What Does Your Basket Look Like?

encouragement,faith,christianityIn this short video I ask a very simple question and discuss the best way to remove that which causes our light for Jesus to be dim.  I use Matthew 5:15 and 1 John 4:4 to illustrate how although sometimes we hide our lights under a basket of our own making, He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

I hope you are blessed by this video blog and I hope that if you are struggling underneath a basket that you pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in removing it and becoming the light that the Father means for you to be.  Please let me know if I can pray for you in this area!

The very first video blog for Matthew515

encouragement,faith,christianityClearly, I still have much to learn.  Watch the video, you will see what I mean.  But, like the Chinese proverb says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, this is only the beginning.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is where I’m starting.  Thankfully, through Christ in me, it won’t be where I end.

I cover three brief points in the video that I think are so very important.

1. You are not alone.  You are part of the family of God and a member of the body of Christ.

2. Be an encouragement and be a light, wherever you are.

3. Everyone has questions but that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward together in Faith.

Six short minutes for this first video.   Short videos are easier to watch anywhere and frankly easier to digest.  I sincerely hope that it blesses you.

I’m thankful for this life that God has given me and for this work that He is allowing me to be a part of.  I continue to hope and pray that God can use Matthew515 for His glory and for our benefit.

Please let me know what you thought of this very first video blog and if you have any suggestions for the future.  I would love to hear from you.

How Do You Give Light to Your House?

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World - I want to be a lightWhat does it mean to you to “give light to your house”?  That phrase is the key thought for Matthew515.com and comes directly from the verse Matthew 5:15.

For me, it means I must live a life that promotes the Truth, practices encouragement and prioritizes generosity.

God is truth.  I recognize Him as the author of all truth, the creator and sustainer of all life and the author of the Bible by inspiration of His Holy Spirit.  Without Him nothing exists and my existence is based solely on His grace and His generosity.  I am saved out of a life of spiritual death into a new life in Jesus Christ by His grace through my faith in Him.

This is the truth that I must promote.  I must say it and I must show it with my actions.  I am not perfect; far from it.  I have a long way to go in my knowledge and maturity as a Christian but I believe that God is faithful and will provide that which I need to do His work.  I am a work in progress.

I want to be an encouragement to those I come in contact with.  I want to, with smiles, kind words, handshakes, friendly hugs, pats on the back and a humble heart, encourage and build up not only my brothers and sisters in Christ but also those who are lost and in need.

This is not easy but it is worth it and I take it seriously.  There is so much need for encouragement in our world today.  My hope and prayer is that by being one who encourages others a brother or sister in Christ may be strengthened in their faith and a lost person may see the love of God in me.  This is a worthy cause and blesses me as much, or more, than it blesses the one who is receiving the encouragement.

I am learning to prioritize generosity.  In this, my wife is a great example.  She is a natural gift giver and spends much of her time doing things for others.  She inspires and encourages me by her actions and I love her for it.

This does not come as easily to me as it does to her.  I am more likely to be found with my nose in a book (or on the computer, truth be told) and can be rather oblivious at times.  I am training myself to try and notice the needs of the people around me and to be a cheerful giver of my time and resources.

I truly believe that one of the reasons that God has so blessed Vicki and I is because of her faithfulness in being a cheerful giver.  She is the holder of the checkbook in my house and has over the course of the last 14 years of marriage, with limited resources, always given above and beyond the tithe while keeping us in the black each month.  It has not always been easy but  we have always had the money to meet any needs that came our way.

I praise the Lord for my wife and for how He has worked in my family over the years and I want to follow in the example of my generous (and wise) spouse.

To give light to those I come in contact with I must continue to promote the truth, practice encouragement and prioritize generosity.  This is the practical application of the light spoken of in Matthew 5:15 as I see it.

How are you applying Matthew 5:15 in your life?  What does it mean to you to “give light to your house?”  As always, I welcome your comments and would love to hear what God is doing in your life.

The Process of Being a Christian

walkingI hope and pray that everyone reading this is already a born again believer.  If not, take a few minutes and study what it means to be born again and then come back and read this post.

Once we are born again, how does “being a Christian” really work?  How do we live the Christian life on a daily basis and do as Matthew 5:15 says and give light to those around us?  Thankfully, the answer to those questions is not difficult or hidden but plainly given in God’s Word.

I mentioned in one of my last posts that I was preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson and was drawing inspiration from Colossians and it is there where we will now go to look at this process of being a Christian.  Specifically we will be looking at verses from parts of Chapters 2 and 3 and I will be using the New King James Version.  Here’s the first couple of verses we will be dealing with: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving”  (Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV).

In Chapter 2 verse 6 Paul tells states “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”  This is the first step to the process.  How does one receive Jesus?  By grace through faith; that is the only way. Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us.  So Paul is telling us that we must continue in our relationship to Christ in the same way that we started.  We can never move away or forget that we are redeemed by God’s grace through our faith in Him.  Every day we need to recall that it is only by God’s grace that we are saved and reaffirm our absolute faith and trust in Him.  Stating “God, I trust you” in your daily prayers and then living like it lays the foundation for the process.

Chapter 2 verse 7 continues this thought with Paul stating “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith” which is what we just discussed in the paragraph above.  As a tree must have good roots to survive and grow so must we have a strong root of faith in Christ to go on to any other part of the process.  Without the strong roots you will not grow and you will not be happy or have peace as a Christian.

The next phrase in verse 7 says “as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving”. Without good teaching you cannot grow in the faith and the process will falter.  You need the instruction of Godly men and women who have gone before you in the faith and you need to study the Bible like it’s your lifeline because in actuality, it is.  Get involved with a local body of believers and attend your local church services as often as you can.  Get a Bible that’s easy to carry around and in a translation that’s easy for you to understand and read.  Look for a devotional book or Bible study guide that you can use in your daily prayer time and stick with it.  Once you are earnestly involved with this step then the praise and thanksgiving from the end of verse 7 will be completely natural to you and your light will start to shine for others to see.  This is step 2 in the process.

So far we’ve discussed preparation in steps 1 and 2 with the foundation being faith by grace and then instruction and learning on top of that foundation.  Now we move on to an action step.  Look at Colossians Chapter 3 verses 1 and 2.  It says “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Paul is telling us to actively focus on Godly pursuits, Godly thoughts and Godly actions.  This world will actively try to steal your focus and keep you distracted as you go about your daily life.  But if you have the foundation and teaching from steps 1 and 2 then you can begin to train your mind to focus on Godly things throughout each day.  This doesn’t mean that you are setting your daily responsibilities aside or that you are no longer to be fully in the world.  What it means is that as you are going to school or to work or wherever it is and as you are interacting with a lost world that you are doing it with a Godly mindset that is firmly planted in Him and therefore not easily shaken.

Once you begin to work on this Godly focus then you will begin to see and notice the things that Paul talks about in Colossians 3 verses 12 through 17.  Here Paul says “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

This is the culmination of the process.  Once you have faith then you can be taught.  Once you have been taught you can begin to focus.  And once you begin to focus then God can channel amazing things through you and He will reveal His will for your life to you.  You will experience love, joy and peace such as you have never known before and you will be in a position to help and teach other brothers and sisters in Christ and to give the best kind of hope to a lost world.

I can tell you personally that this process is a very recent discovery for me.  I’ve been a Christian for 32 years and for much of that time I’ve been lazy about learning and unfocused when it comes to my heart and my mind.  Satan has been only too glad to keep me distracted and looking in many wrong areas instead of towards the One I knew was right all along.  If you are reading this I pray it doesn’t take you 32 years to realize how simple the process really is and how easy God’s design for our growth really is.  Or if you’ve been a Christian for far longer than I have and realize that you’ve wasted much time, as I did, then praise the Lord because it’s never too late to start.  God is ready and waiting for you right now and He wants to bless your life.  I promise you, next to salvation, committing yourself to this process is the best decision you will ever make.

Sunday School starts right here

sundayschoolI’ve been asked to teach in the adult Sunday School class on Sunday morning of this coming week. This is not my normal class but the regular teacher can’t be there this week and has asked me to fill in and bring my class along with me.

This of course has introduced the problem (opportunity!) of what do I teach.  Our two classes don’t use the same curriculum and both classes are in the middle of topical studies that would be rather difficult to just jump into the middle of and have it all be relevant and interesting to the other class.  So I’m not going to use either curriculum but will instead do something completely different.

This brings me to my point.  How do I prepare a single lesson for an age group that I don’t normally teach and have it be relevant to all who are listening?

I start with God’s Word.  I’ve always been rather free form with my quiet time and bible study and will flip between books and chapters within the same week and just read.  God’s Word is amazing in that I never fail to find inspiration, strength, encouragement and wisdom within it’s pages and often God reveals new truths to me in passages that I’ve read many times before.  Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NKJV)  Because the Word is alive and because we have the Holy Spirit as our guide the time and effort that we put into studying the Bible always, always produces fruit.  I cannot overstate that.

Here’s the exciting part.  If you find something in God’s Word that excites and inspires you and you have the ability to read the Bible out loud and explain why it excites and inspires you then you have the basis for a really good Sunday School lesson or group Bible study.  God will use your passion for His Word to excite and inspire other believers.  You could be the catalyst that God uses to bring someone to redemption, to renewed dedication and to a deeper and more abiding love for God and his Word.

And if none of that happens then at the very worst you have learned something and grown in your walk as a believer.  I truly believe that as a Sunday School teacher I have learned and benefited more from my study and preparation time than any of my pupils.  Remember when I said that time and effort put into Bible study always produces fruit?  Well get ready because much of that fruit will be produced in you and will be visible to others.

Matthew 5:15 is the inspiration for this Blog but in the very next verse Jesus says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  In other words that fruit that others can see in you will bring glory to God.  There is no downside here.

Colossians chapters 2 through 4 have been particularly exciting to me this week.  I can’t wait to share what God has shown me and I pray that the Holy Spirit would speak and work through me.

Whose light is this?

whoselightNot mine, that’s for sure.  My light is insufficient for much of anything.  My light doesn’t even provide enough light for me to see by, much less anyone else.  My light flickers and fades and is prone to go out when I need it the most.  Cue the violins; it’s getting dark in here!

That’s why I’ve decided to upgrade.  God has offered to provide me the light of his son, Jesus Christ for the small price of my absolute faith in Him.  With God’s light I never need worry about sudden power outages, energy shortages or any other crises which may come along.  God’s light   in me is a renewable energy source and provides vast supplies of love, joy and peace.  Included in the package is an eternal home in Heaven and a “share the light” plan in which all lives touched by God’s light are enriched and strengthened.

Some call this “salvation” and it is indeed salvation from many things of which I will discuss in the future.  But it’s so much more than that.  It is life abundant.  It is perfect peace which does indeed pass all human understanding.  It is joy most certainly in the good times but also in the darkest of times.

For possessing God’s light does not mean that we are exempt from dark times but it does mean that we always have the strength and the grace to get through them to the other side.  And in doing so we share God’s light with those around us who so desperately need it.

So remember, if you already have God’s light in you then please, share it with someone around you who needs it.  Or, if you are someone who’s tired of stumbling around in darkness, tired of internal power failures at the worst times and ready for an upgrade then talk to me.  God’s light is a family plan with plenty of room for you!