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.