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.

Recalibrating

If there were ever a year when we took mental health into consideration above any other year, it would have to be 2020. The year began with the impeachment proceedings, a very tense State of the Union address, a pandemic, and racial injustices. Before we knew it, terms like “social distancing”, “quarantine”, and “lockdown” became everyday language. Many found themselves considered “nonessential”, spending more time in a month at home than they did in the last 5 years. Restrictions have varied across the country, but many found themselves isolated, afraid, exhausted, depressed, and a long list of other things. For those who have lost a loved one in the midst of this or as a result of COVID-19, all the aforementioned feelings were multiplied over and over. This year has taken its toll on people emotionally and mentally.

While very little of life changed for me in comparison to many others, the decrease in social life opened up things from the past, primarily hurts that were unresolved. Fears and anxieties arose. As we got deeper into the year, I found myself in a horrible rut that was wreaking havoc on my mental health. I knew it was time to recalibrate.

I wish I could say I have my recalibration plan fully developed. I don’t. But I do have some thoughts and steps I will take and am taking to make mental health a priority.

First, I plan to laugh more. My job affords me the opportunity of driving between patient’s homes. The drive time is often anywhere from 15-30 minutes between patients. Today, I searched for comedy on YouTube. I was surprised that my first results were clean. The search results led me to some great Christian comedy, especially Michael Jr. (a guy who was completely unfamiliar until today but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). I listened to well over an hour of good clean humor. The Bible does say that a merry heart does good like a medicine. A big dose won’t hurt.

Second, I plan to read more. Yesterday, I had two separate opportunities to read. Because I know God wants me to preach again, I want to be ready for the opportunities. So, I will study and be prepared. I want to be so full of God’s truth that it easily flows from me.

Third, I’m working on a plan to decrease social media time. While I do most everything from my phone, I want to spend more time writing here again and less time reading the toxic interactions that occur on social media platforms.

Fourth, I want to get out and walk more each week. On average, I walk two days a week. I would like to increase that to at least four days. Walking allows me to exercise and clear my head. The benefits are great.

Recalibrating is necessary for me to be a person who brings glory to God. My mind needs to be renewed. I can’t live like a broken record. It’s time for a change.

What about you? Do you need to recalibrate? If the answer is yes, you don’t have to wait until the new year. It can begin now. Don’t get stuck and become fruitless in your Christian life! Ask God to give you a recalibration plan, then step out and activate it. You won’t regret improvement.

Words of Affirmation – My Love Language Journey

What’s your love language? You might find that to be a strange question. If you are new to church culture or haven’t spent time in certain parts of church culture, the concept of a love language may be foreign to you. Dr. Gary Chapman, Christian psychologist, wrote the book The Five Love Languages. It is a great book about how love is best expressed to you either in the form of giving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, or quality time. Click here to take the quiz. My primary love language is words of affirmation. Here is what I have learned about myself in relation to my love language:

I love receiving words of affirmation. The more I receive these words of affirmation, the happier I am.

Because I love receiving words of affirmation, I have been known to go overboard in extending them. It can be especially bothersome to those whose love language is not words of affirmation.

When I don’t receive words of affirmation, my tank gets empty and I feel unloved and unwanted.

I have to work hard to keep pride at bay when words of affirmation flow freely to me.

Words of correction and criticism can feel like a death sentence. Because I love being affirmed, I can easily take the opposite too personally.

This post is not intended to cover the five love languages but rather to give you a glimpse into one from my personal experience and allow those whose primary love language is words of affirmation to connect with this. I highly encourage you to check out the link above. Better yet, get the book. Read it in order to learn about yourself and your spouse so you can effectively speak his or her language. It will also help you in relating to others close to you. Here’s to learning how to love more effectively!