Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Children's Ministry Workers Rock!

If you work in children's ministry of any kind I want to say one thing to you.  You're awesome.  Whether you work in Sunday School, teach children's church, organize VBS... whatever it is that you are doing with children I want you to know that your work is important.

I love kids, but I find it amazing that anyone can get them to slow down and pay attention for one moment let alone an entire Sunday School class.  What children's ministry workers do astounds me and I believe it to be incredibly important and I would argue that King David would, too.  Look at what he wrote in Psalm 8.

"From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger."  Psalm 8:2

God ordains praise from the lips of children.  He loves it when children and even infants enjoy His good gifts and praise Him for it.  I can tell you that it melts my heart, too, to see a child talk or sing about Jesus and His goodness.

But why does God ordain praise from children?

Look at Psalm 8:2 more closely, paying close attention to the second half of it.  See, God ordains praise from children because of His enemies.  Huh?  Keep looking.  God ordains praise from children to silence the foe and the avenger.

Mysteriously and amazingly, the praise of children shuts Satan up.  A child shouting "YEEESSS!  Jesus love me!" in song puts a muzzle on the Devil.  Somehow, singing "Father Abraham" can gag Lucifer.  Incredibly, a baby smiling and making sounds because he enjoys the gift of his mother's presence can put a cork in our Adversary.

This means that children's ministry is frontline work in the army of God.  This means that children's ministry is what keeps kids busy so their parents can sit through an entire sermon.  Children's ministry is about defeating Satan.  And while Satan is silenced God will speak to those young ears and they can hear and understand the Gospel even at a young age.

Children's ministry workers I thank you.  You have a gifting that I don't have and I thank you and I thank God that you use your gifting.  What you do is incredibly important.  Don't ever forget it.

"From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:2

Parents and children's ministry workers, teach children how to shut up Satan today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hate and Adoration

My Bible study and I are going through the book of Psalms again.  We are reading one psalm a day and then discussing them during our study.  I encourage you to join us in reading the Psalms.

As we read chapters one through seven I was struck by a couple things: David's hatred of evil and his adoration of God's character.

1) David hates evil.  This can clearly be seen in Psalm chapters one through seven.

"You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Psalm 2:9

"Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked." Psalm 3:7b

"Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you." Psalm 5:10

"Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice"  Psalm 7:6

I'm left asking, "Do I hate evil as much as I should?"  Now David had people in mind that were trying to kill him when he wrote these songs, I don't.  But I do have Satan and his demons that are trying to blind the minds of those of people to keep them from seeing the glory of Christ.  I have Christian brothers being killed in Libya for nothing more than being believers.  Do I hate evil, or have I grown tolerant of evil?  I'm not talking about the people who do evil, but sin itself and Satan.

2) David adored God's character.

"For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous..." Psalm 1:6

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them."  Psalm 2:4

"From the LORD comes deliverance..." Psalm 3:8

"You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety."  Psalm 4:6-8

"You are not a God who take pleasure in evil,"  Psalm 5:4

"The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer."  Psalm 6:9

"I will give thanks to the LORD because of His righteousness
and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."  Psalm 7:17

Do I adore God's character like David did?  Do I adore the fact that God watches and sees all that I do?  That He is sovereign and laughs when people think they control their own destiny?  That He delivers me?  That He bestows great joy, peace and safety?  That He is so holy that He can't stand any evil?  That He is merciful and hears my prayer?

I think Psalm 7:17 gives us a great template for adoring God's character.  "I will give thanks to the LORD because of His ___________ and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."

Fill in the blank with all the characteristics of God that you can think of.  Perhaps, sit down for your Bible study and try to list all the ways you could fill in that blank.  You'll be surprised, pleasantly, how many reasons you have to adore God.

So, hate evil and the evil one as much as you should, abhor it like God does; and adore God for who He is today.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pringles Christians

"Once you pop, the fun don't stop."  This is the slogan for Pringles chips.  Lay's Potato Chips marketing wagered, "Bet you can't eat just one."  There's something about a salty snack that keeps us munching.  Yesterday I was grabbed a pretzel... then I grabbed another... and another... and another.  Until I finally walked away from the bowl of pretzels I kept eating them.

We, as Christians, need to be like a salty snack.  We need to interact with people in a way that keeps them wanting more from their interactions with us.  Often we are Bible thumping, abrasive, judgmental people that turn people away from us after one first interaction.  Unfortunately, Christians are more likely to be baking chocolate than Pringles and that has to change.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."  Colossians 4:5-6

In the final chapter of his letter to the church at Colosse, Paul wrote the words above to encourage the local church to be a positive influence in the community.  We need to take Paul's advice today.  I see three things that we can do to follow Paul's instructions.

1) Be wise and make the most of every opportunity.

Every time we are outside the walls of the church building we should be ready to make the most of every opportunity.  Many people are not going to come to the local church to learn about Jesus, more often the local church is going to have to come to them... you are part of the church meeting people where they are.  This means we all have to make the most of every opportunity because every single opportunity could make an eternal difference in the life of a person and in the life of the Kingdom.  This is a big deal!

Also, we need to be wise.  I think this means that we need to realize that not every situation you react in or person you react with will require the same strategy from you.  The way you make the most of your opportunities at work will be different than how you do the same thing at the gym.  The way you interact with your cousin will likely not be the same as the boy you coach on the Little League team.  We must be wise.  Imagine what it would be like if we prayed for wisdom in our interactions with people every time we left our house.

2) Our speech must be gracious.

We Christians are much more famous for what we don't believe in than for what we do believe in.  We are often too abrasive.  Now, speaking the truth is a must, but God forbid we use any tact!  Some Christians have this idea that the more bull headed their approach is the more steadfast their faith must be.  This is silly.  Christians should be the most gracious people in the world because we've been shown immense grace.  Our speech should be more often a balm than a barb.

3) Our speech must be seasoned with salt.

When Paul says, "seasoned with salt" he means that our speech should be like a Pringles chip.  The way we talk and interact with people should make them want more.  Sometimes we turn on the fire hydrant of information when we talk with people and we blast them away.  Our speech should make them want more, not drown them.  Pray that God help you speak in a way that is seasoned with salt like a pretzel or Pringles chip.

Christians, the world needs Jesus.  Will we beat Jesus into people by our brash behavior?  No way.  We must make the most of every opportunity we have.  We must speak graciously, not harshly.  We must have speech seasoned in salt that makes people want to come back for more.  So, let's stop being the baking chocolate of the world, instead let's be Pringles Christians.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" today.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Never Ending Story

Today my wife and I worshipped with her parents at First Lutheran in Onalaska, Wisconsin.  Pastor Jason's sermon focused on how Christ's resurrection has given us a never ending story.  Our minds cannot comprehend a story that doesn't end, but that's what we've been given in the resurrection.  Christ's death defeated death.  Christ's resurrection bought us life that never ends.

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!"  Luke 24:1-6a

We do not worship a dead man; we worship a risen, reigning, living man who is God.  The One we worship not only is living, but He came to give us life... eternal life!

"... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  John 10:10b

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

He is risen!  He lives and we live with Him and will live with Him forever!  Happy Easter, think about the endless story Jesus has purchased for you, today.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


This is a post I wrote a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy it.


Yesterday was Good Friday and tomorrow is Easter.  Today is Saturday.  "Duh, Matt."  But let's think about that a bit today.

On my Good Friday post I wrote about Jesus' victory cry of "It is finished!"  Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter which is the experience that the victory cry is truth.  Saturday we are left unsure.  If Jesus just dies for us He is just one of the most loving people in history, but He is not Savior.  Good Friday is great but it is only a neat story without Easter.  But what about Saturday?

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Saturday.  What I mean is I know the victory is mine to claim with Christ, but I haven't seen its completion.

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6  I know that He will completely perfect me, but it hasn't been completed yet.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4  I know this is true but I see cancer and heartache every day.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Romans 16:20  I know I will crush Satan's head but right now he's tormenting me.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

We live much of our life in Saturday.  The victory has been declared but we can't realize or see it fully yet.  That is why we must hold on to the promise of victory in faith.  Easter will come into its fulness in everything that was promised.  Until then believe the truth of Good Friday, "It is finished!"  Saturday will pass and the sun will come up tomorrow.  The Son will return and we will see that "It is finished!"

Hold fast to the promises of Christ because they will come to pass.  Look forward to tomorrow and in doing so endure today.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.  Below is a dramatic reading of Jesus' crucifixion and death.  Take a listen as we celebrate Good Friday today.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday- A Repost

On this Maundy Thursday I invite you to read this post from last year about Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday

Here is the passage of Scripture that takes place on Maundy Thursday:

"It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'

Jesus replied, 'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'

'No,' said Peter, 'you shall never wash my feet.'

Jesus answered, 'Unless I was you, you have no part in me.'

'Then, Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'

Jesus answered, 'A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.'  For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned back to His place.  'Do you understand what I have done for you?'  He asked them.  'You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

'I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen.  But this is to fulfill the Scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'

'I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.  I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.'
John 13:1-20

Immediately following this passage Jesus shares and explains the Last Supper with His disciples.  During this meal Jesus identifies Judas as His betrayer and Judas leaves to do what he was going to do.

I don't want to say much about this passage but I do want to point out one thing that many of us miss when we read this.

Jesus showed the full extent of His love by being a servant to those He was far greater than.  This is an amazing act of love and service that we are commanded (Maundy means commandment... therefore Maundy Thursday is Commandment Thursday) to copy.  When you read this you must see that we're commanded to love through obedient servanthood to even those we don't feel "below."

But don't miss this.  Jesus washed Judas' feet.  Jesus washed the feet of the man He knew was going to betray Him.  John makes it very clear that Jesus was not blindsided by Judas, yet He showed Him the same love He showed the other eleven.  We must copy this as well.  We must be loving servants to our enemies as well as our friends.

This is the Maundy of Maundy Thursday.  Show Jesus' love for the world, even our enemies, through acts of service today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Own or Be Owned

Money is something that we can own or something that can own us.  Money can help us acquire our wants and needs; it can also keep us from our wants and needs.  The same money that can buy us a vacation with family can steal us from our family in the pursuit of it.  Money is both a blessing and a curse for all human beings.  It is a necessity and a poison.  I think the root issue is who owns who.  Do you own money or does money own you?

"While He was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.  She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.'  And they rebuked her harshly.

'Leave her alone,' said Jesus.  'Why are you bothering her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.  But you will not always have me.  She did what she could.  She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.  I tell you the truth, whenever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."  Matthew 14:3-9

This woman own an expensive thing, but the expensive thing didn't own her.  She may have worked for a year to earn enough money to get that perfume, but she wouldn't let that stop her from extravagantly worship Jesus while He was there to be worshipped.  While others were captured by the value of the money, she was captured by the value of Jesus.  To read more on this passage you can take a look at this post from last year.

"Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.  They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money.  So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over."  Matthew 14:10-11

Judas was owned by money.  In another place in the Gospels it is said that Judas was in charge of the money when Jesus and His disciples traveled and Judas would dip his hand in the money jar.  Judas worshipped money more than Jesus.  Judas was willing to kill Jesus for money.  This is remarkable.  If any person says, "I'd follow Jesus if I saw Him in person and saw all of His miracles" I can tell you they would not.  Many saw Jesus and didn't believe, because seeing Jesus isn't enough.  You must see Jesus as immensely valuable and worthy of eternal worship.  Judas saw Jesus and in the end chose to worship money instead.  Judas was owned by money.

"As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  'I tell you the truth,' He said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"  Luke 21:1-4

This poor woman owned money but was not owned by money.  The others gave out of their wealth, but she gave all she had.  Maybe the others were tithing or were giving more than a tithe.  Jesus didn't care because He saw that they put their trust in their money and gave when it was comfortable.  Not the poor woman; she gave when it wasn't easy because she had something that they didn't... she had the power over her money.  To this woman money wasn't her god, her source of security and joy.  Are you like that or do you only let go of your money when you know it's safe?

Money is either something we own or something that owns us.  That is why I think giving is so important.  By giving to our local church and charities or wherever we see a need, we say that we own money and that money doesn't own us.  Hold on to money loosely or it will hold fast to you.  Cling to money and it will cling to you all the way to the grave.

So, how are you making sure the money you own doesn't own you?  When's the last time you gave as an act of extravagant worship?  When's the last time you gave when things were tight financially?  When is the last time you didn't pray for money but prayed that God would give you what you need to survive and that He would keep you from having more than you could handle?

"... give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God."  Proverbs 3:8b-9

Don't let money own you, rather own your money today.