“Reach Out” Summer 2016

reachout

The kids are out of school and summer time is here! If I were to give these next few months a theme for Liberty First it would be “Reach Out!” We have already begun reaching out last month at our Block Party on Eagle Drive and we’ll continue to do that these next several weeks. Let me encourage every member to unite together as the family of God to share God’s love with others this summer! Who is it that God can use you to “Reach Out” to?

Our students will be going to “Reach Out” to various people in the Nashville, TN area June 13-18, and I believe the Lord will do a great work in us and through us; please pray with us for our student summer mission camp. We will be starting “M” night on June 8th and will continue “M” night the 2nd Wednesday of each month. “M” stands for missions and our ladies WMU will meet as well as our men’s brotherhood to discuss missions here in Liberty, missions across our state, nation, and world. We will be having our 2nd “Reach Out” block party on Saturday, June 25 at the Whispering Pines neighborhood park from 11am to 1pm. We will be sharing God’s love and inviting the unchurched to visit us at LFBC. Also our kids and students will “Reach Out” to various people here locally during Mission Week 2016 June 27-July 1. I’m looking forward to kicking off our Mission Week 2016 by having the Finnocchiaro family, missionaries to Vietnam, to share with us on Sunday, June 26 during our morning worship.

Some may ask why the emphasis to “Reach Out?” Well the answer is simple, we have a story to tell! The gospel message is the greatest, most powerful story anyone could ever share (Romans 1:16)! We can’t simply sit back and wait for people to come to us, we must take the initiative to “Reach Out” and show God’s love to others. I believe we must “Reach Out” because the world around us needs to see and hear about what we receive each time we meet together, we must take it with us. Every time you depart LFBC, “You are now entering the mission field.” Let’s all do our part this summer to “Reach Out!”

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

Ephesians 3:20

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REACH OUT

reachout

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the month of May! May is a busy time with some great opportunities to serve Jesus at LFBC! I look forward to honoring out moms this Sunday because mothers are so vital to our homes, churches, local communities, and our nation. The home as God has ordained it is under attack today like never before, but no attack can stand against a Godly, praying mom! It’s my prayer that our moms would be strong and courageous by trusting in the Lord’s power and presence! Godly moms may not be appreciated or even popular in our society but our society is indebted to Godly moms. Keep pressing on moms for the glory of God in Jesus name (Phil. 3:14) and one day your reward will be worth it all when you stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One thing that the Lord has laid on our hearts is to “Reach Out” to some communities with the love of Christ. On May 21 we will be going to Eagle Drive (off N Old Pendleton Rd) here in Liberty to let this community know about our church and bus ministry. We plan to grill hotdogs, serve sno-cones, have inflatables for the kids, and share about VBS and Mission Week. Pray with us for this community that kids may come on to church through our bus ministry, and that we may “Reach Out” to their families so that souls may come to know the Lord. LFBC members, if you haven’t already please sign up at the Welcome Center to help. Remember that we must reach outside the walls of the church because our community is our mission field.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

Matthew 28:18-20

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

 

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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