All posts by Joe Matthews

Simplify to Amplify

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 | Download

Simplify To Amplify One of our elders recently preached a sermon entitled, “Revived.” Of the many impactful words he shared, one of the phrases that really stuck with me was, “When God calls us out on something, He calls us unto something.” I recently stumbled upon a podcast that outlined reflective practices meant to be target strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunity in our individual lives. The podcast recommended two practices 1) 80/20 analysis and 2) thinking big. The 80/20 analysis comes from the Pareto Principle, where generally speaking, 20% of causes typically generate 80% of the results. Think – “20% of the people are doing 80% of the work.” In the instance of this podcast, the host encouraged listeners to evaluate and emphasize the 20% of their life from which they derived the majority (80%) of their happiness. Then, prioritize towards that specific 20%, rather than get lost in the remaining 80% that doesn’t bring happiness. The other practice, thinking big, forces us outside of our comfort zone, rather than simply accept the way things are currently. He used the figure 10X. Rather than being reactionary, he encouraged proactive behaviors by setting big goals, 10X goals, and working backwards from this big end result to identify the steps necessary to reach that big goal. Not only are these great self-improvement practices, these concepts relate to our walk with Christ and really materialize the concept of being called out. Consider 2 Peter 1:5-10: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. I encourage you to perform an 80/20 analysis in your personal and spiritual life. What are the few truly rewarding pursuits you are involved in? Why not focus and prioritize towards these impactful pursuits rather than getting bogged down with the mundane remainder of ill-rewarding pursuits. What kind of change would you see in your life if the majority of your time spent generated Kingdom impactful results that glorify God and share His grace? Ask yourself - Where is your time going? Where is your worth placed? Are you over-extended or running ragged? Do you find very little time for things that truly matter? These are tough questions to ask yourself, but don’t be shy. Be brutally honest. If time is our most valuable asset, are we being good stewards of focusing our time on Kingdom pursuits – being used by Him and bringing glory to God? One of my favorite sayings is “Without margin, there is no ministry.” This can be true in many areas – finances, attitudes and especially our time. If I pack my schedule so full with what I think I HAVE to do, am I missing out on joining God at work RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME? In the context of this 80/20 analysis, am I focusing on the impactful, or going through the motions with the less effective? The second concept – thinking big, setting the goal and working backwards can be directly applied to our spiritual lives as well. This week, my pastor shared about praying to the Lord to increase our faith. Think of Peter on the water, sinking, rather than grabbing hold of the steadfast hand of Christ. When I hear “think big” my mind goes directly to “God sized ideas”. What are the things we are embarrassed to share because they seem so outlandish to our current situations? The root of thinking big, and subsequently praying big, is faith. We must have faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). I can be guilty of limiting beliefs. We all do it. This is human nature. However, God is not and will not be limited. As believers, we have a unique opportunity to join with God in His work, for His glory; but to be a part of His BIG picture, which we cannot see in its entirety, we MUST have faith. The popular 1950s book, The Magic of Thinking Big states that “Action cures fear.” This is completely true in our spiritual walk. Faith is the action that cures the fear that cripples us. So, this blog post is titled, “Simplify to Amplify.” At the most basic level, we must prioritize and have faith. As believers, we are called out by God, but when we are called out for something we are also called unto something. What is God calling you to? Do you have the margin, or time in your life that enables us to approach the throne in freedom, with faith, to join with God where He is leading? How can you simplify, in an effort to amplify? Are there areas of your life that are consumed with things that are detracting from our ability to live out the will of God and to be used powerfully by Him? Are you afraid to trust God to lead you into a new season of change? Are you afraid to specifically pray to the Lord for faith to believe in your “God sized ideas?” Perhaps you are entering a season of required simplicity or rest to “get back to the basics?” Trust God. Simplicity is necessary to more clearly hear from the Lord and be filled with His Spirit and grace as you embark into a new season or a renewed calling. Place your focus and faith in Him.

Give Life

Posted on Sep 16, 2016 | Download

I will never forget the past two and a half weeks. I am overwhelmed. I am inspired. I am encouraged. I am forever changed. The call of our church this past year has been to go “further” and “deeper” in Christ as we seek to live a life worthy of the calling (Ephesians 4:1). My prayer is to encourage you through sharing how the Lord is teaching me, for His glory, even in the midst trial and pain. My two-year old nephew tragically passed away a little over a week ago. Before he passed, I spent many late nights and early mornings in the hospital by his bedside. These are moments I will never forget – moments of blessed assurance that the Lord was right there with us, providing peace in the midst of chaos; a good shepherd in the midst of a shadowy valley. In those moments I was surrounded by the peace and comfort of our Savior. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 I love the promises found throughout God’s word. It is so easy to read over these promises as they register in your mind. Too often, it is not until we are broken down and have worn through every ounce of self-reliance that these same verses resonate in our hearts. C.S. Lewis wrote of how God uses pain. “It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” These moments with Remy were eternally rousing for me, moments of refinement and encouragement. I will forever cherish the precious moments I spent with Remy by his bedside. We sang, prayed and read scripture. One night, I read him a poem I remembered from long ago - “Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past" by C.T. Studd. One particular stanza provided both an encouragement and challenge: Give me Father, a purpose deep,             In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;             Faithful and true what e’er the strife,             Pleasing Thee in my daily life;             Only one life, ’twill soon be past,             Only what’s done for Christ will last. “A purpose deep.” “Faithful and true.” “Pleasing Thee in my daily life.” These words resonated with me. It speaks of a singular purpose, a purpose of glorifying God, remaining faithful and true. So much life has come from Remy’s passing – physical life, spiritual life, and emotional life. I like to say, “God used Remy to give life.” The amount of glory given to God in these last few weeks speaks to an all-knowing God and His perfect plan. I say “God used Remy to give life” because what people less familiar with the story may not know is that through Remy’s death, he was able to give life through organ donation. His blood type was extremely rare, and due to his gift, two other people that had very little hope were given life. We call Remy a hero. God used him to give life! At his memorial, 5 people committed their lives to Christ. More life! His parents - my sister and brother-in-law, have held steadfast in their faith, trusting God during the darkest time in their life. Their confidence, strength and resolve to glorify God through it all is unbelievably inspiring. Since his passing, countless testimonies have been shared of how this story has impacted the lives of others. To God be the glory! These are people Remy and his parents have never met. What life! What an impact! Through the grace of God, this precious two-year old boy has been used by God, impacting more people than most can reach in a lifetime. One of the greatest gifts I have from my nephew is a precious inspiration to be used by God, as Remy was, to “give life” and return glory to Him. In Remy’s story, both his life and his ability to give life to others returned glory to God. We have been given the gift of life through Christ, so we may be used to bring Him glory. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 So, what do I mean by “give life?” To “give life” in this metaphor is to be used by God to return glory to Him. This is done through our relationship with Him and our relationships with others. The Chaplain leading Remy’s memorial prayed that we would all “remember what life is all about – Our relationship with God, and our relationship with others.” In Matthew 22, Jesus shares the two greatest commandments – “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor.” God can use everyone in different ways to “give life” and glorify Him. While not everyone can give a physical gift of life like Remy, we can be used by God to “give life” in our families, our marriages, our careers. All of this can bring God glory. We can “give life” through love; through mending broken relationships, through redefining priorities, through intentional discipleship, through pursuing missional living, through outreach, and most of all, through praying for one another and loving one another. In all things - our thoughts, our actions and our lives as a whole, we are to love the Lord and love each other. The time the Lord gives us on this earth is not certain. Intentionally living out these two commandments is how we can be used to return glory to Him. Remember the poem above – “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Be encouraged! No thought, action or deed is too small to be used for God’s glory. Do not discount your age, position, status or capabilities. God can use any person, at any age, for His glory. Just look at Remy! “Now to Him who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 However God uses each of us to “give life”, I am confident it will continue to lead each of us on the path of “further, deeper” as we seek to live a life worthy of the calling. “Give life”, grow in Christ and experience the joy of going further and deeper with Him.