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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Friends and Family Day

Posted By on March 10, 2014

264 Day was a great celebration.  It was uplifting and exciting for everyone to come that Sunday.  We are having another special day on March 16th.  We are having “Friends and Family” day.  We are having a potluck afterwards too.  It is the breakfast theme which is the most popular one we have each year.  And I have to admit, it is my favorite one too because Glen Peter’s makes a mean omelet.  The food is always hot and tasty.  The cooks prepare the food right in front of you.  It is cook to order at church.

Over the years, these “Friends and Family” days are successful if we invite people.  And I have learned that people do not mind being invited to one of these special days.  People typically say yes if you invite them.  People say yes because it is not a long term commitment.  Sometimes people feel that they have to come each week if you invite them to church, but one of these special days, they can say yes, and know it is a one week commitment.  People enjoy coming because the day is exciting.  If you invite them, they will come.

Steve is singing, and he will do a great job.  We promise to have everyone out on time.  I am preaching, not a boring friends and family day sermon, but one on “An Aaron Moment.”  It is a sermon on avoiding you golden calf moment in life.  You know that moment; it is the one mistake you make in High School that you cannot ever live down.  Those moments can still happen.  And the sermon will talk about how to avoid them, and what to do if it happens to you.  Your friends will enjoy it; it is going to be funny, and something that we can all relate to in life.  I promise that you friends will enjoy the sermon.

On 264 day, we had 265, and everyone came up to me to inform me that they almost did not come.  It was them that made the difference.  You can make the difference on this special day.  I got my parents from Canada coming.  I am inviting my neighbor, and my lawyer friend from the gym.  I got my listed started.  Who is on your list?  Start inviting them now, if you invite five people, two will come.  Let us see if we can get 300 people.  That would be awesome!  I would love for us to have the largest attendance ever at Castle Rock.

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Spiritual Highs and Lows

Posted By on March 6, 2014

Camp, retreats, and seminars are great for Christians.  During these times, spiritual thought is evoked.  People return after these times spiritually refreshed.  Rarely, do you meet someone that is spiritually on fire consistently.  There are times in which the weight of the world overtakes the mind.  This does not mean that you are not following the Lord; it means that you are trying to navigate this world and the next.  You are living in the present and the here to come.  The pressures of this world will overwhelm you occasionally.

The problem arises when lukewarm becomes your normal temperature.  It has been so long in which you had a spiritually refreshing moment that the energy of spiritual awakening has left you.  You have become spiritually numb.  One of the ways that you can monitor this is noting how long it has been since you have practiced that which brings spiritual vitality to you.  Maybe you love outreach?  It has been six months since you have studied with someone?  One way I check my spiritual vitality is the excitement I have to write sermons.  Most weeks, there is a sermon in the head that is dying to be written.  There is an excitement to produce it.  Maybe you love working with children?  How long has it been?  One of the best ways to check your spiritual pulse is to monitor the last time it increased.

A spiritual heart rate is much like a physical one.  If you do not increase it on regular bases, soon, it will feel uncomfortable to do so.  Certain areas of service will become too complex, too hard, and too demanding.  You will back away from all challenges because you cannot handle the increase of spiritual pressure.  Everything becomes too taxing.  Perhaps once you taught children’s classes, not it seems too demanding.  Perhaps you use to host people in your home, but now it is too much of a burden.

Camp, retreats, and seminars are great for restoring spiritual vitality.  We all go through spiritual peaks and valleys, but the key is traveling through these times well.  Without proper monitoring, you might find yourself stuck in a spiritual place that is unhealthy.

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Annual Congregation Report Letter

Posted By on February 24, 2014

To give a little context for this letter, it was written by one of the elders at the Castle Rock congregation.  This past Sunday we delivered the state of the congregation address, and produced a 16 page report of the events of the last year.  This is just the opening letter from the elders in the report.

Hello Family.

What an amazing year!  With the exception of 1969 when the congregation began, 2013 has been the best year so far to be a part of the Castle Rock Church of Christ.  Why do we make such a bold statement?  Because you, the members of this congregation, the servants of God’s Kingdom, God’s children, have been faithful to His blessings.

You have demonstrated the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) by making visitors and new members feel at home.  The Quilting Ministry distributed 20 quilts from Alaska to right here in our community.  The majority of our Benevolence Ministry funds took care of our own brothers and sisters.  Members of the congregation, including our ladies and the Encouragement Ministry, took care of the needs of your brothers and sisters with more than 600 cards, uncounted visits, and meals for over 20 families – and those are just the ones we know about!

You have equipped the saints (Ephesians 4:11-13) by creating our “Jesus, Our Passport” Children’s Ministry.  You established a milestone and involved entire families in our first Leadership Training for Christ (LTC) Convention and our annual Vacation Bible School.  Your Singing Youth of Denver (SYD) kids sang for more than 15,000 people from all over the world and your youth group participated in our bi-annual Teen/Elder Retreat, annual Youth Camping Trip, and a host of other fun and spiritually rewarding activities.  You planned, prepared, and hosted our first area-wide Ladies Day.  You spent the year becoming more deeply involved with God’s Word through our Book of the Year, the Gospel of Matthew.  And more than half the congregation took advantage of our new House to House (H2H) Ministry to grow closer together as the Family of God.

Finally, you continued to participate in God’s mission to create disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) in our local community and the community of believers abroad.  You invited friends to play in our annual Schmalz Bowl “flag” football game and get muddy at the Peters’ Luau, handed out over 2,000 water bottles and invitations to our second Watermelon Olympics during the Douglas County Parade, distributed 777 scarves and thousands of glow sticks at our booth at the Castle Rock Starlighting, and began our unique Brothers in Arms outreach.  You supported missions around the world and in our own country from Angola, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Scotland, France, and Mexico to Arizona, Michigan, and the Mountain States’ Children’s Home.

Yes brothers and sisters, you have glorified our Heavenly Father in many ways this past year.  The details above are just a portion of the fruits of your labor. Because of your faithfulness God has blessed us with growth.  He blessed us with numerical growth as our attendance grew from an average of 190 to 240. He blessed us with financial growth and your offerings made us financially healthy.  More importantly, he blessed us with spiritual growth and there is a positive momentum we experience as we gather every Sunday to worship our Heavenly Father together.

So family, we offer you an invitation.  We invite you to look at the annual review you hold in your hands and reflect on last year’s blessings.  Then, we invite you to join us in making 2014 the best year ever at Castle Rock as we strive to fulfill God’s Vision for His Church, our families, and our community.

Grace, peace, and love to you all,

The Elders at Castle Rock

 

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Review of “Orr: My Story”

Posted By on February 18, 2014

Bobby Orr is the man.  He was a great defenseman in the NHL.  During his time in the NHL, he dominated like no defenseman ever has or did.  This is a good book.  It is nice reading about his early childhood.  It is amazing how poor he grew up.  His family had little.  Also, it was nice seeing how he developed as a hockey player.  He loved playing on the open areas on the ice.  He played a lot of pick up hockey against 10 or more guys per team.  This helped him develop his puck handling skills.  Going through five guys was easy after this.  The story is good, and he is humble man.  The only thing I wanted was more insight into this or that.  It is too nice, and he says nothing about anybody.  Even Alan, who cheated him so much, he is nice too.  In one way though, it is refreshing, he is not bitter.  This is not a personal attack on anyone.  It is one man reflecting on life.  He is truly thankful for all of the people who helped him.  He is a humble man, and is someone that you would trust with your kid.  He is an agent now for other players.  This is a good line of work for him.  You will love his story, wishing to have more insight, but in the end, you are thankful he wrote it.

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Review of “Humble Inquiry”

Posted By on February 13, 2014

As a minister, you need to always be working on your people skills.  Ministry is with people.  This book looked interesting, and it ended up being a worthy read.  I rather enjoyed it.  It is not a paradigm changer, but is a helpful skill set to develop.  The book talks much about humility, and having the heart to ask and learn.  Instead of being a teller, and giving information, rather be a asker, seeking to learn more, and typically understanding a situation better.  The book gives good practical advice in doing so.  And is filled with good stories to illustrate the point.    The write makes some good points like “Most important of all, we value task accomplishment over relationship building and either are not aware of this cultural bias or, worse, don’t care and don’t want to be bothered with it.”  We typically deal with one another through a task orientation.  What is interesting is that a minister is so much unlike a boss.  We do things, but we are very much intertwined with people’s lives.  There is a overlaying that takes place.   Another great insight is this: ” The time where Humble Inquiry is often most needed is when we observe something that makes us angry or anxious. It is at those times that we need to slow down, to ask others in a humble way in order to check out the facts, and to ask ourselves how valid our reaction is before we make a judgment and leap into action.”   Overcoming defensiveness is probably one of the best skills for a minister.  Moving past this, you are able to learn from the system better.  Once you are upset, you cease to learn.  This is a great communication book, and one that is excellent for a leader.  Leading with a question is so much better than telling everyone.

Schein, Edgar H.  (p. 95)

Schein, Edgar H.  (p. 55)

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At a Local Coffee Shop

Posted By on February 11, 2014

On Thursday’s (if I have time or mostly if the large projects for the week are completed) I like to go to a local coffee shop to read.  This is always a relaxing time of some deep reading.  You never know the book that I might be presently working on.  The last few have been concerning church growth, how to make ideas catch on, and concerning skills for marriage.  This past week, I stopped by the shop for some nice reading.

In the back, there are some comfy chairs, but there was someone sitting in one of the chairs.  So I asked if it would be odd if I sat in the other.  The young lady said “no”.  I noticed that she was reading a Rick Warren book, which meant that she was interested in Christianity.  So I looked for a way to engage her in conversation.  I asked about a knitted cup holder she had on her cup.  This started the conversation.  It moved to Christianity, but instead of declaring I was a preacher (which typically shuts down the conversation), I acted curious to learn more about her faith.  She told me that she does not go to church, but she has been involved in a small group for the last five years.

Though acting ignorant (which comes naturally), I inquired about how she was saved.  She accepted Jesus as Lord, but after asking about her baptism, she stated that she was never baptized.  In the best, I am just a dumb heathen voice (which use to come naturally to me), I stated that “don’t you have to be baptized to be saved?”  She said “no” and I asked about Acts 2:38 and having your sins washed away.  She never heard of that verse.  After we moved on from this, she told a story about this or that, and I used the term “providential” which she never heard of before.  I mentioned the book of Philemon which once again she never heard of.  At this moment, she got her smartphone out and looked it up, and to her surprise it was there.  She noted that she was going to go home and read this book.  Finally, she declared that she was a Christian that believed in love.  She stated that loving your neighbor was the first commandment.  I corrected her, quote Matthew 22:37-39, and said, in the best I curious voice, (which comes easily), that loving God is the first commandment.  In a roundabout way, I guess you could call this a Bible study, though the whole time she thought she was teaching me.

I kind of felt like I was at a well the whole time, but you never know what will happen when you go to a coffee shop.  Hopefully, some seeds were planted, in a unorthodoxy way.

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The Best Lesson I ever Learned

Posted By on February 10, 2014

And it took me five years in a dissertation program to learn it.  Maybe it took longer than that.  I have been doing full time ministry for 12 years, but it was during the dissertation process that this realization happened.  And it took three years of writing a dissertation to come to this understanding, and what is sad is perhaps, it would never have happened to me.  There could have been a chance that I would never have learned this truth.

When I look around, I believe a lot of preachers have not learned this valuable lesson.  It is really sad, and because these men have not learned this lesson, there is much discontent in ministry.  You hear it through the internet world, but you hear it especially over lunches, and on the phone.  There is always some article about the reasons that ministers are leaving ministry.  But this one lesson will help with this problem.  You hear it expressed in lines like: “Only if the church”, “We need to”, “The elder will not”, and there is much more.  All of these states have one thing in common–discontent.  But this hints at the issue.  What is the root of discontent in preachers?

Most ministers will say that they are trying to make the church what it ought to be.  This is a great goal, and one at the foundation of the restoration movement.  We follow a model, a pattern, the Bible, but whatever you call it, the foundation of the discontent is attempting to match the local congregation with the universal goal of the church.  The minister has a vision for the congregation and does what he can to bring the congregation to match his ideal state.

And this is the root of the discontent.  And what have I learned in this process, well, here it is: “Binding your ideal state on a congregation is immature.”  Why is this such a powerful lesson?  First, who says that your ideal vision is correct?  Second, you are binding a universal vision on a local congregation (I hope you see the depth of this truth).  Third, the needs of the one are overtaking the needs of the many.

So to flesh this out some.  Ministers are too quick to jump to a conclusion of what is best for that local congregation.  Let me put it this way.  You could yell, motivation, preach to, add programs for a 60 year old lady with cancer to have a child, and it would never happen!  Never, ever, never.  So your vision for the local congregation is to grow, but are you there yet?  You need to step back, and look at the context of the local congregation.  Where is the church at?  Probably with this unhealthy, older congregation, you need to love them to health.  Now ask, what does this look like?

Unfortunately, the DNA in the churches of Christ has seen every local congregation with the view of the universal pattern for the church.  Of course this is not an argument for un-scriptural practices, rather a case for a more contextual understanding of working in a local congregation.  Until you understand what is truly best for the congregation, it is best to watch and wait.  Once you understand the true need, act, and God will help the congregation move forward, from wherever that is.

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First Generational Blogger

Posted By on February 5, 2014

I started this blog in 2007.  So I have been blogging for about 7 years, give or take some months.  Hard to believe that this is the case.  I have been somewhat consistent in writing during those years.  I am not sure why I started a blog, mostly because my brother who is a early adopted of everything in tech said I should.  He also built the site for me.  I guess I started it to write a journal for myself, or to post book reviews.  Hopefully, I have blessed others because of it.  But this blogging has been hard.  After some reflection, and having breakfast with a friend, we discussed blogging.  He noted to me that I was one of the first of my generation to start blogging.  Before the middle 2000′s, there really was no such thing as a blog.  And blogging has influenced the church, and some ministries.  I have had friends fired over a blog article.  Fortunately, I have blogged and kept a job.

But this whole blogging thing has lead to trouble in my life.  Think about it.  My generation was the first in the churches of Christ to be able to throw ideas out into the church without a filter.  Years ago, we had the established journals, you had to write something, submit something, and have a wise editor look at it.  He knew if it was garage, or not wise to publish, or it would cause a fight, but my generation, and being 20 some years old, we had no clue on this stuff.  We wrote it, and published it, and people read it.  And we published stuff we had no business putting out there.

One of the biggest mistakes, and one of the most un-classy things I did was review a class I was taking at FHU.  After each class, I would disagree, or provide my thoughts on the teacher and class material.  This was really immature of me.  First of all, I had no respect for an authority figure in my life.  You never mistreat someone, and I took my private thoughts and aired them to everyone.  This created problems in class, and the rest of the students read my posts.  Let’s face it, no established publication in the brotherhood would have published my posts, but there I was young, immature, and prideful writing away.  I had no clue of the impact those posts would have on my ministry.

Also, I use to advertise of the various lectureships I would speak on.  Needless to say, this got me kicked off of programs before.  I was an open book, and people held it against me.  Years ago, most people had little clue of where you were, unless you were on the watch dog list.  For someone in their 20′s, I was not important enough to be watched or cared about.  But since I was out there, I was.

Also, I learned quickly, that you can review hurt mail, and your friends will dislike you because of what you write about.  I wrote blog posts of people that had influence in the past, and this created tension in some of my relationships.  People had a ill report of me because of some words I wrote about famous people.  I am not saying they were wrong, but I am saying, this effected my ministry.

Also, I have been written up because of my blog.  Yes, I have been quoted in major print publications in the brotherhood.  Sometimes they mention me by name and sometimes not, but it was me.  I have been written up in other blogs, in both positive and negative ways.

I say all this because I have been a blog editor at an early age.  There was a time that I was mostly on my own with this task.  At the rip age of 29, I was influencing the church, and speaking where I should have been silent.  I think we have a slogan about that.  Mostly, I had no editor that understood the brotherhood, and the politics, the topics, and what people can think you mean, but really do not.  Most of what I thought would have been filtered, and if I was to go back, I would have never said much of what I said.  At 37, I had a birthday yesterday, You would never catch me saying those words, but I will be forever judged on them.

Being a first generation blogger, has been an interesting experience in the church.

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Those Days

Posted By on February 3, 2014

Well, Denver was killed in the Superbowl.  This was a shocker, and sad.  But it was a great journey to the game.  It would have been nice to see Peyton win another one, but some days, it just does not happen.  The game was one of those time.  It was not close, it was not really much of a game.  Everything looked bad.  And you have to throw up your hands, and just say, well, it is just one of those days.  We all have had them.  Nothing seems to click.  For preachers, Sunday, like for a NFL player, is the day.  You got to do well.  People are watching on Sunday.  As a minister, the rest of the week is important, and typically your preparation will show on Sunday, but some Sunday, no matter what the preparation was, it just do not click.  Maybe it was the sound, or the singing, or something that happened, maybe it was the right fit sermon for something that happened on Sunday morning.  But nothing went right.  And you are just trying to kill the clock, and look classy.  Maybe you say the wrong thing to someone, and realized it later.  Maybe the sermon never flowed, and everyone is walking out confused.  Maybe you were hitting on a hard topic, and you came off poorly, or with a mean spirit.  As a minister, it happens to everyone.  What to do?

1. Be Like Manning.  Stay classy.  If you did a bad job, just say it.  It was not your day.  If you said the wrong thing, or that you came off poorly.  Try not to defeat yourself, just be classy and admit, you did not come through.  People always respect class.

2. Do not quit.  Finish what you started.  Maybe it started in Bible class, and got bad through the day.  By Sunday night, it is off the charts.  Do not throw in the towel.  Finish the day, there is always the next Sunday, and people will forget.  Move on, do not call attention to it, just finish well.

3. Think about Why.  Did you not get enough sleep, was it really just a bad day, or a lack of preparation.  Did someone get you off of your “game” through a mean spirited commented, why did you let them?  Reflect, learn, and grow.  Think about ways to not let it happen again.

4. Own it.  Do not make excuses though.

We all have those Sundays.  It says a lot about us in the way we handle them.  Manning was classy over a football game, we need to show as much class as Manning over preaching.

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Facing Reality in the Community

Posted By on January 28, 2014

Typically a minister will read a book about reaching the lost.  The book has a ton of great ideas in reaching a segment of society.   Often these books talk about reaching the fringes of society.  Bikers, homeless, drug users, but the problem is that certain churches will not reach these segments of society.  I am not saying we should not try, but I am saying you have to be organized to accomplish the task.  I am not sure of many congregations that have a suburban mindset, and do a good job of truly connecting certain sections of society to the congregation.  Some churches have done church plants to accomplish the work.  I like this idea.  Sermons will be different, the look will be different, and the vibe.  I am not saying it cannot be done, or even that it should not be done, but you got to face reality.

A congregation that throws all of its resources into reaching a segment of society that is outside of the congregational comfort zone is mostly hurting itself.  Yes, we should be open to whoever God sends, and we need to reach all people, but it is foolish to think that you are going to reach the biker crowd when you are a church of soccer moms.  And sometimes it is not you, it is them.  They want to feel comfortable in church too.  They want to have lessons that connect with them.  Sometimes the thing does not work, not because Christians are not kind and loving, but because the group is not interested in what you are offering.  Bikers might not care about that great mother’s day out program that is the talk of the town or congregation.

This is why you need to reach that which is out there.  Congregations refuse to do this sometimes.  If your community has changed, change so that you reach them.  If your community is a suburban wealthy area, rich people need the gospel too.  We need to be incarnational in all areas.  Who has God placed in your influence, and be faithful in reaching them.

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