November 12-13, 2005
[Ed walks on stage with a long piece of toilet paper hanging out from the back of his pants.]
A while back I met a friend for lunch and we met at a very expensive restaurant. The reason I went to that restaurant is because he was paying for the meal. I got there early for some reason and he wasn’t there yet. I looked around the restaurant and the restaurant was packed. I recognized a few people from Fellowship Church. I went to the men’s room and when I came back from the men’s room, my friend still wasn’t there. So I basically went from table to table saying “Hi” to everybody. I was like, “How are you doing?” and, “What’s going on?” And people started laughing at me and I had no idea why.
I went back to my table and sat down. My friend showed up, we had lunch, and after lunch I was walking out and my friend said, “Ed, dude, you’ve got a tail of toilet paper hanging from your pants!”
How many of you have ever had an experience like that before? Raise your hand. If your hand’s not in the air, you’re lying! Don’t be acting like you’ve never done that before. This is church.
It’s fun to watch you laugh. We all laugh in different ways, don’t we? I have a friend of mine, he laughs like this. “Aheea, aheea, aheea, aheea.” If something is semi-funny he gives it one, “Aheea.”
My uncle laughs like this, “Haaaaaaaaaaa!” And he usually repeats the punch line. For example, if the punch line is, “The chicken,” he goes, “The chicken! Haaaaaaaaaa!”
I have a friend of mine who is a body builder. He’s in his 60s and he laughs like Johnny Carson, “He, he, he, I tell ya!”
A guy I’m close to here at Fellowship Church laughs like this, “Uh ha, uh ha, uh ha, oh gosh!”
I wonder if we could combine them all. (Ed combines all the different laughs together). “Aheea, aheea, aheea, aheea, haaaaaaaa, uh ha, uh ha, uh ha, oh gosh!”
Laughter is a lot of fun. We’re made for laughter. It’s fun to laugh.
I’ve been asking myself some questions lately. That’s why I’ve crafted this series of talks. I’ve been asking, “Why do I live?” I talked about that last time. I asked myself that question, but I didn’t stop with myself. I also asked God that question. “God, why do I live?” And God showed me through his word why I live.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been lobbing another question God’s way. I’ve been saying, “God, why do I laugh?” Because people tell me, “Ed, you laugh a lot.” So I decided not only to ask myself that question, to ask God that question. “God, why do I laugh?”
Over the next few moments I’m going to tell you why I laugh. And if I tell you this stuff, you will learn more about me. And I think you’ll learn more about yourself. And then, I think we’ll all learn about God. Why do I laugh?
WHY DO I LAUGH
It Makes Me Feel Good
Number one: I laugh because it makes me feel good. You’re saying, “A reason why you laugh is because it makes you feel good?” Yes. It sounds shallow and superficial, I know, to a lot of people here. But there is a real depth to it as I unpack it.
What happens when we laugh? New research says that our T cells are all ramped up, and our endorphins really explode, and our entire muscular system relaxes. That’s what happens. That’s the health benefits, they say, of laughter. I want to laugh at the new research, because the Bible tells me in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
Laughter is God’s tranquilizer. Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to laugh.”
One of the things that kept me from going into the ministry for a while was the fact that so many pastors were so serious and boring and monotonous. I thought to myself, “I don’t want any of that.” As I read God’s word, as I began to pray, I discovered that God is our creative creator. And God wants us to laugh.
God being God could have decided that the prevailing attitude of his children would be one of boredom and solemn-ness and seriousness. But God didn’t say that. Throughout his word God has told us that the earmark of a Christian, the sign that we know Jesus Christ, is outrageous, contagious joy. And a byproduct of joy is what? Laughter. So it’s good to laugh.
I experience life in the raw every day being in the ministry. I deal with some tough stuff in people’s lives and I need to laugh. I need to laugh and to feel good. And that’s a lot of fun. We have a fun time laughing around our staff.
Several Easters ago someone attended one of our Easter services and our security camera got that picture. [A picture is shown on the side screens of a woman wearing an Easter bunny costume, sitting in the worship center, at Fellowship Church.] That’s the real deal. A woman showed up in a rabbit costume. Now you’ve got to laugh at that. One of the ushers said, “Ma’am, would you please take off your ears? People can’t see behind you.”
And she said, “Well, if I take my ears off, it will show my hair and my hair is totally messed up.”
Look at the guy next to her. He’s going, “Oh, no! What is happening at this church?”
Easter—the day the rabbit came to church. You have got to laugh at people like that, don’t you?
One of my problems is I take myself too seriously, and many times I don’t take God seriously enough. Are you that way? If I take myself too seriously, I look to Ed for all the answers. If I take God seriously, I look to God for the answers of life. “God why do I exist? Why do I live? Why do I laugh?” Don’t stop at Ed. Don’t take Ed too seriously. Look to God.
When I first became a pastor at 21, I worked at my father’s church. At the time, my father’s church was the largest church in America. I did not report directly to him, I reported to another guy. And one day this guy walked into my office and said, “Ed, I want you to give the morning prayer at the 11:00 service.” Now the morning prayer, man, that was the prayer of all prayers. You had to have all the words down. You had the “thees” and the “thous.” It had to be a high priestly prayer. And every time you’d do the morning prayer, you concluded by getting the congregation to repeat with you The Lord’s Prayer.
So, man, I worked and worked and worked on this prayer. I mean, I was studying hard for this prayer. I knew Sunday was coming and I said to myself, “I’ve got to have good prayer. This is my first public prayer. It’ll be a packed out church and the television cameras will be rolling. I mean, I’m the preacher’s kid. I’ve got to step up. I’ve got to bring my A game!”
So, I thought about this prayer and I outlined the prayer. I thought since everyone would have their heads bowed and eyes closed, I could kind of read the prayer. And then, with The Lord’s Prayer, I wrote every word. I had it laminated in my Bible. I was ready for the prayer. So we had this giant pulpit on this stage and all these big throne chairs. You’ve seen those before. There was a choir behind us. I had my Bible with the prayer in it and I was sitting there ready. So the organist began to play softly and then the minister of music looked at me and gave me “the nod.”
Nods are funny aren’t they? I’ve done a lot of funerals, and not to laugh at funerals, but man, people who work for funeral homes they can nod. It’s a nodding contest. They never talk.
So anyway, they nodded at me on the platform and I walked up to that big pulpit, slapped my Bible down, and in my best voice I said, “Let us pray.” I grabbed the side of the pulpit and I began to pray. And man, this prayer was going great. It was incredible. I was saying to myself, “This is a good prayer. Ed, you are really praying all the ‘thees’ and the ‘thous’ and all this stuff.”
And then I got to The Lord’s Prayer and my transition was beautiful. In the prayer I said, “And we voice this prayer in the name that is above every name—Jesus Christ; the one who taught his disciples to pray saying….” Is that great or what?
And then I’m saying, “Okay, now all I’ve got to do is just read The Lord’s Prayer. I mean, how easy is that? I can read!” I had it down in my Bible. It was right there.
I said, “Our Father…” And I paused and the entire church said, “Our Father…”
I said, “Who art in heaven…”
Everybody said, “Who art in heaven…”
And then, friends, I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t read anymore. I couldn’t talk anymore. I totally choked. I forgot everything. The crowd started laughing and murmuring. Then I said quickly, “For thine is the kingdom forever. Amen.”
And I closed my Bible and people began to die laughing, “You’ll never be a pastor!”
So I walk down the steps from this platform feeling about that big [measures 2 inches with thumb and forefinger], saw an opening on this front pew, sat down—and people were still laughing. I happened to sit down by my mom of all people, and she turned to me and she said, “Ed, your voice sounded real good.” Only a mother would say something like that. My voice sounded real good.
I told you that story because it makes me feel good, now, to tell it. And hopefully, it makes you feel good to hear it. Why do I laugh? Because it makes me feel good. I’ve got to laugh.
It Tells Me Who My Friends Are
Here’s the second reason why I laugh. It tells me who my friends are. Who are your friends? Do you laugh a lot with your friends? We should all laugh a lot with people we connect with. We should look for lordship, number one. Is Jesus Lord? Is he number one? Does he have the car keys of their life? That’s the most important question. And behind that comes sense of humor. The laughter thing.
One of the most difficult things I do, in fact the most difficult thing I do in my job, is public speaking. If you read a stress level survey, number one is experiencing the death of a loved one; number two is speaking in public. That’s what I do. And I wish I could tell you I never get nervous. I wish I could tell you that I just walk up here and just start talking. I have to bust my rear to come up here each and every weekend.
I can’t put the appointment off before 17,000 – 21,000 people—depending upon the Cowboy schedule. I can’t say, “I don’t feel like going to church, Lisa.” I can’t call in sick. I’ve got to be here with my A game. I’m saying a word from God. That brings me a lot of stress and anxiety.
Man, when Wednesday rolls around, I feel this pressure on my shoulders. I’m saying, “Whoa, I’ve got to say a word from God. It’s got to be biblical. Hopefully, it will be compelling and applicable to a seminary professor or someone who’s clueless about Christianity. That’s a pretty stressful thing.
So within this stress, what do I do? I’ve got friends and many times I’ll call my close friends just to laugh. Many times I’ll call them at 6:30 – 7:00 a.m. if I’m facing a really hairy day—just to laugh.
I was thinking about my life. It funny, because people say, “Hey man, have a good weekend.” I haven’t had a good weekend in a long, long time. I have good weeks, but not good weekends. My father and I talk about that a lot. But usually on Saturdays, there’s a friend that I call who lives in another state. And the main thing we do on Saturday morning when we talk is—you guessed it—laugh.
I’ve got to laugh. We have to laugh. God made you in his image. God made me in his image. God’s the author, the inventor of laughter. So we should laugh. When I laugh with my friends I’m affirming them. I’m building up their self-esteem. They’re building up my self-esteem.
Laughter breaks down barriers, doesn’t it? When we laugh, we’re disarmed and we hear the truth.
In Matthew 7, Jesus was talking and he used some Hebrew humor. He said (paraphrased), “Here you are walking around with a sequoia tree in your eye, a plank plastered across your face. And here you are picking out a speck in this girl’s eye that you see every day around the office? You’re saying to her, ‘I can’t believe you! You’ve got a piece of sawdust in your contact lens.’ How dumb and ridiculous do I look?”
That’s Hebrew humor. Jesus said (paraphrased), “Yank the plank. Don’t jump down someone else’s throat. Worry about your junk.” That’s funny. The exaggeration, the humor involved in it.
And then, that’s one of the things we do here at Fellowship Church. We take what Jesus did, his teaching methodology, and we simply do it like I believe he would do it today.
A while back, I was teaching on commitment. The Bible is a book about commitment and covenant, as we know. And commitment is all about pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Yet our culture loves to talk about feelings. We say, “I’ve got to feel it. If I feel it, it’s real.” And I made this statement: I said, “We cannot feel our way into a commitment.” We can’t say, “Okay, I feel it now. And if I feel it, I’ll stay in the marriage or in the friendship. But if I don’t feel it, I’m out.” Feelings are freaky. You could have eaten a bad pizza. You don’t feel your way into commitment. No, no. You commit and then the feelings will follow.
During our planning session, I was talking about this to several of our staff members and we were going back and forth and I began to just sing this song. I love to sing. [Ed begins singing the song “Feelings”] “Feelings, nothing more than feelings….” Some of you remember that. And so Preston Mitchell, one of our pastors said, “Ed, man, you ought to sing that to start off the message.” And then he said, “Sing it like you’re serious. It’ll cause tension, because at first people will laugh at you like, ‘Ha, what are you trying to do? Sing?’ But then they’ll know that you’re trying your best and it’ll make them all nervous and stuff.”
And that’s what I did. And it was so funny to watch you. When I started out, “Feelings, nothing more than feelings,” you’re going like, “Ha, ha, ha. Oh, some kind of joke.” But I stayed with the song and you were like, “Oh, okay. He’s serious. He’s trying the best he can, honey.”
But the song illustrated the fickleness of our feelings. Throughout the message I went back and I sang, “Feelings, nothing more than feelings….”
We’re simply doing what Jesus did. We try to use humor. Who are your friends? And whose are your friends?
Singles. If you’re single, lift your hands. You’re single. Wave your hands, singles. I’m not single, but I’ll use the “we” now. Man, we’re always…singles are always looking, man. “Does he have a ring on? Does he look rich? Did you see the car he got out of? Man, have you seen her? Wow!”
Single men mess up. Single men concentrate on looks way too much. Men concentrate on looks way too much! Good looks, guys, ain’t gonna bring you a cup of coffee in the morning. Good looks ain’t gonna make you breakfast in the morning. Good looks ain’t gonna be a good momma to your kids! Looks fade and they sag and they wrinkle. I don’t care if Tyra Banks or Angelina Jolie is in the house, one day it’s going to be sad singing for them. Sagging and wrinkling.
How many believe that beauty fades? How many are a testimony to that? Yes! Single guys are too much into the looks. Now looks are there, but I think number one, lordship, as I said earlier. Is Jesus Lord in this person’s life? Is he number one?
Number two, how about laughter? We don’t think about that when we’re dating. Laughter. Do you laugh at each other and with one another? Is that a part of your foundation? Do you have that chemistry, that affirmation? Are you building one another up and encouraging one another? That’s important. And after that, looks. You’ve got to have that! Ha!
I talked with some single guys recently, and this is hilarious. Single guys are picking all these women apart as far as their looks. And I want to say to them, “Look in the mirror! Look at your face. Look at your butt, you know. Man, guy, you had better take a long look in the full length mirror next time you start critiquing a girl, all right?” (This is a good tape. I might buy this tape myself.)
I was talking about friends, wasn’t I? Oh yeah! Friends and dating. My friends and I laugh a lot. It’s important to laugh. And we laugh at the right things. And I’ll talk about that later.
It Gives Me a Proper Perspective on Life
The third reason why I laugh: it gives me a proper perspective on life. Let me press the rewind button a second and go back to a statement I made earlier. I hope you didn’t miss it; I hope you put it in your frontal lobe. So often, I take myself too seriously and I don’t take God seriously enough.
A couple of years ago my son, EJ, was asking me to bring home all the tapes of my messages. Every week, “Dad, did you bring the tape of your message of your sermon?” This happened for a long time. I was feeling kind of good that he was listening to my tapes. My own son! And finally I said, “EJ, why do you want my tapes of me preaching and teaching?”
He said, “Well, Dad I play them at night, because they put me to sleep!”
Kids, along with, of course, God himself, will help all of us not to take ourselves too seriously. And I’ve learned that many times, the hard way. It gives me proper perspective, a proper read on life. It helps me to be able to see life the way God sees it.
God’s got to have an incredible sense of humor because he made you and me. Don’t you know God laughs. Just think about how funny we are. We have security cameras all around the church and most people don’t know where they are. One of the most hilarious things is to go back stage and see these security cameras looking at people in the audience. Oh, it is hilarious! People asleep and drooling. Couples kissing. You would not believe what we see on the security cameras!
Sometimes I play a joke on the people who are asleep in the service. I’ll just let you in on my little pastoral humor. I’ll be talking along, then I look and I’ll see someone who’s drifting off to sleep. So I just start talking softly and I watch them go drift to sleep and I’ll continue to talk soft just for a while. (I do so many services I can do this.) I talk soft and then I’ll make a point and shout out a word or two and watch them jerk awake and go, “Amen! Amen! Yes!”
It’s just kind of funny for me. I don’t do it for you, just for me. You don’t even know I’m doing it. I do it just to shock them a little bit.
Laughter gives great spice to life. We’ve got to laugh. Laughter is a sign of spiritual maturity. Laughter is a sign that you have a deep walk with Jesus Christ. You show me someone who laughs a lot and I’ll show you someone who is a true Christ follower. You show me someone who is all solemn and serious and routine-like and rut-like, and I’ll show you someone who is immature spiritually.
It Pleases God
That brings us to the fourth reason. Why does Ed Young laugh? It pleases God. It makes God smile. God has feelings too. And he smiles when I smile.
How many parents do we have in the house? Hey, parents, we love to watch our children laugh. There’s nothing that thrills me more than to see them laugh from the belly.
Our heavenly Father is the same way. “Aheea, aheea, haaa, ha, oh, gosh.”
Remember, God could have said, “Okay, I want the prevailing attitude to be one of boredom and seriousness and solemn-ness. Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the spirit is…” What? “Joy!” Yeah, outrageous, contagious joy.
[Ed begins singing.] “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart!”
I learned that song as a kid. I like that song. Here’s another verse. Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
There was another song I used to sing. [Ed begins singing…] “The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength. He fills my heart with laughter…ha, ha, ha.”
I just wanted to sing that for me. Well, “The fruit of the spirit…” Galatians 5 says, “…is joy.” What’s the byproduct of joy? Laughter. What happens? I receive Jesus Christ, and the person of the Holy Spirit infiltrates my life. He redecorates my life from the interior, and I produce, Galatians 5 says, supernatural fruit. And one of the things is this thing called joy—outrageous, contagious joy. We should be known by our joy.
The fruit, though, is not for self consumption. We don’t eat the joy. No, no, no. What do we do? We share it. We share our outrageous, contagious joy and laughter.
John 10:10. I talked about this last time. “The thief comes (that’s Satan) only to steal and kill and destroy.”
You might be asking, “How does that relate to laughter?” Hold on to your theater seats. Jesus said in that same verse, “I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full.” Or your translation might read “to the abundance.”
The word “abundance” in the Greek is pronounced par-a-sos. It means “overflowing.” It means a life full of joy and laughter and creativity and adventure and excitement. That’s the kind of life that Jesus wants us to live.
Every time you have a gift like laughter, you have Satan coming in and giving us a counterfeit. Any laughter that is disrespectful, dirty or degrading is not godly laughter. It’s not the kind of laughter that we were designed for. And if you are involved in it, get away from it. If you are hanging around people, and that’s all they do, get away from them. Cut them from your herd. Move toward people who are into lordship and laughter. Don’t get into the lude stuff and the lustful stuff and the degrading stuff.
I laugh at these comedians, not their jokes, because so many of the comedians use the “f” bomb and they talk about all the dirty stuff. And then at the end they’ll say, “God bless you! You were a great audience.”
How easy is it to use all the dirty words and the dirty jokes to get some cheap laughs? But it takes real creativity, real innovation, real stuff from God to really laugh. Many times Lisa and I will be at a restaurant with some friends, and we’ll be laughing and laughing, and people will come up and ask, “What are you drinking?”
I just look at them and say, “We’re drinking Perrier and flavored tea.” Do you really have to drink alcoholic beverages to really laugh? How pitiful is that? Too many people think, “Oh, we need stimulants to laugh. Smoke this, drink this. Then we’ll really laugh.”
That’s not true laughter. You’re missing it. You’re missing it. Or we laugh at homosexuality. “That guy with that guy, ha! Look at those queers.” We laugh at lesbians. “Ha, ha, ha.”
You know what? That kind of laughter is Satanic. It’s Satanic. Satan wants us to laugh at stuff because we drop our guards and then one day we’ll accept it as normal. God did not make a man to be with a man or a woman to be with a woman. He made a man to be with a woman in the context of marriage. Now, we love fornicators; we love adulterers; we love homosexuals. But we draw lines in the sand and we say, “We love you enough to tell the truth about your condition.”
So make sure you’re laughing right man. Psalm 126—here’s the context: the children of Israel had been in exile for 70 years. Now they were coming back to J-town, back to Zion. (J-town is Jerusalem. You might get that later.)
Psalm 126:1-6, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.” This is the Israelites talking. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues sung songs of joy.”
Now this is really cool, it’s very convicting in my life.
“Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”
The other people are going like, “Man, God has blessed you! Look at your joy and your laughter. Man, you’ve got something that’s unique about you.” Do people say that about you? I hope they say that about me. I hope.
Let’s skip down to the last verse, Psalm 126:6, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying the seed to sow, will return with the songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
Life is not always happy is it? I mean it’s not. Sometimes, I talk to people who try to say, “Everything is great, everything is joyful, everything is wonderful. It’s just happy, happy, happy. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! Everything is just awesome. Man there are not any problems.”
I want to say, “Man, what are you smoking? Life is hard. It’s full of stress and anxiety. We live in a fallen world. Loved ones get sick. They die. We get fired. We lose money. People get hurt. Accidents occur. What about that?”
I was off one time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I saw this beautiful forest being burned to the ground. I watched helicopters dumping all this stuff, but it didn’t even mess with those flames. But I’ve been back to Jackson Hole and now those forests have grown back.
God is a god of restoration.
One time I broke this finger right here, but the bone’s healed now. Isn’t that incredible. We go through grief. Do we live in grief? No, because on the other side of grief there is joy and even laughter.
Well, the Bible tells me that even my tears that I shed are like seeds. They hit the ground, they hit the soils of our lives, and if we walk with God, they germinate. And one day they’re going to produce joy. And what is the byproduct of joy? You guessed it. Outrageous and contagious laughter.
Psalm 122:1, “I rejoice with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
That’s one thing I love about Fellowship Church. Our church is full of joy and laughter. If you ever go to a church and the church is not laughing a lot, it’s not a Godly church. If you ever go to a church and there’s not joy, it’s not a Godly church; it’s not a spiritually mature church. Christians should laugh more than anybody. I should laugh more than anybody.
And really I guess this could be the fifth reason why I laugh. Here’s the bottom line: I laugh because of The Gospel. Think about it. I mean, I’m a fallen and fallible self-centered sinner. I’m totally unrighteous, and there’s this cosmic chasm separating me from God. I deserve to get nuked. I’m toast, because I’m a sinner. God’s perfect. He’s holy, and I’m not. So man, I’m in trouble. It’s like, it should over.
What did God do, though? God loved me so much, he loved you so much, that he sent Jesus Christ, who lived a perfectly righteous life, to die on the cross for all of my junk and funk, and yours too. Jesus rose again, and I’ve received what God has done for me through Christ. And because of that, I’m freed up to laugh. I mean, I’ve read the last page, and guess what? We win! So I can just laugh, man! I’m freed up to have the kind of joy and the kind of exuberance and excitement that is not manufactured from Ed Young. It comes from God. It comes totally from God.
So laughing is a mature thing. It’s a sign of, I believe, spiritual depth. And again, that’s one of the reasons Fellowship is so great. People tell me that all the time who come by Fellowship Church or come by our Uptown campus or our Alliance campus or our Plano campus, “ I’ve never seen a church this joyful. You people know how to have fun!”
And I simply say, “You know what? The joy of the Lord is our strength.” It’s all about him, because God frees us up to really, really laugh.
DO YOU LAUGH?
Let me turn the spot light on you for a second. Do you laugh? Ask yourself that question and also ask God that question. “God, why do I laugh?” You should laugh a lot if you’re a Christ follower. I know many of us are believers here. Some are still kicking tires and that’s cool, but if you’re a believer, you should laugh a lot. Are you laughing?
Maybe you’re saying, “Well, no I’m not really laughing that much.” Why? Why? Maybe just maybe you’ve got a sequoia tree in your eye. Maybe just maybe you need to tell the truth about your whole deal and yank the plank.
Are you selfish? Maybe stingy. Are you serving in a ministry? Because if you’re not serving, I’m telling you, it’ll turn into cynicism. And then your level of laughter will greatly diminish. What has you bound? Anger? Greed? What has you bound?
I’m going to challenge you to think about your schedule, because so often the pace of life will trip me up. I’ve gone through seasons in my life where I’m thinking, “Okay, tomorrow. Yeah, next week. I’ve got to travel here and then we’re thinking about building this with Fellowship Church, and then and then and then….” I can’t enjoy the moment. We’re so busy—we’re over-challenged and over-stimulated—that we miss the moment. We’ve got to maximize the moment and enjoy it. And when we do that and allow God to maximize the moment, then we’re going to be people of laughter. Aheea, aheea, haaaaaa, he, he, oh, gosh!