Friday morning December 6, 2013 was just another day to get up, have my bible study with coffee, and head to the gym. The only exception was the winter storm bearing down on the Dallas and Fort Worth areas that ultimately killed two and left 250,000 plus without power for days. When I arrived at the gym, the snow was already falling and the guy manning the night shift said management could pull the plug at any moment.
That moment came about 45 minutes later and so I reluctantly packed up and made my way back home…slipping and sliding much of the way. Fortunately, my complex has a well equipped little gym and I was able to finish my workout despite having to trudge through the snow to get back to my apartment.
I was fortunate in that I never lost power and my cable was down for maybe a few hours. Thanks to my iPhone hot spot, I was able to stay reasonably “connected” until the cable came back on. Afterwards it was business as usual as I office from home anyway. Outside of the gym opening at 8AM on Saturday versus than standard 24/7, and having to be extremely careful with the treacherous driving conditions, it was a quiet and mostly normal weekend.
Church on Sunday was interesting in that the freezing conditions and the combination of ice and snow left the parking lot like a giant ice skating rink. Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, TX is one of the largest churches in the country with a membership in excess of 30,000 and with a main sanctuary that seats roughly 9,000. However on this bitterly cold and icy Sunday, only a fraction would be in attendance…including me.
It would have been easy enough to stay home and watch the service streaming live online, however I had a different thought given the events of the previous couple of days. I felt a huge sense of gratitude to have largely escaped the ill effects of the ice and snow storm. I never missed a meal or a workout or entertainment or really anything and yet thousands were still without power. And for that I felt extremely convicted for those suffering all around me.
Hebrews 10:23 says:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
My overwhelming thought was how could I even begin to rationalize not going to church when I had gone to the gym, grocery store, and other various places running my typical weekend errands. It really wasn’t a question. If I could run all over the place Friday and especially Saturday, I could obey God’s Word and be in church on Sunday.
And what a unique service it turned out to be. There might have been a few hundred in total all gathered down in front. The staff didn’t even turn on all the lights in the two balconies as they were not needed. The choir and orchestra were off and with only a handful of musicians it almost felt like my home town church in East Texas which is tiny in comparison to Prestonwood.
I don’t remember the message however I do feel very grateful and blessed beyond measure for having attended. Little did I know that the lesson of the snow storm would bear fruit again in the future.
Since that icy weekend to present there have been a few weekends where I considered on Saturday not attending on Sunday…opting to stay home and watch online. Please don’t think this is a regular occurrence. I love my church and rarely miss however I also believe there is a degree of spiritual warfare in play and the Enemy will use any kind of mind trick possible to keep a believer from holding true to their faith.
For the positive, my thinking always goes back to the weekend of December 6-8, 2013 and that’s all I need to clear my head and get to church. For the odd occasion where I considered not going on Saturday, only to get my head on straight by Sunday morning, I have been especially blessed for having done so.
On one such Sunday I was called to help with passing the plates during the Offertory hymn…this was a first. Another Sunday we had a special musical performance by the Vertical Church Band…and they were amazing! And yet on another we had special music from our Prestonwood choir performing one of my all time favorites, He Is , which is on my iPod where I listen to it practically daily at the gym. None of these blessings would have been possible if I had been watching online from home.
The final and by far most special blessing requires a bit of background information.
Dr. Jack Graham is my pastor, mentor, and moral compass. I have consistently attended Prestonwood now since 2003 and Pastor’s influence has changed my life. My faith has grown by leaps and bounds and I will never be able to repay him for the change he’s made in me. He’s a Bible preacher who preaches God’s word from cover to cover…and he lives what he preaches.
Unlike my hometown church with weekly attendance in the 100’s, Prestonwood’s weekly numbers hit in the 1,000’s. With so many members, a ton of responsibilities locally, and a speaking schedule that takes him at times around the world, getting to “know” Pastor can be a challenge.
My long time prayer has been for him to just know me. Oh I’ve shaken his hand a few times as he generally mingles with the congregation saying his hello’s before each weekly service, but again, with so many members, for him to remember me specifically would be wishful thinking.
Twitter changed all that. Pastor has been on Twitter now since 2010 and I became active just this year. In that short period of time, I have learned one most amazing thing. Twitter provides a means for reaching people unlike any other medium. I have connected with several of my “mentors” in a way that would be far less likely than with more traditional means. And yet with Twitter, there is now a flow of communication between me and I humbly say some very high level individuals.
I knew Pastor was on Twitter (@jackngraham) and started following him as well as PowerPoint, his TV, Radio, and Online Ministry that literally reaches people around the world. In the beginning, I didn’t have a clue. However in time I learned the power of a “Retweet” for connecting and gaining influence with people. While it was random in the beginning, I soon became more intentional in looking for opportunities to Retweet messages from people I consider a priority and this strategy has paid off big time.
As I write this, it was just a few weeks ago on a Saturday when I was having a case of what my mentor Zig Ziglar used to call “stinking thinking”. The pressures of my job were fueling my thoughts of staying home and watching the early morning Sunday service online and then getting a jump-start on preparing for a big work week. Fortunately Sunday morning came with much more clear thinking and after a hard workout, I was off to church.
Through some special circumstances I had recently received an autographed copy of one of Pastor’s books, A Hope And A Future, and for some reason felt inclined to bring in with me. In the back of my mind, given the opportunity, I wanted to thank him for the gracious effort. What a surprise to learn that he would be doing a book signing after both services in promotion of his PowerPoint Ministries.
After the service I made my way to the Commons to find a relatively short line and took my place. Everyone else in line had brought a book to be signed. I had to have been the only one walking up with a signed book. When it was my turn, I walked up and shook Pastor’s hand and flipped open the book to show his signature. He looked at me a little puzzled and I explained that I just wanted to say thank you.
During our brief exchange he made a comment that lifted my soul and touched my heart. He said he recognized me from Twitter and thanked me for my support of his ministry. I was floored. All those Retweets had paid off and I assured him of my continued support.
While it may not seem like that big a deal, Pastor’s influence has truly changed my life’s direction over the past twelve years and I counted the experience as validation of many answered prayers.
And to think, I almost stayed home to watch online.
Take home point for my readers:
This post was obviously very much based on my Faith. And while I will continue to write on a variety of topics, as a Christian and follower of Christ, I felt compelled to share this story. If there’s one thought I could leave with you, it’s based on the following which is a life verse for me:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
When life seems most out of control, remember the God is still in control, and He answers prayers…if you are faithful to ask and patient for his perfect timing.