Signs of our Times

beckham_norman

As I watched the Carolina Panthers game last Sunday I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing as two of the best, Odell Beckham Jr and Josh Norman, competed against each other. Well, actually they fought against each other, and it kept getting worse until Beckham completely lost it and attacked Norman with the crown of his helmet by launching himself with everything he had. Fortunately the league suspended Beckham for a game (should’ve been at least 2) and fined him over $50,000 for his actions. There’s no doubt that Beckham was taken out of the game (not literally though he should have been) by Norman and that resulted in Beckham losing his cool and letting his emotions get the best of him. What a sad testimony to kids everywhere that were watching and never saw Beckham get ejected.

I believe Beckham’s actions are a sign of the times in our culture: We are led by our emotions in a “me-centered” way. Add to that the fascination of not offending anyone and you have America in 2015, oh the new American way! Really, we’re just immature, irresponsible babies that must have it our way or we’re going to take our ball and go home! Yes we’ve come a long way from the “greatest generation” who grew up during the Great Depression and during World War II…imagine if our generation today was placed during that time in our nation’s history. Thank God for that generation of selfless, hardworking, responsible, honest Americans during a very difficult time and may we see their characteristics come back.

As a pastor my concern is how the mindset of our culture has been handled by the church. Some churches have scrambled about what to do and their response is disturbing. It really can be described in one word: Compromise. The church has begun to “preach another gospel” that is “me-centered” and in an emotional way, and in most cases highly emotional. The goal of modern worship is to touch emotions (the flesh) instead of touching the heart (spiritual), in fact the more emotional the experience the better. If Beckham Jr. teaches us anything it’s that emotions are a horrible leader. Also emotions will only take you so far which is why the emotional experience doesn’t last. Only when the heart is touched through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit will there be lasting change, actually a change that will last forever. You see what God does will last (spiritual), what man does won’t last (flesh).

It’s true that worship can often be emotional, especially when we consider all that our Savior has done for us, but emotions should not be the goal, true worship should be the goal. Jesus said “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Notice that Jesus didn’t say worship in emotions and in truth but worship must be in “spirit and in truth.” Often times true worship offends as the Spirit gets our attention through conviction, which puts us in a position for lasting change because God is working. Yes the Holy Spirit will make us uncomfortable. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). The word reprove means convict, yes God will offend us, make us uncomfortable, and He will do that because He loves us and wants to change us. The sad reality is that when we try so hard to not offend anyone during their worship experience we are really telling the Holy Spirit to take a hike! When the Holy Spirit doesn’t work then there isn’t real and lasting change.

The Apostle Paul revealed that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Why did Jesus die? Because of our sin, yes we are responsible for Jesus’ death. Now this is included in the “me-centered” gospel but only as an afterthought, it’s just kind of rushed through because after all we don’t want to offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. The “me-centered gospel” is more about Jesus being our friend to solve our problems. It’s about receiving God’s great love and wanting to go to heaven. It’s about using the powerful name of Jesus to change our circumstances so that we can have it our way. Now it’s true that when we’re saved we have a best friend in Jesus Who is the answer to all our problems, it’s true that there is power in Jesus name, we do have a home in heaven, and God’s love is great but we don’t get saved because we want to go heaven, we don’t get saved because we want our problems solved, we don’t get saved because we want a best friend; we only get saved when we realize that we are lost and hopeless in our sin (work of the Holy Spirit and not emotions) and we place our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

My fear is that many trust the eternal destiny of their soul on an emotional experience when they were declared saved but it was not a real work of God because the Holy Spirit was not welcome since He makes people uncomfortable. Salvation is of the Lord and is only available when God works in hearts. Let’s not think so highly of ourselves that we actually believe we are gifted to do the work that only God can do. Let’s not think that we can take the place of the Holy Spirit and that is better because it’s more what people want.  Also let’s make sure the gospel we preach is the true gospel, the same gospel that the Apostle Paul preached because there is real danger in preaching a different gospel, “if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:9). I’m grateful that the gospel is powerful and really needs no “tweaking” because “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

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Your Powerful “God Story”

Want a powerful testimony? If you’ve been saved by faith in Jesus then you’ve got one! It’s great to hear dramatic testimonies, or “God stories,” of how God brought someone from addictions and changed them, but the reality is that it took the same grace and power of God to save someone who wasn’t brought from a life of addictions. We were all dead in our trespasses and sin but when we put our faith in Jesus we were literally brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-10)! Now that’s as dramatic as it gets! Praise God for His power to transform lives for His glory! Christians, let’s all tell our “God story” because our salvation is the greatest things we have! Let’s share it! “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As we continue to strive to be a lighthouse for Liberty here at LFBC, we must keep in mind that the best thing we can share with others is not about a pastor, great music, or even a great church, the best thing we can share with people is our “God story” of when we came to faith in Christ, and the difference Jesus continues to make in our lives. My fear is that we don’t talk about Jesus like we should because we either don’t know Him or we aren’t as close to Him as we ought to be. Like the Apostle Paul, we will never reach a level of complacently where we have obtained perfection, but we should keep growing and going forward in Jesus name that will show a steady change by the power of God (Philippians 3:12-14). The most powerful witness to a lost world in darkness is a changed life through a personal relationship with Christ. Do you know Him? Is He changing you? If so, let’s share the facts of what God is doing in your life because that is the best story that you can share!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

The Day is Coming

Well I lay here in my bed this morning writing this article because of a kidney stone. Isn’t it amazing how something only 2mm can cause such pain and misery! When I think of pain I’m reminded of the day when there will be no more pain, the day when I see my Lord and Savior face to face and I will be like Him. The Apostle John wrote:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2).

Imagine that day when we will see Him as He is, the One Who paid it all for us, the One Who defeated sin, death, hell, and the grave! I’m grateful that though we face hardships, trials, burdens, pains, fears, hurts, tragedies…in this world all of these are only temporary for believers. As 1 John 3 reminds us, a glorious day that will result in seeing Jesus and being like Jesus will happen because of the greatest love that was given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). I believe that Christians won’t truly appreciate God’s amazing love until we see Him as He is! There’s no doubt that we all have our share of hardships and disappointments but thank God there is a better day coming! Jesus told us that we would face troubles in this world, but thank God He also told us to “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Let me encourage all Christians today that what we currently possess no one, no group, not even the devil himself can take away from us. My heart breaks for those who believe that the answer can be found in this world or found in fulfilling their desires; the truth is things like that doesn’t last, won’t satisfy, and leaves you empty. They are seeking to find the fulfillment and joy that can only come through a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. No they don’t realize this because they are blinded, but as believers we know of this satisfaction that the Apostle Peter called “joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). Just like something as small as a kidney stone can bring such pain, may each of us who may think we are too small to make a difference do our part to show people the joy unspeakable that we have in Christ for the glory of God.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

“Change”

One thing that is constant in life is change. The problem is that most of us don’t enjoy change because we like familiarity, comfort zones, and habits. One of the most vivid examples of change is our children. We often say or hear others say about kids, “they grow up too fast!” We are especially reminded about that this time of year as the school year ends and our kids move on to the next grade which means different things to different families.  For some it means starting Kindergarten, for others it means moving on to middle school or high school, and for some it means graduation. During graduation time we love to pull out pictures and remember when…..where has the time gone? Well,  we can’t stop the fact that life is ever-changing. Of course change really kicks in gear after high school with different directions due to college, marriage, careers, and of course adding a few pounds and hair turning gray or turning loose. Ok I’ll stop!

Although there are constant changes in life, I want to remind you that our Great and Mighty God never changes! He is perfect and has no flaws or limitations! The author of Hebrews says that our Lord and Savior “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Psalmist wrote that the One that we look to for help, the One that keeps us neither sleeps nor slumbers (Psalm 121). Obviously we need to sleep, and while we sleep we are completely unaware of happenings around us. However, God is so much greater than us! Think about what The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).

As we are reminded of change all around us, as we age and our strength becomes more and more limited, let these changes be a reminder that God never changes and He never grows tired or weary. May we remember the words of Isaiah that our great God will give strength to those who wait on Him! Certainly a God like this should be trusted.

To the class of 2015 let me congratulate you and encourage you to “be strong and courageous” in the Lord (Joshua 1:8) and to “trust in the Lord with all your heart!” (Proverbs 3:5). Please let the Lord be your source for salvation, strength, and guidance! We change and we have limitations but He is not like us for He is great, mighty, able, and faithful!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark