5 Questions With Pastor Gregg Matte

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Pastor Gregg Matte.

Gregg Matte is the senior pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church and founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University, one of the largest college Bible studies in the nation. He is also the author of Finding God's Will and I AM Changes Who I Am. He and his wife, Kelly, have a son and a daughter and live in Houston, Texas.

I just recently reviewed his book, Unstoppable Gospel and Pastor Matte took time to discuss his book with me in a phone interview today.  What follows is a transcript of that call.

OK, let's get started:

1. Why did you decide to write Unstoppable Gospel?

I wanted the people of the church to be encouraged and offer them some practical steps in how to make a difference. We live in a culture where everyone is dogging the church or dogging Christians and acting like the church and the Christians are the problem when it really is the answer. We want to be a part of making the difference. So by looking back at the book of Acts we get some practical steps in how to make a difference, we also are encouraged that we can make a difference. Lastly, in the beginning of Acts, they are hiding, afraid that they are going to be killed just like Jesus was. The last verse of Acts says, "Then the Gospel went out unhindered." (Acts 28:30-31) So you have a very big difference there and that is what I wanted the people of God, the people of the church to really get, that through God we can make a difference. 

2. You mention in your book that we should define ourselves spiritually rather than vocationally. Can you explain that a bit more?

We have to see our primary identity first. That is really our eternal identity, that we are Christians, and then see our roles and our other identitys second. What happens is then you get the order right and that is where Jesus says, "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) and C.S. Lewis says "put first things first and you'll get second things thrown, put second things first and you'll lose the both of them." So what I wanted people to do is to understand that the first thing that you are is a Christian. That is the number one thing that you are as a believer in Christ. Then fron that, that gives us the strength to then be a mom or a dad or a businessman or an engineer or whatever it is. We have to first see ourselves, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and Him moving through us. Often times we get it mixed up, so if I see myself as a businessman first, then I may never share Christ with anyone at the office or really want to make a difference because that would risk me being a businessman. Instead of having my primary identity being first and the resource of Jesus being from which I do everything.

3. What do you see as the difference between conviction and condemnation?

Condemnation is very ambiguous. Conviction is very procise. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is going to have a prociseness to it that we are going to go, "You know I need to stop doing this or start doing that, or I was rude or God is working on my pride, He is working on my selfishness. Conviction is like a laserbeam flashlight. Condemnation is just this big wet blanket of "Oh woe is me I am terrible." What does that mean that you are terrible? What specifically is God trying to get your attention on? The devil loves to give us condemnation. He just wants to paralyze us with a wet blanket thrown over us. God wants to give us conviction in order to bring growth. Condemnation sends us backwards, conviction sends us forward. Condemnation takes us away from God, conviction actually draws us to God. So they are very different, though they may feel the same because they have a twinge of guilt with them. We have to get past that and say ok I want to grow from this. 

4. You mentioned the "ministry of interruptions" which really gave me pause as a pastor because I do not always look for that. Can you explain that phrase for our readers?

Yes, you know God has got you on a path and He is going to interrupt you throughout the day. What I mean by that is there are going to be people who come along that are either lost person in need of a Saviour or a saved person needing encouragement. When we see people spiritually that makes a difference. So then when the phone rings or someone crosses our path in need of help, we don't see it as an interruption, we see it as an opportunity. That is what they had in the book of Acts. You see Peter and John on the way to the temple and someone would interrupt them asking for money and they would say, "I want to give you Jesus." So they use it as a ministry opportunity. A lot of times we are focused, knocking it out and we have to see that God is going to bring some intersections into our path and those can sometimes be the greatest moments of our day. As opposed to just making it to the store and getting our grocery list checked. 

Let me add one other thing, as a leader, it doesn't mean everything that comes into your inbox is something that you ned to deal with at that moment. That is not what I am saying. I am not trying to call people to reactionary living, I am trying to be attuned with the Spirit to know when they need to turn aside and to take that time to encourage or help that person. There are a thousand things coming at you. You have to be strategic about that and have a listening ear to the Lord. 

5. How is your church, Houston First Baptist, sharing the unstoppable Gospel?

It has gotten a hold of us in a huge way. We're giving and we're going. We are a generous church and want to give financially and also of our time and be able to give and say lets let the Gospel go out, Acts1:8, to our city, nation, world. Also we want to be able to go. To be active in it.  We have people adopting children, we have folks teaching Sunday School, we have folks sharing Christ in their workplace. We want to be difference makers. 

Thank You Pastor Matte!

If you get the chance, check out Unstoppable Gospel


Delighting in God

The Mercy of God led to Calvary - A.W. Tozer

I love the writings of A.W. Tozer

I first discovered Tozer back in 1994.  I was in the midst of a YWAM Discipleshp Training School.  Assigned a book report, I scoured the shelves and came across The Pursuit of God.  That book changed my life.  It challnged me, encouraged me and left me thirsty for God!

Over the years I have picked up old Tozer books whenever I found them.  Over the last decade, many of Tozer's sermons and magazine writings have been turned into books.  The majority of those have been compiled and edited by James L. Snyder.

So I got excited when Bethany House published a new book of Tozer's writings called Delighting in God. I eagerly dove into this book. Like every Tozer book I have ever read, this one challenged me in new and exciting ways.  Snyder does a brilliant job of compiling Tozer's writings on the theme of delighting in God.  I found numerous passages that caused me to pause, reflect and pray.

For a man who passed away in 1963, Tozer's writings are a much needed breath of fresh air!  His words challenge still today.  At times his words are even prophetic. 

If you like old school preaching, having your faith challenged or find yourself craving more of God then Delighting in God  is the book for you.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


Unstoppable Gospel

I love the book of Acts.  It is probably one of my favorite Bible books.  The stories are exciting and engaging.  In his new book, Unstoppable Gospel, Pastor Gregg Matte calls readers to take up the mission and ministry of the early church and to go out and change the world. 

With Acts 1:8 operating as the backbone verse of the book, Matte takes the reader through the meaning of that verse, as well as walks through the remainder of the book of Acts and how it applies to us today.

There were a couple places where the book seemed to lag a bit, though not overwhelmingly so.  In fact, there was a lot of good "meat" on this bone and I found myself underlining quite a few passages to go back and look at again. 

I appreciate Pastor Matte's call to missions and found myself challenged and encouraged.  Can't ask for more than that.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


It's Just A Cup

Readers of this blog know that I usually don't comment on "culture war" items and the insanity that erupts on social media.  Yet the recent Starbucks "controversy" has filled my social media feeds to the point where I decided to go against the grain.

For the few who may be unaware, Joshua Feuerstein, a former television and radio evangelist, decided to upload a video to his 1.8 million Facebook followers re. Starbucks new cups. Feuerstein calls himself a "social media personality."  This should have been a warning to people not to take him seriously!

Feuerstein went into a Starbucks with his Jesus t-shirt, a gun (don't ask), and his video rolling and gave his name as Merry Christmas so that the barista would be forced to say, "Merry Christmas." Feuerstein rails against Starbuck taking the Christ out of Christmas and encourages his followers to also give their name as Merry Christmas and started a hashtag for his followers to tweet about all of this.

Now Starbucks has never had Merry Christmas on their red cups.  They have had everything from minimalist snowflakes and hand-drawn reindeer to a winking snowman and decorative ornaments.  This year it was just a simple red design. 

Missing in this hoopla is the fact that Feuerstein claims to share a message of hope and healing.  I missed that in the midst of all his marketing and self promotion under the guise of "putting Christ back in Christmas."

The media picks up on this one guy's viral video and I have seen numerous stories about how Christians are boycotting and protesting Starbucks because of the assault on Christmas! 

Sadly, though many Christians will not support this one man's attempt at self promotion, some will embrace this as yet another battlefield and in an ongoing culture war against our faith. Meanwhile, unbelievers will shake their head, think Christians are off their rockers and never see the grace, hope and life that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

I have not found a place in the Bible where Jesus calls us to protest over red cups, chicken sandwiches or greetings at area businesses.  I do see where He calls us to share the Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20) and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). 

It is beyond time for Christians to protest less and share the Gospel more.  If we want to truly change our culture, let us focus on sharing the work Jesus accomplished on the cross. 

Instead of protesting over a cup of coffee, why not buy a coffee for you and a friend (or a stranger) and share how Jesus Christ has changed your life.


Supper's Ready

I remember as a kid, we would be playing out in the yard all day, but when our Mom called us for supper (we called it dinner), we would high tail it for the house.  Sometimes I was so engrossed in my play that I would not even think about food, but when the call went out, I would realize how famished I was.

There is something comforting about hearing the call for supper!  To gather together with friends and loved ones, to hear their stories, to get to know them better! 

"When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, 'Come, the banquet is ready.'" (Luke 14:17)

Come, the banquet is ready. 

That passage of Scripture is located in the Parable of the Banquet, a story where people are invited to a huge feast and make all kinds of excuse why they can't attend.  Eventually, the master of the house sends his servant out to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. (v.21)

The needy, the hungry, they came to the feast.

Though Jesus tells this story to teach a lesson, I find encouragement in that passage as well as the marriage supper of the Lamb found in Revelation 19:6-9 which says "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."

I get excited when I think about this feast. 

I long to sit at table with Jesus Christ, to worship Him, to hear His voice, to know Him more!

When the call goes out that supper is ready, will you be coming to the table?


The Original Jesus

I had a recent conversation with a friend and fellow pastor and he mentioned that we live in a society that wants to design our own Jesus. 

The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling addresses this very topic.  He looks at the Jesus we have created in our culture today.  As I read through this book, I encountered numerous Jesus-types of our own design. 

The author talks about the "Red-Letter Jesus, the American Jesus, the Braveheart Jesus, the BFF Jesus and the prosperity Jesus" among others. Each chapter looks at a different type of Jesus and then calls the reader to look at what the Scripture really says about Jesus.

I have to say I was more than intrigued.  The book starts off slowly.  I could not relate to the Play-Doh or Guru Jesus but after that, I started seeing a more familiar Jesus. A Jesus that fits our needs as opposed to one that calls us to repentance, to a deeper life, to a true relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Daniel Darling does a good job of calling the reader to get to know the Savior as we see Him in the Word. 

If you get the chance, pick up this new release from Baker Books.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


No Fear in Death

I was preaching on heaven and hell recently.  As I spoke to the congregation, I said, "We are all going to die.  In fact every breath we take is one step closer to the end."

I was taken aback when just then a man in the service began having a seizure.  He was ok and later that week he joked about how he had that seizure at that point in the message.  He was scared in the moment but later saw the humor in it. 

Google the term "fear of death" and you will get 160,000,000 results.

160 Million!

Coping, ovecoming, medical labels...there is a ton of stuff on the topic.  I get the sense that quite a few people out there must be afraid of dying.  I know that over the years I've been one of them.  

As a kid I was afraid of the dark, afraid of death and at times afraid of my own shadow!  My fear of death was not so much the death itself but the possible pain involved in getting there.  I was afraid of the suffering and misery, the long goodbye that is often associated with death. Even after I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I was worried about death.  I have had panic attacks sitting in doctors offices, heart papatations while getting x-rays and near nervous breakdowns waiting for test results.

I admit it.  I've been weak at times.

I know the Bible talks about fear. I quoted 2 Timothy 1:7 and Phillippians 4:6-7 until I was blue in the face.  No matter what I did, fear would only be tamped down but for a moment.  

I found Proverbs 12: 25 to be true. "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad."  I was being weighed down by my anxiety.

Yet today, I can testify that that fear is rapidly diminishing.  I have grown more comfortable in my own mortality. Through prayer and God speaking through a friend and brother, I have been healed of that anxiety.  I know I am going to die and I am ok with it.  My eternal destination is one I long for more than dread.

My son CJ and I had a converations about heaven recently and listening to his child like faith, I found myself longing for the day I can spend eternity with no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears.

I get excited because I am literally dying to meet Jesus!

I came across this quote while reading a Civil War history book today:

"Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave." - General "Stonewall" Jackson.

"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Victory in Jesus!


He Thinks I'm a Hero

My son drew this picture last month while we were at a Salvation Army Leadership Camp down in Gibsons, BC.

He was asked to draw somebody and he told me it was a picture of me as a superhero!  Apparently I was flying and able to shoot fire out of my hands.  Now I must admit, that would be pretty cool.  I would love to be able to fly and shoot fire out of my hands.  I would settle for just flying.  I was also tickled as a Dad that my son saw me as a superhero!  I know he won't always see me this way.

When my daughter was very young she also told me I was her hero.  I want to be my kids hero but more importantly, I want my kids to look at me and see Jesus living in me and through me.  I want my life, my actions, to point my children to their Heavenly Father.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

I have read that passage a lot lately.  I want my family to love God with all out heart, soul and strength.  I want to impress that on my children.  I want to share the love of God and how awesome He is.  If my kids walk with God throughout their life, then I truly will feel like a superhero!


Death On Hold

I am always hesitant to write anything around the death penalty.  I have noticed people's passions are such that they begin to go overboard in arguing their point.  I wrote about this topic and my wrestling with it way back in 2008 http://apperson.blogspot.ca/2008/11/wrestling-with-word.html and though the comments on this blog were not too over the top...I received tons of emails about it and even had people stop talking to me for a season.  I was fairly raked over the coals.

So at first I was unsure if I wanted to review Death on Hold by Burt and Anita Folsom.

This is the story of Mitch Rutledge, a man on death row with an IQ of 84.  He admitted his crime and was sentenced to death.  He also said he was sorry for what he did. A story in time magazine about people on death row addressed the life of Rutledge and the last line of the story said, "Forget him."

The Folsoms and a few others could do no such thing.  They began a correspondance with Mitch Rutledge that has continued on for 30+ years now.  Rutledge had his sentence upheld once, then saw it later reduced to life without parole.  He still sits in prison today.

He is not the same man he once was though.  With the support of his new "family" and a faith in Christ, Mitch learned to read and write, received his GED and later took college courses.  He became a model prisoner and has appeared in videos and given lectures to groups brought to the prison about the dangers of poor choices.

Mitch had a hard life before his crime but owns the fact that he also made por choices.  The take away from this book is that ALL lives matter, even a teenage murderer with an IQ of 84!  This is the story of how God can redeem ANY life.  It doesn't matter if you are for or against the death penalty, you should read this book and see how God can transform lives.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers http://booklookbloggers.com; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.


Raising Boys By Design

I am not a huge fan of parenting books.  It is not that I am a perfect parent, far from it.  However, the ones I have read always seemed a bit unrealistic.  It got to the point where I avoided said books any way I could.  Then I got an email offering this book.  I was intrigued...I sid Yes.

Raising Boys by Design by Gregory Jantz and Michael Gurian was not what I expected.  The first part of the book spent a bit of time looking at how mens/womens brains worked.  As I read what could have been a very dry section, I found myself very, very interested.  The authors drew me in with their explanations.  I started reading parts out loud to my wife.  My daughter picked it up when I left it in the car and started reding it.  She said it was very interesting. I learned things not only about my kids, but about myself as well.  I started sharing parts of this section with others.

I guess you could say I liked it.

The second part of the book was a practical application of all that was discussed in the first part.  Using the acrynom HERO, the authors provide a vision for parenting your son.


As they look at areas like character, sex, technology and other areas, the authors build a case for raising your son to be a hero.

I have to give this book 2 thumbs up.  Why not pick up a copy today.

This book was provided for an honest book revciew by graf-martin and Waterbrook Press.


The Irresistable Community

The table, the towel and the truth.  These are the three themes that author Bill Donahue weaves throughout his new book The Irresistible Community: An Invitation to Life Together.  

Set against the backdrop of the last supper, the author begins each chapter with a look at the events leading up to this meal through the eyes of each disciple.  He breaks the book down into the three aforementioned themes and the result is one of the most well written and insipring books I have come across in a long, long time. 

It wasn't long into the first chapter of The Irresistible Community before I began dog-earing parts of the book and going back and looking at it again and again.  I made notes, I found sermon ideas and I was challenged in my walk with the Lord. 

The idea of coming to the table with Jesus, picking up the towel of serventhood and hearing and speaking truth resonated with me.  This is a book I will go back to again and I look forward to mining for more nuggets of wisdom in coming seasons.

I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


My Addiction.

I was once an addict. 

It started off innocently enough.  I was in the 3rd grade.  I came across some scented magic markers.  Like every other kid in class, I sniffed the various markers.  Unlike the rest of my class, I didn't stop.  I continued sniffing markers throughout the school year.  I huffed at school, I hufffed at home...and before long I became an addict. 

It may sound humorous...but it got worse. 

My parents caught me huffing markers...but they did not know I was also huffing gasoline.  My neighbor caught me inhaling exhaust fumes and my dad put a boot in my backside.  I was punished, lectured and addicted.  I can't recall how many times I got caught or when I eventually woke up to what I was doing but I was addicted for a couple years. 

Some addictions can be bad, even fatal. 

Today I am addicted again.  This addiction is life changing.  It is one that has impacted my whole family.  In fact we are all addicts and we don't want to quit.

Recently I asked myself some questions you would ask of an addict:

  1. Can you hardly wait until you are alone so you can experience the feeling that comes from taking part in the experience?
  2. Do you find yourself avoiding people because they interfere with your addiction?
  3. Do you find yourself daydreaming about your habit?
  4. Do you regularly turn to your habit when you are troubled?
  5. Do you feel better able to face life after engaging in your habit?
  6. Do you get upset if you cannot partake in your habit for a long period of time?
  7. Do you prefer to be with other people who do what you do?
I can and did answer yes to all these questions. 

This time I am addicted to Jesus Christ!

Psalm 84:10, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."

This addiction isn't fatal but it is eternal!  It not only changes my life but my future as well.   I don't care if people support me or not...I just want more of Jesus.  I want to spend time in His presence, in His Word, worshiping day in and day out.

Jesus Christ has changed my life.  Believe in Him or not, I KNOW how He has changed my life.  I have seen to much to ever turn back. I serve a LIVING, LIFE GIVING, MIRACLE WORKING God!


Plowing Hope

"...That he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope."  (1 Corinthians 9:10b)

I recently read this passage of Scripture, found in the latter part of 1 Corinthians 9:10, and it has been rattling around in my head ever since. 

The thing that stand out to me is the word 'hope'.  Plowing in hope.  Threshing in hope.  Partaking in hope.  I love that word hope.  Day after day I am reminded that without hope, we have nothing. 

Romans 12:12 says, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

I have been a believer for over 30 years and I have seen the Lord move in mighty ways.  I have seen people rise off their sickbeds.  I have seen instantaneous healing.  I have seen unexplainable miracles.  I know God is real.  I know He is active, calling, wooing, seeking, saving and setting people free!

Even when life seems at it's worst, when I have moments of doubt, I go back to those milestones and my hope is renewed. 

That hope stirs me, fills me and I am challenged to share that hope with others.  Too often we dwell on our mistakes or have our mistakes continuously pointed out to us.  The truth of the matter is we all sin.  We all make mistakes.  The Bible is very clear on that.  It is also clear that we are called to love God and love our neighbor.  We are called to share what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  I will share hope, I will share truth in love, I will speak life.  This world is not the end.  I have a hope of eternity.  That eternal hope causes me to rejoice today.

Suffering will one day end, pain will be no more.  Life is more than it appears, God still moves today.

I can't worry about tomorrow.  What comes will come.  Today, today I will rejoice in hope!  Tomorrow is a new day, and again I will rejoice in hope.

Live hope, breathe hope, speak hope and let the peace of Jesus Christ reign in your life forever!


Closed Doors and Open Windows - Guest Blogger Teri Gerdes

I am away on vacation.  While away, a couple of Compassion Bloggers have agreed to make guest posts on my blog!  Enjopy and check out thier blogs for regular doses of awesomeness!

Closed Door and Open Windows
Our children had the blessing of attending a Christian school.  One of them from 5th-12th grade.  One of them from 2nd-12th grade.  One of them from Kindergarten-2nd grade.  This school was very small.  It was a school where our children were nurtured in the Word and ways of the Lord.  It was a family.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was perfect for us during that stage of our lives.  Our daughter was a member of the last graduating class in 2008.  Closed doors.

My husband was a member of the Board of Directors for this school.  Making the decision to close the school was not easy, but it was wise.  The economy in our area just didn’t support a school such as ours. For a few years, a local preschool program rented the building from the Board which brought in some income as the Board was trying to decide what the future held for a Christian school such as our humble little one.  In 2013, the preschool organization decided they wanted to buy the building.  Open windows.

The bylaws which the Board of Directors needed to abide by stated that any money left in the account when they disbanded was to be given to Christian organizations that had something to do with education.  Each member of the Board was allocated a certain amount and given the freedom to choose the organization that they wanted their portion given to.  My husband chose Compassion International.

Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) to be exact.  Compassion’s LDP is an amazing program!  I had personally met some LDP students while on sponsor tours and at the Advocate conferences I attended.  I desperately wanted to have the chance to pour into the lives of these dynamic young adults as they studied in University to become all that God intended them to be. But I needed a major act of God.

And God did it.

My husband was given a check with a sizeable amount written on it.  All we had to do was choose our students.  It was fun to read through so many biographies of so many deserving students.  To pray and ask God which students He wanted us to have in our lives.  We knew we were going to Colombia that year, so we chose Reyner from Cartagena.  Ecuador also held a deep place n my heart, so we chose Marco from Machala.  We were able to help these two fine men through their entire college career.  And we still had money left over!  So, we chose Elkana from Kenya, who only had a little over a year left. And we still had money left.  So each of them got money to use for a laptop computer or another necessity for their classes.

Recently, Reyner made the choice to leave the LDP.  It was his choice.  We were disappointed.  Closed door for him.  We hope he remains in school to finish out his dream, but that is a decision he will have to make.  We know that we poured ourselves into him through a visit with him and many letters.  We showed him Jesus every chance we could.  We love him still.  That will never change.  But we had some funds left over from his account that needed to be allocated somewhere else.  Open windows.

Again we looked through biographies and asked God who He wanted in our lives.  That is when we chose Rebecca and John, both students in Uganda.  They both only had a few months left.  Then another open window.

We learned that Marco, our student in Ecuador, would be finishing his studies MUCH earlier than anticipated.  Open window.

Back to the website to look at more students.  It was then that I saw Pablo from Nicaragua.  I could hardly believe my eyes!  Just a few months before seeing his picture on the website, I had met this young man.  I was on a sponsor tour in Nicaragua, and Pablo was one of the students who addressed our group.  To say he was a dynamic speaker would be an understatement.  I knew that we had to use the extra funds we had to sponsor Pablo.  So we did.

Never in my wildest Compassion dreams, did I ever expect to be able to have even ONE LDP student in our Compassion family!  But God, in His Ephesians 3:20 way, saw fit to add SIX of them to our hearts!

Sometimes closed doors can be really hard.  Even heart-wrenching.  I am so thankful that God opens windows to soothe the pain and heart-ache.
DSCF7234ReynerEC9800345-Fullshot-200w MarcoKE9800402-Fullshot-200wElkanaJohn-LDP Uganda 2015John Rebecca-LDP Uganda 2015RebeccaDSCF9312Pablo (in white shirt)

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for or imagine…to Him be the glory, both now and forevermore.”  Ephesians 3:20

Teri Gerdes blogs at https://iamgivinghope.wordpress.com


Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime - Guest Blogger Michelle Kelly

I am away on vacation.  While away, a couple of Compassion Bloggers have agreed to make guest posts on my blog!  Enjopy and check out thier blogs for regular doses of awesomeness!

Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime! 

Summertime, a wonderful time of year with a gentler pace for many families.  Away from the schedules and demands of the school year there is time to explore and experience different things together as a family and individually.  The title of this post may bring a song to your mind, just know that I’ve been humming that song for days.  I guess that is one way to come up with a title!

Sharing purposeful times with our kids

Often in the summer, when my children were younger, we would have “summer fun” camp and ministry related experiences that just didn’t fit in the rigorous days of scheduled learning.  The activities and experiences we planned were based upon a couple of the goals we have as parents.  We desire to inspire our children to love God and men, to be lifelong learners, to be givers, to know this world is bigger than our backyard, community, state, country, and continent.  We also want to be intentional about experiencing life together and making memories that will bring joy and give direction in the future.

The summer camps often included local cousins and always included the library reading program.  Our local library system has a wonderful summer program.  Among other things, they give fantastic prizes that include tickets to various activities and places in our town.  With those tickets we discovered many interesting places and enjoyed being tourists in our own community.

Pursuing a lifestyle of lifelong learning and global awareness

As I said, often times our activities made us tourists in our own town and got us outside.  Other times we had intentional opportunities to explore the world outside our community.  We sponsor children through Compassion International and have a few international missionary friends.  One way I found to expose my children and build relationships with those other places and cultures, was to choose a particular geographical place and pick up a few books from the library.  If there were some interesting videos, I would also pick those up.  Then we could choose recipes from this list, and prepare a meal from that country or area.   These countries and areas would usually be related to our sponsor children.  Doing these things helped us to “know” these kids better and give us better understanding of their lives.

Family Ministry with Compassion International

Compassion International has various items on their website to help parents in developing a global mindset, activities at the Compassion Offices, aka the Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, as well as publications that you can receive in your home.

One such publication and activity is Step into My Shoes.  I only learned about Step into My Shoes last summer, and since then have discovered much more about this fantastic opportunity.  Last August, my youngest daughter and I had the opportunity to participate in Step into My Shoes at the Compassion Offices.  The highlight of this activity was definitely having a skype call with children at a Child Development Center in Bolivia.  My daughter got to take part in the conversation and was able to ask and answer questions.   While we were able to participate in Colorado Springs with the program, the website has a kit and other resources that you can order to do a Step into My Shoes series of activities in your home or small group.

Learning, growing, exploring and experiencing.

A great way to spend summertime!

Michelle Kelly blogs at byquietwaters.com.  She is a Jesus follower, wife to one, marme to many and nana to just one.


Proud Papa

We are blessed to have two wonderful kids.

Our daughter, our blessing, came to us at just the right time and has been just that. She has an aweesome voice, is a talented writer and has a such a heart of compassion that even her dear old dad looks up to her! She has been an encouragement and blessing to her parents and we are so thankful God gifted us with her presence seventeen years ago.

Our son, our miracle, was just that.  We did not think we could have kids anymore after my wife had complications during her first pregnancy.  Yet one day, many years after disposing of our baby items, this miraculous bundle of energy came along. He loves to play soccer, wrestle with dad and create worlds of adventure with his Lego.

A Blessing and a Miracle.

I am a proud to be a papa.  Not everyone is so lucky. 

In addition to my two awesome kids, we have had the privelage and honor of sponsoring three wonderful kids via Compassion.  Our first, Tsehay, was from Ethiopia and we decided to sponsor her after seeing her precious photo at a Rebecca St. James concert.  We decided to sponor another child after Tsehay grew up and graduated the program.  Our second child, Luiz from Brazil, left the program after a few months when he moved away.  We then found little Wycaro, also from Brazil.  His letters are so cute and he shares many interests with our own son.

All three of our Compassion Kids photos are on our fridge and we have written many a letter back and forth over the years.  These kids are part of our family.  We have all read the letters, looked at the photos and sent pictures, drawings and other things to our kids over the years.

This Father's Day, why not become a Proud Papa to a child in need?

Why not go to www.compassion.com/fatherless today to sponsor your own bundle of joy! 


The Faith of a 5 Year Old

Five is a fun age.

When I was that age I remember playing tons, reading some and watching a bit of TV.  I could tell you how to get to Sesame Street, visited Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, played with friends, colored, and did all those typical five year old things.

One thing I did not do was write songs.

CJ, my 5-year old, is that kid.  He plays lots, reads way more than I did at that age, watches TV...and write's worship songs.

He has written a few in the last year.

Typical was what happened this past week.

He goes into his bedroom and comes out a couple minutes later and says, "Dad I wrote a worship song."

I asked him to sing it to me but he said I had to come to his room.  He then got down on the floor to show me the actions needed to go with the song.  Crouching low he slowly rises up to his tippy toes with his arms lifted up high.

He then asked me to get a pen and write down these words:

You may start out small like a seed
But God makes you grow bigger
You can rise up
And He crushes the enemy
and you can rise up

It may not mean much to you but when my son starts randomly singing about God, growth and overcoming the enemy I get a bit excited.  There was no prelude, no conversations leading up to this moment...just a kid wanting to sing about God.  He asked my wife to put it to music and for us to sing it on Sunday.

Kids are awesome and the Lord has taught me a lot about His character and the faith of a child through the years.  This little song spoke to me because I was just coming out of a difficult season in my own faith walk and felt like I was entering a period of new beginnings. 

The Lord allowed my 5 year old to encourage me in my faith.

May He do the same for you!


From Shakespeare to Salvation

"And one man in his time plays many parts" - William Shakespeare's As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII

This line is part of the All The World's A Stage monologue from within Shakespeare's play, As You Like It. I admit to being a Shakespeare fan.  During high school I read his works for fun, not just as a school assignment.  In fact I have his complete works on my shelf today.

This speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and lists the seven stages of a man's life: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, old age and facing imminent death. It is also one of Shakespeare's most frequently quoted passages.

I have been an infant, schoolboy, lover and soldier...in the Salvation Army.  Truth be told, my kids tell me I am old as well! In all seriousness though, over my lifetime I have played many roles.  Son, father, husband, pastor, author, baker, student, teacher and friend just to name a few.  Yet it is being a child of God that I find my utmost satisfaction. 

The apostle Paul also talks about the stages of life in 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."

Like Paul, when I was a child I spoke, thought and reasoned like a child.  As I have aged, my speech, thoughts and reasoning have matured as well.  Don't get me wrong, I am still a child at heart.  However, when it comes to my faith...I have matured.  I have run the gamut throughout my faith walk, ups and downs, highs and lows...and I have realized that the Gospel, for all it's richness and depth...is actually quite simple.  At the end of the day...it's all about Jesus and what He did on the cross.  By accepting His gift of salvation, i entered into the greatest role of my lifetime...child of the King!  



My daughter was asked to write a speech for school about something they believe.  This is what she wrote:

        I believe in dignity for the homeless, which is something that I have been passionate about for a very long time.  When I was seven years old, we were in the middle of supper, and I had decided I did not like the meal.  My parents told me I needed to eat because there were children starving in Africa.  Of course my logical response was that if there were children starving in Africa that they could send my food to them.  Needless to say, this didn’t go over well, and my dad decided I needed to learn a lesson.  So the next week, he took me down to the Salvation Army to volunteer, and help serve the people who would appreciate any meal they could receive.  It was an eye-opener to say the least, and I loved volunteering there.  From then on, my family became very involved in street ministry, and running the street church.  I have grown up ministering to and hanging out with those struggling with addictions and people who are homeless.  I have seen the deep prejudice and disgust that many people hold or feel for the people on the streets.  I have heard a lot of people say “Why can’t they just get over it?” or “Why don’t they just get a job?” It’s not that simple.  People don’t normally choose to be homeless. They don’t choose to lose their job.  Obviously, their choices can lead to this happening, but sometimes life just throws a punch.  And once they get into that poverty cycle, it is very, very difficult to get out.

        I believe in dignity for the homeless because those living on the streets still deserve respect. The thing that bugs me when I hear people talking about the “homelessness problem” is that they don’t seem to see them as humans.  They are grossed out, or afraid, or annoyed, passing by them on the streets in a hurry.  Some people see the homeless as charity cases, and donate to big organizations, never actually going out and talking to those in need.  Now, I understand that sometimes it can be a little scary to be around the street people.  They can be smelly, unkempt, and violent.  I have been cursed at, seen fights break out, and shook hands with people who carry numerous diseases.  I have also seen them smile as they tell us their favorite food or their favorite memory as a child.  I have been given gifts from people who have nothing to give.  I have been encouraged and blessed by the same people who are cursed and avoided on a daily basis.  A few weeks ago, I shared a sermon with my dad at our church.  I was feeling extremely nervous, and wasn’t sure if I could do it.  A homeless lady that I had never met came in and handed me a flower, telling me I was beautiful.  Just that little gesture of kindness gave me the courage to carry on.

            I believe in dignity for the homeless because I am constantly seeing things like this.  There is one man in our church who has been attending for years, but generally was very angry and rude.  My younger brother began going over to him, sharing his snacks and trying to chat.  Eventually they formed a friendship, and now he has become very friendly and respectful.  All because someone took the time to reach out to him.

            I believe in dignity for the homeless because they all have a story.  Some of them are sad and tragic.  But if we take the time to listen, amazing things can happen.  Dignity is a powerful, and can transform people from feeling worthless, to treasured.  When we take time to pause a minute and say hello, we are acknowledging that they deserve respect.  Jesus never hesitated to spread himself among the people.  He reached out to the unloved.  We are called to do the same.  In the same way that he treated the poor with honor and respect, we should treat them with honor and respect.

She was also aslked to put together a multimedia presentation and this is what she came up with:


Confessions of a Concussed Christian

As I wrestled with my son on the floor, he came close to my head with his hands and I immediately froze, a nervous sweat breaking out across my forehead. 

Another time, I bumped my head and immediately became anxious, concerned that this blow may result in yet another concussion.

The fact of the matter is that bumping our heads is just a part of life.  It happens...to everyone.  We bump into things as we walk through life...and it's not the end of the world.

I know that.

Yet it hasn't stopped the panicked feelings and anxiety that seem to pop up unexpectedly.  You can't predict a panic attack.  Anxiety can pop up unawares.  When it happens, it can momentarily cripple you. Reason and logic seem to vanish.

The reality is that I don't need another head trauma.  Living with an acquired brain injury is a challenge.  Yet, I have seen significant improvement over the last 2+ years as well.  There was a point where I could only read about 5 minutes before the headaches started and I would lose focus.  Now I can read a whole lot longer and the headaches are gone.  My concentration and focus has improved.  Yes I have to put things into manageable chunks and I need deadlines but I can get things done easier than I could even a year ago.  At one point, immediately after my 6th concussion, I could not even recognize the letters on a keyboard.  Trying to write a blog post...or anything...was a challenge.  Now I can write sermons and blog posts again...though I do write a lot less than I used to. 

I no longer stumble over my words as much as I used to...unless I get really tired.  I do have to nap more than I used to.  There was a point where I struggled to do any public speaking and my sermons had shrunk to around 5 minutes. Things began to improve but I could not speak without notes and would lose my place frequently.  Now I can talk for an hour with few notes. 

I have found comfort recently in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

I have been praying for a healing and I have found improvement, though not as quickly as I would like.  I have petitioned God.  Not just praying, but praying with the passion and desperation of a broken man.  I have also began to thank God for the vast and significant improvements I am seeing. 

All is not lost, I have a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)  I know that I truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) It has been a long journey, one I never envisioned...yet I also see how God has moved in the situation and changed me for His glory through the process.

For that I thank God.


A Glorious Dark

A Glorious Dark is a new book by author A.J. Swoboda.  With Good Friday, the silent Saturday and Easter Sunday as the backdrop, Swoboda tackles tough questions about faith, doubt, suffering and pain.

I found this book intriguing because we hear so many sermons on Good Friday and Easter Sunday but rarely will one talk about the silence that was Saturday.  What must the early believers have gone through that day Jesus was in the grave.  What would they have been thinking?  I don't know what was on their mind but I sure know what goes through mine when it seems God is silent.

As I read through A Glorious Dark, I found myself curling back page corners so I could go back to certain points again and again.  I started reading those snippets to my wife and really found them encouraging. I think the author did a great job of bringing light into some dark corners of life.

Confusion, fear, it all gets addressed here.

A great book for those who struggle with doubt and fear, an encouragement to those who need hope, and a blessing to those who believe God still changes lives today.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


A Call for Nonviolent Action

Nonviolent Action is the latest offering by author Ronald J. Sider.

Having had losts of discussions over the years about "just war" vs. pacifism, I thought I would give this new book a perusal.  I had read some of Sider's earlier works and never really connected with them.  Despite that, this topic intrigued me enough to give the author another chance.

Let me just say it, this is an excellent book.  Sider looks at nonviolent action throughout the 20th century.  Brief and compelling chapters about Gahndi, King, the Arab Spring, Liberia and many more examples, keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

I was very impressed by how Sider handled the topic overall.  While not ignoring other factors (economic, political, etc) the author shows that nonviolent action does work and should be considered a viable option. Though I really enjoyed this book, two things would have made it much, much better.  The book is addressed to Christians but there is no supporting Biblical examples cited by the author.  Even the occasional verse would have been helpful.  I thibnk this is where the book suffers the most.  The other thing that would have made the book better would have been a more practical application in the concluding chapter. 

Despite these two issues, this is a book that is much needed in the ongoing debate about war and pacifism.  No matter where you stand on the issue, I challenge you to read this book with an open mind. 

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."


Jesus Takes a Road Trip

James Tissot, detail from 
"Pilgrims on the Road to Emmaus" (1884-1896), 
watercolor on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum.

Luke 24:13-35

Two followers of Jesus were heading to a village called Emmaus.  It was about 7.5 miles from Jerusalem.  The average person could do that in a couple hours.  These two guys are talking about all that has gone on.  They were trying to make sense of all that happened.  Jesus was supposed to be the one who redeemed Israel but then there was the trial, the beating, His death…and now the report that He was no longer in the grave.  You get a sense in this passage that these guys were confused, disappointed and discouraged.  They were caught up in all that was going on. This was probably not a fun road trip for them.

In the midst of their conversation, Jesus drew near and began to walk with them.  Not recognizing Him, He asked what they were discussing that caused them such sadness.  The traveler named Cleopas basically asked where Jesus had been not to know what has been happening the last few days.  They unload their thoughts and feelings on Jesus.  Again, they were so caught up in what was going on, they did not recognize that Jesus was right there in their midst.

Jesus points out their lack of understanding and begins to unpack the Scriptures from Moses through the prophets.  All the verses that talk about Jesus, He himself explained to these two weary travelers.

As it was getting late, they begged Him to come in and rest with them.  As they shared a meal, Jesus broke bread, blessed it and gave it to them.  They’re eyes were opened and Jesus vanished before their eyes.

They admitted that their hearts burned within them as Jesus expounded on the Word.  These two then made a beeline right back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles all that had happened.

I love this passage of Scripture.  So much Jesus could have done but one of the first things he did was go talk to these two discouraged followers.  I believe He had compassion and love for them.  Today, we also experience times of discouragement.  We get overwhelmed by our circumstances and we don’t always see Jesus in our midst. 

The road to Emmaus was filled with confusion, yet Jesus walked with them, unrecognized for a time. He was with them in their darkest hour, taught them, and finally they saw the light!  They had to tell people.

Are you on the road to Emmaus?  Discouraged, confused!  Look up….your redemption draws near.  Jesus is there on the road with you….wanting to show you the Way the Truth and the Life!