September 7, 2007
That’s a great restaurant (referring to the video played just before). It’s one of our favorites. Lisa and I enjoy trying different types of food. And pretty much what draws us to food is our appetite. All of us have appetites, and appetites are given to us by God himself. We have this desire for the delicious, don’t we? To taste good food.
There is a food network these days. Names like Paula Dean and Emeril and Rachael Ray are household names. And we love food, so the mood is food. We have great restaurants here in Dallas/Fort Worth, awesome restaurants in Miami, Downtown Dallas, of course. Plano’s got some good restaurants and Fort Worth, wow, great stuff.
I want to welcome all of the people who are watching us today by the miracle of technology. Fellowship Church is one church in six locations. Some of you are going, “I thought we had five?” No, six. We have the Downtown campus, those folks in Miami, we have the Plano campus, that’s towards north Dallas. We have the Fort Worth campus. We have the Grapevine campus. And also, the sixth campus would be our television campus all over the world. So people are seeing this all over the world. We talk to people from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, whatever who check this out. So I want to welcome everyone.
But everybody likes food. No matter where I travel or no matter who I talk to, the mood is food. Food is mentioned throughout Scripture. I don’t know if you know that or not, but if you look at the Bible you see that so much of it is around food.
Adam and Eve, they’re whole sin deal was around food. You remember Jacob and Esau and the birthright struggle, that was about food. God fed his children, the Israelites food from heaven as they were in the wilderness. Then you have David talking about food and David, in fact said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” That’s interesting in Psalm 34:8, David said that.
Then over in the New Testament, you have Jesus talking about food. He said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” He didn’t say,” I am one of the meals you can taste to get to God.” He didn’t say, “I am an option on some sort of cosmic menu.” No, Jesus said, “I am it. I am the bread of life.” And that was a very eye-opening statement because Jesus always used visuals and word pictures and illustrations that people could connect with. And that’s what we do right here at this church.
Then as you keep reading, you know Jesus had the last supper. He took some bread and wine and said, “This represents what I’m going to do for you on the cross.” And he died on the cross for our sins, shedding his blood, and the wine represents that. His body, given for us, is represented by the bread.
And then, a lot of people don’t realize this, after Jesus came back from the grave, he made some food on the beach, kind of a picnic for some of his disciples. And then on top of that, the Bible says that in the book of Revelation that those of us here on planet earth and also those who’ve gone before us, that those of us who are followers of Christ, are you ready for this, will eat at his table, food forever and ever. That’s pretty cool, because I like to eat and I’m sure the food is going to be totally and completely crazy there in heaven.
So food is the mood. It’s food and we like things that are delicious and things that tantalize our taste buds and the aroma drives us. That smells delicious. And that was a delicious meal. And we like that and that desire has been given to us from God himself. Because God being God could have made everything taste like Styrofoam, but he didn’t. I’m glad that God has given us this desire for delicious, aren’t you?
I had something wild happen to me Wednesday. Do you mind if I tell you? This story is crazy. And it really begins several weeks ago. We got a phone call at Fellowship Church from a producer in Hollywood of this television show, that if I mentioned the name of the show pretty much all of you I think would watch this show. And you’ll find out what show it is later.
But anyway, he called and talked to some of us and then he talked to me. And he said, “Hey Ed, the other day, I was in our studio and we had different monitors on and I saw you preaching from a bed in church. I’d never seen that before.”
I said, “Yeah, I did a series called Sexual Revolution.” And I basically said, “At Fellowship Church we talk about sex a lot because God talks about it a lot in his Word. And I talked about the fact that we don’t want to be shy to talk about what God was not shy to create and discuss. I said, “For far too long the church has kicked the bed out of church and the church out of bed, and we want to bring the bed back in church and the church back in bed.”
And he said, “Well, that’s fascinating that you do that. I’ve never seen someone do that before.” And I just told him, as I told you earlier, Jesus did things like that using visuals and things. He drew in the sand and preached from a boat bow and walked along the beach and pointed to a sower. And he said, ‘I am the bread of life,’ etc, etc.
And this producer said, “Well, Ed I was wondering if you would consider coming on our show. We want to do a series of shows featuring you.” And I thought, “Wow! Why would this show want to feature me?” But I said, “Yeah, I’ll think about that.” And then he said, “Also, I want to bring someone else on the show with you.” And I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes! We want to bring an adult film star on the show with you. And I want you to give your opinion about what the Bible says about sex and sexuality. And then she wants to give her opinion, and she has a strong one, to you about her and her life in the adult film industry. Would you like to do it? I really think it would be awesome. Whenever our show does something on the adult film industry or religion, the ratings go sky high. But I would really just like to hear the conversation.”
And I said, “Well…” Because it’s not every day you get to share the gospel with a porn star. So I said, “Let me pray about this and think about this. Because it’s kind of odd.”
And he said, “No, no. We want to bring her to your church and have you guys sit down and have this open and honest conversation.”
And I thought, “Well, ok. Let me think about it.” SO I talked with some people here and talked with some people around the world, some other pastors. I prayed about it, thought about it, talked to Lisa about it. Then I thought, “You know, I’m going to do it! What a cool opportunity to share Jesus with someone who’s not a follower of Christ!”
So many of us occupy, in fact thousands of us occupy these La-Z-Boy-esque seats here at our church. And the seats are comfortable. I mean, aren’t they nice? I could almost go to sleep in one of these. And these seats are designed for you and me. They’re designed for human beings. And I want to thank you so much for providing a church like this church that affords anyone and everyone to walk in and sit down and to taste and see that the Lord is good. Because on Wednesday afternoon I stood right here with the cameras rolling as they were shooting this series of shows. And I watched this young girl, in fact she’s about the same age as our oldest daughter, walk down this aisle. And I saw her boyfriend/agent, who used to be a porn star, right there with her and all the fanfare with the limousine waiting out front of Fellowship. And she walked in and we sat down, she sat down in one of these seats! And we began to talk.
Now, as we began to talk, the producer butted in and said, “Excuse me, Ed, I’ve got to ask you this. What did you think about; I mean what was the first thing that went through your mind when you knew (and he called her name) was going to come into Fellowship Church. What were you thinking about when you knew she was going to sit down in this church? What were you thinking?”
I said, “That’s easy. I was thinking, ‘Isn’t it great that we have a church that is open to everyone? Isn’t it great where anyone can show up, even an adult film star, and they can understand the bread of life?’” I think that’s great.
Now, we don’t confuse acceptance with approval. You see what I’m saying to you? We have people who attend Fellowship Church each and every week who are into all sorts of things. From the gay lifestyle to fornicators. The word fornication means sexual immorality and comes from the Greek word pornea. Isn’t that interesting? We get pornography from that. That’s any sexual activity outside the marriage bed. Adulterers show up here. Liars show up here. Cheaters show up here. People who exaggerate show up here. People who are infested with greed and materialism and gluttony show up here. Sinners show up here! Because that’s what we do. We’re sinners. So we accept everybody. Don’t ever forget that.
We accept everybody. We don’t approve of sinful behavior, though. And we’re going to talk full on and straight on about it. We accept you, though.
And I looked at this girl and said, “We accept you.” And then she began to give me the reasons and the rationale behind why she’s in the adult film industry.
She said, “Well, I help marriages. I help spice up sex lives. And I’m not hurting anybody. And single guys and girls who would never hook up with someone can watch me in all these different venues and things. And it helps them; it’s that sexual release. And I’m not hurting anyone.
“I’m a risk-taker. I like to walk on the edge. I’ll do anything. And I’m making huge amounts of money. And that’s just what I do.”
And then she began to say, “How can you believe the Bible? I mean the Bible was written by men. How can you say it’s the word of God? I read this book called The DaVinci Code that said that Jesus was having sex with Mary Magdalene. I’m not sure that Jesus is the son of God.”
And she began to fire questions like that and I began to explain to her about the gospel. I began to explain to her about what the Bible says about some of these issues. I said, “You know what? You can ask any question you have. God is bigger than your doubt, bigger than your question, bigger than anything you want to throw at him. So bring it on.”
I navigated through those waters and told her basically how we got the Bible and we gave her some resources from our great resource center we have her to help her with questions about how we got the Bible. We gave her some of the books I’ve written about joy and relationships. We gave her some excellent books that my friend Lee Strobel has written called The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ. That’ll blow somebody’s mind if they have doubts or are the scientific type. And I told her, “Hey, how much time have you put into researching these questions?”
She said, “Not much.”
And I said, “You owe it to yourself. Because here’s the issue. You either go the way you’re going, and I can tell you what’s going to happen to you with amazing accuracy over the next several years. You can go that way and do what you want to do. Because I can’t force you to make this decision. Or, you can do it Christ’s way.
“Basically what you’re doing, what the porn industry is doing, is taking sex out of context. You’re taking a God given gift and using it in a God forbidden way.
“When someone looks at porn, or watches an adult film, they’re stripping the humanity of the people they are watching perform sexual acts while they strip themselves of their humanity. After all, we’re not animals!”
And I talked about our dogs, which I use all the time. I said, “We have five dogs; two of which are Dobermans. And they aren’t aware of their nakedness. They walk around naked all the time. They were chasing each other this morning throughout the house. We had to put them in the crates because they were going nuts. They were naked! They’re animals. But we’re humans. “We’re made in the image of God,” I told her. “And we’re different than hounds. We’re not hounds; we’re humans. We’re made in the image of God. And God wants us to use sex his way.”
And I said, “I don’t care how much on the edge you think you’re living your life; I don’t care how risky you think you are. You’ve never lived on the edge; you’ve never risked it until you’ve given it all to Jesus.”
And then I said, “Let me put it this way. Think about sex. It’s like a Maserati. A Maserati is a phenomenal car. I’ve never driven one, but I’ve seen them. I love a Maserati. They’re just unique looking cars. What if you gave me a Maserati? I’d take car of the car. I’d put the best fuel in it. I’d run it on the freeway, the Autobahn, a racetrack, whatever. I would garage the car, wax the car. I would take care of the car, because the car is a Maserati. I would not take the car off-roading. You live in LA. I would not take the car onto the beach and trash the car and mess the car up. That would be crazy.
“You’re taking; and you might not even realize it; you’re taking this Maserati and going off road with it. And it’s not going to work for you. I deal with the dark, deep, satanic stuff of pornography. I deal with men and women who are addicted to it. I see marriages that are ruined by it. It might start of cool, and it might improve your sex life for a month or two. But I’m telling you; it ruins lives. It is satanic and it is demonic. And you’re using it in a God forbidden way.”
And she began to lean in and get teary. She began to kind of stray from her cool, sexy look. And she said, “I’ve talked to people who read palms and people who are into witchcraft. They told me it’s good for me to do porn. But one day I saw something where it said that the devil uses people like that. Do you think, Ed, that Satan has used those people in my life to get me into this?”
I said, “There’s no doubt! No doubt!”
So after one of those conversations with the Maserati illustration; I had just pulled Maserati out of the air; her boyfriend was sitting there watching this interview and he said, “I can’t believe you used a Maserati.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Well I have all these cars.” And he’s wealthy and he named all these cars—these funky Mercedes and Aston Martins and this and that. And then he said, “You know, the car my girlfriend wants is a Maserati. And just a couple days ago we were shopping for a white Maserati!”
And the girl was like, “I don’t believe you said Maserati!” And then she said, “I’m someone who just doesn’t believe in accidents. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
I said to her, “You know why you’re here? We’re not here for some television show. Sure, it’ll be great. It’ll be on one day and blah blah, blah. That stuff lasts about that long. You know why you’re here? You’re here because you’re young. You’re about the same age as my daughter. You’re here because God has driven you here.”
She had smelled the aroma of the food. She didn’t know it. But God works that way.
I said, “You’re here to hear the gospel.”
She said, “Are you telling me I’ve got to quit the adult film industry?”
I said, “You know what? I’m not telling you that. You know what I’m telling you? I’m telling you to give everything in your life to Jesus. Obviously you’re seeking him. And Scriptures say when you seek him, he’ll reveal himself to us.
“You give your life to him, everything, and he’ll take care of the rest. And yes, he will lead you…I’m going to tell you now; I’ll just put the food out there…he will lead you out of that industry. I’m not saying today that if you pray this prayer, boom!, you’ll leave the industry. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if you want the best; if you want to discover how good God is, then give it all to him.”
She was sitting in this chair. And I was thinking, “Isn’t it great where someone like that can hear the message.”
And then she asked, “Could I come to one of the services at the church?”
And I said, “Yes!”
And she said, “I would love to meet your family. And I have questions. Just to see what this is all about.”
I said, “Come back!”
And the producer loved that, “Oh, yeah, come back! We’ll film it. Yes. Porn star comes to church!”
So I’m telling you, she’ll be back. I don’t know when. I won’t tell you, like, “Ok, there she is!” I’m not going to do that. People are looking at each other, “When’s she going to be back?!”
You know, though, when this young girl, who teared up toward the end of the interview… obviously the Holy Spirit was working on her; it was a total God thing. When she walked out of the church, she turned to her boyfriend—again, boyfriend, agent, former porn star who’d been in the business for a long time. She turned to him and we heard her say this as she was leaving, “What if he’s right?”
I thought, “Wow, is that powerful!”
So if you have your Bibles, underline this verse. Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Again, this is not talking about an appetizer. This is a warm invitation. This is to experience and engage God. When we taste the bread of life, we’ll see that God is what, Plano, Miami, Downtown, Fort Worth, television audience? Good! God is good. We’ll see that.
And I’m so thrilled to know that so many of you are here at Fellowship Church for the first time; you’re occupying this chair and you’re here because someone has loved you enough to invite you. We’re showing you how much we love you and how crazy we are about you.
Because at this church, we have kept this chair, the chair…. What chair am I talking about? This chair; the chair of people who are far away from God. We’ve kept this chair, the chair at the forefront. We’ve kept the chair at the forefront. Say it with me, “We’ve kept the chair at the forefront.” Because Jesus did so. Because Scripture commands us to do so. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
And then Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of God.”
It’s not just to sit there and eat. It’s to eat, to get the nourishment and then to do the will of God.
You’ll never understand this church until you invite someone far from God to this church. You’ll never understand the music and the video and the films that we do until you invite someone far from God to this church. You’ll never understand our student ministry or our children’s ministry until you invite someone far from God to this church. You’ll never understand the teaching or the preaching; you’ll never get it, until you invite someone far from God to this church.
Because when you do that, you’ll pray differently. You’ll see things differently. You’ll relate to people differently. You’ll connect with them differently. You’ll discover why you’re here.
And I want to thank you for your obedience and your tenacity and your creativity for keeping the chair at the forefront. It’s not the only chair, but it’s the chair at the forefront. Because when you put the chair at the forefront, all hell will break loose. And all heaven will break loose as well. It happens every single time. Because every believer wants to reach people, until you start reaching people. Everybody does.
But you see, there are these “professional Christians” out there. And there are more professional Christians, sorry Miami, surrounding Fellowship in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas than any place imaginable.
Now, what is a professional Christian? I call them UFOs. Unidentified Freeloading Observers. They have the gift of criticism and the gift of church hopping and shopping. That’s why they don’t last very long at Fellowship. Because we challenge you and force you to keep the chair at the forefront. And the professional Christians just don’t dig it. That’s okay. If you’re a professional Christian, we love you. We accept you. We don’t approve of your behavior. But we love you. But don’t occupy the seat for too long, because we need your seat. Remember that, we need your seat.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
“My food,” Jesus said, “is to do the will of God.”
I read the other day where we have more restaurants per capita than almost any other city. We also have some of the most obese people in our area than almost any other city. Then I thought, I guess they go hand-in-hand, restaurants and obesity.
It’s true in the restaurant world; it’s also true in the spiritual restaurant world too, isn’t it? We have more spiritual restaurants than almost any place I’ve seen. And we also have more spiritual obesity than almost any place I’ve seen.
Again, my hat’s off to you. I want to give you the props. Here at Fellowship Church, we have a diet and exercise church. Diet and exercise. We taste and see that the Lord is good. We understand, like Jesus, that our food is to do the will of God. And because of that, we’re burning calories, we’re burning energy as we’re serving and sowing and sharing with others.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Now what’s the venue? The venue is the body of Christ. Isn’t that great that we’re a part of the body of Christ? The body of Christ is the church; it’s called the bride. So we are the bride. And Scripture says Jesus is the bridegroom. So we’re the bride; Jesus is the bridegroom.
Our church; there’s no doubt in my mind; is the most mature church that I’ve ever seen. Ever. And I’ve had the opportunity over the last several years to travel all over the world and talk to leaders and see churches. I would put Fellowship Church up (and this is kind of selfish) as the most mature church I’ve ever seen.
Also, I would say, we’re the deepest church I’ve ever seen. And I can say that with full confidence. And here’s why.
What did I just tell you? I just told you, from Scripture, that the church is the bride; Jesus is the bridegroom. When you have worship going on when you have intimacy going on; when you have discipleship going on; when you have communication going on; when you have connectivity going on, between the groom and the bride, you’ve got something special.
Let me put it to you this way. When you see a man and a woman get married and go off on the honeymoon, there’s intimacy there. There’s connectivity and communication. After a while, what happens? Reproduction. Babies are born. And this man and woman become what? Parents. Am I going too fast for anyone here? They become parents.
Well, what do you think happens, and what has happened here during the evolution of Fellowship Church? You’ve got the bride, the church; you’ve got the bridegroom, Jesus; you’ve got worship; you’ve got intimacy; you’ve got connectivity; and what do you have? Reproduction!
The last time I checked, that’s the sign of maturity. We’re old enough to get married and to reproduce. Isn’t that mind blowing?
Think about how many baby believers we have here at this church! Well, to crank out baby believers, you’ve got to have some serious intimacy with God going on. Well, again, you are unbelievable! You talk about maturity and depth!
How many teenagers do we have here? You can lift your hand; it’s okay. We love you. We accept you. We don’t approve or your behavior, but we accept you.
Now, teenagers, let me tell you something, because I was a teenager. All of us struggle with selfishness, we all do. I know that. But no one is as selfish as a little kid or as a teenager.
They think, “It’s all about me. The world revolves around me. My parents don’t know jack! I’m 15 years old. I know what’s going on! They don’t know.”
Hey students, let me tell you something. Number one, your parents know more than you do. You think you know all this stuff and that you’re thinking things and doing things that your parents don’t know about. Who are you trying to kid?
Also, the second thing, your parents used to be cool. I don’t know if you know that. Right now you think, “My parents aren’t cool.” They used to be cool. Trust me. They used to have the walk, the look. But you made them un-cool. You have totally messed them up. And once you leave the house, and believe me, they’ll be happy; they’ll get cool again.
But kids, especially teenagers, that’s just part of growing up. Selfishness. The same is true in the spiritual maturity. Think about it. Little spiritual babies. You can smell them with their dirty diapers. That’s okay. Spiritual teenagers. “It’s all about me. What’s in it for me. I need to get fed. I want some new jeans. I need a new spiritual outfit.” Think about it.
But here at this church, we have these spiritual parents, this solid core. And we have the bride and the groom getting together with intimacy. And we have all of these baby believers. And our call, what we’re doing, what is so thrilling, is to see the growth and the development of babies, teenagers (even though they say crazy stuff) and then they become parents. There’s nothing like it.
So I want to thank you for your spiritual maturity.
Well, the half brother of Jesus says something that I think is very compelling, in James 1:22. And this is a word, too, to professional Christians who have the gifts of criticism and church hopping. He said, “Do not merely listen to the word and deceive yourselves; do what it says.”
Do. Do what it says. At Fellowship Church, what we do is serve the bread of life in this venue. What’s the venue? It’s the body of Christ, the church. We set forth the menu. What is the menu? It’s the word of God. We try to serve it in a creative and compelling way like Jesus did.
Then we serve the meal. We invite you to this banquet table. In fact, we’re commanded to come to the banquet table to eat regularly.
Then, as we mature, we learn how to do something. And I’ll talk about this later. We learn how to feed ourselves. Isn’t that a great day, parents? “Oh, they can feed themselves!” Didn’t you get tired of having to feed them with the mess. I mean, it’s fine and cute. But when they feed themselves, oh!
Well that’s what we have here. And then we learn to become self-feeders and come to the banquet table regularly.
I want to thank you for being here. Thank you for checking Fellowship Church out. This desire for the delicious led you here. You might have seen in thru some sort of drive by near one of our campuses. You are here for a reason. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Because he is so, so good.
It’s my prayer each and every weekend that hungry hunks of humanity can sit right here in these seats, those who have that soulish hunger, those who are malnourished, would fill these seats. And then, as they turn and walk out of Fellowship Church; as they turn and walk out the same way that adult film star did, it’s my prayer that they would turn to you and say, “What if he’s right? What if he’s right?”
Because when you have conversations like that, life will never be the same.
(Ed ends in closing prayer.)