Beyond the Comfort Zone

In Mark 5 we find Jesus leaving his native area to sail across the lake and go into the gentile region of the Gerasenes. They got out of the boat and immediately were approached by a demon possessed man who had been living in the tombs. In addition to this we’re told that there were large herds of pigs in the area.

Understanding exactly what Jesus is doing here can be missed pretty easily by our 21st century eyes, so let’s get an understanding of the background first. Jews did not want to associate with Gentiles in any way, yet Jesus is leading the twelve into Gentile country. Jews avoided people with unclean spirits, yet Jesus leads them right to a man who’s possessed by a “Legion” of demons. Jews avoided tombs because they felt it was unclean, yet here Jesus leads them right into that area with a man who lived in them. Jews thought pigs were the most unclean animals on the planet, yet Jesus leads his followers right into a heard of them. I think it’s fair to say that the disciples were well outside of their comfort zone during this encounter! And it’s very clear that Jesus wanted them there.

In healing the demon possessed man, Jesus is giving the disciples a preview that the Gospel would be for all people, and their location, ethnicity, history, past or current demons, place of residence, and present state in life truly didn’t matter. The Gospel of Jesus needs to go everywhere, especially the areas that make us feel the most uncomfortable!

Jesus was a true friend to sinners, and spent time with the people and in the places that the current religious leaders wouldn’t think of going. Yet that’s the command we’re given! “Go and make disciples of all nations,…” (Matt. 28:19)  The Greek word for “all nations” is ethnos. Literally every ethnicity, no matter where they are or what they’ve been doing.

So who do you cross paths with in your life that fits this description? Jesus says share the Gospel with them. That’s our job. What becomes of the message? That’s the Spirit’s job. And I trust Him to do powerful things with the powerful message that we weak humans share.

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

Psalm 25

I love the Psalms. They were songs that were written thousands of years ago by people going through times of great joy, or through some of the darkest times of their lives.

I am convinced that for any situation of life we might face, there’s a Psalm for that.

I was reading through Psalms last night, and came across Psalm 25. It is a Hebrew acrostic poem written by King David. It really seemed to resonate with me. In view of the current situations facing our country, our world, some of our friends and neighbors, some decisions we have to make soon…

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through…I hope something from this will give you comfort and encouragement today.

Blessings,

Matt

Psalm 25

A psalm of David.

O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
    which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
    Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
    for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
    all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

11 For the honor of your name, O Lord,
    forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.
13 They will live in prosperity,
    and their children will inherit the land.
14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
    and how viciously they hate me!
20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
    Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
    for I put my hope in you.

22 O God, ransom Israel
    from all its troubles.

3 Ways To Not Be Overwhelmed

Today has been overwhelming.  This whole week has been overwhelming, actually. It has been a big week at work, yesterday was my birthday, I had a big meeting last night, I have a big weekend ahead of me, and I have to prepare for being away from work Monday.

It is so easy to look at our surroundings, circumstances, goals, workload and quickly become overwhelmed. But that’s just what Satan hopes we do. He wants us focused on the here and now, and not on the eternal. Here’s three quick tips to keep focused and not be overwhelmed.

  1. Trust God –  John 14:1 says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”  It’s easy to believe that God is not active in our lives, or that he simply doesn’t exist…especially when we face tough times. But Jesus knew we would face those situations, so he reminds us to believe in God, believe in Him, and to trust that they are in control.
  2. Trust His Promises – 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us “You have never been tempted to sin in any different way than other people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take. But when you are tempted, He will make a way for you to keep from falling into sin.”  We’re not told that it will be easy…it won’t. And we are never promised that we won’t fail…because we will. But we have the promise that we are able to withstand the situations we face with God’s help. And that can be an enormous source of comfort.
  3. Trust His Salvation – Acts 4:12 states “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  When we are tempted to look for a solution to our problems, look no further than Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the author and perfecter of our salvation. When life becomes a challenge, run toward Him!

Pray for God’s guidance in the difficult situations. Look to Him as a source of hope, and encouragement. He is faithful, and will never let you down.

I’ll be preaching this Sunday morning at East Side in Synder, TX. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi! I’d love to meet you in person. Blessings on you this weekend!

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

The Shocking Truth About Floaters

Floaters frustrate me.

Do you know what I mean by “floaters?”

Floaters are the people who float from church to church so frequently that they never settle in one place long enough to really be a part of a church family.

Floaters frustrate me.

I knew a family of floaters one time. The head floater of this family told me that his family simply couldn’t find a church family that suited them. Oh they’d find churches where they liked the music fine, but didn’t much like the sermons. They’d find a place where they liked the sermons, but didn’t much like the music. And the members of these churches  seemed friendly enough, but the floater family never could seem to make friends (probably because they wouldn’t stay put long enough to really get to know anyone.)

Floaters frustrate me.

But they are also a valuable source of insight and information for a church.

You see, floaters have had far more first experiences with churches than you or I probably ever will. They are hyper aware of their surroundings each and every time they step into a worship service. Because of this, they will see things and experience things you miss due to familiarity.

What do I mean? When we become familiar with our building, our worship style, our Bible class style, the layout of our building and parking lot, we overlook certain things that might be off-putting to visitors simply because they are familiar.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. I visited a church a few years ago that had a serious odor as soon as you walked in the front door. It was bad. It smelled like an open sewer the moment you cracked the front door. Turns out that there were bathrooms just inside the front doors that were causing the problem (huge problem), but nobody there seemed to notice.

Another example was a church that had a lighting problem. Over the years a large number of bulbs and fixtures stopped working, and nobody bothered to fix the problem. It was so bad that I witnessed people getting out flashlights in order to read their Bible. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

We become blind to the way other people view us, our worship, and our facilities. It’s a good idea every once in a while to ask visitors, or frequent floaters how things could be improved.

If nothing else, ask yourself some of these questions as if you were visiting your church for the very first time:

  • When I pull in the parking lot, can the entrances clearly be identified, or am I going to have to drive around the building a few times in hopes of finding an entrance?
  • Does the exterior of the building look like this church cares about its facilities, or is the landscaping and appearance an absolute mess?
  • If I am stepping into this building for the first time, do I have any idea where I’m going? Are there signs and people here to help me find my way?
  • Will anyone explain to me what I’m going to experience during my time here? How long is the service? What are we going to do? Why are we going to do these things? How am I supposed to find this information out?
  • If I visit the church website (yes, you absolutely need one) will I be able to answer all of the previously mentioned questionsas well as get a sense that this is a loving, vibrant, and active congregation that cares deeply about people? All people?

And quite possibly the biggest question of them all:

  • If I were to attend this church as a visitor, would I feel that my presence was greatly appreciated, that people cared about me enough to get to know me, and that my time here was the highlight of my week?

If you are unsure about that last question, then I would suggest your congregation do some serious rethinking of how you do things, because you just might be the reason those floaters keep floating by.

And floaters frustrate me.

 

Gone – How Time Slips Away

I have to be honest, I got the inspiration for today’s post from The Daily Post, but it’s something that has been on my mind quite a lot lately…the lyrics to one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs.

It’s been so long now but it seems now,
That it was only yesterday.
Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?

The idea of time slipping away has been front and center. My oldest daughter recently turned four. My youngest turns two on Saturday.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “should have done” and “what if’s” and how life would have turned out if some different choices had been made along the way.

Every so often I look around and wonder where the time went, only to feel lost as to where my time should go. Click to Tweet

We try so hard to plan out our lives, to control our own destiny, to organize everything just so…but then I remember the words of James.

James 4:14 – How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

And as I have seen friends this week deal with the tragic loss of their loved one that was taken from this life far too soon, I’m reminded that we really have to make the most of every opportunity we have because we really don’t have time to waste.

So hug your loved ones a little tighter, treat others a little kinder, and don’t waste your time worrying about the things you can’t change.

Because before you know it, your time will be gone.