Enlarged Family

5-1-14 Matt (43) visit to New Ross In with family

He is my brother…

and he was adopted.

Most of the time I forget that. We laugh at many of the same things. We are both losing our hair. We both make fun of my sister. We are more alike than different.

I guess that is what adoption is supposed to be like. You are part of a family together no matter what.

It is interesting to me that the Bible tells us God has adopted those who follow Jesus as part of his family. It has implications for how we view God but also how we view one another.

If you are a believer then you are part of one large family with me. Most of the time I forget that too.

Desire is not the problem

My friend Justin Davis over at Refine Us ministries posted this today. (It sounds very much like my sermon last Sunday)

In December 2013, I set a goal to lose 40 pounds in 2014. (It was the third year in a row that I had set this goal, but don’t judge me.)

My goal seemed well thought out. It was measurable, it was attainable, and it had a timetable.

What I didn’t have was a plan.

I didn’t have a workout strategy or gym schedule. I didn’t have someone lined up to work out with. I had no meal plan or diet. I had great intentions, but no intentional plan to make my goal a reality.

Easter Sunday we had our picture taken as a family. I looked at that picture and realized I was heavier than I’d ever been. Despite my good intentions, I hadn’t lost a pound.

Within a week I came up with a weight loss plan and as of today, I’ve lost 36 of my 40-pound goal.

Most couples I know have great intentions of improving their marriage relationship. They want to communicate better with their spouse. They want to resolve conflict in a healthy way. They want to improve the sexual intimacy aspect of their relationship.

Desire isn’t the problem…

It’s Not All Good

I’m still thinking a great deal about relationships. Today’s thought comes from two totally different stories.

The first story is about a man I knew in Alaska. I would ask him how he was doing and he would respond with, “It’s all good.” He never told me he was doing well or having a good day. For him life was “all good.”

The second story is from a worship program years ago. I was visiting a Church to start a Revival series in a town nearby. I knew the minister well, but did not know anyone in the congregation. At the beginning of the worship program the minister asked if there were any prayer requests. One man stood up with his wife and he said, “Today we are celebrating 55 years of being happily married.” She quickly shoved her elbow into his side and said, “We have been married for 60 years.” He said, “I know, but we have only had 55 years of happiness.”

As I think about all of the relationships in my life I realize that none of them have been ALL good. Don’t get me wrong – I have people I deeply love that I enjoy a wonderful relationship with. But all of them have some rocky patches. There are days when things don’t go well and we do not get along. My life is rarely all good.

In fact, in many of my weddings I tell the couple that the difference between marriages that make it for life and those that don’t is not the number of problems they have. The difference between the two is there willingness to hold on through the difficult times.

The same is true in all your relationships. If you are experiencing a time of difficulty, then work hard to make it better. But also, hold on for the good times. Someday things will be good again.


One of my favorite books is by Pete Gall and is entitled “My Beautiful Idol.” Honestly it is not the best written book I have ever read. It is not the most interesting or the most insightful. It is full of humor I enjoy that is often dripping with sarcasm. The book basically tells the story of a man’s life as he struggles in relationships and his attempts to serve God in a fallen world. His journey takes him out to Colorado where it eventually comes to an end.

What catches my attention most is the final few chapters. After all has fallen apart in his life his brother drives across country and helps him load everything up to return home. He makes the observation that after everything else has fallen apart it is family who is there to you him get back up.

I am at my parents for a couple of days so that they can see their grandchildren. With almost every visit I am reminded of the simple truth about families. A good family is one that is there when the rest of the world is chaos.

So today I thank God for my family – my father and mother, my wife and kids, my brother and sister and all of the extended family. I enjoy my time with them and I realize I am a blessed man. If you have a wonderful family (and I know that not everyone does) then take a moment to thank God for them. I cannot imagine where my life would be without them.

A Big “Thank You”

I want to take a small opportunity to say “Thank You” to the people of Adrian Christian Church and the community of Adrian in general.

To Adrian Christian Church – I want to say thanks for helping with my house and for you gifts of various materials including food, money, chairs and a bed. I want to say thanks for all of the produce. We have enjoyed all kinds of fresh vegetables while putting 30 packages of corn in the freezer. Thanks for allowing my family to use your pools. Thanks for you conversation and kind words. Thanks for your support and encouragement. Thanks for welcoming my family into your family.

To the community of Adrian – thanks for welcoming me and my family into your community. Thanks to my neighbors for stopping to visit and inviting us over. Thanks to the school for welcoming my boys. Thanks for making the transition from Alaska an easy one. I appreciate everyone’s patience and kindness toward us.

Thanks to everyone who has helped in any way during the past month. The first month has been a great experience and we look forward to many more here in Adrian Missouri.


Difficult People

This week I have been writing about relationships. The people God puts into our life can bring us joy and can connect with us very deeply. Unfortunately not all of the people in our life are like that. In fact, some people can be very draining and difficult.

I have a book on my shelf entitled “Dealing With People You Can’t Stand” by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner. It states that there are 10 types of difficult people.

1. The Tank – the pushy and forceful person
2. The Sniper – the person who identifies your weakness and uses it against you
3. The Know-It-All – they will not tolerate your inferior ideas
4. The Think-They-Know-It-All – they exaggerate, mislead and distract
5. The Grenade – the person who blows there top and hurts everyone around
6. The Yes Person – quick to agree but lack follow through
7. The Maybe Person – They can’t make a decision
8. The Nothing Person – They provide no feedback on anything
9. The No Person – Discouragement is their gift
10. The Whiner – This person carries the weight of the world & wants everyone to know.

Do you know any of these people? Do you know all of these people? Most likely you do.

When we deal with people like these the number one piece of advice the book gives is simply “adjust your attitude.” Don’t expect these people to act differently and then become frustrated when they don’t. Instead, adjust your mindset to handle these people in a way they need to be handled. Most of these people are filled with good intentions, but they have different set of life experiences than I do. They think they are handling things for the best, just like I do. My call is to “bear with one another in love.”

The final chapter of this book is the most painful. It asks this question, “What if people can’t stand you?” What if I am one of these people in the list above? There is a good chance I am. You see, I could spend my whole life trying to change other people while ignoring my own difficulties.

The first part of dealing with difficult people is to look in the mirror and try to fix my own issues. I cannot change other people’s actions but I can change my own.

Relationship Dynamics

Since coming to Adrian Christian Church I have struggled to remember people’s names. I work hard to make connections and remember people clearly. I admit I have been using the pictorial directory as a “cheat sheet” to help me. It is still hard to know everyone.

This effort has led me into many conversations with people about the dynamics of human relationships. To me this is an important piece of information that people in Churches (or any organization) need to know and understand.

All of us have limits to the amount of people we can know and have relationships with. A man named Robin Dunbar did a study that is now referred to as “Dunbar’s number.” He stated that the maximum limit of relationships a person can have is 150. Others have argued with his numbers and said we can actual have a relationship with 230, 250 or 290 people. Dunbar stated that after 150 we might know someone’s name but we do not have an active relationships with those people.

Inside of that 150, I usually break down that group into levels of relationships. I have broken it down this way: we each have 3 really deep relationships, 12 strong relationships, 72 surface relationships and the rest we know their name and one or two minor aspects of their life. I have derived these numbers from the life of Jesus and the relationships he maintained. He had his “inner circle” of Peter, James and John. They were part of the larger group of 12 disciples. Jesus sent out the 72 (or possibly 70) with those 12 included. Finally, after his resurrection the larger group of 120 people stayed true to Jesus while waiting for the Holy Spirit.

I read an article that broke it down very similarly that made sense to me. The article stated that we have 5 people we contact daily, 15 people we contact weekly, 50 people we contact monthly, and 150 people we contact annually.

Why is all of this important?

Because – no matter what the size of a Church’s attendance, those numbers remain the same. It doesn’t matter if you attend a Church with 150 people on Sunday morning or 1500 people you still have the same number of relationships. It doesn’t matter if your Church has one Sunday morning program or five of them. Your relationship number is the same.

When people say, “we no longer know everybody” they are always referring to the group above 12 or 15. They no longer know the names of people they come in contact with and it is frustrating.

Let me be clear – the goal of a Church has never been for us to know everyone otherwise the Church was in trouble at the start with 3,000 people coming to accept Jesus as their Savior in Acts 2. I believe the personal goal for a church member is to make sure that each person is developing the deep relationships and the strong relationships they need.

So instead of trying to know everyone, open up your life to a few. It will be far more fulfilling than knowing people’s names. Trust me on this one.

The Pleasure of People

One of the programs that Adrian Christian Church offers during its Vacation Bible School (VBS) program is called Jr. Missions. The basic concept is that sixth through eighth grade students will come to VBS and then go out of the building to do some mission project. This week they prepared a meal for senior housing and then delivered it. The group also went and played bingo at the assisted living facility. When we arrived both nights it was clear that 25 students plus 4 helpers were going to be a tight fit, so I went out onto the porch to watch and listen from a distance.

To me it was equally clear both nights that the food and the bingo were secondary. The joy of the evening for both older groups was having someone new to talk to. The flip side was also true, while the kids may not have been as thrilled with the senior adults they were filled with joy to be doing this project with their friends. The real joy of the evening was simply being in the presence of other people.

For years I have noticed that the worst type of punishment you can give a person is solitary confinement. If you remove people from our lives there is an absence that affects us deeply. In fact, much of my job has been the preaching of the gospel, but the rest is simple spending time with people. I am called to be there to fill a void in people’s relationships. This usually happens at the hospital or the funeral home or sometimes when I just sit and visit.

I believe this realization has a two-fold application. First, thank God for the people in your life. Second, be the person in someone else’s life. Your presence may brighten someone’s day and help to fill a need by just being there.

Joy of Christian Community

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with dozens of people from my Church. Some of the people have gone from total strangers to friends in the last few weeks. The longer I know people the more I am willing to joke with them. I also notice the more I joke with them the more willing they are to joke with me.

On Wednesday I was joking with a few people and then a thought hit me very clearly. One of the things that I love about being a part of a Christian community is that we can joke with each other without the fear of evil intent. People in Church may joke about my growing bald spot or my round belly or my grammatical errors and I know that most of them are just having fun. They are not being mean or hurtful. Yes, there are a few exceptions to the rule. There are some people who come into Church full of bitterness and anger who are always trying to get a “dig” into other people. But I have found these people are the exception to the rule. Generally most of the people in the Church know their motives and either ignore them or avoid taking it personally.

Honestly, one of the reasons I love hanging around with some Church people is that I can laugh and joke without fear. I believe that joy is a deep-rooted Christian virtue and if you have joy it will show on your face and in your words. Laughter will be in your voice and humor will be on your lips. One favorite old preacher of mine used to say that “laughter is the surest sign of the grace of God in our lives.” In other words, when we realize the grace of God in our lives we will no longer fret over all of our little mistakes and shortcomings, rather we will shrug our shoulders and laugh.

Several years ago they made the gospel of Matthew into a movie. It was taken word for word from the New international Version and was called the Visual Bible. While it had some flaws because of its lack of “harmony” with the other gospels it had one major strength. Jesus was happy. He smiled and laughed. I liked the idea of a serious Jesus in some arenas of life, but I equally like Jesus who is full of joy at the proper times too.

The Church is a lot of things. It is trying to accomplish a great deal in this world. One thing I firmly believe is that the Church is to be a place where people can enjoy life together. I hope you find the Church to be such a place. I know I have.