October 2-3, 2010
Good mornin’ this mornin’! We can do better than that. Good mornin’ this mornin’! No, you’ve gotta say, “Good mornin’ this mornin’ ” back. See, that’s a great little thing I learned in some of my travels. You can say Good mornin’ this mornin’. You can say good afternoon this afternoon, good evenin’ this evenin’. Good mornin’ this mornin’! That’s what I thought you said. How’re you guys doing?
Let me welcome everyone at Fellowship Church, all of our environments. Welcome, you guys here in Grapevine. I know Lisa is in Downtown Dallas. What’s up, Lisa? How you doin’? Downtown Dallas, Pastor Chris McGregor. Also, our church in Plano with Pastor Tracy Barnes. How’re you guys doing in Plano? Funkytown, Fort Worth, Chris Prater. What’s up, Chris? Last but not least, the hottest church in the coolest town; or maybe the coolest church in the hottest town, the magic city of Miami! Pastor Scott Wilson in Miami, yeah, yeah! Let’s clap, oh yeah! Man, it’s great to see you guys… great to see you guys. What else do we have today? I don’t know. Good mornin’ this mornin’.
You know, I want to talk to you a little bit about what I’ve done in my life over the last 14 days. Here’s what I’ve done over the last two weeks, because I have a story that’s interesting. You have a story that’s interesting. What has happened to you the last 14 days? I don’t know. We could file everyone, one by one, up on this stage and you could share your story about what has happened to you in that frame of time. It’s really fascinating to think about the things that happen in our lives, the opportunities that we have. If you’re like me, I sometimes am so concentrating on the opportunities I wish I had that I don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are right there in front of my face. Am I the only one?
Well, the Bible says that we should number our days, that we should think about time, that we should allow life to teach us things. Life is a phenomenal professor. For far too long we go through life, we hydroplane over it, we skim over it, and we don’t think about what’s happened. We don’t think about these principles and precepts. We don’t think about these concepts that are right there in front of our face that we should learn from, we should download and apply in our lives.
So, over the last 14 days I figured this out. I have flown 51.2 hours. In the air, 51.2 hours.
I have never flown that much in my life. I have also spent 15.1 hours just in airports. I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to meditate. And I began to write some things down in my journal, things that I believe God was showing me. And as I wrote them down I felt the Holy Spirit of God say, “Ed, share these things with the church. Because these things are not only things that I’m teaching you and that I’ve taught you, but also I want you to teach them to Fellowship.”
So that’s what I’m gonna do today. I’m gonna share with you what I did and what God showed me over the last two weeks of my life. I had times of celebration, times of devastation, times that I was inspired, times that I was stunned by different experiences that went on in my life.
Well, it all started two weeks ago when I was in my office at home preparing for a message that I was going to deliver here. I knew that I had to go and do an out-of-state wedding for a couple of friends of mine that I’ve known over the years who were getting married. It was their second marriage and they were kind enough to include me in the wedding and to actually do the wedding. I don’t do a lot of weddings, so I was looking forward to that.
So, as I was preparing for the sermon the following weekend and thinking about my travels the next day to this out-of-state wedding, I looked and my phone rang. And I saw it was my mother. 11:30 a.m. was the time. You know, sometimes you get these calls and you just feel that something is wrong? When I heard my mother’s voice I knew that it was bad news.
She said, “Ed, it’s your Uncle Blake. He just died.” I said, “Mom, you’re kidding me! I just talked to him 48 hours ago.”
She goes, “Honey, he died of a blood clot. He was at the breakfast table, getting ready to go to church.” He was a pastor as well, a pastor in a large church, First Baptist Church Spartanburg, South Carolina. His responsibility was all the finances in the church. So, quickly we planned about how we were going to coordinate all the travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina for the funeral.
I was able to still do the out-of-state wedding, so it was a real kind of contrast. On one hand I was going to do a wedding; and then on the other hand from a wedding I was going to be a part of a funeral.
Uncle Blake and Aunt Debbie were unable to have kids and they treated my brothers and I like their very own.
When I officiated this wedding, this out-of-state wedding, it was kind of strange, because Dad was in attendance and also my brother, Ben, who is a pastor. I did the wedding and at the end of the wedding – I never do this – I said, “Does anyone have anything to say?”
And I looked toward Ben and Dad. Of course, Dad stepped out and goes, “Yes, I have something to say, son, if you’d let me.” He said, “I want to share with you 12 words that will change your marriage.”
Does anyone here want to hear those 12 words? Any students? Any junior high kids, any single adults who will get married? You know, 91% of you will get married. Anybody want to hear those words? OK.
“I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.” And if you’re taking the seven-day sex challenge, “Let’s do it!” That would be three more you could add.
Speaking of the seven-day sex challenge, you know Lisa and I just signed a contract with a publisher. We are writing a book on the seven-day sex challenge. Isn’t that exciting? You’ll be hearing more and more about that. That’s all the applause we have for the seven-day sex challenge? Come on! OK, that’s what I thought. Because we’re simply telling the story of Fellowship Church’s lovemaking over seven days. Marital lovemaking.
So, where was I? I forgot what I was saying. Twelve words! Yeah! So, we did the wedding. And then from there we flew to Spartanburg, South Carolina to be a part of this funeral.
My uncle’s pastor at this large church is a gentleman named Dr. Don Wilton. He has his Ph.D., a great, great man of God, wonderful person. He picked us up, along with a number of other people (they were so generous), at the airport. I think it’s Spartanburg, I don’t know if it’s international airport, it’s something. Anyway, he then asked if my brother and I would like to go to Dr. Billy Graham’s house to spend some time with him.
I said, “Come back?”
And he goes, “Yeah, would you guys like to go to Dr. Billy Graham’s house?”
“Billy Graham? The guy who has spoken to more people face-to-face than any man who has ever lived?” I said, “Are you kidding me? Yes!”
Now, Dad has known Dr. Graham for three decades. So we found ourselves going from the airport in Dr. Wilton’s Toyota, and this guy drives like a bat out of Hell! We were going 90-100 miles an hour in this Toyota, through the mountains of South Carolina to Montreat, North Carolina on our way to see Dr. Billy Graham.
Now, I knew we weren’t gonna get into a wreck because the car was anointed. I mean, we were going to Billy Graham’s house, so I was just along for the ride.
We got to Dr. Graham’s house on this mountain, gorgeous place, just epic! We drove to his place and we saw Franklin, his son, walk out and he greeted us. Franklin has one of the greatest ministries to the poor and downtrodden in the world, Samaritan’s Purse Ministries, and we’ve worked with them for many, many years, our church. So we walked into his kitchen and sat down. And there was Dr. Graham. I reached my hand out.
“Dr. Graham, it’s great to see you.” And the first words he said to me shocked me. He said, as only he can say it, “I watch you on television.”
Wow! He watches our television show! Billy Graham! Whoa! But then the longer I spent time with him I realized he was losing his eyesight, so maybe he mistook me for someone else. Anyway.
We sat down with him, though, and it was a precious time. We talked about his life. We talked about growing old. We talked about his next sermon that he wants to preach. He wants to preach one more time and he had the passage in Galatians right next to him. And the words were about that big because his eyesight is failing him.
He talked about growing old and losing his spouse, Ruth. He talked about the value of his kids. He was right there, with Dr. Wilton, his pastor. He was right there with Dad, who has known him for years and years. They have gone through so much together, different episodes and different adventures in the ministry, and my brother and I. It was so, so cool to have someone like Billy Graham pour into your life, with his son, Franklin.
It’s kind of funny. When his wife, Ruth, was living, right before she died, Dr. Graham was complaining about a physical ailment and his wife said, “Billy, just shut up and die like a Christian.”
You know what he said. He said, “When my wife died, the music left the house.”
So just quickly, stay with me, the first thing God showed me was this thing called mortality. One moment my uncle was living. The next moment, a blood clot. He’s dead.
We’re one blood clot away, one germ away, one drunk driver away from eternity. There is a tissue-like veil separating this life from the next. One life to live soon will pass. Only what we have done for the Lord Jesus will truly last. It is the only thing, the ONLY thing that will last.
We live like we’re not gonna die, but we’re gonna die. We have an appointment that we can’t put off. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready to die? I mean, I know, no one wants to die, but are you ready to die? Do you know where you’re going?
Dr. Billy Graham, who has spoken to millions and millions of people with one central message—life without Christ is meaningless; life with Christ is meaningful. It’s eternal. And we face an eternity, either with Jesus or without Him.
When I was looking at Billy Graham I thought about longevity. I thought about commitment. I thought about perseverance. I thought about Hebrews 12:1. The Scriptures say that we are to live and run the race with what? Perseverance.
The Bible talks about perseverance. Why perseverance? Because that’s something anybody can do. Anybody can persevere. But our commitments have to outlast our emotions.
We commit our lives to Christ, we’re not gonna have a quiver in our liver 24/7. Our commitments have to outlast our emotions. We get married. Oh man! Our commitments, don’t they have to outlast our emotions? It’s not going to be a love fest 24/7, contrary to Hollywood and romance novels and sitcoms. It’s not going to be that 24/7.
When we get planted in a House, our commitments have to outlast our emotions. And when we persevere, like Dr. Graham has, through critics, through tough times, through people taking shots at him, through the good times; when we persevere, when we sit by the river long enough, eventually our critics will float by.
Are you a man or woman of commitment? Of perseverance? Of longevity? Look at the payoff of longevity. Dr. Graham, at peace with God, at peace with others. The joy of the Lord is his strength. Life changing stuff. Powerful stuff. Life lessons.
The apostle Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus. If you have your Bibles turn over quickly to Ephesians 5:15-17. Here is what Paul says. This is something about life. “Be careful how you live – not as the unwise (don’t live like an igmo, that’s my translation) but as wise.” In other words, you have a brain; use your brain.
Common sense is uncommon. I believe that you never really have common sense until you fall in love with the Lord Jesus. And I also believe this: If you don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, you have a form of insanity.
“… Making the most of every opportunity (there’s the word again, opportunity).” This word in the original language means “toward the port.” It’s a nautical phrase. Opportunity. You don’t just allow life, emotions, and feelings to carry you like the winds and the waves and the tides. You set your course, you see the port, you sail toward the port. That’s opportunity. You seize the moment. You learn. You learn of your mortality. You learn about the importance of longevity. Integrity and perseverance.
“… making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil…”
Isn’t that a fact? Wow, doesn’t time fly? All of a sudden, I’m 20. All of a sudden, I’m 50. All of a sudden, I’m 70. All of a sudden, funeral.
“Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Understand it. Mortality. Longevity.
Another thing that just hit me, generosity. My uncle was a generous person, a very thoughtful person. He was a peculiar guy, kinda strange. He kept to himself, a little bit nerdy, a little bit geeky, you know?
Again, the last words he told me when I talked to him on the phone, “I love you.” He’s one of the few guys that would actually say “I love you.” Most guys go, “Love you, man,” or “We love you.” We’ll kinda slur it. Guys, just man up! I mean, you’ve got to have a serious Man Card to say “I love you.” I’m not talking about just to your spouse, to your kids, to your spouse, to people who mean a lot to you. “I love you.” The last words he said.
He was always giving things away. I was stunned as I was standing by his casket for the viewing, as the people filed by and told me of his amazing ministry. Many of these people (I didn’t know this) were peculiar. They were a little bit different, like Blake. People that you wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to. People that you wouldn’t be like, “Hey, what’s up?” No, no, no. He loved them.
He was always giving out candy. It was interesting. Candy. I would never do that; it’s not good for you. He did. The Bible says that we should leave that sweet aroma. His aroma was Hershey’s chocolate. The young, the old. Upper class, middle class. The poor and the powerful. “Your uncle gave me candy all the time. He was so generous, so funny.”
A young man walked up to me with his wife and his kids. I saw he had a son in a wheelchair, obviously with cerebral palsy. He introduced himself, his wife, and his kids. And he told me he was on the church staff, one of the pastors. He began to cry.
He said, “You know, I worked right by your uncle, Ed. See my son?” And he pointed to Richie in the wheelchair; Richie who couldn’t speak, but he had a smile that would light up a room.
He said, “Your uncle, every Sunday, would spend time with Richie. He would come by our house every month and drop off six boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes so Richie could eat them.” He said, “Richie has this disease and he can only eat about that much of a Little Debbie snack cake a month, and your uncle would bring six boxes to Richie.”
Richie’s mom said, “Richie, where’s Jesus?” And with his deformed hand he just patted his heart. My uncle meant so much to him, so much to him.
Then this man said, “You know, Ed, I want to tell you my story real quick. In my 30’s and 40’s I made a lot of money because I’m smart (he told me where he went to school), but I got involved with drugs and I began to sleep around on my wife.” He said, “I lost everything. My wife hung in there. When I lost it all someone told me, ‘Go see Blake, the pastor of finance at First Baptist Church Spartanburg.’ So I walked into his office, I was at the end of my rope. I sat down.” He said, “Ed, your uncle reached out to me. He helped me. He gave things to me. Eventually he hired me.” He said, “I’ve been clean ever since. My marriage has been restored. We are up here all the time; we’re serving in the house.” Tears were streaming down his face. He said, “Ed, God used your uncle to change my life.” Generosity.
When the funeral was conducted it was a celebration. I mean it was a tearful time watching Dad talk, Blake’s only and oldest brother, watching Dr. Wilton speak. It was a real moment. But something weird happened at the funeral. Something that I have never seen in the history of my life at a funeral occurred at my uncle’s funeral. Moreover, the people at the funeral home who helped with the service at the church and the gravesite came up to all of us, because we’re pastors, and they were like, “I’ve never seen this… ever!”
It got down to the end of the funeral at this massive church and Dr. Wilton, Blake’s pastor, said, “You know, Blake had a feeling that he would die before me and he told me, ‘Dr. Wilton, when you do my funeral I only have one request.’ ”
And then Dr. Wilton said, “You know, you’ve got to realize that Blake was over the finances of the church and he was the only one who knew what people gave and what people didn’t. Blake’s only request at his funeral was to take an offering.”
An offering? At a funeral? That’s right, an offering at the funeral.
“And Blake requested that everyone write out the most generous checks possible and put it in the offering plate as you’re leaving the funeral, and make the check out to the budget at First Baptist Church Spartanburg, South Carolina.”
Now that’s strange. But is it? You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead. Blake was in the box. He didn’t take anything with him. But because of his generosity and because of his passion for the church, he sent it on ahead.
But Dr. Wilton said, “It so bothered him, it so messed him up, it so stressed him out to know that so many people came to his church each and every weekend and just threw pocket change at God. It just messed him up that so many people never really tithed.” Generosity.
From there, after the graveside, we rushed to the airport, flew to London; from London to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once in Johannesburg, South Africa we took a puddle-jumper to Bloemfontein, South Africa. We got off the plane in this town and went to the hotel, cleaned up, walked into a 5,000-seat worship center packed – PACKED – with people. Not only was I talking to thousands in Bloemfontein but also in Pretoria and 34 satellites across the continent of Africa and Europe.
As I was in this environment, the pastor being white, his wife being white, the church being 65% black, a certain percentage (as they call them over there) colored, the rest Indian and white. To see the intensity and the intentionality and the heart for the house, and also the influence of Fellowship Church in Africa. Wow! Unreal! Once you go to Africa it gets in your soul. You go to an area, a dangerous area, a very volatile area like South Africa, a racial time bomb.
And the pastor said, “We don’t take sides, we’re taking over.”
That’s Fellowship Church, man. We’re not taking sides, we’re taking over. Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in God’s sight. And we’re intense about souls. We’re intense about souls.
That church in South Africa is like our church. We want the church to be a place where anyone can invite everyone to experience the Holy One.
Are you intense about the church? Does your heart beat hard for the house? Intensity.
People sometimes ask me what it’s like to travel out of the county like that. And I always say it’s exciting. but so often I spend most of my time in hotels, sleeping, preaching, preparing, preaching. And many times (like for example going to Australia, Africa), I don’t get a lot of time to do a lot of touring. Maybe in the future I can take some more time to do that, but so often I don’t.
In Africa, though, I had a free day, Saturday before Sunday. Saturday was a day to prepare for Sunday. And I knew what I was gonna talk about.
This pastor, a phenomenal guy, asked me, “Hey, would you like to see some animals?”
I said, “Yeah, you know I love animals. I’d love to.”
“Well, there’s this young guy in our church and he’s done really well. He has a farm and it’s just right outside of Bloemfontein. And I wondered if you wanted to check some of these animals out.”
I said, “That’d be great!’ So we drove to this farm and I look out at this farm and I see dozens and dozens and dozens of lions. I’m talking about roaming wild. Cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus. Wow! And then I meet this guy and he begins to tell me his story.
He goes, “I gave my life to Christ several years ago. I have a lot of money. God has given me the gift to make money. My brother is on staff at CRC (Christian Revival Center, the church were we did this work). I just make the money and I’m just funding the Lord’s work.”
I said, “That’s cool.”
He said, “I love animals. And until I got married I’ve raised dozens and dozens of lions and tigers. They lived with me. Now I have four kids and that’s not happening. But I’m the alpha male of all these prides of lions.”
I’m like, “Get out of town, man!” So this guy is just walking around with these lions. I mean, we’re talking 500-pound lions!
He said, “You know, if you walked in (and again these are not cages, we’re talking about acres and acres and acres of stuff), if you walked in with me and they could kind of look at you. But if you turned your back on them, they would kill you. If you tripped they would kill you.”
He said they knew when we walked up to the fence which one was male, which one was female, and they knew which one they would eat first. To feel the energy of lions – there is a chain link fence, a chain link fence 30 feet high! And I’m staring face-to-face with these lions. Have you ever looked into a lion’s eyes that close? They’re growling at me like, “I want to eat this preacher. I want to tear him up.” It is freaky. Freaky! And you know, we watched him – this kind of gets a little bit gross. I have it on video – they drop gazelle over and we watched this lion right in front of us fight over it. Whoa!
I saw the zebra running around. The zebra, they’re smart. I discovered something, and I have shared this with you before. But it hit me again, because I thought about the word intensity with this church. Intensity. You go to Africa, it’s an intense place, man, it is.
The zebra, when they’re in herds, they confuse the lion because they’re all together and the stripes merge. It’s called the dazzle and it messes the lion up. They don’t know which one to attack. It looks like one monstrous zebra, so they don’t attack when a zebra is in a herd. It’s called a dazzle. But, when a lion sees one off by itself, when a lion sees one limping, when a lion sees one that’s a little bit older? Game over. Death.
1 Peter 5:8. “The enemy roars around like a lion seeking someone to devour.”
If we’re not in the house; if we’re not part of the dazzle; if we’re not in the church; if we’re doing our own thing our own way; if we’re off by ourselves, just kind of skipping around; if we’re always missing and not involved and we’re not sharing and serving in the house – lion bait. Should this surprise you? Lion bait.
From there I flew to London, met with a pastor who leads one of the largest churches in Europe. I was blown away by his intensity. I have spoken to his church in downtown London, in the theatre where they do “We Will Rock You” service after service after service. Intensity. Intensity.
From there I flew halfway around the world to end the trip. I went to the ‘hood. Went to a church 95% Hispanic in the hood in San Diego. What’s their motto? “We do good in the hood.”
Incredible! What did I take from that? Intensity. Intensity. Whatever it takes. We will do anything, everything, or nothing.
Fellowship Church, what are we about? Intensity. We’re in spiritual warfare. Intensity. We know time is short. Think about eternity. Our life, the book of James says, is a vapor. We only have a short window of time to make the most of every opportunity. It starts right here in the house.
Longevity. Our commitments must outlast our emotions. Yeah, emotions will follow, I’m not saying that. Feelings are cool, but it’s about commitment.
Generosity. God is blessing some of you right now financially to bless the church. How can we help the poor? How can we build the church? How can we fund the camps and the campuses if some people here aren’t getting rich? Explain that one to me. Do you think you’re rich because you’re all that? Some of you are gonna get rich. Why? Because God has blessed you.
You’re blessed to be a blessing. We’re all rich in this country. We’re all rich with gifts and talents and abilities, but some are really rich financially. I wonder why? You may not know it, but it’s to build the house.
Intensity. Do you have that intensity for souls? Do you have that intensity to take turf for the Lord Jesus? Do you have that intensity for souls? What does your heart beat hard for?
One life to live soon will pass. Only what we have done for the Lord Jesus is the only thing that will last. Life lessons. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]