Hungary/Romania 2017 Mission Trip ~ Part 2

Budapest   –   Day 2

Our mission team noted that the sun came out only one time during the entire trip, and that was for an hour or two prior to sunset one evening.  Some of the sights we saw as we braved the frigid temperatures in Budapest were the Danube River, St. Stephens Basilica, St. Matthias Church, the Hungarian Parliament Building, the State Opera House, Hero’s Square, the Slzechenyil Spa, the outdoor winter ice skating rink (largest in all of Europe), the Vajdahunyad Castle and the Great Synagogue.

I learned that Hungary was once five times its’ present size, when it was part of the famous Hapsburg Dynasty along with Austria.  A gentleman who later translated for me (Chip), explained that Saxons were hired to ward off the Islamic invasion from the east (Istanbul), and they settled east of Romania.  After living there for some time, they eventually formed a powerful nation.

The city displayed Jewish artifacts that spotlighted the World War II holocaust.  There were old suitcases making a monument of sorts, rocks that represented those who died, and innumerable personal effects that were shown at scenes, in order to remember their tragic years in Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  The history of Budapest goes back to ancient times.  There are buildings, archeology, and history commemorating the following:  The Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, The Hapsburg Dynasty With Austria, The Ottoman Turk Invasion (The Turks allowed Christianity), The Mongol Invasion, Genghis Khan, The Nazi Occupation, The Jewish Holocaust, The Soviet Communist Occupation, And The Insurrection / Rebellion Of 1956.  There Is A Statue Of Ronald Reagan The Liberator.  There are many Catholic Churches in Budapest, and the local kings were esteemed and magnified in the Catholic Churches in Hungary.  The history is voluminous, profoundly interesting, overwhelming and very detailed.

Later on, the British evening news and CNN called Donald Trump the greatest threat facing Europe.  They speak incessantly about Trump.  I have not heard English Prime Minister Theresa May even mentioned.  These liberal European news stations spoke a lot about Brexit as well.

…to be continued

“Go Ye.”

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”     Mark 16:15

We construct beautiful buildings for worship, then struggle to get people in.  We have eloquent preachers but often no unsaved are there to hear them!  We seem to have things back to front.  The Lord’s final message before He ascended was “Go ye.”  Use your feet to go into all the world to preach the gospel.  He is saying to the church today, “Go ye into the high street and market; go to the homes and playgrounds; go to your friends and neighbors.  Whatever else you do please go.  I am waiting to make you a blessing if only you will go.”  A conference held some years ago was entitled, “Go Out or Die Out.”  How true.  Is yours a dying assembly?   -David Croudace

Go then and tell them of Jesus, it was for them He was slain

Give them, O give them the Gospel, let not their cry be in vain!  -O. Smith

Hungary/Romania 2017 Mission Trip ~ Part 1

There were nine people on our mission team, and all were native Texans except for myself.  Seven of us preached the Gospel all week.  The Romanians are not a people who respond to altar calls.  Their emotion and response is demonstrated by saying “amen,” pronounced “ameen.”  When under conviction, they will raise their hands and their pastor will follow up after the service.  The Romanians are easy to preach to however, and they love revivals and the Word of God the way we enjoy Christian music concerts.  Oh that the fires of revival would once again touch our sin sick nation!

The Lord prepared me for the coldness gradually.  We had a “cold snap” in south Florida whereby the temperature hung in the 50 degree range prior to our departure.  Our connecting flight was in London, England, and the temperature was about 46 degrees.  When we exited the airplane in Budapest, Hungary, the weather was in the teens.  The beginning of our mission trip featured sight seeing in Budapest, which is a great way to unwind after our long journey to Eastern Europe.  I was part of another mission team to Romania in 2005, and touring Budapest was scheduled at the end of our trip.  I was taken ill and never able to see the city, hence I was very glad to have this opportunity now.

Budapest yokes together two formerly separate cities: Buda and Pest, on opposite sides of the Danube River.  Buda, on the West side of the river is hilly and semi-suburban, and has winding, narrow streets wending their way up into the hills.  Pest, on the East side of the river is typical flat Hungarian real estate.  We will tour the city tomorrow, and observe the Stephen Church Basilica, the Parliament Building, the Court Building and much more.  We will learn of the Nazi occupation, the Soviet occupation, and their freedom which came under the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

You can stay at an ornate hotel for about one hundred dollars a night in Budapest.  I took advantage of a huge bathtub that had a rail to hold reading material, and piped in television for the evening news.  The people we met were all very gracious and more than hospitable.  If my wife and I decide on a trip to Europe, a stopover in England for a few days and Budapest, Hungary would work for me.  It is a beautiful and historic city.

On my first evening in Budapest, I ordered Hungarian Goolash.  Original, eh?  It was very good, and it is basically the same as our beef stew, except pepper is used in place of tomato.

Donald Trump’s immigration ban is the talk of Europe.  Europe is very liberal and reminds me of the evening news back home.  CNN in Europe is mesmerized by Donald Trump, and BBC covers Donald Trump much more than Britain’s own Prime Minister, Theresa May.  It struck me on this trip that the British accent is found everywhere.  I experienced it in England of course, and even one of my translators (Chip) in Romania had one.  My wife and I were on a cruise to the Western Caribbean four months ago and it seemed like every other person had one!  For a relatively small island nation, The British have sure had a global impact.

At the end of the day (literally), it struck me that I would much rather go on a mission trip where it is fifteen degrees, than go to Tahiti.  This is very true with me.  I would much rather go on a series of mission trips than have an outdoor swimming pool, and am grateful for the choices the good Lord has given us, and the responses He has led my wife and me to make.

……to be continued

 

Hungary/Romania 2017 Mission Trip ~ Synopsis

This trip is now in the rear view mirror, yielding memories and a spiritual impact that will be revealed in eternity.  Only God knows all that was accomplished.  There were sixty one total professions of faith, as seven American pastors spoke in eight Romanian Baptist Churches in the vicinity of Oradea.  A wonderful pastor’s conference followed in Satu Mare, Romania.

The trip ended on an extremely high note for me.  Once again, I had challenges at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW).  [The first DFW adventure is on this blog site under 2012 Mission Trip To England/Uganda, Part 5].  We left Budapest early in the morning as we commenced our thirty hour journey home.  The officials in Budapest would not check my luggage all the way to Florida, which meant I had to retrieve it in Dallas, and check it in once again.  I already had little time between flights, and now had luggage to deal with.  Add to this- going through Customs, entering security once again, and traveling to another terminal to catch the final flight home.  Humanly speaking, I thought I may miss the flight, and prayed about this concern for several weeks.  There was a bit of good news in our flight from Heathrow Airport /London to Dallas, Texas.  Our flight came in twenty minutes early, which is common with flights that come from “across the pond,” since picking up a tailwind can take time off of the flight.  But still, there was too much to do in very little time.  I was wondering where my God was at my first check point – Customs.  This station was a royal mess in Dallas, with several options that served only to confuse the passengers.  I asked a fellow passenger which method would be fastest for an American citizen.  He suggested simply having my passport scanned.  I went to that station and saw hundreds of people who were “deer in the headlights,” not knowing how to place their passport in the scanner, and of course no one was there to explain how it is done because this was a government operation.  I placed my passport in the scanner what seemed like twelve times without success.  I was beginning to envision a night in the terminal and catching a morning flight.  Then God entered the picture:  An airport employee was right next to me and he correctly read my frustration.  It was a miracle just to see him, as moments prior to this, absolutely no airport worker was anywhere in sight.  He seemed to just materialize.  He said:  “He would help me.”  I had NO IDEA how much he would help me.  He scanned my passport in a heartbeat, and I thought that would be the end of it.  Then he said:  “Just stay with me, and I will put you on your flight, but you must stay with me.”  He was helping a handicapped gentleman at the same time that he was assisting me.  He then helped a lady with a small child, giving them a place in the line in front of us, as a true gentleman would do.  He expedited my obligations, through escorting me past existing lines that I would have been in if I were alone.  He explained to me that God gives preference to some, and since I was with him, I was able to receive it.  I wholly agreed with him with a grateful heart.  By now, I realized he was the answer to my many prayers and I told him so.  As it turned out, his name was James Smith, and he was a fellow pastor from a nondenominational church.  This is what we call a “God thing.”  As we progressed from one check point to another, I was still a bit nervous, with the boarding time rapidly approaching.  James said:  “Do not worry, I am use to this, and I will get you there on time.”  If I were alone, I would have been running, but James Smith’s mere presence cooled my jets and I walked with him.  I never met a man like James, and I told him so.  [The Texans I travelled with saw the one helping me as they retrieved their luggage.  One of them previously offered to drive me to the terminal of my departure, but realized that I was in very good hands.  They were amazed.]  We came to my departure gate while the passengers were boarding, and James escorted me to the front, and then took me all the way through the tunnel, and unto the airplane.  I had no idea that when James said:  “I will help you,” to what extent he would do so.  No, you cannot make this stuff up.  I ask you, what are the odds for circumstances like this to happen to anyone?  I will tell you – zero, zilch, nada, forget it.

  What is the moral of the story?  God told me that if you take care of your mission assignment, then I will assist you with the details over which you have no control.  Thank you Jesus.  This was a blessing to me because it was also a Divine revelation that I was in the center of His perfect will.

The future entries for this Hungary/Romania 2017 Mission Trip will consist of several parts and give a detailed day by day account of the entire mission trip.

Maranatha and Forever Thankful, Pastor Steve

Hungary/Romania 2017 …on the fly

As mentioned, a detailed synopsis of this trip will be provided after the conclusion, giving my thoughts time to settle in.  Right now, we are in the midst of the mission trip, and I will share a few of the highlights up until this point.  The evidence of intercessary prayer is with us, as things are progressing beautifully.  The travel has been fine and without incident, our team is of one accord and one spirit, no one has been ill, and the logistics and accomodations are all great.  We attribute this to the prayers of the saints.  We covet your continual prayers.  There have been peaceful demonstrations throughout Romania, related to the populace’s rightful grievances against their government.  After preaching last night, the host pastor and translater had dinner with me and we observed protests in Oradea right next to our restaurant.  They were peaceful protests.  The Romanian people are anything except violent.  More importantly, in the service prior to our fellowship, we were blessed with a packed church with absolutely no extra seats available, and we were also blessed with four professions of faith.  Because of the Lord’s blessings and your faithful prayers, the Holy Spirit is working and convicting hearts.  It does not get any better than this, this side of heaven.  The Romanians who we have met in the many churches are red hot for the Lord and just waiting for leadership, teaching and preaching.  In other words, the pump is already primed.  We have an open window of opportunity in this wonderful nation and would be foolish to not take advantage of it.  Last night is why I feel led to be a part of this dynamic ministry! 

Oradea, an ancient city, is filled with archaeology from both Roman and medieval times.  It was formerly called Dacia, the northern most outpost in the Roman Empire, after Romania was conquered by the Emperor Trajan.  Dacia was the last province to fall to the Romans.  As mentioned, this is a presentation of a few highlights with much more to follow.

In His Service, Pastor Steve  <><

Hungary/Romania 2017

I am on the verge of embarking on a mission trip to Hungary and Romania in January-February 2017.  I had the opportunity to go to the same nations in 2005, and it was the best mission trip I have ever been on.  (That previous trip is summarized on this blog site in the category Hungary/Romania 2005).  I request your prayers.  Romania is still very receptive to the Gospel and recent mission trips were blessed with hundreds of converts.  

The beauty of the trip is that I will travel with the same mission organization as before – Partners In Missions International (PIMI).  Their website is http://www.PIMI.org

This trip will feature a crusade/evangelistic atmosphere, and it will consist of about fifteen pastors preaching the Gospel.  We will be preaching crusade evangelism based in Oradea and the surrounding towns.  We will also attend and contribute to a pastor’s conference in Satu Mare.

Bob Ward was the president and founder of this wonderful ministry of nearly twenty years.  He has gone on to be with the Lord.  The president is now Elijah Morar, from Romania, who works very hard in both Romania and in the United States of America.  The Romanians are one of the finest people groups I have ever met, and they are very receptive to the Gospel.  They are kind and respectful to their guests.

I covet your prayers for the following:

1)Logistics- airplane flights and tickets, hotel accommodations, luggage and connections.  I pray not to be rushed.

2)Health- I pray for good health throughout the trip.  The weather is very cold this time of year.  Their latitude is the same as Minnesota.  I just heard prior to departure that there is lots of snow right now!  I pray to be well rested with a minimum of jet lag.

3)For the Great Commission to be accomplished in a powerful way.  For folks to be gloriously saved.  We pray for professions of faith, baptisms and rededications.  We pray for our preaching to be anointed and for souls to be touched for eternity.  We pray for excellent interpreters who accurately convey the original meaning of our words.  

4)For love, harmony and unity with our mission team.  For doors to open up through new relationships and new Christian friends.  

5)I pray for conditions at church and home to enable the entire trip to go smoothly.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

A complete narrative of this trip will be provided on this blog site at the conclusion of this trip.

In Christ, Pastor Steve

 

Pray For Revival In America!

 

Jesus

Jesus Christ was with God the Father before the world was created.  He became human and lived among humanity as Jesus of Nazareth.  He came to show us what God the Father is like.  He lived a sinless life, showing us how to live; and he died upon a cross to pay for our sins.  God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus is the source of eternal life.  Jesus wants to be the doorway to new life for you.  In the Bible He was called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29).  In the Old Testament, sacrifices were made for the sins of the people.  Jesus became the sacrificial lamb offered for your sin.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”  (John 14:6).  He is waiting for you now.

  • Admit to God that you are a sinner.  Repent, turning away from your sin.

  • By faith receive Jesus Christ as God’s Son and accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness from sin.  He took the penalty for your sin by dying on the cross.

  • Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

    You may pray a prayer similar to this as you call on God to save you:  “Dear God, I know that You love me.  I confess my sin and need of salvation.  I turn away from my sin and place my faith in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

    After you have received Jesus Christ into your life, tell a pastor or another Christian about your decision.  Show others your faith in Christ by asking for baptism by immersion in your local church as a public expression of your faith.

From Open Windows

A Guide For Personal Devotions

Winter 2016-2017      LifeWay

 

 

Have A Blessed Christmas

 

Pray For Revival In America!

The Lottie Moon You Didn’t Know

Lottie Moon was a Southern Baptist  missionary to China.  She was single, well under five feet tall, and probably about ninety pounds soak and wet.  She broke all of man’s rules for women missionaries, yet obeyed the Lord’s plan for all of her life.  She personified the Great Commission.  She is the namesake and poster girl for the annual Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) Christmas Offering.  She never took a furlough while serving in China.  Barely over one hundred years ago, and prior to finally going back to Virginia, she gave all of her sustenance to the needy Chinese people, and died of malnutrition on a ship on the way home on Christmas Eve.  She is truly a heroine of mine.

Blessings, Pastor Steve

 

Lottie Moon: The Rebel I Want to Be

Lottie Moon. I want to be like her, but I didn’t realize how much until I dove into her life story.

You could draw a line in the sand, mention the name Lottie Moon, and people who revere her will move to one side of the line while people whispering, “Who’s that?” will migrate to the other. I had one foot in each camp.

My current church is in the “who’s that?” category. Most people at my church, planted fifteen years ago, did not grow up thoroughbred Southern Baptists. While they participate in and give to global missions, they’re not familiar with Lottie. But I grew up in a church that revered her, and I raised money for missions in my rice-bowl-shaped piggy bank to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Her photos in a Victorian-laced collar might give the impression she was a stuffy school marm who adhered to strict rules. Yet, she was playfully defiant, poking fun at the church until she chose to follow Christ at age eighteen. And she was ambitiously smart and became one of the first women in the South to earn a master’s degree.

Whether you’re already familiar with her story or this is your first introduction, you’ll find that her somewhat terse language flows from a contagious, tenacious heart for God’s mission.

WHY I WANT TO BE LIKE LOTTIE

1. She confidently believed that salvation was personal and so was the Great Commission.

The gospel came through Christ to us to save us, but not to stop with us. We are saved for God’s glory and then appointed to declare his glory. “Should we not press it home upon our consciences that the sole object of our conversion was not the salvation of our own souls, but that we might become coworkers with our Lord and Master in the conversion of the world?” Lottie asked.

2. She daringly called for an insurrection in status quo mission thinking.

If the Great Commission is for all believers, then we must personally answer the question, “Am I going or sending?”

  • She challenged young men: “Ask not if it is his duty to go to the heathen, but if he may dare stay at home. The command is so plain: ‘Go.’”
  • She challenged pastors: “Knowing the loud call for laborers in the foreign field, will you settle down with your home pastorates? So many could be found to fill your places . . . so few volunteer for foreign work.”
  • She challenged women: “Thousands of women will never hear the gospel until women bear it to them.”

3. She unapologetically asked believers to give.

Although salvation is free, sending people where the gospel has not been shared has a cost. Giving to God’s mission is an investment. Lottie’s questions create a jolt meant to stir hearts to an urgent need. Why this strange indifferences to missions?” she wrote. “Why these scant contributions? Why does money fail to be forthcoming when approved men and women are asking to be sent to proclaim the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’ to the heathen?”

4. She unwaveringly obeyed God and abandoned comfort to live in a hard place.

The eternal reality that people were dying without hearing of Jesus trumped the reality of living in a place devoid of convenience and comfort. Living in China during political upheaval and among people who “had an aversion to foreigners”were mere splinters of the difficulties she faced. Yet she wrote from a village, “The circumstance would suggest an utter absence of comfort, yet we find ourselves more than contented.”

5. She didn’t shy away from pleading for a legion of workers to be sent.

Lottie didn’t merely play at missions but confidently persuaded others to consider the reality of people going to an eternal hell. “We implore you to send us help. Let not these heathen sink down into eternal death without one opportunity to hear that blessed gospel, which is to you the source of all joy and comfort,” she wrote.

Lottie defied the limits of generational, cultural, and missional norms for the sake of the gospel. I want to be so bold. With nearly three billion people who have never heard of Jesus, we should dare be the same kind of rebel, disrupting casual mission thinking and ambitiously resolved to get the gospel to all nations at all costs.

I’ll unapologetically ask the same words as Lottie: “Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of the Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?”

Let us go. But if we stay, let us give, so that others may be sent.

*All quotes are from Lottie’s letters written while she lived in China.  


Lori McDaniel is church initiatives leader at IMB. She served with her family for several years in Africa before returning to plant a church in the United States. You can find her on Twitter @lorimmcdaniel.

To be a part of the ongoing missions efforts that are Lottie Moon’s namesake, visit here nd explore the opportunities.

 

LOADING

How To Be Saved

It is imperative that the most important doctrine in all of Christendom is repeated frequently on this blog site, and that is the plan of salvation.  What good is it to learn a lot about the Bible if you are not saved/born again/and washed in the shed blood of Jesus Christ?  What good is it to you if you know the plan but not the Man?  It is one thing to know the plan of salvation… but then we must put feet on our faith.  We must repent from sin and trust in God’s only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for salvation.  Listen to Billy Graham and Charles Stanley preach on this monumental doctrine:

The Pastor’s Conference And Southern Baptist Convention ~ June 12-15, 2016 ~ Part 10

Monday Evening, June 13, 2016

Pastor’s Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis

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Greg Laurie    Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California.  Greg Laurie is a personal hero of mine, and I was thrilled to see him in line to close out the pastor’s conference.  I was also thrilled to see the Southern Baptist Convention call one to speak who was not of our denomination.  He is the best soul winner I have ever heard.  When I worked with the United States Justice Department in Washington, D.C. in the 1980’s, I listened to Greg’s program called “In The Beginning,” while driving around the District.  Greg’s DNA spells soul winning.  My wife and I went to the Billy Graham School of Evangelism over twenty years ago, and Greg was speaking in one of the seminars.  We went to different seminars in order to hear all of the material available, and I told my wife to go and listen to Greg.  She enjoyed his message greatly.  At this conference tonight, he gave out free books called “Tell Someone.”  I grabbed a dozen for my friends  and loved ones.  His workers offered me cases of the books but we had to catch a flight out of St. Louis and it would have been too much weight.  Following his conference message below, is Greg’s testimony of salvation from his blog site.  You may be quite surprised at his extremely rough background.  Pastor Steve

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Greg Laurie’s Message To The SBC:

“The Gospel in America is not failing because it is not believed, but because it is not heard.”  Greg reflected on the previous address by outgoing SBC president Ronnie Floyd.  Our nation needs Christ and a Great Awakening.  There will be an emphasis on prayer tomorrow night for revival in America.  Much is at stake.  Let evangelism be our priority.

In the midst of Greg’s message and in perfect timing, Passion sang “Even So Come.”    (Jesus Is Coming Soon)

Greg Laurie reemphasized our need for revival.  He said:  “God is giving us wake up calls, the latest was in Orlando.”  (Greg referred to the night club shootings that happened in Orlando during the pastor’s conference). 

Greg Laurie’s mother was divorced seven times.  Greg was on drugs at the age of 17.  Greg walked into the Jesus movement at Calvary Chapel.  A revival leads to a Great Awakening.  Stories of revivals spark revivals.

What is revival?

1)Revival is waking up from sleep.  It is getting back to the New Testament church.

2)We need to humble ourselves and pray.

3)Biblical preaching can bring revival.  Illustration:  Jonah.

4)Revival starts with YOU and ME.

5)A Revived Person will be an Evangelistic Person.  “Knowing Him and making Him known,” is the motto at Calvary Chapel.  It starts with you.

If you want to start a fire in the pew, it starts in the pulpit.  Every message needs to end with a Gospel invitation.  The power of the Gospel lies in the death and resurrection of Christ.  We need to give invitations for people to receive Christ.  We can evangelize or we can fossilize.

*Greg has been blessed over the years with a relationship with Billy Graham.  He asked Billy, if he could be a young evangelist all over again, what would he do differently?  Billy told Greg Laurie that  “…he would preach more on the death and blood of Christ.”

Greg’s Blog Is Below.  Strike “Home” to begin, “About Me” for his very detailed testimony, or simply surf down farther for his writings on Bible stories, blog articles, his other web sites, sermons, illustrations, quotations, revival news, etc.

The “3 Rs” of Personal Revival

July 2nd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 11 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:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/THFuVs6ZimQ?rel=0&showinfo=0

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.

Don’t Give in to Compromise.

May 13th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 8 Comments »I heard a story about a man who went out hunting and found a big brown bear. He had always wanted to shoot a bear, and he had just the right gun to do the job. So he got that bear in his sights and was beginning to squeeze the trigger. But just then, the bear turned around and said, “Excuse me. Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? Why don’t we try to negotiate the matter?”
The hunter said, “Well, OK. I am open to that.”

The bear said, “What is it that you want exactly?”
The hunter said, “Well, what I want more than anything else is a fur coat. I am really cold.”
The bear said, “OK. That’s good. Now we are getting somewhere. How about if we reach some kind of a compromise? Let me tell you what I am looking for: I want a full stomach.”
So the hunter put down his gun, and he and the bear disappeared into the forest.
The bear emerged alone a little while later, and apparently the negotiations had been successful.

The hunter got his fur coat, and the bear got a full stomach.

That is how compromise works.

In the New Testament book of Revelation, Jesus had specific words for a church that was engaged in compromise. This church was located in the city of Pergamum, the capital of Asia. Pergamum was built on a rocky hill where the Mediterranean could be seen on a clear day. It was the cultural center of Asia at this time, renowned for its magnificent library that housed 200,000 rolls of parchment.
Another feature of Pergamum was the altar of Zeus, the largest and most famous altar of all – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There were other gods in Pergamum that were worshiped, including Dionysius and Asclepius, called the savior god.

Asclepius was known as the god of healing and was actually symbolized by a snake. People came to this shrine from around the world to be healed. In the temple, there were nonpoisonous snakes slithering around, and those who hoped to be healed believed that if they were touched by a snake, they would be cured of whatever it was that was afflicting them. Imagine the scene: people lying around on the floor of this temple, with snakes crawling around on top of them. It sounds like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.

What a creepy place that must have been.

Also in Pergamum was the great temple erected to Caesar Augustus. Augustus means “of the gods.” This is where the Caesars not only were accepting worship, but were demanding it. Pergamum was a very spiritually dark place.

So here was Jesus’ assessment of the church in Pergamum:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.
“But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.” (Revelation 2:13–15 NLT)

There were great Christians in Pergamum who were serving God, and Jesus actually commended them for it. But there also were a few problems developing. This church was in danger of compromising their faith.
Jesus referred to the Old Testament story of Balaam, a prophet who was hired by Balak to curse the Israelites. But as he was riding his donkey on the way to curse Israel, the donkey veered off the road, ramming Balaam’s leg against a wall. The donkey had seen an angel with sword drawn, standing in the road. Amazingly, the donkey actually began to speak to Balaam. In the end, Balaam did not curse the Israelites, but offered Balak an alternate plan to undermine them: have the Moabite women seduce the young men and draw them into idol worship. That plan worked.

The sin of Pergamum was the toleration of evil.

It is the mindset of, “Hey, I’m a Christian, but I can still do these things.” People want to go to heaven, but they still want to live like hell. Enter the teaching of Balaam. When you start to compromise, your spiritual life will begin to weaken.
Jesus also referred to the Nicolaitans. The philosophy of the Nicolaitans was one of liberty gone amok. It is the thinking that says, “Don’t be so uptight. Don’t be so legalistic. Could you just relax a little bit? God will understand. God will forgive you. God knows your heart.”

The problem is, that is how compromise works. Little things always turn into big things. And when compromise gets into your life, you will start going downhill.
Some people look at what the Bible says and think, Oh, I don’t like all of these rules. I don’t like all of these standards. I don’t like these thou-shalt-nots. I want to live the way I want to live. Yet they never stop and think that God gave us those rules, those standards and those truths to protect us from evil.

Sometimes we think that because we have confessed a sin, we will not have to face the repercussions of it. Yes, God will forgive us. But we still will have to face the aftermath of our own choices.
So remember the lesson from the church in ancient Pergamum. Don’t give in to comprimise.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

On the Death of Prince

April 25th, 2016 Posted in Pastor’s corner | 48 Comments »Here are some thoughts on the death of Prince I recorded Sunday.

Below is the article I wrote for WorldNetDaily.com


Prince has died.

He was found unconscious in the elevator of his Paisley Park Estate. This after reports of an emergency landing after a performance, due to “flu-symptoms,” according to his publicist. Reports are coming in that this may be a drug related death.

I don’t know. All I know is a musical virtuoso who mastered almost every instrument at an early age and was an amazing talent, has died.

Prince was a mix of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and a host of other influences with his own unique sound. As a guitar player alone he was beyond amazing, not to mention his body of work as a singer/songwriter. I remember seeing his performance during a tribute to George Harrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, joining in on the Beatles classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Showing the link to friends I said, “This is the greatest lead guitar solo of all time!”

So much talent, now gone. I was sad to hear it.

Prince sold 100 million records. One of his most well-known songs, “Let’s Go Crazy,” by Prince and the Revolution, almost seems prophetic now.

Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor.

Ironic that on an elevator Prince Rogers Nelson, age 57, left this world for the next one.

Prince seemed to believe in an afterlife. In his song, “Let’s Go Crazy,” he also sings,

But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night.

Prince was right in this regard. There is an afterlife. And if your destination in the afterlife is Heaven, you can know that it is so much better than this life. The Bible describes it as a place of happiness, singing, feasting and being reunited with loved ones who died in faith and preceded us.

People often ask, “What is Heaven like?”

A better question might be, “What is earth like?” Take the greatest moments you have ever experienced on earth and multiply them times a thousand, and you will have a glimpse of Heaven.

Heaven is not a weak imitation of earth. Earth at its best is a pale imitation of this place called Heaven. In the Bible, Heaven is described as a place, a country, a city and much more. Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things.

Best of all, in Heaven we will see Jesus Christ. This promise, however, is only for the person who has put their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior.

Coming back to the elevator for a moment. There are two ways to go, up or down. If you are a believer in Jesus you will go up for sure. But what if you are not a believer in Jesus? Then, according to the Bible, you will go down. Just as surely as there is a Heaven, there is also a hell.

You might ask, “How could a God of love send anyone to a place as horrible as hell?”

The fact is, God’s does not send people to hell. If we end up there, we will have only ourselves to blame.

God doesn’t send people to hell, He saves people from hell. That is why Jesus Christ died on a cross 2,000 years ago. He paid the price for every sin you have ever committed. If you will turn from your sin and believe and trust in Him, you can be forgiven, and yes, you can go to Heaven when you die.

It was only two months ago that musical icon David Bowie died. He too sang of the afterlife.
Death is the great leveler, and no respecter of persons. Elvis, the King of Rock, has died. So has James Brown, the King of Soul. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop has died as well. And now Prince. But the King of Kings,Jesus Christ has died and has risen and is alive forevermore!

He holds the keys to the afterlife. Jesus said,

“I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:18)

One day you and I will also die. But death is not the end. There is an afterlife, as Prince reminded us.

There is an inscription on a tombstone in England that reads:

Pause now stranger, when you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be.
So, prepare for death and follow me.

Someone reading this epitaph is reported to have replied out loud, “To follow you is not my intent…until I know which way you went!”

I don’t know where Prince or Bowie went. Only God does. But I do know where I am going when I die.

I’m going up. Which way are you going?

To find out how to be sure you will go to Heaven when you die, visit my website:
KnowGod.org


This article was written exclusively for WorldNetDaily.com. It is used by permission.

A Blueprint for Happiness.

April 23rd, 2016 Posted in sermons | 1 Comment »Happiness is so much a part of the American mindset that it’s actually included in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But what is this happiness that so many Americans are pursuing? I think there’s a lot of truth in Eric Hoffer’s statement that “the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”

You actually can become a very unhappy person as you’re trying to become a happy one. A Psychology Today article entitled “The Road to Happiness” pointed out, “Compared to 1960, the America of today has doubled spending power. … But what has this economic growth meant for morale? Over the same period, depression rates have soared. Teen suicide has tripled. Divorce rates have doubled.”
The Bible gives a completely different view of happiness than our culture does. According to the Scriptures, happiness isn’t something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results in seeking something else.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 NIV). Being blessed, or happy (these words are used interchangeably in the Bible), is not based on circumstances. Rather, it is a deep, supernatural experience of contentedness, based on the fact that a person’s life is right with God. As our will is aligned with God’s, the rest of life will find its proper balance.
This flies in the face of popular wisdom that would essentially say that to be happy, you have to be successful, have the perfect physique, or be incredibly wealthy.
Psalm 1 gives us God’s definition of a happy person: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” (verses 1–2 NIV).

Notice that God begins with the negative rather than the positive. He tells us what we must not do before he tells us what we must do. He warns us of certain things that can be perilous to us spiritually, certain things that we must avoid. If we want to be truly happy, if we want to flourish, first we have to guard ourselves against the things that harm us.
We are living in a time when it seems like everyone is watching their weight. And as the years go by, it seems like we have more weight to watch. Of course, when we’re watching our weight, we become aware of things like calories and fat grams.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. We want to avoid the things that would hinder our spiritual growth. There are things we may engage in, things we may do, that could be detrimental to us spiritually. They may hold us back from the life God wants us to live.

Here are three questions you can ask about certain things and whether they will help you or hurt you spiritually:
1) Does it build you up spiritually? In other words, does it promote growth in Christian character? The question isn’t whether it’s allowable or you can get away with it. Rather, is it spiritually constructive?
2) Does it bring you under its power? Something may not be bad in and of itself, but too much of that thing could begin to control your life. It has an allure, and you can’t stop once you start. It’s an obsession in your life.
3) Do you have an uneasy conscience about it? There are certain areas that might be a greater problem for some than they would be for others. You need to ask yourself if that thing is hurting you spiritually.
The blessed, or happy man of Psalm 1 doesn’t “walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.”

In other words, he avoids certain things that can hurt him in his spiritual life.
Also notice the progression – or maybe I should say the regression – in that statement. First he is walking, then he is standing, and then he is sitting.
If you stop and think about it, that is how temptation works. You’re walking along, saying, “I’m not going to do that. I can control myself. I will know when to say no.” But then you slow down a little. Before you know it, you’re standing. Then you’re looking. And then you’re doing just what you said you wouldn’t do.
How did you get there? It all started with going near that thing. That is why the Bible tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil. Keep as much distance from it as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. To follow this principle is not to be overly restricted but to live in true freedom.

If you want to be a happy person, the Bible tells you how. If you want to be happy in the way the Bible defines happiness, if you want contentedness that comes from a relationship that is right with God, if you want your life to be in proper balance and harmony, then here is what God tells you that you must do. Don’t walk in step with the wicked. Don’t stand in the way that sinners take. Don’t sit in the company of mockers. Let your delight be in God’s Word. Meditate in it day and night.
It’s simple, but it takes commitment. Be consistent and regular, and there will be fruit in your life. And you will find happiness in the truest sense of the word.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

A Glimpse into the Afterlife

April 15th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 7 Comments »Here in the United States we are obsessed with youth. We want to stay forever young, so we get nipped and tucked and suctioned and stretched and do whatever it takes to remain eternally youthful. But time marches on. And the body, which is compared in the Bible to a tent, simply wears out. However, the real you – your soul – lives on.

Ancient Greco-Roman mythology tells the story of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, who fell in love with a young mortal named Tithonis. Aurora asked Zeus to give Tithonis eternal life, but she made a tragic oversight in her request. She forgot to ask that Tithonis remain forever young. Even though he lived on and on, Tithonis grew older and older, experiencing all the problems that go along with aging. The gift of living forever became a curse for Tithonis.

But is living forever actually a curse? That all depends. In a very real sense, you and I will live forever, because the real you isn’t the body you’re living in right now, and the real me is not the body I’m living in at the moment. Yes, certain physical features identify us. (In my case, a lack of hair probably is at the top the list.) But the real you, the real me, is the soul that lives inside each of us, the soul that one day will leave the body, go into eternity and live on in one of two destinations.

The Bible provides us with a glimpse into the afterlife in Luke 16, given by Jesus himself. It’s an eyewitness account of life beyond the grave. Although Jesus told many parables, this wasn’t one of them. It’s a real story about a real situation in which two people die. One was a believer and one was not. One owned everything yet possessed nothing. The other owned nothing yet inherited everything.

Prior to this story, Jesus had been addressing people who were obsessed with greed and materialism, people who were possessed by their possessions. This wasn’t a condemnation of all people who are wealthy, because being rich is neither a sin nor a virtue.

This story is about is a man who was possessed by possessions and had no time for God. He had too many other pursuits, and he just didn’t care about God. He lived in luxury. He lived flamboyantly. The Bible tells us that he “fared sumptuously” (Luke 16:19 NKJV). This means he held banquets every day. This guy was a party animal. He lived for parties. He lived for fun. He was a glutton. All he cared about was finding pleasure in life. And he not only had wealth, but he flaunted it. He wanted everyone to see how much he really had.

Meanwhile, outside of his gate was an impoverished man named Lazarus. He actually ate the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. In this culture, affluent people would wipe their hands on pieces of bread. Then they would take the bread and throw it on the ground. That bread is what Lazarus lived on.

Then Jesus’ story took a new twist as these two men passed from this life.
One was buried and the other was carried. Suddenly they would face the penalty for their sins or come to find what happens because of the forgiveness of sin.
The angels carried Lazarus to heaven, and it would appear that one of the purposes of angels is to usher believers into God’s presence when they die. The moment believers take their last breath on earth, they’ll take their first breath in heaven. That is the great hope and comfort for all Christians.

The other man, however, went into a place of judgment. He faced the consequences of his sin in a place called Hades. The Bible says he was in torment there, and the fact that the man spoke of torment seems to indicate that suffering is a very real thing in the hereafter.

The impossibility of crossing from one side to another, from a place of comfort “to Abraham’s side” (verse 22 NIV), where Lazarus was, to the place of torment, where this other man was, suggests that a person’s eternal destiny is settled here and now and not in some future world. Some people think they’ll work it out later. But they had better work it out now.

It would be like saying, “I’m going to board that plane, and once I’m in flight, I’ll determine where I’m going to go.”

No, you’re going where that plane goes. You work it out ahead of time when you buy your ticket. Once you have boarded the plane and it takes off, you are going to the predetermined destination.

The fact of the matter is that you determine now where you will spend eternity. There are no changes later. Do you know where you’re going when you die? According to the Bible, there are only two options: heaven or hell.

Often the question is asked, “How could a God of love permit such a place as hell to exist, let alone send people there?”

Asking a question like this reveals a lack of understanding of the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a holy love, not a shallow sentiment.

The Scriptures tell us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NKJV). Sin is rebellion against God, and the Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (see Romans 3:23). God does not send people to hell; people send themselves there by refusing to heed God’s call and believe in his son. These are people who have made a deliberate choice to not believe.

C.S. Lewis wrote that “indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

You are headed for one of two destinations in eternity, and you determine where you will go. The last thing God wants is to see you go to that place called hell. He loves you. That is why he took drastic measures by sending his own son to die on the cross in your place. He offers you pardon and forgiveness if you will turn from your sin and turn to him by faith.

But if you reject his pardon, if you slap away his loving and gracious offer of forgiveness, then you will have no one to blame in that final day but yourself.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

Little Problems Can Turn Into Big Ones.

April 8th, 2016 Posted in sermons | 3 Comments »I heard about a large redwood tree that had actually stood for some 400 years and had survived lightning strikes on 14 separate occasions, not to mention storms and numerous earthquakes. But one day, without any warning, this majestic tree came crashing to the ground. As investigators looked into what brought it down, they discovered that little beetles had slowly eaten their way through the fiber of this impressive tree until it suddenly and tragically fell.

We have our guard up when it comes to the big things in life. We are ready and braced for the earthquakes, the lightning and the so-called big sins of life. Meanwhile, the little bugs of compromise eat their way through the fiber of our lives. We lower our guard here. We bring our standards down there. And then, day by day, it catches up with us, and we start crashing to the ground.

The Bible clearly warns that in the last days, people will fall away from the faith. In fact, it is a sign of the last days (see 1 Timothy 4:1).

The question is this: Could you or I ever become one of these casualties? Yes, we could. We have the potential, and sadly, even the propensity to sin. It’s there inside all of us. We are born with it, and that combustible nature of sin lies within us. We must always be aware of that. That is why we must always keep our guard up.

I had the opportunity to observe lions up close some years ago when I was in Africa. We watched them from the truck we were in, but our guide warned us that if we stepped foot outside the vehicle, we wouldn’t live to tell about it. Those lions looked so innocent and lovable. But they also were very powerful, and they would pounce on us if we put ourselves in a place of vulnerability.

That is how sin is sometimes. It can look as though it won’t really harm us. We think we can handle it. And that makes us even more vulnerable. When you know your vulnerabilities, you take extra measures to protect yourself from what is harmful.

But when you take an attitude that says, “I would never fall to that,” be careful. When you feel the most secure in yourself, when you think your spiritual life is the strongest, your doctrine is the soundest, and your morals are the purest, then you should be the most on your guard and the most dependent on God. Your greatest virtues also can become your greatest vulnerabilities.

The Bible says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT). You always must keep your guard up until the very end.

Consider some familiar people of the Bible who fell in the very areas in which they allegedly were the strongest. When we think of Abraham, for example, we immediately think of faith. Yet we know that Abraham had lapses in his faith on a number of occasions.

Moses was identified in the Scriptures as the meekest man on earth, yet ironically, it was pride and presumption that dealt him a fateful blow.

We know the incredible, supernatural exploits of the mighty Samson, yet it was natural desires that brought him down.
The very area in which Simon Peter thought he was the strongest was actually where his weakness turned out to be. Peter had been so sure of himself. But then he fell, just as Jesus predicted he would.

That is why we need to keep our guard up. These examples should stand as warnings for us that we must never rest on our laurels. The apostle Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14 NLT).

We need to not only forget the mistakes we’ve made, but in some ways, we also need to forget some of our great victories. Let me explain. It doesn’t mean that we forget what God has done for us. It doesn’t mean that we forget the great things that have happened. But we can’t live in the past. Yes, it’s great what God did yesterday. But what about today? And what about tomorrow?

During a military campaign, a young captain was recommended to Napoleon for promotion to a higher rank because of his great courage on the battlefield. When Napoleon asked why they suggested the captain, one of his commanders explained the unusual courage he had displayed on the battlefield a few days earlier. Because of what the young captain had done, a great victory was won.
“That’s good,” the general said. “But what did he do the next day?”

We have to keep moving forward spiritually, because the minute we stop moving forward will be the minute we start moving backward. And we will begin to backslide. Backsliding is the opposite of spiritual progression. If you are not moving forward, then you are going backward – not all at once, and not overnight.

When you start relaxing your grip, you will start to slip. So keep moving forward, lest you lower your guard and cave in to compromise.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.