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.
God’s spiritual prescription for the healing of a nation is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (NKJV).
God did not say, “If the government will humble itself . . . ” or “If Hollywood would humble itself . . . ”
He says, “If my people will humble themselves…”
We need to pray and cry out to God.
This is what we did when our country was forming. During the Revolutionary War, a flag was commissioned by George Washington. On it were the words “Appeal to Heaven.” It was the banner Washington used on his navy ships to signal that their only hope against British rule and persecution was an “appeal to heaven.”
Ironically, a group of pastors recently were kicked out of the US Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) over a prayer meeting with an “appeal to heaven” theme. The pastors were granted the use of the CVC for an event dedicated to racial reconciliation, but five days before the meeting they were told to remove the “appeal to heaven” theme. They were told to change the title to “an appeal for legislation.”
But the only hope for racial reconciliation is an appeal to heaven. The only hope for the violence in our streets is an appeal to heaven. The only hope for protection against those that wish us harm is an appeal to heaven.
Let’s appeal to heaven today for the healing of our nation.
Today, on Pastor’s Perspective, Don Stewart and I welcome our very special guest, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, David Siegal. David serves as the senior representative of the State of Israel to the Southwestern United States.
Previously, Mr. Siegel served two terms at the Embassy of Israel in Washington D.C., in successive roles as Chief of Staff to three of Israel’s Ambassadors to the United States, Counselor for Congressional Affairs, and Spokesperson.
It appears that Benjamin Netanyahu has been reelected as Prime Minister in Israel, and with all that is going on in the world, from the rapid spread of Islamic terrorism to Iran developing nuclear weapons, this is a very important time to speak with someone who is “in the know.” David Siegal is clearly that man.
This is sure to be a very informative and fascinating discussion in light of the critical role the nation Israel plays in the prophetic events of the end times. You will not want to miss it.
It starts at 3:00 PM Pacific.
You can listen in Southern California to it on KWVE 107.9.
Or you can watch or listen online anywhere in the world at www.kwve.com
500 North Texas Pastors Meet at AT&T Stadium to Launch Harvest America for November
Evangelist Greg Laurie to bring Gospel message to Metroplex and beyond in first-ever Christian event to be held at the home of ‘America’s Team’
DALLAS, March 11, 2015 – Nearly 500 pastors and ministry leaders from throughout North Texas attended yesterday’s launch event for Harvest America, an evangelistic outreach to be held at AT&T Stadium in November, as well as broadcast live and streamed to other venues across the country.
Jack Graham, Senior Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church and a member of the Harvest America advisory team, spoke to the timing and location of the crusade as he introduced Greg Laurie to the crowd.
“This is the right time, the right moment for something like this in America, to take the message of Jesus to the world,” he said. “Who knows but that this could be the catalyst we’ve all been waiting for, that God would move mightily across our nation and change the future for our children and grandchildren?
“There’s no question, the urgency of these times requires that we do things differently,” Graham continued. “We get to do something innovative and inspiring, to come to the biggest and best sports venue on planet Earth – and that’s no Texas brag, that’s a fact. We get to come to this stadium, the home of America’s team, with a star in the floor, to preach the King of Kings and the Morning Star, Jesus Christ, and to lift Him up in this place!”
Laurie encouraged unity among the hundreds of local churches that will be involved in the event as a necessity for its success.
“We’re asking you to stand with us in this outreach, not only for your community and your state, but for the entire country because this event will go out to thousands of venues across the U.S., a live video feed into sanctuaries, movie theaters, homes and other locations around the country,” he said. “Our prayer is that God will fill this place, and that’s a step of faith. We’re taking a big risk, and we’re asking you to join with us. I feel we’ve got to go big, and there’s no better place to go big than Texas.”
“Let’s join forces and we can get a lot accomplished; we’re not competing with each other; our competition is with the world and the flesh and the devil,” Laurie continued. “Let’s stop fighting with each other and realize who the real enemy is. Let’s stop arguing with each other over theological minutia and get the big picture. This world is in need, it needs to hear the Gospel. This is a great place for us to do that.”
Harvest America 2014 was based out of American Airlines Center in Dallas, which drew overflow crowds of 20,000, with thousands more watching live via simulcast around the country. This encouraged the Harvest team to dream even bigger for 2015, not just for north Texas, but for the entire nation.
Laurie urged those in attendance to “consider the importance of the cause before us and the urgency of the hour, the need in people’s lives,” he said. “I believe America is facing a great storm right now. We’re facing a terrorist army that goes by many names: Isis, Al Quaida, Boko Haram, Hezbollah. Young kids are being drawn to this as Isis has somehow made jihad ‘cool’ using social media, using sophisticated videos, and they’re pulling young people in.
“This is the problem: a whole generation of young people with no belief system, no ideology, is being sucked into this,” Laurie continued. “We have the greatest belief system, the greatest ideology in the world – the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – and we’ve got to proclaim it. I believe there’s a military solution here in the fight against terrorism, but ultimately, the answer is not with AR-15s, it’s with John 3:16.”
Individuals and churches can find more information and sign up to participate at https://texas.harvestamerica.com. An exact date for Harvest America will be announced once the NFL schedule is released in April.
Laurie serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, based in Riverside, Calif., which oversees the Harvest Crusades. The ministry exists for the sole purpose of presenting the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and to help believers mature in their faith. More information is available at www.harvest.org.
I am so happy to be with you today in Texas!
I heard about woman who went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m so scared. My husband says he will kill me if I keep coming to your church!” The pastor replied, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you.” She came back many times telling the pastor about this threat and he reassured her, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you!”
Then one day she returned and told the pastor, “Now my husband says that if I keep coming here he will kill you!” The pastor responded, “This might be a good time to start attending that little church across town!”
Faith—it’s easy to tell others to have it but sometimes it can be hard when it comes to our own circumstances.
What is real faith? “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Faith is “belief plus action!” Faith is a living, restless thing; it cannot be inoperative. Faith sees the invisible. It is like a muscle: if you use it, it gets stronger. If you don’t, it can atrophy.
We are getting ready to take a bold step of faith this November: one of the largest evangelistic events in American history, to be held at AT&T Stadium. It’s an event we are calling Harvest America. But why do this?
Because America needs God, and we have all been commanded to go into the world and preach the gospel. When it’s all said and done, God saves people primarily through preaching. As 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (NIV). And what is the message we preach? The gospel!
But there is no way we can do this without the help of many leaders. We all know it is not an easy thing to be called to leadership. As leaders, we have great responsibility. Being a leader is a great privilege and a great joy, but it can be quite hard at times too. A leader is second-guessed, gossiped about, and sometimes slandered. We have our lives threatened and we face challenges each and every day.
We all know it is an honor and a privilege to lead. But it is a privilege that comes with a price. You need the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhino. It’s not easy, but if you are called you must do it. A leader is also barraged with things people want you to support, and here I am, ‘cowboy hat in hand’.asking for your help.
Harvest is not a parachurch organization. We are from the church, for the church, to build up the church—because the church is the only organization Jesus started when He walked this earth.
Events come and go, but the local church carries on the work. I believe God wants your churches to grow, both spiritually and numerically. Not just “transfer growth,” but the best kind of growth: new converts! Our prayer and hope is to have 100,000 people fill AT&T Stadium. Then, when the gospel is proclaimed, we trust that thousands will believe. We want to send them to your churches. Your church will grow in direct proportion to your involvement. Most new converts end up in the church of the person who brought them. And we all know, new converts are the lifeblood of the church. You show me a church that does not have new believers and I will show you a church that is dying. We have a choice: evangelize or fossilize!
Yes, this is a huge undertaking. You might ask, “What if you fail?” Then it will be a spectacular failure! But what if we succeed together?
Let’s look at a very familiar Bible story about “failure.” This failure started as a success. And it was a spectacular failure. If you are going to “fail,” this is the way to do it. And by the way, I would rather try and fail than never try at all. I want to talk about Jesus and Peter walking on the water.
You remember that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat and a great storm came. He was on the mountain praying, undoubtedly for them. At the fourth watch, He came to them walking on the water. At first, they thought He was a ghost. But Jesus reassured them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 NIV). Simon Peter got very excited and said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come!” So he said, “Come!” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
What do we learn from this story? For one thing, we learn that storms come in life, even to leaders. Maybe you are facing a storm right now. Troubles in your church. Trouble with your family.
We faced the worst storm of our life seven years ago. Our oldest son, Christopher, died in an automobile accident. When I heard the news, I wondered if I could even survive such a thing. As a pastor, I have counseled many families who have lost children, but when it happens to you it is a different thing altogether. If God had not come through for me, I would have given up preaching. But He did come through. Now I have a ministry to families who have lost loved ones. It was not a ministry I necessarily wanted, but one I accept, because I do not want to waste my pain.
Friends,I believe a great storm is coming to America right now. It has already spread rapidly to other parts of our globe, including the Middle East and Europe. We make a huge mistake if we ignore it. I am speaking of Islamic terrorism.
We have never seen anything quite like this in recent history—a terrorist army with many names: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah. Some will tell us it’s not true Islam; all I know is they do what they do in the name of Allah. Of course there is a place for a military solution to these threats, and I support that. But have you noticed how these groups are capturing the imaginations of young people? Kids who have no moral center, no worldview to speak of—they are being reached with a radical ideology.
We have the greatest ideology, the most important message, and it’s the gospel!
Yes,there is a military solution,but ultimately this war of beliefs will not be won with AR-15’s but with John 3:16!
So, here are the disciples in the storm and Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. He reassures them: “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid!” As Jesus reassures them, Peter suddenly has a great burst of faith in his heart. Peter is filled with love and devotion to the Lord and just wanted to be near Him. He had gone from terror to fear. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come you right now!”
This is very impressive. Peter is willing to put it all on the line. These are rough seas and he is ready to step into them. Why? Because he was looking at Jesus! Looking at Jesus gave him supreme confidence and courage. But he will not act presumptuously; he waits for the command from Christ. Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come!” Jesus said, “Come!”
Did this turn out to ultimately be a failure? Yes. But it was a spectacular one! If you are going to fail, this is the way to do it! Again, I would rather try and fail than never try at all.
There is a risk of failure in going to this large venue—AT&T Stadium. But there is also potential for great success.
Why did Peter sink? He took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things. “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid.”
We as leaders can sometimes take our eyes off Jesus too. We look at another start-up church that is exploding while our numbers our down. We begin competing, and even taking shots at the other preacher.
But we are not competing with each other; we are not in a race to beat each other. Our “competition” is the world, the flesh, and the devil. Friends, we need to keep our eyes on the Lord.
Jesus lifted Peter up, and he walked on water again, and they went back to the boat. At AT&T Stadium, we are going to go “walking on the water.” We are going to, without shame, proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I ask you to join us.
As a group, there are theological distinctives among us. But can we lay those aside and pull together for the gospel today? As Augustine said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” If we join forces and focus on this gospel Jesus has called us to proclaim, great things can happen. We can accomplish more together than apart.
We have our marching orders from Christ: Go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples. Vance Havner said, “If we are too busy using our sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest.”
Let’s not miss the harvest!
There are so many people today that are looking for the meaning of life.
They are on a quest for personal happiness.
Many feel it will happen through self-fulfillment.
It can be summed up in one word: “Selfie”
That’s when you take a photo of yourself and post it.
But according to Jesus, life’s purpose is not found by seeking to fulfill yourself.
It is found by losing yourself.
What does that mean?
That is what I spoke about this past Sunday at Harvest Riverside and Orange County in my message, “Lost in Translation.”
You can watch the archive right here.
I heard about woman who went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m so scared. My husband says he will kill me if I keep coming to your church!”
The pastor replied, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you.”
She came back many times telling the pastor about this threat and he reassured her, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you!”
Then one day she returned and told the pastor, “Now my husband says that if I keep coming here he will kill you!”
The pastor responded, “This might be a good time to start attending that little church across town!”
Faith—it’s easy to tell others to have it but sometimes it can be hard when it comes to our own circumstances. Have you ever had a time in your life when your faith was tested?
It really comes down to what you have your faith in. If your faith is in a person, or your career, or even in the church, you will be disappointed. Jesus says, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22).
Sometimes we make it way too mystical when in reality we use faith every day.
• When we go to a restaurant and order, we expect the food to be fresh and properly prepared.
• When we board a 747 with very little understanding of aerodynamics, we trust that, despite the take-off weight of 900,000 pounds, that baby will fly.
• We also apply faith in the pilot and copilot of that plane.
• We apply faith in the pharmacist and the dentist and the surgeon.
We apply faith in so many circumstances in life, but then someone says, “Have faith in God,” and some of us think that may be a bit risky! But there is no safer place to put your faith than in God.
What is faith?
The Bible defines it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). The New Living Translation says: “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”
The very existence of faith, despite our circumstances, is a proof of God.
Kenneth Wuest calls faith “the title deed of things hoped for.” It is God who gives us as believers this title deed, this proof, this “confident assurance.” This faith of ours mystifies the nonbeliever.
A lot of people treat faith in a fragile way, like it’s an egg or a museum piece. But the fact is, faith is like a muscle. It gets stronger through use, not neglect; otherwise it will atrophy.
Jude 1:20–21 tells us, “Dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master” (MSG, emphasis added).
Praying. Staying. Keeping.
Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative.
Faith is “belief plus action”!
Well worth listening to.
I love it that he cited the story of Esther and closed with the words of Moses.
I was happy to see members of Congress give multiple standing ovations for him.
America needs to stand by Israel.
America needs Israel more than Israel needs America!
God said to Abraham, “I will bless them that bless you, and curse those that curse you.” (Genesis 12:3)
America has stood by the Jewish people and the nation Israel since their declaration of Statehood in 1948.
We must continue to do so.
“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).
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.