By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Greg Laurie bore into hearts
Placeholder Image
It would have been real tough to miss the fact that Greg Laurie was in town. If the makeshift billboards, newspaper articles and bumper stickers didn't grab your attention, the message hanging from a vintage bi-plane flying over Ceres probably did.

Although well known in Christian circles, many were asking, "Greg who?" No doubt they know who he is now.

Laurie, the guy on the radio and occasional visitor to Larry King Live (when Larry wants to delve about spiritual matters), cut to the quick during the three-night Harvest Crusade staged at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock last weekend. The Southern California pastor bore straight into the hearts of all in attendance and addressed the fundamental needs within all of us.

Those needs include:

• The need to be loved;

• The need to matter and make our lives count for something;

• The desire to have friendship and peace with the God who created us.

I saw Laurie with mentor Chuck Smith at a Harvest crusade in 1993 at the Arco Arena. Three years prior he started the Harvest Crusades. He had more hair back then but the message was essentially the same this weekend.

My wife and I attended the first and last nights of the Turlock crusade. Laurie more than packed the house. It was overflow mode all three nights, illustrating that the Valley is still the Bible belt of California. Many Ceres, Keyes and Hughson residents were in attendance.

This was no stuffy Sunday-go-to-meeting event. It had all the markings of a Christian party, complete with loud music, snacks, jokes worth repeating, and too-many-to-count references to cultural icons like Madonna and Paris Hilton. The Katinas and Jeremy Camp took the stage Friday, P.O.D. and Lincoln Brewster blasted the speakers Saturday night and Crystal Lewis, MercyMe and the Katinas entertained on the last night.

An estimated 53,000 people attended the Turlock event. That's not counting the protesters outside who warned the crowd that Laurie was leading everyone to hell. (I'm still trying to figure out what planet they dropped in from.)

Laurie, who has spoken to millions in the style of Billy Graham, riveted the large Turlock crowd in a personal and folksy way. He made mention that he had family in the Turlock and Merced areas and that he frequented a taco truck in southwest Turlock and paid visits to Applebee's and Red Robbin. Then he poured on a message of logic that had to have caused everyone to think deeply about life and God. Especially the last night when he addressed the topic, "What happens when I die?"

Dying should especially be a topic we have interest in since we all will die. As he put it, the death statistics are one out of one.

Laurie used quotes from famous Hollywood celebrities and sports figures to illustrate that all of us ponder our fates when we die.

Before he became a Christian, Laurie used to think that death was the end, a kind of fade to black, a nothingness. After putting his faith in Jesus Christ, however, Laurie learned that Scriptures have a much different view on the subject of death. Simply put, death is not an end for anyone, that all will live on either in a good place (heaven) or a very bad place (hell). That it's our choice where we spend it. The up or down switch in the elevator of the afterlife depends on what you did with Jesus, Laurie notes.

The boiled down message of the Christian faith is that man was essentially made to have a close relationship with God, that man messed up everything by disobeying his Creator and that to "fix" the devastating affects of sin in the world, God had to become one of us, live among us, and teach us the right way to love each other. Then ultimately allow himself to be hung on a cross until death, and become resurrected so that He could cancel the power of sin in a person's life. The Christian message is that Christ offers the only redemption to mankind.

This message has made sense to millions of believers worldwide for the past 2,000 years.

Despite the fact that an unbelieving world celebrates Christmas and Easter along with the Christian faith, the message is offensive to a world that believes there are many paths to heaven. The Christian path is so much narrower, to the belief that the path to destruction is much broader. That's why so many other faiths are at odds with Christians. But Christians believe what they believe because the central figure in history, Jesus Christ, spoke it as spiritual truth.

Christ's message should be troubling enough to ponder long and hard. If Christians are right in believing what Jesus said, then those outside the faith will have no access to heaven. If Christians are wrong (and I don't believe we are), then they've all enjoyed a better way of living while here on Earth anyway.

If anything, Greg Laurie stirred 3,735 in the area to believe in the message and caused the rest of the Valley to ponder the implications of life with God, or without Him. It was an amazing event, one which people around here will be talking about for years and years.

God has a history of using the Modesto-Ceres area in his bigger picture. In 1948 Billy Graham conducted a Modesto area crusade at which time he adopted his Modesto Manifesto, basically a set of guidelines to avoid personal scandal. Graham stayed in Ceres where his assistant Cliff Barrows grew up and legend has it that Billy practiced his speaking inside the barn at Service and Faith Home roads.

Years ago there was a revival movement of the Church of Modesto (all churches coming together as one) and part of that was the "Heavens Gates, Hell's Flames" drama production that swept the county by storm.

Greg Laurie, no doubt, planted many seeds in Turlock that will change many families for the better. Don't be surprised if the aftermath of what occurred in Turlock affects a nation and even a world years from now.

How do you feel? Let him know at