Is Change a Good Thing? Stories of God – Week 4

This past Sunday was our fourth week into our latest series, Stories of God. It began with a video testimony of Monty and Deana Williams sharing their story of how they took in a friend who was struggling with a drug addiction and how he came to know the Lord. The first thing Monty says in the beginning of the video is, “I think every day of your life is your ministry, and you have to walk that out, and people have to see that in you… if people don’t see Christ in you, or see something that draws them to you, then I don’t think you have anything.” What did he mean by that? Ryan unpacked it perfectly with a list of things that us as believers should walk by in our day-to-day lives.

There is no doubt that our culture strays further and further from morality every single day. Just this week, a news channel covered the conflict in California where people are trying to get a bill passed to allow drug users to have a safe place where they can inject themselves with their drug of choice, with the intentions of “encouraging sobriety”… Abortion rates are at an all-time high, with 40 million abortions having been performed since it’s legalization in 1973, almost 7 times more casualties than the Holocaust. America has become the leading country in human trafficking statistics, with a terrifying 32 billion dollars circulating each year from the sex trade.
Reading this, you would think that the church has failed, right?
Wrong. Ryan covered the statistics of church attendance, stating that in the early twentieth century, only 6 churches in the world had more than 2,000 members. By 1960, there were 16 churches with 2,000+ members. By 2013, there are 1,600 churches with more than two thousand in attendance on average, and the numbers have continued to rise. With the introduction of television and technology, churches have gained the ability to reach more people. With such high attendance numbers and cultural shifts, the church has had to find new ways to reach the lost, and that can be scary for some people. 3,700 churches close their doors every year because they refuse to change their ways in order to reach the lost. They are focused more on religion and rules, and that is repelling to a lost person.
In order for a church to never lose it’s focus, Ryan listed 4 foundational truths that the church cannot sway from, even while shifting their dynamics to reach the culture around them. The first and most important thing was to never forget the importance of teaching about Jesus’ blood, and basing everything upon the message of Christ. The second thing was to always strive to share the Good News with the lost, and to never be content with only preaching to a bunch of saved church people. The third thing was to cherish discipleship, building godly friendships and being surrounded by a body of believers to encourage growth in your faith (Acts 29). Lastly, we as a church should always stand up for social injustices, and be a voice against the things that God calls wicked.
With these principles as our foundation, we can become a city on a hill, where our light shines for all to see. Ryan read from 1 Timothy 3, where Paul is writing to young Timothy. Timothy’s church is surrounded by a sinful culture that indulges in idolatry and adultery, much like our churches are surrounded by immorality today. He talks about having a Church of the Living God, which translates to “an assembly of people called out”, meaning a group of people called out of the darkness and into the light; Not a group of people who care more about service time limits, their outfits, the carpet color or the volume of the music. It’s a group of people who have Christ living in their hearts, creating a Church of the Living God where lost people can come to experience the love of God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Williams’s story of how they shared Christ with their lost friend, despite everyone advising them not to, is a perfect example of living with Christ in our hearts. They saw the bigger picture, and that they were called to love others as Christ loved them.
So how do we apply this to our dark and dying world?: The same way Timothy did in Ephesus a thousand years ago. With Christ in our hearts, we create a place where culture doesn’t sway or infiltrate our teachings or beliefs. We stand up for what we believe. We recognize that the power within us is the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, and we love others as Christ loved us, doing everything short of sin to speak out against injustices, reach out to the lost, and remain on the foundations of the Word.
 
Blessings! -Kinley Hurt

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Stories of God – Week 2 Analysis

Since it is such a hard task, forgiveness is often put aside by Christians. It’s almost as awkward of a sermon as tithing… We like to go about our day to day lives, claiming to seek christ in all we do, yet most of us harbor a lot of anger and hate toward others. This past Sunday, Ryan read the story of the Unforgiving Servant. His master grants him mercy and forgives his debt, but he turns around and imprisons his fellow servant for not paying their debts to him. The good christian answer is, “How could he do that? I would never do that.” But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we are all quick to get angry and hold grudges against those who hurt us, no matter how good we are at hiding it. Ryan listed three things not to do when facing a conflict or pain.

  1. Don’t avoid the conflict.

This is especially hard to stomach for Christians. We are taught to “turn the other cheek” and it’s often misinterpreted as avoiding the pain altogether. If we’re going to learn to forgive, we have to first admit that we have been hurt.

  1. Becoming a “Flighter”

This is similar to avoiding the conflict, because we leave situations unfinished and unresolved. Even if someone is no longer alive, we can still find closure and peace by forgiving.

  1. Becoming the aggressor

Revenge is often our first resort when we are hurt. We use others as an outlet for our pain, and we look to inflict the same pain on someone else. This is not the model of Christ, and will never be the way to truly resolve a conflict. Ryan referenced Matthew 18, Mark 11:25-26 and Micah 6:1-8 that says Jesus commands us to forgive. It’s not something we can put off because it’s difficult. Jesus died to atone for our sins, and he commands us to live in his image, showing forgiveness to people that don’t always deserve it. Ryan also referenced 1 Timothy 1:12 and how Paul never gave up on the people who kept beating him, because he saw the bigger picture. He could have easily went to another town and tried to share the gospel with people who didn’t beat him or imprison him, but that’s not what he did. What better way to show someone Gospel living than to forgive those that hurt us. This same idea should be what we base our lives on. In our day to day lives, we should be striving to reach people for the Kingdom of God. There is so much power in our testimonies when we can share that we forgive others, even when we don’t want to, because God commanded us to. Ryan went on to list the things that forgiveness is often misinterpreted as. It is Not:

  • Neglecting Justice
  • Reconciliation
  • Ceasing to Feel the Pain
  • Trusting
  • Waiting on an apology
  • A One-Time Event
  • Denying a Wrong-Doing

Go watch Ryan’s Week 2 sermon for more elaboration on these points. So, if forgiveness is not these things, then what is it? It is simply fixing our eyes on Jesus. When we, like Paul, have Christ as our focal point, we strive to show others the same mercy and forgiveness that Jesus showed to us. Even though it’s hard, and most of the time it’s something that we don’t want to do, we are called to forgive. We should see the bigger picture, and that to forgive  changes us from the inside, growing us to be more and more like Christ. Blessings ! -Kinley Hurt


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Stories of God – Week 1 Analysis

Our Stories of God series began with a video testimony of Pastor Ryan Hurt, and how his life reflected the storyline of the story in Luke 15. The story tells of the prodigal son who squandered his property in reckless living, and how his father not only forgave him upon his return home, but lavished his love on him. Ryan revealed how the word ‘prodigal’ actually means to have or give something on a lavish scale. The word is often used to refer to the son, when actually it points to the actions of the father in the story.

It’s important that we see the story through this lense, because Jesus was trying to paint the picture of what he was going to do throughout the entire gospel, including this parable. He knew that in order for this story to be applicable to our lives, to be able to come as we are and be forgiven, Jesus had to die on the cross. This is the ultimate picture of a father’s love for his children. He never expected us to be able to measure up, because we never will. We will never be able to clean up our lives good enough on our own. Our works aren’t a point system that get us into heaven. When we accept Christ, we serve him, we dont perfect ourselves. That should give us a joy knowing that we don’t have to move, that God finds us right where we are. The prodigal son never had to say anything, His father ran to him as soon as he saw him in the distance.

God finds us in life, and reveals himself through people. In Ryan’s testimony, God used Daniel Hancock as His vessel. By sharing the Gospel with Ryan, Daniel played an instrumental part in changing his life. When this happened, by no means did Ryan’s life become perfect and spotless. He continued to have ups and downs, but the difference was his heart. With Christ in our hearts, we feel a new kind of love. We can face our sins differently, deal with situations differently and make it through day to day challenges and temptations. We no longer have to feel condemned or inadequate. God loves us, the messes that we are. He gives us stories to share with others. Where would Ryan be if Daniel hadn’t spoke to him?

With Christ in our hearts, we should be burdened for the lost. The father in Luke 15 was burdened, waiting for his son’s return. In our workplaces, homes, schools, and everyday lives, we should reach out to the lost, even if it’s through prayer. Ryan’s parents diligently prayed for Ryan to find Christ. Sharing our testimonies are a great way for lost people to relate to the Gospel. It doesn’t necessarily matter where you are in your story, whether you’re on a mountain top, or a valley. If you share with a lost person that God is sovereign in your life, no matter your circumstance, it will make a huge impact on them. When we’re covered in pig mess, God is good. When we’re on a mountain top, God is good. When we’re struggling with sin, God is good. When we are in the best spiritual places, God is good. That’s what you share with the lost. Not that you changed yourself, started going to bible studies, stopped wearing crop tops and now things are good, but that God changed you from the inside, and met you where you were. No matter how things change from day to day, His love empowers us to make it through all situations. Our stories are a reflection of God’s grace and love for us. The question is, are you sharing yours?
 
Blessings!
 
-Kinley Hurt

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Religion vs. Reformation

In the recent election, a survey was conducted and the question was, “Are you a born again believer?”… Over 70% of America answered YES to this question. As much as I want to love this statistic, there is NO way this is true. It also went on to say that every president since Carter has been a “born again” believer. Again, as much as I love that answer, our country paints a different picture. IF we are that full of born again believers as a nation, then why, since Carter’s time in office, have MILLIONS of babies been disposed of in the name of convenience and “rights”?… Why do we have the struggles with poverty and hunger right here in our nation as we do? Why then, is the United States the leading nation for profits in the Sex slave and porn industry? It doesn’t take long when doing research on this to find that the problem is the understanding of what it is to be truly “born again”. This word comes from a greek word, ?????????, which means “Born from above”. Webster’s Dictionary would define it to be “created again”. It’s very clear that when scriptures talk of regeneration, it’s an understanding that we are dead to who we used to be and alive in Jesus. NO middle ground here. The word we see this culture getting regeneration confused with is “reformation”. Webster would define reformation as “making better, creating something better”… The very thing Paul warns the church in Philippi to stay away from – the “I’m not as bad as I used to be” mentality. It’s very easy in this culture to compare our lives to others and think we are “doing pretty good.” The more we press into that, the more we distance ourselves from the reality of our need of Jesus and nothing but the blood of Jesus! Hell is full of folks who spent their whole lives trying to recreate a souped up, better version of themselves.

In the text of John 3, we see a man, Nicodemus, who spends his WHOLE life “reforming” himself. He used his ability to follow all 613 Jewish Laws as his ticket into Heaven. Yet, Jesus implodes everything he had been taught. Jesus’ message is loud and clear in the ENTIRE text we read: “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME”!!!!! It’s not about religion, it’s not about rules, or anything else. NOTHING but the blood of Jesus!!!

We then see how ole Nick just couldn’t put the pieces together. The text tone shows that Nick couldn’t frame it up, so we saw Jesus do what he still does today: He meets Nicodemus right where he was at! Jesus knew he wasn’t getting it, and doesn’t condemn Nicodemus for it. He simply helps him understand by telling a familiar story from Numbers 21. We looked at the story of the snakes biting and killing the people in Numbers 21, but how God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it on the staff and that anyone who looked at his staff would be healed from their snake bites. Jesus was able to tie this story into what He came to do. HE clearly quotes Numbers 21, saying, “Nicodemus, sin has entered into the framework of humanity. We have ALL been bitten and I am the only remedy to that sin!!” Jesus, though the rest of the scriptures, continued to unpack this reality: “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!!!” For God so loved the world, HE gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life… Are we living a life in that acceptance, or are we working for it? How we answer that question dictates whether we are walking in freedom or not! Are we reformed or regenerated? How would Jesus call you out today?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Ryan Hurt


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40 Days with Jesus

So last Sunday began our first look into the 40 days with Jesus series that will be leading up to Easter in April. Like everything here, I have felt strongly led to do everything in my power to get underneath the “cutesy” side of Christianity, and into seeing Jesus for who he truly is. I believe with all my heart that when we get a glimpse of the risen savior, what he did for us on the cross, and the power of the blood that was shed for us, it changes everything!…

I sat in a youth room years ago and heard Daniel Hancock unpack the Gospel in way I had never heard before. It not only changed my life, but I truly got a glimpse of Jesus in a way that forever changed everything, including the direction of my life. When people see the Lord I saw that night, it’s life changing. It has since been my mission to do everything in my power to show the amazing grace that Jesus offers.

We began this journey into the 40 days with Jesus looking at the story through the eyes of John the Baptist. We saw that in Matthew 3 and in John 1:29, when he saw Jesus coming, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that THIS was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world! We took this snapshot and asked ourselves: do we see Jesus in this light? Do we see him as the Lamb of God who takes away ALL our sins? Or do we find ourselves trying to create a better version of ourselves that he might like?… This led us to the next part in the text. In Matthew 3, John warns the religious to be careful finding their identity in religious behaviors, lost in the imaginations of their hearts. Religion sends hundreds of thousands to hell because they miss the whole point: that it’s all about Jesus! (Matthew 7:14)….Church is good, and would even encourage folks to get plugged in and serve the local church, as we are the bride of Christ. But, we can’t find our identity in the church. It must be found in Jesus.. That we gain Christ and THAT be our anthem first and foremost.

We then see Jesus give us the model of baptism as he climbs down into the Jordan to be Baptized by John. Not to wash away his sins, but to show us (by example) what he would do for us on Calvary. That he would die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, raise up from the dead 3 days later, and then send his Spirit to us to help us in the broken Genesis 3 world we live in! It’s such a  beautiful picture of what he did for us creating the most unbelievable love story mankind has ever seen! We then took time partaking of communion as we challenged the church to spend the next 56 days, and 8 Sunday’s in a season of Lent where we are running hard after Jesus, finding time to be in his word, opening our hearts before him, and asking him to reveal our hearts to us. The challenge was also to fast from anything that stands in the way of that! I can’t wait to hear the amazing testimonies that will come out of this study! I look forward to the days ahead as we make this journey in an intentional pursuit of Jesus!!! C’mon Lord!

Blessings!

Ryan Hurt


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But God…That’s not what I wanted to talk on!

It’s so funny how God works, you would think by now I would have learned that any time I desire to take the reins from an all sovereign God, it will never end well! Thank GOD for his amazing grace, for always dealing with my stubbornness, and granting mercy in my continued picking up the pieces after disobedience! That being said, last week was yet another attempt by me to let God know what I wanted to talk about, which ended up with me scrapping all my notes on Friday night, finally understanding this was a battle that I was not going to win!

We are at the place in the story of David where he is on the run from King Saul. I noticed, as I was preparing for the upcoming days, this “wilderness” that was mentioned 4 times in 1 Samuel 23. But as I read it and began feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit, my thoughts were “We have already talked about the wilderness and we can’t talk about it again”… or so I thought. You see we pastors fall in a dangerous trap where the spirit of comparison is thick in the circle of ministry (whether we admit it or not). That comparison makes us think we have to do things certain ways, on certain time schedules and certain preparation in doing so! When the Holy Spirit steps in and has HIS ways of wanting things to go, well it can sure wage war against everything else! This was EXACTLY what happened in me last week!

On Friday I threw in towel and realized this “wilderness” that God was showing me was a different wilderness than we discussed before. This was a wilderness caused by sin. God no doubt allows us to be in the wilderness in times of testing, and growing and preparing as we discussed in the previous weeks but the wilderness can also come because of sin. Because of Genesis 3 and their desire in the Garden to choose the things of this world over the Lord’s will it forever damaged humanity! Because of this decision, bad days happen and the phone call comes that can rock us to the core. Because of Genesis 3, none of us are subject to days of blue skies and rainbows for the rest of our lives. Even for believers! God NEVER promises that there won’t be bad days but he promises to be with us when they do (not if) come!

There is this underlying messages in a lot of today’s churches and that message is “Get to this spiritual level, and nothing bad will happen anymore”.. If you just pray hard enough, go to church and serve enough, tithe enough .your marriage will be perfect and foolproof, your bad days will HAVE to go away, and your bank accounts will be full of money! Some of these churches will even preach from pulpit that in seasons where you are broke, or spouse left you it was YOUR fault for not praying like you should have… This is NOT the Gospel and can show you from Genesis to Revelation from Moses, to Abraham, to Joseph, to David, to Peter, to Paul, to ALL the disciples a life marked by great and abundant seasons as well as seasons where the phone call came and in fetal position wondering where God was. If these people of the bible, ultimately making the hall of fame people of the bible in Hebrews had bad days….so are we! Whether you are an atheist or the next anointed Billy Graham the reality of life is bad days are coming, the phone call is coming. It’s not because you lack in faith or didn’t create enough “work” for the kingdom. Rather it’s because we have an enemy who sees the opportunity to shut down any work of God and will always do what he can to enter into the framework of our stories to try and do so… this is exactly what happens in the story of David in 1 Samuel 23.

David has been in a season of abundance. He literally went from zero to hero overnight as he defeated the giant. He has been anointed to be the next king, he has defeated a 9 foot giant, he has heard the shouts of support from the Israel army and has heard the singing in the streets of just how great he was…. A good season….. but it’s this singing that satan sees and opportunity to step into the story and rear his ugly head. He does so by using pride through Saul. This pride of the people singing David’s praises over his sends him into a rage and goes on a witch hunt after David. By 1 Sam 19 David’s season of abundance is over as he is crawling out a window on the run for his life! For the next 10 years plus David is on the run from Saul.

As we unpacked this story the question went from not if these days would come or not to “How do we respond when they do”? How did David respond? We know exactly how he responds by looking into Psalm 18. We saw that it’s Psalm 18 that unpacks David’s unwavering faith in the Lord in these difficult days. He responds in the first 6 verses by showing his human-ness as he uses words like “encompassed” and “assailed” and “entangled and “confronted”…it’ every obvious that David is beat down with these bad days. Then he shifts gears and begins to see the sovereignty of the Lord in the next set of scriptures as he sees “smoke from the nostrils” of his God…. He begins to see that that the God of angel armies is on his side! He then says a profound statement in Psalm 18:18- “but the Lord is my support”. It was this sentence that we landed this sermon on. Is this our response? Can this be our response? Can we in the darkest of our days simply trust that God is in control and HE is our support? This is what made David, David. God I’m entangled in this and my life is tired of being in the wilderness and don’t have the answers for everything but I know all sovereign God that you are in control and you are my support and I can’t stop, I won’t stop! He has no idea that right around the corner is the greatest King Israel will ever see. All he knows is that the God of angel armies is on his side.

We paralleled this with the life of Paul and showed his stance was the same. Paul writes to the church in Philippi where he even states “I know how to abound in good days, and I know how to abound in days of need’… he goes on to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”…. In other words I can’t begin to understand why things happen the way they do and some of those things are too big for me to even over come but I know that your in control and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I can’t stop… I won’t stop! The Lord is my support! Is this your response? How do we respond when the phone calls come? Do we shake our fist at a “genie” that we have made the Lord or do we trust that even when satan and sin tries to damage us the God of angel armies will never be duped? He WILL work all things for HIS glory and our good and we can shout because of this “I can’t stop, and I won’t stop”!!!! Can we become more intent in trusting the God David trusted in his bad days and in his good days as well! The LORD is my support!

Blessings,

Ryan


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