Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

"Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded" (2 John 3-4).

"Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the brothers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth" (3 John 2-4).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bear much fruit

My Momma came bolting up the stairs nearly in tears. She was ecstatic. Something important had clearly transpired in her life. Why the excitement? Why the emotion? What was happening? She proceeded to explain in decibels that demonstrated the masterful design the LORD used in creating the human ear.

“It’s my fig tree!” she exclaimed. “It’s finally produced figs—three of them!”

How long and patiently she had waited for her fig tree to produce figs. My godfather Padrino Gino, a Sicilian immigrant, had given her this treasure two years before in the late summer. Growing figs is a time-honored, Italian tradition. Mamina planted it in an elephantine plastic pot and watered regularly. It displayed nothing but leaves for several years.

You started to wonder, “Is fig season ever coming?” She explained that she told the tree it would be cursed if it didn’t produce. A few short weeks later, her efforts paid off in the form of three plump, tasty figs.

In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus approaches a fig tree, looking for fruit. He is hungry but finds only leaves. He curses it, saying, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately it withers. Mark 11:13 adds the detail that it was not fig season.

According to Evangelist Ray Comfort, there are only two proper times to preach Word: in season and out of season. Many, who stall, delaying for the exact proper moment to share the Gospel, neglect the Scriptural command to witness and preach the Word in and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). There is no excuse for neglecting the ministry of the Gospel. We are called to be prepared. We must love, know, and study the Gospel so deeply that it flows from our lips with ease. Believers will continue to discover the glorious depths of the Gospel in Heaven as we pursue knowing Jesus for all eternity. On earth, we must rely on His Holy Spirit to be ever prepared to share His good news.

Jesus taught that true and false prophets are discerned by their fruit. Those without good fruit are cast into the fire of Hell. This fruit is more than good deeds. Jesus explained that unless our works flow from a genuine, personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus, they are worthless (Mt. 7:15-23; Lk. 6:43-45; 13:5-8). Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” and does good in His Name will be in Heaven. The true believer has surrendered his life to Jesus, and his life, transformed by the Holy Spirit, evidences it.

Paul urges professing believers to examine themselves to ensure they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). John the Beloved’s first letter was written as a test we can use. He penned, “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). James reminds us that a fig tree doesn’t produce olives, and a pure heart doesn’t praise and curse (3:9-13). The way we speak and live evidences our true heart condition.

Momma has placed her fig tree in the garage now to protect it from the coming frost. Last season, she covered it with a cardboard box in the garage away from the draft of the door. Once a month, she gives it a cup of water. This year, it’s blossomed so large that she may wrap it with a box and then cover it with a blanket. The leaves will all fall and only the stem will remain.

For those who live in falseness and pretending, the Bible gives a solemn warning. When their lives are called upon to produce figs seemingly out of season when they don’t expect it, their disobedience will be brought into the light, and they will be accountable for their neglect and ultimate fruitlessness. Be connected to the True Vine (Jn. 15:1-5). Bear much fruit.

Two of Momma's first figs (7-12-10)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Laurie leads Chicago Harvest Crusade

Greg Laurie led the Chicago Harvest Crusade in Allstate Arena on Sept. 24-26. According to, 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.