Q: When you first started in ministry, did you have any idea how far God would expand your influence to reach the world? Why or why not?
A: I honestly never dreamed that I’d be a part of anything like this. I always had a dream that was a little bit bigger than where I was, always trying to grow. Even in the little church I started in Fort Wayne, I didn’t want it to level off and not be growing. But when I came here, I didn’t have any way of knowing what God was going to do. It’s always been one person at a time, one station at a time, one television program at a time. And little by little, God has honored that.
Q: As a young man, you grew up in a faith-filled family deeply committed to Christ. How did that impact your life?
A: I think just about everybody that comes up the way I did probably goes through the same stages. Part of the time you’re thinking, “I’ll never do this. I’ll be anything else, but I won’t be a pastor.” And then you get a different look at it… When I look back now, I realize that I know more intuitively from growing up in a ministry home than a lot of guys do when they graduate from seminary. They have to learn it from scratch. I lived it every day. We talked about it at every dinner, ministry was what we did and everybody talked about it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Q: Throughout your ministry, you’ve remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Describe how His guidance has defined your calling and shaped your destiny.
A: The Holy Spirit is not a mystery, but He is sometimes mysterious. The Holy Spirit works in ways that most people don’t understand. The Bible tells us that He’s been given to us as believers to guide us, and I know that He does. He has guided me. Sometimes, I’ve understood that He was doing it in the moment, and other times I’ve looked back and realized that’s what He did.
I’ve only had two really major decisions in 50 years of serving the Lord. The first one was to leave Haddon Heights Baptist Church in New Jersey where I was a Youth Pastor and go to Fort Wayne, Indiana and start a church. And the second was to leave Fort Wayne, Indiana and come to San Diego in 1981. God worked in my heart for both of those decisions in unique ways through His Spirit. I look back on it now and realize that if I had done this myself without any guidance, I probably would have made the wrong decision. In some cases, I didn’t do what I wanted to do, I did what I knew God wanted me to do. Coming to California was very much like that. I had started that church in Fort Wayne – I knew every brick in the building, every person on the pew. I loved the ministry there and the people there. I kicked and screamed all the way out here – and after I got here for a while! But, I realized that God was leading me here for a bigger purpose.
Q: You recently released your latest book, The Book of Signs: 31 Undeniable Prophecies of the Apocalypse. What can readers expect as they turn the pages?
A: Prophesy has always been an enigma in the church. I’ve actually been told by pastors that they won’t preach on prophesy because it’s not relevant. And many people, while they love prophesy, are confused by it. They don’t understand the terms or the subject matter. I’ve written many books on prophesy, and it was a thrill to go back and re-organize the material that we’ve worked on all these years and put it in a user-friendly format. If you’re interested in prophesy or you want to know the answer to a question, you can just look at the table of contents and find a list of the 31 most often asked things about prophesy and a chapter that answers that question in laymen’s terms. It’s not a book that was written just for seminarians, although I think they will enjoy it. It’s a book that was written to help lay people understand the basics of the prophetic word, which, by the way, is more than a fourth of the Bible.
Q: How can believers practically apply biblical prophecy and use it to encourage those living in fear and uncertainty?
A: I think God helps us with that a great deal in the way that the Bible is put together because you can go through the prophetic agenda and the main Scriptures on prophesy and you will almost inevitably find a practical admonition about how that affects us today. Let me give you an illustration from one of the great passages on Heaven, John 14:1-3. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” That’s the promise of Heaven. What’s the purpose of the promise of Heaven? “Let not your heart be troubled.” See that whole thing was given to give hope and peace to some people who didn’t understand that there was still a future for them. Go through all of the Scriptures that have to do with the second coming, vigilantly look in the context and you will find the practical thing that God means for us to take away from it.
Q: Are there specific global events you can point to that are now signaling the end of the age?
A: Well there’s one global event that I have lived to see! When I was eight years old the nation of Israel was formed and recognized. Most of the Bible prophesies about the future depend upon Israel being in her home. She’s there now. The clock has started to tick! Israel is home. Will she have another regathering? Yes. But the thing that really kicks off the end-time agenda is the presence of Israel in her home.
And then, of course, what’s going on with the European Union and the political disruption there right now. All of that has a place in the future as well. The Bible says there will be wars and rumors of wars, and gives a long list of things, and then it says, “but the end is not yet.” These are prefaces to what’s going to happen, and many of the things on that list in Matthew are already taking place. So we’re living in a moment where nothing has to happen before the rapture, and many of the signs of the Second Advent are starting to appear.
Q: You have never been afraid to address the issues facing our world today. What is your greatest prayer for the Church as we move closer to the return of Christ?
A: A lot of people think that there’s going to be a great spiritual revival before the return of Christ, but that isn’t true. Actually, there’s going to be a great spiritual revival after the return of Christ, during the tribulation when the 144,000 witnesses and the two witnesses have preached the Gospel to the whole world.
The Bible says that before the rapture, there will be a great falling away – an apostasy. I fear that if we’re not careful, we fall into that. I look at what’s happening in churches today and I see the marginalization of the Word of God, the preaching of positive mental attitudes instead of the preaching of Scripture, the user-friendly stuff we do to make church easy and not hard. Now, obviously church should be a place you want to go. But you don’t get to pick the agenda, the Bible is the agenda. So many people eliminate all of the hard subjects and try to keep the church alive by pumping them up and positively encouraging them. And we should be positive. But you can only appreciate the good if you understand the bad. You can only understand God’s promises if you see the alternatives. I fear that we’ve fallen into the spirit of the age where we think that we can eliminate everything that makes us uncomfortable and still get to the same place – and we can’t.
Q: How can believers live with bold faith in a culture of compromise?
A: We have to focus on the Scripture. We can’t allow the Word of God to become optional to us. It cannot just be what we hear on Sunday, we need to develop a strong study of the Scripture so that we are constantly being nurtured up in the Word of God. It’s a matter of personal discipline which, again, isn’t a popular word these days. There’s a book I read some years ago by R. C. Sproul in which he talked about the sensuous Christian. In this book, he talked about how so many Christians today only move in the area of their feelings and emotions. They think God is only there if they feel good. But you can’t read the Bible and come up with that! You have to understand that God is there all the time and that He may allow some difficult things in your life for your growth and His glory. You have to have a good foundation to be able to do that.
Q: What’s next for you? Can you share what the Lord’s placed on your heart concerning future projects and events in 2019?
A: I’ve been so burdened by what’s happened in the Right to Life movement lately. We’re now having people say that it’s ok to take the life of a child who’s actually born – not just late term abortions, but the child who is actually born. Over the years, I have spent some time during the year speaking at crisis pregnancy events. I haven’t done that so much in recent years, but I’m going to do some of those this year. It’s one way that I can feel like I can play a part in maybe stemming the tide of this horrendous thing that is happening. The disregard for human life is one of the awful sins of our nation. I hope I can have something to do with that.
Secondly, we’re publishing this book, The Signs of Life: Back to the Basics of Authentic Christianity. We’re developing networks and response mechanisms like our new app to make it possible for people to access our content and the teaching of the Word of God better than ever before. I hope this year will be the most user friendly year that our listeners and watchers have ever had. We work hard at that. We want this to be easy for them to acquire.
And then we’re also reaching. Reaching to touch the next generation that’s coming up so that it’s not just my generation, but the one coming after us!