Long Holiday Weekend

Tomorrow starts the run into the fourth of July. Most places around here start festivities on Saturday, and I know events are running through Tuesday the Fourth. With that said, I know that no one is going to spend their time wondering, “What does preacher Matt have to say on his blog?” You will be out enjoying life, family and the height of summer as everyone should be doing. I know I will be enjoying the weekend along with our time of worship this Sunday morning.

This will be the last post for a few days, and I will get back into the swing of writing more soon. Until then, may God bless you all and I am glad I live in a country where I currently have the freedom to write about God and living for him without persecution.

Have a great holiday weekend.

A Plea for Strong Godly Men

This past Sunday after the sermon the Church was taking the time to share in communion. During this period in our worship, there was a video playing on the screen to create a mood of meditation. The video was the song “O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship. We were playing the video they have uploaded to YouTube with the images on the screen.
[You can watch the video HERE]

I have seen the video several times and heard the song a hundred more times. This time I noticed something I have never noticed before. During the video, there is a section that shows a baptism program at their Church. It starts at the 3:00-minute mark and lasts until the 4:00-minute mark.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the baptism decisions were being made by men. That caught me off guard a little as most the baptisms that I perform are women and children. The second thing I noticed was the guy they showed at the 3:54 point who is last in the video section is quite the man. He is big, strong and handsome. He is a manly kind of man, and he is celebrating his new life in Christ. The image caught me like never before.

His decision filled me with joy and then with a moment of despair as I thought, “Where have all the real men gone in the Church?”

Where are the men who lead their wife in faith?

Where are the men who lead their family in spiritual growth?

Where are the men who lead their Church with confidence?

Where are the men who lead their community in the power of God?

Unfortunately, many of the men I know have little spiritual strength. They either do not come to Church, or they come only because the wife tells them too.

Very few men are leading the way in spiritual growth. Few read their Bible or do anything to help themselves grow. Over 80% of the readers of blogs like mine are female.

Churches are desperately searching for male leadership. Recently I was reflecting on the idea that in 24 years of ministry I have only brought three men onto Church leadership as Elders. That is because either no one was qualified or simply no one wanted the job.

Most men I know have settled into going to work, coaching their kid’s sports team, or doing some hobby they enjoy. They have stepped back in their faith or completely stepped away.

Today, one of my biggest hopes is to reconnect men to their faith. I want to see men step up and be strong Godly leaders in every area of their lives. I want to challenge men to be more than people who watch faith from the side. I believe the future of our marriages, families, Church and even our country will depend on whether men are willing to be all that God wants them to be.

It all starts with one man willing to stand up and say, “I am ready to live for Christ.” Thank you guy at the 3:54 point for reminding me of what it means to be a Godly man.

My Identity in Jesus

I cannot imagine what it is like to live a life without faith. I mean that literally. My parents took me to Church on the first Sunday of my life, and I have been mostly faithful clear through to today. There has never been an extended time in my life without faith. I also mean that spiritually. How does someone live a meaningful life without faith?

My faith teaches me –

1. God created me. I am a child of God. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. I am not the result of a random DNA experiment. My life is not a mistake.

2. God loves me. God created me so that I could spend time in fellowship with him. He is the eternal father who is connected to his children in a profound way that words cannot express. Someone of significance cares about me.

3. I am forgiven. When I chose to walk away from God and openly rebel against his will, he chose to offer forgiveness in Jesus death on the cross. While at times I may feel guilt and shame, those will never define my relationship with God. I am loved beyond my mistakes.

4. I have a purpose. God created me, and then he recreated me in Christ Jesus. He takes both parts and shapes me to serve him in the world. I get to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever I go. I am not just hoping my life has an impact. I know that God is using me for his purpose.

5. I have a family. I am not the only one that God created, loves, forgives and uses in the world. I am part of a group of people united by the same understanding and experience. There are people like me in almost every place on the globe. Just because of our similar faith we are connected without even knowing each other. I am a part of people who call me their own.

6. I have hope. This life is a journey of learning and growing until I reach a destination. My faith looks at the end of life with hope and joy. I believe there is a heaven, an eternal promised land, waiting for me on the other side of death. I do not look at the future with despair, for me, to die is gain.

While this is not an exhaustive list of my identity in Christ, these are the places my mind lands daily. When the world is telling me, I am just a pile of flesh that is here by random chance. When the people around me are whispering that I am not handsome enough, or smart enough or have achieved enough to have any real value. When people are fighting desperately against their final breath because it will all be over soon. When the world seems dark and depressing, and many have no love or hope. I understand that my faith has made me different.

My life has infinite value and worth. No one can tell me any different.

Today is Your Day

It’s Monday. You can hang your head and start another week with despair.

You can mope around about starting a new work week. You can miss the freedom of the weekend. You can whine all the way till Wednesday.

There is another option. You can make today great.

Today can be the start of a wonderful and amazing week. You can spend time with people you love. You can touch the lives of other people for good. The kingdom of God can be present in your world through what you do today. You can be the catalyst for change. You can start something that will make your world a better place. You can shine your light in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

I think we need to be continually reminded that “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 – NIV)”

Tomorrow is never promised to us. All we have is today. Make it a great one.

Being Christ to People on Sunday

Those who call themselves Christians accept the responsibility that we represent Christ wherever we go. This is true at our jobs, in our homes and even in our Churches. Each interaction we have sends a message about the Jesus we follow.

We ordinarily just tell people that on Sunday they need to be friendly. While that is true, today I want to be more specific. Here are ten ways you can be Christ to people this Sunday morning at Church.

1. Smile. Simple yet still inviting.

2. Shake Hands. Walk up to a stranger and say, “Welcome. I am glad you are here today,” while looking them in the eye.

3. Talk Nicely to People. Ask questions and listen to answers. Respond calmly and nicely no matter what they say. Use gentle words.

4. Help guests. Ask if you can help them find anything.

5. Don’t Gossip. You may think no one hears you telling those stories about other people in the Church. They do, and it hurts the cause of Christ.

6. Pray with & for People. No explanation needed.

7. Let Go of Agitations. This is not your time to complain about the preacher, the music and whatever wrong you feel is happening to you. A negative attitude hurts everyone.

8. Give up Your Seat (and parking spot). Save the best places for other people. Park far way and sit at the front.

9. Engage. If you talk and are disinterested in the music and the sermon, other people will get the impression that what we are doing is not important.

10. Don’t Be Weird. I know this is subjective, but try to act normal. Save your love of Star Wars or macramé or whatever for another time. You scare people who do not know you yet.

I know this is not a complete list of ideas. What might you add?

Just remember that your every word and action represents Jesus to the world. This might not be greater anywhere than in the Church.