Posts filed under ‘Thoughts’

Pastors, Let Your Deacons Serve

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I recently wrote a post titled Pastors, Let Your Deacons Serve at For The Church

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with the chairman of our deacons when he casually made a comment that revisited me throughout the day. Our conversation was focused on several upcoming opportunities and decisions that would require preparation and administrative work. As we were making a list of things to do, I “offered” to take care of the tasks so that he would not have to bother with them.

With wisdom and gentleness, he said, “Matt, I know you like to take control. I know you work hard and like to take charge of these things, but allow me to do this.” The operative word in that comment was “control”. In that moment the Holy Spirit quickly revealed that my “offer” was actually a manifestation of my idolatrous bow to control.

Read the rest here.

July 13, 2016 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

This Is My Son.

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This is our precious son.

We have taught him about MLK, and that Americans have not always been nice to brown skinned people.

But, it breaks my heart to think that one day I will have to fully explain to him the complex brokenness of our world.

One day I will have to fully explain our country’s disgraceful history of racial discrimination.

One day I will have to help him understand that we, as a country, have not fully moved beyond these racial issues.

Thankfully, I will also get to point him to the coming day that we read about in Revelation 21.

The day when our loving Father “will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things will have passed away.”

On that day, God will “make all things new.”

On that day every believer, from every “tribe and people”, will “stand before the throne and before the Lamb”, as one (Revelation 7).

How long, O Lord?

July 8, 2016 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Teaching and Disciple-Making

Where is the intersection of Sunday School and disciple-making? I recently sat down with the North Carolina Baptist State Convention and shared my understanding of how these two cross paths.

June 27, 2016 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Sin of Retaliation

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

The natural mode of our hearts is expressed well in the Latin phrase lex talionis, which means “the law of retaliation.” When someone crosses us or makes demands on us our initial reaction is to respond in the same way. Why not? This is the way we’ve heard that the world works. Right? Retaliation is sinfully seductive and bitterly sweet.

However, as Christians we operate by the laws of a different world, the Kingdom of God. This is why in Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says, “you have heard it said … but I tell you.” What does he tell us? Jesus demands that when someone insults us, we should not respond in a way that escalates violence. Instead, we should respond in love towards our attacker, in a way that prevents further attacks or stops the progression of violence.

Moreover, when someone takes your possessions, Jesus calls us to respond in the way of love, namely, to go the extra mile, to give freely to those in need. In many cases, those who pursue our possessions have an actual need they are trying to meet.

Doesn’t Jesus call us to give to those who are truly in need?

Now, we can split hairs on this passage and develop numerous scenarios where helping can hurt. Or we can think of many modifiers to these words in order to show how these things may or may not play out. But I think that misses the point of the passage.

In fact, the initial response of counting the costs to respond this way shows that retaliation is our natural desire.

However, Jesus calls us to think differently. Moreover, His Spirit enables us to respond differently.

In a unnatural way – better yet, a supernatural way – our need for retaliation and personal justice is not bound by the “pay out” on this earth.

If our self-esteem is found in our stance before God, we can lovingly stand in the face of sinful insults. If our treasure is found in the inheritance we have as children of God, we are not devastated when our earthly belongings are taken. This is the power of the gospel.

June 20, 2016 at 7:15 am 1 comment

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enimies

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

The election season is a good time to gauge fears of our fellow citizens. Politicians are experts at exposing and exploiting the suspicions of our culture. Right now, many people fear Middle Easterners because they merely resemble their religious extremist neighbors. Some candidates have proposed that we respond to entire people groups with fear by shutting them out.

However, Jesus calls us not to respond in fear, but in faith. To open our hearts to those who are different that we are. Even to our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

It is easy to love those who are like us, but what reward is there in that? Is God not sovereign over all things? Does He not allow His sun to rise on the evil and on the good? Does He not send rain on the just and on the unjust?

We know from scripture that God hates those who are resolutely and unrepentantly wicked. Those who do, and intend to do harm against us will face the judgment of God. In most cases, even those who resemble the enemy do not intend harm. Without reservation, we are called to reflect the grace that we so commonly enjoy.

Doesn’t God show grace and care for all of His creatures? Absolutely. Therefore Jesus’ disciples are called to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy. I recently heard International Mission Board President David Platt say that “Only an Americanized Christianity would prioritize security over the proclamation of the gospel.” We must remember the power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God. When we face the enemy, and the perceived enemy, our initial response should be love: pray for them; love them; open your hearts to them.

The power of the gospel dissolves fear and empowers us to act in faith. Perhaps the most poignant way to apply this text is to remind us of Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, love others with the same amount of energy and tenacity that you would for your own well-being. How would you want to be treated?

June 14, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Is Sunday School Still An Effective Ministry?

I recently sat down with The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina to talk about the role of Sunday School in church ministry. Here is one short video from our time together.

April 9, 2016 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Do 20% of the people do 80% of the church work?

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This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

We have all heard of the economic law labeled the Pareto Principle. According to Vilfredo Pareto, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. This principle has been applied to the fields of business, science, software and even criminology. In church life, it is usually said that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.

In other words, 80 percent of the congregation remains passive when it comes to living on mission for God.

While it may not be true of all congregations, I think it is safe to say that large portions of the body of Christ do treat church like consumers. For the 80 percent, as theologian David Wells has reminded us, the church is a place to come and receive religious services and goods. If their needs are not met, they begin church shopping.

However, in 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul is clear, the body does not consist of one member but of many. And the apostle Peter is even more explicit, “… As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). This is how God designed the church. And God calls each and every individual to serve the body with the gifts they have been granted.

The simple truth of the matter is that Christ came to seek and save the lost so that the saved would serve one another and seek the lost. In fact, it is very clear from the New Testament that by the fruit of ones life, others can observe the genuineness of their salvation. Church consumers attend church to have their needs met.

True members of the church have been served to deeply by Christ, that their needs are abundantly met, and that flows over into their desire to meet others needs. The church body is just that, a body. And a body needs all of its parts functioning in order to be healthy. The question is, if you have been saved, are you being a good steward of God’s gracious gifts?

March 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm 1 comment

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Harvesting this season's crop at the @fairviewbc church garden.

We are going to bag the potatoes, staple a recipe/invite card on them, and deliver them to our neighbors. Family hike by the river. Little church people.

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