The Soothing Wind of God

After I returned from vacation, everything was in high gear (and still is). I had 4 new hospice patients to see at various ends of the earth. Our patients are in their homes, so I do a good bit of traveling. Today, I was in high gear again. However, God slowed me down for a minute.

As I was leaving a visit with a patient, I stepped out and felt a cool breeze that forced me to stop and recognize the glory of God in the midst of what I was doing. I leaned my head back for a moment just to enjoy what God was doing through nature.

The hearts of many of us in our area were shaken this week when a 14 year old shot a teacher and 2 students in a nearby elementary school. This was on the heels of crime and riots in Charlotte, NC which is within a few hours of us. Many also are worried about our national situation as we will be electing a president.

Through all this tragedy, God still whispers and send the wind to remind us that He is still in control. Don’t be so busy that you miss God’s gentle reminders!

Everyone Needs Rest

For six days (two of those including travel), my wife and I were invited to spend a few days with her sister and her family. They are extremely hospitable, and we enjoyed a few days away from the day-to-day issues of life so we could clear our minds and enjoy family at the same time.

The concept of rest is important to God. He, the Creator of the Universe, took the seventh day of creation to rest. Was He tired? No! He was, however, setting a precedent for us to follow. Jesus extended an invitation to enter His rest in Matthew 11. Yet we are determined to prove our ability to push through without rest and ultimately crash and burn. I speak from experience. Four years ago, I didn’t know if I would bounce back from a short-lived crash that felt long.

My friend, please understand the importance of resting from the craziness of life. Jesus got by Himself frequently to refocus and pray. We need the same. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can’t afford to go beyond your limits. Jesus stands ready to give you His rest. Embrace it!

Let the Narcissist Exit the Stage

I am constantly in conversations about narcissists. Based on the conversations I have, the vast majority of people must be narcissistic so the stage may very well clear.

What is narcissism? It is “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type” (Source unknown). With this definition in mind, once again the stage may clear. This generation says we are entitled and deserve all these great things. Many psychologists are feeding them full of themselves and never making them confront wrong attitudes and actions. You should do what makes you feel good, right? Wrong! Going to a job you don’t like may not make you feel good, but responsibility trumps you feeling good. Owning up to a mistake doesn’t feel good, but most people choose to blame others (something that started with the first sin and is a card that narcissists frequently play). Your best friend dies, and the conversation becomes about them. You are diagnosed with cancer, and somehow the conversation gets turned toward the narcissist’s drama at work.

Many of you have people in your life that are narcissistic and drain the life from you. If you are the Narcissist reading this, please rescue yourself from yourself and spare others. You are toxic to your family, friends, coworkers, and yourself. You may think you aren’t a narcissist, but a good indicator is if every problem in your life is related to someone else and you think you never react immaturely or improperly. Most narcissists never think they have a problem and end up driving everyone away.

We all need people in life who will help us see when we are wrong. I’m not saying we need people who always point out the wrong. There is a MAJOR difference! Find a godly person or someone you know who genuinely loves you and will tell you like it is because they care. Then redirect your attention from yourself and start doing things for others NOT because you want recognition but because you have a genuine love for others.

Fixing Your Past

I desperately wish that phrase “fixing your past” could be a reality. Sadly, it is not. Bad financial decisions, marrying the wrong person, effects of traumatic experiences…none of these can be erased nor fixed. The consequences of these things will go on for years. Your bad financial decisions will take years to pay off. You’ll still have to face your ex if you have children with him or her. The traumatic experiences will replay for months maybe years. Some will try to convince you that there is a quick fix for all of this, but quick fixes lead to more disaster.

You may say, “Matthew, what can I do about my past?” First, you can receive forgiveness from God. Second, you can attempt to get right with other people. You will have to work hard to bounce back financially (still trying to do that). For traumatic experiences, I would highly recommend a counselor. I am not ashamed to admit I went to a counselor when things hit the fan with my first marriage, and I have continued to go to keep things in check. Having a trained, objective party has been wonderful because the counselor asks me the tough questions and helps me stay accountable for attitudes that should not exist in my life.

Truthfully, I would not be who I am today without my past. From walking through sicknesses with both parents to ministry woes to a toxic marriage to starting over almost from scratch without finances or the family unit as I knew it, I would not minister the way I do today. 

I learned I could not fix my past, but that is okay. I have learned and applied lessons that I have passed on to others. I have wept with those who have been betrayed by churches or experienced the sting and often scorn of divorce by the conservative community. 

Today, I have a wonderful wife who has been a helpmeet in every way. My family has certainly expanded. I talked my mom into moving down here so she could be near her only son and grandkids. I minister to hospice patients and families during the darkest hour of their lives. In addition, God places individuals in my path and uses me to pour what He gives me into their lives. In some ways, my ministry is better and more impactful than it was being an on-stage personality in medium-sized churches. 

God won’t fix your past. He will, in time, heal you and use your circumstances to help others. I am constantly inspired by people I know who chose to help others rather than play the victim card. My word to you would be to make things right and spend your life trying to help people who have been through similar situations. You may been the one God will use to help someone rise from the ashes.

The Gospel of Negativity?

I have been around circles of preachers who tried to convince me in my younger days that in order to preach the “real gospel”, a preacher has to be negative all the time. To them, there is no room for joking or joy in the pulpit. 

The last time I checked, the word gospel means “good news”. So why the negativity? Yes, people need to understand that their sin separates them from God. Yes, they need to know the repercussions of sinning against God. However, they need to know that the goodness of God leads people to repentance and the love of God is what draws them. Furthermore, they need to know that Jesus loves them enough to die, rise again, and pay the price for their sins. They need to know that they can come to a loving, merciful Father who wants a relationship with them. He won’t let us stay in sin, but He wants us to experience His goodness as we are equipped to walk in obedience.

Dear Christian, your spiritual gift is not beating people up and producing guilt and shame in the lives of others. The Holy Spirit convicts people. You preach the good news with the joy of the Lord while the sourpuss people who call themselves Christians pour cold water on everything. We have plenty of those. Stand out and make a distinction in this generation that needs Jesus!

That’s Just the Way I Am

That’s the sorriest excuse for things I’ve ever heard! Great introduction, huh? It’s another way of saying, “I don’t see anything wrong with me” or “I’m too lazy to do anything to improve myself.”

This generation needs a bold word. They don’t mind giving one, but receiving one is a different story. We have bought into the lie that we are all victims, and we can’t change who we are.

Let’s walk through the life cycle for a minute. Most of us went from crying to making sounds like “ga-ga goo-goo” then forming words. We wanted to grow from milk to solid food. We wanted to explore, so we began to crawl and later walk. We became children and wanted to do things that adults do. 

The bottom line is we do what we want to do. A few years ago, my life pretty much restarted from the ground up. I went from full-time pastor making a comfortable salary to unemployed and slowly rebuilding. There are tons of responsibilities and dreams I want to fulfill. The desire is there, but I’m still having to make baby steps to get back to that place. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to be financially where I once was, but I’ll teach piano or do something that make some extra income.

You might be reading this today and excusing some attitude in your life – bitterness, hatred, etc. Maybe you’re trying to bounce back from a divorce and you can’t see any light. I pray that the Lord will show you that you will rise again. 

Shortly after my separation, I was meeting with a career counselor who had been in ministry for years. I told him that I felt like everyone in my life was thriving and alive while I died. He looked at me and said, “What will it take to resurrect you?” I asked that to myself frequently. 

I thank God I’m not where I used to be. The devil still comes around, trying to convince me of things. I have to choose to be a better person and refuse to believe his lies. You have a choice too. You can say, “That’s just who I am” or you can arise with determination in your heart to be a better person in this next half of the game. I pray that you choose the second.

Perspective Matters

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems like you get hit from a few different angles? The enemy of your soul uses people to discourage you, and you become focused on what’s not happening rather than what is happening.

As I write this, I choose to focus on the reality of how good my Lord is. I choose to not allow people to be tools of satan in my life. I choose to thank God for the many people who love me and have spoken life into me this week as I strive to discern God’s will about some things. 

In the book of James, He writes to the church at Jerusalem and says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various kind of trials.” Who’s with me in thinking that doesn’t make much sense? In the mind of God, it makes all the sense in the world. How? Perspective!

You can choose to look at the cup half empty, half full, or say like the psalmist “my cup runneth over”. I choose the third one. Jesus is a well of living water inside me that won’t run dry! I have followed Him for almost 30 years of my life. I have served Him in churches in 4 states and have been humbled to be His servant. I’m not a perfect man, but I point people to the One who washed away all my sin.

How are you feeling today? Your perspective will make all the difference in the world. Choose to smile and let the Spirit of God activate His joy, love, and peace inside you while the world is crashing around you. People will sit up and take notice. Give God all the glory and say, “Jesus led me all the way!”

Constant Replay

Have you ever been through the same life experience over and over? You wonder why the same lesson keeps popping up? I think we can all answer “Yes!” to this. We often want to tell God we got it the first time, but we really didn’t. 

I can’t take the credit for this thought, but I wanted to share it with you. When you first grasp the lesson, it only goes slightly beneath the surface. When you are continually faced with the lesson, that’s when it takes root. It is one thing to be familiar with something and another thing to know it.

If you are reading this and it seems like the same thing keeps popping up, God wants some truth to take root in your life so it will become a core part of who you are. Jesus is more about life change than He is about you confirming. In fact, He doesn’t want you conforming. He wants to change you from the inside out. Please allow the One who made you to shape you into the person He created you to be.