I heard a story about a pastor who was walking down the street and came upon a group of boys, all between the ages of 10 and 12. They were standing around a dog, and the minister thought they might be planning to hurt it. So the reverend yelled out, “What are you doing to that dog?”
One of the boys said, “He’s just a stray dog from our neighborhood and we all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So, we decided whoever tells the biggest lie gets to keep the dog!”
The pastor was incensed, and launched into a 10-minute message against lying. He ended by saying, “Don’t you boys know it’s a sin to tell a lie? Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie!” The boys looked at each other for a moment and said, “Alright, give him the dog!”
Fact is, lying and deception begin very early in life. The six-month-old, before he can even speak, learns how to engage in fake crying. It’s all downhill from there. Then, as we get older, we learn the “fine art of excuse-making.”
What’s the difference between a lie and an excuse? Answer: not much. An excuse is “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie” or “a lie dressed up for dinner.” In other words, an excuse is just a fancy lie.
An excuse is really a lack of desire (in contrast to a reason). Excuses are what we offer instead of reasons. When you don’t really want to do something, you make an excuse. It’s been said, “He who excuses himself accuses himself. The bottom line is, we know excuses when we hear them.
Excuses only satisfy the people who make them. We have all heard them: My dog ate my homework. Sorry I’m late, but my alarm didn’t go off! The check is in the mail. Lying, deception, and giving excuses have become far too common. Studies show that most resumes are full of misrepresentations:
71% increase tenures of previous jobs.
64% exaggerate accomplishments.
60% overstate the size of the departments managed.
53% cite partial degrees as full.
48% inflate salary history.
Studies also show that one quarter to one third of all workers tell lies to explain their tardiness or absence. An article in USA Today dealt with this penchant we have for making excuses. It pointed out that “each of us fibs at least 50 times a day.” We lie about our age, our income, or our accomplishments. And we use lies to escape embarrassment.
According to the book Excuses and Lies, the top lies are:
• “I’ll be ready in a minute!” (Girls may say this more.)
• “I’ll do it in a minute.” (Guys probably say this more.)
• “Of course I’m listening!” (Probably a guy saying it to a girl.)
• “Nothing’s wrong!”
• And finally, “Yes, dear!”
Add to this some other lies we may tell:
• “You look great” (when they don’t).
• “But we can still be good friends.”
• “She means nothing to me!”
• “I’m from your government, and I am here to help you.”
Then there are excuses. We’ve all heard and used them at one time or another. And most of the time, they are not even creative! George Washington said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
Since man’s beginning in the Garden, he has made excuses. The first excuse was made by Adam: “It was the woman You gave me!” The second was made by Eve: “The serpent beguiled me.”
Have you been hiding behind lies and excuses lately?
We were back in our “God Came Near” series last Sunday at Harvest Riverside and Orange County. This series is a chronological look at the life and ministry of Jesus from all four gospels.
There are a lot of things that hold people back from coming and/or growing in Christ. For some it’s their possessions, for others their career, and even others, personal relationships. But no thing or person should keep you from following Jesus. I spoke about that in my message, “What’s Your Excuse?”
Little Josh and his family were having Sunday dinner at his grandmother’s house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Josh received his plate, he started eating right away. His mom said, “Joshua! Please wait until we say our prayer!” Josh replied. “I don’t need to.”
His mother insisted, “Of course, you do. We always say a prayer before eating at our house!” Josh explained, “That’s at our house, but this is grandma’s house and she knows how to cook!”
Prayer. What a wonderful privilege it is.
You can pray anytime or anywhere . . . even at grandma’s house. We might think it is somehow more spiritual to pray in a church. Though a church is a fine place to pray, the fact is you can pray anywhere:
• Paul prayed in a dungeon.
• Daniel prayed in a cave filled with lions.
• Peter prayed on the surface of the water.
• Jonah prayed under the water in a fish.
We may attach a lot to the verbiage that is used, but God really looks at the heart. The main thing is to pray, and pray a lot! It’s been said, “When your knees start knocking, kneel on them!”
Jesus said that “men ought always to pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Understand that when you pray, you’re not telling God something He does not know. Jesus said, “Your father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
“If that’s the case, why pray? After all, I can’t change God’s mind!” We do not tell God things to make Him aware of them. No, the value of prayer is that it keeps us in touch with God. Prayer is communication between Father and child.
Our Heavenly Father loves us, and He wants to hear from us!
Have you ever been in the middle of a call when suddenly you lost service?
You tried to call back, but you saw the reminder on your phone, “No signal.”
Prayer can be like that at times too.
We can cut off our fellowship with God and sever our communication.
That does not mean your relationship with God is gone; it just means the communication is.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
The word “regard” speaks of holding onto or clinging to.
Unconfessed sin surely will hinder your prayer life. There are other things that can do that too.
Join me at Harvest Riverside and Orange County as we are back in our “God Came Near” series, which is a chronological look at the life of Jesus from all four Gospels.
We will be looking at “How to (and Not to) Pray” from Matthew 20.
Our service times are 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, and 12:00 PM.
You can also watch the LIVE HD webcast at www.harvest.org.
He had to die because there was no other way to satisfy the righteous demands of God. God plays by his own rules, and His rules state: “The soul that sins shall surely die,” and “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
In the Old Testament, all those animal sacrifices only foreshadowed something to come—or should I say, someone to come. That someone was Jesus.
Calvary shows how far men will go in sin and how far God will go for man’s salvation.
From the very beginning, Jesus knew He was going to die, and He spoke of it often. In fact, technically no one took His life from Him; He laid it down of His own accord. He lived in the shadow of the cross from the moment He entered our world.
For some, the cross seems like an aberration, a mistake, a tragic turn of events. That is how it must have seemed for the disciples as Jesus was arrested and murdered. How could this be a part of any plan? How could something so senseless, so cruel, have any purpose?
Answer: It has the ultimate purpose and meaning.
God was the Master of Ceremonies at the cross.
• “[God] did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 NKJV).
• “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin” (Romans 3:25 NLT).
• “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10 NKJV).
In what sense was God the Father “pleased” by the death of God the Son?
• He was pleased by the redemption that was accomplished.
• He was pleased by the eternal plan of salvation that was fulfilled.
• He was pleased by the sacrifice of His Son, who died so others might have eternal life.
For all the evil in the crucifixion, it brought about an infinite good. In fact, here was the most evil act ever perpetrated by sinful hearts—the torture, slaughter, and heartless murder in cold blood of the sinless Son of God—and yet, from it came the greatest good of all time: the salvation of countless souls—your salvation and mine.
As Joseph said to his brothers, “You mean it for evil, but God meant it for good.” What the devil and those behind the crucifixion meant for evil, God meant for good.
In a rare moment in human history, God and Satan moved toward the same event. Satan wanted Jesus killed to put a stop to His life and ministry. God accepted Jesus’ death because there was no other way to bring reconciliation.
We need to remember this when we are facing our hardships in life—when things don’t make sense: God is in control and He has a plan.
That is really hard for me to imagine, but of course it’s true. It’s been seven years since I last spoke with my oldest son. We were very close, and spoke every day—so to lose contact suddenly and with such permanence is life-altering.
When we heard the news of his death, I wondered if I could survive such a thing. There is no way to put into words what it is like to have your child die. Those who have experienced it know what I am talking about.
There are two very hard days for those who have lost children, and for that matter, loved ones in general: their birthday and death-day. So, today, on an important day in our lives, I want to tell you a little bit about Christopher.
He was a very handsome boy (he got that from his mother) and full of personality and humor (perhaps he got some of that from me). He loved to surf, skateboard, and just live life to its fullest. He was a very talented graphic designer and artist and loved to keep up with all that was happening in the world of art and design.
Christopher loved his mother, Cathe, and his younger brother, Jonathan, as well his father. Christopher loved his wife, Brittany, and the apple of his eye, his little girl, Stella. The hard drive of his computer is filled with photos of his little model, who was only too happy to pose for another photo for Daddy. He loved his unborn daughter, Lucy, and so looked forward to her arrival.
Most importantly, Christopher loved Jesus Christ, and though he had a time of “prodigal living,” he returned to the Lord and was following and serving Him when he was unexpectedly called home to Heaven. That was the hardest day of our lives. No day even comes remotely close to it.
People ask if you ever get over the loss of a child. The short answer is no, you never get over it. But you do get through it—in our case with God’s strength and help.
It seems like when a life is shorter than what we expected, when there is so much unrealized potential, it is the worst tragedy, and in some ways that is true. But in other ways that is not true. Because as Christians we believe in an afterlife. And there, dreams that were not realized on earth can still be realized.
When the Bible speaks of Heaven, we discover it is a place where we are doing things. We are feasting, talking, laughing, worshipping, working, building, and much more. Sometimes I wonder what Christopher has been doing for the last 7 years. I will find out in time, when I join him in Heaven.
Our love for each other will not be weaker then, but stronger, sweeter, and purer. There will no more be a break in our love than there is a break in our thoughts. Death breaks ties on earth, but renews them in Heaven.
As Easter approaches we are reminded that death is not the end. At the cross, and then through His resurrection, Jesus defeated death. Paul tells us, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57 NIV).
Death died when Christ rose.
We miss Christopher so much. But we thank God that one day we will pick up where we last left off. Until that day, happy birthday Christopher!
A poll by researcher George Barna revealed that about 25% of the adults in the United States would go to church if a friend would just invite them.
Barna elaborated, “The best chance of getting them to a church is when someone they know and trust invites them and offers to accompany them.”
That is really an amazing statistic.
Think about it for a moment. . . 25% of the people out there are waiting for an invitation to go to church. With Easter approaching, this is really important for us as Christians to think about.
Do you have friends?
Do you have friends who are not believers?
Do you have non believing friends you haven’t invited to church?
I have a challenge for you this week:
Commit to inviting a nonbeliever to church for Easter!
The Bible tells the story of the man from Ethiopia who was searching for God.
He was a powerful dignitary, representing the queen. No doubt he traveled with a large entourage when he arrived in the city of Jerusalem. But instead of finding the once vibrant faith of King David and Solomon, he found dead orthodoxy.
But he did obtain something of great value: a scroll of the book of Isaiah. He was leaving the city, reading aloud from Isaiah chapter 53, that happens to speak of the suffering of the Messiah. But this man from Ethiopia did not understand.
He needed some help.
As it turns out, God had directed Philip, a follower of Jesus to wait in the desert for further direction. As Philip saw the approaching entourage, with the foreign dignitary reading out loud from Isaiah, he approached with a question:
“Do you understand what you are reading?
The Ethiopian said, “How can I,unless someone show me the way!”
That is what people who do not yet know the Lord are really saying, “Show me the way!”
Will you bring someone to church with you this Easter?
Will you pray that they will make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ?
It’s as simple as reaching out and asking.
So invite someone to Easter service this Sunday!
To find out more about our services at Harvest, go tohttp://www.harvest.org/church/easter-at-harvest.html
What makes God angry?
What makes God sad?
Have you ever wondered about that?
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and on that momentous day, Jesus did two things that are often overlooked: He displayed anger and He shed tears.
It seemed like such a happy day, and in some ways it was.
But it was also a sad day, but even more, a super-significant day.
Join us tomorrow at Harvest Riverside and Orange County as I talk about “What Angers and Saddens God” (and why it should also anger and sadden us).
For more info, or to watch the live HD webcast, go to www.harvest.org.
Jesus loved the little children!
They say that children are a good judge of character, and that is true and they certainly were drawn to Christ and He to them.
He took them into His arms and blessed them and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
But did you know that we can learn from children?
Jesus took a child one occasion and said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
What did Jesus mean by that?
That is what I want to talk about tomorrow in my message, “Childlike Faith.”
Join us in person for one of our services at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, or 12:00 PM, all PDT.
Or you can watch the live HD webcast at www.harvest.org.