A Word of Thanks
God, you are unwaveringly good. I pray that as you continue to bless me I will in turn be able to bless those around me. God, no one can outgive you. I thank you (though admittedly not enough as I should) for the good gifts you pour into my own life and for the gifts I see you giving others each and every day. And if you never give me another good thing for the rest of my life, God you have already given me too much. I love you and I know you love me. Amen.
As for my supporters, I know I say this often but truth is truth is truth and it's worth repeating: you are just one example of the physical blessings God sees fit to give me every day. Any learning I've been doing, any student I study the Bible with, and any purchase I make I do so with the humility and the thankfulness and the confession that, in this season of life, I can only do those things because of you all. I thank God every time I think of you, and I think of you every time I thank God.
A Word of Apologies
I'm bad at writing blogs.
Twice now, I have completely forgotten to update you all on what has been going on in my apprenticeship and ministry. I forgot to write a blog for November and now for January. I speak with a lot of you often simply due to proximity and the regularity of our seeing each other. But for those of you who I see less frequently, I really am sorry about not keeping up with this blog better.
If I had to give a reason as to why I didn't write a blog for January, I think it's just because I'm kind of lazy. My conscience is not clear, and I am most definitely not innocent.
We have been continuing through the New Testament. We began with the gospels of Mark and Matthew, then we read Luke and Acts, and now we are moving our way through Paul's letters.
Probably the most interesting thing I've learned in recent weeks (albeit inconsequential) is that there were actually probably 5 letters from Paul to the Church in Corinth. I didn't learn this through any research of my own, rather, through the research of those much much smarter than I. We are reading through a textbook called The New Testament in It's World by N.T. Wright (whose name actually means New Testament Wright....just kidding). This text is exactly what it sounds like and its purpose is to look at the New Testament less through a theological lens and more simply through a lens of history. Who wrote this? To whom was it written? When? Where? Why?
It is through this book, as well as a New Testament Foundations lecture taught by Rikk Watts at Regent Seminary, that I learned 1 Corinthians was actually the 2nd letter written to the church. And 2 Corinthians seems to be a combination of the 4th and 5th letters. Meaning we do not have the 1st or the 3rd letters that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. Again, this doesn't really do much other than give me a good bit of information to use at a dinner party when I want to impress (or bore) my friends. And whether they are impressed or bored does not affect me, but eventually they will have to answer to Jesus.
As far as something that actually affects how I do ministry, we have discussed regularly how pastoral Paul's letters truly are. He did not set out to write down a systematic theology. Rather, he was speaking to the needs of his flock as those needs arose. That being said, I have learned that is very dangerous indeed to try and place Christ and his teachings into a Pauline theology. I must learn to view Paul (and everything he wrote) through the lens of Christ. And as a pastor often times sitting across the table from another living, breathing human being, I need to understand they probably don't give two figs about my theology. What they need is to be known and seen. I need to sit and be prayerfully asking God "what does this person need in this moment?" And what they need each time is Christ. So how do I help them take that next step toward Jesus? And a lot of times, as I'm learning, the next step can look very different depending on who you're speaking to.
That's probably about as Pauline of a theology as you can get. We don't point people to Paul or his works as if he was the one that was crucified and raised for us. We don't do that because that's not what Paul was doing. Paul was on about pointing people to the cross. So the question is do I know Paul better than Jesus? If so, why?
Pretty exciting news! I gave my first ever Sunday morning sermon on February 20th.
Above is the link for the sermon I gave and if for whatever reason it gives you trouble, you can go to wylienortheast.com and find it under the "Sermons" tab.
Myself, William Royal and Brianna Marble (all CTF staff) were asked to do a 3-week sermon series in the month of February. You can find their sermons on the church website as well. The title of our series was "Written on Our Hearts" and each of us took a week to do a deep dive into a certain verse or passage from scripture that is written on our hearts. Meaning; a verse that we have not only dedicated to memory (which would just be "written on our brain") but one that has had a lasting impact in our lives. One that has helped shaped our view of ourselves, of others, and of God. I preached on Proverbs 12:15
"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice."
If you're interested in how that verse has been written on my heart, go listen to my sermon!
As for CTF...
I went ahead and bought another Bible for a student that I've been meeting with. He was using the ESV, which is a great and helpful translation, BUT he wasn't understanding what he was reading. And the language used in his Bible as opposed to the NIV that I use was just different enough to be more confusing than helpful. So I went ahead and got him a new NIV Bible and I'm excited to give it to him the next time we meet.
And I'd like to take this opportunity to honor God and paint myself as a fool...
I meet with a freshman who has been pretty non-responsive to my texts recently. We met up every week last semester but I've seen probably twice since New Years. And the last couple of weeks, it was more of the non-responsiveness and, to be frank, I found myself becoming frustrated. You do ministry long enough and you get used to people ghosting you and deciding that there are other things they'd rather do with their time than meet up with you. So, Sunday morning, I was sitting in church writing out the following text to send to this student:
"Hey man. If you still want to meet up with me I still want to meet up with you. But if that's something you're interested in doing, I'm going to need you to start being more responsive and a little more respectful. Simply ignoring my texts isn't the most mature way to say you'd rather not meet up anymore..."
It was as I wrote that last sentence that something felt a little off. I couldn't tell you exactly what thought came into my brain, but I decided to erase that text and sent this instead:
"Hey brotha! You free this Friday?"
To which the student who hadn't been responding much texted back immediately, saying:
"Hey Matt, I am. Craziest thing happened. I am in the hospital right now, on Friday my lung collapsed and I had to have surgery fast. So sorry I couldn't make it last week."
I have since determined the Spirit was tapping me on the shoulder saying "No no, don't send that text. You don't have all the information. There's something going on that you don't know about."
With a tube in his chest helping him breathe, he decided to text me back apologizing for not meeting with me the Friday before, and saying he would in fact be free to meet me the next Friday.
He has since had surgery and is recovering and doing very well! Praise God. But I just thought that little interaction between myself, this student, and the Spirit of God was noteworthy and perhaps encouraging for anyone of you who read it. If it is encouraging, let it be so. If not, go about your business.
- The usual: wisdom in my leadership, endurance in my education, love for my students and co-workers. Pray that I can lead, love and serve people well.
- Prayers for my fellow apprentices who, given the nature of campus ministry, are FAR busier than I. Some of them regularly put in 55-60hr weeks.
- Prayers for the freshman mentioned earlier and that he heals from his collapsed lung completely.
- Prayers for myself and Sam as we continue through our pre-engagement counseling and move closer to deciding to spend the rest of lives together.
- Prayers for our CTF students, that they can learn to love God with all their mind, their souls and their strength.
To End, A Poem
I wrote this poem for a sermon I gave back in December. It doesn't have a title.
I thought that I was on my own.
A scared, lost child; afraid, alone.
I sought for something, anything, anyone.
And eventually learned that I was on the run.
That I had not lost, rather I'd left to roam.
I'd fled my one and only home.
But in the midst of my lone wander,
I had a thought I thought I ought to ponder.
Remember who you called you Lord.
You have a home to head back toward.
You are not on this path alone.
The entire time you have been known.
And if I remember this bold truth,
The truth I've known since my youth,
I'll find the strength to carry on,
And toward my home I will be drawn.
Where streams of living water flow,
and Love reigns King I'll surely go.
By Lamb's sweet blood and sacrifice,
His hand I'll hold in paradise.