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

The Sabbatical Journey Begins

Our family began down a path in September of 2010 that has been an incredible journey! Planting Hope Church of Madison has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life but it has also been extremely taxing. We have attended countless hours of training, attended conferences, read books, sought The Lord for wisdom and had attended hundreds of meetings. Our family has been running this race – wide open, for almost 3 years now and we have found ourselves depleted in almost every area of our lives.

This depletion has occurred for several reasons:

1. I love ministry and God has given me the desire to be an impact player in His Kingdom work. I have had a hard time saying “No”.

2. Lack of experience- Hope Church is my first Pastorate and I have neglected to heed the advice of my peers to protect my family and personal time and there have been very little division of “Ministry” and “Family/Home” life.

3. My communication lines are always open and on and I have neglected to unplug. Even on vacation, I have answered the phone, returned email and given counsel to members in our congregation.

4. Operating a church, planning our church calendar, and doing the busy-work of events has taken priority over my “unhurried time” w/ the Lord. I am exhausted, frazzled, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

5. I have done a pour job of investing in leaders and delegating responsibilities and task. This has caused me to be pulled away from my primary responsibility as your pastor- “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, & some pastors & teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the saints.” Eph. 4:11-12

About 3 weeks ago, I began to see exhaustion and frustration in my children from the load of our ministry and this caused me to begin to evaluate where I was too. Last week I “hit the wall” and realized that I needed to unplug and refresh for the road ahead. Never in my life have i experience such agony and fatigue. Each evening when I would return home, I would lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling and weep from the load that I refused to relinquish. I wept before God and knew I had to share my load w/ our leadership team.

Last Thursday I had a “Divine Appointment” w/ one of our men who serves on our leadership team at Hope Church. Before I knew it, I unloaded EVERYTHING on him…. He took it in stride and was determined to help our family. He called a meeting w/ the entire team and they developed a plan.

Sunday morning, after our service, our leadership team requested that our family take a “Sabbatical” for the month of July. –Wanting to really utilize this time, I searched our convention’s definition of a “Sabbatical” and here is what it is and I quote—

“A sabbatical is a specific period of time-off granted to the minister for in-depth focus on professional and spiritual renewal and calling. It is a gift the congregation can give to her pastor/staff in recognition of faithful ministry over an extended period of time. It is not a vacation or personal leave. Rather it is a time for creative and intentional meditation, reflection, study and “going deeper with God.” An important result of sabbatical (Spiritual renewal) leave is that the pastor/staff returns to the church field with renewed focus and energy to fulfill God’s calling.”

So, as of today my family and I will be spending this month seeking our Lord for Spiritual Renewal. Our leadership team has requested that I totally unplug during this season of my life. They have ask that my phone, email and communication be turned off. This is a HUGE Challenge!

I have already began the process of unplugging and retooling. I have several books that I will be reading this month that focus on Spiritual Renewal and growth. One of them is entitled “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John Maxwell. The first 2 chapters has revealed a flaw in my life and I will strive to fix that flaw! I have set some goals for this time and look forward to hearing from Heaven and coming back energized and full of vision!

I look forward to seeing how God grows us during this time and I plan to log my progress in this blog in order for everyone to read how God is renewing my spirit. I intend on being transparent and truthful so this can be a source of help for me in the future and for anyone who might experience a similar situation.

I’m Committed!