The Lord is Worthy of our Service!

It’s interesting to me that many in the church today are so quick to choose a quick and easy route instead of rolling up sleeves and being willing to work. We must remember that this is God’s work and the only reason we are part of His work is because Jesus willingly paid it all. Last night in prayer meeting I shared about the Prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Lord seated on the throne high and exalted because He is holy and worthy (Isaiah 6:1-8). After the Lord touched Isaiah and purged his sin, Isaiah responded to the Lord’s call of “whom shall I send” with “here am I, send me.” Isaiah was willing not because He saw himself worthy, but because He saw the Lord was worthy. Do we see the Lord worthy? If so it will lead us also to say “here am I, send me.”

Christian, why do you do what you do? Is your service to the Lord just out of obligation or with an attitude that lacks heart which seeks the quick and easy way most of the time? I pray that, like Isaiah, we’ll see ourselves as unworthy and the Lord as worthy so that we’ll understand the tremendous privilege of getting to serve the Lord and being used by Him for His work. I believe the key to serving with our hearts instead of obligation is to keep in mind that the Lord is so worthy of our service. After all that He is, after all that He has done, and after all that He will do, serving the Lord is the least we can do. We must also keep in mind that we represent the true and living God here in this world, so let’s be willing to do it from our hearts in such a way that doesn’t mind a little work.

While King David desired to build an altar to the Lord on Araunah’s threshing floor, Araunah told David that he would give him what he needed. This led David to say, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). I can’t help but think of the church today, we would likely say, “Oh you’ll give it to me? Great!” I want have to pay anything; But not David, He was willing to pay the price because this was the Lord’s work that involved worship to the Lord. David couldn’t imagine taking a cheap route because the Lord is worthy of whatever the cost.

Let me challenge not only LFBC but all Christians to check up and make sure we don’t have an obligated motivation that likely always chooses the quick and easy route, but rather a motivation solely based on the fact that the Lord is worthy. What a great testimony to any community when Christians offer their best to the Lord out of love for the Lord because He is worthy. How are we representing the true and living God in our communities as we serve the Lord?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Mark
Ephesians 3:20

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A True Privilege!

LFBC youth

As I reflect back to this powerful moment from a few years ago with the students of LFBC, it makes me realize how blessed we are as members of God’s family! Let me encourage all Christians to never take for granted being a part of the church, having the privilege of prayer, and having the privilege of knowing Jesus more. We have these everlasting privileges because Jesus paid it all! I know we’re all busy, but making time to be with your church family is really the most important part of your week. Let me encourage you to be at your church this Sunday, you need it and your fellow brother and sister in Christ needs it. We need to grow spiritually together and that is seriously hindered when we miss meeting together with our church family.

No, church is not about seeing someone or being seen; it’s all about looking to Jesus and growing closer to Him through praise, prayer, and the Word! It really is the most powerful, most satisfying, and most lasting time on earth. Don’t miss out! “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”
(Hebrews 10:25).
Love in Christ,
Pastor Mark

God’s love, God’s story, God’s power, God’s salvation!

 

jesusgospel

On this Good Friday as I meditate about what Jesus did on the cross in paying the price for our sin by dying in our place, I’m reminded that God’s Word clearly states that this was God saying “I love you!” (Romans 5:8) What an amazing love! What a powerful story! The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), but what amazes me is the concept that the gospel needs to be improved, watered down to be less offensive, sugar coated with the flavor of “it’s all about you!” Simply put, the gospel doesn’t need adding to because it can’t possibly be improved!

My fear is that the “gospel” being shared today is not the life-changing powerful gospel of the Bible that produces real salvation because it was changed to be more appealing, and the attraction was more a selfish motive of adding Jesus to fix problems instead of trusting Jesus to deal with sin. The tragedy is that many are responding to this kind of message and led to believe that they are to saved. They have been given a bill of goods that really brings confusion and leads to multiple “salvation experiences.” I’ve recently heard stories of grandparents being so concerned with how many times their grand kids are getting “saved.” A real salvation experience recognizes sin and the need to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. A real salvation experience understands that we’ve blown it and it’s either Jesus or nothing. A real salvation experience is all about Jesus and not about me anymore. Jesus isn’t a friend that you add to your life, He is your life! He is not just your Savior but your Lord and Savior. What God does will bring everlasting change, and what man does will not last! So rest easy pastor, youth minister, volunteer, or leader because salvation is God’s work. Just share the gospel and leave the results up to Him, and when the result is salvation it will last.

This Sunday, and every day, may we share the gospel as it is and trust God to do the work that only He can do in changing lives through His power! Come on minister, don’t give your self so much credit that you think you can improve on the most powerful message the world has ever known, the gospel message! Jesus is what makes the gospel great, not you. Thank you Jesus for paying it all on the cross and demonstrating the greatest love ever!

-Pastor Mark

Romans 5:8

Create in me a clean heart O God!

cleanheart

Why does it seem that God is not listening to our prayers? It may be that we don’t have a clean heart. It’s true that when we place our faith in Jesus we have right standing with God, and that will never change, but disobedience in our lives will effect our fellowship with God including our prayer lives. Disobedience will always keep us from a close walk with Jesus every time, and that is not God’s fault. The only thing that will help us get closer walk with Jesus is not necessarily reading more Scripture, praying longer, attending church more…first we must have a talk with Jesus confessing our sins (1 John 1:9) so that God will cleanse our hearts (Psalm 51:10). When we have a clean heart and a closer walk with the Lord then our prayers will get above the ceiling.

I like what Pastor Greg Laurie wrote in a devotional about having a clean heart, “Unconfessed sin in our lives will stop our prayers from being answered. The psalmist wrote, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear’ (Psalm 66:18). We can pray with passion. We can pray with faith. We can pray with all of the gusto we have. But if there is an area in our lives that is not right before God, then our prayers will not be heard.”

In this “me-first” and “me-centered” day we might hear people say, “how dare God not hear MY prayer!” Instead we ought to say, “how dare me to allow the very things that Jesus died for to enter my heart and life.” How’s your prayer life? When we intentionally include confession in our prayers before we ask anything we will see a difference.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

The Importance of Prayer

When someone responds to the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation that person begins a wonderful, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The good news is that the new person in Christ will never be alone again, and through prayer and an opened Bible a close relationship with the Lord develops. I have found that my walk with Jesus helps me better than anything this world has to offer. I can certainly relate to the song Give me Jesus by Fernando Ortega, “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You can have all this world but give me Jesus.”

One great leader that comes to mind when I think of prayer is Nehemiah. When we read Nehemiah it would be easy to focus on the great things that Nehemiah did without realizing the key to him doing those great things. Nehemiah always prayed before he did anything, and that is a lesson that every Christian should learn and keep to heart. When we don’t pray we are really saying “God I don’t need you,” and when we do pray we acknowledge our need for God. When we rely on God through prayer we bring God’s power into our lives. It really is true that a prayer-less Christian is a powerless Christian.

Jesus said that “men ought always to pray” so let’s make sure that we realize the importance of prayer each and every day. Imagine how different our lives, our homes, and our churches would be if we wouldn’t neglect to pray. I like what the hymn writer wrote, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

Nehemiah 1:5-11

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

Things you don’t have to do to see God’s church go forward…

A timely article for the modern church of America by Cary Schmidt

1. You don’t have to stop using Bible Words—Bible words are true and powerful words. Define them. Teach them. Cross-reference them. Illustrate them. But don’t stop using Bible Words—sin, hell, heaven, Spirit, worship, propitiation, justification, mercy, grace, sanctification, etc. Bible words grow the church in depth and health.

2. You don’t have to minimize the gospel—From Genesis the Revelation, the gospel is the core of God’s heart to mankind. Paul told Titus to affirm the gospel “constantly!” Keep giving the clear gospel—to both Christians and non-Christians. By it we are saved, by it we live! You cannot exhaust the gospel, and it is the single emphasis that will bring both new life and maturity to your church.

3. You don’t have to stop preaching good doctrine—The heart of man was designed to thrive on truth. Good doctrine and theology is the foundation of all of life. Doctrine is attractive when made understandable and when connected to every day life. It stabilizes the soul. Good doctrine is not negotiable. Don’t remove it or minimize it. In a day of pluralism and secularism and relativism, people are desperate for true absolutes upon which they can anchor their lives.

4. You don’t have to have performance-driven ministry—A lot of churches today more resemble a nightclub than a place of spiritual activity. Are we trying to worship Jesus and grow in His Word, or impress people with performance? Keep the lights on, lead in corporate/heart-felt worship, lift up Jesus Christ, open and expound the Word, and watch Jesus draw people to Himself.

5. You don’t have to stop using the word “church”—Jesus died for the church, promised to build the church, loves the church, and is the head of the church. Choose to love the word “church,” and help people experience real loving, healthy, dynamic church every time they attend yours. Bad church experiences are common, but so are bad restaurant experiences. We don’t need “alternative” words—we need authentic, healthy churches.

6. You don’t have to downplay doctrinal distinction—God is the final authority. He defines life, love, sexuality, marriage, and all other doctrinal and moral issues. And He is good. He is love. He is grace. Messing with His message to men is the most unloving, ungracious, uncaring thing you can do. Help people build their lives on uncompromised truth, and watch them grow. Likewise, teach sound doctrine and help people discern “bad doctrine”—this was exactly what the Apostle Paul did in New Testament contexts.

7. You don’t have to marginalize an age group—Some strategists encourage church leaders to focus on specific ages, to the exclusion of others. This is really unbiblical thinking. A healthy church is multi-generational—it’s a church full of all ages and kinds of people—loving, praying, serving, and caring for one another across all generational, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries.

8. You don’t have to target a demographic—Again, strategists would teach you to define a demographic—how you will reach a particular group, usually “income focused.” God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus is not exclusive—everyone in every life-stage deserves the truth. A healthy church will flatten society’s stratums and bring every kind of person together around the person of Jesus Christ. Attempt to reacheveryone, and guaranteed, God will provide for His church.

9. You don’t have to condone sin—Strategists would tell you to not speak out on sensitive issues. God tells you to speak the truth in love. I’ve heard plenty of preachers speak the truth in anger, irrationally. I’ve heard many speak the truth in love with sound reason. It is possible to speak truthfully, lovingly, and convincingly against sin and it’s destructive nature. If you don’t speak truth, you are not loving. Love is truthful. Truth is loving. You always help people grow when you teach them God’s best.

10. You don’t have to stop inviting people to respond to God’s Word—Some would say, “don’t have a planned time for response, like an invitation” or “don’t invite people to accept Christ.” But truth always calls for a response. When you speak truth, the hearers must decide what to do with it. Whether in their seat or at an altar—keep encouraging people make right decisions based upon God’s Word.

God builds His church when we get out of His way. Let us not become victims of the “growth at all costs” thinking. Let us see God develop His church, His way—as a pillar and ground of the truth. Only biblical growth is healthy growth.

If you will couple sound biblical content, a clear gospel message, a loving church family, and a well-prepared environment of hospitality—you will see God take His church forward with new life and spiritual maturity.

The gospel is still powerful to transform lives! What a privilege we have to partner with Him in the greatest work on the planet—seeing Jesus build His church!