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The Pastor: An Endangered Specie

Today is September 11, 2019, just 18 years after the tragedy of the bombing of the world trade center. What an awakening moment in the life of our country. We will never forget and we will always remember the lives lost and the actions of our police, fire, military, chaplains, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and civilians, who gave all they had on that day that changed us.

I want to address the tragedy that is ongoing in the life of pastors. Pastors are a group of men and women who also have given their lives for cause of others. They work tireless hours, being available 24/7, and rarely have true time off or vacation time. In light of recent events of pastors falling into temptation, and now even taking their own life due to mental illness, I came across Thom Rainer’s daily post, entitled “How pastors discern their true friends.” We as pastors have to do a better job of taking time off and protecting it, spending more quality time with our families (this is a whole other subject in and in itself), and finding ways to engage with friends who will keep us in check.

As I am embarking upon a new position to become the Executive Director of the El Paso Baptist Association, I am challenged to be a friend to our pastors of the many Baptist Churches of El Paso. We need each other. We need to cooperate with each other. We need, we need, we need. We are afraid to admit that at times for fear of appearing weak. Pastors always want to make a good impression of being strong and having their lives all together. The Pastor is an endangered specie. Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers. More churches are pastorales than ever before. More pastors are now bi-vocational as well, since giving is at an all time low.

When you think about your pastor, please, please, please, pray for them. They are people too. They have needs too.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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New Church Location!

Pastor Larry preaching first sermon at new location

Well, God did it again. He decided that we had been at our old building long enough. We lasted a whole 18 months there. After outgrowing the facility rather quickly, God quickly opens the doors to a new place for us to worship. It has been amazing so far to say the least.

Young and old worshiping together to bring glory to His name! What a wonderful time of worship! It still awes me to think that this is real!

Congregation listening and seeking Jesus through His Word!

God is good! All the time!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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We Are Moving

Easter Sunday Service 9 am

We had a great Easter Sunday. 2 Services, 3 Baptisms, and egg hunt for the littles. I wasn’t sure that a 9 am service would be well attended when we started back in January, but God knew what He was doing as always. Our 9 am service is populating very well. Since the beginning of 2 services comes growing pains again.

Being at 80% capacity already on several Sundays, we have begun to pray about a 3rd service. But in steps God. We have been offered to move to a new location that is 2 times our current size! The church has been so generous to us and is offering much of the amenities to stay at the building including the chairs, which is usually a large cost to churches. We found out last week that everything is a go, so onward we go.

I always let my humanness get in the way at times like these. I was worried about how we would sell our current facilities. God came through with flying colors as usual. We found another church who had been looking for a church building for 2 years. They have already agreed to terms and we are in contract with the buyers of our church and in contract with the sellers of the new location to be!

I have been preaching through the book of Acts, and have noticed how powerful the work of the Holy Spirit was in the early church. When they prayed and relied on the Holy Spirit, God came though. Acts 4:31-After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

We are truly experiencing an earthquake moment of God. 4 churches are about to be changed by way of location. 2 churches are merging into 1 church, and the other 2 churches are moving into their new locations. This will all transpire June 2, as each church will begin a new chapter in there perspective churches.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Church Planting

“Follow Jesus on the journey he has planned for you, and invite your people along.”

“When God called me to plant a church, he intended for me to go on a journey with him. The beginning and end of this journey are not results, but the love of God in Christ. That is the promised land! Church planting is uncomfortable and dangerous work. When Jesus calls you to take it up, he intends to draw near in previously unknown ways. If you’re willing to respond in your soul to where God is calling you, you can take people with you.” 

I came across this statement while doing some online reading about church planting. After 3 1/2 years of church planting in Del Rio, I sensed this statement was written just for me. I have never been comfortable as a church planter, having served in traditional churches my entire time as a minister. For me, City Church Del Rio had to be very different than what I knew as church. I needed to experience a total reliance upon God like I never have before. I need others to come along and join me in this experience.

The reason I say that I have been uncomfortable is because church planting goes against my every being of the way I do things. Growing up in a very structured household, and then having served 7 plus year in the US Army, I always have know structure as a way of life. Don’t get me wrong, there is some sense of structure to church planting, it just isn’t as visible as what I would call normal structure. Church planting has allowed me to do things I would never do in a normal church structure. I am allowed to lead others to dream with me and even though it may really seem impossible, God allows me and those of my team to make sense of it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I plan to expand some more on my journey as a church planter in the upcoming days and weeks so that you may be able to catch a glimpse of the God I have so enjoyably been able to walk with.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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New Sermon Series

On Jan 27, 2019, I will begin to preach a 2 year journey through the book of Acts. This will be my longest book study to date. I am super excited about what the Lord will do through this journey. Acts is an amazing account of the early church and its foundations.

What we can glean is yet to be determined. As we have embarked upon a second worship service at City Church Del Rio, this Sermon Series is going to propel us into our next phase as a church. Moving past our smallness and into bigger things God has for us, including filling up 2 worship services. CCDR will look extremely different in 2019. New faces, new people coming to know Jesus as their own Lord, more baptisms, and much more.

Will you begin to pray for City Church Del Rio to make a big impact on the community? It really isn’t about our church, but it is about Jesus!

Here is the line up for 2019:

Jan 27, 2017—The Day of Promise, Acts 1:1-11

Feb 3, 2019—Choosing a Leader, Acts 1:12-26

Feb 10, 2019—The Day of Power, Acts  2:1-13

Feb 17, 2019—Peter’s Bold Stance, part 1, Acts 2:14-21

Feb 24, 2019—Peter’s Bold Stance, part 2, Acts 2:22-35

Mar 3, 2019—Peter’s Bold Stance, part 3, 2:36-47

Mar 10, 2019—Give Them Jesus, Acts 3:1-10

Mar 17, 2019—It is Time to Listen, Acts 3:11-26

Mar 24, 2019—Not Everyone Will Listen, Acts 4:1-12

Mar 31, 2019—Follow God, not Man, Acts 4:13-22

Apr 7, 2019—Pray in the Spirit, 4:23-31

Apr 14, 2019—It’s all God’s, Acts 4:32-37

Apr 21, 2019—Easter Sunday

Act 28, 2019—Think Before You Lie, Acts 5:1-11

May 5, 2019—The Church at Work, Acts 5:12-16

May 12, Mother’s Day

May 19, 2019—In Jesus Name, Acts 5:17-42

May 26, 2019—Leading the Church, Acts 6:1-7

Jun 2, 2019—Speak the Truth, Acts 6:8-15

Jun 9, 2019—Stephen’s Sets the Record Straight, part 1, Acts 7:1-16

Jun 16, 2019—Father’s Day

Jun 23, 2019—Stephen’s Sets the Record Straight, part 2, Acts 7:17-29

Jun 30, 2019—Stephen’s Sets the Record Straight, part 3, Acts 7:30-53

Jul 7, 2019—Jesus Takes a Stand, Acts 7:54-8:3

Jul 14, 2019—The Spread of the Gospel, Acts 8:4-25

Jul 21, 2019—Understanding The Gospel, Acts 8:26-40

Jul 28, 2019—Who is Saul? Acts 9:1-19

Aug 4, 2019—Total Transformation, Acts 9:20-31

Aug 11, 2019—Healing the Sick, Acts 9:32-43

Aug 18, 2019—Peter the Pillar, part 1, Acts 10:1-8

Aug 25, 2019—Peter the Pillar, part 2, Acts 10:9-33

Sep 1 2019—Peter the Pillar, part 3, Acts 10:34-48

Sep 8, 2019—Testifying, Acts 11:1-18

Sep 15, 2019—Multiplication by Persecution, Acts 11:19-30

Sep 22, 2019—The Persecution Continues, Acts 12:1-25

Sep 29, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 1, Acts 13:1-12

Oct 6, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 2, Acts 13:13-25

Oct 13, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 3, Acts 13:26-35

Oct 20, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 4, Acts 13:36-52

Oct 27, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 5, Acts 14:1-18

No 3, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 6, Acts 14:19-28

Nov 10, 2019—Paul’s First Mission Journey part 7, Acts 15:1-35

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Do You Really Love People?

There is no way that Christians can be salt and light apart from love. We are to obey the command to love God first and allow that same unconditional love to flow from our lives onto others. We have to love people in order for them to believe in the God we say we believe in. It is very crucial today.

We are not the Holy Spirit. We cannot be the Holy Spirt. We are to not supposed to pretend we are the Holy Spirit. Our commitment to Christ is one out of self-sacrifice allowing the Holy Spirit to be Himself through us. We aren’t the ones to fix it, He is the One to fix it!

Here is an article posted today by Jim Denison. Please read all the way through before you become the Holy Spirit!

Teacher fired for not using transgender student’s preferred pronoun

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Peter Vlaming teaches French at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia. He was fired by the school board last Thursday for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun. (The student was born as a biological female but wishes to use the pronouns “he” and “him.”)

The school’s administration claims that Vlaming was told multiple times to refer to the student using male pronouns. “By failing to follow the directive, he was therefore discriminating and creating a hostile environment,” the superintendent told the board.

The next day, students at the school coordinated a walkout in support of Vlaming. Several held signs that read “Men are men and women are women and that is a fact!” and “You can’t impose delusion on us.”

Vlaming told the school board that his Christian faith was the reason for his refusal. “We are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed on me,” he said. “Even higher than my family ranks my faith.” Asked whether the debate was worth losing his job over, he told reporters, “There are some hills that are worth dying on.”

God “made them male and female”

My purpose today is not to focus on the transgender issue itself. (For an in-depth discussion of this subject, please see my chapter on the transgender debate in my book, 7 Crucial Questions.) Nor do I want to limit our discussion to the West Point controversy.

Rather, I want to ask: Are there “hills that are worth dying on” for Christians today?

Imagine yourself in Peter Vlaming’s position. Your Christian worldview affirms the biblical statement that God creates humans as “male and female” (Genesis 1:27). You agree with Jesus: “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).

What should you do?

This is not an abstract question. A recent survey found that nearly 3 percent of ninth- and eleventh-grade students say they are transgender or gender nonconforming, meaning they don’t always identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. Of America’s 15.1 million high school students, 3 percent equates to 453,000 transgender students.

In addition, according to one adoption website, there are 594,000 same-sex couple households in the US; 115,000 of them have children. As these children become students, Christian teachers who affirm biblical marriage may be faced with a dilemma similar to the one confronting Peter Vlaming.

These questions pertain to more than high school teachers. Parents who affirm biblical morality must address these issues with their children. Pastors face similar issues with their congregations. So do those who work alongside transgender or LGBTQ persons.

Let’s survey our options.

One wrong approach: Change your theology to match the culture.

As our society embraces “gender fluidity,” same-sex marriage, or other unbiblical morality, we could adapt our beliefs accordingly. This might enable us to appear relevant to our post-Christian world.

Of course, interpreting the Bible through the lens of our fallen culture is a never-ending process of adjusting God’s unchanging word to our changing world. If the Bible is wrong on “gender fluidity,” is it also wrong on same-gender sexual relations? Polygamy? Premarital sex? Pornography? Abortion? Euthanasia?

Scripture is clear: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32). Unpopular truth is still truth. A doctor who tells her unwilling patient that he needs medical help is exercising courageous compassion.

A second wrong approach: Condemn those with whom you disagree.

We could see the school board members as attacking our faith. It is more likely, however, that they are acting out of their worldview. They apparently believe that gender is fluid and the gender identity of this student should therefore be affirmed. And they are convinced that to believe otherwise is bigoted and discriminatory.

For every enemy of our faith who uses moral issues to attack us, there are many who think we are simply wrong and intolerant. The root of their problem is spiritual: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Like Paul, we are sent “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). We are called not to reject those with whom we disagree but to minister to them.

The biblical mandate: Obey your highest authority.

Peter taught us, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13). Yet when he was ordered by the authorities to cease preaching the gospel, he and the apostles responded: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

We should do all we can to obey and respect those in authority over us: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We should look for ways to resolve conflict, remembering Jesus’ beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

But if we are forced to choose between Caesar and God, we must choose God.

(MY WORDS HERE: One of the mandates so easily forgotten is to LOVE PEOPLE. When we love people, we chose God!)

Chinese pastors and believers who will not submit to the control of the government are being imprisoned and their churches closed. According to Open Doors, 215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution for their faith today.

American churches are not being closed by our government; American Christians are not being imprisoned or martyred for following Jesus. But we are increasingly being forced to choose between what is popular and what is biblical.

For a follower of Jesus, this is no choice at all.

The next time you must pay a price to obey God’s word, consider the cost of your salvation. And remember: The first “hill to die on” was called Calvary.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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THE GOSPEL OF JUSTIFICATION

The sermon for Sunday, Oct 21, was not recorded, so I am sharing my sermon notes for everyone who missed seeing the sermon. Enjoy!

The Justified Gospel

Sunday, October 21, 2018

City Church Del Rio 

Galatians Sermon Series—No Other Gospel, The Justified Gospel, 3:23-29

Introduction—Justification. A big Biblical word found throughout the Bible. A complicated word. A essential word. Today, we are going to step into the them of the Justified Gospel. The good news of Jesus and His awestruck love for all people on His planet. 

Now, as most of you know I am not a big wordsmith. I like simplicity. I try and connect with the masses. So, if you can please lean in today and pay close attention because I want to assure that if you can begin this process of living in a justified lifestyle, where you don’t hold grudges, you don’t assume the worst, and you don’t allow other people’s sin to knock you off your path. 

All the doctrines of the Bible are important, but none is more vital to the peace and rest of a child of God, than the Biblical truth of Justification. The follower of Christ does not get to the peak of Christian joy, until we appreciate and appropriate this grand aspect of grace. 

Forgiveness is amazing; pardon is wonderful; cleansing is powerful; but Justification is the greatest experience in my theological opinion. In Paul’s day, and during the reformation period of the 1500’s-1600’s, and even in our day, it would be difficult to find a more central truth to our historic Christian faith than the doctrine of justification. 

So, let’s get started. 

Stand & Read—Galatians 3:23-29

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Pray

I want to remind you that Paul is still answering the question the he asked in verse 2

Galatians 3:2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?

  1. Justified by “The Faith”—verses 23-25
    1. Verse 23Before the coming of the “the faith”
      1. Notice with me, that Paul distinctly uses a participle for you English gurus. He doest just say faith, he says the faith. 
      2. You may have a translation that doesn’t use a participle until the second part of the verse. It may say this faith or the coming faith.
      3. It is the same meaning behind the language Paul purposely id using here. He is really talking about the time before our Christian Faith came to be.
      4. Before the coming of the faith. What about it.
    2. Verse 23We were held in custody under the law
      1. We were prisoners under the law. Why? Wasn’t the law given to Moses by God to give to the people? Yes, but I remind you; the law was given to in order for people to know what sins were so we could know how to live. The law never intended to save people, but point people to their need for God.
      2. Paul says, while we wait for a Savior, we are under the law, as if we are in a prison cell. When you think of a prison cell, you think of an awful place, with no freedom.
      3. But what you don’t realize, in jail, you are protected from yourself. You can no longer be free to create havoc in society. 
      4. So Paul compares our time under the law like being in jail. Protected, out of trouble, until you could be trusted to go free. Not actually a bad thing.
      5. The 10 commandments are a good thing, keeping us in line with the requirements given by God so that we could ask for forgiveness when we sinned against Him. 
      6. If you are here today, and you have never trusted Jesus as your own personal Savior, then you are still in custody of the law. You have rules and regulations to follow in order for you to have a relationship with God. 
      7. But Paul reminds us that we no longer have to live like that.
    3. Verse 23Until the Faith was to come and be revealed. 
      1. The faith is Jesus the Christ. Once He came to offer freedom from the law. 
      2. Without Jesus in your heart and life, you are being held in custody. 
      3. Jesus has come and Jesus has reveled Himself to the world. 
      4. Jesus is the most loved, hated, and controversial person to ever walk the planet. 
    4. Verse 24So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
    5. Here is the million dollar word—Justified. We are under the law no longer because Jesus has justified us if we have faith in Him.
    6. If you are here are you claim you have faith, yet your actions speak otherwise, how does one balance those 2 things?
    7. Listen to me this morning. You will always let others down. You will always be in a sinful temporary body while you are here. So at times, we won’t appear to be related to Jesus. We do things that are against God. We are still sinners saved by grace.
    8. The great thing about justification is in how it relates to our relationship with Christ. This is so important for us to know.
    9. The word justified means “pronounced or treated as righteous.” For a Christian, justification is the act of God not only forgiving the believer’s sins but imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Bible states in several places that justification only comes through faith. Justification is not earned through our own works; rather, we are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Christian, being declared righteous, is thus freed from the guilt of sin. Justification is a completed work of God, and it is instantaneous.
    10. Once a person is justified, there is nothing else he or she needs in order to gain entrance into heaven. Since justification comes by faith in Christ, based on His work on our behalf, our own works are disqualified as a means of salvation. There exist vast religious systems with complex theologies that teach the false doctrine of justification by works. But they are teaching “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all”.
    11. Aren’t you thankful for justification today? Are you thankful?
    12. All you need is faith in Jesus to be justified by God.
    13. Verse 25—Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
    14. Paul reiterates verse 23-24.
    15. You too can live under the doctrine of justification. 

 

Illustration—Here is how the system works in religion: 

You love God by following the law. Then, when you break the law, you go to jail for sinners. You wait there until you have asked for forgiveness so that you can have your freedom for a short time again. You break the law again, and you become a prisoner over and over again and again, in and out of jail. Then one day you realize that you can no longer continue to do this cycle of in and out of jail, so you decide it is easier to stay in jail, apart from God, since you seem to never please Him.

Church is no longer important, praying no longer exists, and the Bible is out of the question because no one can measure up to that. 

Then, one day a crisis of belief come into your universe, and you find yourself searching for answers, only you tried the God thing already, so you look to human wisdom, and then you try other options. Trying harder. Talking to people. Researching the internet. Working more. Investing in support groups. You see where I am going.

The Faith has come to set everyone free, including you, from the curse of this wheel of circling that never ends. It is time to let Jesus be in control. Not the religious Jesus you were taught about in your past, but the real Jesus. The real justified Gospel. 

Application—How about you? Have you been justified? Are still trying to set yourself free with acts of good will? Are you still in custody of the law? Jesus is the only freedom that can change your destiny. Give Him your life today!

  1. Justified by “The Promise”—verses 26-29

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    1. Verse 26—Those famous words repeated over and over throughout Paul’s writings—IN CHRIST. 
    2. When a repeat theme is continuous in the Bible, it is so we won’t try and figure out some other Gospel. The true gospel is “in Christ.” In a relationship with Jesus.
    3. When we come to faith “in Christ” we now become a child of God through our faith “in Him.” 
    4. Not everyone in the world is a child of God, although many have sold us this false doctrine. If that were the case, then there would have been no need for Jesus to die for our sins. We would not need to be “in Christ”
    5. Verse 27—A picture of how you are to live “in Christ.” Baptism.
    6. When a person is baptized in Christ, they identify a transformation that has taken place on the inside. 
    7. Paul say when we are baptized we are clothed with Christ. We put on our new clothing. We identify with Jesus. 
    8. Baptism is not salvation but a symbol of it. Salvation is what happens when a person opens up their heart and asks Jesus to be the Lord of their life. Baptism is an act of humble obedience of identifying with Jesus. We put on our new wardrobe. 
    9. To be clothed with Christ means to be like Christ.
    10. Verse 28—This verse is one that unifies all believers in Christ. 
    11. We will still be Anglo, Hispanic, Black, Asian, other differences that make us Unique, but they are no longer significant in our new identity in Christ. 
    12. The Christian is now brother and sister with any and all who also claim Jesus as their Lord. You now assimilate based on the Jesus identity, and not so much as a Mexican, Black, or White person. 
    13. Look at City Church Del Rio. The make up we have here is representative of this verse. We identify with each other as followers of Christ, not follows of what our culture tells us. 
    14. So, if Paul were writing to the American church today, which is but the way still very segregated by ethnicity, he would say: there is no longer Hispanic, Black, White, or Asian, your now brothers and sisters in Christ first!
    15. We must not get caught up in that non-sense. We will exalt the name of Jesus here, in order to win all, no matter ethnic background, color of skin, social-social-economical status, etc., etc. Jesus wins out at City Church.
    16. Men will not be elevated above women, and women will not be elevated above men. Jesus will be elevated above all. 
    17. Oneness in Christ is the call of us that want to see the Justified Gospel proclaimed.
    18. Verse 29—Paul reminds us once again. We are the people of promise. We are in the lineage of Abraham. We are heirs to the throne of Jesus.

Illustration—1 Corinthians 12:12-20

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

We are on body in Christ, made to unite in a higher calling in order to fulfill God’s purpose through His church.

Application—Do you have the assurance that you are part of the promise? Today is the day that God has called you into His Kingdom inheritance. All you need is faith to believe it.

Stay In The Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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