Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Romans 13:11-14 (NLT)
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.
13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.
14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

If you knew that this was your last day on earth how would you spend it? How would you conduct yourself? More importantly, what would Christ say to you when you stand in front of Him to be judged? While most of us don’t think this way, we have a tendency to think that we have lots of time on our hands; it is something we must all consider. Our next breath is never a guarantee. We could have a heart attack or die in a car accident and not know it was coming. On the other hand, we must also realize that Jesus could come back at any moment, and even if we don’t die the immanence of His second coming is always there in front of us. Now some are probably thinking, “But I am a Christian, and because of that I will be declared innocent by the blood of Jesus, right?” Yes, that is right, but Paul says in the next chapter that we will “all” stand before the judgment seat of God. You see there are two different levels of judgment. First, there is the ultimate judgment that deals with where we will spend eternity. However, there is also another level of judgment that all believer will have to go through that will assess the kind of lives we lived and what we did with what God gave us (1 Cor. 3:12-15; Cor. 5:10; Rm. 14:10-12). It is for this reason that Paul urges us to “your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” He tells us that because we belong to Christ our lives should reflect on the outside what Christ has done for us on the inside. He tells us that we are not to live like other people live, but we are to be different because we belong to Christ. Furthermore, he tells to not only stop doing what we use to do, but to replace it with something better, much better. He says, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” The way to stop doing what you used to do is to fill your life with more of Jesus. Like Mike Warnke used to say, “If you spend your time doing the do’s you won’t have time to do the don’ts!” A more famous person in the history of the Church said after reading these verses, “No further would I read, nor had I any need; instantly, at the end of this sentence, a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away” (Augustine, Confessions, 8.29). We should live like there is no tomorrow cause there might not be one.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Even When They Make It Difficult

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Romans 12:14, 17-18 (NLT)
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

As I stated a few weeks ago, love is the ultimate Christian virtue, and the distinguishing characteristic of all disciples of Jesus. Most of us find this pleasant and even easy when those we are loving make that way. However, what about those who make it difficult? Are we responsible to love those who make our lives miserable? The answer to that questions is “absolutely!” In fact, Jesus said, “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that” (Matt. 5:46-47). Let’s be honest, some folks make it difficult, if not down right impossible, to love them. But Jesus tells us that those are the people that we need to reach out and touch even more. Paul and Jesus are not the only New Testament writers that stress this topic. The Apostle Peter also touches on it when he said, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1 Pt. 2:21). Peter reminds us, as does Paul, that Jesus was our example of loving those who mistreat us and make us miserable. Let’s not forget that He even loved those who were executing Him as He hung from the cross. Furthermore, by loving those who make our lives difficult we are showing the truth of the Good News, and people can see that truth lived out in our lives. Roger Mohrlang in his commentary on Romans wrote, “Self-sacrificing love-Christ-like love-is a powerful witness in any culture because it is a universal virtue. And self-sacrificing love, more than any other quality, is what characterizes Paul’s definition of the Christian life…” (195). We have to live out this life even when people make it difficult.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

Why Is Church So Important?

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Acts 2:42 (NLT)
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

On Sunday September 18, 2011, we celebrate National Back to Church Sunday. Today we want to answer the question, “Why is church so important?” The way I see it, church is important for a number of reasons. First, we all of spiritual needs. Over the years I have heard people say, “Well, I’m just not a religious person.” To this I would suggest that everyone is religious about something. As a sports fan, I realize that some people can be religious about their sports teams. It is the focus of their attention and something that they are very passionate about. Others are religious about their automobiles. My father used to work with a man who owned two Cadillac’s, and he made his wife wash them everyday while he was at work. Now that’s religious! The point is that we are all religious about something because we have spiritual needs that we try to fill with various things in our lives. However, the only thing that can truly fill that need is a relationship with our maker. Second, church is important because we all have physical needs. From time to time we all get sick or suffer from aches and pains of different kinds. It’s a part of life. Sometimes people get hit with diseases that are either crippling or life threatening. The Bible teaches that God is able to heal diseases! James, the half-brother of Jesus, said, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15, NLT). Other times we find ourselves in a position where we need financial help, and church is a great place to find that help. While we cannot always help everyone, we try our best and do what we can to help those in need. The third reason that church is important is because we all have social needs. Once I worked with MRDD adults, and one of my clients was a man named Tom. His chart said the reason for his problems was “a lack of psycho-social stimulation.” In other words, he was a slow learner back in the days when we really didn’t know much about these kind of conditions. As a result, Tom was put in an institution, where he was generally ignored and his brain deteriorated. He need social interaction and didn’t get it. If you lock someone away with no social interaction eventually they will go crazy. We all need someone to love us, and we all need somewhere to belong. Church is a great place to belong and it meets our spiritual and physical needs as well. To sum it all up, we all could use a little church! It does the body, and the spirit, good!

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Remembering 9-11

 Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them (Judges 2:10-14, NLT).

Today is a day of remembering.  Most importantly we are remembering what happened in our lives, our country’s life, and the lives of all those who past away on September 11, 2001.  In looking back at my own memories of that day.  It was the second day of my first seminary class at The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.  It was a weeklong class and I was staying with a single man that the seminary had connected me with, and he was allowing me to stay with him for the week.  It was in the morning, and after eating some breakfast, drank some coffee, and was getting ready to head out to the seminary.  Just then I heard my host say, “Uh, Mark, you might want to come here and see this!”  As I walked into the living room, like many others throughout the country, stared in horror and disbelief as I saw the effects of the first jet flown into the Trade Center.  In just a few short minutes a second jet flew into the other tower and everyone was wondering if the world was coming to an end.  Later that day, as I was on my way to seminary to see if we were still having class, I past the long lines of cars waiting to buy gas while they still could.  Arriving at the seminary I saw the looks of disbelief on the faces of everyone I passed in the hallway, and remember the prayers of comfort and help that were offered in chapel that day.  Meanwhile, poor Tina was back at the church dealing with the phone calls, and doing her best to counsel and console those in the congregation.  It was certainly a day I will never forget.  However, let me ask you this question, did all of this occur because we forgot?  Did this tragic event happen because we as a nation, like the Israelites before us, forget the Lord?  Had we lost His divine protection because we had fallen away from His grace?  In my opinion, we have to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”  There is a clear Biblical principle that says if we serve the Lord and walk in His ways we will be blessed, provided for, and protected.  However, if we do not serve Him and walk in His ways we forfeit that protection.  So what do we do?  We must act upon the word of the prophet Zechariah, Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 1:3, NIV).  Today we need to remember not just the events of ten years ago, but we need to remember the Lord.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Your Importance To the Body of Christ

 Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Romans 12:3-5 (NLT)
3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,
5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other
.

We (and I refer to the church in general) have done church based on a misconception. The misconception has to do with how we think church should work. For far too long we have seen the Pastor as the one who ministers (or in many cases entertains) the rest of the congregation. Once, to prove a point, I told some of the members of my congregation that I was going to skip church the next day to go to a football game. Their response to me was as expected, they said, “You can’t do that, you’re paid to be there!” Herein lies the misconception; the Pastor is the hired hand and is required to be there, but if we don’t feel like going we can stay in bed and no one will miss us. According to Paul that is backwards thinking. He says in his letter to the Ephesian church, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12, NLT). In Paul’s mind, the Pastor’s job is to teach or train the members of the congregation to minister, and not for them to be the one whose responsibility it is to minister. He likewise, here in his letter to the Roman church says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Again we have this misconception that the only one who truly needs to be in church is the Pastor, and we are free to attend if we feel like it or we don’t have something more important to do (as if anything is more important than worshiping God). According to Paul we are all members of the body of Christ, and therefore, if we are missing so is a part of the body. Anyone who has had a knee or back go out on them knows what it’s like when a portion of our body is out of action. Not only does that part of our body suffer, but our entire body suffers. Therefore, if you choose not to be actively involved in church you are not only hurting yourself, you are hurting the entire church. You are important, in fact you are vital. Something to think about!

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark