Decorations (video)

Did you know Americans will spend over $6 billion in Christmas decorations this year?  Everywhere you go we create the perfect Christmas scenes, but did you know that the first Christmas was far from the decorations?  Christ did not come to decorate, Jesus came to redeem.  But redemption is hard work.  It requires a difficult choice and a submissive life.  Covering up is much easier than opening up.

Decorations (Christmess Series) from Liberty Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Charles Finney

When God is pleased with a leader’s life, his divine presence is unmistakable.  Charles G. Finney was a nineteenth-century evangelist whose life demonstrated the obvious presence of God.

During a visit to New York Mills in 1826, he visited a cotton manufacturing plant where his brother-in-law was superintendent.  As Finney passed through a spacious room in which many women were working at looms and spinning jennies, he noticed several young women watching him and speaking among themselves.

As Finney approached them, they became more agitated.  When Finney was about ten feet away, one woman sank to the ground and burst into tears.  Soon others were sobbing, overcome with conviction of their sin.  This outpouring of the Spirit spread rapidly throughout the building until the entire factory was singularly aware of God’s presence.

The owner, an unbeliever, realized God was at work and temporarily closed the plant.  He asked Finney to preach to his employees and tell them how they might find peace for their souls.  Finney had not spoken to any of the laborers.  He had simply entered the factory.  God’s powerful presence in Finney’s life had been too overwhelming to ignore.

excerpt from Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby

Still in Like?

You know you are supposed to love your spouse, but do you like them?  Annoyances turn into arguments.  Arguments turn into avoidances and before long instead of building a protecting wall around your marriage you have built a separating wall in between.  How do we overcome the dislikes that distance us in marriage and reclaim genuine love?

(P.S. – proof I am still alive!  Sorry I have not written in quite some time).

Still In Like (Still His Still Hers Series) from Liberty Baptist Church on Vimeo.
Dalton Campus 10-11-15


For us to see the opportunity in adversity we must recalculate our expectations.  What is God doing in prayer?  What do expect Him to do?  Perhaps what you expect of God in the trial is not what He expects of you.
We must also recalculate our situation.  Our situation may change, but God never changes.  The good and the bad of my life circumstances is not indicator for the way God feels about me.  Don’t misinterpret your lack of health or lack of finances as a lack of God’s love.  It doesn’t equate.
Finally, to see the opportunity of adversity we recalculate temptation.    
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  (James 1:12-18 ESV)
In the trial a lot of people get bent out of shape with God.  Why is God doing this to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  In every trial there is a temptation to forsake faith.  And it is here that you see people fall flat.  
There are lots of things that are sinful to which this verse applies.  Some people would say that by God allowing something incredibly hurtful in their lives; some sort of evil abuse that victimized them, that God is evil.  Or, someone may say that because they have a propensity toward a certain kind of sin, that it means God created them that way and so their lifestyle choices shouldn’t be considered sinful.  This verse clearly refutes those ideas by declaring that God is not evil and therefore cannot be blamed for being the source of evil, in any circumstance, in any person’s life. 
But in context, the immediate temptation James encounters is the greatest temptation we face in adversity, giving up on faith.  James is teaching that walking away from faith may be tempting, but it is sinful.  
If your faith falls flat and you walk away, don’t think that is God’s fault, that’s your fault.  God doesn’t allow the trial to come to turn you toward evil.  God allows the trial to come to turn you toward something that is remarkably good.  
Trials have a way of exposing our weaknesses.  But what does 2-3 say God’s design is in the trial?  Strength, completeness, to LIFE PROOF you to where you can hold up and stop falling prey to the same junk over and over again.  
This passage gives us a great teaching on temptation.  Sin is much like the conception, incubation, and birth of a child.  If you see someone fall in sin, know this – it wasn’t an overnight change.  They have been dabbling in it for a long time.  It is not a SITUATIONAL PROBLEM IT IS SYSTEMIC PROBLEM.
God allows the trial because He wants to do something good.  Look at verses 16-18.  It teaches us these truths:
  • You have a very special purpose – as the first fruits of his creatures.
  • You have a very faithful God – no shadow due to change, this means we can seek solid truth in our trials.  God gives good things.
Throughout the Book of James we will see the author constantly encounter the failed ends of man’s pursuits with the good things God gives when we trust Him by faith. 
Our temptation may be to walk away, but if we do that is failed faith.  It is not a failure of the faith God gives us, but it is a failure in a version of faith we have manufactured – a faith that cannot remain steadfast and stand up to the trial.

In times of trial, don’t rush to anger or to blame God.  Recalculate the temptation.  God has not required us to believe in something that is doomed to fail.  He has given us a faith that is good – one that when tested will mature and strengthen our lives.

5 – Recalculate Your Situation

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.  (James 1:9-11 ESV)
To help us see the opportunity of adversity we must not only recalculate our expectation (namely for how God answers prayer), but we must also recalculate our situation.
A lot of times we gauge God’s opinion of us based on the stuff we have in our lives.  
I am healthy.  I am blessed.
I am sick.  I am cursed.
I was promoted at work.  God loves me.
I lost my job.  God hates me.
A situational faith is fickle.
James chooses wealth to expose our miscalculation of the situation.  The wealthy person believes that he or she must be doing something right because they have so much.  A false pride and sense of security develops.  
The poor person believes that he or she must be doing something wrong because they have so little.  A false humility and a misguided spirituality develops.  
You can’t gauge God’s love based on your stuff.  According to James 1:9-11, we need to realize that situations quickly change.  
James teaches that the lowly brother doesn’t need to focus on his lack, but on the lift.  
He says that the rich brother doesn’t need to focus on his provision, but on his pursuit.  
What does this mean?  Whether we are healthy or sick.  Whether we are rich or poor.  Whether we are in good times or in hard times – it is all a trial of faith.  
There are lots of people with lots of money and God is displeased in the way they are handling it, why, because they are pursuing the wrong thing.  One day, life will drop, they may lose it all and in the meantime they lose their faith.  Why, because their faith was equal to their wealth – which is never enough.
A faith that is based on the blessings of wealth is far from life proof.  When the account dries up, that form of faith will also go bankrupt.
On the flip-side, there are lots of people with little money and God is equally as displeased in the way they are handling it.  Why?  God is displeased because we are so prone to believe in our moment of lack that our greatest need is money.  They think that it is money that will lift them up, but it isn’t.  It is God.  Until your pursuit becomes more about God than money, you will never have a LIFE PROOF faith.

A life proof faith remains steadfast in abundance as well as in lack.  The Word of God determines the truth about faith, not your situation.  Our health and bank accounts are volatile and vulnerable.  God never changes.  Our situations should not make determinations about our faith, instead a life proof faith make a determination in any situation to trust the Lord.  

4 – The Opportunity of Adversity – Recalculated Expectations

If we know God is working even when the situation is unwelcome, and we know that we are most changed when we are most challenged, then we must conclude that adversity is not a drudgery; adversity is an opportunity.  This is why James calls for us to “count it all joy (1:2).”

Easier said than done, right?  Why can’t we count it all joy?  Why is it so hard to see the opportunity of adversity?  
The reason we can’t see the opportunity of adversity is because we “can’t count” we miscalculate.
From 1:5-18 James calls for us to make some recalculations.  We need to recalculate three aspects of adversity: expectations, situations, and temptations.
Recalculate Expectations
One thing I can say with a fair amount of certainty, when times get tough, people pray.  When we pray, we do so with a fair amount of expectations.  Those expectations, unmet, often lead to frustration.
Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  
Expectations go unmet.  We feel as if faith has failed.  Once again, we hit hard times and we are shattered.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:5-8 ESV)
This paragraph talks about something God wants to generously give us in our trials.  What is it?
While it is true that we serve a miracle working God who can change any situation, notice what the verse doesn’t say.  
God heals, but the verse doesn’t say God generously heals.
God provides, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a bunch of money.
God opens doors of opportunity for His people, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a new job.
God is sovereign over the nations, but the verse doesn’t even say God generously stopped the persecution that James’ readers were going through so they could go back home.
The verse says that God generously gives wisdom.  Wisdom is the the ability to know God’s will.  Wisdom is making the right choice.  Wisdom the ability to foresee the bad consequences of foolish choices because you know what God says.  
Wisdom is the ability to not make a bad situation worse.  
The Bible says God gives it generously.  This is an interesting word in that in one sense means exactly what you think it means, yet in another sense it doesn’t at all mean what you think it means.  
Generosity is the word used to describe the guy at the ice cream counter who doesn’t just give you one “technical” scoop; generosity means that he keeps digging down in the barrel and he pushes the ice cream down on the cone, he packs it on, and then goes in one more time to make sure you have a huge ball of ice cream up on top of that cone!  Generosity means he is going to give you more than the cone can hold!  Technically, one scoop can be 4 ounces.  Generously one scoop is the size of a basketball!  That’s generosity.  That’s the obvious meaning. 
God gives His people big scoops of wisdom.
However, generosity also means that God is also no arbitrary.  He is not wasteful.  He is purposeful.  There is a sense in the word in which it also means single-minded or focused.  And it is this meaning, single minded focus, that we don’t often associate with generosity.  
Have you ever seen the footage of the rich guy who goes to the mall at Christmas and dumps a basket of $100 bills over the rail?  The people below go crazy in the scramble to scoop up the money.  The rich man is celebrated as generous.  He may be generous, but is that kind of generosity effective?
In my experience I have found that a person who truly needs $100 is not at the mall.  Where will the basket full of money end up?  Will it accomplish anything truly good or has the rich man just given the people below $100 license to be greedy and wasteful?  There is no way to know.  
God is not the guy who dumps a bunch of money over the rail of the mall at Christmas time to see people go crazy over it – that’s not generosity, that’s publicity.
God is the guy who often goes unnamed, who finds a need, seeks to solve a problem, and makes a generous but calculated investment into something that is going to truly make a difference.
God has generous focus. 
Notice who He is generous toward, single minded, focused people.  Not the double-minded man, who is devoted to doing God’s will one day, but not the next.  He is not generous to the one who shows up all pious and religious when he’s in a mess.  He’s not generous to those who want only to change their situation but are not interesting in changing their life.  He is not generous to those who want prayer answered but are not interested at all about strengthening their faith.
God is interested in giving generous amounts of wisdom to people who are interested in knowing and doing what God wants them to do.
When you are in adversity what do you ask God for and why?  What’s your expectation?  Are you concerned about THINGS changing or are you concerned about your LIFE being changed?  
A lifeproof faith is concerned about encasing us in a generous amount of God given wisdom.  The expectation is guidance, insight, information for navigation; not necessarily escape.  When we recalculate our expectations, we see the opportunity of adversity clearly.  Wisdom helps us to learn things about God and about life that will contribute to our steadfastness; that will help us to hold up the next time life drops.  Wisdom makes a generous, calculated contribution to making us, like 1:4 says, “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

If you want a Lifeproof faith that sees adversity as an opportunity, recalculate your expectations for answered prayer.  Ask for wisdom – God gives it generously to God focused people.