I grew up in a church where on the front of the bulletin it said, “Enter in silence to worship…” (and, believe me, it was silent throughout). I would visit the church where my mom grew up, and it would be full of “Amens” while the pastor preached. That was foreign and scary to me. I had no idea that there were actually believers who were more expressive.
When I was a teenager, I began to see those who were more expressive. They were raising their hands and shouting. I was told that was totally of the flesh and that I should have no part in that because that’s what Charismatics do. Interestingly enough, shouting and the lifting of hands is in the Bible. Despite the fact that it is biblical, people are still afraid of what they do not know. Christians are just quicker to call it wrong if it is unfamiliar.
About 5 years ago, I found freedom in my personal worship. This freedom became a little easier to express publicly. By the time I was a pastor, those denominational Christians probably thought I was crazy. Some didn’t think I was expressive enough (another story for another post). But there came a time when that worship that people called wrong (though still biblical) meant more to me than ever.
When the world you once knew is knocked out from under you, you either get mad at God or find Him sweeter than ever. I did the latter. Going from being a pastor with a family to being all alone and unemployed, Jesus was my reason for staying alive. When I went back into leading worship in denominational churches, I had a lady at the last church I served tell me I reminded her of a Holiness preacher and she liked our denomination better. I laughed because I didn’t think I was that expressive. I believe now that an element of the church was uncomfortable with me and led to some of the pettiness that God used to reveal to me that it was time to leave. It proved to be a blessing because I can biblically express my praise at my current church and I am among friends.
Just because you didn’t grow up with a particular style of worship doesn’t mean it is wrong. You may never be the type to shout “Hallelujah!” or raise your hands, but find out what it means for you to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Then allow yourself to grow spiritually to the point where you can stand still and worship while the person next to you is dancing. I promise that you’ll find it liberating, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
This weekend, I spent some time re-connecting with friends that were present before my separation and divorce and were my key support group when I came back to town with only my oldest son. It was nostalgic and fun at the same time. These friends were both divorcees who had walked the road before me and were, in my opinion, steady as a rock though they would quickly acknowledge their weak moments.
This stirred a thankful heart in me as I began to think about growing up with a family and my home church that loved me and did their best to support what God was doing in me, to think about the great people I met in college who shared the same burdens and similar calling, professors who instilled wisdom into my life, the pastors who poured into my life and church members who followed my leadership and loved me even if I had more zeal than knowledge, the element in the first church I pastored that stood with me despite my inexperience, the people in Oconee County, SC, who were here to love me at my lowest, and my kids, a loving wife, and friends who believe that God is not done with me.
I thank God for providing for me financially when it looked like I would not have a penny to my name. I thank Him for encouraging me when depression hit so hard. I thank God for coworkers that work together, laugh together, and cry together. I don’t have enough space to contain it all.
The bottom line is I AM BLESSED! As Regi Stone wrote, “I will sing praise. I will lift my voice. I will sing praise. I’ve made my choice. I will sing praise in all I do. I will sing praise to You. No matter the storms that come my way, no matter the trials I may face, You promised that You would see me through, so I will trust in You.”
It is all over the news that the wicked leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, is dead. Many are rejoicing today. For many reasons, it is understandable. The question that resounds in my mind is, “How can we rejoice over a soul that is most likely in hell?” Some of you may be thinking, “Matthew, how can you judge the eternal state of Fidel Castro?” I don’t judge, but I do base this on the scriptural truth that those who reject Jesus Christ’s plan of salvation automatically choose an eternity separated from God.
The big question is, “How can we rejoice over justice prevailing yet balance that with mourning over a person’s soul?” That should be the question at hand. The emphasis on rejoicing has given Christians the reputation for being haters. Jesus said in John 13:34 that our love for one another will be the true indication of being Christ’s disciple.
My challenge today would be to pray for those who are evil. Even if they die in their wickedness, you can lay your head down at night knowing you have done what God wants you to do. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48 NKJV).
Let me clarify from the beginning that I am not implying or outright saying that Christians should not be well-known. Some of our greatest voices for Jesus Christ today are celebrities who happen to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and are unashamed. What I am discussing today are those who are little known out of their denominational circles but have this celebrity mentality. Let me explain further.
These people are evangelists, pastors of some notoriety, denominational leaders, heads of Christian publications, etc. They will associate with you, only if there is something for them to gain. If you do not have the same or greater level of notoriety, you are nothing to them. They are especially interested in you if you have a large church and can give them a significant fee for allowing them to “grace your church with their presence”. I am glad I have not been named among the elite.
Another characteristic of these “celebrities” is that they have a reputation to upkeep and will fake it if necessary. They will pretend they have it all together while their lives are less than desirable. Their immorality will come to light eventually, and the worlds of their followers will fall apart.
These ” celebrities” typically don’t have time for those outside their circle. If they do express that they have time for you, it is only in word not reality. They will say things like, “Please let me know if I can do anything to help.” See if they really do when you call or message them. They’ll give you a Christianized answer (if they answer) like, “I’ll be praying for you.” Will you really?
The message of Jesus is to deny yourself. He must increase and we must decrease. The early disciples were hated and running from their lives. What makes us better?
I post this because many people I know become enamored with these personalities, only to be disappointed. Don’t focus on a preacher, friend, or other human being! They will let you down. Jesus is the only One who is constant. Fix your attention on Him!
I bet you’re looking for a history lesson, right? One full of pilgrims, etc.? Sorry, but I hate to disappoint you.
Some of you are probably thinking that I’m going to say it is an event or an act. Once again, I hate to disappoint you!
Thanksgiving is an attitude!
An attitude of thanksgiving should be a lifestyle. Don’t just let this week be some warm and fuzzy hour while you eat enough food for five people! The Bible says, “IN every thing give thanks!” Not for, but in. Let this carry into December then over into the new year. Be the one who is known for appreciating what you have and the people in your life. Have the reputation of being the positive person even when everything in your life seems negative. Be an atmosphere changer! With that in mind, happy thanksgiving! God bless all my blogging friends and those outside the WordPress community who read.
Many of you are looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but others of you are not. This year, Thanksgiving falls on the anniversary of when I resigned the church where I was a pastor. That week began the worst holiday season of my life. The next year, I dreaded this season. In 2014, you dare not make me watch one of those sappy Hallmark movies because I wasn’t feeling it. Most of those movies were about love and families. I still wasn’t living the “happily ever after”.
Fast forward to 2016! I can watch Hallmark movies now. I am happily married and stepping out into new steps of obedience for the Lord. The pain of betrayal by some church members, the destruction of the family unit I knew, and all that happened during that time still sting on occasions, but the sting is what causes me to minister with greater compassion.
Some of my readers are experiencing deeper hurt now than I ever did during the holidays. Tragedy struck on a much deeper level than I could ever imagine. My prayer is that God will bring healing into your life so that you can extend love and compassion to others because you know what it is like to hurt.
To those who are planning on having your traditional “my 4 and no more” holiday, think of someone who will be alone and extend your family a bit. Invite that new widow or widower over who has no children or the one society has written off. When you do such to “the least of these”, you have done it unto Jesus. ‘Tis the season to reach out and the time to make it a regular part of your life.
I have lived life where I worked out my own plans and left God out of the equation, while at other times I followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Tonight, I obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Our church does not have a Sunday night service (conservatives gasp in unison😮 even if you don’t attend), but I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to be somewhere tonight. I messaged a pastor friend to see what was happening at his church tonight. He replied that they were hosting a men’s meeting, so I attended. I’m glad I did.
We so often miss something special God has for us because we are afraid of the Holy Spirit. He has never guided me wrong. My emotions have. Other people have. The Holy Spirit is always in line with the Bible and will never contradict.
God had more confirmation for me regarding some things He is currently doing in me and ways He is guiding me. He spoke through two pastors I highly respect. These men have been newfound friends in this second half of my life. I separate the two halves by “Matthew before divorce (when I was normal?)” and “Matthew after divorce and remarriage (when I became a freak with two heads?)😂. In times like these, you learn who your real friends are. A real friend loves at all times (a word for someone who may need to get rid of some fake friends).
The Holy Spirit is saying something to you today. What do you fear? Ridicule? The unknown? Launch out and obey! It may shake you, but you’ll be glad you did.
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RECENT EVENTS!!!
Every one of us has been given the ingredients for a good cake, if you will. By themselves, they remain useless ingredients. When mixed together and stirred, it makes something delicious.
Many people try to tell me that they don’t have any gifts of special abilities. That’s a lie! When you stir that up within you, it starts a fire. Whether you are a musician, nurse, fireman, preacher, or fill in the blank, you can’t imagine doing anything else if it’s a calling. I know some preachers will tell you that people are only called to preach and that nothing else is a calling. The truth is that God has uniquely designed you for a specific task and wants you to operate in that. In other words, stir up that gift as Paul told Timothy to do in the Bible.
Many of you who are reading this are not stirring that gift up because someone told you that you can’t. Let God have the final say! If He doesn’t want you to, He will close the doors.
I think many of us feel like we have poured our life into something or someone, only to feel that it was fruitless. As a man who has served in churches since I was 15, I have served some churches where I felt like I wasted my time there. I find later that the time wasn’t wasted.
When I resigned the pastorate in 2013, family problems had depleted my ability to try to pastor a church where an element was against me. I stood before that small Sunday night crowd and gave a very brief resignation speech. I didn’t have the emotional strength to give more. I remember the last statement I made – “I cling to the promise that my labor was not in vain in the Lord.” Then I sat down.
Even from that brief pastorate, I occasionally hear about how God used me. First Corinthians 15:58 promises you that your labor for the Lord is not wasted. Whatever you do in investing into someone’s life for God’s glory will reap benefits. They may be seen in eternity rather than here, but they will be brought to light.
To the person who feels like you’re wasting your time at church or ministering in some capacity, it’s not in vain! Your definition of success and God’s are vastly different. Focus on God’s definition and keep investing, even when you can’t see what God is doing.
Everywhere I look, I see people who have given up hope…on their spouses, children, family, finances, health, etc. They have been disappointed too many times and don’t want to be hurt again, so they give up hope.
The early Jewish Christians were ready to throw in the towel after they realized that living for Christ led to persecution. They were ready to go back to their old ways (the Jewish religious system) and abandon Christ. Many today would rather live the promiscuous life of sex, drugs, alcohol, and doing what they please because it seems easier than living for the Lord.
In order to see hope restored in our lives, we need a few things:
- We need our fight back. I’m not talking about beating someone to a bloody pulp or an episode of Jerry Springer. I’m talking about determination…the endurance and perseverance to keep pushing for what we know is right (Read Hebrews 10:35-36).
- We need our faith back. We have given up our confidence in God that He is able to do anything. It may not be the way we want it answered, but He is working. Hebrews 11 is full of examples of men and women of faith who believed God when the odds were against them.
- We need our freedom back. Freedom is not the ability to do what we want; it is the power to do what we ought. Hebrews 12:1 says we need to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us. If you are going to reclaim your freedom to live for Jesus, you’ve got to forgive yourself of past sins (especially if you’ve already gotten right with God), forgive others who have sinned against you, and get rid of some negativity in your life. You need people that will speak life into you. You also need to get rid of current sins…addictions, things you put before God, etc. That’s when you get your freedom back!
- We need our focus back. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus…” Now is not the time to focus on your problems; it’s time to focus on the One who can solve your problems and make a way to walk through them.
If you feel like giving up hope, it’s soon to quit! This world needs you. If you are a Christian, you may be the only link to Jesus some may ever have. Don’t quit now! Get your fight back! Get your faith back! Get your freedom back! Get your focus back!