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What Legacy Will You Leave?

August 19th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

Alfred Nobel had the unique opportunity of reading his own obituary. One day he opened the newspaper and saw his name in the obituary column. It had been printed by mistake, of course, but Nobel was distressed that he was remembered as the man who created dynamite, something used for mass destruction. Nobel decided to make some dramatic changes in his life. Wanting to change what people would remember him for, he went on to create the Nobel Peace Prize.

If you weren’t aware that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, then apparently his plan worked. Instead he left the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

We all will leave a legacy. What will people remember about us? What will our family members say? What will we be known for? If we don’t like what we come up with as we think about this, it isn’t too late to change.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul stated and left his legacy. His turbulent life was coming to an end, yet he had truly made a difference. His final words were not a message of defeat but one of victory.

He was not like Solomon, who looked at his life in retrospect and said, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV).

Nor did Paul look back on his life and say, like his namesake, Saul, the king of Israel, “Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21 NKJV).
The apostle Paul was able to say what he said because he lived a life that was right before God. Because of that, he had no regrets.

At the time, Paul was sitting in a dungeon in Rome. An amazing series of events had led to his imprisonment. It started with Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem and preach there. A prophet named Agabus had taken the belt Paul had been wearing, wrapped up his own arms and legs in it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11 NIV).

When Paul’s friends heard that, they began to weep. They asked him not to go to Jerusalem. But Paul would not be deterred. I guess he really meant it on the day of his conversion when he said to Jesus, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6 NKJV). Paul did not fear imprisonment. He did not fear what people could do to him. He gave his life completely to God.

It reminds me of the words of Jim Eliot, a 20th-century martyr who was killed in his endeavor to take the gospel to a tribe in Ecuador known at that time as the Aucas. In his journal he had written,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Paul went to Jerusalem and preached, and sure enough, people were angry with him and wanted to kill him. He was arrested and whipped, and then he was transferred to Felix, the Roman governor.

Now if Paul had played his cards right, he could have talked his way out of that mess. Instead, Paul spoke to Felix about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. Paul challenged Felix to come to Christ. Felix procrastinated, and after a period of time, Paul exercised his rights and privileges as a citizen of Rome and appealed to Caesar. So Paul was put on a ship and sent to Rome.

He was taken to a place known as the Mamertine Prison, which was nothing more than a cold, dark cave cell with no window. There was only a hole through which food could be lowered. Needless to say, Paul was in a pit. And it was from this pit that Paul wrote these words: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6–7 NKJV).

Notice that Paul didn’t say he ran the race; he said he finished the race. That’s the key. It is not enough to start well; we need to finish well. It is not enough to run fast; we need to run fast and long.

This is a long-distance run. The goal is to make it across the finish line.

The Bible is filled with the stories of so many people who had tremendous potential but crashed and burned in the spiritual race. Samson had the incredible ability to vanquish his enemies. He would kill them left and right on the battlefield. On one occasion, he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Yet he went down in flames because he played around with sin – and sin ultimately played around with him, culminating in his own death.

Then there was Gideon, who had such humble beginnings and was mightily used by God. But as his life came to an end, he lowered his standards and fell into immorality and pride.

Both Samson and Gideon started well, but they didn’t finish well. They ran fast in the beginning, but they didn’t get across the finish line like they should have.

Paul wanted to be of the company of those who finished the race, joining the ranks of those who did so in God’s winners’ circle—men and women who finished well.
Paul truly had made a difference with his life. And if we are on the right course, our lives can make a difference as well. We all will leave a legacy. What kind will you leave?

Don’t Let your Conscience Die.

August 12th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 7 Comments »

What is a conscience?

One person has described it as “the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking.” Another person said a “conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.” Someone else has pointed out that a “conscience doesn’t always keep you from doing wrong, but it does keep you from enjoying it.”

A conscience is something that God has placed in every person. We all are born with a conscience, with a sense of what right and wrong are. It is like a fire alarm or a smoke alarm that goes off when there is trouble.

The Bible speaks of dulling one’s conscience and of those who have had their consciences seared as with a hot iron (see 1 Timothy 4:2), which effectively means having a hardened and unresponsive conscience.

The Bible tells the story of a man whose conscience died. He was known as King Herod, and he had as his personal counselor the greatest prophet in all the Bible, John the Baptist. But King Herod’s life began to unravel.

There are a number of Herods mentioned in the New Testament, but they are not all the same person. The first was Herod the Great, the Herod who was in charge when the wise men came from the East, looking for the one who was born the King of the Jews. He wasn’t called Herod the Great because of his acts of benevolence or because he was a wonderful ruler. Rather, he was known for the amazing edifices he built, including the great fortress Masada. He also rebuilt the Jewish temple, which was many years in the making. He also was known for his paranoia, his wickedness, and having members of his own family executed because he thought they would be a threat to his throne. Herod the Great was a wicked man.

Then we come to his son, known as Herod Antipas. Clearly the apple did not fall far from the tree, because Herod Antipas also was wicked. Historians tell us that he was cruel, scheming, indecisive and utterly immoral. And he had a conscience that was in the process of dying.

Meanwhile, John the Baptist was everything that Herod Antipas was not. While Herod was unsure, torn, proud and worried about the opinions of others, John was sure, humble and concerned only with the opinion of God. John was a man of immense moral courage while Herod was a man of spineless weakness.

When John the Baptist emerged on the scene, Israel had not heard from God for 400 years. That is a long time. There hadn’t been a single miracle, not a single angelic appearance, not one prophet speaking for God – just an icy silence from heaven. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, John the Baptist appeared. He was powerful. Wherever he went, crowds would gather. He was almost like a rock star in his day. John was fearless. He called out the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. People would swarm to wherever John was.

John was the greatest prophet who ever lived, the last in a long line of spokesmen for God. Jesus said of John, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV). John was greater because he, and he alone, was the direct forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah. John had an amazing place in history.

We also read that Herod respected John. In the Gospel of Mark we read that “Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him” (6:20 NIV).
Although Herod liked John, his wife, Herodias, hated him. Herod and Herodias had a bizarre relationship. While Herodias was still married to Philip, Herod’s brother, Herod had seduced her and took her as his own wife. But it gets worse. Herodias also was the daughter of Herod’s half-brother, making her his niece.

So John confronted Herod on this, effectively saying, “This is crazy. This is really messed up. You need to repent.” Herod respected the fact that John would speak up to him. If John would have had public relations consultants, they would have told him to relax a little bit, to be more diplomatic. But John didn’t care. He simply told the truth.
When you get down to it, John the Baptist was Herod’s truest friend because he told him the truth. If you have a friend who tells you the truth, don’t lose that friend. You want someone in your life who will say, “That is a bad idea and here’s why …” I have friends like that, people whom I trust.

If someone always compliments you and never has anything remotely critical to say, is that person really a true friend? A true friend will wound occasionally, not to hurt but to help, much like a surgeon who would take a scalpel to remove something that is harmful to your body. It has been said that a true friend stabs you in the front, not in the back.
We need more people like John today, more men and more women who simply tell the truth. We need them everywhere. We need them in culture. We need them in pulpits. We need them in politics. We need people who will tell the truth.

John told Herod the truth, and this ultimately cost John his head. Why did Herod do such a horrible thing? Why would he murder his only real friend in the world, John the Baptist? I think two things prompted him: sexual lust and a desire to impress and please others.

People make irrational decisions when they are driven by lust. A husband will walk away from his faithful wife and his loving children because he says he is having a midlife crisis. Or wives walking out on their husbands and abandon their children because they are under the control of lust. Lust is powerful. That is why you don’t feed lust; you starve it.

Herod also was concerned about impressing others. We read that “[Herod] was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that [Salome’s] request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison” (Matthew 14:9-10 NIV). He should have retracted his offer. But he was so worried about the opinions of other people.

John was a man who kept his conscience and lost his head, while Herod was the man who took John’s head but lost his own conscience.

How does a conscience die? It starts with small things that invariably become larger things. We must be very careful to give attention to our conscience, to be attuned to it, to take care of it. If we neglect it, if we allow it to get weak, it ultimately will mean the death of a conscience.

Hope for the Afterlife

August 6th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 8 Comments »

When you are a child, life seems to go so slowly.

When I was in the third grade, it felt as though it lasted 20 years. Now decades go by. Today there are satellite radio channels for ’50s music, ’60s music, ’70s music and so on. It occurred to me the other day as I was looking for a good song to listen to on the radio that I have lived through all those decades. It is a sad day when the ’90s are considered oldies. It doesn’t seem that long ago to me.

The older we get, the reality of the afterlife gets stronger.

It is something we think about quite often. We know it is coming. We start losing friends and maybe even some family members. We know our day will come.

Some people claim to have died and gone into the afterlife and, specifically, to heaven. I find it interesting that all these people who have had these so-called near-death experiences never went to hell. Have you noticed that? Instead, they say they experienced a beautiful bright light, and they felt great peace. Those who aren’t Christians may find a certain measure of comfort from descriptions like these because they’re hopeful it will be OK for them on the other side. But my question is, Are you willing to bet all eternity on that?

I read an article recently about a new study, which revealed that “fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before.” However, the article went on to say, “Americans have become slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife, even as they are abandoning prayer, belief in God and rituals.”

People aren’t sure whether they believe in God or the Bible, but they believe in heaven. Yet we wouldn’t even have the word heaven without the Bible. We wouldn’t have the concept of heaven without the Bible. I believe in heaven because God said there is a heaven. The only reliable source on the afterlife is the Bible, which tells us a lot about what is coming on the other side.

Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and it will be home for Christians one day as well. Sometimes we ask what heaven is like. I think a better question to ask is what earth is like at its best. Think of the most amazing sunset or the most incredible waterfall you have ever seen. Think about the most amazing architecture you have ever laid your eyes on or the greatest city you have ever visited. Or, go back in your life for a moment and remember some of the greatest moments you’ve had with family and friends. Those are glimpses of heaven. Heaven is not an imitation of earth; earth is an imitation of heaven. The best that you have ever experienced on this earth will be far better in heaven.

When I want to know about a place, I try to talk to someone who has been there. I will ask about a good place to stay, what the weather is like and, most importantly, what are the best places to eat. I want to talk to a person who actually has been there.
The only one who is a reliable source on the afterlife, one who has been there and returned, is Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 NIV).

Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. And because of the resurrection of Jesus, if you are a Christian you will have life after death in heaven. Heaven is not the default destination of every person; it is only the destination of the person who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ.

That brings us to the question of what happens when we die. That all depends. If you are a Christian, you will go straight to heaven. The apostle Paul wrote that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus overcame death at the cross. So when a Christian dies, his or her body goes into the ground, but his or her spirit goes right into the presence of God.

Here is one way to think about it. A Christian does not have to fear death any more than he or she should fear taking nap. The Bible often describes death for a Christian as falling asleep. After Lazarus died, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11 NIV). When Stephen was dying a violent death at the hands of wicked men, we read that “he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60 NIV). That is how the Bible often describes death for a Christian.

But the Bible also teaches there is a generation (and we could be that generation) that will not see death. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Christians call it the Rapture. By the way, I’ve put in for that. I want to be in that. But it isn’t up to me. Whether I get to heaven by the Rapture or by death, I don’t really care. I know that I’m getting there, and that is all that matters. All Christians have this hope as followers of Jesus.

The Bible promises that one day, heaven will come to earth. God will make all things new. The Bible, speaking of this, says that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4 NIV).

This passage goes on to say that God will make “all things new” (verse 5). In the new world that is coming, it will be out with the old and in with the new. No more terminal diseases. No more hospitals. No more wheelchairs or funerals. No more suffering, separations, or accidents. No more courts. No more prisons. No more divorces. No more breakups or breakdowns. No more suicide. No more rape. No more missing children. No more drug problems. No more heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer. No more famines. No more disasters.

God will make all things new. And it is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Faster, Higher, Stronger”

July 29th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

I once met an Olympic athlete who let me hold her gold medal.
I told her, “If I had won this medal, I would wear it everywhere.”

The Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

I think that could be a Christian’s motto, too.
When I am running this race of life as a Christian, I don’t want to settle for mediocrity. I don’t want to settle for second best.
I want to make my life count, up to the very end of the race, because when this life ends (and it will end for all of us), we will face the judgment.

For the Christian, however, it will be more like an Olympic ceremony or even an awards ceremony. The judgment that Christians will face is not about whether they will get into heaven, because this judgment takes place in heaven. One day, Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).

In the Olympics, athletes might receive a bronze, silver or gold medal. God will be giving out awards one day, too. Every sacrifice you have made, everything you have done for the glory of God, even if you did not receive recognition for it, is duly noted and recorded in heaven. God will reward you one day. In fact, Jesus said, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4 NIV).

There are many times when you may do things but won’t get the credit you deserve. No one pats you on the back. No one says, “Atta boy!” Worse yet, someone else might get the credit. When you did that for God, when you made that sacrifice for him, when you honored him in that way, even when you resisted that temptation, when you took that step of faith and let God use you, it is noted in heaven. One day, you will be rewarded for it.

I don’t know about you, but when I get on a scale, I never like what I see. The number is always going the wrong direction. But on God’s scales, we don’t want to be lightweights. We want to be heavyweights. And by weight, I mean depth of character and commitment to Christ.
This is not about getting to heaven; this is about getting to heaven with something to show for the brief time we were on earth. If you don’t do much with what God has given you, by his grace, you still will get to heaven if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ. Getting to heaven is not based on what we have done for God; it is based on what God has done for us.

This is the hope of the Christian. But if you are not a Christian, you don’t have this hope. If you are not a Christian, you cannot assure yourself that you will get to heaven, because there is no such promise. In fact, to be quite honest, the default destination of any person who rejects Jesus Christ is a place called hell. That is the last place God wants anyone to go. Do you think if God didn’t care, he would have sent his own son to suffer and die in our place on the cross and bear the sins of the world? God loved us so much that he poured his judgment and wrath upon his own son so we don’t have to face hell. Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again, stands at the door of our lives and knocks. He says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20 NIV).

Our presence in God’s kingdom is guaranteed by his promises. But our position in his kingdom will be earned or lost by the quality of service we render here and now. Salvation is a gift. But these rewards come as a result of faithfulness.
It is not about having more rewards than someone else. Just focus on being faithful in what God has called you to do. Don’t try to do what God has called someone else to do; do what God has called you to do. You have your place where you live and where you work, your family and your friends, and your sphere of influence. Go into your world and do all you can for his glory, and the Lord will reward you openly.

The Bible reminds us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).
One day, life will come to an end. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven. If you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ, you won’t. You determine where you are going to spend eternity. You decide whether you will go to heaven or hell. By accepting Christ, you know you will go to heaven. Heaven is not for good people; it is for forgiven people.

You may be a pretty good person. You may be relatively good. But you are just not good enough. You still fall short. All of us do. We all sin. But God has taken care of that by sending his son, Jesus, to die for our sins. You can ask God to forgive you so you can know you are right with him.
Are you running in the race of life right now? Maybe you have been running in it, but you’ve been slowing down a little. Maybe you’ve thought, “I’m a little winded. I’m getting on in years. I think that I’ve run so well for so long that I’m going to slow down. I’m going to sit down for a couple of years.”
But if you run in first place for nine-tenths of the race and bail out at the end, it doesn’t count. You have to cross the finish line.

It is not enough to start this race. You have to finish it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will give you new energy, excitement and power to run for him. Faster, higher, stronger.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

Why Blaming the Government Isn’t the Answer

July 19th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 9 Comments »

If you have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, you know that it doesn’t take long to find a negative statement about the president, or members of Congress, or other governmental leaders and departments.

Some are scathing, some are tongue-in-cheek, some are even funny. Some are true and some are not.
But here’s the thing. If you’re looking to point the finger for America’s declining spiritual state; if you want to place blame for the moral apathy you find in this country, you should not be throwing your proverbial stones at our nation’s government. No, the problem lies with God’s people and the church. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, let me bring it home on a personal level: the problem lies with you, and the problem lies with me.

Why do I say that?
When we look at a passage familiar to most believers, 2 Chronicles 7:14, we find that God doesn’t reproach the White House; He calls attention to His house. Here’s what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says [emphasis added]:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)
Now, initially this verse was spoken to the nation Israel. Some would argue that we take it out of context if we apply it to America. But I think in principle it applies to the believers of any nation, including the United States, for we as Christians are certainly called by His name and are His people.

Notice that God doesn’t mention secular culture. He doesn’t say a thing about your “garden variety sinners,” if you will. He talks to His own people. “If My people …”
So, for those of us who are true followers of Christ, what are we to do if we want to see our land healed? What is God’s prescription for revival? There are three things God tells us to do.

1. If we want to see a revival, we need to humble ourselves and pray.
The word used here for “pray” is interesting. Of the 12 Hebrew words employed in Scripture to express the verb “to pray,” the one used here means to judge self habitually. We are so quick to judge and criticize others habitually. But the Bible says we should really be judging ourselves. If we spent less time criticizing others and more time examining ourselves, maybe we would have revival. It starts with you. It starts with me.

What does it mean to judge ourselves?
It means that we realize we have a long way to go. If you are completely satisfied with where you are at spiritually right now, and don’t think there is any other change or transformation needed in your life, you’ve got a problem. Any Christian who really knows what it is to follow Jesus will always realize they have a long way to go.
The apostle Paul said after years of walking with the Lord, in Philippians 3, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (verse 12 NKJV).
You have got to keep growing. Keep learning. Keep moving forward spiritually. And that starts with setting aside your self-pride and humbling yourself before the Lord.

2. If we want to see a revival, we must seek His face.
We cannot organize a revival, but we can agonize for one in prayer. We can prepare the ground—or perhaps I should say “pre-prayer” the ground—for revival to take root in. There has never been a prayerless revival in history, so it does start with prayer.

We are not just to pray, but to “seek God’s face.” There is a difference between, “Lord, send revival. Amen. Let’s get lunch” and “Oh Lord, we are seeking You. Lord, we are calling out to You. Lord, we are desperate for You. Lord, we need You. Send an awakening to America!”
Seeking the Lord’s face is effectively a prayer that will not take no for an answer.
You may say, “Aren’t you being presumptuous when you pray that way?”

No. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV).
A different translation would say, “Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.” Press on. When you are praying for revival—for the turning of hearts to God and the salvation of loved ones—you are praying according to the will of God. We need to press forward in our prayer and seek His face, not backing down.

3. If we want to see a revival, there must be repentance from all known sin.
We must repent. Again I remind you that God is speaking of His own people when He says they must turn from their wicked ways.
All of the praying in the world is not going to help you if you are living in sin. Isaiah 59:1–2 says:
“The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore” (NLT).

Want to see America return to God? Don’t look to a political candidates, economic reform, or government mandates. Look inwardly—humble yourself, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from your sin. Then God will hear from heaven and will heal our land.
Reprinted from THE BLAZE


The “3 Rs” of Personal Revival

July 2nd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 12 Comments »

I think the United States of America is standing at a crossroads. We have never been in worse shape morally. Crime continues to explode. Families continue to splinter. The fabric of society continues to unravel.
What we need in America today, and for that matter, around the globe, is a far-reaching, heaven-sent revival.

Revival is a word that we bandy about a lot. We use it often in the church. Some churches will even announce their “revivals” ahead of time: “Revival – this week only. Monday through Friday. Starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.” They may be having some great meetings, but if it is a genuine revival, then it is not something they start or stop. A revival is something God supernaturally does.
As I’ve said before, a revival is when God’s people come back to life again. An awakening, on the other hand, is when a nation comes alive spiritually, sees its need for God and turns to him.
The word “revive” means to be restored to its original condition. It reminds me of people who like to restore old cars. They will find an older Corvette or Thunderbird or something else and then work to make the car look like it did originally. And they are sticklers about original paint and original parts.

In the same way, to be revived means to get back to God’s original design. Revival has been defined as “nothing more or less than a new beginning of obedience to God.” Revival is the spark, if you will, that starts the engine.
Any genuine revival that has ever happened in human history has brought about repentance in the lives of people, a change in the community and evangelism en masse.
We need a real revival – not just an emotional experience, not just a tingle down the backbone. We need to see God work because our nation needs it as never before. We don’t need some “new” thing; we need to get back to the very standards God has given us, and we need to practice them.

I like what the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV).
In the days of the early church, the one that Jesus started, the Christians turned their world upside down. The church of today, which is much larger than the first-century church was, has considerable resources and incredible technology to utilize. Yet it seems as though the world is turning the church upside down. Why? Because we need a revival. We need to be revived before God.

In the book of Revelation, this is what Jesus said to his own church:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:2–4 NIV)
It’s clear these Christians weren’t lazy. They were discerning. They were hardworking, persevering believers. They were not growing weary. They were out there making a difference. Jesus was saying, “That’s great. But we have a problem here. You have left your first love.”
In spite of all their activity, they had lost that first passion when Jesus was all in all. So Jesus gave them the three R’s of revival: Remember. Repent. Repeat. He said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (verse 5 NKJV, emphasis added).

I am not saying that works will save us, because that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9 NIV).
Works don’t save a person, but they are good evidence that he or she is saved. If we have truly met the living Jesus, there will be works in our lives. As John the Baptist said, we need to bring forth “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 2:8 NIV), fruits that are consistent with a life that has truly come to know Christ.

Repentance means being willing to change. Repentance means being sorry enough to stop. The Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV).
God has given us his prescription for the healing of a nation, and it includes repentance. He said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
God is essentially saying, “My people need to take these steps. My people need to pray. My people need to turn from their wicked ways.”

The church needs a revival, but we must each ask ourselves this question individually: Am I personally revived? As we look at revivals in the Bible and in history, we see they often began with an individual.
While the church needs a revival, America needs an awakening. There are times in human history when God has intervened, when God, in his grace, has stepped in during a very dark time, a time when there was a moral breakdown, and brought about a spiritual awakening. It wasn’t orchestrated. It wasn’t a campaign planned by people. It was a work of God where he poured out his spirit. That is what we need in America today.

First Revival, Then an Awakening

June 27th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »

Sometimes when I watch television with my wife, she will select something that to me is, to put it delicately, boring. We have different tastes in general, but I’m willing to watch whatever it is she is watching. Sometimes I doze off, and she’ll say, “Greg, you fell asleep.”
There is nothing wrong with taking a little nap, especially if something is boring. But I will wake up denying it, of course. We usually don’t want to admit it when we’ve fallen asleep. That is the way we are. We don’t think we were asleep.

Revival can be described as waking up from a state of sleep. A revival is when God’s people come back to life again, while an awakening is when a nation comes alive spiritually and sees its need for God and turns to God. The church needs a revival. And America needs an awakening.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

The Bible tells the story of another place that needed an awakening. It was none other than the ancient city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which was the superpower of that day. The Ninevites were really cruel people and were known for their savagery. When the Ninevites would conquer a nation, they often would torture their prisoners before they executed them. Rather than hide their depravity, they celebrated it and proclaimed it. They even built monuments to their own cruelty.

It reminds me of the Nazis in World War II and of ISIS today.
The Assyrians were the enemies of Israel, so when God told Jonah, an Israelite, to go preach to them, Jonah thought it through. He knew God’s nature and how willing God is to pardon. And his fear was that if he went and preached to them, God would forgive them. Jonah deduced that if he didn’t go to Nineveh, God would judge them, and it would be one less enemy Israel would have to deal with.

The population of Nineveh was around 1 million, about the size of San Francisco. It was a very big city for ancient times. The Ninevites lived large, driving the best chariots and enjoying the finest food and the most exotic entertainment. They had a business and commercial system like none in the world. Assyria had been the reigning superpower for about 200 years, but unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered.

It would not be all that long until Babylon would come and overtake them. But God was giving Nineveh one last chance.
I wonder if God is trying to speak to America right now. I wonder if he is saying to our nation, “You need to wake up, and you need to turn back to Me.” If God could use someone like Jonah to bring about a spiritual awakening, then he certainly could use someone like you or me.

One person put it this way: “If God could bring a mighty revival in Nineveh, with no better representative than Jonah and no more gospel than he preached in their streets, he can surely do the same for America.”

Jonah was stubborn. He didn’t want to preach to the Ninevites. So he spent three days and three nights inside the belly of a great fish, and finally he came to his senses. He had a personal revival.
When Jonah finally went to Nineveh, it resulted in the largest spiritual awakening recorded in the Bible. People fixate on the story of Jonah and the “whale,” but they miss the bigger story of the biggest revival in ancient history.

First God sent revival to Jonah. Then Jonah brought revival to Nineveh.

C.S. Lewis said, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. … You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.” In other words, if you think you are a great person with no problems, then you really are more asleep than you realize.

Nothing can happen through us until it first happens to us. It has to start with us. Sure, we can go out and tell people about Jesus Christ. But let’s make sure we are models of what it is to follow Christ.
Christians today need the faith of the Christians of the first century, the faith that turned the world upside down. Consider this: Everywhere the apostle Paul went, there either was a riot or a revival. There was always action. It never got boring. It doesn’t mean being obnoxious or creating a scene, but it does mean getting some reaction to your faith.

I feel the time has come for the church to start making a disturbance again. Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows up himself. That is what we need to pray for now.
I think those of us who are Christians all have, in effect, a Nineveh we are called to, some place where we leave our comfort zone, some place where we admit our need, some place where we reach out to someone we would not normally reach out to.

Revival is getting back to the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Revival is being in the bloom of first love for a lifetime, walking closely with God.
Revival is nothing more or less than a new obedience to God. Then, as Nietzsche put it, it is “long obedience in the same direction.”
Only God can send an awakening to America. But revival can happen right where you are, right now.

Frozen in Time: Lessons for America from Pompeii

June 14th, 2016 Posted in video | 5 Comments »

Separated by miles and centuries, what could an ancient civilization, frozen in time, have in common with modern-day America? Watch to find out:

Principles for Answered Prayer

June 4th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 7 Comments »

Is there a way to pray in which we can see our prayers answered more often in the affirmative? I think the answer is yes, there may be. And I think we can find some answers in what we call the Lord’s Prayer.

This is a glorious prayer, a very familiar one that Jesus gave us.

And it is a model for prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Luke 11:2–4 NKJV)

In all fairness, if we were to be accurate, we would not call this the Lord’s Prayer. Nowhere in the Bible is it called such. This is not a prayer that Jesus would ever pray himself. Jesus would never pray, “Forgive us our sins,” because Jesus was sinless. (If you want to read what could more accurately be called the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer only Christ himself could pray, read John 17.)

It is not just a prayer to recite verbatim, although there is nothing wrong with that. Rather, it is a template for prayer, a model for prayer.

Notice this prayer begins with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” This reminds us that to see our prayers answered in the affirmative more often, we need to pray according to the will of God.

Jesus modeled this in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). It is OK to pray for whatever you want to pray, but don’t ever be afraid to add these words: “Your will be done.” Put the matter in God’s hands, and ask for his perfect will. But understand this: Sometimes God answers our prayers differently than we would like him to.

The primary objective of prayer is to align our will with the will of God. That is when we will see our prayers answered in the affirmative. It has been said that prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of his willingness. Prayer is not getting our will in heaven; it is getting God’s will on earth.

And how do we know what God’s will is? It is through careful reading and study of the Bible. As you study Scripture, you will discover God’s plan, his purpose and his will.

Having aligned your will with God’s will, you can then bring your personal needs before him. Next Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread.” This verse is telling us that God is interested in what interests us. He cares about our needs. It is surprising, really. As Job said, “What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often?” (Job 7:17 NLT) Good question. I don’t know, but I think the answer is that it’s because God loves us.

Also, if you want to have your prayers answered in the affirmative, you must confess your sin. In this model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our sins. …” A better way to translate it would be, “Forgive us our shortcomings … our resentments … what we owe to you … the wrongs we have done.”

If you don’t think you need forgiveness, then you are not spending much time in the presence of God. I think the person who is really growing spiritually will be acutely aware of his or her own spiritual shortcomings. It has been said that the greater the saint, the greater the sense of sin and the awareness of sin.

Next, we also should forgive others: “For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” People are going to hurt you. People are going to disappoint you. People are going to let you down. There is no getting around it. But if you want your prayers to be answered in the affirmative, if you want to live a productive life, then you must learn to forgive, regardless of whether it is deserved.

Another principle for answered prayer is this: As much as possible, stay out of the place of temptation. This template for prayer in Luke 11 closes with the words “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (verse 4 NKJV).

There is no way to completely remove ourselves from temptation. There is no escaping it. It is like the bumper sticker that says, “Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself.” We do a pretty good job of that. So the idea here is to pray, “Lord, don’t let me be tempted above my capacity to resist. Help me not to get myself into a situation where I will be vulnerable.”

A final principle for answered prayer can be found a few verses later in Luke 11, where Jesus said, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (verse 9 NLT).
Sometimes in prayer we ask for something once, perhaps twice.

Then, when we don’t get the answer in the affirmative, we conclude that it must not be God’s will. But Jesus was effectively saying, “Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.”

As J. Sidlow Baxter once said, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.”
So don’t give up.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

The Power We Need The Most

May 29th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »

We like power.
And it seems like we never have enough of it.
Get a group of guys together, throw a car into the mix, and it won’t be long until the subject of horsepower comes up. How much horsepower does that car have? How fast will it go?

Throughout history, it has been all about the acquiring of power. First it was manpower. Then there was steam power. Then there was nuclear power. But what we seem to lack most is willpower. It seems as though humanity can harness the powers of the universe, but we can’t control ourselves.

Some people say they find it hard to be a Christian. But I don’t think it’s hard to be a Christian; I think it’s impossible – without God’s power in my life. If I try to live the Christian life in self-effort and my own strength, I will fail miserably.

We all have been given a choice in life. We have a God who loves us and has a plan for us. Or, we can choose our own way. And we each decide for ourselves which of these two ways we will go.

Many times when people are young, they think they are indestructible. They think they are the one exception to the rule. And despite all the lives that have been ruined by drugs or drinking or other things, they still get chewed up and spit out by the same things that destroyed the lives of those who have gone before them.

Have you ever wondered why people try to hand you samples at the mall? I’m sorry to break this news, but it isn’t because they love you. It’s because they want your money. Marketers know that if they can give us one little taste, we will want more. For example, just sample one complimentary, hot, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut, and the party is over. It is hard to eat just one. You have that little taste, and off you go.

The same is true in life. You have your first experiment with something, and you want more, more, more. Maybe it’s that first drink or that first hit off a joint or that first act of sexual promiscuity. You find out it is actually kind of exciting. It is actually kind of fun.

The Bible even acknowledges there is a pleasure in sin for a time. It happens at the front end. There is the excitement. There is the rush. There is the buzz. But then come the repercussions. Then come the long-term effects. Then come the results of that choice. And they are not pretty. They are miserable, in fact.

The Bible tells the story of a sad, tormented man who lived in a graveyard and had no one to help him. But Jesus was determined to reach this man. And as Christ was crossing the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes, where this man was, a big storm came up. At one point, the storm became so violent that Jesus spoke to it and said, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39 NKJV).

Jesus was determined to get to this man who needed him. He would not be stopped. And he will not be stopped in his pursuit of someone he loves. Jesus told the story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep, and one went astray. So did the shepherd say, “Oh well. Win a few, lose a few”? No, the shepherd left the 99 and went after the one sheep until he found it and, rejoicing, brought it back.

Have you ever lost something you love? You just got your new sunglasses – really nice ones. And, of course, you lose them. You can’t lose that junky pair with scratches all over the lens. It was the good pair you just bought. So what do you do? You search and you search until you find them.

That is how God is toward us. In his search for us, failure is not an option. He won’t give up.

Jesus knew that in the country of the Gadarenes, there was a sad, tormented man who had no help. He went to meet with that man to touch him and to transform his life. And what the culture could not do, Jesus did with one sentence. He cast out the demons who were possessing the man and sent them into a herd of pigs. Then the pigs proceeded to run themselves over the side of a cliff.

This man who once hung out in a cemetery was totally transformed. In fact, his transformation was so dramatic that he didn’t even look like the same person. So how did people react? Mark’s Gospel tells us, “And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone” (Mark 5:17 NLT).

I would have expected Mark to tell us, “The whole city came out to meet Jesus and fell on their knees and asked him to forgive them, too.” Or, “The whole city came out to meet Jesus and worshiped him for the transformation in this man’s life.” But instead, the whole city came out and begged Jesus to go away.

Why did they want him to go away? Because Jesus was bad for business. There was no more bringing home the bacon for them. So they wanted Jesus to leave.

And that is really the choice we have in life. We ask Jesus to either come in or go away. But if whatever it is we are doing is so bad that we don’t want Jesus to be a part of it, then we shouldn’t be doing it.

You see, our society has no answers. With all of our achievements and technology, we still can’t change the human heart. Only God has the power to do that.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.