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What’s the Big Deal About Israel?

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

“I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves”
— Zechariah 12:2-3
Why is Jerusalem such a big deal in world news? Why aren’t we talking about Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, or some other major capital in another part of the world? Why this little city?

I will tell you why. Because God said that in the last days, Jerusalem would play a key role: “I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves” (Zechariah 12:2–3 NLT).

Scripture also foretold in Ezekiel 37 that the Jews would be regathered in their land, and this prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. After Ezekiel 37 comes Ezekiel 38, which speaks of an attack against Israel by a large nation to the north of the Jewish homeland, accompanied by a number of allies invading Israel from every direction. Scripture emphasizes multiple times that this will happen in the last days. This is still in the future.

In speaking of Israel’s enemies, Ezekiel 38:8–11 offers an interesting detail:

“A long time from now you will be called into action. In the distant future you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be enjoying peace after recovering from war and after its people have returned from many lands to the mountains of Israel.

“You and all your allies—a vast and awesome army—will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘At that time evil thoughts will come to your mind, and you will devise a wicked scheme. You will say, “Israel is an unprotected land filled with unwalled villages! I will march against her and destroy these people who live in such confidence!”‘” (NLT).

These people who live in such confidence? Can you imagine that statement being made right after the Holocaust? Hardly. Can you imagine that statement being made after Israel was established as a nation, or even after the 1967 war? Not really. But today Israel has one of the most powerful and effective military forces on the face of the earth. They are not the largest, but they are known for their military prowess and for their military intelligence. And for quite a long time now, they have had nuclear weaponry. That is why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stood before the United Nations and made it very clear that, if necessary, Israel will exercise a military option to protect herself. So I think Israel does live within a certain degree of confidence today that they have never known historically.

In an address to the United Nations, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That’s not just what they believe. That’s what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.”

And that is true. Because in his address to the United Nations, Iran’s former leader Ahmadinejad stated, “God Almighty has promised us a man of kindness, a man who loves people and loves absolute justice, a man who is a perfect human being and is named Imam A1-Mahdi, a man who will come in the company of Jesus Christ. Peace be upon him and the righteous.”

This Islamic messiah, this 12th Imam, according to their beliefs, will bring about an Islamic kingdom. But also according to their beliefs, the Judeo-Christian civilization must be destroyed first. For this 12th Imam to come, they believe, there must first be chaos.

Could this be what brings about the scenario predicted in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel (see chapters 38 and 39)? No one can say with certainty. But this much we must acknowledge: It certainly could be. We see how things are lining up.

Up to this point, the United States has been a staunch ally of Israel’s. And I believe that one of the reasons God has blessed our nation is because of our continued support for Israel. But it would appear these days that we are backing away from her. And according to Bible prophecy, one day, there will be no great ally behind Israel. She will stand alone when she is attacked by an enemy from the north and its allies.

The Bible also predicts that a national revival will come to Israel, when God will once again pour out his Spirit upon the nation. But this will happen after the rapture of the church. Romans 11:25 predicts, “Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.”

I have met people who can quote chapter and verse and give a good overview of the proper chronology of events of the end times, yet they are not living godly lives. And they are missing the point. If knowing what the Bible predicts about the last days doesn’t impact us in the way that we live, then we have missed what God is trying to say. Jesus didn’t say, “When these things begin to happen, argue about it.” Rather, he said, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28 NKJV).

Thoughts on Leadership, Planting Churches, Lessons from Life and Failures

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

This is an interview I did awhile back. I touch on a lot of topics here from leadership, teaching and starting churches, to my failures and pain.
I hope it will bring some encouragement to you, especially if you feel called to be a leader.

What was your childhood like? How did God use it to prepare you for the work He called you to do?

Short answer: My childhood was turbulent.

My mom was married and divorced seven times and was a raging alcoholic. She often would not come home at night, and when she did, she would usually pass out. In many ways, I had to grow up fast and take on the parental role in our relationship. I learned how to take care of myself and be resourceful.

These early childhood experiences also sent me on a search early in life for some kind of meaning, which I certainly did not see in the adult world I was exposed to, or in the counter-culture that was beginning to explode in my teen years. Going through that process of elimination—knowing what the answer was not—resulted in my conversion. I found out what the answer was (and is!) when I heard the gospel and made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ in 1970.

Tell me about when God first called you to ministry. How old were you and what was going on at the time?

My background was in graphic design. My sole ambition was to be a professional cartoonist. I had some of my cartoons published in Surfer magazine at age 16, and I corresponded with Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts.

After I became a Christian, I wanted to use my artistic abilities to glorify God. So after hearing a message at church about the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well in John chapter 4, I created a little cartoon booklet, or “tract” as we called them, and I gave it the title “Living Water.” Well over a million of them were printed and distributed around the world.

Though I freelanced and supported myself with graphic design, I felt a pull toward speaking more and more about my faith. This was never something I had any interest in before, but that’s probably because I had nothing to say! But seeing how Jesus Christ had changed (and was continuing to change) my life, I wanted to get that message out to others, and I found that only doing it through graphic design was too limiting.

I was 17 when I came to faith, 18 when I started preaching, and 20 when I began pastoring a church.

What was that young Greg Laurie like?

I was full of zeal, but very limited in my knowledge of Scripture. I was traveling with some Christian bands and giving gospel messages. Since I was in a new town every night, I could give the same message over and over. But when our church began to take off, I preached through my repertoire of messages quickly and realized I needed to dig deeper—much deeper.

It was then that I started teaching through books of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. I believe the first book I preached through was Ephesians. I was working things out in my study and preaching them that night. Talk about “on the job” training! If you are going to teach on something, you will study it like there is no tomorrow.

In my early years, I felt that I needed to win every debate and help everyone to see things my way! As I have matured,(and I still have a long ways to go) I have found that there can be flexibility and that there are both major and minor issues. I like Augustine’s saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Did you ever want to quit? If so, how did God lead you through that?

I have never ever wanted to quit ministry. But I, like everyone else, have faced deep discouragement—sometimes because of fellow Christians.

There were times when I felt strongly directed by the Lord to do something, and there were those who would tell me, “It will never work.” But in my case, to tell me something would never work is like putting a red cape in front of a bull. It just makes me more determined to do it.

As leaders, we must do all that we do for Christ. We must not do it for the applause or approval of men. Scripture reminds us that the “fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). When we stand before God one day, we will be judged for how faithful we were to what the Lord called each of us to do.

It’s easy for young leaders to look at Greg Laurie and see only success. What has God taught you through failure over the years? Can you share a specific example?

I have had my share of failures, like everyone else. In the immortal words of that great theologian Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I have always sought to surround myself with people who were gifted, especially in the areas I am not particularly skilled in.

Failure can be a great teacher. The doorway to success is often entered through the hallway of failure. So, if at first you don’t succeed . . . relax! You’re just like the rest of us.

Ultimately, we will hopefully hear Jesus will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Notice He does not say, “Well done, good and successful servant!” That’s not to say we should not want to be successful. I certainly favor that over failure. But I believe if we are faithful to the task God has set before us, that is the ultimate success.

We must avoid the trap of thinking “bigger is better.” I have never sought to have a large church, per se, but a strong one. I have always felt we ought to leave the numerical growth up to God. If we take care of our depth, God will take care of our breadth.

Are there any particular verses or passages in Scripture that have proven to be especially meaningful to you over the years?

Certain stories from Scripture have always resonated with me, along with oft-quoted passages. I remember as a pastor just starting out, I related very closely with the life of young David. Now, after 40 years of ministry, I relate more to an older David with the unique challenges he faced as a leader. I find myself thinking more about finishing this race well and avoiding the pitfalls that have caught a number of other leaders. The story of Joseph has always been a very meaningful one to me as well.

As far as passages of Scripture, I would have to say Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, and John 14:6 have been significant to me. I have always loved teaching the Gospel of John and the Epistle to the Romans. When I finish those books, I want to start them over again!

As you look back on your life, what moments stand out as especially pivotal: a risk you took, a decision you made, or a lesson you learned?

Starting our church in 1974 was a huge risk. The odds were stacked against us in every way. You have to understand, what we would take for granted today was unheard of then, like contemporary Christian music (i.e., electric guitars, drums, etc.) as well as contemporary Christian worship. The dress style in most churches was still very conservative too.

We were one of the first churches I know of to use a more current style of worship in our Sunday morning services as opposed to so-called “youth services” on special evenings. By God’s grace, we succeeded.

Fast-forward to the beginning of our evangelistic crusade ministry in the early ‘90s. That too was a big risk. That too had “failure written all over it” in the minds of some.

They told me that “Billy Graham crusade style” ministry was dying out. But I did not agree with them then, nor do I agree with them now. This style of communication, which I call “proclamation evangelism,” goes back to the day of Pentecost with the apostle Peter. George Whitfield, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and others have all followed in Peter’s footsteps, and I follow in theirs.

As you get older, you find yourself less inclined to take risks. You become more conservative and set in your ways. So when we felt directed by the Lord to start Harvest Orange County, that too was risky. There was a concern that our congregation in Riverside would resent this newer congregation in Orange County. But instead they embraced and supported it, and now we have expanded our borders and it has resulted in both churches being blessed.

Starting another church later in life is a bit like having children. When you are a newly married couple and you first have kids, you just do the best you can. But when you are older, you have a lot more experience and also perhaps a bit more caution. But I think you can enjoy the whole process more, not worrying so much about the growth process. You realize one of the greatest joys of ministry is not the destination (i.e., large successful church, etc.), but it’s the journey there—the lives that your life intertwines with, the early experiences of trusting the Lord and watching God provide and guide and lead and bless.

I would say, don’t be in too much of a rush, and appreciate the moment. It is indeed a great privilege to be called to serve the Lord. We must never take it for granted. I love preparing and teaching and preaching messages more than I ever have.

I cannot imagine the anguish of losing a child. How did that experience change your relationship with Jesus? How did it change your approach to ministry?

No, you cannot imagine it. Nor could I ever have.As a pastor who has served for over 40 years, I have walked with many families who have lost children. In a couple of instances, I was personal friends with the family and I knew the child very well. I remember many times, after walking away from a funeral service for a little one and seeing the deep sorrow and pain of the parents, I would pray, “I hope this never happens to me, because I don’t think I could handle it.” Well, it did happen to me.

And though I thought I knew what it was like to some degree, I realize I was completely clueless. It is the deepest, hardest prolonged pain I have ever had to deal with. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my son Christopher, who would now be 38 years old.

But having said that, God has given me and my wife the strength to get through it. His promises are true and they have been proven true in our lives. There are many things that have come from this that I would describe as “good.” Going back to one of my favorite passages, Romans 8:28, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

That verse does not say that God makes bad things good. Losing our son was a very bad thing—the worst thing imaginable, really. But despite this bad thing, good things have come. One of them is a greater determination to pursue those things God has called me to do. I have found a greater boldness to take leaps of faith in my later years in life. Realizing the fragility and shortness of human life, I have wanted to make every day count.

I have also been given a new ministry I never really wanted: ministering to others who have lost loved ones, especially children.

Shortly after Christopher went to heaven, at the urging of others who had lost loved ones, I was encouraged to keep a diary. I wrote what I was feeling and learning for about the first month, when I decided I would put it into a book. I wanted to write about it in real time, while the pain was still raw, so when someone else who had just lost a loved one read it, they would know that I too was in that same valley. That book, Hope for Hurting Hearts, has been used of God to bring comfort to many.

It’s funny how people perceive you differently when you have suffered catastrophic loss. They hear you differently, because in their mind, you are more on their level, so to speak. It’s been said, “Success builds walls while failure builds bridges.” In other words, you can speak from your difficulties to others and they are reminded that you live in the same world that they do.

It’s also been said, “If you preach to hurting people, you will never lack an audience.” There are a lot of people in pain listening to us speak, and we have the comfort of Scripture and the hope of the resurrection to speak to them about. As Paul reminds us, we can comfort with the comfort we have been comforted with (see 2 Corinthians 1:4).

You don’t want to waste your pain, but use it as a tool to reach others who are in pain.

Having seen the Calvary Chapel Movement begin and grow to maturity, what advice, guidance, and perspective can you share with future movement leaders?

The Calvary Movement came into being during the much larger Jesus Movement that swept across the church internationally. Many of the largest churches in the United States are Calvary Chapels. We are thankful for all God has done.

One of the great stabilizing forces in this movement has been a dependence on the Holy Spirit and an adherence to biblical exposition. Our danger is in living in our past and resting on our laurels. This is true of any aging movement.

We must not forget our roots and heritage, but at the same time, we need to remain current in our communication. Often in the church, we are answering questions no one is asking instead of answering the questions that are being asked. My prayer for our movement is that it remains just that—a movement—and does not become a machine, or worse, a monument.

Closing the Deal

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

I find that the biggest problem in telling others about Jesus is that we are often afraid of failure.

The believer wonders, “What if I ask this person if they would like to believe in Jesus and they say no?”

Sometimes this even happens with invitations for people to come to Christ in church services. The pastor wonders, “What if I invite people to come Christ and no one responds?”

Someone saying no to our invitation is always a distinct possibility, and it probably will happen more often than not.

But what if we are actually afraid of success? As in “What if I ask this person if they want to accept Christ and they say yes?” The concern is “Now what?”

Well, now you have the privilege of fulfilling all of the Great Commission, which is not only to “preach the gospel,” but to “make disciples.” (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19)

New believers are the lifeblood of the church.
New believers revive older believers as they are taken under their wing.
New believers need older believers to stabilize and help them.
Older believers need new believers to revive and remind them of what really matters.

There is a time to sow, and a time to reap!

Jesus said, “You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”(John 4:37-38)

Don’t be afraid to “throw the net” or, as they say in the business world, “close the deal.”

You may be surprised by the results.

He “Choo- Choo- Chooses” You!

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 4 Comments »

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).

Wonder Bread and Spam

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus fed the 5,000 people.

As you recall, a little boy offered his lunch to the Lord, and Jesus multiplied what the boy offered. In John 6:9, the apostle Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

What do we know about this little guy?

First of all, he was poor. His lunch was largely composed of barley bread, which was the cheapest of all bread and held in contempt. It was thought of as food for animals, not people. And the boy had two small fish. It was like having a lunch of sardines and crackers (and stale crackers at that), or Wonder bread and Spam.

Yet this boy did something that set him apart from all the other boys who may have been in the crowd that day. That boy gave his lunch, as poor as it was, to Jesus.

The lunch was as insufficient as it could be.
The boy was as insignificant as he could be.

But that which was insufficient from the hands of the insignificant became sufficient and significant when placed in the hand of Jesus. That’s the point of the story.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that what you have is insignificant and therefore useless. You may compare your gift with all the great talents of this world (at least those you think are great) and imagine your gift is worthless. But if you see it that way, you are missing something.

What is it that makes a gift great in God’s service? It is not the magnitude of the gift. It is into whose hands it is given.

I could pick up a guitar and play it and you would think it worthless. You might think, “That guitar is a piece of junk!” No, the one who is playing is lacking in skill. But if a talented guitarist picked it up, you would think it wonderful.

So bring your fish and loaves—your Wonder bread and Spam—and present them to Jesus. Bring your life—both strengths and weaknesses—and see what God can bring about.

A little can become a lot when it is placed in the hands of God.

How to Know the Will of God

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

I have been a Christian since 1970. I wish I could say that after all these years of walking with God, I have discovered the foolproof, one-two-three plan for knowing the will of God in every situation. Unfortunately, I don’t have this plan. Such a plan does not exist. Like any other believer, I often have found myself stumbling into the will of God.
There have been times when I’ve felt that God had spoken to my heart, I made a move, and it was what he wanted me to do. There have been other times when I have been simply wandering through life, doing whatever I do, and I ended up right in the middle of God’s perfect plan. I don’t know that we can always have a foolproof method of knowing God’s plan in every situation. But I do think there are steps we can take to prepare our hearts to more effectively know his will.

Understand this: God does not play hide-and-seek. He wants to reveal himself to you. It might come as a surprise to you that God wants to lead you even more than you want to be led. God is concerned about revealing his will to us today. So we need to learn how to discern the will of God. As God said of his servant Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Genesis 18:17 NKJV). When you have a relationship with God, he will reveal his plan for your life. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Friends reveal secrets to friends. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are a friend of God. And because you are a friend of God, he wants to reveal his secrets to you. The Bible says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him” (Psalm 25:14). God does want to reveal his purpose and plan for your life. But it is not enough just to hear the voice of God; we need to do what He tells us to do. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
Sometimes we want to make this process too mystical. I will see some preachers on television who will talk about their dialogues with God, and I have to admit that

I am very suspicious. I think a lot of them are making this stuff up because some pretty wacky things come out.
What I think is that God speaks to us many times in simple patterns that we don’t necessarily understand. For example, imagine if I bought some new electronic device and wanted to figure out how it works. So I decide to sit down and pray that the chairman of the board of the corporation that made it will somehow transmit a message to me, personally explaining how to use it. That would be ridiculous. What I need to do is break out the user’s manual and read it.

There are people who say, “I need to know the will of God. I’m just asking him to reveal it in a supernatural way.”
What they need to do is get out the user’s manual and read it. God has revealed his will to us in the pages of the Scriptures.
When someone asks, “Can you do me a favor?” what do you usually say?
If the person is a good friend, you will say yes. But if you don’t know what he or she is up to, you probably will say, “What kind of favor?”
In the same way, when it comes to doing God’s will, we will say, in effect, “What is your will? Tell me what your will is, and then I will tell you whether I’m willing to do it.”

But that is not the way it works. The Bible says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1–2 NIV). If you want to know what the will of God is, you must first be willing to surrender your life to him. The condition of an enlightened mind is a surrendered heart.

First, present your life to God. Say, “Lord, here I am. Here are my strengths and my weaknesses, my assets and my liabilities. Everything is dedicated to you.” Notice that Romans 12:1 uses the term living sacrifice. A sacrifice is generally dead. If you are a living sacrifice, that means there is the potential for squirming off the altar. We will take our lives back and do what we want to do. So we should present ourselves to God on a daily basis.

Second, don’t conform to this world. The culture we live in today is spiritually bankrupt and hostile toward God. We are living in a world today that is hostile toward our faith and our values as followers of Jesus Christ. The word conformed used in Romans 12:2 refers to the act of assuming an outward appearance that does not accurately reflect what is within. The idea is not to squeeze into the mold of this world. Instead we are to fill our minds with the things of God and fill our lives with the things that will build us up spiritually. If we do this, God says that He will reveal His will.

However, this is a conditional promise. If you are not willing to present yourself to God, if you are not willing to refuse to be conformed to this world and instead be transformed by the renewing your mind, then don’t expect to know God’s will for your life. But if you are willing to take these steps and make this commitment to Christ, he promises that he will reveal to you the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
I want you to remember something: God’s will for you is always good. Psalm 34:8 tells us, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that trusts in Him.” Remember that God is good.

Taken from my Weekly Column at Worldnetdaily.

The Divine Paradox

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

If we have learned nothing else from our culture telling us what we should do to be happy, we have learned this: It is just not true. We have realized where happiness isn’t.

Prior to becoming a Christian, I already knew the answer was not in the world. I knew it wasn’t in my mother’s world of hedonism and drinking and partying. I knew it wasn’t in my world, limited as it was at seventeen years old. So I was wondering where it was. And then I became a Christian.

We have a different paradigm to follow, given to us by God in His Word. We could call it the divine paradox, because in God’s economy, if we want to be great, we must learn to be humble. If we want self-fulfillment, we should seek the fulfillment of others.

Regarding this divine paradox, Malcolm Muggeridge pointed out, “Where, then, does happiness lie? In forgetfulness, not indulgence, of self. In escape from sensual appetites, not in their satisfaction.”

The way to happiness is sadness. By that I mean we are sad over our sinful state, so we turn to God, ask for His forgiveness, and enter into a relationship with Him. Jesus gave us the beautiful beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Another way to translate this would be, “Oh how happy are the unhappy.” There is no greater example of this upside down life than Jesus Christ Himself.

We want to find our happiness and our joy in the right place, or more specifically, in the right person, which is God. As we come to know and walk with Him, we will find something better than happiness, and that is joy. We will find joy in our circumstances, regardless of what they are.

Jesus said,”For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
— Luke 14:11

Today Is Our 41st Wedding Anniversary!

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 Posted in sermons | 11 Comments »

It’s been said, “Love at first sight is nothing special. It’s when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes something special.”
I’ve been looking at Cathe Laurie for 41 years, and she looks better all the time!
I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed these 41 years of marriage.
We built our marriage on Him and it has only gotten stronger with the passing of time.
I love Cathe more today than the day I married her, and I loved her with all of my heart on that day. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”
(Song of Solomon 8:7)

Happy 41st Anniversary, Cathe!

Interview with Joel Rosenberg

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

Last Sunday Joel Rosenberg, author and prophecy expert, spoke at Harvest Orange County and Riverside. Here is a brief interview that we did. You can also watch his message here.

The Third TargetJoel just released a new book called
The Third Target. You can get a copy here.

Why God Chose You

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 7 Comments »

Did God chose us, or did we chose God?

This topic has been hotly debated in the church for hundreds of years, so I thought I would clear it up in this short blog.

Obviously I am kidding, but I did want to give my thoughts on this subject.
I’m talking about predestination or divine election.

Here are some of the words of the apostle Paul on predestination.

“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…” (Ephesians 1:4-5 NKJV).

Know this: Before the world was made, before sin came in, God chose you in Christ to be with Him though all eternity. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16 NKJV).

The first question that comes to mind upon hearing a statement like that is, “Why? Why would God choose me? What goodness or merit did God see in me that He would choose me as His child?”

I hope you’re not too disappointed in my answer: There was absolutely no merit or goodness that caused God to choose you. You and I are sinners. We have both crossed God’s line and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). It is clear that in spite of our best intentions and the high opinion we may hold of ourselves, God’s choosing had nothing to do with our merit.

Imagine what you would do if you knew what would happen ahead of time.
You would make very different decisions. Some would go to the race track and bet on horses and make a boatload of money. Question: Would they pick losers or winners? Winners, of course. Yet God chose us! This is a mind-boggling thought.

Why did He choose us?’

I suppose for the same reason He chose Israel.To them He said, “The LORD did not set His heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 NLT).

“The Lord loves you.”
Let that sink in for a moment.

You might say, “But I don’t understand that!”
Join the club. But why do we have to understand it? Just rejoice in it!

It’s been said, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!”

The next question that comes to mind for many is, “How?

How did God choose us? What was the basis for His choice?” I don’t have an answer to that. Some believe it was an “irresistible grace” that you had no power to rebel from. It was a done deal with or without your consent.

Some would even believe in double-predestination. They assert, “Some are chosen for heaven. Some are chosen for hell!” They also would teach something called “limited atonement.” In other words, Jesus died for the elect or “chosen ones” only and you have absolutely nothing to say about your eternal destination. I have a problem with both of those views. For Scripture is clear in pointing out that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

Romans 5:6–8 tells us, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NKJV).

No, whether we like it or not, the Bible teaches both predestination and free will.
When C.H. Spurgeon was asked to reconcile these truths—God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility— he said, “I never try to reconcile friends—they are both in the Bible.”

Think of it like this:

You were rushing down that freeway of life, just “going with the flow,” yet empty, unsatisfied, frustrated, and alone, when you noticed an off-ramp up ahead leading to a building with a large door. On the outside of that door were the words “Whosoever will, let him come” (Revelation 22:17). You had met people who had taken this off-ramp and raved about the difference it had made in their lives. You thought about how much you would like to take it and find this peace they spoke of. But you were afraid. After all, the “flow of traffic” was still on that big freeway you were on.

But then again, you were getting awfully tired of the grind and the crowds. So you took that off-ramp and went up to that door and were ready to open it when you thought, “What if I’m not one of the elect? This would be a waste of time.” So you turn away. But you keep seeing that sign, day in and day out: “Whosoever will, let him come and drink the water of life freely.”

Finally, one day you reason, “What do I have to lose? I’m going for it.” So you pull off and get out of your car and walk over to that door and open it and walk in. And to your total surprise, on the other side of the door are the words, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.”*

You may ask, “You mean to say that God chose me before I was even born?” Yes, He did.
Again, to quote Spurgeon who humorously wrote, “It’s a good thing God chose before I was born. If He had waited until after, He would have changed His mind!”

The great evangelist D.L. Moody said, “The ‘whosoever wills’ are the elect. The ‘whosoever won’t’ are the non-elect.” I do not believe that God predestines certain people to be saved, and others to be dammed. Scripture teaches, “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It’s been said, “God wants every man to be saved. The devil wants every man to be damned. Man has the casting vote.”

You want to find out if you are one of the “chosen ones,” one of the elect? Walk through that doorway of God’s forgiveness and you will prove you are.

Some would say, “We can’t preach the gospel to people and offer them forgiveness. Nor can we really say ‘God loves you,’ because we might give false assurance to the non-elect.”

Again, to quote D.L. Moody, “Lord, save the elect, and then elect some more!”
It is clear in Scripture we are commanded to preach the gospel. I am the first to acknowledge that salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44 NKJV). We have nothing whatsoever to do with that.

But as in most things, there is God’s part and there is our part. Our part is to appeal to people. Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Christ, warning everyone we meet and teaching everyone we can, all that we know about him. . .”

It’s our responsibility to reach as many as we can. 1 Corinthians 3:7–9, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (NIV).

Paul was preaching to some Gentiles and a number of them believed: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48 NKJV).

The Bible is filled with the call of God to man to respond to the Good News!

• John 11:26 – “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
• Romans 10:13.”Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
• Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

So, instead of trying to figure out how God chose us, let’s rejoice that He did.
And let’s let other people know, without hesitation, that God Loves them!

*This illustration is an adaptation of one that the great Bible expositor H.A.Ironside used in his commentary on the book of Ephesians.