Social Media and Me

I have never been that great at social media. Some people can post just the right thing with perfect pictures, tons of emojis, and all the flare. That’s not me! While social media has its many wonderful traits, it can easily become a comparison trap…EVEN WITH PASTORS! We look at what other pastors are doing and can quickly feel like we must be equally as good if not better. I am learning a lot about myself as it relates to social media and am having to make some adjustments. I will be sharing those here.

Facebook has been great for reconnecting with people from all 4 states where I have lived and served as well as people from college, etc. While I am horrible with Facebook and get bored easily scrolling through it, I will keep it because of all the connections I have there and how much the world seems to use it. If you are connected with me there, you know my wife is pretty good at tagging me and giving everyone a play by play of our life. I also have a page I rarely use (but hope to one day) that will share a podcast if I ever get to it. My oldest son is living out the podcast dream right now, so I will live vicariously through him for now😂. So that’s what’s up with me and Facebook.

Twitter has become a bit successful for me over the last 2 years. I started the account in 2014 and had gotten up to 500 followers with barely any activity. When I became active at the end of 2018, my Twitter following got up to almost 15k. I never imagined that! It was great for me to share short thoughts without having to use all that much energy. I have come to the point, however, that I don’t find it as enjoyable. Due to recent censoring (and, no, it’s not about Donald Trump for me), the extremely high amount of political posts, and the hatefulness of many who call themselves Christians, my Twitter presence will be decreasing tremendously. It’s ultimately about me being in a different season of my life and needing to focus on some different things.

Instagram is just not my thing, and I have to own up to that. I am not big on pictures, and it was just downright awkward posting them. On top of that, I got bored scrolling through what other people post. And forget about Snapchat! I tried that one day and got angry when the picture disappeared so quickly, so I deleted it😂.

You will more than likely see my blog activity pick up again. God is teaching me some great things right now, and I will be sharing those with you. My thoughts will continue to be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People are struggling and need to know that even pastors struggle too.

If you were looking for a post about the evils of social media, I’m sorry I disappointed you. I’m not wiping them out. I will, however, be cutting back so that I can focus more directly on my personal growth and God-given mission, and I can’t be more thrilled!

Expecting the Unexpected

The last two Sundays have been wonderful. Last Sunday night, I preached as I do every other first Sunday night at a place called Home with a Heart. It is a home for men recovering from addiction. Every time I preach, I always want God to move. It’s extra special when a move of God seems to pop out of nowhere – unexpected by me but planned by God.

On the typical night, the family that leads worship sings about 5 songs before I preach and about 4 after. I had preached a message on praise from Hebrews 13:15. This was a message I had preached several years ago but with a slightly different twist. In the message, I had mentioned how some people “pray the prayer” 150 times and aren’t truly born again. It was clear that conviction was in the room. A few men had walked out and returned around that point of the message. After you’ve preached off and on for 25 years, you can handle most distractions…note that I say MOST. (The one I couldn’t handle is a story for another time.)

We start singing the last few songs and seem to be closing with “Give Me Faith”. Tears are flowing down my face. Garrett, who is singing lead on this song, continues to sing. It was clear God was up to something. Men began to come forward to pray. I couldn’t leave my seat because tears were flowing. The group went into another song, and Garrett went down to pray with these men. When all was said and done, one man chose to follow Jesus Christ that night. He later apologized for leaving the room because he didn’t want to hear what I was preaching. I told him it was no issue, and I was thrilled about what God is doing in his life.

This morning, I was driving to church. It’s a 25-minute drive, so I began to pray for our church services. I ask God to do something unexpected. He did in both services. In the 9:00 service, a couple shared about something recent they were going through. Their level of transparency would not be allowed in most churches, but our church surrounded them with grace and love. In the second service, the worship music added an unplanned element. Other than a couple of the singers looking surprised, it seemed to flow. I talked with the workshop leader for the second service, and he was jokingly upset with me about asking God to do the unplanned. I told him, “Don’t fault me for praying; fault God for answering.” We were both joking, but we do embrace God’s surprises.

We have been trained to expect the unexpected. We should be equally or more willing to embrace it when it is a move of God. I’m tired of the same old stuff. The same old stuff gets the same old results. It’s time to be expectant Christians who expect God to interrupt our planning to accomplish His greater purpose. Lord, bring it on!

Revival Starts in the Mirror – Introduction

With all that has transpired in the last year or so, I’m amazed that I hear and read little about revival from today’s pastors and fellow Christians. Could it be that the term “revival” is considered antiquated, or could it be that we may not see a need for it? Maybe it’s that attempts for “revival” have been human attempts and some man-made, manufactured manipulation that has not produced lasting results, so now no one wants “revival” if it’s only a pathetic imitation and not the real thing?

Whatever you want to call “revival”, we need it! I can remember attending many meetings called “revival services” that were empty. I think what happened is that many were looking for emotional hype and never wanted the biblical responsibility that comes with it. Second Chronicles 7:14 gives a fourfold formula for a revolutionary revival. Here’s the important thing about revival – it begins in the mirror.

The “revival in the mirror” of which I speak is your personal focus on getting right with God. Don’t you worry about the woman you know who leads a Bible study at your church and spends the rest of the week gossiping about everyone she does and doesn’t know. Don’t worry about the pastor on the ego trip or the boss at work that treats everyone horribly and then leads worship on Sunday. You are not responsible for them. When you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, Jesus isn’t going to hang out with you and talk about all those hypocrites down at your church. He’s going to talk with you about you.

Rather than go into a long post that contains all the information about the fourfold formula for personal revival and transformation, I will break this up into a series. God challenged my heart about this while I was driving this morning, and I have no doubt He will challenge you over these next few posts. Stick with me as we break this life-changing truth down. May God revolutionize your life and may it spread like wildfire in Jesus’ name!

Reflections on 2020: A Needed Surprise

This year has been one for the books. Make no doubt about it. Political tension, a pandemic, continued racial discrimination, and a list of other things will be forever etched in our memories. I do not write this to make light of the difficulties people have experienced this year. My heart honestly breaks for them. This post will simply be a documentation of my thoughts in hopes that these words might help someone along the way.

Earlier this year, let’s just say the decrease of interaction we had here in South Carolina due to the pandemic was depressing for me. Tons of thoughts from the past came back up…things I had forgotten. These things brought back memories and feelings I didn’t realize existed. My conclusion was I had a lot more healing to do. 2020 lesson for you – delaying the process of dealing with your hurt will create a bigger mess for you later so take it slow and unpack it early (trust me on this one).

This year has obviously been one of self-discovery. In my ministry to pastors, I faced my one baggage. These guys have honestly been a blessing to me. Their struggles helped me face my own, and I was genuinely able to walk WITH them. Another lesson – when walking with someone through life’s challenges, don’t take the “I’m the expert” approach; they need humility on your end.

Several years ago, I heard TD Jakes speak of God’s will as something we “stumble into” as we take daily steps of obedience rather than it being some far-off mystical revelation. I’m not here to endorse or bash this pastor, but what he said resonated with me. Such was the case this year. I was daily doing my thing when an opportunity came my way. I had not preached a single sermon in 2019. I was discouraged by some doors to ministry positions that had closed and a failed attempt at a church plant, so I was ready to throw in the towel, plop my rear end in a church seat, and simply be a cheerleader to a pastor. Then came the first Sunday in March when I was asked at the last minute to preach at a home for men who are recovering from addiction. I’m happy to say I have preached 5 messages there this year and one in our church. The fire is still there. Lesson #3 – When God calls you, He doesn’t uncall you. He does, however, reassign us at times to allow us time to heal.

This year has forced me to slow down. I was not really going too hard, but I wasn’t enjoying what was around me. I was too busy going through the motions. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at being present in the moment. My oldest son will graduate high school this year, and all the others are growing up quickly. I need to be celebrating the little moments before they’re gone. Someone put it this way this week – stop focusing on “What if” and start embracing “what is”.

If I didn’t start taking back my life, God only knows where I would be. I am celebrating some victories this year. My anxiety is becoming more manageable, and I have lost 19 pounds this year. While I’m thrilled about that, I am setting more goals for weight loss, exercise, and stress and time management. I’m determined to enjoy life no matter what is happening around me.

Enjoying life really is a choice. We can lament or we can allow God to turn our mourning into dancing. I’ve mourned enough. It’s time to dance. I don’t encourage you to watch me dance because my dancing is ugly, but my God delights in it. Wishing you a blessed 2021!

Weary on a Christmas Day

I’m one tired boy. I just spent over 4 hours driving round trip to pick up my oldest kids. Such is the life of this blended family.

I sit here pondering the weariness of so many. You may be reading this, and you’re weary for one or more reasons. Maybe you are weary of being sick. Maybe you’re weary because you lost one or most loved ones since last year. It could be that you have been hit hard financially, or this year has drained the life out of you. Whatever the case is, there is a Savior who invites the weary to come to Him. In fact, Scripture says that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes who were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

This Christmas, weary or not, Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. He invites you to receive His love. That is the greatest Christmas gift you could receive. Admit you’re a sinner, believe that Christ died and rose again for your sin, and call upon Him to save you. That begins a journey of walking with Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

From my family to yours, merry Christmas! Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can help you in your faith.

Are You in a Desert?

Throughout my life and ministry, I have seen a pattern of a period of God’s blessing followed by a dry spell, then repeat. I have never been one to be content with the dry spells. I always want to see tangible results. When those results don’t keep coming, my impatience and frustration rise to the top. Many would say that our moments in the desert are punishment or an indication that we are doing something wrong. That can be the case, but this is not the general rule.

Sometimes God orchestrates our time in the desert for our own personal growth. Jesus was often led to the desert to pray, be tempted, or experience moments with the Father. One account states He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. I needed this reminder today.

My desert has lasted for the last 7 years. When I resigned my first pastorate in November 2013 due to the demise of my home, I stepped into a desert. Initially, I was ready to dismiss a return to the pastorate because I equated that with everything that went wrong in my life. The destruction of my home had little if anything to do with the pastorate, and it did not take away the passion in my heart to preach and Shepherd God’s people.

The last 7 years have been filled with tons of fillers. I have tried multiple types of ministry. I went back in to music ministry. I started a church. I even stepped into a season of ministering to pastors. These were not fruitless, but they have not satisfied. I have asked God why a pastorate hasn’t opened up for me. Is it due to my decades long reputation as a “song boy” because of all the years in music ministry? Is there any church 30-60 minutes from here that can actually see God still has His hand on me and that He could use me in their context? Tons of questions flow through my mind.

The truth to which I must cling is that God will place me at the appointed place at the appointed time. In this desert, He is still preparing me. God hasn’t tossed me in a garbage can to rot until I die. He is still working in my heart to prepare me for the next assignment.

Are you in a dry, barren place in life? God hasn’t forgotten you. He does His best work in deserts. Sometimes we can’t notice God is giving us life-imparting water until we are in a dry place where we become thirsty. Let God have His perfect work. He’s not done! He’s just begun!

Prayer Request for Joe Siccardi

If you have been around a little while in the WordPress blogging world, you may have connected with Joe Siccardi. His site is wisdomfromafather.com. Joe had a stroke Wednesday, and the prognosis is not good. Please read these words his son shared on Facebook:

Good Morning…

My name is Scott Siccardi. I am Joe’s son.

On the evening of Wednesday, Dec 9th, my father had a stroke.

Despite encouraging signs early on, on early Friday morning, things took a turn for the worse and he has not been interactively conscience since.

He is comfortable & sedated, but as of now, the prognosis is not very good.

Writing this post is the most difficult thing I think I have ever had to do, but going through his phone and messages and seeing all the encouragement and lives he has touched brings me great joy and comfort.

Though the prognosis is not good, where the rest of his journey goes is entirely up to him. The dr’s and nurses are doing their part, our family is doing our part, but seeing the love and encouragement from all of you inspired me to share with you his situation and extend the opportunity to join us in the prayer of our Lord that “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I know my father loves all of you very much and knows you all love him. I have no doubt that no matter how this ends, his wish is for you to be inspired by the difficult times, find joy in the little things and take time to share your love with others.

As I know more of his situation, I will share. In the meantime, pray that his journey will continue through all of us…

…no matter what.

Love to all…

When Anniversaries Can Be Horrible Reminders

Yesterday, I was pondering the date. It was November 25. Then it dawned on me that I passed right by the 24th without giving it a thought. I began to consider even more how I passed another date last month and gave it little to no thought. For the last six years, that has not been the case. Those dates had served as a horrible reminder.

I would say that many of you are struggling with that same thing. You remember the anniversary of a death, a divorce, or other traumatic event in your life. The calendar has a way of excavating the pain, and you relive it once again.

Grief has no timetable. We often try to shortcut the grieving process, only to add insult to the injury already present. For me, I tried to shortcut it because I was worried about what others thought. I have no doubt that many were thinking, “I don’t know why Matthew is still struggling. It’s been long enough. He should have it together by now.” Let me remind you of this – People are going to think what they want to think, so ignore it and sort through the pain in your heart, however long it takes!

Let me close with these lyrics from the song “God and Time” recorded by Newsong. While this song begins speaking of a death, other parts of the song can apply to your painful situation. I pray these words minister to you.

I know you wished that you had been there to say goodbye
I know you wished that you could turn back, the hands of time
I know the pain of loss you’re feelin’ is almost more than you can bear
But let me give you hope in your despair

Only God can truly understand how His healing works
And how He uses time in our lives, to overcome our hurts
But one thing you can be sure of, He is not surprised
By anything that happens in your life,

Oh I know this side of heaven we may never understand
But we can trust the heart of God and know we’re always in His hands

All you need is God and time to heal your broken heart
God and time, to lift you up from where you are
I don’t have all the answers, to all your questions why
All I know is all you really need is God and time

A Thanksgiving Message to the Hurting

While many of us are spending time with family and find it easy to rejoice today, others are struggling with financial hardship, loss of a loved one, grief, divorce, separation from family due to COVID-19 restrictions, etc. This has been a tough year. Reach out to someone you know today who is struggling. Days like this remind me of why the Scripture says IN everything give thanks not FOR everything give thanks. Even if you are struggling with giving thanks at all, God longs to meet with you in your struggle. Pour out your heart to Him today and allow Him to begin the healing of your heart.

Sending love and prayers this Thanksgiving!

Running from God: A Sermon and a Testimony

My kids found an old DVD of the last sermon I preached when I was on staff at Hepsibah Baptist Church in Seneca, SC. The sermon was from the book of Jonah, and the title was “Running from God”. While it contains the story of Jonah, it also contains my story of running from God’s call when I was in high school.

Almost 8 years after I preached that message, I found myself running from God again but for a different reason. I have been avoiding the same call God placed on my life all those years ago, but now I am pursuing it once again. While some say I can’t preach and pastor a church anymore, I’ll let God have the final say. I would rather obey Him than cave to the opinions of men.

To those of you who have run from God or are currently running from God, I pray this message hits you where you are to the point that you surrender to God’s plan for your life. If you dare watch this sermon, be warned that my Southern accent kicks up 1,000 notches when I preach. Running from God came be a dangerous thing, so I pray you find the joy in living God’s way.