Know this: it’s not always easy to bring people to Jesus.
Don’t expect a standing ovation in hell when you bring your friends and family to Jesus. Expect and prepare for radical satanic opposition! You must be prepared for the difficulties, and be ready to overcome them. No half-hearted attempts will succeed. No “spiritual wimps” need apply!
There was a man who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus in Mark 9. “When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (verse 20 NKJV). In the same way, the devil will throw a fit when we try to bring our friends to Jesus!
That man got his son to Jesus and Jesus delivered that boy. The takeaway truth for us is we must do all we can to get others to Jesus. The business of bringing others to Jesus is so important, that when it seems you can’t find a way, you can often make one! Seize the moment!
In Luke 5, we read about some friends of a paralyzed man who brought him to Jesus. Now it would have been great if they could just have come through a door. That is the normal way to enter a house, but the entrance was blocked.
There a popular Christian phrase of a “closed door” or an “open door” when it comes to life’s circumstances. We will say, “I tried to do this or that, but the Lord did not open the door!” This is a biblical phrase—Paul spoke of an open door to preach the gospel. Jesus said to the church of Philadelphia, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it” (Revelation 3:8 NKJV).
But sometimes we used the idea of a “closed door” as an excuse. So the door is not open? Did you try getting in through the roof? That’s what these men did! “They went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus” (Luke 5:19 NKJV).
If being conventional doesn’t succeed, try being original!
Scripture teaches that when we are baptized in the Spirit, we receive gifts of the Spirit.
Romans 12:6–8 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (NIV).
Note that it says, “We have different gifts.” Each is important, each worth using.
Who are we to be upset with God if He did not give us the gifts we want? They are not given by merit but “according to the grace given us.” We are to take what He has placed in our life and seek to multiply it.
2 Timothy 1:6, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (NKJV). To “stir up” means to “fan into full flame.” To fail to do this is to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). That speaks of extinguishing something, and it is a specific “sin” against the Holy Spirit.
What right do we have to squander or not use a precious gift God has given to us?
You might say, “But I don’t know what my gifts are!” Sometimes the best way to find out is through the process of elimination. You can learn through failure. But it usually starts with some kind of burden God will give you.
When I was a young Christian, I started sharing the gospel. I went to see Billy Graham preach in San Diego. I thought, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up!” Little did I ever think I would preach in a stadium, much less meet Billy Graham. God may have given you a dream, a vision, an idea in germ form.
So maybe you see lost people and want to reach them. You may have the gift of the evangelist.
Perhaps you see needs everywhere and want to help. You may have the gift of giving!
You are a “detail person,” loving to work behind the scenes. You may have the gift of helps.
You love to see people learn and grow spiritually. You may have the gift of teaching.
You love to encourage people to reach their potential. Perhaps you have the gift of exhortation.
You like to take people into your home, and feed and bless them. You might have the gift of hospitality.
The gifts of the spirit are not toys to play with. They are tools to build with and weapons to fight with.
We all have a vital part to play in the church. Have you discovered your gifts and are you using them?
“I am so over the church,” some will say.
“I am a spiritual person. I’m just not into organized religion,” others will say.
Or how bout this one: “I love God, I just don’t love His people!”
Jesus only started one organization when he walked this earth, and He called her the church.
And He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against her (see Matthew 16:18).
Let’s not find ourselves opposing what God loves.
Here’s what may be a revolutionary thought for some: every Christian should be a part of a congregation of believers.
It’s fine to read Christian blogs like this one, or watch webcasts of pastors preaching.
It’s a good thing to listen to preachers on radio and TV.
But that should be supplemental.
You need a body of believers you meet with on a regular basis.
You need a pastor.
Yes, you need the church.
And you know what else?
The church needs you.
Find out more today in my message “Skin in the Game.”
Remember we have new service times: 8:00, 10:00am, and 12:00pm for Harvest Riverside and Orange County.
For more info, go to www.harvest.org.
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer” (John 16:33 NKJV). Why? Because it is through storms, trials, and hardships that we enter God’s kingdom.
In Acts 14:21–22, we read, “They returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’”(NKJV).
We don’t always like to read a verse like that. It’s probably not a passage we want to write on a plaque and hang by our front door.
We would rather the passage read, “Through many days of perpetual happiness we enter the kingdom of God,” but that isn’t Scripture, and that isn’t life.
If you want to “continue in the faith,” you will do so through trials and tribulations. There is no escaping them. Job said it well: “How frail is man! How few his days, how full of trouble!” (Job 14:1 NLT).
No one is exempt from experiencing storms in life. Good things will happen to us, as well as tragic and inexplicable things. Every life will have its share of pain. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, none of us can take an extended vacation beyond the reach of human suffering and tragedy.
We cannot always see the work that God is doing on the inside, but He can.
We have to go to where people are if we are going to reach them with the gospel message.
So often, it seems we are trying to “get away” from nonbelievers. We want to isolate when we ought to infiltrate. But that is your mission field:
• The grumpy neighbor
• That inquisitive coworker
• Those unreceptive kids, and their mom and dad who don’t yet know Jesus.
It would do us well to remember it wasn’t all that long ago that we too were separated from God. I am just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food—not better than anyone, only better off.
God wants us to take this gospel to all people. He said, “Go into all the world . . .” They may be of a different age or race or economic background, but there is no room for bigotry, no room for prejudice, no room for bias in the life of the child of God. God may lead you to share your faith with someone you are not comfortable with.
Jesus told us the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few.
I went to visit a farm in Central California a few years ago. I learned all about growing fruit, pruning, packing, and of course sampling! Farmer David Jackson told us that his father always told him, “For the fruit to grow, the farmer’s shadow has to fall on the field.” In other words, the farmer needs to be in the field, tending and harvesting crops.
We must do the same. The Bible does not say that the whole world should go to church, but rather the church should go to the whole world.
Some say they are “burned out” in ministry and can’t go on.
In 40 years of service, I have never been tired of service but I have been tired in it. What better thing to be tired from? Time spent serving God is never wasted.
Nowhere in the Bible are we told to “take it easy.” Jesus told the story of the foolish man who said that very thing: “I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’” (Luke 12:19). And that is exactly what people say to us today: “Take it easy, man!”
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”
We are told to “press on” and “not be weary in well-doing” and “run the race.” Our greatest recreation and rest will come later in heaven and on the new earth.Oswald Sanders said, “The world is run by tired men.” We will never do great things for God until we have learned to minister when we are tired. In the sports world, you learn how to press on even when injured. God uses people who are willing to work hard and apply themselves.
The Apostle Paul understood this,and wrote“Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
By the way, you will find whenever God called people, they were busy doing something!
Elisha was ploughing a field when Elijah called him.
Moses and David were tending sheep when they were called, one to save a nation and the other to lead one.
Gideon was threshing wheat when he was called by an angel to lead the armies of Israel.
James and John were fishing for fish when they were called by Jesus to start fishing for men.
There is certainly a time to refresh and rest and recharge, but let’s be busy about the work that God has set before us!
They are everywhere.
Searching, groping, longing for more in life.
The bottom line is they have a spiritual thirst.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ you too once had that thirst, but you have also had it quenched by your relationship with God.
But how can we reach folks with the message that has changed our lives? Is there a right and wrong way to go about sharing our faith with them?
Tomorrow at Harvest Riverside and Orange County I will be giving a message with the title,
“Satisfaction for the Spiritually Thirsty.”
It’s based on the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well.
This is part of our series God Came Near.
This would be a great Sunday to bring someone with you that does not yet know the Lord.
For more info, go to www.harvest.org.
One of the greatest verses in all of the Bible is John 3:16.
It gives us the gospel in a nutshell.
Let’s break it down. . . .
“For God so loved . . .”
Many picture God as some kind of “cosmic killjoy” out to ruin our lives. But the reality is that God loves you! He misses you. He wants a relationship with you. Look at the Lord in the garden after Adam’s fall, calling, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).
“. . . the world . . .”
The world? That includes dictators and criminals. It includes adulterers, cheats, liars, even murderers.
The thief on the cross was probably a murderer or terrorist, but Jesus extended His loving forgiveness to him.
“. . . He gave . . .”
We can talk about love all day long, but God demonstrated His love for us in a tangible way. Romans 5:8 says,“ But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and Romans 6:23 tells us that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus came to this world not to come down on people, but to reach out to people. While religion tells us what we must do to reach up to heaven, God reaches down from heaven in sending Jesus and pulling us out of quicksand.
“. . . His only begotten Son . . .”
This does not mean “one of many,” as in “So-and-so begat So-and-so.” A better translation is “His one and only Son” or “the only Son of His kind or class, unique in kind.”
“. . . that whosoever believes . . .”
To “believe” does not merely mean you intellectually accept something to be true. The Bible says, “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). To believe is to “adhere to, commit to, have faith in, rely upon, trust in.” The choice is ours as to what we will do with this wonderful gift of God. We can gladly accept it, or reject it. If someone offers you a gift, you either take it or you don’t. You can’t say, “I’m neutral on this. I can’t decide.”
“. . . should not perish . . .”
Revelation 20:15 says, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” If you are included in the “whosoever” of John 3:16, you won’t be included in the “whosoever” of Revelation 20:15.
“. . . but have everlasting life.”
Not “hope to have,” but “have.” It becomes the immediate possession of the child of God. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Jesus will receive and reveal Himself to any person who will come to Him honestly, heart to heart. Jesus said, “He that comes to me I will in no way cast out” (see John 6:37).
Today is Valentine’s Day.
This is a day when billions of dollars are spent to show your love. This year, $17 billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day. Studies show that men spend twice as much on women as women spend on men. It’s a big day for chocolates and flowers. It’s also a big day for pets! Americans will spend $367 million on their dogs!
Theoretically, this is all about showing love for “special someone.” Remember in school when you had to give a valentine to everyone? I remember an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa Simpson had to do that. One of her valentine’s cards went to a nerdy little boy named Ralph Wiggum. It said on the cover of the card, “I choo-choo-choose you” (with a picture of a train, of course). Ralph took it literally and pursued Lisa.
Have you ever pursued someone that did not reciprocate? We all have our perception of love—much of it colored by popular culture, which is not a good thing. We envision meeting the love of our life on a beach at dusk as we run in slow motion. We want it to be like it is in those romantic comedies we see in the theaters. And indeed, everyone is looking for love in life.
I read about an extensive survey conducted in the US by a leading polling agency. Questionnaires were distributed to people of various ages and occupations. The key question was, “What are you looking for most in life?”
When the results were compiled, the analysts were surprised. Most of them had expected answers that would suggest materialistic goals, but at the top of the list was love. I know it sounds cliché, but people want to love and be loved.
But how can we know real love when we find it? We watch Hollywood celebrities hook up and break up in a nanosecond. Or sometimes we confuse lust with love. What we need is a real love that will stand the test of time.
Every love will be challenged and tested, for there is a deeper love that one must look for in life—not the fickle love of this culture. Regardless of how you fare today for Valentine’s Day, I want you to know this: God loves you. And as a result we should love Him.
Of course, it is His love that prompted ours. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NKJV).
Yes, it is true: God “choo-choo-chooses you!” Not because He had to, like Lisa, but because He wanted to! “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:4–5 NLT).
Know you are loved today.
With Valentine’s day only a day away, you might be thinking about getting something for the one you love.
Or you are hoping someone who loves you will get you something!
But regardless of how you fare on Valentine’s Day, I have good news for you:
God loves you!
I know that almost sounds cliché, but it is the absolute truth.
However, when life is filled with hardship we may question that.
Have you ever doubted God’s love for you?
That’s what I want to talk about in my message tonight at Harvest Orange County.
We will look together at the story of Mary and Martha and the sickness and death of their beloved brother, Lazarus.
They called out to Jesus for help, and He did answer their prayer, in His way and in His timing.
It’s an action-packed story from our series, The Greatest Stories Ever Told.
The title of the message tonight is,”The Look of Love.”
You can read ahead in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.
You can join us in person, or watch the live HD webcast at www.harvest.org.
Also,if you have a ROKU box, you can download the Harvest channel and watch this live on your TV!
For more info, go to www.harvest.org.