Hey there, thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners.
I'm Greg Laurie encouraging you if you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. Here, I mean, full on, but two weeks ago, I was standing in line at a restaurant, and by the way, the Enchirito was back at Taco Bell, and I went and had one, and it was good. Maybe not as good as I remembered it. You know, you get things built up in your mind, and then they're taken from you, and then they're given back, and you're like, eh.
No, but it was good though, it was good. But anyway, I'm standing in line at a restaurant, and some guy drives by blaring Christmas music. I literally yelled out, it's too soon.
Well, we can't stop it now. It's like a runaway freight train, right? So it's time, the holidays here, celebrations, family reunions, all the parties, et cetera, and of course, we all know that for many, the holidays are a time that are filled with sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of the respondents dreaded Christmas. How many of you dread Christmas?
Are any of you here? Oh, you're Christmas lovers, okay. But, so I wanna talk about how to have a happy holiday season.
How to get a jump on the whole thing before it all begins, things that you can specifically do that will bring you joy and happiness in the Christmas celebration. And by the way, God wants you to have joy and happiness. There are more than 2,700 passages in the Bible containing words such as joy, happiness, pleasure, laughter, gladness, feasting, and celebration. God wants you to be happy. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. And by the way, God himself is happy.
That surprises some people. They think of God being in a perpetually bad mood, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Jesus said in John 15, 11, I've told this to you to make you happy completely as I am.
Or another way, he said, to make you as completely happy as I am. Wait, Jesus was happy? How many religious paintings have I seen of Jesus smiling?
Very few. He always looks a little down, looks like he needs to eat a sandwich too, right? I don't know where this idea came of depicting Christ this way but Jesus himself said, I want you to be happy just as I am happy. Now of course, some would say, but the Bible says he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Well, that's completely true. And as he bore the cross for our sins and as he made his way to Calvary, that was certainly the case. But I think in general, Jesus would have a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye, an accessibility. If that was not the case, why would children be drawn to him?
And they were. In fact, the disciples are trying to keep the children away. The kids wanted to be around Jesus.
Kids are a pretty good judge of character, right? They were drawn to him, he was happy, and he wants us to be happy. I think some people view God as angry or disinterested and they think he's angry with us, but that is not the case. Did you know that when God sees you, his face effectively lights up? What makes you light up? Maybe it's seeing your children come in or maybe it's seeing them walk out, I don't know. Your relationship with your children right now. I think grandchildren, we could all say, we, if we're a grandparent, how many of you are grandparents? It's fun being a grandparent, isn't it? It's a reward for what our kids put us through.
And now it's their punishment, too. Like, okay, now you're gonna see what it's like, what we had to go through. But you know, your face lights up when you see a grandchild. God's face lights up when he sees you. Number six, God commanded the priest to pronounce a blessing on the people and that blessing went as follows. May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May he show you his favor.
There it is. So how can we have a happy holiday season? I have four things to share with you. Number one, if you wanna have a happy holiday season, this is a no-brainer, remember the reason for the season.
Remember the reason for the season. Christmas is a celebration of the happiest message of all time. The Son of God came to our planet just to be born in the manger in Bethlehem, then to die on the cross of Calvary, and then to rise again from the dead. He came to change the world.
He came to change our lives. And the angels said to the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, don't be afraid, I bring you good news that will bring joy to all people. But a lot of people don't have this joy because they're expecting Christmas to bring the joy. Christmas cannot bring the joy, Christ can.
See, that's the difference. It's important. It's not merriment, it's the Messiah. It's not presence under the tree, it's the presence of God in our life.
That's the primary message. And we need to keep sight of that because we as Christians even can get caught up in all of the crazy activities of endless events that you're expected to attend, and before you know it, God's only begotten Son becomes God's only forgotten Son. And we can lose Jesus at Christmas, can't we? It happened to Mary and Joseph, they literally lost Jesus. Have you ever lost sight of a child before, maybe in a store or an amusement park?
It's terrifying, is it not? Mary and Joseph both went to Jerusalem for Passover, they returned home, and somehow they lost Jesus. I think Mary thought he was with Joseph, Joseph thought he was with Mary, they made their journey back, of course they found him, he was 12 years old at this point, but they literally lost Jesus, and we can lose Jesus as well. Christmas is a great opportunity to tell others why Christ came. It's a great time to invite people to church, people are more open to coming to church than they are other times of the year. So keep Christ at the forefront of your life this Christmas and you'll have a happy holiday. Number two, if you wanna have a happy holiday, spend time with loved ones. In other words, don't isolate yourself.
Be with family and be with friends. USA Today did an interesting article on the topic of happiness and how to get it. They determined a number of things produced happiness, including this, quote, marriage makes people generally happier. A close family inoculates many kids against despair according to long-term results.
And so their conclusion is families and friends provide the best antidote to unhappiness. And so that depends on what kind of a family you have though, right? We all have weird members in our family, don't we?
Did it ever occur to you, you're the weird member? You're the crazy aunt, you're the wacky cousin to someone. But so we get together with family, that can sometimes be challenging. But sometimes we can't get our family together at all. I heard about a couple that their children moved to New York City, their son and their daughter.
They would never come home for the holidays. So one day the father called the son in New York and said, son, I have some really bad news. Sorry to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. And the son said, dad, no, no, no, you can't do that. Let me call my sister. Look, dad, we're coming home for Christmas.
Do not divorce mom. The father said, okay, I'll wait until you come home. And then he hung up the phone and walked in and said to his wife, honey, good news, the kids are coming home for Christmas. And they're paying for their own plane fare.
Great. That's one way to get the kids home. But of course we all don't have family to gather with. So that's where friends come in. And specifically that's where the church comes in. Because the church is your spiritual family. And sometimes you can be closer to a fellow Christian than you can be to even a blood relative, right? And in a sense, are we not blood relatives?
We're blood relatives because we're all bought with the blood of Jesus Christ and we've been brought into the family of God, right? But yet the trend among some Christians is to go to church less, not more. And we should be doing the very opposite. And the reason for that is given to us in Hebrews chapter 10 where the author says, think of ways to motivate one another to accept love and good works. Don't neglect meeting together as some people do. But encourage one another, especially now that the day of the Lord, that is the day of his return, is getting closer. There's so many reasons to gather together in person for a church. Number one, we gather together to receive something from God. Number two, we gather to give something to God. Thirdly, we gather to encourage one another with our shared faith and values. Fourthly, we gather to bless one another. We gather to work together and we gather to pray together.
That's so important. There's so much power in corporate prayer. More power than when we just pray by ourselves. In fact, Jesus said when two or more gather together in my name, I'm there in the midst of them. And you look at the book of Acts and when a crisis hit their church, what did they do? Because Peter was arrested and certainly was gonna be put to death. And this is on the heels of the execution of James by King Herod. And so Acts 12 one, one of my favorite verses says, constant prayer was offered for him by the church.
By the church, the church got together and they prayed constantly for the release of Peter and their prayer was answered in the affirmative. King number three, if you want to be happy in the holiday, be grateful for what you have. If you wanna be happy in this holiday, be grateful for what you have. Psychologists say, quote, gratitude has a lot to do with life satisfaction. Talking and writing about what they're grateful for amplifies the happiness of an adult.
Experts say savor even the small pleasures. It's really important to remind yourself of all that God has done for you. Because maybe you're down. You're down because something isn't going your way. You're down because there's a conflict here. There's a challenge there.
Okay, that's true. And there'll always be those problems and conflicts and challenges. But can you just stop for a minute and count your blessings? I mean, maybe you're there with your wife or your husband or your children and you have a roof over your head and you have a paycheck and you have a meal that you're gonna have a little bit later. Sometimes we get so psyched for the big stuff, we miss the little stuff and we're waiting for the big moment and we miss the in-between moments.
And I think the in-between moments are some of the best. You know, like Christmas, all about the present. The present, you know, will they be excited by the present I bought them? Or, you know, the person receiving it, how do I act like I'm excited when I'm not, right?
Have you ever had to do that? You open it and it's just like sheer disappointment. Oh wow, thank you.
Where did you get this? Because I want to just go to the store and thank them for carrying it. No, you ask that question because you want to know how to return it. And don't be one of those people that buys ugly clothes for people and asks people to wear them. Because most likely, your opinion and style is lousy, okay? But you think it's great, oh, I got this, wear this. Well, what if they don't like it? Whenever I give anything to anyone, I say, here's where I bought it. If you want to return it, I'm fine with that. I just want you to be happy.
But other people buy you the ugly sweater, they expect you to wear the ugly sweater, right? But anyway, the in-between moments, those little moments, instead of the big thing that you're building up to, just enjoy that meal with your family or that funny thing that just happened to you. Write these things down. Reflect back on those things. Give thanks to God. For the Christian, every day should be thanksgiving, minus the turkey, of course. First Thessalonians 5, 18 says, and everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. Sometimes Christians wonder about the will of God. I don't know what the will of God is.
Okay, here's the will of God. Start here, give thanks. In everything, give thanks. Notice it doesn't say, in some things, give thanks. Sometimes it's easy to give thanks, like at the birth of a baby. Sometimes it's incredibly hard to give thanks, such as the death of a loved one. That's the last thing we wanna do, is give thanks. But Psalm 106, verse one says, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. Why should I give thanks to God? Because God is good, right? Now, if God ceases to be good, you no longer have to give thanks. You're off the hook. Now, is God gonna cease to be good?
No. So give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. It doesn't say give thanks to the Lord when you feel good. I feel good! Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, no. Because sometimes you don't feel good.
Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. I mean, think of Job. Poor Job. He had no idea about conversations in heaven about him. He didn't know why the bottom dropped out of his life. This was a faithful servant of God. And then one day, everything that could go wrong went wrong.
And then some more things went wrong. He lost his health, he lost his livelihood. He lost members of his own family.
But yet, we read in Job 1 21, he said, Naked came I from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
That's an amazing thing he did. We need to have a theology of thanksgiving. We need an attitude of gratitude.
We need to make the choice to rejoice. And sometimes, praising the Lord is a sacrifice. You know, when we come together for worship, we're not always in the mood to worship, am I right?
You know, maybe you had a little disagreement with the spouse coming in, or you have a little cold, or you have a problem, or whatever. I don't feel like praising the Lord today. But the Bible tells us to give the sacrifice of praise to God, Hebrews 13 15. Let's offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. So it's not just here in the heart, it's verbally expressing it.
God is saying, I wanna hear the fruit of your lips, say it. Take a wife wanting her husband to say he loves you. Well, I think she knows, I provide for her. No, and she actually wants you to say it. You mean actually say? I love her, yes, say it.
Thinking it isn't enough, no? Well, tell her she looks beautiful. Well, doesn't she know I think that?
Maybe not. When's the last time you told her? Your wife wants you to express your love to her. Your husband wants you to express your love and appreciation to him. And our God wants us to verbalize our praise to Him. Why, because God's insecure?
No, not at all. Because He wants us to do that, because this is what we are wired for. We're told in scripture that we should give thanks to the Lord and bring the glory that is due His name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and give Him the glory that is due His name. The two most important moments in a person's life are number one, when they're born, and number two, when they realize what they're born for.
Let me say that again. The two most important moments in a person's life is when they're born and when they realize what they're born for. So what was I born for? I was born to be wild.
Get your motor running. No, the 260 songs in one message, what's going on? No, you're born to glorify God. When I was 17, I discovered, oh, this is why I exist.
I wondered a lot about that. But when I heard about Jesus and asked Him to come into my life, I suddenly discovered I was born to bring glory to God. Number four, if you wanna have a happy holiday season, this is a big one, don't miss it. Focus on giving instead of receiving this Christmas. Focus on giving instead of receiving this Christmas. Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.
We've heard this many times. But understand the word blessed means happy. So let me say it a different way. Jesus is saying it'll make you happier when you give than when you receive. Now that seems counterintuitive because we think, no, you're happier when you receive. You're happier when you get what you want.
No, you're happier when you give something to someone else. Children by nature are selfish, comes naturally to all of us. You can have two kids playing, have one child playing alone with a toy, they're happy.
Another child sees that toy, suddenly they fight over the one toy. I remember my granddaughters, I would buy them a gift. I would say, I'm gonna get this for one of my grandkids. And my wife would say, you have five grandchildren, you better buy five of them, don't you?
Maybe I won't get it, I don't know. But if I got them a doll when they were younger, it had to be the same doll. If the dolls all had dark hair and one had blonde, they all wanted that one, I don't know why. If they all had blonde hair and one had dark hair, they wanted that one, so it had to be even.
Everything's even because there's something about someone having something that we want. I remember years ago when I was a little kid. Now this is actually in the 50s. That's how old I am. I was alive in the 50s.
This is late 50s, I hope it's still. I was a little kid. So a friend of mine got a gift for Christmas, I got a gift. I was very happy with my gift until I saw his gift.
I wanted his gift and I was no longer happy with my gift. And you know what it was? It was this plastic skin diver that you put batteries in and he sunk to the bottom of the pool, that's it. This is 50s tech, people. We weren't sophisticated back then.
But bubbles came out and I thought, I wish I had a sinking plastic skin diver. But see, but we just carry this on through life. It can just continue on, focus on giving instead of receiving. Scientific research shows us it's actually happier to give than it is to receive. It's a well-documented fact that volunteering will elevate your mood. Volunteering will elevate your mood.
And this has been dubbed by experts. I'm not making this up, as the helper's high. The helper's high.
Haven't you ever experienced that? You do something for someone else. That might be a small gesture. Can I help you with that? Can I help you load those groceries in your car?
Can I help you over here? Let me just give this to you. Someone admires something. Well, here, you can have it. What? Just take it, you can have it. Wow, I can't believe you're giving me your chewed gum.
I know, here. It's ABC gum, already been chewed. It's for you, take it. But there's a kind of euphoric feeling you can feel. Now, I've never felt a runner's high.
I'm told it exists. Yes, you run, you get the endorphin release, I know. But I have experienced the helper's high. So I want to say to you here at this church, you that faithfully serve, you that are always working behind the scenes, I want to thank you for what you do, first of all, because that's so important. But I know that you're blessed to do what you do, right?
You're blessed. So when someone says to you, what are you doing this weekend? You can say, I'm getting high. Whoa, what are you doing? Going to church.
What, what kind of a church is this? The helper's high. I'm gonna serve the Lord. I'm gonna glorify God. There's a great happiness in doing that. I know it seems counterintuitive, but the truth is serving and giving to others will bring happiness to you. Proverbs 11, 25 says that the generous will prosper.
Listen to this. Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. As I refresh others, I myself am refreshed. If I bless others, I myself am blessed. As I seek to make others happy, I myself experience personal happiness.
Turn that around. When it's all about me, when it's all about my happiness, when it's all about my needs being met, I'm generally not very happy and my needs are not met because I don't understand this important biblical principle of Jesus when he says it's more blessed to give than it is to receive. But what can we give to God?
The Psalm, Psalm 116, Psalm 116. What shall I give unto the Lord for all He has given unto me? I mean, what could I ever give to God? Well, there's actually three things you can give to God. Every believer has these three things to offer to God no matter how rich you are, how poor you are, how young you are, how old you are.
If you're a man, if you're a woman, doesn't matter. Everyone can give these three things to God. You might wanna write them down. Treasure, talent, and time. Treasure, talent, and time. First, we bring God our treasure. Jesus said, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. It's the act of giving. It's the act of giving of my finances to God. And this is an area that some Christians have not understood. They don't understand that it's a great joy to invest your financial resources into God's kingdom. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9-7, let everyone give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. A cheerful giver, a happy giver. Paul writes about the believers in Macedonia who heard about the needs of the believers in Jerusalem, so they received an offering.
And I love what he writes. He says in 2 Corinthians 8-4, they begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem. They begged us, oh, can we do it again? Can we give another offering? Wow, begging to give?
That's pretty unusual. That's how we should be. And God will bless us when we're willing to give and invest in his kingdom. You know, when you came in today, you had this brochure given to you. And this just tells you about some of the things that we do here at Harvest. Now, we hear a lot about our outreach ministries, that God is really blessed, like our crusades and other things that we're engaged in. But this is just about our local church.
This is about Harvest Riverside, Harvest Orange County, Harvest Kumulani, every campus has one. And I think it's a great thing to reflect back and think on the ways that we have impacted our community. Yes, we teach the word of God. Yes, we preach the gospel.
But yes, we are here in this community to be a light for Jesus Christ in every way possible. As an example, we had a back-to-school drive where we were able to collect 4,000 backpacks that we gave to needy children all around our community. And we gave those to those kids in the name of Jesus Christ. We also had a effort that we did to provide supplies for teachers as they were going back to school. And through the generosity of our people and all of our campuses, we received the equivalent of $500,000 worth of supplies given to those teachers to help them, all given in the name of Jesus Christ. This is very important. You know, Jesus said, let your light so shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let your light shine before men and let
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