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Greg Laurie - Dealing with Criticism

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The title of my message is Dealing With Criticism. Let's pray together. Father we ask for your blessing now as we open your word. Speak to us because you won't call us to serve you and to follow you, but when we do that, well we face opposition and we face criticism and many other things. So we want to know Lord how to deal with it. We want to know how to finish the work you've called us all to do. So speak to us from scripture we pray. In Jesus name we ask it, amen.

I heard about a monk that joined a monastery and he took a vow of silence. He was allowed two words every year. So the first year passed and he went into the abbot's office and was allowed two words. The abbot said, "What would you like to say"? And the monk turned to him and said, "Bed's hard". Another year passes, he said nothing to anyone and then he's allowed his two words. He goes and appears before the abbot again and the says, "All right, what are your two words". And the man says, "Food's cold". Another year passes by, he appears again before the abbot and the abbot says, "Okay you're allowed your two words, what are they"? And the man says, "I quit". The abbots said, "Well it's no wonder, all you've done since you've gotten here is complain"?

Now that's a joke, apparently not that funny of a joke. But that is true of some people. All they want to do is complain. They want to be critical. And some people think it's some kind of a spiritual gift to be critical of others and it isn't. You know and it's always easy to critique what someone else is doing but my question to a person like this would be what are you doing for heaven's sake? I mean instead of tearing someone else down, what are you doing? We'll we're in the book of Nehemiah. This is a series we're calling the rebuilt life. And we're going through it together not only on Sundays but also on our virtuous study, our valor study, our V2 study, and you can still jump into that and become a part of it. I hope you would 'cause I think those are great times to get together especially the small groups. But we're looking at this book of rebuilding the wall.

Nehemiah was called by God to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And when you get down to it, everyone is either building the wall or in a way we're tearing down the wall. So I close with a series of questions last time and here's what they were. Are you a participator or are you a spectator? Are you a servant or are you a slacker. Are you a worker or are you a shirker. Let me put it another way, are you a wall builder or are you a wall breaker? Are you a faith builder or are you a faith breaker? See it really comes down to one of the two. Some are doing the work of God, others are standing on the sidelines and critiquing those that are doing the work of God.

Let's kind of consider how Nehemiah got to where he was. He was the king's cup bearer, as you remember that meant that he would taste the food before the king would eat it. He would drink whatever the king would drink and this put him in close proximity to the king. So he was not only in a place of influence, he also was in a place of affluence and he had a significant role there and he was living literally in the lap of luxury. But he was a Jewish man, and the Jews had been allowed to return from Babylon to their homeland again and many had and they'd rebuilt the temple. But word came to Nehemiah that the walls are lying in rubble. They were charred, they were burned out. It was an embarrassment and Nehemiah was led by the Lord to go rebuild the walls again.

You know in a way we're all building something. Some of us are building a marriage. I just talked to a couple, Mary and Jake, who just come back from their honeymoon. So they're building their marriage. I met some people after the first service who had been married many, many years so they're continuing to build a marriage. But sometimes marriages break, sometimes families break, sometimes things that are built need to be rebuilt again. So we're building, we're trying to do what God wants us to do. We want strong marriages, we want strong families, we want a strong church, we want a strong spiritual life but I have to warn you, the moment you start building is the moment you will also start battling. What does that mean? That means that Satan opposes what God loves. If God loves it, Satan hates it. Satan disapproves of what God approves.

And so we need to press on because God is in the rebuilding business but Satan is in the tearing down business. And if you are doing the work of God you will face opposition. In fact, if you don't face opposition you might ask yourself the question, am I really doing the work of God. This story is told of the great evangelist, John Wesley, who was riding his horse. He would go from town to town and preach the gospel. So he's riding along and suddenly it occurs to him that it's been three whole days since he has been persecuted in any way. He thought it's been three days since anyone threw an egg at me or threw a brick at me. And he begin to wonder if something was wrong with him spiritually so he stopped his horse, he climbed off, he dropped down to his knees, and said, "Lord, have I backslidden? Have I done something to offend you That I've not been persecuted"?

Well there's some guy standing nearby, recognizes the preacher, has a particular disdain for Wesley, so this guy picks up a brick and throws it at the preacher. To illustrate I'm gonna throw this brick in a moment. So brace yourself for impact. I won't throw it. He throws the brick at the preacher, it barely misses Wesley's head and Wesley's all excited and said, "Thank you Lord, I know I still have your presence". I love that story. I don't think we should all be praying that people will throw bricks at us but I want you to know this. If you're doing God's work, the bricks are gonna start flying. So let's see what happened now in Nehemiah chapter four and I'm gonna read verse one to three.

By the way, I'm reading from the New Living translation. Sanballat was very angry when he learned we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews saying in front of his friends and the Samaritan army officers, "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they're doing? They think they can build the wall in a single day by offering just a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stone from a rubbish heap, and charred ones at that"? Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, "That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked over the top of it"! We'll stop there.

Here's point number one and I already said it in a way but let me say it more officially. When you build you will have to battle. When you build you will have to battle. Two names keep popping up in our narrative, Sanballat and Tobiah, these are the initial opponents of Nehemiah and God's people. They come from minor irritation to a full blown rage. My friend James Merritt says there's two kinds of of people in this world. Some people are born again and some people are born against. He goes some people are just contrary people. You know who they are immediately. They have that look on their face, nothing pleases them, nothing meets their standards, and they actually like to go and make trouble in the lives of other people.

Proverbs 4:16 says of these folks, "Evil people are restless, unless they're making trouble". "They can't even get a good's night sleep, unless they've made life miserable for somebody". Wow, some of you are married to these people aren't you? Some of you work with these people. Many of us go to church with these people and worse of all, some of you are these people. If you're one of these people raise your hand. No don't, you know here's the thing, here's the thing. I doubt that if one of these people that are hypercritical would even know that about themselves. These are the trash talkers and the wall breakers. So you're gonna face these people out there.

Number two, if you're doing God's work, you will be roundly criticized. If you're doing God's work, you'll be roundly criticized. Let me turn that around, if you're not roundly criticized are you actually doing the work of God? I've come to look at it as a form of confirmation that I'm on the right track. You know criticism can be demoralizing, it can be painful. I mean Nehemiah had just started building this wall and here comes these two. What do these poor feeble Jews think they're doing? By the way there's more than a hint of anti-Semitism in that statement, poor feeble Jews. And so Nehemiah was gonna press on and do what God had called him to do. It's not fun to be ridiculed is it? It's not enjoyable to be laughed at.

I mean look at the way Hollywood portrays Christians. Hollywood, that's so full of virtue right? Hollywood that's gonna set the moral standards for all of us to follow, don't get me started. But they love to portray us as Christians as fools and buffoons and racists and misogynists and you know fill in blank here. Where everything that is wrong with this world, and don't even start with the preachers, they're the worst of all. That's how Hollywood presents us and that is a form of persecution. And here's what Jesus said about that in Matthew five. Blessed are you when people rival you and persecute you and say all kinds of of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in Heaven for so persecuted the profits that were before you.

By the way in that statement, that's found in the Beatitudes by the way, Jesus used the word blessed twice as he talked about persecution. So the word blessed can also be translated happy. So in fact the Lord is saying happy, happy, are the persecuted. You're saying why, it's not such a happy thing when you are persecuted. Yeah but understand, it's a confirmation, you're a child of God. Just make sure you're persecuted for the right reason. Sometimes we're persecuted for being mean or harsh or some other thing. Make sure it's for righteousness sake. But critics, they'll always be there. Critics run in packs. Critics engage in group think. They feed off each other.

You've heard the expression birds of a feather flock together. So critical people find each other and they can just get together and be critical. The promise they don't stay friends for long because after a while they turn on each other too you see. They become cannibalistic. I hope you're not one of these people. Zig Ziglar said quote, "Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you," end quote. That's the way certain people are. They're resentful of your success. They don't want you to do well because if you do well, it may make them look bad. And it's interesting because in chapter two there were two critics, Sanballat and Tobiah. But here in chapter four we have a whole new slew of critics that have joined them. We have in verse seven Geshem the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites. So this whole crew was mocking and criticizing the Israelites as they rebuilt the wall. And the people were getting a little bit overwhelmed.

Now how do you deal with criticism? Well first of all, I always try to listen to it. I always feel like I can learn sometimes from my critics if they have my best interest in mind. I think one of the first things you want to identify when someone is critiquing you is are they trying to help me or are they trying to hurt me? See I have a group of people that I know and trust that I will talk to starting with critic numero uno. Catherine Laurie, my wife. Oh trust me I always know what she thinks right. And I'll ask her what do you think of this, what do you think of that? I have a wider group of friends and I'll run them by them, ideas by them, plans, visions, whatever. What do you think of this? And they will give me their honest opinion and I value their honest opinion. And I listen to what they have to say.

So that's one group of people. But then there are people, they don't want to help you, they just want to tear you down. You know these are the people that hide behind a pseudonym online and sent out their mischiefs from their laptops in their mother's basement. And don't even have the courage to say to your face what they say behind your back or even say online. I don't have a lot of respect for people like that. Or I like people that right anonymous letters. I'm a just tell you something, if you write me an anonymous letter, it's gonna go in the circular file. That's known as a trashcan. 'Cause if you don't have the courage to come up and talk to me, why would I want to read your anonymous letter? And you'll sign it concerned. Why don't you just sign it cowardly. Because here's what I find about people, they'll make a whole case over some thing that they dreamed up in their brain, maybe has a little truth in it and if they would have just talked to you, you could have said actually that's incorrect what you just said and this is not happening and the other thing is not happening. Oh, and it blows their who narrative, so they love their little fictional narrative that they want to create and attack you and that's just the kind of world we're living in right now.

My friend Alan Redpath, who a great British preacher who's gone on to Heaven. But I remember he used to say to us, if you want to be a preacher or a leader you need the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the height of a rhinoceros. And there's some truth to that. You have to toughen up a little bit. But this criticism was not from God at all. It was meant to destroy them. I came across an interesting quote from David Brinkley. Some of you may remember him from days gone by. He was a journalist on television. He made this statement quote, "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that have been thrown at him". I like that, he lays a firm foundation with the bricks that have been thrown at him. Take away truth, don't let the loudest voices in your life be your critics. Let the loudest voice in your life be God speaking to you. you say well Greg I don't like criticism, I don't want to hear criticism.

There's a way to live a criticism free life. There's a way where no one will ever critique you at all. You ready for it, you might want to write this down if you wanna never be criticized at all. Say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. There it is, some of you are going sounds good to me. Okay go for it. Doesn't sound good to me. If you're gonna say anything, if you're gonna do anything, then you will be critiqued for sure. So let's see how they handled that. Point number three, when you're under attack, take it to the Lord in prayer. When you're under attack, take it to the Lord in prayer. Nehemiah prayed about the criticism and he persisted in the rebuilding of the wall. What I love about Nehemiah is he never stopped building the wall, ever. Not even a coffee break, he just kept building and building.

Look at Nehemiah 4:4, then I prayed Hear us oh, our God, we're being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads and my they themselves become captives in a foreign land. Do not ignore their guilt, don't blot out their sins for they have provoked you to anger in front of the builders And at last the wall was completed to half it's height around the city for the people had worked with enthusiasm. So what do you do when you critique? What do you do when you're attacked? You take it to the Lord, take it to the Lord in prayer. When the Israelites are griping and complaining about Moses, what did he do? He called on the Lord and he prayed about it. When there was a threatening letter sent to Kind Hezekiah, what did he do? He laid it out on the ground and brought it before the Lord.

When John the Baptist was beheaded, what did his disciples do? They went and told Jesus. So when trouble comes your way, call out to God. Because 1 Peter 5:7 says casting all your care upon Him for he cares for you. Just say Lord I can't handle this, this is too much for me to carry. I just place it in your hands. There's two things you can always pass on to Jesus. Are you ready for this? Two things you can always pass on to Jesus. Criticism, listen and praise. Criticism and praise. Because one can deflate you, criticism. The other can inflate you, praise. And both are and not helpful for you spiritually. So someone attacks you, Lord I don't know what to do about that, I just present that to you. Someone praises you, Lord you know I'm not that person. I give that to you, because I want to continue to be used by you.

If we give the Lord credit for anything good, we can also give to him the control over the bad. But if you focus on your critics, you will not be doing what God has called you to do. If your eyes are on the opposition, then they're not on the Lord. Nehemiah could see that people were starting to be demoralized. He could see the fear on their face. You ever see someone when they're really afraid? He could see it, and he says to them in Nehemiah 4:14, I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said don't be afraid of the enemy. I underlined this phrase, remember the Lord. Underline that, remember the Lord, who's great and glorious and fight for your brothers, your sons, daughters, wives, and your homes. See he knew they needed to be encouraged and so he says, "Guys, remember the Lord".

You know remember has been a word that's used throughout history as sort of been a battle cry when young men and women are taken into the Israeli army. They go to Masada, which was originally built by King Herod as a sort of winter getaway. It was also a place were over a thousand Jews were killed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. And so it's something they use to inspire Israelis that as they're defending their country and they take them out to Masada and they say remember Masada. During the Mexican-American War the battle cry was remember the Alamo. During World War II the battle cry was remember Pearl Harbor. And we as believers need to remember the Lord. Remember, God's in control. What does it mean when we say remember the Lord. It means God has been faithful in your past and He will be faithful in your present and He'll be faithful also in your future. So remember Him. Keep your eyes fixed on him. That is why we're told in Hebrews 12 that we should be looking under Jesus the author and finisher of our fate.

My friend Max Lucado wrote these words and I quote, "When times get hard remember Jesus. When people don't listen remember Jesus. When tears come remember Jesus. When disappointment is your bed partner, remember Jesus. When fear pitches it's tent in your front yard, When death looms, when anger singes and when shame weighs heavily, remember Jesus". See that's why we need to pray. Because prayer changes my focus, bringing me to point number four. They were practical and prepared. We need to be practical and prepared. Yes Nehemiah was praying but he was also practical. Look at verse nine of chapter four. We prayed to our God and we guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. See Nehemiah among other things, we see how the practical and the spiritual go hand in hand. We learn in Nehemiah how to plan our work and then how to work our plan. It's really important because sometimes people, in the name of spirituality are not spiritual at all.

Let me illustrate. Let's say you don't have a job and I don't have a job and I'm just praying and the Lord will give me a job. Yeah, what'd you do yesterday? I just stayed at home and prayed, in my La-Z-Boy. In your La-Z-Boy, yeah. I slept a little too I have to admit but I prayed, I prayed. Okay, what you did the day before that? I laid in my La-Z-Boy and I prayed. Prayed for a job, Lord send a job. Yeah you know what, why don't you get off your big fat La-Z-Boy and fill out a resume and submit it to as many places as possible and pray over every one. See there's a place for the spiritual and there's a place for the practical and we miss that sometimes. There's a good illustration of David and Goliath. David was on an errand for his dad delivering food to his brothers, effectively a pizza delivery because he took bread and cheese to his brothers.

What is bread and cheese, I call that pizza okay. And so he's taking pizza to his bros, and he hears this massive hulk of a man nine feet six inches of solid muscle covered in body armor bellowing from the Valley of Elah for someone to come fight him. He's choosing an entire nation, his name's Goliath. He says, "Hey send your champion, let him fight me. If I win you guys serve us, if I lose we'll serve you". No one would go fight Goliath. David's looking at him thinking oh man, I've taken on beasts as big as him before, give me my sling and my rocks. And I love how he walked out there and he looked at Goliath and he said this, "The battle is the Lord's and He'll give you into my hand." That's good, very spiritual, the battle is the Lord's. And then he prayed for one hour, closed his eyes. No, no, he didn't, no he prayed. Yeah the battle's the Lord's and I'm gonna kill you. And so he put this stone in the sling and started swinging it around and he hit the giant in the forehead, Goliath collapses to the ground.

David runs over, pulls out Goliath's massive sword, cuts his head off, probably had to saw it off it was so big. I'm being honest okay, holds up the severed massive head of the giant Goliath and all the Philistines freak out. That was spiritual, see it's the both. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating decapitation or violence of any kind. I'm just simply saying, he prayed and he took action okay. And the people on the wall, they prayed but they were practical as well. Verse 13, we have armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall, in the exposed area. I stationed the people to stand guard by their families armed with swords and spears and bows. Wait, shouldn't they trust the Lord? Yeah trust the Lord, and protect yourself. You probably noticed here at Harvest we have security, even armed security.

Why do we do that, why don't you trust God? We do, we trust the Lord to bring us good people to help us in security to protect all of y'all. 'Cause we want you safe and we want your children safe. Some of the folks that serve here, mostly volunteers, some are former Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Marines, a number of them are recipients of the Purple Heart. By the way if I ever won a Purple Heart, I'd wear it for the rest of my life. I mean come on, Purple Heart, incredible. They're LA Sheriffs, police, SWAT, detectives, paramedics, we have lawyers. One guy's even a jeweler. I don't know how he got in there but he's one of our best guys okay. But here's my point, these are people that are doing this to serve you.

So if you see a security person say thank you for your ministry 'cause that's a ministry too. It's not just the preacher or the Sunday School teacher, it's a person working security, it's a person working in the parking lot, it's a person helping you find a seat. These are just folks like you that are volunteering their time and using their gifts for God. So these folks were stationed on the wall to protect everyone and that's a very important thing. Here's another example of the practical and the spiritual. I love this story 'cause it's the miracle working Elijah. I mean this guy had the gift to call fire down from Heaven. An excellent person to invite over to your barbecue. Imagine, you know I need a little more fire. Elijah's like no problem, there it is. That's good, well done good and faithful servant. Is that how you like it. So you missed the joke, that's was not funny. Well done, the Bible well done. Wasn't funny, nor was the opening joke funny. Let's just admit it, it wasn't funny.

But anyway, so here's Elijah, he has the big stand off with the prophets of Mount Carmel. And you've heard of the rumble in the jungle. You've heard of the thrilla in Manila. This was the battle of the God's and Elijah won and fire came from Heaven. And right after that, Queen Jezebela, wicked woman said that guy is a dead man walking. She effectively put a contract out on his life and Elijah ran for cover. He hid in a cave, he was depressed and despondent, in fact he even said to God, "I would just like to die right now". And an angel of the Lord appears to him. And what does the angel of the Lord do? The angel of the Lord says you need to take a nap. And then he wakes up and the angel of the Lord gives him food.

You know so here's my point, we make everything so spiritual, I'm feeling so depressed and down and spiritually. Hey maybe you just need a nap and a sandwich, I don't know. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Maybe you need like a day off. Maybe you need to take a vacation and recharge your batteries. Even Jesus took His disciples aside for a time so they could go back and do the work He had called them to do. But the spiritual and the practical go hand in hand. You know some people get so tied up in theological pretzels, over the teaching of free will and predestination. What does those terms mean? Well predestination means that God knows everything, God decides everything, and God chooses us before we choose Him, predestined. In fact Jesus even says you've not chosen me but I've chosen you, that you would go forth and bring forth much fruit. But then there's free will. All those verses in the Bible that appeal to our will.

John 3:16, whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Revelations 22, whosever will live and come and drink of the water of life freely. Christ Himself say, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest". So we get confused, well wait do we choose or does God predestined us. And the teaching of Calvinism, which is usually called the total depravity, that means that you're so depraved and dead in your sin, you don't even have the ability to choose at all. You have to be awaken by the spirit, if you've been chosen by God and you better just hope you have not been predestined to Hell. 'Cause they believe, some believe that you're predestined to Hell and others are predestined to Heaven. I reject that completely. God does not predestine anyone for hell. Because the Bible says that God does not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repent their sins.

Some will take it so far as to say, well I don't even want to preach the Gospel because I might give false assurance to the non elect, are you serious? You've been commanded by Jesus to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. It's all sorted out by God, I don't worry about it. I like the words of the evangelist Dale Moody who said Lord save the elect and then elect some more. C.H. Spurgeon was once asked if he could reconcile election and free will. He said, "I don't even try, I never reconcile friends". Look the truth of the matter is, is predestination and free will are in the Bible. Sometimes they're right next to each other. My job is to proclaim the Gospel. My job is to call people to Christ. Our job is to get the message out to as many people as possible. How do you know if you're chosen by God? Believe in Jesus Christ and you've just confirmed you've been chosen by God. But God gives you a choice in the matter.

So they took those practical steps and they held their course. Nehemiah sets up a system, there's a 24 hour guard in place and if anything happens, if there's any problem, they're to sound the trumpet. Nehemiah 4:18, blow a trumpet, and if you hear a trumpet, go fight. But be reminded our God will fight for us. My last point, we need to finish what God has called us to do. And we need to do it with passion and persistence. Let me say it again, we need to finish what God has called us to do, and we must do so with passion and persistence. Look at verse six, the wall was completed up to half it's height around the entire city for the people had worked with enthusiasm. Listen to this, the most dangerous part of a work is when it's half done. When it's half done, the halfway point. There's this thinking, oh man we worked so hard and we still have another half a wall to build. But then again look at how much you've accomplished.

So you just continue on and you do so with enthusiasm and you do so with passion. Listening to critics only wins if you quit. The devil's two favorite words are give up. So don't give up, keep building. Don't give up on your marriage, don't give up on your family, don't give up on your life and your spiritual growth. There's a verse I already quoted, I want to come back to it in closing. Verse 10 of Nehemiah 4, the people of Judah begin to complain, the workers are getting tired. There's so much rubble to be removed, we'll never be able to build the wall by ourselves. Have you ever thought that way? Oh man I'm trying to get my life sorted out but what a mess. And all the rubble, all the trash. Yeah sometimes you got to move out the old junk to make room for the new. You know I don't know why but I have some kind of weird fixation with Converse shoes. You know what I'm talking about, I love 'em, I wear 'em all the time. And my wife says you have too many pairs of Converse shoes. And she says if you get a new pair, you have to get rid of the old pair. But I don't want to get rid of the old pair, I like the old pair they're really worn in. No, if you get one new pair, you have to get rid of an old pair.

Well I don't get rid of any of them and I have a lot of them now. Even when they're falling apart, I just glue them back together and keep wearing them. But there's a principal there, you know you want the new and get rid of the old. So you know maybe you've been struggling in your life. You have a struggle with alcohol, it's your downfall. Every time, so you said Lord help me and you've been able to be free from it for a month or six months and it's great. Okay now take the practical steps. You have any booze left in your house? Hey man, pour it down the toilet. And then flush the toilet 'cause you might be tempted to, I don't know. And if you don't do it the dog's gonna drink it and you don't want a drunk dog right? You know how dogs love toilet water. So, no but that's a practical step isn't it.

Or maybe you have a problem with pornography. And you keep going back to your computer and looking at your porn, or you look at it on your phone and you say I just can't overcome it. Well you can get these little internet filters but maybe they don't always work as well. Here's a revolutionary thought, if it was necessary get rid of your stinking phone. You think you could exist without it;. By the way you can get phone that aren't smart phones. They actually just dial and make phone calls. You can't go online and do all that other stuff with them. Jesus said if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your arm offends you, take it off. That was not literal, obviously. He's saying whatever it takes to be free from that sin that might be dragging you down, take action. And if that meant literally removing an electronic device from your life, do it.

If you have old friends that are dragging you down, get some new friends to take their place. Stop hanging around the Godless people and start hanging around the godly people. See there's the practical and there's the spiritual. Take action. Clear out the rubble, clear it all out, and now rebuild the wall a brick at a time. Just start right where you are. I know it's overwhelming but I want you to consider an oak tree for a moment. And consider the fact that an oak tree comes from this, it's called an acorn, I'm holding an acorn. Here get this tight shot. I even named the acorn, it's called Randy Acorn. Got the joke, that was spontaneous by the way. Randy Alcorn, Randy Acorn, anyway. Okay this little acorn from planted in the ground, takes a while to break ground, but it can turn into an oak tree. And look at the size of that oak tree. I don't even know who these people are. An oak tree can live up to 400 years and the thing is, while these people, whoever they are, apparently they've just gotten married, but it's sort of a picture isn't it of life. Like here we are and we're planning that little seed. And we're hoping it will grow into something that will stand the test of time.

So here's the good news, next time you see an oak tree, remember it started with an acorn that held on. Look at that acorn and just be reminded what a nut can do. So there's oak for you, here have an acorn. Don't eat it it's old, we picked it up off the ground. You start where you are, but you need God's help. People call out to God, Lord help us. We need to call out God, only He can help you to do what He wants you to do. Let me close with this one last thought. Remember how they were to blow the trumpet, and if the trumpet blew, that meant they were all to rush to that spot 'cause there was a breach in the wall. The Bible tells us to listen for a trumpet too.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, it says the Lord himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive and remaining will be caught up together with them in the clouds and so shall we ever be with the Lord. The Lord is coming back again. Sometimes this is called the rapture. It comes from the root word harpazo, which is used many times in the New Testament. It means to be moved suddenly, to be moved quickly. I believe there is a generation that will not see death, but they will be caught up in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye and hurdled into God's presence. Reunited with loved ones who have died in faith and have gone before us. We could be that generation. Say Greg get over it. How long have you been preaching this over 40 years? Yes as a matter of fact I have. And you know what, I still believe it as much as I've always believed it.

And we're closer today to the coming of the Lord than every ever been in human history. And I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to see the signs of the times all around us. The terrorism, the instability, the violence, the trouble with nations, the fear in the air, all signs of the times. The Bible told us these things would happen. But the Bible also says Jesus speaking when you see these things begin to look up for your redemption is drawing near. So let me ask you a question, if that trumpet were to blast, would you go to Heaven? What if this were the day Christ would come back and call us to Heaven, would you be one of the ones who would be taken into His presence? Or would you be one of the ones who would be left on this earth, 'cause that will happen to many. Probably for most. But all who believe in Jesus will go to Heaven. And look I know I'm getting to Heaven. If I get there via rapture or death, one way or another, I'm getting there. I have God's word on it because Christ died for me on the cross and paid the price for all of my sins and I believe in Him. And you can too.

So we're gonna close now in prayer. And I'm gonna extend an invitation for some of you to believe in Jesus so you can know your sin is forgiven, so you can know that Christ is living in you, maybe you've tried to fix your life, you thought man I came here today to church to get some help. I figure I need a little religion, a little religion would do me some good. Friends you don't need a little religion, you need a lot of Jesus, that's the only answer. He'll come into your life and forgive you of ever sin you've ever committed and start changing you. But you must call out to Him. The people in our story had to pray and ask for God's help. And you must do the same. We're gonna pray in a moment and I want to extend an invitation to you to ask Christ to come into your life. If you've not done that yet, do it right now. Let's all bow our heads for our prayer if you would please.

Father, we've heard your word and we know one day that trumpet will sound and people will be called into your presence. And Lord I pray for any here listening, watching, wherever they are that if they do not know you yet, I pray that your Holy Spirit will convict and convince them of their need for you. And I pray that they will come to you now and believe.

While our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed and we're praying together, how many of you would say today Greg pray for me, I need Jesus. I want my sin forgiven. I want to know that I'll go to Heaven when I die. I want to be ready for His return. I need a fresh start in life. I need Christ in my life, pray for me. If that's your desire, if you want your sin forgiven, if you want to know that when you die, you will go to Heaven, if you want to be ready for the Lord's return, if you want Jesus to come into your life right now wherever you are, I want you to lift your hand up and I'm gonna pray for you. Lift your hand up high where I can see it and I'll pray for you, God bless you. Just lift your hand up wherever you are. You want Christ to come into your life, you want him to forgive you of your sins, God bless you and God bless you. Anybody else, raise your hand now, God bless you.

It might be a few more of you that want to ask for God's forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross for your sin and He shed His blood for every wrong you've done and if you'll turn from that sin and believe in Him He'll forgive you. But you must ask for His help. Just raise your hand up, let me pray for yo you if you want Jesus in your life. God bless all of you raising your hand. Some of you are watching this screen right now and I obviously can't see your hand but that doesn't really matter now does it? The Lord sees, would you raise your hand up wherever you are if you want Jesus in your life today.

All right now I'm gonna ask everyone of you that has raised your hand, I want you to stand to your feet and I want to lead you in a prayer. Stand up, everyone of you that raised your hand saying I need Jesus in my life. Stand up and we're gonna pray together. We're gonna settle this right here, right now and you will not regret this. Just stand up wherever you are, we're gonna pray together. Anybody else, stand now. By the way others are standing so you won't be alone. Just stand up. If you're watching the screen right now, stand up, wherever you are, stand up and make this commitment to Jesus Christ. I'm gonna led you in a simple prayer. Others are standing, God bless all of you standing.

I'll wait one more moment, God bless you. Maybe you need to make that recommitment to Christ. You've fallen away, you need to return to the Lord, you stand too, let me lead you in this prayer. I'll wait one more moment, anybody else? If you're gonna stand, stand right now please. God bless, all right God bless you, God bless you. God bless all of you standing. Now I'm gonna pray a prayer, and I'm gonna ask you to pray this prayer out loud right where you stand. Again as I pray this prayer, you guys pray this out loud, right where you are. And this is a prayer of asking Jesus to come into your life okay. So as I pray, pray this after me. Pray these words if you would.

Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner but I know you're the savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. Jesus come into my life and forgive me. I choose to follow you from this moment forward as my savior and as my Lord and as my God and as my friend. Thank you for accepting me in Jesus name I pray, amen.

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