West Palm Beach

400 Yard Sales in Palm Beach County to stop human trafficking

This past weekend Christ Fellowship hosted over 400 garage sales all over the county. We did it to raise funds and awareness for the issue of human trafficking. So in our own yards, in our own neighborhoods we all did what we could. In the end we have raised thousands and thousands of dollars that are going directly to help free people kept in slavery all over the country and the world. That’s pretty amazing!

What amazed me more, is that apparently that’s not a big deal.

We couldn’t get any local news organization even interested in the fact that the Freedom yard sales were going on at all. In fact, trafficking in general is apparently not a very popular topic. It’s time to change that.

Today, in fact, was “Freedom Sunday” all over the country. Churches were preaching freedom for the captive, hope for the hopeless. I love that. David and I were worshipping at Ascent City Place this morning. I don’t know if it was the temperature (warmer than usual in the venue) or the crowd (more people crowded in than normal), but in the midst of worship I had a huge claustrophobia attack. If you’ve ever had an attack, then you know what it feels like to be stuck in a place (front row!) when your heart is pounding and the sweat starts pouring. I’ve dealt with these every so often, so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. None of them worked. I kept praying that I would be able to quell the rising panic and return to worship. I needed to worship. I needed to worship even in the middle of the panic.

I made it. In a few moments the attack faded, and I was able to go back to singing and standing next to David as usual. It’s been quite awhile since that happened to me, so I was surprised. And more surprised moments later, when God used it for an object lesson. You see, we began talking about the 27 million people in slavery today. People in bondage. People who feel, as I just had, utterly trapped and unable to breathe. With my heart-rate barely back to normal, I suddenly had more empathy for girls stuck in crowded brothels, never seeing daylight.

My attack passed, but theirs will only pass when we do something about it.

A scene from our garage sale on Saturday keeps running across my mind. In South Florida, you see, it is common to find Haitian women at garage sales, buying large amounts of clothing to send back home. This situation is even more pronounced now, in the aftermath of the hurricane. So often, we’ll drastically cut the prices of the clothing to help these women help their own families. But this sale was different: it was a charity sale. Knowing that the day was early and we didn’t want to cut prices too steeply, we were busy negotiating with the women. Sometimes these negotiations got firm, and lasted awhile.

One of these women drove a hard bargain. She wasn’t our toughest customer of the day, but she was close! She needed help hauling her treasure to her car, and we gladly jumped in. Half way down a long driveway she stopped and began hunting in her purse, her pockets, her back pockets. We assumed she was hunting for her keys, and began looking about for the set of keys. She kept digging. Eventually, this woman pulled out a folded up bill from some deep pants pocket, turned back and put it in the donations for “Hope for Freedom.”

I realized two things: she had negotiated down to nearly her last dollar, and then she had turned around and donated that last dollar to do what she could.

The news may not have thought that the Freedom garage sales were a big deal, but I did. I can hardly wait to see what’s next.

Super Bowl Party for the homeless…and the rest of us!

David teaching one of our homeless guests how to play Bingo

The Super Bowl for the City party is in the history books, and though I may not remember who won it in a few years, I’ll remember how I spent this Super Bowl. It turns out that hanging with the homeless for the game is a whole lot more fun than my usual guest list!

The first few minutes are always the toughest. That’s when you realize that this isn’t just another party, these aren’t just nameless people, and the gulf that divides us is both broader and narrower than you can imagine. Those first minutes are terrifying: talk to them? Do they want me to? As it turns out, they do. They really do.

My first conversation with a guest was with a man named Charlie. He was a white guy with gray and black hair. I first spied him getting a hair cut at our hair cutting station (manned by a local stylist school students). The cut gave me the opening I needed. “I like your new hair cut.”

This was the haircutting station

“It’s good, it is,” he responded. “You people are doing something amazing. You’re gonna be blessed.” This felt backwards to me. Wasn’t he the one supposed to be blessed? I sat down and chatted with Charlie. Turns out that he had studied to become a priest, before deciding the Catholic religion wasn’t for him. I was surprised he’d lasted that long. When Charlie was six a nun accused him of lying. “Stick out your tongue,” she said. “See…it’s black. I can tell you are lying and God’s going to get you.”

“My tongue isn’t black, I’m not lying, and I know this much: God isn’t going to get me. He loves me and you don’t.”

Charlie’s eyes were yellowing and kind of watery. He looked like he’d had a rough couple of years. But he told me he wasn’t there for the Super Bowl (“Don’t care who wins”) or the meal (“I can eat anywhere”). He was there to talk to people, normal people. It was one of the few chances he has to sit with people and strike up a conversation.

Charlie and I sit and chat

So simple to sit and talk. So simple and so hard.

The night was filled with little conversations like that. There was the dancing woman who seemed determined to show everyone each layer of her clothing, causing a little drama when she got to the last layer. There were the die-hard football fans in the front row. Two guys argued about why in the world we’d want him to wear a nametag with his name on it. “They just want to address you by name! It’s ok. No disrespect.” There were the foodies thronging at the table and stashing whatever looked like it would travel. All over the stadium there were back packs and bags, bicycles stuffed with stuff, and even a stroller stuffed with at least three dogs, though I honestly couldn’t tell if the dogs belonged to a guest or a volunteer! By the end of the night it didn’t much matter.

Ben Hood, one of our volunteers, serving during the game

And oh yes, there was Paris.

Paris was an outgoing black guy who liked nothing more than to sit and watch both the game and the goings on. He gave me an education. I sat with Paris for quite a long time, getting treated to his Barry White imitation and his monologue on life. A highlight may have been the moment he introduced himself to my husband as “I’m her lover; now don’t get mad and fight me.”

Paris and his buddy Eugene.

In the end, it was Paris who taught me the deepest lesson of the night.

As part of our outreach, we’d collected blankets to give away to our guests. This was vaguely prophetic as the temperatures (for Florida) plunged into the low 50’s and it was COLD! So our guests, ironically, were wrapped up in their various new blankets while we volunteers had a taste of what it was like to be cold. Sitting with Paris, he kept asking me if I was cold. I finally admitted that I was, and he tossed me one of his three blankets he had scored. “Well silly white girl, put that blanket around you.”

Oh! That’s when I realized it. If I put that blanket around me, I’d look like a “Guest.” With little else to distinguish us, those blankets were the easiest way to tell who was a guest and who was a volunteer. And while some of the volunteers would know me, certainly not the majority.

What will you do in that moment? You have a choice to be identified not with the helpers, but the helped. Not the powerful, but the humble. I wanted a badge, a wrist band, an identifier. I wanted to keep my identity. I turned down the blanket. For awhile. But I got cold and I had been thinking about why I wouldn’t take that blanket. So I finally accepted Paris’s hospitality and charity, and borrowed his new blanket. Sure enough, it wasn’t much later that one of our volunteers sweetly asked me my name and if I’d like some chips or crackers. I smiled, said “No thank you!” and resisted the urge to say “By the way, I’m a volunteer. Elder’s wife. I’m just cold.”

Paris seemed to get that. And if he didn’t, I sure did. God was speaking furiously to me. He was talking about how it feels to be identified with the people you are trying to help. To take on the outer clothing of the homeless for just a minute or two. It was a powerful lesson, only partially learned.

Super Bowl in the City. It didn’t make much lasting difference in the plight of these folks. It didn’t change much except to provide a few services they may have needed and a night of pure entertainment in lives that rarely indulge in such a thing. The addicted left mainly addicted, the homeless left homeless but with a new haircut perhaps. But it was a bridge. It humanized the stories. The party brought together people who needed to learn from each other. And hopefully, that Super Bowl party may have planted a seed of God’s love and life in the kingdom.

And we’ll always have Paris. 🙂

John Maxwell: Build Your Dream Conference 2009, WPB


Headed to North Florida, but wanted to give you a heads up on next week:

John Maxwell will be doing a one day seminar at our church again this year. The conference is called “Build Your Dream Conference 2009” He will be focusing on his latest book, Put Your Dream to the Test.  I’ll be there all day blogging and twittering, but if anyone is in the area, come on down! This annual John Maxwell day is one of the beautiful parts of having him on our teaching staff! I learned my lesson last year, however…parking will be a bear.

Are any of you reading John’s new book? John has a twitter topic going to share inspiring dream quotes and comments. You can find it by searching in Twitter on #dreamtest. John also Twitters at @johncmaxwell.

Do the Possible: City Place Christ Fellowship


Relationships follow several predictable rules, one of which is that to be friends, you need to be there. You’ve got to put the time in to form the base of the friendship. A relationship is made up of all the days and nights of walking through experiences together: laughter, life change, job losses, baby births, deaths in the family, crazy visits from oddball family members. Relationships grow in the middle of life. So to do life together, you’ve got to be there.

The same holds true for churches. If you want to impact your community, you’ve got to be there.

That’s why I love our City Place campus of Christ Fellowship. It’s there. Right there in the middle of the crazy hustle and bustle of life. City Place itself is an outdoor destination mall reclaimed out of downtown West Palm Beach. It is a jewel of shops, restaurants, movie theaters, living spaces. It is also right in the middle of downtown West Palm, which means it can sometimes boast a rowdy crowd. There are partiers; there are homeless; there are upscale Palm Beachers; there are students living in the small apartments and wreaking havoc with peace and quiet. And at the center of all this coming and going sits a grand old lady, the Harriet Himmel Theater. The “Harriet” as she is referred to, began her life as a downtown church. When the area deteriorated, so did she. Eventually the building was bought and turned into a cultural venue in the center of City Place. Proms, bar mitzvah’s, wine tastings: these are the events that get the Harriet dolled up.

And now, church.

Christ Fellowship rents the Harriet for the City Place campus all day every Sunday. It is stunning. There, where life happens, is our church. They have dealt with all the problems that come with such a location. Since the theater is centrally located and our doors are (naturally) open, visitors come and go at will. During one of our first services a witch — yes that kind — stood in our balcony mumbling over our service. We’ve had a congregation that mixes up class lines and age lines, though it skews younger than our other campuses. With no permanent offices, the City Place church and staff are commited nevertheless to living out an incarnational representation of Christ in the city. The result is a congregation that is comfortable hitting the streets of their community. They throw park parties wth food for the neighborhood, they pray over City Place itself, they feed the homeless. In fact, they have too many volunteers for their Monday night homeless ministry.

In other words, the City Place campus has learned how to be a friend. They have learned how to be there.

This week John Poitevent, the campus pastor, launched the City Place version of our churchwide series, iSearch. He spoke about money in the midst of financial crisis. Afterward he led a man to the Lord, helping him take his first steps into the Kingdom. “I was talking about money today,” said John. “That was unexpected.” Unexpected maybe, but a faith that applies to the places you live is practical. Learning the right response to money gives a framework for this man to strengthen his life. It is real, and reflects Jesus’ heart.

After church, David and I sat on a City Place bench waiting for our girls to join us for lunch. We watched the people come and go. Upstairs, the waiters from Taverna Opa formed a Greek dance line and danced through the outdoor balcony of the restaurant. A party.  A line from John’s sermon kept echoing through our heads. “God’s math is this: you do what’s possible, and then God will do the impossible.” Although John was referring to finances, it applies everywhere in life including the incarnational living out of the gospel in the middle of West Palm Beach. Do what’s possible. God will do the impossible. We focus all too easily on the second part, the impossible part, the overwhelming situation or the sinking ship. We sometimes forget the first part. Do what IS possible.

I think that’s how I see City Place Christ Fellowship these days: as a friend who is there, who encourages us to get up out of the church and just do something. Do what is possible. After that, it’s all up to God.

Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, FL: Leadership Gathering stories

Last Friday night we had a Leadership Gathering at Christ Fellowship. I love Leadership Gatherings, because we have a chance to visit with our friends and churchmates from all the Christ Fellowship campuses, hear the stories of how God is working on their campuses, and worship togethre. There is also usually food involved, which tickles me, too. Because David is an elder and we are migratory by nature, we tend to pop in on most of the campuses regularly. So it was with a sense of hometown pride that we watched each of the campus pastors share their latest stories. If you weren’t there, here is a brief synopsis of life at CF!

Gardens Campus

Pastor Don Bray shared a story of a woman who called our hotline in a suicidal stage. She was crying for help, and some of our counselors responded and got her headed to the hospital. Along the way, an attending nurse said to the woman, “I’m a Christ Follower. I attend Christ Fellowship. Can I pray for you?” At the hospital, her next nurse also prayed for this poor woman. By the end of the night, in a dramatic turn, God healed her. She’s been at church the past two Wednesdays testifying to God’s transforming grace. I liked this story because this was not a church program, or plan…it was two women livng out their faith in the community.

Christ Fellowship Espanol

I posted David Helbig’s account of this last week, but Pastor Daniel shared about the conversion of one of the most notorious gang leader’s in Palm Beach County last week. This week, he and his girlfriend are getting married and baptized on the same day. Pray for the amazing impac their lives may have in the near future! We also heard the story of a lawn man who was at a vulnerable time in his life. Unable to communicate with the Spanish-speaking man, one of our church members brought him to Pastor Daniel, who ended up leading this man to a faith in Christ. A new kingdom worker!

City Place Campus

I confess, City Place has a special place in my heart. I love the authentic, unplugged and gritty ministry this campus gets itself into. This week Pastor John shared about their homeless ministry, which is really just starting. Partnering with an existing program, they’ve been feeding homeless once a week. Pastor John had to ask his people to STOP volunteering, as they have too many volunteers for this event! Now they are searching for new ways to reach out in the heart of downtown West Palm. We’re praying for office spaces for the City Place staff: something in the heart of the area they are called to.

Royal Palm Campus

Pastor Jonathan shared about a man headed out to commit suicide due to a life-threatening cancer. Before taking his life, he decided to impulsively honor an invitation to a cancer-survivors support group at Christ Fellowship. One of our ladies introduced this man to the great Physician before the end of the evening. Now he’s finding support and grace to live out the rest of his kingdom journey.

Stuart Campus

Stuart is our newest “baby” in the campus family. They are so excited to have found a place to meet, and to have recently found midweek meeting spaces as well. Pastor Matt shared about their new women’s ministry, and how a simple phone call to ask for participation brought a whole family into the church, a family that had just about giving up on being committed to their faith.

Internet Campus

Another favorite of mine, the Internet Campus now hosts over 10,000 unique visitors each week. The stories that pour in from this campus delight all of us techno-geeks. They are now hosting classes online and plugging people into their faith in novel ways. Pastor David Helbig shared about a woman who ended up chatting with him via facebook (as a response to a random info messsage). She didn’t recognize how she became a “friend” with our internet pastor, but had just been discussing faith with a friend, and really wanted to know more about it. Pastor Dave, through facebook chat, led her to the Lord right in the middle of her busy workplace. “I’m praying out loud!” she said. Before the end of the workday she had stopped by a bookstore and was reading the best story of all. A random facebook chat.

These stories touched my heart as I realized that each one is just the tip of the iceburg, just a little bit of what God is doing. What humbled me and delighted me is that in most cases, it wasn’t a program that touched someone’s heart: it was a CF Christ Follower being faithful to the people they touched out in the community. That’s the sign of healthy growth. These were real lives saved! I’m writing this becuase on those discouraging ministry days, we need to review what God has really done and rest in his grace. And most of all I’m reminding myself that none of these lives were touched without prayer and preparation. Are we ready to step up to the plate when God sends a hurting traveler across our path?

What makes community?

Going back to the roots of Coffee Shop Journal for a few minutes, I’ve been thinking today about what it really takes to feel like you are in a community. We’ve all known people on the fringes of a real community who just never seem to fully enter into the common life. There are also times in my own life when I feel as if I am “in” a community, but not really feeling as if I belong. And yet community is the most necessary component to a fulfilled — and even healthy — life. We were designed to live and move IN community, not just wandering through the edges of someone elses community.

When it comes to designing and living in Third Places, the question of true community becomes even trickier. Generally speaking, there are a few elements that must be in place before a person feels like they are in a community setting. According to a psychological study by MacMillian and Chavis (1986) that I read recently, these are the essential ingredients to community:

  • Boundaries – how we dress, what we do and say – the outward signs of “belonging.”
  • Emotional Safety – I am in a comfortable zone when I am in this community.
  • A sense of belonging and personal identification
  • Personal investment – I have paid my dues to this community.
  • A common symbol system – We understand the symbols and their meanings.

If all of these elements are in place, says the study, then a healthy community will flourish. But think about some of those elements and how difficult they are to just “create.” The best Third Places are organic in nature. They have a culture that has matured over time, and it is a unique culutre. It may be welcoming to outsiders and it may not, but either way it has its own unique characteristics. Creating from scratch a Third Place with character is difficult.

I write this as I am sitting in our new Life Center coffee shop at Christ Fellowship. At the moment it is a large room with chairs, couches, tables and a coffee bar. Its personality is missing. This is the first time I’ve sat down and spent time here observing, and I do see beginning signs of a culture growing. Here’s what I am looking for in order to see a community grow up in this new space.

  • People: We need a few regulars hanging around this place. They need to stake out their favorite spots and set up shop. There are definitely people coming and going and interacting already. If this can grow and expand, then there will be a warmth generated by their conversations and bodies filling the room.
  • Aroma: Good coffee shops develop their own scent over time
  • History: There need to be events in this space to create a sense of history. An accoustic guitar evening, a games night, book clubs, life.
  • Personality: File this one under people if you want, but there needs to be an individual whose personality begins to imprint itself on this open space. “Welcome…how are you? I brewed that coffee you recommended…Are you having your usual?”

I get excited by new construction. The sense of possibility permeates everything here in the Life Center, and I’m anxious to see how that possibility is fulfilled. I’m curious to see what history develops, what people wander by, what function this space will fulfill in the life of my church. I am anxious to watch the serendipitous meetings between departments that may have been holed up in their own hallways before. The organic “bumpage” of one person interacting with another is part of the magic of a Third Place.

In the meantime, I’m trying out all the tables, finding the spot with the best view of the comings and goings, yet still secluded enough to get some work done once in awhile. I’m sampling the coffees slowly. I’ve already participted in one of those “accidental” meetings, and felt the small bonds of connection begin to unfold. Give me another week: I’ll have my spot staked out.

John Maxwell, Christ Fellowship in WPB: People Matter

Thesis: The value that God has bestowed on people, is the standard by which we should value others. In other words, people matter to God.

Three Reasons Why You Are Important to God:

1. Because of who you are.

  • We are made in God’s image, after his likeness.
  • Meditation for 2009: “God loves me as I am, not as I would like to be, or as I appear to be, but just as I am.”

2. Because of what you cost.

The fact that God gave us His only Son and that Jesus gave up His life for us, demonstrates…

  • The seriousness of sin
  • The unconditional love of God.

There is always a price to be paid for friendship and relationship. The people you love need to know that you have paid that price, that they matter to you.

3. Because of what you can become.

  • We see our performance and it discourages us.
  • God sees our potential and encourages us.

John closed the sermon by reading the old poem (and later, song) “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I was looking for one of the musical versions of it to post here (other than people playing guitar in their bedrooms!), but couldn’t find it. Instead, this is the poem read by JD Summer, one of the old-time gospel greats.

This was a great reminder for those of us “in ministry” that the people who sometimes make our life difficult are the treasures that God gave it all for.


John Maxwell on Gratitude, West Palm Beach, 11/29/08

Dr. John Maxwell spoke at my church, Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, tonight. He is a teaching pastor on staff, and often offers to preach the weekend after Thanksgiving in order to give our pastors a much-needed break! Tonight he spoke about developing a grateful heart. Here are some highlights.

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

Parable of the ten lepers: Jesus healed ten lepers while they were on the way to see the priest. Some observations:

1. 10 Lepers asked for help.

2. 10 Lepers received help.

3. Only one expressed gratitude. By the way, gratitude is not based on the blessings we have received, otherwise the other nine would have returned, too.

4. Jesus was amazed. The other nine did not return.

How to Grow your Gratitude

1. Express gratitude as a discipline, independent of feelings.

True gratitude involves the heart as well as the lips. But sometimes when our hearts are cold, our words can be sparks that kindle us again.

“Let every detail in your lives, words, actions, whatever, be done in
the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the
way.” Col. 3:17

Other people may attend your pity party, but they leave quickly. Whiners want to feel good before they do the right thing. Winners do the right thing, and then they feel good.

2. Express gratitude for the small and ordinary things.

“If you learn to appreciate more f what you already have, you will find yourself having more to appreciate.” Michael Angier

In other words, hat you appreciate, appreciates. What you depreciate, depreciates. As you begin expressing gratitude, you will see more things that you have to appreciate. On the other hand, the more you complain, the less you’ll obtain.

“Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” Col 4:2

Lucado wrote, “The devil doesn’t have to steal anything from you, all he
has to do is make you take it for granted.”

3. Express gratitude especially in the midst of adversity.

God doesn’t ask us to be thankful for the sorrows that come our way, but he does want us to demonstrate trust in His care by thanking Him in spite of them. Paul told us to be thankful IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. Our trust in God is greater than the circumstance that we are going through. Allow him to bring you through the valley, WHILE YOU ARE IN IT.

When we are grateful, fear disappears and faith appears.

John told the story of Charlton Heston. In 2002 he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A friend of his was visibly glum over this, when Heston told him not to feel bad for him. “I got to be Charlton Heston for more than 80 years. That’s more than fair.”

Turn our attention from your problems to God’s priorities in your life. How?
Go from what’s happening to me, to what is God doing in me. God does his greatest work during times of adversity.

A. Look beyond yourself and see the big picture.

B. Surrender yourself and acknowledge your dependence on God.

C. Forget yourself and care for others. There is always someone near by who is in a worse place than you are. Reach out to them, minister to them, and be grateful.

4. Express graitude toward others in tangible ways.

Christ Fellowship City Place: the church over a coffeehouse

This is David and me at City Place in West Palm Beach, FLCity Place is a beautiful meeting of cultures.

Visiting Christ Fellowship’s various campuses always causes me to come away shaking my head, amazed at the radically different personalities that have developed from one heart and one ministry. The City Place campus, also called the Ascent, seems like the bohemian, artsy little sister of the Christ Fellowshp group.

City Place itself is a mid-sized commercial redevelopment program, an outdoor lifestyle center that is about as hip as you can get in West Palm Beach without descending into gritty. The movie theater in City Place draws a huge crowd, diverse on a Friday night. Because of City Place’s location, it also can draw homeless or the folk from across the bridge in Palm Beach itself. Smack in the middle of this culture clash sits the Harriet Himmel Theater. Christ Fellowship houses its church in the theater every Sunday, from an early morning 9:00 service to the evening Ascent service for college and young adults. It is a hopping spot.

Today, at all of our campuses, we began sign-ups for our LifeGroups. At City Place John Poitevent (Campus Pastor) spoke on a fairly obscure passage in Colossians 4 where Paul lists the names of those people who have been ministering with him during his time in prison. As John preached, it became obvious that Paul’s cast of supporting characters are still around today: those who start but drop out soon, those who are Mama’s boys, those who travel to bring information to others, those who open their homes. As a kind of grand finale to the message, John had LifeGroup hosts come up front and tell about the purpose of their groups.

That’s when the goosebumps started.

They were a motley bunch, alright. Very diverse in their appearance and stage of life. All of them were excited about doing life in community, and their varying purposes of their LifeGroups stunned me.

“We are going to feed the homeless in Lake Worth every Sunday afternoon. We leave when the food is done.”

“We want to give college-aged girls a place to find support while they chase after God’s purpose.”

“We’re going to use dance and worship to bring glory to God.”

“We’re going to explore the biblical ways to reduce tension and stress as we live our lives. And oh yeah, there’s a martial arts component to this LifeGroup so be prepared to move.”

“I love to cook: come for a complete home cooked meal and then we’ll discuss God’s life.”

“I hate to cook: can someone bring food?”

“I don’t cook either, but we’re going to learn about the Living Water and then find a way to share it.”

None of them were alike; each group had their own purpose. They were wide in their diversity and awe-inspiring in their unity. I was entranced. I looked around the theater — criss-crossing beams overhead, wooden floors and dimly-lit chandeliers — and was humbled by the authentic community represented by this church-in-the-middle of the city. Then I remembered it was my church, and I wanted to cry.

Leaving, David and I literally had to push our way through the lines of City Placers signing up for a new adventure in LifeGroups. We walked down the stairs and looked at City Place itself — Starbucks tucked under the theater along with a few other shops, restaurants lining the roads and people everywhere. A church, a coffeehouse and a mission. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The Ascent at City Place

Pastor Tom Mullins, West Palm Beach FL: Pursuing Gold

What makes a champion?

I don’t often blog about our weekend services at Christ Fellowship, not only because I’ve been traveling so much but also because Dave Helbig, Kerry Mackey and now James Duvall are in a better position to represent our church. Last night, however, Pastor Tom Mullins reminded me of his best friend John Maxwell, who is a teaching pastor here as well. His sermon focused on Olympic Gold, and what makes up a champion’s identity. The questions Tom asked put heart back into me and picked me up from the battlefield. So I decided to share them, briefly, with you.

What defines you? Are there experiences — good or bad — that define you? People? A Job?

Champions are NOT defined by…

  • Fears: “Extreme fear can neither fight nor fly” — William Shakespeare
  • Failure: “Failure is not falling down: it is remaining there when you have fallen.” — Unknown
  • Former Successes: “You can never ride on the wave that went out yesterday.” — John Wanamaker

Rather, our identity in Christ is what focuses us on the life God wants us to live. Philippians 3:14 reminds us that we should forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead. For me, that was the moment when God stepped into that sermon and spoke to me. Humans have a tendency to get stuck in the mud of our failures, but we’re supposed to forget the past and instead STRAIN toward the future that God has for us. We can be set free from the weight of both our failures and our successes, which can equally weigh us down. This changes everything. Pastor told us that before he left on his recent trip overseas, John Maxwell sat down with Billy Graham for an hour or so, one on one. Always learning from the past, John asked Dr. Graham about the great crusades and move of God he’d been a part of. Dr. Graham — at his age of 90 ish — said, “John, I don’t want to think about the past. I want to talk about the future.” Wow.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for thoe who are in Christ Jesus. — Romans 8:1

I leave you with the three points Pastor threw in at the end of his message.

  1. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing.
  2. Nothing can overpower your life — you are God’s.
  3. Nothing can prevent God’s plan from unfolding.

You can find Pastor’s message on our website here, or look Christ Fellowship up in iTunes.