Monday, July 28, 2008

For Such a Time as This...

Just a couple of quick notes. If you did not get a chance to listen to Greg Laurie talk at Harvest Christian Fellowship's service Sunday, you can do so by going to and clicking on the "I Still Believe" screen at the top. You can also view the video below.

I Still Believe

Although Laurie only spoke briefly before Sunday's message, it came only a few days after the tragic death of his son, Christoper Laurie.

Also, now more than ever, it's a good time for prayer in regards to the upcoming Harvest event in Anaheim, California. Laurie is the founder of the Harvest, which has impacted many for Christ. Since 1990, more than 3.6 million people have attended a Harvest Crusades event in person, and more than 290,000 have registered their decisions of faith in Jesus Christ.

For such a time as this...

Southern California Harvest 08 with Greg Laurie

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lord, if...

"Lord, if you had been here . . . "

It's still hard to put into words what transpired this week for the Greg Laurie family, including of course, his daughter-in-law Brittany Laurie. This weekend's Harvest Devotion comes at an especially somber time.

This from John Collins, who is Administrative Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship:

"Lord, if you had been here . . . "

These are the words of Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus in John 11.

There, at that moment in time, when death was cruel and vile and heartless, they stood before what seemed an unbreakable valley of darkness. They wrestled with grief, and the grief was unbearable and unbeatable because grief can never be beaten, only experienced.

And so when Jesus came to them, they said it, "Lord, if . . . "

They both said it, at different times, but to His face. We get the sense that they most likely had said it among themselves, too.

"Lord, if . . . if you had only done this or that . . . "

It is the perfectly human response of a heart that is broken because hopes have been dashed and their world shattered. Someone they loved has been taken away. Life as they knew it was now different. They stood on the cliff of that dark valley and peered into the blackness and thought, "Lord, if . . . "

This morning, as I write this, my pastor and his wife stand on that cliff. They are suffering the loss of their eldest son, who was taken from this earth quickly and tragically Thursday. They are battling the unmerciful giant called grief and, like Mary and Martha and every human soul who has waged that battle, they are losing.

It is painful to watch for the end is not near, and with every merciless blow they cry out, "Lord, if . . . "

I have been in that ring before, but only as a young man of 16. My father had died of cancer. The last night of his life, I left the hospital with the words, "I'll be back to watch the World Series game with you tomorrow."

There was no tomorrow. I had missed those precious last hours with him. And I grieved, "Lord, if I had only stayed with him . . . "

"Lord, if . . . " is the cry of every forsaken moment, every unsaid word, every failure to perfectly love the ones we love and now can only remember.

"Lord, if . . . " is how we ask God, "Why?", when we know He won't answer, when we are unsatisfied and frustrated by "seeing through a glass darkly."

"Lord, if . . . " echoes in the darkness and, like all echoes, it returns with no answer. The price of life and love is death and separation. As C.S. Lewis once said, "That's part of the deal."

So where is Jesus? We ask, "Lord, if I must drink this cup of grief, where are you?" To that, we have an answer in Psalms 139:8–12:

"If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are both alike to you." (NLT)

For Mary and Martha, the darkness and grief for Lazarus was temporary. Jesus allowed it so that His power over death could be made known at the resurrection of Lazarus.

Jesus was there, orchestrating His plan. Out of the darkness of that tomb came a foreshadowing of his own resurrection, which would give light and hope to all the world now that death was defeated.

Where was Jesus? He was there in the darkness of that tomb. And before raising Lazarus, He was with Mary and Martha, weeping with them!

Where is Jesus? He is forever in the midst of our darkness, in the black caverns of our life. He sees the grieving widow. He sees the grieving father and mother. He sees our pastor and his wife and He visits them in their grief. He knows the pain of the journey.

Isaiah said, "He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV). It is comforting to know that our sorrows are His sorrows and that He knows the aching sense of loss and grief. God never promised to remove our grief, only to give it purpose.

Mary and Martha were united with Jesus in sadness, the grief of loss. And Jesus entered into that grief.

How sweet and comforting to know our God is with us in our moments of desperation. He is the King who bears the full, blunt force of our "Lord, ifs . . . " and then sits next to us with a loving arm around our shoulder and weeps.

It is in these moments with Jesus that we come to know that the darkness only hides His face. One day, when the darkness is gone, His face will be the light of heaven.

My heart breaks for Greg and Cathe. I have come to know Jesus through Greg's faithful teaching of the Word of God. I watch and wince at every blow of grief, but I am confident there are blessings in the buffeting and grateful that Jesus is with them.

Source: Harvest Online Daily Devotions


Related: Nobody's Exempt

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nobody's Exempt

I call him the everyman's preacher. Evangelical leader Greg Laurie, founder of what's come to be known as Harvest Ministries, talks simple, talks direct, and knows today's world pulse as good as anyone.

Listening to a message or sermon from Laurie often helps answer a lot of questions about life and death. He has put forth major effort in comforting those who ask, "Why does God allow tragedy?" and "Why does God allow evil?"

Yesterday, Laurie faced tragedy of the most horrific kind.

This from Harvest Online:

Christopher Laurie, son of Pastor Greg Laurie and Cathe Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, died this morning in a car accident in Riverside. A resident of Huntington Beach, Laurie, 33, served as the art director at Harvest Christian Fellowship for the past three years.

In addition to his parents, Christopher is survived by his wife, Brittany, and daughter, Stella, as well as his brother Jonathan. Christopher and his wife are expecting another daughter in November.

Memorial plans for Christopher are pending. More information will be posted to the Harvest website as details become available.

A man who has comforted millions with the words of hope in Jesus, now faces asking the same questions again for himself. As I read from Matthew last night, knowing the tragedy that happened earlier in the day I realized again that nobody's exempt, nobody's immune from these things called life and death.

However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
- Matthew 24:36-39

Once again, I was reading from my Life Recovery Bible. The note from these verses was this:

Jesus did not tell us when the final redemption of this evil world will come. In the same way, we may not know when our personal recovery is to be complete. All of us are still recovering, one day at a time. None of us have arrived. Not until Christ's second coming will we be relieved of daily working, watching, and recovering.

None of us have arrived. We will never have "arrived" so much as to be immune to tragedy. Not even the greatest of men, like Greg Laurie.

Let's pray for all those in Christopher Laurie's family. As for Christopher, his work here is done...and he must be relieved!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Did Jesus Say About Religion?

A discussion thread titled Religion vs. Spirituality over at social networking site BlogCatalog prompted me to search the Bible...and that's always a good thing!

The author of the thread added this under his subject head: Some folks cleave to Religion. Some to Spirituality. Some say it's either/or. Some embrace both. How 'bout you?

Here's how I responded:

I'd like to answer this question with some scripture. But, first let me say "religion" has caused a lot of damage. However, "faith" or one's spirituality based on seeking truth can do more good than we can even understand sometimes. It's also important to recognize that the pursuit of truth, doesn't mean pursuing relative truth, or the truth as you know it now, but real truth.

What does the Bible say about "religion"?

Here is Jesus talking to his disciples and a crowd that gathered around Him:

"Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven." (Matthew 23:9)

And a moment later He says:

"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either. You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned." (Matthew 23:13-15)

These verses are from "The Message" Bible version. I think it pretty much sums up the "importance" of religion. I'm sure that if I did some more searching, or if any of you who already know some of Jesus' own words would point out to me, there are other references to how Jesus felt about religion.

So, what do I embrace? More accurately who do I embrace? In my case, and I know many others, I "cleave" as best as I can to Jesus, not religion.

How 'bout you?


Alexander is a writer in the online spiritual battlefield. You can also find him at The Scrooge Report and TheBigRuski Goes Healthy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hurting Lives Restored

This morning I woke up with a burning desire to share about the Life Recovery Bible. I was early in my walk with the Lord and a couple years fresh into sobriety when I picked up a copy of this New Living Translation bible with a recovery focus.

Life recovery? What does that mean? I asked myself a few of those kind of questions before cracking open the book. What I found was astounding.

God didn't leave them to figure out a plan for recovery all alone; nor did he leave a long list of principles or rules to follow that would repair their damaged relationships. Instead, God always worked with people on a very personal level in the recovery process. - Recovery Themes, Genesis

I was awakened to some remarkable things. Mainly, that I was on the right path. My decision to turn my life and my will over to Christ was confirmed, blessed, and exciting! I had just discovered the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous powered-up times 1,000 I reasoned.

That discovery was about eight years ago. These days, I read from a couple different bibles, but a few weeks ago I began reading from my well-worn Life Recovery Bible again...and again, I am eternally blessed.

Here's parts of the preface:

The bible is the greatest book on recovery ever written. In its pages we see God set out a plan for the recovery of his broken people and creation. We meet numerous individuals whose hurting lives are restored through the wisdom and power of God. We meet the God who is waiting with arms outstretched for all of us to turn back to him, seek after his will, and recover the wonderful life he has for each of us.

Many of us are just waking up to the fact that recovery is an essential part of life for everyone. It is the simple but challenging process of daily seeking God's will for our life instead of demanding to go our own way. Recovery is letting God do for us what we cannot do for ourself while also taking the steps necessary to draw closer to our Creator and Redeemer. It is allowing God to heal our wounded soul so we can help others in the process of healing. All of us need to take part in this process; it is an inherent part of being human...

...Without God there is no recovery, only disappointing substitutions and repeated failure.

I pray that all of us get to better understand who God is and how he wants to heal our brokenness and set us on the path toward wholeness.



Read notes on bible verses as they pertain to recovery from our hurts, hangups, and addictions in the Life Recovery Bible, New Living Translation. Also, read 12-Step and Serenity Prayer devotionals with scripture references. Get a copy now!


Alexander is a writer in the online spiritual battlefield. You can also find him at The Scrooge Report.


Friday, July 11, 2008

True Happiness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. - Matthew 5:6

Parts of this last week made me unhappy. My health was not the best and my work suffered as well. However, once again, God has shown his wisdom and strength. In the midst of my pity party, my conviction to give up my hurts and hangups to God is stronger than ever. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

They say pain is the touchstone to spiritual growth. I can vouch for that!

This from Billy Graham's Hope for Each Day:

A Thirst for Righteousness

God is the only source of true happiness, because He offers those intangibles that we mistakenly believe can be found on earth: contentment, security, peace, and hope for the future. None of these can be found in a job, a human relationship, money, power, or position. They are God's alone to give.

How hard it is for us to believe this, however! This is understandable if we haven't given our lives to Christ; then, the Bible says, our spiritual "eyes" are still blinded, unable to see God's truth until the Holy Spirit opens them. But it can happen to us as believers also - falling into the pattern of the world, vainly pursuing happiness in the same ways the world does.

That is why the Lord Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, told where ultimate happiness lies: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." This is God's promise--and it is true.

Riches...or righteousness? Which will be your goal?


In 'Hope for Each Day,' Billy Graham offers spiritual comfort to guide us through our daily lives. Graham is considered a national treasure and has counseled numerous political leaders and provided comfort in times of public crisis.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Greatest Freedom

The disciples were astounded. "Then who in the world can be saved?" they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible." - Matthew 19:25,26

I love America. I love the freedom we are offered here. However, where does my greatest freedom come from?

It comes from my relationship with the Lord.

Because of His grace, I'm not in bondage to so many problems...big and small. And if I find myself caught in sin, I can give it up to Him. I surrender not to the sin, but to the One who died for our sins.

Is it always easy? No. We live in a fallen world with plenty of temptations. Our fleshly desires can be, at times, a seemingly constant battle. But there is one who can save you now!

The Life Recovery Bible's note on the above verses is this:

These verses are true not only for salvation but also recovery. Left on our own, we would fall deeper into the pit of our addiction, never gaining control over it. But with God's help, the inconceivable is possible. He can turn our life around, bringing hope and health where once despair and pain had reigned. Giving God control of our life is the only way to regain independence from our addiction and other compulsive behaviors.

Have a happy Independence Day!

Parts of this devotion were taken from the Life Recovery Bible, New Living Translation. When I was first reading this version of the Bible with notes it was a total awakening. I view this Bible as the power of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous mulitplied by 1,000! Get a copy now!


Alexander is a writer in the online spiritual battlefield. You can also find him at The Scrooge Report.