1If at the end of this message you do not believe that the Bible is anything more than a collection of myths and legends, then you really don’t have any hope for the future, because this business about heaven could be just a myth. If however, you believe, as I do, that this Bible is the totally inspired Word of God–and is totally without error–then I expect to see you continue to base your entire life on what we find in its pages.
3Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus is far more detailed than any other gospel writer. Luke takes us back to the very beginning of Jesus’ life. By describing the origin of John the Baptist and the origin of Jesus side by side he shows how their destinies dovetail in God’s plan, but also how Jesus is vastly superior to his forerunner.
5Throughout your life, you will find problems are lined up like cars at a tollbooth. When you get rid of one problem, and the gate falls down on an unpleasant episode of your life. You breathe a sigh of relief and then—ding! There’s another problem. The Christian life isn’t devoid of problems but God gives us strength to cope with them.
8You may wonder, “How can I lose Jesus? I thought you believed in ‘once saved always saved.’” I’m not talking about losing your salvation. I’m talking about losing a sense of fellowship with Jesus. Throughout this ordeal, Mary and Joseph never lost their relationship with Jesus. It was intact. What they lost was His presence with them.
9Repentance before God is one of the most frequently recurring messages in all the Bible. No less than 969 times, God thundered, “Repent!” It was the first message Jesus preached and the last message Jesus left with the church. Some people think the Great Commission was His last message to the church, but it actually occurred almost 60 years later.
11Some people wonder why Jesus allowed the old devil to tempt Him. Didn’t Jesus have power and authority to banish Satan from His presence? I believe He did. Why did He endure this temptation? I believe He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation. Rather than zapping Satan, Jesus met him and defeated him with exactly the same resources we have available today: The Power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. That’s why Jesus quoted three verses from Deuteronomy. To show us how to do it.
12When Jesus returned to his “home synagogue” to preach, many of the people remembered him and looked forward to what he had to say. However, what he said almost got him thrown over a cliff. But what Jesus said was not an accident: He intended it. We can learn something from the response of the people in Jesus’ home synagogue.
13I am certain the most serious kind of sickness and disease in mankind is sin. This congenital moral cancer afflicts every one of us. If not treated by Jesus, it will result in eternal death. For millions of us, Jesus has touched us and healed us of this sin sickness and now we are whole. To me, that is still the greatest miracle!
14Peter started following Jesus. Wherever Jesus went, Peter went. Whatever Jesus did, Peter did. It’s a 24/7 lifestyle. Peter wasn’t naturally a fisher of men; so Jesus was going to make him into one. So many people are afraid of following Jesus because they feel unqualified. Relax. You ARE unqualified. The good news is when you start following Jesus, He begins to teach you and to make you into the person He wants you to be.
15Personal evangelism is more than just getting to know people who aren’t saved, although that is the first step. You must be willing to build a bridge of friendship with a person without Christ, but then you must walk across that bridge and tell them about the good news of Jesus. Give them a chance to trust Christ, that’s putting your hook in the water.
16In the Bible, leprosy is often used as a symbol for sin. While none of us have the disease of leprosy, we have been afflicted with a terrible malady worse than leprosy–a sin sickness. I believe there is a remarkable parallel between leprosy and sin. Four ways in which leprosy and sin are alike.
17The needs of others surrounds us, often making us feel overwhelmed. But the greatest need everyone possesses is the need for forgiveness. That’s why the very best thing you can do for your friends is to bring them to Jesus, because He is the only one who can do anything about their greatest need.
18Before Levi started following Jesus, his life revolved around his job. He was going to make a boatload of money because he was fixed for life in this lucrative occupation. When Jesus called him, he had to choose whether his life would revolve around making money or around pleasing and obeying Jesus. Let me ask you today: What or who is at the center of your life?
19The religious snobs of Jesus’ day didn’t like His teaching because it was revolutionary. It was new. He said things they never heard before. His new teaching shocked and offended them. He did things they never saw before. Every time Jesus said or did something new it angered them so much that they killed the messenger instead of accepting the message.
21In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is giving us some plain principles. These principles don’t tell us how to become a Christian, they tell us how to live once we have decided to follow Jesus. He is telling us how to live a blessed, happy fulfilled life. He is warning away from the attitudes that destroy our lives; which set are you following?
23When we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us, we really can show kindness to others by demonstrating love to our enemies; by lending without worrying about the return; by showing mercy to those Jesus tells us in several places that when we practice kindness to others we are actually showing kindness to Him.
24Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. Forgive. Give. These four laws are irrefutable. They cannot be broken. If you jump off a 50-story building, you don’t break the law of gravity–you only demonstrate it. Do yourself a favor and observe all four of these simple but profound spiritual laws.
25There’s nothing funny about sin. It’s sad to see people who ignore their beams and look only at the faults of others. That’s why we must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, so we can confess our sin—but it is a beautiful sight to see someone with a clear eye gently and lovingly helping someone remove a speck from his or her eye.
26Before you get this new heart, it is impossible to obey God and to please Him. It’s like your heart is made of stone. But when He puts His Holy Spirit into your heart, you are regenerated, made alive. And you will find He even places the desire there for you to obey Him. Have you had a heart transplant? If you haven’t, it’s impossible for you to produce godly fruit, because you still have an old sinful, human nature dominating.
27Forget the popular TV show—we are ALL survivors! You are wise if you will allow that collapse to motivate you to rebuild your life upon the foundation of the rock of Jesus, because there will be more storms. What might have been the worst experience of your life actually becomes the experience leading to a new and better life for you.
28Just as the Roman centurion got his authority from a higher power, he recognized Jesus had access to higher authority–His Father in heaven. God has set up a clearly defined system of authority in our world. When God’s chain of authority is followed, there is peace. When God’s chain of authority is ignored, chaos and misery ensue.
29Throughout my ministry, I’ve seen Jesus give a wayward rebellious son or daughter back to his or her parents. I’ve seen Jesus take a sorry, alcoholic husband, clean him up and present him back to his wife and children. I’ve see Jesus take a wayward wife and give her back to her family. Jesus is the business of healing broken relationships.
31Have you been forgiven but you really haven’t shown your love and worship to Jesus for His forgiveness? Worship always happens at the feet of Jesus. Worship is a preoccupation with Jesus, not some form or ritual. Worship is more concerned about giving something than getting something.
32There is a something going on right now, invisible to the human eye, which makes it even harder to receive the Word of God. Jesus says Satan tries to “steal” the Word from you. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble concentrating when you are reading the Bible or when you are hearing the Bible being taught. One the enemy’s most effective strategy is distraction.
33From the cradle to the grave, each of us is a bundle of needs. What is your need? Do you need truth? It’s found in the word of God. But if you don’t obey it, you will lose the little that you have. Are you feeling lonely and isolated? Here’s a great big family opening our arms to you saying, “Come just as you are” we will love you and accept you the way Jesus loves and accepts you.
34I think we can make the mistake of trying to determine whether our problems are demon-induced or not. The Bible never uses the term “demon possession.” We are all demonized in different ways. Any obsession, addiction, or impure habit is a demonic influence that must be addressed but you must admit it, name it, before you can deal with it. You can’t just shift the blame to some “demon,” because we are all ultimately responsible for all of our actions and reactions, but admitting your problem, naming the demon, is your first step toward wholeness with Jesus.
35God knows suffering makes us stronger, and it makes us depend on God. I’ve often said the name of God’s college is the University of Affliction, and although the tuition is steep, the classes and the degrees we receive are priceless. Some of you are enrolled right now in the University of Affliction.
36One common thread running through the miracles in Luke 9 was that everyone was at the Point of Total Desperation. They were all “POTD.” Do you need God’s power? Do you want to see a miracle in your life? Then you’ve got to be “POTD” as well. What do you do when you get to the end of your rope? What do you do when your rope breaks?
37We pack our suitcases to overflowing because we like having our precious “stuff” with us. But when we are loaded down with our own stuff, we often depend on our possessions rather than on God. Are you trusting God to provide your needs, or are you trusting your job, your bank balance, your securities portfolio, or your 401K to meet your needs?
38A good cook can do amazing things with leftovers. We often consider it second-class food but God’s leftovers are special! Some of you may feel like a leftover yourself. You’ve come through a tough experience and you feel like a second-class person. God has always used leftovers, remnants. There was nothing special about five biscuits and two fish but in the hands of Jesus, it became a feast.
39Many people are only interested in the basic model of Christian living. They want just enough Christianity to keep them out of hell without intruding on their fun. You don’t find the full cost of discipleship advertised very often these days. Few preachers discuss it because it is unpleasant; it doesn’t fill pews.
40The Transfiguration of Jesus is a preview of a coming attraction—the Second Coming of Jesus. It will be a powerful attraction, too, strong enough to raise the dead and to rapture living Christians. I’m not going to be around to read the Second Coming headline, because when Jesus comes, I’m going to be meeting Him in the clouds.
41Why do people want to look at things from above? I don’t know if I would feel close to God in a lawn chair at 11,000 feet but I do enjoy a good mountaintop experience. When you are on a mountaintop, you see how big the world is that God made and it makes you feels smaller. Mountaintop experiences are wonderful, but you have to be sure you leave the mountain to go down in the valley with Jesus.
43As you and I walk along with Jesus, He brings us closer and closer to being conformed to His likeness: self-denial; and dying daily to our own feelings and desires. As we move along, He wants us to forget the past. We can’t go back there. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and keep growing and progressing.
46Because there is so much crime and hatred in our world, people have become cynical and skeptical. We are so afraid of being conned or scammed we don’t trust any stranger anymore. That is a real handicap when we are trying to share the love of Christ with people. They think we have an ulterior motive. Before you can give people the Word of God, you must show them the Love of God to soften or open their hearts.
47You may wonder, “How can I face the future without fear? I don’t know what’s going to happen!” Take a moment and write the word “LIFE.” Circle the two middle letters. Life is full of “ifs.” We need to do the same thing we would do IF none of those things happen. We need to completely place our lives in God’s hands. We must keep on trusting God and work on developing an intimate relationship with Him.
50Let’s say you need a job. Pray and ask God for a job, but don’t sit at home and wait for someone to come hire you. Seek His Will and plan for your life, and then go out and knock on many doors. That’s why prayer involves an action plan. It’s not about sitting and asking; it’s seeking and knocking.
56I can never escape the fact that God has the power to throw me into hell. Most of us know John 3:16 from memory. The scariest word in that verse is the word perish. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” “Perish” means to be thrown into hell. We talk about nonperishable food and perishable food. What’s the difference? Perishable food spoils, it rots, it loses its quality. That’s a pretty graphic picture of what happens to a person in hell but the spoiling process is stretched out over eternity.
57It is possible to love nativity sets and to display them in your home every Christmas without ever stopping to understand what God was doing on the first Christmas. A study of the Nativity scene and the ten elements involved. You’ll learn a personal lesson from each of these parts of the overall picture.
60Theoretically there are only three ways to get into heaven when you die: First, if you die before the age where you are accountable before God, before you are old enough to make the choice to sin, then we believe God takes his precious children to heaven. But if you are in this service, understanding my words, chances are you have already passed that possibility.
61There have always been people who have laughed at the idea of Jesus returning. The Second Coming is rich material for the late-night pundits. The Bible says scoffers will come in the last days. To us, it may seem like 2,000 years since Jesus made His promise to return, but for the Lord it only seems like a couple of days. God’s sense of timing is so different than ours. That’s why we must wait patiently, actively, and expectantly.
62Are you wasting your time on things that don’t really matter in light of eternity? In this life, there are only two things we deal with that are eternal: The Word of God, and the souls of men and women. Think about it, the best way to spend your God-given time is by investing it in the Word of God or the souls of men and women. Are you a good time manager or are you involved in so many frivolous sideshows you can’t focus on the main thing?
63Fire will only keep burning as long as it has fuel and oxygen, but when it runs out of either, it will go out. God is eternal, but the power He provides us is not something we can just take for granted as always being there. We must tend the fire in order to keep it burning.
64Some people have the idea that Jesus is the great Uniter of the world’s people, and that Christianity is a wonderful ethical system that will produce one world family where everyone lives in peace and harmony with each other. Actually, the words of Jesus are so radical they divide people into two groups. He said that there are only two eternal destinies: Heaven and Hell.
66We are all like old Humpty Dumpty. Some of you know the problem: you’ve fallen and you can’t get up. We live in a world of broken people. Life is fragile; it should be handled with care, because people break easily. All the self-help programs, and the religious rules can’t fix the broken hearts, broken hopes, and broken homes of people around us. Jesus Christ was the only person who ever claimed to be able to heal broken hearts.
67You can choose to enter heaven’s door today. Jesus said it’s a narrow door. Think about that for a minute. It’s so narrow only one person can walk through it at one time. In other words, you can’t walk through heaven’s door holding someone’s hand. Some of you think because your grandfather was a preacher or your mother was a godly saint that you can walk through with them–but you can’t.
68There is a difference between being “childish” and “childlike.” The Bible warns us many times about the dangers of spiritual immaturity, but there are some wonderful qualities in children that are necessary for us to enter God’s Kingdom. If you don’t reflect these qualities, you’ll never see it. There are three simple qualities describing a childlike spirit: a sense of awe and wonder, simple trust and a spirit of forgiveness.
69When you are carrying the cross of Jesus, you have already died to self. You can’t scare a dead man. When you’re carrying the cross, it’s a liberating experience because you don’t have to be afraid of anybody or anything. We don’t have to be afraid because of His perfect love for us. Jesus laughed in the face of the fear of death. When you are carrying the cross, you can laugh at any other threat, too.
70In the Catholic list of the seven deadly sins, pride used to be called vanity. The Dutch painter, Bosch, painted a picture of each of the seven sins and for pride and vanity, he painted the picture of a woman looking at her face in a mirror held by the devil. We can see pride and vanity in others, but we are usually blind to it in our own lives.
71There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. There are times when we may have a legitimate reason for what we do or don’t do. An excuse is actually the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie…They are alibis that become lullabies. Our culture has refined the art of making excuses.
72Today, the cross has become benign—a piece of harmless jewelry. In Jesus’ time, it was a horrible, agonizing tortuous mode of execution. It was the noose, the electric chair, the lethal injection of His day. In the time of Jesus when you saw someone carrying a cross it meant one and only one thing: They were as good as dead.
73You can lose your mind, and it’s not as tragic as a lost soul. You can lose your character, and it’s not as bad as a losing your soul. Death will heal the loss of a fortune, or a loss of health or a loss of a mind—but a lost soul is for eternity. We are all like a lost lamb at one time in our lives. Jesus can never find you until you admit you are a lost sinner. That’s the bad news, without Christ we are lost.
74When you sinned, God didn’t walk away from you; you walked away from him. But God is a loving heavenly Father who is longing for you to return. He is looking for you to return to Him. Wayward and backslidden child of God, He has a message for you today. With tender words of compassion He is saying to you: “When you start home, I’ll meet you more than halfway.”
75Through the years, I’ve known hundreds of Prodigals. They are teenagers and adults who had a loving relationship with God, but they allowed restlessness and reckless living to enter their lives. They walked away from God’s blessings and they ended up a mess. Some of them are still there, others have come back home to their Father. That’s the good news: you can come back home. At any time, you can decide to return to the blessing and fellowship with your Heavenly Father.
76Sometimes church members who have been around for a long time get jealous when a church starts paying attention to new people. That’s the “older brother” syndrome. You can recognize an older brother Christian because they are quick to grumble and complain. You want to say to them, “Come on in and join the party!” But they’d rather be miserable and stand on the outside with their arms crossed, a sour expression on their face.
77The main reason God gives us worldly wealth is to test us. He wants to see how well we manage that kind of wealth. Jesus speaks of another kind of wealth. He calls it “true riches.” If you are trustworthy with a little, God knows you can be trusted with a lot. If you prove to be trustworthy with worldly wealth, God can trust you with true riches. True riches have nothing to do with money.
78Life is tough by itself, and sometimes people wish they could erase their memories like they erase a video tape. That’s why so many people commit suicide: they want to erase the memories. There is no Alzheimer’s in hell. Everyone will have a crystal-clear memory. Hell will be a place of eternal remembrance and regret.
79The Bible teaches many religious people will be surprised on Judgment Day. These are people who go to church, give their money, and speak the right religious jargon. If you stood before Jesus Christ right now, could He say, “I know you?” Do you have a personal relationship with Him, or do you just have an occasional habit of being religious?
81Too many people today are living in denial. They don’t want to admit their need because they look around and they can usually find someone worse than themselves. Because we live in a spiritual leper colony called America, there are plenty of chances to think, “I’m not so bad. I’ve never robbed a bank, I’ve never murdered anyone. I’m not a drug pusher or a child molester. In fact, I’m better than many of those hypocrites who go to church!”
82The Bible says nobody knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return. You can’t know the exact date, but it’s possible to discern the season, the general time. Jesus predicted when world conditions match those during the time of Noah and Lot; we should start paying attention, because God’s Judgment will happen soon. Two important conditions existed during the days of Noah and Lot: Extreme immorality and wickedness.
83I’ve known people who have quit praying because they didn’t seem to get an answer. If I walk into a room and flip the light switch, I expect the light to come on. If it doesn’t, I don’t curse Thomas Edison and say electricity is a lie. I start looking for the problem. If it seems your prayers aren’t answered, don’t quit praying—start looking for the reason.
85The Rich Young Ruler is one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Jesus didn’t ask everyone He met to follow Him. He said that to the original twelve disciples–and He invited the Rich Young Ruler to follow Him. Who knows what might have been? What is the one thing in your life that may be preventing you from following Jesus?
86At the beginning of His ministry, large multitudes crowded around Jesus because they were amazed by His miracles and wisdom. After all, when you see that a man can feed five thousand people with five biscuits and two sardines, you follow Him because He’s your fast food source. When you learn He can heal any disease, you’ve got your own walking, talking HMO. But Jesus didn’t come to heal, teach, or to do miracles. He came to die.
87You may think that in the larger scheme of the entire universe you aren’t very important. In comparison to the enormous universe, our planet is just a small rock circling a minor star. And you are just one of 6 billion human beings sharing this rock. In spite of this, you are of such importance to God, that when you call out to Him, He pauses to help you!
88Zacchaeus had an itch in his heart all his wealth couldn’t scratch. He probably didn’t even know what he needed. He just knew he desperately needed something. When he heard Jesus was in town, he was hoping Jesus might have the solution to his problem. He didn’t know it, but he was looking for God.
89The body’s muscles will atrophy after a long period of disuse. It can also happen to your mind. It’s also a spiritual truth. If you don’t use God’s resources you may lose them. If you aren’t actively doing business for God, you may lose the ability or the desire to do business for God.
90In Jesus’ day, horses were the Ferraris—donkeys were the pickup trucks. If you think you’re emotionally and spiritually more like an old donkey than a graceful horse, congratulations! The Bible says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong-so that no one could boast before Him.” (I Corinthians 1:27)
91The Bible calls man’s wisdom the “wisdom of this world.” Some people have chosen to reject the Bible as an outdated book of fairy tales and myths. They have designated their source of authority to be what some other person has said or written, or in most cases, their source of authority is their own intelligence.
95God created mankind because He wanted to have some people with whom He could talk to and walk with. Since Adam and Even fell out of their relationship with God, He has been bringing men and women back into a right relationship with Him. He still wants to walk with you and talk with you on a daily basis. But some people are still hiding from God.
96Many of the ancient Greek philosophers taught that like a wheel, history repeats itself. Some said each cycle lasted 3,000 years. They really believed “What goes around comes around.” But the Bible doesn’t teach History is like a circle. The Bible teaches all of history is moving in a linear direction toward one final cataclysmic event.
97When you read the words of Jesus, you are going back to the future. He spoke of an event that hasn’t yet happened–His return to this world. Will you be ready? You can’t say it’s unexpected, because the signs are everywhere. Jesus warned the worst thing that could happen would be for the Day of His return to come on a person unexpectedly, like a trap.
101Nothing will make you more miserable than carrying about a bitter spirit of unforgiveness. Arthritis is pretty painful, but there’s something worse than arthritis—grudgitis. When you harbor unforgiveness it makes your food taste bad, it keeps you from sleeping well, and it will send you to an early grave.
102As a boy, when I read in the Bible that Pilate had Jesus “scourged” I didn’t understand that word. I remember asking my Pastor what that word meant. He could have replied it meant to “be beaten” and he would have been technically correct. Instead he gave me an answer I’ll never forget. He said, “David, that was when a cruel Roman soldier turned the bare back of Jesus into hamburger meat.”
104God’s judgement against sin is like a raging wildfire—nothing can stop it. The only way you and I can escape it is to stand where the fire of God’s judgement has already fallen. And the only safe place is to stand at the cross of Jesus, where God’s judgement against sin has already burned.
105One of the greatest proofs of the resurrection is the fact that nobody has ever produced the corpse of Jesus. The Romans couldn’t be convicted of murder in an American courtroom today because there is no corpse. Even if you’re a skeptic, you’ve got to answer the question: What happened to the body of Jesus?