I read about a dating service called Just Coffee. You can have a cup of coffee with someone without being stuck in an entire dinner escapade. If you take one look at the person and don’t like him or her, then you can order a really small espresso.
But instead of Just Coffee, how about Just Church? Instead of meeting for coffee, why not suggest that you meet at church? You can have coffee afterward. That will narrow down the field a bit.
Here’s what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to get involved with a nonbeliever, because you will end up married to a nonbeliever. This happens far too often. I have met people who tell me, “I’m not happy in my marriage. He [or she] is not a Christian.”
When I ask why they married a nonbeliever, they tell me their husband or wife claimed to be a Christian when they got married.
My question is, was there any evidence of it? Just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they are.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14–16 NLT).
Here’s what will happen when you get involved with a nonbeliever. In most cases the believer will not pull the nonbeliever up to faith; the nonbeliever will pull the believer down. That is why it’s a trap and something Christians should avoid.
A single Christian needs the Holy Spirit’s power to be the person God has called him or her to be. This is true of the Christian life as well. We can try so hard to not do this and not do that. But the Bible tells us, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16–17 NLT).
If you focus on the positive, it will help you deal with the negative. I want to be filled with the Spirit and under the control of the Spirit, living by the counsel of Scripture. Then the other things will sort themselves out. We need the help of the Holy Spirit. We can’t do this on our own.
Having said that, I want to point out there are certain advantages to being single as well as certain disadvantages. The same is true of being married.
When you are married, you make a commitment – and you have to take that commitment seriously. We are told in 1 Corinthians 7, “An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband” (verses 32–34 NLT).
The apostle Paul is not saying this critically, as though it is a bad thing to be married. What he is saying is that when you are married, you have to think of someone other than yourself. A husband has to think about how to please his wife, and a wife has to think about how to please her husband.
That doesn’t mean you still can’t please God. What it does mean is that you now have limitations in your life that you didn’t have before. When you are single, you are mobile. In many ways, you are free. That’s good. Use your mobility for God’s glory. Use your extra time to serve him and grow closer to him and pray about finding the right person.
As James Dobson said, “Don’t marry the person you think you can live with. Marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”
My wife reminded me about something I didn’t remember saying when we first started dating many years ago. One day I turned to her and said, “Cathe, I’m going to tell you something. I am following Jesus Christ, and if you ever get in the way of my relationship with God, you are out of here.”
Cathe said she really liked that because up to that point, she always was trying to control guys. She wanted them to do what she wanted them to do. She told me, “When I found a guy who stood up and had convictions and thought God was more important than me, I thought, ‘That is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with.’”
Of course, someone might have the opposite reaction that Cathe did. They may say, “See ya.”
If that happens, then let them go. Trust God to bring the right person into your life. If you are single, wait on the Lord for the one he will bring to you. Maybe you know that person already. Or maybe you will meet that person tomorrow. Whatever the circumstances, you can start praying for your future spouse today. Pray for wisdom for the right person and the right timing. Once you are married, you’ll enter into a relationship that you want to last a lifetime.
When my wife, Cathe, tells me she’s going for a walk with some of her friends, I’ll say, “Why don’t you just call it what it is? It isn’t a walk; it’s a talk.”
I think Cathe and her friends have it right in many ways. The Bible speaks of walking with God, and a “talk” is exactly what it should be. It is all about communication.
When you say you’re walking with someone through life, you are basically saying you are there with them through both the rough patches and the great times, the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs. You are there to love them, to understand them.
When we say we are walking with God, it is essentially the same, but even more. The Bible talks about a man named Enoch who walked with God all the way to heaven. They would take walks every day, and one day the Lord said, in effect, “We’re closer to my house today than we are to yours. Why don’t you just come home with me?”
Interestingly, there is not a lot in the Bible about Enoch. But in Hebrews 11 we read that “by faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (verse 5, NIV).
Another definitive series of verses about Enoch is found in Genesis 5: “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (verses 21-24, NIV).
Talk about, as Nietzsche put it, a “long obedience in the same direction.” Enoch had the longest walk possible. He walked with God for 300 years.
Enoch made it into what we call the Bible’s Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11. We want to pay careful attention to those mentioned in the Hall of Faith, because they were world changers. They were very ordinary people, but they served a great God. They changed their world with faith – with great faith in a great God.
What is faith? The Bible defines it as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV). Or, as another translation puts it, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (NLT).
J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.” Faith sees invisible things. Faith sees what could be.
Faith is not just running a race; faith is also walking the walk. Hebrews 10:38 says, “The just shall live by faith” (NKJV, emphasis added). Feelings come and go. We cannot attach our Christian experience to how we are feeling emotionally in the moment. We must learn how to walk by faith.
I have discovered one of the secrets of a successful Christian life: living and walking by faith each and every day. It is consistency. It is staying with it. That is the kind of person who will change the world.
Enoch walked with God at one of the darkest times in human history. In fact, it was so dark, evil, and wicked that God actually said he was sorry he had created man in the first place. God was about to bring judgment on planet Earth through the great flood. In a way, Enoch was a last days believer, as his last days were before the flood.
Jesus said, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37, NKJV). Jesus was saying these two periods of time would be similar. And if Enoch was able to live a godly life at a time like that, then we can live godly lives wherever we are right now.
Enoch had the same spiritual resources that are here for us today. We can live godly lives in an ungodly world.
Someone might say, “Greg, you don’t know my world. You don’t know my family. You don’t know what it’s like to live in my neighborhood. You don’t know what my workplace is like. You don’t know what my campus is like.” Maybe I don’t. But no matter how messed up or how evil your world is, you can live a godly life in an ungodly world. Enoch proved that.
I believe we’re living in the last days. I believe Jesus Christ could come back at any time. As far as I can see in my study of Bible prophecy, I believe the next event on the prophetic calendar is what we call the rapture of the church when all true followers of Jesus are caught up to meet him in the air, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (see 1 Corinthians 15:52).
Just like it happened to Enoch, it could happen to us.
Or, if the Lord doesn’t return in our lifetime, we will die. As I have said before, the statistics on death are quite impressive: one out of every one person will die. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NKJV). There is no escaping it.
The good news is that Enoch walked with God on earth and, therefore, he was received by God in heaven. When you walk with God and death comes, you don’t look forward to it necessarily, but you don’t fear it, either. You know that when you die, you will go to heaven. The Bible says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8).
The moment you take your last breath on earth, you’ll take your first breath in heaven. That is the hope of the Christian. Do you have that hope?
Jim Croce sang, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. And you don’t mess around with Jim.” I’d like to add one more thing to that list: You don’t mock God. The Bible says, “Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.”
I used to laugh at Christians. I thought they were all one taco short of a combination plate … a few clowns short of a circus … collectively crazy. I thought they believed in fairy tales. I would watch them sitting around, having their Bible studies and singing their weird songs about God, and I would think, Look at these pathetic Christians with those stupid smiles pasted on their faces! Too bad they can’t be cynical and hard and miserable like me.
Then I tried a new thought on for size: What if the Christians are right? What if God is real? What if there really is a heaven and there really is a hell? What if Jesus Christ really can change a life?
So I took a little step of faith and said, “God, if you are real, make yourself known to me.” Then I prayed, and Christ came into my life.
The Bible tells the story of someone who went out of his way to mock God. King Belshazzar of Babylon ruled pretty much most of the world at that time in history. He had at his disposal the treasures of the world and thousands of slaves to do his bidding day and night. The magnificent walls of Babylon were 350 feet high and 87 feet wide. And among the seven wonders of the ancient world were the hanging gardens of Babylon.
One day Belshazzar held a massive feast for one thousand of his nobles. They were are all drinking and partying away when, all of a sudden, they saw a hand writing on the wall. It was the hand of God writing a message to Belshazzar and all the people who were there.
There they were, having a drunken feast and worshiping false gods with special chalices that were used for the worship of the Lord in the temple. They were praising their false gods, going out of their way to insult God. But right outside the city were Cyrus and the Medo-Persian forces, who were about to strike and take over the mighty kingdom of Babylon.
What’s really amazing is that this was prophesied in Scripture. The prophet Isaiah had revealed that Babylon would fall, and it would happen during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. Not only that, but the prophet Isaiah named Cyrus as the man who would lead the invading forces against Babylon – hundreds of years before Cyrus was even born. Isaiah also prophesied this would happen when the gates were left open.
You would have thought someone might have said, “Hey, isn’t there some prophecy about an army that will conquer us?
Who is that army outside of the walls right now?”
“Those are the Medo-Persians.”
“Who is the guy leading the army?”
“That would be Cyrus.”
“And didn’t someone say the gates would be left open? Maybe we ought to shut the gates. What do you think?”
My point is, the writing was on the wall. And they weren’t paying attention.
In the same way, all around us are reminders that Jesus Christ is coming back. The Bible predicts that one day there will be a complete collapse of the world economy. The Bible also predicts there is coming a day when we will have a cashless society. There is coming a day when a charismatic leader will emerge on the world scene, identified in the Bible as the Antichrist, and no one will be able to do any kind of financial transaction unless they have his mark on their right hand or their forehead.
Two hundred years ago that would have been dismissed as foolishness. But today with our modern technology, we are already moving toward a cashless society. We have our credit cards, our debit cards, our online banking and our smartphones. We have keyless ignitions in our cars. We can even go into a store, scan the bar codes of items using our phones, and see if there’s a better deal somewhere else. We have tracking technology. We are just a step away from coming to the point where we could have this sign of the last days fulfilled in our lifetime.
If the Antichrist is close, then Jesus Christ is even closer. He is coming again. The writing is on the wall for everyone to see.
The finger of God wrote a message on the wall for Belshazzar and everyone to see, and Belshazzar was terrified. He called in his astrologers and astronomers, but they didn’t know what was going on. Then his grandmother, presumably Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, suggested that Belshazzar call Daniel in to see what he had to say.
In came the 90-year-old Daniel, who essentially said, “Here is the bottom line: You have been proud, you have been arrogant, and you have not glorified the God who gives you life and controls your destiny. You have been weighed in God’s balances, and you have been found lacking. Your number is up.”
There will come a day when your number is up. There will come a day when my number is up. Life will end. And God doesn’t look at things the way we do. When we get on a scale, many of us hope we weigh less. But when we get on God’s scales, He wants us to weigh more. He wants our lives to have weight and substance.
That brings us to a question: Why are we here on this earth? Are we here for personal enjoyment and fulfillment? No. We are here on this earth to know the God who created us and to bring him glory.
Don’t waste your life and find this out the hard way, like Belshazzar. Don’t put off getting right with God. Get right with him now.
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?