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Yearly Archives: 2014
“I find myself going through a routine each week. I go through the week without living how I should be living—on fire for Jesus. Then I’ll get to Sunday and sit in church and get inspired. I’ll think, yeah, this week is going to be different. I’m going to make a difference and be a light for Jesus. I am finally done sinning… And then the routine begins again.
Thankfully, God is up there, saying, no Matt. No you’re not done sinning… but I am not done loving you, either.
I have been so incredibly blessed with so many talents and I don’t use them for his glory. Even though I may say I’m playing ball for God to be glorified, in reality, I don’t mean it. Constantly living for God is not easy at all; but I challenge you brothers to strive for this and not to get caught up in the typical Christian routine. Believe me, it’s not fun.
Recently, I have been better about glorifying him in all that I do and praising him in my victories and failures; but I’m nowhere close to perfect. It’s so hard to praise him during failure. But what I always try to remember is what Jesus did—why he carried his cross.
Behold, he said, I am making all things new.
That hits me hard. I’m through waiting on my moment. Every day is my moment to praise him, no matter what. And I encourage ya’ll to join me.
Were not done sinning. BUT, God is most definitely not done loving us and never will be.
Have Faith. He’s coming to make all things new.”
Its not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.
“Almost every guy my age will know that this is a quote from Batman ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ But have we ever taken a second look at that quote? Yes, this quote does come at a very inspirational point in the movie; but in many ways it can be an inspiration to our faith. One could argue that what’s underneath does matter; and I completely agree with that statement. Although, what good is it to believe everything we believe and yet do nothing about it? The reality of it is that, as believers, we are called to go out and do something. We can go to a Christian school our entire lives and learn all the right and wrong Jesus answers… But what good does that do if we don’t go and live our lives for the Lord? We are, in theory, this world’s Dark Knights. So if we are the Dark Knights of this earth, then we must go out and save it as we are called to do.
What if Batman went through all of his training and learned the right things to do, but he never did anything about it? What if he never went out and fought Gotham’s criminals but instead stayed in his mansion and watched his city crumble? That is what we are doing as believers when we do not share our faith. We have been equipped with all this great knowledge and yet, when a situation comes for us to use our skills, we back out and say, ‘Well, now is not a good time.’ I challenge you to take a stand. And the next opportunity you are presented, share what you believe. This may not be some ground-breaking experience where your friend turns their life around and follows Christ; but it will make it easier as time goes on and you are given new opportunities.
Batman took a stand to fight Bane and walked out of that fight with a broken back. He did not win that first fight; but it showed him what he must do in order to win future battles. We, as sinners, are going to lose many battles; but we should not let those losses define who we are. When we lose we must rise back up and keep fighting—because in the end we know God’s side has won.
God individually hand-picked every single believer and called them to a unique purpose here on earth. Now, I can’t say that I know what my purpose is yet; and many of you are probably in the same boat as me. But how are we going to find that purpose if we hide in the shadows and say, ‘Well, God didn’t give me the gift of preaching so I’m going to let the preachers invest in possible believers and I will sit here and watch?’ That is not the mindset God intended a believer to have; and if we believe that mindset, then we are really just being selfish. If what we believe is true, then why in the world would we not go around sharing the name of Christ to everyone we meet? Is it because we are insecure and we don’t want to be judged? Well, what if I told you that you shouldn’t care if those people judge you because you have all the satisfaction you need in Jesus?
‘It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.’
So go out and do something.”
“My name is Jesse Vaughan, and I am going to share how friendships have affected my life greatly. Friendships were designed to make life more enjoyable but also to strengthen the soul of each other. Unfortunately, the part I lacked was that some of the friends I made were in no way good influences on the way I wanted to live.
This story begins when I decided to start public high school with no Christian guy friends. As baseball season came along, I made some friends, whom at first seemed completely harmless. In fact, I was fooled into thinking I was leading them to Christ. At the end of my freshman year, two of those friends decided to smoke weed for the first time, which then ended up being a weekly thing for them. I was influenced greatly although I was able to stay clean for quite some time. At this point, I would still hang out with them because – well, they were my friends. I was not ready to give them up and be alone. I thought I could continue to be friends with them and still live clean from drugs and alcohol. I would soon learn how difficult this would be.
The first weekend after school started I went to my friend’s lake house with another friend. This is where I finally gave in to the temptation of alcohol, which later lead to the use of drugs. I must explain all of this to emphasize that the main reason this occurred was due to the fact that I didn’t choose the right friends at first. “Bad company corrupts good morals” is what I have always been told, but just didn’t get it until later.
During baseball season of my sophomore year, a parent of one of my other friends caught her daughter with drugs and told all the parents of the kids she had been texting. I was not on this list but two of my friends were, which is how my parents found out about their actions. I then could not hang out with those two kid anymore, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was lacking a best friend (later I would recognize that I have a perfect best friend who is there wherever I go). As my friends got kicked off the baseball team, all I felt was guilt because I was right there with them doing that stuff. This lead to me confessing to my parents, and truly repenting, and coming to the realization that without Jesus as my best friend, I would never be able to overcome the devil.
God tells us that every day it is necessary to put on the armor of Christ, which is true. Although, fighting a battle with no other soldiers from God’s army is a definite loss; therefore, it’s also necessary to find a band of brothers all fighting for the same cause; but to be certain of an overall victory, God has to be the leader. Of course, there will be fallen soldiers and lost battles; but I have read the back of the book and if we stay on God’s team, we win!”
“In high school, my IRON and FIRE small group was not only a great group of friends, but also a place where I felt comfortable discussing what I felt God was doing in my life. In college, I have been able to follow that model in other small groups I have joined; and I’ve found it’s incredibly important to be surrounded by a group of people that care about what God is doing in my life and are open to discussion about anything that may be on my mind. Also, I’ve found that God teaches me a great deal through investing in the lives of the people around me.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. What is my purpose? What is my role in the body of Christ? What does God want me to do in regards to furthering His Kingdom? Having a small group of guys to talk to about thoughts like these has been uplifting; and seeing how God is working in each of their lives is encouraging. Jeff [Knapp] has certainly found his purpose, what he has been called to, and it is encouraging to have someone that close that has found his calling and has pursued it.
I think it’s often easy to assume we have figured out our calling, thus making it easy to be caught up in the motions of our personal lives and possibly miss God’s bigger picture. For example, I feel like God has led me to lead worship in the church, at least for the time being. But, is he calling me to something more? What if I’m not only supposed to step in and do my part, but God also wants to use me to make some kind of change to the “worship scene?” I’ll never know if I play it safe and do what everyone else has always done before. I don’t think God wants us to live safe lives; but rather, He wants us to listen to Him and be open to His plans for us, even if they seem crazy at the time. The world tells us otherwise, though. Even your “average Christian,” like me, lives a safe life. We want to be comfortable; it’s human nature. I know I’m going to come home every night, eat, and go to bed—but what about Paul in Colossians? He was all over the world, often in danger, doing what God had called him to do. Now, I don’t think that we are all called to outright preaching like Paul was; but that was his calling, and he was always open to what God had to say.
I have been looking for answers to these questions in the Bible, and James 1:22-25 explains it perfectly:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
If we truly seek God, we will find our identity in Christ; but it doesn’t end there. God wants us to be a part of His plan on a daily basis. I hope I have not given the impression that I think I have this figured out because I am nowhere near finding all the answers; but I pray that God continually reveals His Will to me. Although we often don’t see the bigger picture of how God uses us in His plan, I find it to be incredibly rewarding when he does choose to reveal how He has used us to further His kingdom after we have been faithful servants to Him.”
“Food taste better when you are hungry. I feel like there is a certain point I reach when even cooked cardboard tastes as good as filet mignon from Ruth Chris. That point seems to only occur when I am trying to hunt or fish—There was one time when Dad and I were fishing and we didn’t bring any food on the boat. Our guide had 2 pieces of fried chicken; and after a long day of not catching much, half of a drumstick from a very reluctant fishing guide was the most delicious morsel I had ever put in my mouth!
The disciples had a similar experience in John 21. They didn’t quite know what to make of the new resurrected Jesus; and like a true fisherman, Peter and some of the other disciples went out to fish and clear their mind. They caught nothing. The cruel mistress that is the Sea of Galilee bested their angling efforts once again. As they were about to get off the lake, a man (Jesus) appeared to them on the shore. The man told Peter and the other disciples to cast on the other side of the boat. Casting in Biblical times was not a matter of leisurely flicking a pole with bait on the end; casting was more along the lines of throwing a bunch of rocks as hard as you can—more along the lines of trying to run a shrimp boat without any mechanical equipment. Long story short, Jesus miraculously directs them to a monster catch—so big that it was a miracle that the nets didn’t break—and I am not using a figure of speech. However, the ending of the story is what really struck me. Jesus took the time to set up a small charcoal fire and was smoking some fish for the disciples to eat as soon as they got off the water. I can only imagine the elation on the disciples’ faces when they turned around to see the beautiful, brownish-white filets grilling out on the fire.
Jesus took the time to cook fish for a group of men who had completely abandoned him and left him to die just a short time before. These appreciative fishermen remembered so much about the meal that they deemed it important enough to record for all eternity in the canonized scriptures. This gives us a very intimate picture of Jesus—seeing him as somebody who cares so much for the men in his life that he goes through the preparation and planning to have a hot meal ready for some weary fishermen.
When we go about our lives, I am left wondering if we often forget the simple things. Thanksgiving is now coming and America is about to enter in what I like to call the “Marathon of Feasts.” From thanksgiving forward, we set out our best and most delicious food for the ones we love. The casserole that mom makes just right or the fried shrimp pa might try to cook are the types of homemade specialties that we will be stuffing our gullets with for the next month. Food is a great way to show appreciation and love. So next time you are chowing down on a Christmas afternoon rib eye or a four layer cheese dip on New Year’s Day, remember to be appreciative of what you have been blessed with; and consider your quickly defeated hunger a sign of the things to come, when the bread of life feeds you eternally!”
I’ve been thinking a lot about bread lately. Yes, I know that sounds strange in the land of Publix and plenty. In 2014 America, I take bread for granted. It even comes conveniently pre-made and pre-sliced. I don’t even need it some days because I have other options in the pantry. But for some people in this world, and for many throughout history, bread is essential for daily survival. They heavily invest time and energy making sure they have their daily bread. Those folks would have understood exactly what Jesus meant when he asked God to “give us our daily bread.”
You see, I’ve been going through a shortage of “daily bread.” Sure, I have all the food, clothing, and shelter I need to survive; but surviving is pretty pointless without purpose and meaning and people to share my life with. Having graduated last year, I am still in the process of looking for professional work. In the meantime, my life is in an awkward transitional phase where I’m not sure what my mission is, and I am short on friends, community, and intimacy. That’s the daily bread that I’m hungry for. I was feasting on a loaf last year. Now I’m living off the heel. I ask God, “Where is my daily bread and why have You delayed Your provision? God, You promise to provide for me. Why am I short? Are You cheating me? Am I getting second best? Am I getting Plan B? Can I trust You when it seems like You aren’t providing?” God never answers. Like Job, I’m going through my own rough time and God seems absent even though I believe He is sovereignly controlling these events.
And then, this week, God finally answered. It was not pleasant. God first rocked my world through someone I knew intimately. She pulled my skeletons out of my closet in a way that forced me to address them. But that wasn’t all. I ended up reading Hosea to see how God could justify giving Hosea the horrible mission of marrying a habitually unfaithful wife. I pictured myself as Hosea but ended up being the unfaithful wife who has “gone after [the] lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.” It’s like God was saying, “You think you’re flawed? Let Me show you how flawed you really are!” I take my bread for granted. I obsess over it. I worry where my next meal will come from. I get too caught up in my needs and my wants. I stress over my daily bread and forget about the Bread of Life. I worry about my lesser needs and forget about my ultimate need for Christ. I treat Him merely as a means to my daily bread. He is just there to make sure I have all that I need. “Thanks God! I’ll call next time I need something.” Or worse, I forget to thank Him and just assume I am entitled to it.
“Therefore,” God says, “I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her nakedness. So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers; no one will take her out of My hand…I will punish her for the days [she] went after her lovers but Me she forgot.” (Hosea 2 NIV) “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards…I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips…I will betroth you to Me forever…and you will acknowledge the Lord.”
God is not going to allow me to confuse my daily bread with the Bread of Life. Nor will He allow me to forget who lovingly provides my daily bread. Sometimes, it’s just the slice I need to carry on a little longer. And other times, it’s the whole loaf for me to feast on. And sometimes, He temporarily brings an unwanted fast into my life so that I will return to the Bread of Life. As His adopted son, He will never let me starve to death. But, as my mentors often say, “God is more concerned with my character than my comfort.” I am convinced that He is perfectly willing to take away the feast, and let me feel hunger so that I might remember and pursue my ultimate need for the Bread of Life. He’s not cheating me. If anything, I’m cheating myself by obsessing over lesser wants and needs. With that in mind I ask, “God, please forgive me for my wandering. Whether I’m feasting or hungry, let me always remember to eat of the Bread of Life, because he who eats of that will never be hungry.”