Laurie leads Chicago Harvest Crusade

Greg Laurie led the Chicago Harvest Crusade in Allstate Arena on Sept. 24-26. According to Harvest.org, 47, 600 attended the three days of free-admission meetings. 105, 773 participated via webcast, and 4,758 professed decisions to follow Christ. Among musical guests were the David Crowder Band, the Katinas, Kirk Franklin, and Skillet.


John Lee, sophomore pastoral ministries major, attended the Friday opening session. He said, “The event brought out a sense of unity in local church outreach.” Before the event, monthly prayer meetings were held at area churches, who partnered with Harvest Ministries.

Lee recalled, “Seeing old and young, ritzy and poor, and all ethnic groups coming publicly to take a first step of faith was breathtaking.” He added, “As churches put heart and effort into connecting disciple-makers with each one, the seed of life could still be cultivated and harvested. It’s never a waste to go all out for the sake of the Gospel!”

Michelle Gesualdo, junior evangelism and discipleship major, attended one of the volunteer training sessions in late August and served as a follow-up decision worker during the altar call at the Saturday session. Laurie shared his testimony, interweaving a retelling of the prodigal son parable. Gesualdo commented, “There were a lot of appeals to emotion. He did talk about God’s love for us and sin, that we have violated God’s Law.”

She expressed concerns about aspects omitted from Laurie’s message, saying, “I’m confident he acted out of love for people and passion to see them come to Christ. But, our desperate state before a holy God was not clearly illustrated.” Gesualdo questioned, “How can we say the Gospel is being communicated accurately if essential elements like the gravity of sin, Hell, condemnation, and repentance are omitted?”

Lee stated, “I was reminded that these events are not pep rallies for Christians but a way for lost people to see God worshiped and love extended. If that doesn’t happen, we might as well call it off.”

Gesualdo urged, “We must make sure we don’t just talk about the benefits of salvation. Jesus always talked about the cost of discipleship. May we seek to love this generation enough to communicate Scriptural truth in a way they comprehend, ensuring the truth is never compromised.”

She reported, “The place was packed with teenagers. When I surveyed the audience my heart was broken. It was when I was a teenager that people first talked with me about Jesus Christ.” She prayed with one teenage girl, who responded to the altar call.

Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel called the Sunday session, “the most full night yet” with “standing room only.” It was titled an “Evening of Hope,” during which Stephen Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp performed and together with Laurie spoke of experiencing death in their families.

The deaths of Chapman’s young daughter Maria, Camp’s first wife, and Laurie’s adult son were remembered. These men testified to the eternal hope they have in Jesus. Laurie explained everyone will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. He concluded, “Help has a Name, and it’s Jesus Christ.”

Hundreds flooded the floor in response to an altar call given by Greg Laurie during the Sunday session of the Chicago Harvest Crusade at Allstate Arena on Sept. 26 (photo by Marcus A. Constantine).


Awake, O sleeper!

It was Dec. 15th of last year. I was resting on my top bunk in our Chicago dorm during the earliest hours of the morning. It was cold out there. Suddenly, I was jolted awake by a loud pounding at our door.


An officer entered the room and shouted instructions: “Wake up! Out of bed!” We drifted sleepily out of bed. My exhausted roommate could only mutter, “I need pants. I need pants,” over and over again. The officer demanded we quickly evacuate our room.

I fumbled tiredly through my drawer. “What do I need to bring?” my numb mind wondered to no avail. Thankfully, I thought to put on my glasses. But that’s all I grabbed. I left behind my keys and ID. All the while, the soft reassuring music of my “Bedtime” iTunes playlist sang on the computer. My roommate and I had slept through the fire alarm. Most of the building had already evacuated.

The campus security officer wanted to know our names. He reported us into his walkie-talkie: “Marcus Constantine and Jordan Gilbert found asleep in their beds while the fire alarm rang.” I wondered if our sleepiness made us indirectly guilty of insubordination. Thankfully, there were no lasting repercussions for our slumber.

The officer again goaded us out of our warm room. We took off barreling at top speed down fourteen flights of stairs. Suddenly, the oddity of the situation hit me. There I was donning a pair of black dress shoes below my orange pajama pants and my heavy winter jacket. My roommate modeled a pair of old sweatpants and flip-flops. We were thoroughly unprepared.

Just when we reached the main lobby, security gave the okay to return to our rooms. We joined a crowd of chilled, groggy men, who had been evacuated from their comfy beds. My roommate and I hauled our confused bodies back up the fourteen flights. I used the railings to pull myself up, as my legs were thoroughly disoriented and went on strike for the night.

In the physical, I climbed back under my covers and drifted back to sleep. In the spiritual, I’d received a taste of what it’s like to be caught sleeping when an urgent call is made. Hear Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The chapter urges hearers to imitate God, live as children of light, expose darkness, make the most of every opportunity, and submit out of reverence for Christ.

We must wake up from slumber, for the end of all things is near (1 Pet. 4:7). Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11-12). Jesus will return soon. Be ready, O unbeliever, and rise from the dead by surrendering your life to Jesus. Don’t be caught sleeping when the judgment bell tolls. Awaken, O believer!  The night is far spent; the day is at hand. 

Are you snoozing through life? Do you enjoy your pillow and your blankie too much to rise, shine and be a bold witness of the Gospel? Are you sluggish to open your mouth and share Jesus? Are you too sleepy to make Him known to a dying world? Are you so busy that you have no time for God’s Word? Are you too tired to awaken, to be watchful and vigilant for your Lord? Will you not wait one hour with the Lord Jesus in the garden as He prays? He’s interceding for you (Jn. 17; Heb. 7:25). How much in your life is truly for the cause of Christ? How much is for yourself? Are you coasting through this life? Are you asleep? Rise.

Let the children come to Jesus

Sixty-two college students, 48 inner-city Chicago kids and I went to camp in Michigan. At the Big Brother Big Sister program camp, the opportunities to share Jesus with kids are worth losing sleep and getting dirty for. At camp, the Lord Jesus taught me, by full immersion, more of what it looks like to parent.


At camp when 10-year-old Jumar had to sit out from game time, I opened a window to teach about God’s mercy. Sitting on the sidelines, I asked him, “Jumar, do you know what mercy means?” He shook his head no. “When we give our lives to Jesus, God doesn’t give us what we deserve. For breaking His Law, we deserve Hell. Instead, He gives us life with Jesus here on earth and forever—that’s mercy.” I let Jumar get back in the game five minutes early. With eyes aglow, Jumar said, “That’s mercy.”

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Peter 5:8, we’re not to remain spiritual babes but to become self-controlled and alert. Yet Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:1-5 to be like children in the simplicity and unwavering nature of our faith. When you explain the Gospel to a child, you’re privileged to boil it down to its most basic truth. Jumar left me reveling anew in the marvelous beauty of the Gospel of God’s mercy toward us. Let the children come to Jesus. Be their guide to Him.

As you’re learning to parent, remember kids don’t need the company of another goofball who’s just like them. They need the companionship of Jesus. Don’t descend all the way to a childish level. Call children up to a higher level. Teach, train, and equip them. Make the most of every opportunity with them. For instance, during the camp scavenger hunt, big and little siblings paired up and walked around the grounds, and I talked with Jumar about his relationship with Jesus, what he believes, and what he’s living for.

At camp, I didn’t bounce off the walls, but I did compliment the children, encouraged their strengths, caught them doing right, urged them to be polite, disciplined them when disobedient, and talked about Jesus constantly. When camp buses dropped us back at Moody, one of the younger boys, named Robert, called, “I want Marcus to walk me home. He’s fun!”

I thought, “No, pal, Marcus isn’t particularly fun. He’s tired, but he is learning to love you from the deepest part of his heart with love that he’s first received from his Savior.” In teaching me to practice unconditional love, Jesus was showing me the heart of parenting.

I’ve been reminded that if you enter a romantic relationship, you must be prepared to become married. Acknowledge also that marriage usually produces children. It’s the Lord’s design. If God’s will for you includes a family, you may be a parent sooner than you think. If His will for you includes no biological kids, you’re in the company of men like Paul and Jesus (1 Th. 2:7; Jn. 13:33). Raise and nurture spiritual children by parenting those younger in the faith as evidenced in 1 Timothy 1:2 and Titus 1:4. Let’s ready ourselves now by studying biblical parenting and sharing the Gospel with children.

Five reasons we’re committed to purity

We wait for acceptance letters, job postings, and a baby’s first word. I’ve been waiting and trusting Jesus for a life partner. It was when I learned to rest that He brought me my Eve (Gn. 2:21-22). 


As we prepare for marriage, she and I have established physical boundaries for our purity. We want to share five reasons that we’re committed to upholding these. No matter where you find yourself in this journey of life and love, we pray these underpinning principles will help you.

First, the marriage covenant is the divinely designed context for sexual intimacy. The Lord Jesus created sex to deeply unite husband and wife and to produce children (Jn. 1:3). Children are a reward from the LORD (Ps. 127:3). The lifelong commitment of marriage liberates a couple to be utterly intimate and to make babies. Wedding vows promise future offspring the protection of a father and mother. Jesus commands we wait. His way is the best way.

Second, we are here on this earth to minister the Gospel to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus left His followers with a clear commission to make Him known. His pure Gospel flows most freely from a clean vessel. We preach in the open air that Jesus considers lust adultery in the heart (Mt. 5:28). We share in witnessing conversations that we must repent and trust Christ. Hence, we must also live unadulterated lives of repentance.

Third, our lifestyle sets an example for believers (1 Tim. 4:12). Over the course of our life together, we will influence multitudes. Some look up to us. I’m the oldest sibling of four. My sisters and brother expect me to model Biblical dating for them. Others just notice in passing. We want our example of pure love to point onlookers to Jesus.

Fourth, we refuse to show disdain for God’s grace and mercy. When we least expected it, Jesus graciously bound our hearts together. He’s mercifully protected us thus far. He has poured boundless favor on us through our relationship. He’s revealed to me afresh the passion He has for His Bride—His sacrificial love for the Church. Refusing to wait for intimacy would spit in the face of what He is doing.

Fifth, we honor one another’s convictions. We prayed and fasted together. We drafted physical boundaries separately. When we met to share, whoever had the higher standard set the bar. Guarding each other’s hearts and consciences is an utmost priority. We must be unhindered as we run this race (Heb. 12:1).

Before you enlist to hold us accountable, allow me to issue a challenge. As you wait upon the LORD, consider your personal standards. Have you defined what you will and won’t do? Do you know what foundation your convictions rest upon? Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). If we’ve been freed from sin, we live in it no longer (Rom. 6). I pray our reasons will embolden you in your pursuit of purity. Holiness is His way. As we surrender to Jesus, His Spirit empowers us to walk as He did.

Head & Heart – Soulmates

“Would you quit your whimpering?!? I’m trying to think,” Mind growled with an intellectual indifference.

“I can’t help it. This is just so moving!” His companion, Heart, emotionally retorted, sniffling and wiping away tears.
 
I promise, my head and heart don’t have audible conversations within my soul; however, I’ve learned there must be peaceful balance between them. As a follower of Christ, I’m called to think and feel as the Lord Jesus does.
 
I remember learning in a worship music class in Bible college, about the balance between head and heart. Our music professor taught that the arts diverge into two branches: classic, which is orderly and logical, and romantic, which is free and more emotional. Head and heart have arm-wrestled throughout music history. Isn’t this the balance we seek in worship ministry today too?
 
In a preaching class, our professor taught that ministering the Word is both a science, involving mental discipline, and an art, requiring the Holy Spirit’s influence on the speaker’s heart. Head and heart must cooperate under the unction of the Holy Spirit to deliver an effective message.
 
John 1:12 speaks of both receiving Jesus and believing in His Name. The Lord, through John, explains there’s an experiential and an intellectual component to becoming born again as a child of God through Jesus Christ (Jn. 3). We believe the truth of the Gospel and turn from lawbreaking to follow Christ.
 
I was baptized as an infant and grew up in a church where I learned about the Bible. My head was full of knowledge, but I hadn’t encountered the Risen Christ. My heart hadn’t yet been pricked with a godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). When I heard the Gospel call to repent and be saved, the Holy Spirit brought conviction of sin and my need for Jesus. I received and believed.
 
I heard Apologist Josh McDowell explain on the radio once that it was not just intellectual doubt that kept him from faith. Deep emotional wounds from his earthly father hindered his heart from believing in the Heavenly Father. He was convinced an Almighty Father would only cause him more pain. The Holy Spirit used both the love and the intellectual evidence of those who witnessed to McDowell to draw him to Jesus.
 
Everything done well in this life must involve a redeemed head and heart. When we act only from the head, we cause pain. When we’re simply moved by the heart, we cause trouble.
Everything done well in this life must involve a redeemed head and heart. When we act only from the head, we cause pain. When we’re simply moved by the heart, we cause trouble. The unregenerate “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” and the mind must be renewed (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 12:2).
 
Neither emotion nor reason is inherently evil. They are gifts of God, evidence that people are handcrafted in His Image. There’s an element of reason and emotion required for every wise decision, drawing from Scriptural principles and listening for the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice.
 
This balance between head and heart isn’t something I usually dwell on or am overly introspective about. Instead, we listen to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to convict us of any unconfessed sin. When we act unwisely or uncaringly, He graciously convicts. He wants us to be free (2 Cor. 3:17). When He puts His gentle finger on a specific sin, we turn from the sin toward Jesus and move forward in the freedom of His Spirit.
 
Will Head and Heart ever get along? Through the cleansing Blood of Jesus, they sure can. Let’s eagerly desire both Christ-like thinking and feeling. The head and the heart are, after all, soulmates.

What does this balancing act between intellect and emotion look like in your life and work?

Did God really say…?

“Did God really say…?” hissed the slimy serpent with fork tongue tickling the ears of the unsuspecting beauty. Tantalized, Eve smiled and was deceived. Adam stood nearby, watching wide-eyed. Knowing the consequences, he willfully believed the lie and ate the forbidden fruit.


That snake is still whispering sugarcoated lies. Satan, the deceiver, loves to take a little bite of truth and coat it with venomous deception.

Eve should have responded, “No! I will not stand in judgment over God’s Word. You’re twisting and perverting what He said! His Word is my final authority.”

Instead Eve took the devil’s bait and deemed herself the authority to decide between God’s Word and the devil’s word. She was unconcerned with the specifics of God’s Word and their application to her practice. The serpent had gotten the general gist of what the LORD had spoken. Eve chose to believe an outside source above the direct revelation of God. She decided she knew better than the LORD.

Professing Christians fall into the same trap by claiming to love and honor the Bible and then disobeying it. When you allow the lens of your human experience to define your interpretation of His Word, you allow external sources to trump God’s utterances. 

This fleshes out all over Christian belief and practice. Concerning spiritual gifts, “normal” is what we experience in America and not what the Bible describes. Some explain away the Biblical doctrine of a literal, physical Hell, because it’s unpleasant to think and preach about. And the Biblical mandate to pursue holiness is forgotten by those, who claim, “Well, we’ll always fall into sin, right?” For the sake of the golden calf, pragmatism, many deny the authority of the Word. The question “Does it work?” is asked more often than “Does it please Jesus?”

I’ll zero in on a specific example. Learn the principle, and apply it to all areas of your life.

“Did God really say, ‘Share your faith with the woman sitting next to you’?” hissed the serpent to the Christian on the El train. After all, you haven’t established a relationship. She hasn’t observed your lifestyle. She might be offended.

True, the Bible urges believers to genuinely relate to others as human beings. People are treasures—created in the Image of God—not projects. In the context of a witnessing conversation, the Bible models asking questions and listening (Acts 8:30-35). Genuinely care. Don’t prepare your rebuttal while others speak. Listen.

Evangelism isn’t true to its definition unless it includes using words to directly share the good news of the Gospel. Evangel means, “good news.” Our excuse that we’re sharing through our lifestyle doesn’t hold a thimbleful of water. We’ve allowed a deception to climb into bed with us.

“You’ve got to wait at least two months before you share the Gospel,” hissed the serpent. That’s absurd! Christ is my life. I can’t go two minutes without mentioning the Name of Jesus!

Remember Paul? He became all things to all people that by all possible means he might save some (1 Cor. 9:22-23). It’s because of Paul’s active, verbal witness to the Gentiles that most of us non-Jews have access to the Gospel today. Paul preached in the open-air at the Areopagus meeting, he had Gospel conversations on public transport, he shared Jesus at family gatherings, he wrote and distributed Gospel literature.

Most people recognize genuine concern. Sometimes it’s surprising to receive it, but most often, people love to be loved. Showing concern for someone’s eternal salvation in a Gospel conversation is an expression of the most excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31; 13).

You’re not loving, if you let someone go to Hell unwarned. You don’t really have your eyes fixed on Jesus, if you don’t see people as valuable and in need of Christ. Charles Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.”

There’s a small nugget of truth in relational evangelism. But according to Mark Cahill, 88% of witnessing conversations in the New Testament were with strangers (www.markcahill.org). You may not know how to share your faith. If you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit in you will drive you to learn how. He’ll teach you about Jesus and guide you into all truth (Jn. 16:13-14).

Believe the truth of the Bible—God’s literal, inerrant, authoritative Word—above all methods, ideas, and doctrines of men or devils no matter how “pleasing to the eye and good for food” they may appear (Gen. 2:9).

(Visit www.WayoftheMaster.com — an evangelism ministry that the Lord Jesus has used to better equip me in Christ-like, Biblical witnessing.)

Be fully dependent

“Dependence is a dirty word.” That summarizes several comments posted on my Facebook status. My status read, “In life, you have two choices: either become independent or fully dependent on Jesus.”

The unbelieving world deems the college years a period when youth should become independent. As usual, the world is wrong.

I, a dependent college student, wager the college years are an opportunity to become utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus. Yes, students usually leave home and family; In Chicago, I’m 600 miles away from mine. Sure, they often become self supporting, more responsible and mature. Of course, battle plans and personal goals are refined. However, independence should never be the aim of a Jesus-follower. He calls His disciples to complete reliance on Him.

Christ-loving students should expect college to be a stretching, painful experience wherein the Lord of Glory trims the fat from their lives. I propose God does this on purpose. That way, absolute surrender to Jesus and connection with the Body of Christ arise as the only antidotes to our need.

Let’s euthanize the myth that students should church hop and sample as many local assemblies as possible. Plug in. Be dependent on Christ’s Body. Be faithful. Commit yourself to a local church family as soon as possible. You’ll be obedient to Jesus and set yourself up to experience the operation of spiritual gifts in the context He intended.

If I aim to become dependent on Christ, I must learn to redeem the time for “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Every second two people die, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Unless of course, I surrender to Jesus and in the power of His Spirit declare the Gospel in and out of season, making the most of every opportunity (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 4:2).

A dependent disciple of Christ is driven by the will of God and not the needs of man. One who attempts to meet everybody’s needs commits ministerial suicide. Those who depend on Jesus must be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s voice minute to minute and do what He says.

I am dependent on the only Source, who can always provide (Take that, the world, the flesh, and the Devil!). And I plan to keep growing in that dependence until the day I see Him, Face to face.