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Tragic Day, Happy Day

July 24th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

Reflections on the death of my son Christopher

Today is the 6-year mark of the departure of my son to heaven. These “anniversaries” are never easy.

I remember that day so vividly . . . July 24, 2008. It was a happy day.

The sun was out, it was warm, and I was babysitting my granddaughter Stella. My wife, Cathe, was teaching a Bible study to Stella’s mother, Brittany, and Brittany’s mother, Sheryl. Brittany’s husband, Christopher, was driving to work at his job at our church in Riverside where he was the art director.

It was almost past 10:00 A.M. and usually Topher (his nickname) would let his wife know he was there safely, but there was no message. Brittany called him and he did not answer. She texted him . . . Still no answer.

Brittany told me and I called and texted Christopher. No answer.
My last text to him was “Where are you?”

You can’t text from heaven.

There was no response, because our firstborn son, Christopher David Laurie, had left this world for the next one at 9:01 A.M.

When I heard the news it was as though time stopped. I could not believe this was actually happening to us. But it was.

There is still such pain and sadness there. It was a tragic day.

Yes, even six years later, I look back on that day as tragic. I wonder what went through my son’s mind as he realized he was going to have a collision. It happened so fast.

Did he cry out for his mother?
Did he cry out for me?
Or did he cry out to Jesus?

Many years ago I took a very young Christopher out surfing with our friend Ricky Ryan. We were waiting for some waves when suddenly a monster set started to build. As any surfer knows, when waves are coming, you either catch them or paddle toward them to go over or under them. You never run from them, or you will be pounded in the whitewash.

A little panic hit me as I thought of how vulnerable Christopher was. I was thankful to have a seasoned surfer like Ricky there. We both looked at each other, grabbed each side of Christopher’s board, and started to paddle full speed toward the huge waves,silently praying.

Christopher, just a little boy, with eyes like saucers, saw those waves and cried out, “Oh, Lord Jesus!” Needless to say, we survived that day.

I wonder if that is what Christopher said on July 24, 2008, when he realized this life was about to end here and a new one about to begin on the other side. I’m sure it was something along the lines of “Oh, Lord Jesus!”

For Christopher, as he left this world for the next one, it was a happy day. There in heaven he was welcomed by the Lord. One day we will see him again. And once again, it will be a happy day.

So today is a tragic day. But it is, in other ways, a happy day. And one day, it will be the happiest day of all when we see each other and Jesus face to face.

Happy Christians

July 21st, 2014 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

The happiest Christians are evangelistic ones.

The unhappiest Christians are the nitpicky kind—the ones who, in the words of Jesus, “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24 NKJV). They are so busy arguing theological minutia that they miss the opportunity. They are like someone seeing a burning building with people inside, and they are debating what kind of hose should be used to put the fire out.

There is a joy we are missing out on if we are not sharing our faith. John wrote that his personal joy was made possible by sharing with others the message of Christ. “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4 ESV).

Jesus said, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7 NKJV). And when the angels came to the shepherds, they brought “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10 ESV).

It seems like some Christians just want to receive and learn, receive and learn. . . That is a noble and biblical thing to do. But if that receiving does not also include giving, then you are missing the point. Does not Scripture tells us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”?

The believers I know who make a habit of sharing the gospel are happy. Proverbs 11:25 says that “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (NLT). You are blessed to be a blessing.

But before you preach it, you must first live it. Billy Graham wrote:

“We are the Bibles the world is reading.
We are the creeds the world is needing.
We are the sermons the world is heeding.”

We need people today who walk and talk with Jesus Christ—people who, before they even speak a single word, give evidence that there is something different about them.

We need people who, through their godly lifestyles, have earned the right to be heard.

What we need today are people who have “been with Jesus.”

Today at Harvest Riverside and Orange County

July 19th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

There is one thing that Christians and non-Christians both have in common. . .

They are both uptight about evangelism!

Believers are uptight about evangelizing and nonbelievers are uptight about being evangelized!

Well, I hate to break this to you, but Jesus Christ has commanded us as His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Sadly, for many believers the Great Commission has become the Great Omission.

I want to share a message with you that will help you in a practical way when it comes to telling others about Jesus.

It’s Part 2 of a three-part series I am doing to help us get ready for the upcoming SoCal Harvest to be held at Angel stadium, August 15-17 of this year.

http://www.harvest.org/crusades/2014/anaheim/event-information/home.html

My message this Sunday is “Evangelism, Jesus Style.”

You can join us for one of our three services or watch it all in HD video on our webcast at www.harvest.org.

Nothing New

July 18th, 2014 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
— Ecclesiastes 1:9

Joy Davidman, the wife of C. S. Lewis, made this insightful statement about the pursuit of pleasure: “Living for his own pleasure is the least pleasurable thing a man can do; if his neighbors don’t kill him in disgust, he will die slowly of boredom and lovelessness.” And that is true. It has been said that the only cure for hedonism is to try and practice it.

The pursuit of pleasure is nothing new. As Solomon reminds us a number of times in the book of Ecclesiastes, when you boil it down, there is nothing new under the sun. Though our technology has changed and we have had certain advancements since Solomon wrote those words, the basic cravings of humanity have not changed, nor have the basic things we look to. The philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry has been with us for a long time.

When Solomon decided he would pursue everything this world had to offer, He was not considering God in all of it. He was living horizontally — he had adapted a worldview that omitted God. Eventually he came to realize there was nothing to profit from under the sun. It was only when Solomon looked above the sun and looked to God that he found the answers he was seeking. When we see God for who He is, we will see the world for what it is.

If you have a close relationship with God and are walking closely with Him, you will recognize philosophies, concepts, and ideologies being propagated that are contradictory to what the Bible teaches. When you are walking closely with God, you will see this world for what it is.

Tonight at Harvest Orange County

July 17th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

The Holy Spirit.

Clearly, He the most misunderstood member of the Trinity.
We can, to some degree at least, wrap our minds around God as a Father, and even Jesus as God in human form, walking among us.

But the Holy Spirit?
Where does He fit in?

You may have noticed I have capitalized the word “He” when referring to the Spirit of God. That is because He is a part of the trinity and He has a distinct plan and purpose He wants to accomplish.

Tonight, in our Essentials series, we will talk about the work of the Holy Spirit. The work He wants to do in your life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

This all happens at Harvest Orange County in our service that starts at 7:00 PM, Pacific.
You can join us live or watch the live webcast at www.harvest.org

Did I Miss a Few Things?

July 14th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

I had friends from high school who didn’t accept Christ when I did. They went their way, and I went mine.
I run into them every now and then, and I think, thank God that I went the way that I went!
Did I miss a few parties? Yes—a lot of them.
Did I miss some good times? I missed a few.
But I also missed a lot of hangovers and other problems that are associated with that kind of lifestyle.
Did I miss out on a few things? Sure I did. But what God gave me in the place of those things has been infinitely better.

Tomorrow at Harvest Riverside and Orange County

July 12th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

I will interview former mobster Michael Franzese.
Michael was on his way to becoming the “Boss” of the Colombo crime family, but God had other plans, and in one the most amazing stories you have ever heard, he will tell of how he came to know Jesus Christ in his prison cell.
You will not want to miss this interview!
I will also give a message with the title, “An Unexpected Conversion.”
You can join us in person, or watch live at www.harvest.org

Interview with Naghmeh Abedini

July 11th, 2014 Posted in video | 40 Comments »

Yesterday I interviewed Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran for his faith for the past two years. What an amazing and heart-breaking story! Watch the interview here:

5 Marks of a Dead Church, Part 2

July 11th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

 

In my last post I listed 2 of 5 marks of a dying or dead church.
Here is a link to that post.

Here now, is Part 2 and the conclusion to that blog.

A Dead Church Has Lazy Leadership.

Complacency and lethargy set in as the church slips into spiritual cruise control, not wanting to do anything new or even rethink the way things are done. I can think of some methods and practices and programs in our own church—things we have done the same way for years—that probably need to be reexamined.
There are ways of doing things that used to work but haven’t worked very well for years.
“But we’ve always done it that way!”
Yes, but we don’t need to anymore.
Churches need to be constantly evaluating, considering, and weighing options—keeping in mind the big picture of what they were called into their communities to do.

A Dead Church Neglects Youth.

If they aren’t careful, aging congregations can so please themselves that they fail to reach the next generation. And that, my friend, spells death.
We started Harvest Christian Fellowship when I was just 20 years old. In fact, we had so many young people coming on Sunday nights that we started a Sunday morning service as an outreach to “older people”—those over 30!
Sometimes a worship pastor will want to introduce a style of music and will be told,
“The older people won’t like that.” Yes, but the younger people might like it very much—and maybe the older saints just need to flex a little.

A Dead Church Lacks Evangelistic Zeal.

If new converts aren’t coming into the church, then it’s only a matter of time until that church stagnates and becomes spiritually dead. New believers are the lifeblood of the church. We should want them . . . pray for them . . . embrace them . . . encourage them . . . minister to them in every way that we can.

Laurie, Greg (2014-05-08). Revelation: The Next Dimension (Kindle Locations 1340-1356). Allen David Books (Kerygma Inc). Kindle Edition.

5 Marks of a Dead Church, Part 1

July 9th, 2014 Posted in sermons | 8 Comments »

Is the church you are attending alive or dead?
Or perhaps somewhere in the middle?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses the Church of Sardis, which He classified as “having a name that lived, but was dead” (Revelation 3).

Chuck Swindoll in his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation has an outline on “The 5 Marks of a Dead Church.”
I have taken it and added some of my own thoughts.

1. A Dead Church Worships Its Past.

Maybe some of the old-timers can relate inspiring stories of miracles, conversions, and changed lives “back in the early days.”
That’s okay as far as it goes. But we have to move on. We can rejoice in what God did twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. But what about now? God doesn’t want us to live in the past—even a glorious past. A living church lives in the present and plans for the future.

2. A Dead Church Is Inflexible and Resistant to Change.

Sometimes in the church we are flexible where we should be inflexible and inflexible where we should be flexible. In other words, we should be inflexible in the essentials. We come together to worship God and to study the Word. There’s no need to change those essential priorities.
But there are other areas where we ought to be flexible—in things like music and worship styles, which change with the years. People get very sensitive about these things.
“Well,” someone will say, “I prefer this style—it was what I was raised on, and I don’t like anything else.
Your style offends me, and it probably isn’t even valid.” But this is an area where we ought be flexible rather than rigid and unbending.

Some people don’t like it when churches embrace new technology and resist or drag their feet over changes.

I remember back in the mid-1990s when our church put up our first video screens. Some people were upset about it. Some even said, “We’re leaving the church over this! We don’t come to church to watch TV.” But it’s different now. When I speak these days, I notice some of these same people looking at the screens more than at me, though I am standing right in front of them. The fact is, the video draws you in closer, making it more intimate. I only wish they had invented HD technology when I was thirty instead of when I was 61!
I remember hearing Christians being critical of churches having websites. Now everyone has them. The point is, these new technologies are like a massive, updated Roman road system that opens up the world to us. We ought to use and leverage every technology platform—radio, TV, film, the Web, as well as social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and all the new ones as they emerge. This is an area in which we need to remain flexible. But there are also areas in which we must remain inflexible. For instance, the church must always be a place where God’s Word is taught and the gospel is proclaimed. The church must always be a place where the Lord is glorified through prayer and worship. We cannot “flex” in those areas. They are nonnegotiables.
I will give you the last 3 marks of a dead church in my next post.

Laurie, Greg (2014-05-08). Revelation: The Next Dimension (Kindle Locations 1334-1339). Allen David Books (Kerygma Inc). Kindle Edition.