This book was almost never finished. I started reading it for a class I was auditing at Harding School of Theology. And I must admit, auditing a class is great, all of the resources and teaching, no tests or assignments that must be completed. So I started this book, and during the first part of it, it seemed to be tedious, well it was tedious, There was much detail on the style of the writing within the gospel accounts. Every now and then, there would be a nugget of wisdom like this "This distance between us and the compositional setting of Scripture can be overdone and abused, and it is in fact eliminated in some crucial ways by the canonization of the Gospels." But then there would be long sections that would just numb the mind. But throughout the pages, you will have some fantastic insights like this. "But movements over time always get dehydrated and reduced down to a bouillon-cube state so that they can be easily transferred and promulgated. The first thing to go is always nuance and balance. Thus, in much of evangelicalism, which at times is quite polemical and which prides itself on being the heir of the Reformation, the Gospels’ narrative ambiguity is less than preferred, and the result has been their neglect." But after a while, it just seemed boring, but than I went to class, and there were numerous students that raved about the book, so I picked it up again, and waded through the rest of the beginning, and what I discovered was theological gold. It is not for the light at heart, but for those who love a deep reading concerning the process of discerning the word of God. It will go into the methodology of studying the gospel accounts, and at the end of the book, will provide insights into the preaching art. If you are wanting a strong book full of wisdom and insight, can read weighty prose, this is a great book to pick up. This is a good quote from the book that highlights this process in the book and is concerning the gospels. "“The surface meaning lies open before us and charms beginners. Yet the depth is amazing, my God, the depth is amazing. To concentrate on it is to experience awe.”
Perspective is powerful. The why we view the world has a tremendous influence over our reality. What is interesting is that we assume we see the world for what it is. We rarely question our perspective. You can look at events unfolding before your eyes, and still miss what happened. Your perspective has the ability to shape your reality because you filter information through your narrow framework. During my talk with Baylee, I realized how blind I am to being blind.
The last question I posed to her was “if you were able to see, what would you enjoy looking at the most?” This seemed to be a profound question from my perspective. We are given so much to take in with our eyes, that I assumed that this would be a desire of Baylee’s, but I was wrong. She explained to me that if her sight returned, she would be seeing in a corner in agony. It would be painful, traumatic, and overwhelming. I assumed that this would be a positive thing, but instead this would be a totally reorientation of her world. It would be just as shocking for her to gain sight as it would be for me to lose my sight.
Kathy explained to me that if Baylee could see an apple, she would not recognize it until she touched it. An apple is not an apple because it is red, but it is an apple because of the shape and texture of it. This information blew my mind.
I realized that we all allow one dominate sense to control us. It might be one preconceived judgment. It might be one story of mistrust that shadows all of our other relationships. We allow one event to control our perspective. And in a way, Baylee uses more of her senses than we do. I asked her what are the biggest blessings of being blind, and she said she loves people. Instead of relying on appearances, she uses her senses to see the heart and texture of people. Imagine a world in which you have to be judged by the appearance of your character, and not by the form of your body. I feel that it would be a better world. I wish I could see people like Baylee does.
For a while now, I have been uploading mp3 sermons to podomatic. But recently, we have stepped up, and we are videoing the sermons, and uploading them to Youtube. On an average week, we have about 25 people listen to the sermons on podomatic, not a huge amount, but enough to make it worth the time. So those who enjoy my sermons, and those who are always looking for some dirt on me, can listen. So if you would like, here is the link to the church's youtube channel.
There are a few sermons on here. We are attempting to add new sermons each week too. We are still working on perfecting the process, and there will always be some awkwardness, but overall, we are super thankful for the people in the congregation that makes this happen.
So here you go, you can watch me preach through the book of Luke this year. Now, do understand, I am not preaching through it in a traditional sense, but rather through a combination of a expository-topical, style. You will see me do various styles of sermons too. Thank you for listening.
The churches of Christ have a restoration vision at the core. We desire to restore 1st century church within a 21st century culture. We believe that the principles found within the early church are transcendent through all ages. We hold that God provided a model that will work in all periods of time. We attempt to replicate the everlasting pattern in whatever age we are called into living. This foundational idea has inspired countless congregations throughout history.
The problem with an erroneous understanding of the restoration ethos is the idea of completing the project on one's watch. During a period of space and time, there could be those who believe that restoration has been completed. All that God intends His church to be, has been restored. Therefore, the goal is no longer to continue to fulfill the quest of restoration, but rather to guard the established order. The thrust of energy shifts from seeking improvement, to protecting the status quo of the congregation. People assumed that once the church has been restored, or perfected, the work of constantly seeking to develop is over. There is always a healthy tension in striving for something better, and closer to the aspirational values of God's people, and His will.
People come into a church seeking restoration or seeking establishment. People enter a church hoping that the church never changes or hoping the church does change. There is always this interesting interplay between these two dynamics. Often, the forces of resistance win out, because these are the forces that are most prevalent and powerful within a church. The established members are established members because they like the church the way it is.
So instead of the church continuing to adapt to the changing culture, the church surely sinks into the past. It no longer feels relevant. It no longer connects with people looking for God. It no longer feels applicable. The church has become static, immovable, and slowly dies. You see this in the natural life cycle of churches. There is a peak time for a church, and the congregation is moving away from this imagined time of perfection.
Hidden in church culture is the static view of the church. We have a hard time imagining what the future church will look like. The essential elements of a church will be there, but often those elements that are culturally influenced will change with the times. If you do not believe me, did you have a sound system in the 1800's, or how about powerpoint in the 1980's, and I can promise you that you did not have seeker sensitive sermons in the 1960's. And any of you practicing the Holy Kiss, and when was the last time you wore a veil ladies?
Churches start to die when leaders cannot imagine the future of the congregation. For an example, Castle Rock was a small rural congregation in the 1970 and 1980's, but in the 1990's, the town started to change. It became an wealthy suburb of Denver. with a small town feel. And for another example, we redid the parking lot, and the former size of each space was 10 feet, which is good for trucks, but the shopping centers have 9 feet, which is perfect for cars, so in the past, the congregation, created spaces for farmers with trucks, but we recently created spaces for suburb moms and dads. A church has numerous choices to make. We are constantly changing the congregation to fit with who we are reaching. Recently, the elders are planning on giving up their office space, because we need more kids class room space, because we have a ton of young families. We are operating on the idea of having a younger congregation, that is kid focused.
We are a restoration church. We seek to restoration 1st century Christianity to a 21st century suburb area. We practice the same faith that Christians have practiced for thousands of years, but we also practice changing those elements that culturally connect with the people we are seeking to renew in God. If a leader cannot imagine the church for the next ten years, how it will look different, how it will behavior different, and what will be the future, this leader has taken on a static view of the congregation, and has denied the restoration culture within the churches of Christ. If you cannot see that you church will be different, you can trust me that it will be different, because there will be a lot less people attending there in the next ten years. All leaders are called to imagine the future.
Rarely, do I use someone else’s material for an article. But this article by Thom Rainer is so helpful that I wanted to include it. Throughout my years of ministry, I have seen this too many times, and am watchful of myself for these warning signs. This is an article we all need to reflect on this week.
1.Moral failure. The most common scenario is a sexual affair. The member who was once revered becomes intensely embarrassed and ashamed, so much so that he or she cannot face the members and friends at church.
2.Dropping out of a group. The church member stops his or her regular attendance in a small group or Sunday school class. It is almost inevitable that, without the accountability and fellowship a small group brings, that person is headed to be a complete church dropout.
3.Burnout. The church member is asked to do many things because he or she tackles them with such passion and faithfulness. But some of these very active members don’t know how to say no. They burnout and leave church completely.
4.Traumatic event. A painful loss or some similar pain can cause many church members to lean on fellow Christians even more. But some react in an opposite fashion and leave the fellowship.
5.Dropping out of a ministry. The church member’s primary point of reference and connection with the church is a particular ministry. If he or she leaves that ministry (or in a few cases was asked to leave), it is not unusual for them to see no reason to continue with the church at all.
6.Major interpersonal conflict. Marginal church members tend to drop out at the first hint of even minor interpersonal conflict. Very active members are more resilient, recognizing that no church members are perfect. But if the conflict becomes severe, some of the very active church members will leave as well.
7.Gradual withdrawal. Most of the time a very active church member will drop out rather suddenly. But, on a few occasions, they just gradually withdraw from involvement in the church. These dropouts had trouble articulating to me why they left, or why they slowly withdrew from involvement. As one lady told me, “It’s like I woke up one morning, and I was no longer involved in the church.”
RMSTitanicwas a Britishpassenger linerthatsankin the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of 15 April 1912 after colliding with anicebergduring her maiden voyagefromSouthampton, UK toNew York City, US. The sinking ofTitaniccaused the deaths of more than 1,500 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disastersin modern history. On her maiden voyage, she carried 2,224 passengers and crew. AlthoughTitanichad advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, there were not enoughlifeboatsto accommodate all of those aboard due to outdated maritime safety regulations.Titaniconly carried enough lifeboats for 1,178 people—slightly more than half of the number on board, and one-third her total capacity.
Most people are familiar with the famous Titanic story. The cause of the disaster was an iceberg. One could have easily misjudged the extent of the iceberg because these natural phenomena float nine-tenths down and one-tenth up. The majority of an iceberg is beneath the surface of the water.
The science behind these gigantic ice structures leads to a lesson in faith. It is easy to misjudge the work of Christ in this world. If you survey human history, beneath the surface is the majority of the work of God. But humans only have the ability to recognize one-tenth of the actions of God. Most of what takes place is the hidden presence of the Lord. Through the journey of life, you are able to see the unthrusting of Jesus. Much of the work of the Lord is a mystery to mankind. But on those rare occasions, we are blessed to see God demonstrating his power to us. Sadly, it is too common to misjudge the iceberg of the Lord. You might wonder about his presence and activity in this world, but you must remember that we are only seeing a glimpse of the fullness of God’s plans for us and for this world.
The world is stressful. The world is chaotic. The world is difficult. This is why peace in life is rare. People have projects, work, relationships, and suffering in life which drains the peace from our minds. A lot of people might wonder if they have peace in life. Of course there are going to be times of difficulty, of stress, of headaches, but does one’s life connote peace or trouble?
Here are the three signs to know if you have peace in your life. These signs are not hard fast rules, but are general signs to indicate whether you live in peace or trouble.
The first sign is sleep. How is your sleep these days? Do you toss and turn throughout the night for no reason? Do you have difficulty relaxing as you prepare for a night’s sleep? Sometimes a few nights will be restless, but a general rule of peace is that you can sleep at night. You are at peace in this world. You have learned to accept what you cannot change, and you feel confident that the through the Lord’s will you can change what you are empowered to change.
The second sign is attitude. Does every little difficulty create stress? Does every little problem become a big problem after you think about it for awhile? The attitude that you bring to a problem will influence the extent of the difficulty. We can make molehills into mountains with a pessimistic attitude. A positive attitude shows inner peace.
The third sign is trust. Do you see the future as being worst than the past? Do you believe that God is still working in your life? Or do you believe that every solution to every problem is on you to solve? Sometimes it takes plain child like trust to have peace in life. Sometimes we must trust God that whatever is taking place in our lives will also pass with time.
The way to change from stress to peace is to begin with prayer through faith. As time continues, soon one will be able to see that the Lord is in control which will add peace in our lives.
Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity and two precious children named Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies, and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master’s of Divinity degree, and Harding School of Theology with his Doctorate of Ministry degree. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, the Gospel Advocate; and the Rocky Mountain Christian.