Here you will find outlines of current and past sermons, listed by date of delivery, as well as special notes from Pastor Jim.
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Grace Giver or Forgetter? - 10/14/18

GRACE GIVER OR FORGETTER? 10 14 2018

1 Corinthians 3: 1-6

“Grace moments”; … if we think hard enough, we can remember some of them.
These are the times when we either received grace from some gracious person, …
known or unknown … or times when we extended grace to others.
I remember a grace moment when Karen had got a flat tire. … She couldn’t get a
hold of me (this has been a good while back when cell coverage wasn’t as good as
it is now); … money had been tight and her tires weren’t in the best of shape. …
She had started to struggle with the job of changing the tire herself when a
Hispanic gentleman stopped and handled the repair for her. … It took about 15
minutes of his time … but he extended grace to my wife … and I was grateful he
had been so handy. I’m sure Karen was grateful, also!
I also remember a grace moment when I helped an elderly man change a tire on his
car. … It only took about ten minutes but I was glad to help … and he and his wife
were glad that he, with a weak heart, didn’t have to wrestle with a tire.
Grace can come in so many ways, … helping the person in the grocery line pay for
groceries when they are short on cash, … the needed chore or fix-it job, …
baby-sitting for a couple that really needs a break, … helping someone to celebrate
a special event, … relieving a burden, … sharing grief or pain, … jump-starting a
car; … these are all ways that grace can be infused in to the mundane monotony of
life. … It always arrives like a breath of fresh air on a stifling hot day or like a cool
drink of water to parched lips.
Then there is … Lack of Grace:
On-the-other-hand, … As we all have, … I’ve also lived through graceless
moments … and I can testify that they have a way of sucking the life right out of
us. …These are times that put clamps on our spirits and make us feel like we are
suffocating. … Inconsiderate, disrespectful, out to hurt, Graceless events always
seem to come at the worst possible moment. … They attempt to snatch all sense of
faith, hope and love right out of us … and replace them with doubt, suspicion and
anger.
The apostle Paul knew about graceless moments. … Even though he was the
trailblazing pioneer of the Corinthian Church, … this particular group brought him
loads of heartache. … Despite the fact that he had been the first to bring the gospel
to Corinth, … the Christians, there, had fallen prey to more than one smooth-
talking critic during his absence. …

The Corinthian Christians frequently ran high on expectations and low on grace for
anything which concerned their founding pastor. …
In fact, … a closer look at Churches today … or even this congregation, …
reveals much about what happens when we choose to live without grace.
Without grace, … labels thrive: …
Oh how the Corinthians loved to label.
Strung hard around Paul’s neck were long-distance labels that read, “poor
speaker,” “Unpopular,” “Pushy letter writer,” “Bold in print - weak in presence.”
Let’s face it, … labels can be powerful … and powerfully painful.
We tend to place all kinds of labels on people every day; … even in Church.
Think about these labels: … “legalistic,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “stingy,”
“worldly,” “prideful,” “pushy.” … We hurriedly slap the tag “wild” on motivated
teens, … “selfish” on those who disagree with us, … “show-off” on people who
prosper … and “uncommitted” on those whose agendas differ from ours.
The younger people say the older ones are “stuck in their ways,” … while the
seasoned citizens say the “young-uns’” are “immature.” and lack experience.
And the real tragedy is that either side rarely takes the time to befriend and
honestly inquire enough to truly know the other side.
When we label a person, … we combine two devastating forces: …
In spirit, we judge and we measure according to our own set of scales and
balances! … Matthew 7:1-2: … “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  2  For
with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you”.
In addition to judging, … we give up on hope. … In effect, we say to the person
we label; … “This is the way you are and will always be. I have no hope for you to
change. I will view you through this label forever and always think of you in light
of it. … I have you all figured out. … Any questions?”
Without grace, … comparisons emerge: …
Early in the history of the Church, … her members drew lines in the sand and
began to choose sides. … Instead of being in awe of the person of Christ, …
they chose to be awestruck by the personalities who sought to represent Him.
Playing favorites, some said; … “I am on Paul’s side, He is our founder.” (Paul,
Paul, He’s our man ....).
Others cheered; … “Apollos is our man. He can really preach!”
Still others, seeking to out-awe them all, would moralize; …
“Well, I am of Christ!”

One of Paul’s written confrontations with the Corinthians was over this very
matter: … 1 Corinthians. 3:1-6: … “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as
spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ.  2  I gave you milk to
drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not
ready,  3  because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you,
are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers. 4  For whenever someone says, “I’m
with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?”
Comparisons breed competition. … One competitive struggle most pastors face …
and yet are probably reluctant to acknowledge, … is fueled by our media-drenched
culture. … Not only do we feel responsible to have a fresh word from Heaven for
God’s people each week … but we often think we must be as engaging as Chuck
Swindoll, … as practical as Charles Stanley, … as authoritative as John
MacArthur, … as picturesque as Max Lucado, … and as evangelistic as Billy
Graham.
Comparisons, … whether imposed by ourselves or others, … create pressures God
never intended for us to bear. … Meanwhile, grace says; … “You are what you are
by the grace of God. I accept you completely. I thank God for who you and what
you are becoming.”
You see, … without grace, … we tend to see issues only on the surface.
Paul sees through the Corinthian’s shallowness … and in his second letter, offers
gracious counsel: … “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some
who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and
comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”
(2 Corinthians 10:12)
Without grace, … expectations increase: …
The Corinthians lack of grace was saying to Paul; … “You don’t meet our
expectations! You fall short of what we had hoped for! We’re not sure you can
meet our needs!”
A primary cause of stress in our lives is unrealistic expectations, … both others
impose on us … and those we place on ourselves.
The chasm that exists between our realities and the expectations we expect, …
creates stress (a major cause of illness in our society, today).
I remember my first few months after assuming the pastorate in Tatum (my first
Church). … I had an image of what a “Senior Minister” should be like and should
do … that was so far beyond reality, … that it added to my sleepless nights!

It took a while to settle into facing the realities of my abilities … and my
limitations. … My extreme expectations for my new position were causing stress.
When all we give people are our expectations, … while withholding our
understanding and listening ear, … we achieve the opposite of grace.
Instead of encouraging and empowering those around us to reach their potential, …
we discourage them. … We put on their brakes, … so-to-speak.
Despite the Corinthians graceless treatment of Paul, … he refused to write them
off. … He would not label them … or ridicule them. … He would not fight fire
with fire … and refused to live out his anger. … Instead, he imparted grace and
love to their potential, … again and again.
The Presence of Grace: …
This brings us back to those “grace moments”. … We can’t live without them …
and when we extend grace to others, … despite our flaws and weaknesses, …
we reflect the very nature and character of Christ. … In fact, … we are never more
like Christ, … than when we extend grace to others.
With grace, … sin becomes the enemy, … not people!
What was it that enabled Paul to endure such sinful opposition and rotten attitudes
from a group of people he risked his life to reach for Christ? … What was it that
kept him coming back and writing, … instructing, … teaching; … even when it
seemed like nothing was sinking in?
Well, … this is precisely where grace comes in, … for grace believes the best of
people and draws it out of them. … There is nothing cowardly about a gracious
person. … Grace is the most courageous of virtues. … It enables a person to face
up to ridicule, … slander, … un-forgiveness, … hatred … and to do so much more
than just react to it.
Grace empowers a person to see beyond the sin of their enemy … and love the
person, … to look beyond an angry brother or sister’s faults … and see their needs.
Nicky Cruz (Evangelist, author and the subject of the movie; The Cross and the
Switchblade) …came face to face one day with the power of grace on the streets of
New York City, in the form of a skinny country preacher. … In the “60’s”, …
when Dave Wilkerson was responding to God’s call to reach out to drug addicts,
… he came in contact with Nicky. … Crazy with hate, … Nicky pulled a switch-
blade and said; … “I’m gonna’ cut you preacher man!” … and Wilkerson quickly
replied; … “Nicky, you can cut me into a thousand pieces … and each of them will
say, ‘I love you.’” … On that day, … grace gave anger something it couldn’t
penetrate … and the rest is history.

You see folks, … love is the fuel of grace. … The gracious person is one who is
convinced that love conquers all. … No wonder that Paul penned the classic love
chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 … and addressed it to the grace-deficient Corinthians.
The gracious person has a boundless tool at their disposal. … In the face of
conflicts and challenges, … they choose to overcome them, … instead of being
overcome by them. … Their way of working is the deep conviction that the
“storms” they face go deeper than the people who bring them grief.
The root cause is sin itself … and for this they know … and freely extend, …
a great remedy; … grace!
Understand, … giving grace doesn’t mean we excuse sin. … Graciousness is not
the same as mere tolerance. … The gracious person sees sin for what it is but
chooses not to repay kind-for-kind. … Instead, … in the face of bitterness, … they
exhibit thoughtfulness; … In the face of greed, … generosity; …. In the face of
anger, … calmness of spirit; … To words of wrath, … is offered affirmation …
and to hurt … is extended a listening ear … and a kind heart.
Rather than striking at the sinner in anger, … they confront the sin with the
antidote of grace.
With grace, … we give people space: …
What Paul wanted from the Corinthians had nothing to do with their graceless
suspicions of him. … His gracious heart and concern are easy to detect in a few of
his last words written to them; … “Now I am ready to come to you this third time. I
will not burden you, for I am not seeking what is yours, but you. For children are
not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  15  I will
most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”
(2 Corinthians 12:14-15)
The attitudes of these Corinthian believers would have drawn a sarcastic lecture
from many other leaders. … Paul chose, however, … to speak the truth in a spirit
of love … because the Christ he had come to know was full of …
“grace and truth.”
Therefore, … Paul extended to them what he had already received from God.
He gave them grace … and he also gave them space.
We all need grace, in virtually every relationship and event in life. … We need
grace for forgotten appointments, … broken promises, … thoughtless and abrupt
words, … missed deadlines. … We need great doses of grace to live for a perfect
God … in such an imperfect world.

The best part about grace is that we have been given a wonderful promise from
God about grace to live graciously. … The promise is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8
which reads; … “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in
every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work”
Think of it, … God is able to supply enough grace to us so that in all things, …
at all times, … having all that we need, … we will overflow in grace toward others.
Now there is the power for ministry!
This is the reservoir for generosity! … This is how gracious people are able to be
gracious! … Remember, … we are never more like God … than when we give
grace to someone.
To Conclude: … How can we become grace givers like the apostle Paul? … we
can start by asking some problem-solving questions: …
*What am I living out of; … grace or anger?
*What fuels most of my actions or reactions toward people?
*What is behind the words I use or the tone in them?
*Do I believe the best about people … or expect the worst?
*Do I expect too much of the people in my life?
*Do I look beyond the obvious faults … to see the desperate needs within?
*Do I endeavor to make people comfortable … or uncomfortable?
*Do I know how to give grace?
It’s so easy as Christians to get caught up in the idea of a grace that makes a way
for us to enter Heaven … but there is another aspect to Christ’s work on the cross;
… something He wants us to see today. … Christ wants to use my life and yours to
bring some of Heaven to earth, … into the lives of people on this planet, … in the
spheres of our relationships … and in the form of a gift … called grace!
AMEN

Get The Best Seat! - 9/30/18

GET THE BEST SEAT! 09 30 2018

Luke 14: 7-11

Let me tell you a story: …
The governor’s daughter was getting married. … The governor had planned an
elaborate wedding and reception. … The reception was more than cake and punch.
It was a seven-course meal. … The governor rented a massive hall in which they
would have the reception.
The governor, … who was quite popular, having been involved in government and
politics for a number of years, … made a lengthy guest list.
Mayors from all over the state were invited, along with senators, congressmen,
judges … and even former presidents.
Dignitaries would be there like never before.
The governor carefully planned the seating arrangements. … With the amount of
officials and dignitaries there, egos could easily be bruised if the pecking order
wasn’t followed closely. … It proved to be a little difficult as the wedding
approached because some who said they could come, backed out.
Others didn’t respond until the last minute.
As the reception was beginning, … the name cards got all messed up.
It was confusing … but everyone had a good idea where to sit.
The mayor of Capitol City was in attendance. … In all the confusion, he saw an
opportunity to get close to the governor. … After all, the governor would not be
seeking another term. … The mayor thought it would be a great chance to
schmooze the governor and get his personal endorsement to be the next governor.
He pushed his way through the crowd and slid into the chair right next to the
governor. … Just as the mayor was ready to chat up the governor, a former
president came into the room. … The governor had been a cabinet member during
the administration of the former president. … The governor jumped to his feet to
greet the former president.
The mayor glanced around. … All the other seats were now taken.
The governor asked the mayor to move so the former president could sit there.
With everyone looking on, … the mayor, … red-faced, … slipped to the other side
of the hall and sat down at the table with all the kids (That is the equivalent of
sitting at the card table with the kids at Thanksgiving dinner).

What had begun as a political power play by the mayor of Capitol City …
turned into a colossal embarrassment for him.
Can you imagine what the mayor was feeling? … The mayor of Capitol City was a
very honored guest … but an even more honored guest, in a former president,
displaced him.
There was also something else going on at the reception that went virtually
unnoticed. … The mayor of a small town also came. … He had known the
governor while they were both in college. … The small town mayor, though, knew
his place in the political hierarchy. … He knew he was not a big player. … He sat
down with the less distinguished guests.
Before everyone else had taken their seats, … the governor noticed his old friend
sitting in the corner. … The governor rushed over to him and said; …
“Old friend, why are you sitting here? Come with me.”
The governor ushered him to the seat next to where the mayor of capitol city was
sitting (This all occurred before the former president came in).
As the events with the mayor of Capitol City unfolded, … the small town mayor
watched in astonishment as the former president was seated next to him.
Can you imagine what the small town mayor was feeling? …
Because of his humility, … the small town mayor was ushered to a seat of very
great honor.
Does this story bare any resemblance to our Gospel reading of  Luke 14:7-11.
The story that Jesus told was based on a Proverb.
Don’t brag about yourself before the king, and don’t stand in the place of the
great; 7  for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here!” than to demote you
in plain view of a noble (Proverbs 25: 6-7)
What does all this mean?
Is this just a lesson on table manners?
What implication does this have on our lives?
All of this contradicts what values we often hold; … what this world we live in,
admires. … We assign worth to the pushy politician who climbs the ladder on the
backs of the little guy. … We value people who are assertive. … Seminars are held
to help people become assertive. … How many seminars have you seen advertised
to help people become humble? … “Come to the Humble Seminar and learn how
to be more humble.”
I did a search on the Internet for “humble seminar” and “humility seminar”. …

Guess what?: … Got nothing.
Do a search on “assertiveness seminar” and you get hundreds of hits.
Humble, … non-self-promoting effacing people … are seen as weak.
They are often stepped on by upwardly mobile people.
Even the Hindu  spiritual prophet, Sivananda Saraswati, teaches; …  “Humility is
not cowardice.”
Humility comes from the realization that … we can’t do it on our own.
We can’t save ourselves.
Are we learning that acting humble will get us the seat of honor or whatever we
want? … No!
Acting humble, … or even being humble, … is not a shortcut to glory.
Here’s one for you: … A man was given a medal because of his humility.
Later, it was taken away because he wore it everywhere he went.
It’s hard to ask someone if they are humble. … If they say “yes” then it looks like
they’re proud of their humility. … If they say “no”, … maybe they’re right.
The path to humility starts with the realization that we are dependent on Jesus for
everything.
There is not, … nor has there ever been … a self-made man (or woman, for-that-
matter).
Every mother would dispute that.
Beyond our indebtedness to our mothers for life, … is our indebtedness to God for
our life.
We are running a race on a treadmill, never getting anywhere … and in no way
ever crossing a finish line, … if we try to live a life apart from God’s grace.
Even those who give no thought to God are indebted to God. … so that you may be
sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the
good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5: 45).
Being humble is not a shortcut to earthly success. … People won’t get a job
promotion just because they’re humble. … On the contrary, … they’ll probably be
often overlooked.
Remember that God’s social economy is quite different from our social economy.
God values humility … while our values seek the proud. … “But He gives greater
grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud,but gives grace to the humble”
(James 4: 6).

Again, … humility isn’t the path to earthly success. … God cares more about
having a relationship with us … than he does with making sure we have a
Mercedes or a Lariat 4X4 to drive.
The true reward of humility is a close relationship with Jesus Christ; … not a big
house or large paycheck.
Yet, have you ever noticed how pride can get in the way of relationship?
I have argued with people for the sake of arguing. … After a while it doesn’t really
matter what the argument was about. … I’m only arguing so I can win the stupid
argument. … It doesn’t really matter who’s right … because I want to win.
I’ve even argued on my behalf when I knew I was wrong!
I’m sure no one else here today has ever been that petty.
The quickest way to turn a friend into an enemy, … is to argue about something all
the time.
Always making sure that we are right … letting our pride get the best of us.
Jesus is telling us, in today’s reading, … that pride will lead to a downfall. …
Pride leads to arrogance. … Arrogance leads to the thought that we’re invincible!
That means we are depending on whom?; … Ourselves!
If we are depending on ourselves, … we aren’t depending on Christ.
If we aren’t depending on Christ, … what happens to our relationship with Him?
It’s damaged … or destroyed!
Following Christ is about having a relationship with him.
One of the characteristics of a good marriage (or any relationship), … is the
realization by both parties, … that they are interdependent.
A husband is dependent on his wife: … A wife is dependent on her husband.
One friend is dependent on the other friend. … When that interdependency
vanishes, … the relationship or marriage comes to a crashing halt!
When we trust in Christ, … our relationship is strengthened.
When that trust diminishes, … the relationship is weakened.
Is pride getting in the way of our relationship with others?
Is pride defeating our relationship with Jesus Christ?

AMEN

Take The Step - 10/7/18

TAKE THE STEP! 10 07 2018

Esther 4: 13-17
I decided to speak on Esther for a number of reasons: …
1. Part of this scripture in dear to me; … “Who knows, perhaps you have come to
the kingdom for such a time as this.” (verse 13b)
2. One of the Sunday School classes is studying the Book of Esther.
3. It’s one of the least read books in the Bible.
4. Disciple Women of the Northeast Area are having a rally at Central Christian –
Winnsboro, next Saturday.
All-in-all, the message to me … was that my sermon topic this Sunday needed to
be directed toward the women of the Church.
That is not to say that the men of the Church get to take a nap for the duration.
Much of this can and should be applied to our lives, also!
To begin: …
This was the day that Esther would either end up a hero … or end up dead.
Yeah, … I’m pretty sure I would have been tempted to crawl back into bed, …
pull the covers over my head … and desperately pray that God would find some
other woman or person; … some other way; … to save His people.
Why me? … Why here? … Why now?
These are questions we often ask God when He calls us to be brave in less-than-
ideal situations. … When we wake up one morning and realize it’s time to take that
step of faith … and move from the preparation stage … to actually doing the hard
works for God. … Oh we’re bold in the preparing … but when it’s time to take that
next step?; … “Isn’t there an easier way, Father? … Surely there’s someone else
who’s more qualified, … more available, … more; … I don’t know; … ‘built’ to
handle these kinds of projects?”
But Esther saved the doubt and the drama … and instead responded with: …
“I will go.”
How do we effectively respond to: … “The hand we are dealt”?
We Must be Empowered; … Fearless!
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won more favor and
approval from him than did any of the other young women. He placed the royal
crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti.  18  The king held a great
banquet for all his officials and staff. It was Esther’s banquet. He freed his
provinces from tax payments and gave gifts worthy of the king’s bounty.”
(Esther 2:17-18)

Thousands of years ago, a woman&#39;s worth depended on how she looked. …
Esther was a metaphorical slave of her culture.
Has it really changed for girls and women today? … In my ministry, I’ve meant all
kinds and ages of women who are enslaved by the culture surrounding them, …
which reworks their true identity. … As a result, … they are blinded to God&#39;s
purpose for their life.
We live in a media-saturated world which is communicating thousands of
messages every day, … consciously and unconsciously, to us.
Advertisements, magazines and music videos teach girls that they are to be &#39;living
dolls&#39;; … that their worth lies in their physical appearance. … The result?: …
Girls see their bodies as projects to be worked on … as they strive to meet an
unrealistic standard of beauty. … A teenage girl once confided in me after
watching the cheerleaders perform at a pep rally: … &quot;I am not enough.&quot;
God expects courage from his daughters. … The book of Esther is clear evidence
of this. … Her courage has echoed through generations of Hebrews … but it ought
to influence all women who call the Lord their Father. … Our God is the same
Messiah. … When we live a life of fear, … we are not pursuing God’s “best” for
us.
Whether it’s fear of rejection, … fear of judgment, … fear of being alone …
or fear of suffering, … we must set it all aside and keep our eyes fixed on our
Deliverer.
Where would we all be if Esther had chosen to stay silent? … What if she had
made her decision based on her fears rather than on her faith in God. …
She heeded the advice of her uncle Mordecai and recognized that God had destined
her for such a time as this. … Though she must have been terrified, … she obeyed.
Her courage … was her obedience!
There is a greater message that God is trying to communicate to His daughters
through the story of Esther. … I believe He wanted future generations of women to
have this story to look back on … to spur them on to courage. … Women need a
matriarch of valor to affirm the warrior that lives inside of all of us … once we
have the Holy Spirit’s power. … Esther’s legacy is one that says that fulfilling our
God given purpose … means that we cannot listen to the Enemy when he tells us
that we aren’t strong enough, … influential enough … or valuable enough to be
used by God.
There is a time that you … have been made for! … You have been placed in your
job, … in your marriage … and in your family for a purpose. …

You have been given royal status in the Kingdom of God for such a time as this;
… for such a time as now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! …
Listen to His leading and be ready to respond with courage when He calls.
Esther, the Jewish slave, … was chosen as the new queen which put her in a
position to petition the king for mercy on her people … but, … Esther was only
chosen as queen … AFTER someone else refused to obey. …
This position was entrusted to her because someone disobeyed … and Esther was
willing to obey the King! … She went a notch higher by even preparing herself to
come into the presence of the king.
Are you willing to obey your King of all kings … and at the same time, … prepare
yourself to come into His presence?
If you claim the title “Christian” … You must stand up Boldly for Christ
Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape
the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace.  14  If you keep silent at
this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another
place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you
have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
15  Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:  16  “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be
found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and
my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king
even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.”  17  So Mordecai went and did
everything Esther had ordered him. (Esther 4:13-17)
From a traditional standpoint, … some may consider that Esther was indeed too
bold and acted in a way that was not appropriate. … Those with traditional mind
sets believe that Esther should not have stood up to the king as she did.
This was an inappropriate move for the day and age she was living in and out of
line. … Some may also think that this act was disrespectful, in some way, to her
husband. … Traditionalists today still do not think that it is right to stand up to
your husband so boldly. … They believe that women should listen to their
husbands … and not interfere with what it is they want or believe, … because it is
wrong.
Esther’s first step is to pray and fast. … She fasts for three days and asks everyone
in her community to fast with her. … She knows that standing up to evil and
fighting injustice is no small matter … and that she can accomplish nothing in her
own strength or by herself. …

Even though scripture does not say this, … it can be implied she can only succeed
if the Lord gives her great favor and wisdom. Just as Mordecai
inferred, … the Lord is the one who will bring deliverance … and she must act
according to His will. How
often do we act … before praying! … How often have we prayed a quick prayer
for protection and blessing … instead of spending hours, … if not days, … in
prayer and fasting!
As “Esthers”, … you must learn to begin every action with prayer … and to rely
on the Lord when bringing hope to the hopeless.
After three days of prayer and fasting, … Esther acts with courage and boldness.
She does not delay to act or hope God will send someone else. … No, … she steps
forward in courage and faith, … risking her life, … believing that God will
provide.
Once given entrance to the king, … she is wise and bold in her requests. …
She does not hesitate or lose courage … but she continues to walk as a courageous,
… faith-filled … Esther.
Esther is the perfect mix of waiting on the Lord … and also walking in faith.
Where is God calling you to bring His Hope? … Where has He placed you so that
you might fight against injustice … and protect His people?
Where are you confronting Evil on a daily basis? … Have you spent time in prayer
and fasting? … Have you sought the Lord’s will for your life and the situations He
has called you to?
Or maybe you have spent time in prayer but are hesitant to act?
Are you waiting for more signs or for God to send someone else?
How can you step out in faith today?
How can you live out your calling with courage and boldness?
Esther was a highly intelligent, yet a brave woman that we should look up to.
Her great courage and confidence saved many lives. … She was a woman who
followed God and was unafraid to do what was required of her, … even though she
was facing great trials. … Her abundant faith shows us that we can accomplish
anything when we believe and set our minds to it. … She has also showed us that
we need not be afraid when serving the Lord.
Esther was put in a position that could have cost her life, … yet she followed
through with God&#39;s plan and stood up to her husband. … Esther is the ultimate
example of whom women should look to for inspiration in their lives, …
for she was truly bold, … beautiful … and brilliant.

Through your bold actions and courage, … the lives of a community, … if not a
Nation can be saved!
That same day King Ahasuerus (uh hash-yoo HER uhs) awarded Queen Esther the
estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Mordecai entered the king’s presence
because Esther had revealed her relationship to Mordecai.  2  The king removed his
signet ring he had recovered from Haman and gave it to Mordecai, and Esther put
him in charge of Haman’s estate.
3  Then Esther addressed the king again. She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to
revoke the evil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot he had devised against the
Jews.  4  The king extended the gold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood
before the king.
5  She said, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, if the
matter seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let a royal edict be
written. Let it revoke the documents the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the
Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces.  6  For how
could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people? How could I bear
to see the destruction of my relatives?” (Esther 8:1-6)
In verses 8-14 and 16-17, the edit is given, … the Jews are allowed to protect
themselves … and God’s people are saved; … not only saved but their numbers are
increased because many converted to Judaism after witnessing God’s hand at
work!
Esther’s people, … the Jews, … were in danger. … Due to an evil scheme by the
king’s adviser, … all of the Jews in the Persian Empire had been sentenced to
death. … The king was unaware that Esther was Jewish. … When her cousin
Mordecai told her of this news, he challenged her to view herself as uniquely
placed in a position of influence so she could save her people.
Esther could remain silent and most likely her life would be spared, … as long as
the king didn’t learn that she was Jewish. … If she chose silence, … she would
lose her family and her people; … she wouldn’t be used by God.
Or she could choose to act. … She could put her life on the line and stand up
against injustice! … That’s the path she selected … and God rewarded her
faithfulness by protecting the Jews through a series of miraculous events.
Making a decision to follow Christ is a defining moment … because we become a
part of something bigger than ourselves. … Being a Christ-follower … gives us a
purpose that is bigger than our own.

Esther had lived her life as one of God’s chosen people. … She believed in God
and knew that he cared about his people … but it wasn’t until she chose to act on
what she knew was right in the eyes of God, … that she was able to witness
firsthand His mercy and love. … Challenge your family and friends this week to
discover and experience the joy of putting their faith into action by helping
someone in need, … whether physically … or Spiritually!
Stand against the injustice of this secular and pagan world!
You know our nation desperately needs individuals like you and me to be willing
to follow Esther’s example and stand in the gap for God. … Our culture grows
more corrupt and sinful every moment that passes … and I think much of the
blame falls on those of us who hesitate to speak up and act for God’s truth.
Remember, all it takes for evil to prosper, … is for good people to do nothing …
and these days, … many good people ARE doing nothing.
The people in your sphere of influence, … that little “congregation” that God has
given you, … needs you to be salt and light.
They need you to speak the truth in love, … to guide them to faith in God.
This morning, … many of us may need to make a commitment to God to be as
courageous as Esther.
Accept the new position that God is giving you. … If the opportunity is the result
of another’s disobedience, … allow your obedience to take you to another level in
Him!
Remember that your obedience is connected to so many other people’s destinies!
Prepare yourself to come into The King’s presence; … You have come to the
Kingdom for such a time as this!
AMEN

Final Words - 9/30/18

Pastor’s Corner 09 30 2018

This last Sunday during the service at First Christian Church – Timpson, TX., the pastor, Larry
Stegall gave his message, then informed the congregation that he had preached his last sermon.
Larry turned, walked away from the pulpit, sat down … and died at the age of 79.
Larry was, what is recognized in our denomination, as a Commissioned Minister. Larry was
mostly self-taught in theology but did take ministry classes offered through the Northeast Area of
the Christian Church and also attended a certificate program at Jarvis Christian College.
I was friends with Larry but never real close. We took some classes together and later, when I
became a member of the Area Committee on Ministry, sat in on several of his interviews. For
more than the 20 years that I have known Larry, he served mostly small Churches that could not
afford a full time minister. He did this service at little to no pay. He was also a volunteer
chaplain at Bradshaw State Jail, where the inmates he ministered to greatly appreciated his
ministry.
Larry was stubborn and hardheaded. I mean that in the best of ways. Larry had a stubborn
determination for ministry and was hardheaded enough that he would let nothing get in his way
or discourage him from this mission our loving God had directed him to. There are many Saints
with their Lord today because of his preaching of salvation; … too many lives to count that have
Larry’s mark of ministry on them. There was no place for nonsense in the sermons Larry
delivered and believe me, … he was not shy about his method of delivery.
Larry had his faults as all of us do but my admiration for him was based on his willingness to
offer a message of LIFE and HOPE, … regardless of how little reward and recognition was in it
for him.
Did I say, “little reward and recognition”?
How many of us, when we leave this earth for eternity with our Lord, will be able to say: …
“God arranged it so I could leave this earth from His House”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a celebration it must have been when Larry took the nail scared hand of His Savior and
heard the words: … “Well done, oh good and faithful servant”!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jim

Loaned Out - 9/16/18

LOANED OUT! 09 16 2018
Psalm 89: 1, Psalm 21: 1

I want you to put on your imagination cap. … Picture this; … if on a Sunday
morning, I came into this sanctuary and a stranger was sitting in this chair …
and then at 10: 30 AM, proceeded to get up, … lead the worship … and preach the
message.
These thoughts could easily pass through my mind: … why is he / she … sitting in
my chair; … why is he / she … preaching from “my” pulpit?
It would be something like the feeling you may have when Sunday after Sunday
you come and sit in the same pew … and then one Sunday, … you come and some
new person is sitting … “in your pew”.
When reality settles in, … we realize that is not your pew at all; … that pew
belongs to the Church … and the only reason you can sit in it … is because the
Church makes it available to whomever is preaching the message … and by-the-
way, … this is not my pulpit. … this pulpit also belongs to the Church; … not to
me … and if I really want to get it right, … that pulpit belongs to God … and
whomever He would choose to put in it.
It’s the same when we go to work. … If we are a truck driver or a machinist, …
our employer hires us to drive a truck to make deliveries and pick-ups … but not
very long, after driving that truck day after day, … we develop the feeling this is
our truck … and if we come into work and find someone else driving “our” truck,
… we want to know why!
Just as I would if we worked the same machine every day … and then months later
came in to find somebody else working “our” machine … when all the time the
truck … or the machine … or whatever it is; … the desk, the computer, the
company car, … they are not ours at all … but are, … so-to-speak, … “on loan” to
us while we are employed by this Church … or … that company.
I raise this point of ownership with you before this Thanksgiving Season coming
up in November, … to makes us conscious, once again, … that if we are truly to be
thankful NOW … or in any season for that matter, … the question of ownership
must be clearly settled in our hearts … and when it comes down to who owns
what, … the Word of God is very clear: …
Psalm 89:11: … The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours. The world and
everything in it—You founded them.
Psalm 24: 1: … The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the LORD

You and I are surrounded everyday by possessions we think we own: … our car,
our home, our children, our clothing, our money, our hidden away collections of
coins, guns, dolls, family heirlooms.
“Hey, … who owns that white F150 in the parking lot, … they have me blocked
in?”
“I own this land free and clear … and here’s what I’m going to do with it.”
Sometimes we joke about the bank owning the car or house … because the bank
holds the mortgage or title … but beyond the joking is this daily mental perception
we have … and especially after the loan is paid off, … this is really ours!: …
I earned it; … I bought it… ; I paid it off with my money!
What I am trying to say this morning, … is that until we truly believe it all belongs
to God; … He owns it all; … until that perception is clear … and we are really sold
on it, … come November 22 nd , … Thanksgiving will only be a good meal on
Thursday with the family.
Now I know some of you may be thinking this is a little early to be considering
Thanksgiving … but for some of us, … it might just take this extra time for this
reality … to sink in!
Think about when you are truly thankful. … Is it not when you’ve had something
very valuable or useful; … lost it … and then recovered the lost item?
Maybe it was your health … or suddenly you lost the use of your hand to some
type of paralysis or numbness; … possibly you were in such pain you couldn’t
walk … but then by medicine, … an operation … or therapy of some kind, … your
health was restored; … how thankful were you?
We see it, from time to time, … in the news when a child is lost or kidnapped …
and then found safe and unharmed, … then returned to the parents.
Tears of joy and thankfulness flow easily.
Whether it’s our health, … a child, … our job or home; … whatever is lost or
harmed, … amidst all the other issues that can erupt, … ownership (control), …
customarily rampages through our mind: … “I thought I took good care of myself”,
… “my health was fine”; … “my child is seldom out of my sight; … I just glanced
away for a moment, … besides, I thought Bill was watching also!”
Do we really own our health, … or our child, … any more than we really own our
job or our house?
Psalm 24: 1-2: … The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the LORD; 2  for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the
rivers.

Psalm 104: 14: … He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for
man to cultivate, producing food from the earth,
Psalm 104: 27 - 28: … All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right
time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are
satisfied with good things.
The contrast of what I am talking about is the kind of pride we see in King
Nebuchadnezzar. … He was the king of a great empire and fell easily into the
temptation of believing he was the owner and master of many lands, property, and
peoples. … Daniel, the Lord’s prophet, … had warned the king that the Lord God
Almighty would humble him for his sinful self-preoccupation.
So we read in Daniel 4:29-33: … “At the end of 12 months, as he was walking on
the roof of the royal palace in Babylon,  30  the king exclaimed, “Is this not Babylon
the Great that I have built by my vast power to be a royal residence and to display
my majestic glory?”
31  While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “King
Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared that the kingdom has departed from
you.  32  You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you
will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that
the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He
wants.”
33  At that moment the sentence against Nebuchadnezzar was executed. He was
driven away from people. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with
dew from the sky, until his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’
claws.”
So much for King Nebuchadnezzar and how important he thought he was with all
“his” possessions of land, property and kingdoms. … He is only an extreme
example of each of us who have failed to settle in our hearts who is truly the owner
of my paycheck and the very air I breathe. … It’s all on loan to us … from Him, …
the creator, … for another moment, another day, … by His grace, … even for a
lifetime:
When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
31  May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works.
(Psalm 104:30-31)

Do we, … like Nebuchadnezzar, … have to keep losing what we treasure and think
we own, … before we realize the truth that every day and possession of that day …
is God’s gift to us?
Most likely the answer is “yes”; … pride will continue to shackle our thankfulness
until we have accepted this truth!
I’ve heard so many times; … “we are born again.” … Listen, … until God greatest
gift of all to us, … His Son, Jesus Christ, … becomes our Lord and Savior …
and His Holy Spirit takes charge of our heart and mind; … until that conversion
takes place daily; … the precious black star sapphire gold ring my dad gave me for
graduation, … will always be mine instead of His … and the money I have will
remain under my control instead of His.
Who are we to think we can change ourselves? … Who am I to think I could ever
be grateful for anything I have made and accomplished?
Let us not be blind; … thanksgiving will come with an inner divine transformation,
… when God in His creative power … takes hold of our selfish and sinful heart; …
and with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ … washes away the old self … and
gives to us a new self in Christ Jesus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then you and I will have that new and true understanding of who owns the cattle
on a 1000 hills (Psalm 50:10). …
We see this inner divine transformation take place in who of all people but King
Nebuchadnezzar. … Remember we left this boasting and prideful ruler struck
down by God living like an animal, … eating grass like an ox, … his body wet
with the dew of heaven, … his hair growing out like a madman’s, … his nails like
bird’s claw.
And then we read Daniel 4: 34-37: … But at the end of those days, I,
Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I
praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever: …
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation
to generation. 35  All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He
does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, “What have You
done?” 36  At that time my sanity returned to me, and my majesty and splendor
returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and my nobles sought me
out, I was reestablished over my kingdom, and even more greatness came to me.
37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all

His works are true and His ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in
pride.
Have we gotten the point? … Nebuchadnezzar did. … The earth and everything in
it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD. (Psalm 24: 1)
When we truly give thanks, … it is more than a meal; … it is a tribute to Almighty
God, … our owner and keeper, … our Savior and friend. …
Did you notice that when God gave the king a new heart, … that He restored the
fortunes of the king just as He restored Job’s fortunes when he too received the
inner divine new birth; … and in the restoration came even greater fortunes:
“…and my majesty and splendor returned to me for the glory of my kingdom .”
(vs 36)
So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first (Job 42: 12)
Real thanksgiving comes when we accept and live out the truth God has given to
us in His word and in His Son. … So let us pray for a rebirth of self from our old
way to God’s new way, … a rebirth that occurs, not once, … but daily … as God
continues to transform (change) us from one degree of glory to the next.
Then when someone else is sitting in our pew … or Hudson becomes lost at
Walmart … or worse, … our most treasured possession … or person is taken, …
there will still resonate within us from the very depths, … the bedrock expression
of thanksgiving: … “because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded
that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
(2 Timothy 1: 12)
AMEN

untitled

PERFECT PEOPLE CAN STAY HOME

Ephesians 2: 8-10

Most of us look upon the late Dr. Billy Graham as a hero of the faith. … Most of
us have followed his ministry for many years. … Dr. Graham once said; …
“There are no perfect Churches … but if there were, … I couldn’t join because
they wouldn’t be perfect anymore.”
I agree. … The Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who walked with
God … yet they made mistake after mistake. … All of them were imperfect.
God made a powerful promise to a woman named Sarah. … Her response: … she
laughed at Him.
Jacob deceived his Father and stole his brother’s birthright.
Jonah ran from God.
Martha worried too much
When Jesus asked the disciples to pray with Him, … the disciples all fell asleep.
Jacob, Jonah, Martha and the 12 disciples all shared at least two commonalities: …
1. They all loved the Lord … and
2. they were all imperfect.
You and I fall into that same category. … All of us are far … from perfect.
What we Christians overlook sometimes; … the Church is not for people who are
never disobedient. … The Church is not for those who think they have it all
together. … The Church is not for those who have arrived.
We are like “AA”: … We are basically, … Sinners Anonymous.
We’re the only organization besides Hell’s Angels … that you have to bleed in
order to get in; … Get my point?
Every growing believer I know has, at one time or another, said these words; …
“I’m struggling. … I’m making progress but I’m struggling.”
Look at these two passages with me; … Philippians 3:12a and 15a: …
12a “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature”
15a “Therefore, all who are mature should think this way”
Ephesians 2:8-10 (this should be our focus for the morning): … “For you are
saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9  not
from works, so that no one can boast. 10  For we are His creation, created in Christ
Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in
them.”
Look at these three truths with me today: …
1. When we show grace to others, … we are doing what God does.

God saved you by grace when you believed … and you cannot take credit for this;
… it is a gift from God.
Think about this; … when you came to God and you first believed, … when you
were searching, … how would you describe your spiritual condition at the time?
Think about this; … the Bible call us to be fishers of men (people). …
We share something in common with fish. … The first step we have to make with
fish when we catch them, … is to clean them.
Did you ever clean a fish? … It’s a messy process most people don’t really enjoy.
It is messy … but it’s necessary. … When we catch fish, they’re not ready to eat.
When we first come to Christ, … we’re not quite ready to be used.
So Jesus begins the cleaning process. … Now He accepts us just as we are; …
that’s why we still sing the song … “Just as I Am” … because that’s the way we
come to God; … sinners, … messed up; … we were nothing without Christ …
and we need to be reminded of that: … We are nothing without His righteousness.
So we have to be careful that we never send out wrong signals to an unbeliever.
Because here is the problem; … There are many people who believe they are
simply not good enough to come to Christ. … They believe they have to get their
life “together” first … and then they can come to Christ … but nothing could be
further from the truth.
Here is the truth: …
The truth is, we are NOT good enough when we receive Christ … but it is only
when we realize we are NOT good enough … that we CAN come to Him.
This is a barrier that we need to tear down. … Here’s the process; … We come to
God Just as we are, … then God starts us in the process of what the Bible calls
sanctification. … I am being sanctified … but I have not been completely
sanctified. … It is progressive. … I am saved … but I am still in the process of
being cleaned up.
Here are a few things we need to allow unbelievers to do: …
1. Allow unbelievers to question our faith. … “Always be ready to give a defense
to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15b) 
In-other-words, … if someone asks about your hope as a believer, … always be
ready to explain it.
Show interest in their opinions; their doubts; their questions. … Even if we don’t
agree. … I never want to present myself as someone who thinks I have arrived or
have it all together.
Allow unbelievers to question our faith.

2. Allow unbelievers to wrestle with their unbelief. … A good example of this is
found in the 9th chapter of Mark. … A man brought his son to Jesus. … His son
was demon possessed … but even as His father brought his son to Jesus, … the
father was still struggling with his belief in who Christ really was.
Maybe he had never really seen God’s power for himself. … Jesus told the father;
anything is possible to those who believe; … this is what the father said: …
“I do believe! Help my unbelief.”
I have beliefs but I also have doubts.
Unless we are prefect, … we should be able to identify with that statement.
As a Church, we must always allow people to come here and search, … to ask
questions; … that is how we came to Christ … and we should allow others the
same privilege. … When we show grace to others, … we are following in the same
steps as Jesus.
3. Our attitude should be one of humility, … especially in connection with an
unbeliever. … Paul said salvation is not a reward for the good works we have done
… so none of us should brag about it or look down our noses at others.
The Bible is crystal clear on this subject. If we have been saved, … we have no
right to brag / boast / be prideful … about it. … We haven’t saved ourself!
Now this kind of attitude is very contagious. … People find humility to be
attractive and they find pride to be repulsive and unattractive.
Look at what the scripture says: … James 4:6b: … “God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble”
In this I think we usually have the same attitude as God. … We will go out of our
way to help someone who is humble … and we will also go out of our way to
avoid someone who is proud.
Karen and I enjoy watching AGT … where the judges and America get to vote as
to whether the individual is allowed to stay in the competition … and it is not rare
that a contestant is eliminated because of their proudful and holier than thou
attitude toward the judges and the American audience. … Confidence is one thing,
… Pride is another.
As believers, … you and I have to understand that it is not our goodness that has
earned us a place at the table with Jesus … and there are two practices we need to
take up … if we want to really understand this.
1. We must learn humility: … Ego can get the best of us. … This is what EGO is:
Edging God Out.
Instead, … we have to learn to act with humility. …

We find a great promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14: … “If my people will humble
themselves and pray.” … That word “humble” … translates literally as “to bend
the knee.” … To humble ourself means, … that you and I must take the
responsibility for being humble. … We have a choice. … We can humble
ourselves … or we can let God humble us.
Wanna take a guess as to which is the most painful?!!!
2. We must become childlike. … Look at Matthew 18:4: … “Therefore, whoever
humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Why would Jesus say that? … What is it about children that Jesus is telling us to
imitate? … Well, for one, … children don’t wear a mask. … They just say what’s
on their mind. … They’re real; … Genuine. … As adults, … we’re too afraid that
if people see us as we really are, … they might not like us. … So we fake it.
We exaggerate our abilities and sometimes this carries over into adult life /
marriage.
People marry … and then one says; … “you’re not who I thought you were.”
It’s because they never really knew them. … They were never real with each
other. … Those relationships take time.
As believers we need to be willing to allow people to see us for who we really are.
We don’t have to wear a mask. … We don’t have to be perfect. … We don’t have
to appear to be happy all the time. … We have struggles … but if we are HONEST
about them; … it can be contagious.
People love transparency in other people. … Unbelievers need to understand that
we are on a journey together; … we are broken people on a journey together
toward someone … who IS perfect.
We are God’s masterpiece. … Ephesians 2:10: … “For we are His creation,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that
we should walk in them”
God is crafting a great work of art out of every life that is committed to Him.
Paul said we have been created anew in Christ. … When we read the book of
Ephesians, … we really need to keep one word at the forefront of our mind: …
“GRACE”. … “Grace” wasn’t offered to us AFTER we came to Christ. …
“Grace” was offered BEFORE we came to Christ. … Paul instructed the Romans
in Romans 15: 7: … “Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also
accepted you, to the glory of God”
So how do we do this? … Again, two reminders: …
1. Put on a face of grace. … Be grace with skin on. …

Ever heard that expression?: … Flesh it out, in-other-words. … Be grace to others.
If you have ever been to an art museum, … you know what it’s like to stand and
look at the great works created by master artists. … Some of those paintings are
worth tens of millions of dollars. … Others are considered to be priceless.
Now who gets the credit for those paintings? … The one who painted them; …
Michelangelo?, … Rembrandt?. … You or I wouldn’t walk in and begin to take
credit for them … and neither should we take credit for what God is doing in our
lives. … We accept others by grace … just as God accepted us by grace. He
didn’t wait for us to become perfect before he established a relationship with us. …
Now don’t confuse these two words; … “Accept” and “Approve”. Just
because I accept someone … does not mean I approve of their lifestyle or actions.
… There is a difference. … This is how grace came to us. … This is how it should
go out to others: … “Acceptance”.
2. Do “good works.” … So you have this beautiful work of art. … What do you do
with it? … You put it on display. … You put it in a prominent place for people to
see. … You and I need to be a living, … breathing trophy of God’s grace.
WE need to be God’s masterpiece on public display for others to see.
Especially unbelievers.
Ephesians 2:10: … “   For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared ahead of time.”
I think Paul got this idea from Jesus. … Jesus taught us to let our light shine in
front of us so that they will see the good things you and I do … and will honor our
Father who is in Heaven.
It takes grace to: …
• Love others when they act unlovable
• To accept others who are different
• To forgive others when they have wronged us
• To treat others right, when they have treated us wrong.
This is not a perfect Church. … We are not a perfect people … but we do serve a
perfect God.
A lady who apparently was a bit desperate decided to write a letter to Dear Abby.
It read like this: … Dear Abby, I am 44, unmarried and would like to meet a man
my age with no bad habits. … She signed her name, “Rose.”
Abby replies: … “Dear Rose: … So would I.”
I suppose everyone has wanted that at one time or another … but that person
doesn’t exist. …

I’ll tell you what I am thankful for: … The only one who is perfect, … ever has
been … and ever will be. …. Jesus Christ accepts us exactly as we are.
With all of our sin, … our imperfections; … He accepts us … just as we are.
You can come to Him, … just as you are … so that He can help you become all
that you can be. … Most of us never reach our potential in Christ. … Let’s try to
turn that around, … starting today!
AMEN

Is Your Faith Active? - 7/29/18

IS YOUR FAITH ACTIVE 07 29 2018

James 2: 14-26

There is an old story that tells of a man who was traveling on his donkey when he
came upon a small fuzzy object lying in the road. … He dismounted to look more
closely and found a sparrow lying on its back with its scrawny legs thrust upward.
At first he thought the bird was dead but closer investigation proved it to be very
much alive. … The man asked the sparrow if he was all right. The sparrow replied,
&quot;Yes.&quot; … The man asked, &quot;What are you doing lying on your back with your legs
pointed towards the sky?&quot; … The sparrow responded that he had heard a rumor
that the sky was falling and so he was holding his legs up to catch it.
The man retorted, &quot;You surely don’t think that you’re going to hold it up with those
two scrawny legs, do you?&quot; … The sparrow, with a very solemn look, replied,
&quot;One does the best he can.&quot;
Have we demonstrated faith at any time this week? … Have we been called to
show faith to someone … or in something?
I am positive that all of us have not just demonstrated faith this week … but even
since we got up this morning.
Did you have faith that your alarm clock went off at the right time? … When you
reached for the light switch were you surprised when the light came on?
How about the car starting … or that I showed up this morning?
Were you personally surprised by any of those little details of daily life?
So in the last few hours and this week, … you have exhibited faith that the realities
you know about our world are true most of the time … and by faith, … you went
through the week using the phone, turning lights on and off, … heading for a red
light in the car that the breaks would work … and any number of other automatic
responses, hundreds of times.
We often talk about how hard it is to exhibit our faith … but we ignore all the other
times that we do, every day. …
How is it that we can divide faith into different categories; … the stuff we depend
on every day … and the faith that there is a God and a judgment to come.
In our scripture today, we hear from James. … He is said to be the half-brother of
Jesus. … Some believe that Paul and James relay different conclusions about faith
… but I believe that if we read the text, … we will find that they actually agree; …
They just say it in different ways.
Today we will just look at what James says.

He starts with a question: … “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has
faith but does not have works?”
As a kid, … did you have someone ever claim to be your friend, … because they
wanted something from you?; … but rarely, if ever, wanted to do something for
you? … Politicians claim to be this or that … or for or against … and we later
learn that it may not have been true, … perhaps even a plane old lie.
Then James gives another more biting question; … “Can his faith save him?”
What is James saying about faith and works? …
James gives an example of peoples actions. … He talks about a Christian meeting
up with a brother or sister (Christians) that are in trouble. … They are having
difficulty with the bills, … normal basic needs. … We aren’t talking about the
Cable TV or cell phone. … We are talking about food and clothes.
Perhaps something happened with the job … or a health problem that wipes out
their energy and money. … A fellow Christian sees their need when they see each
other, … listens to the problems and says: … “I’ll pray for you” … and wishes
them “good luck”.
They don’t do anything to help beyond visual concern and kind words.
What good is it?
Then he says that faith is like that, … if there is no action then it is dead.
What good is it? … If there is not activity in faith … then there is no life.
He is pointing out that people who would do this … have missed the basic
principal. … Their faith is dead because they are not responding to obvious need.
They are not responding and allowing the Grace of God to be generous and caring,
… through them.
James continues as if he is in a verbal discussion, … indicating what some people
might say: … “You have faith, … I have Works”. … Then he gives his response: …
“Show me your faith without works, … and I will show you faith from my works”
What are the works he is talking about here? … Is it taking care of the poor and
needy in the Church? … I think it is more than that. … That was already
established years before, especially for those within the Church.
Remember the distribution of food to the widows early on. … I really feel that
James is using an accepted work of the Church to bring the understanding of the
Christians to a higher level. … James’ letter is being written to the Christians who
are dispersed into all the nations. … These are the people that wanted to avoid
persecution and moved to get out of the way of trouble. … They carried their faith
with them … but I suspect that wanting to avoid trouble, … they just met up with
friends … and did not share the message.
When James is defining the different types of faith, … the easiest one to define is
the dead faith. … It’s a faith that thinks “everything’s okay.” … It is faith that says,
“I believe in God,” … but never thinks about how that might affect life.

What has happened is that the one who ignores the need of others has taken the
name of Christ … but failed to adopt the character of Christ, … thinking to
themselves; … “I want the benefits of being a Christian … but I don’t want any
responsibility that comes with it.”
According to James, … “It doesn’t work that way. … If you have faith, … it
changes you through and through.” … Dead faith is nothing more than words on
your lips. … It is a statement of faith … without a lifestyle of faith.
What James is warning us about here … is that kind of faith is no faith at all.
Don’t be content with dead faith.
So is James talking about losing your Salvation? … Not exactly.
It seems to me that James, in this open letter, is addressing several problems.
He is pointing out to the Christians that they are far from perfect and they are
living to the same policies that the Jewish authorities have lived by.
Some are exhibiting a misplaced pride … and they look down their noses at other
Christians and non-Christians.
I think that we are talking about the difference between head knowledge …
and heart knowledge.
Head knowledge is when we think we know how to make a living growing fresh
vegetables. … You just put the seeds in the ground and harvest when it is time.
Heart knowledge knows when to plant, … what to plant, … to be watchful of
trouble … and knowing when to harvest for the best results.
Understanding the basics of how … and actually knowing how, … is very
different.
This letter contains several examples of the kinds of deeds that James is pointing
to. … Caring for the less-fortunate is one aspect but there is also controlling of
one’s tongue, … avoiding favoritism, … loving your neighbor as yourself … and
resisting temptation.
James is telling the readers that the faith that gives salvation … involves more
than just a little lip service. … More than a minimum giving … and physical work.
It is living as your life choice … because you have faith, … you will constantly
show it with deeds and works!
He gives another example to help people understand that action is absolutely
required. … He says, … “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith
without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19  You believe that God is
one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder”.
It appears that James is desperate to get these people’s attention. … He is using
tough words to do so.

Have you ever gotten scared just by thinking about something?
“IRS” is one that makes me sit up and pay attention. … Have you ever been sitting
around the campfire and someone was telling a scary story? … How about a ghost
story, like the Man with the hook at the end of his arm.
I remember my dad telling that story on a scouting trip. … As he got close to the
end, … he spoke softer … and everyone was leaning in to hear the story … and he
shouts: … “THE HOOK HAS YOU!”
The reaction from us boys was screams and shouts and maybe even a few steps of
running. … For a brief moment, … we believed that we were GOT!
The demons that we read about in scripture knew who Jesus was and that he had
power over them. … They followed His instruction … because they knew He was
God.
Demonic faith is the faith that believes in the existence of God … and that belief
affects the emotions … but not the will. … James says if we have dead faith, …
even the demons are one up on us. … They believe and shudder.
If our faith is dead, … quite honestly, … we ought to be scared to death that the
ones whose eternal destiny is hell … are affected more by their belief in God …
than we are.
There are many Christians who say we are saved by “Faith Only.”
Much of Christianity believes Paul and ignores James, … when in reality, …
both James and Paul are looking at the same prospect … from two different sides
of the coin. … Paul is saying “You can’t work your way to heaven; … it takes faith
to please God.”
James is saying; … “You have to have faith to please God … but the only faith that
is pleasing to God is faith that does something!”
God wants us to have an active faith, … not a dead faith!
James offers two examples as a proof of active faith which yields action.
I am sure you are familiar with the story; … God promised Abram and Sarah that
if they followed Him they would have a child that would be the father of a great
nation. … Abraham waited and waited and waited until he was 100 and Sarah was
90, for the promised child. … Finally amidst laughter and I’m sure a few tears, …
the child of promise comes. … It was a miracle of God for those two Senior Saints
to have a child born to them … but an incredible situation develops: … Now that
they finally have the Son promised by God, … God tells Abraham to do something
outrageous. … God speaks to Abraham and tells him to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
Literally that meant to offer him up like a bull or a sheep in that sacrificial system.
To kill him on a stone altar. …

Abraham loads up the stuff, … travels with his only son to the altar … and with
every ounce of energy he can muster, … raises the knife to be obedient to God.
God stops the sacrifice and provides a ram for an offering.
Abraham proves he is totally submissive to God; … “and it was credited to him as
righteousness.” … In-other-words, … Abraham was justified by his willingness to
trust God completely.
On the opposite end of the social scale was Rahab. … Abraham is the most
respected person in all the history of Israel; … Rahab is not very high on that same
scale. … She was not an Israelite … but a member of a pagan nation that God
commanded Israel to wipe out. … She wasn’t even wealthy like Abraham. … She
was a prostitute; … financially and morally she was a poor person. … Yet when
the spies went into the land to scope out what they were up against, … Rahab was
there to help them, … to hide them from their enemies. … In the end, Rahab was
saved from the destruction of the city. … James says that in God’s eyes, … Rahab
was justified by what she did.
James is using scripture as his proof which is always a good starting point.
James is trying to teach the readers that Faith and works are connected.
That because Abraham was willing to follow through with the sacrifice, … he was
made completely righteous by God. … God even called Abraham, … friend.
Rahab Believed in God and helped his people. … Her faith proved by her actions
allowed her to be saved. … He is teaching that faith is made complete and visible
by our actions. … These actions are a response to our environment, … people’s
needs … and our response to the pressures and attacks of this world.
So where does all this lead us today? … Do we show our faith in God through our
daily lives … as easily as our faith in the power company or the breaks on you car?
Is our faith better described as … dead or active?
Here’s a few of ways to check our spiritual vital signs: …
1. How do we feel about worship? … Is it a priority with us … or is it an
insignificant ritual that we just go through because we know you should?
2. What kind of thoughts and goals do we have for life? … When we think about
what we would like to do for the next year, … are we … at the center … or / are
other people and God in the middle?
3. How do we feel about giving? … Is it a painful experience … or / are we the
cheerful giver Paul talks about in I Corinthians?
4. How often do we read our Bible? … Is it something that gets no attention in our
life … or are we actively pursuing a greater knowledge of God and His will for our
life?

The Church is too often populated with Spiritual Zombies, … people who think
they are living by faith … but who know nothing about what it means to be excited
and challenged by the joy of active faith.
A living faith is visible … and it attracts people because it includes joy and
excitement with activity that is satisfying. … When faith is dead, … people outside
the Church recognize that and it keeps them from wanting to become part of
The Way.
Dead faith believes in God … but it does not trust Jesus. … Dead faith never tries
something new … and only shows up on Sunday.
James is attempting to pass along a simple way to identify our spiritual condition.
Are we only giving lip service, … only holding Head knowledge … and no Hear
knowledge.
The actions that James is calling for, … is to walk with Jesus, … to listen and learn
from the master … and to be His hands for service … and His presence in time of
trouble.
Active faith is expensive because we must be willing to risk ourselves … in our
“Jesus” trust.
He is still calling all of us to be active and follow Him.
Do you trust Jesus?
All Glory Be to God!
AMEN

Is Jesus In Your Boat? - 7/22/18

IS JESUS IN YOUR BOAT? 07 22 2018

Matthew 8: 23-27

The scripture just read is one of the Bible’s prescriptions for worry. …
How often we are told not to worry … but worry we do, … about our health, …
job, … family, … some personal problem, … world in crisis, … whatever.
It’s one thing to read: … “Your heart must not be troubled” (John 14: 1) … or
“Don’t worry about your life” (Matthew 6: 25); … but it only takes a phone call
with bad news, … an unexpected dismissal from work, … or the wrong results on a
lab test … to make us mock or think ridiculous, Paul’s words to the Christians in
Philippi: … “Don’t worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6).
To remind us just how severe a problem worry can be, … on April 5, 2002, we
read or heard in the news of a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in
Parma, … Rev. Donald Rooney, … took his own life worried about the
repercussions of past sins. … Closer to home, … October 3, 2002, Ralph Glenn,
President and General Minister of the Christian Churches of the Southwest, …
committed suicide, worried and concerned about financial discrepancies in the
Regional office.
If the clergy have trouble not worrying, … it should be a reminder to me this
morning that even talking about a solution to worry can be more like; … “Spitting
in the wind”.
What is it about this story on the sea that should help us with our worrying?.
It’s a rather simple episode told in only four verses. … Jesus was asleep on a boat
with His disciples. … A storm came up and the boat was being swamped; …
a situation that would cause most of us a lot of anxiety and worry as it did for the
disciples who woke up Jesus saying: … “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”
(and they weren’t kidding).
Jesus said to the disciples: … “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?”
That’s like me saying: … “What are you worried about? Then He got up and
rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm”
If we were to look at this incident as an analogy for you and me today, … we could
compare our life to a boat; … you and I are a boat on the sea of life … and as we
well know, many storms come up that cause us to worry and feel anxious.
Some of those storms, … some of our problems, … can really start to swamp us,
… we get discouraged or depressed, … sometimes to the point of wanting to take
our own life.

In this story, … Jesus is on the boat and to follow the analogy, … Jesus is on your
boat and my boat, … in your heart and my heart … and if I can call upon Him and
tell Him what’s happening, … He can rebuke the violent wind and sea … then you
and I will be safe.
We should not forget that even though Jesus was on the boat … the disciples were
not excluded from having problems; … the storm still came.
What made all the difference were two factors: … Jesus … and having faith.
It was not only that Jesus was on the boat … but that the disciples thought He
could do something about the terrible storm.
The question often asked by traveling evangelist: …
“do you have Jesus in your heart … or … have you accepted Jesus Christ as your
personal savior?”, … may not be as important as: … is He asleep … or active in
your life?
That was the key here. … Jesus became active on this boat; … He calmed the
troubled waters.
Maybe the reason we worry too much … is because Jesus is asleep in me …
instead of active.
We don’t like to think it or say: … “I prayed to Jesus; … I asked Him to heal me
… or … to help me but nothing happened”. … “It was like He didn’t answer my
need.”
We could make that argument after reading about another storm that came up.
This time the disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus and out of the
night came men carrying clubs and swords. … The disciple Peter was ready to
fight; … he drew his sword, but Jesus said “No” … and before they knew it; …
the bad guys had taken Jesus away … and the disciples were scattered like sheep
without a shepherd. … Now the disciples really had something to worry about; …
this time Jesus did not calm the storm … but got swept away by its mighty force,
…imprisoned, … beaten and mocked.
That’s why I mentioned there were two significant factors in this story on the sea:
… the one, of course, is Jesus, … who was on the boat … and the second is faith,
… why are we afraid, O men and women of little faith.
Jesus wanted these men to have faith. … He used almost the very same words
another time on the sea when He came to His disciples at night; … they saw Jesus
coming out of the darkness and thought it was some kind of ghost or apparition
walking on the water until He spoke to them; … talk about being worried again.
Peter said: “Lord, if it’s You,command me to come to You on the water.”; so Jesus
said: “Come” … and the next thing you read is Peter is walking on the water
toward Jesus … until Peter felt the wind and saw the rough sea and began to sink.

Jesus saved Peter but you remember His words to Peter as He lifted him into the
boat: … “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There’s Jesus using that word faith again and how important it is throughout His
ministry of healing and teaching. … Perhaps it’s not so much a case of Jesus being
asleep in our hearts rather than active; … possibly, our faith is too little in
believing what Jesus can and will do for you and me!
Well He didn’t do anything about those bad guys who took Him away … and now
we are left without anything; … how are we supposed to have faith in Him?
Don’t even pretend that some of the disciples weren’t thinking that … because we
know Judas was so depressed and discouraged, … he hung himself.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus for three years; … walking, talking, living with
Jesus, day after day- going through one storm after another with Him and then
finding yourself still wondering, … doubting, … questioning, … when this last
storm seemed to take Jesus out.
Before we know it, … whatever faith we thought we had is gone; … “I’m going
back home to my fishing business said Peter …”
What can be even more embarrassing to us as Christians with little faith, …
is when we look around to see who does have faith … and the search leads to our
small children.
A three or four year old child, when told that daddy can fix that, … stops crying
and takes the broken toy to daddy. … And; … “where has grandma gone now that
we put her body into the ground” … the small child asks? … “Jesus has taken her
to Heaven to be with Him there”, you answer … and the young child of faith is
satisfied.
No wonder Jesus said: … “unless you are converted and become like children, you
will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3)
He was not talking about acting childish; … Jesus was saying; … look at the faith
the child has, … look how the child believes in God, the Father, without hesitation
or reservation.
To remind us how important is having the faith of a child, … we read in 1 John 4:4
the words: … “little children”; … a phrase the author, John, … used to speak to
adult Christians:
“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One
who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Here, the writer, John, … is taking us back to our first point about Jesus being in
our boat … or as we said in the analogy; … “in my heart”; … He, … Jesus, … is in
us … and that this Jesus is greater than the evil one in the world about us …

but do we really believe that in faith, … when the results facing us are negative and
there aren’t any more options to try. … What we need to realize here, … is that this
is not a religious thing or a Church thing.
People are always blaming or accusing “the Church” or “some religion” as not
meeting his or her needs … but the real issue for the Christian is not the
Minister … the people of the Church … or the “Christian religion”; …
the real issue is Jesus Christ. … Do we have Him in our boat (in my heart) …
and do I believe in faith … that He really is greater than all these disappointments
and sufferings I face. … Sure, … it’s easy to blame this person, … that Church …
those people … or this unfortunate turn of events … but the more honest answer as
to why we are worried and anxious: … “they have taken my Jesus away and now
my faith is less than little.”
The challenge facing us as Christians, … is how to keep Jesus alive in you and me
… plus to build such a close personal relationship with Him … that my/your faith
in Him is increasing … instead of decreasing, … especially when it all gets crazy!
Most of us are here this morning, … for just that reason; … to know Him and the
power of His resurrection in our lives.
So in worship to Him we pray and sing, … read and hear His spoken Word to us,
… give our offering … and at least for this hour … have a sense that yes, …
Jesus Christ is alive … and I/you … do have faith in Him.
But we have only to leave this Holy House … and be tossed into the sea of life,
ravaged by storms and calamity, … to find out that Whom we thought we had, …
seems to have vanished.
To meet this challenge the Catholic tradition offers mass every day …
and protestants are told to have our daily devotions with the Lord.
They are both worthwhile answers … but there is one answer out of the many
others we have heard so often that I would like to repeat it now … and that answer
is the parting words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 28:18: … “All authority
has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
If we can believe in those words by faith, … knowing at the same time, … Jesus is
alive in our hearts, … surely some lessening of our fears and anxieties will come.
It’s like knowing the boss who has all the power … and knowing that the boss is
on our side.
Of course problems come up at work … but we never have to worry because we
know the boss … and he’s in our corner.

Remember in grade school the kid in the class who was the teacher’s pet; … he or
she could get away with practically anything; … never had to worry about grades
or homework, … why … because that kid was “in” with the teacher who had all
the power.
The next time a storm starts blowing your ship around and you are getting
swamped, … maybe it wouldn’t hurt or scare you and me so much if, … in our
heart , … we knew and really believed that Jesus is on our boat … and all
authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him.
I just know that however great the mess is … or however long it may take to get it
straightened out, … that He will rebuke the winds and sea and there will be a great
calm.
One Christian woman tried to put this kind of believing faith in Jesus Christ into a
prayer that went like this:
God give us your perspective on sickness, on loss, on death, on healing.
I don’t want to change Your mind, Lord. … Your thoughts are perfect; … I want to
think Your thoughts. … I don’t want to change Your timing, Lord. … Your timing is
perfect; … I pray for the grace to accept Your timing, … Your plan … and to see
You glorified through my life.
Some men on a boat in a stormy sea remind us this morning, that against all odds,
… we have a Savior who is able and willing to save us.
All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him … and to any of us
who will live by faith more and more in Jesus Christ, … to him, … to her, … will
come the calm sea.
AMEN

Back to School - 7/29/18

Pastor’s Corner 07 29 2018

It’s hard to believe but the “Back-To-School” ads have already started. Where has this Summer
gone. Many might say it burned up in the Texas heat. Well, that could be but not likely. If you’ve
lived in Texas very long, you are well aware of what happens here every July and August.
With the start of a new school year upon us, it is a good time to think about what else can be
new. Here at First Christian – Mt. Pleasant, we are beginning with new activities, starting off
with catfish at David Beards. We have a new Sunday morning group gathering kicking off
Sunday, August 5 th – 9:30 AM, amply named “Donuts &amp; Discussion”. There is a new
Wednesday night study launching August 8 th at 6:30 PM. This will be an involved examination
of the Holy Spirit (that oft forgot third Person of the Godhead).
There’s nothing wrong with “NEW”; … “NEW” can be a good thing! Put some thought to it and
we realize that “Christianity” was new 2000 years ago. This Church building was new in 1953.
March 2015, this congregation got a new pastor (some of you might be thinking; … “Well, some
things new are good, … some, not so good”).
We should ask ourselves more often: … “What is new in our life?”.
What new book are you reading?
What new words have we learned to expand our vocabulary?
What new food have we tried?
What new friend have we made?
What new witness have we effected for our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ?
In this chaotic world we live in today; … in this society of loneliness; … in this realm of pain; …
in this land of plenty but seldom shared, … in this populace of hunger, both spiritually and
physically: … have we shared the healing salve for every wound in creation, … that being the
good news of salvation trough Jesus Christ!
Every morning and evening, we look to “NEW” news on the TV. Hoping for word that our
leaders have a NEW level of comradery. NEW programs to help us all out. NEW peace
initiatives: … and how is that working for us?
If we haven’t already, something NEW we can turn to is picking up our cross and depending
upon our Savior for not only our “answers” to life but also turn to Him for our leadership!
Jesus is the ANSWER, … always was and always will be. He TRUMPS the Republicans and
Democrats along with anything that is mortal or manufactured!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jim
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