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

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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

Signs of our Times

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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

A word to College and Career Young Adults: I’m sorry!

nextlevel

I have the privilege of teaching some great college and career young adults every Sunday morning at 9:15 at LFBC. Yes, these young adults make it to small group Bible study at 9:15 on Sunday morning! Ministering specifically to these young adults has left some lingering thoughts in my heart and mind.

I begin by stating my apologies to college and career young adults. Generally speaking, the church puts a lot of emphasis in youth ministry (as we should), but when students graduate there is little to no emphasis for young adults. Is this not an important time in their lives? Do we really think that all that we did for them in youth ministry was enough?

Certainly the young adult stage is very important. There should be a ministry that continues on after youth ministry, a ministry that will help college and career with “the next level.” Most ministers would agree with me that there is an abundance of information received in our offices for children, youth, and senior adult ministries but rarely anything for young adults. I really don’t understand why this is the case, but the church doesn’t seem to be interested in young adults anymore. Perhaps we got the “numbers” out of them during their youth ministry years and now we’re “done” with them.  Maybe we no longer can use you to brag about how we’re doing it “right” because you have graduated? Whatever the reason, it’s a bad one.

The generation of 18-29 year olds has been labeled “the drop out” generation. Maybe we didn’t do as well as we “bragged” about when they were in youth ministry? Again, generally speaking, the church may be busy with many youth activities, but are these activities really changing lives and equipping students for the next chapter? Could it be that when students graduate they soon realize that what they received in youth ministry wasn’t relative for college and career? I’m convicted that a major restructure is in order in most youth ministries today. We need to stop asking questions like: Did everyone have a good time? Did we have a large turnout? How can we be popular? We need to ask only one question: Are lives being changed? All other questions are secondary.

The truth is that college and career young adults need ministry as much as they did when they were in middle school and high school. They need an environment of growing in their faith together, building each other up together, and supporting each other through the power of prayer. So I offer my sincere apologies to college and career young adults. You didn’t graduate from church when you graduated from high school and you certainly didn’t outgrow church. There is a place for you at LFBC.

Let’s take them deeper!

lfbcyouth

Some thoughts from a former Student Minister to current Student Ministers: Student Ministers Don’t underestimate your students, they are capable of digging into the Word, and they really want an authentic, real faith that results in a changed life by God’s power. Trying to be “clever” by being like the world yet also being Godly is not a Spiritual gift and the result is failure. Let your “measuring stick” for ministry be life change and not only about numbers and fun. Let’s give our students the truth, they deserve it, they can take, and they really do want it!

Many students excel in the classroom and some even take college credits while still in high school; many students also excel in sports, arts, and clubs yet when they come to a lot of student ministries they usually only receive baby food if they get that. I believe that when a student’s heart is touched and challenged with God’s Word then the result of their spiritual growth will be to remain in church instead of dropping out like so many do after high school. Think about it, when a student has little to no spiritual growth and the majority of what they received was fun,  entertainment, and social emphasis they quickly realize that church didn’t equip them for life so they drop out because it’s time to grow up (which they never did spiritually). The irony is that most student ministries pride themselves on being relevant yet when high school graduation takes place students see that what they received was anything but relative. Let’s take them deeper!

I’m so thankful for our student leaders and volunteers at LFBC for being interested in our student’s hearts and spiritual lives. They truly love them by desiring to be with them, by having fun with them, getting to know them, and most importantly by desiring to see them grow in their faith and go deeper in their walk with Jesus. We will only have our students for a short time so let’s redeem the time!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

1 Peter 2:2