's something we can continue to do: Celebrate LIFE, and the One who died – so that we wouldn’t have to. Ever.

I pray you're trusting Him through whatever your circumstances -- and if you're hurting...reach out. God can make a way.
Many blessings on you.
Your friend,

Friday, February 24, 2012

When America Went to Church

Dreams come to an end. The lights go off. Sometimes truth comes out, and you realize the glitter wasn’t as bright as it may have looked. But one thing shines through – always. One light never dims or dies. One “legendary name” will never leave you or forsake you.

More and more God is using the stories of our culture and current events to bring this hope to a larger audience of people. Earlier this season, we watched an NFL quarterback revive the game of football for fans and non-fans alike – by getting God and His Word into national headlines. Everyone was talking about Tim Tebow… Jesus… the Bible… and John 3:16.

94 million people Googled that verse after the famed Broncos game against the Steelers on [date] when “316”appeared multiple times during the games stat – which was only noticed because Tebow had been known for wearing that reference in his eyeblack in college, and because of the phenomenon of his faith keeping God in the spotlight, against pop-culture odds. It went so far that “Tebowing” (the “prayer” stance) became a verb and launched a global trend.

Tebowing then gave way to “Linsanity” as another pro athlete’s faith started getting equal airtime. Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks as so captured the attention of NBA fans and beyond that Ben and Jerry made “Linsanity” an ice cream flavor!

Tebow & Lin’s stories turned the spotlight on God in exciting ways. The stories that surfaced after Whitney Houston’s passing were sad, tragic and heartbreaking to the same “phenomenal” degrees. But they resulted in God-in-the-headlines almost as much.

The day before Whitney Houston’s death, while singing at a pre-Grammy party, she spontaneously broke into an impromptu version of “Yes Jesus Loves Me.” On her final day, she kept quoting the story of Jesus’ baptism to friends. Reporting on this, countless news agencies printed these Scriptures in their entirety. The New York Daily News, Huffington Post, TMZ and other notably unlikely sources published Matthew 3:13-17 in full to their massive readership.

The day of her funeral, one headline read, “The Nation Goes to Church,” and ran a photograph of the Houston “Homegoing Celebration” being broadcast live, right into the heart of New York’s Times Square. Words like “We are here today, hearts broken but yet with God’s strength” captured people’s hurts over more than just a pop-star’s passing.

I tweeted the day Don Cornelius (Soul Train founder) took his life after a lifetime of never seeming happy and finally fighting degenerative illness, “Try Jesus…Please.” I can’t say that enough again today. Suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Drug and alcohol addiction is equally no laughing matter and severe in permanent effects.

Kevin Costner said Whitney thought she was “never enough” – pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough. Few of us attain legendary superstar status – but we all listen to those same lies about ourselves. The Bible says Satan will lie and “accuse” us about ourselves (Rev. 12:10). Costner went on to say that Whitney wasn’t just “enough”…she was “great.” That’s the same thing God tries to tell us – that because of His love, He sees us as…great. That’s the kind of headline I like reading.

We don’t know what the headline will read tomorrow or what our final life headlines will read. We know only one thing for sure. That God gave His only Son…that whoever believes…shall not perish. As Tyler Perry said during Ms. Houston’s funeral, at the end, loving the Lord is the best thing that weyou can do with our lives.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Every Day is a Birthday

I don’t remember a birthday when there was so much to celebrate. Of course I’ve probably said that almost every year – because “God is good…all the time.” There have been years when I’ve celebrated God’s healing and being given a new lease on life…again. Many years I’ve praised God for a new revelation for His church, New Venture, as we begin a new year. My son was even born in January, about a week before my birthday. All these “good gifts from above” (James 1:17) are things I don’t take for granted – and as “bday time” lines up with the beginning of the year, it’s a great time to thank God … and celebrate His gifts.

This year is no exception. For our church, it’s the Year of Venturing Out and, ever since the call went out a couple weeks ago for people to “get out of that La-Z boy” and “start something,” I can’t turn around without bumping into a story about God meeting needs.

The Worship Team’s CD is about to release. God has expanded our REACH thanks to national headlines and New Venture Press Publication Take a Knee and Win ( We’re going to end up ahead of our one-year goal of LiveStreaming in 50 countries. Marriage and Teen Purity conferences are coming up this month. And 7 new ministries have started in the last 2 weeks alone.
That’s not counting “the regulars” (everything God has been doing all along) – Men’s, Women’s, Young Adults and Seniors groups all growing as healthy things do; sports, arts, community service, an Action Sports Park welcoming sponsors and riders from all over the state, and somewhere in the background of all of this, is a staff who truly loves one another, loves God, and remembers to “take Him seriously and not ourselves.”
We had a young man visit recently for the first time who had a rare heart condition. We happened to play the viral video of Ben Breedlove – the teen who recorded an incredible message about Heaven that’s been viewed by millions…just before he passed away on Christmas day 2011. Moved by this testimony, the young man visiting gave His life to Christ and I had the opportunity to pray with him, just before he collapsed in our parking lot and was taken to ICU. He’s still facing tough challenges, but at least in His weakness, he now knows God’s strength.

I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life than being around the great stories God allows here at New Venture. I can’t imagine either, any more special ways to enjoy this week. The staff blessed me with a great gift to celebrate the Year of Venturing Out; my family and I enjoyed a great dinner during a night out together; I even got to end my actual birthday with a packed-out Connections CafĂ©, singing Happy Bday, after a warm and quiet hour in the Word together. But it was something one of our pastors said during devotions that morning that stuck with me the most.  He mentioned the most important “birthdays” around here are those who raise their hands every weekend to say ‘yes’ to the Lord and celebrate the first day of their new – and eternal – life.
My joy is wishing “happy birthday” to any and all who have come to know Him, and continuing to invite anyone who hasn’t.. He stands and knocks, and if you haven’t opened that door…right now is a good time. Maybe today is your “spiritual” birthday – or your chance to help someone else celebrate theirs.