Friday, December 26, 2008

Resolutions or Recommitments or ...?

Christmas is barely in the rearview mirror. And that means New Year is just ahead. One word we use at this time of year is "resolution". Probably overuse. We all know our tendency to make resolutions for the New Year only to come up short, then feel guilty, then quit, then ...

I am not against resolutions. If they can help you make positive change in your life, go for it. New Year is a good time to do some self-evaluation and make any needed adjustments. Rather than use resolution, I want to use a new word. Semantics only? Maybe. But I want to use a word that better fits my case. The word is recommitment. There are some things I want to which I want to recommit as I look ahead to 2009.

1) I want to recommit my life to Christ. I want my life to reflect the fact that I am His servant more than anything else. If called on to describe who I am, I want it to be true that the statement that best describes Mark Marshall is a "slave to Christ".

2) I want to recommit to my marriage. I want to continue to grow closer to the love of my life, Leigh Ann. I want love her as Christ loved the church. Am I daily laying down my agenda in order to meet her needs above my own? Easier said than done, but she deserves it.

3) I want to recommit to be a godly dad. My girls are getting older now (both in college). I've never been a father of girls this age before. I don't know all the how to's in being a father to girls this age. But, I do know (from God's Word) what it looks like to be a godly dad at any age. I want my girls to remember most about me: "He was a godly dad."

4) I want to recommit to be the best pastor I can be. A shepherd leader. A teacher of The Word. Obsessed with seeing the people God has blessed me to lead to walk closer to Christ, love Him with intensity, worship passionately, and live out their faith in the marketplace. I want to be wise and courageous in this assignment.

Now, I am accountable. Resolutions, recommitments, whatever you might call it ... tell others and suddenly you become accountable. Take stock of your life. What adjustments need to be made?

Friday, December 19, 2008

All I can say is "just watch"

I first saw this on

You wonder how a neighbor might respond if you shared Christ with them?? Well, listen to the viewpoint of this atheist.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some things I learned tonight (or was reminded of)

John Duval and I met tonight with about a half dozen members of Clearview that have lost their jobs as a result of the current economic situation. We wanted to assure them of our support as a church during this time of "transition" (a word I learned from one attending the meeting). We will be reaching out in the weeks and months ahead to support not only these but others that are going through a season of unemployment.

More on that as plans continue to develop.

But I want to share a few observations from our time tonight.

1. I was so encouraged by the faith of those around the table tonight. I cannot imagine all they are going through. I've never been there. But I heard faith in their words and saw it in their actions.

2. I was reminded again, our faith journey is not a solo sport. We were made for each other. The "one another" passages (love one another, pray for one another, bear one another's burdens, encourage one another, etc.) must be put in practice every day ... in a recession or not.

3. Prayer is critical. You may not know what to say to that person or persons you know that have lost their jobs during this time, but you can (and should) pray for them.

4. Everyone is hurting somewhere. I listened as some of the group said something like, "I don't want to burden others around me when they are going through difficult times in the families or health." (paraphrased) It is true that everyone is hurting somewhere.

5. This is a great time to be especially sensitive and thoughtful toward others. This of course should always be the case. But it seems the only messages we are getting these days are negative ones. Even persons with jobs are in fear of losing theirs at any time.

Let's look each other in the eye. Smile ... a lot. Do something nice for someone (that doesn't cost any $$). Say something nice. Refuse to participate in the constant negative talk. Talk only about those things that benefit one another. I guess, the best way to put it is to love one another and show it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moving toward preoccupation?

I read this quote of A.W. Tozer on Michael Smith's blog several days ago and I can't seem to get it out of my mind. The quote is: "We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God."

I started by looking up a definition of preoccupation. Here is some of what I found. Absolutely absorbed in thought. Engrossed. Mentally caught up in something. Lost in thought. I especially like that one ... lost in thought.

Of course, the direction this is taking is that I had to ask myself if I am absorbed or lost in thought about God and the things of God. I know what it's like to get lost in thought about me and my world. I know that it is to get lost in thought as I daydream about the beach or some of the amazing places God has allowed me to travel. I know what it is to be mentally caught up in every day problems and challenges. I just can't get them out of my mind.

But lost in thought about God? I have to admit I have much room for improvement on that one. It is easy to get preoccupied with the finite and the temporal. Why wouldn't I get lost in thought about the infinite and the eternal? I'm working on it. Join me? I'm having to start small. First try 10 minutes of thinking of nothing else but God ... who He is. Start with His holiness, which is the core of who God is. He is other. He is like no other. His power. His love. His wrath. His presence. His justice. His desire to know you personally. His forgiveness available that makes that possible. His gift of creation. His eternality. His mercy. His grace. Then move to longer periods to time. Be intentional about it.

You make a list. Then become preoccupied. When you daydream, daydream about Him. How would that change my attitudes? My behaviors? My responses? My relationships?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let me introduce ...

I have had the privilege of publicly introducing many people over the years. To be honest nothing makes me more nervous. You are given a minute or less to share with the audience information about the speaker that would make them like and want to hear the speaker. Some speakers I have introduced had been friends for years while others I had not met until moments before I was to introduce them.

So, let me challenge you to introduce someone close to you. Let's make it the person you love the most and knows you best. For most of us, that would be our spouse. Maybe a parent ... or a brother or sister .... or a best friend. You have less than a minute verbally or 250 words on the screen. They are about to speak to a group of your peers. What would you say about them?

For example,

"Today, I have the privilege of introducing my wife Leigh Ann. Leigh Ann is obviously beautiful on the outside, but she is most beautiful on the inside. She has been an amazing wife for almost 25 years and the primary reason our two college age girls have turned out to be caring, generous, God loving young ladies. An awesome mom! She is also a hard working and intelligent business woman and leader of over 2400 women as a National Executive Director with BeautiControl. Leigh Ann's greatest asset is her heart for others and a desire to minister in the name of Christ."

Now, you try it. You are welcomed to leave it as a comment below. Or, maybe you just want to keep it to yourself. Remember, you must be brief. This is the challenge. You cannot tell their life story. You can only hit the most critical of highlights. You must condense all you feel about a person into a few words. Your turn.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"I always thank my God ..."

The Corinthian Church was a difficult church at best. Paul had planted a number of churches that had to be a greater joy to pastor than the one in Corinth. Early in the first letter to the Corinthians Paul had to confront them about divisions in the church (chapter 1). They were immature (chapter 3) and arrogant though foolish. Immorality was rampant (chapter 5). They were bringing lawsuits against each other (chapter 6). The marriages of its members were in trouble (chapter 7). They flaunted their freedoms in a way that was harmful to new followers of Christ (chapter 8). Idolatry was a problem (chapter 10). They had confusion in their worship services and showed up drunk for the Lord's Supper observances (chapter 11). They were abusing spiritual gifts and had gaping divisions (chapter 12). They apparently didn't even love each other (chapter 13). They could not even get the gospel right nor could they agree on the resurrection of Christ (chapter 15). They struggled when it came to giving in the church (chapter 16).

That's enough to send any pastor into depression. We (among the pastor brethren) call these kinds of churches "preacher killers". How frustrating! How difficult!

So, what did Paul think about this group of trouble-makers?

4 I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, 5 that by Him you were made rich in everything—in all speaking and all knowledge— 6 as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Cor 1:4-9 (HCSB)

"I thank my God for you ..." Wow! Now that's a perspective. How? Why?
Because Paul chose to focus on the evidences of God's grace in their lives.

As a church staff, we have been starting all staff meetings recently with "evidences of God's grace". We share the little things (as well as the big things) we see God doing in and through our church. It's easy to get focused on the challenges and the things (and people) that are not meeting our expectations. So we are choosing to be intentional about looking for and celebrating and "always thanking our God" for all evidence of God's grace.

This year it will be easy to focus on all that is wrong / bad / negative in our lives. Why not look for those evidences of God's grace in our lives and celebrate those. We have much for which to be thankful. It's a matter of perspective.

Have a great Thanksgiving season and beyond!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The redundancy of "radical"

Our mission statement at ClearView is: ClearView exists to make radical disciples focused on making God known to the ends of the earth. For churches to have mission or vision statements is really not needed since Jesus gave us clear marching orders. (see Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 among other passages) But I suppose the exercise of writing (re-writing) our own words can be helpful.

Notice in the statement for ClearView the use of the word "radical". In thinking through the best way to make clear our mission this word kept floating back to the top of my mind. I hesitated using it for several reasons. First, because most people are fine with "status quo" but "radical" sort of turns them off. I understand that when it comes to "radical" tv watcher or "radical" mom or "radical" boss. It sounds strange in those contexts. We don't really want to stand out and to be "radical" by definition will cause us to stand out.

But the primary reason I hesitated using the word is because it is redundant when used with "disciple". Somewhere we lost the idea that being a disciple of Christ IS radical. To follow Him calls for us to be different (strange / radical) from the rest of the world. Our cultural christianity (whereby we say "I'm a Christian" enough that we think that makes us one without sacrifice or different world values or making other disciples) has lulled us to sleep. By (biblical) definition to be a Christian is to be radical. I guess we could have used words like "strange" / "different" / "weird" / "crazy", but "radical" says it.

Why is the church so anemic today? Because we are full of cultural Christians who look just like the people around them who do not even claim to follow Christ.
We need radical disciples. People who give sacrificially. People who share their faith boldly. People who make decisions based on a biblical worldview, not what their peers say is right. People who look different when you look them in the eyes (not based on what they wear). People who spend more time with their Bibles open reading it than they spend in front of the TV or on one of these things (computer). People who reflect God's character in their honesty / faithfulness / fairness / love. We need ... weird people for Christ ... but that doesn't sound good in a mission statement. So for now, we will use "radical".

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Wordle of Nehemiah 3 message

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. If you click on the Wordle above you will see an enlarged Wordle of my notes for my message November 16 on Nehemiah 3.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My favorite worship song (this week)

No comments to add. Just enjoy. I love the passion of this song.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lisbon Trip

This has been my view of the world from our hotel room each morning of this past week. Portugal is a beautiful old (very old) country. Our hotel was located in the heart of downtown Lisbon (the capital and city of 3,000,000). We saw a monestary, a massive cathedral, the world's largest collection of coaches (as in horse and coach) a beautiful port city, and lots of shopping. More than anything else, Leigh Ann and I had some great couple time making lots of memories.

Here are a few pictures (out of 200+).

Cloister in monestary

Monks are shorter than me :-). This is a door to one of their sleeping quarters.

The coach that inspired Walt Disney's Cindarella coach.

Two love birds in an incredibly romantic coastal city in Portugal.

Typical street in Sintra ... much shopping, so Leigh Ann loved it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trip to Portugal

This post almost didn't happen. I hesitate to mention it, but Leigh Ann and I will be leaving for Lisbon, Portugal tomorrow morning for a week. I hesitate to mention it because this one is not a mission trip, but a pleasure trip. I feel a bit awkward as a Pastor at times taking such a trip. But this is a trip Leigh Ann's company has given us as a reward trip for Leigh Ann's hard work this year. We have been on several of these annual awards trips and they are always a real blessing. I have posted photo albums on my facebook page from previous such trips.

I think there will be some long periods of silence on this one. Our itenerary tells us that the first night will be some kind of music concert at which it is rude to talk. Then one afternoon we visit a monastary (which I am fired up about no kidding!). We will see other sites. Lisbon is known as the city on 7 hills. It is the western most capital in Europe which means our flight will be a bit shorter than some previous trips.

Anyway, I wanted you to know why I was going silent for a few days. See ya when we return. Thanks to all of you stop by on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teens dropping out of church

I was reading Essential Church by Thom and Sam Rainer (father and son). Both men do extensive research on the church today. The overall theme of this book is to reveal the research done on why we lose so many young adults to the church between the ages of 18 and 22. Many of them dropping out long before that. Obvisously, the book speaks to leaders of churches as to what churches can do, but as a Dad as well as a Pastor I was struck by chapter 4 (A New Spin on Hypocrisy). The big idea of the chapter is that no matter what the church does, it stands little chance of holding on to this generation during these years if there has been a disconnect between what the parents say they believe about church and God and what they live. Most of us would guess church attendance by the parents would directly impact the church attendance of their children as they leave home. To some degree they found this to be true. However, if the parents attend church and speak positively about the church, but do not live out their faith and talk about their faith in the home, we lose astounding percentages of these kids when they become young adults. It's not just church attendance, but it is a life that demonstrates that church makes a difference in the lives of the parents.

Watch this video and be reminded ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The gift of tongues

I apologize it has been so long between posts. We will pick up the pace with these three behind us. This is the third and final post in a trilogy in response to some questions my cousin in Australia asked: Alcohol, role of women in the church, and the gift of tongues.

The “gift of tongues” has been a matter that is as disputed as any in the church today. More than any other area people tend to rely on experience over the authority of God’s Word when determining what they believe about tongues. This is a great reminder that no matter what our experience, we stand under the authority of God’s Word, not over it.

I would also remind us before looking into question of speaking in tongues, this is a disputable matter. There have been bible believing Christians with various views on this subject. So, as a disputable matter, we will have grace with one another as we deal with this one.

What is the meaning of “gift of tongues”?
In the New Testament there are two lists of “gifts” listed in which the gift of tongues is included (1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30). These gifts of the Spirit are distributed at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. While all Christ followers receive the gift of the Spirit, individual Christians do not have all the gifts of the Spirit.

The term that is used to identify the tongues movement is “glossolalia,” made up of two Greek words, glossa (language or tongue) and lalia (speech). It therefore means speaking in languages or tongues. Glossology is that department of anthropology which has to do with the study and classification of languages and dialects. The Holman Christian Standard Bible most often translates this word “languages”. The only time Jesus mentions “tongues” or “languages” (Mark 16:17) He adds the adjective “new”. He predicted there would be those that would speak new languages. If I were to say Portuguese is a “new language” for me you would understand it is a language that is not native to me and one I am having to learn. Acts 2:4 uses a different adjective when it says the spoke in “different languages”. It simply means different from what they normally spoke. Context confirms this interpretation (Acts 2:6-8).

The problem with this interpretation is a bit more challenging when one reads many of the translations of 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13, 14, and 19. Many translations insert the word “unknown” into the English text. The problem is that “unknown” is not in the original text. In every place the word is used it means “languages”. The Greek word “laleo” always means “speech”. It is never used to mean unintelligible sound(s). Therefore it is a strange interpretation to make the speaking of “tongues” in the New Testament anything other than someone speaking in a language other than their own.

Is speaking in tongues proof of baptism by the Holy Spirit?
No. Scripture is clear that every believer has been baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). When the question is asked in 1 Corinthians 12:30 if every believer is to speak in tongues (“languages”), it is obvious the answer is “No”. We need to be careful we do not confuse baptism by the Spirit with “being filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Related to this question could be a discussion of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are evidences of being filled with the Spirit. However, as no “gift of the Spirit” is ever listed as evidence of being controlled (‘filled’) with the Spirit this would include the gift of “tongues” or “languages”.

Does the gift of tongues still exist today?
This is where much of the controversy exists in the church over this subject. Persons that hold that the “sign gifts” (tongues, healing, prophecy, etc.) do not still exist today are known as Cessationists. I do not consider myself a pure Cessationist. However, I do believe the sign gifts we see listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are not in the same form we see them in the New Testament. For example, the gift of healing as displayed in the “in-the-name-of-Jesus-rise-and-walk” in Acts were not widespread as we see that only in the lives of the Apostles. We see less of this in the later chapters of Acts as the church became more established. But I do see certain individuals that seem to have a gift of praying for others in a way that leads to healing more often than others.

The reason for the lengthy discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 related to tongues is because this was an area the Corinthians were having difficulty. It was dividing their church. They were lacking in the fruit of love (see 1 Corinthians 13). Paul explained in this chapter that love superceded all the gifts.

1 Corinthians 13:8 is a bit problematic for non-cessationists. It says, “as for languages (tongues), they will cease”. It will come to an end. Cessationists believe that time has already occurred. Others believe that time will not come until the return of Christ. I have already explained my view in this post. Maybe you can see the need for grace in all such discussions. It does seem there would be no need for such a gift today if the understanding of the term is one of “new language”.

Well, how do we account for the widespread use of unintelligible tongues we see today? I would offer three possibilities. They can be self-induced, group-produced, or Satan-induced. Satan has been actively attempting to divide the church in any way possible. We are to be about the business of edifying the church.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not need a new Bible, nor new apostles, nor new faith-healers, nor new charismatic movements, nor self-styled miracle workers. What the Church needs is to return to the Word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Women's Roles in the Local Church

OK, I know it has been too long since my last post. But I knew I wanted to get this one behind me, so I waited as I prepared. It's a little lengthy, but the subject demands some length. Here goes.

Let’s begin by affirming the role of women in ministry throughout all of history. I have said publicly several times I thank God for women picking up the load on a number of fronts in the church throughout history. And I don’t just mean exercising the gifts of diaper changing and kitchen duty. From a human standpoint, they have kept the Church of Jesus Christ moving forward at times when men have taken a passive role.

If Scripture (not culture or human opinion) is our authority (and it is) we want to think biblically about all areas of our lives and churches. What is the role of women in the church? Does Scripture in any way limit the role of women in the church?

There are two primary camps related to this topic. The Egalitarian camp believes women are equal to men in both essence and function. The Complementarian camp argues that women are equal to men in essence, but that men are to be the leaders in the church. As with most controversial issues, you have extremes of both camps.

Please allow me to be clear early in this post. This doctrine (role of women in the church) is not a cardinal doctrine. In other words, no one’s salvation hangs in the balance based on their view. However, this issue is very important to the health of the church (the Bride of Christ). In other words whether or not one holds an egalitarian or complementarian view, you may still be saved. But whether or how much growth can take place is in part due to how you handle this issue. What you believe about when the Rapture will take place has no impact on how we are to serve and minister together in the local church, but what we believe about this issue directly impacts how we behave in the local church.

The primary passages in question in most discussions on this topic are Galatians 3:28; 1 Timothy 2; and 1 Corinthians 14:34. Egalitarian tend to hold to what is called Trajectory Theology, which in brief, is a method of interpreting Scripture which finds progressive change in application of Scripture in the trajectory of time beyond the completion of the New Testament. That simply means rather than interpreting Scripture in light of it’s historical setting, they believe it should be interpreted and applied in light of the current culture. In light of that, they believe Galatians 3:28 was Paul’s “prediction” of the ultimate goal of men and women equal in essence AND in function. Trajectory Theology is full of holes. What is the finality to which we are to take the passage? Who has the authority to make these decisions?

On this issue specifically, there are several difficulties with this view. One of the major problems an egalitarian would have with trajectory theology related to Galatians 3:28 is that Galatians was not the last letter Paul wrote. In fact, many believe it to be the first letter he wrote. So his latest view would be 1 Timothy since it was written at a later date. But an even larger problem is the context of Galatians 3. The passage is obviously speaking of equality in salvation. All Jews and Gentiles, men and women are all one in the way we are saved and the opportunity to be saved. The entire context of Galatians 3 is access to God through faith. Our access to God has no distinction by class, race, or gender! To make Galatians 3 an argument for no role distinction is to take one of the great cardinal doctrines of Scripture and dims it’s meaning by using it to argue for a lesser issue.

Further, if this passage erases social hierarchies then logic would take it to all social hierarchies. Therefore children would not need to obey their parents. But even egalitarians won’t accept such an application. Though their logic calls for it.

For the sake of space, let me state my position (obviously not egalitarian) and reasons why I hold this position. It can be effectively argued that a woman may hold any position in the local church other than that of elder. No matter ones view of elders almost no one will argue that Senior Pastor is not an elder. See 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for clear qualifications of elders. I will not go into the entire list, but only those which relate to this discussion.

Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and other passages give us instructions that clearly indicate the male is the head of the household. 1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 speak of an elder as one who manages his own household well and is the husband of one wife. Both impossible for women in the biblical structure of a home. One additional note here: While some women did prophesy in the Old Testament, never did a woman serve as a priest, which according to Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 21:5; and Malachi 2:6-7 is where the people go to receive authoritative instruction. There are a number of arguments for male eldership in the local church which I won’t try to go into here due to space.

But there is one characteristic germane to the discussion of the roles of women in the local church and teaching. First of all, keep in mind the spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit without regard to gender. This would include the gift of teaching. So what is the meaning of 1 Timothy 2 related to women and teaching? Keep in mind the bigger context. In the very next chapter (which was not originally in place) Paul goes into a long section of the letter on qualifications of elders. I believe Paul is setting up some of the argument he is going to make for male elders in chapter 3. I Timothy 3:2 says elders are to be able teachers. We know from Acts 15 that the elders were the ones to make doctrinal decisions for the body. This level of teaching and exhorting for the entire body is the responsibility of the elders. This expands the idea given in I Timothy 2:11-12. Women, whether in the home or in the church are not to be the ones with ultimate authority. Those roles are reserved for men.

What about 1 Corinthians 14:34 that states women are to be silent? Let’s keep in mind the Corinthian church was a mess! They had chaos in every area. They were drunk at the Lord’s Suppers. They had divisions over leadership. They had confusion in their public worship services related to speaking in tongues and apparently the women were usurping the authority of their husbands in the public setting of the church.

The leadership of each local church must wrestle with these issues. In our church we do have women that teach mixed gender classes. As long as it is under the authority of our elders with me (as Senior Pastor) leading I think we have biblical reasons for favor to do operate in this way. I will say however, if the men of the church use this as an excuse not to teach, it is not healthy for a church. But nowhere in Scripture can we make an argument for women as elders which includes Senior Pastor of a local church. While this is not a complete discussion of the issues, I believe it will sets our position clearly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One more thing ...

I guess I'm going technology crazy. I am adding one more application to this blog. If you scroll down you will find an area in the right hand side bar I am calling Sunday evening reflections. When I get it all figured out you will find a brief (less than a minute) audio recording here. I will post a new one each Sunday evening. It may simply be a reflection of something from the services that morning. It may be a reminder of something important for our church family. It may just be to tell you how much you mean to me. Who knows? (I don't ... yet).

I am making an effort to communicate with each of you as often as possible and as clearly as possible. The application I am using is called Utterli. You do not have to be a subscriber to utterli to hear these postings. When I get it functioning, you can click on the play button directly on this site and listen. Again, these will be VERY brief each week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What the Bible Says About Alcohol?

I have an extended family member who is a missionary. Recently, she hit me up on Facebook to ask me some questions about what the Bible says about 3 areas. I have been scrambling to find the time to respond. Since I write here about different issues, I thought I would answer her questions on the blog (my cousin reads it regularly). I thought some of you might find the answers helpful as you wrestle with some of these questions. I will warn you, these are not 3 easy areas to address in today’s society and church. So, I will stick with what the Bible says on each subject. This will be a short series on this blog. The three subjects: Alcohol, role of women in church, and the gift of tongues.

One request: Please read all the way to the end of each post, no matter your view. I will add some personal thoughts at the end.

Let’s start with an easy one (LOL): Alcohol. So, what does Scripture say about alcohol?

Let me get this part on the table right up front. Nowhere does the Bible prohibit the use of alcohol in all circumstances. In other words, nowhere does the Bible say you are to avoid alcohol completely. However, Scripture gives a number of very strong warnings about its use.

Let’s begin with this thought. Drunkenness is a sin, not a disease. We talk about those that regularly overindulge in alcohol as if they are simply ill in the same way we might speak of someone with cancer or heart disease. What does Scripture say?
1 Cor. 6:9-12 9 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 11 Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12 “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything.
Drunkards (we use the term alcoholics) is listed right up there with thieves and the sexually immoral. Not that everyone who drinks is a drunkard, but where there is no alcohol, there are no drunkards / alcoholics.

Second, alcohol impairs wisdom.
Prov. 31:4 4 It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers [to desire] beer
Those with big responsibility (kings) were forbidden to drink all forms of alcohol. Why? Think it through. They had the greatest of responsibilities. At no time would they wish to be in a state of mind where they could not make clear decisions. The next verse says:
Proverbs 31:5 Otherwise, they will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed.
I would take the position that too much is dependent on the wisdom of all of us. OK, so you are not a king. Maybe you are “just” a father or “just” a mother.
The Old Testament is clear the priests were not to drink (8 The Lord spoke to Aaron: 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or beer when you enter the tent of meeting, or else you will die; this is a permanent statute throughout your generations. Lev 10:8-9 (HCSB)}
Those taking a Nazarite Vow were commanded not to drink (When a man or woman makes a special vow, a Nazirite vow, to consecrate himself to the Lord, 3 he is to abstain from wine and beer. He must not drink vinegar made from wine or from beer. Num 6:2-3 (HCSB))
John the Baptist (forerunner of Christ and great prophet) was forbidden to drink. (15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:15 (HCSB))
Scientifically, we know that even small amounts of alcohol slows response times. One ounce of alcohol slows decision making time by 10%.

Next, alcohol is an unnecessary drug. An informed debater would point out Proverbs 31:6-7 which says, “6 Give beer to one who is dying, and wine to one whose life is bitter. 7 Let him drink so that he can forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.” What is the meaning of this passage? Sounds like we should be handing out alcohol. A couple of thoughts. First, notice this is not for individual consumption where a person might down with a 6 pack or a glass of wine at the end of a hard day to take the edge off. This person referred to in Proverbs is “one whose life is bitter”. It’s the kind of experience like losing a child, or just finding out you have terminal cancer, or having your house burn to the ground losing all your personal belongings. This is not someone who had a bad day at the office. Keep in mind, this was before the days we would prescribe drugs for such things. The command is that we are to share alcohol with one who desperately needs it to get through a mind altering event. Not as a regular nerve drug. However, today we have medications that can be accurately prescribed with accountability for such things. An interesting note here is Jesus’ response at the point of greatest personal pressure in all of history: His death on a cross bearing the sin of the world. (34 they gave Him wine mixed with gall to drink. But when He tasted it, He would not drink it. Matt 27:34 (HCSB)) The single greatest coping mechanism known to man is the peace that comes through knowing you are in the center of God’s will, which Christ clearly was.

Next, alcohol is destructive. It cannot be argued that alcohol can lead to some diseases. (Of course, this could be said of many things we consume :-)) (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body) Paul could have said, "Your soul" or "Your spirit" is the sactuary of the Holy Spirit. But he did not. He said "your body" (physical body).
Alcoholism is a factor in 30% of all completed suicides. 7% of those with alcohol dependence die of suicide. Some estimates are as high as $100 billion / year to society in alcohol abuse related expenses. Alcohol related accidents cost taxpayers 21 – 24 billion dollars a year in America. Some estimates are much higher. This does not include higher insurance premiums we all pay due to the problem.
Enough statistics, what does the Bible say? (Proverbs 23:29-30 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes? 30 Those who linger over wine, those who go looking for mixed wine) There are 6 results of alcohol use in these verses. None of them are good or positive in any way.
But he goes on: Prov. 23:31-34 31 Don’t gaze at wine when it is red, when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly.32 In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things. 34 You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast.
Maybe I’m a bit weird (OK, so I am a bit weird), but I don’t really like being bitten by a snake or a viper. And I know, many who may read this would say, “But I don’t abuse alcohol.” I’m sure that is true. It is certainly possible to consume alcohol and not abuse it. But it’s a dangerous game to play to say, “how close can I get to the edge and not fall over it?” Maybe if you take a drink every now and then you are probably 99% sure you will not fall off the cliff. But if I never take a drink I can assure you I am 100% sure I will not fall off that cliff.

Next, alcohol, by its nature is addictive. Prob. 23:35 35 “They struck me, but I feel no pain! They beat me, but I didn’t know it! When will I wake up? I’ll look for another [drink] .” The writer of Proverbs is saying the danger is that one given to drink will turn to alcohol in a time of stress. Why would one who belongs to Christ need to turn to anything other than Christ Himself?

Finally, wisdom calls me to set it aside. (Prov. 20:1 1 Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, and whoever staggers [led astray] because of them is not wise.) The Scripture does not prohibit its use, but it does recommend we avoid it.

This is what Scripture says. My conclusions for why I don’t use alcohol at all are as follows based on what Scripture teaches.

Life is full of choices to be made between good, better, and best. I’ve tried to be fair in stating that Scripture nowhere prohibits alcohol use in all circumstances. (There, I said it again J). I simply believe, based on what Scripture teaches it is the best choice for all the reasons above. I am fully aware there many devoted followers of Christ (some in the church I pastor) who do not see this the same way I do. Let me be clear: THIS IS NOT ONE OF THE ESSENTIALS of the faith. Therefore, it is certainly not a basis for parting fellowship. But I continue to come back to the question of, not what Mark thinks, but what does Scripture say?

I also do not drink alcohol because it’s not about me. We all love that line when it's about something that doesn't affect me personally. But really, it's not about me. Paul said it like this: Romans 14: 15-17 15 For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:2121 It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble.
As a mature believer, we make choices not for what is best for ME, but what is best for others.

I am fully aware it is in vogue today to speak of our liberties (freedoms) as Christians. It has become in vogue for church leaders (i.e., some pastors) to take a different position than I do on this one. Some of them are my friends. And our different positions on this one does not hinder that relationship. In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Great Opportunity - Fireproof, the Movie

SOLD OUT - that had to be close to a record!
We have a great ministry opportunity at ClearView. Actually, it's not AT ClearView, it is AT the Carmike Thoroughbred 20 - Cool Springs movie theatre. You can see the details below, followed by a movie trailer. I would love to see the place packed with ClearView folk bringing their friends and neighbors

A heroic fireman (Kirk Cameron) in a failing marriage takes up his father's challenge to be part of a 40-day experiment designed to teach both husband and wife the real meaning of commitment.
ClearView is sponsoring two nights of the new movie by the producers of "Facing the Giants" on Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28.

When: Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28 at the 7:00pm showings ONLY

Where: Carmike Thoroughbred 20 - Cool Springs

Tickets: ClearView has purchased a limited supply of advanced guaranteed tickets

Cost: $5 per ticket - non-refundable (reduced from $9.25)

Purchase point: ONLY in the ClearView atrium Sunday, September 21 & Sunday, September 28 or through the church office during the week. First come first served basis.
Special offer: If you take an unchurched friend to either of these showings, then their ticket is free as long as supplies last.

Special Childcare offer: ClearView will offer free childcare (birth-5th grade) on Sunday, September 28 from 5:00-9:30pm for those attending FIREPROOF. Enjoy a night out - dinner and a show. ADVANCED childcare reservations must be made by Noon on Thursday, September 25. Childcare reservations can be made when receiving your tickets.
This movie is rated PG.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cancellation of second service ...

This is the text we are attempting to get out to all the ClearView membership. In case you miss it ...

The first line in the message in the first service yesterday was to welcome everyone to a record setting day at ClearView. The line referred to the fact that we would cover 3 chapters in one message. Little did I know it would be an unusual day in more ways than one. As most of you know we had to cancel the second service due to a power failure.

We now know the power failure was due to a blown transformer in the area. In case you are curious, the power was restored at 11:31 according to the clock in the worship center. We made the decision to move forward with the cancellation of the service for several reasons. We did not want children in a dark building to feel any unnecessary uneasiness. With the construction of the new building several of the windows in the children and preschool area are boarded up. Obviously, this makes for very dark rooms when there is no power.

In addition, we knew the temperature in the worship center with no air conditioning would quickly become unbearable. If you were in the room when we made the decision to cancel the service you know it was already rising. With the numbers we were anticipating in worship we would have gotten to a very uncomfortable temperature in a short time. As an aside here, by all indicators we were heading for a record setting day in more ways than one yesterday. I believe we would have hit the 1600 mark in worship for the first time ever on a non-Easter Sunday. (bummer!)

The information we had from the electric company indicated it would be some time before power would be restored. All things considered I felt we made the right call. This leaves us with a couple of housekeeping matters.

First, let me give a big “thank you” to all the preschool and children’s teachers that were “in the dark” (pun intended) for a few minutes as to next steps. They stayed calm and I was told did an excellent job in keeping our children safe and secure as we thought through our options.

Second, if you were in the second service at the time of the announcement you know we did take an offering at the doors as we exited. However, we know we missed some that would have given. If you did not have the opportunity to give your offering, you can mail it to the church (537 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37069) or you may give on line at

Third, the message preached at the 9:30 service can be found on the internet at:
If you do not have internet access but would like a CD of the message we will provide one at no cost. You can order your copy by emailing or by calling the church office at 794-5488 and speaking with Tanya Jones.

Fourth, if you were to be in the second service you missed an important announcement that October 5, 2:00 – 4:30 the staff will be giving tours of the new building. We will have to ask that this be for middle school ages and up. Middle School kids must be accompanied by their parents. The building is safe enough for tours, but not safe enough to have children walk through. I hope you will all take advantage of this opportunity to see what is coming together on our front lawn!

Finally, thank you for your patience and understanding yesterday. Some have asked about generators. Well, ClearView has lost power on a Sunday only twice in the past 10 years. To power the entire campus with generators is cost prohibitive (though we are checking one again) for only two occasions per decade. The emergency lighting system does allow for a safe evacuation as we experienced yesterday.

God bless you. Have a great week. I will see you Wednesday or next Sunday.


Sunday, September 14, 2008


I sent a tweet earlier today with a brief comment that Facebook and iTunes have made dramatic changes in their look recently. The Tennessean had an article today about the changes facebook recently made to their site. The title of the article is: Backlash Begins on Facebook's New Look. I almost had to laugh out loud. I have a facebook page. I have been one to click to change back to the old look every time I've had an option. But I think it is funny that the generations that use this site are the very ones that are supposedly the generations that have lived with change all their lives and therefore the generations that embrace change. What are we doing?

iTunes released iTunes 8.0. I downloaded it yesterday. It's very different from the previous versions. My first thought was, "Why did they change it? I like the old one just fine." Then I caught myself. What was I doing griping about change?

I've spent my entire adult life leading groups to make changes. I can't remember a single change I have asked people to make that I did not believe was going to beneficial to them or to the mission to which we had been called. Yet, my first thought when change was "imposed" on me was to ask, "What am I losing?" Why didn't I embrace these changes with gratitude that the leaders of these two tools were obviously making changes that they believed would enhance my experience with their offerings? But that's just not human nature.

I will get accustomed to the new changes made by facebook and iTunes. I will even like them better, no doubt, once I get used to them. I will even soon forget what the older looks were like.

The statement I made in the twitter was that change is not optional. It is a matter of survival these days. This is one of the reasons I most love God. He is unchangeable (I love that line in the worship song). When everything else around me is spinning seemingly out of control, I know God is always there and He never changes.

The world is changing. Expect it. Accept it. Deal with it.
God will never change. Know it. Count on it. Rejoice over it. Live at peace because of it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reluctant leadership ... just wondering

Many of the leaders we see in Scripture were reluctant leaders. Moses is a case in point. When God gave Moses his assignment as leader of the Exodus, Moses began a fast backpeddle. To say he did not want the job as leader is an understatement. David was not looking for a leadership role when God brought Samuel into his life to anoint him the next king of Israel. Abraham was minding his own business when God told him to move out of Ur and head west. Peter was a fisherman when he was called to be one of the 12. A move that would later thrust him into the spotlight as a leader in the early church. The list goes on.

In thinking about this I have wondered why this is. There are many who long for a leadership role. In fact, they are almost obsessed with it. Do those that see leadership as something to be desired or a goal to obtain make better leaders? Are those that are reluctant weaker leaders? Are those that are reluctant more aware of their own blindspots and therefore make more effective leaders? How do reluctant leaders find themselves in leadership? Shouldn't anyone in leadership deeply wish to be in leadership? What % of people in leadership sought out that leadership position? What drives some to seek leadership?

The reluctant leaders mentioned in paragraph 1 above seem to have done quite well though reluctant when initially given their assignments.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just a reminder

Are you giving it your best today or are you settling for less?
Spiritual leaders give it their best every day. The mission is too critical not to.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I am sending out a shout-out to Robert Grimes and his Sunday School class. I have sent a soft challenge to those at ClearView reading this blog for some to sit in the two side wings on Sunday mornings. These are not the choicest seats in the house. They are too close to the front for one thing. Baptists just don't sit that close. But they are also on the side so that it feels like everyone is watching you (though they are not). Bottom line: Robert Grimes has led his class to sit in this section two Sundays in a row. We asked them to move to front and center Aug. 31 due to 140 middle schoolers who were out that weekend on a retreat.

Two words for Robert and his class: Thank you!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One great day on a Labor Day weekend

I confess, I really don't like Labor Day weekends as a Pastor. Just about the time you get a little momentum going as kids go back to school for the Fall, it's like someone suddenly lets the air out of the balloon. "Where did all those people go?" And you know it's coming every year.

But this year at ClearView was different. Yes, we were down a bit (OK, a lot) in attendance. But then came our day at Camp Widjiwagan. Wow! We still don't know how many ClearView-ites and guests showed up at this YMCA camp 35 - 40 minutes from our campus, but it was ginormous.

When John Duval first approached me with the idea of doing this churchwide event at the YMCA camp several thoughts crossed my mind. 1) It's too far, 2) It's Labor Day weekend for Heaven's sake, 3) Nobody does this kind of thing any more 4) But what do we have to lose ... maybe a couple of hundred will show, and 5) I'll get to go down the famous Wet Willy slide! But then John added something to it. He said, "Let's do a baptism service while we are there". Then I knew he had lost his mind for reasons 1-3 above.

I am thrilled to say I was wrong on all fronts. People turned out in numbers WAY beyond our expectations. The atmosphere was incredible. I watched as people interacted with others they had not seen in awhile or maybe never before due to our 3 Sunday School and 2 Worship Service schedule. It was obvious people were having a blast. Kids all over the place, banana boating, the blob, kayaking, canoeing, water slides, swings in the water as well as out of the water, and more. But best of all, we BAPTIZED 20 during our baptismal service at 5:00. With the 2 we baptized that morning at ClearView that is 22 BAPTISMS IN ONE DAY!! A record for ClearView. AND IT WAS LABOR DAY WEEKEND??!!??

To all of you that were there, thanks for making the trip. If you weren't there, we are still working to edit the video of the baptism service. Keep watching this blog. As soon as I get it, you will see it.

To Journey Johnson and his staff, thanks for an awesome day. And to John Duval, great idea!! (as I said all along :-)) I could grow to love Labor Day Weekends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ten thousand

When I started this blog just a few days before the end of this past February, I had no idea that anyone would visit and read. But a number of you have been faithful to visit often. This has given me an opportunity to share my heart and vision on various issues. As we approach the 6 month anniversary of this blog it appears we will surpass the 10,000 hit mark some time in the next 24 hours. You can watch for yourself with the counter at the bottom of the page.

I just want to say "thanks" for stopping by. I really have no idea whether this number of hits in this amount of time is high or not as compared to other blogs. It doesn't really matter. I'm grateful for all of you who make this a regular part of your week. So, this if for you ... all of you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Men and the church

Speaking on leadership from Acts 20 yesterday I made some pretty pointed comments to the men related to their role as leaders in every area of life, including the church. I want to follow up a bit on those comments.

USA Today came out with an article last month on the discrepancy between the % of men v. women in churches today. ClearView is stronger in this area than the average church. We have a healthy ratio, I believe, in men to women.

I have heard several comments on this since the release of the article by USA Today and other media. I was in Belize this past March on a mission trip. We saw an extreme example of the problem of fewer men in church, but I believe it gives us some insight into what is going on here in the states in the same arena. In Belize, we might have had 20 - 30 adults inside the church building during services. Maybe 4 or 5 of those would be men. However, if you looked just outside the door of the church there would be another 10 - 15 men sitting in bicycles listening to all that was going on. I saw that as a snapshot of what is going on in the church in America.

Why would these men simply sit outside during service and not enter the building? Were they afraid of the building? I don't think so. We had a men's dinner one night and 45 men showed up to eat dinner in the very building they would sit outside of on Sundays and for other worship services.

But the decorations inside the church screamed, "this is for women only". They had flowers on the podium and lace curtains (big ones) behind the pulpit. The night we had the men's dinner they brought out some speakers and played (very loud) some contemporary christian music (it was in Spanish, but I asked and they said it was Christian) the guys could relate to. I asked why they didn't play the same music for their worship services. Never really got a clear answer to that one. But I can't tell you how often someone there bemoaned the fact that so few men would come to church.

With leadership in the church having been abdicated over the centuries by men to women, we have seen a feminization of church. I have preached in hundreds of churches over the past 20 years. Many of the dying churches especially decry the lack of involvement by the men in the church. Many were smaller and struggling churches. Women had taken most of the leadership roles. So guess what services felt like? They felt like women designed and produced them. There would be flowers in the front of the church. The choir wore robes with stoles (I think that's what you call them) that matched the carpet and walls. On a couple of occasions I had to politely refuse to wear a flower if I were asked to preach on Easter. The worship folder covers (bulletins) would have pictures of flowers or some open field with ... flowers. [As a side note, please don't send flowers to my funeral. Give $$ to a ministry of some kind if you feel the need to give something.] Words like "precious" and "sweet" are thrown around in music and sermons. Great for women but men don't use that kind of language in their every day lives. And then we wonder, "Where did all the men go?" "Why don't more men come to church?"

This is one reason I love preaching in a room that transforms into a gym during other days of the week. It doesn't feel so ... well ... feminine. Along the same lines, I am grateful for a worship leader who is a man's man. Michael Smith leads worship that men, as well as women, can relate to. Drums and guitars are simply more masculine than a pipe organ.

Men, God called us to lead. So let's lead. As we learned yesterday, we lead with a humble spirit, with compassion and love for those God has placed in our care. Men's men stepping up to the plate will propel any church into a better future for Christ. Reach the men and the family will follow.

I would end with this. Thank God for the women who have and who do step up. Without them, no telling what kind of mess we would be in our churches. I am appreciative of all they do and will do. This is not about women backing down from all they do. This is about men stepping up to what we have been called to do ... lead!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To twitter or not to twitter

That is indeed the question. I've answer it for now. I am twittering. For some of you twitter is a familiar word. For others it is new.

Here is the statement from web site related to the purpose of this somewhat new technology:
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

In layman's terms it means intermittently throughout the day, I will "twitter" what I am doing at that moment. What I am thinking or doing at that moment. Now, I will warn you, I have followed a couple of twitters for several weeks. It can be funny. It can be informative. It can be downright silly at times. It can even be annoying. You can sign up by going to the twitter website here. You can have the twitter sent to your web only. Or you can have it sent to your mobile phone as well as the web. It will come in as a text message. For those that follow my facebook page, my status will now be updated via twitter ... I think (at least I tried to set that up).

I will be learning to send photos via twitter when I get my email fixed on my blackberry. So from time to time you will get a candid shot with comments. It's still new technology to me so I will be learning for a few days.

One more thing. When you sign on and search for me under my name. There are currently four Mark Marshalls (who knew?). Mine is mxmarsh.

Why do I feel between facebook, the blog, ClearView's site, and now twitter I am walking into the heart of the Matrix. If you like communication and information, here it is :-).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two great Sundays

The past two Sundays were just incredible at ClearView. When we had over 1540 in worship August 10, I wondered if we could better that on the 17th. Well, we hit over 1570 in worship on the 17th. Wow! These are record breaking back to back Sundays. The only time we have had larger crowds has been Christmas and Easter. We have never had two weeks back to back like this. I am so grateful for all God is doing. More than the numbers in worship have been the numbers responding that they wish to become members of CV and / or know more about a relationship with Christ. We had several families and individuals respond via the famous "tear offs" over the past few weeks.

If you are reading this as a member of CV I need your help. We have a couple of wing sections of seats down front near the stage. Maybe you could talk 10 or 12 of your closest friends to join you in sitting in them. I know, I'm asking a lot of my favorite people (my blog readers :-)). Really, I won't call on you or spit on you if you choose to sit down front.

Also, we definitely went over time this past Sunday during the first service which created a MAJOR bottleneck in the hallways. We will aim at getting out much earlier this week and eliminate this problem. Please spread the word.

If you get this before tomorrow night (Wednesday night) we think we have solved our space challenges we have encountered on Wednesday nights. Who would have ever thought we would have space issues on Wednesdays. You guys are awesome!!! I can't wait to see you tomorrow night!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I know it's only preseason ...

But it is still nice to see the Bulldogs on top ... click. Let's see if they can hang on all year.
Hunker down you hairy dogs!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Day of Gratitude

While it is true that we should maintain an attitude of gratitude at all times, today was a day when I just seemed to be especially grateful. There was an old hymn we sang in church when I was growing up: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one". Here are some of the thoughts I have been flooded with today.

1. God's patience with my frailty.
2. A wife who love's me more than I deserve.
3. Two daughters who have somehow turned out with a heart for taking the gospel to the nations ... despite my imperfections as a parent.
4. A church with a desire for God's Word and a growing heart for those around us without Christ.
5. A church that loves each other, my family, and me.
6. A beutiful view from my house.
7. Relatively cool weather in August.
8. God's faithfulness each week in my time of preparation.
9. Health.
10. Dark chocolate (sorry ... couldn't be serious all the way through ... but I am grateful).
Your turn ...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baptism - What is it and why does it matter?

Since New Testament times baptism has been central to the corporate life and the individual identity of those who call themselves Christ followers. Bring up the subject of baptism with people of various denominations and you get a variety of opinions and beliefs. Some believe baptism is required for salvation. Some do not. Some believe infants should be baptized. Some do not. There are various opinions about the mode of baptism (sprinkle vs. immersion). So, does any of it matter?

So, what does The Bible say? How should we think about this?

We need to get this most important point on the table as we begin. Baptism does not save us. Faith alone in Christ alone brings salvation.

8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 (HCSB)

Baptism is identification and union with Christ. When we embrace Christ as our savior, He did not make us a little bit better or a little bit cleaner. He made us a new person! A change like that deserves a bold public declaration. Baptism highlights that there has been a radical change of life. The symbolism (with immersion) is that of turning from our former way of life (dying to self) and a turning to a new way of life (in Christ). It is a clear marking of our faith step in trusting Christ alone for our salvation. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and resurrected in order for you and me to know forgiveness and eternal life. The symbolism is clear that we acknowledge that truth along with our own life transformation.
Christ Himself was baptized to mark the beginning of His earthly ministry.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” 15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him [to be baptized] . 16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. Matt 3:13-16 (HCSB)

Christ commanded that we be baptized and that we baptize those who join us in faith.

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. Matt 28:19-20 (HCSB)

Putting the two statements above has always made me wonder how someone could put their faith in Christ for eternal salvation, but choose not to follow His clear example and command to do as He had done.
Baptism also identifies us with others who have also embraced Christ.

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body
1 Cor 12:12-13 (HCSB)

The focus of baptism is identification with Christ and a bold testimony of our new life in Him as stated above. But this verse clearly states that we are secondarily baptized into a body. What body? The body of Christ ... the church. When compared with other New Testament scripture it is clear that this baptism is administered by the visible expression of the body of Christ ... the local church. Yes, there were exceptions in Acts, such as the Ethiopian Eunoch, however, exceptions can never define the boundary. Keep in mind the Book of Acts is written about a time of massive transitions. The Church was just coming into focus.

The New Testament has no concept of an unbaptized believer. They simply could not conceive of such.

This post is a follow up to a message preached August 10. You can hear it hear.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New building tour

We can't take all of you through the new building yet due to safety. However, Michael Smith is going to walk you through via video here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Studying the Bible for yourself

Most people take one of two primary positions when it comes to studying the Bible for themselves. They either 1) Ignore it or 2) Abuse it. Quite frankly, from my experience, that is understandable because one of the main reasons this happens is that they have never been taught how to study God's Word.

I hope to improve on this in the corner of the world God has blessed me to serve with the church family known as ClearView. Over 5 Wednesday evenings beginning August 6 we will look at how to study the Bible for yourself.

If you are in the Franklin area, join us. If not, you should be able to find the audio files here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (Part 3)

We pick up where we left off in the last post ...

I saved these next three for last as they bring up secondary issues some will struggle with more than the membership issue. I won't have space to fully address each of the issues raised, but welcome questions.

[#'s 1 and 2 are in the previous post]

Biblical reasons for church membership ...

3. Membership is implied by the way a church is supposed to implement church discipline.
Now, there's a subject you don't see brought up in many churches ... church discipline. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives clear instructions on handling conflict as christians. The final court of appeal, as seen in v.17, is "the church". So, the question is, how do you define who makes up this group called "the church"? Any issue that would reach this level of attention would be considered a very sensitive issue. Do you then allow just anyone that calls themselves a christian become a part of this process. To place someone in the position of an unbeliever as v.17 indicates is a very serious matter. Church membership becomes the tool that defines who is to be involved in such a situation.

4. By virtue of the fact that excommunication even exists assumes the existence of church membership. In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul instructs the Corinthian church in matters of dealing with one in the church that refused to walk away from his blatantly public sin. He tells them to "put them away" (v.13). How can you tell someone they are no longer "part of the church / body" if the church / body is not clearly defined? Formal removal is impossible without some way to define who is already in.

5. Membership is implied by the instruction that a group of Christians are to be submissive to church leaders. I spoke to the impact this has on church leaders in the previous post. Clearly there is heavy responsibility placed on the shoulders of church leaders. The leaders will one day stand before The Judge and answer for how they have handled their responsibilities in such matters. But Hebrews 13:17 clearly instructs a group of Christians to allow themselves to be held accountable to church leaders. Question: What group is placing themselves under the authority of what group of leaders? How do you obey this command? The only way I know is by having a clearly defined group of people following a clearly defined group of leaders. And the only tool I know to do this is formal membership.

Again, I realize the concepts of church discipline, authority, submission to leaders, etc. present their own challenges in the minds of some. The purpose of this post is not to argue for those concepts (I'll let the Scripture stand on those as it clearly does). The purpose of this post is to give further insight into why membership is a biblical concept.

Stay tuned for posts on such matters as baptism, Lord's Supper, Spiritual Gifts, and other matters pertaining to church membership. I will include some light posts between these weightier ones to keep this blog from becoming too heavy ... I promise :-).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (Part 2)

I grew up in a Pastor's home so the question of whether or not a Christ follower would join a church was a question I never even thought to consider. To be a Christian , in my mind, would assume you were a member of a local church. I discovered as I began to pastor that this is not the case for many. I had a pastor friend in a church near the church I pastored in GA that would often boast of the fact that they had no membership in their church. So, I had to examine my own beliefs about this issue. Is membership important? Why or Why not? More than that, is church membership biblical?

You may attend the church I pastor every time the doors are open, you may attend any function of the church, and you can be a member of a small group (in our case Sunday School class) and not be a member. If you trust in Christ alone for your salvation you may even observe the Lord's Supper table with us and still not be a member. So, why would anyone want to be a member?

In the New Testament the local body of Christ is the visible demonstration of the universal body of Christ (all those throughout history that have trusted Christ alone by faith for their salvation). As Rick Warren is famous for saying, "There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian". "But Mark, I still don't have to be a member of a church to have relationships with other Christians." Correct, you do not. So why membership?

Let me share several biblical reasons I believe in the seriousness of church membership and why I believe scripture clearly implies it is necessary.

1. Membership is implied in the metaphor "the body" found in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following. The New English Version, the old King James Version, the New Revised Standard version as well as others use the term "members" in that verse to refer to the various parts of the body. Paul is obviously writing to the church in Corinth about the church.

Now, my hand is 100% committed to the other parts of body. My hand will protect the other parts when necessary, it will cooperate with the other parts (my knee does not go to one city while my hand goes to another), it will assist in other ways when necessary. Why? Because it is, without question, identifiably a part of the same body. My hand is not as committed to another body because it does not feel pain when that part of another body feels pain. It does not experience pleasure when the other body experiences pleasure. And on and one we could go.

In addition, if you saw an attachment to my body that did not fit ... let's say a basketball permanently attached to my foot ... you would know immediately that does not belong. Why? Because it is not a committed part of my body.

So, the question is, who intends to be treated as part of the body called "ClearView" (in my case)? The only way we have of knowing is a tool called "membership". And by the way, the term used is not important. "Membership" just happens to be the term we use and a term that communicates to the broadest number of people.

2. Church leaders are instructed to care for the church in their charge. I alluded to this in "Part 1" of this post. Acts 20:28 is Paul's farewell address to the leaders of the church in Ephesus and he clearly instructs them to "guard the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers".

My instruction is clear regarding the flock for which I have responsibility. Question: What is my responsibility for the flock at Church B a mile down the road? Am I going to give an account for how I shepherd them (Church B) some day? No. Their pastor will give an account for his flock ... just as I will for the one I serve. So does my flock include all those who show up on any given Sunday? Of course not, because I can't know who they are. There has to be some way to account for the flock for which God has given me responsibility.

1 Peter 5:1-3 also gives some very strong exhortation to church leaders. The word I want to key on is in v.3. It is the word "entrusted" and it means "lot" or "portion". There must be some way to define what that lot or portion is. You would not purchase a piece of real estate from me without some kind of specific definition of the lot. So, who will I one day give an account of before God? My lot / portion. Again, the only tool we have for defining that is "membership".

We will look at several more biblical reasons for church membership in the next post. Feel free to leave comments if you have questions. Remember, I am looking to make this part of the content for a revised New Members Class in the future, so I welcome questions or comments.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (part 1)

I am in the process of rewriting the material we will be using in our New Members Class. So, I will share some of the content here as I go. The final version may only have parts of what I post here. And it may have more. But I will use this blog as something of a running journal of notes and thoughts to be used. I realize many of you that read this blog are not members of ClearView and will never be as you live many miles away. Hopefully, you will find these posts helpful in whatever church you may be a part. If you are not part of a church, maybe these posts will encourage you to consider it.

I realize as I write this, there are many today who are choosing to walk away from the "institutionalized church". I won't go into that too deeply for now. But I will say you need to be careful before making such a decision. The Church, no matter how messed up it may be, is still the Bride of Christ. Careful how you treat Her.

The first area I will address will be church membership itself. Does it matter if we "join" a church? Can we not just attend a church without "joining" and becoming a member of that church? Why can't I just attend several churches at once? After all, I like Church A's music and Church B's summer programming and Church C's women's ministry. So I will sort of mix and match to form my own church.

I have been doing some reading in this area recently. I commend Mark Dever's A Display of God's Glory: Basics of Church Structure and Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches edited by Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing and Malcolm Yarnell.

By "church" I am referring to a regular assembly of people who profess and give evidence that they have been saved by God's grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. I will get into a list of reasons church membership should matter to all of us, but for this post I want to leave you with a verse that has been weighing heavy on me for the past 14 months (since returning to pastor a local church).

Paul was saying farewell to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus. This was part of his words about the church (local body of believers) he was leaving behind.

28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (HCSB)

We are not to neglect Her (the church). We are not to leave Her. We are not to become cynical about Her. We are not to abuse Her. We are not to exploit Her. GOD BOUGHT HER WITH HIS SON'S OWN BLOOD! God has now appointed me as an overseer of ClearView. The weight of that becomes more evident every day. I will answer for my leadership of every individual that is a part of ClearView.

But what does this mean to the individual who is a member? Or considering becoming a member ? The church and membership in any particular church is a very serious matter. So, how are we to think of such things? We will look at this over the next several posts.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grades and your future ...

Are grades really important? The answer is, "yes, of course they are". So parents, as you read this, you can know I absolutely believe grades are important.

If you were about to have brain surgery wouldn't you like to know the grade your doctor got in Incisions 101 or Brain Anatomy 301? I think I would. But then again, maybe not.

I was looking for some information in my office today and came across an old notebook from seminary. Many of you that read this blog know that I am currently preaching through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings at the church I serve as pastor. I came across some notes and tests from a class I took on the Book of Acts. Now, keep in mind, I was pastoring a church full time 90 miles from school, raising a toddler, taking a full load of classes, blah, blah, blah (Can you see what's coming?). I found a test on which I scored a 75 in Acts. Ugh!

So, I had to look to see what I missed. Oh my! Where was my head? I was probably sleeping through class (see the note above about driving 90 miles one way, etc.) the day they gave the notes for that test. Oh, this is so embarassing. I promise, I am much more focused these days as I prepare.

Just thought this was funny (sort of).