Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

Wise Men With Bad News

Herod • Devotion #1: Wise Men With Bad News
Mark O’Connor| Student Director

Imagine with me if you will for a moment. You are sitting at work one day, three guys you have never seen before walk up and ask for the new guy. I do not know what it is you do, but when you ask them who exactly they are looking for, they say it is the guy who is replacing you. How do you feel at that point? You are just going about your day when you find out you are done in your current position. Most of us would be a bit panicked, probably very uneasy. I would venture to say there would be a bit of anger there as well. This is what happened to a guy named Herod. He is sitting on his throne when this happens in Matthew 2:1-2,

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

It was pretty shocking news for Herod. I am sure it was the same feeling we get when there is some unexpected bad news. I feel like I have been punched in the gut and a weight comes over me that can sometimes cause me to react in quite an unreasonable manner. Thankfully that does not happen very much and I am much better equipped to handle it these days. But Herod did not, and we will examine later through this week how well he did not handle this terrible news.

But was it really that bad? Maybe for him. Certainly, not for us. In fact, Luke lays it out quite clearly in chapter 2 when a group of shepherds find out from an angel that Jesus had been born:

And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’”

A Savior is born. Yep, pretty great news for us. We celebrate this incredible event every year and rightly so. We often forget about this dark time that came as result of such a miraculous event. Some people have never even heard of this king named Herod. Take in the whole story and grow in your relationship with God and in your knowledge of His Word this Christmas season.

Fallen – His Mission #5

Devils and Demons | Kingdom Seeker
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  – 1 Peter 5:8

The simple statement of Satan’s mission is to keep us from entering into a meaningful and lasting relationship with Jesus. This is shown in verses like 1 Peter 5:8 shown above. John 10:10 tells us he comes to steal and destroy, and he does. It is funny to me that it appears that even Satan does not fully understand the power of God. Throughout history, he has been defeated and overcome so many times, but he thinks there is still a chance of victory.

That is where we come in. We see in movies when the good guy loses a fight, and they reference that while this battle may be lost, the war is far from over. Maybe this is where Satan is.  Obviously, he is on the losing end of the war, but he continues to fight, and he continues with these guerilla-like tactics on humanity.

We battle in our spiritual lives to become more Christ-like, at least I pray that I can be continually moving in that direction. We are in a fight against a worldview that is growing ever more popular that contradicts the foundation of how Jesus calls us to live. There is no doubt that the enemy is at work in this movement. That is not to say that those who are part of these movements are satanic at heart. But the very nature of the enemy is to point us in a direction that we are acting in a manner that is pleasing to us and what we want in our selfish nature, that we would lose focus on living a life that is pleasing to God.

Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Paul instructs the Church to set our minds on things that are above and not what is happening here on earth. Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God. Satan will use things both big and small to distract us. It could be a little thing in your personal life. Maybe it is one of those “secret” things we do not let the rest of the world see, but are tearing our faith apart in the background. It could be an issue with a friend or family member. Or maybe it is the cumulative collection of all of the enemies’ small victories in this much larger war. I do not know what he is using to distract you, but I pray that you will begin to take stock of the thing that are keeping you from a meaningful relationship with Jesus.

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

I always thought my story was pretty lame. I did not have this rock-bottom-I-found-Jesus moment. I was not a bad guy. I grew up in a home where we went to church every week. I was baptized as an infant. I received my first communion and was even confirmed when I was a teenager. I received these sacraments, and they were supposed to be done in the church in which I was raised. Youth group was fun in the summer when we played softball, but I always wondered why we did not learn more about God in those times. I was along for the ride. When my dad stopped waking me up every Sunday morning, I stopped going to mass. I just kind of lived my life from there. I still was not a bad guy. I was the guy my friends turned to when they needed to talk. There was no drinking or drugs. No smoking. I may have been at the party, but I was the one making sure everybody was ok.

I was not perfect. I messed up; made a bunch of mistakes and got into some trouble. But I was a teenager after all. Life was good. You could say I was kind of cruising thru life. Work was good. Somewhere around my 19th birthday, I met the woman who would later become my wife. Jamie and I developed a great friendship that blossomed into a great relationship. She had recently had a daughter when we started dating. The first time my parents met her, we were walking into the same entrance at the mall and Haley was with us. This was a mildly awkward moment.

We were engaged to be married after a year and a half. During the planning of our wedding, we discovered that Jamie was going to give birth to our first son. My world was now upside down. Here I was, 20 years old. I was about to be the head of a family. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. How was I going to handle this? What was I going to do?

I went on a weekend trip to a business conference in North Carolina. I do not remember most of the speakers that were there or what they said. Then came a church service on Sunday morning. A speaker by the name of Josh McDowell came to the stage. He spoke about fatherhood. He spoke about the responsibility I had as a father to raise my children and how important it is to make God a part of that. It was my “light bulb” moment. I do not remember the preacher from that service, but I know I gave my life to Jesus that morning.

We drove home, and I remember the preacher saying I needed to find a good, Bible preaching church. My brother in law pointed me to the River in Waterford (at that time, known as Faith). We were immediately drawn to Pastor Jim’s preaching style and connected quickly. In May of 2001, we were married in this church. A desire for God’s Word burned inside me, as it usually does for new Christians. After a while, that began to fade a bit, and I fell back into the normal routine.

Jamie began serving a lot in the church, but I was not there yet. After a time, I went to a snow camp with Pastor Jayson and the teens. A small fire began to burn again. It grew as I began to serve more and get into studying the Bible again. I was working retail at the time, and it was difficult to get a set schedule to serve consistently, but I did when I could.

In 2012, we made a huge change and went to serve in a small church in Walled Lake. It was the area where I went to high school, and to be honest, God called us there when Pastor Jim first started preaching there. At the time, I thought I knew what was better for me than God did. So I naturally fought it. Then Pastor Chris Doak asked us to serve with him to work with the student ministry. So we made our way to First Baptist Church of Walled Lake, now known as Market Street Church. My eyes were opened to the incredible work God does in our lives when we completely commit to his will.  Somebody asked me one night as we were leaving youth group if I had ever considered being a pastor. I would love to say that in that instant I said yes, but I laughed. Then, as He so often does, God decided otherwise. As I continued to serve faithfully, my mindset shifted to a place where I longed to serve God more, and I made the decision the follow that course for my life.

So I started school to begin that process. I worked full-time, served pretty close to full-time, and took classes to obtain a degree in Pastoral Ministry. Eventually, I was hired on a part-time basis at Market Street and became so entrenched in the workings of the church. I learned so much in this time and am forever grateful for my time spent and friends made in Walled Lake. But once again, God stirred up our lives. And here I am, back home where my journey started. I am blessed to be serving the Lord full-time at this big white church on Airport Road. My office is two doors down from the office where Pastor Jim counseled Jamie and me before our wedding. It is the same office where Pastor Chris asked us if we would pray about joining him in Walled Lake. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family and me.    

Secret Giving #5 – Recognition

Secret Giving #5 – Recognition
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

We are a boastful lot. Our culture today screams “Look and me and what I have done!”  There is a time and a place for such recognition, but it should not be connected to our relationship with Jesus. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Our faith is a quiet one where our actions should speak more than our mouth. We should be seeking only the approval of God, rather than our fellow man. Tithing can be a tough topic. Some of us really do not like to talk about our money, but others most definitely do. I recall my days as a young Christian, questioning why, as a young parent not having much income, why I needed to give. As I grew in my relationship with Jesus, I began to notice that God was seeking my faithfulness. I was doing things that looked good to the onlooker, but in my private walk, I was not honoring God. Verses like 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” began to work in my heart. Therefore, realizing that pleasing God was to be a priority in my life, I needed to give. However, I also learned not to be boastful in my walk. I did not have much to give, and I quickly became thankful and learned why God had set up the system the way He did.

Giving shows God and us where our heart is. Jesus explained to the disciples in Mark 12:41-44 that the poor woman who gave two copper coins had given more than the rich since it was all she had to live on. She did not make a big scene.  She quietly became a blessing to God.

I am thankful that I have a God who will not judge me based on the quantity that I give but rather the faith that I have in Him. Do not be proud or boastful about what you can give, or feel bad about what you cannot give. Just give humbly and consistently knowing that you are doing what is pleasing to God and He will bless you for your faithfulness.

Tough Love

Judge #5 – Tough Love
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

So often, we like to think of Jesus as a loving, caring figure in our lives. These things are very true. What we do not like to think of so much is that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and will one day decide whether we will spend our eternity in Heaven or Hell. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus is speaking about the Final Judgment after He returns for the second time. He will separate the nations into two groups, placing the sheep at His right and goats on His left. He goes on to say in Matthew 25:34-40,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

He tells us that there is more to our faith than just believing. There are many verbs in the verses above. Our faith is to be an action, and we will be judged accordingly. Living out our faith and experiencing a relationship with Jesus is what we should be striving for. I can recall a time when I was just going thru the motions of church. I would show up on Sunday when I could, or wanted. My wife was becoming more active in serving and was just there. An emptiness was growing inside as I watched others growing and I stayed stagnant. James tells us in 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Jesus warns us what will happen later in Matthew 25:41-46,

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We will be held accountable for our action or inaction as we stand before Jesus when our days here on Earth have ended. It is not enough to just be present at a Sunday gathering. When I truly submitted to what God was telling me to do, I quickly found a joy in my life that had been missing for so long. As I began connecting with and serving alongside my fellow Christians, a true relationship began developing with Jesus, and my life has never been the same. Let’s be what the church was intended to be; not a place to gather, but a movement to share the Gospel and provide a picture of who Jesus is and the sacrifice that he made for us.

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