Sermon notes from 12/10/17 – “The Journey of Faith”

“THE JOURNEY OF FAITH”       Luke 1:39-45

 INTRO – “Mary Did You Know?” video

In some ways, Mary has been ignored in the Protestant Church. Many people have seen the Catholic Church elevate her & overemphasize her importance, giving her a place of prominence that is not biblical. The Bible never says that Mary was anything more than an ordinary human being whom God chose to use in an extraordinary way. She was a sinner who needed the very Savior that she gave birth to. Mary did not ascend to heaven & was not given any kind of exalted role in heaven. We are not to pray to her or worship her in any way. It’s idolatry to worship Mary in any way.

But we can certainly learn from her just like any other Bible character. When you study your Bible, I’ve often encouraged you to use the S.P.A.C.E. Principle. Even have it on our church website with the Read-Pray-Obey passages each month. Here’s what the S.P.A.C.E. Principle is: When you read a Scripture passage, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a Sin for me to confess?
  • …Promise for me to claim?
  • …Attitude for me to change?
  • …Command for me to obey?
  • …Example for me to follow?

 

When we read about the experiences of Mary here in the first few chapters of the Gospel of Luke, we can definitely see an example for us to follow from her life. She sets a wonderful example of a life of faith for us to see & follow. One pastor said this about Mary:

“Protestants have overreacted to Catholics placing too high an emphasis on Mary & so have missed what an incredible example of faith she portrayed. She was a person who yielded to the Lord. Mary exhibited a person who walks by faith. She lived out what God can do w/ a person who is willing to obey the Lord.” (Glenn Meredith)

Which brings us to our next stop on “The Journey to Christmas.” Today, we are on “The Journey of Faith.” These verses are known as the Visitation, when Mary visited w/ Elizabeth to share each other’s joy. As we look at these verses, we find 4 components of the journey of faith for every Christ-follower.

Look at v. 45 in the CSB: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what He has spoken to her!”

Let’s walk backwards in this verse as we look at these 4 components:

 

THE PROMISE COMPONENT – “…the Lord would fulfill what He has spoken to her!”

God is going to keep His promises! And what had He promised to Mary? Look back at v. 30-33. There’s no way that God wasn’t going to keep this promise to her AND to US! Matthew Henry called this the “inviolable certainty of the promise” – in other words, this promise was secure from destruction. Nothing would get in the way of this promise being fulfilled. Isaiah had prophesied this event 700 years prior to this moment in Isa. 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [which means, ‘God with us.’]”

Think of all the promises God has made to you & to me. A couple of months ago, began starting each day’s quiet time by finding a promise from the Lord in the Bible that I would write down in my journal & meditate on it. Listen to some of them (journal). He will never fail to come through on any of His promises! He is a promise-making, promise-keeping God!

 

THE BELIEF COMPONENT – “…she who has believed…”

When God makes a promise, we need to believe the promise. And that’s what Mary did. She believed God’s promise, AND she acted on it. Look at how she replied to the promise of God given to her by Gabriel.

This is what true faith is all about. It’s belief that leads to action. It’s the knowledge that leads to movement. It’s knowing God’s promises, believing God’s promises, appropriating God’s promises, & stepping out in God’s promises.

  • It’s Peter stepping out of the boat.
  • It’s David going out against Goliath.
  • It’s Elijah facing the prophets of Baal.
  • It’s the sick woman reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe.
  • It’s Moses standing on the edge of the Red Sea.
  • It’s Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain.
  • It’s you telling someone about Jesus…going on your first mission trip…starting a new Life Group in your home…starting a new mission in an apt. complex…realizing that God is calling you into the ministry…tithing 10% of your income…giving more than 10 % of your your income…not giving up on your marriage…not giving up on your wayward child…continuing to pray for your unsaved friend or family member…
  • It’s Country Woods building a building for Mission Byram…starting a new mission or Lunch 4 Christ in another apartment complex or mobile home park…hiring additional staff members or bringing staff members on fulltime…increasing our giving to missions…

 

THE RESULT COMPONENT – “Blessed is she…” 

God gave His promise to Mary. She believed it & took action on it. And the result of that was the blessing of God being poured out into her life. TLB: “You believed that God would do what He said; that is why He has given you this wonderful blessing.”

So often, we pray that God would bless us in our lives, or bless our kids, or bless our church, or bless our business. And yet, at the same time, we aren’t truly walking in faith & believing His promises. In fact, sometimes we turn away from His promises & live in disobedience & sin, & STILL expect Him to bless our lives. That ain’t going to happen! God is under no obligation whatsoever to bless your life if you aren’t living for Him & walking w/ Him.

But the awesome news is that when God blesses your life, He blesses others through you! Think about the blessing that came through Mary’s life – the GREATEST blessing EVER came through her!

 

THE RESPONSE COMPONENT – (v. 46ff)

Luke 1:46 – “And Mary said, ‘My soul praises the greatness of the Lord…’”

Listen to Luke 1:46-55 from the New Living Translation:

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

 

Our response to the blessings that come through promises of God is to praise Him, to worship Him, & to obey Him. Mary’s hymn of praise here in v. 46-55, known as the Magnificat, is a wonderful model for us to follow in responding to the blessings of God.

Listen friends, it doesn’t matter how good things are going in our lives, or how bad things are going in our lives, there is always a reason to worship the Lord.

 

CONCLUSION: There’s an incredible moment in v. 41 when the soon-to-be-born infant John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb in response to being in the presence of the soon-to-be-born Messiah. Back to the S.P.A.C.E. Principle. Even John the Baptist set an example for us to follow! Just being in the presence of Jesus moved him. What about us today? Will WE be moved by Jesus today? Will we “leap” when we come into His presence today?

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Sermon notes from 12/3/17 – “The Journey Foretold”

“THE JOURNEY FORETOLD”             Isa. 9

 INTRO – When you think of Christmas, a lot of things come to mind:

  • Secular things: Santa Claus, candy canes, Christmas trees, Will Ferrell eating spaghetti covered w/ pancake syrup & Pop Tarts, Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” & Elvis singing “Blue Christmas”
  • Spiritual things: Baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, “Silent Night,” & “Away In a Manger”

But there’s something else about Christmas that I want us to focus on for the next 4 weeks. One word, & that word is “journey.” Christmas is all about a journey.

  • For me, as a kid, it was the journey from Mammaw’s house in Collinsville, MS, to Pappaw & Granny’s house at Foxtrap on Christmas Eve night.
  • But the journey is so much more than that:
    • It’s a journey that was foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
    • It was a journey of faith for Mary & Joseph after Gabriel told them God’s plan for them.
    • It was an actual physical, arduous journey form Nazareth to Bethlehem to a stable & manger that awaited the King’s birth.
    • It was a journey from heaven to earth for the angels to announce His arrival & to fill the sky w/ worship!
    • And it’s a lifelong journey for all of us as we trust Him to save us & follow Him in obedience for our entire lives.

 

So, let’s talk about the JOURNEY FORETOLD.

 

How many of you enjoy going to movies? – Love the previews, the coming attractions – whisper, “I’ve gotta see that one!” “Not seeing that one!”

Isa. 9 is a description of the greatest, most earth-shattering coming attraction that has ever happened in history – the coming of Jesus into the world!

Writing about 700 years before Jesus was born, the OT prophet, Isaiah, foretells of the coming of the Messiah into the world. One commentator said this about Isaiah’s prophecy: “Of measureless importance to the universe, to this world, to every individual of the human family is the prophecy to which we have now come. On the fulfillment of this prophecy all Christianity rests, as a building on its foundation.” (https://www.raystedman.org/old-testament/isaiah/o-come-immanuel)

 

Light came into their darkness – v. 2

What an incredible promise Isaiah is giving to the people of God! They were living in a time of great turmoil & trouble. Wars were raging, people were living in fear; corrupt political & military deals were made; Jerusalem was surrounded & besieged; people were suffering & dying; idolatry was rampant – it was a horrifically dark time in the lives of the people of God. One blogger wrote this: “On the day Christ came into our hostile world, the kingdom of God was breaking into reality through human form, a promise proven in Jesus that his people would be governed and enlightened by him from their darkness.” (http://unlockingthebible.org/2016/12/christ-came-hostile-world/)

What an incredible promise God has given to us as His people today! We, too, are living in times of great turmoil & strife. Sin is running rampant all throughout our land, both inside the church & outside the church. Charles Spurgeon: “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present time has so little influence over the world is b/c the world is having so much influence over the Church.” These are dark days as we see the commands of God, the principles of God, & the Word of God getting trampled on over & over again.

And yet, in spite of the heaviness of the darkness of our day, the Light of the World has come! We sing the chorus “Here I Am to Worship” that starts w/ the words, “Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness, Opened my eyes, let me see.” That’s what Jesus does when He touches our lives & when He speaks to us. He lets us see.

  • He lets us see the depth of our own depravity.
  • He lets us see the reality of our helplessness & hopelessness.
  • He lets us see the futility of our attempts to save ourselves & make things right in our own lives.
  • He lets us see that HE ALONE can save us & lead us out of the darkness of sin.

 

Hope came into their despair – Jesus as the Light lets us see what we need to see. Jesus as our “Wonderful Counselor” helps us to know what we need to know. Jesus as our “Mighty God” helps us to do what we need to do. Knowing what we need to do know, & being able to do what we need to do gives us the hope we need to bring us out of the despair of our sins. These wonderful names of Jesus give us great hope!

“Wonderful Counselor” – the word “wonderful” means “extraordinary, astonishing.” The word “counselor” means “advisor” or “ideal ruler.” This name of Jesus makes is clear to us that, if we truly want to know the right direction go to in life, we must go to Jesus & seek His instructions & directions. And how do we do that? Get in the Word of God & stay in the Word of God. Any other direction we go other than the direction that Jesus gives to us will lead to a dead end. He’s the Perfect Teacher, the Perfect Adviser, the Perfect Guide. There is such great hope in having Him as our Wonderful Counselor!

“Mighty God” – Do you hear the power in that name? The little vulnerable baby that was born that night in Bethlehem possessed all the power in the universe b/c He was & is God! The Nicene Creed, written in 325 A.D., makes this statement:

“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made…”

I love what A.W. Tozer wrote about this: “We live in a society where we cannot always be sure that traditional definitions still hold. But I stand where I always have stood. And the genuine believer, no matter where he may be found in the world, humbly but surely is convinced about the person and position of Jesus Christ. Such a believer lives with calm and confident assurance that Jesus Christ is truly God and that He is everything the inspired writer said He is.” (https://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=1064)

This one called Jesus, this baby that was born in Bethlehem, brings us hope as THE Light – not A light – that shines in the darkness; THE Wonderful Counselor – not A wonderful counselor; THE Mighty God – not A mighty god. He has all the wisdom, all the strength, all the power, all the might, all the authority & ability to save anyone who will come to Him in faith, all the grace & mercy to show to anyone who has fallen into sin, all the willingness to forgive & restore those who have strayed away from Him. He gives us HOPE that draws us up out of the pit of our despair!

Life came into their doom – Isaiah the prophet foretold that Jesus was the Light that came into our darkness, the Hope that came into our despair, & finally, the Life that came into our doom.

That word “doom” is a strong word, a depressing word. Think about it: If you were in an airplane, flying across the country, & suddenly the engine quits, when the pilot says, “We’re doomed,” he’s essentially saying that there’s no chance of survival, no possibility of coming out of this situation alive, the end is imminent.

LISTEN! Those who do not have a relationship w/ Jesus Christ right now are living in that DOOMED condition. They are doomed. They are headed toward a fatal crash w/ no possibility of survival. Doesn’t matter how smart they are, how rich they are, how influential they are, or how powerful they are. Apart from Christ, they are doomed. Is that YOUR condition here today?

Into this condition of doom steps the One who is the Everlasting Father & the Prince of Peace! He is literally “the Father of eternity.” He will be your FOREVER FATHER, who alone can give you the gift of eternal life. He owns eternity! And He wants to give you eternal life! He’s a good, good Father, who loves you & wants to have an everlasting relationship w/ YOU. He alone can reach into our doomed condition & bring life to us. And when He does that & when we accept that gift of eternal life, the doom is gone!

  • Instead of there being NO possibility of survival, there is now NO possibility of being doomed any longer!
  • Instead of there being NO possibility of coming out of the situation alive, there is now NO possibility of dying for the child of God!
  • Instead of an imminent end, there is NO end for the child of God b/c the Everlasting Father has given us EVERLASTING LIFE!

And He’s the Prince of Peace, the Prince who brings perfect, everlasting peace that passes all understanding! I love what Pastor Ray Pritchard said about the Prince of Peace: “Isaiah 9:6 tells us that God’s plan for world peace is focused on a one person—a baby asleep in a manger in Bethlehem. He is the ultimate man of peace. 

*In the past, his coming made peace with God.

*In the present, those who come to him find peace in their heart when Christ comes in.

*In the future, his second coming will usher in a kingdom of peace. 

There is no peace today. So much strife and bloodshed. He is not a failure. We are.” (http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1996-12-22-What-Child-is-This/)

Sometimes people who are on their deathbed will say to me, “I’ve made my peace w/ God.” I think that means that they are sure of their salvation, but sometimes I’m afraid it means that they’ve done an inventory of their life & have decided for themselves that they’ve done pretty good & lived a pretty good life & they’re ready to take their life resume’ to God so He can see how good they’ve been & let them into heaven – kind of a Santa Claus mentality about God.

Friends, I want to tell you that the ONLY way you & I can “make our peace w/ God” is by turning the reins of our life over to the One who is the Prince of Peace. He ALONE can make peace w/ God FOR us.

  • His blood is the ONLY way our peace can be purchased.
  • His sacrifice for us is the ONLY means that our peace can be secured.
  • As cruel & violent as His death on the cross was, the end result was the possibility of salvation & perfect peace for anyone in the world who will trust Him alone for their salvation.

 

CONCLUSION: In 1809, a traveler was passing through Kentucky. He stopped at a store and asked, “Anything happen around here, lately?” Storekeeper answered, “No, nothing ever happens around here. There was a baby born out at the Lincoln cabin last night–that’s all.”

Just a baby at the Lincoln cabin — Abraham Lincoln.

You never know what may happen in the world because a baby was born. And the prophet Isaiah foretold of the greatest birth of the greatest baby in all of eternity. He came to bring light into our darkness, hope into our despair, & life into our doom.

And what does our response to Him need to be?

  • Trust Him.
  • Yield to Him.
  • Worship Him.
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Sermon notes from 11/26/17 – “Give Thanks for These Things”

“GIVE THANKS FOR THESE THINGS”                 Ps. 130:1-5

INTRO – How many of you ate turkey sometime this past week? How many of you didn’t? 91% of Americans have turkey for Dinner. A bunch of them have Butterball Turkeys. They have an online help page. Here are some of the entries on that page:

  • A woman in her seventies, cooking T’giving dinner for the first time, called for help b/c her mother said it was about time she learned how to prepare the T’giving meal.
  • A proud gentleman called to tell the staff how he wrapped his turkey in a towel, laid it in the floor and stomped on it to break the bones so it would fit in his pan.
  • Another gentleman called to tell the operator he cut his turkey in half with a chain saw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey.
  • A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat. After a conversation with a Talk-Line operator, it became apparent that the woman’s turkey was lying upside down.
  • One mom called in and told the Help Line operator about how her little girl had asked if they could slow-roast the turkey for three or four days because she liked how it made the house smell. The experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line told her that the turkey should only stay in the oven for a few hours and that it wasn’t a good idea to leave it cooking four days!
  • After discovering a turkey from 1969 in his dad’s freezer, a man called the Talk-Line at Butterball to ask about the best way to cook the 30+ year-old bird. Although the Talk-Line staffer recommended the open roasting pan method to cook most turkeys, but this time she suggested that the first step was to purchase a fresher fowl!
  • When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller: “What state is your turkey in” (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”

Today, I want us to think a little more about the importance of thankfulness in the life of a Christ-follower. In my big Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which is based on the KJV & which nearly every pastor & Bible teacher uses, I found this:

  • “thank” – 27 times
  • “thanked” – 3 times
  • “thankful” – 3 times
  • “thankfulness” – 1 time
  • “thanking” – 1 time
  • “thanks” – 72 times
  • “thanksgiving” – 28 times
  • “thanksgivings” – 2 times
  • “thankworthy” – 1 time

That’s at least 138 times that some form of a term for gratitude is used in Scripture. It just reminds us that there are SO many reasons for us to be thankful! Think about it: I preached on it last week; Pastor Joel Ekugwum preached on it Tue. night at Community T’giving Service; I’m preaching on it again today; & we STILL aren’t even scratching the surface of all the reasons we have as the people of God for being thankful. Let’s focus on 5 today from Psalm 130:1-5. Let’s read it in the NLT.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

We can certainly give thanks for these things:

 

Give thanks that God helps us in our despair – v. 1 – There are a multitude of things that can bring about despair in our lives.

  • Sickness
  • Death
  • Losses of all types

But the context of this Psalm is the despair that is caused by the sin in our lives. Whether you are still lost in your sin or are a saved child of God, sin will always bring us to a place of deep despair – ALWAYS! That despair is what drives us to God b/c:

  • He’s the only one who can take it away
  • He’s the only one who has a solution for it
  • He’s the only one who can rescue us when we are drowning in a sea of despair

We hear the despair in the prophet Isaiah’s voice when he got a glimpse of the holiness of God.

  • Isaiah 6:5 – “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 

We hear the despair in Nehemiah’s voice when he heard about the destruction of the walls around Jerusalem which was the consequences of sin.

  • Nehemiah 1:4-7 – When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.”

We hear the despair in Paul’s voice when he recognizes the sin in his own life.

  • Romans 7 – “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am!”

 

Give thanks that God hears us & pays attention to us – v. 2 – There’s nothing that WE can do about the despair that sin brings into our lives. WE have no remedy for it. WE are powerless against it. WE will be defeated by it. Oh, we TRY to fix it in any number of ways.

  • Try to ignore it
  • Pretend like it doesn’t affect us or apply to us
  • Attempt to replace it or cover it up
  • Just put on our fake smiles & our masks & come on to church

And yet, the despair of our sin continues to weigh us down, robbing us of joy, stealing our sleep, confusing our minds, & seeping into the lives of those around us, infecting them like a horrible virus.

Our ONLY hope is to cry out to the Lord, to the Forgiver of our sins & the Restorer of our lives. Someone once said, “Everyone prays, but very few cry.” No matter what you’ve done or how deep your guilt & despair is, cry out to the Lord. Be thankful that you can.

 

Give thanks that God does not keep a record of our sins – v. 3 – Back when I was youth minister at FBC, Brookhaven, I actually was put in jail for an expired DL. People have asked me since then, “So, do you have a record now?” I can assure you that I don’t.

But those who have committed crimes do have records. And those records follow them their entire lives, affecting their lives & the lives of their families in many different ways.

We can be thankful today that our God does not keep a record of our sins. If He did, then none of us could survive. None of us would have any hope of getting to heaven. If He did keep a record & if you started this day w/ a clean record, by the end of this day – or even by right now – you would already be guilty of a multitude of sins & the sentence of eternal death would already be pronounced against you.

Child of God, rejoice today & be thankful today that our God does not keep a record of our sins! The slate has been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus.

But to the one who is here today & is not saved, not a child of God, has never been born again, has never accepted Christ as their personal Lord & Savior, YOUR record of sin still stands! Every one of your sins is STILL on your record. God DOES still have your record of all of your sins. And the ONLY way to have the record wiped clean is to REPENT of your sins, to turn away from them, & come to Jesus to be saved today! Which leads to the next thing to be thankful for…

 

Give thanks that God forgives us of our sins – v. 4 – God offers forgiveness! What an offer! It’s an offer you must not refuse! He can & He will forgive us of all of our sins, casting them into the depths of the sea, remembering them no more.

And the Psalmist says that this forgiveness leads to fear. That sounds sort of strange. But listen to how one pastor explains it:

“It seems to me that when you stand before God, convicted and condemned, with the rope around your neck, and God pardons your sins, you then weep for joy, hate the evil which you’ve been forgiven, and live to the honor of the Redeemer by whose blood you’ve been cleansed. You fear God because you know that He had every reason to condemn you, but He did not. You do not fear His punishment now (1 John 4:18), but you do fear Him because you know that He rightly could have cast your body and soul into hell for all eternity (Matt. 10:28). His forgiveness does not make you flippant about your sin.” (Steven J. Cole, https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-130-out-depths)

The fear comes in when we realize what COULD have happened if we had not turned to Him in repentance. The fear comes in when we realize that it is only by His GRACE that we are saved & forgiven. If you don’t have this sense of fear, you probably aren’t saved. If you are flippant about your sin, you probably aren’t saved. If you don’t hate sin whenever it rears its ugly head in your life, you probably aren’t saved. If you’re not truly thankful that God forgives you of your sins, you’re not saved!

 

Give thanks that God gives us hope in His Word – v. 5 – We are thankful that we can count on the Lord. He will come through for us. He will forgive us when we turn to Him in brokenness & repentance. He will save us & set us free from the despair of our sin. And how do we know this? B/c of the unchanging, unalterable promises of His Word. We are thankful for His promises found in His Word.

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Sermon notes from 11/16/17 – “How to Say Thanks”

“HOW TO SAY THANKS”           Eph. 5:20

 INTRO – Tim sing, “My Tribute”

 Sounds you hear in church:

  • When you hear the preacher say something you really like, you say, “Amen!”
  • Get up & fellowship w/ each other – “Happy Thanksgiving!”
  • Gather in small groups around room – Someone pray a prayer of Thanksgiving out loud (start playing piano)
  • Sing “How Great is Our God”
  • Gunshots

 

HOW CAN WE SAY “THANKS” WHEN THE SOUNDS OF THE WORLD INVADE THE CHURCH?

  • With our LIPS
  • With our LIFE
  • With our LOVE – Love God, love Others, love Enemies

 

WE SAY “THANKS” BY GIVING THANKS: Giving thanks is the grateful acknowledgment of the blessings that God has given to us.

  • Involves recognizing & accepting His blessings.
    • Lee Cope beach house – It was an unexpected blessing from God for Lee to gift a week at their beach house to Vicki & me for my sabbatical.

WE NEED TO GIVE THANKS (Eph. 5:20):

 ALL THE TIME – “always”

  • Pray w/out ceasing – Ought to give thanks to God w/out ceasing
  • Covers every situation
    • Before situation on basis of promises
    • During situation
      • Paul in prison when writing this letter
    • After situation is over

 

IN ALL THINGS – “for everything”

  • Covers things which appear to be good or bad
    • Easy to be grateful for good things
    • Hard to be grateful for the bad things
      • Can’t see obvious evidence of God’s hand & God’s plan in midst of bad things
      • Building our trust – Deepening our faith & dependence on Him – Making us more like Jesus
    • Think about Daddy & his battle w/ Alzheimer’s
      • Called Mama at 6AM on Dec. 20 – “Daddy died peacefully around 3:00.”
      • Laid back down in bed beside Vicki. All I could say was, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.”

 

TO THE AUTHOR OF OUR SALVATION – “God, the Father”

  • Salvation is God’s plan. He set it in place before the foundation of the world.
    • He’s the source of everything
      • Blesses us w/ every good thing – (James 1:17 – “Every good & perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”)
      • Allows the bad things – (James 1:2-3 – “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”)
    • The BEST thing He’s ever done for us is sending Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins.
      • Hebrews 5:9 tells us that Jesus is the “author salvation to all who obey Him.”
        • Obey Him today & let Him be the author of YOUR salvation! Let Him write HIS story in YOUR life!
        • Come to Him & be saved today!
        • Call out to Him right now & be saved!

 

IN THE AUTHORITY OF Jesus – “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

  • Recognizing His place in all we have.
  • Recognizing that without Him we have nothing.
  • Recognizing that all spiritual blessings come from Him.
    • The REAL blessings in our lives
    • Those UNCHANGING blessings in our lives
      • Our salvation
      • Our security in Him
      • Our safe place reserved for us in heaven

 

CONCLUSION – So that’s HOW we give thanks – all the time; in all things; to the Author of our salvation; & in the authority of the name of Jesus.

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Sermon notes from 10/29/17 – “Developing Devoted Disciples”

“DEVELOPING DEVOTED DISCIPLES”           Luke 14:25-35

 INTRO – Imagine w/ me a young man who walks into a military recruiting office to join up. The reason he wanted to join us was b/c he thought military uniforms were cool & he wanted to wear one. But when he talks w/ the recruiter, he finds out:

  • Have to go through intense boot camp
  • Hard physical training & exercise
  • Have to submit to superior officers
  • Go to war – Put life on the line
  • Live in hostile territory in harsh conditions
  • Be separated from family for long periods of time
  • May get captured by enemy
  • May get injured
  • May get killed

“Oh, I don’t want to sign up for all of that. I just want the uniform.”

 

How many people want to be a Christian just b/c they want to “wear the uniform” of eternal life? They just want to go to heaven. Want to get their “fire insurance” paid up.

  • Don’t want to be committed to the Church – “Don’t like those people down there…full of hypocrites…they hurt my feelings one time…don’t do things the way I think they should be done…”
  • Don’t want anyone holding them accountable in their walk w/ Christ
  • Don’t want to get up earlier than they normally do in order to spend time in Bible reading & prayer
  • Don’t want to give at least 10% of their income to the Lord’s work
  • Don’t want to be inconvenienced or give up personal time to serve the Lord – don’t want to give up my vacation time to go on mission trip or chaperone a youth trip; give up my Saturday morning to work at Mission Byram or Lunch 4 Christ; give up my Sunday night to host a Bible study in my home
  • Don’t want to give up going to “big church” in order to work in the nursery once or twice a year
  • Don’t want to be expected to invite anyone to church or tell anyone about Jesus

“Oh, I didn’t know any of that was expected of a Christian. I just wanted to wear ‘the uniform.’ I just want to go to heaven.”

v. 25 – “Now great crowds accompanied Him,” & in those great crowds, there were many of these types of followers. People who had a superficial commitment to Jesus. People who were just following to see what they could get out of Him. People who were just looking out for themselves & their own interests.

Article in magazine last week – “100 Fastest Growing Churches in America.” Peruse through list of churches. Fastest growing church last year – Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, OH – Avg. attendance – 28,386. Added 5,928 people last year. Largest church in country last year – Church of the Highlands in Birmingham – over 40,000 in attendance. Added 2,225 people last year.

Many times we evaluate success by numbers. Nothing wrong w/ big churches. We want more people in church. Don’t like to see empty seats & pews. Pastors of large churches are the ones who get their books published & get the invitations to preach all over the place. Nothing necessarily wrong w/ wanting more people in church. Lots of lost people all around us who need Jesus.

But Jesus wasn’t necessarily worried about having big crowds of disciples. He was worried about having big commitment from His disciples. Someone once said, “Salvation is both absolutely free and yet it costs you your very life. You receive it freely at no expense to you, but once you receive it, you have just committed everything you are and have to Jesus Christ.” (https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-70-cost-discipleship-luke-1425-35)

Let me give you 3 things to consider about what it means to be a truly devoted disciple of Jesus. A disciple will:

 

CARRY HIS CROSS – v. 25-27 – Luke 9:23 – “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.’” What does it mean to carry our cross?

What it DOESN’T mean: It doesn’t mean that our cross is some undue, inconvenient burden that we have in our life – a bad job, a difficult relationship, a sickness – “Well, that’s just my cross to bear.” Not what Jesus meant.

To the first century person, the cross meant only one thing: death in the most humiliating, painful way imaginable. When Jesus turned to the throngs of people & said that they would need to bear a cross, their minds would have been flooded w/ images of criminals hanging from Roman crosses along the roads. They would have thought of blood running down beaten & bruised bodies. They would have thought of the sounds of people groaning & crying out in agony & pain. They would not have thought about a gold piece of jewelry hanging from someone’s necklace. They would have thought about death.

Those who truly want to follow Christ must realize that it is a call to die. We must die to our own selfish desires & live for His desires for our lives. We must be willing to sacrifice our comfort & conveniences to live for Him. We must be willing to suffer for Him & b/c of our commitment to Him. Following Him will mean that your friendships may die, your reputation may die, your job/business may die, your family relationships may die, YOU may die. That’s what Jesus meant when He said we would need to carry our own cross if we are going to follow Him.

A disciple will also:

 

COUNT THE COST – v. 28-32 – An extremely critical part of our growth in being a disciple of Jesus is a deepening understanding of what it truly costs to follow Christ. This is part of our sanctification process as we mature in our faith. We accept Christ as our Savior & Lord & begin this incredible journey of faith w/ Him. As we walk w/ Him, our faith deepens, our understanding deepens, our spiritual comprehension deepens, & the depth of our commitment & dedication to Him deepens. We count the cost of what it means to be His disciple. Some folks count the cost at the beginning of their journey & sell out completely to the Lord when they are saved. Others count the cost after they’ve already begun the journey. I think this is why many people make a “rededication” of their life – they made a true faith commitment to the Lord at an earlier time in their life, trusting the Lord as much as they know how & w/ as much knowledge as they have at that time. But as they grow in their walk & spiritual maturity, they begin to see what it truly means to count the cost & follow Christ, & realize the need to rededicate their life the Him. Some make a “public rededication” of their life; others do in the privacy of their own personal quiet time or in a time of prayer & commitment on their own. But, whenever it happens, ALL of us as Christ-followers, if we are going to truly follow Christ as His disciple, we must count the cost, like the man building a tower in v. 28-30, or the king going off to war in v. 31-32.

 

COMMIT COMPLETELY – v. 33 – Jesus puts a strong exclamation point on His teaching here w/ this statement: “Any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

The word for “renounce” means “to say goodbye, or bid farewell.” Jesus brought His teaching here to a dramatic conclusion to separate those who wanted to truly follow Him from those who were just curious thrill-seekers. One commentator put it like this:

 

“‘We must live in this world as though the soul was already in heaven and the body moldering in the grave’ (St. Francis de Sales). There was much unreasoning; possibly not a little sentimental enthusiasm, among the people who crowded round Jesus in these last months of his work. The stern, uncompromising picture of what ought to be the life of his real followers was painted especially with a view of getting rid of these useless, purposeless enthusiasts. The way of the cross, which he was about to tread, was no pathway for such light-hearted triflers.”[1]

These are tough, convicting, penetrating words for you & me to consider today. Which of us in this place today has truly made & is presently truly living w/ this level of commitment to Christ? Who among us can say today that we are ready to renounce all of our possessions, dreams, & plans & follow Christ? Who among us would say goodbye to:

  • Our wives/husbands?
  • Our kids/grandkids?
  • Our homes?
  • Our bank accounts/retirement accounts that we’ve worked so hard to build up for the future?
  • Our education plans, our business plans, our family plans, our retirement plans?

As Christ-followers, we must wrestle w/ these questions. If we are really honest, we really don’t think they apply to us. We really don’t think that Jesus really requires this. We really don’t think this would happen to us. That’s for the missionaries, the people who live under real persecution, people who are the real radicals. They’re hard questions, uncomfortable questions, & we may not like the answers that we give to these questions. But this is all part of the growth & maturity process in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I like the way one man tells the story of the pearl of great price. A man sees this pearl and says to the merchant, “I want this pearl. How much is it?”

The seller says, “It’s very expensive.” “How much?” “A lot!” “Well, do you think I could buy it?” the man asks.

“Oh, yes,” says the merchant, “everyone can buy it.”

“But I thought you said it was very expensive.” “I did.” “Well, how much?” “Everything you have,” says the seller.

“All right, I’ll buy it.” “Okay, what do you have?”

“Well, I have $10,000 in the bank.” “Good, $10,000. What else?” “That’s all I have.” “Nothing more?” “Well, I have a few dollars more in my pocket.” “How much?” “Let’s see … $100.” “That’s mine, too,” says the seller.

“What else do you have?” “That’s all, nothing else.” “Where do you live?” the seller asks. “In my house. Yes, I own a home.” The seller writes down, “house.” “It’s mine.”

“Where do you expect me to sleep—in my camper?” “Oh, you have a camper, do you? That, too. What else” “Am I supposed to sleep in my car?” “Oh, you have a car?” “Yes, I own two of them.” “They’re mine now.”

“Look, you’ve taken my money, my house, my camper, and my cars. Where is my family going to live?” “So, you have a family?” “Yes, I have a wife and three kids.” “They’re mine now.”

Suddenly the seller exclaims, “Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too! Everything becomes mine—wife, children, house, money, cars, and you, too.” Then he goes on, “Now, listen, I will allow you to use all these things for the time being. But don’t forget that they’re all mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them, you must give them up, because I am now the owner.” (Adapted from The Disciple [Creation House], pp. 34-35.)

 

The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a life of COMPLETE COMMITMENT!

CONCLUSION: The end result of the life of a disciple is eternal life. It begins the moment we give our lives to Christ. He gives us His abundant life, a life of purpose, meaning, & direction. It’s not a life free from pain, difficulty, hardship, & extreme sacrifice. But it IS a life that is the ONLY life to live! It’s the ONLY life that leads to spending eternity in heaven one day.

So where are YOU today in your walk w/ Christ?

  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to count the cost.
  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to realize that you’re falling short in your commitment
  • Maybe this sermon has caused you to realize that you’re not saved & you want to begin a relationship w/ Jesus.

[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 28). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

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Sermon notes from 10/15/17 – “Snatch Them Out of the Fire!”

“SNATCH THEM OUT OF THE FIRE!”        Jude

INTRO – FIRE – Good or bad. Helpful or harmful. Delightful or destructive.

  • Sit around campfire or firepit
  • Or see your home or business go up in flames – California wildfires
  • Warmth that is pleasant. Or heat that is painful.

Pretty obvious here that the writer Jude is not talking about the pleasant experience of sitting around a crackling campfire, but is referring to a terrible fire that no one would want to go through. He’s talking about the fires of hell – a VERY REAL PLACE WHERE LOST PEOPLE GO WHEN THEY DIE! Rev. 20:15 – “…if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” If you need to be saved, call out to the Lord RIGHT NOW before it’s too late!

In this little letter, Jude is issuing a warning to the church to keep their eyes open for the infiltration of false teachers & enemies into the church. In other words, they were apostates, or those who once gave some indication that they knew Christ, but have since abandoned their faith, which means that they never really had any faith in the first place. The definition of “apostasy” is “a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/apostasy.html) John Stott: “The essence of apostasy is changing sides from that of the crucified to that of the crucifier.” There was & is great danger lurking around in our world from all sorts of folks who are perverting the truth of God’s Word. There are actually apostate preachers who do not believe in God or in the basic foundational truths of the Bible, &, yet, they are still serving Christian churches in our nation. We need to be aware of this danger & be ready to stand against it.

God takes apostasy very seriously, so much so that every NT book w/ the exception of Philemon warns about false teachers & teachings. So how do we deal w/ such rampant apostasy & rejection of the Christian faith? Here are some principles for us to follow:

 

Contend for the faith – v. 3

  • Greek word: agonizomai – “agony”
  • Struggle for
  • Fight for

Jude originally wanted to write a pleasant, encouraging pastor letter to the church – “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation.” But he wasn’t able to do that due to the “certain people” who had “crept in unnoticed” (v. 4). His letter of comfort to the people of God turned into a call to battle for the people of God. They had to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

What is this “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”?

When Jude said “THE faith,” he’s talking about the known & received body of truth about Jesus Christ & the salvation that comes only through Him as the Perfect Son of God. He’s talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been preached & taught from the Day of Pentecost up to this very moment.

  • It’s a delivered faith – In other words, it’s not something that we manufactured or came up w/ on our own. It’s been passed on from generation to generation.
  • It’s a defined faith – It is unchangeable, definitely & eternally defined by the unchanging center of our faith; & that center is Jesus Christ who came into the world & lived & died & rose again to bring salvation to all men.
  • It’s a done faith – It’s complete. It’s finished. Nothing can be added or subtracted from our God, & nothing should be added or subtracted from our faith.
  • It’s a defended faith – This is why Jude was writing. The church MUST defend the faith, which leads to next point……

 

Defend against the enemies – v. 4-16 – Listen to how Jude describes these enemies of the faith:

  • Condemned
  • Ungodly
  • Pervert the grace of God
  • Deny Jesus
  • Sexually immoral (v. 8 – “defile the flesh”)
  • Reject authority
  • Blasphemers
  • They’re like animals
  • Greedy
  • Dangerous & deadly
  • Hypocritical
  • Selfish & uncaring
  • Deceitful liars
  • Misleading
  • Shameful
  • Doomed
  • Ungodly
  • Grumblers
  • Never satisfied
  • Loud-mouthed boasters
  • Showing favoritism
  • Divisive
  • Worldly
  • Devoid of the Spirit of God

Does that description sound like the kind of person against whom we need to defend our church, our faith, & ourselves? ABSOLUTELY! So how do we do that?

 

Depend on the Lord – v. 20-21 – 4 verbs (action words) that Jude gives us to help us defend our faith. And the only way to do that is to live in total dependence upon the Lord as a Christ-follower:

  • Building – Making a foundation for a building; strengthening; to make more able – Build your life on the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL!
  • Praying – There it is again! I wonder if I’ve ever preached a message here that didn’t have something to do w/ prayer!
  • Keeping – Has to do w/ guarding, & obeying, & heeding – His love motivates us.
  • Waiting – to welcome, to wait for, to anticipate a future event – Waiting for the return of Christ.

What an awesome way for us to live for the Lord as we depend on Him every moment of every day of our lives!

 

Extend mercy & hope to as many as possible – v. 22-23 – And as we depend upon the Lord & live for Him, we must never forget the importance of looking outside of ourselves & reaching outside of ourselves.

  • Reach up to the One on Whom you can depend
  • Reach out to those who are doubting
  • Reach down to those who are dying

 

Send your praise to God – v. 24-25 – One of most beautiful doxologies in Bible.

WHAT HE IS ABLE TO DO.

“Keep you from falling.” You do not have to fail. It’s only when you try to go it alone.

“Present you faultless.” But I have so many faults. WE ALL DO! I will be presented in His righteousness.

“Before the presence of His glory.” Standing there before the throne of God. In the brightness of His glory that reveals all things, nothing is hid. I will stand pure, faultless. I will be whispering to myself, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“With exceeding joy.” Joy, such as you have never experienced, or could ever experience on this earth.

“And when before the throne I stand in him complete
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow
He washed it white as snow”

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Sermon notes from 10/8/17 – “An Encouragement to a Dear Friend”

“AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO A DEAR FRIEND”     3 John

INTRO – Folks, it’s time for some GOOD NEWS! Can I get an “Amen”? I’m tired of the constant barrage of bad news that has been happening in recent days. And while we can’t stop some of the bad things from happening, & we definitely need to be praying for those affected by some of the tragic events that have impacted our nation & world over the last few months, it’s simply time for some GOOD NEWS, & we, of all people, have the GREATEST Good News that anyone can know. And that Good News is this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

One of our church members sent me a text Thu. after she & talked Wed. night at Refresh when she shared w/ me that she was in the middle of a fast to seek the Lord in a greater way (it’s ok to tell others you are fasting as long as you aren’t bragging & boasting about it). This is what she texted to me on Thu.:

 

“Just wanted to share about my fast w/ you. I’m so excited! I am in 43 hours & will complete it tomorrow at 5PM. During my prayer time, I had been asking the Lord to please put me in the path of someone who needed to hear about His love & mercy, just one person. Today on my lunch break, I took my Bible outside & was reading. A young lady came out & was sitting, eating her lunch. I noticed she kept watching me. I know who she is, but don’t really know her. I finally said, “Hey, it’s a really nice day to be sitting out here.” She said, “Yeah, just wanted to take in some quiet time.” Well, she sat there a few more minutes, then started to talk to me about reading my Bible, & then about my faith bracelet…As we talked, she started tearing up, so then I started to tear up, & I’m so excited that she accepted Christ sitting outside sitting on a picnic bench! So thankful for answered prayers for her salvation, & that I still have 29 more hours! What an awesome day!”

 

I want to invite anyone in this place who needs to be saved today to call out to the Lord right now & give your life to Him!

PRAYER FOR SALVATION

Let’s look at 3 John & talk about how awesome our faith in Jesus is today, whether you just accepted Him into your heart, or whether you did that 40 years ago! It’s such a wonderful thing to know Jesus as your Savior & Lord! It’s such a wonderful thing to be connected to His Body, His FAMILY, the Church. Our faith is an “EACH OTHER” faith. It’s a PERSONAL faith, AND it’s an “EACH OTHER” faith. Here are 7 “each other” statements about our faith:

 

We Love Each Other – “Beloved” – v. 1, 2, 5 – John said that about his friend, Gaius: “whom I love in the truth.” In other words, “I truly love you, Gaius!” This is the foundation of it all. It all starts w/ our love for God & our love for each other. Greek word for “beloved” is agapetos – “very dear, a dear friend, a loved one.”

We Pray for Each Other – v. 2 – Look at what a dear Christian friend does when he truly loves the way God wants him to love: He prays for his dear friend. He prays for:

  • Physical health – “…that you may be in good health…” – See James 5:13-16
  • Spiritual health – “…as it goes well w/ your soul.” – I think about what Jesus prayed for us in John 17:15 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

So, how IS your prayer life? What do you do to stay consistent? Let me give you these suggestions:

  • Renew your commitment to prayer
  • Write down the names of those you need to pray for – high tech or low tech – doesn’t matter – just do something to help you be more consistent & faithful in praying for each other.
  • Realize that it doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t know about a person’s situation – just pray for them (sometimes just their name)
  • Respond immediately when someone needs prayer – Stop & pray for them right then, if possible (lady in convenience store in Columbia)
  • Remember that this is one of the most important things you can do, so don’t stop.

 

We Rejoice w/ Each Other – v. 3-4 – Listen, Church, we need to be rejoicing w/ each other as we see each other growing in our love for the Lord, in our passion for the Lord, in our service to the Lord! That’s why I got so excited about the text message that I got Thu from that church member! I rejoiced w/ her that God had used her in such a wonderful way, that she had placed herself in a spiritual position to hear from Him & respond in obedience! I rejoiced w/ Blake!

Too many times we let the enemy infect our hearts w/ jealousy & envy & pride. Those things slam the door on our ability to rejoice w/ someone else when God is at work in their lives.

We Support Each Other – v. 5-8 – John is encouraging Gaius to support the work of itinerant Christian workers, missionaries who were traveling around, sharing the Gospel.

Certainly, we need to do the same thing. In fact, we are doing that RIGHT NOW w/ our team that is in New Orleans helping Matthew Delaughter. We support him & other missionaries who are faithfully sharing the Gospel all over the world. That’s why YOUR tithes & offerings are SO important!

But we also need to support each other in other ways, as well.

We Correct Each Other – v. 9-10 – Sometimes, there are times when we have to lovingly confront each other when we’ve wandered away from the Lord, as, apparently, Diotrephes had done.

How sad it is when we just let our brothers & sisters drift away from the Lord into the enemy’s territory, & we do nothing about it! Our correction must not be heavy-handed, judgmental, & condemnatory, but it must happen. Many times that’s why we shy away from any type of correction in the life of another brother or sister in Christ. “That’s none of my business.” “They’ll think I’m judging them.” “I might hurt their feelings.” So, we just let them go. And their lives come apart at the seams, which affects all of us. So sad. What would you think about a soldier who knew where an enemy minefield was, & just let one of his buddies just wander off into that minefield w/out saying anything to him or trying to stop him? We often do that very thing in the Church.

We Encourage Each Other – v. 11-12 – Reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said in Heb. 10:24-25 – “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds…”

We Want to Be w/ Each Other – v. 13-15 – Last Sunday, talked about going on mission trips. Love going, love serving, love telling folks about Jesus. But one of my favorite things is coming off the plane when we’ve arrived back home, walking down the corridor, headed toward my waiting family. Love that moment when I catch the first glimpse of Vicki, or one of my kids or grandkids! Never gets old! Always brings a tear to my eye & a lump in my throat! Why? B/c I want to be w/ them b/c I love them so much!

There’s just something extra special about the relationships & the connection that we have w/ each other in the Body of Christ. John couldn’t wait to see his friend, Gaius, & the others in the church. He wanted to be w/ them. And, if you & I are in right relationship w/ God & w/ each other, we will want to be w/ each other, too!

 

CONCLUSION – So, there you have 7 “each other” statements about our faith. How are you doing in the “each other” aspect of your faith?

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