Saturday, August 27, 2005

Red Carpet

It used to be one of the trappings of royalty. The path for the monarch was laid out and marked as special -- almost like it was holy ground. The commoner didn't dare to set foot on the crimson path. That walk was reserved for the powerful and mighty (and sometimes deified).

These days red carpet is associated with a different kind of power -- celebrity power. At every award show, the red carpet is rolled out to cushion the steps of the likes of Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow. The only folks allowed on the red carpet are the celebrity interviewer -- the Joan Rivers-types -- who are celebrities in their own right. What once meant power of government now defines power of popularity.

We live in a culture where celebrity status is held in the highest esteem. Actors, athletes, singers or anybody who has had their kisser plastered on the TV in a marginal program are held up as gods (little "g" -- most of the time). Why is it that a guy like Rupert from Survivor or whoever won on The Apprentice are thought of as important? Simply because we worship celebrities. The supermarket check-out aisles are filled with important, can't-live-without information about Ben, Jen and ten dozen others who faces are recognized by celeb watchers.

We run to a famous person and ask for them to sign their name, then treat it as some kind of treasure. How odd that is! Why do we feel the need to associate ourselves with the famous? Are we really any better off from once having shaken the hand of Tiger Woods or Meg Ryan or Dr. Joyce Brothers? Yet celebrity worship is a part of our culture, and it's getting to be a bigger part all the time.

Celebrity worship wouldn't happen in a church though, right? Well, what about this little stunt pulled by Rev. Perry Noble at his church in South Carolina? (a tip of the ol' ball cap to Monday Morning Insight):

If you were at New Spring yesterday I hope you have calmed down by now. I have seriously pondered hiring the police to escort me around town for the next several days. But before you get ready to call the office with a bomb threat you need to remember two things, #1 - You have got to admit--it was funny! #2 - You will never forget what worship is! For those who might not have been there--let me explain what happened. (You have got to go to our website and download the message--even if you can only listen to the first five minutes I promise it will be worth your time.)

Yesterday I began telling this story about how Lucretia and I went to a really nice place to eat supper and had the privilege to meet Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. I went on to say over the course of time I spoke with him and told him all about our church...and to make a long story short (once again, listen to the message) he asked could he and Faith attend a service. I told them absolutely and then announced to the crowd that he was there and asked if they would help me welcome him to the stage.

I will have to admit I have never seen anything quite like what took short, people went bonkers. At the 6:00 service last night people even were trying to get their camera phones out to take pictures--it was the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed.

I walked off stage for a second and then came back out and asked, "you bought that?" I have since realized that at that very moment my life was in danger--people were ready to pull me off the stage and beat the poo poo out of me. They had their hopes up that Tim was there...and I had lied to them (God has forgiven me).

But I used the entire illustration to make a point--which I will expound upon here, why is it that we can get so excited about Tim McGraw, a person who has really never done anything for any of us--but when it comes to worship we sort of go through the motions. The fact is that Tim McGraw was not in the house yesterday--but Jesus Christ was...and I asked, "What would happen to the church that was just as excited about Jesus as we just were about Tim?" I believe a church like that could transform an entire community...even region of the country.

What we are passionate for will show. Many people are passionate about politics. I believe it is the responsibility of every American citizen to vote; however, my hope does not lie in the Republican or the Democratic party. If I truly thought politics could change the world I would resign as pastor and run for office.

Others are passionate about sporting events. People will spend tons of money and time every weekend in the fall when it comes to football. We go into the stadiums and scream until we can't talk. We get sunburned in the early part of the season and some even suffer frostbite during the latter part. Now I am a huge football fan--but what difference has a football team ever made when it comes to eternity.

Passion consumes us--every person you meet is passionate about something...and there is no exception. My point yesterday was why can't we be passionate about something that matters, the church--or someone that matters--Jesus Christ?

I would have to say that yesterday was one of the top 10 moments in New Spring's short history. I pray we never forget the lesson we learned yesterday--that every time we get together that Jesus Christ is in the house...and that we will be pumped about it and continue to invite others to see & hear what is going on.

(Props to Fellowship Church and Ed Young. This was not an original idea--I first learned of this about four years ago when I heard a tape of Ed doing this same illustration to his church. I have wanted to do this at New Spring ever since...but the time was not right until this past weekend. You guys at Fellowship keep cranking out the creativity!!!)

He makes quite a point, doesn't he? Why would Tim McGraw be a bigger celebrity than Jesus Christ? Probably because our friends would be more impressed if we went to work on Monday and told them we met Tim McGraw over the weekend than if we told them we truly met Jesus.

We roll out the red carpet for celebrities because we value them. Yet the red carpet is a pale imitation of the original:

A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

When John the Baptist applied these words to himself, it became clear to us that the highway was made straight for the King of Kings. It was the terrain which was made flat and straight for the coming of Christ Jesus -- the One at whose name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess His Lordship; even the earthly kings, athletes, movie stars and other miscellaneous celebrities. Kind of puts things in their proper perspective, don't you think? Fame is fleeting. God is eternal.

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