Sunday Preview

April 26, 2013

In the aftermath of the distressing events in Boston last week, I was blessed to hear some good reports. Last Sunday we dedicated a baby, Pilar Lujan, to the Lord. Her parents had prayed for ten years to have a child before she was born. Pilar’s mother Cynthia finished running the Boston Marathon one minute before the explosions went off. Pilar was originally going to be at finish line with her dad Jon, but they decided to stay back at the hotel until the race was over.

John Leggat, our outreach pastor, comes from Massachusetts. John has been praying for the salvation of his sister Janet who has lived in Boston for thirty years. Last Thursday Janet, who was very distressed by the bombings and disruption in Boston, prayed with John and gave her life to Christ.

Over a hundred women from Living Streams went on a retreat last weekend. There were several wonderful physical and emotional healings that took place on the retreat, for which we are very thankful.

My sermon this Sunday is called, “A Parable for the Last Days” from Matthew 25:1-13. In Matthew 24 Jesus teaches about the last days. He describes worldwide turmoil, persecution and trials coming upon mankind before his triumphant return. In his parable about wise and foolish virgins, Jesus teaches the importance of being prepared for the challenges of living in the last days. The times in which we are living have great challenges and great opportunities for followers of Christ. I think this message will give you some wisdom and insight into how to live your life for Christ in a way that will enable you to bear good fruit and bring glory to God.

Though most of his family died under the demonic persecution of the Nazis, Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust. Elie went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to turn the world from a place of hatred into a realm of righteousness. Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist before World War II, survived Auschwitz. Years later he wrote the book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In the concentration camp he discovered that the prisoners who often survived were not the ones who were strongest physically, but the ones who had hope. Hope is one of the most essential, but least valued attributes of a healthy person.

Jesus said in the last days wickedness would increase and the love of most people would grow cold. (Matt. 24:12) In our time bombers, murderers and deceivers have spread waves of despair throughout society. In the face of wickedness many people stop loving their neighbor. This creates a great opportunity for those who have been filled with the Spirit of Christ. Our love comes from God and does not diminish when people are suffering. His love gives us compassion and enables us to overcome evil with good.

Our hearts break when tragedies happen, or when someone we love dies, but our sadness does not last forever. We do not despair in the face of evil, because we have the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living inside of us. Jesus defeated death itself. The Spirit of God does not leave us when bad things happen. He gives us hope that we can overcome evil, because “Greater is he who is within us than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

I was talking recently with Ray Johnson, the pastor of Bayside Church in Granite Bay, CA. Ray was a youth pastor in Marin County when I was leading the Novato Open Door Church. This Easter, Bayside had 31,000 people attending services in their campuses around Sacramento. As we talked, I could sense Ray’s great leadership gift. I asked him how he stays healthy with all the pressures he faces. Ray said that the key thing he wants to give people is hope. If people have hope they can overcome any challenge. The ability to inspire hope is a gift from God.

Napoleon said “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Those who inspire hope in others can lead them into war, like Napoleon and the Nazis, or into God’s Kingdom, like Jesus and the apostles. I do not have hope that I’m going to wake up one morning looking more handsome or being stronger. Our hope is not dependent on what some dictator, terrorist, or politician does. The Bible teaches that God’s Kingdom will continue to advance. We pray and believe His will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This hope does not make us passive in the face of evil, but active in advancing God’s Kingdom every way we possibly can.

We all face heartache and pain in life. However, if we trust God and do his will, we will inherit the eternal glory He has prepared for us. One day we will move permanently into the Kingdom of heaven. God will then make everything we have suffered insignificant compared to the glory we will experience. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).

Sunday Preview

April 5, 2013

My heart is still full of thanksgiving about good things that happened on our campus during Easter weekend. We had nearly two thousand people attend our four services. On Saturday night there were a number of teenagers who attended the service from three foster care group homes. Several of these young people joined many others in responding to David Stockton’s invitation to open their hearts to Christ and become disciples. It has been very encouraging to see grace poured out on people responding to our altar calls in the past several weeks.

This Sunday my sermon is called “The King of the Kingdom of Heaven” from Matthew 20:1-16. I hope to show how this parable is connected to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 19:13-29 as well. In this parable Jesus gives insights into the heart of our Father in Heaven.

When I was a young boy I learned that the key to having a good time at my friends’ houses was understanding their parents. If the parents were generous and kind, then it was a good place to play and there were probably going to be snacks as well. If my friends’ parents liked me, I was going to be welcome in their houses. I tried to stay on the good side of the ones who held the power in the house.

Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The most important key of all is an understanding of the heart of the King of Heaven. I hope this message will help you to know who the Lord really is, not just what people wish him to be.