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Harvest America Was an Amazing Success!

March 7th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 48 Comments »

Wow.

What an amazing night at the AT&T stadium for Harvest America.

To correct the record, there were 82,000 people in the stadium, inside and outside.

The place was alive with praise and excitement. It was an electric atmosphere.

All the artists, including MercyMe, Lecrae, Switchfoot, and Chris Tomlin did an outstanding job. What at great group of gifted people to work with.

We had a tremendous response to the invitation, seeing 6000 plus come to the field to make a profession of faith to follow Christ.We were told that they had reached capacity and some of those responding had to be directed to other rooms.

Over 2,064 churches took the live feed of the event along with another 5,133 small groups and homes, called host sites.

As I get more info about what happened in those sites, I will update you.

Harvest America was the result of two years of pre-meetings, planning, and lots of lots of prayer.

So, we look back and say, “To God be the Glory!”

Harvest America happens TODAY!

March 3rd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 7 Comments »

Wherever you are, you can participate.
There is still time to become a host site.
Listen: Evangelism is a big deal to God and it should be a big deal to us too.
Jesus, in His “last words” before He ascended to Heaven, told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28).
We all should be doing that, and Harvest America is the perfect vehicle to help you.
The message of the gospel needs to be shared, not hoarded.
In fact, we need to evangelize or we will become spiritually stagnant!
Jesus said, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).
So, give the gospel away TODAY through Harvest America!
To find out more about becoming a host site, go to harvestamerica.com.

How You Can Share the Gospel

February 27th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

Let’s imagine you are out for a walk one night around your neighborhood when you suddenly hear people screaming. Startled, you look over your shoulder and see a house with flames leaping from the windows and roof. Someone out front of the house cries out, “There’s someone in there!” Let me ask you, if you were to just keep on walking without giving a passing thought to those in such terrible danger, would that be wrong? At the very least, wouldn’t you pull out your phone and dial 9-1-1? Even more, wouldn’t you try to find a way into that burning house to rescue that person inside? To do nothing would be outright criminal.

In the same way, however, we walk by people – men and women we know or total strangers – who are without Christ and don’t do a thing to help them. We don’t even try to initiate a conversation about our faith. We just keep walking. And to be blunt, a fate even worse than a house fire awaits those who reject the offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It is eternal fire. Eternal separation from God.

The last thing God wants is to send any man or woman – deeply loved by Him and made in His very image – to this place called Hell. That’s why He sent Jesus to live a perfect life, to die a perfect death on the cross for our sins, and then to rise from the dead.
You might protest, “God could never use someone like me!” Actually, He can and He will if you will let Him. It could even happen today – before this day is over. He won’t force you to share your faith, but He may very well prompt you. And when you take that step of faith, He will empower and use you. Yes, you.

I want you to discover the adventure of being used by God, especially in this area of telling others about Jesus. God says that He is looking for people He can “show Himself strong on behalf of” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NKJV). He is searching for someone who will simply say, “Use me, Lord!” Would you be that person? If so, a wonderful adventure awaits you.

I want to let you in on a little surprise: Sharing your faith can be both exciting and – believe it or not – fun! As Psalm 126:6 reminds us, “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (NIV). Jesus told us there is joy in Heaven over every sinner who comes to repentance (see Luke 15:7). So if there is joy in Heaven upon hearing the news of a conversion, there certainly should be joy in having a role in it.

Next to personally knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, the greatest joy I know of is leading others to Christ and watching them grow spiritually. And you can do that, too. It should be a joyful, happy thing to tell others about your relationship with God and explain how they can have one, too. I have found that the happiest Christians are the evangelistic ones.
Yes, there is a happiness we are missing out on if we are not sharing our faith. The apostle John wrote that his personal joy was made complete by sharing the message of Christ (see 1 John 1:4). The believers I know who make a habit of sharing the Gospel are truly happy people.

So here’s the bottom line: What’s your excuse for not sharing? Clearly, God could reach people without us. He could send angels down every street in the world with megaphones, declaring the Gospel. Instead, however, He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He almost seems to go out of His way to find the most unlikely candidates to accomplish His divine purposes.

You might say, “I’m not qualified. I’m not gifted or talented.” Do you want to know a little secret? You are just the person God is looking for. He delights to use people who aren’t necessarily self-confident. Why? Because when God does something amazing through them, He is the one who gets the glory, as He should. No, you may not feel qualified or “ready.” But God isn’t looking for ability as much as He is availability. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!

There have been so many times when I have felt drained and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I have even felt like my spiritual gas tank was close to empty. But then, when I started to share the Gospel with someone, or stopped thinking about myself and focused on another’s needs and shared some truth from God’s Word, I was replenished in every way. I started on empty and ended on full. Proverbs 11:25 tells us that “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (NLT).

You may be asking, “But where do I start?” As a matter of fact, there is an excellent opportunity coming up just a few days from right now. Harvest America is an annual live nationwide event, streamed to thousands of host locations including churches, theaters and living rooms. This is more than just a webcast. It is the body of Christ banding together to proclaim the Gospel live across the nation. The next Harvest America will be held on March 6, 2016, at 5:30 p.m. Central time, streamed live from AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

The event will feature top Christian artists including Chris Tomlin, Lecrae, Switchfoot and MercyMe, and I will be on hand to offer a clear Gospel message. To find a location near you, simply go to our website, harvestamerica.com.

This may be the opportunity – the open door – you’ve been waiting for to introduce your loved one, friend, or neighbor to the Lord Jesus. And all you have to do is invite them to come along with you for the event. Yes, they might say, “No.” But who knows? They might also say yes – and walk right into the biggest decision of their lives.

Harvest America Is 8 Days Away!

February 16th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 17 Comments »

What is Harvest America?

It is a one-day evangelistic event to be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Music will be performed by Chris Tomlin, Lecrae, MercyMe, and Switchfoot. I will bring a clear gospel message and invite people to come to Jesus Christ.

Harvest America will be live-streamed via a dedicated signal to host sites around the country. There are almost 4,000 host sites signed up. 1,700 of those are churches hosting the event. The other 2,015 are home hosts.

A host site can be a church, an auditorium, or even your front room. You invite people over, and when I am preaching the gospel at AT&T Stadium, I am also preaching the gospel wherever you are.

Thousands of people are going to come to Jesus Christ, because God’s Word does not return void! Start praying about who you could bring to a Harvest America host site to hear the gospel. Or even have one yourself!
To find out more, go to www.harvestamerica.com.

Did You Know That God Loves You?

February 15th, 2016 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

God tells us in Jeremiah that He loves us “with an everlasting love” and with “lovingkindness” (31:3).

This love God has for us goes back further than we can imagine. God, in His great love, chose you to be His child. God personally chose and loved you as though you were the only person on this earth. Jesus said, “You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit” (John 15:16 NLT).

In an episode of The Simpsons, it was Valentine’s Day at Springfield Elementary School. Ralph Wiggims was very sad that he did not get a Valentine’s Day card. So, Lisa gave him a card out of sympathy that had a train. It said, “I choo, choo, choose you!” Ralph took this very seriously and developed a crush on Lisa and pursued her.

Listen, “God choo, choo, chooses you!” It is genuine. You are deeply loved by God.

Do you think that God the Father loves God the Son? Of course! And God loves you as much as He loves His own son. Jesus prayed in John 17 to the Father these words, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me!” (verse 23 NLT).

That’s easy to say, but God proved it. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). Jesus affirmed this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But it wasn’t just the world God loved; it was you. Paul wrote, God “loved me and gave Himself for me!” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV).

And no matter what, nothing will ever separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38–39 says, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.”

Think about that. God loved you before you were you! Nothing or no one will ever stop God from loving you.

Angels: God’s Secret Agents.

February 12th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

Have you ever prayed and asked God to do something for you, but it isn’t happening as quickly as you would like it to?
I have learned that delays are not necessarily denials. We don’t know what is going on in the supernatural realm. We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes on our behalf.

In the Old Testament there is a fascinating story about Daniel’s prayer being heard in heaven. An angel was dispatched with a special message but was engaged in combat with a demon power for 21 days (see Daniel 10).
The prayer of Daniel went to heaven, his prayer was heard, and an angel was dispatched with the answer. But the angel was unable to get through to Daniel because of this apparently higher-ranking demon power that stopped him.

In Ephesians 6 we are told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (verse 12 NIV).
The Bible refers to Michael, the archangel. We know from the Scriptures that he plays a unique role in God’s plan and appears to be a high-ranking angel. Then we have Gabriel, who also must have been a high-ranking angel, sent with a specific message for Joseph and Mary concerning the arrival of the Messiah.
In fact, there are only three angels who are named in the Bible: Michael the archangel, Gabriel and Lucifer, who of course is a fallen angel.

In Daniel’s story, God dispatched Michael to help the angel who was being delayed by the demon power.
Then, in the New Testament, we find the story of the apostle Paul, who was on a ship in the midst of a storm. Men feared for their lives, but Paul reassured everyone they would be safe. An angel had appeared to him and 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 27:24 NLT).

In Acts 12 there is another story of angelic activity, where Peter was in a horrible predicament. James had been arrested and put to death. Then Peter was arrested and certainly would be killed as well. He was chained up in a cell, surrounded by guards. There was no way of escape.
What did the church do in this dilemma? They prayed. All other doors remained closed, but one door remained open into the presence of God: the door of prayer. It has been said that Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saints upon their knees.

The church prayed, and God answered their prayer by dispatching an angel. In an almost comical situation, the angel appeared to Peter and struck him on the side as he slept. I don’t know whether this angel hit Peter or simply nudged him, but he woke Peter up. The two of them walked past the guards and out of the prison, where the gate opened automatically. Then the angel disappeared.
That’s so typical of angels. They don’t want to stand around and take credit. They’ve done what they were sent to do, and they simply disappear. Peter said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me” (Acts 12:11 NIV).

Also from Acts, we know that an angel appeared to Philip and directed him to the desert. There Philip met a government official who had come from a distant country, searching for God (see Acts 8:26).
The Bible says that angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” and “the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7 NIV).

Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see angels at work. Angels will be working mightily in the last days. And clearly, they are working in our lives as well.
One of the reasons we aren’t personally aware of angels in our lives is because they are doing their jobs properly. Angels are invisible. And they remain that way most of the time.
If we were able to roll away the veil that separates the physical from the spiritual and the natural from the supernatural, if we could get a behind-the-scenes look into the invisible world of angels and demons, we would be overwhelmed. On one hand, it would be frightening to see the demon powers that are clearly at work. But on the other hand, it would be a great blessing to see the angels that are working in our lives.

This very thing happened to the servant of the prophet Elisha, who was frightened by the armies that were closing in on them. But Elisha simply said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17 NKJV).
In a moment, this servant had the privilege of peeking behind the supernatural veil and caught a rare glimpse into the invisible world. The Bible says that Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (verse 17). What he saw was the equivalent of an army, an angelic military force that was surrounding them.
We just don’t know how many times angels have delivered us, how many times they have rescued us from tight situations and how many times they have protected us from harm.

As Billy Graham has pointed out, they are God’s secret agents. They do the bidding and work of God.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

I Need You to Come to Harvest America in Texas with Me!

February 3rd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 16 Comments »

Calling all friends!

As you know, Harvest America, our massive-scale one-day evangelistic event in Arlington, Texas, is rapidly approaching. It will be held at AT&T Stadium, which holds upwards of 100,000. Now, imagine for a moment how many people could potentially come to Christ at this event.

Say 60,000 attended and 10% of the crowd responded to the invitation to accept Christ.(10% is a typical response rate at a Harvest Crusade). That would be 6,000 new believers that will need personal follow-up!

Now imagine if 80,000 attend. You can see how many people will be potentially coming forward to make a profession of faith.

That’s where YOU come in. I am asking you to come to Texas with me on March 6 to be a new convert counselor. Don’t let the word “counselor” throw you. You will simply be a friend to a new believer, giving them a Start! Bible and sharing some helpful truth with them.

I would like 1000 people to come with me to Harvest America on March 6.

Would you prayerfully consider that?
If you want to know more, go to serve.harvestamerica.com.

Never Lower Your Guard When It Comes to Sexual Temptation.

January 30th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

I think we all have a drive to believe in something, to worship something. But at the same time, we like to do our own thing. We don’t like someone to dictate to us how we are to live. Thus, we go about trying to recast God in our own image.

We begin to change God around so that he becomes a sort of a user-friendly deity. “Let’s give God a makeover,” we say. “Let’s make God politically correct. Let’s make God someone who won’t demand anything of us, yet we can still have a religion that will satisfy the quest we have inside us. And it also will appease our guilt-ridden conscience.”

What we end up with is not the God of the Bible, however. It’s some other god that we have created in our own image. And it is this very idolatry that can ultimately lead to rationalizing our behavior and saying it’s really OK. It can be like a wildfire that quickly spreads, something that starts out small and then gets out of control, leading to total devastation.

The Bible shows us how this played out in one man’s life. King David’s story has been recorded for us in the Scriptures as a warning of what not to do. Here was a man who, at one point in his life, was very close to God. In fact, it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. He also was known as the sweet psalmist of Israel.

We need not go any further than the book of Psalms to see how intimate David’s relationship with God was. He spoke of his love for the Lord, saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. … The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. … Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You” (42:1; 23:1–2; 63:3 NKJV).

David loved God in a dear and tender way, yet he fell into sin.

If I were to go out on the streets and ask people, “What do you remember about David from the Bible?” they probably would mention David and Goliath. And they also might bring up David and Bathsheba.

These two people marked David’s greatest victory … and his greatest defeat. In the Valley of Elah, David saw his greatest victory as he brought down Goliath with a single stone. And in Jerusalem, David saw his greatest defeat as he was brought down by Bathsheba.

Bathsheba is never presented as a villainess in their story. She is never presented as someone who set out to trap David. Really, David worked himself into this almost singlehandedly. Certainly Bathsheba cooperated, but David is primarily the responsible party. And for a few moments of pleasure, David had a lifetime of regrets.

It’s unclear as to whether David may have known where and when Bathsheba bathed – and intentionally put himself in a place to see her. Whatever the case, it’s what David did afterward.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28 NIV).

In the Greek language, the word look used here doesn’t mean a casual, involuntary glance. It refers to a continuous act of looking, intentional and repeated gazing.

We can’t stop ourselves from seeing certain things in this world. It might be something on a billboard, on your television or computer screen, or someone who walks across your path. But there is a difference between seeing something and putting yourself in a place where you know you’ll see things.

David looked. And then the sin began to stir in his heart.

It has been said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

This is why Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman” (Job 31:1).

David saw Bathsheba, and he allowed lust to build in his heart. But he didn’t stop there. He wanted to know who she was. And when the news came back that she was Uriah’s wife, it should have stopped him. But David already was hooked by sin, and he continued on his path.

God doesn’t make it easy for us to sin. When we start to cross a line, he puts obstacles in our way. He has things come up. They are warnings of danger ahead. But we blindly go forward, thinking, This doesn’t apply to me. I’m different. I’m OK. I can handle it.

James made this statement: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15 NLT).

Let’s see how that pattern played out in David’s life. First, David was drawn away by his own desires as he sat lazily on his rooftop, looking for trouble. Second, he was enticed by a beautiful woman. Third, when desire was conceived, it gave birth to sin. In David’s case, it was that of premeditated adultery. Fourth, when sin was allowed to grow, it brought forth death – the death of Bathsheba’s innocent husband, Uriah.

David sinned, and he was forgiven. But he reaped what he sowed. He saw the very sins that he had committed repeated in the lives of his own children.

As Proverbs 6 says, “The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself” (verse 32 NLT). It’s very likely that a person’s sin of adultery will go public. This is why God warns us of the deadly implications of this powerful sin.

An intense love for God and for your spouse will see you through the rough waters of sexual temptation. I don’t have a magic formula for never being tempted again. It’s a daily battle. It’s a daily walk, as is everything in the Christian life. But I will say this: The moment you stop lowering your guard, you become an easy target

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/01/illicit-sex-never-lower-your-guard/#kQMHhty5feHVubhF.99

Harvest 2016 Part of a Long Story of Texas Awakenings.

January 27th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

Here is a great article from Larry Eskridge about the history of spiritual awakenings in the Texas from the latest issue of Worship Leader magazine.
Larry is a historian and expert on the topic of Revival.
This article is well worth reading.

Harvest 2016 Part of a Long Story of Texas Awakenings
By Larry Eskridge

The tens of thousands that will gather at AT&T Stadium in Dallas for the 2016 Texas-Harvest America rally on March 6th will be participating in the culminating event of Greg Laurie’s multi-year evangelistic emphasis. But, they will also be taking part in a long heritage of revivals and evangelistic gatherings that stretch all the way through the history of the Lone Star State. From spiritual awakenings in the early settlements, through late 19th-century brush arbor gatherings and camp meetings scattered across the rural Texan countryside, down to giant urban events like 1972’s Jesus People-themed EXPLO ’72, Texans have come together in special sacred assemblies to pray, sing, and hear the proclamation of the Word of God.

Deep Roots

The story of spiritual awakening in Texas began with the creation of the first Spanish missions among the Native Americans and continued with the first American settlers to the region in the early 1800s. While Protestants were officially banned from starting churches by the Spanish and Mexican authorities, earnest Methodist circuit-riders and fiery Baptist itinerants arrived to evangelize the fortune-seekers that had crossed the Sabine and Red Rivers into the sparsely-populated province. Preaching in homes and village centers, they won converts and defiantly organized congregations—occasionally being jailed for their efforts.

During the middle decades of the 19th-century that took Texas from independence, admission into the Union, and through the Civil War, revivals periodically shook various regions of the state as preachers faced down the raucous, hard-drinking “rough culture” that grew up on the frontier. One particularly influential awakening at Washington-on-the-Bravos (the site where Texan independence was declared in 1836) began in 1840 with the baptism of a young African American slave girl. Historian David Bebbington points out that this extended revival not only saw dozens of conversions but was in reality part of a “fierce battle over the destiny of Texas” that eventually led to the creation of scores of churches and the founding of Baylor University.

The Camp Meetings

Revivals like the one on the Brazos were part of a tradition of camp meetings that brought the style and setting of earlier revivals on the Southern frontier westward and proved key to the churches’ ability to keep pace with settlement and development. Often lasting close to a week, hundreds of families would gather from the surrounding countryside and camp out to hear a series of preachers hold forth about the need for conversion. In later years most of these meetings would be planned and directed within a denominational context. But, in the first half of the 19th-century many were surprisingly ecumenical. It was not unusual at all to have Baptist, “Christian” (Disciples of Christ), Methodist, and Presbyterian preachers joining together in common cause to bring sinners into the kingdom and change lives. Several camp meetings—like the annual Bloys Camp Meeting near Ft. Davis that attracts more than 3,000 people—exist to this day and serve as reminders of this frontier revival heritage.

As Texas moved into the 20th-century the heritage—and routine—of revival had become well-established as a part of life in the Lone Star State. In rural areas, small churches and denominational associations would sponsor “brush arbor” gatherings in the countryside and special “dinner on the grounds” meeting days that hearkened back to the days of frontier revival. Meanwhile, in the larger towns, big cities, and sprawling new postwar suburbs seasonal revivals and city-wide campaigns by traveling evangelists became an expected fixture of life and, frequently, something of a rite of passage for young Texans.

Jesus People

Near the tail end of the 1960s, a new wave of spiritual awakening shook up the old formula as a national “Jesus People” movement slammed into Texas. Beginning in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Detroit and blossoming on a large scale in Southern California—where a teenaged Greg Laurie was converted at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa—the Jesus Movement vied with the hedonism of the hippie culture for the loyalties of the younger generation. By the early ’70s, the “One Way!” sign, Christian coffeehouses, and “Jesus Music” rock bands were popping up around Texas, too. One of the most significant bearers of the Jesus Movement was a series of youth rallies sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Houston dubbed SPIRENO (“Spiritual Revolution Now!”). First held at high schools in the Houston area, then throughout the state, and finally exported to the rest of the Southwest, thousands of high school and college-age youth committed their lives to Christ and spread the Jesus Movement into local schools and churches.

EXPLO ’72

In 1972, Dallas served as the platform for a major national happening that put the impact of the Jesus People front and center. EXPLO ’72 was a youth evangelistic training event put on by Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) that morphed into a Jesus People-themed rally. For a week, over 85,000 “J-E-S-U-S”-cheering young people gathered for training seminars during the day and then headed off to nightly rallies in the Cotton Bowl to hear Jesus Music artists sing their “Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation” and to hear speakers like Billy Graham. On EXPLO’s concluding day, a crowd of over 180,000 came together in the hot sun for a music festival to hear dozens of artists—among them Johnny Cash—and a final exhortation from Graham urging the youth to reach their world for Jesus. “Godstock,” as the media dubbed it, attracted national coverage and later that year video recordings of the event were beamed over hundreds of television stations and cable systems across the United States.

Legacy of Revival
While the Jesus Movement faded by the end of the ’70s in Texas as it did in the rest of the country, its impact added to the state’s legacy of spiritual awakenings. In recent decades, as the growth of the Lone Star has made it an increasingly important cog in both the American and world economy and culture, the timeless need for repentance and the desire for a fresh connection with God is—if anything—more necessary than ever. As generations come together in Dallas this March for Greg Laurie’s Harvest America 2016, the gleaming surroundings of AT&T Stadium and the global media connections to far-flung assemblies of believers feel utterly in step with the realities of the 21st-century world. But the questions about life and God’s ultimate purpose for mankind that will echo through the minds of those in attendance are surely not so different from the ones their forbears asked in those Texas camp meetings, brush arbors, and revivals in days past.

Larry Eskridge is a historian and is the author of God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford, 2013).

Dealing with Lust, Hate, Anger, and Envy

January 23rd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 4 Comments »

In 2003, Aron Ralston was rock climbing in Utah when a boulder shifted and pinned his hand and forearm, trapping him against a canyon wall. An experienced climber, Ralston knew how to use his ropes, anchors and everything he had to remove the boulder. But it wasn’t working. Five days passed, and he ran out of food and water. So the next morning, he did the unthinkable: He pulled out his pocketknife and cut off his arm. Then he rappelled 60 feet down a sheer canyon face and walked to safety.
Ralston took radical measures, but he was incredibly smart. He realized that he could either keep both arms and die, or he could lose one arm and live.

In the same way, to live spiritually, we need to cut off whatever is required. This means eliminating quickly and completely anything that morally or spiritually strips us or causes us to fall into sin (or remain in sin).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30 NIV).
Here Jesus was dealing with three areas of sin that are widespread in our culture: anger, hatred and lust. Sin deceives us into thinking that if we haven’t done the actual deed, we’re all right. Anger and hatred are murder in the heart.
Lust is adultery in the heart. Jesus was dealing with the heart.

To be clear, there is a place for anger. Jesus wasn’t saying that a Christian can’t be angry. There are certain things that should anger us. The Bible even says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NKJV). There is a place for righteous indignation. But that is not what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5.

In the original language, the word Jesus used for anger refers to a settled anger, a malice that is nursed inwardly. It isn’t describing a person who gets irritated, flies off the handle, and then apologizes afterward. Jesus was speaking of a consuming anger. Many people, in the depths of their hearts, have anger and hatred to such a degree that their true desire is for the hated person to be dead.
The word hate means to habitually despise. It isn’t just a transient emotion; it’s a deep-rooted loathing.

Do you feel that way about anyone? The Bible says that “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).
Why do we get this way? Sometimes anger is rooted in envy. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Essentially Cain killed his brother because he was envious of him. Noah Webster defined envy as “chagrin, mortification, discontent or uneasiness at the sight of another’s good fortune.”

It isn’t that someone has done something against you personally; it’s simply the fact they have been successful, and you’re envious. Maybe they’re enjoying monetary success. Maybe they married someone you wish you could have married. Maybe they have accomplished something you wished you could have accomplished. Maybe they got that position you felt you should have.
The problem with envy is that it grows into something even worse. According to Aesop, “Envy shoots at another and wounds itself.” The only person who suffers when you’re envious is you.
We have all been wronged in life. Most of us have been slandered, mistreated, ripped off and taken advantage of. Jesus isn’t saying we should be the doormat for the rest of the planet. But instead of striking out at those who have wronged us, we are to love them in a positive way.

When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself. The other person may not even be aware of how much you hate him or her. The other person may not even know about your bitterness and couldn’t care less about you. Yet it consumes you, and it’s hurting you. It’s killing you slowly.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43–45 NIV).
There is no greater example of someone who did this than Jesus himself. After he had identified Judas as his betrayer, he told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). Then, we he encountered Judas again in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by the temple guard and other soldiers, Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50 NKJV).

I find that amazing. He knew Judas was there to betray him. He knew Judas was facilitating his arrest. Yet Jesus said, “Friend, why have you come?” It was one last chance for Judas to repent. Jesus offered it, but Judas missed it.
Then, as Jesus hung on the cross, the first words he uttered were in prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NIV).
That’s good for Jesus, you may be thinking. He is God.

Yes, and Jesus died on that cross because we need forgiveness. And we should extend that forgiveness to others. Forgiven people should be forgiving people.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
This selflessness, this love Jesus calls for, is found in many people whom God used. It was the spirit of Abraham when he gave the best land to his undeserving nephew, Lot. It was the spirit of Joseph when he kissed his brothers who had so mistreated him. It was the spirit of David when he would not take advantage of the opportunity to take the life of King Saul, who had been pursuing him. It was the spirit of Stephen, who prayed for those who were stoning him to death.
It is also the spirit that every one of God’s children should have. May God help us to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. May He enable us to have a change of heart that refuses to harbor hatred.