After an afternoon in Gatlinburg, we drove down through the Smoky Mountain National Park and back to Praisefest for the evening session. It was another cold day and the drizzling rain didn’t help the gloom! But inside New Hope Church, it was far from gloomy! Off to my left, a group was getting their picture taken with friends and Stan was on stage playing quietly while everyone milled about. Not long after, Gerald strolled out on stage for some announcements. As Gerald was talking, Michael Booth walked out on stage carrying a silver platter with a mini water bottle perfectly centered in the middle. Gerald laughed, “You can tell who hasn’t received their check yet.” LOL To Michael he said, “I have it right here in my suit jacket…I really do!” *smile* Then, the lights went down for a promotional video for Compassion International.
Introducing the first group, Gerald exclaimed, “Here’s Mike Speck to start us out with some rowdy music!” The trio came out and asked the audience to stand and sing some Christmas songs with them. A combination of O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World and Hark The Herald Angels Sing followed. Then Mike asked us to sit while they sang O Holy Night. “Isn’t that the favorite Christmas carol of all time?” Yet another carol was sung, Silent Night. “We put our gifts under the tree,” Mike declared profoundly, “God put His gift on a tree.” He went on to explain the next song. It was a request, but his wife hates it! The tune was Long As I Got King Jesus. When the end of the number rolled around, Mike turned to her and mentioned, “They’re wanting more.” She just shook her head and mouthed the word “No.” LOL Faye was featured on a slow song called Meanwhile In The Garden.
The Specks left the stage and Gerald came out to introduce the next trio, The Booth Brothers. Now, we all know that Gerald likes to “lovingly pick on fans” and just as he began to welcome the Booths on stage, a lady towards the front stood up and walked down the center aisle, away from the stage. So Gerald’s introduction went something like this, “Well, I know you love these guys…well, she doesn’t love them. Where are you going?” (He paused to let her answer.) “You’re going to smoke? That’s the first honest woman I’ve met all day!” LOL (Note to self: NEVER leave the auditorium when Gerald is on stage – especially if you’re sitting in the front! He,he,he) Anyway, the Booth Brothers stepped on stage and opened their set with Peace In the Shelter of His Arms. When Feeling Fine kicked off just after that, the crowd clapped along to the beat. “Guys, we love coming here!” Michael exclaimed, expressing their joy of being at Praisefest. A quick introduction of the group followed, “This is Ronnie, Jim, and I’m Michael.” Then Michael explained that Ronnie was fighting a bad sinus infection, so they weren’t going to feature him that night. Presenting the next song, Michael said, “Here’s one that’s entitled I’m Free.” Jim had the solo during the verse and as the ballad ended, Michael asked the crowd, “Do you believe that?” Turning to Jim he asked, “Do you want to sing another one?” LOL Michael went on to expound how they have had such a great response with the song that Jim was getting ready to sing. “It’s a lot easier to walk in faith when you truly believe the heavenly Father loves you,” said Michael. That song was Every Cry Is Heard By The Father. When the song ended, Michael turned to face the side of the stage and waved for someone to come out. Gerald walked to the piano as Michael explained what they wanted to do next – Jim was going to sind the second verse again, with just Gerald playing the piano, and when it came to the chorus, the audience was going to sing it too! They lead us in that chorus three times, and by the third round, the crowd was singing and the singers were listening! *smile* I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen came next – this was the first time Michael had a solo all night, and he made sure everyone knew it! He warned us that he didn’t take his pill that day, but covered it up by saying, “It’s much funner without it.” But the topic at hand was one of a more serious nature – it was a song that Jim had written, one that explained how one can know they are saved – by the evidence of a changed life. He went on to share three ways that you can recognize that evidence.
1 – You will be drawn to the Word of God
2 – You will have a desire to have fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ and love them
3 – You will have conviction over sin
“When we say we are Christians, we are saying that the Creator of the Universe has taken ownership of our life – we have submitted to Him. He is too great to take residence in us and not produce a result. So listen with an open heart and mind, and examine yourself whether you be in the faith.” Then Michael sang What About Now. Appearing on stage, Gerald asked, “You really enjoyed the Booth Brothers?” But before Michael, Jim and Ronnie could leave the stage, Gerald insisted that Michael sing Look For Me before they left. So, Gerald sat down at the piano and asked Michael what “key” was good. Michael walked over to the piano and stood behind him, “It’s the little white one in between…” LOL After a giggle or two he sang the ballad and received a standing ovation. “Have you really enjoyed the Booth Brothers tonight, let ‘em know it,” Gerald said.
Throughout Praisefest, you’ll hear Gospel Music, laugh with comedians and be inspired in your walk with the Lord through Biblical preaching. We had already experienced the first two within the first two sessions, and that night, we had the third selection presented to us – preaching! “We are so, so, so glad that he is with us tonight,” conveyed Gerald, “would you welcome America’s pastor, Dr. Charles Stanley.” Dr. Stanley walked out on stage and seated himself at the round table that was placed in the center of the stage. The title of the sermon was “Do You Love God?” – and many deep questions and thoughts were asked and expressed during the time Dr. Stanley spoke to us. To begin with, he asked us two questions. The first: If someone asked you, “Do you love God?” What would you say? And secondly, “What in your life causes someone else to believe that you love God?” He went on to read Matthew 22:39 – That verse means that when you love God, you love Him with your heart – the core of your being, you love Him with your mind – your intellect, and you love Him with your soul – your emotions. “Do we love Him with all that we are?” asked Dr. Stanley, then expressed, “He is always giving of Himself for your benefit.” The next part of the sermon told us what loving God was not (and I found these things interesting!) We do not love God out of fear, or reverence. We don’t love God because we need Him, or serve or give to Him. But he didn’t leave us hanging, he gave us a definition of what loving the Lord truly is – it is giving myself to Him the best that I know how, to be used of Him for His glory. Dr. Stanley also explained why some do not love God; and these reasons are 1) They don’t know Him. 2) They’re scared of Him. 3) They’re angry with Him. Finally, he let us know of two real reasons to love Him. The first was that the Lord is our Creator. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Him! Secondly, He has revealed Himself to us! Not only did He create us, but He was interested in His creation enough to want fellowship with it, and therefore, telling us about Himself through His Word. As we think about these things – how and why we love the Lord – I’d like to close with a comment that stood out to me the most in Dr. Stanley’s message, and that is…
“You can’t pay or substitute for love.”
Conclusion: Well, I can’t think of a better way to end this post than with that! The topic of Dr. Stanley’s sermon was one that we would do well to think about deeply. Too many times we (Christians) are happy with the “norm” when we could do so much more and be so much more! Well, I better not get to preachin’ myself! I loved that the Specks did a little Christmas to get us in the mood! (I’m one that enjoys Christmas music early!) It was great to see the Booth’s again, but I felt so bad that Ronnie was sick. He was such a great sport though, getting out there singing and smiling all night, even though he wasn’t feeling well! Now that takes dedication! On the other hand, Jim and Michael did an excellent job filling up the solos! One of my favorite moments was when Michael sang Look For Me with Gerald playing the piano – it was great!