Another way to extinguish the flames is to think about what comes before your eyes. Think about the things that you watch on your computer screen, the things you read, the things in your video library. If they fan the flames of unfaithfulness, get rid of them. Pornography is big business, over eight billion dollars a year. Trash it. Get rid of it. It is not worth it. You don’t want to sign up for boatloads of pain and anguish that will slowly and strategically cause you. Because Satan will use it to lie to you. Well, if that person can do that…
Ladies, let me say a direct word to you. Dress tastefully. Make sure what you wear is a tasteful outfit. I am not saying to wear a bag over your body. I am all for fashion. But some of the outfits that women wear, they fan the flames of unfaithfulness. Think about it.
Do you feel the presence of flames in your life? Is it getting scary? Let me say a word about touchy-feely people. “I have just got to touch. I have just got to hug. I have just got to flirt a little bit. It is just a little suggestive talk to close this business deal.” You are messing around with fire. You might be touchy-feely and say to yourself that no one can take it the wrong way. But you will be touchy-feely one day with someone who will take it the wrong way. And those suggestive comments, those jokes, it can take down the barriers, stir the embers. It is a slow, methodical process.
Let me give you another one. This is huge here. Embark on a lifelong journey to enrich your marriage. Won’t you do that today? Just make a commitment before God. “God, I want to embark on a lifelong journey to enrich my marriage.” It takes work to have a great marriage. You never arrive, you never say that you have figured it all out. It takes one little act after another little act, then all those acts begin to build a great marriage.
“Dear Ed. I am writing you this letter because I know that in a couple of weeks you will be giving a message on thou shalt not commit adultery. I will be in the service that day, but my spouse may no longer be with me. I am sending this letter for a couple of reasons. Number one. I am praying for a miracle that something God says through you today will save my marriage and my spouse will forgive me. Number two.
not, that this short letter may serve as a wakeup call for others considering these actions or others who have been involved with someone. None of what has happened in our marriage has been a big all-at-once problem. Our problems were one little thing at a time. Just little steps of moving further and further apart.”
I believe the purposes of the church are set forth in the Bible, and they are the non-negotiables, but we can choose the methodology.
Commentator: And one visitor to the church while we were taping that story is someone you may recognize. He is the Rev. George Exoo who has been a guest on this program before. He reviews churches and church services for a Pittsburgh radio station, and we sent him to Dallas to cast a critical eye on those services. Rev. George Exoo joins us this morning. Well, let’s get right to your review. how did you rate that service that we saw?
Rev. George Exoo: It is five stars. Five crosses, maybe, I should say. I thought this was a fantastic service. This man is doing everything right. From the minute you pull in the parking lot and are greeted by people who direct you where to park and say good morning to you. One hundred and twenty-four people are trained to be greeters in that parking lot. From the moment you walk into the auditorium and see video clips and live drama and upbeat, wonderful music and an enthusiastic sermon that really addressed, in this case, a very real, human condition—how to build your body and how to keep it in good shape.
Commentator: So he was talking to people about the things that matter to them.
Rev. George Exoo: The things that most matter to them in their lives. He is really reaching the target audience that he wants to reach with a very important message that helps them stay enthusiastic about life.
[End of Video]
They did a nice piece on us for Good Morning America. Obviously, I would take issue with Dr. Exoo on some things, but anyway….
We began to look for some land. Our church was brand new and we thought that 30 to 40 acres would be just enough land for our church. The problem was, land was out of sight. We couldn’t touch it financially.
I could relate to you and what you were saying, it kind of goes back to what I was thinking about. I wanted something to relate to me in my everyday life and what I was doing. So, I don’t know if you would call it spiritual guidance or what I was looking for, but when I left Fellowship that day, I got into the car with Richard and I remember looking at him and I said, “You know what? We have really found something here. Ed Young we need to explore this. And we need to continue doing this. I think it’s going to change our lives.”
I have goose bumps now, but I remember the second sermon we went to. Do you remember that one, Richard? It was very powerful. And I remember thinking to myself, “Today is a great day to change my life.” And you said in your sermon, you said to me, ( it was like you were saying it to me, but you said to the audience), “If you want to know Christ, pray this prayer with me and it can change your life.” And I remember thinking to myself, “Now is it. I can do it.” I looked over at Richard and I thought, Ed Young Ministry “Well, if he doesn’t do it, that’s okay. I’ll do it on my own.” I looked over and he had closed his eyes and he had bowed his head and we were both doing it at the same time. And I remember he just reached over and he grabbed my hand, squeezed my hand and we both felt at that moment I think, “Wow! This is it.” And we had such an incredible feeling. I have goose bumps right now. I looked at him and I kissed him and I told him I loved him and I thought, “Our life is about to change. This is incredible.” It’s just, you want to celebrate Christianity with other people and that’s the way we look at it.
Richard: To what Nancy said, when you bring somebody here, the first thing is we know that they are never going to get let down. The message is going to be so relevant to their life, the music is going to be fantastic. Pastor Ed Young if they have children, they are going to be taken care of so they can really go and sit and listen to what is being said and take it in. Many of our friends just don’t go for whatever reason. There are a million excuses until they find something that really fits them. And this is what Fellowship has created.
Let’s move now to the second fire fighting formula, the second fireproof formula. Develop a disposition of confidence. I just said the confidence word.
When we do that, great things will happen. I have been reading in the book of Romans during my devotionals, and God showed me this verse Monday morning in Romans 1: “I long to see you (this is Paul talking) that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong; that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” We are not talking about a baby food Christian here. We are talking about the Apostle Paul. Paul is saying, “Man, I want to be mutually encouraged by your faith.”
Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Don’t doubt in isolation. Don’t doubt on an island. Doubt in community. Do you remember Thomas, one of the twelve? All the disciples are talking about the resurrection. Jesus is coming back from the grave. He came back. Thomas is going, “Man, no he didn’t.” The quintessential questioner, Mr. Doubter, Thomas, “He didn’t come back.” In fact, Thomas said, “I’ll have to see him. I’ll have to touch the nail prints and then I’ll believe.”
Did Thomas press the pause button? No. Did he press the eject button? No. Thomas pressed the play button. He sharpened his spiritual sword. He went to where faith was. He hung out still with a community of Christ-followers, the disciples, and Jesus revealed himself to Thomas in the midst of this bout with doubt. It is the same for you, and me too, during a very critical response to a bout with doubt.
For the most part, I have been talking to people of faith; people who have bowed the knee to Christ. But I want to talk right now to some people who are outside the family of God.
You jump down to the other person’s level. And it is human nature when we are struck when someone throws some fire on us, we want to return the fire like that.
When I grew up, my brothers and I, we bought a gerbil and for some unknown reason, we named him Jim Harkins, a full name, Jim Harkins, and Jim the gerbil grew from a tiny baby gerbil to a giant behemoth. We had a big aquarium, cedar shavings, water and Jim seemed lonesome so we bought Jim a gerbil treadmill and Jim loved that treadmill and we would watch him for hours and hours. Jim would hop on the treadmill and his little gerbil paws would start moving and he was flying, and in that gerbil brain, Jim thought he was making tracks man, going 90 mph.
He had left the aquarium way back there! But then finally, he would get tired and think, “Where am I? I’m nowhere” and he would turn around in the gerbil treadmill and go the opposite way. We would die laughing. It was hilarious. But I’ve lived my life like that before. So have you. So are many of you right now. You have no focus. You have no goals. You have no real priorities. You’re like Jim the gerbil syndrome. You think you’re really making tracks, man. You’re trying to be like Arsenio Hall, “Let’s get busy!” but busy doing what? You’re on the treadmill.
There are two what I call priority predators. Our priority – God, family, the marketplace. But two priority predators nail most of us and these predators are in the shadows and they love to attack and maim and wound and kill our priorities. The first one is the inability, listen to me, to sa$j^wC)The inability to say “no”. That tears away, that destroys most of our priorities.
But if you wait to feel like, “Okay, I’m ready to release them,” you’re not going to do it. We do it, then the joy will occur; then we’ll have the freedom. “Well man, what if the person doesn’t receive the forgiveness?” You know what? That’s between them and God, but we’re called to release.
Joseph did that. And even through betrayal what happened? An entire nation was saved. Jesus did that ultimately and perfectly on the cross. He rose again. And because of that, our salvation is secured. This is amazing, amazing stuff, betrayal. The beautiful side of betrayal. God can use even betrayal to take all of us to a new level of living if we focus on Jesus.
ILLUS: Well, let’s fast forward the clock several thousand years ahead from Joseph and Jesus. Because eleven years ago, at Fellowship Church, one act of betrayal almost destroyed what God was doing. I have never shared this story publicly. I have shared it to just a couple of people in a couple of confidential situations. Yet, I really felt a leading when I began to prepare for this series to tell you about this situation. So, please understand and hear my heart when I share this with you.
Fellowship Church began 17 years ago in a small office complex with about 150 people. That’s when it officially started. And we were like this nomadic church; we moved from rented facilities to other rented facilities. We met in a theater, we met in an arts complex, we met in a high school. And our offices and everything was leased and rented.
No, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We want to show people and give them answers about how to take the food and receive the food. So every time we do something we think about the chairs. Earlier I said this, “The twofold purpose at Fellowship Church is what? To build believers and to serve seekers.” Right? To build believers and to serve seekers.
And here’s the question, here’s the tension that should always be in the church. How much do you play something, do you angle something towards believers; and how much do you play something and angle something toward the seeker? I love that tension. And that tension has been with us for 14 years at Fellowship Church. And it will always be with us. And that’s one of the reasons we plan with the team approach.
That’s one of the reasons we talk to so many people. That’s one of the reasons we get input from so many different areas. Because it helps us to formulate these weekends that build believers and also serve seekers. Here’s the challenge we have, though. And I’ll talk about this more next week. As you know, I did not want to come to Dallas/Fort Worth to start a church. I did not want to come up here. I love Dallas/Fort Worth, but I did not want to come up here. I wanted to go somewhere like Las Vegas, NV. I wanted to go somewhere like Montreal, Canada. I wanted to go to California or somewhere in South Florida, maybe Miami, Ft. Lauderdale. I did not want to come to Dallas/Fort Worth. Why? Because,
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” And here’s what fires me up about Fellowship Church. I want to applaud your work ethic. You people blow me away. I’ve seen it for 14 years. The work ethic that you’re involved in by inviting people, through your work and prayer and diligence through your preparation; with conversations with God and with inviting others with; with stepping up in so many ways.
It is just so inspirational to me. And there’s been many, many weekends where I’m kind of feeling down and I’m like, “You know, I’m the dude with the food, but I don’t feel like cooking this weekend.” But I’ll see an act of service, I’ll see someone bring someone else or I’ll know that person is a person without Christ, or I’ll know this person has a marriage problem, or I know that person just experienced a death and is asking these big questions and they’re going through all these issues, and that just energizes me. So thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. But see, we can’t stop here. We have to continue doing the stuff.
The preparation is a huge piece. But also, there’s the presentation as well. When we serve the food, we have to serve the food, as I said earlier, where people can get it and understand it. You know, we don’t just throw the food on the table and say, “Do with it what you want. Just throw the food, play in the food, we’re not going to give you utensils.”
We love to blame, don’t we? Go back to the garden. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their sin, what did Adam do? He blamed the woman. What did Eve do? She blamed the serpent. What did the serpent do? Well, he didn’t have a leg to stand on! (Some of you might get that later on today.)
But in 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel says, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” Most of us, and this is myself included, most of us are educated above our level of obedience. One more time. Most of us, myself included, are educated above our level of obedience. If we just obeyed, if we just did the stuff God wants us to do, then we’d be way ahead of the game.
So we need to get under the stuff that God has placed over us so that we can get over the stuff He wants to put under us. And most people live their lives never understanding that. Why does God give us authority? Why does God want us to submit to his authority and the authority structures he’s placed around us? Why? It’s for our protection. Why? It’s for our purpose.
Why? It’s for our uniqueness. Why? It’s so that we can get the most out of this one and only life. Yet, we play the blame game. We blame all of these things. And here’s what’s so funny about human beings. Are you like this? We demand an explanation all the time. Is that hilarious?
Let’s turn the page to verse 18 if you have my kind of Bible, a New International version. Here’s the assignment. God basically says, “See what the land is like. See if there are weak people, strong people, how many, is the city walled, is it fortified, how about the trees?”. Then He says in the last part of verse 20, “Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. It was the season for the first ripe grapes”. So the people, they’re gone for 40 days. They’re spying. They’re hiding out. They’re checking out the situation. And finally, they get some fruit and they come back to Moses and they say, “Moses” and the entire children of Israel, when they see the twelve spies coming back, they go crazy. They’re so excited! “Moses! Look at the beautiful fruit” and people are cheering, they’re giving high fives. The Israelite band is going “The twelve tribes are back and they are here”. They’re singing.
And look what they say in verse 27. All the people are saying this..they gave Moses this account, the twelve spies, “We went into the land to which you sent us and it does flow with milk and honey”. And the people began to say, “Amen! Preach it brother. It sounds great. Let’s go now. Here is the fruit”. And the people say, “We’ve never seen fruit like that! Did you go to the Farmers’ Market? Incredible! This is the land for us. Thank you, Lord. We are ready!” and they had the vision.