Larry Vaughn with Mentora Vaughn Gratrix
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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Are You Tired of “Churchianity” this Easter?

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 After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Easter Sunday is one of the most attended church services each year. When I was at the pinnacle of my career in the Hollywood entertainment industry, my wife, Doneata, ruined my dinner one night when she shared the news with me that she had become a Christian. I had always disliked Christians and certainly wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being married to one. I was happy with my life and accomplishments, and I didn’t want anything—especially God—to mess up my life in any way. However, at the time our son, David, was sick, and I thought Doneata probably needed God in her life to help her cope with his illness. Of course my worst nightmare became a reality when I found myself sitting in church one Sunday.

The next Sunday I sat in a stiff pew, wondering why I agreed to go to church in the first place. I really didn’t care about seeing the new pastor. When Pastor Carey walked up to the podium, I was immediately taken back by his appearance. He wore brown alligator shoes and an off-white, western-cut, tight-fitting tailored suit. His shirt was expensive, with large French cuffs, and his tie was silk. I thought, “That tie seems a bit much for a preacher, but I guess it goes perfectly with his western attire.” He had long blond hair that he combed straight back, without a part in it. I guessed him to be in his early forties. He had the chest of an athlete and probably a thirty-six-inch waist. With no disrespect to a South Dallas used car salesman, that’s what the preacher reminded me of. I wondered, “Now what kind of a car is the preacher driving? I would bet cold hard cash that he drives either a Lincoln or a Cadillac.” Pastor Carey preached for about twenty minutes. During his message, he kept walking very quickly across the stage, going back and forth. He had the audience laughing and crying. Everyone but me seemed to be having a good time. I thought to myself, “This guy is not a preacher. He’s an entertainer.”

As we left the church, I told Doneata, “Let’s go by the pastor’s parking space. I’m sure he has an assigned space.” Doneata asked, “Why do you want to do that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m just curious about something.” If I had made a bet, I would have won. The preacher drove a shiny, two-toned, red-and-white Cadillac Eldorado.

The experience I had that Sunday with the new preacher turned me off from ever wanting to go back to Sunday school or church. I thought, “I have seen enough movies to know how a preacher is supposed to look, dress, and act.” I had gone to church that day expecting to meet a preacher who looked and acted like Spencer Tracy, or maybe Gary Cooper. What I found, however, was someone who looked and acted like Elvis!

I hated going to church and had zero respect for the new pastor. But thankfully, there is so much more to Christianity than simply going to church. Christianity is about a personal relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. When I look back on my life, I am amazed at how God called and saved me. I wasn’t seeking. I didn’t want Him. But one day—in one moment—everything changed for me.

When I pulled out my cigarettes from my shirt pocket, I noticed the tract I had picked up earlier at church. It was a small blue tract with a small picture on the front of a dove in flight. It took only a few minutes for me to read through it in its entirety. That little tract asked a very personal question that I had been asked before, but this time, for some unknown reason, it had my undivided attention. “Have you been born again? Have you experienced the spiritual rebirth Jesus said was absolutely necessary for entrance into heaven? This is the one thing, according to the Word of God, that will determine your eternal destiny.” I knew at that very moment what I had always known to be true—that I was an unsaved man. I knew that if I died that day I would spend eternity in hell. I continued reading from the tract. “The moment we open our hearts to the Lord Jesus and place our complete trust in Him—and Him alone—as our Savior, God promises to forgive our sins.”

I sat there on my sofa with tears streaming down my face wondering, “Why has it taken me so long to understand what a wretch I have been?” I got down on my knees and prayed a prayer and asked God to forgive me of my sins, to put a new heart in me, and to give me a desire to be more like His Son. That afternoon I became a Christian.
Excerpts from Hollywood’s Chosen

While living in Miami, I enjoyed listening to Keith Green. He had so much passion in his singing and in his love for Jesus. Keith Green said this at one of his concerts: “Just dare to believe in Him. There’s so many people around that are afraid because all they’ve seen of Jesus is Churchianity, or all they’ve seen of Jesus is religion. They’ve been turned off by the hypocrisy, but there is a real Jesus, and there are real Christians running around.” In 1982, Keith Green’s singing career was cut tragically short as he and two of his young children (three-year-old Josiah and two-year-old Bethany) were killed in an airplane crash. I still get goose bumps when I hear Keith Green’s “Easter Song.”

Hollywood, YES. Chosen, NO, NEVER…

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Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
—C.S. Lewis

Writing a book is no small feat but finding the right title can be even more challenging. I’m dedicating today’s post to our title, Hollywood’s Chosen.

There are so many good people that Mentora and I had the opportunity to write about in Hollywood’s Chosen. One man who was very near and dear to me is my former boss, Eddie Stern. There truly was only one Eddie Stern. Here is an excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen during our first meeting when he was showing me Wometco Enterprises in Miami, Florida.

“Now, let’s look at the film buying department.” Eddie stood up straight. He had an air of pride, as if he were a proud father introducing me to his newborn child. He said, “Larry, humility is not one of my strong suits. For me, being a Jew means something. While I’m by no means a practicing Jew, I do like the idea of being one of God’s chosen.” Eddie laughed and said, “I feel the same way about being a film buyer. It’s a special profession. We are part of a small select group that makes Hollywood happen. Larry, don’t take this calling lightly.”

I smiled, “You mean I’m one of Hollywood’s chosen.”

Eddie looked pleased. “Yes, Larry, you’ve got it. You’ve got the vision.” Eddie smiled, “I knew I was going to like you; we think alike.”

After that meeting with Eddie, I came to experience firsthand the thrill of being a film buyer in a very competitive movie market. At the pinnacle of my career, I was very content with my life and my accomplishments. I had no interest in God or Christianity. For me, Hollywood was all I wanted, a confident yes; and Christianity, well it was a definite no, actually NEVER was more like it. Thankfully, God had other plans for me and many years later in the book, I reflect back on my life…

Shortly before Christmas, my family and I joined Surfside PCA church. We were glad to officially be a part of a church family again. We made many friends at Surfside and learned a lot under the direction of Pastor Mike Ross. One Sunday morning he preached a sermon on being chosen by God. The word chosen jumped out at me, and I thought back to my conversation years before with Eddie Stern. Eddie had emphasized the importance of being “chosen” for the film buying position. I sat there in awe as I realized God’s hand of providence in my life; God had chosen me, Larry Vaughn, to be His child.

And so now, as my family and I prepare for this advent season, I still rejoice in my own Christmas miracle that “I am His and He is mine.”

Rise Again

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“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” — John 11:25, 26

Thirty-six years ago, I heard “Rise Again” for the first time, and the song gave me goose bumps. I haven’t listened to “Rise Again” in years; and when I pulled up the song for this post, I got goose bumps yet again.

Happy Resurrection Sunday!