MORE THAN 24,000 TURN OUT FOR GOOD NEWS—BOTH IN-PERSON AND VIA
INTERNET— AT HARVEST GEORGIA OUTREACH WITH GREG LAURIE,
SEPT. 23 – 25
1,052 Change Their “Spiritual Address” During Weekend Harvest Crusade
RIVERSIDE, Calif., Sept. 26, 2016—After a year of planning and prayer, more than 200 churches
throughout Atlanta and North Georgia united in faith this past weekend, Sept. 23 – 25, to host
Harvest Georgia 2016 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth. The Harvest Georgia outreach drew
more than 24,000 people over the course of the weekend—both in-person and via the Internet—
with crowds gathering to hear a nightly message of hope from Southern California pastor and
evangelist Greg Laurie and music from top Christian artists including Lecrae, Chris Tomlin,
THIRD DAY, and Phil Wickham.
Community connections were strong at the Harvest Georgia outreach as a local 500-voice choir
comprised of singers from 15 area churches backed up Atlanta local and Grammy Award winning
worship leader, Chris Tomlin during the Sunday evening program. Lecrae and THIRD DAY also
have ties to Atlanta.
Pastors from the area participated in the three-day Harvest Georgia outreach by leading times of
prayer, including Dr. James Merritt of Cross Pointe Church, Sandy Adams of Calvary Chapel Stone
Mountain, and Dr. Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church of Woodstock. Passion City Church pastor
Louie Giglio also took the stage on Sunday evening to thank Greg Laurie for bringing Harvest
Georgia to the state, commenting, “What Greg and his team are doing here is extraordinary…We are
living in an amazing time in the history of the world. I’m convinced that we are in the middle of revival
and Harvest is at the forefront of that.”
Laurie told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sept. 23, 2016) that the Harvest events are not just for
people who go to church every Sunday. “This event is also for people who may be skeptical or
perhaps never darkened the doorway of a church, yet have questions about life and about God.”
This was indeed the case at Harvest Georgia as many attendees heeded the call to “bring a friend,”
and invited family, neighbors, and co-workers to hear Laurie’s nightly presentation of the Good News
of the Gospel.
Laurie’s messages throughout the weekend addressed the big questions in life that many people
ask: Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? What happens when I die? “The statistics on
death are pretty impressive, one out of one people dies,” Laurie told crowds gathered at Infinite
Energy Arena. “Everyone dies, no matter who you are. But death died when Christ rose.”
Laurie continued, “I’ve been up close and personal with death and if I didn’t have Christ in my life, I
don’t know how I would have gotten through it. But I know I will see my son and others on the other
side of heaven. I hope you have that hope, as well. Heaven is not the default destination of every
person, it is the destination of those who know Christ.”
“Heaven is not for good people, it is for forgiven people,” said Laurie. “The Gospel truth is that God
loves you and will forgive you if you will turn from your sin and believe in Him. You can literally
change your spiritual address tonight.”
Over three nights, 913 literally did change their spiritual address as they walked from the stands onto
the floor of the arena to publicly make commitments of faith. Another 139 made decisions of faith via
live Internet broadcasts.
All nights of the 2016 SoCal Harvest were broadcast on the Internet, and 11,966 people watched live
from 138 countries and across the U.S. In addition, 51,305 viewers participated through Facebook
Live. The 2016 SoCal Harvest is archived and available for viewing at www.harvest.org. Each night
of Harvest Georgia 2016 was broadcast live on God TV (god.tv/tunein/us), and JUCE-TV
With a trademark ability to present a clear gospel message in a culturally relevant format, drawing on
the latest in current events, contemporary Christian music, and technology, Greg Laurie’s Harvest
events have drawn more than 5.7 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world
since 1990, with another 1.8 million people attending virtually via the Internet.
In addition to founding the Harvest Crusades—the longest-running annual evangelistic outreach in U.S.
history—Laurie also serves as senior pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Harvest
Christian Fellowship, which has campuses in Riverside and Irvine, Calif., and Maui, Hawaii. He
serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie will hold its next outreach, Harvest America 2017, at the
University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. on June 10, 2017.
Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is angry at death.
In an interview last year he said, “Your whole life you work, you try to improve yourself, save money, invest wisely, and then all of a sudden – poof. It’s over.”
I have some news for Arnold Schwarzenegger: Death makes God angry, too.
Someone might be thinking, Why didn’t God do something about it? He did. He sent his son to die on the cross. And when Christ died on the cross and rose again, he defeated death.
I know that people still die, of course. My mother is in heaven. My father who adopted me is in heaven. My son is in heaven. I have had to face death head-on, so I’m not approaching this subject from an ivory tower of theory. Rather, I’m giving a dispatch from the valley of the shadow of death.
I know what it is like to feel that pain. I also know what it is like to know the hope that Christ can bring, because I know death is not the end. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25 NKJV).
Life goes by so fast. I remember when I was a kid, I would look at older people and think, “Where do these people come from?” Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized that I was one of those older people.
My generation, the generation that launched the youth culture, has turned from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to nip, tuck and Botox. We have gone from acid rock to acid reflux. The reality is that life will come to an end. We can’t live forever in these bodies of ours.
The good news is the soul lives on. There is an afterlife. We make such a big deal about this life, but we don’t talk enough about the afterlife. This life on earth, the Bible says, “is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14 NLT). But the afterlife goes on and on.
We need to think very seriously about this, because once we die and enter the afterlife, we can’t change our destination. You can decide right now where you will spend eternity. But once you die, there are no more chances.
The Bible says, “Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT). We want to be thinking now about where we will spend eternity. We have only two options: heaven or hell – paradise or outer darkness … bliss or misery. Each of us has a choice.
The last thing God wants is to send any person uniquely created in his image to the place called hell. Jesus died on the cross for us so we could be forgiven and not end up there. Hell wasn’t made for people. According to Jesus, hell was created for the devil and his angels.
But if someone is bound and determined to reject the offer of forgiveness from Jesus Christ and ends up in hell one day, it really will be his or her own fault. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”
We can have the hope of going to heaven one day. That is where the death and resurrection of Christ comes in.
John’s gospel gives us an inviting scene of a breakfast cooked by Jesus, the risen, living Savior. His hands had been pierced for the disciples, yet he took the time to make them a delicious meal. He had risen again in a physical body. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t a phantom. He wasn’t a spirit. He was standing before them alive again.
Just for a moment, go back in your imagination to the first century. Here was Jesus with his great ministry, the people were singing his praises, and things were building to a crescendo. Jesus was headed to the cross. He talked about it all the time. He told his disciples that he would be betrayed, whipped and crucified, that he would rise from the dead three days later. But somehow they missed the memo on that. They were expecting him to establish his kingdom on earth right then and there.
But according to God’s plan, Jesus was betrayed. He was beaten. He was crucified. He was laid in a tomb. And just as he predicted, he rose again from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, one day we will receive new bodies. And those bodies will no longer age or get sick or break down. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we will have resurrected relationships. One day we will be reunited with our loved ones who have died in faith. We will be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before us.
By the way, these are promises for Christians only. If you are not a Christian, then the only promise you have is that of a certain judgment. The Bible says, “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31 NKJV). Because Jesus died and rose again, there will be a final judgment.
Good works don’t get you to heaven, however. Even if they did, there is no way, even on your best day, that you would have enough good works to earn the approval of God. The good news is there is nothing we can to do that is bad enough to keep us out of heaven. But the bad news is there nothing we can do that is good enough to get us into heaven.
This is where Jesus comes in. This is why we need Jesus – because we are not good enough. We need help. Jesus, who was God in human form, satisfied the righteous demands of the heavenly Father, whom we have all offended through our sin.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took hold of a holy God with one hand, and with the other hand, he took hold of sinful humanity. He died there in our place. That is why Jesus Christ – and Jesus Christ alone – is our only way to heaven. God has dropped one lifeline from heaven, and it is Christ himself.
God doesn’t grade on the curve; he grades on the cross. Heaven isn’t for good people; heaven is for forgiven people.
History, as we know it today, will end where it basically began – not on the battlefields of the United States or Asia or Europe, but in Israel. The final battle that will be fought between the nations of the world will take place in Israel. This battle will rage around one city, where more wars have been fought than any other on earth: Jerusalem. Its very name, ironically, means “city of peace.”
Known as the Battle of Armageddon, it will bring to a conclusion the horrible time known as the Great Tribulation period. And it’s all going to come down in the Middle East. During the Gulf War, I happened to be teaching through the book of Revelation at the church where I pastor. This fascinated a few members of the media, who came to the church to do stories about it. The question I was asked repeatedly was, “Is this Armageddon?”
I told them, “No, but it could be a dress rehearsal.” Watching how quickly the events unfolded in the Middle East shows us how quickly the last days events God describes actually will begin to happen.
In my understanding of Bible prophecy, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church, that time when the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and Christians will be caught up to be with him in the air.
Then the Antichrist will come onto the scene.
Initially, the Antichrist will be a great man of peace. Not only will he bring a peaceful solution to the constantly troubled Middle East, but he also will bring global peace. And what is the cry we hear from the nations of the world today? It is a cry for peace. We want wars to stop.
The Antichrist will do what no one else has ever been able to do: he will endear himself to do the Jewish people by helping them rebuild their long-awaited temple. He will be so popular that some even will hail him as the very messiah.
He also will introduce a system of buying and selling, no doubt through digital technology. Revelation 13, speaking of this cashless society the Antichrist will inaugurate, says, “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (verses 16–17 NKJV).
People once mocked the Bible because of that statement, downplaying it as futuristic nonsense. They would say, “How could anyone possibly function in a cashless society? How could anyone keep track of everyone else?” Well, they aren’t mocking anymore.
The Antichrist will utilize this technology for his own gain. No one will be able to buy or sell without his mark. But the problem is he will be more than a bad man; he will be Satan’s man. If the devil ever had a son, this will be him.
The Bible also tells us that in the last days “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4 NKJV). People are constantly busy and moving around so quickly today. You can cross the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of hours. You can solve complex mathematical equations in milliseconds. You can send messages around the world at the speed of light.
Imagine just 100 years ago how far-fetched it would have seemed if you had said, “Within 60 years, man will walk on the moon.” But in 1969, that’s what Neil Armstrong did. Now it’s old news. Knowledge has increased, we are running “to and fro” like never before, and we continue making leaps in this technology.
But in case you have been hoping for a wonderful utopia that mankind will build, I have some bad news for you. The Bible also says, “Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand” (Daniel 12:10 NKJV). It seems as though we go from bad to worse. It was always the hope that we would do away with wars and have global peace, but we haven’t come any closer to world peace. In fact, we’re farther from it.
In a 1948 Armistice Day address, Gen. Omar Bradley said, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. … Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”
If that was true in 1948, then how much truer is it today? With all of our sophistication, with all of our knowledge, we have only become more base, more perverse and more wicked.
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day” (Luke 17:26 NLT). One of the prominent sins of Noah’s time, according to Genesis 6:11, was that the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence.
That is a description of our times. We are a violent culture, and it just gets worse. But the good news is that God will still be at work, and “many shall be purified” (Daniel 12:10 NKJV). The same passage in Daniel also says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (verse 2).
There is a final judgment that is coming to every person. Yet it breaks the heart of God to have to say to someone, “Depart from me, I never knew you. …” The Bible says that God has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV).
This is why he took such radical measures in sending his own Son to come to this earth, be nailed to a Roman cross, and have all of my sins and your sins placed upon him. He bore that horrible agony for us so we wouldn’t have to face this punishment. That is what God did for us.
Everyone will face death sooner or later. The statistics on death are really quite impressive: one out every one person dies. We will all face it, no matter who we are.
It doesn’t matter how famous you are or how wealthy you are. You leave it all behind. And then you stand before God.
It seems we are living in the day of the tabloid mentality.
I have never seen a culture and a society so obsessed with gossip, innuendo and rumor. People are looking for the next juicy piece of gossip.
This thinking has even slipped into the news media. The tragic thing today is that if someone is charged with a crime, he or she is tried and convicted in the media before even having had the opportunity to go into a court of law, have evidence presented and face the people doing the accusing.
The Bible tells us that love believes the best of every person; it doesn’t say that love believes the worst of everyone. As the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “If there were no gratified hearers of ill reports, there would be an end of the trade of spreading them.”
Many times we believe as gospel what we hear about someone else. To make matters worse, we begin to spread an unsubstantiated rumor without checking the facts. Then we find ourselves causing divisions.
God doesn’t take kindly to people who do that. In fact, the Bible identifies it as one of the very things God hates: “a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:19). This is a person who spreads rumors, who spreads innuendo, who slanders others. God hates that.
And it also brings grief to him when we’re bitter, when we rage and when we’re angry for no just cause.
We’re told in the book of Ephesians, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (4:30–31 NIV). Interestingly, these are specifically identified as things that grieve the Holy Spirit.
So much damage can be caused by our words. If only we would think first and speak later. If only we would contemplate how our words will affect someone else.
The Bible says that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV).
Statistics show that the average person spends at least one-fifth of his or her life talking. That is the average person, by the way. I’m sure some people far exceed that. In a year’s time, the average person speaks enough words to fill 132 books, each containing 400 pages. What if all of your words were written down for a year? What would we find in that content?
The mnemonic THINK is good rule to apply when we hear something we may tempted to pass along to someone else: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
I heard the story of an elderly grandfather who happened to be very wealthy. He was losing his hearing, so he reluctantly went and bought himself hearing aids. Someone remarked, “Well, your relatives must be happy to know that you can hear so much better.”
The old man chuckled and said, “Well, actually I haven’t told them yet. I’ve just been sitting around, listening. And you know what? I’ve changed my will twice.”
If you’ve ever had someone spread rumors about you or slander you, then you know how painful it can be. Which brings us to something else we need to learn: how to forgive.
Matthew’s gospel tells of a time when Peter came to Jesus with a question:
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (18:21–22 NKJV).
I know that is not an easy thing to do when you’ve been wronged. But when you forgive someone, you release a prisoner: yourself.
Talk about a person who had been wronged. Look at Joseph and all the horrible things his brothers had done to him, selling him into slavery and betraying him – their own flesh and blood. Yet through an amazing course of events that were directed by the hand of God, Joseph was made the second-most powerful man in the world at that time. And one day as he was in charge of the food supply, his brothers were brought before him – the very ones who had betrayed him.
With one word they could have been headless brothers, and that would have been the ultimate story of vengeance and payback. But I love the text in Genesis 50 where Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (verses 19–20 NIV).
Joseph forgave them. Did they deserve it? No. But if we’re going to get around to that kind of thinking, do you deserve to be forgiven by God? No. Nor do I. So forgive as God has forgiven you.
There is no point in burying a hatchet if you’re going to put a marker on the site. Let it go. Forgive. Put it behind you, because the problem with bitterness is that it spreads. You can’t keep it to yourself. Bitter people want to pull more people into their web of misery. That is why the Bible warns about a root of bitterness that can spring up and defile many (see Hebrews 12:14–15).
Let’s not be people who hold grudges. Let’s not be people who spread rumors. Let’s not be people who gossip. It’s wrong, and it’s displeasing to God.
May God help us to follow His guidelines.
105,000 Gather at Angel Stadium Over Weekend for 27th Annual Southern California Harvest Crusade Harvest Crusade Outreach
11,994 Declare, “But Now I’m Found,” by Making Decisions of Faith
RIVERSIDE, Calif., August 29, 2016—It was a weekend of spiritual transformation for thousands in attendance at the 27th annual Southern California Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie, held at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, August 26 – 28. Some 105,000 packed into the stadium over the course of the three-night “2016 SoCal Harvest” outreach to hear a message of hope from Southern California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, and by the end of the weekend, 11,994 people—more than 10% of those in attendance in-person or via the live Internet broadcast–registered commitments of faith.
The 2016 SoCal Harvest featured a nightly talk from Laurie and music from top Christian musical artists including Chris Tomlin, tobyMac featuring Hollyn, Skillet, for King & Country, Phil Wickham and KB. Actor and director Mel Gibson joined Greg Laurie for an interview on Sunday to discuss the role that faith has played in the films he has produced in recent years. Discussing his plans for a new film based on the resurrection of Christ, Gibson said, “I made the ultimate super hero film in The Passion of the Christ. Real super heroes don’t wear spandex or have special 3-D effects, they do something super human.”
People from all walks of life shared their personal stories of faith from the stage during the Sunday evening program, writing descriptions of who they used to be on one side of a cardboard sign—”I was sentenced to life in prison.” “I was in a cult.” “I was addicted to cocaine.”—and then flipping the signs over to reveal the message, “But Now I’m Found” as the Harvest Crusade Band performed “Amazing Grace.” At the same time, thousands of people throughout Angel Stadium held up their own cards until white signs blanketed the stands.
Greg Laurie spoke with a sense of urgency to the crowd gathered each night, addressing questions that many people ask: Why am I so empty inside? What happened after I die? Why am I so lonely? “Everyone needs Jesus—from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, every man, woman, boy and girl,” said Laurie. “You can come to Him and be forgiven of your sin. You’re either going to say yes or no, but are you willing to bet all of eternity on it?”
“I’m just the delivery boy, I’m just here to get the Good News out. But it’s up to you to decide what to do with it,” Laurie continued. “Jesus loves you and he said follow me–that’s the choice. You can walk out of Angel Stadium with all of your sin in the rearview mirror.”
At Laurie’s invitation, 11,082 people streamed onto the outfield of Angel Stadium through the course of the weekend to make commitments of faith—over 10% of those in attendance. Another 912 made decisions of faith via live Internet broadcasts.
Live Event Webcasts/Broadcasts/Social Media
All nights of the 2016 SoCal Harvest were broadcast on the Internet, and 51,014 people watched live from 149 countries and all 50 states. In addition, 103,198 viewers participated through Facebook Live. The 2016 SoCal Harvest is archived and available for viewing at harvest.org.
The 2016 SoCal Harvest was broadcast locally on KKLA-FM and KFSH-FM and via satellite across the country on CSN Radio and Radio Nueva Vida. In addition, each night of the Harvest Crusade aired live on TCT TV Network, God TV (god.tv/tunein/us), and JUCE-TV (jucetv.com).
With a trademark ability to present a clear gospel message in a culturally relevant format, drawing on the latest in current events, contemporary Christian music, and technology, Greg Laurie’s Harvest events have drawn more than 5.7 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world since 1990, with another 1.8 million people attending virtually via the Internet. In addition to founding the Harvest Crusades—the longest-running annual evangelistic outreach in U.S. history—Laurie also serves as senior pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Harvest Christian Fellowship, which has campuses in Riverside and Irvine, Calif., and Maui, Hawaii. He serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie will hold its next outreach, Harvest Georgia 2016, at Atlanta’s Infinite Energy Arena, Sept. 23 – 25.
With the 27th SoCal Harvest starting tonight, I thought I would share some thoughts with you about the importance of sharing the gospel with others.
Let’s imagine you are out for a walk one night around your neighborhood when you suddenly hear people screaming. Startled, you look over your shoulder and see a house with flames leaping from the windows and roof. Someone out front of the house cries out, “There’s someone in there!” Let me ask you, if you were to just keep on walking without giving a passing thought to those in such terrible danger, would that be wrong? At the very least, wouldn’t you pull out your phone and dial 9-1-1? Even more, wouldn’t you try to find a way into that burning house to rescue that person inside? To do nothing would be outright criminal.
In the same way, however, we walk by people – men and women we know or total strangers – who are without Christ and don’t do a thing to help them. We don’t even try to initiate a conversation about our faith. We just keep walking. And to be blunt, a fate even worse than a house fire awaits those who reject the offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It is eternal fire. Eternal separation from God.
The last thing God wants is to send any man or woman – deeply loved by Him and made in His very image – to this place called Hell. That’s why He sent Jesus to live a perfect life, to die a perfect death on the cross for our sins, and then to rise from the dead.
You might protest, “God could never use someone like me!” Actually, He can and He will if you will let Him. It could even happen today – before this day is over. He won’t force you to share your faith, but He may very well prompt you. And when you take that step of faith, He will empower and use you. Yes, you.
I want you to discover the adventure of being used by God, especially in this area of telling others about Jesus. God says that He is looking for people He can “show Himself strong on behalf of” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NKJV). He is searching for someone who will simply say, “Use me, Lord!” Would you be that person? If so, a wonderful adventure awaits you.
I want to let you in on a little surprise: Sharing your faith can be both exciting and – believe it or not – fun! As Psalm 126:6 reminds us, “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (NIV). Jesus told us there is joy in Heaven over every sinner who comes to repentance (see Luke 15:7). So if there is joy in Heaven upon hearing the news of a conversion, there certainly should be joy in having a role in it.
Next to personally knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, the greatest joy I know of is leading others to Christ and watching them grow spiritually. And you can do that, too. It should be a joyful, happy thing to tell others about your relationship with God and explain how they can have one, too. I have found that the happiest Christians are the evangelistic ones.
Yes, there is a happiness we are missing out on if we are not sharing our faith. The apostle John wrote that his personal joy was made complete by sharing the message of Christ (see 1 John 1:4). The believers I know who make a habit of sharing the Gospel are truly happy people.
So here’s the bottom line: What’s your excuse for not sharing? Clearly, God could reach people without us. He could send angels down every street in the world with megaphones, declaring the Gospel. Instead, however, He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He almost seems to go out of His way to find the most unlikely candidates to accomplish His divine purposes.
You might say, “I’m not qualified. I’m not gifted or talented.” Do you want to know a little secret? You are just the person God is looking for. He delights to use people who aren’t necessarily self-confident. Why? Because when God does something amazing through them, He is the one who gets the glory, as He should. No, you may not feel qualified or “ready.” But God isn’t looking for ability as much as He is availability. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
There have been so many times when I have felt drained and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I have even felt like my spiritual gas tank was close to empty. But then, when I started to share the Gospel with someone, or stopped thinking about myself and focused on another’s needs and shared some truth from God’s Word, I was replenished in every way. I started on empty and ended on full. Proverbs 11:25 tells us that “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (NLT).
You may be asking, “But where do I start?” As a matter of fact, there is an excellent opportunity coming up just a few days from right now. Harvest America is an annual live nationwide event, streamed to thousands of host locations including churches, theaters and living rooms. This is more than just a webcast. It is the body of Christ banding together to proclaim the Gospel live across the nation. The next Harvest America will be held on March 6, 2016, at 5:30 p.m. Central time, streamed live from AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
The event will feature top Christian artists including Chris Tomlin, Lecrae, Switchfoot and MercyMe, and I will be on hand to offer a clear Gospel message. To find a location near you, simply go to our website, harvestamerica.com.
This may be the opportunity – the open door – you’ve been waiting for to introduce your loved one, friend, or neighbor to the Lord Jesus. And all you have to do is invite them to come along with you for the event. Yes, they might say, “No.” But who knows? They might also say yes – and walk right into the biggest decision of their lives.
Alfred Nobel had the unique opportunity of reading his own obituary. One day he opened the newspaper and saw his name in the obituary column. It had been printed by mistake, of course, but Nobel was distressed that he was remembered as the man who created dynamite, something used for mass destruction. Nobel decided to make some dramatic changes in his life. Wanting to change what people would remember him for, he went on to create the Nobel Peace Prize.
If you weren’t aware that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, then apparently his plan worked. Instead he left the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
We all will leave a legacy. What will people remember about us? What will our family members say? What will we be known for? If we don’t like what we come up with as we think about this, it isn’t too late to change.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul stated and left his legacy. His turbulent life was coming to an end, yet he had truly made a difference. His final words were not a message of defeat but one of victory.
He was not like Solomon, who looked at his life in retrospect and said, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV).
Nor did Paul look back on his life and say, like his namesake, Saul, the king of Israel, “Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21 NKJV).
The apostle Paul was able to say what he said because he lived a life that was right before God. Because of that, he had no regrets.
At the time, Paul was sitting in a dungeon in Rome. An amazing series of events had led to his imprisonment. It started with Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem and preach there. A prophet named Agabus had taken the belt Paul had been wearing, wrapped up his own arms and legs in it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11 NIV).
When Paul’s friends heard that, they began to weep. They asked him not to go to Jerusalem. But Paul would not be deterred. I guess he really meant it on the day of his conversion when he said to Jesus, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6 NKJV). Paul did not fear imprisonment. He did not fear what people could do to him. He gave his life completely to God.
It reminds me of the words of Jim Eliot, a 20th-century martyr who was killed in his endeavor to take the gospel to a tribe in Ecuador known at that time as the Aucas. In his journal he had written,
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Paul went to Jerusalem and preached, and sure enough, people were angry with him and wanted to kill him. He was arrested and whipped, and then he was transferred to Felix, the Roman governor.
Now if Paul had played his cards right, he could have talked his way out of that mess. Instead, Paul spoke to Felix about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. Paul challenged Felix to come to Christ. Felix procrastinated, and after a period of time, Paul exercised his rights and privileges as a citizen of Rome and appealed to Caesar. So Paul was put on a ship and sent to Rome.
He was taken to a place known as the Mamertine Prison, which was nothing more than a cold, dark cave cell with no window. There was only a hole through which food could be lowered. Needless to say, Paul was in a pit. And it was from this pit that Paul wrote these words: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6–7 NKJV).
Notice that Paul didn’t say he ran the race; he said he finished the race. That’s the key. It is not enough to start well; we need to finish well. It is not enough to run fast; we need to run fast and long.
This is a long-distance run. The goal is to make it across the finish line.
The Bible is filled with the stories of so many people who had tremendous potential but crashed and burned in the spiritual race. Samson had the incredible ability to vanquish his enemies. He would kill them left and right on the battlefield. On one occasion, he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Yet he went down in flames because he played around with sin – and sin ultimately played around with him, culminating in his own death.
Then there was Gideon, who had such humble beginnings and was mightily used by God. But as his life came to an end, he lowered his standards and fell into immorality and pride.
Both Samson and Gideon started well, but they didn’t finish well. They ran fast in the beginning, but they didn’t get across the finish line like they should have.
Paul wanted to be of the company of those who finished the race, joining the ranks of those who did so in God’s winners’ circle—men and women who finished well.
Paul truly had made a difference with his life. And if we are on the right course, our lives can make a difference as well. We all will leave a legacy. What kind will you leave?
What is a conscience?
One person has described it as “the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking.” Another person said a “conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.” Someone else has pointed out that a “conscience doesn’t always keep you from doing wrong, but it does keep you from enjoying it.”
A conscience is something that God has placed in every person. We all are born with a conscience, with a sense of what right and wrong are. It is like a fire alarm or a smoke alarm that goes off when there is trouble.
The Bible speaks of dulling one’s conscience and of those who have had their consciences seared as with a hot iron (see 1 Timothy 4:2), which effectively means having a hardened and unresponsive conscience.
The Bible tells the story of a man whose conscience died. He was known as King Herod, and he had as his personal counselor the greatest prophet in all the Bible, John the Baptist. But King Herod’s life began to unravel.
There are a number of Herods mentioned in the New Testament, but they are not all the same person. The first was Herod the Great, the Herod who was in charge when the wise men came from the East, looking for the one who was born the King of the Jews. He wasn’t called Herod the Great because of his acts of benevolence or because he was a wonderful ruler. Rather, he was known for the amazing edifices he built, including the great fortress Masada. He also rebuilt the Jewish temple, which was many years in the making. He also was known for his paranoia, his wickedness, and having members of his own family executed because he thought they would be a threat to his throne. Herod the Great was a wicked man.
Then we come to his son, known as Herod Antipas. Clearly the apple did not fall far from the tree, because Herod Antipas also was wicked. Historians tell us that he was cruel, scheming, indecisive and utterly immoral. And he had a conscience that was in the process of dying.
Meanwhile, John the Baptist was everything that Herod Antipas was not. While Herod was unsure, torn, proud and worried about the opinions of others, John was sure, humble and concerned only with the opinion of God. John was a man of immense moral courage while Herod was a man of spineless weakness.
When John the Baptist emerged on the scene, Israel had not heard from God for 400 years. That is a long time. There hadn’t been a single miracle, not a single angelic appearance, not one prophet speaking for God – just an icy silence from heaven. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, John the Baptist appeared. He was powerful. Wherever he went, crowds would gather. He was almost like a rock star in his day. John was fearless. He called out the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. People would swarm to wherever John was.
John was the greatest prophet who ever lived, the last in a long line of spokesmen for God. Jesus said of John, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV). John was greater because he, and he alone, was the direct forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah. John had an amazing place in history.
We also read that Herod respected John. In the Gospel of Mark we read that “Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him” (6:20 NIV).
Although Herod liked John, his wife, Herodias, hated him. Herod and Herodias had a bizarre relationship. While Herodias was still married to Philip, Herod’s brother, Herod had seduced her and took her as his own wife. But it gets worse. Herodias also was the daughter of Herod’s half-brother, making her his niece.
So John confronted Herod on this, effectively saying, “This is crazy. This is really messed up. You need to repent.” Herod respected the fact that John would speak up to him. If John would have had public relations consultants, they would have told him to relax a little bit, to be more diplomatic. But John didn’t care. He simply told the truth.
When you get down to it, John the Baptist was Herod’s truest friend because he told him the truth. If you have a friend who tells you the truth, don’t lose that friend. You want someone in your life who will say, “That is a bad idea and here’s why …” I have friends like that, people whom I trust.
If someone always compliments you and never has anything remotely critical to say, is that person really a true friend? A true friend will wound occasionally, not to hurt but to help, much like a surgeon who would take a scalpel to remove something that is harmful to your body. It has been said that a true friend stabs you in the front, not in the back.
We need more people like John today, more men and more women who simply tell the truth. We need them everywhere. We need them in culture. We need them in pulpits. We need them in politics. We need people who will tell the truth.
John told Herod the truth, and this ultimately cost John his head. Why did Herod do such a horrible thing? Why would he murder his only real friend in the world, John the Baptist? I think two things prompted him: sexual lust and a desire to impress and please others.
People make irrational decisions when they are driven by lust. A husband will walk away from his faithful wife and his loving children because he says he is having a midlife crisis. Or wives walking out on their husbands and abandon their children because they are under the control of lust. Lust is powerful. That is why you don’t feed lust; you starve it.
Herod also was concerned about impressing others. We read that “[Herod] was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that [Salome’s] request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison” (Matthew 14:9-10 NIV). He should have retracted his offer. But he was so worried about the opinions of other people.
John was a man who kept his conscience and lost his head, while Herod was the man who took John’s head but lost his own conscience.
How does a conscience die? It starts with small things that invariably become larger things. We must be very careful to give attention to our conscience, to be attuned to it, to take care of it. If we neglect it, if we allow it to get weak, it ultimately will mean the death of a conscience.
When you are a child, life seems to go so slowly.
When I was in the third grade, it felt as though it lasted 20 years. Now decades go by. Today there are satellite radio channels for ’50s music, ’60s music, ’70s music and so on. It occurred to me the other day as I was looking for a good song to listen to on the radio that I have lived through all those decades. It is a sad day when the ’90s are considered oldies. It doesn’t seem that long ago to me.
The older we get, the reality of the afterlife gets stronger.
It is something we think about quite often. We know it is coming. We start losing friends and maybe even some family members. We know our day will come.
Some people claim to have died and gone into the afterlife and, specifically, to heaven. I find it interesting that all these people who have had these so-called near-death experiences never went to hell. Have you noticed that? Instead, they say they experienced a beautiful bright light, and they felt great peace. Those who aren’t Christians may find a certain measure of comfort from descriptions like these because they’re hopeful it will be OK for them on the other side. But my question is, Are you willing to bet all eternity on that?
I read an article recently about a new study, which revealed that “fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before.” However, the article went on to say, “Americans have become slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife, even as they are abandoning prayer, belief in God and rituals.”
People aren’t sure whether they believe in God or the Bible, but they believe in heaven. Yet we wouldn’t even have the word heaven without the Bible. We wouldn’t have the concept of heaven without the Bible. I believe in heaven because God said there is a heaven. The only reliable source on the afterlife is the Bible, which tells us a lot about what is coming on the other side.
Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and it will be home for Christians one day as well. Sometimes we ask what heaven is like. I think a better question to ask is what earth is like at its best. Think of the most amazing sunset or the most incredible waterfall you have ever seen. Think about the most amazing architecture you have ever laid your eyes on or the greatest city you have ever visited. Or, go back in your life for a moment and remember some of the greatest moments you’ve had with family and friends. Those are glimpses of heaven. Heaven is not an imitation of earth; earth is an imitation of heaven. The best that you have ever experienced on this earth will be far better in heaven.
When I want to know about a place, I try to talk to someone who has been there. I will ask about a good place to stay, what the weather is like and, most importantly, what are the best places to eat. I want to talk to a person who actually has been there.
The only one who is a reliable source on the afterlife, one who has been there and returned, is Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 NIV).
Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. And because of the resurrection of Jesus, if you are a Christian you will have life after death in heaven. Heaven is not the default destination of every person; it is only the destination of the person who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ.
That brings us to the question of what happens when we die. That all depends. If you are a Christian, you will go straight to heaven. The apostle Paul wrote that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus overcame death at the cross. So when a Christian dies, his or her body goes into the ground, but his or her spirit goes right into the presence of God.
Here is one way to think about it. A Christian does not have to fear death any more than he or she should fear taking nap. The Bible often describes death for a Christian as falling asleep. After Lazarus died, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11 NIV). When Stephen was dying a violent death at the hands of wicked men, we read that “he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60 NIV). That is how the Bible often describes death for a Christian.
But the Bible also teaches there is a generation (and we could be that generation) that will not see death. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Christians call it the Rapture. By the way, I’ve put in for that. I want to be in that. But it isn’t up to me. Whether I get to heaven by the Rapture or by death, I don’t really care. I know that I’m getting there, and that is all that matters. All Christians have this hope as followers of Jesus.
The Bible promises that one day, heaven will come to earth. God will make all things new. The Bible, speaking of this, says that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4 NIV).
This passage goes on to say that God will make “all things new” (verse 5). In the new world that is coming, it will be out with the old and in with the new. No more terminal diseases. No more hospitals. No more wheelchairs or funerals. No more suffering, separations, or accidents. No more courts. No more prisons. No more divorces. No more breakups or breakdowns. No more suicide. No more rape. No more missing children. No more drug problems. No more heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer. No more famines. No more disasters.
God will make all things new. And it is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I once met an Olympic athlete who let me hold her gold medal.
I told her, “If I had won this medal, I would wear it everywhere.”
The Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”
I think that could be a Christian’s motto, too.
When I am running this race of life as a Christian, I don’t want to settle for mediocrity. I don’t want to settle for second best.
I want to make my life count, up to the very end of the race, because when this life ends (and it will end for all of us), we will face the judgment.
For the Christian, however, it will be more like an Olympic ceremony or even an awards ceremony. The judgment that Christians will face is not about whether they will get into heaven, because this judgment takes place in heaven. One day, Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).
In the Olympics, athletes might receive a bronze, silver or gold medal. God will be giving out awards one day, too. Every sacrifice you have made, everything you have done for the glory of God, even if you did not receive recognition for it, is duly noted and recorded in heaven. God will reward you one day. In fact, Jesus said, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4 NIV).
There are many times when you may do things but won’t get the credit you deserve. No one pats you on the back. No one says, “Atta boy!” Worse yet, someone else might get the credit. When you did that for God, when you made that sacrifice for him, when you honored him in that way, even when you resisted that temptation, when you took that step of faith and let God use you, it is noted in heaven. One day, you will be rewarded for it.
I don’t know about you, but when I get on a scale, I never like what I see. The number is always going the wrong direction. But on God’s scales, we don’t want to be lightweights. We want to be heavyweights. And by weight, I mean depth of character and commitment to Christ.
This is not about getting to heaven; this is about getting to heaven with something to show for the brief time we were on earth. If you don’t do much with what God has given you, by his grace, you still will get to heaven if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ. Getting to heaven is not based on what we have done for God; it is based on what God has done for us.
This is the hope of the Christian. But if you are not a Christian, you don’t have this hope. If you are not a Christian, you cannot assure yourself that you will get to heaven, because there is no such promise. In fact, to be quite honest, the default destination of any person who rejects Jesus Christ is a place called hell. That is the last place God wants anyone to go. Do you think if God didn’t care, he would have sent his own son to suffer and die in our place on the cross and bear the sins of the world? God loved us so much that he poured his judgment and wrath upon his own son so we don’t have to face hell. Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again, stands at the door of our lives and knocks. He says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20 NIV).
Our presence in God’s kingdom is guaranteed by his promises. But our position in his kingdom will be earned or lost by the quality of service we render here and now. Salvation is a gift. But these rewards come as a result of faithfulness.
It is not about having more rewards than someone else. Just focus on being faithful in what God has called you to do. Don’t try to do what God has called someone else to do; do what God has called you to do. You have your place where you live and where you work, your family and your friends, and your sphere of influence. Go into your world and do all you can for his glory, and the Lord will reward you openly.
The Bible reminds us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).
One day, life will come to an end. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven. If you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ, you won’t. You determine where you are going to spend eternity. You decide whether you will go to heaven or hell. By accepting Christ, you know you will go to heaven. Heaven is not for good people; it is for forgiven people.
You may be a pretty good person. You may be relatively good. But you are just not good enough. You still fall short. All of us do. We all sin. But God has taken care of that by sending his son, Jesus, to die for our sins. You can ask God to forgive you so you can know you are right with him.
Are you running in the race of life right now? Maybe you have been running in it, but you’ve been slowing down a little. Maybe you’ve thought, “I’m a little winded. I’m getting on in years. I think that I’ve run so well for so long that I’m going to slow down. I’m going to sit down for a couple of years.”
But if you run in first place for nine-tenths of the race and bail out at the end, it doesn’t count. You have to cross the finish line.
It is not enough to start this race. You have to finish it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will give you new energy, excitement and power to run for him. Faster, higher, stronger.
Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.