Monthly Archives: September 2017

The World’s Best Small Churches

This article comes from Christianity today. It reminds me of the church I pastor currently. We have never let our numbers dictate what God has called us to. I was re-reminded of our awesome church family by one of our members. So, if you are involved in a small church, don’t hesitate to do what God has called you to do, no matter your size.
The World’s Best Small Churches

What if every small church stopped worrying about getting bigger, and decided to be a great church starting right now?

No one will ever make a list of the best small churches in the world.

And they shouldn’t.

After all, a great urban small church looks very different from a great rural one. Same with a great Baptist and Methodist church. Or a great small church in Japan or Costa Rica.

Even if there was a way to figure that out and put it on a list, it would be a really bad idea. I can’t imagine all the arguments, ego and pettiness that such a list would provoke.

But what if there was such a list? And what if that list could somehow be an accurate one? In this make-believe scenario, could you imagine your church being on the list of the world’s greatest small churches?

If not, why not?

Your Church Has What It Takes

No, this is not going to be another “you need to try harder” blog posts. We’ve all read enough of those.

Rather, I want to take a moment to encourage you and your church to look around and see what you already have.

Jesus told us he would build his church and that the gates of hell would not overcome it. The New Testament writers assured us that the church would be empowered by the Holy Spirit, who would equip his church with all the gifts needed to do the job he called us to do.

There’s not a single Bible passage that excludes your small church from the promises, blessings and calling God gave every church.

If we do a thorough search of the New Testament, we’d find even more such promises and encouragements for both the universal and local church. But do you know what we won’t find? There’s not a single Bible passage that excludes your small church from the promises, blessings and calling God gave every church.

Go ahead, look for yourself. I’ll wait.

“I’ll use your church, but only after you break through the 200 barrier (or 100, or 50 or…).”

God never said that.

“I wish I could work through your congregation, but you don’t have enough money.”

Not that, either.

“If only you had a bigger building. A newer building. Any building.”

No. Negatory. And not even.

Stop Waiting And Start Doing

What if we decided that God’s promises and challenges applied to our church, too? Not in some idealistic future world where everything started turning our way, but right here and right now?

What if every small church decided not to worry about getting bigger, but decided they were going to be the best possible church for their members, their community and the glory of God at the size and situation they’re in right now?

What if, instead of just praying and waiting for revival or renewal, we started doing the stuff? Yes, keep praying. But there’s nothing that will increase the power and urgency of our prayers like stepping out of the boat.

There’s nothing that will increase the power and urgency of our prayers like stepping out of the boat.

That’s what happened in the small church I’m blessed to pastor. And I know it’s happened in a lot of other churches, too. For years we whined (okay, I whined) that we didn’t have enough money, people or commitment. For even more years we prayed that revival would come. None of that produced anything worth having.

Then we decided to act. We realized our tiny church building was never going to get bigger, so any ministry growth would need to happen outside its walls.

So we started going out. To our neighborhoods in friendship. To the community in service. To the world in missions. And we became what we were. A great church.

If there was a list of great small churches, we’d be on it. Not because we’re better than others, but because we’re doing what God is calling us to do and to be.

A Great Church Starts Now

A great small church (or a great church of any size) doesn’t wait for better days. It doesn’t hope for a turnaraound. It doesn’t whine that there isn’t enough money or commitment. It doesn’t get jealous of the big church down the street.

A great church doesn’t look at the one talent in our hands and bury it until some future better day. A great church starts investing it now.

A great church does what Moses did. We look at the stick in our hand, then we throw it to the ground as we move ahead in obedience to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

That’s what a great church looks like.

That’s what your church looks like to Jesus.

It needs to start looking that way to you.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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James – The Nuts and Bolts of Christian Living

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At City Church Del Rio, we have a simple mission strategy. We are to love God first and foremost, and after we have established that love for Him, we are to love people. When we try to love people without the love of Jesus truly present in our lives, our love for others is limited to our understanding of love. As it is already, love is different for everyone, and it is expressed in so many different ways through humans. If we were to resemble the love God has for us, then we are able to view others through those lenses.

As I have begun to preach a sermon series through the book of James, I want to examine the passages how James must have felt growing up in the same house as Jesus. James was always in the presence of love. Without a total understanding that Jesus was the promised Messiah, James had a very difficult time believing that truth. He had such a difficult time that it wasn’t until Jesus’ resurrection bodily appearance that he was able to grasp the identity of his brother, Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 15:7, Jesus makes His appeal to His half-brother James. I think Jesus was saying to James, “hey brother its ok. I want you to know I love you and believe in me.” Jesus loved James.

So, as I put together these sermons, I will add some of my notes here so that you too can go with City Church Del Rio through this amazing book. This will help you see first hand how to live the Christian life when it may appear as no one is. Jesus would say to you today as well, “its ok. I want you to know I love you.”

The Nuts and Bolts of Christian Living, James Series 

Sunday Sep 10, 2017, City Church Del Rio Character by Fire, James 1:1-18

  1. Character development begins with testing, verses 2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

  1. When we are tested in life, we must change our mindset from “this is going to be bad for me” to “this will develop my character.” The mind God has given us is underused. So many times, we may not realize the gift He has given us in the power of our minds. It takes a disconnect of the current wiring schematics in your brain to a new connection of wires in your brain. This is done over a process of time.
  2. So now when we read verse 2, and it says for to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials and temptations, we truly can.
  3. “This trial is going to develop my character.”
  4. Without these trials, our faith goes untested. Untested faith becomes a week faith.
  5. James can say this to us today because his faith was tested as well. He knew what it was to go through a time of unbelief. And that is really our dilemma today.
  6. A trial comes our way and we want to blame this person or that situation. Our faith crisis is really our unbelief that God could be allowing this opportunity for character development.
  7. Verse 3—James explains in detail the purpose in the testing of our faith. It produces, it gives way to, it changes us, and it gives us the assurance of perseverance.
  8. Perseverance is a term that means the ability to do something, in this case, go through a trial or temptation, in spite of the degree of difficulty, the opposition, or even failure.
  9. Failing does not mean God has given up on you. Don’t be afraid to fail. When you fail, you are developing your character since failure should drive us to succeed in the long run.
  10. Ephesians 1:13-14—And you also were included in Christwhen you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
  11. In the perseverance of the saints, you are guaranteed to succeed.
  12. Paul said it best in Philippians 1:6—being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completionuntil the day of Christ Jesus.
  13. Verse 4, When you have persevered, then you are a mature Christian.
  14. We talk about mature Christians and this is what it means to be one. You have been tested and you have developed your Character. You can’t skip over that part.
  15. Studying and reading the Word of God are mandatory for instructions, but until those are put to the test, we can’t be a mature believer.
  16. Once we mature in our faith, completeness follows as well, it says in our text in verse 4.
  17. When we are complete, we don’t have a need for anything James says. We have our Bile, we have our church family, and we are ready for battle. We are ready for the test.

Illustration— “In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.

“But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter’s immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

“And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. ‘Perhaps most remarkable,’ writes Jaroff, ‘those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.’

“The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.

“So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits.”

  1. Character development takes time to process, verses 5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

  1. Have you ever asked God for wisdom? I mean really asked Him? What happened? Did He do it? If He didn’t, why not?
  2. When you ask God for something ask bold as wisdom, you are asking Him to deliver on this promise. When God doesn’t deliver, it isn’t because He doesn’t want to, it is because you don’t truly believe He can.
  3. Verse 5—James says ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us because of His generosity. He will even look past all of our faults it says. That my friends is a promise that I can get into.
  4. God, you will give me your wisdom and you will not count my issues against me.
  5. Verse 6—this is what many don’t really read into. James says when we ask we cannot doubt that God won’t answer.
  6. We have to believe that He will do it. Without our faith in God that He can do all things, we get off track on His agenda for our character development.
  7. James says we become like the sea tossed around from the wind. We are indecisive.
  8. There lies the biggest problem for people of faith. We can believe that the God of the universe can save us from our sins, yet when it comes to giving us wisdom we doubt He can, or we don’t believe He can.
  9. What has happened is that we have developed a mindset of disbelief. We have connected wires in our brain over time that need rerouting into a different connection of belief.

IllustrationYour Brain on Porn from Covenant Eyes

The process of sensitization and desensitization impacts the prefrontal cortex in the brain. As dopamine receptors degenerate in the brain, changes take place in the prefrontal lobes. This region of the brain is responsible for our willpower, regulating our behavior, and making decisions based on wisdom and morals.

Normally, when emotions, impulses, and urges surge from the midbrain, the prefrontal lobes are there to exercise “executive control” over them. But when this region is weakened by continual porn use, willpower is eroded and there is nothing to stop the sense of craving for pornography. As a result, the person experiences the urge, not just as a desire, but as an intense need. Neuroscientists call this problem hypofrontality. This person is no longer has mastery over his passions but is a slave to them.

  1. We must retrain our brains for believing God can do what He says He can do.
  2. If we don’t, James says in Verse 7, we should not expect God to do anything for us in the area of wisdom.
  3. Verse 8, says we are double-minded or in other words, our brains aren’t right with God.

 

  1. Character development depends on the Lord, verses 12-18

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

  1. Character by fire is the way God works in Christians. He cannot work through those unwilling to be molded, chiseled, or purified in difficult circumstances.
  2. Everywhere we read in Scripture, people have been put to the test, processed, and then depended on God for the results.
  3. Verse 12—James tells us that we are to persevere under trial, or in the ESV it says to be steadfast. We can do this only under the strength and admonition of the Holy Spirit. When we do we receive the crown of life.
  4. Verse 13-14—Temptation is not of God, so never say that. Satan is the tempter of all. He does not want you to trust in God, so he tells you to do it on your own.
  5. Verse 15—Is clear where sin will take you. Death. Not a physical death, but a spiritual death.
  6. Sin will take you father than you wanted to go, it will make you stay longer than you wanted to stay, and it will cost you more than you could ever want to pay.
  7. Verse 16-17—We are not to be deceived. God sends the best gifts, not temptation.
  8. God does not change and He is always the One whom we can depend on.
  9. It is such a comfort to know that. He is always available and can be counted on to develop our character.
  10. Verse 18—James gives us this theological system in 1 verse that is so profound.
  11. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
  12. God chose us as to be born again. He loves you so much that you are His desire. His Word proves it over and over again.
  13. James amazes me when he says that the early church were the firstfruits, meaning that you and I a direct impact of these Christians that went through so many trials and tribulations just knowing that we too could be born again!

Illustration—Our character development is dependent on the Lord. What does that mean and what does that look like. Good questions. Dependency on the Lord looks like this:

  • Pray.Prayer is, among other things, an acknowledgment of God’s power, promises, and provision. When you pray, you show our dependence on God. The biblical command is to “present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
  • Honor the Bible.The Word of God has information, instructions, examples, and promises for New Testament believers. Read from the Bible every day. Check everything against the truth of the Word (Acts 17:11). And when there is a conflict between what the Bible says and what anyone else says, go with the Bible. “I will listen to what God the LORD says” (Psalm 85:8).
  • Do right.At all times, in all situations, do what you know is right, and leave the results with God. Jocebed did right by saving her baby, Moses (Exodus 2:1–10). Daniel did right by defying the king and praying to the Lord (Daniel 6). David did right by standing up to Goliath (1 Samuel 17). In each case, their dependence on God alone was rewarded.
  • Be a living sacrifice.Romans 12:1 says to offer up your body as a “living sacrifice” to God. Acceptable sacrifices are purified from sin and dedicated to God. When you become a living sacrifice, you live for the Lord. You cease fighting for your own rights and give up trusting in your own strength. As you learn to become a living sacrifice for God, you will discover the truth that, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  • Abide In Christ.The Christian life is not a now-and-then rendezvous with God. It is making God your dwelling place, living with Him. Jesus put it this way: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). Depend on Christ as a fruit-laden branch depends on the grapevine. The branch attached to the vine is fulfilling its purpose.
  • Refuse to worry.God cares for His children, even more than the grass that He clothes with flowers and the birds that He daily feeds. Yes, you have needs, but “your heavenly Father knows” (Matthew 6:32). Learn to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Keeping some of the anxiety on yourself is to doubt God’s care.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Hurricane Harvey and Houston

Dear friends and Family,

Words are not enough to tell you all that I experienced in Houston this week.

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I left on Sunday afternoon to go and be a part of the relief effort going on in Houston. As I arrived, I asked God to show me how I could be of the greatness usefulness for the 3 days I would be there. There is so much to do. 21199667_1394228017313622_8214175521629423820_o.jpg

My giftedness is connecting people to the need. I want to say thank you to everyone who supported to this effort by donating financial resources through our website, uniquestudent.org/donate21316427_1395892967147127_3417518451534485453_o.jpg21273009_1395892960480461_368749748871360390_o.jpg You can still do so, since this will be an ongoing ministry for the coming months. FEMA and insurance companies have so much red-tape to go through that the waiting can be overwhelming. over 75% of the affected families did not have flood insurance so no one really knows what kind of $ will be coming in. It isn’t that they didn’t want it, they can’t get it. 21246465_1393489857387438_4784029279386819131_o.jpg

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I had the privilege to help gut a house in the flooded area. There are so many houses that have been ruined. It begins with 1 person helping 1 family, from there it grows to a group of people helping many families. So, don’t ever think you can’t make a difference because you can. You are part of the solution and the reason God has you where you are. 21199469_1395044380565319_3338887491092951189_o.jpg21200687_1393490070720750_5743570561137343735_o.jpg21199835_1395043953898695_8533168907478899999_o.jpg21199817_1394227663980324_2695653074806583903_o.jpg

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May the Lord be with you as you serve Him today. You matter to His work here on earth. This is our practice field until we get into the real game, which is an eternity with Him and with His people!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Latest News From the Ground in Houston

Good morning everyone,

I wanted to update you on the latest need in Houston from my very reliable sources on the ground doing actual distribution and shelter housing. Believe it not TOWELS are the real need currently in Houston for displaced families.

I want to challenge anyone who can’t go but wants to be directly involved in the relief effort. You will exactly where your contributions will go. I want to raise $1,000 in order to purchase 720 22×44 cotton towels that will arrive on Tuesday to be given away by Unique Student Ministries, where I preside as board chairman.

You can donate here: www.uniquestudent.org/donate

Mark on the memo “TOWELS” and thank you from the bottom go my heart. I am leaving to Houston on Sunday after I preach to be there and receive the towels myself!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry21106521_10155676604223622_3455100861066646339_n.jpg

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