Spiritual Knit-Picking

In my years as a “professional Christian”, I have encountered many who pick apart everything about churches and other believers. Much to my shame, I had joined that group for a period of time. At the end of the day, it stole my joy and made me less effective in ministry. Here are some of the issues I’ve seen people use to measure the spirituality of others.

Music. The knit-pickers say no one should listen to secular music. When it comes to Christian music, it must not be written after 1812. (The older the song, the more spiritual it is…eyes rolling) The modern knit-pickers will tear a new song apart and eventually find something wrong with it. Work hard enough and you will find something wrong with EVERYTHING!

Preachers. Because I preach, I can give a knit-picker some great material. “He dresses too nice. He uses the wrong version of the Bible. He shouldn’t joke around when preaching. He shouldn’t tell stories, because preaching is supposed to be a dry, emotionless explanation of the Bible. And, oh, that preacher’s wife. She prances around here like she owns the place. (I’ve found that some people are jealous of pastor’s wives…I don’t know why) And we have to talk about how his kids behave like hellions. Mine do too, but I’m not the pastor. He is.” A friend of mine preached and said the word “kid” in reference to his children. A man rebuked him after the service, telling him that a kid is a goat. That man must have been so hungry for God’s Word that he came away  with that (sarcasm intended😀).  I must also knit-pick about how the pastor doesn’t visit enough and wants new people in the church. How dare he?

Dress code. How does a dress make a woman holy and pants make her a hooker? I’ve seen immodest dresses and modest pants. And what about a suit and tie makes a pastor holy? Please give me some scripture. 

Church furniture. I know people who left a church recently because the church exchanged a wooden pulpit for an acrylic one. “They’re becoming like those charismatics!” Praise the Lord! Some churches would do well to get an ounce of enthusiasm. Another church moved the Lord’s Supper table. The pastor was told it is a sacred piece of furniture. Jesus didn’t have one. Don’t gasp! Most church tradition came from an unbiblical group that will be left unnamed. For some ridiculous reason, evangelicals have picked up on some pagan practices because they’re traditional.

They don’t act like I do. Jesus fought this mentality. The Pharisees were blowing a gasket because the disciples weren’t following a cleansing ritual in Matthew 15. Jesus told them that they drew near to God with their mouth but their heart was far from Him. 

I’m not knocking discernment, but most of this is done out of self-righteousness. God is not honored by this nor is He impressed. Self-righteousness is a sin that dominates the organization called the church. The true body of Christ is not so infected because I’m distinguishing true believers from those who know how to play the part. 

My job is not to pick you apart. My job is to build you up in your most holy faith so that you can go out and do the same for someone else. Please be someone who builds others up.


Your Breakthrough Is on the Way

Life is all about transitions, preparation, etc. I have watched the ebb and flow of my life and have seen the hand of God through all of it. Would I say that everything that has happened in my life a part of God’s perfect plan? No. I will say that some steps have been made out of God’s plan, but He used the mistakes to teach me and prepare me. 

You and I hold the key to the emotional outcome of what happens to us. We can choose to be bitter or choose joy. Most of our misery comes because we allowed ourselves to feel that way. Bad things happen to everyone. We can decide what to do with that.

I can testify to the fact that your breakthrough is on the way. We eventually adapt to our circumstances and can see God shine through it. 

God is your help, your Deliverer, and your very present help in time of need. Being patient is easier said than done, but wait upon the Lord. He will fulfill His promise.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow? Really?

I am a visionary. When I was on church staff, I went there with a vision of where God wanted to take things under my leadership. I was always thinking about “tomorrow” and the journey to get there.

I am now 35, and a lot has changed. The things that used to matter to me don’t anymore. I still think about “tomorrow” and how things can improve in certain areas. Some people are either paralyzed by their past mistakes or living in the “good old days”. Others dream about how things can be better. The problem is that we miss today – enjoying our spouse, our children and how they are growing and developing, the glory of God displayed around us in creation, etc. 

Steven Furtick recently preached and mentioned the verse we often quote: THIS is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it (TODAY). We need to rejoice in today! Don’t focus on the promotion you want or the current of season of life you hate so much! Just enjoy the positive things of today. 

I like Fleetwood Mac, but these words aren’t the best theology: “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here, It’ll be, better than before…” The overwhelming theme of the song is to not be trapped in yesterday. However, the thought of tomorrow being better causes many to miss out on the blessings of today.

Am I saying for you to stop dreaming? Not at all! Just don’t miss out on enjoying the journey because you’re too focused on the destination.

What Is Time? ⏱

This subject came up today as I was visiting one of my hospice patients. I’m sure my colleagues would agree that we go there to provide physical, spiritual, and psychosocial care yet they teach us more than we can teach them.

Webster defines time as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : duration; a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future; the point or period when something occurs : occasion; an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end <arrived ahead of time>; an opportune or suitable moment <decided it was time to retire> —often used in the phrase about time <about time for a change>; a historical period : age; a division of geologic chronology; conditions at present or at some specified period —usually used in plural <times are hard> <move with the times>; the present time <issues of the time>; lifetime; a season <very hot for this time of year>; rate of speed : tempo; the grouping of the beats of music : rhythm; a moment, hour, day, or year as indicated by a clock or calendar <what time is it>; any of various systems (as sidereal or solar) of reckoning time; one of a series of recurring instances or repeated.” I cut several portions of the definition out. God defines it a little differently. Considering the fact that God has no beginning, what is time to Him? Second Peter 3:8 says, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Time is strictly for man’s benefit to measure. 

While time is for our benefit so we can show up somewhere at the proper time or end things in a timely manner, we think that we can attempt to micromanage God’s “timing” since we can control our own to some degree. You can’t hurry God. He appoints times and seasons and controls them for our benefit. The next time you are getting impatient with God, remember He has your best interest at heart and knows what we need when we need it.

I’m going to be a bit unconventional as I end this post. I grew up on secular music. Most people younger than I know him as Darius Rucker. My generation knows him as Hootie. Here’s a throwback video from Hootie and the Blowfish about time.

New YouTube Messages…Finally

I was able to get a hold of two messages I preached in 2015 that I uploaded to YouTube. Prior to that, the most recent messages were from 2012. Feel free to go to YouTube.com/matthewwinters1980 to here these messages. “Restoring Your Hope” is about how God wants to restore your faith and His formula to do so. “What’s Your Power Source?” is a message about the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to live the Christian life. May God use these to encourage you.

Good Ole Boy Religion

I live in the rural South where the concept of “good ole boys” is esteemed and considered downright spiritual. It is also an unspoken school of thought within denominations also. Pardon my bluntness, but the greatest brown-noser is the one who climbs the ladder and gets the accolades within many of our denominations, especially the more conservative ones. The more you’re against, the more spiritual you appear. Wear the suit, use the right words, carry yourself a certain way, and you are accepted. It seems the more genuine you are, the more you find yourself to not be accepted nor promoted within the denominational ranks.

I grew up in a denomination that is known to be more liberal. Because of these differences, I removed myself from that denomination to be a part of one that aligned more with the Bible. What I found was more man made religion and legalistic definitions of what makes a person spiritual. I ended up becoming what turned me off from evangelical Christianity as a teenager.

Through various circumstances and greater understanding of Scripture, I began to break free from the denominational trappings while still within a particular denomination. I was a misfit, but I did it. I did not worship the denominational idols nor seek the certificates and awards for giving the most to missions efforts, etc. I simply wanted to be a healthy, biblical child of God.

I know someone reading this today feels like he or she has to conform to what someone else told you rather than the Holy Spirit conforming you into the image of Christ. Break those legalistic denominational shackles and just get back to the Bible. Pray, get in the Bible, and allow God to change you. God never called you to be a good ole boy (or girl). He called you to be you under His life-changing power. So what if you have baggage. We all do. God will take the mess of your life and use it for His glory. The trash talkers will run their mouth about you but hold your head up high in full confidence that God cares more about you than you’ll ever imagine, and you never have to try to impress Him.

God Won’t Make You Love Him

“Love so undeniable, I can hardly speak Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think As You call me deeper still into love.” These lyrics from the song “Good, Good Father” are my absolute favorite. These few words say SO much about our God.

He does not force us to love Him, but His love strongly draws us. For this boy at the age of six, it was difficult to deny the love of God that was poured out on the cross for my sin. I knew that I needed what only He could provide. He drew me to Him at the age of six and draws me deeper into His love. Am I saying He loves me more now? Not at all! He loves me the same now as He did before I ever physically existed. 

God won’t make you love Him, but He will pursue you. You and I are the ones who make the choice to reject or embrace His love. 

As you tell others about their need for Christ, may I remind you that “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2). We do have to point out sin, but we should emphasize the love that overcomes sin…that our good God made a way for us to be with Him when we deserved the worst. 

The love of God to a sinner like me is the most humbling thought. But God didn’t leave me in my sin. As He drew me, I moved toward Him. Will you draw deeper into the knowledge of His love?

I Can’t Quit

When the circumstances of my life were plummeting, I was like a deer in headlights. I had no clue what to do. I knew that divorce was imminent, and that divorced and pastor don’t do well in many circles. I immediately began to seek counsel. I was sure that all the “religious professionals” would tell me to quit and get a job scraping gum off school desks or something. The amazing thing was they all said, “Don’t give up on your calling!” For the first week, I was going to give up on ministry and simply exist until I died. Then came a breaking point. I told God that I will continue to serve Him, and if He didn’t want to use me then He could stop me. The way ministry is expressed in my life has taken on different expressions, but I still have not given up on my calling. The modern day Pharisees and Saducees may read this and criticize, but I can’t quit on what God birthed in my heart many years ago.

God has a word for some reader today. You are ready to quit on something God has put within you. It isn’t happening fast enough for you (I understand that feeling). God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son named Isaac. He didn’t come fast enough. This is a word for me too. God follows through with His promises. We must be faithful, even when the timing kills us. All I know is I CAN’T AND WON’T QUIT!!!!!!!

I’m Changing the Order

I can’t tell you how many times I have prepared a message to preach and been divinely interrupted by God. I felt like a cook who prepared a meal, brought it out to the customer, and the customer changed his mind.

God is different. He is the Creator and Owner of all things, so He can change whatever He wills. You and I must be obedient.

Our problem is that we often have our plans and want God to bless them. He won’t do it. He’ll let us mess up, but He won’t bless something He didn’t order. 

What He wants from us is flexibility and a willingness to change whenever He redirects. Are you and I so determined to have our way that we push God out of the equation?

Here is what I have learned: Surrender! I don’t call the shots. Jesus Christ, my Commander in Chief, called me into His service when I was very young. For that reason, I obey His marching orders. Are you bold enough to join me? “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).