Thursday, October 1, 2009

God's Power, Not Mine

In my devotion this morning, I was reading in Proverbs 1. Verses 22-24 spoke volumes to me. If you’re struggling today, this week, or maybe even this entire year, I encourage you to mediate on these scriptures.

22"How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?

And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing

And fools hate knowledge?

23"Turn to my reproof,

Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;

I will make my words known to you.

24"Because I called and you refused,

I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;

How real is your faith today? Is it just head knowledge with no heart? Who or what is your source of knowledge? Understand that knowledge is important, but the knowledge that we gain from a living and holy God who is working in our lives daily is more important than any other knowledge we can gain.

In my case, I’m hearing lots of voices, lots of opinions, offering a form of knowledge, but I need to get my knowledge from my living, breathing, and holy God.

That leads me to some other questions. Where is your spiritual walk? Do you even have a spiritual walk? What defines a spiritual walk in your lives? Think about these questions.

When is the last time that you spent time with God in a quiet place with no distractions? When is the last time you studied the word of God for any length of time? Most of us probably spend less than 20 minutes, 2-3 times a week, in a devotion time. Some may not spend anytime at all. If the latter is the case, how can we know our heavenly father if we don’t spend any time getting to know Him?

When is the last time you gave God control of your life--not just in the difficult days, but in the good days--so when you face difficulties you’re already in communion with Him? You usually can tell where a person is spiritually when they walk through dark days in their life.

When is the last time you said, “God, you lead the way because I can’t do it on my own?” This is an uncomfortable place for us because it’s about control. We want control of our lives and most of the time we think we’re in control. We need to give God control and move to the side and see what he can do with a broken spirit.

When is the last time you sat back and waited on God to show you the way instead of doing it your way? This requires patience in our lives. We must get away from the immediate pressing need and be able to look ahead to the plan God has for us.

How many times has God called us and wanted to reveal his plan for our lives, but we plainly refused to answer even when his arms were stretched out in front of us ready and willing to accept us just the way we are? How many of us pray for our own selfish needs and neglect the needs of others around us like co-workers, neighbors, and friends? Would God like to use your testimony, talents, or time to help someone around you? Have you even allowed Him to use anything in your life, lately? It’s time to review our relationship with a God who wants us to know Him!

My daughter, Maggie Maye, who is 4, was walking with my wife yesterday. She turned to her mom and had the following conversation.

Maggie Maye: “Did you know that Jesus is everywhere?”

Heather: “Well, yes, sweet pea. He is everywhere.”

Maggie Maye: “But did you know that He is walking right beside us, right now? We just can’t see Him because He is inbisible (invisible), but I know He is right here. Look! I just know it!”

Today, I challenge you to review your spiritual journey. Do you have a genuine relationship with a holy God? Are you aware of Him walking right beside you everywhere you go? Would it affect the choices you make or the places you go or the words you say? Don’t look at someone else’s life? Look and be willing to point the finger back at yourself. Do some self evaluation in your own life. If you are married, ask your spouse what they notice. You may be surprised by what they say. Then, begin to ask God to pour out his spirit on you today. His mercies are new every morning!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"The Road to the Cross" The Making of the Passion Play

Have you ever thought about how a good idea comes to fruition or what happens if it doesn't? Over the past few months, I certainly have. The FBC Media Ministry recently produced a 21 minute documentary called, "The Road to the Cross: The Making of the Passion Play." The release is scheduled for this Sunday and we have already received more pre-orders and inquiries than last year's program in total. However, it all began with a little creative discussion....

The FBC Media staff was mired in one of our weekly staff meetings. We were discussing ways to connect to our audience and become more revelant and creative with the tools that God has given us. (Doesn't everyone have this discussion at some point?) Our Senior Video Editor, Jonathan Cordell, suggested shooting video of rehearsals and preproduction meetings of the upcoming Passion Play in order to provide some "behind-the-scenes" footage. At the time, I was thinking we might shoot some typical behind the scenes footage and produce a 1-2 minute video. However, Jonathan had a vision larger than any of us could have imagined.

Soon, Jonathan's vision became everyone on our team's passion. Ideas began to flow, plans were laid, and the commitment was made. After months of work, we have a two-DVD set which includes the 2009 Passion Play on Disc 1 and a high-energy featurette on Disc 2. The second DVD includes lots of bonus features, such as interviews from Dr. Jim Whitmire (Pastor of Worship), myself (Media Pastor and Video Director), Gary Hackney (Worship Producer), and Rachel Hanberry (Drama Director). There are sound bites from Laurie Clifton (makeup artist) as she is applying makeup to Luke Whitmire who plays the role of Jesus. The DVD also includes a photo gallery, deleted scenes, and fun and intriguing facts. Do you know many hours it took to put make up on Luke Whitmire? Did you know we utilized a pit choir of 24 singers located under the passion play stage? What about wireless microphones and light cues?

As you can see, the production and duplication of a service became a creative ministry outreach and opportunity--thanks to the power of a simple idea, a willingness to share it, and a supportive atmosphere in which to translate it to reality. I challenge you to look at your own ministry and organization. Do good ideas become reality or are they lost in the day-to-day ministry or work? How many opportunities have you missed because you didn't take the time to listen, to dream, to empower your team?

Below you can view a three minute sneak preview of what you receive in the 21 minute version of "The Road to the Cross," To preorder your copy of the 2009 Passion Play, call 1.888.827.1826 or email

This Sunday on our local broadcast WTLV-12 at 8:00 a.m. you'll be able to watch the 21 minute version of "The Making of the Passion Play" and a message that our pastor delivered to our congregation on Palm Sunday.

Jeff Stoll
Media Pastor


Friday, April 17, 2009

Intentional Ministry

Holy Land Trip, Day 2 and 3: Intentional Ministry
It's been three weeks since my trip to Israel with our pastor. One of the things that has continued to reverberate in my mind is the distance between the stories we read in the Bible. Yes, I mean the physical, foot-to-the-path distance over rocky, uneven, ground that Jesus traveled. As our guide so eloquently described, it took Jesus 3-5 days of walking and riding on a donkey or camel to reach Caeserea/Philippi from Galilee. It would take 5-8 days to reach Jerusalem. So what did Jesus do while he was traveling from place to place? Through towns and villages, populated paths, and quiet places to rest and eat? He did ministry. 

Think about it. There is a lot of undocumented time during Jesus' life. Time he spent traveling, eating, resting, talking--and ministering to everyone in his path.

What about us? What do we do every day as we're traveling from place to place, from our lunch meeting to a school function to church? Are we doing ministry? So many times in our life we want to wait until we have enough time to do "ministry." One day we're going to volunteer with this organization or have time to join that ministry outreach. When the kids are grown or when life slows down or when we have more money to give. If you take this approach, you'll never have the opportunity to impact someone's life. Ministry isn't about a program or a planned event. It's about having an intentional, compassionate heart toward those God places in our path. We're called to do ministry as we go through each day of our lives.  

Do you have a friend or colleague who is hospitalized? Is there someone in your neighborhood who needs a helping hand? Could you encourage your child's teacher, your pharmacist, or your bank teller? 

The earthly ministry of Jesus lasted three short years. But think about all the people who were impacted by an encounter with him. Most of us will have much more than three years of opportunities on this earth. I pray you spend them engaged in ministry--wherever you go. Maybe you'll have the opportunity to share about the one that has given you HOPE and a future.  Slow down and look for those opportunities around you. Be intentional about it. 

"Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers."
Galatians 6:9-10

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Holy Land Trip, Day 1: Obstacles or Opportunities?

Holy Land Trip Day 1: Obstacles or Opportunities?
About 6-7 weeks ago our Pastor asked for support from our Media Ministry during his trip to Israel. He wanted us to video his sermon on location and upload it back to the states for our congregation to view while he was gone from the pulpit.  In this post I will highlight some of the obstacles we faced on our trip.

On March 24th, my producer (Gary Hackney) and I arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel to begin what I call,  "A Journey of a Lifetime." The first obstacle we had to overcome was the lack of sleep.  On Sunday evening, March 22nd,  we began our journey with an overnight flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, followed by a second overnight flight to Tel Aviv.  We arrived at our hotel around 4:15 a.m.  with a scheduled shoot at 8:00 a.m.  
That morning, we drove for 45 minutes in intermittent rain to arrive at our location on top of Mount Carmel overlooking the Jezreel Valley.  As we began setting up the video equipment on the observation deck, the wind started to howl, dark clouds were building, and all around us was rain.  The second obstacle suddenly became clear--rain. We weren't sure we would get to shoot. In fact, our pastor said later "As you all were setting up the cameras,  I just knew it was going to open up and rain all over your gear." It was like God held off the rain just for us to shoot this message.  I must admit my producer (Gary Hackney) has the patience of Job when it comes to sticking with the plan and working that plan all the way through. No one is better at that than Gary.
(Side note, We used two Sony's HVR Z1U, 1/3-Inch 3 -CCD HDV.  This was my first experience with the Sony Z1u's and they shoot exceptionally well.  I was thankful that I had the Z1U's over the bulky Sony HDCAM that I normally shoot with.)  Okay, sorry I chased my first rabbit.....
After a quick thirty minute set up , we were ready to roll tape. Right? WRONG! We encountered our third obstacle--large tour groups. The first group walked up to the observation deck and we had to wait for them to leave.  Half way through our second attempt, another group arrives. Producer Gary Hackney has an idea. "What if we get pastor to mention that there are groups coming and going as we're recording? Then at the end of the message we could use camera 2 to shoot a couple of shots with the pastor and the tourists in the background." 
We shot the first two minutes of the pastor's message looking toward camera 1 and then used camera 2 to shoot a couple of wide shots (the video industry calls this a cutaway). It was amazing--we actually completed the video shoot.
As we began to load our gear back into the van, our tour group arrived and described an unbelievable rain storm complete with hail, rain, and wind. Clearly, God protected us from the storm to ensure that His Word would be taught and shared. 
My trip to the Holy Land was life-changing for me.  God used all of the details of it to teach me more about Him and His plan for my life. It's clear that Day 1 alone taught me not to focus on the obstacles in my life or path. I need to view them as opportunities to overcome. So do you.