Musings on Spiritual Matters

by Matthew Morine

Welcome To My Blog...

Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity. Matthew has two wonderful children, Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master's of Arts in Biblical Studies and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master's of Divinity. Presently, he is working on his Doctorate of Ministry at Harding Graduate School of Religion. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, and the Gospel Advocate.

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Defeated Death

Posted By on April 17, 2014

Christ leads the way in resurrection as Adam led the way in death.  1 Corinthians 15:21-22 states “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  It would be unwise to move from this truth too quickly.  One could hurry through this verse and miss the incredible theological truth stated.  Christ shared in the horror of death in order to lead the way in resurrection.  The death that Christ experienced was not the “stingless” (1 Cor. 15:55) death which Christ won for others, but the horrifying “God-forsakenness of the “nihil”.  Christ became one with human sin (2 Cor. 5:20-21), therefore His death was not a mere physical death, but also a participation in the emptiness of the eschatological death which reigns from Adam onward.  See, the real bitterness of death is not merely the loss of life, but the loss of God, in the sense of being “God-forsaken.”  The great truth of this text is one of contrast and reversal.  A human agent introduced death, and a human agent introduced resurrection.  Because of the sacrifice of Christ, Paul could proclaim in 1 Corinthians 15:54d-56 “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All Christians share in the promise of 1 Corithians 15:22b.  The phrase “shall be made alive” can also be interpreted as “shall be brought to life.”  This is one word in the original Greek language.  It is a future, passive, which means that in the future, God, through no strength, contribution from man, will be raised from the death.  The resurrection of Christians is an act by the all-powerful and loving God.  A new era is ushered in on Easter Sunday.  Death had sway or reigned from the time of Adam (Rom. 5:14), but through the death and resurrection of Christ, which can be received only as a gift from beyond the human realm (Rom. 5:15), can reverse and redeem the otherwise insoluble plight of humankind.  The plead of the new creation is the resurrection of the death on the basis of being “in Christ”, however, it is by divine grace still.

On Easter, like every day, and every Sunday, and every week, we celebrate this divine truth.  Christ has defeated death!

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Review of “Sticky Teams”

Posted By on April 16, 2014

This is one of the best leadership books for churches in years.  I loved it.  My friend Tim Spivey has talked about this book for years, and finally I got around to reading it.  He is a great leader, and understands congregations better than most preachers.  So his recommendation meant something to me.  And boy, he was right.  This is one of those books that all leaders should go through.  Elders, and preachers, need to read this book together.  At Castle Rock, we have been reviewing books as a leadership team, and this is up there as a possibility.  It talks about having a team in ministry, and staying on the same page.  It is first of all practical.  It deals with church, and gives situations, and a how to in dealing with them.  Here is some wisdom from the book.  ”I like to remind our board members and staff leaders that we’re lobbyists for God. Our primary job is to listen to, discern, and carry out God’s will, not the congregation’s.”  (p. 53).     “Wise pastors and leadership teams know an important paradox of leadership: church harmony is inversely related to the amount of time spent oiling squeaky wheels. This is a lesson I was slow to grasp. In my zeal for maintaining peace and unity within the body and for holding on to everyone who came, I allowed a tiny group of chronic complainers to have an inordinate impact on our decisions and ministry.” (p. 80).  The book is filled with wisdom from a guy who has done it before, and experienced the work.  He talks about keeping unity in the team.  As a leader, this book helped me.  It has influenced my style of leadership, and it will help you too.  It is not long, and it is a fun read.  As a preacher, you will relate, and as an elder, you will relate.  This one is well worth the money.

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High Expectations

Posted By on April 15, 2014

The more I research congregations that are growing and thriving, the more I realize that one of the key elements is high expectations.  This is for both sides.  Thom Rainer wrote a book with the same title some years ago.  Congregations that are having people come into the congregation have expectations for membership classes, or retreats, or a time of study, or a time of commitment.  There are expectations placed on the people.  If you want to be part of the congregation here, this is what you must do.  This is counter to what some churches of Christ that are dying are doing.  It seems that we are afraid to put it out there.  Maybe we have a self esteem problem in the church.  We do not feel we are good enough, so we are just happy with whatever the people want to give.  We are just shocked you are here with us.  But a congregation that feels they have something to offer, will put expectations on the people in the church.  We got something great, and if you want that too, come on.  People do not mind putting expectations on others if they feel that there is a benefit to them.

But here is the tension, we do not understand expectations well.  It is not just busy work.  We have high levels of expectations. But we cannot just expect people to do everything we come up for them to do.  We have a high commitment church, with Bible class, services, etc, people are giving us a lot of time.  So you have to balance this.  How much more can you ask for?  But there are certain events that are important, and we need you there.  But this expectation goes both ways.  People do not want you to waste their time.  If you expect me to do something or be somewhere, make it worth my time.  I will give you my time, but if I show up, and it is poorly done, I am not realizing that coming is an option.  Only create expectations that you can keep.  Think about Sunday night.  We expect you to come, but we do not put the amount of energy into the worship, maybe some do, but often not everyone does.  So you communicate that we expect you to come, but we do not expect quality from ourselves.  Unhealthy churches create expectations for others, but not for themselves.

Have high expectations and deliver.

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HOW TO BE FED AT CHURCH

Posted By on April 14, 2014

We come to the assembly to worship the Lord.  It is an important weekly activity for all of us.  We are predominately there to express thanks to God for all he has done for us.  Worship is an expression of gratitude.  This mindset should be rooted in our hearts and minds.  But there is another element to worship that is important.  It is edification.  In 1 Corinthians 14, in the section concerning the use of spiritual gifts, Paul gives instructions to facilitate the gifts “so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:5).  There is a dynamic of being “built up” at the worship assembly.

How can you help yourself be edified in worship?

  1. Come Expecting.  We typically find what we are looking for in life.  If you come seeking the word of the Lord, typically God will speak into your life through a song or a sermon.  There will be something that is said that will impact your current walk in this world.
  2. Come Giving.  Your presence is important.  One of the best practices is to speak to someone outside of your friendship circle.  Think about who you can encourage by your words and actions.  Everyone loves a friendly voice.  You will be amazed of how much you enjoy coming when you are helping others enjoy the experiences of coming to worship.
  3. Come Forgiving.  Sometimes you will have to forgive the preacher, or the song leader, or the elders for speaking way too long.  Sometimes the preacher will preach a terrible sermon (if he does, just compliment his tie).  Other times, the powerpoint will not work, and it will be distracting.  The best attitude to have is forgiveness.  Forgive the person or the technology and move on to worshipping the Lord.  Dwelling on the mistakes will never uplift the spirit.
  4. Come Ready.  The more you pay attention, the more you will receive a blessing.  Pay attention to the reading of the verses before the Lord’s Supper.  Pay attention to the words of the songs.  Pay attention to the people around you.  Essential, worship is an hour, do everything you can to be in that moment.  The greater focus you give to worship, the greater the blessing will be to your soul.

We come to the assembly to worship God, but God also desires for us to be “Built up”.  The attitude that we bring will determine the intensity of the blessing we receive.

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Review of “Contagious”

Posted By on April 2, 2014

I am always looking for ways to spread the message of the Gospel.  There are tons of evangelism books, but if you only read them, you only learn from church people doing church stuff.  I like to read broadly along the lines of having ideas spread.  This is the essences of evangelism.  So this book excited me, and I felt like it would be a productive read.  It was.  The author is an expect in the field of communicable ideas.  Why do some videos spread and become viral while others have three views.  As a minister, this line of study can be used.  The author provides six areas that you can tap into to help your ideas spread.  As a leader in the church, this is valuable stuff.  How can you get a message across that stays with the people, how can you build excitement about a ministry?  This book helps in all of these areas.  The author talks about social currency, is it cool to repeat it, triggers, something to provoke the memory, public, can people see it, practical value, will it help, stories, it is fun to listen to.  The book talks about the science of why these ideas work, and there are good illustrations of these areas working in real life.  This is a good book, something that can be used in ministry.  It was fun to read too, and is pretty short, and to the point.  This is a good one.

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Matthew and Moses

Posted By on March 31, 2014

The Word of God is a wonderful tapestry of interwoven stories.  A good writer will us of foreshadows to give the reader a hint of what is to come later in the story.  The Bible which was written by about 40 writers over a period of 1500 years creates a unified picture through amazing foreshadowing.  A book that is written by the Holy Spirit, but through the pen of a diverse set of authors, shows a divine nature to the inspired text.  It is one thing for an author to include some foreshadowing in his book, but for 40 authors that had little or no interaction with one another to accomplish the feat is truly amazing.

Last year we studied through the book of Matthew.  This was a perfect set up for the study of Moses this year.  Often in the book of Matthew, there is a foreshadowing element of Moses.  Matthew notes that Jesus is greater than Moses.  A quick read of the book demonstrates this.  Both Moses and Jesus spent time in the wilderness.  Both of their births involved the death of infants - Exodus 2:2-10Matthew 2:14-15; Both had radiant faces - Exodus 34:35Matthew 17:2; Both had 70 helpers - Numbers 11:16-17Luke 10:1; Both gave up worldly riches -Hebrews 11:24-26Matthew 4:8-10.  The gospel of Matthew was written to a predominately Jewish audience, so the fact that Jesus is greater than Moses is a significant truth.

God continues to be an author of foreshadowing.  Typically, someone can look back into the past to see the elements of the present.  God providentially prepares us for future works that we are not spiritually mature enough to handle.  But through a lifetime of love, God models and shapes us into effective servants of His.  One of the best exercises ever for Christians is to reflect on the sovereign foundations that God lay out before us.  As much as we enjoy connecting the dots in the word of God, we also will enjoy connecting the dots in our own lives.

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Planning and Ministry

Posted By on March 27, 2014

A friend a mine takes a week each year to plan out sermons.  I love this idea.  But moving on to other areas of planning, this idea of being intentional in planning is huge.  The first confession is that I am not a planner.  But as Castle Rock continues to grow, I am feeling the stretching and the challenge of keeping up.  The congregation will not grow beyond the elders or the ministers in a church.  It might for a while, but it will go back to normal, whatever that normal is.  So I need to continue my spiritual development and leadership development, and one major area is my planning.  The sad reality is, how do I do it.  Here is some ideas I have for improving that might help me and you.

1. We Are Building the System.  It seems that ministers move before growth takes place.  You go to a new system and learn from it.  A four hundred member congregation acts differently than a 200 one.  And the minister functions differently too.  Right now I am trying to establish patterns that provide growth for the congregation.  The challenge of this is great, and exciting.  I am trying to allow the lessons to sink in so that I can help others.  There are few ministers that have grown congregations in this generation outside of a Bible Belt context.  We are trying to set the pace.

2. Travel Around Visiting.  I need to set up appointments in larger congregations and meet with elders and ministers in these bigger churches.  I need to sit down, pay for a ton of lunches, and listen.  This is hard to do because of the demands of a growing congregation, but I believe it would be valuable time spent.  What does your systems look like?

3. Stop and Plan.  We are all pressed for time.  We have families to tend to and love.  But next year, I got to do this.  I need to go off and plan.  Sometimes during vacation I sit there and think, and come back excited.  It seems too many ministers lead in the sense they visit and care, but I think for us to move forward, we need more.  We have added some large church ministries last year, but we need to continue to plan for the future.  I believe it is sin to not except the blessing that God is giving.

4. In This Together.  It cannot be just me, all of the leadership team has to get this message.  Guys in bigger churches talk about working with leaders.  Am I doing this.  At Castle Rock, we have been blessed by some superstar leaders.  Am I helping them like I should.  Right now we as the leadership are going through a book about the “Awkward Size Church.”  This is important stuff.

5. Read Again “Make Or Break Your Church in 365 Days” and follow it.  This is the best day to day planner for a preacher helping his congregation grow.

6. I Wish I Prayed More.  Yes, I do not pray enough.  I am so action oriented that sometimes I feel that I need to be doing and not praying.  Two things, pray, and ask for prayers from the congregation.

There are tons of other areas that I need to be working on, but hopefully, as you hear me talk out loud, you are helped.  Have a great day.

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DOES GOD TALK TO YOU?

Posted By on March 24, 2014

I believe in the promise of Romans 8:14: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  The Holy Spirit is leading us in life.  If the Spirit is not, we are not part of God’s family.  One will quickly agree that the Bible leads us.  There is no argument concerning this truth.  But once you open up the discussion of whether God is leading us in other ways, the conversation becomes difficult.  People will claim a direct leading of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the person will state that this is not as authoritative as the word of God, but nevertheless, the implication is that there is authority behind this direction.

Some time ago, an individual told me that God told him to pursue a certain young lady.  He was told supposedly to “fight for her heart.”  He did so for about a week, until he was informed again by God to move on.  This seemed strange to me.  God does not seem to be someone who quickly changes His mind.  The way God was dealing with this individual reeked of the dating mindset of a teenage girl (no offense ladies).  God is not one to lightly communicate with us, and for God to be so indecisive about the dating life of a young man, seemed odd.  Also, if the original command was to “fight for a lady’s heart” and after a week, the young man stopped, this seems to be terrible obedience.  It appeared self-serving to stop the “fighting” after he was rejected by the girl.  God does not change His mind lightly, but in this case the individual seemed to dictate the will of God according to the earthly circumstances.

This brings up the problem of discerning God’s Spirit.  People will state that God will never lead them contrary to the word of God.  Though, people who have fallen in love with someone that is not their spouse have claimed that God was telling them to leave their mate and join with another.  The issue is that there is none, yes, and no criteria to distinguish the impulses that arise within us.  And the response of “you just know” means nothing.  And here is the dilemma.  If God is communicating with you, it is authoritative, and you better be faithful to Him, but if you genuinely have no criteria to judge whether or not it is from God, how could God hold you accountable.  He cannot.  Over and over again, in the Old and New Testaments, when God spoke to his people, the people were obligated to follow His commands.  So why would he communicate with us in such uncertain means today?  Especially in light of the certainty we have in the Word of God.

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Speaking Engagements in the Church

Posted By on March 20, 2014

Some weeks ago, I saw a minister asking how to gain more speaking engagements.  Someone made a comment about some of the speaking engagements that he did recently, and the reality of the income that was produced.  The minister was thinking that more speaking engages will lead to a little extra income.  And everyone likes a little extra income.  There are some ministers out there that have never been invited to speak on a University lectureship.  Maybe they have spoken at a few local congregation, but this is once or twice a year.  In preaching, I think preachers become a little jealous of the guys speaking at a ton of events.  It seems glorious and means you are important.  There is a little ego involved in the process, even though preachers are not to have an ego, but we all do.  I want to give a little insight, maybe a little behind the curtain look at speaking engagements.  I have been on both sides, and I want to share some thoughts on this whole speaking engagements.

1. I never spoke anywhere for years.  I had maybe on summer series appointment a year.  And I wished that people would call me more.   I had the preacher envy problem.  It had nothing to do with income, I just wanted to feel important.  But the reality was, I was important to my family and my congregation.  There is nothing better than having some university or church call you to speak.  It is amazing how much this feeds the ego of preachers.  But here is the problem, you most important work is to your family and your congregation.  You might not get all of the same level of praise, but you are doing a good work of loving those people.  On the average Sunday a few people will tell you that you did a great job, at another place, you are the superstar.  You got your five best stories there, and at the local church, they heard them all, five to ten times already.

2. Last Year Was Crazy.  I think I spoke at over 15 different appointments, from youth rallies, men’s retreats, prison conferences, scholar conferences, Gospel Meetings, training times, university lectureships, senior camps.  I was gone on average 1 week each month speaking.  I was a busy boy, as I finished my dissertation during this time too.  I felt important speaking all those places.  It was intoxicating to the ego.  I was gone one time for two weeks straight.  Here is the reality, the work suffered in Castle Rock.  Yes, it was not overly noticeable.  But when I was home, it was full tilt activity.  It had to be to catch up on that which I missed.  My elders are amazing and allow me to be gone a lot.  But they even asked me to be here on Sunday’s more.  My kids got sick of it too.  It was the first time in my life that I was doing national speaking, and it was like an addiction.  At one point, I was on a plane 6 times in two weeks.

3. What I Learned.  The money is not worth it.  It is nice to have some extra cash flow.  But if you look at the exchange, it is not worth it.  A lot of the trips were freebies, I did it for the opportunity, and the ministry.  Sometimes, and there are some churches that treat you GREAT.  And there are some organizations that ask you to do it for free.  Typically, only churches pay for you to come.  Conferences will maybe put you up and pay for the travel, but not always.  Churches typically do, but for churches to know you, you need to speak at the Universities.  But also, think about it money wise.  If you go some place to do a weekend trip, you might be paid between 500 to 1000.  You are there for three days, so mostly, you are making about 200 a day.  Is this really worth being away from you family and church?  Sometimes you are paid nothing for being away.  If you are speaking for money, stop, trust it is bad stewardship.

4. The Rules.  Know why you are going.  If a church has been good to you, stay loyal to them.  There are some churches that have been excellent to me, and if they ask, I say yes.  Also, organizations, schools that I have attended, always get priority, one place asked me how much it would take, I said if you pay for my expenses, that would be great, but if not, I still will be there.  I owe much to your school.  Always do those who have loved you right.  There is an elder in a church I speak at often, he is a great man, and if he asks, I go.  Be good to those who are good to you.  Last year I spoke at the prison conference, why, because this is a good work, and I want to use my time and talent supporting good work.  I see speaking as a ministry, and if I can give back, I want to.  Loyalty is huge to me.

5. Balance.  It is good to speak at other places.  Yes, every preacher needs that feeling of being important.  Sometimes you do not get that home.  Also, you get to experience the church in a wider spectrum.  It opens your eyes to what is happening in the church.  But remember, your only special role in life is to be a parent or husband.  They can get another speaker, but your family cannot get another man to be Dad.

Hope these thoughts help.  And maybe I should not have written this, but I want to think out loud on the topic.  And yes, maybe help some people too.

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Review of “Talk Like Ted”

Posted By on March 19, 2014

Most people know I read a ton of preaching books.  I am always looking to improve my art.  There is no one book or style of preaching I follow.  I try to take the best parts of various styles, and blend them together to create “my voice.”  Also, I try to mix it up some too.  Using one style one week and another another week.  This keeps the congregation listening I feel.  The constant is the personality not the form.  With saying that, I also look to the business community for insight into a good talk.  ”Made to Stick” is a great book on public speaking and creating a lesson.  This book I was asked to review, and I was thankful to do so.  It is a good one.  It might not blow your mind with five new great thoughts, but everyone is well done, and you gain a lot of great ideas for a sermon.  I loved the chapters on lighten it up and teach me something new.  Also, the concept of the “Aha moment” was huge.  The chapter on why 18 minutes is a good length would help a lot of preachers.  I consider this type of book a toy book.  It gives me a ton of new tools to use in a sermon.  As a minister, I can become boring fast without improving rapidly.  This is a good refresher for preachers looking for some new dynamics in a sermon.  I liked it.

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