Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Jesus' Freak Show

My wife and I recently made a trip to Southern California. As if SoCal’s already not wacky enough, we spent a lot of time in the bizarro belly of the beast…the legendary Venice Beach Boardwalk. What a CRAZY place! I’m tellin’ you, it’s the greatest people watching on the planet. Hippies, surfers, skaters, mimes, musicians, jugglers, break dancers, fortune tellers, tattoo artists…even medical marijuana “clinics.” 

If Venice Beach sounds a freak show, you would be right. There is even a real carnival freak show there! 

This is gentleman who goes by the name of Morgue. And yes, he’s shoved a meat hook into his nose and out his mouth. I told it was a crazy place! 

But is it really different than the church? Because I have a sneaking suspicion this is pretty much how Jesus sees us at Hope Community Church. Not buying it? Then check out what Paul wrote to a church he planted in the city of Corinth…

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  Neither will the sexually immoral, nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards, abusers nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor 6:9-11 NIV).

Did you catch that? “And that is what some of you were!” The power of the Gospel radically changes the most jacked up, goofed up and messed up lives! You might think Paul is describing his trip to Venice Beach vacation. But he’s describing the Corinthian church! Before Jesus got His mitts on this crazy crew, they were and endless parade of sinners, goofballs and weirdos. While Christ comes to our rescue, He doesn’t make us “normal.” 

We’re still a freak show. We’re His freak show. Jesus’ freak show.

Ever think of your church as God’s freak show? If you hang out at Hope, there’s a darn good chance you’re spending time with a fair share of people on the list from 1st Corinthians. But then Jesus radically came to our rescue. 
He washed us. 
He sanctified us.
He justified us.
He didn’t make us any less weird. Christ specializes in doing God stuff through goofy people. Paul’s describing the crazy Corinthian church when he says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1Cor 1:17).

As members of First Impressions, we need to remember these are the people God is bringing through our doors today. As we say, we’re broken people serving broken people. Or better yet, weird people serving weird people. Freaky people serving freaky people. Our mission here at Hope is to love people where they are and encourage them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. That includes the sinners, goofballs, and weirdos…just like you and me. 

We’re a freak show. His freak show. Jesus’ freak show.

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Day with Stuart Scott

As most of you know, we said goodbye to Stuart Scott this week. Long before he became a sportscasting star at ESPN, Stu was a reporter here in Raleigh at WRAL-TV. While we were not the closest of friends, he touched my life and my family in a very wonderful way. I would like to share a recent post from my son Jason. He writes about a visit we made to see Stuart at the Worldwide Leader back in 2001. This is a very touching tribute to one of the truly good guys you would ever know.

My Day with Stuart Scott—July 31, 2001
It was the summer before I transferred to the University of Missouri after attending a year at North Carolina State. My dad (Jay Jennings) and I were about to embark on a week-long road trip to the northeast, one last father-son trek before I moved out of state for the first time.
We had a lot of the trip pretty well mapped out: our first game at Fenway Park, trips to the baseball and basketball halls of fame, etc. 
A few days before we left, Dad contacted Stuart Scott.
As many of you know, Stuart worked at WRAL with Dad. What you may not know (and Dad would be too humble to mention) was how big a fan Stuart always was of Dad’s. Every time I saw Stuart, he would always ask about Dad and say how Dad’s photoessays inspired him to get into the business. After Stuart left WRAL for WESH in Orlando, we visited the station and popped by an edit bay where Stuart was anxious to get Dad’s feedback on some of his recent work. In an ESPN the Magazine interview years later, he even named Dad and the members of the WRAL sports department as his earliest TV heroes.
But back to 2001. 
Dad emailed Stuart to see if we would be able to see ESPN during our trip because we would be nearby. We thought, at best, he would give us a quick 30-minute tour of the offices and studio and send us on our way. 
That would have been plenty. More than plenty.
Instead, Stuart told us to show up at a certain time. Probably around 3:30-4pm. He greeted us in the lobby after his workout (Stuart? Working out? Shocker.), and took us to his office.
Little did we realize Stuart was going to let us hang out with him for his entire shift!!! 
It started with meet-and-greets with every single person who dropped by his office (And he had lots of visitors. Another shocker.). Then we popped into some offices with a few of his fellow anchors. When stopping to see Linda Cohn, who’s always easy to make laugh, Stuart opened her door and just did a face-first pratfall as a “hello.”
Obviously, he was gushing about Dad to the people we met. When he introduced me, he couldn’t wait to share an anecdote I told him shortly after we arrived that day.
Yes, I used to hate UNC. And of course, no one openly bled light blue like Stuart. To let him know where I was coming from, I told Stuart that when I was coming out of high school, I applied to Carolina. Not so I could get in. Quite the opposite. I didn’t want anyone from UNC to tell me I went to NC State just because I couldn’t get in to Carolina. So I applied to UNC just so I could get in, and turn them down!
Well, I got accepted to UNC, turned them down, went to State, and relayed this shallow but true tale to Stuart.
He couldn’t stop laughing. “Man, that is cold!” he said. Then, whether it was Linda Cohn or Dan Patrick, or a product assistant just interning for the summer, Stuart introduced me, “And this is Jay’s son Jason. Get this! He applied to Carolina, just so he could turn them down!” He was such a good sport.
Stuart also took us by the ESPN Radio studios where Bob Stevens was on the air. In typical Stuart fashion, he barged in, was greeted delightfully by Bob, said a couple things into the mic and left. Just a surprise cameo for our, and the listeners’, entertainment.
Later, we followed Stuart to the ESPN dining room made famous from all the This Is Sportscenter commercials. He got dinner. I grabbed an apple, didn’t realize until he got to the register that you had to pay, so I pocketed the apple for some reason.
We got back to Stuart’s office. He was doing the 11pm show with Dan Patrick (my on air idol at the time). Stuart opened the rundown. “Oh man, I’ve got wear pants tonight!” he bemoaned. Back in the old Sportscenter days, anchors rarely had to stand and be shot head-to-toe. Unfortunately for Stuart, this was one of those nights. He couldn’t wear jeans or shorts and just stay behind the desk.
Then, he started to write, and something happened for which I was far from prepared.
Stuart spouted out, “Jason, what should I write about this Keyshawn Johnson story?” 
“Ummm, uuhh, ummm…,” I stuttered, quickly realizing what was happening. Stuart Scott—one of the most prominent faces on the network—was going to let me write an intro for him?!? This was an incredible (and possibly risky) gesture. But because he knew I was interested in getting into the TV business, he found opportunities to let me get a taste of it. Unreal.
Now, to this day, I have trouble writing in someone’s voice other than my own. Writing for Stuart? The most unique voice in the history of ESPN? I was on the Budweiser hot seat.
Luckily, Dad is a better writer than me, so it really became a three-man think tank where Stuart added his typical Stuart Scott sizzle. We wrote a story on Keyshawn Johnson getting pissy at Bucs training camp, an intro to a Tim Kurkjian package on Dave Winfield going into the Hall of Fame, and maybe another story or two.
Show time was approaching. 
Stuart headed down to makeup. Surprise surprise, he treated the makeup lady like family.
Meanwhile, I stood slack-jawed in the newsroom in awe of Dan Patrick while he and Trey Wingo talked about how they couldn’t go back and do local sports like their old colleague Larry Biel had recently done.
Then, we made the walk down that iconic long hallway to the studio: me, Dad, Stuart Scott and Dan Patrick. I didn’t say a word. What could I add to this conversation?
Having been back to ESPN one time since, I’m pretty sure post-9/11, you can’t have visitors in the studio during show time. But this was six weeks before the towers fell, so we walked right in. Stuart told us to sit at a desk off to the side where interviews were taped.
Baseball Tonight was just wrapping up and was in its final commercial break. At the time, both shows shared the studio at different desks. It was trade deadline day so BBTN’s A-team was on the set: Karl Ravech, Peter Gammons and Harold Reynolds. I probably watched BBTN more than Sportscenter during this era, so imagine my thrill when Stuart yelled, “Hey guys, say ‘hello’ to Jay and Jason from North Carolina!” 
“Hey, Jay and Jason from North Carolina!” they all immediately replied.
Finally, Sportscenter started. 
There was Patrick, calling baseball highlights and giving that signature smooth, “the whiiiffff”. 
Then, the Keyshawn story. 
“He was complaining when they didn’t give him the damn ball. Now, they’ve given him the damn ball, and he’s still complaining…” No one ever said it was award-winning. But there were my words (and four-letter ones, at that!) being read on Sportscenter by Stuart Scott. I couldn’t believe it.
During a commercial, he asked Dad and me to come up and take a picture on the set. That picture has been framed at every place I’ve lived ever since I got the film developed.
There are other long stories from that day I’ll make shorter: like getting Dan Patrick to sign a copy of his book and meeting John Anderson where he referred to Dad as a Mizzou “legend” (100 percent true).
But the day all happened because of Stuart. He gave me a copy of his scripts from the show, autographed it and wrote “Boo-yow!” underneath. Remember, Stuart didn’t say, “Booyah.” Listen to his pronunciation. It’s “BOO-yow.” There was once a time he tried to tell people this, but obviously, it wasn’t worth the argument.
Stuart Scott will be remembered for more than Booyah. First and foremost, his legacy will be his battle with cancer and how he approached it with courage while staying his usual positive self for the last seven years of his life.
It’s amazing to me that 26 years after first meeting him in Raleigh and 13 years after that day in Bristol, the President of the United States and Michael Jordan would be releasing statements about Stuart’s death.
But that also shows what an impact he made in his short time here. Stuart Scott lived life to the fullest, always stayed true to himself, put others first, made everyone around him happier and left a mark on this world. 
That’s something we all should aspire to do.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Empty Bookshelf Challenge

Just before we flipped the calendar over to start 2014, author Jon Acuff threw out a challenge. The Empty Bookshelf Challenge to be exact. Clear a shelf in your bookcase and them fill it up during the year. As you finish a book, write a quick review and take a picture of your shelf. I gladly accepted Jon's challenge (especially since it didn't involve ice and/or buckets). There's just one little problem. I do most of my reading on my Kindle. So bookshelf pics wouldn't mean a hill of beans.

So here's my update through the end of August 2014. Lots of non-fiction. Lots of Christian non-fiction. An emphasis on God's view of manhood and marriage. And of course, a little bit of baseball.

"Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved" by J.D. Greear
-A short but power-packed book on our assurance of salvation. If Jesus rescues you, it's not up to you to stay saved. (Where was this little ditty back when God first got ahold of me?!?)

"Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye" by Len Bailey
-If you're a believer and a fan of the detective at 221B Baker Street, grab this one. Holmes investigates some of the Bible's ultimate mysteries.

"Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith that Drives the St. Louis Cardinals" by Rob Rains.
-Most Redbird fans might not realize the role that the players' faith plays in the clubhouse and on the field.

"To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain" by Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson
-Cool look at how Jesus and His Gospel totally turned the city of Philippi on its head.

"Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs" by Emerson Eggerichs
-This one has been on my "to read" list for several years. I had my doubts that it would live up to the hype. Wrong! Probably THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK ON MARRIAGE TODAY! Must. Read.

"Stuff Christians Like" by Jon Acuff
-A "best of" collection from the blog of the same name. Acuff is a fantastic writer (I read his book "Start" last year). Laughed out loud on just about every page. And hey, why not try to score a few brownie points from the dude who issued the challenge in the first place.

"Stan Musial: An American Life" by George Vecsey
-The story of one of America's great heroes. Musial's big problem was that he was consistently great and lived without controversy or scandal.

"Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't" by Simon Sinek
-A powerful book on servant leadership. While Sinek has an evolutionary world view, his observations on leaders and their teams will rock you to the core.

"Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole" by Eric Mason
-An inner city pastor from Philadelphia pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to God's view of manhood. Put on your cup before picking this one up.

"The Dude's Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits" by Darrin Patrick
-I love Patrick's combination of being both in-your-face and completely transparent. If you don't want somebody up in your grill (in Christian love, of course), you might want to read "The Notebook" instead.

"One Question" by Ken Coleman
-I've been a fan of Coleman as a regular listener to the Catalyst Podcast. He's an outstanding interviewer who shares some amazing insights from various movers and shakers as they respond to key questions.

"A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?" by Mark Driscoll
-Driscoll's a real lightning rod. God has used him greatly in my life to impact my view of Jesus, the Bible, and how to communicate the Gospel. He does a great job in this book of giving context to the 21st century church and where we're headed.

"Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense" by Francis Spufford
-I read this after hearing Tullian Tchividjian recommend it several times in his sermons. If cursing and four-letter words upset you, don't even think about this book. Spufford is "unapologetic" in his apologetics toward neo-atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens. Parts of this book are thick and hard to read. Other sections make you think you're holding a grenade in your hand without the pin.

"Genesis Unbound" by John Sailhamer
-I've never been passionate about Creation Science and the evolution debate. Sailhamer pulls apart the opening chapters of Genesis for a view of God's creation that's absolutely spectacular. Buckle your seat belt, boys and girls.

"Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are" by Craig Groeschel
-Groeschel is an outstanding communicator. I always love his books. This is no exception. It's fun to read. It's powerful and convicting. I don't agree with everything he writes but, then again, he's smarter than me. He says that we can't become all fo who God created us to be until we place our egos on the altar.

"All of Grace" by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
-First thing I've ever read by Spurgeon. Man, he can bring it! This book will absolutely blow the doors off your view of our gracious God and Savior.

Looks like I've got more empty space on my bookshelf. Would love to hear your suggestions.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

100% God+100% Man=100% Savior!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

The One who spoke the entire universe into being made a decision to rough it.  As the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son was 100% God.  Then something absolutely crazy happened.  Somehow, someway, He added to 100% Godness.  He took on 100% humanity too!  That’s the new math.  The new DIVINE math.  

100% God+100% Man=100% Savior!

But the Son didn’t sit back and chill out after taking on His brand new humanity.  He was about to make a road trip.  He had mission.  The Son packed up and headed to earth.  He headed into the very creation He shaped and formed.  But when He left the lap of heaven’s luxury, He didn’t check into the Four Seasons or the Plaza.  He “dwelt among us.”  John tells us that the Son of God went camping.  The original text tells us us that He literally “tabernacled” (Gr. skeno’o) once He got to earth.  In other words, Jesus set up camp and pitched a tent.  The Message describes how Christ “moved into the neighborhood.”  For the Second Person of the Big Three, His accommodations were just a bit less posh than the glorious palace He enjoyed back home in heaven.  God went camping.  God was roughing it.  And if you have any doubts about all that, remember where Jesus made His arrival.  In a stinky old barn behind the Motel 6 in Bethlehem.  

At this point, John jumps into the story and tells us what he saw.  “We have seen His glory.”  Since we know Jesus’ buddy wasn’t hanging out with the shepherds when the angels lit up the sky in glory, that can’t be what he’s talking about.  The apostle could be talking about that crazy day Christ took him, his big brother Jim and their fishing buddy Pete mountain climbing.  Once they arrived at the summit, something wild happened.  Jesus started changing and glowing!  Their Leader pulled back the curtains of heaven to let them know just who He really was.  Or John could be describing Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection.  And their’s a chance that this is his way of summing up all of their experiences with the remarkable Rabbi/Carpenter from Galilean.  His teaching exposed God’s glory.  His miracles revealed God’s glory.  His love disclosed God’s glory.  John and the boys saw Jesus’ glory with their own eyes.  They didn’t get this crazy stuff second hand.

John and the rest of the posse realized Jesus was more than Mary and Joe’s kid from Nazareth.  He was the one and only Son of God.  While he was a great dad, Joe was His adoptive father.  He and his wife had other kids.  But Christ was an only Child.  His Dad in heaven just one Boy.  Jesus was someone special.  That’s the meaning behind the term we translate “only.”  This is monogenes, which means unique, one of a kind, one and only or the only one like it.  Jesus is unique.  He’s one of a kind.  He’s the one and only.  He’s the only one.  There was and is NOBODY like Him.  Ever.  It’s interesting to understand that the word “Son” isn’t there in the original Greek text.  You can actually write this phrase in English as “the unique of the Father.”  The First Person of the Trinity had only one Son.  There was and is no one else like Him in the history of the universe.  Jesus, the one and only.  

One of the things that made Christ unique was the fact that no one who was so overflowing in goodness spoke so bluntly.  Jesus was “full of grace and truth.”  Everywhere He went, He opened up the fire hose of God’s blessing.  Healing.  Teaching.  Loving.  Caring.  But Christ also pulled no punches when it came to telling the truth about sin.  Just ask the lady caught in adultery.  Or the woman sitting by the well in Sychar.  Or the religious bullies known as the Sanhedrin.  He told them the truth.  He made it perfectly clear that they needed a Savior.  One way to understand John’s wording is that Jesus made the Good News REALLY good because the bad news is REALLY bad.  

That’s what happens when you experience the one-of-a-kind Son of God. 

100% God+100% Man=100% Savior!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Preps

Over in the book of Matthew, we see folks getting ready for Christmas (Mt 1:1-25).  Getting ready for the FIRST Christmas.  As a matter of fact, God is the One making all the preps.  Unlike me, He didn’t wait until the last minute.  God has been getting things ready for a few thousand years.  I need to remember that the first Christmas wasn’t just this cute, quaint one time event.  It was thousands (if not millions) of years in the making!  And God was behind it all.

Before we read of His birth, we get a meticulous telling of Jesus’ family tree through His adoptive dad Joe.  It’s VERY interesting and important for a couple of reasons.  First, this establishes the Child as coming through the line of Abraham and David on Joe’s side.  God had made super specific promises to Abe and Dave about one of their descendants (more on that later).  Take a moment and check out some of the names of Jesus’ ancestors.  Holy moly!  There are double dealers, cheats, backstabbers, oppressive dictators and a wide variety of knuckleheads.  Not exactly a series of hall of famers.  That’s because this story isn’t about them.  It’s about the one and only Hero of the story.  Christ Jesus.

Second, Matt never refers to Joe as Jesus’ dad.  He makes it very clear here in chapter one that he’s “the husband of Mary” (v16) and “her husband Joseph” (v19).  On the other hand, Matt clearly wants us to be sure Who the real Dad is, the “Holy Spirit” (v18, 20).  Wait, what?!?  Yup, that’s right.  Not the heavenly Father.  But the Third Person of the Big Three.  Joe is a blue collar laborer from the backwater boondocks of Nazareth.  He might be a descendant of the great King David, but he swings a hammer for a living.  His kids will grow up with a strong work ethic.

Third, we read that despite the supernatural influence from His Dad’s side, this Baby has a human mom.  Matty lets us know that after that spectacular conception, Mary experienced a pretty normal pregnancy.  It became clear that “she was found to be with child” (v18).  She would go into labor and give “birth to a Son” (v25).  Mary was the one chosen by God to carry and nurture the Christ.  She was the one “of whom Jesus was born” (v16).  Mary is almost certainly a teenager, maybe as young as 13 or 14.  Joe the carpenter has popped the question and they plan to marry.  But plans change when God gets involved.

This amazing combination of divine paternity and human motherhood comes together in a way no one expected.  He’s not some 50/50 combo of God and mortal.  Nope.  He’s 100% God.  He’s 100% Man.  How does that all work?  Don’t have a clue.  It’s all part of the miracle of the Dude we’ve come to call the God-Man.  The funny thing is that one of my pet peeves is when an athlete says they’ve given 150% effort.  It’s not possible.  The most anyone can give is 100%.  Well, anyone except Jesus.  He can give 200%.  100% God.  100% Man.  And it took every bit of that to save my sorry self.  

Fourth, there’s the Child.  An angel gives Joe instructions on naming this Baby.  “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save people from their sins” (v21).  This is the Greek form of the ancient Hebrew name Joshua which literally means “Yahweh saves.”  When look closely at verse 21, you see that this Child isn’t just some sort of undercover operative sent by God.  He’s the One who’s coming to do the saving.  He’s flesh-wrapped incarnation of Yahweh.  He’s coming on the greatest rescue mission the universe has ever seen.  This One who’s coming to save will have a name to match.  

Matt tips us off to a second title for Joe and Mary’s Boy: “Christ” (v1, 16).  This is the Greek version of the OT title Messiah.  In other words, Jesus is the One everybody’s been waiting thousands of years for.  God first promised our first parents of this Hero back in the garden (Gen 3:15).  He pledged to Abraham that One of his descendants would be a blessing to the entire planet (Gen 12:2-3).  Yahweh assured King David that a Member of his family line would sit on the royal throne for eternity (2Sam 7:13-14).  These are just three of the hundreds of predictions of this God-sent Hero who would come to not just save the day but our very souls.  This Child is the long-promised, long-awaited Messiah.  He’s the Christ.  This term means “Anointed One.”  He’s anointed by God the Father for this incredible search and rescue mission.  He’s anointed with God the Spirit in order to have the supernatural power to accomplish it.

The angel tells Jesus’ adoptive dad Joe about one of the many predictions about this Boy.  He’ll be called “Immanuel, which means, God with us” (v23).  God first shouted this promise through the prophet Isaiah a few hundred years before.  Matt pulls back the curtain and sheds a little more light on the name.  It “means, God with us.”  He doesn’t want Joe to miss the point.  He doesn’t want us to miss the point.  This is not going to be just another Jewish baby.  When Jesus makes the scene in that smelly barn, God will have come down in a way the universe has never seen.  He is God with us.  He is Immanuel.  And what I need to always remember that He wasn’t just with us for a short 33 years.  God is STILL with us!  God is STILL with me!  Just before His breathtaking liftoff back to His Dad, Jesus promised that He wouldn’t ever truly leave us alone again.  God is STILL with us.  God is STILL with me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Returning Serve

In tennis, some players have booming serves.  Others can return just about everything their opponent fires at them.  But the best players are those who can not only uncork powerful serves but can return them as well.  

What in the wide world of sports does this have to do with First Impressions?  Well, thanks for asking.  We do what we do each weekend because we’ve been served.  We’re actually returning serve.  Let me explain.  Jesus first served us.  Now we return His serve by serving others.  In their book Creature of the Word, Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson describe how everything we do is a response to what Christ did for us.  “The foundation of our service is built upon Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection for us.  It begins and ends with Jesus--begins there because He is our original motivation and ends there because only in Him are empowered to serve others.”  The fact of His service through His life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection on our behalf is certainly fresh in our minds in the days following Easter.

Jesus serves us first.  We return His serve.

As followers of Christ, we need to remember that we don’t serve out of guilt or some misguided effort to earn a place in His kingdom.  That’s over.  That’s complete.  That’s why Jesus yelled from the cross, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30).  There’s absolutely nothing we can add to what He’s already done.  He did for us what we could never do for ourselves in a million years.  When it comes to a serve, that’s an ACE!!!  But we return His serve by serving others with radical hospitality.  
-We return serve by welcoming people into our parking lots.
-We return serve by providing a friendly ride on our shuttles.
-We return serve by greeting folks with a wide smile at the doors.
-We return serve by guiding guests throughout the campus.
-We return serve by brewing people coffee, lattes, and mochas.
-We return serve by cooking up hot meals in our kitchen.
-We return serve by interacting with folks in the auditorium.
We return serve as a response to the overwhelming grace Jesus has showered on us.  We serve as an act of worship of our Savior.  We serve because He first served us.  A couple of hundred years ago, Martin Luther hit the nail on the head when it comes to what our service is all about.  “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”  And that’s EXACTLY the return of serve we hope to provide through First Impressions.

Jesus serves us first.  We return His serve.

(This post originally appeared on the Hope Community Church blog. I was asked to contribute a piece about the meaning of service for our church's First Impressions ministry. http://blog.gethope.net/serving-2/returning-the-serve.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spiritual Ancestors

Have you ever asked yourself, "What could I possibly do that matters?" You are not alone. I have asked myself that question more than once. Let me introduce you to nine people who were ALL influenced by another person.

It all started with a guy from Boston.

His name...

EDWARD KIMBALL led a small group at his church when he met a challenging teenager. That seventeen-year-old young man was poorly educated and prone to outbursts of anger and profanity.

His name...

DWIGHT L. MOODY. He became the "greatest" evangelist of the nineteenth century. He was instrumental in the life-change experienced by a young man.

His name...

F.B. MEYER. He became a minister. He mentored a young man.

His name...

J.W. CHAPMAN. He became a pastor and evangelist. He also started an outreach to professional baseball players. There he influenced a young man.

His name...

BILLY SUNDAY. He became one of the greatest evangelists in the first two decades of the twentieth century. He influenced a young man who eventually came back to work with him.

His name...

MORDECAI HAM. He became a preacher. He was preaching when a teenager responded to the invitation "to give your life to Jesus Christ."

His name...

BILLY GRAHAM. He has influenced more people than any other preacher in history. He remains a trusted confidant to presidents and other key influencers. At one of his crusades, a 16-year-old boy responded to the gospel.

His name...

CLYDE CHILES. He answered God's call to the ministry and became an itinerant Southern Baptist evangelist. Preaching a revival at First Baptist Church in Farmington, MO in 1970, a 12-year-old boy walked the aisle and gave his life to Jesus.

His name...


Do the best you can where you are, with what you have, for a purpose that is greater than yourself. You can be someone worthwhile. You can do something that matters.

Jason Young deserves most of the credit for the composition of this piece. He wrote this for Catalyst about the spiritual ancestors of Billy Graham. I simply continued the progression after researching my own story.

Do you know your spiritual ancestry?