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Archive for December, 2012

Are We Victims of Fate or Does God Have a Plan?

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 4 Comments »

It has been said that men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them. According to the Bible, we live our lives for a certain period of time – not a moment longer and not a moment shorter. All of the health-food solutions are not going to extend your life beyond what God has determined.

You can eat free-range chicken and organic vegetables and tofu every day of your life if you want to. You can use all of the lotions and potions and special vitamins on the market today, but you will not live one day longer than God wants you to live. Nor will you live one day shorter. He has an appointed time for each of us.

Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2). And Job said, “My life passes more swiftly than a runner. It flees away without a glimpse of happiness. It disappears like a swift papyrus boat, like an eagle swooping down on its prey” (Job 9:25–26 NLT). The problem is that we spend a lot of our lives doing things we would rather not be doing. We have control over some of these things, but not all of them.

Someone compiled these statistics about the amount of time the average American will spend doing certain things over the course of a lifetime: six months sitting at traffic lights, waiting for them to change; one year searching through desk clutter for misplaced objects; and eight months opening junk mail. The average American also will spend two years trying to call people who aren’t in or whose line is busy, five years waiting in lines and three years in meetings.

But here is something we have some control over. The average American will watch 1,700 hours of television every year.

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.”

We live by time. But God is outside of time. I am not implying that God is not aware of time, because he is completely aware of every minute and second of our lives and everything that is happening in them. But God lives in the eternal realm. His interpretation of time is quite different than ours. He has his own timing.

Of course, there are times in life when it appears to us as though God is late, that God is somehow disengaged, that God is not paying attention. Going back to what Solomon had to say in Ecclesiastes, there were two important words he used in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “season” and “time.” The word season originates from a Hebrew term that refers to a fixed, definite portion of time. And the Hebrew word for time that Solomon refers to is a beginning or a starting period.

Putting it all together, Solomon was saying that God has appointed everything that comes into our lives for a specific purpose. He knows just when to bring them, and he knows how long they should last. The things we experience are not random events that float in and out of our lives. Rather, they are specific events that have been chosen by God as timely and purposeful – and that applies to the good things as well as the bad things. It applies to the good times as well as the bad times.

As we get a little bit older, we eventually realize that many of the bad times will, in retrospect, turn out to be good times. Because it is through those so-called bad times that we will learn some of life’s most important lessons.

If I decided how my day would go, I would never experience crisis. I would never get sick or have my tire go flat there or have this unexpected disaster take place over here. I would just write in all the good stuff. I would make sure that everything would go my way, there would be no traffic on the freeways, and that it always would be green lights and blue skies.

But we are not in charge of our own lives. God is. And He will let bad things, so-called, happen. But as time goes by, you will find the important lessons you have learned in life did not come from the good times. They came from those times of crisis when perhaps you were more dependent on God.

When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you come under His protective care. It means that God is fully aware of everything that happens to you. And thankfully, God is never asleep on the job. He is always paying careful attention to the smallest detail of your life and is in complete control of all circumstances that surround it.

As Solomon observed, there is a season for everything. We are not victims of the fickle finger of fate or dumb luck. If you are a Christian, then you have come into God’s providence, which means that he will guide and direct your steps. It means that your times are in his hands.

Taken from my weekly column at Worldnetdaily.

Are There Stores in Heaven?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 8 Comments »

Remembering Lenya Avery Lusko

Last night in Kalispell, Montana at Fresh Life Church, I spoke at the memorial service for Lenya Avery Lusko. She is the daughter of my friends Levi and Jennie Lusko.

Little Lenya, age 5, went to heaven on December 20. She had a severe asthma attack and tragically died in her father’s arms.

Now she is in the everlasting arms of God.

Even at her young age, Lenya was a bright light for Jesus Christ. She always was a fighter, as she was born with severe allergies to many foods.

She once said to her mom, Jennie, “Mom, when I get to heaven I’m going to buy a box of cheese and a whole box of peanut butter from the store. There are stores in heaven, right Mom? I think there will be a lot of stores in heaven!”

I love this because it shows that this little girl understood heaven is a real place.

Heaven is described in Scripture as a country, a city, and a garden. Jesus said, “I go to prepare A PLACE for you” (John 14:6).

This sweet little girl is there now, along with my son Christopher, and I am sure loved ones that you know who have gone before you who believed in Jesus Christ.

The good news is that as Christians we have the hope that we will see them again.

Paul wrote these hopeful words to those who have had loved ones die:

“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope.For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes,God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4).

Note that Paul says “together WITH THEM” we will be caught up to meet the Lord.
This is referring to our loved ones who have preceded us. We will see them again!
The Bible teaches that there will be a bodily resurrection.

Heaven, and later the new earth, will be a place of reunion. We will pick up where we last left off.

Old conversations will be finished. New ones will begin. We will have great adventures together!

Let’s remember Levi and Jennie Lusko in prayer, along with their daughters: Alivia, Daisy and Clover.

Heavenly Thoughts

Here are some statements from my message that I did for little Lenya Lusko. These are tweets posted by those who have heard the message. Think of them as some “heavenly thoughts” for the day:

“An early death…means an early crown.”
“We live on promises, not on explanations.”
“Death isn’t the end of the road but a bend in the road.”
“Heaven is the real thing; earth is the imitation!”
“As Christians, we don’t mourn hopelessly–we mourn hopefully.”

The Four Stages of Christmas

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 Posted in cartoon | No Comments »

Here’s a little drawing I did for your amusement.
I feature myself as the character illustrating the
“Four Stages of Christmas”
ENJOY!

4_Stages_Christmas

A Very Merry and Blessed Christmas from the Lauries

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 Posted in holidays | 9 Comments »

Here is our 2012 Christmas card:

This Weekend at Harvest Riverside and Orange County

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

Part 3 of my special Christmas series.
My topic is “Christmas: The Main Event.”
Join us LIVE or watch the live webcast at www.harvest.org.

Dealing with Sadness during the Holidays

Friday, December 21st, 2012 Posted in sermons | 28 Comments »

Last night, my friends Levi and Jennie Lusko said goodbye to their little girl Lenya for the last time on earth. This sweet little one had a severe asthma attack and died in her parents’ arms.
It’s so very, very sad.

Please pray for the Lusko family as they face what I believe is a fate worse than death for a parent: the loss of a child.

This last Monday, I also saw my friend Frank Pastore, host of The Frank Pastore Show, die after having spent a month in a coma after a motorcycle accident. Please be in prayer for Frank’s wife, Gina, and his two children as well.

I understand the pain of these families; as you know, my son Christopher died four years ago. I will be at both of their memorial services and will miss them both with all of my heart.

What makes this even harder is that this happened in the Christmas season. It seems,  in many ways, as a nation, we have been collectively mourning in the wake of the shootings of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Perhaps you are personally mourning the loss of a loved one right now. When a loved one leaves this world for the next, we are torn apart inside. So we cry and mourn. A deep sense of loss and sorrow is an indication of deep love.

The apostle Paul spoke of deep sorrow over the possible loss of a friend:

“Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, a
faithful worker, and a courageous soldier. . . and he was very distressed that you heard
he was ill. And he surely was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and
also on me, so that I would not have such unbearable sorrow.” Philippians 2:25

Paul is saying, “If Epaphroditus had died, I would not have been able to bear it!” That’s how you feel when someone you love dies: you can’t bear it.

So don’t impatiently say to the mourner, “Don’t cry” or “You’ll get over it!” There is a place for this process of mourning, and it must happen. The Bible says, “There is a time to mourn.” If you don’t mourn properly, you will not heal properly. I did not fully understand this principle until it happened to me.

But for the mourners out there, I would say, let’s keep a proper perspective, like the psalmist in Psalm 42:3–6:

“Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me,
saying, ‘Where is this God of yours?’ My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to
be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house
of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why
am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him
again—my Savior and my God!”

The psalmist is honest here. He speaks of how he has had “only tears for food.” I know exactly what he is talking about. But then he asks himself a question and gives himself an answer:

“Why am I discouraged? Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!”

Grief is like wiping out on a wave. When you are out surfing, and get caught in a set, and go over the falls, you lose perspective. The thing you must avoid is panic.

You have to roll with it and remember that it won’t last all that long. But sometimes, when you’re in the whitewater, you lose your perspective. You literally do not know which way is up, or how to get to the surface. This is where your leash comes in.

Your leash is attached to your board, which always goes to the surface due to its buoyancy. So, you grab your leash and follow it to the surface. The Scripture is like that leash; it gets us “above the surface,” where we can get a heavenly perspective.

Sometimes, I get my head above water and everything is clear. Everything, in a way, almost makes sense for a few moments. I will think, “The Lord is leading me in His perfect plan. I have a son on earth and another son in heaven. I will see him again.” But then the waves of pain and grief and sadness come and I go under again.

I will surface and sink again many times in one day—again, again, and again. That is mourning. But we still have hope.

The believers in Thessalonica were wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again who had died as Christians. Paul wrote these comforting words “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died . . . Then we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).

So, yes, we as Christians mourn. We mourn deeply.

But we have the hope of seeing again our loved ones who have preceded us to heaven. It will be a wonderful heavenly reunion.

Both little Lenya and big Frank are spending their first Christmas in heaven! May God extend his comfort to their families, and all of you who are feeling deep sadness this Christmas season.

People ask me, “Is there a book that could help me at a time like this? Listen…You don’t need a manual.; you need Immanuel!

God is with you. That is the message of Christmas!

Tonight at Harvest Orange County

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

Join us TONIGHT at Harvest Orange County for a very special Christmas event.
We will have as our musical guest Phil Wickham.
Phil has recorded an amazing Christmas CD that has become one of our favorites.
It’s called “Songs for Christmas”
To get your own copy, go here

http://philwickham.com/music/

In addition to Phil’s Christmas concert, I will be giving a message, “The Promise of Christmas.”
I want to talk about the tragedy in Connecticut in light of the holidays and how to deal with the disappointments that people often face this time of year.
This special Christmas event will start at 7:00 PM, Pacific.
Join us LIVE or watch the live video stream webcast at www.harvest.org.

Frank Pastore is in Heaven

Monday, December 17th, 2012 Posted in Pastor's corner | 13 Comments »

I am so deeply sorry to report that my friend Frank Pastore has died. I know that Frank is in heaven right now. He was a faithful follower and servant of Jesus Christ. I am confident Frank was welcomed into God’s presence with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord!”

Christians, in a sense, never really die. We just leave one shore to go to another. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

It’s heaven’s gain, but it is surely our loss. Frank Pastore was a man of God that used his platform, both as a former major league pitcher and a radio personality, to point people to Jesus Christ.

His broadcast, The Frank Pastore Show, was the number-one talk show in Christian radio, and that was due to the unique gifts God gave to Frank.

Frank loved the gospel. On many occasions, when I had the privilege to be a guest on Frank’s show, he would ask me to present the gospel and invite people to Christ. I always appreciated that.

For many years, we had Frank open in prayer for our Harvest Crusades and he was and is loved by thousands. The sadness we feel right now is not for Frank, for he is with Jesus, where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” The sadness we have is for his wife, Gina, and his two children and all of us who will deeply miss him.

After our son Christopher went to be with the Lord, over four years ago, I had many conversations with Frank, both on and off the air, about heaven. Frank believed in heaven with all of his heart and pointed many people there, and now he is in that wonderful place promised to all who trust in Christ.

Let’s all be in prayer for the Pastore family in these very difficult days ahead.

I will miss Frank, but I know I will see him again.

Hope in a Seemingly Hopeless Situation

Friday, December 14th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 33 Comments »

It’s Christmas time.

Parents bundle up their children for another day of school before Christmas vacation starts in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. There’s shopping to do and errands to run before they pick them up. Then the worst imaginable scenario takes place.

A young man walks into Sandy Hook elementary school and begins shooting. When the horror finally stops, 20 children and 6 adults have been shot and killed. 12 little girls and 8 little boys had their lives cut short.
This is just heartbreaking.

What can be said at a time like this? The experts will opine on why this happened. All I can say is, this was pure evil. The heartlessness and wickedness of this man that did the shooting is really unimaginable.

I know from personal experience that the pain of losing a child is a fate worse than death for a parent.

At times like this we must reflect on the essential message of Christmas, which is Immanuel has come. Immanuel means God is with us.

I know God is there, ready to bring His comfort to those grieving right now in Connecticut. I know He is here right now to bring comfort to all of us who are heartbroken to hear such news.

At times like this, we need perspective—an eternal perspective.

We need to remember this life on earth is not all there is. There is an afterlife where earthy wrongs are righted. There is a final judgment for this man and others like him that commit these heinous crimes, and they will have to face God.

There is also great safety for those beautiful children, who I believe are all in Heaven right now, resting in the arms of Jesus. No harm will come to them again. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

And there is comfort available to their parents, who are in the deepest valley of pain and grief right now. Yes, even at a time like this, there is hope. The hope is this: If that parent will put their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord they can have the assurance they will see their dear children again.

As King David said when his child died, “I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).

In the busyness of this season, I hope we all will take time to count our blessings. To let our children know that we love them and not take them for granted.

And I hope that we will remember that Jesus is there, Immanuel. He will bring His comfort to us as we trust in Him.

God with Skin on.

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

It has been rightly said that the history of the world hinges on a stable door in Bethlehem.
The birth of Jesus in a little stable in Bethlehem forever changed the history of the world.
Jesus was God with skin on, walking among us and showing us what God is like.
He was not a man who became God, which is impossible, but God who became a man.