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Category Archives: Faith
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
The reality of trying to find your identity can be a daunting task, at any age level. Wandering through life with no direction is frustrating, confusing, and lonely at times. Along with many others, there was a time in my life when direction was the last thing on my mind, and my identity was found in the mirror, in my stats, and how people viewed me. Because of this, I ran from structure, responsibility, friendships, family and even God. Especially God! But eventually, I had to come to grips with who I was and what I was created to do.
By God’s design and grace, I have had many men pour their life out in the attempt to improve mine; and with deep conviction, they have held me accountable for my failures and praised me in my victories. Through their interaction with me, I have found Christ; their example was a direct reflection of Christ’s love for me. But not all of these men sought me out. I had to realize that life is not a one-person game. You have to be intentional about who you spend time with; and through that, your direction and identity will be found. This is the essential aspect to a man’s life as a follower of Christ. This is how I was able to grow and learn in Christ, surrounding myself with mentors that pour into me, peers that will encourage me, and younger guys that I can pour into. I would not be who I am today without these men and their dedication to my pursuit of God’s Kingdom.
It all started with a simple letter that one of those men shared with me years before I was ready to accept it. I believe it was a personal arrow from God meant for my heart. This man didn’t sit me down and give me a long speech or try to make it an important conversation, he simply wrote it in a letter to me before I left for college. I read the note along with the other cards I had received from graduation, took all that money out and kind of forgot about it. It sat on my desk for almost two and a half years staring at me day after day, as I lived my life for myself with no direction or identity. After two and a half years of trying to balance the parties, football, military, school, and an outward Christian shell, I knew I had to find another way to live. The Holy Spirit was doing a great work in me and I didn’t even know it.
One day, I was cleaning up and began to throw an old journal away. This journal was a collection of letters written by my ex-girlfriend’s family (she eventually agreed to marry me); we had dated in high school and she thought it would be nice to have letters from everyone since I was going far away for college. She broke my heart at Christmas my freshman year; but don’t worry guys, it only took me three years to get her back! But that’s not the import part. Re-reading these letters was so amazing. Her two little brothers talked about how much they loved me and looked up to me; her mom told me how proud she was of me and how thankful she was for how I treated her daughter; Even her older brother said how impressed he was with me and how mature I was for leading his sister in the right way; But then I got to her dad’s letter (the one I talked about earlier) that I had totally forgotten about. Here’s what it said:
There are only three thing a man needs in this life.
A Man must have
a Master to Serve, a Women to Love, and a Hill to Die On.
Now at the time, at eighteen, that did not make too much sense. But at twenty-one, living in sin, desperately yearning for direction and identity, it made perfect sense. And yes, this man is now my father in-law; but at the time, he was a father investing in me to make sure his little girl was with the right man. When I realized this, sitting on my floor in my nasty room at The Citadel in tears, it was one of the most peaceful times of my life.
Finally I had clarity; finally I had direction; and shortly after, I finally found my identity in Christ. In doing this, I completed the first step in finding my Master to Serve, giving me purpose; and no longer was I aimlessly wandering. Christ gave me direction for my life and the passion to influence and impact others, like so many have done for me.
After about six months, by the grace of God, I was able to reconnect with my ex-girlfriend, now my future wife, and no longer was I searching for a “Woman to Love.” I being to realize that it’s all about the order of things. Any time in my life where my “Master” is not number one on my list, things don’t go well; relationships end; jobs are lost; hearts are broken; and life gets really off-course. There was a very good reason why my father in-law put a “Master to Serve” first. It’s a distinct reminder that Christ is number one; and even if your “Woman” leaves and your “Hill” is burnt to ashes, your “Master” that you serve will always be there.
To wrap this up, my wife and I are working on a “Hill to Die On.” And I used to think that my “Hill” was going to be a house with some land where the kids and dog can run and play. But now at 25 years old, I think of it more as our platform as a family. How are we impacting the Kingdom of Christ? Who are we influencing in a positive way? Is Christ glorified in our actions, words, and thoughts? Those questions are my “Hill to Die On.”
It’s not complicated; it’s not fancy; and it might take you a couple years to really understand what it means; but when that arrow finally pierces your heart, you will have direction and identity in Christ Jesus; and no amount of money, success, or fame will ever compare.
When I think of one of the biggest struggles within Christianity, I am immediately brought to the issue of our image of who God is. There is a certain desire among Christians to disregard the Old Testament entirely because we want to believe in a God who is only loving, comforting, soft and safe. Well, the inherent flaw within this line of thinking is that God will always be and has always been the same. This is bad news for those of us who want a God who is safe. He is not and never has been safe. However, (to steal an amazing line from a great book) He is good.
I sometimes find myself desiring this soft and safe God who only loves; but this comes at a great cost. I have omitted the traits of God that can be hard to deal with or even talk about. When I ask for and desire a God who only coddles me and gives me what I want and not what I need, I am missing out on his goodness in discipline. I am missing out on the seasons of sorrow that seem bleak in the moment but lead to unimaginable growth and understanding. I am missing out on my protector and provider. I am as Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup to quench his hunger. When I am in the moment, I forget that there is always a plan for the pain. There is always an end goal that is for good. I forget that God has view of all things in time and space while I only have a point of view. In my seeking a loving God, I am actually seeking a God who is less loving than the living God.
Now, this may seem like a rant about a single random thought, but I believe there is a reason Christians are trying to omit certain aspects of God’s character and it is a tough pill to swallow. I believe that the specific parts of Gods that we are avoiding are the parts of his image he has specifically molded into men.
When I think of marriage, I see a more complete picture of God than in any other place on this side of heaven. Women embody the more gentle-natured and caring side of God’s heart while men are more of protectors of their family and providers for their family by nature. These qualities of God, specifically placed in men and women, are to provide us with a better image of who God really is. I believe that we men have failed at embodying our half. We have missed the mark by either being too overly authoritative, too passive, or too absent.
This is not all men, as I personally could list off many names who do embody these qualities well, but as a whole generation of men, we are failing. This is why I believe IRON and FIRE is doing amazing kingdom work in the hearts of men. We need to succeed as men. It is not only important that the next generation have fathers that love them well, but it is also imperative that we give the world a better picture of how God loves us, without being weak.