The “Ouch” I Love by Jerry Bridges

Think some more on this quote from yesterday:

Aggravating all of these areas (of legalism) is a class of people who have come to be known as “controllers.” These are people who are not willing to let you live your life before God as you believe He is leading you. They have all the issues buttoned down and have cast-iron opinions about all of them. These people only know black and white. There are no gray areas to them. They insist you live your Christian life according to their rules and their opinions. If you insist on being free to live as God wants you to live, they will try to intimidate you and manipulate you one way or another. Their primary weapons are “guilt trips,” rejection, or gossip. These people must be resisted. We must not allow them to subvert the freedom we have in Christ.” – Jerry Bridges

Selfish or Selfless Serving

I dream of a church community so selflessly committed to serving one another in love (Galatians 5:13) that no needs go unmet, no one person carries the whole burden, edification rules the days, and the watching community stands amazed and eager to be loved like that.  It seems to me this is so much more than the standard church call to serve that leaves people feeling guilty, busy, and joyless.  It’s a call to know how loved you are.  

We live in a day where serving is “cool”, caring about developing countries is politically correct, and even celebrities seem committed to philanthropy, and for all of that I’m glad.  But, I would submit to you that it isn’t motivated by worship.  Worship comes from a heart that knows how unworthy you are, how gracious, loving, and compassionate God has been to you, and stands in the joy of redemption in awe of the cross.  If we are to give our lives as spiritual acts of worship (Romans 12:1-2) then our motivation must be nothing less than the Gospel love we’ve received.  If you get that, really get that, then to serve one another through love is the spring-loaded reaction.  If you don’t then out comes the “biting and devouring one another” of Galatians 5:15.  

Service that demands recognition, bristles at remedial tasks, or leaves one joyless is selfish service.  Do I ever serve selfishly?  Yeah, I fight the flesh that wants praise and prominence. But I desire so much more … and God is so gracious to supply the needed fuel to motivate real worship-filled service.  How else can I explain a sorrowful satisfaction over dealing with sinning brothers, or an exhausted joy over a full week of teaching?  Selflessness is a word I find hard to apply to myself, I know my sin far greater than anybody, but I also know the joy of worship in serving others through love because I know the love of the Gospel that rescued me from the fires of hell.  Jesus pulled me from the rubble of the fallen building I was trapped under … He secured my oxygen mask so I can now live to secure as many others as possible.  Join me friends in the fight to LIVE FREE, not indulging in the flesh, but indulging in the mission of loving others with a radical Gospel-love and so fulfilling the whole law (Galatians 5:14).

Love, love, love –

Pastor Mark

Why Real Relationships Matter … It’s Bigger than you just having friends

I love that the Apostle Paul cares about doctrine AND relationship.  I do too!  I’m thankful for the many who have expressed appreciation for the message yesterday, those who also care about the Church being a place of grace and truth.  May we all seek true relationships now made possible through the cross so that others may “become as we are” — free in Christ!

Why not just read this fabulous Tim Keller quote one more time …

“The gospel frees us from the need for people’s approval and adoration so that we can confront and anger the people we love, if that is what is best for them. And although it does not always work, this is the only kind of communication that really changes people. If you love a person so selfishly that you cannot risk their anger, you won’t ever tell them the truth they need to hear. If, on the other hand, you tell a person the truth they need, but with harshness and not with the agony of a lover, they won’t listen to it. But if you speak the truth with lots of love evident at the same time, there is a great chance that what you say will penetrate the heart and heal. A gospel-based ministry is marked by loving honesty, not spin, image and flattery.” – Tim Keller

Oh God, keep us from spin, image and flattery!

Pastor Mark

I Love College (Thoughts for Graduates)

We honored our graduates yesterday in the services … and its just right to do so.  They (with some help from mom and dad) have done well to grow in knowledge and maturity, passing from childhood through adolescence  and on to adulthood.  Now, let the games begin!

College was my absolute favorite time of life.  God used it to shape my thinking, my relationships, and most of all my heart.  I will cherish those days in my own life, and the 10 years I had the joy of pouring into college students as they sought God on their own.  Here’s what I wanted to say to all of you graduates, but didn’t have the time.

1- I hear from so many of your parents these days that you struggle with a sense of entitlement.  The idea that you deserve something from them or from others.  You gotta stop that.  You do deserve something, it’s called hell, judgement, and the wrath of God.  Through Christ, you get life!  You’re not nearly as bad as everyone thinks you are … you’re worse.  I’m not being mean, just keenly aware of the capabilities of the 18-21 year old heart.  My exhortation number one to you is – flee your selfish spirit, don’t think of yourself higher than you ought, humble yourself.  There is a collegiate arrogance that is absolutely baffling to me.  Students who now think they know more than their professors, peers, and parents.  You don’t … yet.  So be the listener and learner.  This is heart attitude number 1!

2- That isn’t to say you shouldn’t question what you hear.  Question, be curious, work it out.  For too long you’ve blindly accepted what you’ve been told.  Sometimes with a trusting heart and other times out of apathy.  Flee the apathy and deepen the trust – but not just in people, but the Scriptures.  I don’t care what field you are going into – the Bible must yield truth and wisdom to your life and occupation.  It must be that which shapes your character and your career.  Wrestle with what your teachers teach, think carefully about why you believe what you believe.  I say all of that because I’m utterly confident that if you do, you will land on the rock solid foundation of the Word of God.  Christians need not sheepishly enter the academy, but courageously hold fast the Word of Truth.  Now is THE time to make sure your relationship with the Word of God is developed.  Build stronger and deeper that quiet time of yours, your practices of prayer, your journaling and Scripture memory.  I’ll never forget “my” spot behind my dorm where I met daily with God.  Find yours and don’t let the “dorm life” keep you from it.

3- Everyone bemoans the statistics of students entering college and abandoning the Church.  Prove ’em wrong!  Many of the great movements of world missions were student movements, and many of the upstart businesses were creations of young creative thinkers, this is your time to make a difference – not just prepare to make a difference.  If you’re going away to school, make finding a Gospel-loving church as much a priority as figuring out where your classes are.  If you’re staying close to home, dive even deeper into serving the mission of Christ at your home church.  Put away childish things and be a churchman (or woman)!  It is the institution that God promises to bless.  Think big by thinking local (church) and global (mission).  Make it your aim to be a blessing to that church.  Don’t be the college students who sit in the back, never give a dime, and expect everyone to put on a show for them.  Don’t think you know more than the elders who have been serving for years, get up next to them and ask them to disciple you.  Maximize your college experience by living life in the church (as you live it in the dorms).

4- Have fun!  Guess what?  You can have fun without being immoral.  Don’t think this is the time to “try” everything your parents and small group leaders fought to keep you from while you were young.  Build strong, righteous, Godly convictions because they’re right and because they are the path to greatest joy!  Make it your aim to not have the “classic college story” where you have to apologize to your future spouse and kids for the way you behaved.  Build relationships that matter and that make you laugh.  I can’t even begin to record all the dorm life stories that flood into my mind right now, but I have nothing to be ashamed of either, so guard your heart and mind with the joy of the Lord.

5- LOVE GOD.  Ok, there it is, the classic pastor admonition.  Plenty of people, from King Solomon to St. Augustine have “tried” the pleasures of the world, and their conclusion?  They’re not that pleasing in the long run.  God is better!  The Gospel brings greater delight, the joy of the Lord surpasses the fleeting satisfactions of the world, so take a lesson from history and stick your love and loyalties close to the cross.

I commit to praying for you.  I invite you to call me, email me, FB me at anytime about anything that you think I can help you with.  May God fill your soul with pleasures forevermore as you seek His face!

Enjoy Life,

Pastor Mark