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Archive for March, 2012

Why Going to Church Is Important, Part 4

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

In my previous posts, we looked at a couple reasons why the church exists: the exaltation of God and the edification of the saints. Let’s look today at the third: The church is called to evangelize the world.

This purpose of the church is a natural outgrowth of the first two. If we are glorifying God and edifying one another, we will naturally want to share the hope of salvation with others through our loving actions and words. Healthy sheep will reproduce themselves. This was Christ’s commandment before He ascended into heaven: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere” (Mark 16:15). The church should do just that.

We are light to the world and salt to the culture. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We do good works in our community: feeding, clothing, helping people get off drugs. We spend countless hours counseling people with marital problems. We reach out to unwed mothers, even helping them to find homes for their unwanted babies. The list goes on and on. Our purpose is to shine God’s light in this dark world.

But we are also salt. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” Salt, in biblical times, was used to preserve meat. The church is a preservative in the culture. If you don’t believe that, just look at the world after the church is removed: Antichrist emerges effectively unchallenged.

As that preservative, we stand up for what is right and true. We register and we vote our consciences, informed by our biblical worldview. We make no apology for that. We lift up Jesus Christ and we oppose sin. The story is told of President Calvin Coolidge, who returned home from church one Sunday. His wife asked him what the minister spoke on. Coolidge, a man of few words, simply said, “Sin!” “What else did he say?” she asked. President Coolidge replied, “He was against it!” That’s right, we are against sin and yet we love sinners and want them to be saved.

We are here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The church makes a huge mistake when it “tries too hard” to relate and compromise. Martin Lloyd Jones said, “When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.”

If you want to see church in a whole new way, stop thinking like a consumer. Start thinking like a disciple. It’s not about you; it is about God and others. Ask the Lord what your place is in the church. Come not to be served, but to serve and watch what God will do. Church will come alive to you as a result. Let God revive you, and may it impact your church and your country as a result. May God fill us with the Holy Spirit to impact this world.

This Weekend at Harvest Riverside and Orange County

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

The title of my message this Palm Sunday  is “Spring Cleaning.”
Palm Sunday of course is the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
But after that, he cleansed the Temple.
Jesus cleaned house and drove out those who were keeping people away from God.
Could you use a little “spiritual housecleaning”?
Are there some vices, sins, and things you know are wrong that have found their way into your life?
Then you will want to hear this message.
It’s all webcast live at www.harvest.org.

Why Going to Church Is Important, Part 3

Friday, March 30th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

As I mentioned in my last post, the church exists for three main reasons: to exalt God (upward), to edify the saints (inward), and to evangelize the world (outward). Today, let’s look at the second function—the edification of other believers.

The apostle Paul said that his goal was to both warn believers and teach them “with all the wisdom God has given us, for we want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This is why we give such a prominent place to biblical teaching at Harvest.

As a pastor and teacher, I do not want to waste your time. My opinion is not any more valuable than any other persons’. I am not here to be a cheerleader or a “life coach” or a motivational speaker. I am not here to be your psychologist or your political pundit. I am here for one reason: to teach you the Word of God. All that matters is what the Bible says. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are” (Hebrews 4:12). Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

I was amazed when I first heard the Bible taught. It made sense; it applied to my life! And it’s not only strong preaching of the Word that counts, but also strong listening. The early church, the church in revival that changed the world, understood this. In Acts 2:42 we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” To “continue steadfastly” speaks of a real passion. They were living in a first-love relationship with Jesus and had burning hearts for Him. This was not a casual attitude, as one might have when joining a social club. There was a spiritual excitement in what they did. They applied themselves to what was being taught from the Word. I believe there is a need for anointed preaching today, but I also believe there is a need for anointed listening! Having an openness to receive God’s Word. Like newborn babies you should crave and earnestly desire spiritual milk that by it you may grow (see 1 Peter 2:2).

Let me say something that may seem controversial: We should be a part of one church. There is nothing wrong with visiting other churches here and there, or attending a midweek study at another church, especially if your church does not offer one. However, to go to multiple churches and not have one consistent place to fellowship is not good.

We are not all called to go to the same church, but we are all called to be a part of a church. Why? Because you need a consistent theology. Doctrine, or what we believe, affects everything we do.  Paul said, in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” What you believe matters. That is why I have never understood how people will rate facilities, convenience, proximity, etc. as the criteria for choosing where they go to church. The top priority in looking for a church is that Gods’ Word is taught there.

But why should you have a home church? Because you need a place to be accountable. You need a pastor who can help and influence you. If there is something wrong, your pastor can tell you. If you are doing great, your pastor can commend and encourage you. You need a place to give faithfully and consistently of your finances. And you need a place to serve God with the gifts He has given you!

Sometimes people “church hop” because there is sin on their life. They break up with their spouse and initiate and unscriptural divorce, and then go to another church where no one knows them, with their new girlfriend or boyfriend. (Trust me, I have seen this and worse.)

A lot of people will treat the church like a movie theater—getting there late, leaving while the credits are rolling, checking texts and e-mails during the film, etc. Sometimes we bring that same consumer mentality to church. If we foster consumers instead of communers, we’ll end up with customers instead of disciples. It might fill up an auditorium, but it will never turn the world upside down for Christ.

Why Going to Church Is Important, Part 2

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

The church exists for three purposes:

  1.  The Glorification of God
  2.  The Edification of the Saints
  3.  The Evangelization of the World

In other words, “Upward, Inward, and Outward.”

The first purpose of the church is to exalt God (Upward). God put us on this earth to know Him and to glorify Him. According to Ephesians 1:12, we are here to praise our glorious God! This is why we worship the Lord in song. Worship is an important part of service. A worship leader/team is not there to perform for you. They “perform” for an audience of One: God! And they are not a warm-up act either. They are here to lead us worship. They are leading us in prayer set to song. That is why we should never be late to church. When we are late, we miss out on glorifying God together. He inhabits the praises of His people (see Psalm 22:3).

One of the most powerful things I had ever seen when I first came to church was worship. Back in those days, the choruses and chords were very simple, but the worship was positively supernatural. Did you know that your worship is a witness? Acts 2:47 says that the early church was “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” There was a direct connection between worship and witness. We are being watched, both inside and outside the walls of our church. The outside world marvels when a child of God can rejoice in hardship.

Sitting next to you on any given Sunday may be a visitor or a nonbeliever. They are essentially sizing everything up by what they see. Not just what happens on this platform, but the people around them. During times of worship, do you sing out to the Lord? Or did you sit in silence? Worse yet, do you talk with the person next to you or spend the time texting? What message are you sending to those visitors? Can you not tune those things out and just glorify God?

When we glorify God in church with other believers, it gives us perspective. When we come to God in prayer and in worship, we see things correctly. This is why Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven.” It causes me to remember, whatever I am facing, that the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the Universe who loves me is listening to me right now. But when I isolate myself from other believers, I lose perspective. I can become fearful, confused, angry, and even bitter.

You recall when Jesus was crucified, the disciples initially scattered. But they quickly gathered together again to encourage one another. Thomas was not there and missed out on an appearance of Jesus. When told of it, he essentially said, “Unless I touch the wounds in His hands, I will not believe.” But the next time they were meeting, Thomas was there and his perspective was quickly corrected.

Asaph was grappling with the age-old question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” And then it dawned on him. “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin” (Psalm 73:16). Asaph is essentially saying, “I didn’t understand why things are the way that they are until I came into God’s presence to study His Word with His people. Then my questions came into a proper perspective.”

Why should believers go to church? To exalt God—to reach upward. We will look at inward and outward in the coming days.

Why Going to Church Is Important, Part 1

Monday, March 26th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 11 Comments »

Some people claim to be Christians but don’t attend church. But if you really love God, you will love His people and long to be with them.

“Well, I haven’t found a church I like yet, and I work and Sunday is my only day off!” The Bible indeed commands us to go to church, and—even more—to be a functioning part of it.

Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”

The Bible does not say: Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together unless Sunday is your only day off…or unless you want to run in a triathlon…or unless it’s a great beach day, in which case you are excused, because you just don’t need fellowship as much as other Christians do.

Yes, if you love God, you will love His people and long to be with them. If you don’t really love God, you won’t love His people. Some will say “I’m so over the church; people are critical and judgmental. It’s so full of hypocrites!” My response to that is: There is always room for one more!

Understand, I am not justifying hypocrisy of any kind, but honestly, we have all been hypocritical at times. But that is not a reason to not attend church. The church has its flaws because people are in it. However, Jesus both started and loves the church. He died for it.

Being in fellowship is a proof that you are indeed a child of God. It says in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Not going to church is a proof that something is wrong with you spiritually. We read in 1 John 2:19, “These people left our churches because they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left us, it proved that they do not belong with us.”

Studies show that if you don’t go to church for a month, the odds are almost 2 to 1 that you won’t go for more than a year. Being a vital and active part of the church is something we pass on to our kids. A study once disclosed that

  • If both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful in attendance.
  • If only Dad attends regularly, 55% remain faithful.
  • If only Mom attends regularly, 15% remain faithful.
  • If neither attend regularly, only 6% remain faithful.

What legacy will you leave your kids? Are you committed to demonstrating to them that going to church is important?

More on this next time.

This Sunday at Harvest Riverside and Orange County

Saturday, March 24th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

Some will say “I’m so over the church; people there are critical and judgmental. It’s so full of hypocrites!”

Listen: That is more about you; not the church.
Yes, the church has its flaws because people are in it–people like you and me.

However, Jesus both started and loves the church, and died for it.

The fact is, neglect of fellowship with other believers is a sure sign of backsliding.

Yes, you read right.

If you love the Lord, you should love His people. Being in fellowship with other Christians is a proof that you are indeed a child of God.

Scripture reminds us, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

This Sunday at Harvest Riverside and Orange County, I am going to give my last message in my Hope for Hurting Hearts series. My message title will be “The Hope of the Church.”

I believe that a revived Church is what America needs to see today. A church that is living as it ought will be a powerful testimony for Jesus Christ in our nation.

Let’s find out more together. To find service times and/or watch the live webcast go to www.harvest.org.

America’s Only Hope, Part 2

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 Posted in sermons | 4 Comments »

In our country, we have had three great spiritual awakenings, perhaps four. The first, during the 1700s, was led by such men as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. During just two years of this revival, from 1740 to 1742, some 25,000 to 50,000 people were added to the New England churches. This, out of a population of only 300,000!

The Second Great Awakening (1790s to 1840) was led by many, including Charles Finney. It was the time of the Wild West. The law was disregarded and sexual sin was rampant. Through “camp meetings,” where crowds as high as 15,000 would gather for several days (an incredible figure considering the scanty population of that time), thousands came to faith—more than 10,000 in Kentucky alone between 1800 and 1803.

The Third Great Awakening in America was from about 1857 to 1859. How this revival began is unique. A 48-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier began a prayer meeting on Fulton Street in New York City. It began slowly and soon exploded. It is worth noting that the New York Stock Market crashed around this time and soon Lanphier’s prayer meeting was attended by hundreds of people. Prayer meetings broke out all over New York City, filling theaters on Broadway.

Within six months, 10,000 people gathered daily for prayer throughout New York City! It is reported that 50,000 New Yorkers were converted from March to May. During that single year, the number of reported conversions throughout the country reached an average of 50,000 a week for a couple of years. There were 10,000 additions to church membership weekly. Over one million people came to Christ in this brief period.

One of the men who came out of this revival was a former shoe salesman known as D.L. Moody, who personally led countless thousands to Christ! But look at how it all started. One simple “layman” decided to pray, and it started a wave that impacted the nation! It was an extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit!

Finally, there was the Jesus Movement. I was privileged to have a front-row seat as I was one of the kids who came to faith during that time. There is no question in my mind that it was a modern-day revival.

Things were bleak in the late ‘60s. The country was in turmoil. Bomb drills in classrooms were mandatory. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of nuclear confrontation with Russia. JFK was assassinated, as well as his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr. The Viet Nam War was raging, with no end in sight. Watergate was about to happen. Kids were rebelling against society and turning to drugs, sex, and Rock & Roll. The slogan of the time was “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”

The church, by and large, was not effectively reaching the public. In 1966, Time Magazine even did a cover story titled “Is God Dead?” Some liberal Protestant theologians announced that indeed He was. Nothing like this had ever happened in America before. But God intervened and brought the Jesus Movement and it saved a generation. Thousands and thousands of young people came to Christ, and the church was influenced globally by what God did through the Jesus Movement.

But that was over 40 years ago. The kids of this movement are now grandparents! Now we look at this generation and we realize we need another Jesus Movement—another spiritual awakening. Even our own children, raised in the church, need their own encounter with God. What we want is to see the Lord do it again!

The prophet Habakkuk understood this when he prayed this prayer: “I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, revive Your work, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).

Psalm 85:6 says “ Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? But how badly do we really want to see another revival? I asked Chuck Smith if we would ever see another Jesus Movement. “We are living in desperate times,” he said, “but we are not desperate for revival!”

In the Tribulation Period, millions will come to Christ! In Revelation 7, we read of a multitude so large they could not be numbered. We know there has been revival in the past. And we know there will be revival in the future. But will there be revival in the present?

I am praying there will be. I am praying for America.

 

It’s My Son Jonathan’s Birthday Today!

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 Posted in sermons | 35 Comments »

Today, our son Jonathan Allen Laurie is 26 years old!

He is the proud father of two daughters and guess what else?

He and his wife Brittni are expecting another child!

Guess what else?
It’s a BOY!

We are very proud of Jonathan.

God has really put His hand on my son and we are excited to see what God will do in and through him in the days ahead.

So wish Jonathan a happy birthday today, right here!

Tonight at Harvest Orange County: How to Overcome Worry!

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

Okay, quick show of hands. . . How many worrywarts are out there?

Yes, I understand.

Worry is one powerful emotion, isn’t it? The problem with worry is it does not help one bit. In fact, it can make things worse.

Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.

Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”

Tonight at Harvest Orange County, I want to talk about how to overcome fear and worry. The title of my message is “Don’t Worry, Pray!”

Paul says this in the Book of Philippians,  “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

We are going to explore what this means tonight.

Our service starts at 7:00 PM, PDT and will be webcast LIVE at www.harvest.org.

America’s Only Hope, Part 1

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

What is the future of the United States of America? Are we doomed to just go the way that so many other once-great nations have gone? Is America headed to the ash heap of history? Are our greatest days behind us, or could they still yet be ahead?

Is there any hope for America?

No one can answer those questions with any certainty, but we know this much: America is the not the superpower of the last days. The greatest nation on earth is conspicuous in her absence from the world stage in the end-times scenario given to us in the Bible. America is not the first, nor will it be the last, nation to rise and fall. Every nation’s days are numbered; America is no exception.

Rome was once the mightiest empire on the face of the earth. But she collapsed internally before she was conquered externally. We as a country can be diligent to guard against enemies on the outside, but we would be wise to look within.

Historian Will Durant, in his book on Rome’s history, Caesar and Christ, said, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals….”

The difference between Rome and the U.S. is that we were founded on Judeo-Christian values. We’ve strayed from the original vision of our founding fathers, the vision that produced “America.”

What was once “freedom of religion” has now become “freedom from religion.” We have succeeded in a getting God out of our schools, sporting events, public venues, and workplaces. Instead of Christmas, when we should focus on Jesus, we have Happy Holidays and Winter Solstice. Instead of Good Friday and Easter, we have Spring Break. It seems to me that America has gone out her way of late to turn from God. But America needs God’s intervention.

We saw many turn to the Lord after 9/11. Remember those prayer vigils on street corners and packed churches? Remember the members of Congress spontaneously singing “God Bless America”? These memories give me hope that there could be at least one more great revival in America’s future.

If we do not have revival, I do believe that judgment is inevitable. Peter Marshall, former chaplain to the U.S. Senate once said, “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration.”

God was able to turn the very wicked nation of Nineveh around in the days of Jonah. We know there have been some great spiritual awakenings in our history as well. Let’s pray that America will turn back to God in these last days.