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“The Gift” (How to Keep Christmas Happy), Part 1

December 15th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

I heard about a postal worker sorting through mail. He found an unstamped, handwritten envelope addressed to God! With curiosity piqued, he had to open it. There he found the hastily written words of an elderly woman to God. She was telling him that her savings, $200, had been stolen. As a result, she wouldn’t have anything to eat for Christmas.

The man was touched, so he went to his fellow postal workers and took up a collection. They all dug deep and came up with $180 for the old woman. They put the money in a plain envelope with no note, and it was hand-delivered to the woman’s house that day.

A week later, a postal worker noticed another unstamped letter like the one they saw before. He opened it and it was from this same elderly woman, again addressed to God:

“Dear God, thank you for the $180 you sent for Christmas, which would have been so bleak otherwise. P.S. It was $20 short, but it was probably one of those thieving workers at the post office.”

Many times we do not appreciate the gift we have received.

And that’s no more true than with the gift that God has given to us—the real gift of Christmas. This gift is not wrapped under your tree. In fact, this gift cannot be bought with money. If you are a Christian, you carry this gift in your heart. It is salvation . . . the gift of eternal life.

Don’t rush over that. Let it sink in.

Some gifts bring an initial excitement when you first get them, like a new gadget or outfit, but gadgets are quickly outdated, as are clothes. Today’s drone or new apparel will soon be as dated as a Betamax or mood ring.

But other gifts grow more precious with the passing of time: that family heirloom, your grandfather’s favorite watch that he gave to you, a drawing from your child when they were very young, something that has personal and sentimental value like a photograph.

One woman on my Facebook page wrote, “She was with her family at a mall. Her husband asked their daughter to have her photo taken with her little brother and with Santa. She agreed only if Mom and Dad were in the photo too. They reluctantly agreed. Tragically, her daughter died after that, so that was their last picture together.

Something like this becomes priceless to you. It’s the kind of thing you would grab first if your house were on fire. It is far more valuable than long-forgotten playthings (unless you kept your Barbie dolls and Star Wars figures in their original packages. An original Star Wars Darth Vader in its unopened package is worth $6,000. Original Barbie dolls are valued at $8,000 to $12,000.)

By the way, you can start enjoying and appreciating God’s gift of eternal life in your life right now. It starts with something called justification. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1–2 NKJV).

The word justify carries a two-fold meaning. First, it speaks of the forgiveness of our sins. The day you put your faith in Jesus Christ is the day your sins were all instantaneously forgiven! Think about that. Have you done things you are ashamed of? Have you done things you wish you hadn’t? Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, you are forgiven! God takes our sins and forgives and forgets them. According to God’s Word, they are gone!

As God said in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” If God forgives and forgets it, we should too. I should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget.

When you’re saved, God releases you from the guilt and penalty of the sins you committed. God has taken our sins, thrown them into the “sea of forgetfulness” and posted a sign that says “No Fishing Allowed!” Justification means “just as if it never had happened!”

On my computer is a key I can push to make things go away. I simply highlight what I do not want and then I push the Delete key. Instantaneously, all that information is gone! Where it goes I do not know (same place those single socks go, probably). God has taken all your sins and has pushed His Delete key.

If that were all there is to salvation it would be more than we could ever hope for. But wait, there’s more! For that is only one part of justification. Justification also speaks of what He has put in its place!

Justification is more than just forgiveness (though that’s more than enough!) and the removal of the guilt and condemnation that accompanied it—the negative things that He has taken away. Justification has a positive side as well, which includes what He has done for and given to us. The word justified means “to put to one’s account.” When God justifies a person, He places the righteousness of Christ in their account. This balances the moral and spiritual budget for us.

Acts 13:38–39 says, “Brothers! Listen! In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins! Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God [justified]” (NLT).

Chuck Swindoll writes: “Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner—while he is still in a sinning state.”

This is not a gradual process. It is immediate.

It would be as though you were in debt for 10 million dollars. The creditors were at the door. There was no hope on your part to ever repay this enormous debt yourself. Then Mark Zuckerberg came along and paid your debt for you. You were happy to simply no longer be in debt. But he told you to check your balance. When you did, you saw a balance of 20 million dollars!

The same is true of the Christian’s “spiritual bank account” because of what Christ has done. That is the gift of eternal life.

But wait, there’s even more! You are also adopted into God’s family. Adoption means “the placing of a son.” It would be more than enough to know that God had forgiven me of all my sin and that He had made me right before Him. But add to that the fact that He has taken me into His family as one of His own children!

“When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5 NKJV).

The word redeem means “to buy out of a slave market.” There we were, slaves of sin, under the control of Satan. Then Jesus comes along and buys our freedom. That’s more than we could ever hope for. But then He marches us down to the courthouse and adopts us!

By adoption, God is saying, “Don’t merely stand in awe of me!” By adopting us, God is saying, “Come close to me!” This is what Christmas is all about: the gift . . . from God to you! In fact, that is what life is all about.

Having this right relationship with God, this access to God, is amazing. Having my sins forgiven and knowing personal peace is more than I could hope for. Then there is the joy of the Lord, His leading in my life. If that were all there is in the Christian life, it would be enough. Even if there were no afterlife, the “beforelife” of the Christian is worth it. But there is much, much more waiting for us. Jesus is waiting to reveal it to you. He prayed in John 17:24, “Father, I want these whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they can see all the glory You gave Me because You loved Me even before the world began!” (NLT).

When you go to an amazing place, you want to take your friends there. That is why I love to lead tours to Israel! I love to see people see it for the first time. God is saying, “I want my children to see this!” 1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (NKJV). Jesus said in John 14:42, “In my father’s house are many rooms . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you” (NIV). It’s amazing to think that though there was no room for Him in the inn, He has many rooms for us.

When we first come to Christ, we are excited about the “fringe benefits” of faith: peace, purpose, meaning in life, joy. Those are all fantastic, but the most significant gift will only grow more valuable with time. The gift of eternal life: that is the hope of heaven.

This is why Paul called it “the unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15) or as the NLT puts it, “a gift too wonderful for words.”

Need Some Real Rest This Christmas?

December 12th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »

If you were to think back to the last two Christmases, could you remember what you received? Quite possibly you don’t even remember what you received for Christmas last year. However, you may remember what you gave for Christmas because you might still be making payments on it.
Really, what we’ll treasure from Christmas are those moments with family and friends. That is what will become precious. And when a loved one is no longer with you, those moments become really precious.

With all the pressures of Christmas, we want to keep our focus. Christmas is not about receiving presents; it is about God’s presence in our lives. That is the message of Christmas: God is with us.
In Matthew, chapter 11, we find some words of Jesus that are relevant for any time of year, but even more so right now: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (verses 28–30 NIV).
These words of Jesus are for any person who is stressed out, any person who is under pressure, and any person who is carrying a burden of any kind.
Another version of this statement of Jesus goes as follows: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (The Message).

By the way, this is not an invitation to lazy people; it’s an invitation to weary people. And why are they weary? Presumably because they have been working hard. In fact, this carries the idea of someone who is at the point of utter exhaustion. They are not only exhausted, but they are loaded down with weight.

Is that a description of you today? Maybe you’re carrying a burden of some kind. Maybe it’s the burden of a sin that you’ve been struggling with. Maybe it’s the burden of physical pain or the burden of problems in your family. Maybe it’s the burden of grief. Jesus says, “Come to Me.”
And what will happen to the people who come to him? He will give them rest. The word rest means to be refreshed or revived.

First of all, this would be the kind of rest that comes with the assurance of salvation. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you should never doubt the fact that you are right with God and that you are going to heaven. The Bible says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 NIV). We need to rest in the finished work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross. He shed his blood for every sin that we’ve ever committed, and God’s righteous demands have been met by Christ.

The word rest as it’s used here also carries the idea of being released from any kind of bondage. The child of God should not be under any kind of legalism or any kind of vice. Jesus is saying, “I will give you rest and relief.”
It’s also a word used to describe rest from debt. When we put our faith in Christ, the Bible says we have been justified. The debt of our sins has been forgiven, and the righteousness of Christ has been placed into our account.
Finally, in Greek literature the word rest is used to describe a door that can’t quite be opened but then suddenly flies open. It’s like suddenly gaining access to something.

So Jesus was saying, “You that are exhausted, you that are weary, you that are burdened with weight, come to me, and I will give you rest. I will forgive you of the spiritual debt you have. I will put my righteousness into your account. I will break the chains off you, and I will give you free access into my presence.”
When we are burdened, when we are overwhelmed with worries, we need to come to Jesus with them. You know, there is really nowhere else to go. Jesus did not say, “All you who are weary and heavily burdened, go to counseling,” or “All you who are weary and heavily burdened, read a book,” or “All you who are weary and heavily burdened, listen to a sermon,” although those things are all good. Ultimately, the answer is to go to Jesus.

The psalmist cried out, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2–3).
Modern culture would say something different, however. It would say, “If you can just get that promotion … if you can just get that house … if you can just take that vacation, then you will find rest.”

Materialism would say, “Build it up, and you will find rest.”
Pleasure seekers would say, “Live it up, and you will find rest.”
Religion would say, “Keep it up, and you will find rest.”
But Jesus is saying, “Come to me, and you will find rest.” Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.

Taken from my weekly column at Worldnetdaily.

For Greg on His Birthday

December 10th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 18 Comments »

Written by Cathe Laurie

Greg2

I saw you first.
It was in a coffee house on a weeknight.
I saw you sitting there, open Bible in hand.
I was way in the back, with my two sisters.
You say you saw me, but I know I saw you first.
Young. Cute. Funny. Preaching with so much…crazy passion.

I had school the next day, and as we made our way across the parking lot to the car, I thought, He’s really something special.
I never knew anyone quite like you before.
I’ve never known anyone like you.

I hardly knew, when we began this life together, where God would lead. I had no idea how strong and deep that love could grow.
The years have wizened and the sharp angles have softened.
Countless days of sunshine, wind, fire, rain, and earthquakes have drawn us together, marked our faces with laughter and tears, but they only made you stronger.
And you made me stronger watching you.

We’ve been together so long. We think alike.
I can almost read your mind. I know what you want without asking.
Sometimes I take you for granted.
But every now and then, on birthdays and anniversaries like today, I think about how lucky I am to live with the greatest man I have ever known.
You make me laugh. You intrigue and inspire me.

Today, I wish I had a gift equal to what you deserve.
But gifts break, wear out, end up in boxes, forgotten.
I hope that these words will last much much longer.
Happiest of birthdays, love of my life.
May our children and grandchildren know the current that runs deep in your heart; may they know the Source of that strength.

P.S. Somewhere in all this there will be a delicious chocolate cake waiting!

~Cathe

Leave your birthday wishes for Pastor Greg in the comments!

What in the World is Happening? (#WorldWarIII?) part 2

December 9th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

As promised,here Part 2 of my message,”What in the World is Happening?”.

As I stated,I believe we are living in the last days.
You might say,“Now, Greg, we have always had upheaval, and war, and violence.”

I don’t dispute that, but let’s think about how quickly this type of news is cycling. It’s not once a year, or once a month, that we hear of some new shocking development. It’s once a week, once a day, sometimes even once an hour! With our smart phones we get the headlines in real time!

That is exactly what the Bible tells us about the end times. The events that precede Christ’s return will be like labor pains. The closer together they are, the closer the baby is to being born. In the same way, the closer and more frequent these events, the closer we are to Christ’s return.

Do you realize there is not one passage of the Bible that needs to be fulfilled before Christ can return?

So when we see these “signs of the times,” what should we do? Jesus did not say, “When you see these things begin to happen, freak out!” No, He said, “When you see these things begin to happen, look up! What does it mean to “look up”? It means we need an eternal perspective.

What should we as believers be doing as we await this great event? 1 Thessalonians 5:2–8 tells us: We need to wake up, sober up, and suit up!

1. We need to Wake up!

“Let us not sleep, as others do” (verse 6).
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines sleep as “a state of inactivity, with a loss of consciousness and a decrease in responsiveness to events taking place.” There are people in the church today who have gone asleep. They are not watching the signs of the times, nor observing the “times and seasons.” There is a lethargy, and passiveness, even a laziness. There seems to be a disconnect from their so-called “spiritual life” and real life. Instead of “walking in the spirit,” they are sleepwalking!

I don’t know about you, but when I have had a good meal, I get sleepy! Sometimes the most well-fed Christians are also the laziest! They become “sermon connoisseurs” instead of “fishers of men”!

Paul is saying, “Wake up and be ready for the Lord’s return!” Remember when you were a kid and it was so hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve? It’s the same idea here—not a miserable, repressive, confining way to live, looking for Christ’s return, but a happy, joyful, purposeful way to live.

2. We need to Sober up!

“Let us who are of the day be sober” (verse 8).

Having spent the first 17 years of my life in the constant presence of drunk people, I can speak somewhat authoritatively to this.

First, there is the obvious interpretation: don’t get drunk. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you” (NLT). A Christian should never be under the control of the “spirits,” but of the Holy Spirit. I personally do not drink at all and I have never found I’ve missed anything.

But you can be “drunk” or intoxicated by many things in this life. Jesus said in Luke 21:34, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly.” It is not wrong to have things; it is wrong when things have you. There is the “thrill of the hunt” while you pursue what you want. Then, when you get it, you move on to another thing. We should be pursing God as we await the return of Jesus Christ.

To be sober does not mean being miserable. Some Christians are like “Debbie Downer” about everything. In the name of spirituality, they never smile. That’s not spiritual; that’s weird. Paul is saying we should be sober, which means “clear headed.” To be sober means to be alert, to live with your eyes open, to be sane and steady.

Don’t be drunken and sleeping; be awake and alert!

3. You need to Suit up!

“Put on breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (verse 8).
We 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! “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. 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!” (Ephesians 6:12 –13).

It’s really not a choice of fighting or not fighting. It’s a choice of victory or defeat, winning or losing, progressing or regressing, gaining or losing ground. When we become Christians, we also become soldiers in a spiritual battle (2 Timothy 2:4). You are no longer a civilian; you are now under the orders of your Commander-in-Chief, Jesus. So, suit up! We have a job to do.

This is a spiritual battle.
Our primary weapons as Christians are Prayer and the Preaching of the Gospel.
Let’s get busy doing this!
That is why we are going to AT&T stadium on March 6th of 2016.
This is one of the largest stadiums in America.
We will proclaim the Gospel in an event called “Harvest America”.
To find out more,go to

www.harvestamerica.com

What in the World is Happening? (#WorldWarIII?)

December 8th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 5 Comments »

There is no question in my mind that we are living in the last days.

All around us are signs of the times that Christ’s coming is near, even at the door. As we read the Book of Revelation, we see a violent, murderous world in the end. Jesus said it would be like Noah’s time, which was marked by murder.

We were all horrified by the attack in Paris, killing 130 people. Now it has come to our doorstep in America. San Bernardino is now the site of the largest terrorist attack since 9/11.

Terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14, and left another 21 wounded. San Bernardino law enforcement responded quickly and killed these two wicked people. Tashfeen Malik pledged her loyalty to ISIS on Facebook and ISIS takes credit. It appears that Tashfeen radicalized Syed.

We have never faced a terrorist group like ISIS before. Sebastian Gorka is an expert on ISIS. He works very closely with US Army special commands and the intelligence community. He proposes that ISIS is far more dangerous than Al Qaeda.

Among his findings-

ISIS is the richest group of its type in human history, with enough cash to level about 1,600 terrorist acts equivalent to 9/11.
He describes their ability to recruit as mind-boggling.
They have recruited 19,000 foreign fighters in in the last nine months.
They do this largely through social media.

A CNN report says, “ISIS has the most sophisticated propaganda machine of any terrorist organization, a global communications strategy that has stumped counterterrorism officials while making significant inroads among US sympathizers.”

Another article states, “The digital age has helped terrorists do a better job of not only recruiting members but also inspiring sympathizers to carry out attacks on their own, thinking globally but acting locally.” In other words, they radicalize people online that have no digital footprint. Thus, they are not necessarily being monitored by authorities. They do not have to be authorized by ISIS or anyone else. They get radicalized and they act. There are special links to training videos that show people how to create acts of terrorism. They use encrypted technologies that hinder the ability of authorities to intercept and analyze information. This was not even possible until the last 10 years.
It is my opinion that these are all “signs of the times.”

ISIS is also aggressively pursuing chemical weapons. They have set up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Australian intelligence has just warned that ISIS has enough material to build weapons of mass destruction and have seized enough radioactive material to build a large “dirty bomb.” ISIS’ butchers have gone after Christians in particular, torturing and crucifying them. There have been seemingly countless beheadings that they film.

What is the objective of ISIS? They want to produce a global caliphate.

Radical Islam has its own version of the end times. They even have their own messiah that they call the Mahdi. More than half of Muslims believe they will see the return of the Mahdi. As my friend, Joel Rosenberg has written, “The way to serve Mahdi is to annihilate Judeo-Christian civilization and, in so doing, establish God’s kingdom on earth, known as the caliphate.”

This is accomplished through jihad, establishing “sharia law.” Sharia law is the rule by the Koran, which is the bible of Islam. This comes about by either conquest or infiltration and is referred to as “Islamification” in the West. The ultimate goal is a global caliphate.

To make things more complex, Islamists are not just at war with the western world, they are at war with themselves. Two main branches of Islam exist today: Sunni and Shia. Sunnis comprise about 90% of Muslims; Shia make up the remaining population. ISIS is Sunni. Iran has a majority of Shia Muslims. If ISIS is dangerous, Iran is even more dangerous!

Iran is taking a longer view to accomplish their objectives. Through their development of nuclear weapons, they want to bring chaos. That’s because they believe their messiah will come only when the world is engulfed in chaos and carnage. They openly vow to annihilate the United States and Israel. Iran is intent on obtaining nuclear weapons, and it appears she will succeed.

Iran just carried out a new medium range ballistic missile test in breach of two United Nations Security Council resolutions,according to a senior U.S.official.

Olli Heinonen, a 27-year veteran of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran could have up to five times more advanced centrifuges than previously admitted. This is why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that to defeat ISIS and not disarm Iran is to “win the battle and lose the war.”

Iran makes no secret of their desire to destroy Israel. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei recently tweeted, “Israel must be annihilated.” One of Iran’s leaders says, “The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel!” Major General Ayatollah Salehi, commander-in-chief of the Iranian army, said, “The army of Iran can by itself destroy Israel.”

God is in control.

You might be thinking, “Thanks for the encouragement, Greg. Now I’m even more frightened!” But let me now give you a biblical perspective: God is in control.

The Daily News does not agree. They put out a cover story titled, “God Isn’t Fixing This.” Actually, He has and He will. No politician will fix it, nor will some new law. God will ultimately fix it when Christ returns to establish His kingdom.

The message of the angels in Luke 2:14 seems so relevant today. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Yet, we look at this war-torn world, and wonder, “Where is the goodwill?” We look at horrific acts of terrorism and wonder, “Where is the peace?”

A clearer translation of the verse explains, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” The issue is that so many do not live lives that please God. Sin has permeated our world. And the only lasting hope is Jesus Christ. One day there will be peace on earth. But that day is not here yet. Our job in the meantime is to introduce people to the Prince of Peace. Know this: everything is going according to plan—God’s plan.


Israel is the key.

This is what is amazing: this was all foretold by the Hebrew prophets. The prophet Ezekiel was told to stand over a valley of dry bones. Then God asked him a question: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Then the bones came together and flesh returned to the bodies and they came alive.
Ezekiel 37:11–12: “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!”’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’”’”

That is a very specific prophecy. God was saying that Israel would be scattered and regathered. When this happened, it would be a super-sign of the end times. After the death of 6 million in the Holocaust, many Jewish people lost hope. Yet despite the worst tragedy ever, they realized they must return to their homeland. Against all odds, they started (or restarted) the nation Israel on May 14, 1948. The dry bones were alive and the prophetic was clock ticking.

In the 1950s, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stated, “Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled, and the nation Israel is hearing the footsteps of the Messiah.” On Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2010, in Auschwitz, Poland, Benjamin Netanyahu made this amazing statement: “We have returned to our homeland . . . from every corner of the earth . . . The Jewish people rose from ashes . . . Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet.”

This regathering of Israel was predicted in Ezekiel 37:21–22, among other places.
He “will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone.”
He “will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land.”
He “will make them one nation in the land.”

1. God promised that in the last days, He would gather the Jewish people from all over the world, from the different nations where they had been scattered. Has that happened? Yes, it has.

2. God promised the Jewish people that He would gather them to a specific place. Has that happened yet? Again, yes! The land of Israel.

3. God promised the Jewish people that not only would He gather them to Israel, but He would make them into a nation once they arrived in the land.

#4 God promised the Jewish people He would give them back the city of Jerusalem

Check, check, check, check.

So, this whole conflict we see today in the Middle East is just as the Bible predicted. It’s really amazing when you think about it, this fascination with Jerusalem and Israel. This tiny little sliver of land, which at one point is only nine miles wide, is not accidental. The entire country is only about the size of New Jersey, with a population of 8 million. The nation Israel is 154th among the nations in land (you could fit 32 Israels in the state of Texas). Yet you cannot read a newspaper, watch TV, or look at a news website without some reference on almost a daily basis of what’s going on in this tiny piece of real estate. Why is this?

The answer to this question is really quite simple: Israel is at the eye of the hurricane of the great events of the end times. She occupies center stage in God’s drama of the ages. She, and the other players are “behind the prophetic curtain” hitting their marks. Soon, the curtain will be drawn and the final chain of events will transpire.

Yes, it was all predicted long ago by the Hebrew prophets. And all who have sought to destroy Israel have paid a price, as they are God’s people. God has promised a blessing on those that bless Israel, and a curse on those that don’t. Throughout history, the judgment of God has fallen heavily on Israel’s oppressors: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome, and in more modern times, Spain, Germany, and perhaps very soon, possibly Russia and Iran.

One of the reasons God has blessed the USA is because of our support of Israel. But the Bible tells us that in the last days, Israel’s supporters will be largely gone. And Jerusalem will be the hotspot of the globe. Ironically, the name Jerusalem means “city of peace.” Yet more battles have been fought at her gates than any other city on earth.

It’s Jerusalem,stupid!

Remember years ago when the saying was “It’s the economy, stupid!” In current international politics we could say, “It’s Jerusalem, stupid!” Yet, from her very beginning, she has been attacked again and again. Israel has been the target of Islamic extremists since her birth as a nation. Now, more than 65 years later, she is still under attack.

Israel sits today on much of the biblical Promised Land despite facing continual threats from Islamic extremists on nearly every border. Clearly, this is to happen after the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland. So, this is in our future, perhaps our near future. It also mentions a number of times this is in the latter or last days.

The Bible says the final conflict of man will be centered on Jerusalem and the Middle East—not Washington DC, Moscow, Beijing, or London, but Jerusalem. That is why the Bible student will always pay attention to a mention of Jerusalem. As Luke 21:20 says, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. This has all been predicted in Scripture.

Zechariah 12:2–3 says, “I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world.” One of Iran’s leaders said, “We must spare no effort in liberating holy Jerusalem and cutting off the hands of the infidels from this holy site.”

So, we see the regathered nation Israel, hostility toward her, as Scripture predicted. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. After Ezekiel 37 is Ezekiel 38. It speaks of a large nation to the north of Israel, along with a number of allies, invading Israel. They are identified as Gog from the land of Magog.

Any map would show that Russia is north of Israel. What is even more remarkable is that Gog’s allies are Persia, Libya, and Gomer (which may be modern-day Turkey). Russia has dramatically increased her military presence in the Middle East. Persia is modern Iran.

It was not that long ago that there was very little connection between Iran and Russia, but that has all changed recently. We now have a nightmare scenario: a military powerhouse with a massive nuclear arsenal aligning itself with Islamic terrorists who are hostile to America and Israel.

This Russian-Iranian alliance is propping up the regime of Syrian dictator Assad. There are now 2,000 Iranian and Iranian-backed fighters in Syria. This is backed by Russian air power. Such an alliance has never existed, yet it was predicted in Scripture 3,000 years ago.

Listen to these headlines from one week ago. They sound as though they were ripped from the pages of the Bible!

Russian ground troops arrive in Syria in unprecedented military action.
First Iranian fighter jets over Syria alongside Russian bombers.
Iran guard simulates capture of Temple Mount from Israeli control.

Question: what would happen if Israel struck Iran’s nuclear reactors? Would Russia be forced to protect her ally? Will this or something like this be the “hook in the jaw” that pulls Russia in?

I am not saying this scenario will lead to the Ezekiel 38 showdown. But I would be a fool to not say it could lead to it.

Just the other day, the phrase “World War III” was trending on Twitter. It seems every time we turn around, there is some new catastrophe, act or terrorism, senseless act of violence, or even provocation of war. These events and others are clear “signs of the times” that Jesus is coming back.

Tomorrow,I will post part 2 of my message,”What in the world is happening?”

What We’re Thankful For

November 25th, 2015 Posted in family, holidays, video | 238 Comments »

Thanksgiving is upon us, and we have so much to be thankful for. Cathe and I made a short video sharing what some of those things are for us this year. Watch it below:

Happy Thanksgiving, and feel free to let me know what you’re thankful for in the comments!

Some Practical Ways to Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

Soon we will gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.
I thought I would give you some practical ideas on how to give thanks.

1. The simple act of saying grace over a meal.

I love to see a family all bow their heads in a restaurant and say grace. You’re hungry, the meal is hot, but you just want to acknowledge God’s provision of it. (Just don’t pray for too long!)

Did you know that Jesus gave thanks? He did so in the feeding of the 4,000. “He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke

them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude” (Matthew 15:35–36 NKJV). We see that Jesus gave thanks for the necessities of life, like food. If Jesus did it, should we not do the same?

In the Lord’s Prayer, He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is an acknowledgement that all we have comes from God. God may have blessed you with great wealth.

Maybe you made some strategic investments or created a business. But remember, God gave you that ability! Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (NIV). It is also an acknowledgement that all we need must still come from God.

So give thanks today for the food in your stomach, the clothes on your back. Give thanks for your good health, if you are so fortunate to have it. Give thanks for your safety and that you live in this country.


2. Remembering the Lord with your faithful giving of finances.

Proverbs 3:9–10 tells us, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (NIV).

When you separate a tenth of your paycheck, your income, and say, “This is the Lord’s!” that is putting Him first. Yet, this is an area we are very reluctant to turn over to God, not realizing the great joy there is in giving. “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ . . . Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:6–7, 11–12 NLT).

Most of us are Christians today, and enjoy a place of worship, because of the faithfulness of others. Others who invested in the future. Others who remembered the Lord in their giving, causing us to “give thanks”!

3. We should remember to take time each day for prayer and Bible study.

When you get up in the morning, make time for the study of Scripture. As Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (NIV).

4. We should also remember to give thanks when things are hard.

“But Greg, that makes no sense at all!”

It makes perfect sense. When a law was passed that no one could pray anymore, here is what Daniel did. “He went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always had done, giving thanks to his God” (Daniel 6:10 NKJV).

We cannot only give thanks when things are going well. We must give thanks because the Lord is good and He is working all things for good. Paul reminds us, “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” (Philippians 4:6–7 NKJV).

Repullulat. “It Buds Afresh.”

November 21st, 2015 Posted in sermons | No Comments »

I heard about an industrious farmer who wanted to make some more money. He raised turkeys, and he thought, There are only two drumsticks on a turkey. If only I could find a way to get some more. So he went to work in his laboratory and came up with a turkey that had six legs.

When someone asked him how this new turkey tasted, he replied, “I don’t know. We could never catch the thing.”

Thanksgiving is on the way, and then we’ll have that crazy event called Black Friday, where people attack each other in stores. Then the Christmas season follows, which kids especially love. There is so much excitement for them as they anticipate what is to come. They hope they will get that new toy for Christmas, and the best thing of all is they’ll be out of school.

For some, however, this season is rather hopeless. It’s a reminder that life maybe isn’t going the way they wanted it to. Maybe it is a marker of time as they remember a certain loved one who was with them at this time last year but is not with them now. Something has happened in their lives that makes this a difficult time of year.

We need to know there is always hope. And a good way to define hope is to remember it as an acronym for holding on with patient expectation.

When I see that definition of hope, I think of Job. Talk about a guy who had a bad day. I don’t know if there is anyone who has ever had a worse day than Job, apart from Jesus Christ himself going to Calvary. In one day, Job lost everything he held dear. He lost his possessions and even his health. He lost people who worked for him. And worst of all, he lost his own children.

Yet despite this horrific chain of events, Job still had hope. He said, “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease” (14:7 NKJV).

The Laurie family I was adopted into is a Scottish clan. My father, Oscar Laurie, told me about the family crest, which is essentially a tree stump with tiny stems of growth shooting from it. The Laurie family motto is “Repullulat,” which means “It buds afresh.”
I thought about this and realized that describes my life. I was cut down. I was the most likely to amount to nothing. I was the most likely to end up like the notorious sinners in my family. But by the grace of God, he changed me. I was cut down, but life came out instead.

Fast-forward to 2008, when God called our son Christopher home to heaven. I was cut down again. Quite honestly, it was so devastating that I didn’t know if I could survive that. But with the passing of time, and though we still miss our son with all our hearts, life has begun to bud afresh again.

Sometimes we are cut down in life, and we think this is the end. Not necessarily. God can intervene. He can bring new life. He can bring, as the Bible says, beauty out of ashes.

When the horrific news came to Job that his children had died, we read that “Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20). Seven sons and three daughters were gone, and what did Job do? He fell to the ground and worshiped.

Job had never read the book of Job. He didn’t know what was going on at the time. He didn’t know that God had given permission for the devil to bring calamity into his life. All Job knew was that one day he woke up, and everything that could go wrong went wrong. Yet when he heard the devastating news, he worshiped.

If Job had fallen to the ground and cried, it would have made sense. If he had fallen to the ground and began to shake his fist in anger at God, it even would have made sense. But instead he fell to the ground and worshiped. Why? Because Job was a godly man.

I believe that when godly men and women are pressed by life, prayer will come out of them. When someone says they’ve lost their faith through a certain crisis, my response would be, “Good. Get rid of that faith.” The faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted. Anyone can praise God when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. But if you can praise God when the roof caves in and when the bottom drops out and when things go wrong, it says to me that you are a true follower of Jesus Christ.

When we worship even if we don’t feel like it, when we worship when we are hurting, that is called the sacrifice of praise. We worship because God is deserving of our praise.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Notice it doesn’t say, “In some things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” or “When you are in the mood, give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” or “When circumstances are perfect, give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Rather, it says, “In everything give thanks. …” There are no exceptions. There are no excuses. Nothing is beyond those parameters. In everything give thanks.

In spite of his circumstances, Job offered his praise to God. He had an attitude of gratitude. Job didn’t know the rest of his story, but this is what he did know. He knew God was good. He knew God was in control. So Job worshiped.
I don’t know what circumstances you’re facing today. I don’t know whether you’ve had some pruning in your life or whether you’ve been cut down in some way.
But I want you to know that Repullulat can be your motto, too. Your life can bud afresh. You can give thanks.

Taken from my weekly column at Worldnetdaily.

Some Thanksgiving Thoughts for You

November 18th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” —Psalm 100:4

I really like Thanksgiving, because there is not a lot of pressure to go out and buy things. You have to get food, of course. But apart from that, Thanksgiving is not about shopping. It is more about getting together with family and friends and doing what most people love to do, which is eat.

We can enjoy the food. We can enjoy our family. We can enjoy our fellowship. But the real purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. It is a day to focus on giving thanks.
Of course, that is sometimes easier said than done. It is easy when things are going reasonably well, the bills are paid, we have a roof over our head and our health is good. But when times are hard, we don’t want to give thanks at all. But here is what the Bible says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1 NIV).

Notice this verse does not say to give thanks to the Lord when you feel good. Rather, it says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

Someone might say, “Well, what if my heart is not in it? Should I still give thanks?” Yes, you should. Many times when we offer our worship to God, it is just that: a sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

The Bible not only commands us to give thanks regardless of circumstances, but it also tells us to verbally give thanks to God.

It would be like a husband never telling his wife that he loves her. She needs to hear it from him. And of course, a husband needs to hear “I love you” from his wife, too.

God knows all things. He knows whether we love him. However, He still asks for us to give Him verbal praise. Far too often, we fail to give God what is due him.

As Psalm 29:2 reminds us, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”

The Recent Terrorist Attacks in Paris

November 13th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 5 Comments »

Islamic Terrorism.
It is not going away anytime soon.
It’s just heart-breaking to think of more than 129 people murdered by terrorists in Paris.
Did you know that the Bible has predicted many of the things we are seeing happening today all around our world?
This is what I just talked about with author Eric Metaxas on his radio show that aired Friday.
BTW, this interview was recorded before the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
You can listen to it right here.

http://www.metaxastalk.com/podcasts/

Let’s pray for our friends in France.
And let’s continue to pray for the protection of the United States of America.