Going to Another Level

As I was praying about 2018, God gave me a sense in my spirit that this would be a year where I would see some things rise to a new level. I am seeing that in areas: work and church.

We ended last year with a little bit of a shift at work. Some people moved to different positions. As the new year has kicked off, it has been awesome to see some things put into place that have been long awaited. Considering that the company was very small and still laying its foundation when I started with it, I am thrilled to see some areas develop. I am specifically being stretched in my role as Volunteer Coordinator. We are orienting 8 volunteers at the moment. It’s an exciting time. My co-workers are so key in assisting me in this area. When I am out seeing patients, they assist the volunteers in whatever ways that are necessary. We have an administrative assistant that has been a trooper although she is very close to having a baby. Other staff members have had some hiccups in the beginning of this year, but at the end of the day we try to encourage each other through it. Despite our personality differences, we have a great team.

The developments of Overcomers Church have blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. We are having great attendance to be in a rented facility. Our people work hard each week to make things come together. They are stepping up in new ways, and I have to brag on them just like I do my coworkers. The awesome part is that God is sending additional people with musical ability, and we are able to go to a new level there. It isn’t happening like it is happening in every other church, but I’m glad for that. I want God to do a new thing. I don’t want to mimic the “cool” church in town. I want Overcomers to be a unique thing that God does and something for which I can take no credit.

Don’t give up on your dreams! Don’t settle for less than God’s best! He is ready to move you to another level. Are you ready?

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Church Does Not Mean You Walk With Christ

T. R. wrote an amazing post. While many want to criticize millennials for not embracing church the way it used to be, they are actually longing for something deeper than religious services. Please read this as T. R. shares her heart.

Inside Cup

When I first started attending college, all the way till about my junior year. There was a man at my home church. Every time I was home visiting he always asked me if I was in church if I had found a church to go to while in college.

To which, I told him, “No.” I didn’t like the watered down ministeries on my campus tailored specifically for college students, and admittedly, I was also lazy. I didn’t look around much.

I was scolded every single time, “Well, you need to find a church. You need to be in church.”

Each time, I held my tongue trying not to be disrespectful.

(NLT) 1 Peter 2:17, “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.”

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I’ve shared in a few posts how my relationship with Christ is just that. It is a relationship with Christ…

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Church Games

What Are church games? Monopoly? Parcheesi? Rummy? PlayStations and X-boxes in the youth room? I wish it were that innocent. The types of games I see played in church can potentially send some people to hell.

What do people have to accomplish with church games? Who are we impressing? The preacher? Deacons? Small group leaders? They probably see right through you. Do you think you’re impressing God? He definitely sees right through it! You can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes.

Are you tired of playing church games or watching them being played? Then you might like this song.

Real Love

This morning, I preached about those who have religion but lack a relationship with Christ. These are the ones who go to church to impress with their suits, big Bibles, fancy prayers, and “Christianese” (a language foreign to only “true believers”). These are the ones who have to go to fancy buildings and follow rigid structures. They are the first to rise up and speak against anything that doesn’t fit their way of doing things. They hate kids being kids. They don’t want others who aren’t “their kind of people” to be bussed in or drive themselves to their pristine facility. God forbid you have a past. If you do, it might be best to try to hide it lest someone approach you about it or use you as a prayer request in their gossip circles.

With this introduction, do you understand why people are still choosing a relationship with Christ over the institutional church. Some say you cannot have it. Because the traditional church almost burned me, I asked God to raise up a safe place for people to be real and be loved. A place where the recovering addict will be loved even during a relapse. A place where we don’t put our stamp of approval on sin while loving people to a place of restoration and victory.

The bottom line is that people want real love. Not a fake “love you”. Religion leaves you empty. Christ satisfies. I think this song by Blanca says it better than I can.

Lowering God to Our Level

I know that God took on a human body in Jesus Christ, but some people have made God a bit too cozy. He is not my beer buddy nor is He someone with whom I go cow-tipping. He is high and lifted up. His thoughts and ways are higher than mine. He is all-powerful and all-knowing, so why would I want God on my pathetic, powerless level? Maybe it’s because I would want to be comfortable in my sin or I have a blatant disregard for Scripture. Maybe I view the Bible loosely rather than literally. This is not my view. I’m just trying to think like a liberal.

I know a religious group voted today to remove any gender-related descriptive of God. I understand that John 4:24 says that God is Spirit. However I have no qualms about God being personified as a father or the male Jesus. Evidently some do. What is wrong with gender differences? God made me physiologically different from my wife. For that, I am very grateful.

Bottom line: a denomination has no right to force its preferences upon God’s Word. I want to worship the One true God who is worthy of all my praise rather than some watered down version that man has created to accommodate self.

Overcomers Student Ministry Kickoff

Today, Overcomers Church launched its student ministry. We have an awesome group of middle and high schoolers, and they made me proud today. We have 9 who regularly attend, and 2 of those couldn’t be present. They invited others, and we were supposed to have more than we did. For a small church, we had 15 students present. One of our members opened her home for it. I loved the atmosphere. They were tight-knit and interacted with what was taught. The lady who hosted it taught. I was very happy with how well it turned out. The icing on the cake is that most of them will be present in worship tomorrow.

I feel like we had a taste today at what the early church looked like. They met in homes. They ate together. They laughed together. They were real together. While many despise home groups, what I have seen thus far has been a more authentic expression of faith than I have seen between stained glass windows underneath a steeple. I love it, and I cannot wait to see what happens with these students. Maybe the next pastor of Overcomers or a pastor who plants a church out of Overcomers will arise from this group. Please be in prayer for them. The sky is the limit. They are not the church of tomorrow. They are the church NOW!

Did Jesus Have a Spine?

You may be thinking, “Matthew, the answer is obvious. Of course, Jesus had a spine. He had a human body.” Others get where I am going with this. Have you ever heard someone being referred to as “spineless”? This means that they lack courage to say what needs to be said and take necessary action. I know the popular trend is to portray Jesus as this weak guy that went easy on everybody, but that is not the Jesus of the Bible.

You may say, “Matthew, why would you say such a thing? Jesus is all about some love.” This is true, but John 1:14 says He is “full of grace AND truth”. If He is full of truth, what do you think will come out of His mouth? Flattery? Southern charm? A good old “bless your heart”? Let’s look first at how He responded in an intolerable situation.

“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matthew‬ ‭21:12-13‬ ‭NKJV). Did you notice what Jesus did? He turned over tables and told the money changers that they had turned His house into a den of thieves. Southerners in America might say that wasn’t good manners. Jesus had the authority, didn’t He?

Let’s look now at some things He called the scribes and Pharisees.

1. Ye blind guides (Matt. 23:16).

2. Ye fools (Matt. 23:17).

3. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees…for ye are like whited supulchres…full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matt. 23:27).

4. Ye serpents (Matt. 23:33).

5. Ye generation of vipers (Matt. 23:33).

6. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Luke 11:44).

7. Ye are as graves which appear not (Luke 11:44).

He was dealing with religious people who did not want any part of Him. Once again, I can hear you say, “Jesus shouldn’t be name calling.” He is God. He knows the hearts of people, so what He says is truth.

While Jesus is a compassionate Savior, He has no tolerance for sin. People are quick to quote Jesus for saying that those who are without sin should cast the first stone, yet they skip the end when He told the adulterous woman to “go and SIN NO MORE”.

Jesus isn’t spineless. He is very much confrontational. I didn’t say He was hateful. I said that He speaks against what is wrong while meeting them where they are. May we not shy away from speaking the truth in love because we have a weak, unbiblical view of the real Jesus.

Fitting In

Many of us go through life trying to “fit in”. In an attempt to be accepted by an individual or group of people, we pretend to be someone we are not. From a totally different angle, some of us are comfortable with who we are while being unable to fit in our clothes. That’s where I am.

We can respond to this a few different ways:

  1. We can change the outside. We do this by getting clothes that fit. In this, we are changing the environment to fit us. It is a form of change, but we have made no personal change other than a new outfit or wardrobe. I’m not saying that is wrong. Changing the environment (wardrobe) to suit us may be the best option because our physique is where it should be.
  2. We can change the inside. This will demonstrate itself outwardly. If we lose weight or develop muscle, we are changing what goes into the clothes as well as the clothes themselves.

What do I recommend? I would recommend the latter. Any of us can try to force what is close to us to change, but it takes work to make personal changes. Our personal changes can lead to a chain reaction where we influence change around us.

You and I were created to stand out. Play it safe if you wish, but God has put a pioneer spirit within me. Be a trendsetter! Walk into the room and set the thermostat! I’m not talking about changing the temperature on a little box. Be the kind of person who walks into a room and sets the atmosphere because of the type of person you are. May your positive energy bring joy and influence.

While you may look at “fitting in” as a problem, it may be a blessing in disguise. I spent years trying to fit in, only to discover that I was in an environment that stifled me. I had to be in a situation where I could help change the atmosphere. Don’t settle for less! Choose to stand out! It’s the only way you will make a difference.

What Do/Will People Think of Me?

How many people allow this question to terrorize them? I would say the vast majority of people allow this question to eat away at their spirit. I have.

When I returned to this area in January 2014, this question plagued me. All I could think was that I left the area on a high note. I had a good music ministry and was headed into my first pastorate, only to come back with no job, no wife, and only one child temporarily. I went back to the church where I previously served my first Wednesday back in town. I sat on the back row thinking that my life was over. I was simply existing. No one ever said that to me. However, that is what the enemy wanted me to think.

When I took a break later from church ministry, the same question ate away at me. I wondered what people were thinking. Was I a “has-been”? Did they consider me to be out of God’s will? Were they gossiping about how I had “backslidden”? I hate to say that it didn’t end there.

When I announced that I was starting a church, I felt so stupid. Who was I to start a church? I didn’t grow up in Oconee County. I didn’t have the following that other pastors in the area have. What would people think about the “twice married Matthew” starting a church? None of that should matter.

The bottom line is, “What does God think about it?” Is God pleased with my life? So what if people are talking behind my back. They will have to give account for what they say to the Lord Jesus as will I.

With that in mind, I have to block out the noise and let people be people. I have One Master to please, and His name is Jesus! I’ll leave you with this song.

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