He’s “Special”

On this day 16 years ago, my life was changed forever. No, I didn’t have a terrible accident or hear some troubling news from a Doctor. I found myself at the side of a hospital bed at Rockdale Medical Hospital and witnessed the most remarkable thing! On that day, my wife gave birth to Elijah Craig Alexander.

Like all of all our children, Elijah is “Special”! He’s special because our Lord has uniquely gifted him with some gifts that make him standout in our home. I remember how when he was 2 1/2 years old that he could back his John Deere Petal Tractor around our island in our kitchen with a trailer hitched to the rear without ever having to pull forward to realign himself! Folks- that’s Special. I’ll have to remind him of that gift as he prepares to get his license this week. He’s sweating a load!

Elijah is “Special” because he is a very hard worker. When I’m scared to try to tear something a part, he dives right in! He loves to get dirty and do whatever it takes to accomplish the task at hand. In fact, I’ve never seen a kid or 16 year young man with the work ethic he has. He can do anything he wants to do. At times I get perplexed when he accomplishes something I would have never tried and I ask myself, “Self, where does he get that”? Well, he gets that from his Mom and Papa.

Elijah is “Special” because he has a heart to be a behind the scenes-impact player for the cause of Christ. When God called our family to plant Hope Church of Madison, I had no idea what kind of task He was calling us to. There are days that all of our children are with me, serving food, washing coolers, setting up tables, sweeping floors, praying with families or visiting hospitals. Elijah has been with me every step of the way. He serves at Hope church in our Audio Visual Ministry and our Lord has used him in a tremendous way over the past 3 years. He works so hard. He’s “Special”!

Next, I’m sure Elijah will not like the phrase “He’s Special”, but I have a reason. When I was a kid, my mom always told me that I was “Special” & it made a great impact on my life. In fact, I heard it so much I began to believe it. I’m not sure I was “Special” but I’m confident that Elijah is! I’m so proud of the young man that he has grown to be and I’m not looking forward to letting him go in the days to come, but he has a calling! So, I will release him to join our Lord in making a difference for His Kingdom!

Elijah, You are one of greatest blessings our Lord has given to us. We love you and we are so proud and honored to call you son! When I look at you I see myself and it fills me with fear. But I also see your mom and how she has greatly influenced your life. It doesn’t stop there, I see your Papaw, who you never met. He marked you and you don’t even realize it! I see Grammaw in you by how you care so deeply for others & this is a trait that’s at the top of my list of things I admire about you. Finally, when I look at you, I see your Papa & Nana. Our Lord used them in a Real Unique Way to help mold & shape you into the man you have become. I’m overwhelmed today as I think about who you have become because of these special people.

You know, Elijah is “Special” because God used “Special” people to invest in him. May we all see that we are “Special” & let that truth motivate us to invest in the next generation.

I’m Committed,

Dad

Licking Your Lips/Blowing Your Horn

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During the month of August, our entire family participated in a “Social Media Fast”.  This came out of our sabbatical time in July.  We saw that our family had become disconnected from each other and we were obsessed….  Most evenings consisted of our entire family sitting around on a device “blowing our horn”.  We realized that this was not healthy.

One thing that I realized while off of social media this past month was how many people, including pastors, use social media to publicize what “God is doing” in their life and ministry in reality it is simply a “Self Promotion” strategy.  Let me give you an example:

This past Sunday was Labor Day Weekend and it is typically a very low Sunday at most churches due to travel and family outings.  Our church plant is about 2 years old and our attendance was way off.  In fact, we had 81 people.  I actually felt pretty good when I was told what our attendance was because I had prepared myself for 40 people…  I began to read twitter on the way home from church while my 15 year old son was driving.  I read where pastor after pastor talked about how their churches were full and people received Christ, people where baptized, overflow rooms where full, altars were full, people were getting happy… and babies were being tossed out of the balconies!!  No, not really but the comments were pretty extreme.

Now, I know as a pastor that we get excited when our attendance is good and people’s lives are changed by the Gospel, but I believe a lot of people and pastors are just “blowing their own horn” instead of giving God glory!  Social Media has given an outlet for pastors to lick their prideful lips and begin to toot their horns as loud and as much as they want.

As a pastor of a small church plant with very few people, sometimes I feel like a failure when I read comments on Social Media from other pastors. When I think back over my week last week, I worked very hard at fulfilling my goals and calling.  At times, I find myself licking my lips to blow my horn when God quickly challenges my motives when I start to post a tweet or post an update on social media.

What would happen if we would stop using social media as a place to “Blow our Horns” and start using it to encourage others and Exalt the Savior?  Social Media can be a good thing but we must use it responsibly.  

Finally, this morning I was sharing with my wife that I had heard that a pastor friend of mine was considering resigning his church.  She said, “Wow… On Facebook, you would think the church was doing great and they are “Happy, Happy, Happy”.  Her comment blew me away!  Folks, lets don’t use social media to paint a picture that is not reality! 

Trying Not to Lick My Prideful Lips,

Matt

Pray Big…

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There have been seasons of my life where I was led to Pray Big.  Each time I sought God in a Big way, He seemed to always do Big things…  Over the past month or so, I have been challenged by Scripture to pray Big Prayers.  It also seems that everywhere I turn, God is saying, “Trust Me, I Am your source, I can handle it, I will provide.”  

I have been re-reading “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala.  This book challenged me many years ago to be God Dependent and as I have been reading it again, I have a new, fresh dependency upon God.  It seems that through the busyness of life, I had began to pray those normal, sissy prayers…  You know, “Lord, keep us safe, provide for us, speak to my heart, show me the way, God bless the USA….”  I have found that these things do not normally bring a lot of Glory to our Lord because it’s the Big prayers that He answers that He gets the most glory for!

My last post was on August 9th, where I discussed getting “Back to the Basics”.  God has reminded me that if I am going to be a 1st Century Christian in the 21st Century, I must get back to the basics in my prayer life.  In Acts, the 1st Century Believers where faced with all kinds of opposition and persecution.  But they did not pray the normal prayers…  They prayed Big Prayers to a Big God because they were on a Big Mission!

In fact, in Acts 4:29-30, they prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  I love it, they didn’t pray for safety and strength.  They prayed for BOLDNESS!  Boldness had gotten them into the mess they were in, but they prayed for more BOLDNESS and as God would stretch out His hand to work in the lives of those around them, they wanted to be able to speak the Gospel w/ Boldness!

That’s a Big Prayer!  I have been praying this prayer and a few other Big Prayers for about 47 days now and I have seen God do some Big Things!  What are you praying for? Are you praying for Boldness?  Are you praying Big prayers?  We serve a Big God and we are on a Big Mission, why not Pray Big?

I’m Committed,

Matt

Back To The Basics

When I was playing High School Baseball, it seemed that each year we would start off good and then have a few terrible games. Each year at this point our coach (Allen Crowley) would say these words at practice, “Boys, it’s time to get Back To The Basics”! Those words meant something to us. In fact, we knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Back To The Basics” meant that we would be running the bases and finish our practice each day “on the fence”… Oh the dreaded fence! “Back To The Basics” meant that we would be focusing on conditioning, hitting, and catching. He would tell us that if we could not run, hit and catch, we were toast! In fact, he would spend time reviewing the rules of baseball. I remember one game in particular that we had lost because one of our players had run out of the base line and interfered with a play.

Last month as I was on my sabbatical, I kept hearing Coach Crowley in my ear, “Boy, it’s time to get “Back To The Basics”! As I contemplated those words, I realized that several things needed to happen.

1. I had to “get on the fence”. That meant that I had to work on conditioning. I had to put into practice the spiritual disciplines that would condition me for the ministry God had called me to.

2. I had to work on catch and hitting. If I could not “Catch the Word of God” (hear from Heaven), I was in trouble! If I could not “Hit the Curve” Satan threw me, I would be sitting on the bench.

3. I had to review what my mentors had taught me about the rules of ministry. You see, I realized that I could not run out of the base line and expect to win. I had to put some guardrails in place to keep me where I needed to be.

Do you feel that your loosing? Do you need to “get on the fence”? Are you “catching the Word”? Are you “hitting the curve”? Do you need to put guardrails in your life to keep you on track?

In the words of Coach Crowley, “Boys, it’s time to get Back To The Basics”!

I’m Committed,

Matt

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

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

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

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

Being Key Keeper

Over the past 2 years, our family has been privileged to serve along side some wonderful people each week in our ministry setting. Each Sunday, our family gets up and everyone has their assigned tasks and we get busy.

Usually my wife and 3 younger children get ready for church and head to town to pick up our supplies for our “Hope Cafe”! You know, muffins, donuts, napkins, coffee cups, sugar, creamer, etc, etc… They also go by the “Golden Arches” and pick biscuits for our set up team. This is a big blessing to all the folks that come out early to set up.

For 2 years now, I have gotten up early to spend time with my Lord and go over my message before the busyness of the day begins. It’s wild that on this Sunday morning as I sit here contemplating my usual Sunday morning, I am missing my routine. You see today will be different. Usually by now on Sunday mornings I have already had a time of “Unhindered Worship” in my garage apartment, just me and Jesus.

After that time in my garage, the busyness begins! My 2 oldest sons and I hit the road! We head by our mother church to pick up our weekly worship guides and then we make a bee line to the High School to set up for our worship services. As the Planter/Pastor, I have been the “Key Keeper”. That means, since I have the keys, I go to set up every week. The only people in our church that attends set up every week is the Worship Pastor and our family. We are paid staff so we have to attend, right? Well, that’s what I’ve always thought. I have bought into the lie that if I do not go, who will take care of the details? You know, making sure the trash is picked up inside and out. Setting the projectors where they are straight on our screens and adjusting the lights where they are set just perfect…

As I sit here and think about how silly that sounds, I realize that each Sunday my worship has been hindered because I’ve been too concerned about the things that someone else can be concerned about. In fact, each week during the service, I’m micro managing my son who serves as our audio /visual guy during the service from the front row with my cell phone. Like I said, my worship has been hindered.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were in Houston Texas attending the SBC and NAMB provided a worship time for church planters and NAMB staff. We didn’t have to unlock the doors, set the lights, pick up trash, adjust projectors or screens. We simply showed up and worshipped! We realized that day that we were in need of “Unhindered Corporate” worship. We are thankful today to have the opportunity that our church has afforded us to ride to church together and just worship.

Today, we are headed out to a church in Athens to hear from Heaven as we worship our Lord. I miss being at Hope Church already but I’m confident God will use this time to refresh our family and minister to our people. I do feel a little weird not being the “Key Keeper” but I believe that if I can give up the keys, God will give me everything I need to have “Unhindered Worship”!

I’m Committed!

Matt