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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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

“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 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!”

The Day is Coming

Well I lay here in my bed this morning writing this article because of a kidney stone. Isn’t it amazing how something only 2mm can cause such pain and misery! When I think of pain I’m reminded of the day when there will be no more pain, the day when I see my Lord and Savior face to face and I will be like Him. The Apostle John wrote:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2).

Imagine that day when we will see Him as He is, the One Who paid it all for us, the One Who defeated sin, death, hell, and the grave! I’m grateful that though we face hardships, trials, burdens, pains, fears, hurts, tragedies…in this world all of these are only temporary for believers. As 1 John 3 reminds us, a glorious day that will result in seeing Jesus and being like Jesus will happen because of the greatest love that was given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). I believe that Christians won’t truly appreciate God’s amazing love until we see Him as He is! There’s no doubt that we all have our share of hardships and disappointments but thank God there is a better day coming! Jesus told us that we would face troubles in this world, but thank God He also told us to “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Let me encourage all Christians today that what we currently possess no one, no group, not even the devil himself can take away from us. My heart breaks for those who believe that the answer can be found in this world or found in fulfilling their desires; the truth is things like that doesn’t last, won’t satisfy, and leaves you empty. They are seeking to find the fulfillment and joy that can only come through a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. No they don’t realize this because they are blinded, but as believers we know of this satisfaction that the Apostle Peter called “joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). Just like something as small as a kidney stone can bring such pain, may each of us who may think we are too small to make a difference do our part to show people the joy unspeakable that we have in Christ for the glory of God.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark