6 Years!

I’ll never forget how things happened overnight in 2015. In June, I met my wife. In July, we began our courtship. On September 11, we were married. Remember the song by Bonnie Raitt “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about”? Jennifer and I got everyone’s curiosity up here in the Golden Corner of South Carolina. Today, we celebrate 6 years of marriage.

These 6 years have not been without their challenges. In 6 years, we have had 3 babies and had to move out of our house due to circumstances beyond our control. Add to that the challenges of blending a family. It’s not for the faint of heart. I firmly believe our past hardships from our previous marriages helped us be able to weather these storms a little better.

To Jennifer, I want to thank you for taking this journey with me. I warned you that I was still called to ministry, and the road would be bumpy. You were willing to sign up for the roller coaster. Thank you for riding the waves and handling the challenges with grace and faith! Here’s to getting old and wrinkly together😂!

Remembering Pastor Ken Fetuao

Approximately five years ago, I was reaching out in a Facebook pastors group for support. I knew I was still called to be a pastor, but not many churches would touch a divorced guy with a 39 1/2-foot pole. Several pastors commented with their platitudes, but I received a message from a guy who had been in the same boat. He wanted to talk on the phone, so we set up a time and had a good conversation that would open the door for periodic contact over the next several years.

Many Facebook connections never get to meet face to face, but Ken and I met for lunch when he was in the area last September. He was looking for preaching opportunities in our area, so I connected him with a local denominational leader. It was the least I could do for a man who encouraged me.

Around lunch time today, I found out Ken went into the presence of the Lord he faithfully preached. In this stage of his life, Ken had a heart for churches that were struggling. There was no price tag to ministry for him. Based on the posts I have seen so far on his Facebook page, my life was not the only one that was touched by his kindness.

Please pray for those who have been touched by his life and ministry. I pray the Lord will give me the heart for souls that this dear brother had. Enter into your reward, Pastor Ken! Until we meet in glory!

Mail Carrier

I have never had a job with the postal service, but I’ve been a mail carrier all my life. So have you! You might say, “Matthew, I don’t get it!” Let me explain😀.

We all deliver a message. The content of the message varies. You might be the bearer of good news, bad news, facts, misinformation, gossip, or the gospel. Depending on the kind of mail we deliver, some may be excited to be in our presence, while others may be excited to see us take a walk.

What kind of mail do you deliver? Are you delivering the right kind? If not, what kind of mail should you be delivering? God, help us deliver a message that brings life and blessing to others, even when the message might cut against our sinful nature.

Ghosted

“Ghosted” is a very popular term and something many of us experience. The New York Times defines it this way: “Ghosting — when someone cuts off all communication without explanation — extends to all things, it seems.” In my years of ministry, I have been ghosted multiple times. People who promise to join the church choir will ghost you if they have no intention of really joining. Those who don’t want to hurt your feelings will ghost you by avoiding your phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and other forms of communication. Ghosting is quite common, and I wish I could say I’ve never ghosted anyone, but I’m very guilty.

Ghosting displays our lack of courage. We who seek to avoid conflict find it much easier to ghost someone than to tell them how we really feel. While it seems that social media has made lions out of mice in some respects, it is still the easier form of avoidance in our modern, spineless society.

I’m so glad God never ghosts us. He doesn’t go out of His way to avoid us. He lovingly corrects us when we need it and gently comes alongside us when we need His comfort. He promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and He has since “eternity past” delivered on all His promises.

Are you tempted to ghost someone? Maybe you’re currently doing that. Consider how you would feel. Take the high road. Answer that phone call. Have that face-to-face conversation. Be the courageous person God called you to be. You’ll be glad you did!

Accepting Your Assignment

In the world of ministry, there is an element of pressure to be a certain thing. If you pastor a church, you need to have certain goals, attire, etc. My reality is that I haven’t fit the modern bill for a pastor. I’m an old soul. I’m the guy that most people didn’t realize was in the room until 30 minutes later if at all. Guess what?!? That’s okay!

God doesn’t go after a certain type that impresses Him. Who would impress the Almighty anyway? According to I Corinthians 1, He says “not many mighty and not many noble are called” so that no flesh should glory in His presence. God never called me to be someone’s expectations. He has given me a specific assignment. Any other pursuit is a demonic distraction.

Maybe you’re struggling with who you are in Christ and how God has wired you. That’s okay! Allow God to show you your true identity and give you the contentment to accept that!

Am I Really Trusting God?

Surrender is a buzzword in the Christian community. The reality is that we who profess Christ as personal Savior talk more about surrender than we actually do it. We talk about how God is able, but our actions give little to no evidence.

We are a generation that has to prove something. We’re proving something, alright! In our busyness, we accomplish little. We are trying to prove to the world that we are putting forth an effort. It is true that there is an element of work we must do, but there is also an element that is out of our hands. We have been taught that if we don’t produce results, then we are failures. When others are involved, we can’t force their reactions and responses. Ultimately, there is One who is able to take our feeble efforts and change the most impossible hearts. There is One who can make a way out of no way and make crooked paths straight. He is the God of Heaven, and anyone can have a personal relationship with Him through Christ.

I was reminded this morning of how much I stress over producing results and making things happen. As I was listening to a worship service from a church in Virginia, I heard these lyrics of the song “Better Than I Thought.” I will leave you with those. Maybe this needs to be your song.

… Speak to me
When the silence steals my voice
You understand me
You understand me…

Come to me
In the valley of unknowns
You understand me
You understand me, God

So I throw all my cares before You
My doubts and fears don’t scare You
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought
I stop all negotiations
With the God of all creation
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought You were… So much bigger than I thought
You’re bigger than I thought You were…

I believe
But help my unbelief
You understand me
You understand me…

Help me reach
The faith that’s underneath
You understand me
You understand me
Yes, You understand me, God
You understand me

I throw all my cares before You
My doubts and fears don’t scare You
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought
I stop all negotiations
With the God of all creation
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought You were

I will rest in the Father’s hands
Leave the rest in the Father’s hands

So I throw all my cares before You
My doubts and fears don’t scare You
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought
I stop all negotiations
With the God of all creation
You’re bigger than I thought You were
You’re bigger than I thought
You’re so much bigger than I thought You were

Zooming In When I Should Be Zooming Out

My wife and I rarely ride to church together. I like to arrive early, and she typically runs behind, so I drive separately. Because our van has been less than dependable, we rode in my car today. Anyone with several small children knows how a car ride with a mom, dad, and 3 small children 5 and under can be. Amazingly, Jennifer and I were able to have some quality conversation.

As we were making our 40-minute journey to church, I was reflecting on our current situation and upcoming changes (those I will share at a later date). I may be a pastor, but I made a really short-sighted comment in relation to what God might be doing with some of these changes. Jennifer, as any wife with a better perspective would do, points out my short-sighted view of God and challenges me to see a bigger picture of what God is doing.

How many of us try to hurry through life and zoom the camera in rather than try to get the full view? It’s like rushing to the end of a movie to see the happy ending while skipping over the plot. I’m the guy who wants to skip over the plot of life, especially if it doesn’t fit my desired narrative.

May I remind you (as I am reminding myself) that God has your best interest at heart (mine too). That best interest may involve allowing things into our lives that will sharpen us. We would not choose these things, but God is more into developing our character than our comfort.

As you go through life’s journey, take time to see the bigger picture of what God is doing. While it takes more time and effort, you’ll gain more appreciation and understanding of God’s greater plan. Let me let you in on something – He’s working all things together for the good of those who love Him.

The Holy Spirit and Writer’s Block

Since May 2 of this year, I have had the honor and privilege of pastoring a church once again. With that comes weekly sermon preparation (which I deeply love). The downside to that is when you get a case of writer’s block. Such was the case this week. I spent the week with James 5, the next passage in my series in the book of James, but the sermon formulation just wasn’t happening. That can be a problem, especially when you are down to the day before.

When I realized the writer’s block was not going away, I asked God what was going on. Could God be up to something? Could there be a different word for the congregation than James 5? The answer was YES! God reminded me of my own rush through life without focusing on Him, and He directed me to Psalm 23. When you focus on the word pictures in Psalm 23, it causes you to slow down and relax. The Lord, our Shepherd, makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. He is our Rest. He is our Provider. He is all we need!

Maybe you are experiencing a block in your life. You’ve been begging for a breakthrough, and everything is at a standstill. You feel like God isn’t working, but God is most likely doing something better for you than what you think you need. Like my writer’s block served as a detour from script and ministered to the hearts of those in the room, your block will reveal something better. I will close with this verse that was shared by one of the men in our church as he testified this morning – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Trust His unseen hand!

An Explosive 4th of July

I think we all think explosion when we think of July 4, but it is typically related to fireworks. Today, our church had a few explosions. Let me say these were good and, well, not so bad explosions.

First, let me begin with the good explosion. I have now been pastor for 2 months. On a Sunday when most churches would have a significant number on vacation, we had the largest crowd since my arrival. I was told by our elder who counted that it was the largest in 3 years. We have had several guests who have been continually returning and speaking very positively about their experience with our church body. Needless to say, I’m thrilled over this positive explosion.

After our service, we had a meal and time of fun with indoor and outdoor games. We were having a blast until another “explosion” took place. This explosion was water from the outside spigot coming in through my office, down the hall, and into the fellowship hall. Members and guests alike jumped in and cleaned up the mess quickly. No one complained or looked at it as an inconvenience. We were able to clean up and be out by the time another church who uses our facility was coming in to set up.

The day isn’t over, and I have no idea if anything else will happen today, but I’m thankful to experience what is happening at the church. Whatever “explosions” come our way, one thing is certain – God saw them coming, and He will see us through!

Tests and Lessons

Deer and drivers seem
to really like this door😂.

Since I returned to the pastorate, I have been reminded about tests and lessons. It was so much easier when I simply attended a church and listened to someone else preach a message. I still had a responsibility to put the Bible into action, but I’m tested a lot more now I’m the one preaching weekly and providing spiritual leadership to a church. Today proved just that!

Last Sunday, I started a series in the book of James. If you haven’t read that part of the Bible, then you don’t realize how much it gets all up in your business. The first message I preach was about trials and temptations (a very timely message, considering what some of our people at church are going through). This week, I spoke on the subject of what real faith looks like. My first point was “How we respond to trials tells us what our faith looks like.” Based on James 1:19-20, we are to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We must hear out a matter first, hear from God on the matter, and then respond (not react). We are often quick to fly off the handle. Let’s just say I got tested on what I preached today.

After our church service, I was going to take my mom back to her place and grab lunch on the way. On the way to eat, a man decide he was going to ease over into my car to change lanes. Thankfully, no one was hurt and his car had no damage. I did just fine while we waited for the police officer to arrive and then finish the report. After that, let’s just say some “hangry” people flew off the handle for just a little bit. I laugh now, but we were super grouchy because of the shifts that we did not plan for our day. I was reminded how I must practice what I preach, and that can be ever so challenging.

What does this have to do with tests and lessons? I was tested after I gave the lesson. I didn’t pass so well, but I pray it was just a practice quiz and I can learn from this when the real difficulties come. Some of us get tested first and then get the lessons, but we all receive tests and lessons.

Whatever you’re going through, I challenge you to be teachable and trust the hand of God in the matter. Good and bad happen to us all. How we respond/react is what makes the differences. Yet another reminder for me (and all of us) to choose joy!