John Markum

Closer Than You Think

CloserI’ve done some thinking lately over Heaven as part of a new series that we’re doing at LifeCity Church. And in the process of going through Scripture, I’ve noticed a somewhat unrelated pattern about Jesus, and God in general.

Nearly every page of the Gospels is filled with language describing God in very practical, everyday ways.

Jesus specifically tells us that He is:

There are literally hundreds of other titles, and descriptors for Him, but one of my favorites encapsulates my sentiment toward all of them: Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23) – meaning, “God with us.” He really came here. To Earth. To humanity. To us… to me. To you.
The pattern I observe with the specific handful of names and title I shared, is that they are consistent, visible, every-day reminders that He is with us.

Every day when I drink my obligatory water intake for the day, I’m reminded that “He is with me.” And as I need literal water to survive physically, my soul demands the spiritual “living water” to sustain my inner self.
Every meal when I pray to thank Him for another chance to eat, I’m reminded that He is the “Bread of Life” and the true source of my strength and nourishment.
Every entrance, every exit, and every gate I walk through is a reminder that He is not only “The Door,” but “the way, the truth, and the life,” and my one hope of Heaven.
When the suns rays touch my skin, when every other foundation seems shaky but Him – wherever I go, and whatever I do – He. is. THERE!

I’m completely convinced that Jesus used such language to communicate to each of us that very message “I am with you. I will never leave you, or forsake you.” As close as the air in your lungs, and more certain than the rising sun, He’s much closer than we can imagine.

So may we stop looking to the clouds for the sure-to-return Savior, and get back to living in Him right here and now. May we fully experience the life He has for us, as we walk with Him in these “ordinary” moments. And may the day we actually see Him face-to-face feel more like a grand, long awaited reunion from a life of such experiences with Him, and less like a first time introduction.

Pastor John

A Proper Attitude toward Faith-based Movies

MOVIESThere have been no lack of faith-based movies that have come out in recent years – from family-encouraging movies like Courageous, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants all from Sherwood Pictures, to some more recent Hollywood productions such as Noah and God’s Not Dead.

I recently posted a teaser trailer for the upcoming Heaven is for Real film based on the book of the same title, expressing my interest in the movie. For those not aware, Heaven is for Real is the retelling of the story of Colton Burpo who at 4 years old had a near death experience where he claims (as a 4 year old) to have seen God, Jesus, angels, Heaven, and deceased family among many other phenomenon. His experience seems to have some level of confirmation in what appears to be knowledge that Colton could not have possibly known apart from some supernatural happening.

Immediately after posting it, multiple well-meaning friends, all of whom were professing Christ-followers, some of whom were brothers in ministry, urged caution or misgivings on my interest in the film. Without having read the book, I’m aware of the discrepancies in Colton’s story and what we can plainly see in Scripture.

I am not writing this post as a review on any of these movies. I’ll consider doing that in a future post, probably after I watch this one…

I instead want to address our attitude as Christ-followers toward faith-based movie. From Passion of the Christ to Son of God, it seems as if there are always people who claim to believe the Bible who have something negative to say about Hollywood’s recent fascination with God’s Word. I for one, am pleased that we’re at least having these discussions. Ultimately, no matter how well done, no movie is going to express as perfectly as each of us imagine Biblical truth to be. And I suspect that the actual reality of Scripture is simultaneously ordinary and yet supernatural per our expectations.

Let me give four humble suggestions on how Christ-followers should respond to any faith based movie – and arguably any movie in general:

  1. Appreciate good stories. It was said of Christ in Mark 4:34 that He never taught the people without telling a story. Jesus was a master story-teller. Most would agree that many of the parables of Jesus were fabricated stories that He used to make an illustration. A story doesn’t have to be true to be meaningful. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve referred to Star Wars or Everyone Loves Raymond to communicate a point in a sermon. And it’s amazing to see people understand the relationship between pure Jews and the Samaritans when you talk about “mud-bloods”…
  2. Relax. Truth is never intimidated by error. While we need to be busy sharing true stories, a skewed story can be addressed without getting indignant. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” A defensive attitude toward anything indicates a sensed vulnerability. If I really believe the Bible is truth, I’ve got no reason to get defensive when someone questions the Bible or my faith. At least someone’s asking good questions!
  3. Share. I’ve lost count on how many times someone who doesn’t yet follow Christ has begun a conversation with me because of a movie that addressed a Biblical subject. The movie doesn’t have to be spot-on to be a catalyst for a divine appointment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a story is worth a thousand pictures.
  4. Know God’s Word. Don’t take anyone’s expressions of faith, interpretations, or movie as the final authority on truth in your life. Look to see what God actually said in His Word. He’s quite adequate at speaking for Himself. Everything and everyone else should only propel you to looking deeper into His truth and applying it to your life. That’s why it’s important to be a part of a church family, a PTA, and to watch movies – because God speaks all around us through a variety of sources, even flawed sources like preachers and movies – but He never speaks more clearly than through His Word.

Pastor John

Dear Edgewood…

Dear EBCToday I’m back in my office at Edgewood from being in San Jose for the past week. I’m here preparing for the message I’ll preach this weekend – my final message as a pastor of this amazing church. Ironically, it was nearly 5 years ago to the day that I preached for the first time at Edgewood. Befitting, that I should be concluding my ministry here at the same time.

There are so many things I want to say to each of you that I find it difficult deciding where to begin. For five years you have loved me, encouraged me, honored me, and taught me at least as much as I ever taught you. I’ve seen so many of you come to Christ during my time here. I estimate that I have had the privilege of baptizing somewhere over a hundred of you into our church family, and more importantly, into obedience as a follower of Jesus. I’ve preached hundreds of times to you. And I’ve seen faithfulness in you that any pastor would love to see in his church family. You’ve listened, learned, grown, and taught me a great deal about my journey in the process.

In less than a month, my family and I will say goodbye and move to San Jose, CA. Leaving you is painful for me, to say the least. May you continue in the things that God has worked in your life, and years from now, I pray that we will continue to celebrate what God is doing in the Quad Cities, the South Bay, and around the world. Though a 2,000 mile gap will soon exist between us, my heart still beats for this place and this family of friends and believers who have been so good to us for the past five years.

So about this weekend…

I’m preaching for the final time before we leave. It’s been over a month since I last preached here at home to you. So most of you already know that I have no intentions of holding back or pulling punches. But I am far less interested in impressing you as I am in blessing and challenging you to reach your full potential in Christ. Among many things that I am praying for God to do this weekend, I am asking Him to draw people to Himself – to allow me the privilege this last time, to be part of seeing Him use this church to impact people’s stories for eternity. And that’s where you and I come in.

Please don’t miss this weekend! I want to preach God’s Word over you one last time. But also, don’t come alone! Bring someone with you who needs a touch from God. I’m very confident He plans on attending, and wants to do something in your friends’/family’s lives.

I’m not making this weekend about me. I’ve got far more important things to talk about than myself. So in advance, I want to tell you that you are a good church. You’ve been good to me and I wouldn’t have traded my time with you for any earthly delight. I’m a better pastor, leader, and follower of Jesus for having worked with you.

To the many of you who have been directly part of working with us in our Singles Ministry, Saturday night service, LifeGroups, and so on… look what God did! You were too good to try easy stuff – you did things that were worthwhile. And look how God blessed your faith! Look at what we got to see and do together!!! It still doesn’t seem real to me that we made it where we are now. But God has been gracious to us. And we got to play a part in His work of drawing people to Himself and making disciples. You are precious to me. And working with you has been the honor of my life. Some of you hold special, irreplaceable spots in our hearts. You know who you are. We couldn’t have made it without you. Not by a long shot! Thank you, friends.

If you don’t normally attend Edgewood, and especially if you don’t normally attend any church, join us this week. I believe God is going to do something greater in our lives than any of us could hope or ask for. I can’t wait to see you there!

Pastor John

PS – services are Sat. 5pm, and Sun. 8 & 10:45am

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