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 stat there is NO way this is to be 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 stat, our country paints a different picture. “IF” we are that full as a nation of born again believers than tell me 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 are 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 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. This “I’m not as bad as I used to be” type mentality. It’s very easy in this culture to compare our lives to others and think we are “doing pretty good” and 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. 
 
Where we picked up this past week in the text of John 3 we see a man, Nicodemus who spends his WHOLE life “reforming” his life. He stacked up his 613 laws he was to follow as his ticket into heaven and we looked Sunday in how Jesus self 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 saw how ole Nick just couldn’t put the pieces together and text tone just shows that Nick couldn’t frame it up so we saw Jesus do what he still does today… Meets Nicodemus right where he was at! Jesus knew he wasn’t getting it, and doesn’t condemn Nick for it. He meets him where he is at simply by telling a story he was familiar with in that of 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 staff, they would be healed from these 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 and we have ALL been bitten and I am the only remedy to that sin!! Jesus though the rest of the scriptures continued to unpack the reality. IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!!! For God so loved the world HE gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish yet have everlasting life… Are we living a life in that acceptance or are we working for it? How we answer that question dictates if 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 – Part 1

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 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 set 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. I said from that day that when people see the Lord I saw that night it’s life changing and this has been my mission from that day 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?… Which led us to the next part in the text in Matthew 3 where 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 the miss the whole point that its 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 and opening our hearts before him while 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! Please make sure to come as often as you can so nothing is missed! 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 and you would think by now I would have earned that any time I desire to take the reigns from an all sovereign God, it will never end well! Thank GOD for his amazing grace and for always dealing with my stubbornness and granting mercy in my continuing picking up the pieces after disobedience! That being said last week was yet another attempt in me letting 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 I was not going to win! 
 
We are at a 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 wandering 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 its 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 over night 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 dooped? 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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Let’s START 2017 out right!

So I am a week behind but promised to be diligent about recap on blog so here we go! We kicked off 2017 asking what has been asked for now a year here at LBC… “Can we get out of Sunday morning christianity”?…This weird “I’m just going to show up on Sunday” type mentality with no real desire for Gospel living. It’s been something I have gone hard after here and weekly hearing testimonies of folks wanting to do so. So what does that look like? How can we continue to strive for Luke 9:23 type of living and get out  of Sunday morning christianity? Well we began 2017 looking at an acronym to answer this….S.T.A.R.T… with John 3:30 as our text.  Jesus said he came that we might have life and life abundantly. Are we living a life of abundant living for the kingdom? More importantly how can we get to that place?
 
S-Stop making excuses
– We live in a time where black is not black and white is not white any longer. Every thing seems to be some shade of gray in every area of our lives. There is an “out” in anything morally anymore and the danger of that is even entering our churches. No longer are we accepting to our faults and failures and its become the norm to just blame those things on something or someone else. Very rarely anymore will you hear murderers in prison admit to their crime, Its always someone elses fault. Talking to a divorced person rarely will it ever be their fault. Its become the norm to just blame something or someone else in that! To get to a place of Gospel living is to get to place where we stop blaming others for the way we behave and respond. I told the story of how Melissa grew up in a very poor atmosphere with no examples of Godly living. She could have used the “well thats how my family responded so that’s how I will too” but she didn’t. She chose to not let that stuff define her and saw that she could defy the odds and it was her that chose to make that path set out before her. So often we have things that have happened to us and it’s so much easier to blame those things rather than owning it and giving it to God and letting him take that vice away. These things are serious and not discreding them by any means but they can’t control our lives! People can hurt us, harm us and even scar us but only one person can ruin your life and thats you! Quit making excuses and give ALL that over to the blood stained cross! 
 
T- Take an inventory of your lif
e- I told the story of when I was working in Galveston area for AT&T some years ago and coming up on the Bolivar Peninsula and seeing the extensive damage that was done by Hurricane Ike. There was hardly anything left but a few broke poles and some debris that somehow survived the 100+ mph winds. Even though what was left was broke and no good it allowed us by looking at maps what used to be there and it gave us direction on where to put the new stuff! We as believers are so scared of our past so often and think that  Gospel living means we can’t ever look at our mistakes in life! Thats true in regards to making sure we NEVER walk in condemnation but our past mistakes can always help us in today’s decisions! Paul reminded the church in Galatia the same thing in Galatians 3:4. Sometimes our dumb decisions and choices we made are much like the broke poles on bolivar island. They are of no use but they serve as a reminder of what “not” to do next time! They give us that direction on what to do today! That daily (not yearly) we are taking an inventory of ALL the things in our lives. Our good, our bad, our ugly and constantly aware of what this inventory is doing for our walks with Jesus!
 
A- Ask in faith
– We looked at the story of the woman in Matthew with the bleeding issue for 12 years. That story is such a beautiful story of faith and how she knew if she could just touch his garment she would be healed! The question very bluntly was “do you have this kind of faith”? Are you walking into 2017 with the same hope and faith in Jesus fixing whatever you have to be fixed as this woman did? Do you believe that God is big enough to fix your broke marriage? Do you believe that God is big enough to heal your cancer? This can be a touchy topic in  a baptist church to talk about “healing” and “faith”, but where we can get out of that mode and beliving in the God of them ole dry bones that came to life ,we will begin to ask things in faith ore often and I contend were we are faithfully trusting in God to show up in areas of our lives transformations will begin to occur! ASK IN FAITH! 
 
R-Refocus your thoughts
-One of the lies of christianity so often is we give our lives to Jesus and we don’t or hold struggle with the sins we used to struggle with… This is why ministers in sexual sin make headlines daily! Its a lie! Sin will ALWAYS have a way of gravitating our thoughts and minds to it. This is the great lie of sin. That sin is better than what God can offer. That being said if we are not constalyy waging war against that mindset and refocusing our thoughts there is a danger in that! Prov 4:23 says our thoughts are what makes us! Paul says in Romans 12 that we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds! Psalm 51:10 after David screwed up even cries this same truth “create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me”…It’s vital that we are always waging war with our thoughts. Satan specializes in this and will destroy us when we begin to entertain those thoughts 
 
T- Trust in the Lord
– This sounds pretty cliche but how often do we want to trust in the Lord? We even make the steps to trust in the lord but when our time and Gods time don’t line up we then take matters into our own hands! We become our own gods and quickly see we are terrible gods and spend the rest of the time picking up the pieces of something we messed up!. Can we get to a place where we are truly tusting in the Lord even if that means waiting?…ouch!
 
We closed asking if we could 
START
 applying ths daily to our lives! Never more have we needed the church to get out of just showing up to church on Sunday’s but rather  this MONDAY through SATURDAY Gospel living. I believe where we are taking this and walking in this its one step closer to Christian living!  
 
Blessings! 
Ryan

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What are you waiting for this Christmas?

So starting the month of December we hither pause button on our David series and began looking into the Christmas season. I personally love this time of year. I love the weather, I love the spirit of giving and love that goes out, I love the chance to get to see people being blessed like we have this year with the new angel tree…but I also know that many HATE this time of year. They are reminded of a loss of a loved one, reminded of days passed that used to be great but now filled with sorrow. A season that is supposed to bring joy and comfort instead brings confusion, fear, chaos, and even frustrations. 
 
So how do we combat against that? What can we do as believers to wage war against that and the emotions this time of year can bring? We looked into the story of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2 and saw 2 things they were waiting on. Simeon was waiting on comfort…or consolation… This is huge because of the significance of the passage in context. Here God had been silent for 400 years!!!! Not a week, a year or even a decade but 400 years nothing had been heard from God. You take that in to consideration I bet its safe to say then that even for lots of religious folks when God goes silent that long we tend to look for our comfort in other things. When we aren’t getting what we are praying for we tend to take matters into our own hands. But Simeon sees that not matter what Jesus is the ONLY thing that will bring him the comfort and peace that he longed for. Are you looking for the same comfort in Jesus as Simeon was this year? Or are you like so many taking matters into your own hands and filling up a cistern with a hole in it? It’s like the old hymn says “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”! 
 
We then saw Anna (84 year old Anna) waiting on the forgiveness of sins… We saw that in every sense of the matter Anna was as religious as they come. She spent the better part of her life in “church” and yet at the end of her old life she is still waiting on Jesus! Anna knew that no religious duty or act would offer the forgiveness and hope that only Jesus could provide. There is a danger in “church” in where so often we attend Sunday after Sunday and the message that goes out in that is how can I clean up my life the best way I know how too and in a weird way then associate our “walks” or in some cases even our salvation on these things. Anna helps show the reality of Jesus being the ONLY thing that allows us to be right standing before the Father! This Christmas season do you find yourself more trying to fit in to the religious culture and working towards acceptance or do you wake up living life in acceptance through the blood of Jesus? This seems so elementary at the end of the day but lots of church folks are exhausted in trying so hard, instead of like Anna resting in the freedom of Jesus!!!
 
We then looked at the story of the shepherds. We did a monologue type service with live animals (it was pretty awesome)..anyway, we saw that shepherds in their day were a bottom of the barrel people. They were hated and despised and looked down upon. They weren’t even allowed to come into the temple because they were considered unclean… Yet the angels go to them first! Showing the reality that God does not put limits on people’s souls like we do! He loves the brother in poverty in Ethiopia as he does the mega church pastor in Dallas. The message of the Gospel is to “come as we are”. Just as we are! We see that from Genesis to Revelation! The troubles and struggles we see so often is because we are trying to recreate in our selves some future better version of us even though God loves us right where we are! The more we see this truth the more freedom we will walk in. God is NOT waiting on a future better you. HE designed you (psalm 139) for a plan and a purpose and not waiting you to up your social status, financial status or anything else to be able to use you! HE delivered the greatest news ever to the low life shepherds first! God specializes in using ordinary people for the praise of his glorious name! 
 
As I love this time of year I am reminded constantly to pray for those going through difficult days this time of year! At the writing of this blog post one of our dear friends just lost her battle with cancer and is in the presence of God! As I am happy for her, I am heart broken for her husband and kids and it’s stories like this we must remember and pray for in these days! Hug your family tight! You never know what a calendar year will bring. Through this next year let’s do all we can to stop….. best still…. and thank HIM for Jesus!!!
 
Merry Christmas!
Ryan 

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