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Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future | Sunday Message Encore

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 31, 2023 3:00 am

Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future | Sunday Message Encore

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 31, 2023 3:00 am

In this Sunday message celebrating all that God has done over the past 50 years, Pastor Greg Laurie delivers important points on God’s faithfulness and our faith in Him.

If these messages have impacted your life and walk with the Lord, consider supporting the mission of Harvest Ministries into 2024 as we attempt to reach more people than ever through media outreach and evangelistic events. Visit to make your gift before the end of the year!


Two words stand out in our 50-year history: Faithfulness and faith. The faithfulness of God and our response of faith to His calling.

Jesus promised to the church: “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.”

God has remained faithful to lead, protect, and guide us each step of the way.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. I have a beautiful inheritance.”

Psalm 16:6

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Faith is not just intellectual ascent; it is also action. Faith is belief plus action. Faith is a living, restless thing; it cannot be inoperative.

What saves is faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.

How does faith come? By listening, studying, and immersing yourself with the Word of God.

Romans 10:17

Theology without apology.





Faith can make the difference between something happening and not happening.

Faith sees what could be; a believer sees invisible things.

Read: Matthew 14:28–31

Faith is the refusal to panic, and it has no back door.

When you have a lapse of faith, call out to Jesus!

Matthew 14:30–31

“Little faith” is one word in the Greek.

With Peter’s eyes back on Jesus, “little faith” walked back to the boat.

Matthew 14:32

We should never believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs. We should believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.

“Your faithfulness continues from generation to generation.”

Psalm 119:90

Teach God’s Word faithfully. Invite people to come to Christ. Preach the gospel to our culture.


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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 But a couple of things I wanted to mention. First of all, that was a great time of worship, wasn't it?

And I enjoyed singing some of those old songs again, too, right? That's a lot of years of blessings there. But I want to encourage, Kathy already mentioned this, but I want to encourage you guys here at OC to come and join us in Riverside for our service that starts at five. It's kind of a one-time event.

We won't do this again until maybe 60 years. And so please come and join us. We put together, our team put together this amazing, it's hard to describe, it's almost like a miniature harvest museum. This interactive experience that you walk through and you sort of see the history of this church from its beginning.

It's just something you've got to see for yourself. So you guys in Riverside, after the service, go over to that room called The Space, and you can see it, and you guys here at Harvest OC, come up and see it. It'll be on display for quite a while, so if you can't come tonight, you can come at another time. I also wanted to mention that next Sunday, we have a very special guest speaker, Lee Strobel's gonna be with us. Lee has been a good friend of mine for many years, really.

He's one of the leading apologists in America today, and he has a brand new book that he's written with the question, is God real? I've actually heard him give the message that he'll be giving on an event we did together recently, and oh, it's powerful. You don't wanna miss this. Next Sunday, Lee Strobel will be speaking.

It's gonna be a great Sunday. All right, let's pray. Father, bless this time now as we open your word. We know it's true, and we pray that you will speak to our hearts and help us to gain a greater understanding of your faithfulness to us, and also on how to use our faith as we follow you. We commit this time of Bible study to you.

In Jesus' name we pray, amen. Okay, so yes, we're celebrating 50 years as a church. The historical backdrop is worth noting. It was 1973, and Richard Nixon was our president. We were leaving Vietnam. The US participation in the Vietnam War was coming to a close. Roe v. Wade was passed by the Supreme Court.

The World Trade Center officially opened in New York City. The top TV shows were All in the Family, The Waltons, and Sanford and Son, and one of the big songs on the Billboard charts was Bad Bad Leroy Brown. How many of you remember that song? You're old.

Okay. The top movie in the theaters, ironically, was The Exorcist, of all things, and the cell phone was invented. Now, I didn't know this. I thought the cell phone was invented a little later. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the first cell phone.

And now these things have effectively ruined our lives when they put screens on them and all the things you can do on phones, but that phone was affectionately called the brick, and it was like a brick, had a battery life of four minutes. But you could actually carry a phone around with you and talk on it, which seemed quite revolutionary at the time, and Harvest Christian Fellowship was born. Now, it's hard to pinpoint exactly in time when we were born because before we were a church, we were a little Bible study of young people. So the way it happened, and you've seen the Jesus Revolution movie, you have a sense of it, but I used to hang around at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was 18 years old.

I had my drawing board set up, and I would draw my cartoons and all that. And the pastors were all there, and they were all about nine to 10 years older than me. And one day, there was a discussion in this room, and the discussion was, who's gonna go to Riverside this week? This Bible study in Riverside at All Saints Episcopal Church was started by Lonnie Frisbee, who was a youth pastor at Calvary Costa Mesa. I went up with him a few times there, and it was around 300 young people attending.

Then Lonnie moved away, and so it was being handed around to different Calvary Chapel pastors. So who's gonna go this week? One said, well, I went last week. I don't wanna go again this week. Another said, well, I'm going next week, so I don't wanna go this week. No one wanted to do it, and I said, I'll go.

And I went up, and I arrived in Riverside in my trusty old beat-up Corvair. I went up to one of the elders that was there, and I said, hi, I'm Greg Laurie from Calvary Chapel. I'm here to speak tonight. He says, no one told me you were coming. Well, I'm here to speak.

He says, well, I don't know that you're here to speak. Why don't you just go sit over there, and I'll let you know. Okay, so I sat there and waited.

Well, no one else showed up, because I was there to speak, and I spoke that night. Then I went back the next week, and after a while, I was starting to grow this little Bible study. So I'm probably around 19, and these kids start calling me Pastor Greg. I'm thinking, I can't be their pastor.

I've only been a Christian two years, and I know so little. And I was looking for someone to take it over. No one wanted to take it over, so it began to dawn on me that we were becoming a church. We were doing a startup church when I'd never even heard of a startup church, and so it was the little Bible study that turned into a church that eventually got our own property, and then we fast forward to today, and here we are.

But as I look back over the years, and I'll reflect back on this a little bit more in a moment, but as I look back over the years, two words sort of pop out to me. One is faithfulness, and the other is faith. On the part of God, it's been His faithfulness to us, and on our part, it's been a willingness to take steps of faith.

First, there's the faithfulness of God. Over the years, we've weathered mighty storms. We've withstood withering attacks from the enemy, but as Jesus promised to the church, you are the church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

Now, have you ever thought about the context of that? The gates of hell. Gates don't attack you. The idea is you're storming an enemy fortress. Think of a castle that belongs to the enemy. You're storming the castle, and the gates won't stop you.

So that's what He's saying. They won't prevail against you as we're advancing and moving forward as followers of Jesus Christ. But God has been faithful to us, to protect us, and to guide us, and to provide for us each step of the way. 2 Thessalonians 3, 3 says, the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one, and God's done that for us. Lamentations 3, 22, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end. Great is your faithfulness, and we have found that to be true. And God called us to start this church, and we've watched it grow, and we give Him the glory. But that brings us to the faith part. If I were to sum up what we've done all these years in one word, it would be faith. We took steps of faith. You see, faith has seen something before this actually happened. It's been said faith builds a bridge from this world to the next. I don't claim any special revelations from God as to how this all came about.

I never had a detailed blueprint of where it was going to lead. But I can say, along with Scripture, as it says in Psalm 16, 5, the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. I have a beautiful inheritance. Does that make sense?

The lines have fallen in pleasant places. Sometimes in life, especially when you're younger, things happen to you that make no sense. Why did God let this happen?

Why didn't God let that happen? This doesn't make sense to me now, but then you know what 20-20 hindsight is. You get further down life's road. I mean, really further down life's road, way down in the shadow where the light isn't. And then you look back on your life. You can see that God has been in control all the time.

And the lines have fallen for you in pleasant places. And indeed, Romans 8-28 has been true for you that all things have worked together for good to those that love God. And so what is faith? We say use faith, have faith, apply faith. Well, what is faith? According to the Bible, Hebrews 11, 1, faith is a substance of things hoped for. It's the evidence of things not seen. Whereas the New Living Translation puts it, what is faith?

It's a confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It's the evidence of things we cannot yet see. Augustine said, quote, faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.

End quote. See, faith is not mere intellectual assent. It's also action. Faith is belief plus action. It's believing God even when the odds are against you.

It's taking risks. C. H. Spurgeon, the great British preacher, said, quote, believing and obeying always run side by side. And that's how it goes. You know, you're willing to just see what the Lord will do. And where do we get faith? The Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

So when I read the Bible, when I study Scripture, when I memorize the words of this book, my faith will get stronger. And that is why we have always given place to Bible study in all of our services. This is why we always say, bring your Bible with you. And to me, one of the most beautiful sounds is the rustling of Bible pages when I will say to you, or whoever is speaking will say, turn in your Bible too.

It's not as exciting to hear the swipe of a screen, but it's okay. Because I know some of you are reading the Bible on your phone or your tablet, and that's all good. But I think you all should get a proper Bible, though you should, and carry it. But you know, as long as you're opening up the word of God and letting it speak to you, that's where your faith is going to grow. We've always believed that everything should focus around Scripture.

Therefore, we offer theology without apology. And people will say, well, you know, you can't teach these Bible studies and go too in-depth. People won't stay for that. Maybe they won't, but I think people develop an appetite for what you feed them. And I think if you are raised on junk food, you're going to want junk food. But if you have good, nutritious food put in front of you, you'll long for it.

You'll desire it. And we believe that God's word is powerful. I don't have to make it relevant. The Bible is relevant. I just need to proclaim it and let God's word do what it does best.

Change lives as it is moved in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So when we started, we were using the cutting-edge technology of the day. It was something called the cassette tape. And nowadays that seems so silly, cassette tape. But think how revolutionary it was then. If you wanted to listen to music, you got it on an album. And then there was an eight-track. But now here's this cassette tape.

Not only can you listen to something on it, but you can record on it yourself. So this was a way we got the Word of God out. And then as time has passed, new platforms come our way. And you have CDs and then you have streaming and all the things that we're using today.

And then over the years, we've branched out into different things. I think we were one of the first churches, if not the first church, to have a Sunday morning live service on the Internet. And I know for our crusades, we were among the first to use it as a gospel communication device. And now we've gotten into films and we've seen how God can use these films. The Jesus Revolution film has already reached around 25 million people, if not more.

And isn't that amazing? We know that ultimately it will probably reach around 100 million people. And last year alone, we saw 72 professions of faith. Last year alone, through all of our outreach ministries.

Here's a mind-blowing stat. With all the platforms that are out there, where we've used radio and television, we do these one-minute messages on CNN and Fox News. Those have reached hundreds of thousands of people. And people have responded and accepted Christ watching them after watching a one-minute presentation of the gospel. But all of our platforms combined together has enabled us last year to reach an audience.

I'm not making this up. One billion people last year. Isn't that amazing? And suddenly music has appeared, and I don't know why.

No, I want to tell you one other thing, and that's why we have a little special music. We've been looking at all the people who have made professions of faith over the last 50 years. In the Harvest Crusades alone, it's around 600,000. If you add in the numbers from our many, many church services, and people responding to our various ministries that we have out there, we can say with complete confidence, without any exaggeration, that over the last 50 years we have seen one million professions of faith through this ministry. So what does one million people look like?

Well, look at this photograph right now, and it gives you the answer. This is a photograph that was taken in South Korea years ago when Billy Graham preached there. That's approximately one million people.

I think realistically it could almost be double that number. But God knows, and we're thankful, because the Bible says that there's joy in heaven over one sinner that comes to repentance. So we give God the glory for all of these things. So we built our ministry on the principles of Acts 2, 42 to 47. And there we read, They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers, continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. So we've summed it up in an acronym, WELL, W-E-L-L. The early church, our church, operates off of this acronym, W. They were a worshiping church. We've always given an important place to worship in our services, starting with literally me standing up with a microphone leading worship a cappella. How sad that was. But we had a limited budget. Okay.

So then we moved on to guitars and bands and all the great songs that have come throughout the years. So, you know, worshiping the Lord, a worshiping church. But then E stands for an evangelistic church.

This is so important. Because some churches grow by church transfer growth. In other words, we don't like this church anymore. We're coming to your church. Okay.

Fine. But I think the best kind of growth in a church is evangelistic growth. And by that I mean people coming to Christ in the church. Because new believers are the lifeblood of the church.

You show me a church that doesn't have a constant flow of new believers coming in and I will show you a church that is beginning to stagnate. So we have a choice before us. We can evangelize or we can fossilize.

I prefer the former over the latter. So we've always given prominence to that. And as you know, we give invitations in our services all the time for people to come to Christ.

And they do. So an evangelistic church. Worshiping. W. E. Evangelistic.

L, number one. A learning church. That's why we always study the Bible together. And lastly, L, a loving church. We've always wanted to be a place where people can feel loved.

Where they can feel they belong. One thing we've really emphasized in the last few years is small groups. We have 2,500 people at Harvest involved in a small group. And I hope you're one of them. Because if you've ever said... How many of you are involved in a small group? Raise your hand.

Okay, so how many of you are not involved in one? Don't be embarrassed. I won't mock you.

Really? No, I won't. Well, you should be because you'll be blessed. And being in a small group makes a big church a small church. Because some things are learned in rows.

You're in a row right now. Other things are learned in circles. Where you're talking together. Discussing things. Building relationships. A network of people that can help you. Encourage you. Pray for you.

Very important. Learning church. A loving church. So it's been done by faith. And you know what, faith can make the difference between something happening or not happening.

God chooses to work when we apply our faith in Him. When the Lord directed the children of Israel to cross over the Jordan River, they had to first get their feet wet. They had to take that step of faith. They didn't part first. First they got in. And then the waters parted for them. When fire came down in Mount Carmel, when Elijah was facing off of the province of Baal, first Elijah had to pray. Jesus could have healed everyone everywhere with just a word.

Imagine. Jesus could have said, I'm Jesus. And on the count of three, everyone is healed.

And they would have been. But that's not how He worked, is it? He waited for someone to call out to Him. Like blind Bartimaeus that heard Jesus was coming up the road. And he said, Son of David, have mercy on me. They said, Shh. Quiet down.

You're making too much noise. Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stopped and healed them. Or that woman who had that medical problem where she continually was bleeding and Jesus touched her. Or actually, excuse me, she touched Jesus and she was healed. Both instances of faith being applied.

See, when we don't reach out to God in faith, not much happens. It's been said some people are setting the world on fire while others are still looking for a match. That's a good quote, isn't it?

That's not original to me. Some people are setting the world on fire while others are looking for a match. So it's a willingness to take steps of faith. Listen, it's a willingness to even potentially fail.

But I would rather try and fail than never try at all. And just say, let's see what the Lord will do. So let's come to our text now. It's Matthew 14. The backdrop is the disciples are crossing over the Sea of Galilee. A great storm comes and they're panicking.

They think they're going to die. And then they turn and here comes Jesus walking on the water. And he says to them, take courage.

It is me. Don't be afraid. And our story picks up there. Matthew 14, verse 28. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it's you, command me to come to you on the water. So Jesus said, come. And when Peter had come down and got out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt? Don't you love that story? What an amazing step of faith this was on the part of Peter.

It could seem presumptuous. Lord, if it's you, tell me to come. But Peter did wait for permission. Jesus said, okay, come. And here's Peter doing what no one else did. You know, sometimes people criticize Peter. He was rather outspoken. He did put his foot in his mouth more than once. A lot of ink is given in the gospels to Peter's faux pas and shortcomings, but let's not forget that Peter was the only one of the disciples that was willing to put it all on the line and walk on the water to Jesus. It's been said that faith is a refusal to panic.

And so he said, let's just, let's see if this will work. He had no safety net. Now, Peter was not wearing those little water wings. You know those things, little inflatable things? I still wear them today. People make fun of me, but I like them.

No, I don't. In fact, when my boys were growing up, I didn't want them to wear those water wings. I wanted them to learn how to swim instead. But no water wings, no backup plan.

It was just him and Jesus. And there's no better place to be. I'd rather be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without him. Maybe I'm talking to someone right now that is in a situation where you have no safety net. You have no backup plan. It's either God or nothing, okay?

Is that the worst place to be? God's gonna be faithful. God will come through for you. And that's exactly where Peter was. He asked for permission. The Lord says yes.

And Peter begins to walk on the water. Where did this faith come from? From the word of Jesus. Jesus said, come. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. I can think of many times over the years where I've heard the Lord say to me, come. Now I've never heard the audible voice of God.

And to be honest, I'm suspicious of people who say they have. But I have had the Lord direct me very clearly. And I can think of certain moments in my life where I knew it was the will of God for me to do a certain thing.

But there always was risk involved in it. When we moved from that little church we were meeting in, a little Episcopalian church, to our own building, that was a huge step of faith. And when we bought the piece of land, we were so young and it was so expensive, and yet we took that step of faith. The first time we went to Pacific Amphitheater for our first crusade, big step of faith. Then we went to Angel Stadium, another big step of faith. Starting at Harvest Orange County, another big step of faith. When we booked AT&T Stadium, gigantic venue, seated over 100,000, that could have been the biggest flop of all time.

But amazingly, every seat was filled and there was overflow and another 250,000 people watching around the country and around the world. So took steps of faith. And it's just looking to Jesus. And that's the key, you look to Jesus.

Don't put your eyes on your circumstances, put your eyes on Christ. Years ago, Jonathan, who you just heard from, was a little boy. And he wanted to scuba dive. So there was this little course you could take in Maui where they'd train you for a day in the swimming pool. And then we'd go up for an ocean drive accompanied by an instructor. And so I decided, I said, I'll join you when you do the dive, because I'm certified.

Which means I've dove before and I can rent scuba tanks and such, but I hadn't done it for quite a while. So the instructor said when he was training Jonathan and the other students, would you like to take this little refresher course? I said, I'm fine, I already, I remember it all.

Okay, famous last words. So Jonathan went through his little course and the water was really calm that day, but then the next day for our dive, the waters were really rough and the boats were pitching back and forth. And I said, I don't think we should do it today. The instructor said, no, we're gonna do it. So we get on the boat. You strap on all that heavy equipment. You got your BC, your flotation vest. You've got your tanks, which are very heavy. And you've got your aqua lung or your regulator. Then you've got your weight belt and your fins and your little rubber ducky, which I always carry. And then the way you get in the water is you lean on the edge of the boat and fall backwards.

That's the last thing you wanna do in a rough ocean with a bunch of weight on you, but that's exactly what we did. And as we're bobbing around in the ocean, I began to feel a sense of panic come over me. And Jonathan was feeling it too. And I was looking at Jonathan, and I'm looking around, and I see the instructor. The instructor looks at Jonathan and said, Jonathan, look at me. Jonathan looks at him, and I looked at him too. He says, remember what I taught you. John said, okay. Yeah, okay, but I didn't listen.

I didn't go and get a refresher course. He said, just breathe. Put your regulator in. Breathe. So we started breathing.

And then as soon as we went below the surface, it was calm and beautiful, okay. But Jesus could say the same thing to you. Hey, look at me. Remember what I taught you. Get your eyes off of the circumstances. Get your eyes off the stormy seas. Get your eyes off of yourself.

Put them back on me. What does scripture say? We're running a race, and we should run it as we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Looking to Jesus. That's what Peter was doing, but what he stopped doing, and then he began to sink. Look at verse 30.

When he looked at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve, and he began to sink. That brings me to my next point. We will all have lapses of faith. You know, you can have a lot of faith one day and not have it the next. You can have a lot of faith one hour and not have it 10 minutes later. You're believing God.

You're taking risks. You're applying faith, and all of a sudden, you have a lapse of faith. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Acts 12. James, the apostle, had been arrested by King Herod and was put to death. Then he arrested Peter, so it looked as though the great apostle was gonna be also put to death. But the church prayed, and I love Acts 12 one because it says constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. There's a lot of truth packed into that simple verse. Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

The word constant means passionate, heartfelt, and continuous. They're continuously, passionately praying for the deliverance of Peter by the church. They weren't praying individually, though I'm sure they did that as well, but together. Did you know there's power in unified prayer? Have you ever noticed that when Jesus taught us how to pray, we called it the Lord's Prayer? He said, after this manner, therefore, you should pray. Our Father, who art in heaven. Doesn't say my Father, who art in heaven.

He is that. But by saying our Father, who art in heaven, Jesus is teaching pray together. So when you're in trouble, when you're hurting, pray with another Christian. Jesus said when two or more will agree together as touching anything, it will be heard of your Father in heaven. So they prayed together.

And what happened? Their prayer was heard. And an angel of the Lord was dispatched. And the angel went into the prison where Peter was and woke him up, and the doors opened up automatically. And Peter comes walking out, and he goes over to a house where they're having a prayer meeting, no doubt for Peter. And he knocks on the door, and a girl named Rhoda answers. And standing before her is the answer to her prayer. There's Peter. What's so funny about this story is, she sees him and just walks away. Instead of inviting him, and she walks away, goes to the back where the apostles are praying. They're probably praying, oh Lord, deliver Peter. Lord, you are a miracle working God. Hey guys, Peter's standing at the front door.

You're crazy, woman. Lord, deliver Peter. Guys, Peter is standing at the front.

You're out of your mind. Lord, go look. Go look, and so the Bible says they all went together, which I find humorous. I go, listen, let's all go together. I'm not going along, let's go. And there's Peter.

Hey, let me in. But here's the point. Here were these great men and women of God praying, but when the prayer was answered, they didn't believe it. Hasn't that ever happened to you? When you pray for something, boom, it's answered, whoa. Yeah, that's called answered prayer. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like. Sometimes it happens sooner than we expect. We have lapses of faith.

And when you have a lapse of faith, you need to call out to the Lord. Another story from the ocean. This will be my last. When my son Christopher was around 10 years old, we went out surfing. It was me, him, and Ricky Ryan. I'm not a very good surfer, I'll tell you that. But Ricky Ryan, he's a seasoned surfer.

He was the pastor of Kumalani, which is now Harvest Kumalani in Maui. And so I felt confident having Ricky there. And so we take little 10-year-old Christopher out, but then this huge set of waves comes rolling in. And the problem is we weren't far enough out to get over them. We couldn't get under them. We were like in the impact zone. And they're crashing right in front of us.

And this one wave crashed, and the white water was really high. And I'm looking at it, and Christopher turns over to me and says, Dad! And I said, Christopher, pray. And I love his little 10-year-old prayer.

Little 10-year-old kid. Oh, Lord Jesus, he says. And I was praying the same thing.

Thankfully we got through it. But when you have a lapse of faith, call out to Jesus. When you have a lapse of faith, call out to Jesus.

Look at verse 30. Beginning to sink, Peter prayed, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?

Immediately, he didn't wait. I'm gonna wait a couple minutes, let you just suffer. No, Jesus immediately reached out, pulled him back up. Are you having a lapse of faith right now? It's okay. Just call out to Jesus. We all have them, all right?

We all have those moments where we just forget what we should remember. We should never believe our doubts. And we should never doubt our beliefs. Instead, we should believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.

So call out to Jesus. So yes, Peter failed, but what a spectacular failure. You know, it's been said, if at first you don't succeed, relax, you're just like the rest of us. You probably thought I was gonna say try and try again. That's usually how it goes.

I like this one better. If at first you don't succeed, relax, you're just like the rest of us. But again, as I said earlier, I would rather take a bold step of faith in my efforts to honor God and fail than do nothing at all. And a lot of people do nothing at all with their faith.

And then they have the audacity to critique others who do apply their faith. So let me say something to maybe someone watching or listening right now who's taking a bold step of faith and it didn't go as you had hoped. You shared the gospel with someone and they shut you down. You started a little home Bible study and no one showed up.

Even the dog and cat left. Maybe you prayed for someone who was sick and they didn't get healed. I remember once I had a friend come up to me and say, I'm really sick, will you pray for me? I said, yes I will, I prayed for him. And then he got violently ill after that. A couple days later he came back to me and said, never pray for me again.

Whatever, sorry. But here's what I want to say to you. If you've done any of those things and you failed, thank you, thank you for taking that step of faith. This church is made up of so many unsung heroes. People that we haven't necessarily heard their name but they have labored tirelessly behind the scenes doing the work of God and to all of them, to all of you, I say thank you for what you have done and I pray that your Father who sees you in secret will reward you openly. So 50 years of God's blessing.

What's ahead? Some would say, Greg, culture is changing. So you have to change with the times.

There's some truth to that. I mean, I think adapt. Adapt to culture. You know, we want to always be there with the gospel in an appropriate way.

And by appropriate, I mean answer the questions people are actually asking. Show them how Christ is the ultimate answer to whatever they're facing. But I've been doing this for a while now and a lot of generations have come and gone. When I started out, it was the greatest generation, as we call them, the generation of my parents, the World War II generation, and my generation, the baby boomers. It was a young generation. One of our anthems was forever young.

But now we've gone from acid rock to acid reflux. So it's, we're not so young anymore. Then along come the busters, generation X.

Kind of a sad thing, because they're often overlooked. Because people seem to go right from millennial, or baby boomers to millennials. Gen X is like, hey, what about us?

Yeah, that happens. But now we're talking a lot about Gen Z. And they've been described by some as the hopeless generation.

I don't know if that's the best description. But each generation has its unique features. But the answer for every generation will always be the same. It's the gospel. It's Christ himself.

He is the answer. We'll keep preaching that message. Psalm 119, he says, your faithfulness continues from generation to generation.

So here's a commitment I will make to you. Number one, I will continue to teach God's word faithfully to you whenever I get up to speak. I'll always open up the scripture. And as I said, offer you theology without apology. We will always extend invitations for people to come to Christ in our services. We'll continue to try to find new and innovative ways to bring the gospel to our culture. We'll continue to disciple people and then raise up the next generation.

Acts chapter 13, verse 36 says, David served the will of God in his generation and then he fell asleep. In other words, he did his work and then he was gone. And one day my work will be done and the next generation carries it on. It's like a race. And in a race, it's not a solo race. It's like a relay race, right?

You know where the baton is passed and so you run with the baton for your generation and then when your race is done, you pass on the baton to the next generation and they carry it on and they do the same thing and that's how it works. That's what we're gonna continue to do. We've done it for 50 years and for as many years as the Lord at least gives me, I'll continue to do it but this church will go on. We'll reach new people.

There's new mountains to climb, new opportunities to pursue. But we have our marching orders from the Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Our mission statement at Harvest is knowing him and making him known and that's what we will continue to do and pursue. So I'm telling you what I'm gonna do. Here's what I would like you to do. I would like you to commit yourself afresh to the Lord. Ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit and find your place in this church. You know, be at home in this church.

Build your life here, your family here, your friendships here. And make a commitment to be here every Sunday. You know there's a trend among some Americans today to attend church less and less.

We'll do it when we get around to it. And I think it's so important as parents to set an example for your kids. The church is important.

This is our priority. We're going to church now. Yeah, but we want to go to the beach the sun's out. Yeah, we'll go to the beach after church. Let's go. We'll go to the first service.

It's eight o'clock. It's okay, you'll survive. And they'll resent you for it maybe. Teenagers will resist you. One day they'll come back and thank you. Then their turn will come when they have their kids.

But see, here's the point. Commit yourself. But it's not just attending church. I want to encourage you to be a part of this church and serve in this church. There's so many serving opportunities. So I don't say that just because we have needs for you to serve, though we do, but I say it because you will be blessed as you serve. Because the Bible says it's more blessed to receive than it is to give, right? Isn't that what the Bible says? You should be saying no, okay?

Just, I believe it does. No, no. But yeah, but you're old. Maybe you're just senile and you meant it that way.

No, no. It's more blessed to give than it is to receive. There is a blessing in giving. So you have to discover, develop, and use your spiritual gifts.

And how do you do that? Simple word of advice. Volunteer for everything. That's what I did. I volunteered for everything.

I would do anything. Just let me take a shot at it. And I wasn't good at a lot of those things.

But after a while I began to discover what my gifting was sometimes it's through process of elimination. Just say, where do you need help? I'll help there. I'll volunteer here. And then when you come to church you're not just attending but you're participating.

This is so important. And giving of your finances regularly. Investing here. Committing yourself to be in a Harvest small group. What a great opportunity for you to build friendships and learn to do life with other people. Just say, Lord, here I am.

Send me. I believe our best days are ahead. And so in closing I want to offer a blessing to you from God. Where the Lord says, and I love this, it was given to the priests to pronounce over the people of Israel continuously over and over again. Where they would say, the Lord bless you. The Lord keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.

Let's pray. Father, bless everybody here. Everybody watching. Harvest Orange County. Harvest Riverside. Harvest Maui. Bless all.

Everyone here. Draw us closer to you. Help us to find our place in this church so we can be used by you, to serve you, and to bring glory to your name.

Thank you for raising this church up as a light. And as we look back over these 50 years and think of all those people that have come to you, we're so thankful you've allowed us to be a part of it. Maybe we were there at the beginning.

Maybe we came midway. Maybe we came in the last couple of years or maybe we just came, but we can all play a part in this work that you're doing. So we commit this church to you. Bless it, we pray. We commit ourselves to you. Bless us, we pray. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and use us for your glory, we pray. And Lord, we say to you, here we are, Lord, send us. Here I am, Lord.

Send me. We ask all of this in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-31 04:17:48 / 2023-12-31 04:35:26 / 18

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