Growth Takes Intentionality

ImageI recently read where if you put a pumpkin in a jug when it’s the size of a walnut, it will grow to the size and shape of the jug and never get bigger.  That can happen in our own personal growth too!

Over the past 25 days, I have been spending a better portion of each day focused on Personal Growth.  I have read a 356 page Fiction book to allow my mind to veg out, a book entitled “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer and I’m in the middle of “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John Maxwell.  I have set some guardrails in my life and set up a “structured” time management plan for my life beginning in August.  I have been very intentional.

Over the past 4 days, I have realized that I must take control of my life and stop running to the “Hottest Fire”!  As I read and seek the face of God for my life, He consistently tells me the same thing! “Press toward the Goal”.  The problem in recent months is that my goal has been surviving today.  This goal has been small and has a very odd shape.  It also has restricted me from growing.

I would like to share with you some wonderful quotes from John Maxwell’s book that may help you take control of your life and be consistent in growing as you move forward as I do.

“The hallmark of excellence, the test of greatness, is consistency.”  Jim Tressel

“You’ve got to get up every morning w/ determination if you’re going to go to bed w/ satisfaction.”  George Lorimer

“Small disciplines repeated w/ consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” J. Maxwell

“If you develop the habits of success, you’ll make success a habit.”  Michael Angier

“It’s possible to change without growing, but it’s impossible to grow without changing.” J. Maxwell

“Today is when everything that’s going to happen from now on begins.” Harvey FIrestone Jr.

“If you need to make changes in yourself and your environment, don’t dwell on your past.  You can’t change it.  Don’t worry about your future.  You can’t control it.  Focus on the current moment and what you can do now.  J. Maxwell

Basically, what I’m telling you is this:  “Growth Takes Intentionality”! I resolve to seek the will of God and intentionally make the changes in my life to allow for the most growth!  Folks, I’ve been in a small jug!  The jug is coming off and I long to grow in every area of my life!

Growth Takes Intentionality,

Matt

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The Law of Reflection

Last week, as my wife and I were blessed to spend the week on a cruise ship out in the middle of the ocean, I really expected something big to happen. I expected us to get rejuvenated and refreshed by simply removing ourselves from our everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, we rested well and we enjoyed every second that we were away. But as we jumped into my truck to return home, the weight and load of life began to consume my thought life.

The closer we got to home/ the more overwhelmed I became. This was brought on by the fact that my 13 year old truck (that I just spent $518.00 on 2 weeks ago) was skipping like a 7 year old school girl as we traveled North on I-75. I knew it was going “put us down” at any moment. Also, I received a call from my son to inform me that our downstair’s AC unit was not working! Just what I wanted… To leaves the luxury of a 5 star cruise ship and spend the next evening sweating like a mule in the comforts of my own home! Joy/Joy.

I must say that our Lord did allow us to make it home and our upstair’s AC unit was blowing snowballs! So, I slept by myself in my daughter’s “Pink” bed last night. When I woke up this morning, I pulled out a book by John Maxwell that I have been reading and I realized that last week was good but it was not the best. I read the chapter this morning that was entitled “The Law of Reflection”!

Last week I removed myself from my day to day life but I did not apply “The Law of Reflection”. Basically, John Maxwell explains that if we never spend time reflecting on our past, we will never grow! He unpacked the “Power of Pausing” in this chapter and it has rattled me to the core! You see, when we pause and reflect, something worthwhile happens.

Here are a few truths mentioned in the book concerning Reflection:
1. Reflection Turns Experience into Insight.
2. Everyone Needs a Time and a Place to Pause & Reflect.
3. Pausing with Intention Expands and Enriches Thinking.

So, last week as I was away, I did pause but I did not reflect. I simply refused to allow my mind to reflect and what I realize today is that I must reflect to get the benefit of “Pausing”! In fact, each day should include some time of pausing and reflecting.

Jim Rohm said it this way, “At the end of each day, you should play back the tapes of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you!” I commit to spending time each day “Pausing and Reflecting” where I can grow and be the man God has called me to be. I refuse to continue repeating the struggles of today-Tomorrow! Will you join me?

I’m Committed,

Matt

It’s Not About Me…

This morning as I sit on a dingy sofa in a less than 5 star hotel, I am missing my church family. I have not stood in the pulpit since June 30th and I have spoken to less than 5 church members since then.

A sabbatical is a difficult journey. You see, you have to let go and I’m not good at letting go! I’ve had to let go of the day to day. I’ve had to let go of the calls, emails and most of the text messages. I’ve had to give up the pulpit that I love to stand behind each week. In fact, I have not even prepared a single message in 14 days! I do have a preaching plan in place for the 1st 5 weeks when I return in August but they are not ready to unload. I’ve had to let my wife manage my phone and just let it all go. It has not been easy.

Through the years I have been taught that the pastor/preacher must lead the charge! They do all the pastoring, teaching, visiting, leading, praying, ministering, counseling, weddings, funerals and make sure you are in the service each week preaching. “Your people expect you to preach every week.” So, missing the month of July so for has been tough.

This morning, my friend Terry Richardson will stand and proclaim the Word of God to the wonderful people at Hope Church. He is a dear friend and I love him deeply. Over the past 2 years, I’ve missed maybe 3 services where I was not in attendance and no more than 6 services where I didn’t preach at all. I long to preach and more than that, I have believed that the people want me to be the one preaching. Lol…

God is showing me that I’m not “Superman”. Our people are not looking for Matt Alexander to be in that pulpit, they are looking for “God’s man” to show up with a word from Heaven! I strive to be that man each week. I want to be that man each week! But it does not have to be me!

When I return, things will be different. I commit to mentor and invest in those younger men who God has called to preach the Gospel. I commit to allow them the privilege to proclaim the Word of God in our pulpit as God leads. I’m thankful for the men through the years who entrusted their pulpits to me. You see, they didn’t believe it was all about them and what gives me that right?

I know, I know… I’m the pastor. I’m the one being held accountable. I’m the “paid staff”. I hear ya! But listen…. God is showing me that part of my calling and ministry is to invest in those that are out in front of me in life, ministry & experience, those coming behind me and those along side of me.

Folks, people in our churches love their pastors. They even desire to hear them preach each week. But if we are faithful, they will be more concerned about hearing “God’s man” than hearing their preacher-man when they walk into our services. Let’s lead our people to fall in love with Jesus and when a man stands behind that sacred desk and they are full of Jesus, they’ll leave challenged and changed!

It’s Not About Me,

Matt

Tomorrows Clouds

This morning as I look out our back windows, I see the rain falling-AGAIN. It’s seems that it has been raining everyday. We are inclined to complain and whine but I’m sure our Lord will allow things to dry up real soon. Then I suppose we will complain about that too. Everyday people turn the news on to catch the weather and when they do, it seems to weigh them down.

In fact, we tend to worry about things that we can’t control. We can’t control the weather no more than we can control Joe Biden’s tongue…. Ok, I won’t go there! But why do we worry about things we can’t control? Why do we allow the worries of tomorrow to stress us out today? Worry is real and I have been victim of this awful plague.

Over the past year, I have found myself consumed with worry. I hate to use that word. I would rather use the word “concern”, that sounds more spiritual, right? But I’ve lied to myself long enough. I’ve been worrying about things that I should be giving to God!

I worry about our future location of our church plant. I worry about getting our church calendar set. I worry about getting my preaching calendar set. I worry about how guest feel in our services. I worry about not spending time with my family. I worry about getting promotional materials developed next month for a special event. I worry about who’s going to handle moving our setup trailer. I worry about our leadership team burning out! I worry, worry, worry. Until this week, I’ve thought it was just concern. But worry has consumed me. As I read over theses “worries”, I realize that everything I worry about are little things and these little things are sucking the life out of me. These things worry me and consume my thought life and I’m left ineffective!

There are scriptures that we can all quote that deal with this and I have looked them all up this week. They have ministered to my soul. I even went and listened to the great Dr. Adrian Rogers preach a message on worry this week to be challenged. In that message he made a few statements that rattled me to the core. After hearing those statements, I repented and God has set me free. I have made a commitment to Him and myself that I will unload these wagons of worry and allow Him to give me strength for each day.

Dr. Rogers made these statements:

“Worry does not take the sorrow out of tomorrow, it takes the strength out if today!”

“Worry pulls tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine!”

Folks, it may rain tomorrow, but we cant afford to let the clouds of tomorrow cover our sunshine today!

I’m Committed,

Matt

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up…

ImageWhen I was just a little boy, people would always ask me, “Matthew, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  My stock answer was to be a policeman or fireman.  Then they would go a step further and ask, “When you grow up, do you think you will be a Preacher?”  NO!  Not a chance!

Fast forward to 1991!  I was fresh out of High School and I was “In Love” with the girl of my dreams!  We had been dating for several years and I was confident that she was the “ONE”! We had been discussing marriage.  I know, I know, I was young but she was older than me and more “mature”…  Well, she was starting her Junior Year at UGA and I was in school trying to get some kind of degree to satisfy her parents.  We were both working as much as possible and we were looking forward to the day that we could get married.

I had it all planned out.  I took off work one day and had to have “the talk” with her dad!  Her dad was a farmer and he would normally show up at his house around lunch each day.  I decided that I would go ask him if I could get his blessing to ask “his sweet, only child” to marry me.  

Well, I walked in the door and he was rared back in his Lazy Boy wearing his work outfit.  He was the guy that wore the denim shirt everyday with the cut off sleeves!  I’ll never forget the nervousness in my gut.  I was about to Puke!  I sat down on the sofa (more than an arms length away) and began my spill.  I shared with Thomas that I loved Thomasia with all my heart and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I finally mustered up enough courageous to ask him for his permission to ask her to marry me.  Thomas’ reply was priceless.  “Matt, are you going to be a farmer when you grow up?”  I said, “Absolutely Not”.  He quickly said, “You can marry her!”  He knew the struggles of farm-life and didn’t want us to experience the same life he had endured.

We left together that afternoon and headed to the jewelry store to buy a ring.  He was so excited and wanted me to pick the perfect ring for his daughter and my bride to be.  I’ll never forget how excited he was.  It sure made my life so much easier!

About 2 weeks later, I ask Thomasia to come down to my house one morning.  She walked in my room, I sat her on the edge of my bed, I proceeded down on my knees and shared these words with her: “Thomasia, I love you with all my heart.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I want to ask you today if you would marry me?  Before you answer, I want you to know that if you say yes, it’s forever!  There’s no turning back, there is no such thing as divorce!”

Here is her response, “Matt, I have one question for you…  When you grow up, are you going to be a preacher?”  I was shocked!  I said, “Absolutely Not!”  The rest is history!  We waited till she graduated UGA a few years later and on this day, July 10, 1993, we entered into a Covenant Marriage Relationship!

Through the years, God has changed our hearts and knitted them together on numerous occasions.  I have had to ask her dad and her to forgive me for lying to them!  I lied about not  becoming a farmer because now I sow the Gospel Seed each week.  I lied about not becoming a Preacher, but I really had no intention of becoming a Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thomasia has stuck with me through every career change and uncertain path that God has led us down.  I am one blessed man!  So, on this day, I have to ask myself that same question that I’ve been asked so many time in my life, “Matt, what do what to be when you grow up?”

I want to be the husband that God called me to be.  I want to be the father that God desires for me to be.  I want to love my wife as Christ loves the church and I desperately want to be everything my wife had in mind 20 years ago today, when she walked down that aisle and said, “I DO” before God and all of our friends and family!

May we all evaluate our lives today and be what God intended for us to be according to His Word!  Happy Anniversary Babe!

Growing Up,

Matt

Can I Go With You, Daddy?

God has blessed me with 5 wonderful children. Over the past 3 years as we have been on the Church Planting Journey, we have spent countless hours together. I must admit that the majority of the time we are consumed with what we are doing in our missional context or what we need to be doing… Needless to say, I’ve done a lousy job separating our personal life and ministry. I know, I know, I can hear you mumbling under your breath that I should not separate the 2. Well, I believed that lie too!

What I’ve discovered over the past week is that my children long for my attention and focus. They want me, they need me, they want All of me! Since planting our church, the time that I’ve spent with my children, 1 on 1 has pretty much always been doing church errands or making visits. This is good, but its not the BEST!

Every morning when I get ready to walk out of the house several of my kids will approach me and say these words, “Can I Go With You, Daddy?” They don’t really want to go to the hospital to make a visit. They don’t want to sit in my office most of the day and watch me study or make phone calls. They have no desire to work on events or do mailers! They just want to be with me!

This week I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to invest hours and hours in my children outside of our ministry setting! This morning I got up and told my son Caleb, “Son, get ready, you are going with me this morning!” He said, “Where are we going?” I replied, “Does it really matter?” And with a huge smile on his face he hollered back, “NOPE!”

I took him to “The Caboose” and we enjoyed a great breakfast together. He enjoyed eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast! He even ventured out and tried the Raspberry Jam! He even drank a Red Can Coke! As we were getting ready to leave, he said “Daddy, I wonder if they serve ice cream here during breakfast?” I said, “I’m sure they do, go get you one!” “REALLY, Daddy?” I said, “Go For It”!

I don’t think Caleb will ever forget this special time and I’m confident I won’t. Folks, let’s slow down and invest time into our children! It’s worth it! Nothing I can do today will amount to more than what I experienced before 10:30 am with my 8 year old son!

“Can I Go With You, Daddy?” YES!

I’m Committed,

Daddy

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Words of Wisdom

As a pastor, I am constantly asking myself this question: Is my life and ministry making a difference in the lives of others?  I assume this is a question that most pastors ask themselves regularly.  I know I do…

Each week as I minister, serve, invest and preach God’s Word, I get so busy in the work that I rarely slow down and evaluate the life change in people’s lives.  To be completely honest, very few people share with their pastor how God is working in their life because of their investment into them.  So, this morning as I was celebrating the inward and outward change that I can see in our church family, I began to think about those men in my life that have poured TRUTH into my life and ministry through the years.

I would like to share briefly some wonderful “Words of Wisdom” from some of these men:

1.  Bryan Alexander-  when I was wrestling with God about answering the call to ministry, I ask my brother a question…  I said, “Bryan, when God called you into ministry how did you know where to start?”  He said, “Matt, I just started digging where Daddy Dug.” (Genesis 26:18) You see, our Dad was a pastor and he dug some wonderful wells for us to go and reopen.  He set a great example for us and Bryan was challenging me to just follow in Daddy’s footsteps.

2.  Wilburn Hill- he mentored be without even trying for over 24 years.  I grew up under his ministry and I watched every step he took and listened to every word he spoke.  I ended up serving on staff with him for a few years before he retired in 2010.  He always told and modeled for me this phrase… “Matt, love the people.  They will put up with a lot if they know you love them.”  Boy, those words have never been more true.

3.  Johnny Hunt-  Even though he does not know me, he has ministered to me in a major way since 2000.  One of the main things I use to hear him say over and over and over to men at conferences and pastors in meetings and from his pulpit was this simple prayer… “Lord, keep me close and clean.”  This is my pray as I strive to lead a body of believers and my family.

4.  Stan Jordan- I think I shared this in an earlier post but it’s worth repeating.  I was sitting in class at NOBTS one evening and Stan was our professor.  Stan was always early to class and on this particular evening, he was not on time.  I was experiencing a heavy weight in my life and was stretched out and time was flying so fast that I could not get everything done…  Stan walks into class and he sets his bags down and collects himself and begins by opening class in pray like he always did.  Stan began to pray and he confesses that he had a busy day and then he said these words… “Lord, thank you that in scripture, we never see Jesus in a hurry.”  Those words are a constant source of help to this busy pastor.

5.  Danny Singleton- this man has poured into me like very few people.  Danny lives a transparent life and he has given me so many “words of wisdom” through the years.  Here are a few… “Guys, we are just 1/2″ away from STUPID at any moment.”  “Hey, you would not like me if you really knew me.”  “God has called us to BE DIFFERENT ON PURPOSE.”  These truths have marked me and I’m thankful.

6.  Neal Hughes-  I’m not sure any man has marked me in such a short period of time like my friend, Neal Hughes.  Neal is the most caring, genuine, loving, compassionate, and intentional man I know.  Neal always has time for everyone and when he says that he loves you, he means it.  At the end of every service at CBC when he was our interim pastor, he gave us these words of comfort… “Have I told you today that I love you?”  It’s feels so good to be loved and I’m thankful for the love of Neal Hughes and the love of my Savior Jesus Christ!

I pray that my ministry and life mark people like these men!  I pray that God will give me “Words of Wisdom” for people in my circle of influence!  It will take intentionality!

I’m Committed,

Matt