We’ve all heard them when sharing our faith:
“How do you know the Bible is true?”
“What about the person who has never heard the gospel; will God send them to hell?”
“Why would a God of love allow suffering?”
There are answers to these questions that I want to share with you tonight at Harvest Orange County, “Answering Hard Questions Nonbelievers Ask” at 7:00 PM Pacific.
You can join us live at our new campus at 17600 Gillette Avenue, Irvine, California.
Or you can watch the live HD webcast at www.harvest.org.
“Hold me up, and I shall be safe, and I shall observe Your statutes continually.”
— Psalm 119:117
My youngest granddaughter, Allie (short for Alexandra), has a little rabbit that her older sister, Rylie, named Fuzzie.
Fuzzie spends most of his time in a cage, though it is a large one. Seems like a cruel thing to do to a rabbit, but it comes down to how you look at things.
When we get Fuzzie out for Allie she will squeal with absolute delight. And in her excitement she sometimes does not hold Fuzzie the rabbit in exactly the right way. She once picked him up by the head! But he is a resilient little guy and was just fine.
After one of these recent outings, I was returning Fuzzie and about three feet away he leapt out of my arms for the open door of his cage!
I think Fuzzie likes to be there.
For us, this seems like a confining place to put a rabbit. But judging by his actions, Fuzzie, an actual rabbit who lives in a cage, does not see it that way.
He does not see the cage as a place that keeps him imprisoned from the outside world but a place that keeps him safe . . . from Allie!
In the same way, we look at Gods’ Word, which contains absolutes. He gives us things we are to do and things we are not to do.
Some people don’t like those absolutes and commandments. They see them as a cage, keeping them from what they think they really want.
But when we come to realize that God’s rules and laws are not designed to “ruin our fun,” but to provide a place of safety and security, we find that instead of being confining and restricting, His commandments are actually very liberating.
That’s how long it’s been since I last spoke with our oldest son, Christopher David Laurie—or as we called him, Topher.
He left us unexpectedly and tragically on July 24, 2008 at 9:01 in the morning. It was an automobile accident. People ask me, as the years pass, if it gets any easier dealing with the death of a child. The answer is yes, and no.
Yes, the pain is not what it was in the immediate aftermath of hearing the unthinkable news that Christopher was no longer with us. It was so severe, I honestly wondered at times if I could make it. My wife, Cathe, has been my support in so many ways. That pain is gone, and replaced by a deep abiding sadness and longing to see him again.
Yet in this sadness, I have hope. I have the hope that I will see my son again in Heaven. That’s because Jesus said I would. He promised me, and all of us, that He has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14). And that place, of course, is Heaven.
Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. In fact, if anything, here on earth we are seeing the imitation. Heaven is the real thing.
Losing my son has caused me to, in a sense, have a “foot in Heaven.” I am far more mindful of the shortness of life and the nearness of eternity.
There are many good things that have happened despite this tragedy, because God promised there would be. For example, we are launching a new church campus in Orange County next week that came out of this pain.
The radical transformation of Christopher’s brother, Jonathan, from a prodigal into a preacher has been nothing short of breathtaking.
Other bold ventures of faith that we have undertaken and are undertaking have been a direct result of wanting to use my pain for something good—to try, in my own feeble way, to bring hope to others who are hurting.
Not a day goes by that I do not hear from people who have lost loved ones—especially children—and they tell me that seeing our family go on gives them hope that they can too.
Christopher would be 40 years old now. He was so talented and full of life. I think of all he might have accomplished with his life. But it was not to be. But when I get to Heaven, I know it will all make sense. Until then I will trust the Lord, I will continue to miss my son, and I will seek to do all I can for God’s kingdom.
P.S. – I received a beautiful letter from Cliff and Ann Barrows the other day. Cliff, of course, is the longtime associate of Billy Graham:
“Dear Greg and Cathe,
The seventh anniversary of your precious son “Topher’s” home going is soon upon you. I know this is much in your heart with Cathe. Just know we join in rejoicing he is walking around Heaven together with the saints and friends that have gone before. They are praising God together!
We join you, dear Greg and Cathe. Ann and I send our love and remembrance in grieving the absence of his presence in your lives today.
‘Strength for today. . . .Bright hope for tomorrow’
Cliff and Ann Barrows”
What a perfectly written letter at a difficult time. Thank you, Cliff and Ann, and all the others who have reached out to us.
Tell Someone is my definitive new series on the topic of bringing others to Jesus.
I have just written a book by the same name and we will be capturing this as a film series for LifeWay. They have an extensive worldwide network, enabling this new series to ultimately be seen around the world.
It kicks off this coming Sunday, July 26. I will also be teaching it on two Wednesdays in Riverside on July 29 and August 4, and in Orange County on Thursdays, July 30 and August 5. The series concludes on Sunday, August 9.
I believe if you will apply these principles we will share from Scripture you can and will lead others to Christ. It’s the perfect way to prepare for the upcoming 26th SoCal Harvest.
I had the opportunity to visit the Walt Disney family museum recently in San Francisco.
I have always been a fan of Walt Disney and admire his vision to create so many things that have become a part of our culture, not only in America but the world. Disney had an amazing imagination that was given to him by God.
According to Walt Disney, the idea for a Disney-themed amusement park came to him while sitting on a park bench. He thought about creating a new kind of amusement park while he watched his daughters ride the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round. The park bench that Walt Disney sat on while he imagined what would become Disneyland, is the one I am seated on in this photo.
It’s a good reminder to us that God has given us our imaginations. Instead of being told what we can’t do as followers of Jesus Christ, we should use our God-given minds to think of new and fresh ways to offer glory to God and bring the gospel to our generation.
“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.'”
— Revelation 21:2-3
One day, Cathe was driving with our youngest son, Jonathan, who was then age 3. She was talking about the Rapture and how we would be caught up to heaven. The more she talked, the quieter Jonathan got. Finally, he blurted out, “Mom, I don’t want to go to heaven! I don’t want to leave this beautiful world that God made!” It’s hard for a 3-year-old to wrap his mind around heaven.
Sometimes Christians say, “When I die I will be with the Lord forever in heaven!” While it is true that when a believer dies they go to heaven, it is not true that we stay there forever. Because one day, heaven is going to come to earth.
My friend Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven writes, “We won’t go to Heaven and leave Earth behind. Rather, God will bring Heaven and Earth together into the same dimension, with no wall of separation, no armed angels to guard Heaven’s perfection from sinful mankind.”
God is not going to abandon His creation; He’s going to restore it! Have you ever seen a perfectly restored classic car? (Guys especially see this as a thing of beauty.) Well, God is into restoration too—restoration of lives, bodies, and even our planet!
God’s perfect plan is to “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10 NIV).
Jesus will make earth into heaven and heaven into earth. Just as the wall that separates God and mankind is torn down in Jesus, so too the wall that separates heaven and earth will forever be demolished.
As we approach Independence Day, let’s all be praying for a spiritual awakening in America.
We need to turn to God in prayer and turn back to His Word. Peter Marshall, former Chaplain to the US Senate, once said, “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration.”
America has seen a number of revivals historically, called “awakenings.” The first was during the 1700s, and was led by such men as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. During just two years of this revival (from 1740 to 1742) some 25,000–50,000 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 during the time of the “wild west.” The law was disregarded and sexual sin was rampant. The “camp meetings,” where crowds numbers as high as 15,000, would be held for several days at a 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. The New York Stock Market crashed around this time and soon Lanphier’s prayer meeting was attended by hundreds.
Prayer meetings broke out all over New York City, filling theaters on Broadway. Within six months, 10,000 people gathered daily for prayer throughout the 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. Over one million people came to Christ in this brief period.
I think you could include the Jesus Movement as a genuine American revival as well. The church was influenced globally by what God did in the Jesus Movement. But that was over 40 years ago; the kids of this movement are now grandparents! (I know because I am one of them.)
Now we look at the current generation and we realize we need another revival. Our hearts cry out, “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 NLT and NASB).
The church is under attack today in every way imaginable – literally as well as figuratively!
We still are reeling from the horrific attacks against the AME Church in Charleston. While our brothers and sisters gathered for a midweek Bible study and prayer time, they were shot dead. We have seen an amazing display of forgiveness on their part for this cold-blooded killer. Facing the killer in court, several relatives who also attended AME Church extended their forgiveness to this young man, despite his indescribably evil act.
The church has since gone back to their midweek Bible study, saying, “This is God’s space. We are not giving it up!” God bless them.
Then there are the attacks on Christians in the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic terrorists, with followers of Jesus being beheaded, tortured, and crucified. This is full-tilt persecution.
The church in America is also under attack.
Christians are routinely mocked, marginalized, denigrated, and attacked. The Bible clearly tells us that persecution against the church is a sign of the end times. In Matthew 24:9 (NLT) Jesus says: “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.”
How have you faced such persecution – on any level? The New Testament also makes clear that this shouldn’t surprise you. In 2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV), the apostle Paul writes, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
And now the Supreme Court has decided in favor of same-sex marriage.
Needless to say, I am very disappointed by this decision. It is clearly the wrong decision. By making this ruling, the court has invalidated the marriage laws of more than half the states, summarily ordering the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis for human society for literally thousands of years!
The justices couldn’t even agree among themselves, resulting in a five-to-four decision. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissent: “Just who do we think we are? To blind yourself to history is both prideful and unwise. People of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.” That is true.
But ultimately, this isn’t just about family values and Western civilization. This is about a direct challenge to biblical truth. As Christians, we believe what the Bible says about marriage and every other topic.
Some who are not Christians may wonder why this matters so much to us. There’s a simple answer. It’s because God created marriage. The first marriage was between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The first miracle Jesus ever performed was at a wedding.
God is very clear about who a marriage is between. Jesus said, “But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Mark 10:6-9 NLT).
This union that God designed can only exist between a man and woman. Ultimately, a child can come from this union, which is God’s purpose. Malachi 2:15 says, “Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” This “oneness” can only happen between a man and woman. Not between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
Now, this may seem like a “no-brainer” to many, but in today’s culture people are confused about these things. Marriage between one man and one woman is simply what Jesus Christ taught. We cannot and will not compromise on this or any other biblical issue.
I do believe this fateful Supreme Court decision is a sign of the times. You might say that as things seem to be falling apart, they are actually coming together. Jesus said, “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28)
So, what else should we do in light of this Supreme Court ruling?
1. First, don’t panic! God is still on the throne.
As my friend, Russell Moore said, “The Supreme Court can do many things; but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward His kingdom.”
The fact is, the church often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. This is what the first-century believers faced in the cultures of Ephesus, Corinth, and Athens. They were pagan cultures, with immorality of all kinds running rampant through society. Yet in relatively short order, the church turned their world upside-down. The church did not accomplish this through protests, boycotts, or marches. They out-lived, out-loved, out-prayed, and out-gave the nonbelievers.
2. We need to remember that Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” As Joseph said to his brothers who had betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NIV). God, in His sovereignty, can take the very events meant to harm us or defeat us and use them for His ultimate good.
Psalm 119:91 (NLT) says, “Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.” And Psalm 76:10 reads, “Human defiance only enhances your glory, for you use it as a weapon.”
3. We need show this culture what a biblical marriage looks like.
Jesus used the institution of marriage as a picture of His love for the church and our love for Him. This gives us an opportunity to let our light shine and show the watching world a beautiful example of a good and loving marriage. Have we done that? Even as Christians, have we done as good of a job as we can with marriage?
Marriage is a big deal to God. He thought of it, created it, blesses it, and uses it as a picture to a lost world. The Bible tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It’s as though Jesus is saying, “See how that husband loves his wife? That’s how I love the church!” In the final chapter of Revelation, the church is pictured as the bride.
Your marriage should be a testimony and example to nonbelievers watching. Nonbelievers should see it as an example of God’s love for them.
When as Christians we break up our marriages for no biblical reason, divorce, marry another, and commit adultery, do we not undermine marriage? Resolve your conflicts, forgive one another, and move forward! Don’t tell me about your “irreconcilable differences.” I have had those with my wife for 41 years!
She is sometimes late, I am often early.
She is very neat, I am quite messy.
She is cute, and I am fat!
But it’s a funny thing; we seem to love each other more with each passing year. Permanent, stable marriages with both a mother and father may make us look freakish. Russell Moore said, “We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let’s embrace the sort of freakishness that saves.”
4. We need to show the love of Christ to everyone!
We need to go to people where they are and engage them with the gospel. God loves all people, including those who identify as homosexual. The fact is, God can change anyone. I do not believe anyone is “born gay,” but I do believe we are all born sinners. Just because a person has a “same-sex attraction” does not mean he or she should act on it. We are all tempted to do many things, but God will give us the strength to resist.
The gospel does not define us by our temptations, but by the righteousness of Christ. Listen, we are not against any particular group or individuals. We are not being “unloving” or judgmental. Some would say, “We need to just love and accept people.” Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not lest you be judged”?
Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2 (NKJV), “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Before we consider what this means, let’s first see what it doesn’t mean.
Does it mean that we are never to be critical, or make an evaluation? Some think that being a Christian means we just “love and accept everyone” and never speak critically of anyone under any circumstances. That may be sweet sentiment, but it is not New Testament Christianity. We are to “love everyone” – but if that is true, we must care for their souls as well.
Here is what we need to know. When you love someone, you will speak truthfully to them. The Bible tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Some will speak the truth, but not in love, using it like a sledgehammer. Others will love but not speak the truth, which really isn’t love at all. If your close friend is wearing a horrible outfit, do you tell them? Do you say, “Hey, did you get dressed in the dark?” Do you tell them if there is food in their teeth? Or, more significantly, if there’s sin in their life?
Proverbs 27:5 says, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
So, Jesus is saying we need to make certain judgments, and He uses an interesting illustration to make His point – He goes on to tell us not to give what is holy to dogs. How can I accomplish this if I don’t practice some sort of judgment? Just who are the dogs? Are they people with flea collars?
When the woman was caught in the act of adultery, what did Jesus do? He turned away her accusers, but then said, “Go and sin no more!” He was loving to her, but He challenged her to change.
A better translation of “judge not” would be condemn not. To condemn, is to turn a person away. We should not do that. We should lovingly welcome all who want to come to Christ.
5. We need to engage all people with the gospel.
Everyone is searching. Some, disillusioned with life, may think they may find fulfillment with a member of the opposite sex, others with someone of the same sex. Deep down, what everyone is searching for is a relationship with God. They may oppose us, but that does not mean God cannot change them. No one hated Christians more than Saul of Tarsus. God not only saved him; He raised him up to be a leader in the church.
6. We need to pray.
When the disciples were told by the authorities not to preach anymore, they prayed. They prayed for more boldness to tell more people. Then they went out and preached some more. When the authorities passed a law that people could no longer pray, Daniel prayed.
We need to pray for a spiritual awakening in America. We need to pray for our home church and the church as a whole. We are in this together. We stand together or we fall alone. Paul reminds us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6).
We are launching a new initiative calling on Christians to pray every day for the month of July. We want to pray for our churches and for America. We are calling this initiative “3:20,” based on Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Let’s not give up or lose hope.
Taken from my column today from Worldnetdaily.
Check out this press release for our new Apple Watch app:
Riverside, CA (June 23, 2015) — Harvest Ministries is excited to launch a new app developed specifically for the Apple Watch to help connect people to the growing ministry led by Greg Laurie.
“Harvest takes very seriously the role of using the influence and resources that God has given us to help make God known to as many people as possible,” says Paul Eaton, Administrative Pastor for Harvest Ministries.
“We have always had a desire to invest in new technologies that help us distribute Harvest content and Greg Laurie’s messages in new ways,” he continues. “This includes the iOS, Android, and Windows phone apps, as well as our Roku app that are all being used by thousands of people each week to hear the gospel. This Apple Watch app creates one more way for people to connect with Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries.”
The Watch App features daily devotions from Greg Laurie, as well as content from his blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
It also features push notifications, which users can opt out of. Harvest Ministries can push information to users’ watches and iPhones, letting them know about new resources and events.
Greg Laurie serves as senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the U.S., Harvest Christian Fellowship, based in Riverside and Irvine, California, which also oversees the large-scale evangelistic events, Harvest Crusades. The ministry exists for the sole purpose of presenting the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and to help believers mature in their faith. More information is available at www.harvest.org.
How are we to live in light of the fact that Christ could return at any moment? First, we need to wake up! The apostle Paul gives us the answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”
We need to WAKE UP, SOBER UP, and finally SUIT UP!
I already looked at the first two catagories in my last two blogs.
Let me close with #3 – Suit Up!
“[Put] on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NKJV).
You are in a spiritual battle. It started on the day of your conversion and will rage until the day you go to Heaven. You will be tempted, harassed, hassled, and attacked. Simply put, Satan does not want you to follow Jesus Christ. This is why we need to suit up!
Ephesians 6:12–13 says, “We are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (NLT). Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm!
It’s really not a choice of fighting or not fighting. It’s a choice of victory or defeat, winning or losing, gaining ground or losing ground.
When we become Christians we also become soldiers in a spiritual battle. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). You are no longer a civilian; you are now under the orders of your Commander-in chief, Jesus.
This is what weakens so many Christians today. They try to live in two worlds, and it just won’t work. As James 4:4 says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Duplicity and hypocrisy weaken any witness we have to a watching world. They especially weaken our witness to our own children! They see hypocrisy in the home and it turns them away from God. So, suit up!
Paul, having spent a good deal of time under house arrest, knew Roman armor. Two pieces are mentioned: the helmet and breastplate, both essential to the protection of the soldier in battle. The breastplate protected the vital organs of the roman soldier. One well-aimed blow without that protection and he was a goner. We are to have the breastplate of faith, not feeling.
The helmet protected the head; without it you cannot do much. Most motorcycle riders hate helmet laws, but they do serve their purpose. I read about a biker in upstate New York who was participating in a ride to protest helmet laws who died after he crashed his motorcycle and hit his head. Ironically, a helmet probably would have saved his life.
The Roman soldier’s helmet was carefully designed. It was generally bronze on the outside. Sometimes it was leather over an iron skullcap. It was designed to withstand a crushing blow to the head and still protect it. In the same way, Satan will attack us in “command central”—the mind!
Our minds, thoughts, imaginations must be protected. “As a man thinks, so is he” (see Proverbs 23:7). We need to train our minds to think properly and biblically—when impure thoughts come, when doubts come, when Satan comes.
We read in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we should cast down “arguments, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Satan recognizes the value of first getting a foothold in the realm of the thoughts. Thoughts prepare the way for actions! Most people fantasize, think about, and imagine a sin before they actually commit it. They rationalize it by saying, “This is not that bad; I would never do this thing!” But actually they could and would, given the right circumstances.
The only way to protect your mind is to fill it with godly thoughts. Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (NKJV). When my computer is full, I get a sign that says “memory full.” There’s not enough space on my hard drive to load a new program. We need to have the hard disk of our mind filled so there is no room. That is why we need the helmet of the hope of salvation.