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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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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

JamesSeriesR 3.jpg

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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