Returning To God

Indians Game

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Deuteronomy 8:12-15 (NLT)
12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock!

In this political season we find ourselves in we hear all the candidates telling us how they plan to fix the mess we find ourselves in. They tell us how we are going to fix our economic woes, our domestic violence woes, our racial tension woes, and the list goes on. However, what they fail to address is the spiritual woes in which we find ourselves. That my friends is the real issue that we need to deal with, and if we do not deal with that issue none of the others will be resolved regardless of who is in office. Our problems steam from the fact that we have forgotten God! In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” Until we return to God we will always be in turmoil. As Rev. Franklin Graham has recently commented, “The only hope for this nation is God!”

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

Wheat and Chaff

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:
Matthew 13:30 (NLT)
Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
In the film The Matrix, we are taken to the year 2199. The world has been taken over and is being run by AI: artificial intelligence. Harvested humans live in a computer generated dreamworld of artificial reality, never understanding that they are captives of an evil empire. But there are a few people still connected enough to reality who discover the Matrix. What they see is that there are two worlds now. One is evil, and it depends on control and deception. It is an unreal world. The other is the real world, even though it would not be seen as such by those caught up in the Matrix. There is a great deal of religious symbolism in the film, and it picks up on the biblical theme of the kingdom of God and its opposition to the kingdom of evil. In the movie, Morpheus tries to explain the Matrix and says to Neo: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
In the same way, we live in the real world while so many around us are living in a world of deception. Unable to wake from the dream, they only know what they see. They have never known anything different. Our responsibility is to never forget which is the real world and which is fantasy. We are also responsible for rescuing as many as possible of those who are trapped in the Matrix. We live in parallel kingdoms — the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world — and the reality is that we are in one or the other, there is nothing in between. The wheat and weeds are growing together, and will be together, until the end when the chaff is gathered to be burned, and the wheat is gathered into the Father’s barn (Matthew 13:30).

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

Slippery Slope

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 19:13-16 (NLT)
A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

C.S. Lewis says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Over the years I have seen this take many different forms. There are those that seem to find demons under every rock. Once I had a missionary come and speak to the church I was pastoring at the time (not New Life), and in his sermon he insisted that Christian Rock music was demonic. Since most of my congregation knew that I was saved at a Christian Rock concert (Phil Keaggy) this presented me with a problem. After church I had to pull him aside and insist that he never say that from my pulpit again. However, I have also encountered those from the other side of this slippery slope. Those that see no problem with astrology, spiritism, psychics, and yes, Pokemon cards. Lewis is correct in his assumption that Satan is pleased with either side of this fence. He is pleased with those who pay too much attention to his activities, as well as those who don’t pay enough attention to him. Furthermore, there is another aspect of this discussion that we must address, and that is how we deal with him. We can take him too lightly, like the Sons of Sceva in Acts 19, and find out that we are dealing with someone who has great power. In which case we will be overwhelmed and endanger ourselves and others. Yet we must never put him on the same level as our Lord. His power does not compare to that of God’s, and when we deal with him in God’s power we have nothing to fear. As Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Eph 6:10-11, NLT). Be strong, but be strong in the Lord!

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

Better Equipped

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 18:25-26 (NLT)

25 He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about Johns baptism. 26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

 When Tina and I were in Bible college we were pretty popular people. However, the reason we were so popular had to do with theology. You see we were one of the few Pentecostals on campus as we attended a non-Pentecostal school. As a result, whenever anyone had questions about the Holy Spirit or charismatic activity (which usually centered around speaking in tongues) they came to us for answers. Well recently I discovered that not much has changed in the nearly 20 years since we attended college, because I still get responses from former classmates on Facebook about Pentecostal theology. Often times they begin their message with “I need some Pentecostal prayer,” or something to that nature. However, very recently I have been contacted by a couple from college that is actually attending an Assemblies of God church in Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, they are having some struggles with our teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and more specifically, speaking in tongues. Both of them are having a hard time because they misunderstand what we mean concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To them it seems that we are saying that if you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit then you don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. However, that is not the case at all. On the contrary, we believe that everyone receives the Holy Spirit at conversion, and we refer to his a regeneration. But we also believe that there is another work of the Holy Spirit which is separate and subsequent to salvation. This second work, called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is for empowerment for ministry. One of the great illustrations of this belief comes from the story of Apollos in Acts 18. In this chapter Apollos is referred to as an enthusiastic and gifted speaker who taught about Jesus accurately. Yet it also tells us that he only knew about the baptism of John, a baptism of water. When Priscilla and Acquila meet him it says that they “explained the way of God more accurately.” The reason that I believe that this had to do with the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that in the next chapter Paul encounters some disciples of John the Baptist who only knew about John’s baptism and had never heard of the Holy Spirit. So Paul lays hands on them and they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the fact that they spoke in tongues. So what I am saying is this, Apollos was a gifted speaker who had great zeal for the Gospel, but after learning about and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit he was better equipped for ministry. That’s the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it better equips us to do God’s work.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

When To Move On

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 18:6 (NLT)
6 But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”

One of the great challenges of witnessing is knowing when to move on. There will be some people that simply will not listen no matter what we say to them. Even if we use the most creative means, consistently show them the love of Christ, and pray for them daily, their hearts may still remain as hard as stone. So what do we do? I remember a time in my first pastorate when there were some people in the church who were treating myself and my family is a very disrespectful manner. We had a congregational meeting with the Presbyter, who at that time was Mike Massey, who recently went to be with the Lord. The meeting was not pretty! It consisted of one side of the church standing up and complaining about me, and someone from the other side standing up and sticking up for me. This went on for an hour and a half (to me it seemed an eternity). At the conclusion of the meeting, Mike put his arms around me and said, “Mark, if the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed them, you and I aren’t going to.” It was some of the best advice that I was ever given in my nearly 20 years of ministry. Sometimes we just have to move on! That’s what Paul did here in Acts 18, they wouldn’t listen to his message, so he decided to move on. He made the decision to go to the Gentiles who would listen. Does that mean that he gave up on the Jews? I don’t believe that he did. I’m sure that he continued to pray for them and ask God to change them, but as far as continuing to try and convince them he had moved on. He wasn’t going to waste his time and efforts in ministry to those who wouldn’t listen. How do you come to this decision? Ask the Holy Spirit to show when it’s time to move on, and he will show you what to do.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

What Do You Do When Someone Doesn’t Believe In The Bible?

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 17:30-31 (NLT)
30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

Max Lucado says, “The Bible has been banned, burned, scoffed, and ridiculed. Scholars have mocked it as foolish. Kings have branded it as illegal. A thousand times over, the grave has been dug and the dirge has begun, but somehow the Bible never stays in the grave. Not only has it survived, it has thrived. It’s the single most popular book in all of history. It has been the best-selling book in the world for years.” However, we live in a society that has lost it’s respect for the Bible and no longer believes in its authority. So what do you do when you are talking to some one about the Lord and they don’t believe in the Bible? That’s simple, you use things that they do believe in to get your point across. That’s what the Apostle Paul did in Athens. Other times he used Scripture when he was talking to Jews who accepted Scripture as the word of God, but in Athens he was talking to Gentiles who had no regard for the Hebrew Scriptures. So what Paul did was he quoted some of their own writers, poets and philosophers to tell them about Jesus. This will require some work on your part, and you will have to do some research to find out what they believe and why that belief is contrary to what the Bible teaches. We will have to be well versed in what people believe and be able to refute that belief as a believer in Christ. One book I highly recommend is a book called The Universe Next Door by James Sire. It goes through some of the major belief systems of the world from a Christian perspective. Remember “Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Cor. 15:58).

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

Preparation Is Everything

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

Have you ever been sitting in the break room at work or somewhere during lunchtime with your friend or coworker, and begin to eat your lunch that you brought from home? Your friend or coworkers lunch is made from homemade fluffy bread, that’s a two-hander meal, stacked with fresh lettuce, chopped tomatoes, a slice of cheddar cheese with a dill pickle on the side…Not to mention the side items of a small dish of macaroni salad or chopped fruit, topped with a slice of cake wrapped in cellophane. While yours is just a couple of pieces of flattened bread with bologna and cheese and a smear of mayo, a stale bag of chips that has been hiding in the back of your pantry, and a coagulated plastic dish of pharmaceutically sealed jello pudding. As you look at their lunch, and discretely wipe the drool from the corner of your mouth, you let out a silent sigh, and munch down on your quick-grab lunch. Many times when we come to church, we just slap ourselves together and come to church to expect something to wow us, just as you were “wowed” with your co-workers carefully prepared lunch. We need to do more than just the “grab n’ go” when it comes to worshipping our God. In addition, we must always be ready to share our Christian faith with others. Sharing our faith, like worshipping God, will take preparation. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit would remind us of things we had learned, but if we have not put in the time and preparation by studying the word he has little to work with in us. Preparation is everything. Preparation in prayer, the Word, in worship, and in the Spirit. Are you prepared?

In Christ,

Pastor Mark