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You need to talk about it!

Friday, August 7th, 2009 Posted in essentials, lost boy, Lost Boy Blog, Pastor's corner, sermons | 3 Comments »

Hey everyone!

I will show my autobiographical film Lost Boy: The Next Chapter this weekend at Saddleback Church in Orange County. I will also speak after the screening.

This film has won two festival awards and has been nominated for a third. We have been amazed by its impact.

If you are in the area, I hope you can come and see it.

Why does God use people?

Now, back to the topic of sharing our faith.

Why do we need to tell others about Jesus? Why doesn’t God just poke His face out of the heavens and say, “Believe in Me!” Why does He want to used flawed people like us?

I don’t really know the answer to that, but I do know He does use people. In fact, the primary way God has chosen to reach people is through people. People like you and me.

Paul wrote, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!'” (Romans 10:14-15 NKJV)

People need someone to show them the way

In Acts 8 is the story of a powerful, wealthy foreign dignitary searching for God. He had not found Him in the empty rituals of the dead Judaism of the time. But he did obtain a scroll containing Isaiah 53, where he read, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter . . . ”

Philip approached him and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian responded, “How can I, unless someone shows me the way!”

That is what people need, and what many want–someone to show them the way. Someone like you.

You need to talk about it

And the primary way we are to share this message is verbally. That is not to say that you should not live it first, for indeed you should.

Some would say, “People will know that I am a Christian by the way I live. I don’t need to talk about it to others. Actually, you do.

Yes, by all means live it, but also engage people with the gospel message. We need to both initiate and verbalize our faith.

Paul tell us, “Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:21 MESSAGE).

You may not be called to be a “preacher,” per se, but every believer is called to preach the gospel. Ask the Lord for an opportunity to do that this weekend.

How do you eat an elephant?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 Posted in essentials, OC, Pastor's corner, sermons | 3 Comments »

I am speaking tonight at our Bible study in Orange County. I will give the second of a two-part message on effectively sharing your faith.

I want to talk about how to use your personal story, also known as your testimony. Finally, I want to share with you how you can actually lead a person to Christ.

For more info on the study, click here.

Did you know that 95% of Christians have never led another person to Christ?

You might protest, “But I’m not gifted as an evangelist!” That may be true, but every believer is called to evangelize.

I know the idea of evangelism seems daunting, overwhelming. We wonder how can we do it?

One bite at a time

The answer to that question is that same as the answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.

How do we fulfill the Great Commission? One bite at a time.

Go into all of your world

In Mark’s Gospel, we have a variation on this Great Commission: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

The same could be said for world evangelism: “Go into all of your world and preach the gospel.” Go into your family, your workplace, your campus, your sphere of influence.

But what are we to do specifically to share the gospel? Let’s go back to Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Simply put, it means to teach them to observe what He has commanded. It means to live out our faith in this world, and also to share it with others–to teach it by word and model it by example.

Putting it all together

The full concept of “going into all the world and making disciples” is to share our faith, to seek to lead people to Christ, and then to help them mature spiritually to the best of our ability.

Colossians 1:28 says, “We proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about Him, This we do that we may bring every man to his full maturity in Christ.”

Evangelizing and discipling not only changes others, but it changes you! I have a Disneyland story, featuring my granddaughter Stella, to illustrate that tomorrow.

But today, let’s look for opportunities to “go into all of our world” and preach the gospel.

The joy of evangelism

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, essentials, Harvest Crusades, Pastor's corner, sermons | 7 Comments »

Hey everyone!

In the days leading up to the Southern California Harvest at Angel Stadium, I thought I would focus on the topic of evangelism.

Before that, a couple of updates:

First, I spoke at Mariners Church in Irvine last weekend.

We had a tremendous response to the invitation to receive Christ. We had at around 330 people come forward at invitations at one of the three services I spoke at! It was fantastic!

Second, I am speaking at Saddleback Church this next weekend. This is, of course, pastored by Rick Warren, who has written the best-selling Christian book of all time (next to the Bible, of course), The Purpose Driven Life.

We will show the newly-edited Lost Boy: The Next Chapter film, and I will speak after each showing.

Now, back to our topic . . .

We over-complicate evangelism

It is my firm belief that God can use you to bring others into His Kingdom. Why would God tell us to engage in this thing we call evangelism if it were not so?

Know this: the calling of God is the enabling of God.

I believe that God wants to use all of us to bring people to Himself.

The book of Proverbs says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). Scripture also tells us, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

So, with the Southern California Harvest only days away, I thought I would talk about the who, where, why, what, when, and how of evangelism.

Who is called to share their faith?

Let’s start with the question of who is called to “go into all the world and preach the gospel?”

Answer: You are! We are! Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the original language, these words are addressed to everyone. Not just pastors, evangelists, and missionaries, but everyone.

Businessmen, housewives, students . . . everyone. No one is exempted.

Also, in the original language, this is a command. Jesus is not saying, “If you can find time in your busy schedule, as a personal favor to me, would you mind ‘going into all the world and preaching the gospel?”

No, as our Savior, Lord, and Commander-in-Chief. He says “Go!”

Not a suggestion

This is not “The Great Suggestion,” but rather “The Great Commission.”

If I am His disciple, I am commanded to go and make disciples of others. If I am not making disciples of others, then I’m not really being the disciple He wants me to be!

For many of us, however, it is “The Great Omission,” instead of “The Great Commission.” We are simply not doing it.

Let me say something provocative to you: to not do it is a sin! The Bible tells us, “Any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

But God doesn’t want you to share the gospel out of mere duty, but with joy and passion. One of the most exciting and fulfilling things you can do is tell others about Jesus.

This message God has given us was meant to be shared not hoarded. You were blessed to be a blessing.

When you do not share, you begin to stagnate; when you do, you revive. Scripture tells us, “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

We have a choice: evangelize or fossilize!

Weekend update

Saturday, August 1st, 2009 Posted in Harvest Crusades, Pastor's corner, sermons | 9 Comments »

Hey everyone!

I wanted to let you know that I am speaking tonight at Mariners Church in Irvine, California. This is in preparation for the upcoming Southern California Harvest at Angel Stadium, which is now only 12 days away!

My topic at Mariners tonight is “Down-to-Earth Talk about Heaven.”

It starts at 5:00 P.M. So if you are in the area, come join us.

You also might want to check out my weekend column at WorldNetDaily. The topic is “The misunderstood Commandment.” Click here to read the column.

Well,that’s all for now.

K.O.K.D. (Does anyone know what that means?)

The best way to fight temptation

Friday, July 31st, 2009 Posted in encouragement, essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 8 Comments »

Temptation. There is no escaping it. But know this–it can have an help you to deepen and grow spiritually, causing you to cling that much tighter to the Lord Himself.

It’s been said, “Christians are a lot like teabags. You don’t know what they are made of until you put them in hot water.”

Perhaps you in the “hot water” of temptation right now. God has given you a weapon to use, and it’s called the Bible.

Jesus was tempted

When Jesus faced His temptation in the wilderness, He gave us an example to follow, a template to apply.

Being God, He could have sent Satan away or even removed Himself from the place where the enemy was. Instead, He faced Satan as a man and stood on ground that we too can occupy.

When tempted, each time Jesus quoted the Scripture. We read in Luke 4:12, “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It is written, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.”‘”

It is written

You need to know and quote Scripture when you are tempted. The psalmist wrote, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9) and “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11)

It’s good to carry a Bible in your briefcase, backpack, or purse. But the best place to carry the Word of God is in your heart!

Why? Because Satan can quote Scripture to you too!

Satan entices you, trips you up, and then tells you “God will not forgive you!” We pull out the sword and reply, “It is written, ‘If we confess our sin . . . ” (1 John 1:9).

Satan whispers in your ear, “You’ve sinned, and now God condemns you!” We can come back with, “It is written, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1).

The devil tells us, “You’re not going to make it. I’ll get you. You’ll fall again!” You reply, “It is written, ‘And I will give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

You can also say, “Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Even when tragedy hits

Perhaps when tragedy hits, the enemy will say, “Your life is over, and ruined. God has abandoned you.”

You come back with God’s Word! It is written, “He causes all things to work together for good to those that love Him” (Romans 8:28).

When a loved one dies, the enemy says, “That’s it. They are gone. Death is the end!” You reply, “It is written that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord” (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

I encourage you to memorize and use the Word of God when being tempted. It will make all the difference.

When does temptation come?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 Posted in essentials, OC, Pastor's corner, sermons | 4 Comments »

Hey everyone!

On Thursday night in O.C., I am giving the first part of a two-part message on the topic of effectively sharing our faith.

We have all had experiences where we have done it ineffectively, right? I know I have.

So if you are in the O.C. area, I hope you can come. If not, it will be posted online in HD in a few days.

Now, to our topic today . . . temptation.

Have you ever been minding your own business, when “wham!”, you are hit with a heavy-duty temptation. It might be an evil thought, a lustful one, or even doubt.

You wonder, where did that come from? Answer: the devil.

Yes, we play a part in our own temptation, but there is clearly an enemy who comes with his enticments. He knows how to “package his wares” and make bad things look good. That’s because “things forbidden have a certain charm.”

After the dove

It is important to know that temptation and attack often come after times of great blessing.

It was after a time of great blessing in the life of Jesus that He was tempted by Satan. Jesus had just been baptized by His cousin John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit had descended on Him in the form of a dove, and the Heavenly Father proudly said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

But Luke’s Gospel tells us, “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2).

It was after the dove that the devil came. After the blessing comes the trial. The two often go hand in hand.

After God speaks

Times of attack often come after “mountaintop” experiences.

We read of when Jesus was on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah. Once again, God spoke, “This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!”

As they descended from the mountain, a man with a demon-possessed child is waiting. Whenever God speaks, the Devil will be there to oppose.

So what is the solution? It is to be aware of this truth, and always keep your guard up. Then the next time those “flaming arrows” of temptation come your way, you will know to put up your shield!

The Scorpion and The Tortoise

Monday, July 27th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, questions, sermons | 4 Comments »

Sometimes we wonder why we sin. This is especially hard if we think we are basically good and “the answer is within.”

The fact is, the problem is within. For all practical purposes, we have ourselves to thank when we give into temptation. Jesus told us, “From Within, out of the heart of man, is what defiles the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Where is the logic in that?

That brings me to the fable of the scorpion and the tortoise.

One day, a scorpion who wanted to cross a pond. As you may know, scorpions can’t really swim. He found a rather unsuspecting tortoise and asked if he would give him a lift.

The tortoise exclaimed, “Are you joking? You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear tortoise,” laughed the scorpion, “If I were to sting you, you would drown and I’d go down with you! Now where is the logic in that?”

“You’ve got a point there,” reasoned  the tortoise. “Hop on.”

Resigned to his fate

The scorpion climbed aboard and the tortoise set off into the water. Halfway across the pond, the scorpion carefully aimed his powerful stinger and gave that tortoise everything he had.

As they both sank to the bottom, the tortoise, resigned to his fate, turned to the scorpion and said, “Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there is no logic in you stinging me. So why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,”  the drowning scorpion replied.  “It’s just my nature!”

In a sense, that is a very accurate way of defining temptation. When we get tempted and when we give into it, we like to conveniently place the blame on someone or something else.

I’ve heard people say, “Get behind me, Satan . . . and push!” The fact is, “It’s just our nature!”

Be careful

So be aware of that today. Satan needs our cooperation in this area before we give in to his temptation. Where there is no desire on our part, then there is no temptation.

As it’s been said, “It takes two to make a successful temptation, and you are one of the two.”

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)

How to win the spiritual battle

Monday, July 20th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 11 Comments »

Over the last few posts, I have been writing about the spiritual war we are all engaged in.

Before I finish this series of posts, I wanted to let you know that I am speaking tonight at the National Worship Leader Conference in Leawood, Kansas.

I will be joined by artists like Mac Powell of Third Day, David Crowder, and Michael W. Smith, as well as other speakers. I would appreciate your prayers.

For more information on the conference, click here.

The battle never stops

Now, back to the battle.

Like it or not, the moment you commit your life to Jesus Christ you are engaged in a spiritual battle. The believer may be known by his inward warfare as well as by his inward peace.

This battle is not between flesh and blood, but with a very real opponent called the devil.

We have looked at the various pieces of armor we are to wear as we face our opponent, including the utility belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and, of course, the gospel shoes.

Those are all primarily defensive weapons. In other words, you don’t attack your enemy with your sandal, breastplate, or helmet. You need another weapon for that.

Unsheath your sword!

Paul calls the one piece of offensive weaponry God has given us the sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Many believers have all their armor in place, but they never use their sword. They leave it in the sheath. They talk about it, and brag about how sharp it is, but they never actually utilize the sword in spiritual battle.

The devil knows all too well the power and authority of the Bible and he will try to keep you from it at all costs.

Keep this in mind: Whether we know the value of our sword or not, Satan does. He will do everything he can to see that we keep our swords sheathed or that we don’t put them on in the first place.

The power of memorization

The enemy will certainly try to keep you from memorizing the Word of God.

Why? Because the Psalmist says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). The devil has felt its sting and authority.

It’s good to carry a Bible in your briefcase or purse, but the best place to carry the Word of God is in your heart.

How sharp is your sword?

I ask you now, what shape is your sword in?

Is it polished from daily use as you study the Scripture on a regular basis, and sharpened on the anvil of experience as you have applied and obeyed it’s truth in your life? Or is it rusty from lack of preparation or dulled by disobedience?

It’s been said “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

If we neglect the study of the Scripture, our spiritual life will ultimately unravel because everything we need to know about God is taught in the Bible. And if it can’t be found in the pages of Scripture, you don’t need it.

You can win in this spiritual battle. Not by running away, but rather by putting on the whole armor of God and unsheathing your sword, which is the Word of God, and using it.

I encourage you to do that today.

Wear your helmet!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 8 Comments »

Hey everyone! Did you happen to notice our new Web site is up?

Sooo . . . what do you think? Let me know your thoughts.

As we wrap up this series on the spiritual armor we wear to fight a spiritual war, we only have two pieces left—the helmet and our one offensive weapon, the sword (more on that Monday).

Paul tells us we are to take “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17).

In a war, the two most sought-after and vulnerable targets on the ancient battlefield were the heart and head. With our heart and other vital organs ably protected by the breastplate of righteousness, the enemy will try to strike the head. One well-placed blow here and the battle is over.

What does it mean to wear the helmet of salvation?

It would seem to me that the apostle is telling us to watch our thoughts in general. Most temptation comes through the gateway of the mind and imagination.

This is why Paul tells us, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your mind may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Smashing warped philosophies

When those “flaming arrows” of ungodly thoughts come, we need to have our guard up.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5-6:

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (THE MESSAGE).

Watch your thoughts!

So watch what you allow into your thought life. Our minds, thoughts, and imaginations must be protected. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, “As a man thinks, so is he.”

Satan recognizes the value of first getting a foothold in the realm of the thoughts and imagination, as this will “prepare the way” for that thought to translate into action! As it’s been said:

Sow a thought and reap an act.
Sow an act and reap a habit.
Sow a habit and reap a character.
Sow a character and reap a destiny.

So think “heavenly thoughts” this weekend!

This and that

You may want to check out my weekend column at WorldNetDaily. To read that, click here.

Also, here is my weekend devotion.

Guided missiles

Friday, July 17th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | No Comments »

As we fight the spiritual battle, we need spiritual weaponry. We have looked at the utility belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and proper footwear.

Now let’s consider our shield. The apostle Paul writes, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).

The words “above all” mean that faith is of paramount importance. The other armor won’t function apart from faith.

The shield that the Roman soldier would use was made of wood and then covered with cloth and leather. They were large, rectangular objects about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide (basically the size of a door). By crouching behind it, the soldier could completely hide himself.

Missiles coming!

The term “Fiery Darts” that Paul uses refers to one of the most commonly-used enemy tactics of his day.

Prior to an actual face-to-face engagement with the enemy, a warrior would often encounter a barrage of flaming arrows coming from all directions. Their sole purpose was to demoralize and confuse him.

Our modern equivalent might be guided missiles or rockets.

The Roman soldier had to hold up his shield to protect himself from those fiery arrows. Sometimes, he would dip his shield in water so the fire-tipped arrows would be extinguished when they struck the shield.

Watch your thoughts

Satan has his “flaming arrows,” or “guided missiles,” that he shoots our way too. They are swift and silent and we receive no advance warning of their arrival. You can wake up in the morning, and the enemy will hit you with a flaming arrow before your feet even hit the floor.

It might be an impure thought or a thought of complete despair. You may be gripped with intense fear and terror: “What if this happens, or if that happens?”

It might be a thought of hatred toward someone. It might even be a blasphemous thought or a thought of doubt.

When do these “flaming arrows” come?

Answer: at strategic times, like when you decide to read the Bible.

Isn’t it amazing that you can open the newspaper and maintain your full ability to concentrate with no distractions? You can get through the whole thing, the want ads, the comics, and all the advertisements with no disruption whatsoever.

Or you may watch some mindless TV program and you’ll get through it with no phone calls, no distractions, no problems.

Now try opening the Bible and watch as “all hell breaks loose” and those flaming arrows start flying!

It might be an inability to concentrate. It might be a hundred and one things you should be doing that come to mind. They aren’t necessarily evil thoughts per se,  just things like: “Oh boy! I forgot to go do this” or “I’ve got to pick up the cleaning, return that phone call, etc.”

The devil hates the Bible

Listen, the enemy’s primary objective is to keep you from the Word of God.

Sometimes people will ask me to sign their Bibles. When I do, I will often write, “Sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin.” The enemy will try to keep you from reading your Bible.

These “guided missiles” will also come during times of trial and hardship. Satan will whisper in your ear, “God has abandoned you. He’s left you. He doesn’t love you!”

I’ve been hit with a few arrows like you

I know about this personally and so do many of you. It is then that I hold up the shield of faith.

Here, faith means the ability to quickly apply what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.

My relationship with God is not built on fleeting emotions or feelings, but on faith in what He has said to me in His Word. Faith, or the “shield of faith,” is turning to God and His Word in time of attack, and not focusing on our fluctuating feelings or emotions.

Scripture does not say, “Resist Satan steadfast in your emotions, feelings, etc.,” but rather, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9).

So use your shield today! It could make all the difference.