“Make Room for Jesus”

As I write this article I’m preparing a message for this Sunday entitled “Make Room for Jesus.” Many times we are guilty of not doing that this time of year because we are so busy “celebrating.” For those of us who are believers who have been adopted into God’s family by faith in Jesus, we know how great the gift that God has provided to us through His Son. So why do we struggle with making room for Jesus during the season that we celebrate His coming?

I don’t believe that we intentionally don’t make room for Jesus, in fact I believe Christmas motivates us with good intentions: We are motivated by the fact that Jesus is the best gift we have and will ever receive, we are motivated to make sure our families have the best Christmas because we want our loved ones to share in God’s love, we also are motivated to include our friends with the joys of Christmas, we are motivated to make as many good memories as possible, and maybe our motivation causes us to simply try too hard? Yes Jesus truly is the greatest gift of all, but more activity doesn’t necessarily mean that we are truly taking Christmas seriously. If Christmas to us is more about social events, shopping, decorating the “perfect tree,” Santa Claus, jingle bells, winter wonderlands, and Christmas movies then we will struggle with crowding Jesus out of His own birthday.

There’s nothing wrong with parties, shopping, decorating, jingle bells, and Christmas movies…but we need to make sure that we sing “Joy to the World” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him” more than “Jingle Bells” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” We need to make sure that we turn off the movies and share the sacred words of Isaiah 9:6 and Luke 2 in our homes. Let’s make sure that our lives demonstrate to a lost and dying world that Christmas is Jesus. Christmas is about God sending His Son to save us from our greatest need so that we could be restored to a right relationship to God through faith in Jesus.

How sad would it be if we were guilty of being so busy with “Christmas” that we didn’t make room for Jesus? After all, without Jesus we really don’t have Christmas. Christmas is not about gifts under the tree, but about the gift that God gave on the tree so that we could have a personal relationship with God through His greatest gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s make sure that others clearly see in us that knowing Jesus is the only way to truly have a Merry Christmas.

From my family to yours, have a Jesus-filled Merry Christmas!

Pastor Mark

Isaiah 9:6

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

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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 Have Church!

I wonder how many of us as believers appreciate being a part of the church? When we keep in mind what the Apostle Peter wrote about the fact that we have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, I believe we will maintain an appreciation for being a part of the family of God. The right perspective of how we are a part of the church will lead us to the right reason for meeting with other believers for worship. What is the right motivation? Jesus.

My fear today is that our motivation for meeting together at church is everything but the one main reason including: obligation, social reasons, entertainment, self-help therapy, feel good emotions…Certainly not all of the above are bad but they all have in common a focus on self and not a focus on Jesus. I believe that when Jesus is our motivation then we won’t attend out of obligation, we will enjoy socializing better, our entertainment will be healthy and Jesus will be honored and glorified, we will receive the ultimate self-help, and our emotions will be kept in check as opposed to being driven by emotions. What drives real, lasting help from God is receiving His Word in faithful obedience from a love relationship with Jesus. Does this sound anything like your experience at church?

My prayer is that we don’t treat church merely like a social event or a selfish experience but rather an encounter with the true and living God when Jesus is exalted and God’s Word is received in faithful obedience. Just like an old song I used to enjoy singing in choir years ago, “Let’s get together and praise the Lord, everybody make a joyful noise even though we’ve come together, from all over the earth. Let’s come together in one accord everyone that’s listening to my voice let’s get together, let’s have church!”

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 Dangerous Power of Presumption in Bible Interpretation

The Dangerous Power of Presumption in Bible Interpretation

Over the Independence Day holiday, the six of us piled into the van and drove to a senior adult community in Spartanburg, SC, to visit my wife’s grandmother. It may not sound to you like the kind of place 4 kids under the age of 11 would enjoy, but you’d be sorely mistaken. There are no commodities more greatly prized in a senior adult community than children. Nothing brings their great-grandmother more joy than to parade her great-grandchildren around to the neighbors, and nothing brings the children more joy than the compliments, attention, and baked goods they receive as we make the rounds. Add the opportunity to drive their great-grandmother’s golf cart around in the community and to eat dessert with every meal in the community dining room, and you’ve got a great three-day weekend on your hands.

That said, it is a rather unusual community to live in for a few days, if you are closer to 40 like my wife and I are. There’s no getting around it: everyone is old. Quite old. Many are deaf. Some are legally blind. All are limited in their ability to walk. There’s no way around it: everyone is old.

This reality was on my mind when my wife made the following comment to her grandmother: “I saw your old neighbor yesterday.”

I coughed up a piece of iceberg lettuce, shocked at what I perceived to be my wife’s insensitivity to her grandmother and the other seniors in the community. “Of course her neighbor is old. You have to be old to live here.” That’s what ran through my head, but fortunately I didn’t say it before my wife’s next sentence. “You know, the one I met last time we were here but who has since moved to an apartment from the home next door to you?”

Ah, relief. My wife had meant “old” as in “former,” and I had wrongly interpreted “old” to mean “aged.”

What a difference context makes when interpreting what people say.

Context is equally important when it comes to interpreting the Bible. One of the more dangerous things we can do while interpreting the Bible is to presume that our reading and understanding of it is the accurate reading and interpretation. Even the translations we read are the result of thousands upon thousands of people interpreting the Bible for us, and we bring our own set of experiences and prior understandings to every text we read. So how can we overcome the dangerous power of presumption when it comes to interpreting the Bible? These two things are essential first steps.

First, remember that the Bible was written in particular historical moments. No part of the Bible can ever mean for us what it never meant to the original writers and recipients. That all of it was written within the context of other languages and cultures creates a great but surmountable challenge, but this also makes the Bible very beautiful and powerful. God’s Word is not merely “other” but came to us in our midst and revealed the love and holiness of God to us. But there is more to Bible interpretation than its historical context. If we limit our interpretation to its unique history, then to study it is to reduce it to a merely historical book that only has value to people who like or study history.

That’s why we need to remember a second key principle in interpreting our Bible: the Bible is relevant for eternity. God has spoken in context, but what He said has meaning and value for eternity. This gives us great courage, for it means that God’s Word speaks to us again and again in our own history and context. But if we divorce this eternal meaning from historical context, the Bible becomes nothing more than a set of rules or propositions to believe and follow.

Holding these two principles together guides us to make wise interpretive decisions. Consider Deuteronomy 22:6-7 from the HCSB: “If you come across a bird’s nest with chicks or eggs, either in a tree or on the ground along the road, and the mother is sitting on the chicks or eggs, you must not take the mother along with the young. You may take the young for yourself, but be sure to let the mother go free, so that you may prosper and live long.” The reason you are likely not following this law is that you’ve made an interpretive decision that the Bible, though eternally relevant, has some historical particularity to it that should come into play when it comes to interpreting it and living according to it.

So when you’re reading (and therefore interpreting) your Bible, ask these two questions: do I understand the historical context, and how is this passage eternally relevant? Asking these questions with great tools like a study Bible will go a long way in helping you not only understand the Bible, but obey it as well.


Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at LifeWay Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.

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