So there was Paul in the midst of a tempest. Yet somehow, he had an amazing calm in the midst of this storm.
We too have our storms in life, and we wonder how to get through them.
Here are some of Paul’s secrets to surviving life’s challenges.
In Acts 27, Paul said, “For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you” (Acts 27:23-24 NLT)
I pointed out in my last post that Paul realized God was with him. That gave him great confidence.
Now, here’s the second reason Paul could be strong in his storm.
He belonged to God
Again, Paul said, “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me.”
Do you belong to Jesus? It can make all the difference.
Only the follower of Jesus Christ has this confidence. In the Song of Solomon, we read, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).
Over and over in Scripture, we are given the analogy of being in a relationship with God like that of a bride to a husband to whom she is deeply in love with. This reminds us of His affection and love toward us.
But we are also given the analogy of a sheep belonging to a shepherd. In John 10, Jesus told us that He is “the good Shepherd and we are his sheep.” This reminds us of His constant care and awareness of our whereabouts.
It’s hard to be proud about being compared to a sheep. They are basically defenseless, vulnerable, dim-witted creatures. But when under the care of a loving shepherd, they are safe and content.
We are also given the analogy of a child to his father. Romans 8:15 reminds us, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba Father'” (NKJV). This reminds us of His tenderness and protection over each one of us.
My children have always had special access to me, as well as my total, unconditional love. That, of course, extends to my grandchildren as well.
When my granddaughter Stella sees me, she does not ask for permission to approach. She just says “Papa!” and I stop what I’m doing and pick her up and hug her.
We are also told in Scripture that we are his very property. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “You are not your own” (NKJV). In the Greek, it is “You are not your own property. You are bought with a price.”
If something belonged to a king, it carried his seal. In the same way, 2 Corinthians 1:22 says, “He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us” (NLT).
I read a story about an old gentlemen who known for his godly life. One day, someone asked him, “What do you do when you are tempted, old man?”
He replied, “I just look up to heaven and say, ‘Lord, your property is in danger.’ ”
Yes, we are His bride, children, sheep, and property. And when the Devil sees that “I.D. tag,” he respects it.
And just like Paul, we too can say, “I belong to God!”
This Sunday at Harvest
I will finally complete my messages from the Book of Acts this Sunday morning.
Sunday’s message is titled “The Beginning,” because the Book of Acts is a record of all that “Jesus began to do” (Acts 1:1).
You might say, in a sense, that new chapters are being written to this great book as the Church marches on.
Thursdays in Orange County
Don’t forget, our new Thursday night Bible study is launching soon in the O.C. For more info, click here.
You know the drill. Things are going well, no crisis, no conflicts to speak of, pretty much smooth sailing.
Then seemingly out of nowhere, a storm hits. Maybe it’s a crisis, or a hardship. Maybe it’s a personal tragedy.
So what do you do when a hurricane-force storm hits and water is filling your boat?
Answer: You take heart. Because you are not alone.
When Paul was at sea on his way to Rome and the mighty tempest hit him and the others on board, he was able to courageously encourage others. He told them, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me” (Acts 27:22-23).
God was with him
How was Paul able to be so confident?
He was conscious of the presence of God in the face of danger. He knew that God was there with him.
And God is with us in our storms as well. God will always give us what we need when we need it.
You remember that Paul had what he called his “thorn in the flesh,” which was presumably some kind of physical disability or illness. He asked the Lord three times to remove it (see 2 Corinthians 12).
God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), which is another way of saying, “I will be with you, Paul. Instead of a healing, I will personally be there in a special and sufficient way.”
Now it is the Lord
A. B. Simpson wrote these words:
“Once it was the Blessing, now it is the Lord.
Once it was the Feeling, now it is His Word.
Once His Gifts I wanted, now the Giver alone.
Once I sought Healing, now Himself alone.”
God is with you right now, regardless of the storm or even the shipwreck. We may not hear an audible voice, but you may hear that “still small voice” of God’s Holy Spirit. Or He will speak to you through His Word.
Then you, like Paul, can reassure others that “the Lord is in control.”
Time and time again, God reminded Paul of His presence.
- He was there when Paul was in jail in Jerusalem, as Jesus told him to “be courageous!” (Acts 23:11)
- It happened in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 when Paul said, “All deserted me . . . but the Lord stood by me.”
- And it happened here in Acts 27, in the midst of the storm.
When the boss calls you in his office . . .
You can take heart in the face of danger or uncertainty because you are aware of God’s presence with you.
When your boss says, “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to let you go!” Or when the doctor says, “The test results are back and I need you to come in.” Or when the telephone rings and someone says, “There’s been an accident.”
You are not alone. The Lord is standing next to you. He cares. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
I have been teaching my granddaughter Stella a new Bible verse that I will leave you with today: “Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)
In an earlier entry, I told the story of Jesus and His disciples and the storm they encountered.
Listen, storms will come in life. It’s not a matter of if but when. Quite frankly, you are either pulling out of one or eventually headed toward another.
Now I hope that does not cause you to be disillusioned, because as I said in my earlier entry, “Better to be in a storm with Jesus then anywhere else without Him.”
One of the readers of this blog commented on that post and wrote:
Dear Pastor Greg,
A series of misfortunes have chased me down over the last week or so. I got so down. The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’m called for a purpose in Christ. When I decided to log in after not reading your blog in a while, I read your words: “It’s better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without Him . . . ” I nearly fell off my chair.
Yes, Lori, you do have a purpose in Christ. And God is working in your life.
That is one of the reasons the storms and trials come. To make us stronger spiritually. Because in a storm, a trial, or a hardship, you will learn things you could really learn nowhere else.
It has been said, “Fruit does not grow on mountaintops, but in valleys.”
Paul and his storm
Toward the end of the Book of Acts, Paul was making his final journey to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar. As they journeyed, a horrific storm overtook them and everyone despaired for their lives.
Dr. Luke describes it this way: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20 NIV).
The Lord came to Paul
But the Lord sent His angel to speak to Paul, giving the apostle the ability to encourage the others on board:
But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” (Acts 27:22-25 NLT)
There will be smooth sailing
That is not to say we will not have beautiful moments, and even seasons of relative calmness. Not all the winds that blow in life are devastating. In one instance, the log of the journey before the big storm hit says, “The south wind blew softly” (v.13 NKJV).
Thank God for those times when the “south wind blows softly.” Those times when you can feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders and all is well.
But it is important to remember that there is always a storm ‘a comin!
People think that when you are in the will of God, you will always have “smooth sailing.” That is certainly not true of Paul. He seemed to face every kind of adversity imaginable. He had enemies who tried to undermine and even destroy him out of jealousy.
God never abandons us
He had numerable setbacks in life that included beatings and physical harm. He also had a personal physical disability he prayed to be healed of that never left.
Still, he was able to say, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).
In my next blog entry, I will point out a few takeaway truths for each of us as we face our storms in life so we can “get up again and keep going!”
Pray for the family of Ralph Arthur
I mentioned in my last blog entry that Ralph Arthur, one of our pastors at Harvest Christian Fellowship, went to be with the Lord this last Saturday.
Please be praying for his family, especially his dear wife Cheri. His memorial service will be at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside this coming Thursday. For more information on that, click here.
Hey everyone, we just returned from our Lost Boy weekend in Chicago. We had an amazing trip.
It all happened at Harvest Bible Chapel, which is pastored by my friend, James MacDonald. The funny thing is that James spoke at our church, while I spoke at his!
We showed the Lost Boy film followed by a message. My son Jonathan once again shared his testimony, which moved many, especially the young people.
We must have seen some 400 people come forward in all the services to make commitments and re-commitments to Christ.
I am back now in California. So thanks for your prayers!
A tragic loss
It is with deep sadness that I report to you that Ralph Arthur, an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, was suddenly taken to heaven this last Saturday.
Let me say this as plainly as I can–Ralph Arthur was a man of God. I can pay him no higher compliment than that.
He was always there with a smile, hug, and an encouraging word from the Lord to those in need. He was a loving and compassionate counselor to those in his ministry who were suffering, to cancer patients, and to those who had lost loved ones.
Ralph is in heaven
Now, sadly, Ralph himself is the loved one lost. But, of course, he is not lost at all, for you have not lost someone when you know where they are, and we certainly know where Ralph is. He is in the presence of the One who promises “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.”
Ralph is in heaven with my son Christopher and so many of our loved ones who have preceded us to the other side.
He will be greatly missed by our church and staff, but most of all by his family.
He finished well
But let me close by saying this—Ralph finished well as a follower and representative of Jesus Christ, and I know the Lord has said to him, “Well done, Ralph Arthur, my good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of your Lord.”
Let us all remember his wife Cheri and his children as they will need God’s special strength and comfort. As Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
One day at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side” (Mark 4:35 NKJV).
As they were making their way across, a huge storm came out of nowhere, which was a common occurrence on this large freshwater lake. The seasoned sailors were terrified as hurricane force winds hit and the boat filled with water.
Despite the bad weather, Jesus managed to sleep through it. But the disciples could no longer contain themselves.
Don’t you care?
So they woke up Jesus, saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v. 38) That is really a bit accusational, but it’s the way they felt.
They were saying, essentially, “Lord, are You even aware of what we are facing right now?”
“Why are You allowing this?”
As I have said, it’s fine to ask why as long as you don’t expect an answer. Better to cry out in anguish to God than to turn from Him in anger.
Jesus rebuked them and the storm
Jesus woke up and rebuked the storm, but then He dealt with them too, asking them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40) Or literally, “Why are you such timid, fearful ones?”
Jesus was saying, “Boys, haven’t you learned anything here?”
You see, Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side!” He did not say, “Let’s go drown in the middle of the Sea of Galilee!”
He did not promise smooth sailing, but He did promise a safe passage.
Listen, it’s better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without Him.
Or in a fiery furnace–just ask Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.
Or in a lion’s den–just ask Daniel.
Or in a prison–just ask Peter.
Or in a storm again or even shipwrecked–just ask Paul.
This weekend in Chicago
This weekend, James McDonald and I are swapping pulpits!
James is speaking at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, and I am speaking at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.
I will be showing my autobiographical film, Lost Boy: The Next Chapter, and speaking after.
So, if you or anyone you know is in the Chicago area, please come and join us. For more info on that, click here.
Thursday nights in Orange County
The new Bible study that I will be doing in the O.C. in Southern California is coming soon. It all starts on March 12.
We are building a Web site for it, but for now, click here for more info.
This and that
This weekend, I did an article at WorldNetDaily called, “Are You Almost Christian?” To read that, click here.
Also, to read my long-form weekend devotion, click here.
We all remember the line from The Godfather, as Vito Corleone instructs his “consigliere” Tom Hagan to make a certain person “an offer they cannot refuse,” which was Mafia-speak for “Do what I want you to do!”
Though the Godfather trilogy was fiction, based on some fact, we all know there really is a Mafia out there.
Michael Franzese, the real deal
Recently, I had lunch with Michael Franzese, a former mobster. He told me his story and shared how our A New Beginning radio broadcast had been a great help to him while he was in solitary confinement–or “the hole,” as he called it–in a prison here in Southern California.
Having no real knowledge of this mysterious world, I peppered Michael with questions about how the real mob worked.
From the Mob to the Lord
Michael was the son of a notorious kingpin in New York’s Columbo crime family.
Michael was once named one of the biggest moneymakers in the mob since Al Capone by Vanity Fair. By age 35, he was the youngest mobster listed on Fortune magazine’s survey of the 50 most wealthy and powerful Mafia bosses in America.
But amazingly, Michael came to Christ and got out of the Mob and now travels the world telling his amazing story. He has written a book about it called Blood Covenant.
We did an interview recently at Harvest, which you can see below.
Hey everyone! I am happy to announce that you can now see the new, updated version of the documentary film about my life, Lost Boy: The Next Chapter.
Since the early departure of our son Christopher to heaven, we felt we needed to change the end of the film as, needless to say, our lives have been changed forever.
Lost Boy: The Next Chapter is still a story of redemption. The redemption of my father, mother, myself, and my son. It is a story that offers hope, regardless of your circumstances.
I hope that you will not only view it but use it as a tool to reach others who do not yet know the Lord.
Lost Boy, the book
As you know,there is also a Lost Boy book that has been very well received. In fact, it was recently nominated for Outreach Magazine‘s Outreach Resource of the Year in the Evangelism category.
I have heard many stories of people who have come to Christ after reading Lost Boy.
You can get a copy of the Lost Boy book by clicking here.
Lost Boy, the DVD
This new version of the film will be out very soon for you to own. It will include many extra features that will make it a valuable ministry resource.
Lost Boy, the tour
I have also been personally touring and showing the Lost Boy documentary at churches around the country. I’m doing that again this weekend in Chicago at Harvest Bible Chapel.
If you are in the Chicagoland area, please come and see us! My son Jonathan will be with me, sharing his personal testimony as well.
Well, that’s all for now. Let me know what you think of this new version of Lost Boy: The Next Chapter.
Wow, the video I posted of Jonathan at Prestonwood has created quite a stir. It is really effective to show, especially to young people who were raised in the Church.
Jonathan is not a “public speaker,” per se, at this point. But I asked him to tell his story and he did so honestly and, I think you will agree, poignantly.
I will be going back to Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago later this month. James MacDonald, the pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, spoke with Jack Graham from Prestonwood, and Jack told James that Jonathan ought to do this for our screening of Lost Boy: The Next Chapter there too.
So Jonathan will do this again next Saturday and Sunday in the Windy City. Be praying!
New weekly study in OC
We have also gotten a lot of very positive response to our new OC study that will be launching in the second week of March.
People are very interested in the study itself, as well as the web connection that we are going to roll out soon. So stay tuned on that.
For more info on that, click here.
“Surviving the Shipwrecks of Life”
I am almost done with my series in the Book of Acts that I have called Upside-Down Living.
This Sunday, I will speak on “Surviving the Shipwrecks of Life.” I hope the message will be an encouragement for many, as I seek to “comfort with the comfort I have been comforted with.”
How to Cook Eggs
OK, now from the sublime to the ridiculous.
As I have shared before, I only know how to scramble eggs and make quesadillas for Stella. People have asked me what my “recipe” for eggs is.
So, in a moment of wackiness and just for fun, we decided to video the whole process. Jonathan also makes a guest appearance.
So if you want to see it, here it is.
I told you that I was at Prestonwood Church showing the Lost Boy film and speaking last Sunday. I asked my son Jonathan to say a few words and thought you might like to see it for yourself. So check it out and let me and Jonathan know what you think!
As many of you know, for years I held weekly Bible studies in Orange County, California. We started at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, then did a number of years at The Grove of Anaheim, and we also spent time at Mariners Church in Irvine.
As a matter of fact, the Harvest Crusades sprung from this initial Monday night study at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
It is not an overstatement to say that thousands of people have made commitments to Christ in those outreaches over the years. I can’t tell you how many people I have personally spoken with who came to Christ in one of these Bible studies.
For the last few years, we have focused on other areas of ministry, including our Harvest Crusades. But lately, I have felt led by the Lord to start teaching and preaching in the OC again.
So here is the announcement.
Starting March 12, I will be speaking every Thursday night in Orange County, California. We are calling it Thursdays with Greg Laurie.
What is it?
It will be a Bible study based on a series of messages that I am calling Essentials. In this foundational set of teachings, we will look at topics like prayer, Bible study, heaven, hell, angels, Satan, temptation, trials, the family, last days events, and much, much more.
With a growing rate of what I would call “biblical illiteracy,” I think the time is right to teach biblically on things every believer needs to know about. Pretty much, you name it, we will probably deal with it, hence the title Essentials. Things we need to know about as followers of Jesus.
And we will have our amazing Harvest Worship Band with us every week.
When is it?
Again, every Thursday night, starting March 12, 2009. It will begin at 7:00 P.M.
Where is it?
This weekly study will be held at the Free Chapel OC building, located on Jamboree Boulevard, between the 5 and 405 freeways. The address is 2777 McGaw Avenue, Irvine, CA 92614.
We have leased their facility and will be sharing space with them for events we will have there. Essentially, it’s two congregations, one facility.
There is a very large cross in the parking lot, right in front of the building, that is hard to miss.
New Web site coming
A special Web site is under construction at present that we will be launching ASAP.
This Web site will feature service archives and special opportunities for you to interact with us in new and fun ways. So, even if you are not in the area and cannot attend in person, you can still be a part of these Thursday night events.
Follow the cross!
Until then, just mark the date and place, and I will see you there!
I look forward to seeing all of my OC friends and anyone else who wants to join us on Thursday, March 12.
So just follow the cross and you will find your way! Hey, I could preach a sermon on that!
Update: click here to check out the flyer announcing this new weekly event!