Calling all Friends!
As you know,Harvest America,our massive-scale one day evangelistic event in Arlington,Texas is rapidly approaching.It will be held at AT&T stadium,which holds upwards of 100,000.Now,imagine for a moment how many people could potentially come to Christ at this event.
Say 60,000 attended and 10% of the crowd responded to the invitation to accept Christ.(10% is a typical response rate at a Harvest Crusade).That would be 6000 new believers that will need personal follow-up!
Now,imagine if 80,000 attend.You can see how many people will be potentially coming forward to make a profession of faith.
That’s where YOU come in.I am asking you to come to Texas with me on March 6th to be a new convert counselor.Don’t let the word ‘counselor’ throw you.
You will simply be a friend to a new believer,giving them a Start! Bible and sharing some helpful truth with them.
I would 1000 people to come with me to Harvest America on March 6th.
Would you prayerfully consider that?
If you want to know more,go to Serve.harvestamerica.com
I think we all have a drive to believe in something, to worship something. But at the same time, we like to do our own thing. We don’t like someone to dictate to us how we are to live. Thus, we go about trying to recast God in our own image.
We begin to change God around so that he becomes a sort of a user-friendly deity. “Let’s give God a makeover,” we say. “Let’s make God politically correct. Let’s make God someone who won’t demand anything of us, yet we can still have a religion that will satisfy the quest we have inside us. And it also will appease our guilt-ridden conscience.”
What we end up with is not the God of the Bible, however. It’s some other god that we have created in our own image. And it is this very idolatry that can ultimately lead to rationalizing our behavior and saying it’s really OK. It can be like a wildfire that quickly spreads, something that starts out small and then gets out of control, leading to total devastation.
The Bible shows us how this played out in one man’s life. King David’s story has been recorded for us in the Scriptures as a warning of what not to do. Here was a man who, at one point in his life, was very close to God. In fact, it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. He also was known as the sweet psalmist of Israel.
We need not go any further than the book of Psalms to see how intimate David’s relationship with God was. He spoke of his love for the Lord, saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. … The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. … Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You” (42:1; 23:1–2; 63:3 NKJV).
David loved God in a dear and tender way, yet he fell into sin.
If I were to go out on the streets and ask people, “What do you remember about David from the Bible?” they probably would mention David and Goliath. And they also might bring up David and Bathsheba.
These two people marked David’s greatest victory … and his greatest defeat. In the Valley of Elah, David saw his greatest victory as he brought down Goliath with a single stone. And in Jerusalem, David saw his greatest defeat as he was brought down by Bathsheba.
Bathsheba is never presented as a villainess in their story. She is never presented as someone who set out to trap David. Really, David worked himself into this almost singlehandedly. Certainly Bathsheba cooperated, but David is primarily the responsible party. And for a few moments of pleasure, David had a lifetime of regrets.
It’s unclear as to whether David may have known where and when Bathsheba bathed – and intentionally put himself in a place to see her. Whatever the case, it’s what David did afterward.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28 NIV).
In the Greek language, the word look used here doesn’t mean a casual, involuntary glance. It refers to a continuous act of looking, intentional and repeated gazing.
We can’t stop ourselves from seeing certain things in this world. It might be something on a billboard, on your television or computer screen, or someone who walks across your path. But there is a difference between seeing something and putting yourself in a place where you know you’ll see things.
David looked. And then the sin began to stir in his heart.
It has been said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
This is why Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman” (Job 31:1).
David saw Bathsheba, and he allowed lust to build in his heart. But he didn’t stop there. He wanted to know who she was. And when the news came back that she was Uriah’s wife, it should have stopped him. But David already was hooked by sin, and he continued on his path.
God doesn’t make it easy for us to sin. When we start to cross a line, he puts obstacles in our way. He has things come up. They are warnings of danger ahead. But we blindly go forward, thinking, This doesn’t apply to me. I’m different. I’m OK. I can handle it.
James made this statement: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15 NLT).
Let’s see how that pattern played out in David’s life. First, David was drawn away by his own desires as he sat lazily on his rooftop, looking for trouble. Second, he was enticed by a beautiful woman. Third, when desire was conceived, it gave birth to sin. In David’s case, it was that of premeditated adultery. Fourth, when sin was allowed to grow, it brought forth death – the death of Bathsheba’s innocent husband, Uriah.
David sinned, and he was forgiven. But he reaped what he sowed. He saw the very sins that he had committed repeated in the lives of his own children.
As Proverbs 6 says, “The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself” (verse 32 NLT). It’s very likely that a person’s sin of adultery will go public. This is why God warns us of the deadly implications of this powerful sin.
An intense love for God and for your spouse will see you through the rough waters of sexual temptation. I don’t have a magic formula for never being tempted again. It’s a daily battle. It’s a daily walk, as is everything in the Christian life. But I will say this: The moment you stop lowering your guard, you become an easy target
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/01/illicit-sex-never-lower-your-guard/#kQMHhty5feHVubhF.99
Here is a great article from Larry Eskridge about the history of spiritual awakenings in the Texas from the latest issue of Worship Leader magazine.
Larry is a historian and expert on the topic of Revival.
This article is well worth reading.
Harvest 2016 Part of a Long Story of Texas Awakenings
By Larry Eskridge
The tens of thousands that will gather at AT&T Stadium in Dallas for the 2016 Texas-Harvest America rally on March 6th will be participating in the culminating event of Greg Laurie’s multi-year evangelistic emphasis. But, they will also be taking part in a long heritage of revivals and evangelistic gatherings that stretch all the way through the history of the Lone Star State. From spiritual awakenings in the early settlements, through late 19th-century brush arbor gatherings and camp meetings scattered across the rural Texan countryside, down to giant urban events like 1972’s Jesus People-themed EXPLO ’72, Texans have come together in special sacred assemblies to pray, sing, and hear the proclamation of the Word of God.
The story of spiritual awakening in Texas began with the creation of the first Spanish missions among the Native Americans and continued with the first American settlers to the region in the early 1800s. While Protestants were officially banned from starting churches by the Spanish and Mexican authorities, earnest Methodist circuit-riders and fiery Baptist itinerants arrived to evangelize the fortune-seekers that had crossed the Sabine and Red Rivers into the sparsely-populated province. Preaching in homes and village centers, they won converts and defiantly organized congregations—occasionally being jailed for their efforts.
During the middle decades of the 19th-century that took Texas from independence, admission into the Union, and through the Civil War, revivals periodically shook various regions of the state as preachers faced down the raucous, hard-drinking “rough culture” that grew up on the frontier. One particularly influential awakening at Washington-on-the-Bravos (the site where Texan independence was declared in 1836) began in 1840 with the baptism of a young African American slave girl. Historian David Bebbington points out that this extended revival not only saw dozens of conversions but was in reality part of a “fierce battle over the destiny of Texas” that eventually led to the creation of scores of churches and the founding of Baylor University.
The Camp Meetings
Revivals like the one on the Brazos were part of a tradition of camp meetings that brought the style and setting of earlier revivals on the Southern frontier westward and proved key to the churches’ ability to keep pace with settlement and development. Often lasting close to a week, hundreds of families would gather from the surrounding countryside and camp out to hear a series of preachers hold forth about the need for conversion. In later years most of these meetings would be planned and directed within a denominational context. But, in the first half of the 19th-century many were surprisingly ecumenical. It was not unusual at all to have Baptist, “Christian” (Disciples of Christ), Methodist, and Presbyterian preachers joining together in common cause to bring sinners into the kingdom and change lives. Several camp meetings—like the annual Bloys Camp Meeting near Ft. Davis that attracts more than 3,000 people—exist to this day and serve as reminders of this frontier revival heritage.
As Texas moved into the 20th-century the heritage—and routine—of revival had become well-established as a part of life in the Lone Star State. In rural areas, small churches and denominational associations would sponsor “brush arbor” gatherings in the countryside and special “dinner on the grounds” meeting days that hearkened back to the days of frontier revival. Meanwhile, in the larger towns, big cities, and sprawling new postwar suburbs seasonal revivals and city-wide campaigns by traveling evangelists became an expected fixture of life and, frequently, something of a rite of passage for young Texans.
Near the tail end of the 1960s, a new wave of spiritual awakening shook up the old formula as a national “Jesus People” movement slammed into Texas. Beginning in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Detroit and blossoming on a large scale in Southern California—where a teenaged Greg Laurie was converted at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa—the Jesus Movement vied with the hedonism of the hippie culture for the loyalties of the younger generation. By the early ’70s, the “One Way!” sign, Christian coffeehouses, and “Jesus Music” rock bands were popping up around Texas, too. One of the most significant bearers of the Jesus Movement was a series of youth rallies sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Houston dubbed SPIRENO (“Spiritual Revolution Now!”). First held at high schools in the Houston area, then throughout the state, and finally exported to the rest of the Southwest, thousands of high school and college-age youth committed their lives to Christ and spread the Jesus Movement into local schools and churches.
In 1972, Dallas served as the platform for a major national happening that put the impact of the Jesus People front and center. EXPLO ’72 was a youth evangelistic training event put on by Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) that morphed into a Jesus People-themed rally. For a week, over 85,000 “J-E-S-U-S”-cheering young people gathered for training seminars during the day and then headed off to nightly rallies in the Cotton Bowl to hear Jesus Music artists sing their “Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation” and to hear speakers like Billy Graham. On EXPLO’s concluding day, a crowd of over 180,000 came together in the hot sun for a music festival to hear dozens of artists—among them Johnny Cash—and a final exhortation from Graham urging the youth to reach their world for Jesus. “Godstock,” as the media dubbed it, attracted national coverage and later that year video recordings of the event were beamed over hundreds of television stations and cable systems across the United States.
Legacy of Revival
While the Jesus Movement faded by the end of the ’70s in Texas as it did in the rest of the country, its impact added to the state’s legacy of spiritual awakenings. In recent decades, as the growth of the Lone Star has made it an increasingly important cog in both the American and world economy and culture, the timeless need for repentance and the desire for a fresh connection with God is—if anything—more necessary than ever. As generations come together in Dallas this March for Greg Laurie’s Harvest America 2016, the gleaming surroundings of AT&T Stadium and the global media connections to far-flung assemblies of believers feel utterly in step with the realities of the 21st-century world. But the questions about life and God’s ultimate purpose for mankind that will echo through the minds of those in attendance are surely not so different from the ones their forbears asked in those Texas camp meetings, brush arbors, and revivals in days past.
Larry Eskridge is a historian and is the author of God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford, 2013).
In 2003, Aron Ralston was rock climbing in Utah when a boulder shifted and pinned his hand and forearm, trapping him against a canyon wall. An experienced climber, Ralston knew how to use his ropes, anchors and everything he had to remove the boulder. But it wasn’t working. Five days passed, and he ran out of food and water. So the next morning, he did the unthinkable: He pulled out his pocketknife and cut off his arm. Then he rappelled 60 feet down a sheer canyon face and walked to safety.
Ralston took radical measures, but he was incredibly smart. He realized that he could either keep both arms and die, or he could lose one arm and live.
In the same way, to live spiritually, we need to cut off whatever is required. This means eliminating quickly and completely anything that morally or spiritually strips us or causes us to fall into sin (or remain in sin).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30 NIV).
Here Jesus was dealing with three areas of sin that are widespread in our culture: anger, hatred and lust. Sin deceives us into thinking that if we haven’t done the actual deed, we’re all right. Anger and hatred are murder in the heart.
Lust is adultery in the heart. Jesus was dealing with the heart.
To be clear, there is a place for anger. Jesus wasn’t saying that a Christian can’t be angry. There are certain things that should anger us. The Bible even says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NKJV). There is a place for righteous indignation. But that is not what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5.
In the original language, the word Jesus used for anger refers to a settled anger, a malice that is nursed inwardly. It isn’t describing a person who gets irritated, flies off the handle, and then apologizes afterward. Jesus was speaking of a consuming anger. Many people, in the depths of their hearts, have anger and hatred to such a degree that their true desire is for the hated person to be dead.
The word hate means to habitually despise. It isn’t just a transient emotion; it’s a deep-rooted loathing.
Do you feel that way about anyone? The Bible says that “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).
Why do we get this way? Sometimes anger is rooted in envy. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Essentially Cain killed his brother because he was envious of him. Noah Webster defined envy as “chagrin, mortification, discontent or uneasiness at the sight of another’s good fortune.”
It isn’t that someone has done something against you personally; it’s simply the fact they have been successful, and you’re envious. Maybe they’re enjoying monetary success. Maybe they married someone you wish you could have married. Maybe they have accomplished something you wished you could have accomplished. Maybe they got that position you felt you should have.
The problem with envy is that it grows into something even worse. According to Aesop, “Envy shoots at another and wounds itself.” The only person who suffers when you’re envious is you.
We have all been wronged in life. Most of us have been slandered, mistreated, ripped off and taken advantage of. Jesus isn’t saying we should be the doormat for the rest of the planet. But instead of striking out at those who have wronged us, we are to love them in a positive way.
When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself. The other person may not even be aware of how much you hate him or her. The other person may not even know about your bitterness and couldn’t care less about you. Yet it consumes you, and it’s hurting you. It’s killing you slowly.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43–45 NIV).
There is no greater example of someone who did this than Jesus himself. After he had identified Judas as his betrayer, he told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). Then, we he encountered Judas again in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by the temple guard and other soldiers, Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50 NKJV).
I find that amazing. He knew Judas was there to betray him. He knew Judas was facilitating his arrest. Yet Jesus said, “Friend, why have you come?” It was one last chance for Judas to repent. Jesus offered it, but Judas missed it.
Then, as Jesus hung on the cross, the first words he uttered were in prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NIV).
That’s good for Jesus, you may be thinking. He is God.
Yes, and Jesus died on that cross because we need forgiveness. And we should extend that forgiveness to others. Forgiven people should be forgiving people.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
This selflessness, this love Jesus calls for, is found in many people whom God used. It was the spirit of Abraham when he gave the best land to his undeserving nephew, Lot. It was the spirit of Joseph when he kissed his brothers who had so mistreated him. It was the spirit of David when he would not take advantage of the opportunity to take the life of King Saul, who had been pursuing him. It was the spirit of Stephen, who prayed for those who were stoning him to death.
It is also the spirit that every one of God’s children should have. May God help us to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. May He enable us to have a change of heart that refuses to harbor hatred.
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
The will of God is not always easy to discern. I would like to say that when I get up every morning, the Mission Impossible theme song plays in the background while I listen to a message that says, “Good morning, Mr. Laurie. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the gas station at 12:45 P.M. A man named Joe will be pumping gas. Your mission is to share Jesus Christ with him. This message will self-destruct in ten seconds.”
That has never happened to me. Here’s how it might happen instead. I get into my car and see that the fuel is low, so I decide to drive to the gas station. As I’m standing there at the pump, I start chitchatting with a guy who’s also pumping gas. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, this guy has accepted the Lord.
I had the choice whether to talk to that person. Maybe he said, “Hi.” I had the choice to blow him off, to keep the conversation short, or to extend it. And ultimately, I had the choice as to whether I would share Christ with him.
Many times we aren’t thinking about or looking for opportunities like these. Yet it can actually be a sin not to share the gospel with others. James 4:17 tells us, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
God uses us when we are out and about doing normal things and taking steps of faith. That is how the Christian life works. We read the Word of God. We take the principles of the Word of God and put them into practice. We pray that the Lord will guide our steps. And then we go.
I’m a student of heaven. I’m certainly not an expert on the topic, but I’ve become more of a student of heaven in recent years for obvious reasons. Since our son Christopher went to be with the Lord in 2008, I often find myself just thinking about heaven, trying to imagine heaven, trying to wrap my mind around heaven. It isn’t an easy thing to do.
Numerous books about heaven have been published in recent years, and many of them have been written by people who claimed to have gone there. To be up front with you, I don’t immediately believe someone when they say they have been to heaven and back. The only way I can know what heaven is like is by going to an authoritative source, and I know of only one: Jesus Christ. He 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). He is the expert on heaven.
As a pastor, I preach a lot of sermons about heaven, and I, too, have written a book on heaven. That is because I think our belief in heaven should affect us while we live on Earth. Our belief in the afterlife has a lot to say about how we live in the before life, how we live in the here and now. The way we view the by-and-by affects us in the here and now.
As we begin another year, we ought to be thinking about heaven. Why? Because this could be the last year on Earth for some of us. I don’t say that to frighten or terrify anyone. But what if it is?
I read an interesting article about a man named Val Patterson, who died of throat cancer in 2012. He decided that he wanted to buck the trend and write his own obituary, which was published in the Salt Lake Tribune. Patterson confessed in his obituary that decades earlier, he had stolen a safe from the Motor View Drive Inn. “I could have left that unsaid,” he wrote, “but I wanted to get it off my chest.” He also revealed that he had been banned for life from Disneyland and SeaWorld San Diego, and he admitted that he didn’t actually earn a Ph.D., which he had received due to a clerical error.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I read it. At least he was honest. If you could read your own obituary today, what do you think people would remember you for? What would be written about you?
We don’t determine the date of our birth, and we don’t determine the date of our death, but we have everything to say about what happens in between.
I am not a big one for making New Year’s resolutions because I think it sort of a waste, really. Most of us quickly break those resolutions. But I do think the beginning of a new year is a good time to recalibrate. It’s a good time to look at our lives and ourselves and ask, How have I done in this last year? Have I moved forward spiritually? Or, have I actually regressed spiritually? Have I been a heavenly minded person this past year? Do I want to be in the coming year?
One of my favorite films of all time is “Chariots of Fire,” which features the story of Eric Liddell, a great runner from Scotland who competed in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. A committed Christian, he ultimately became a missionary in China. In the film, Eric’s sister chides him because she feels he is wasting his time with running and should be out on the mission field doing what God made him for. Eric responds, “Jenny, you’ve got to understand. I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China. But he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
If you’ve ever played tennis, you know there is a sweet spot in the racket, and if you hit that sweet spot, it gives you maximum impact on the ball. In the same way, we have a sweet spot in life. When we do that one thing for God’s glory, we say, “I feel his pleasure doing this.”
You were wired to do that thing. That is why you’re here. We should all consider how well we are fulfilling our purpose on here on Earth. Our belief in the afterlife should inform our choices in our before life.
We want to redeem the time God has given to us. We don’t want to waste it. And we certainly don’t want to try to kill it. It has been said that men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them.
James wrote, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 NKJV). You will live only as long as God wants you to live. You can eat all the free-range chicken, organic vegetables and tofu that your heart desires – but it is God who appoints the day of your death. And then comes eternity.
When you reach the afterlife and look back on the before life, you will see things far differently. You will see them from an eternal perspective. You will realize what really mattered in life was not what you got but what you gave. What will matter is not your competence but your character. What will matter is not your success but your significance.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians living in Colosse, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). That phrase set your mind speaks of a diligent, active, single-minded investigation. To put it another way, “Think heaven.” Paul was saying, “Constantly keep seeking and thinking about heaven.”
If you really start thinking more about heaven and seeking heaven, it will transform you. As Warren Wiersbe has said, “Heaven is not only a destination, it’s a motivation.”
We want to put God first in every area of our lives, from the thoughts we think to the friends we choose to the way we use our time. Why? Because life comes and goes so quickly. And before you know it, you will be standing before God.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
If we put God first in our lives, then we will have very fulfilling lives here on Earth. And I believe those who think the most about the next life do the most in this one.
I have written a book on Heaven titled,”As it is in Heaven” if you want to know more on this vital topic.
I think we all would like to live our lives well. We want to make every day count. But this isn’t something we should only think about when we’re older; it’s something we should think about when we’re younger, because the evening of a life is determined by the morning of it. The end is determined by the beginning.
When we’re young, we’re more flexible. We’re more open to change. In fact, we like change. But as we get older, we become a little more resistant to change.
It isn’t a bad thing to be set in our ways – if they are good ways. It isn’t a bad thing to have habits – if they are good habits. It isn’t a bad thing to like routine – if it is a good routine.
My point is that we determine the course our lives will take. The stand we make today will determine the kind of stand we will make tomorrow. That is why Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore.’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NLT)
I have discovered that with the passing of time, we seem to become more exaggerated versions of ourselves. I’ve known grumpy people who have become grumpier. People who were kind of mean have become a bit meaner. And people who were nice have actually become nicer. We seem to become an intensified version of ourselves as we grow older. So let’s make that version the best it possibly can be.
We have to think about where we are headed in life. If we go through life with no goals, no purpose and no guiding principles, we will, in time, waste our lives. If we aim at nothing, we are bound to hit it.
Some people want to prolong their lives by applying scientific research or using the latest lotion or potion. Medical science can help us live longer lives, with lifesaving operations and drugs to treat certain life-threatening diseases. It can add years to our lives, but it cannot add life to our years. That is something only God can do.
Our goal shouldn’t be merely to prolong our lives; our goal should be to live the fullest, most productive lives possible.
Jim Eliot was a young man who felt called to the mission field. He wanted to take the gospel to an unreached group of people in Ecuador, known at the time as the Auca tribe. He was killed in his attempt to reach them. Jim Eliot kept a journal in which he wrote the words, “I seek not a long life but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”
The Bible tells the story of a young man who lived his life well. And even though it wasn’t a long life, it was a full one. It was a productive one. It was one that made an impact. Life isn’t measured so much by its duration as its donation. This young man, Stephen, donated his life. He gave it serving the Lord.
God was clearly at work in the church of the first century. Miracles were happening. People were coming to Christ. But then Stephen was brought up on false charges before the Sanhedrin, the religious authority and final court. Their word was law. Whatever they said went.
If Stephen had been careful, he could have gone home for dinner that night. It wasn’t that Stephen had a death wish, but he saw an opportunity and seized it. As a result, he gave his last sermon that day.
Stephen stood up for Christ on earth. As he was being stoned and his young life was draining from him, Jesus stood up for him in heaven before the Father and the angels. We are told that “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:55). Jesus was saying, in effect, “This is my boy. This is my son.” What a glorious moment that must have been.
When a young person dies, people often say it was before his or her time. But who are we to say that people die before their time? The Bible says that “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV), and there is “a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). God decides when that time will be.
We might feel as though we’re guaranteed 70 or 80 years, or whatever it is we’re hoping for. But there is no guarantee like that in the Bible. What the Bible does tell us is that we can live full lives in Christ, however long our lives will be.
For the Christian walking in the will of God, death will come at the appointed time – not a minute before and not a minute after.
In Stephen’s case, God accomplished a number of things. I believe that Stephen’s death had a direct impact on Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. The people who stoned Stephen laid their coats at the feet of young Saul. And although Stephen didn’t have many converts, I think he had at least one – and he was one whopper of a convert. The apostle Paul arguably is the most powerful figure in church history, next to Christ himself.
Yes, Stephen’s life was short, but it was full. He lived it well. And that is all we can do.
One day we will stand before God and give an account of what we have done with our lives for him. Make each day count. Live it for the glory of God. Live your life well.
It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone already.
I’m still waiting for my spaceship and robot maid I saw on “The Jetsons” when I was a kid. But I would settle for a hoverboard like Marty McFly’s in “Back to the Future, Part II.” (Not the kind that occasionally burst into flames that sold so well this Christmas.)
Time seems to pass more quickly as we get older. As C.S. Lewis said, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
As we look ahead to another year, we wonder what it will hold. I don’t know what the year holds, but I do know who holds the year. I know that God is in control.
This year may bring promise, and it may bring pain. It may bring triumph, and it may bring tragedy. There will be happy days, and there will be sad ones. But I enter into this year like every year: with great hope in God because I know that he is on the throne and is in control of all things, including our lives.
God has a plan – he always has a plan. Sometimes it may not appear that way, but indeed he does. The Bible says that God “does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35 NIV)
But there are times when we do say that to God: What are you doing? Are you paying attention?
The answer is yes. He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). To me it’s a great relief to know that I am not a victim of the fickle finger of fate or dumb luck. I don’t believe in luck; I believe in Providence. I believe that God is in control of my life. I believe that God is sovereign as well.
God says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. … And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8).
We see things from a certain perspective as human beings living in this place called Earth. We see the immediate, where God sees the ultimate. Our world is the here and now. God’s plan is panoramic. He is in control of our lives, leading and guiding us.
But I think it’s a good idea to periodically re-evaluate what we are doing. I think it’s a good idea to ask ourselves, “Is this a wing, or is it a weight? Is it speeding me on my way in the race of life, or is it slowing me down?”
The Bible reminds us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1).
What may be a weight to one person may not necessarily be a weight to another. For example, we all have different metabolisms. We all are built differently. Some can eat whatever they want and never gain weight. I admire those people, by the way. But I’m not one of them.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV). There is a place for re-evaluation and reflection as we begin a new year.
I also think it’s a good time to reflect on what God has done. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God instructed them to set up 12 stones from the Jordan as a monument of what God did for them. It is good to think back on what God has done. It is fine to revisit the past. But just don’t live in it.
Jesus gave this warning: “Remember Lot’s wife!” (Luke 11:32). Why would I want to remember Lot’s wife? She and her husband were living in Sodom and Gomorrah, a wicked city. God told them he was going to judge the city, and he sent angels to bring them out of Sodom and Gomorrah. As they were leaving, the angel warned them not to look back. Lot and his children left the city, but Lot’s wife couldn’t resist, and she looked back. It wasn’t just a causal glance. It was a deliberate look. She looked with longing. She couldn’t let go. And the Bible says that she became “a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).
The first step toward going backward is looking backward. We break the power of the past by living for the future. Maybe you’ve been crippled by past failures, past sins. You have your regrets. But more serious than making a mistake is repeating it. Learn from your mistakes and fail forward. Don’t keep doing the same foolish things again and again. Forget them and put them behind you.
Shakespeare wrote that “what’s past is prologue.” A prologue is the beginning of a story. Your story is still being told. My story is still being told. Our story is still being told. You may be in the beginning of your story. You may be in the middle of it. Or, you may be nearing the end of it. But it’s a story God is writing. So let’s not live in the past. There is still more to do.
That is why we must press on, even when it gets hard. There are times when the temptations are strong or the obstacles are great, and you wonder whether you can go on another day. The answer is yes, you can. Press on.
Looking toward the future, the apostle Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).
Paul is painting a picture of an athlete. Think of a runner in the last lap of the race. He is exerting himself. Every muscle is straining. He can see the ribbon. Pain is wracking his body. He only has a little further to go. He knows it’s better to have a few moments of pain than a lifetime of regret. So he presses on.
That is what we need to do.
I don’t know how you’ve done in this last year. Maybe you’ve stumbled in some way. Maybe you’ve messed up. The good news is that God gives second chances. Make a commitment or recommitment to him.
Taken from my weekly column at Worldnetdaily.
“If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Are you trying to live in two worlds? If so, then I know something about you. I know you’re not happy. Am I right? When you spend time around other Christians, you’re uncomfortable because of your sin. On the other hand, when you’re doing things you know you shouldn’t as a Christian, then you have the conviction of that sin.
I have an idea: Stop doing that stuff. Make your choice. As Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Every one of us must make that decision. I can’t make it for you, and you can’t make it for me.
Are you in a relationship that is dragging you down (see 2 Corinthians 6:14)? Are you doing things that are weakening your resolve? Stop doing those things.
I’m not saying it is easy. We all get tempted. We all have a sinful nature. And as Christians we all have a God who will give us the strength to do what He has called us to do.
It really comes down to this: Do you really want to change? If you do, then God will give you that resolve. When the Lord came to Moses and spoke to him through the burning bush, Moses basically said, “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to say. I stumble over my words.”
But later in Exodus we see him facing off with the most powerful man on the face of the earth. That is because God gave him the strength.
In the same way, God will give you the strength to do what you need to do.
Don’t live in two worlds. Make a complete commitment to Jesus.
The Gift We Give Others
The gift that God gives to us—eternal life—is one that we can, in a sense, “regift.” That is, we can share it with others. It’s the greatest gift you could give in this Christmas season.
People are so afraid right now. 79% of Americans believe a terror attack is imminent. There are opportunities to engage people. Maybe you have relatives from out of town. Everyone has a coworker, neighbor, or friend—bring them with you to church! Know this: there is great joy in sharing God’s gift with others.
Sometimes we find ourselves depressed in the Christmas season. According to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report higher rates of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists and psychologists report a significant increase of depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded Christmas.
I have a 10-step solution for depression:
Step 1: Do something for someone else who has greater needs than you.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1 nine more times.
I understand there is clinical depression.I am not speaking of that but rather those of us who just may be ‘down in the dumps’ this holiday season.
Not only has God told us it is happier to give than receive, but scientific research shows the same. It is well documented that volunteering elevates mood in most people. This phenomenon has been dubbed “the helper’s high.” It has been assessed biologically in brain-imaging studies. It has also been looked at in research on endorphins.
I have never experienced the “runner’s high” but I do know about the “giver’s high.” If someone asks you what you are doing on the weekend, you can say, “Getting high!” Woah, what? “Yes, it’s at church, giving to the Lord and serving others!” Proverbs 11:25 says that those who refresh others are themselves refreshed.
I believe sharing our faith, can be 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. So if there is joy in heaven upon hearing of a conversion, there certainly should be joy in having a role in it. Next to personally knowing Christ, the greatest joy I know is bringing others to Him—and then to watch them grow spiritually and transform.
I have found that the happiest Christians are evangelistic ones. And I have also found that the unhappiest Christians are the nitpicky kind. Yes, there is a happiness that we are missing out on if we are not sharing our faith.
Giving, helping, thinking of others—these are all sources of great joy for the Christian, but the fact is, they are things Christians often don’t do. They don’t want to give their money, they don’t want to share their faith, and they don’t want to serve others—yet the Bible tells us there is happiness in doing these things. Looks to me like the devil is robbing us of blessings we should enjoy.
The Bible stands in direct contrast to this culture. The way to up is down. The way to receive is to give. In this season, so many expect Christmas to bring happiness, but that’s impossible. You will be let down. The only real happiness you will find is in Christ. Not in Christmas, but in Christ. Not in presents, but in His presence.
C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.”