I Did It!!!

I can’t believe it.  I DID IT!!!  It has been over a year in the making but I finally did it.  Nope, no need to call the police or send me a cigar for that matter.  It may not be what you are thinking.  I finished writing a book!  I can’t tell you how awesome the feeling of accomplishing something on that level feels.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of work ahead of me.  There is editing, promoting, finding someone to publish it but I took a concept from being an idea to being a reality!  Pretty freakin’ cool.  The credit really goes to God because this project has been soaked in prayer and started with a, dare I say it, holy discontent with how our nation and world looks right now.

All you have to do is look at the current presidential election to find examples.  You see fighting, muck raking, personal attacks and dishonest tactics and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Quite honestly, it is a pretty good illustration of the American public right now.  We are so incredibly divided that it is unreal!  The candidates that we have are a pretty good representation of our schizophrenic nature as Americans.  I won’t go into details but I think you can draw your own conclusions.  You’re smart people.  I mean you’re reading this right?:)

Because of the contention that exists in our world and due to the fact that believers in Christ are not helping to heal this situation but instead are throwing gasoline on a flame that is already kindled, I have written this book.  I think I can sum the book up pretty well in one statement: Relentlessly loving others in a world that is bent on tearing them apart.  That’s it!  That is easy to understand but not easy to practice.  First off, people don’t view love as strength anymore.  It is seen as more of a weakness.  Besting someone in an argument, getting your own way, “winning” in our jobs, those are all examples of what strength entails.  Love is much harder.  Love means sacrifice, considering others as more important than ourselves and doing good for others despite what they do for you in return.  They might not reciprocate that sentiment after all.  How does that make YOU look?  That’s where strength and courage come in.  You have to push through appearances and self doubt to continue to love others regardless of how they treat you in return.

So I’ve written an entire book on that topic.  I really believe that it is timely and that most believers in Christ need to hear it.  I hope there are sections that will make you laugh, some that will make you think and others that will make you put the book down all together because it is just…difficult.  Please pray for me in my next steps because I am venturing out into unknown territory.  This project is far from over but I have made some pretty significant steps toward making it happen.  I love you guys and appreciate your support!

Matt

44

Well, I thought the day would never come.  Today, I turn 44.  Some of my friends, the meaner ones I might mention, have explained to me that I am a lot closer to 50 now than I am 30…so that basically means that I’m 50.  First off, no it doesn’t.  Secondly, okay you got me.  50 isn’t that far away, much like Sarah Palin and Russia, I can see it from my house.  It really is hard to believe that I’ve been on this planet for 44 years!  At this point, you think I might buy a Shelby Mustang, get a gold chain, go to the doc for some peck implants and get a spray tan.  Since none of that, save the Shelby Mustang, is really me I guess I’ll have to opt out.

Honestly, I’ve seen quite a few people freak out at this point and go through their “mid life crisis” and I really hope I never go through that.  Instead of feeling desperate to make my life count for something, at 44 I guess all that I feel is…grateful.  Grateful that God has seen fit to give me two wonderful kids, a beautiful and kind wife and a job that I love to go to every morning with people that I love to be with.  Grateful for amazing friends and extended family that cares so much of us and the feeling is definitely mutual.  Instead of feeling desperate to make an impact, I feel a responsibility to keep going and make the next 44 count in a really big way!  I feel like I owe that to God for His uncommon grace that He has shown to someone who really doesn’t deserve it.

My prayer for the next 44 is that I could embody grace and truth to the people that surround me.  That God would continue to use my talents as a ministry to others, as odd as my talents may be.  Have you ever stopped to take stock in the talents God has given you?  I’ll list a few of mine in no particular order.  I love to make people laugh, to comfort others in pain, to teach the Bible in living english and I can do a pretty mean Sean Connery impression.  The crazy thing is, God has used all of my talents over the years to minister to others in one way or another.  Maybe all except the Sean Connery thing, the jury is still out on that one.

Let me encourage you to think about the talents and gifts that God has given you.  List them out.  Thank Him for what He has given you, no matter how weird or few those gifts may be.  Then ask Him to give you the strength to use those gifts to bring attention to Him so that others might be blessed through you.  When that happens, then maybe your next 44 will be the best of your life.  Take care.

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Embrace the Future

There is an art to embracing the future.  For starters,  you can’t be stuck in the past.  I know, I’m a genius.  For real though.  If there is bitterness, self doubt or hurt that keeps you from heading toward a God given goal in your life, you won’t be capable of charting a new course for your life.  Here are a few things that help me when I feel stuck.

Pick Something that Matters – There are a ton of things that you can pour your time and efforts into.  Pick something that matters.  Since I am a Christian, I try to find something that God has gifted me to do and figure out how I can use that thing to impact His kingdom.  Find something that you are gifted to do, that will be a gift to others.  Then make plans to do it!

“Frozen” it – This is a common saying in my household.  My kids hate it.  My daughter hates it because she loves the movie “Frozen” and my son, because he hates it.  Here’s what I’m saying “Let it go”.  Now you hate it too.  Think about it though.  What is that thing that is holding you back?  Is it self doubt?  Isn’t God bigger than you?  Is it pain? Invite God into that and ask Him to heal it and move forward.  Is it loneliness?  Find a group of people that will encourage you in this endeavor.  Is it past failures?  Remember, God has forgiven you of those things, if you have asked Him, and calls you to walk in the victory that He has provided.  

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – Be willing to put the hard work in to get it done.  If this REALLY is an important goal for you, you will sacrifice for it.  That means time, effort, creativity and money.  If you aren’t willing to give something up for your dream, it isn’t worth doing.  It is merely a passing feeling.  Be willing to fail big and get ready to pick yourself up again, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Brace Yourself – The last one is this, get ready for the criticism.  People will think that your idea is stupid.  Others will try to convince you that you won’t be able to do it.  Be careful, there are times when you should listen to people when they tell you not to do something and other times when you should completely ignore them.  I always think of American Idol when I try to discern the difference. Remember the try outs?  Remember all of the people who should have known better than to try out?  They can’t sing but they “can’t sing” with a lot of passion.

So there’s that, then there are the people who had the gift, passion and perseverance to get to the final rounds.  Be the girl or guy that makes it to the final round.  Don’t listen to the people who have attempted something great and then failed and then decided that they were too wounded to keep attempting great things.  They are jaded and they quit at some point.  Don’t quit.  Forget the past failures, move forward and press on!

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Acceptance

The following paragraphs are an excerpt from a book that I have been writing for a little over a year.  The book is called “First Church of the Broken”.  I am currently one chapter away from completing my goal of finishing this book!!!  I’m pretty jacked about that.  This comes from a  chapter entitled “MOB Mentality”.  MOB stands for “Making Others Better”.  Enjoy…

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Jesus, being God, knew more about this woman than she even knew about herself.  He knew the ugly, dirty truth about her. He knew the mistakes she had made, the failures she had experienced and the shame that she carried. Here’s the kicker. The Son of God, the perfect one, the one in whom there is no sin or deceit…loved her anyway.

He wasn’t rubber stamping her life and saying that her current circumstances were okay, but He also didn’t let those things affect the compassion that He had for her. Let me be clear about what I think about Jesus, He was perfect. He was sinless. He was guilty of no wrongs. This woman had been in five marriages and now was living with a guy and was probably wondering if that was going to work out. Jesus didn’t let that affect His love for her. He accepted her for who she was.

She was a woman, which at the time put her in a lower class in her society. Yes, I know that’s messed up. She was also a Samaritan, which was another mark against her. That too is a little screwed up.  She was involved in sexual immorality and that made her an outcast even to her own people. That was her third strike and she was out! But because of Jesus’ relentless acceptance and love for her, He was able to speak truth. I’m convinced that only Jesus would be able to speak this kind of truth to someone within one conversation at a well. For the rest of us it takes time. It might even take years before you can begin to weigh in on someone’s circumstances. Even then you have to be super careful and considerate of that person’s feelings. Due to the fact that we are by no means sinless, we also have to be mindful of our own sins and have humility in having these conversations. I do believe that it is possible over time to earn the right to be heard.

My point is this, Jesus accepted this person for who she was but He also was able to stick to the things He knew to be true about God…Himself. I know that gets confusing right? He was full of grace and truth. He didn’t compromise one for the other. The result of that loving conversation was this.

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Samaritan woman at the well believed in Jesus. She not only believed in Jesus, she dropped her water jar and told her friends immediately. Why? This “prophet” knew things about her personal life without any context. Not only did He know the sordid details of her life but He still spoke to her. To take it a step further, He wasn’t afraid to talk to her about spiritual things because He knew that she needed this “living water” more than anyone else. Jesus accepted her.

Acceptance can be one of the most powerful acts of obedience that you can practice. Let me clarify once again, acceptance doesn’t mean that you approve of the person’s choices or decisions. Over time, we’ve lost our bearings on what a biblical view of being accepting is. Let’s start with a definition.

Accept: [ak-sept] to give admittance or approval to <accept her as one of the group.

The Latin word “capere” means “to seize” or “to take”. From the root of that word we get “cept”. If we capture something, we take it by force. To accept something is to take something willingly to oneself.

If we look at acceptance that way, that we are taking that person as they are, it makes more sense. We are not telling them that we agree with everything they believe, we are saying I believe in you. We are acknowledging that we are imperfect and in need of the transformation that Jesus offers in the same way that they are. That acceptance can be powerful.

If you look at the life of Jesus, you can find a multitude of examples of Jesus accepting others. Jesus accepted the lepers that the rest of the Jewish culture rejected. He accepted the blind man that others assumed was born blind because of his sin or his parents. He accepted the woman caught in adultery (John 8), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the demoniac (Luke 6), the centurion (Matthew 8), Peter after his rejection (John 21) and many more.

It is sometimes difficult to look at the life of Jesus and pattern your life after His isn’t it? Let’s be honest with one another. Here’s what I mean. Sure, Jesus accepted these people that society rejected but then He changed them miraculously and their lives were never the same. We don’t have that capacity. We can suggest advice, we can even help people make their lives better but we cannot change their hearts. That is totally out of our league and probably one of the greatest miracles that Jesus performed and still performs today.

I do believe that we can help set the stage though. Acceptance is one way that we can create an environment for others that will give them a taste of what God’s love is really like. Once we have done our part, people will more clearly see God for who He is, a loving Father.

Waiting for Star Wars

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016I vaguely remember sitting in a movie theater in Houston Tx. waiting for the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope” to begin.  I was tapping my feet on the sticky, popcorn covered floor of the movie theater while clutching the arm rest of my seat.  When the huge block letters began to roll and the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” hit the screen and then John Williams’ famous music hit my ears, I was locked in!  They had me!  Every scene was a new experience for my eyes and candy to my imagination.  A fire was stoked in me and I became a fan of the series instantaneously.

Back then, we didn’t have a DVD player or instant streaming movies so all I could do was wait.  That’s right.  I had to wait until Lucas came out with another Star Wars movie.  I couldn’t even watch the old movie to get ready for the new one.  Sure, other movies attempted to duplicate the magic that Star Wars was able to capture but they were all cheap imitations.  I’ll never forget when “The Empire Strikes Back” came out how excited I was.  I bought the toys before the movie even came out.  In my mind, I was already standing in line in that same movie theater happily waiting for the next installment of this series to release.  I still remember sitting in that theater with my good friend Sebastian, who by this time was seeing the movie for the second or third time.  I was astounded that anyone would see a movie more than once and was now dead set on seeing it more times than he did.

As I sat in that theater, I had the same sense of anticipation that I did the first go around.  My heart was beating fast, my feet could not stay still and again, the phrase hit the screen and John Williams punched me in my ears with the distinct theme song that would be recognized for generations to come.  My eyes were deluged with scenes of Hoth, the Wampa, a sliced and diced Tauntaun, Yoda’s wisdom, light saber duels, Han Solo saying “I know” to Leia’s “I love you”, Luke finding out Darth Vader was his father,   and the awkward moment where you realize that means Leia is his sister.  Magic!  My mind was blown again.  Then there was more waiting.

This time it seemed like an eternity.  I was dying to know.  How would Luke ever be powerful enough to defeat Darth Vader? Was Han Solo dead?  Would I get to see Boba Fett again because had pretty sweet armor and an amazing ride?  How would Luke break the news to Leia that they would have to cool off their dating relationship because he was her brother?  So many questions were swirling in my head and the excitement and anticipation of the final installment was killing me!!!  Then, Return of the Jedi came out.

The opening scene with C3PO and R2 at Jabba’s Palace was intense for a boy my age but I ate up every bit of it.  The face off with the rancor in Jabba’s dungeon and the escape scene over the pit of Sarlaac made me audibly cheer!  The Battle of Endor, as annoying as the Ewoks were, got my blood pumping and the speeder bike chase made me want one for Christmas.  Let’s not forget the final lightsaber duel between Darth and Luke and the moment where Darth Vader bench presses the Emperor and throws him into the abyss!  Does it get any cooler than that?  I submit that it cannot!!!

Then there was silence.  It was about sixteen years in between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Phantom Menace”.  Even though I was an adult at this point, I was still super excited about the prospect of a new trilogy.  I will say that I was a little disappointed.  Sure, there were light sabers, Jedi Knights, a pretty sweet Sith Lord and plenty of space ships to go around but something was missing.  The magic was there but it was small flicker of what the original series had been.  Sure, some of that was due to the fact that I was a kid when the first movies came out and there was nostalgia surrounding it but it was more than that.  The last trilogy failed to capture the mojo that the originals had.

So here we all wait again!  Our feet tapping on the sticky floor of the movie theater while clutching the arm rest of our seats.  Will the next series capture the magic of the originals?  Are you going to see the rise of new heroes that will capture our imaginations and villains we will all love to hate?  In 10 days we will see.  From one kid to another, I hope that we are all pleasantly surprised.

 

Dear Young Adults

Dear Young Adults,

As you know, our world is a pretty dark one.  There are mass shootings, racial divides, hate filled speech and we are politically polarized on a level that I have never witnessed before.  Like I said, dark.  Fear pervades our world and it has changed us as a society.  The America that we hand off to you, the generation that will lead us, is not the one that we or our parents have experienced.   We are truly sorry for that.  This fear and hopelessness that we feel can drive us all to do some pretty desperate things.

We might be tempted to demonize people from other countries or even other faiths, and make them out to be the enemy.  This is hurtful and betrays not only the Christian faith, if you would count yourself among that group, but also the American dream.  We are a country of immigrants and sojourners.  Our diversity is our strength and our ability to coexist as a diverse culture is what makes this country great.  We must not and cannot betray others in this way.  There are some really amazing people that I would call friends that do not believe the same way that I do.  Please let’s not go down this road.  It leads to an “us vs them” mentality and it only feeds our prejudice and bigotry.

Others might even be tempted to turn our back on our nation.  Some of us have found it acceptable to connect with terrorist organizations who promise camaraderie, meaning and purpose.  The only problem is that it is false advertising.  The sad truth is that those who have made this decision have found out too late that they are pawns in a sick and twisted game that they cannot get out of.  While thinking they were giving their life up for a cause and something worthwhile, they were being used for someone’s murderous and idealogical perversion.  While seeking freedom they had become slaves.  While wanting change, they had become a part of what is wrong with our world today.

There are others who have taken it upon themselves to do something drastic, out of anger and rage of the meaninglessness of their lives.  This too is a losing proposition.  School shootings, campus shootings, the Paris attacks and most recently what has happened in San Bernardino are only a few of the tragedies that have befallen us.  I can’t begin to understand why any of this happens but I do know that the hopelessness and fear that we all feel is a part of the problem.

To be clear, anyone can purchase a weapon and go out causing destruction, fear and chaos.  Anyone.  It doesn’t take anyone special to simply pull a trigger, detonate a bomb or wield a machete.  It does, however, take someone special to build, heal and transform.  It takes someone exceptional to create.  Not just anyone is up to that task.  It takes time, courage and resolve.  So I have a question for you, would you rather be just anyone?  Or would you rather be someone unique that stands out?

Look, we all want to give our lives for something but let’s make that something worthwhile.  You can be the generation that helps turn things around in our world.  I would much rather give myself toward something or Someone who has the ability to change our world and fight the corruption and evil that exists today.  Let’s fight it, not with a gun, bomb or hatred.  Let’s fight it with love.  I know that sounds corny and a little bit “pie in the sky” but stick with me.  How do you fight conventional weapons with love?  You get to the person holding the gun before they pick it up.  People are looking for belonging and acceptance and they will do desperate things to get it.  We weren’t created to live alone in this world.  When we belong to a group of other people that accept you and love you the way that you are and are committed to a cause, you have just found a cause worth dying for.

That is the Church.  We were created for a relationship with God.  That relationship will change your life.  That relationship is through Jesus Christ who died for a great cause.  To glorify God and to save you from separation from Him.  What motivated Him to do that?  Love.  Instead of joining a group bent on destruction, which anybody can do, join God in his desire to transform this world through His love for humanity.  That is a cause with dying for.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” MLK

Simple Things

I love Thanksgiving.  It is, hands down, my favorite holiday.  What’s not to like?  There’s family, food and thankfulness.  It is pretty simple.  Unless you’ve gone off your rocker completely, there are no “thanksgiving gifts” to buy, no “thanksgiving cards” that need to go out with our picture on it and definitely no dude in a suit that we pay to sit on his lap and tell him what we want for Thanksgiving!  I’m thankful for that last one.  The stress is pretty minimal, except for the visiting relatives and cooking, and it is all about enjoying the relationships that you have and the food that’s in front of you.  I won’t mention Black Friday because that’s Christmas related.:)

Sure, it can be a reminder for those who are not with us as well.  I have a few people in mind when I say that.  There is a vacuum and a void that we all experience because of the empty seats at the Thanksgiving table.  If I can be so bold, I’d say I’m even thankful for those who are not present.  Nope, I’m not thankful that they’re not there, that is the void that we are experiencing.  I am thankful for the fact that they made an impact on my life and the lives of those that I love.

Back to Thanksgiving.  I love the simplicity of a day that we are all forced to stay home and occupy the same space.  I love that the focus of the day is being thankful.  Thankfulness is one of the most underrated spiritual disciplines of our day.

We are about to move into a season where every commercial is designed to make us feel like we are missing something.  Thankfulness reminds us that God has provided us with everything that we need.  We are complete in Him.  As you sit with your family today, remember that.  Remember God has supplied all of our needs according to His riches and glory.  Not according to what new gadget we feel like we deserve or what lifestyle we need to pursue.  It is according to His way of life that is more abundant and more extravagant than the Thanksgiving meal you are about to enjoy.  And it doesn’t make you five pounds heavier!  Happy Thanksgiving!

From the Snellings

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19