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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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

“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

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

Back to the Ole Routine?

Last week I enjoyed some time away with my family while the kids were on spring break, and boy did we ever have a wonderful time! Isn’t it amazing how those times are the quickest weeks of the year? This morning when the alarm went off my first though was “time to get back into the old routine.” We are creatures of habit which is not really a bad thing because a routine that works each day gets us going and helps us see accomplish our daily tasks. But what about a spiritual routine?

A routine in our spiritual lives could lead to a focus on mechanics and going through the motions instead of a close personal walk with the Lord from our hearts. One consequence of “going through the motions” is getting over what Jesus did and continues to do for us. I pray that God will deliver us from a callused heart towards our Lord and Savior that can result from the same ole routine. I challenge every believer in Jesus to take time every day to think about the cross of Calvary and give God thanks every day for His Great love, his Great mercy, and His great power that saved us.

I can’t think of a better day to keep our relationship with Jesus fresh than on the Monday after Easter. I’m sure most of us took time during Easter to remember the cross and celebrate the empty tomb. Let’s not allow days to become months before we give thanks and praise to the Lord for all He did for us. His sacrifice on the cross is still effective and praise God the tomb is still empty! Let’s keep this fresh in our hearts and minds and never get over it! Just like Peter who went away from the tomb amazed, may we stay amazed at what our Lord and Savior has done for us (Luke 24:12).

Love in Christ,

Mark

Provoke others!

What are some things that you encourage others to do?  We encourage people to be honest, to take a vacation, to make tough choices regarding family, and even at times encourage people to do wrong things.  How often do we encourage our family and friends to be faithful in their walk with the Lord?  To go deeper in their relationship with the Lord?  Sometimes I think we view someone’s spiritual life and walk with the Lord as private so we just don’t go there like we should.  However, the author of Hebrews wrote, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Certainly provoking other believers to “love and good works” reveals how God expects us to get involved in another’s life by encouraging them to do good things for the Lord.  In fact, I believe that we should encourage believers to go forward in their Christian experience as much, if not more, as we encourage people to do things that are not spiritual.

When someone misses church on a Sunday or Wednesday we should not say “well it’s none of my business where they are” as if we can’t play an important role in their faithfulness to the Lord.  The truth is God expects us to think of others and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.  When’s the last time you encouraged someone to come to Sunday school or get involved in men’s or ladies fellowship?  When’s the last time you invited someone to church or encouraged someone to join the choir?  It makes a tremendous difference in someone’s life when there is someone encouraging them to actively love and serve the Lord.  The Bible calls that provoking someone to love and good works.

It really is a great privilege to know the LORD and to have the opportunity to be a part of His great work.  I believe with all my heart that the greatest work on the face of the earth is God’s Work because it is an effective, life-changing work that lasts for all eternity.  What work can compare to knowing, loving, and serving Jesus?  Knowing Jesus satisfies like nothing else because He provides ultimate meaning and purpose in life.  It’s my prayer that we’ll desire to be faithful to the Lord and to be used of God to encourage others to get in on God’s blessings.

Let me encourage you to come to Sunday school and worship, to volunteer in our kids and youth ministries, to join the choir, to come to the marriage workshop on March 27-28, to get involved in our men’s prayer breakfasts and workdays, to get involved in our ladies fellowships, to enjoy God’s blessings that results from being a cheerful giver, to pray for your church, etc.  Join me church family in being intentional provoking others to love and good works.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark