Reflection on Celebration of the Father’s Love Concert

On Sunday evening, December 18,2011 the LifeGate Congregation of Elizabethtown partnered with Don and Kathy Hess and family in a birthday celebration for Molly Hess who turned 18 on the 18th of December. The grand celebration was held at the Leffler Auditorium of Elizabethtown College at 6:30 pm. Nearly 600 people joined in the celebration. Nicole C. Mullen, a nationally and internationally known Christian musician conducted a one hour concert as part of the celebration. Members of the LifeGate congregation participated in many ways: on the planning committee for the event, in publicity for the event, in ushering, in producing a video of Molly’s life; in writing and performing a special song for Molly, in leading the worship as a team, in ministering in word and song during the event and in praying for the event.

We prayed that first of all the Lord’s name would be lifted up, that His love would be celebrated. We prayed that the evening would be about Him and not any of us. We prayed  that Nicole C. Mullen, in spite of her great fame, would minister in  a spirit of humility that lifted up the name of Jesus and not her own gifting. We prayed that even mistakes would turn out to the glory of God and  that  there would be a strong sense of the presence of God in the meeting. And yes we prayed that Molly would be healed; that she would speak a word indicating that she does understand the love of the father and the mother and the brothers and the sisters.

And God did answer prayers. There was a strong sense of the glorious  presence of the Lord in the meeting. People were encouraged, inspired, lifted up with new faith and love. Molly did not rise up and walk or talk but somehow there was a peace about being in the presence of God with her and knowing that God loves her and will not withhold any good gift from her or from us. We are content knowing that in His own time He will make all things clear and no good thing will be withheld from Molly or us. And in the time before all things are clear or mended, we continue in faith and hope and love.

We all sang in our hearts with Sonya Pena as she sang the song she had composed over Molly which she entitled,  ‘Molly’s Song’:

You were sitting on the edge of the crowd

Feeling cold and a little left out;

The Father’s eyes scanned the room

And gently fell upon you;

He drew you out of the many
And said, “I have a special plan for you, Molly.”

Molly, did you know
That your weakness lets His power be shown?

And, Molly, did you know
That your worship makes your heart His throne?

And did you know that in all these years
He’s never left you alone?

Did you know…
His love, like a fire burns to make you whole
His arms,

They enfold you through the questions of your soul

Molly, did you know,

That your destiny was planned before your birth?

And, Molly, did you know there’re no words

To express your great worth?

And did you know that in Christ’s kingdom

The last become first?

Did you know?

Now on this your 18th birthday

Surrounded by friends and family

Can you hear your heavenly Father say,

Molly, did you know that I sing, I sing—

Molly, I sing over you‛

As Sonya sang this song over Molly, as Molly sat in her wheel chair next to the piano, a tear was noticed in Molly’s eye. And as the tear slowly trickled down Molly’s cheek, Sonya’s voice  broke as she sang, for she thought, “Molly does understand; she is moved by what is happening tonight.”

Don Hess, Molly’s father gave a  moving tribute to God and Molly. He testified that “We are an ordinary people …holding hands with an extra-ordinary God”. And the evening continued with strong and joyous worship led by the LifeGate worship team, followed by the powerful worship experience through the voice of Nicole C. Mullen. Nicole ministered passionately, humbly and very evangelistically. People were touched by Christ’s presence in her ministry.

Then there was an inspiring word by Lou Goszleth, a beloved pastoral friend of the LifeGate congregation, who directed many of his comments directly to Molly. Finally Doug Lamb sang a powerful song the Lord gave him entitled “This is the Hour.” and invited the audience to join in. An invitation was given for people to come forward for prayer and Don Lamb concluded the service by an invitation to contribute to the community through a free will offering.

The concert expenses had been covered by friends of the Hess family and by the LifeGate congregation so all of the offering could go to one of four community purposes: Cornerstone Youth Center, Love INC, Churches That Care and to build a community playground in the LifeGate community.

And God blessed this event and gave great favor in the community. We received free publicity about the event in an article on the Religion page of the local Lancaster newspaper, The Intelligencer Journal on Saturday morning just prior to the event. Then on Monday morning, the day after the event, there was a very positive front page article, again in the Intelligencer, reporting on the birthday event/ concert along with pictures.

What congregation would not wish for a  positive front page article about a congregational event? So, yes, we were favored by God and man. But what shall we make of this? How shall we understand it? What shall we do with this?

In reflecting on this entire event, we can make the following points:

1. This event occurred in the context of the congregation seeking the Lord in an especially focused way in the ’90 Days of Transformation’. In this period there was increased prayer and fasting and longing to draw nearer to God. In this context the Lord came to Don Hess in the middle of the night inspiring him to plan this event.  This is not unlike an event in Acts 13:1-3: “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…   While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Likewise, while we were worshiping and praying and fasting the Spirit came to Don Hess and said ‘plan this event to celebrate the Father’s love’.

2. The Spirit not only came on Don Hess, the Spirit came on the entire congregation with inspiration and giftings and a strong desire to contribute those giftings to the event. Everyone who heard of the event was moved by the Holy Spirit with the strong sense that this was ‘God’s doing and it was marvelous in our eyes.’

3. The Holy Spirit stirred up a spirt of prayer throughout the congregation. Prayer was made persistently and corporately for Molly, the Hesses and this event and all who were a part of the event. There was special prayer for Nicole C. Mullen, not that she would be gifted in song, but that her gift would totally lift up the Father’s name.

4.  The Holy Spirit stirred a spirt of humility. No one participating wanted to draw attention to themselves or to their gifting either individually or corporately.  LifeGate as a congregation was mentioned in the publicity but did not use this as an opportunity to promote their own congregational interests in the community.

5. The Holy Spirit gave a strong love for the larger body of Christ and a strong desire to bless and serve the community and larger body of Christ.  Although LifeGate is committed to developing a community playground and could use every penny we could get for that purpose, there was the strong sense that the proceeds from this concert should serve the community and not primarily LifeGate.

6. The Holy Spirit gave the congregation the grace to die to self interest.

7. The Holy Spirit gave the congregation a spirit of unity and joy in working together.

8. The Holy Spirit gave the congregation a stronger sense of identity as a part of the family of God.  This clearer sense of who we are as a congregation allows us to relate more effectively with persons of other congregations in the community be they denominational or nondenominational. May the Lord use this to build up the whole body of Christ.

So, in light of these  blessings of God, how shall we proceed from here:

1. Continue to seek God’s grace to die to ourselves and our selfish interests every day. Jesus said, “If any man (or congregation) would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

2. Stay focused on Jesus and not on the favor we may or may not receive. He said if we follow him we will not always be favored, in fact we will be persecuted if we faithfully bear HIs name and proclaim His will and word. So we will continue to seek His favor and let him take care of whether or not we receive the favor of others.

3. Continue to seek to serve others.  Continually ask, “How can I come under a brother or sister or other congregation and lift them up so that they shine brighter?”

4. Continue in worship and prayer and fasting, confident that the Spirit will again speak, directing us as to the next event He is calling us to do for Him, be it individually or corporately.

-submitted by edm

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