No Other Gospel

Well, well, when it comes to Jesus as the only way, the world comes unglued. Everyone protests and says there couldn’t be just one way to God. What about those devout ________ over there? How can they be wrong, if they truly believe it? Facts are facts. The real fact of the matter is the resurrection of Jesus. No one can prove otherwise, though many have tried. No other religion, sect, cult, people group, or anything has a risen Savior. Therefore, we rest in the fact that there is No Other Gospel.

Beginning September the 9th, City Church Del Rio will embark on a 14 week journey through the book of Galatians. Here is the line-up. Looking for a way to connect to City Church Del Rio? Check us out online at www.citychurchdelrio.com or like our page on FaceBook.

September 9, 2018—The True Gospel, 1:1-10

September 16, 2018—The Supernatural Gospel, 1:11-24

September 23, 2018—The Gospel For All, 2:1-10

September 30, 2018—The No Fear Gospel, 2:11-21 (Lord’s Supper)

October 7, 2018—The Faith Gospel, 3:1-14

October 14, 2018—The Promised Gospel, 3:15-22

October 21, 2018—The Justified Gospel, 3:23-29

October 28, 2018—The Prosperous Gospel, 4:1-7

November 4, 2018—The Unveiled Gospel, 4:8-20

November 11, 2018—The New Covenant Gospel, 4:21-31

November 18, 2018—The Gospel of Freedom (Thanksgiving), 5:1-12

November 25, 2018—The Spirit-Led Gospel, 5:13-26

December 2, 2018—The Restoration Gospel, 6:1-10

December 9, 2018—The Grace Gospel, 6:11-18

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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9 Fruits of the Spirit-Cultivating the Character of Christ.

The Character of Christ

Last Week, we began a new sermon series out of text Galatians 5:22-23:But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Imagine if you will, looking for a model of what Jesus looks like in a person’s life. How does one determine that vision? These virtues are the outcome, and as the Scripture teaches, the fruits of what a spirit-filled life takes on. This is called application. The beautiful thing about these virtues are they can’t be produced apart from walking with Jesus. We can’t role-play out these virtues. The spirit of God behind these actions must be genuine or we will be found out for who we really are.

Love is the crucial fruit behind all of the rest. Without love, our patience will wear thin, our joy won’t really be solid, and our faithfulness will be shallow. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Love of God will always be the foundation of all others virtues in our life.

Will you begin to truly deepen your study of these 9 fruits? Begin with making sure first and foremost you love Jesus with all your heart. That is really hard especially when you really love your spouse, children, friends, etc. You can do that but not until God is first, then that Agape love flows out to those that are closest to us. They can see if your love is for real! Love God today!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Why Has It Become Harder To Stock the Church Planter Pipeline?

Good Read for all you church planters out there:
It’s become more difficult to recruit church planters today compared to the recent past |
Why Has It Become Harder To Stock the Church Planter Pipeline?

Image: Pexels

Today in ministry leadership, many have adopted this phrase used in business and organizational psychology: pipeline. The concept is simple.

A pipeline is an intentional process of discovering, developing, and deploying leaders within an organization or a movement.

The imagery is helpful because it invokes the idea of guiding people through a process (or pipeline) composed of different stages where the person is meant to experience growth and development. It’s systematic, but it doesn’t have to be mechanical or linear.

For many church planting networks, stocking the church planter pipeline has become increasingly more difficult in these last few years than it has been over the last few decades. Recently, a leader of one of the largest church planting networks addressed our Missiologists Council regarding the need to increase North America’s church planting capacity. He says, “We’re shaking every bush and turning over every rock to find the next church planter.”

Let me offer three observations of why I believe it’s become more difficult to recruit church planters today compared to the recent past.

1. The Wave of Gen-X “Free Agents” Is Almost Over

Church planting networks are seeing more and more that the days of “free-agent” church planters–someone who already has ministry experience and maturity–are almost behind us. The Baby Boomers who led church planting organizations did a fantastic job motivating Gen-X youth pastors and seminary grads into church planting.

Gen-X almost seemed designed for North American church planting because they were raised in the boom of the American evangelical youth culture.

They fueled the contemporary Christian music movement. They filled stadiums for Acquire the Fire gatherings. They benefited from the organizational leadership of Baby Boomer mentors, but were also edgy enough (not a reference to their goatees) to redefine the conversation from just worship gatherings to missional engagement.

You’ll find many of these former youth pastors-turned-church-planters now leading their own networks and movements. As much as they bucked up against the leadership of Baby Boomers, they benefited just as much.

But the youngest of Gen-X is now almost forty years old. That doesn’t mean you can’t still recruit a Gen-Xer into your church planting pipeline. It just means that the wave of Gen-Xers who were exposed to the American evangelical youth culture boom of the 1990s and 2000s is almost over.

2. Your Diversity Hasn’t Become Organic…and It Matters Now More than Before

Perhaps the biggest hindrance to an organization’s pipeline is when its leaders can’t demonstrate to a new generation of recruits how they’re contributing to a greater sense of reconciliation and leadership distribution within their organization and society. This goes beyond race and gender policies and diversity initiatives. It’s increasingly important for organizations to build for the future with a natural and almost organic diversity mindset.

Donald McGavran observed that most people are more likely to join a church where there are less cultural hurdles to overcome. We could extrapolate his principle and say that a potential church planter is likely to join a network where there are less cultural hurdles to overcome.

However, in North America, the major nuance is that people, in general, have become more accustomed to diversity.

To Millennials and Gen-Z, diversity only matters when it’s not there.

Which means the leader of today and tomorrow is going to be much more naturally attracted to a diverse organization with diverse leadership. Leadership diversity is a thing of the future.

Actually, it’s a thing of the present.

Much is being written on the benefits and challenges of heterogeneous leadership and how it affects the culture of an organization. Leadership diversity is difficult and much more of a challenge than homogenous leadership. However, in our day and time, it’s the Christian organization’s strongest apologetic for what they say they believe. It’s the gospel having an effect at the highest level of an organization.

And it might be the key to restocking the pipeline.

3. You’re Only Telling One Missional Story

Every church planting network has a similar mission, and that’s to see the Kingdom of God come and lost people saved through planting churches. But the motivational rhetoric used by church planting leaders to recruit potential planters to their mission usually includes a narrative that tells of the decline of churches and church attendance in North America. There are variations of that story, but all could be included in what I call the decline narrative of North American churches.

There are a large number of people in North America that resonate with the decline narrative. That’s because there’s still a great many North Americans who have a church background. They have a vague memory of a more Christian society and, therefore, some plausibility structure that is stirred by this appeal.

However, increasingly, there are more and more North Americans with whom the decline narrative will not motivate or inspire. Many of them are immigrants, perhaps even second and third generation.

In their case, they don’t have enough history to have nostalgic feelings for closed down church buildings or a time when prayer was allowed in school. And even others who do may struggle with seeing any golden age in North America as they recount the history of the Church’s often complicit attitude towards issues like slavery and inequality. (Whether or not that’s fair is beside the point.)

Organizations that are unable to tell richer missional narratives that appeal to a diverse missionary base in North America will find it increasingly difficult to recruit church planters for the future.

Of course, these are just some reasons for why it seems more difficult to stock the church planter pipeline. There are even more sociological, organizational, and even theological reasons for why recruiting is requiring more and more energy.

However, these three particular reasons certainly pose a challenge for organizations to not only tweak their systems and processes, but also to re-calibrate themselves around the values of the kingdom, the next generation, and the reality that has become North America today.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Stephen Hawking’s atheism: 3 responses

Great Read from Dr. Jim Denison:

Dr. Jim Denison | March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest physicists in history. One professor predicted that scientists “will still be talking about Hawking radiation,” his theory about black holes, a thousand years from now.

His spirit was buoyant as well; an actor who played him in a 2014 biopic called him “the funniest man I have ever met.” I was deeply impressed upon reading his bestseller, A Brief History of Time, and am not surprised that it has sold more than ten million copies.

After Hawking died this week, I read his autobiography, My Brief History. His story is both fascinating and tragic, with enormous implications for our faith and culture today.

He “wanted to fathom the depths of the universe”

The facts of Stephen Hawking’s life read like a novel. He was born on January 8, 1942, exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo. He did not learn to read until the age of eight. He was never ranked more than halfway up his academic class.

When Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at the age of twenty-one, doctors predicted that he would live only another two years. He survived his disease for fifty-five years. As his body deteriorated, eventually he used a single cheek muscle to control communication devices, writing only a few words a minute.

Nonetheless, he was able to produce groundbreaking scientific work. He was especially known for his explanation of the behavior of black holes. From the beginning of his academic career, Hawking “wanted to fathom the depths of the universe,” seeking to understand “where we came from and why we are here.”

Several times in his autobiography, he states that he had a “satisfying life.” He points to his successful career, the fact that he was married twice and had three “beautiful and accomplished children,” and his global travels and meetings with world leaders.

He concludes his book: “I’m happy if I have added something to our understanding of the universe.”

Three arguments for atheism

Some atheists reject God’s existence because they cannot reconcile an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God with evil and suffering in the universe. Tragedies such as yesterday’s bridge collapse in Floridacause skeptics such as Sam Harris to proclaim that there is no God.

Hawking’s atheism was of another kind.

He stated clearly: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”

It’s not that Hawking had no exposure to biblical truth. His father insisted that he study the Bible as a child for its literary value. In My Brief History, he tells of working with a research assistant who “was an evangelical Christian, and he did his best to convert me when he later came to live with us in Cambridge. He used to read me Bible stories at breakfast.” The physicist assured him that he “knew the Bible well” from earlier studies. Hawking even helped smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union at the request of a Baptist who was part of his travel group.

In A Brief History of Time, he referred to the “mind of God.” However, he meant only “the embodiment of the laws of nature.” In my research, I found at least three reasons why Hawking chose atheism.

First, he rejected the concept of a personal God with whom we can have a personal relationship: “When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.” But why? Why is the apparent insignificance of a human life relevant to the existence of a Creator and the possibility of relationship with him?

Second, he became convinced that “spontaneous creation” explains the existence of the universe, with no need to appeal to a Creator. But his theory requires the prior existence of gravity. As Oxford mathematician John Lennox notes, Hawking must then explain how gravity came to be. He must also explain how a law can create physical reality (for instance, Newton’s laws of motion do not cause a moving car to exist). And, even given Hawking’s parameters, could God not have designed a self-creating universe?

Third, he asserted: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

But computers and people are far more different than we are alike. This is what philosophers call a “category mistake,” like asking the color of seven or the weight of a circle. The fact that computers have no afterlife bears no relevance to an afterlife for humans.

Upon this mistaken logic, Hawking tragically risked his eternity.

“I am the bread of life”

Why does Stephen Hawking’s atheism matter today?

Imagine what his brilliant mind could have contributed to humankind if it had been empowered by the Spirit of God. Imagine his influence as an intellectual Christian. And imagine his eternal reward if he had turned from the creation to its Creator, trusting his soul to our Savior.

If Christians do not grieve the deaths of Stephen Hawking and other non-Christians, something is wrong. We are then implicit universalists, ignoring the fact that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Such a person is not in the “book of life” and will spend eternity separated from God in hell (Revelation 20:15).

If people could go to heaven without Jesus, why did Jesus die for us? Why did Paul have “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” for his fellow Jews who had rejected the gospel (Romans 9:2)?

Our Savior’s invitation is still open: “I am the bread of life; whoever come to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). But we must turn from ourselves to our Maker: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (v. 63).

Beware the “illusion of knowledge”

Ironically, Stephen Hawking was convinced that “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” However, his rejection of God was one such “illusion of knowledge.” Now, tragically, he knows better.

Are you praying for the non-Christians you know to know the Truth before it is too late?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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What “Living Biblically” says about religion and culture today

Great read by Dr. Jim Denison. Enjoy.

Television is producing more shows with religious themes, as the sitcom Living Biblically illustrates. The show depicts a lapsed Catholic who is married to an atheist and decides to live by the literal commands of Scripture with the help of a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest. I found it mildly humorous at times, cringeworthy at others.

Other religiously themed shows include a young man preparing for his bar mitzvah, a young genius who struggles with his mother’s Christianity, and a stand-up comic who wrestles with his faith.

What they seem to have in common is this: they treat Christianity as a religion more than a relationship.

“That’s easy-it’s grace”

In What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey describes a conference on comparative religions in which experts were discussing whether any specific belief was unique to Christianity.

The debate went on for some time, until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked. He was told that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among the world’s religions. Lewis responded: “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

When we focus on the grace-centered, intimate communion we can have with God Almighty, those who don’t understand may mock us for listening to our Father’s voice. Recall Joy Behar’s claim on The Viewthat Mike Pence, who claims to hear God’s voice, has a “mental illness.”

As Eric Metaxas notes, “If Mike Pence is crazy for believing he hears God’s voice, then so are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama-all of whom said they listened for the still, small voice of God.”

The good news is that some in Hollywood really understand the good news.

For instance, Letitia Wright, who plays Princess Shuri in Black Panthertold an interviewer that a few years ago, “I was pretty much obsessed with acting, and it became my world. It became what I used to be happy.” So she went on a hiatus from acting: “I said, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’ll try you,’ and I haven’t looked back since.”

Now, she says, “I don’t really consider myself religious. I view it more as a relationship. And if anyone thinks that’s weird, then okay.”

When we work, God works

How can you and I build a more transforming, empowering relationship with the Lord of the universe?

Our self-reliant culture would expect me to encourage more church attendance, Bible reading, time in prayer, and other spiritual activities as the answer to the question. The brilliant theologian Henri Nouwen agreed that such disciplines are vital: “Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating.”

Then comes the grace-centered surprise: “It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance.

“Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”

Said simply: When we work, God works. When we make time for God, we position ourselves to receive what his grace intends to provide. We cannot earn what he can only give. But we must be close enough to receive what he wants to bestow.

“O Lord, do it again!”

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His Father promised us, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3). Our Savior added: “Whoever is of God hears the words of God” (John 8:47).

But know this: after God speaks to us, he intends to speak through us.

Yesterday I reflected on Mark Batterson’s terrific new book, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. I’ll close today with my favorite story from the book:

“In 1940 Dr. J. Edwin Orr took a group of Wheaton College students to study abroad in England. One of their stops included the Epworth Rectory. The rectory now serves as a Methodist museum, but it was the home of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement.

“In one of the bedrooms, there are two impressions where it is believed that John Wesley regularly knelt in prayer. As the students were getting back on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed that one student was missing. Going back upstairs, Dr. Orr found a young Billy Graham kneeling in those kneeholes and praying, ‘O Lord, do it again!'”

Now it’s our turn.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Where do we go from here?

Do you ever wonder, where are you headed in this world? We are often numbed by the daily grind of routine schedules, and before we realize it, we are staring at retirement. Life is more than working until you retire. Life has many challenges so go ahead and figure out how to enjoy life as you love it out.

Take time to spell the roses, take time to enjoy a sunset or sunrise, take time to enjoy a good book, take time to relax on Sunday afternoon, take time to taste new foods, and take time to find out where you are headed.

God has an amazing world for you to live in. We are suppose to enjoy it. When Jesus was on this earth, He took time to get to know people by just being with them. Yes, He spoke and taught eternal principles, but Jesus relaxed too. He was sitting at his friends house Mary and Martha. He enjoyed spending time with friends.

Jesus knew where He was going, so He was enjoying life as He went. None of us are headed to a cross to be crucified for the weighting’s of the world’s sins, so we can cross that off our bucket list. Jesus took care of all of that stuff for us so we could know where we are going.

1 John 5:13 says this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.”

What a great verse to place assurance in our hearts about where we go from here.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Enter In-A Journey Through Joshua, new sermon series

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2018 is here, and it is time to start a new chapter. What better way then through the book of Joshua? Joshua is the successor to Moses. Big shoes to fill. Joshua led His people to the promised PromiseLand, a land described to be filled with milk and honey. Why this description? The reference to “milk” suggests that many livestock could find pasture there; the mention of “honey” suggests the vast farmland available—the bees had plenty of plants to draw nectar from. God’s description of the Promised Land as “a land flowing with milk and honey” is a beautifully graphic way of highlighting the agricultural richness of the land. God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt to a prosperous land of freedom and blessing and the knowledge of the Lord.

As we begin this new season at City Church Del Rio, we are “entering in” our promise land. We live among a people that desperately need to know that God is the One who will show them the way, the truth, and the Life.

JANUARY 7, 2018—OBEDIENCE IS NEVER EASY, JOSHUA 1

JANUARY 14, 2018—YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOUR FUTURE, JOSHUA 2

JANUARY 21, 2018—POSSESS WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO YOU, JOSHUA 3

JANUARY 28, 2018—CHOOSING THE RIGHT LEADERSHIP, JOSHUA 4

FEBRUARY 4, 2018—GOD HAS A MARK FOR YOU, JOSHUA 5:1-12

FEBRUARY 11, 2018—DOING THE UNIMAGINABLE, PART 1, JOSHUA 5:13-6:14

FEBRUARY 18, 2018—DOING THE UNIMAGINABLE, PART 2, JOSHUA 6:15-27

FEBRUARY 25, 2018—GOD DEMANDS LOYALTY-PART 1, JOSHUA 7:1-14

MARCH 4, 2018—GOD DEMANDS LOYALTY-PART 2, JOSHUA 7:15-26

MARCH 11, 2018—GOD WILL DESTROY ALL SIN, JOSHUA 8

MARCH 18, 2018—LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, JOSHUA 9

MARCH 25, 2018—TO SERVE AND PROTECT, JOSHUA 10:1-15

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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