Message From Matt – March 13

Wait on the Lord
 
Have you ever been so discouraged and distressed by what is going on around you that you just want to throw in the towel? The answer for most of will be, yes, definitely!  We live in a world that has a lot of ups and downs in it, but there are times when the downs seem overwhelming!  There are seasons in our lives when the worry gets immense or the pain of loss is too much to bear and we wonder why God has allowed these things to happen to us.  Maybe not everyone has experienced that, but we will all go through challenging times; the question is, what will sustain you when you are struggling?  Let me suggest the three things that David wrote about in Psalm 27:11-14 that will help….1) the goodness of God; 2) our heavenly hope;  and 3) our hearts being strengthened by waiting on God.  
 
Look what David says about this in these verses:  “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.  Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.  I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
What a great passage!  When we have troubles, or are in trouble, there are times where we can feel like fainting too!  It’s easy to throw in the towel but God’s goodness can sustain you!  It is God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  It is God’s goodness that will follow us all of our days (Psalm 23:6).  David also told us to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)!  
 
But the goodness that David is talking about in Psalm 27 is something that he couldn’t see yet.  It was something that he had to wait for.  It was something that he had to look forward to!  
 
You might feel defeated today, but I want you to have some hope!  Jesus is coming!  He is preparing a place for you (John 14:1-3) and will come for you.  Until then, He has given us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to strengthen us when we are weak.  And since we have the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to live defeated!  We can wait on the Lord and have courage, knowing that He can sustain us!  
Believe that you will see the goodness of the Lord!
Wait on Him!
Be courageous!  

And God will give you strength!  Let’s not be defeated or depressed – believe in God’s goodness! 


Message From Matt – March 6

You don’t know what you have….
 
Recently, I heard once again that old phrase, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” and it got me thinking about the great things that we have as believers that we can easily take for granted.  As believers we have been given much, but if we’re not careful,  our relationship with God can become stale.  I think this can happen to anyone and usually it’s because of busyness and pressures of this life that it can feel that way.  Or maybe it’s because we just make other things a priority until  we get to the point that we forget what closeness with God feels like.  We also can’t overlook the affect of sin not dealt with in our life can cause this to happen.  
No matter the reason, when we get to the point that closeness with God seems a thing of the past, it’s good to reset our priorities and remember what is important.  
 
For example, Bekah sent me the video below with the thought, “I wish we all reacted this way to getting a Bible”.  When I saw this video I was immediately captivated by it.  The little girl received a Bible for a gift and it made her day…maybe her year!  She was moved to tears because of the Bible as it seems that she had to borrow a Bible before.  
https://youtu.be/2bGlovlbyVA
After watching it I agreed with Bekah’s statement…wouldn’t it be great if we all acted like that with the Bible that we have?  So excited to have one!  So excited to be in it!
I know that we are all busy, but being in the Word seems like it should be non-negotiable!  We should start (and maybe end) our day with it.
 
After watching this video,  I was reminded of another video that I showed a couple of years ago in a church service (see below).
https://youtu.be/CkXDcdMNE-I
All I can say is that these two videos are very convicting to me!  
 
I know that many in our church are in the Word on a regular basis, but I’m sure that we could all say that we could be in it more.  I want to encourage you to read the Bible today (and every day) and enjoy it!  Ask God to give you an excitement when you read it.  Ask God to give us something fresh from it every day!  I believe Psalm 37:4 states it well;  “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  I look at this and believe that if we delight in what God delights in, then we will want what He wants and it is then that we will get what our heart desires.  
But to get there we have to come to the place in our lives that we are wanting more and more of God each and every day! We want to hear from Him and live for Him!

I want to be in that place…hearing from God and following Him!  I want to be excited for the things that we have from God just as the people in these videos are for the Word of God!


Message From Matt – March 1

Why do we look to Jesus?
 
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  – Hebrews 12:2 
 
I’m doing a message series on Sundays  called “The Process,”  which is a culmination of truths that I have learned along the way that I have been applying to my life!  In context, the process is about my life (and your life) and specifically the things that are important for us to focus on and help us to grow.  The first thought that I shared was that we oftentimes get mixed up in life because we are trying to do things that only God can do.  Sure, we have responsibilities that God wants us to do, but it is God that controls the outcomes and is responsible for any good results in our lives.  Freedom comes from knowing what God’s work consists of and what our responsibility is!
The second thought is this; in the process, we have to keep our eyes on Christ if we are going to keep from sinking!  
Of course in this context, I think about the passage where Peter walked on the water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus.  When he began to look at the waves and fear, he sank!  It’s a great passage and still true for us today…If we are going to stay above water, we have to continually look to Jesus! But why should we look to Jesus?  
 
Of course any one would say we should look to Jesus because He is God!  Or because it’s commanded in the Word to look toward Him!  But let me give you a few other reasons…
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith!  He is the originator and completer of what we believe and why we believe it.  His work on the cross and the power of God to raise Him from the dead gives us the motivation to live for Him!
Jesus endured the cross!  I don’t think that He enjoyed it…how could He?  He was human and experienced pain like any of us do!  He was beaten beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14) and tortured on the cross but He willingly obeyed the will of the Father.  Crucifixion was a horrible way to put someone to death.  The one being crucified was made to kill themselves.  The more that they slid down the cross, the more weight on their lungs there would be and less oxygen would be available. The person would eventually get too tired from constantly trying to keep themselves up and asphyxiation would take place. He endured horrific punishment…BUT, He still did it!
Jesus took the shame!  Not only was the perfect person made a curse on the cross (Galatians 3:13) but He had the embarrassment of being naked for all to see….BUT, He still did it!  
He is seated with the Father!  Now, we look to Him as the One that gives us hope through His resurrection!  He gives us comfort when we are discouraged!  He prays for us on a regular basis!  He is coming again for His church!
 
So, why do we look to Jesus?  Because He is always there for us to look to!  He is the only one that is completely unconditional in His love and availability!  
Today, you might be experiencing some troubles!  Let me encourage you to look toward Jesus and the Word for help.

Maybe your day is going great and you’re not thinking that you need too much of Jesus today!  Don’t lose focus on Christ even though everything is going well!  Keep your eyes on Him…you always need Him and He is always available.


Message From Matt | February 15, 2019

Surrender!

 I have been re-reading the book 

Absolute Surrender by author Andrew Murray.  In the first chapter of the book he quotes 1 Kings 20:1-4 which states in part…”And Benhadad the king of Syria…sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him…Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.”

At this point, much could be said about how weak and evil a king that Ahab was…no doubt this is true.  I wonder if King David would have done this.   Most likely not!  But it’s not Ahab’s weakness that grabbed my attention…it is what he said during his surrender to the king of Syria.  I think this is what attracted Andrew Murray to write this book as well!  

I have “surrender” on the brain as 15 of our church members are in Costa Rica this week with 3 missionaries that have surrendered their lives to God’s call.  It is as if they said to God “

I am thine, and all that I have.” 

when God called them.  Maybe many would think that it is easy to leave the States to live in Costa Rica;  after all, the weather and scenery are fantastic!  But I can tell you from my experience of seeing behind the scenes that surrendering to leave your home, family, friends and security is not easy!  In fact, there are some very hard parts about it!  So why do they do it?  

It has to be because when God puts something on your heart like this and it won’t go away – surrender is the only thing to do!  Doing anything else would be unfulfilling!

So how do we know when God is calling us to do something for Him?  

Maybe there are multiple answers to this depending on the circumstances and person, but I reflect back on what my father in law, Ron Pollard, told me when I asked him years ago about being called into ministry.  He said that I would know it is of God “when it’s all that I can think about!”  At that time, getting into full-time ministry was constantly on my mind! I couldn’t shake it and I tried to, but God was calling me to something different than anything that I could imagine and I knew that I would continue to be miserable if I didn’t surrender. 

Surrender can be scary!  You don’t know what to expect and what the future will hold.  It might even change your plans like it did mine but I don’t regret it!  I am glad that I surrendered (hesitantly at first) and know that I should be ready to do anything that God calls me to do.

What about you?

  Has something been pressing in your thoughts for a long time that you haven’t surrendered to yet?  

What about today?  Will you say to God, “I’m yours and everything that I have”?

What’s next?  You wake up every day and say to God that same thing and see how God directs you.  Work for Him and wait on His direction!  When I surrendered to God, I never thought I would be surrendering to be the pastor at IBT, but that was God’s plan that was fulfilled nearly 10 years after my surrender. 



Message From Matt | February 8, 2019

What are we looking for?
 
In my devotional reading from yesterday, I read about a man that had an “infirmity” for 38 years that waited during a certain season each year (along with other people that were handicapped) to be healed of his physical issues.  The passage in John 5 states that an angel would come and “trouble” the water and the first person to step into the water would be healed.  Can you imagine that?  It’s hard to, but when I envision this I can see hundreds of people constantly watching for the water to be stirred.  Then when it happened the race to the water had to be quite a sight!  I can see pushing, shoving, and stepping over people to try to be the first in but only one could be first.  The rest left dejected and depressed…they had to wait for the next season to have a chance for healing! 
 
But when Jesus came to the man and told him to stop looking for the water to heal him and look to Him…everything changed for him!  
When he heard and obeyed the words of Jesus…he was immediately made whole. (John 5:9)!
Instead of the water – he was made whole by Jesus! This is an old story but it seems like the same can still be true for us…when we look to Jesus, good things happen!  
 
It’s easy to look toward other things rather than Jesus; in fact, it almost seems natural.  We can lean on ourselves, other people, or even substances to help us through our pain, but you already know the obvious answer should be that we should be looking toward Jesus, the Spirit, and His Word for the help that we are needing!  
Jesus really is the problem solver (healer)!  God’s Word really has the answers! 
 
So, what are you looking for?  Keep looking to God and He will continue to help you! If you have been looking elsewhere, choose the right focus today!
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” – Jeremiah 29:13


Message From Matt | February 1, 2019

For God’s Pleasure!
 
Ever watch a movie or listen to music and it affected you so much that it made you want to change a part of your life that needed changing?  I have, and for example, every time that I watch a Rocky movie or hear its famous songs, I have a great desire to get into shape, run through the streets of Philadelphia with a crowd of people cheering me on and get in the ring to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world….then, after a while, reality sets back in and the thought of running crushes that temporary fantasy.  Maybe if I would just listen to Rocky music every morning then maybe I would stay motivated!  Maybe not…
 
When I was a young teenager there was another movie (and its main song) that also influenced me like Rocky.  It was the movie Chariots of Fire.  If you’re my age or older, you definitely remember the movie and its plot based on the real life story of Eric Liddell, a Scottish Olympic track star running for the British team who was also called to be in Christian ministry.  The pivotal point of the movie was when Eric, who was a favorite to win the 100 meter sprint in the 1924 Olympics, chose not to run the race because it was held on Sunday.  His conviction cost him a gold medal, frustrated many, but also encouraged many to live by their convictions.  Eric won the gold for the 400 meter race in that Olympics but he is not remembered for that win, he is remembered for standing by his convictions and his stand for Christ.   Most don’t know that he died 20 years later while being held prisoner in a Japanese prison camp after serving as a missionary in China.  He died as he lived…for God’s pleasure!  
 
There is a line in the movie that speaks to Eric living for God’s pleasure and it is the scene where his sister is urging him to give up running and go “all in” into the ministry.  It was during this exchange that he said, I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.
 
What a great quote!  What a great attitude! 
As I have thought about this quote this week, I have been remembering that Bible verse that says that we were created to do good works for Christ!  It’s written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  
Our purpose is to work for God!   He created us to do good works!  He ordained (appointed) us to walk in those good works!  When we do what we were created for it pleases God and I believe that we can feel God’s pleasure!  
I know that when I serve God by serving others, it feels great!  
I know that when I spend some time in the Word of God, it feels great! 
I know that when I take time to spend time in prayer, it feels great!  
I know that when I resist temptation and have victory over it, it feels great! 
 
I don’t think that these are just shallow feelings though!  I think it comes from feeling God’s pleasure!  God is pleased when we live and work for Him!
Want to feel God’s pleasure – serve Him!  Serve others!  Serve in the church!  There is no greater feeling than that!


Message From Matt | January 25, 2019

Wrestlemania! 

You might find this hard to believe, but when I was younger,  loved Iwatching wrestling!  Not the real wrestling but the fake stuff from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).  I grew up watching it on Saturday mornings and loved Dick the Bruiser, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Ricky the Dragon Steamboat!  I liked the WWF so much that when I was 19 years old I bought a 3rd row ticket to the 1992 Wrestlemania event at the Hoosier Dome in downtown Indy.  There I was, as close to the action as possible, watching some of my favorites beat up on each other and try to finish off their opponent with their finishing move!  One of those moves was the “figure four leg lock” that was the signature finishing move of Ric Flair.   This move wouldn’t last long, supposedly because the pain was too great, and those that were in it would eventually “tap out”!  But again, that stuff was fake!  

What about Jacob wrestling with Jesus in Genesis 32?  That wrestling match was the real deal and it lasted all throughout the night!  

I can only imagine how worn out Jacob had to be and the result was that Jacob walked the rest of his life with a limp…but he survived (he was preserved – Genesis 32:30)!

The result of that all night match didn’t end up with Jacob winning a championship belt, but it was the culmination of a 20 year process of breaking Jacob from his sinful behaviors!  

Remember, Jacob was a deceiver!  Jacob was a liar!  Jacob played favorites!  Jacob was following in his family’s sin patterns (strongholds) but enough was enough…it was time to change!  

When Jacob wrestled with Jesus, Jesus easily could have won!  But, He had a greater purpose!  His purpose was for Jacob to repent…and he did!  

Jacob realized that the life of deceiving was not what it was cracked up to be and through the pain of being deceived and the night of wrestling, he was a changed man!  In fact, his name would be changed and his fellowship with his brother that he robbed would soon be restored!  Jacob repented!  He changed his mind – he changed his direction!  

When we have been going the wrong way in life, God is merciful and gracious enough to allow things to happen in our life to get us to the point of repentance. It is because God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4) that He allows us the ability to repent instead of chastising us to the full extent that we deserve!  Repentance is a great thing:

Repentance brings refreshing (Acts 3:19)!
Repentance is given by the goodness of God! (Romans 2:4)!
Repentance is a gift (Acts 11:18)! 

If you’re living apart from God – repent!  It is God’s gift to us and the best way to start living for God again!    Repentance is changing our mind about our sin and turning back to God’s way!


Message From Matt | January 18, 2019

Breaking Free!
 
Have you heard the story about Jayme Closs in Wisconsin?  I have and all  I can say is that it’s an amazing story of survival!   On October 15th, Jake Thomas Patterson, age 21, decided to kill Jayme’s parents, kidnap her and take her to his cabin about an hour away from her home.  There, for 88 days, he kept her locked up, many times under a bed for hours at a time.  When people would come over to his house to visit, he would put her under the bed and stack things all around it and play loud music to keep people from hearing her.  Once, he left for an extended time to visit family leaving her chained to the bed with no food or water.  This girl, only 13 years old, had witnessed her parent’s murder, was deprived of food, water and security, and locked up like an animal, but somehow was able to escape after 88 days and find help!  
 
As I have read about this story, I have been thinking about how powerless Jayme must have felt!  She’s a young teenage girl and he’s an ex-military guy at the prime of his strength.  It had to seem that she was in a no win situation and that her life would end in that cabin….but thankfully she was able to break out of that stronghold and run to freedom.
 
A stronghold is defined as “a fortified place” or “a place of security”, but for Jayme it definitely was not a place of security but the opposite.  The strongholds that I am talking about are something that we feel locked into because of family dysfunction, or our personality, or the experiences that have shaped our thinking.  These strongholds are things that have formed in our brain and have us locked into negative thinking that we will never be freed from.  Although none of us (I hope anyway) have gone through what Jayme has been through, we all have some strongholds that we have been in before or might currently be in that we need to have a break out experience from. 
Some might have problems with addictions and feel that they are genetically disposed to the addiction and there is no hope of freedom…they need to break free from the stronghold of their thinking!
Some have insecurity problems that have haunted them for a lifetime…they need to break free from the stronghold of their thinking!
Some find no joy in their life as their purpose has been sidelined by bad choices and bad thinking…they need to break free from the stronghold of their thinking!
 
The list could go on and on, but I think that you get the point.  We all have had things that have happened in life that can cause strongholds in our thinking and leave us lifeless!  However, God wants to help you break out of those strongholds and live life to the fullest!  How do we do this???
 
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
 
How do we do this?  We obey God’s Word and use His power to break these strongholds from us!  Our mind is powerful, but it can be swayed by either good or evil.  The things that we put in our mind will determine how successfully we will live for God!  If we allow the devil to have free reign in our minds or allow our minds to be influenced only by the world…we will be in bondage!  
Maybe that is you today!  Let me give you some hope – you can be free!!!
With God’s help, we can break free from the grips of the strongholds of our minds!  Focus your mind on God’s Word, follow it and you can be free!  
Is there more to it?  Come Sunday morning and we will talk more about recognizing and breaking free from strongholds that we have in our mind!


Message From Matt | January 11, 2019

The Resistance! 
        Last week I wrote “What Satan Attacks” that outlined the things in your life that the devil wants to attack.  I only gave three things (your faith, peace and purpose) but we all know that he will use any means necessary to kill, steal and destroy our lives (John 10:10), not just these three things.  I ended the message with three things that we can do to fight off the attacks from the devil.  Those three things are the Word of God, Prayer to God and God’s people!  
  Today, I want to flesh this out a little further from James’ vantage point!  He wrote in James 4:7“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 
How do you get the devil to run from you when he is attacking?  Submit and Resist!  
 
       Submit to God – Resist the devil!   Sounds easy, right?  Attacks from the devil are never easy, but God’s way of fighting the devil works – we just need to know how to use it.  To know how to use these things we need to understand their meaning.  
 
       Submission has two parts.  The first is surrender or yielding!  This means that I am intentionally surrendering or yielding myself to whatever God wants.  We know what He wants by His written Word as well as the leading of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.  As we submit to His Word and the Spirit, we are surrendering our will to please Him!  The second part of submission is drawing close to God.  We surrender so we can get closer to Him.  James 4:8states, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”  As you choose to surrender your ways to God, the natural byproduct is getting closer to Him!  Submission leads to intimacy!  
 
       Then there is resisting the devil!  Resisting the devil is a deliberate use of the Word of God to help you in the attacks of the devil! Jesus demonstrated how this works during His great temptation in Matthew 4:1-11.  After fasting for 40 days, the devil used three things (things that fall into the category of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – 1 John 2:15-17) to tempt Jesus to sin.  But Jesus resisted the devil and the devil left.  So, how do we resist?  We use the Word of God to resist!  More specifically, we speak the Word of God to resist.  After each temptation, Jesus said, “it is written…”  
 
        Jesus gave us the example and proof that God’s formula works for resisting the devil and having victory over the devil’s attacks; the question is, are we going to use what He has taught us?  The best time to start memorizing the Word of God is now!  The best time to start fighting the attacks of the devil is now!  The best way to do this is to submit and resist! Let’s be a part of the resistance!


Message From Matt | January 4, 2019

What Satan Attacks!
 
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:10-12
 
Have you ever felt attacked by the devil?  If you are a believer of Jesus Christ,  you most likely have been under attack and you definitely will be under attack in the future.  Or maybe, you might be under attack right now!   Whether you have been, are currently or will be under attack, let me express what you already know…the attacks from Satan are not fun, will cause stress in your life and will “mess” with your mind!  
 
But, how do we know what are attacks of the devil and what are things that might be caused from other sources?  If you asked that, good question!  This is something I have been asking as well.  We know that Satan is a multifaceted being that will use any means necessary to kill, steal and destroy you (John 10:10) but there are some specific areas in which he attacks you:  
 
Satan attacks your…
1. Faith!  Satan wants you to disbelieve God!  If he can get you to disbelieve God, then you are on the way of falling away from God.  Satan wants to put fear into your heart and mind and have you believe that God is not helping you!  If he can get you to focus on your problems more than focusing on the One that help you through your problems, then he counts that as a victory.  Fear and worry are the opposites of faith and devices that he uses to attack!  
2. Peace!  Once Satan attacks your faith, the peace that you have from God starts to erode!  It is an amazing experience to have your faith grow and realize that your peace is growing as well. BUT, it’s a sad thing when your faith decreases and your peace leaves!  One of the great benefits of being a child of God is to have peace!  The world is full of chaos, but abiding with God in prayer and thankfulness increases our faith (Philippians 4:6-9).
3. Purpose!  One of the most troubling things that anyone can go through is to not have purpose in life!  A lack of faith and peace leads to a lack of purpose!  When you are given over to faithlessness and worrying, you can eventually begin to wonder what’s the point of the Christian life?  Our entire perspective on life can be altered when we have little faith and peace and living for God can become not worth the effort.
When Satan attacks…
When does he attack?  Usually, it’s your most vulnerable time(s)!  Maybe it’s in the morning or maybe it’s at night in bed.  It doesn’t matter to Satan, he will use any means necessary.  Again, he attacks with fear!  He attacks your peace!  He attacks your purpose!  Peter calls him a “roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and he is a master at his craft.  This is why we need to know how to fight against him.  
How to fight Satan’s attacks?
There are several ways to fight off his attacks but let me just give you three!  We fight off the devil by…
1. The Word of God!  As I have recently felt the attacks of Satan, the Word of God has been the greatest source of comfort that I have experienced.  There really is something to how the Holy Spirit works in us while we read, meditate and apply the Word to our lives.  If you aren’t already in the Word, make a plan to be in it.  Use your Bible or smart phone app to keep the Word in your mind.  When the devil attacks, read the Word!  
2. Prayer and 3. People!  Talking with God is great, but when you multiple people praying for you, it’s even greater!  You pray – always!  But, don’t be too prideful to ask others for help as well.  Pray that God will give you greater faith; greater peace; greater purpose!  
 
I am praying for us all that we will have greater faith, peace and purpose in 2019!  
See you Sunday!