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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Anticipating the Coming King!

The advent season has come and is culminating to the ultimate birthday celebration shortly on Christmas Day. As we have celebrated through, Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, it is now time for the real star of advent, Christ! We celebrate the birth of our Messiah and Savior, Jesus. Without His birth, there is no real redemption for mankind. When Jesus was born, He changed the entire human race. He did this by relating to humans, by becoming human, by being tempted to sin, by paying our penalty for those sins, by being put to death on a cross, and by finally conquering death through a physical resurrection. That is why this time of the year is so meaningful to the world.

As God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: We are in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, we the church, during Advent, look back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future. During this season there is much hope for many things and desires. We hope that our family will be together for Christmas, we hope that we won’t get into too much debt for the all amazing Christmas gifts we want to give. We hope that Jesus will truly be the Lord of Christmas. We hope for those things we cannot see, because that is real hope.

Malachi 3:1-5

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay! If you were around in church as child, that was one of the bible songs that would be sung a long way back. It is such a neat little way to have children express a simple fact. When Jesus rules your heart, you have joy, great joy. We should be cheerful and happy about it!

One day God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to be born as the Messiah for all people of all the earth for all time. He demonstrated His love for us even though we ourselves are a sinful people. He said I will love them anyway.

Romans 5:8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We are to celebrate God’s love in anticipation of the coming King. First by birth, but next time, by His return to culminate a Kingdom that has already been established. He will finish the work set before Him on that Day!

This is the Christmas season, and we are reminded year after year about the greatness of God through the birth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate every December 25 as a pillar of our faith. We give gifts to each otters in remembrance of the first gifts brought to the newborn King! Oh what a fantastic time of the year! Unto Us A Savior Is Born!

Stand & Read—John 1:1-5;14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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5 Reasons the Homogeneous Church is Declining and Dying

This blog post comes from Thom Rainer.

Maybe you belong to one of these churches?

When you are in your worship services next Sunday, look at the people around you.

Do they all look like you? Do they all come from the same economic backgrounds? Are they are about the same age?

If so, you are in a homogeneous church. As the old homogeneous unit principle implied, “We attract people who are like us.” That principle was a point of contention and debate for decades. Is it descriptive (a reality observed), or is it prescriptive (a strategy pursued)?

I contend that the healthy church in America will be neither. Indeed, I contend that the homogenous church is declining and dying.

Why? Here are five key reasons.

1 We live in a heterogeneous culture. I grew up in the racist world of the Deep South. We whites had our own churches, places of business, and country clubs. No one else was allowed. If you went to the doctor, there were separate waiting rooms for whites and African Americans (“Coloreds”). It was abysmal. It was sickening. I know. Racism is not gone. But I am grateful that my children and grandchildren don’t even know why a person of a different color should not be their friend or colleague. The culture has changed. But not all churches have changed. Those that haven’t will die.

2 Gen Z will not have a majority racial or ethnic group. Those born from 2001 to today are growing up in a generation that has no majority group. For the first time in American history, whites will be a minority with other minority groups. That is the real world. Our churches need to reflect that real world.

3 The Millennials tend to avoid homogeneous churches. This generation, born between 1980 and 2000, sees homogenous churches as aberrations. It does not reflect the reality of the world in which they live. They may visit a homogeneous church, but they likely will not return.

4 Cultural Christianity is dying. “Cultural Christians” is an oxymoron. We use that term to refer to unregenerate people who had some level of participation in a congregation because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do. It was good for business and politics. That world is almost gone. Cultural Christians could come to our segregated churches with no qualms, because they only attended to get business connections, to get votes, or just to be accepted as a member of good standing in the community. That world no longer exists.

5 Homogeneity is a form of segregation. It is not gospel-centric. This issue is the essence of the matter. When we begin to define our churches by skin color, socioeconomic class, or any other divider, we are going counter to the gospel.

Where should we begin to move our churches to reflect the centrality of the gospel? A first step is to know your community. Do the research to find out who is really in the community around your church.

Whatever path you take, get to know who is really in your community. That information will let you know if there is a divide between those who attend your church and those who live around you.

Homogeneous churches are dying. They do not reflect the gospel. It is my prayer that our churches will soon reflect this reality when we gather before the Lamb of God:

After this I looked and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10, CSB)

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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First Baptist Sutherland Springs

As I write this morning, I feel so helpless as a pastor in the light of another senseless act of violence at FBC Sutherland Springs. But that in itself is a worldly mindset. The truth is that I can do something. I can stand in the gap prayerfully and make sure that I keep my faith in tact. My strong faith can help those who truly feel helpless that were actually the ones going through this harmful tragedy. I will pray and ask my Heavenly Father to give peace, comfort, understanding, wisdom, faith, love, hope, truth, and guidance to the families left behind.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy needs us to be the arms that will hold him up in the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years. He is not immune to the loss of life, since his young 14 year old daughter was one of those loses. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 12:26 –  26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We suffer with FBC Sutherland Springs and Pastor Frank Pomeroy.

I don’t know about you, but me as a pastor must take action and begin implementing a plan to make our churches safer. Some families are thinking right now that they aren’t going back to church in light of this tragedy. No where is safe. So, what can we do? We can gather volunteers to head a security team. We can encourage those that are law enforcement in our midst to be our eyes and ears. We, of course can pray for God mighty hand of protection over our places of worship. To sit by in neutral isn’t a viable plan.

Please unite with me and so that we can work together to create a plan to strengthen our church families. Even when we are in the right place at the right time, evil can still enter our midst. God has overcome the evil one, and He will have His way in the final battle of good and evil. You see 2,000 years ago, God allowed His Son Jesus to endure the most horrific death at the hands of the enemy so that you and I could live in an eternal Kingdom with Him. Jesus is watching and He has empathy for FBC Sutherland Springs. He loves His church and He gave His life for the church.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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500 Years of Reformation

Today’s post comes from Dr. Jim Denison’s Forum:

Nine hundred million Protestants the world over are remembering an event that was far more obscure at the time but soon changed the world.

On October 31, 1517, an unknown monk in a small village nailed a document to the door of the town church. I’ve seen stories on Martin Luther, the Catholic Church, and the Protestant Reformation. But I haven’t seen much coverage of the document that made history.

Luther’s Ninety-five Theses are a set of theological statements regarding the church of his day. Their central concern remains an issue of enormous significance to our culture and our souls today.

The promise of religion

The subject Luther wanted to address was the selling of “indulgences.” Church historian Michael Whiting explains:

“Indulgences had been available in the church since the Middle Ages. In exchange for the giving of alms towards a religious cause, penitent sinners could be remitted part or all of the acts of penance, or temporal discipline, required for their sins. . . . Now, following a papal bull promulgated in 1476, indulgences could even be purchased on behalf of loved ones suffering in purgatory.”

The slogan of the day was, “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

Luther became convinced that indulgences could not save a person’s soul. To the contrary, he noted, “Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences” (Thesis #43). He added: “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath” (Thesis #45).

Luther meant to begin a discussion within the church. However, ecclesiastical authorities eventually condemned him as a heretic. His supporters formed a protest movement calling for reform, leading to the Protestant Reformation.

Here’s the part of his Reformation I would like to explore with you on this significant day: the difference between religion and relationship.

Indulgences can be an expression of transactional religion: if we do our part, God will do his part. Such religion is endemic to Western culture, with roots in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Our ancestors built temples to various deities and promised that sacrifices to these gods would ensure their response and blessing. If you’re going to war, you sacrifice to Mars. If you’re going to sea, you sacrifice to Neptune. If you need wisdom, you sacrifice to Athena.

The same religious spirit is popular today.

It’s not hard to find preachers promising that financial contributions to their ministries will ensure God’s monetary blessings in your life. People go to church on Sunday so God will bless them on Monday. We read the Bible and pray so that God will guide and help us.

The promise of religion is that if we do what it wants us to do, God will do what we want him to do.

The peril of religion

What’s wrong with religion?

Fil Anderson is a longtime Young Life leader, speaker, and counselor. In Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God, he defines religion as “a human activity devoted to the impossible task of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself.”

Fil knows his subject matter. His insightful book describes his personal journey from a legalistic religion about God to a life-giving relationship with Jesus. His experience has been shared by many of us:

“The pathology of my religion erupted in insidious fashion: believing and doing the right things became a substitute for living in right relationship with God. As a result, I got lost in the details and simultaneously lost my heart. I spent most of my time learning what I couldn’t do instead of celebrating and enjoying what I could do because of my relationship with Jesus.”

Fil quotes pastor Doug Banister: Religion is “what is left after a true love for God has drained away. Religion is a shell that is left after the real thing has disappeared.”

Speaking to the transactional religion of Hosea’s day, the Lord warned: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Our Father wants our love before he wants our service (Matthew 22:37). He longs for a transformational relationship with his children, one founded on worship and grace rather than works and grades.

Whenever people confuse religion with relationship, the Reformation is still relevant.

Just as Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of his church, so Jesus stands at the door of his church today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

When last did you open your door to Jesus?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Wise in the Lord’s Eyes, James 3:13-18

If you missed Sunday’s Sermon, here are the notes for you to follow along. May the Lord use His servant to glorify His name!

Introduction—I wish we were all wise in the Lord’s wisdom. Really, I do. I know we can, but it really does take hard work. The saying “the things worth having, take hard word” is true in this instance. It would be really nice if we could receive the wise guidance of Jesus without any real effort. Somehow when we pray, all of God’s wisdom would just enter our minds and we would clearly understand all things. Can God do that?

God can do anything, including creating a way in which we can understand as we pray. He has instilled inside of all people who has confessed Him as their own personal Lord, by way of invitation, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t just your conscience. If we rely on our consciences to guide us, we won’t go very far. You see, when our conscience allows us to distinguish right from wrong, we don’t have an incentive to actually follow through with selecting the right thing. It used to be enough to do right in order to honor yourself, your community, your family, etc. Today those don’t mean the same anymore. Individualism is the new way of thinking. It is my life therefore, I can do as I please. Even that motto used to contain the incentive just as long as I don’t harm anyone else, but that doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. No, we can be who we want and do what we want, in spite of our consciences telling us any different. That is precisely why we can’t rely on our consciences solely.

Today, I want us to travel into the world of being wise in the Lord’s eyes. Godliness flies in the opposite direction of worldliness. It swims in the opposite direction. It is a direction, when first observed, that seems to be going against everything most people understand, which it is.

Wise in the Lord’s eyes

Stand & Read—James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

These verses are a natural progression from the previous verses about taming the tongue. Our tongues are small yet pour out great boasts. Our tongues are like a fire that can start a whole forest burning, and our tongues can also be used to praise our Lord Jesus!

Wisdom by definition—Verse 17 – who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

  • If you were to define wise by the textbook definition, it would go like this: characterized by wisdom: marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment.
  • Sounds good. I like that definition. It is a good definition. We do have wise people in our world today that meet this definition.
  • But here is the problem that we should recognize right away.
  • The definition doesn’t give us a standard to compare what is considered wisdom. Everyone has their own standard therefore the variance of wisdom can vary from person to person.
  • James teaches us that if we are wise, our lives will show it. In other words, we can have wisdom, but not have the actions that actually show wisdom.
  • Here is an example: A person can be super intelligent, have a great understanding of many deep-thinking things, and yet it not show in a life lived out of that wisdom.
  • Without a standard, there isn’t a reason to follow through with all the wisdom a person has. The moral compass is subject to interpretation.

Application—Have you believed in wisdom that is subjective or standardized? By who’s standard?

Wise by the World’s Standards—verse 14-16 – But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

  • James now starts to explain worldly wisdom in verse 14.
  • Envy—when first glancing at this word, you, like me, automatically believe ourselves not to contain envious tendencies inside of us.
  • Even as we defend the truth of our Biblical heritage and standards, we too can be an envious torch carrier for God. We come with our foreknowledge that we are the only ones that have it right when it comes down to our God.
  • That is true, but we can have a prideful spirit by which we believe. That in and of itself contradicts the God’s wisdom.
  • We want others to be envious of what we have—the truth.
  • Our hearts are what God is in constant battle for. He wants the inside of you to as clean as the outside of you.
  • Galatians 5:19-2119 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.We must know that worldly standards cannot define godly standards.
  • We should want others to want to know the Jesus we proclaim by a willingness to acknowledge that freely. If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He isn’t Lord of any. It is by confession that Jesus becomes a reality to those of us who know Him.
  • Our love for Him is what draws people to Jesus.
  • Selfish Ambition—characterizedby or manifesting concern or care only for oneself
  • It is so difficult today not have selfish ambition. We have implanted well-meaning thoughts and phrases into the minds of our children from an early age.
  • You can be anything you set your mind to do. Great message from the outside, but when really dissected, who knows what subliminal message you send to them. “I can do whatever I want.” My mommy said so, or my daddy said so.
  • They should be told from an early age, “you can seek out the Lord and he will direct your path so that you can fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life.”
  • We can send self-seeking messages if we aren’t careful to speak godly wisdom to our families.
  • You have to stop worrying about others and focus on yourself. I am guilty of speaking these words.
  • What that message sends to our loved ones is this: take care of number one, even at the expense of others.
  • This too is not the Gospel message of peace and love for others.
  • Luke 6:3131 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
  • Verse 15—James goes way out there and gives this statement that worldly wisdom is unspiritual and also demonic.
  • Wow—tough words from James. I understand the part of the guidance not being spiritual, but demonic.
  • We don’t often think of it as demonic, do we?
  • 1 Corinthians 2:11-1311 For who knows a person’s thoughtsexcept their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
  • We are in a spiritual battle for our hearts and minds. We cannot fight the battle with earthly guidance no matter what.
  • Without a standard, the wisdom is limited, and that is where Satan can come in and allow us to be persuaded that we don’t need God’s wisdom. We can attain our wisdom by seeking what we believe to best for us.

Illustration—Poll after poll, sheds light on this paradox of increased religiosity and decreased morality. According to most polls, a great percent of the American people say they agree that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.” Thus, the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms—terms that make no demands on behavior. Today many embody this attitude of “I believe in God,” but “I can’t remember the last time I went to church. They still believe their faith has carried them a long way. Selfishness and prideful people receiving bad messages all their life results in an unspiritual, selfish generation.

Application—Have you been receiving the wrong kind of advice or wisdom? Today, ask God for guidance and understanding through His Word.

Wise by the Lord’s Standards—verses 17-18 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

  • James concludes chapter 3 with an awesome ending.
  • Verse 17—The list of what God wants for us is amazing. He wants the best for us.
    • Pure—the absence of any sinful motive or attitude. It is opposite of self seeking
    • Peaceful—It is not competitive or bitter
    • Considerate—meaning gentle and kind. Speaking truth in love
    • Submissive—a readiness to yield. If you can’t be submissive to God, you will have a very difficult time being submissive to others
    • Merciful & Good—compassionate and always ready to help others
    • Impartial—showing no favoritism
    • Sincere—this means “for real.” Being godly is the result.
  • Verse 18—Being a person of peace makes one yield a harvest of righteousness.
  • There is a climate that works best for certain crops. In our climate here, citrus thrives in this context. In New Mexico, green chilies thrive form some rain, but lots of sunshine to stress out the chilies in order to create heat.
  • In an environment of peace, God can use that to allow His Holy Spirit to work in ways we could never generate.
  • Peacemakers live in peace, they cultivate, peace, and they strive to create conditions for peace.

Application—Does God’s wisdom permeate your life? Today you can change. Today you can create that climate of peace in order to receive a harvest of righteousness.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7

Pastor Larry

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