Matthew R Oliver

 Matthew R Oliver

Writing, Reading, and whatever else is on my mind...

My Visit to Target

 

 

 

My Visit to Target

Yup, I did it.

This past week I visited Target and asked to speak with the Manager.

Let me explain, and please, take the time to read this all the way through before you judge, get angry, or comment about the content of this article, especially if you haven’t read it yet.

I am the Senior Pastor of the Family church in Roseville CA, and I am well aware of the “changes,” or announcements Target has made regarding their bathroom policies. If you are reading this then you are probably aware of their bathroom policies as well, to some degree or another.

I have many pastor friends who have ignored this topic altogether, especially pastors in CA, where there is an expectation to be a little more liberal than pastors in other parts of the country.

Yet I believe that as Christians we should be able to deal with the hard issues head on.  We don’t have to shy away from the tough questions. Jesus didn’t.  So, as a Pastor I should be leading and directing those who are in my care.

As a person, I have a voice and a responsibility.  As a Christian I can make a difference.

This week God called on me to make a difference.

I visited the local Target in my region.

When I entered I asked to speak to the Manager.  The gray haired woman with a crooked smile quickly frowned. “What do you need to meet with her about?” She asked me curtly.

“About Target.”  I smiled with a wide grin, not willing to give anything away.

“What specifically about Target.” She asked not missing a beat.

“That is something I need to talk to her about.”  My smile never waivered.

Walkie-Talkies crackled and hissed into life as she called on the manager.  I could tell that she was hoping the manager would not be available, but to her dismay, she was.

A few minutes later a twenty-something with long brown hair made her way toward me, with an “eager to deal with any and every situation” smile on her face.

“How can I help you?”  She didn’t know what was about to go down.

“I am Pastor Matthew Oliver from the Family church.”  I held out my hand with a business card in it. She responded with a sigh.  Her face and her body both displayed the disappointment.

Not usually the reaction I am looking for.

Then I asked her the question she was waiting for. “Can you please tell me about Targets Bathroom policies.” 

No sooner did the words come out of my mouth before I noticed security to my right hand side.  A staff member circled in from behind me.  Two cashiers stood a short distance behind their manager.  The world stopped in time for a moment as all eyes were on the two of us. The world was watching.

The world is watching.

To go back a bit, the day before, I saw a post online with a picture much like mine, where a young girl went into Target, asked to speak with the manager, and then asked about their bathroom policies.  Once the manager explained Target’s position she went ahead and gave them “a piece of her mind.” At that moment God awoke something in me. Something that challenged me. Something that was uncomfortable. He called on me to do something that could cost me friends, co-workers.  It could cost me my church.

He called me to LOVE.

That day, with all eyes on me.  I stopped her before she answered my silly question, and I said, “I am not really here for that.” 

Then I pulled out another card. A card with messages written from all of our Pastoral Staff, and gift cards for her and other members of her team. 
“I just want to tell you, you are loved.”

She lost it.  Right there.

She began to share how many people have called and yelled at her and the team.  The hate mail, emails, phone calls they have had to endure.  She shared how many people have come in, just like I did. “Christians” they call themselves, who then proceed to yell, cuss, and personally make attacks about her and the members of her team. 

She said of all those who have come in, no one, not one person has come in to simply love.

With all eyes watching, we showed what we are always meant to show; love.  Not being right, being love.

Love. The most controversial word in the Church Today.

He challenged me to lay down my rights, my opinions, my feelings, all in the name of LOVE.  Love my neighbor as myself.  Love unconditionally.  Love despite politics or agendas. 

He called me to LOVE, because it is who He is, what we are called to do, and what we will be known for.  Love.

While there are petitions going on, boycotts of Target, rallies, picketing, angry mobs…ok, maybe not angry mobs, but in general, there are scared, angry, frustrated people taking out their frustrations on scared, angry, frustrated people, and we are expecting something to change. 

In America, how has the Christian church so easily lost sight of the very thing that God has called us to? LOVE.

I know, many of you shake your heads and say, “I love my kids or my grandkids and I need to protect them,” or, “it’s my right.”

First off, Jesus said, “Love your enemy.”  He said it, not me.

We don’t get to define love because we don’t like His definition, or because we do not feel it fits into what we are dealing with today.

Second, we are called to lay down our rights.  Jesus did.  It’s a Kingdom principle.  In fact, if you want to make a difference Jesus showed us how.  First shall be last, give to receive, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, lay down your life.  If we want to see things transformed then we have to stop fighting the way the world does and start loving the way Jesus does.

Third, as The Church, we need to begin to “respond” to these issues instead of “reacting.” We have to stop making gut reaction decisions based out of fear and justifying it with religion. Perfect love casts out fear.  God didn’t send His son into an “iffy” bathroom, He sent His son to a cross. 

We keep allowing the enemy to write our talking points for us based off of his drama.  The enemy, the world, society does not get to drive the agenda of the church, of Heaven.  His Kingdom come is our agenda, and His kingdom is not of this world.  His kingdom is expressed through the fruits of who He is, love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness… This is what His kingdom is.

Jesus displayed this, He lived this.  His message was consistent to this. When the Pharisees came to Christ they asked him about laws, government, religion.  He knew they were trying to trap Him, in fact He called them on it.  Yet in the end, He said, the most important thing is love.  If you can get love down, truly get love, loving God, loving those around you, as much as you love you, then the world will begin to change. 

When Christ was faced with the oppression of the Roman empire, the rights of Jews being forcibly taken from them.  Being belittled, ridiculed, slaves to a perverse regime, He didn’t ignore it, He dealt with it head on.  These were real questions being asked by the people of the time.  These were their rights.  These were their lives, their children, their issues.  Jesus’ response is still valid today;

Matthew 5:38-48

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’h 39But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

God called on me to go to Target and showcase His love.  Not to give them a piece of my mind, but to give them a piece of my heart.

I hope you realize that this has nothing to do with where I shop, who I am voting for or condoning/supporting a lifestyle.  This has to do with love.

Love goes a long way.

Scripture says that “they will know us by our love.” So today, with the whole world watching, what will the world know you by?

-Pastor Matthew Oliver of The Family Church

 

If this has impacted you, please share and spread the word

5 Easy Steps to Make a New Year's Resolution....and Keep it!

5 Easy Tips to Make a New Year’s Resolution…      and Keep It!
By Matthew Oliver

The New Year is fast approaching and with it, the dreaded looming of New Year’s Resolutions.  January is the biggest month in which people decide to make a change in their life, for good or for bad.  Most people choose to make good changes, but they do not always end up positively.  And, because of bad experiences with those (or past) resolutions, many have walked away from making any decision to change anything in their life for the New Year.  That can be just as harmful as making a bad resolution.  Good news - it doesn’t have to be that way!

          There are two types of people in the world.  Those who make New Year’s Resolutions and those who do not.  I continually meet people who stay as far away from resolutions as possible; choosing adamantly and defiantly to stay the way they are.  To me, that is just as unprofitable as making bad New Year’s Resolutions. 

          New Year’s Resolutions have the potential to be life changing and transforming for both you and those around you.  You probably know, personally, things you long to change in your life, or things that desperately need to change.  If so, you may be looking for fresh opportunities to change them; for moments when you can start anew.  The start of something is always a great time to start fresh:  the start of a week, the start of a day, the start of a new year.  Thus, New Year’s Resolutions.  You don’t have to hate them just because everyone is doing them.  Instead, choose to be one of the only 8% of people worldwide that keep their resolutions. 

         That’s right, less than 10% of people worldwide actually keep their resolutions.  There are reasons for that.  Most don’t make good, right resolutions, so they fail before they even start.  Today, you can be in the winning percentage by choosing to make good resolutions, and by following these easy tips.

 

1.   Is it for Me?

Not every New Year’s Resolution is going to apply to you.  The worst thing you can do is choose a resolution that is not God birthed.  We know scripture says that in God all things are possible.  Sure, sounds good.  The question: is your New Year’s Resolution God birthed.

          If you are not a Christian, this can still apply to you, because “saved” or not, whether your have prayed “the prayer” or not, you are still made and created in God’s image.  He is still moving and speaking in and through you.  So hold on to your seat and see how this applies to even you.

          Just because your best friend decided to start the New Year learning French, does not mean French is for you.  Maybe your spouse has decided to start running every day (Lord, help them.) That does not mean you will have the desire or grace to run.

          Many people quit New Year Resolutions simply because they were not for them.  They didn’t start from something that was God birthed, or even a personal desire.  Here is a quick side note, how do you know if something is God birthed, even if you are not a Christian?  God speaks in and through you, and births things in your heart.  That means He places dream and desires in your heart.  So the real question is: What do you want to do or change?

          Not what society wants you to change;

          Not what the media wants you to change;

          Not what your friends or spouse wants you to change.

What do you want?  What is tugging at your heart, or moving you at the deepest level?  It is from there that your resolution should be birthed, that it should start.

When you pursue a resolution from that place, you will have grace to continue - even when you don’t feel like it.  You will be able to press through when you feel like giving up, or giving in.  It is there that you truly partner with God, and are able to lean on His strength, and not just your own.  The only resolution that you will truly be able to complete is the one that is really yours.  So make sure it is for you!

 

2.   Make it Plain

So you have decided to lose weight, eat better, diet and/or exercise.  Maybe you have made a plan to learn Spanish, stress less, or spend more time with your family.  These are some of the top New Year’s Resolutions broken each and every year.  Why?  They are not specific enough to successfully achieve.

So you want to lose weight?  How much?  How soon?  You want to eat better?  Eat what?  When?  Where? The Bible says in Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain.  That is wisdom.  Many people fail at their New Year’s Resolution simply because there is no way to gauge success.  They start eating right, whatever that means, until they stop eating right.  They operate in terms so loose it is just as easy to succeed as to fail. 

The best thing you can do to succeed in your new resolution is to clearly define what success looks like.  Make clear goal dates so that you are able to see how you are doing, and what you can do to be better at it.  Sometimes you have to make it simple, other times you have to make it plain.

 

3.   Let’s Get Real!

So you know that your resolution is for you.  You are going to learn Spanish, or you are going to lose 100 pounds, and you are going to do it all by February?  Let’s Get Real!

Another major reason so many people fail at their New Year’s Resolutions is that they are unrealistic.  They want to start running and they have signed up for the first 5k race they could find, which is in two weeks.  And when they fail because of lack of endurance, preparation and training, they drop the new resolution all together.

When I started running I didn’t sign up for a single marathon.  I didn’t join a running group.  I made a real simple goal, to run 3 times a week, and to run 3 miles a time and to do that for a year without dying.  That was hard enough, the not dying part.  I didn’t need to make my new resolution any harder than it already was, for me.

Some people resolve not to drink any more.  Congratulations, that is one of the top resolutions broken.  I have good friends that have decided not to drink during the week, or only going to have one glass of wine a day.  These attainable, measurable resolutions can often be building blocks to making other healthier changes in your life.  The biggest way to be successful with your New Year’s Resolution is to make it real.

 

4.   Accountability

You have made that new resolution and have posted it on facebook and Instagram for the world to see.  Yes, I will run every day of the week, 5 miles.  Then life happens, work takes you out of town, you get sick, you have an early morning meeting, or the in-laws come to stay.  Whatever the challenge, life does what life does and messes with your plans.  Now you are stuck explaining yourself to the world.  Or, more likely, you just feel stupid for putting it out there in the first place and you stop the whole deal.

The worst accountability is random, impersonal internet accountability.  You do not need a hundred people who you rarely talk to helping you succeed in your weight loss.  They don’t even appreciate your pictures of varying success as much as you do.

True accountability does not come from random people or from an app on your phone, but from close friends and family who know you best. 

You want to succeed in running or weight loss or learning Spanish?  Share it with 3-5 close friends who can challenge you, who know you, and who can encourage you. 

 

5.   Celebrate

So you said that you would run 3 times a week for a month, you said you would lose that 10 pounds in 2 months, you said you would go to church at least every other week, and you have done it, give or take a pound…or a day.  Hooray for you!  Now it is time to celebrate!  The best part of making goals you can achieve is being able to celebrate them. 

Each pound can be a victory dance, or victory lap, if you want to get there quicker.  Take a moment to get those who have journeyed with you and say thank you.  Celebrate each every achievement; they were hard fought and hard won. 

Whatever your New Year’s Resolution, make sure this year that it is first, yours.  Keep your resolution plain, real, involve others who care, and resolve to not quit – no matter what. 

If you follow these quick tips, this just might just be the year you keep it!

Why I Left the Brownsville Revival

 

 

 

Why I Left the Brownsville Revival

 

My name is Matthew Oliver.  I am 36 years old and live in Roseville Ca, with my beautiful bride, Siobhan and our three lovely children.  I am a writer, Senior Pastor and owner of a wine lounge.  I have traveled the USA and many parts of the world preaching the love of God and sometimes I preached His condemnation, depending on the year, the flavor, my age and the region.  I have held this story for almost 16 years now, but now, in light of recent events, I feel compelled to share it with the world.

 

Well, actually, we all have a story.  This is my story, a bit of it, a piece of it, the truth is, I am compelled to share it now, in a different light than I once felt or saw because of other recent articles that have been shared.  So the truth is, I have held a story for about 16 years now, but it is this latest story that I have held for about ten days now that I really felt compelled to share.

I have stories, real, true to life, happened to me stories.  Stories of when I encountered Jesus for the first time, a real encounter, a life changing encounter, when I was eight years old at First Family Assemblies of God in Whittier CA, and coming to the altar crying with tears running down my face.  I had heard sermons before, gone to church before, but that day was a day that changed my life forever.  That is a story of wow, forgiveness and redemption, but that is not this story.

I have a story of praying for a stillborn baby brought to Brownsville Assemblies of God when I was just 19 years old and being asked to pray for life and breath to fill it as its cold form was placed into my just beginning hands of ministry, and nothing happening.  The story of frustration, agitation and anger that I experienced at that moment.  But that is not this story.

I have stories of praying for people with tumors and seeing them dissolve, placing my fingers in the ears of a deaf girl in a grocery store and seeing her instantly healed, and other stories where no healing has taken place.  Stories of seeing people bound to wheel chairs get up and walk and other stories of losing friends to cancer.  But that is not this story.

 

Brownsville Revival or Bust

 

I was at Brownsville Revival School of Ministry and Brownsville Assemblies of God during its revival heyday. If you are not familiar with the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, I can say this with absolute certainty: it was a mighty move of God!  Hundreds of thousands of lives were touched and transformed by what God was doing there during that season, from Father’s Day 1995 to about 2005.  And it was clearly God moving because the people who were involved in the revival, on many different levels, were messy, messy people.  I guess they were just people, people.

 

It is important for me to share this story, as I believe it will bring clarity to the Brownsville revival, future moves of God, and how we should respond to the people that God uses in these moves of God. 

 

Before I attended the Brownsville School of Ministry, my family and I visited the church and I met with the Children’s Pastor, Vann Lane. Talk about an amazing man of God.  He met me and was thrilled when I volunteered to help as  I attended the Brownsville School of Ministry.  With the revival going in full force, the children’s ministry was running over 400 children in many services, and Pastor Vann led children to the Lord each night of the revival.  He needed help, and I was more than willing to serve where and as I could.

 

There were a lot of good things going on in Pensacola, Florida. I literally saw thousands of people get saved every night at Brownsville.  People would start lining up at two or three in the morning just to get a seat at a Sunday morning service.  Buses filled the parking lot as folks arrived with eager hearts who longed to hear the message to repent and to get saved. 

 

Could they have gotten saved in their home church, in their living room, in their bedroom one-on-one with Christ?  Sure, but something was happening at Brownsville that even the hardest of hearts couldn’t resist.  The real tangible presence of God was amazing.  You could sense Holy Spirit just by entering the city, when you walked on the property, before a song was sung or a sermon was preached.  Many people were saved and healed just waiting in line.

 

And Steve Hill.  Talk about a preacher.  His preaching was powerful and God was on this man.  I could spend many words and pages waxing eloquent about his ministry, but let me share with you what others do not know.  Because I worked in the Kid’s department, I got to know Steve Hill’s children. I stopped by his house once to talk with him about his kids, and when he left the room, I decided to snoop around, like any good pastor’s kid would have done. Steve said on many occasions that he didn’t watch any movies over PG.  Growing up in ministry, I knew that for many there was a difference between what you said from the pulpit and the reality you lived.  This wasn’t a hypocrisy that my dad lived, it was one that he refused to embrace and showed me and my brothers that was unacceptable in the Kingdom. So, I aimed to find the truth.  After 10 minutes of professional snooping, I couldn’t find anything that was over PG in his house. Steve Hill, whether you agreed with him or not on his philosophies or sermons, practiced what he preached, and I admire him for that, if for nothing else.  Everyone in the school knew that you never wanted to get behind Steve Hill on his way to a revival service, because he drove the speed limit the whole way. 

 

Brownsville also taught me to appreciate the passion and pursuit of God and the outrageous intimacy of His presence.  To this day I will say, you have never experienced a worship service like one of Lindell Cooley’s.  The best worship did not take place during the service.  The best worship happened at least two hours after the service had ended, after many people had left.   Many people would stay just to be in the presence of God.  Lindell would saunter up to the stage after a service with the band in tow and then he would cut loose.  He worshiped God in a free and outrageous manner.  It was so powerful and real.  

 

I also learned a lot about judgment and religion at Brownsville.  The stuff that you will probably never read in the history books on the great Brownsville Revival.

 

Legalism—It’s Not Just for the Courts

 

My older brother came out with me to Brownsville.  He was in a place that he needed an encounter with God, and where could you get an encounter if not at the Brownsville Revival?  I remember asking him if he wanted me to sneak him in the back door of the church to make sure he got a seat. He said no; he wanted the whole standing in line experience.  I was proud of him for that. That was dedication.  I knew that God was going to do something, and he did, but my brother missed out on it.

 

My brother stood in line for eight or nine hours for the service that evening.  He was excited after hearing testimonies from others waiting to get in to the service.  As they opened the doors and ushered everyone in, my brother was stopped at the entrance.  He was asked to remove his hat.  At first, he was hesitant.  We are from California, remember.  Hat wearing in church was not a big thing to us. In the end my brother agreed and removed the unholy head covering. 

 

Once he had found his seat, and far from the view of the Usher, my brother placed his hat back on his head because his hair was messy.  Just a few moments later the usher spotted my brother’s “rebellion” and demanded that he remove his hat.  Instead of conceding to his demands, my brother got up and left, but he did not give in.  He simply went upstairs to the balcony and hid in a corner.  Minutes later the usher spotted him and removed him from the service.  My brother was frustrated, agitated, offended and he was not giving in or giving up.  He simply walked across the parking lot to the overflow sanctuary to watch the service with hundreds of others who did not make it into the main sanctuary. 

 

As stubborn as my brother was, the usher was even more stubborn.  He followed my brother over to the overflow room, but this time he was prepared.  He had security with him, and he had my brother removed from the property.  That will teach him!  Actually, all that happened was that my brother missed out on an amazing encounter with God and a powerful experience.

 

Was my brother stubborn and bullheaded and should he have just removed his hat? Sure.  But what about all those who Jesus loves just the way they are? The church has built barriers that keep them from everyone experiencing His love. We want to be fishers of men; we just want them cleaned up before they get into the boat.  I always wondered how many more were refused or turned away from those meetings for not meeting the standard to enter the sanctuary.  How many more missed out on a God encounter but instead got a religious one?

 

A Revival for the Privileged

 

I remember when the children’s department did outreaches on Saturdays to the community right next to us and all around us.  We would pull our outreach van to a neighborhood that was less than a block away from the church and open it up as hundreds of local kids came out to experience what we got to experience every day.  Many of these kids were from poverty homes: one bedroom with a sheet separating them from their mothers who had a different man in bed every night.  Five or 6 kids lived in one room and many of them didn’t attend school and lived in very poor conditions.  Yet these kids came out and amazed us.  They loved God and they loved to laugh and they were the most precious children. 

 

So you could understand how heartbreaking it was when those children wanted to come to church on a Sunday morning and were told that they were not allowed.  Their church was on Saturday morning in the street, while Sunday morning was for other kids, the church kids.  I remember arguing with one of our children’s leaders who was turning them away—these sweet kids with shock in their faces.  The leader was appalled that I would dare question him; who was I to challenge his authority?  (I was from California, didn’t he know!)  So I questioned and I challenged.  I loved these kids, and they didn’t need another Bible story on Saturdays; they needed love.  I was later told we couldn’t have our regular kids who go to church each week sit next to kids who have seen sex take place in their homes.  It’s just not fair, they said.  It wasn’t fair alright, and this wasn’t about race or color or age; this was religion through and through.  It was another hat instance, just in a different form. How many other kids were turned away because they didn’t fit in the Brownsville mold!

 

Getting Sick of Repentance

 

Let’s be honest, how many times can you hear a repentance message?  How many times do you have to ask forgiveness and say a prayer before you are finally and truly saved? I went to church Tuesday night for the prayer services and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for revival services and then Sunday for church.  And I was attending Bible school. I got saved so many times, and I was told it was a good thing, because I was from California.
The problem that I had with the daily repentance message is that I always felt dirty, and not because of anything I had done or due to any sin in my life. I felt dirty because I was told I was dirty, over and over again, day after day.  I remember one of the lay Pastors that was on staff grabbed me one day and told me not to go to another revival service.   He told me that many repentance messages were not doing me any good.  He said, “Repentance is not what you do at that altar; repentance is what you do in your home.”  I have actually come to learn, that repentance has less to do with what you are not doing and more to do with what you are doing.  That is another story for another time.  The point is, when I came back to California I was a legalistic mess.  It took being immersed in a culture based on love to actually break off a mindset that I was always dirty and always sinful.

 

The Gospel of Fear

 

I remember being in the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry one day when Dr. Michael Brown took to the podium.  The staff said they knew that there were students in the school that had been involved with sexual sin.  God had told them so.  They gave us students one chance to come down to the altar to confess or they would call us to the office and expel us.  One by one, student after student moved toward the altar.  So many moved forward that you wondered if we would have enough students to have a school.  After a few moments, I began to question myself, my thought life, and my actions. Maybe I would be called into the school.  I remember that I was about to move when my younger brother grabbed my leg and said, “Don’t move an inch.  If they don’t call me into the office, then you’re good as gold.”  My brother was often confronted for his “rebellious, Californian” attitude, so if anyone was going to be wrongfully accused of secret sin in his or her life, my brother could have been at the top of that list. I saw many friends get sent home that week, but my brother stayed and subsequently I did as well.  Nothing like some good old Holy Ghost manipulation to weed people out. When powerful leaders accuse you of secret sin in your life, even the holiest of people start to question themselves. I wasn’t in sexual sin and neither were half the students who were sent home. We were living in a culture of fear and punishment. I didn’t know you could do things differently at the time; I didn’t know you could share a message on purity and invite folks into a restoration process and actually journey with them in healing. I didn’t know you could help people out of sin without shaming them for it. 
 

The Politics of Revival

Let me keep this short and simple: this was new wine in an old wine skin and at some point you know that it is going to burst.  I remember that Steve Hill and Kilpatrick and Brown would say over and over again that they wanted this revival to last many generations. Ten years later is was finished. Now it could be looked at a ton of different ways and maybe the revival is still going, but in our hearts.

Maybe God never intended for the revival to last that long.

Maybe we are revived.

Who knows, but I do know this, it was God coming down and touching people who still operated in a legalistic, Assemblies of God mess.  They made God work in the function that they knew.  I understand that actually they processed this move to the best of their ability, but that way was dangerous for so many.

 

For instance, not everyone got sent home for their sexual sin.  I had friends go home that I knew had done no wrong, but they had nipple piercings or lip piercings or they were caught alone somewhere with a girl or a guy at the beach.  Even my wife and I, who were not married at the time and have now been married sixteen years, were constantly in trouble for making eye contact.  Yet there were others— people I know today and knew that at the time—who were in sexual relationships and were visiting strip clubs in the area. Those people knew people, the right people, and they stayed.  And why shouldn’t they?  I look at their lives know and they are doing great. They are in great places and are healed, restored, married, moving on and doing great.  It’s some of my friends that didn’t know the right people, that were not loved and discipled, friends that were told they were no good and were sinful—those are the ones that are struggling in their walk with God, in their relationship with the church. I don’t blame Brownsville for their current choices, but Brownsville didn’t help the matter much either.

 

Poor Management

 

I saw brand-new Christians who hadn’t been saved but a few months elevated to positions of major authority over others.  They were good foot soldiers because they agreed without questioning anything from leadership. 

 

I was constantly in trouble. I had a Spiderman poster—it was demonic and had to be thrown away.   I had a Superman poster—it was demonic and had to be thrown away.  I had a graphic novel—it was demonic and had to be burned.  I had a small totem pole that my older brother got for me from some missionaries while he was in Fiji.  These missionaries would make them and sell them to tourists as fundraisers.  The mini totem pole looked like an idol, it resembled an idol, and in fact my leaders got a dictionary and under idol was a picture of something that looked fairly close to my little totem pole.  It had to be removed and thrown away!  That is the closed-minded thinking that I was dealing with.

 

And everyone was writing a book.  They had it all figured out already.  We had only been in this revival a few years and we already had it figured out.  We had books and manuals on healing, prophecy, prayer teams, children’s ministry, youth and worship and ushers and stage hands and all nonsense.  We didn’t have a clue what was going on.  They would write a book and then God would do something out of the context of the book and either God was wrong or they were wrong.  Well guess who was winning that argument?  Prophecy was constantly limited, hindered, squelched.  Healing was limited to a few who were authorized.  Deliverance—don’t even get me started. 

 

At one point, for a very brief moment, I was on staff at Brownsville while working in the children’s department. I never really met Senior Pastor Kilpatrick, even though he was my boss.  He never said hi, never talked to me, and he never asked how I was doing. He was a superstar.

 

And behind the scenes things were a mess. People where suing people over royalties and media contracts. People didn’t like people, departments didn’t like departments.  We all knew that Michael Brown didn’t care for Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick didn’t care for Michael Brown and it eventually blew up in an ugly moment where people chose sides.  People were defending people and attacking people and the whole thing just turned sad and in the end, the revival just stopped. 

Fortunately, I returned to California before that all happened. When I left Brownsville, there were still the lines, still the school, still the calls to repentance.  People ask me how it was and I say, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.”  I went to their school and learned a lot there.  I met my wife there, and I encountered God there.  The whole experience was amazing and sad.

 

What I Learned After I Left

 

But that is not really why I wrote this article.

I left there hurt, wounded, and I was probably a bit bitter and angry.  I was told many times that things in my California culture were demonic and wrong, and some probably were, but the reality is, it wasn’t okay. 

 

The reality is I did not agree with a lot that went on at Brownsville when I was there. There is even more I don’t agree with 10 years later, but I am so grateful. I am grateful for the leaders who sacrificed their lives, their time with family and kids and wives, so that I could encounter God and so that America could encounter God.

 

I am so grateful for leaders who put themselves out there to be judged: to allow us to sit back and Monday morning quarterback how they acted, reacted, responded, and dealt with this amazing responsibility that they have been given.  In the end, they were just people.  People who were doing the best they could with this outrageous duty that no one could prepare for and handle one hundred percent right.  They were people, who in their messiness helped usher in a generation that repented and turned towards God. They resurrected a movement of healing and the supernatural and the gifts of the Spirit and some fun, hoedown style of worship.  Yeah, and they messed some stuff up along the way.

 

How Brownsville Helped Me Understand Other Moves of God

 

I am going to be honest when I say that there is a lot at Kansas City IHOP that I do not agree with. There is a lot there that I do not even know, because I don’t agree with so much that I haven’t even wanted to check it out, but I am grateful that their hearts are pursuing God. I know that they are going to get a lot wrong, because they are people who make mistakes and are human and sinful in nature and just trying to make it happen, people who may not even agree with that statement, and I still give them the grace to disagree.

There were things at Toronto that I did not agree with, things at Bethel Redding I do not agree with.  I am pretty sure there were things that I preached last Sunday that I did not agree with, and I am okay with that, because I am tired of looking for perfect and trying to pretend to be perfect.  I want to be real and I want to love real.

 

The world is not waiting for one of these ministries to all of a sudden get it one hundred percent right.  The world is not waiting for one ministry to master it above all the rest.  The world is waiting for love.  And love is not pointing out what you are doing wrong and where you are missing it.  Love is not trying to correct people without relationship.  Love is choosing unity despite the fact that we disagree. Love is being willing to sit at the table even though we have different opinions and styles and beliefs in the end times and the rapture.  I am sure I will still be sitting at that table when you have been sucked up to the sky.

 

The Value of Moving On

 

When I was at Brownsville Revival School of Ministry, I had the great pleasure and opportunity to sit under Dr. Michael Brown.  I do not agree with everything he says, or does, or did, or taught.  Yet he is still an amazing man.  Recently he posted something on Facebook that brought back some of my many not so good moments at Brownsville—moments of control and manipulation and judgment and condemnation.  I didn’t publicly blast Dr. Brown (until now…sorry).  I didn’t post a blog about it or try to engage in a Facebook debate or argument with him, though he may have liked that.  I sent him a nice letter thanking him for all of his time pouring into me and teaching me and all he is doing for the kingdom, and then I hid his posts on Facebook.  I simply said goodbye and moved on with my life.

We all have that ability to simply walk away.


I am still his friend, still respect him; I just don’t agree with him, but I am willing to journey with him.

In the end, I did not get kicked out of Brownsville.  I did not leave and have to choose sides, like many of my friends had to do.  I did not write an expose about all that I had seen there, and I had seen a lot.  In the end, I just left. I valued them for what they were and moved on.  And I still value them for what they were and I am still moving on.

When I went to Brownsville, I was looking for them to be right.  Was that their problem or my problem?  I wanted to them to be one- hundred percent correct and in looking for that, I set myself up for disappointment.  I didn’t meet perfect people; I met people—good people, bad people, happy people, sad people.  Just people. People who loved God in their own way, a way that was different than my way, and that is okay. There is so much more I could say.

 

I am 36 years old, I have been preaching the gospel of Jesus since I was 8 years old, yeah I was that kid, and I have been involved in five large ministries over the last 18 years and tons of small ministries that are awesome and I wish I was writing about.  I know that people make mistakes and are not perfect, and when I am talking about people I am talking about me.  And if you find yourself in ministry situations that are not perfect, that may be controlling or manipulating or condemning or whatever doesn’t jive with you, then, love them.  You can walk away or you can stay and be the change.  Whatever you decide, choose love.  Love does not insist on being right over valuing relationship and honoring sincere people who are just trying to serve God the best way they know how. Sometimes we get lost and forget to love people we don’t see eye to eye with.  Love says I may think I am right and think you are wrong, but I still choose to journey with you. Love says I am going to find your value despite what I think or how I feel, because Christ still chose you and loves you.   He still loves you, whether you are Mike Bickle, Michael Brown, the Bible Answer Man, Bill Johnson, Creflo Dollar, Joel Olsteen or anyone.  He still loves you.

 

Love Wins

 

There is a current move in our Christian “Revival” culture today to think for yourselves, to learn the Bible and actually understand what it says. I love that and am all for that. The problem is we are doing that but we are still stuck in the religious mindset of trying to be “right.”  So everyone has  their own interpretation of scripture, their own ideas, God forbid, their own thoughts, and everyone thinks they are right and others are wrong and we all point fingers and give up on one another, because we are all so concerned with being right.  That’s not love.  That is not what we are called to be.  I say, read the word, find out what God is saying to you, share it with others, but create a culture where it is okay for others to disagree with you and you are still willing to be friends and journey together.

I know that there is this whole movement on grace.  I love grace.  Grace is awesome.  But I love love more.  If there is a bandwagon that I am jumping on, it is the one Jesus started a few thousand years ago: love. It is who He is, it is what defines us and what we are called to be, share. and show.  Love. 

 

When I read articles about people leaving IHOP or Bethel and what they went through or what they are going through, my heart goes out to them, I have been there and I know just a sample of what they are going through.  Then when I read them blasting or bashing those ministries, my heart breaks, because we have so far to go.  I know the reaction, and I know how we try to justify our actions by “bringing the truth” or “opening peoples eyes.”  It is because of this I have written.

 

I haven’t done a podcast about this.

I have never been interviewed about any of this.

I am just a guy sharing his journey and awakening to what I think Christ is really all about: love.  And I am tired of seeing hurt people hurting people.

Yeah, you probably read this by the title, hoping for the scandal , the gossip, the dirt and that is part of our issue.  Let’s stop looking for the scandal in each other’s lives and the dirt and let’s start loving people like Jesus did. Let’s see their value and celebrate them.

If you want dirt, I can show you dirt, but God has my dirt, and He has covered it and washed it and is still washing it. He is showing me love and love is what we are called to show to others.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

 

In Christ

Pastor Matthew Oliver

Senior Pastor of the Family Church

1529 Eureka Rd Roseville CA 95661

www.JoinTheFamily.net

https://www.facebook.com/matthew.oliver.501

 

 

 

50 Shades of Crystal Clear

50 Shades of Crystal Clear

“Pastor Matthew, where do you draw the line?”  This was a questions recently asked of me on facebook.  What is permissible and what is not, in regards to the new 50 Shades of Grey movie.  And what is the difference between watching this movie and say the vampire romance Twilight. 

Well, first off, if you need me to help make the distinction between a vampire love saga with made up mythical creatures falling in love and a war between them and another made up mythical creature, the werewolf, and a BDSM torture soft core porn movie, then I encourage you to watch neither of them.

With that said, I have watched neither of them.  But watching them or not watching them is not what I am actually wanting to address.

What I want to address is, where do you draw the line?

When I opened Club Retro to hundreds of teens in the community, an all age’s music venue at a church, were bands of all sorts and styles (not just Christian, Gasp!)  came in weekly and played music, I had many people ask me that question, Matthew, where do you draw the line.

Sure, I am able to reach hundreds of teens a week through the music, but, if we put a stripper pole in the middle of church, we could reach hundreds of other people as well, but where do you draw the line?

I actually think it is a valid question, it is the wrong question but it is valid.

It is valid because we have been pre conditioned and we have a predisposition to draw lines.  Church, the Christian community, the religious hierarchy loves working with lines.  We have loved telling people what they can and cannot do.  First, it actually has nothing to do with righteousness or holiness, let’s make that clear.

Christ dealt with righteousness and holiness on the cross.  If he did it, you can stop trying to do it.

Second, when we draw lines, when we make distinctions like what you can and cannot do, we are able to create separation.  We are able to stand back and say, I am better than you.  Why? Because I didn’t do this or that.  I am more holy, or more righteous.  “Well Pastor Matthew, I want to be set apart, from the world.”

Well, what sets you apart should not be based on what you do or don’t do, it should be based on who you know.  That is why Christ came in the first place.  So that we no longer had to sacrifice animals, so that we no longer had to go through form and function but so that we could have a relationship.

“So what, now I can do anything and it’s okay.”

 Don’t you love when you are in conversation with people and it is always extremes?  You cannot simply have reasonable conversation with some Christians without the only two options being the extreme extent of the scale.

The only two options are, love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, which looks like this, never doing anything that we tell you not to do, or, go out and commit adultery. Only two options.

NO!

Let me be perfectly honest with you. 

When someone asks me where do we draw the line, I always have a question for an answer.

 What Line?

Christ came and got rid of lines.

He tore down curtains and stopped drawing lines.

He said my gift is free.

My love is for everyone.

He loved the prostitute, the tax collector, the sinner and the thief.  He preached in synagogues and with Pharisees and fisherman.  No lines.

The Pharisees asked him for lines. He said no.

They said, what are you doing with those people, loving those people, we have lines.  Don’t cross that line. And they hated Him for it.

The disciples asked him for lines. He said no.

They tried to keep the children from Him, the woman at the well from Him, and He said, bring the children to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.

I know, some of you are shaking your head, it still doesn’t add up. Why? Because your lines are different lines.  Yeah, well they are still lines. 

But let me help you some more, in the line drawing business.

I am married.  Been married now for 16 years.  3 beautiful children and an amazing marriage.

When I married my wife, she did not give me a list of do’s and don’ts in our marriage. 

In our covenant relationship, she did not say, you are not allowed to sleep with other women.

Actually, and the painful reality is, she said, for better or for worse.

Now in no way am I advocating that what people should do or shouldn’t do in their marriage relationship or placing any guilt or shame.

What I am saying is, God says the same thing to us, for better or for worse, no conditions. My love is that big and my love will never fail and nothing can separate you from that love.

Old Covenant had a list of rules in our relationship with God.

New covenant is like my marriage to my wife, Christ says, I do.  And He said it first!

He said I choose you, and we get to respond by choosing Him too.

So does that mean we can go out and do anything we want?

As much as I can go out and sleep around and my wife would be okay with it. Which means, NO!

The difference is, you don’t need lines when you have love.

I love my wife.  I didn’t need a list of rules to know what would break her heart, I am in love.

And that Love consumes me, it motivates me, it overwhelms me.

It is when we fall out of love that we have problems. That we need lines.

And that is the same in our relationship with Christ.

Instead of trying to make a list of rules, and do’s and don’ts and the church trying to define what love is and what a marriage looks like, we should be lighting candles and creating an atmosphere that causes you to fall more and more in love with Christ.

When you are in love you don’t need lines.

So, in the end, the reality is, I am a Pastor, and as such I want to encourage, exhort, edify, direct and lead those that are in my fellowship.  So allow me to use scripture to answer this question,

“ Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate, put your mind on these things.”

In conclusion,I have many friends who have been married a lot longer than me, and their marriage looks differently than mine.  I have come to realize that everyone has their own freaky version of marriage and romance and intimacy, and I am not the one to tell them what their love, their marriage should look like. 

In Christ, you are going to have your own intimacy with Him and it is going to look different than mine. So should you watch 50 Shades of Grey, my answer is simple, let me point you back to Christ and encourage you to fall in love with Him, from there, I think you will figure it out.

Loving You All

Pastor Matthew Oliver

The Family Church 
Roseville CA 
www.JointheFamily.net 

Christians and Halloween?

 

 

 

I have had many people ask what my view on Halloween is.  How, as a Christian do you respond to this holiday that celebrates the dead, that glorifies witches and goblins and personifies evil?

Well, If you were looking for an in depth study on the history and origin of Halloween you are not going to get it here. Sorry. 

The reality is, most arguments for Christians not being a part of Halloween are based on its origin, a pagan holiday.  I have read the information, I have heard what has been done and what still takes place in other parts of the world on Halloween.  Here is the sad fact, much of what Christians celebrate on Christmas is based on pagan holidays. Gasp!

In fact, many of the traditions associated with Christmas, even down to the date we celebrate the birth of Christ, was established for political reasons.  Christian rulers conquering lands, or ruling lands, and trying to gain favor with the people, rule the people of different cultures and religions and trying to make Christianity more palatable.  They would find concepts of other current religions of the people groups they were ruling over and assimilate them into Christianity.

But again, this blog is not to argue the history of Christmas or Halloween, and I enjoy celebrating both.  I pretty much enjoy all holidays.  I like Halloween, but I also enjoy the 4th of July, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving.  I am a holiday celebrating kind of guy.

But not as much for the Holiday as for the character of Christ that I feel is manifest in my life.  These holidays give me a chance to celebrate community, family, coming together, life. 

I know that Christ was not born on December 25th, so Christmas is not just a chance for me to celebrate or remember the birth of our savior but it is also a chance for coming together, celebrating family and what God is doing in my life and in my neighborhood and in my community. 

Halloween for me is not about celebrating the dead, its about celebrating coming together, its about our neighborhood, about community, its about life!

I do not feel that Christianity is as much about what we abstain from as what we embrace.  For too long we have defined our Christianity by what we don’t do, what we don’t get involved in, what we don’t support and then we wonder why our message has become negative and why are impact has been waning.

The fact is, lets embrace things that are the character of the kingdom of heaven, the character of Christ.

Let’s celebrate life.

Let’s celebrate community.

Let’s celebrate children.

Do you have to do that on Halloween.  No, you can do it any day of the year, but for some reason we don’t.  But I am sure not going to negate the few days the world has created to foster community, friendship, life.  What I want to do is get in the thick of it, enjoy it.  It is on these days that we should be at our best, our prime.  We are living like this all year round, so we are ready.

I think on Halloween, instead of holing up in my house with my blinds drawn and my lights turned off and just hoping and praying that no one comes knocking at my door.  Creating a home that says, NO, Keep Out! We already do that at most churches.

I want to create a home that says Life, Abundance, Love, Overflow, Community.  I want a home that says WELCOME!

I don’t want children walking by my house saying, stay away from that house, they are no fun. I want the home with the king size candies that all the kids want to trick or treat at, the home that the neighbors hang out at, the home that celebrates community, coming together, laughing, enjoying, life!

So when it comes to Halloween or celebrating any holidays, try not to get religious on it try to get LIFE on it!

Thanks for reading, now go out and get some candy, its time to celebrate!

Matthew Oliver

 

Looking for a Father?

 

Fathers Day

 

 

I know we hear talk a lot about how God in heaven is our Father.  In certain church circles or Charismatic circles, I hear people call Him papa God.  There is even an amazing line in the movie Braveheart where the Irish man converses with God and calls Him father.

 

Yet, if we just look to God as our inspiration as how a Father should look, we may miss something.  Sorry, I did just say, we may miss something if we are just looking at God as what a Father should look like.  Now, understand, we would miss something not because He lacks but because our ability to see lacks.

 

We often times see in God what we want to see, not always what we need to see.

That is why I believe God gave us earthly fathers.

 

Now I know that not everyone has a great earthly father.  But I don’t think your physical earthly father is the limit to your example of a father, and I don’t think perfection is what we should be looking for in an earthly father.

 

Let me first say, the problem with only having God has your example of a father, is that you are looking at perfection.  The problem is, you are not perfect.  In fact, God is not looking for perfect from you, or your father.  God is perfect, but there is no way we can be. A good father does not example perfection, but brokenness.

 

My dad and I used to have an unspoken goal after an argument.  We would try and see who would say sorry first.  My dad won most of the time.  It wasn’t that we never got in an argument, it was what took place after the argument.   He modeled for me how to say “I’m Sorry.”  I didn’t need a father who could teach me to be perfect, that would never happen.  I needed a father who could teach me what to do when I mess up, cause that was going to happen.  And he didn’t teach me by telling, he taught me by showing. 

 

My dad also taught me, sometimes being right is not as good as a hug.

I remember my dad and I used to get in blowups, arguments.  The one thing us Oliver boys where good at was pushing buttons, and I had my dads down.  Push, Push, Push, Push.  I remember, my father one day went from getting angry and arguing with me, to simply walking away.  He wouldn’t argue anymore.  Then, after some time, he would find me and just give me a hug.  No more argument, no more fighting, just love.  Sometimes our children don’t need another lesson, sometimes they just need a hug, we learn so much in an embrace from our father.

 

People ask me all the time how I come up with some of my crazy ideas.  Well, I can usually blame my parents, my father.  At a young age they celebrated some of my craziest ideas, inventions, pursuits.  When I wanted to be a missionary scientist who drove my own limousine, they bought me science kits and dad would pick up car magazines for me. 

When I wanted to play football, despite my apparent lack of talent or ability, they encouraged me, went to the games, supported me.

When I wanted to get into acting, play the trumpet, go to Bible school, marry an English girl that they never met, they supported me.

They taught me to be confident in me.  Not a conceded, arrogant, cocky confidence, but a self assured confidence of the God in me.  That I could do all things and they were my number one supporters.

They were the first ones to challenge me not to be limited by the confines of reality.

So often as parents we try to teach our children reality, the real world, rather than to teach them to defy the odds, to circumvent reality, to fly.  As a father I don’t stop creating in my children, now I give them wings to fly, to soar.  My father taught me that.

 

Here is another one that I am thankful for.

My father taught me to be a True Father first, and that Fathering turns into friendship, not the other way around.

I see so many fathers trying to be friends with their children first and fathers second.  What I see is children who do not respect their fathers, who do not value their input or thoughts.

My dad was not as concerned with being our friend as he was fathering us.  He knew he would make decisions that would, sometimes, make us not like him very much.  In the end, I respected my father and as I have grown up that respect has turned to friendship.  He is still my father, but now, he is also my friend.

 

And I could go on.

 

My father taught me to love, and that love does not always mean rainbows and butterflies.  My parents have an awesome marriage, but like most marriages it has good days and bad.  But my father loved on the good days and fought for love on the bad, and he showed us boys to fight for something you love.

 

My father taught me that when the going gets tough the tough get on their knees.

I remember my father taking a stand for righteousness that cost him his job.  He didn’t complain, didn’t  blame, he went out and got another job, selling mortuary plots and while we didn’t have much money, didn’t have much of anything we still had family and we could still laugh.  Its weird, when I look back at that time in my life, I don’t see it is a bad time, I only have good memories.  But I remember one day, a brutally hard day for my parents.  I walked past my parents room and I could hear my dad talking,  I peeking in their room and I saw him on his knees, praying.    He taught me, he didn’t always have the answers, he didn’t even pretend he did, he just taught me were to go to find them.  That’s what fathers do.

 

My father taught me family first, and that family is more than just blood.  We have a pretty big family in our family.  I have brothers and sisters that I didn’t know I had.  We were always meeting new members of our family.  He didn’t limit family, he fathered and loved to whoever wanted to be a part.  And that also meant he risked getting hurt, and I saw them get hurt, cause family can hurt you.  But that hasn’t stopped them from loving, hugging, and growing as a family. 

He taught me that Fathering is a journey.  A fun, exciting journey of growth.  A journey that I wanted to experience for myself.

Yes, my heavenly father has taught me a lot, and one of those things, is to look at my earthly father. 

So I invite you, if you did not have a good earthly father, don’t let that keep you from learning from a good one, you can use mine.  There is much to learn from an earthly father, and much I am still learning.

Happy Fathers Day!

Matthew Oliver

 

Thanks for reading.  Comment on this, like this, share it, post it, and keep coming back for more!

 

Honesty is OVERRATED! The Perversion of RIGHT-eousness

 

Honesty is OVERRATED!  The Perversion of RIGHT-eousness 
 
Pardon me if you have heard this from me before, but I cannot help myself, and it bares repeating, rewriting, quoting, journaling, blogging, preaching, teaching and yelling it from the mountain tops.  If the title of this blog has you confused and already preparing your rebuttal, please, put down the pitchfork and axe, leave the paper and pen alone, and simply read this through, then, witch hunt all you want.
 
Recently, as in a few days ago, I had an odd encounter that stirred this whole issue in me once again.  I gave myself a few days to simmer down and process before I dared write this, and this very well may be attempt three, so as to allow grace to be the dominating factor.
 
The other night during  an amazing service, I ended the worship time by encouraging the congregation to minister to the Lord in tongues, by worshiping in the gift of tongues. (If you are reading this and do not know what "tongues" are, its okay, as it is not the crux of this blog.)  At the end of the service, as I was out in the foyer I was approached by a young lady who had a question about that issue.  Now I say approached instead of confronted, as she was nice and respectful enough in her questions, yet I knew at once what it was about and the spirit I was dealing with.
“Why?” she asked, “Did you speak in tongues without translation or interpretation?”  I told her that I was ministering intimately with the Father and encouraging the body to do as well, at the same time edifying and strengthening their spirit.  She went on to point out how speaking in tongues in public without interpretation is directly forbidden in scriptures and that I was in error and false to do so and encourage others to do so. 
Now, long gone are my days of arguing, and I told this young girl as much.  I tend to find that arguing never really convinces anyone and is a large waste of time, especially after such a great evening and amazing service.  So I did not argue with her, and it is not the point of this blog to argue here, so please, if you have opinions on that matter, save it for another blog.  What struck me, is the audacity that this girl had to question me.  She did not know me, she did not know our church, she did not have any relationship with me, yet she felt completely at ease to correct, direct, chastise, rebuke and question the way in which we minister and lead our fellowship.  
 
 
When I asked her about this, she said a couple of things that brought it all together for me.  She said, I am simply being honest. Ah moment number one.  She said, this is about what is right and what is wrong!  Ah moment number two.  This is about righteousness!  Ding ding ding ding!  Ah ha moment number three.
 
 
Which brings be back to the actual point of this blog.  We constantly use Christian ideology to allow us to stay in old human thinking, nature  and ways.  We use religion as a way to pervert true kingdom principles, taking fleshly motivations and masquerading them in the pretext of righteousness.
 
 
Allow me to explain.  Years ago Martin Scott shared with me a revelation that has messed me up ever since.  It went something like this:
In the beginning of creation, in the garden of Eden, there were two trees.  In this place of perfection there was still choice.  The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, and the tree of life.  Or, how Martin put it, the Tree of Right and Wrong, and the tree of Life.  Throughout all of time man has an innate desire to choose from the tree of Right and Wrong, and we justify it by the very nature of the fruit of this tree.  We are validated in rightness.  God is about all things right, correct?  Of course he desires for us to be about all things right, correct?  Why would he want anything else?  This is about righteousness, correct?  This is about the very nature of God, correct?
 
 
In almost every argument it really comes down to the issue of, I am right, and you are wrong.  I am standing on righteousness, the truth, honesty. Or, I was wronged, or I this needs to be set right.  Often times we validate our reasons for being cruel, vicious, mean under the guise of righteousness.  
But is that the true that we were meant to eat from?
No one ever tells a new mother, when asked the question how the new born baby looks, that it looks ugly.  Here you have a shriveled up, pink, squishy, smelly, sometimes covered in hair, bald on top, odd looking version of an old man, and every time people say they look beautiful!  Every time.  Listen, I have had three of this squishy looking old men, everyone said they looked gorgeous. 
 
 Why? 
 
 A few thoughts here.  Sometimes, because they are not looking at what is, but what is going to be.  They are looking at the potential.   
 
Sometimes they are looking through eyes layered in love.  They cannot see anything else through the love they have for the child, and all they see is perfection.
 
And still, most look at that child and they see life.  
 
Here it is, if you didn’t see it coming.  That is the tree we are supposed to eat from, the tree of LIFE!
 
God is more concerned with Life then He is with right and wrong.  It is man that is concerned with Right and wrong, even now, some of you are reading this and shaking your head, because it wars with your human nature, and probably undermines a few arguments you have had and areas of un-forgiveness you are harboring.
 
Throughout the Bible you see where God was not concerned with Right or Wrong, but He was and is concerned with what brings Life.
When people start a sentence with, “Do you want me to be honest?”  I usually tell them no.  What I want is them to be Christ like, I want them to bring life into the situation.
 
We have all been witness to one instance or another when someone was honest in a situation and it completely devastated someone, killed them.  And often times they do it in the name of God, the church, religion.  Well let me tear this veil down, lets melt this golden calf.  
 
God is not concerned with your right or wrong or your version of what you feel is justification or righteousness.  He is always concerned with Life.  If you want to be more Christ like, wwjd, then start bringing life into situations.
 
So, you say, you want me to lie?  Be dishonest?  Untruthful?  
Well, yes, if you have to be, I guess.  But I don’t look at it that way.  I look at it like that little baby.  Instead of lying, being untruthful, dishonest, how about looking at things from another viewpoint, through eyes like Christ.
How about you start looking at the potential.  Potential of that person, dream, vision, circumstance, life, that your words of, “Im just being honest” can completely kill.
 
Start looking at people and circumstances through a thick layer of love!  Its only the greatest thing!  Its only a command!  Its only what Jesus told us to do!  Its only what put him on the cross, oh, another moment when life outweighed right and wrong.  Just saying.
 
How bout we start choosing life in our home, marriage, workplace, church, friendships, relationships, neighborhoods.  How bout we start choosing life in our dreams, visions, arguments and fights.
 
The more I think about it I am convinced. That young girl, if she really cared, cared about the people being deceived, led astray, corrupted, would have taken the time to create relationships.  Seen that we have a heart for the people, even if and when we get it wrong.  That girl would have looked not to correct or chastise, but to team, build, and bring life.  She forgot, we don’t have access through our rightness, we have access through relationship, and relationship is all about life.
I think God is about righteousness and I believe that it is found in life.
So, today, I choose life, how about you?
If you enjoyed this, or even if you didn’t, like the page, leave a comment and share this around and let’s see the Kingdom of God established!
 

“Jerks for Jesus!” – An Open Apology

 

 â€œJerks for Jesus!” – An Open Apology

When I was younger my older brother, Richie, and I would get into some interesting discussions.  Discussions being the choice word for so much more.  Now, if you have ever met Richie, then you know that arguing with him is fruitless.  If you have ever met me, you know that I have learned a little bit from Richie.

I remember one of these “discussions” clearly, and it has beleaguered me for some time. Doubtlessly due to my guilty conscience, I was wrong.  Yes, you can write that one down.  I am pretty sure that Richie does not read these wonderful blogs, so he will not get to relish in the fact that I am conceding an argument, some twenty years later.

I was a freshman in high school, Rich was a senior.  I was trying to establish a Bible Club on the school campus; Rich was getting ready to launch out into the real world.  I was bold, brash, un-ashamed and un-apologetic.  Richie was trying to keep me from getting beat up and keep everyone from disliking me.

Bottom line,

I didn’t care.

Rich did.

One afternoon Richie came in to give me some sage council as the wise older brother.  “Matthew,” He said.  “It doesn’t do any good to stand up for Christ if everybody ends up hating you in the process.”

Ha!

Older brother didn’t know, ‘Blessed are you when people persecute you...’ and say all kinds of bad stuff about you!  Mine was the kingdom of heaven!

We argued round and round.  I stood on the firm foundation that Christ was not concerned with popularity and I wouldn’t be.  I wouldn’t compromise the message of Christ to simply make friends.  The message of the Cross was offensive, it was going to offend, divide.  Christ said that! It’s in the Bible!

Rich would respond with, “Matthew, peoples opinion define who you are.  If everyone thinks you are a jerk, then whether you like it or not, you’re a jerk.”

NO WAY!  Just because someone thought I was a jerk did not make me a jerk.  I argued this till I was blue in the face, to no avail. You didn’t win arguments with Rich; he tired you out and then beat you up.  Not really, but in my fictitious memory version he did. 

Now here I am, many years later, and I think Richie was onto something. 

Recently I was in a conversation with someone who told me a story about a Bible study they had been to where the topic of abortion had been brought up.  The room as a whole frowned upon abortion, but one person voiced that abortions in special circumstances are a little tougher to oppose, for example, cases regarding rape.  The young person who was leading the Bible study brashly stood his ground.  In his opinion the Bible was clear on abortion in any instance and even in the case of rape, abortion was wrong.  Then another young lady spoke up and shared that she had been raped and had an abortion, and that it was easy for him to declare what he was saying without living in her shoes.  The young man countered with, “I am sorry if the word of God offends you but it’s His words not mine.  You were wrong and in sin.” OUCH!

The night broke down into an argument that I am not prepared to elaborate on in this blog, but in my opinion, this was a clear case of a young man successfully promoting, Jerks for Jesus!

For so long as Christians we feel that the end justifies the means.  I am going to tell you what I think whether it kills you or not, and I am doing it in Jesus’ name.  And the reality is, we have killed some people, people who now want nothing to do with Jesus. I believe even Jesus himself wants nothing to do with that Jesus.

As Christians it is not okay to throw the fruits of the spirit to the wind in pursuit of establishing some twisted Christian agenda, or even a valid Christian agenda.

Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Gentleness, long suffering, patience, faithfulness are the character of Christ that all things should be filtered through.

We have pursued these agendas in the name of Christ and not cared what the consequences were to our testimony as the bride of Christ.  And we have suffered.  Our testimony has suffered.  This is not some master plan from the enemy; we have done it to ourselves.  In America we seldom give the devil a chance to persecute us, because we persecute ourselves.  We create so much angst against us leaving the enemy little to do. 

I concede to my older brother, the World’s opinion of us matters.  Our co-worker’s opinion of us matters.  Our family’s opinion of us matters.  I am not saying that we roll over on our beliefs.  I am not saying that we compromise Christ in us.  What I am saying is that we should do less preaching and more living! 

Living in the fullness and the greatness of what Christ died for.  We should do more Loving!  Loving in power.  If they are going to hate you, let them hate you for loving them too much, for being gentle, for being patient.  Let them get frustrated with the favor on your life and success, not your judgment and condemnation.

We need to stop trying to prove others wrong and start living right! 

I was once a perfect candidate for ‘Jerk for Jesus’.  I am slowly trying to change that.  So I am sorry.  Sorry if I used my message as an excuse to be a jerk, that is never okay, not for me, not for anyone.

I am ready for my testimony to be the Goodness of my God!

Let me know your thoughts, like this, share this and spread it around and let’s grow together!

Thanks

Matthew Oliver

 

 

Is God Going Green?

 

Is God going Green? or “Burn Baby Burn!”

I have written before about the fact that when I lived in Pensacola Florida and attended Brownsville Revival School of Ministry that I stumbled across a disturbing point of view.  I don’t think the point of view had too much to do with my location, other than the fact that Pensacola was not California.  It had more to do with the fact that thousands of people from all over the world were converging on this one spot, thousands of saved, non-saved, and a majority of traditional and religious Christians.

Yes, the Revival of Brownsville was more of an awakening for the church, rather than just a place of conversion.  I had heard it said over and over, I was saved from religion, or saved again for the first time. 

Anyway, when I first moved there and mentioned that I was from California I would get odd looks and quite whispers.  I know that us California types can be shocking to the rest of the world, but really?  So I asked.  That was when I learned a shocking truth, well, at least a truth in their eyes.

California was going to burn!  It was going to fall into the ocean!

Aaaaahhhhhhh!

I didn’t know.  No one ever told me.  I needed to call my parents, call the police, inform the government, lives were at stake.

“Why was California going to fall into the ocean” you may ask.

 Well, because of our sin, of course.

  Now because I have written about this before, I will not get into the whole issue of our responsibility of Christians, right here in this blog, but if you want to know more about it, get my book Taking Back the Night.

  Yes, that was my blatant plug. 

Oh, and I don’t think California is going to burn any time soon, or fall off into the ocean.  Sorry.

My main question become, what caused this train of thinking.  Why did people feel that Gods judgments were always bad. 

As a born and bread Assemblies of God pastors kid, I knew that the AOG believes in Pre-Tribulation.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  We would all love for God to come back and rescue us before a time of tribulation.  Yet, it is that line of thinking that is getting us into trouble.

Now, here is a time of confession.  I had adopted this line of thinking.  I have actually said before, something to the effect of, I don’t need to recycle because the world is going to burn anyway.  Ouch, its even painful to write that.   Yes, I have apologized for saying that, and words like that.

 But why?

Isn’t the world going to burn anyway?

First off, let’s get a Kingdom revelation, a God revelation for this world.

Here comes our big first clue, most popular scripture ever.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the WORLD that He sent His one and only son.”

He so loved the WORLD!  Not you, not me, but the world.  The very world that so many are eager to see burn, explode.  The very world that we are eager to leave.  God loved that world so much that He sent His one and only son.  That through Him the world would be saved. 

That is pretty big.  In fact, that is huge.

What is even bigger, is that He gave us that WORLD!

In Genesis 1:26 it says that God gave man dominion over all the creatures of the earth and over the earth.  Dominion; all rule, complete authority. 

So God creates the earth, its birthed by His very spoken word, His very breath and the Spirit of God breathes upon it.  It has His heavenly DNA all over it.  Then it is His joy to give it to His creation which is made in His image.  Then He sends His son to redeem it.  Don’t you think that is something that we should be contending for, not anticipating its end?

This world was a gift from God to us, and we are eagerly waiting for its destruction.  There is something wrong with that picture.

As God begin to minister to my heart I began to realize that some of these “green fanatics” may actually have the heart of God in this matter more than I do. 

I know what you are thinking right now as you read this, those green fanatics think that the trees or the gray whales are more important than a babies life.  True, some of them do, and they are wrong.  But just because they are wrong in one area does not make them wrong in every area.

When God began to give me the revelation about being Kings and Priests, that He has called the church to be Kings and Priests, I realized that we have gone overboard on being priests and negated being kings.

We have mastered the concept of priesthood, turned it into an art form, an occupation, we defend it, fight for it, we live and die for it, while totally flushing the concepts of kingship and the establishment of the kingdom of God.  We have gone too far and in the process have perverted the message of God, the heart of God on what priesthood should really look like.

Well what happens when someone who was made in the image of God has a revelation of the heart of God for creation?  This creation that He was willing to sacrifice His one and only son for?  What happens when they have this revelation without the revelation of the Kingdom or the revelation of Christ Himself? 

What happens is that very message gets perverted, distorted, taken out of context and they go overboard.  But it doesn’t mean that the heart of the message is wrong.

God loves this world. 

God loves creation.

He is not waiting to judge it, He is waiting for His kingdom to be established here and now, through you and I.

I must say it, but I think that God is into Green.  He loves His planet and it is not wrong for His people to love this planet.  It is His gift to us!  I am not waiting for this planet to blow up, I am currently in the process of ruling, this planet is mine!

I have had a renewed revelation of what it truly means for God to love this world. My world.

Sure, this little blog could be a book.  I could write for days about this, and have probably stirred some questions in some of you that you may feel are left unanswered.  Here is the deal, keep coming back for more, keep getting stirred.  I am sure I will be writing about this some more in future blogs.

If you like this, share it, comment on it, like it, and tell me what you think!

Oh, and thanks for reading!

Matthew Oliver

 

 

 

To Christian President or Not to Christian President, that is the question.

 

To Christian President or Not to Christian President, that is the question.

Yes, it is that time of year.  The Republican primaries are almost over, or we are hoping they will end.  We are almost down to two choices for the Presidency of this great nation.

Through the primary process and as we draw closer to the Presidential election, I am finding a lot of discussion about the religion of our president to be.  I understand that we are a country founded on the belief of Christianity, one nation under God, and I believe that Christianity can create a strong moral compass in our President.  The interesting fact though, is that most people who want a Christian President do not want him for just morals, or integrity, or that compass, they want him for some unscripted Christian agenda.

Are we voting for a President who can establish this country as a Christian nation?  If we are a Christian nation does that truly represent this country?   

The reality is, as a Christian, I am not so sure a Christian president is what I am looking for.  If you stop reading right here and go to comment, you may miss what I am about to say and make a judgment based on a perception of what you think I am saying. So…..please read on.

When I vote for a president, I am not just looking for a president that will represent me, but the nation, America and what we stand for.  Our constitution and our individual rights.

I don’t believe that you can sum up the nation of America into just my personal journey, thought processes and culture.  I don’t believe that I sum up all of America.

As I have traveled across America there are times when I actually feel like I am in another country.  Everything is so different and foreign to me, it even sounds like they are speaking another language.  But that is part of this America, my America.  The president of this country has to represent me and them. 

I understand as Christians that we would want a president that represents our ideals and beliefs, but the president of America does not just represent the beliefs of Christians, they represent the whole nation.

Now I know that many of the founding fathers of this nation were Christian.  And they incorporated a lot of what we believe as Christians into the framework of this nation.  But they also left it open for people to believe something different, live different, act different.  They knew that you cannot legislate Christianity, and that freedom had to be something that defined us.  Freedom to even believe something that they did not believe. 

I am constantly asking myself, what would a President that was truly attuned to the heart of God look like? 

I sometimes think that if they were really listening to the heart of God then they would not try to establish a Christian agenda.  I don’t think their first goal would be to outlaw abortion, overthrow gay marriage and reinstate prayer in school.  Remember the last time we tried to outlaw what we considered sin with prohibition.  We tried to create laws to deal with alcoholism and it didn’t work.  For some reason people like choosing, God likes to be chosen too. In order to choose we have to have a choice; right or wrong.  If we truly believe we can simply legislate away all wrong choices we enslave ourselves to legalism and subsequently back into religion.  Doesn’t sound like God to me.

If our God wanted people to follow Him through rules and laws He would have left us to continue to live under Old Testament law.  In light of this, is it really our President’s job to lead everyone to the Lord through rules and laws or is his job to represent the people based on the constitution and lead this great nation.  And yes, as ‘one nation under God’.

I know that this may seem like the messy ramblings of a mad man, but it is a blog, so I am blogging and next week it will probably be about Captain Crunch cereal.  Until then,

I do not agree with our current president not based on his faith in God or not but I am unable to see in him the ability to esteem the best interests of America ‘The People’  above his own agenda .  He appears to be trying to change this nation into something we are not.  Something he believes we should be; perverting our constitution in the process.  He is as dangerous in the White House as a strong, outspoken Christian trying to accomplish the Christian agenda through laws and judgments. 

I am finding throughout the years, that I am changing, growing, dare I say it, maturing.  Things I believed yesterday I do not believe today and, GASP, I may have even been wrong in some areas.  I am not looking for a President who represents just me, because I am finding out that “me” doesn’t have it all figured out.  I want a president that represents this nation, all races, all religions, all types, based on the constitution and the framework that was laid down by our forefathers that makes this country great.  I want a president that represents freedom, not just the freedoms I enjoy today, not just the freedoms I agree with, but some freedoms I don’t agree with. 

I don’t think the real question is whether or not we want a Christian President, but what that actually looks like.  I think a true President of this great country, America should have morals, faith, integrity, intimacy with Christ, and yes, we are still talking about a politician, so they will also be a miracle worker.  I think a truly great President will represent not just those that agree with them, but will also be able to represent those who do not agree with them.  I know it is a difficult job and that is why you can tell a truly great President from one who is just playing the part.  I don’t want a king, I don’t want a tyrant, I want a President.

 So here is the deal, let me know what your thoughts are.  Tell me what you think, like this blog, share it, and spread the love around, oh, and thank you for reading. J

Families - Love them or Leave Them?

 

I understand that Family is important, but so often I find that we can use them as an excuse that literally keeps us from our destiny.

This is not meant to undermine anybody, to degrade anyone, to lessen your current purpose or destiny.  I know numerous stay at home moms and stay at home dads for that matter who are not defined by just staying at home and running their kids from place to place.  And again, let me say, running your kids from place to place can be an awesome responsibility, as well as a huge time consumer.  I have three kids of my own, and I know how much work it takes to get the kids from A to B on a daily basis, and our kids have music lessons, gymnastics, drama, karate, church, homework and the rest.  This is also not a moment to glorify me or my wife and family.  Okay, I have to get all the disclaimers out of the way.  If you are going to disagree with me I would like you to do it on the right subject and point and not on the wrong one.

Growing up I always heard people talk about priorities.  List your priorities in life.  And for most people it always went, God, Family, Church, calling, friends, job and so forth and so on.  For some people church was at the bottom of the list, for others calling, but for most it went God and then family.  For me, I always felt a bit odd, I always put God and then calling, and my family came next.  It was one of those things that when I did it, the Sunday school teacher would always come around and correct me, “it goes God and then family.”  But that never made sense to me.

Then I would read the Bible.  It is interesting that we have foundations that we have made in our Christian faith that go directly opposite what the Bible says.  We have them because they feel right, yet all the while forgetting that feelings are subject to emotions and emotions are subject to circumstances and the enemy plays with circumstances like he is first string fiddle.  He plucks those emotional heart strings all day moving us in one direction or the next.  Just because it feels right does not mean it is right. 

When I would read the Bible as just a young man, I saw Jesus asking Abraham to go into the wilderness, led by God with no end in sight, no destination.  God called him and he obeyed.  He risked his whole family, left safety and security to follow what God was directing.  Later God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his own son, his only son.  Talk about family values.

Then I would flip all the way over to the disciples.  Jesus called them, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  We all remember that, but do we remember that Peter was married?  Did we remember that he had a family?  Jesus called them, told them to leave everything and follow him, leave jobs, careers, friends, everything.  For some reason we are okay with Peter leaving a good solid job like fishing, but we don’t consider the fact that he also was placing his family at risk.  We don’t consider the fact that the men were the bread winners for the families.  That the men provided for the families.  When Peter left everything to follow Jesus, he was making a decision for his whole family that put his whole family at risk.  No big deal, these are just the guys we use as examples for what following Christ really looks like, or should look like.

Another disciple said he just needs to go bury his father, just hold a little funeral, and in Matthew 8:22 and in Luke 9:60 Jesus said “let the dead bury their own dead.”  What a nice, sweet, considerate guy.

Another disciple said, let me go tell my family good bye.  Let me just give them some hugs and kisses before I leave for the rest of my life and follow you, devoting everything to you, and Jesus’ response was, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wow, some harsh words from sweet bearded Jesus.

So is Christ exampling that He cares little for family?  Well we know that is not the case.  The scripture is also full about Gods love for family and exampling what family should look like.  If God says in Ephesians 5:22 for husbands to love their wives and Christ has loved the church, do we also show the same love to our children that God showed to His? 

I am not saying sacrifice your child.

I am saying, stop using your children as a reason to not follow Christ.  Oh, and you can be saved, have Jesus in your heart, and not being obedient to your calling. And yes, we are called.  Matthew 22:14 says that Many are called, but few are chosen.  In my book “Taking Back the Night” I point out that the “Chosen” generation is the generation that chooses.  I think the reason there are few who are chosen is that there are few who choose.  If you want to hear more on that, get the book.

As for families, I get tired of seeing anointed, called, gifted and great people hiding behind their children and using them as a scapegoat for not answering the call of God on their life. 

And here comes the argument, “But my family is my calling.” 

Like it’s not mine?  Like it wasn’t Peter’s?

We don’t negate our calling because of our family, we get to teach our family how to live a life of destiny.  When the Bible says “raise up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  That was about more than simply living a life full of rules and regulations that they are going to memorize and live out for the rest of their life.  That was about more then having a God encounter and falling on the floor but doing nothing to establish the Kingdom.

We get an awesome opportunity to teach our children how to pursue a destiny, how to answer the call, how to establish the kingdom.

If kids don’t do what we say but what we do, then we just can’t tell them they can achieve anything, we must show them.  We can’t just tell them they can achieve greatness, we must live a life of greatness.

We have whole generations perpetuating a maddening disease of  nothingness, because they are simply doing what their parents did, raising kids to raise kids to raise kids.  All the while the world is waiting for us to walk in the fullness of our calling. 

When I think back to the list of priorities, I think we all have it wrong.  I don’t think it is supposed to be God, then family, then calling, or God then calling and then family.  I think God and our destiny/calling, are supposed to be intertwined. 

I hear catchy things like “God will give you the provision for the vision.”  I also believe that He knows what He is doing, and what He has called us to, and how many kids we have.

You don’t have to wait till your kids are gone and grown up to start pursuing your vision, you get to teach your children what pursuing vision looks like, and in that process we have to fight and sacrifice things, and so may they. 

So in the midst of soccer, baseball, karate, homework, school, church, don’t forget to pursue destiny, dreams, the call of God on your life.  Teach your children what life more abundantly looks like, you will only get once chance.

Let me know what you think.  Tell me if you agree or disagree, like this page, and share this with your friends – and most important – Pursue your destiny! 

“Its not about winning or losing but how you play the game” and other nonsense.

 

“Its not about winning or losing but how you play the game” and other nonsense.

When Loins Roar part #2

The other day I took my children to the park.  I was playing some basketball with some friends.  It was a beautiful day for February, might as well have been April.  While we were walking to the basketball court I was listening to a father talk to his sons about basketball.  He said, “its not about winning or losing, its about how you play the game.”

Now I think I know what the father was trying to do.  I choose to think he was trying to talk to them about some of the finer points of the sport, technique and team play.    Working on their shot, the defense, and the finesse of the sport as well as passing the ball and working together.  Now, one may also say he was talking to his two boys about attitude.  Whether you win or lose you need to have a good attitude.  I have heard it said over and over again, no one likes a sore loser.  But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, I sure hope he wasn’t talking to these two boys about attitude.

What better attitude do you want your children to have then a winning attitude?

Do you really want to teach your children that second place is a great place to be?

Do we want to teach our children to settle for a little less than their dreams, and to be okay with it?

Now I know some of you are reading this and thinking, obviously we want our children to succeed.  But if that is the case, why do we put them in competitive sports and then tell them it’s not about winning?

It is about winning. 

That is why we give out trophies.

That is why we have first place.

That is why we are competing to start with, to have a winning team.

We do this, not just with our children, but we do this as Christians and in the church.

When we find Christians who are succeeding or who have outlandish ideas of greatness, we all feel compelled to bring them back down to reality.  Why?

We are not supposed to be a people to dream in this reality, we are a supernatural people who have supernatural destinies that are bringing a supernatural realm down to this earth.  So why do we always want people to dream natural dreams.  You cannot dream natural dreams and expect supernatural destinies. 

Paul says that don’t you know that when people run in a race they run to win the prize.  Then he goes on to say, run to WIN!  That is what Paul said.  That is what is in the Bible.  Run to be in first place, to win.

Is it important to have a good attitude while you are running? Yes. But when did a winning attitude become a bad attitude?  Why is not being okay with second place a bad thing?

The desire for greatness is simply Christ manifest in us.  It is the DNA and character of God, He is great.

This idea that being great is a bad thing is simply a con of the enemy to the identity of the bride of Christ. This false humility is a perversion of the character of Christ.

God is great, God is in us, therefore we are great.  When we have a mindset of anything other than greatness than we do not have the mind of Christ.

Now take a moment and say that out loud.

Did it bother you?  Isn’t it interesting that a falsehood of the enemy has so ingrained its way into the thinking of Christians and become an acceptable ideology that the truth is so foreign to us. 

Think about this, the disciples literally argued about greatness, about who was going to be the greatest, twice.   Jesus does not chastise them for longing to be great, He gives them instructions on what greatness looks like and how it is achieved.  The reason the disciples even had ideas of greatness is due to the fact that Jesus had created an environment where such thoughts could be birthed.  Jesus talked in language of greatness, He stirred dreams of greatness, that is why they longed to be great.  It was a kingdom mentality.   A kingdom mentality that the enemy would rather us not have.

The Bible is filled with stories and examples of Gods greatness and His desire for His people to be great but we would be here all day discussing them.  The reality is that this mindset of “its only how you play the game” is not a kingdom mindset.  A kingdom mindset is that you win.  The Bible says that we are kings, and kings like winning.

How does this tie into “When Lions Roar?”  Well, “When Lions Roar” is about releasing kingship, and kings know that they are destined for greatness.  Loins know that they are great, just ask one, they will tell you.

I think it is time that we change our thinking and start winning!

Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree or simply want to say high and please feel free to share this link around!  And thank you for taking the time to read.  The more of us who get this revelation the more the world will truly experience the transformation of the kingdom!

 

Stephen King 11/22/63

 

I just finished reading Stephen Kings latest novel, 11/22/63.

I was a little hesitant to dive into this book for a few reasons.

One, once I start a book I have a hard time putting it down, good or bad.  I work my way through it, and if the book is bad, then it takes a long time to work through it, but I will not relent, and in the process I could hate or love every minute of it, but I push forward.

Two, I am not really a Stephen King reader.  I am not into the intense, descriptive gore of pet cemetery or the wild psychotics of the Shining.  With that said, many would be surprised to find out that Stephen King has written some amazing novels that are not scary horrific books.  Why would you be surprised?  For some reason Stephen King has been dubbed the writer of outlandish horror because a few of his more edgy books have been turned into classic camp horror movies.  But why not title him the author of in-depth soul searching, or the author of coming of age novels.  Most people I talk to love his book/movie Shawshank Redemption, yes, that was Stephen King.  Or how about the coming of age movie “Stand by Me?”  Yes, that movie was another one adapted from a Stephen King novel.  He also wrote Misery, the Green Mile and Running Man.  His latest novel, 11/22/63 was based on the assassination of JFK, which leads me to my third point, I had no desire to read about the JFK assassination.

It wasn’t until a friend shared with me that 11/22/63 really had less to do with JFK and more to do with time travel, love and the human heart.  JFK and time travel?  Alright, I was curious.

So I picked up the book on my Nook and took it for a spin.

While it is not my usual reading fare, I liked it.  It was not a nonstop page turner, thriller, edge of your seat kind of book, and in the end, I think that was better.  It was the kind of book where you had to process bits and pieces of it.  Now that is not normally my type of read.  I want to buzz through a book like a good movie, keep it movie and don’t ask too much of my mind in the process.  Yet, at the end of the day, I was glad I read this book.

True, 11/22/63 had little to do with the actual assassination of JFK, though it is the essential plot, it had more to do with the human heart. I don’t want to give the book away, or spoil anything for you, but I do encourage you picking it up and reading it.

What it did for me was speak more about the author.  I would not say Stephen King is the master of horror, but of the human condition.  The master of the human plight.  He has tapped into the heart of what moves us, scares us, drives us, keeps us searching and asking.  In each of his novels he exploits various elements of the human heart, laying it bare for all to see.  For some our fear, our hurt, our heartache makes him the master of suspense, or the master of horror.  For others it makes him the master of romance, intimacy, or discovery. 

In the end, I enjoy reading an author who is having fun, and who does not try to answer all the questions, but discover the answers with us, and sometimes those answers make new questions.  Either way, it was a good read, and I may just have to pick up another King novel and give it a gander.

If you read it, or have thoughts on his books, let me know, I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

 

"When Lions Roar" Releasing Kingship - part 1

 

 

THE LION HAS ROARED, WHO WILL NOT FEAR?

When Lions Roar

Releasing Kingship

Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secrets to His servants

A Lion has Roared

Who will not fear

The Lord God has spoken

Who can but prophesy

Amos 3:7-8

 

Many times when God speaks to me it is while I am dreaming, in the form of picture books.  Perhaps this means I am extremely child like or perhaps He is breaking down His message to me in the simplest form, easy to digest and process.

I am a visual learner anyway, and I love classic children’s books, like anything from Dr. Sues, so it doesn’t bother me when I wake up in the morning having just encountered a great time with God, sitting in His lap while He shares another revelation story with me.

“When Lions Roar” was just that.  He showed me a land, distant, desolate, broken, hurting.  He showed me creation, longing, wondering, scattered, wrecked.  He showed me the lion, grand, majestic, noble, fierce…….silent.

All of creation was longing for the lion to simply take his place of greatness, yet the lion would not roar.

The lion walked the land, noted the fields as they swayed, noted the mountains as they beckoned him and the ocean as it called out.

He noticed the songs of the butterflies and the bees, the cuckoo and the trees, all calling out for him to take his rightful place, yet he still kept silent.

All the while, the land suffered.  Not only was the lion not walking in his full authority, but creation literally suffered for it.

And no one could make the lion roar.  Not the wind, not the waves, not the moon, not the stars.

Until one day, the lion could stay silent no more. 

He reared his mighty head back, opened his jaws and roared.

The land erupted in celebration as the king was restored.

When Lions roar.

God was sharing something powerful with me, he was speaking to me, about me, about more than simply me, about the bride, the church.

When I opened my eyes a tidal wave of revelation came forth.  He had been speaking to me about restoring Kingship since August.  About the identity of Kings and Priests.

About the Lion and the Lamb.

In the church proper we love to talk about the concept of Priests, about the Lamb.  We focus on it, we teach on it, aside from salvation it has become our main objective.  We have full ministries devoted to the concepts found in being a priest, a lamb.  While the world around us has taken concepts of Kingship, of the lion, and have moved into a place of success, breakthrough, domination.  Perhaps it is not long lived, because they are missing a key element in Christ, but they are still kingdom principles that give them the ability to overcome.

The world has grown in its authority as Kings and the church has grown into professional beggars.  Our livelihoods depend greatly on what the world allows for us.  We have relinquished our call and mandate as the bride of Christ, as Lions.

Yes, we are moving into a season where the Roar of the Lions must be restored.  Where the authority and anointing of Kingship will be released on the Bride.  The world is suffering because the church has refused to take up our mantle as ones that God has given dominion of the earth too.  We are supposed to be the ones teaching nations, not praying for their destruction.  We are supposed to be influencing the world around us, not creating a separate world, a sub world. 

I have a big problem with the idea of creating sub cultures.  Like creating Christian music, as a sub culture to secular music.  The very name, sub culture, means you are creating something less than the reigning culture.  As Kings and Lions we should never be sub or less than anything else.  We are in authority.  We invade and we dominate, we are lions.

Over the next few weeks I will be giving glimpses into the new book, “When Lions Roar” releasing kingship.  I will share with you revelations as I receive them.

My prayer is that you will begin to walk in the fullness and greatness of what God has called you to and that the world around you will begin to experience the goodness of God “When Lions Roar!”

 

Did Whitney Houston Go to Hell?

I may be involved in the music scene and I get to experience some great music and some not so great music.  And perhaps my ear is a little more trained and tuned to hear the difference between someone who sings good and someone who sings really good.  But it did not take a trained ear to know that Whitney Houston had an unbelievable voice.

Not just an incredible voice, but she also had a commanding presence.   And it was more than just talent, I truly believe that she carried something with her, an anointing. 

Now, I know there are going to be some of you who read this and you cannot help defining her whole life by her last days.  As a chef friend of mine once said, your only as good as your last meal.  While that may hold true in the culinary world, I pray that it does not hold true in life.  Some of the people that I looked up to, admire and glean from, both in the church and Christian faith and out of it, had amazing lives that ended rather rough.  Some of the ones who actually spearheaded some of the greatest renewals, revivals and movements ended in complete breakdown.  Did they not make it to heaven?  (Some of you should not answer that question.)

So let’s get to the question, did Whitney Houston go to hell?  Well let me first apologize for using shock factor on this blog.  The title alone makes you want to read it.  So I will honor you with an answer, I don’t know.  Alright, that was the let down, let give a better answer, I don’t think so.

So now the lists start for some of us.  We start running down what makes someone a Christian and not a Christian.  We start saying, well actions speak louder than words, and with her actions she was screaming.  She had a tough life involving major drugs, alcohol, partying and yes, it would be easy to say that she did not live a “Christian” lifestyle. 

I know, some of you are now saying, Matt you are judging her.  First off, that is another whole conversation, but in the end her actions judged herself.  With that said, I have decided to join the camp of, it’s much harder to lose your salvation than we think.

When I look at the prophet Hosea, God told him to take a prostitute for a wife as a representation of Gods love for His people.  It didn’t matter what the prostitute did, they were still bound by their marriage, their relationship.   Now, I think what we do does matter.  I am not spouting once saved always saved dogma at you.  What I am saying, is that I think it is harder to lose our salvation than we make it out to be.  We use the fear of losing your salvation as a way to keep people into Christianity, religious Christianity.  Imagine if that was a marriage, if you had to get to fear tactics like that then your marriage is already over.  No, I don’t think God needs fear tactics to keep people into Christianity, He is into, taste and see that the Lord is good.

I understand that sin separates us from God, but that’s the deal right there, all sin separates us from God.  Yesterdays sin, today’s sin, all sin.  And the problem is, the closer I get to God the more stuff becomes apparent, sin, old flesh stuff.  That is why we needed the cross.  If it takes perfection to get into heaven then we are all in trouble.  We needed the blood of the lamb, and that blood flows and covers all sin, not just passed sin.

I think if we wanted to, we could sit back and pull the bad stuff from many people’s lives and if we put it all together then it probably wouldn’t look so nice.  For Whitney, she had a lot of the bad stuff toward the end of her life, but that does not discount all of the good that she has done and accomplished. 

I become sad, because though she may be in heaven right now, singing with the angels, God had a desire and plan for her here on earth that was greater than she was experiencing.   There was more for her here.  She missed out on the fullness of “life more abundantly.”  She may have eternal life, but she was missing out on life life.  And she kept trying to find life by filling the void with something else, rather than going back to God who gave her that very first encounter that she could never shake.

I think that those of us who are Christians need to be careful on who we condemn to hell, it’s not our job.  I think we should be more focused on bringing life, into every situation, kinda like Christ, go figure.

For me, I am looking forward to getting a front row seat in heaven and hearing Whitney’s vocals soar.

Oh, if you enjoyed the post, hated it, or just want to say high to me, leave a comment, like this, share it around, and thanks for reading!

 

 

Supernatural Thrillers and Murder Mysteries….For Today’s Christian?

 

I remember, as a teenager, just 13 years old picking up the first Dean Koontz novel I ever read, Twilight Eyes.  It was wild, intense, creepy and paranormal, and I loved every minute of it.  I always loved reading, the bigger the book the better.  Once you got into a good book you just didn’t want it to end.  Yet somehow Dean Koontz tapped into something more that I was interested in, something that grabbed my attention that I never knew was there.

The question I often asked myself was; am I secretly drawn to the “Dark Side?”  Is there some dark part of my humanity that resonates with the kind of books Dean Koontz writes?  If so, then I join the millions of others who read his books, and the millions more who read books written by authors like Stephen King.  I find it interesting when I encounter Christians who find out I read authors like Koontz.  They pull me aside and begin to whisper about the authors that they secretly like as well.  They dive into books about government conspiracies, serial killers, paranormal activities, fantasy novels, romance novels, novels with midgets, dwarfs and gnomes. 

I was always surprised by these conversations.  I never knew that my love of reading could be seen as wrong, demented, even, dare I say, “Sinful.”  As a Christian many are regulated to Christian music, Christian movies (if any movies at all) and Christian books.  Gasp, I never knew.

I have already written about my foray into Christian authors and the pitfalls of Christian books.  This is not that discussion.  You can read that in my earlier blogs.  What I do find interesting, is that many Christians feel it is wrong that they enjoy reading these fantasy, supernatural or thriller novels when it is in their very God like nature to grasp them.

Allow me to explain.  And yes, I will place this caveat at the very beginning, not all novels are good for you.  Just like, not all movies, or not all music, not all novels are going to be good books to read, the writing could be bad or the content could be bad and I am not endorsing Koontz, as there have been many of his books I had to put down, nor am I endorsing any other author (except maybe....me).  There, I got that out of the way.

What I am endorsing is Christ in us.

We are a supernatural people, created in the image of a supernatural being, so why do we find it odd that we are drawn to the supernatural?  I find that those in the world get this much easier than we do.  That is why television shows that deal with the supernatural are so successful, shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, X Files, Fringe,  Crossing Over, Star Trek and countless other shows.  I like the supernatural because I am a supernatural being, and I didn’t have the religious garbage to filter out that supernatural desire.

I also find that the concept of a battle between good and evil is very Biblical.  The problem is, many Christian novels write bad guys who are really not that bad and in turn, are not that believable.  I wrote in my book, Taking Back the Night, that I expect sinners to sin; I am never surprised by sin.  Normally I am surprised when sinners don’t sin well.  If I am going to read about a bad guy, a supernatural bad guy to boot, I want them to be bad, real bad.  That helps make the defeating the bad guy and winning all the more enjoyable.

These novels usually have an amazing bad guy, or group, or collective, that is really good at being bad. Normally they have been doing it for some time, their badness, and they have honed their skills.  A good writer is going to portray this and lay the foundation.  I don’t have to like it; in fact, the point is to not like it, point being the bad guy.  Then we usually find some unsuspecting, unqualified, untrained person, struggling with their own humanity and addictions, who is unaware of some supernatural ability or calling and they are placed in insurmountable situation where they must go head to head with Mr. Bad Guy, and 9 times out of 10 they cannot do it on their own.  Does this story sound familiar at all?  No wonder people like reading these stories, it is the story of our life.

We have infused in our DNA an understanding of supernatural battle that is taking place all around us.  It is not clean, it is not sanitary, it is a brutal battle with a very real, evil enemy, that does not compromise on his pursuit of destroying us.  I love the line from the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, “Aslan is good, but he is not safe.”  The problem with reading only safe novels is the fact that it does not resonate with the core characteristics of Christ in us. 

I remember when J.K Rowling and the Harry Potter books hit the stands.  Christians were boycotting them for years.  Some still are.  Why?  I was a children’s pastor at the time, and Parents used to say that it would open their children up to witchcraft and sorcery.  First off, Rowling came out as a Christian.  I know many Christians don’t buy that, but she doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone.  Second, our children have a desire for the supernatural that is exposed to them by their very nature of Christ in them.  They will have a longing for it, period.  I want my kids curious, interested and desiring to move in the supernatural.  This is my guarantee, my God has the “good stuff.” 

In the Old Testament, it wasn’t, King, Lord.  It was, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.  The ten commandments didn’t say, though shalt have no other gods.  It says, though shalt have no other gods before me.  When we read the story of Moses, it wasn’t that they didn’t have other gods and it wasn’t that the other gods weren’t powerful, it was, our God is more powerful!  We want to take Christians and kill their innate desire for the supernatural and in turn all we are doing is driving them somewhere else and limiting the awesome power of our God.

I am never worried when someone has an overt desire for the supernatural, our God is the King of Supernatural!

Are there lines that are to be drawn? Yes, of course.  I don’t read authors where the bad guy wins, because that is not how “the story” goes.  I don’t like books that are overly descriptive when it comes to intimacy.  Now, I can hear you saying, but some bad guys are very bad when it comes to intimacy, and some secular writers simply cannot help themselves but add loads of intimate content.  Well, not the writers I read. :) 

In truth, If I come upon a section of a book that my stomach cannot handle or I feel is not consistent with my walk, I have the God given ability to, flip the pages.  I also find I do not read books that have anything negative to do with children.  I know, but some bad guys do bad things with children.  Not in the books I read. :)

I know some people cannot handle dark movies.  I am one of those.  I don’t watch any horror movies, I simply cannot take them.  They stick with me for months.  My children can get spooked out by the Halloween episode of Spongebob, and Meaghan is 10.  I understand that, so you have to be able to pick books that are good for you, what I don’t understand is making a religion out of your personal tastes.  I know for me, when I listen to some music, like rap, it instantly makes me grumpy.  For others, that same music can lift them right up.  Does that make rap bad, well, don’t ask me that question.  But we don’t make rules out of our personal tastes, which is what so many have done for so long.

I know that there are supernatural thrillers out there that go too far, so don’t read them, you probably aren’t already.  But if you find yourself drawn to a good edgy thriller that stirs that supernatural destiny in you, that’s okay.  And if it causes you to move to the edge of your seat and continue to turn the pages, put it down and look at who the author is, one of these days it may just be me.

What are your thoughts on Supernatural Thrillers? 

Food Network VS Top Chef

 

Sorry to throw all of you off.  How can we go from talking about the greatness of the love of God to Food Network?  Well, I think God loves food and so do I and we both love it greatly.

For those of you keeping score, the first issue with the blog title for today is that the Food Network is a channel, and Top Chef is a show, how can they even be competing against each other.  I know, its small inconsistencies like this that make it all so frustrating, but it will all make sense in a second, I assure you.

This is my moment of transparency and honesty.  I am addicted to cooking shows.  There, I have said it, now I feel better.

 And not just any cooking shows.  I don’t like watching shows where the chef tries to teach me how to cook.  Who watches TV to learn? 

I am a big fan of Gordon Ramsay.  I like Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, both the UK and American version.  I watched Ramsay’s show that debuted in England called Ramsay’s best restaurant. Brilliant.  But when I watch his UK show called “The F Word” it didn’t stick with me.  It was a mash-up of a contest, his life, and trying to teach me to cook.  Not happening.

For me, the cooking shows all got started when my parents introduced me to Top Chef.  Yes, my wife can blame my new found obsession on them.  Something about Top Chef completely captured my attention.  Seeing top chefs who actually knew each other, heard of each other and worked or ran their own restaurants was amazing.  Seeing them place their reputations, their skill and all their hard work on the line was nerve wrecking.  Discovering an inside look into the culinary world and how cut throat it was and how hard it could be, mesmerized me.  Finding out that you are only as good as your last plate of food and seeing the judges completely dismantle the cooks, was tough, but I was addicted.

Then the tidal wave of food shows came.  It was like discovering a whole new world that I never knew existed.  A world full of delicious food, culinary battles and reality television.  I had an inexhaustible appetite for all things “cooking shows.”

If it was on the television then I recorded it and watched it.  And over time I became sad. 

I discovered, not all cooking shows are created equal.

Just like you can go to a really nice restaurant and get your hopes up for some delicious food full of depth, amazing flavors and something that actually fills your belly only to discover that the chef is more of an amateur artist who just needed a job and the food tastes as good as his artwork that has him out of work in the first place, leaving you very disappointed.  Some of these shows were bland, tasteless and left me a little sick to my stomach.

Though I love Gordon Ramsay, the fact that some people would actually call Kitchen Nightmares a cooking show is laughable.  It’s a show about Ramsay getting to yell at people.  It has very little to do with cooking.  They are not looking for amazing chefs who can actually cook, they are looking for wild and outrageous personalities that will make for a good show.  In what feels like the 100 seasons I have watched of the show, they always cook the exact same meals, beef wellington, as though that is the only food Ramsay serves in his restaurants.  I do not watch his show for the cooking aspect, I watch it to laugh at the insane circumstances that they place these highly unqualified chefs and extremely explosive personalities, in. It’s more a show about fireworks, than any cooking.

Let’s get down to the brass tacks, the reason I titled the blog, Food Network VS Top Chef, is the fact that there is no cooking show on television right now as good as Top Chef.  The food network puts out some amazing cooking shows, and they are trying really hard to get better, which they should, they are called “The Food Network.”  Yet somehow this little show on Bravo TV called Top Chef has tapped into some amazing culinary talent and it feels like real chefs actually compete on this show.

When you watch Top Chef you don’t feel like it is producer ran.  When I watch Hells Kitchen, you know when a producer makes a decision.  The worst cook on the show is kept on, even when they set half of the kitchen on fire, simply because the producers know that people will tune in next week to see them self destruct again.   Makes for good TV but bad as an actual chef.

It is as though real chefs who have actual talent and something to prove compete on Top Chef.  They have numerous awards, Michelin stars, James Beard awards.  They own or work at restaurants that are renowned.  And when they walk onto the Top Chef set, they are all equal, until they prove it with each dish.  Awesome.

So let me compare a few shows.  You already know that I believe nothing compares to Top Chef, and if you want a real treat, Top Chef Masters takes it to a whole new level.  And please don’t ask me about Top Chef Deserts, didn’t work for me. 

The Food Network has made some real good attempts.  I like watching The Next Iron Chef, it is as close to Top Chef as you are going to get, but just misses the mark.  Their latest season was by far the best and truly rivaled Top Chef, it was like a Next Iron Chef Masters.  It was the best of the best, with judges and culinary masters from their own shows, competing against each other.  Brilliant!

I like to follow it up with other Food Network shows like, Chopped, The Worst Cooks In America and The Amazing Food Truck Race.  Chopped is great because you don’t have to follow it each week.  Each show is complete in itself.  The chefs are not normally as good as the ones on Top Chef, but they are fun to watch.  The problem is, sometimes you get really good chefs competing against really inexperienced chefs.

Two other shows that are a lot alike, Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant Impossible.  If you are into drama, yelling, screaming and just being entertained, go with Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  If you really want to see someone help out a restaurant and make positive changes in a good, quick way, choose Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible.  I prefer Restaurant Impossible because they do what Kitchen Nightmares tries to do in less time, with less money and with less drama.

My least favorite cooking show, alas, is not Master Chef.   Though Master Chef is a tough pill to swallow.  The one that takes the cake for me is, The Next Food Network Star.  Half the time these contestants do not know how to cook and seldom are they ever near being a star.   It seems to me that if they truly want to find the “Next Food Network Star” then they need to head over to Bravo TV and Top Chef, because that is where they are being made! 

I know that not everyone is into the cooking shows, but let me know your favorite cooking show and why.  I am curious to see if there is one I am missing.

Love wins! Or does it?

 

Let me state from the start, I will usually be writing about writing, reading, books, movies, shows, music and anything else that stirs me and when it stirs me.  Right now I am so stirred.  This is not an in-depth look as much as sharing from my heart about something that challenged me and I feel would challenge you. 

So I recently read the book Love Wins by Rob Bell the former senior pastor of Mars Hill church in Michigan.  I already knew that this book was a controversial book.  In truth, Rob Bell has been a controversial pastor.  His first book Velvet Elvis established him as an outsider of the typical religious mold and stirred the Christian base with both positive and negative criticisms. 

I read Velvet Elvis and to be honest I enjoyed Bell’s ability to step outside of the box of typical Christianity and ask tough questions.  That, in and of itself, can cause so much tension.  Growing up as a Pastors kid I have sat through numerous sermons and messages and I have heard the good, the bad and the ugly, so I have an ability to sift through the bones and get the meat.  Bell’s content never bothered me much when I felt that he was off a bit, as I have found throughout the years, in reflection, that I have been off a bit.  What I enjoyed was an honest book that challenged us to be better……us.

In Love Wins many have boiled the controversy down to, what they say, is Bell’s determination that there is neither a heaven nor a hell.  That Bell is a Universalist.  Without this getting into too detailed of a blog, a Universalist is one who would believe that all religions can lead to God (short definition).    First, let me tell you, I didn’t get that from the book at all.  Perhaps I wasn’t looking for it.  Second, I believe that God can use anything to lead people to Him.  What the enemy intends for evil God uses for good.  With that as a foundation, you could say, all religions could lead someone to God.  I don’t encourage it, but I wouldn’t keep anything past Gods ability or limit His greatness.

Let me get to the point of this.  Did I find issues with Bell’s book Love Wins? Sure.  I don’t think there is a teaching or Christian book that I have not found issues with, including my own.  I think as we grow and mature and as life changes around us we gain different perspectives and revelation on scripture.  That is the beauty of scripture and growing.  I think fundamentally there are some errors in the book.  With that said, I think he asks some beautiful questions that should challenge our faith and cause us to know what we believe and why we believe it.

My biggest rub with the controversy over the book is the attacks on his statements on Heaven and Hell.  First, I find it odd that in one breath people say that he doesn’t believe in hell and in the next they say he believes all religions can save you from hell.  Which is it folks?  I think many of the critics just don’t like the fact that he is asking the tough questions.

One of the things Bell talks about is that fact that we should be able to ask the tough questions and we should not shy away from tough answers.  Now I am not writing this in defense of Bell nor am I writing this to encourage you to read his book.  What I do find odd is a recent discussion I had with someone over this book and the reason I am writing this in the first place.

In my discussion we went back and forth over what this person felt was Bells assertion that Gods love is so big that he could save people from hell even when they have passed away.  I didn’t read the book that way.  So I was sharing how Bell was simply stating how much church’s use heaven and hell as a scare tactic to get people to say a prayer.  At the end of the discussion I finished by saying, “It’s sad.  You are arguing about how limited Gods love is.  Bell is stating that maybe Gods love is just bigger than we thought.”

Do I believe, personally, that people can still get saved once they have passed away? No.  But the issue to me is this, maybe Gods love is bigger than what I think or know.  I sure hope it is.  I don’t want to ever be on the side of a conversation limiting the love of God, the greatness of God.  That is the losing side of an argument.

Rob Bell has been attacked for saying that just maybe Gods love is bigger than even we knew.  Just perhaps, it’s deeper, wider and nothing can separate us from it.  Now, I think he did some fancy foot work with scriptures in his book, though I love how he exegetes scripture and truly gets down to what the Bible does and doesn’t say.  I think he poses some great questions and then gives pathetic responses to try to prove some points.  But in the end, the book to me wasn’t about Heaven or Hell, it wasn’t even about the love of God.  In the end, the book was about the fact that there is more to Christianity than Heaven and Hell. YES!  That I can totally agree with.

He attacks that fact that so much of the Christian faith in America today is based on Heaven and Hell, when in fact Jesus did not spend his time talking about that!  Christianity is not about that.  Christianity is about today and now and Christ manifest in your life right now.  It is about establishing His Kingdom, through you, today!

Though I don’t agree with everything Bell writes in his book, I do agree with people within the body who have different views and have thought out, well processed opinions.  They stretch me, they cause me to think, and we should never shy away from that.  The last thing I want in my life is someone I agree with completely, where is the growth in that, plus I am already married, that job is taken.  I think Bells book is healthy for the body, even to disagree, but we must lay aside slanderous attacks that make us look more like the world than many felt his book did.  In the growing, I think it is time for the body to grow up, the world is waiting for us to walk in our destiny!

Downton Abbey VS Pride and Prejudice

 

Yes, I have been drawn into Downton Abbey.  Or should I say "conned!"  

The pbs series which just won a Golden Globe award, of an English family who are in a fight to keep their grand estate in the Family line is good.  And in light of much of what is on the television I will say its real good.  The show harkens back to that old English feel of Jane Austin, set in the early twentieth century, they are just getting electricity and the arrival of the telephone seems to have everyone on end, and even scares the cook.  I found that as I watched the show I was more excited for the show and what it could be, than what the show actually delivered.

I was frustrated by holes in the narrative.  Whole segments skipped or missing that actually tied what little plot there was, together.

I went on the search to see if there was a book this show was based off of.  Rule of thumb, the book is always better than the movie.

That is when I discovered the problem.

There is no book.

The show is created off the ideas of classic books, but written by writers for the show.

Now, again, they do a good job, and it is much better than much of what is out there.

But what is missing from Downton Abbey that you can find in such classics as BBC's Pride and Prejudice, is character development.

The moment Mr. Darcy appears in Pride and Prejudice you have more character and depth, more story, from one look on his face, than you find in much of the characters in Downton Abbey.

The reason this TV show, which is what the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is, was able to cross the oceans, make it big in America, rival the Hollywood produced version with major star powers and propel the actors into life changing limelight, had much to do with the content.

Not everything from the Jane Austin book made it into the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.  Yes, like many shows and films, the director and producers changed aspects to make it more appealing.  But what was there, was the book.  The actors had more to glean from, draw from.  More to create their characters from.  They knew where their characters where going.

Downton Abbey, like many television shows, may not have an end for some time.  Which means, they themselves do not know where many of the characters are heading, and perhaps, they have not written where they have come from.  This can create shallow characters, it can affect the narrative and create a show, albeit good, not as good as it could be.

Yes, I will keep watching to see what happens to the Crawly's and their Abbey.  And please do not get me wrong, I think it deserves many of the awards that it has received.

Yet, at the end of the day, I will always think, this is the generic version of what Pride and Prejudice is.

Have you started watching Downton Abbey?  What do you think?

 

Christian Fiction - The Plunge

 

I have tried this before, reading Christian fiction.  I will start by saying, its not all that bad.  I remember reading Frank Peretti's "Piercing the Darkness" or "This Present Darkness."  Wow.  I was a kid who was used to reading Dean Koontz's "Phantoms" and "Fun House."  To match up to the otherworldly suspense that Koontz could draw you into, Peretti had done wonders.  Yes, lets just address the large elephant in the room.  There is something about Christian fiction that can be so sterile, and where it tries desperately not to be sterile the books are more often contrived, tired and fake.  

Sorry, that is just the way it is.

And no, I do not buy into the notion that it is due to the fact that many Christians have never tried drugs, or wild sex, or drinking binges that keep them from being knowledgeable of writing about such things.  To use that logic we would say that Koontz has had visitations from demonic presences who have taken over his body and used him to commit unmentionable acts of violence.  Or perhaps Tolkien actually had an invasion of small hobbit like people who actually wanted to travel to other lands with a ring.  Perhaps Stephanie Meyer actually met some vampires and werewolves and was in a debate over which one to marry, and J.K. Rowling was actually a muggle in disguise fighting the evil lord who killed her parents.  

No, good writing does not mean you really have to experience what you are writing about.

My belief is that good writing requires you to be, real.

When writing about sex, some Christian authors will use every other word to describe what they are trying to say without every actually using the word, as though it may taint their pages.  And never mind pre-marital sex, sacrilege.

Part of the problem with Christian fiction could be the sense of an agenda.  I went to a writer’s conference a few years ago when a Christian publisher came to the mic to talk about submitting to his publishing house.  He said that they want all manuscripts to have a redemptive message to them.  Done.  Now you are writing with an agenda.  The story is no longer feeding the book; the agenda is feeding the story.  

So, I stopped reading Christian fiction.  The books simply felt fake.  And where they tried to be dirty and gritty, they felt forced and phony.

My redemptive moment with Christ was anything but fake.  My redemptive moments in life are anything but clean and crisp.  I would have to believe that most Christians, God forbid Christian writers, have gone through the same thing, so why do the books always feel this way?

So I took the plunge recently.

Too many people have told me to pick up a Ted Dekker book.  They say it is not the same as other Christian fictions I have read.

Sure.

But with so many great authors I have been reading, I haven't had time.  So someone finally realized that it might never happen and put a Ted Dekker book in my hand. They warned me, ” It’s not his best, but it’s the one I have!”  Great, not only is it a Christian fiction, but it’s not his best.  Way to set him up for a failure, poor guy.

So I am in the process of reading "Forbidden."  

The problem starts with the fact that it feels like "The Hunger Games" just not as good.  Do I think he wrote it to be like the Hunger Games?  No way.  I say this all the time and will write about it again, but I think some things are in the Spirit just waiting for people to pick them up.  God is speaking and the question always is: who is listening?

I don't get into the habit of tearing down other authors, as I know the pain and process of getting out there.  So, I will continue reading this book, and perhaps I may pick up one that someone actually says is his best.

But in conversation, I realized I have been reading many great Christian authors, whose books don't feel contrived, forced, and I seem to love every minute of them.  

I just finished reading John Grisham's latest, The Litigators, and loved it.  It felt like some of the first books I read of his.  And John Grisham is a Christian.

He simply writes good books, with a good story, and the redemptive message cannot be kept down, it makes its way, naturally, beautifully.  

The truth is, in most books I read, whether they have Christian or non-Christian authors, there seems to be an awesome message of Christ. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, He just finds a way to wiggle in there.  He is the giver of life, creativity, and He cannot be kept hidden.

I get a little smile on my face when I read a Dean Koontz book and see Christ coming through.  I don't know if Koontz intended it or not, but Christ made His way in there.

So as I move forward with reading, I am not going to try to avoid Christian fiction.  I am not going to avoid secular fiction.  What I want is a good story—something that will draw me in and keep me turning pages.

What is your opinion on Christian fiction?

Who is your favorite Christian or non-Christian author?

Do you have book suggestions that you think I should pick up, which I might like?  Please tell me why you think I ought to read them. I have shared a few books I like; if you tell me it’s great, and a lot like Little Women then you have not been paying attention to what you have been reading.

Something New

 

In this vast world of so much knowledge and media being thrown at us at any one time it is hard to think of starting a blog.  What would I have to say that could add anything to the Kardashian debacle?  What is my current weighing in on the reemergence of Beavis and Butt-Head back on MTV.  In truth, I must say I find it odd that they hyphenate Butt-Head, as though he were married and kept his original name, Butt.  That is besides the point, and I digress.

The reality is, its not about having the right opinion, its about community and relationship.  Creating networks of discussion, because it is through that discussion and relationship and community that we better each other.

Here, I can share my observations, and you, in turn, can share yours.  And together, at the end of the day, we may have bettered each other.

My heart is to also share my writings.  I would rather call them “Gods” writings, for anyone who knows me knows that it is only by His hand that anything sensible comes out, but that would be too cliché.  Instead, they are mine, giving to me, and I am now responsible with sharing them with you.  And I have found, that people get a smile out of them, and I know the value of a good smile.

So here we are.  Let us join together and laugh, smile and create friendships that perhaps, may last a lifetime.

 

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