Sermons / Media

Part of my internship here at SMCC consists of taking “classes” at Liberty University watching Chris’ old DVDs from his classes). This first semester, I’ve been learning about Church History, that is, the time between A.D. 30 to the Reformation. I thought I would post some of my notes from the lectures by Dr. Carl Diemer and book titled, The Story of Christianity.

This first module, titled “The Origin of and Influence upon the Early Church in the Apostolic Age (A.D. 30-100)” covered an introduction to church history, influences on the first century world, Jesus’ life and ministry, and the apostolic witness. The first chapter of The Story of Christianity begins by explaining, “History is crucial for understanding not only the life of Jesus, but also the entire biblical message.” It explains that without the understanding of history, we as Christians can not fully grasp ourselves, for “we are doing history…we are making history.” And I think that as actors in history, we are part of the gospel story and part of the “big picture” as God intended, and that encourages me to believe that God has a very important and meaningful plan for my life.

The Story of Christianity continues by discussing the spiritual setting in which Christianity was born. Just looking at the beginnings of Christianity, it is obvious that God completely prepared the world for the fulfillment of His promise. For example, Alexander’s desire to Hellenize the world by incorporating Greek culture to all nations later opened the way to the preaching of the gospel. Also, God’s provision is evident in the fact that Romans were so tolerant of the religion and customs of conquered people, and the Diaspora Judaism later allowed for Christianity to travel through the Roman Empire quickly. In addition, Christianity was born into a multi-religious era where the basic tenets of the faith could be applied to Stoics, Jews, Greeks, and Romans. The book states, “The church, which many Christians called a ‘new race’ because it drew its members from all races, was living proof of the universal unity of humankind.” Indeed, it is truly amazing to see how God’s plan was carried out, and how He tilled the soil to prepare for the coming of Christ.

The third section of Unit 1 details the life and ministry of Jesus. One of the main take-aways for me in this section was learning that Jesus went through active and passive phases of his life. While most of his ministry was full of interacting with people through miracles and preaching, his passivity was most evident near the end of his life. For example, in John 17, after Jesus prays for God to glorify Him, he basically surrenders and is “led like a lamb to the slaughter.” Jesus didn’t kill himself, but he allowed for it to happen. And, in Dr. Carl Diemler’s words, “Jesus came to do what only He could do, then He told us to do what He said He won’t do.” Matthew 28:18-20 verifies this idea that while Jesus lived a life of action, it is now our turn to be His hands and feet. In my quiet time, I have felt the Lord bringing this point home to me, as He has shown me that I am very prone to being a “reactor” instead of an “actor” in my own life. It’s very easy for me to become passive and apathetic, even about the things of God at times – and that definitely needs to change.

That’s all I’m going to put out here for now, but being able to read Scripture in light of its original context has brought more revelation, encouragement, and life into my relationship with Christ than I had ever expected!

The City Park was full of Christmas cheer as droves of San Marcosians drank hot chocolate, danced to some live music, and even pet camels for San Marcos’ annual Sights and Sounds of Christmas last weekend. A few of our congregants made their way down to the festival, not only to have a great time, but to tell the “Story of the Candy Cane” and explain the true meaning of Christmas to whoever would hear. If you don’t know the story, you can read all about it here.

Here are some of the pictures they took:

Boy, don’t they look cold? It was about 30 degrees when they were out there! We sure give them a lot of credit for doing what Christ has called all of us to do: go out in to the world and preach the gospel through everything we do. Great job guys!

Today we decorated the church with wreaths, garland, trees, and lots of bulbs (and yes, we did have some casualties!). We all had a great time. Here are some pictures:

You’ll notice there aren’t any gifts under the tree! You can still donate money and gifts to our Adopt-A-Family drive which will provide for four local families this Christmas season.

In preparation for the Advent season, John talked yesterday about preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ. Are we ready for Jesus to come back? What things would you have to get in order prior to his arrival?” Scripture warns us time and again that His coming will be sudden, and living in the “here and now” is the best way we can prepare. Looking at Galatians 5:16-23, John talked about 9 qualities (fruits of the Spirit) that Jesus expects from us when He returns. Here they are:

  1. Love. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 shows us that we must have a twofold love: a love for God and a love for others. We must first be in love with God, and when we do that, we have no trouble keeping His commands. It’s easy to love God because He is perfect. But, sometimes it’s hard to love others, especially when those people are takers in the relationship and not givers, when they do not seem to add value to your life. This requires a deep, deep work of God in our hearts to love the unlovable.
  2. Joy. Jesus wants us to be in a continuous state of joyfulness. This is not a human-based or external emotion. It is a divine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in us. This kind of life comes from focusing on God, and not the problems that are in front of us at the time.
  3. Peace. Although it is similar to joy, peace has the same meaning in Hebrew as the words “wholeness” or “soundness”. It implies being at peace with both God and man. This means being at peace with God’s plan for your life, and being at peace with your fellow man.
  4. Longsuffering/Patience. This is the first quality of God listed in Exodus 34 when Moses asked to see God’s face. God’s patience is seen in restraining punishment and wrath that is due us. God’s longsuffering is intended to lead us to repentance before the final judgment. In that case, how can we hold back any patience from others? Colossians 3:12 tells us that patience is like a garment. We can’t give up on the promises of God, even when things don’t look promising.
  5. Kindness. This is an essential ingredient for love. To be kind is to treat people the way God has treated you. This could be the biggest need in today’s fast-paced, high-tech society: showing someone kindness through being truly present and fully there for someone.
  6. Goodness. The person whose personality reflects this virtue is a person that combines two things: Moral Excellence and Generosity. People who are morally excellent command respect because of who they are. Our often vulgar and obscene society needs to see people of moral excellence. Generosity is the opposite of greed and envy. A generous person gives when the need arises.
  7. Faith. Faith means “fidelity” or “loyalty”. In the Bible, this is a necessary qualification for stewardship, teaching, or being a deacon. This is a person who is worthy of God’s trust, and Jesus is the most noble example of fidelity and trustworthiness to God the Father be doing exactly what God wanted all the time. Faith also means being one on whom others can rely. Can God trust you? Will you be true to Him with your use of money, time, sex, your mouth?
  8. Gentleness/Meekness. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” A good example of meekness is a strong stallion that has been broken and ready for the master’s use. He still has the strength and power, but he chooses to use it for the master’s plan and not his own. This is not a picture of a weak, little, timid, scared creature. This is someone who submits to God’s will, someone who is humble, and someone who reflects patience toward others even when insult or injury arise from doing God’s will.
  9. Self-Control. Temperance is an important topic in light of coming judgment. It implies the strict discipline of an athlete. It is the opposite of self-indulgence. Self-control is the mastery of the self and the fashioning of one’s life in the way which God desires. In order to make room for God in our lives, we are going to have to learn to say “no” to some things and “yes” to what God is inviting us into.

Are you ready for Christ’s return?

On Sunday night, many churches in the San Marcos area gathered at PromiseLand Church to thank God for our many blessings. After the wonderful welcome by Pastor Paul Bunton of Abundant Life Church, we sang several songs in worship to the Lord. Here is a video of our very own Chris Ball and Camille Brady singing part of the song “Come Let Us Worship.”

Then, Dr. Jenna Heart gave a nice sermon on “The Gospel of Grace,” using the letters G.O.S.P.E.L. to talk about how we, as a community, have the power of Christ in us to accomplish His will in the city and in our everyday lives. Take a peek at some of the photos we took, during and after the service (at IHOP)!

We are looking forward to Thansgiving here at SMCC! We pray the God is with you and your family, and we encourage you to focus on all the blessings we have been given and thank the Lord for them.

This Sunday, Chris spoke about “How To Make Godly Decisions.” When making decisions, here are some initial thoughts he had:

  1. Your abilities have the potential to take you further than your character can SUSTAIN you.
  2. You get into trouble when your integrity doesn’t keep pace with the momentum created by your GIFTEDNESS.
  3. Our commitment to integrity can easily be eroded by our love for PROGRESS.
  4. The excuses we are most tempted to use are: God PROMISED it – I DESERVE it.

Looking at 1 Samuel 24:1-12, Chris showed us that David had an opportunity to kill Saul, who was on his way to kill him.

  • This situation had all the makings of a God thing.
  • When opportunities line up with our PRAYERS and PASSIONS, it is difficult to exercise RESTRAINT.
  • Opportunities must be weighed against something other than the uniqueness of the circumstances surrounding them.

David’s response to the situation was to follow what he knew about God before acting in haste. He weighed the opportunity against three things:

  • The LAW of God
  • The PRINCIPLES of God
  • The WISDOM of God

So, even though it looked like a God thing and felt like a God thing, didn’t necessarily make it a God thing. When making decisions, it’s important to make sure you aren’t trying to justify yourself or only logically trying to figure it out. You must listen to the heart of God. Chris mentioned that the most direct route to what you want is rarely the BEST route.

In conclusion, Chris mentioned that we should

  • Weigh every opportunity against the LAW, PRINCIPLES & WISDOM of God.
  • Decide every day that you will not sacrifice integrity for progress.
  • Give the right people an all-access pass to EVERY major decision in your life.

How do you make decisions? Is it hard to do what God wants, as opposed to what you want?

booknookHave you perused the Book Nook at the church yet? If you’re a little bit intimidated by all the books and don’t know where to start, here are a few recommendations from church members:

  1. BEVERLY LEWIS books (Fiction).
  2. “She has many series of Christian books in which the main character is usually an Amish woman.  They are very peaceful, edifying, and entertaining books.  The stories always include people receiving Jesus as their savior and have a good plot/story with a little bit of a clean, pure romance in it.” – Susan McComb

  3. BLUE LIKE JAZZ: Memoirs of a thirtysomething young man and the refinement of his Christian walk – a New York Times bestseller by Donald Miller.
  4. “I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve.  But sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself…I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve.  but that was before any of this happened.” – Kathleen Schelling

  6. “Max Lucado’s latest (I think his gutsiest).” – Kathleen Schelling

  7. TAKING ON GOLIATH: Barbara Yoder’s book on taking on the Goliath spirit as it is manifested in our lives.
  8. NO GREATER LOVE by Mother Teresa
  9. “Includes poignant stories of her work and real application of Christian love and pure service” – Greg and Kathleen Schelling

  10. PASSION FOR JESUS by Mike Bickle
  11. “This book is fantastic! It revealed insight to the Song of Solomon, intimacy with Jesus, how to transform self-pity into praise and persistence in prayer. Mike’s life story is interesting and well-written” – Diana Eng

In case you couldn’t make it to church on Sunday, John spoke about “Living for God in an Anti-God Culture.” Looking at Deuteronomy 6:1-15, he talked about three ways we can live for God, despite our worldly surroundings. Here they are:

  1. Obey God. In Deut. 6:1, Moses was asked by God to teach the Israelites to observe the decrees and laws the Lord had given them so they would prosper. Using this text, John said that there are two types of people who do not obey God: those who disobey out of ignorance, and those who disobey out of rebellion. But if we obey the Lord in every area of our lives, it will go well with us. That means we obey Him when he tells us, and exactly how He tells us.
  2. Practice God Saturation. Deut. 6:6-9 shows us that we must write the Lord’s words in our hearts, and in every aspect of our lives. Completely immersing ourselves in God will help separate us from the often Godless culture we’re in every day. Our culture today is not saturated by God. Instead, our culture the “Eight Deadly Sins” are sold to us every day through the media and other venues. One major way we can avoid looking like our culture and practice God saturation is by looking at how we spend our time. Perhaps we need to practice the spiritual discipline of silence by turning off the radio while we’re driving. Or, we may need to start sitting down with our families at mealtimes and talking about our day, instead of letting the TV do the talking for us.
  3. Beware of the Danger. The devil doesn’t care which side of the horse you fall off on. He is constantly prowling around like a lion, seeking who he may devour. So, the church acts as one big support group for sinners. Through Scripture, prayer, and the community of faith, we can live a life of purpose and action.

Our thoughts affect every aspect of our lives, from our relationships, to our work, to the entertainment we watch. So, John ended on a challenge: How can you live differently in your thought life?

Thank you for donating 40 coats to the Dezavala Elementary School this year! Miss Pam and Mr. Mike dropped off the coats last week, and the school was so grateful to receive them.

Soon, we’ll be collecting funds and gifts for families in the area for our “Adopt-A-Family” drive in the Christmas season.

With Thanksgiving approaching, it is a great reminder for us to be a community of givers. As 1 John 3:17-18 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

2563803794_a08ce857e6_mThis past weekend, Chris, Kasey, Ashley, and I took the SHOCK Youth group and PhD kids camping. We smoked some brisket (which, after a few setbacks with flat tires and failed attempts at getting wet wood to set ablaze, we didn’t start until 2:30pm), grilled some meat, toasted some ‘mallows and s’mores, and slept under the stars. It’s nice to be able to get away for a little while and reflect on life.

Chris led the evening devotional about how easy it can be to have idols in our lives, and the kids responded by asking God what things compete with God’s time. The next morning, after cooking up some eggs and bacon over the fire, we talked about repentance and the meaning of turning away from sin and following God.

On Friday, we’re taking the Pursuit “twentysomethings” ministry out to Buescher State Park for some more reflection and time away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Maybe we’ll get a chance to practice the Spiritual Discipline of silence that we’ve been talking about in church. Regardless, it will be fun to meet with each other on a more personal level and discover what God is saying to us as a ministry.