Friday, December 29, 2017

Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves (Book Review)

I just finished reading Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves on Sunday.

I found this short little book to be powerfully convicting, but not in a way that beat me over the head or loaded on the guilt. There was definitely the sense that one's prayer life speaks volumes about their personal spiritual life, which cuts like a knife when your prayer life isn't so hot... But instead of loading on the guilt with extended stories of those prayer warriors of our faith, Michael Reeves would temper those stories with those prayer warrior's prayer foibles.

The end of this book was full of hope, found in the practical applications that the author offers. Applications that give the reader real ways to point their hearts toward joy in prayer.

I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Blind Unbelief is Sure to Err

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head. 
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face. 
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower. 
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
William Cowper,
God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My math teacher told me the truth.

When I was in my Junior or Senior year of high school, I wasn't the best of kids. Sure, I wasn't the worst of kids, but I definitely wasn't the best... It was mostly about being mischievous, but there was a definite path that I was taking. I wasn't aware of this myself, when you are smack dab in the middle of the morality compass, it is easy to think about the fact that you really aren't all that bad.

On top of that, I knew the Word. My parents were both Christians, I went to church every Sunday, I went to a Christian School, I attended all of the revival services our church held, and I made my way to a Christian Camp in the summer. The Bible was something that I was very familiar with, but I was a hearer of the Word and not really a doer. All of this attendance was mandatory at that particular time of my life, so it was a faulty gauge for measuring my actual spirituality.

There were other things that should have made me aware of this reality, but I was self-deceived. That mischievous, rotten nature, that displayed the destructive path that I was taking, would peek out at every opportunity that it could. And the very first person that saw through all of that "required Christianity" was none other than my math teacher. He had caught me with something that had no business being in a Christian School. He pulled me out in the hall and said something to me that I have never forgotten.

It wasn't really profound or beautifully quotable, but it is the statement that I always use to mark the beginning of God's gracious work in my life. Once out in the hall, away from my peers, he simply said to me, "Matt Harmless, I don't believe that you are saved."

Of all of the things that could have been told to me, this ended up being exactly what I needed to hear. What a gracious God, to bring this analytically thinking man into my life, to brilliantly add up all of the loose ends and calculate all of the variables in my life and deduce, with the same logical mind that was teaching us mathematical proofs, that my faith added up to zero.

Those words rang in my ears for the next few years of my life. At first they seemed arrogant. "Who was he to tell me... ?" Then they were audacious and insulting, but eventually those words proved themselves to me to be true. And it was the sheer truth of those words that cut me to the heart.

It was another three or four years before I was eventually captured by God's extravagant grace, but when I tell the story of my salvation, I nearly always begin there - that moment in the hallway outside of my math class, when my math teacher figured it out and told me the truth. When I look back, I can see so clearly that those words were the first spark in the chain reaction of my own salvation.

Thank you, Mr. Cofer, for being brave enough and bold enough to tell me the truth.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

An opportunity to have a positive impact on kids in our public schools...

This year I started teaching an elective centered on AVID. If I understand it correctly, this is a program that is geared toward helping those kids who are potentially college bound, but don't necessarily have all of the help and support that they might need from home. If you would like to learn more about AVID, you can check out their website, but that is not the purpose of this particular post...

I am writing this post because I believe that connected to AVID is an amazing opportunity for youth ministry minded people to be able to get into their local public schools. The opportunity comes in the form of an AVID Tutor.

Don't worry, you don't actually have to tutor the kids, they are working with each other in the tutoring process, but the AVID program has tutors available to help guide them during these times.

The amazing thing is that this is actually a paid program. I believe that it is $9.00 an hour and it is for a few hours on Tuesday and Thursday.

I am especially thinking about youth Pastors and youth workers in Danville that could give up a few hours during the day to just be around these kids and help them ... to show them the Love of Christ.

What is even better is that they encourage the church to participate in this opportunity.

Here is a copy of the letter that they are sending out to churches in our community:

If you have any questions about the program, please contact me.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Episode Two of Edgewood's "Ask the Pastor" Podcast!

This week we are trying to answer the question, "How does a Christian respond to the cussing, cursing, and taking God's name in vain, that they experience while listening to and being around unsaved coworkers?"

If you have any questions or further comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section below this post.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Yesterday's Grace

Christians should never be satisfied with yesterday's grace. It is a shocking thing for Christians to have to admit that they have grown little in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
~Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson pg 89-90

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Can Christians Get Tattoos?

Here is the first episode of the "Ask the Pastor" podcast. This podcast answers the question, "Can Christians get tattoos?"

(If the player does not load, click here to download an mp3 of the podcast.)

Maybe this player will load...


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Happy little trees...

I painted some "happy little trees" ...

click the picture to enlarge

This was done on one of those tiny little canvases. Do you think that I should make a few of these? Does anyone think they would sell?

"I was only joking!"

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19, ESV)
Three word definitions might be helpful here:

  1. "madman" -- This word is only used twice in the Bible. It means "flaming" and can be translated as such. "madman" or "maniac" are also appropriate translations of this word. It is also translated as "enchantment" or "occult fire" in other versions of the Bible. 
  2. "throws" -- also translated as "shoots"
  3. "deceives" -- This word actually means "throw." It can mean "deceives" ... not in the sense of lying or tricking... but in the sense of causing one to stumble. It is also translated as "throw" or "betray"... 
The remainder of these two verses is very adequately translated. I add these definitions, not to protect one from making this passage say "too much" but to keep it from saying "too little." 

The "I am only joking!" mantra of some has become the cover-all for any of our words that we have "tossed out" there. Quite often we haven't been careful with our words, and they have landed in a soft spot on someone's heart. Many times we don't even realize this: especially in our "I just love to give you a hard time" society, where ribbing someone has become a love-language of sorts. Many, when they are most honest, will admit that they have been stung by another's ill-placed words.

Though it is glorious to overlook such wounds, we may need to rethink a few things. Maybe the problem isn't that some are just "too sensitive" but that we (as a society) have become too insensitive. We expect others to get over their wounds and toughen up more often than not. 

Instead of priding ourselves on our quick wit and thick skin, shouldn't we, as Christian, work even harder to make it our practice to let every word that comes out of our mouths, be good for building others up? 

Next time you find yourself diminishing someone's injured feelings with "I was only joking" ... try instead to say, "I am genuinely sorry that my words hurt you like that. I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable by pointing this out. I want you to know that I will be working harder at being more careful with my words. If this ever happens again, please... please... don't hestiate to bring this to my attention. You really matter to me, and I want to only say things to you that will build you up, not hurl you to the ground."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Episode Three of the Edgewood Edge-U-Cation Podcast!!!

Here it is... Live from Minneapolis, MN... in the middle of a busy restaurant!

(If the player doesn't load below, click here to download an mp3 of this podcast.)

... And here are the Chicken Tacos that arrived while recording the podcast...   :)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Love Birds

My first attempt at acrylic painting...

On this Mountain

In my personal Bible reading this morning I came across a passage of scripture that I don't think that I have ever noticed before. It is in Isaiah 25, and what initially caught my attention was the ESV Bible's heading for this chapter: it was titled -- God will swallow up death forever.

Quite often, as I am reading through these Old Testament Prophets, my brain will slip into neutral: I will still be reading, but I have ceased to process the words. Sometimes this happens because of my Adult A.D.D. Sometimes it is associated with the fact that it is a pronouncement of judgement against some ancient nation... the Moabites or the Ammonites or such. This isn't an excuse, and I hate that I do it, but I'm just being honest... I struggle. But then, I will come upon a passage that clearly speaks out about something directly connected to me. In this case it rings true to my own benefits found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After the crucifixion and after Christ is resurrected, there is a story in the gospels of Jesus walking along a road with a couple of his disciples. At first they don't recognize him, but he begins to explain to them that the Law and the Prophets (The Old Testament for us) is all about him! (Luke 24:27)

When you read these few verse, think of Christ. Think of how you have benefited... and rejoice!
Isaiah 25:6-9
[6] On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
[7] And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
[8] He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
[9] It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (ESV)

Friday, July 21, 2017

02 Edgewood Edge-U-Cation Podcast Episode Two

Here is the second episode of the Edgewood Edge-U-Cation Podcast. Once again coming to you from my basement and fueled by Diet Mountain Dew...

(If the player doesn't load below, just click here to downlaod an mp3 of the podcast.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

01 Edgewood Edge-U-Cation Number One

Here is episode one of Edgewood Edge-U-Cation Podcast.
(I am just going to try doing this. No promises that it will last.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee. 
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me. 
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

Poem by Amy Carmichael, quoted in Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dragon or Lamb

We choose: we follow the dragon and his beasts along their parade route, conspicuous with the worship of splendid images, elaborated in mysterious symbols, fond of statistics, taking on whatever role is necessary to make a good show and get the applause of the crowds in order to get access to power and become self-important. Or we follow the Lamb along a farmyard route, worshipping the invisible, listening to the foolishness of preaching, practicing a holy life that involves heroically difficult acts that no one will ever notice, in order to become, simply, our eternal selves in an eternal city. It is the difference, politically, between wanting to use the people around us to become powerful (or, if unskilled, getting used by them), and entering into covenants with the people around us so that the power of salvation extends into every part of the neighborhood, the society, and the world that God loves. —EUGENE PETERSON
This quote is in the prelude of the book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel

Sunday, July 2, 2017

When Church is Done Right #2: You Gotta Go To Church

I've gone to church my whole life, at least as long as I can remember. I've been involved in several different local churches at a variety of levels, but most recently (for the last 8 years) as the Senior Pastor of Edgewood Baptist Church in Danville, IL.  Over the course of these years I have been forced, by reason of necessity, to consider what the scriptures say about how church ought to be. A week or so ago I posted some of my first thoughts on this topic in When Church Is Done Right: It Is Like Family. In this post I want to discuss a topic that I have had mixed feelings and varied beliefs over the years. The topic is Church Attendance.... So, here we go:

Open Doors (Image Source)
I want to begin with why I have had mixed feelings on this topic. You see, I grew up with the idea that "every time the church doors were opened, we were there." This usually meant Sunday School, Sunday Morning Service, Sunday Night Service, and Wednesday Night Service. When I was really young, I vaguely remember it also included Thursday Night "Calling". There was additionally the occasional week-long Evangelistic services that included the Saturday before when church members began canvasing local neighborhoods.

The older I grew the more I began to reject this idea because of what I sensed were legalistic undertones. In my mind, many were going to church every time that the doors opened simply because they believed that they had to... or possibly that they believed they were more righteous because they had gone. I suppose I might have been right, as far as some were concerned. I know that, at least for myself, this was partially true. Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, if I had read my Bible and attended church... God was just a little bit happier with me. This bad theology would rear it's ugly head when I would feel the urge to pray for something, but then would think about the fact that I had skipped a service or failed to do my devotions... How in the world could I ask God for anything when I had not been doing everything for him?

I don't think that I was alone in this thought process. There are many in my generation that have moved from "I Gotta Go To Church" to "I Oughta Go To Church." I think that the heart motive here may be in the right place. Many are going for a genuineness of church attendance. I understand the reasoning here. If their heart is just "not into it", they believe that they shouldn't go. Some have even, maybe in part because of disappointments with church, decided that they were better off away from it.

Church attendance then moved from, " I Oughta Go To Church" to "I Coulda Gone To Church."  For so many people, now in the second generation of thought, have completely disconnected actual sit-in-a-pew-church-attendance to anything to do with their spiritual life. Now it is, "I Woulda Gone To Church, But..."

As a Pastor, I see this from a different perspective now. In a generation of "I Woulda Gone To Church, But..." Christians, everything trumps church. Traveling youth football/basketball/soccer games, work, vacations, dance recitals, overtime opportunities, needing extra sleep after a hard week, catching up on housework, work opportunity that might lead to promotion, needing more time with family, sports events on TV, sports events at a stadium, etc., etc., etc.

I think that these hearts seeking after authenticity have, in all actuality, led to hearts of apathy.  We have become satisfied with unfulfilling things and non-eternal ideas.

So, if you would stay with me for one more minute, I'd like to Biblically share with you why you should and can believe within yourself, "I Gotta Go To Church."

Reason #1- It is commanded.
We all know the passage in Hebrews that tells us this. Our Grandma probably quoted it to us when we didn't want to go to church.
Hebrews 10:25 - NAS – "not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near"
That first phrase literally means, don't abandon getting together in one place. It has become customary for some to do just such a thing. Don't miss the fact that this is actually in the Bible.

Reason #2 - It is needed.
If you look in this same verse, there is a little phrase that is used throughout the New Testament: "One Another".  Over and over again you will see the New Testament authors using this phrase: help one another, love one another, bear one another's burdens, be kind to one another, encourage one another... And without a doubt, this is referring to a local group of believers when they are together. Sure, there are plenty of scriptures that tell us to love the people of this world that are not Christians. We are to even love our enemies. But we are uniquely commanded over and over again to love and care for one another.

You will also find, when you dig a little deeper, that the majority of commands in the New Testament are written to you (plural). In other words, the majority of commands in the New Testament are written to the Church. Go ahead, pick up your Bible, if you are reading in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Romans, etc. (all letters written to churches) and you read a command... if you look at the Greek language it was originally written in, you will find that it is most likely written in the plural. This means that it is a command to a church: to a group of believers that are connected together in a relationship.

I would go so far as to say that the majority of the New Testament commands cannot be obeyed if you are not a connected member of a local church. So, being there becomes a necessity to obedience.

Reason #3 - It is beneficial. 
Because of all of these "one another" commands, being at church becomes hugely beneficial. Now you go to church and you will be loved, your burdens will be shared, you will be cared for, you will be treated with kindness and compassion, you will be encouraged and confronted when necessary. There is great benefit to being a part of a church that is seeking to be obedient to scripture.

Also consider that the Spiritual Gifts that are mentioned in the the Bible are all Gifts to the Church (I Corinthians 12-14). Consider especially that God has given to the Church Pastors and Teachers (Ephesians 4). You want to understand the Bible better? You want to learn about what God wants for you? Then yes, read your Bible!  But also go to church!

Reason #4 - It is unique.
The Church is the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-31, Colossians 1:24, Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:30). There is not other institution among men that is ordained by God the Father and headed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. To be a part of a church is to be a participant in the Trinitarian work of God. It is truly unique.

You gotta go to church. Not because you need to make yourself righteous... you can't do that anyway... but because He is righteous.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Long before I began with Christ, He began with me.

"I must confess that I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled, and revolted, and struggled against God. When He would have me to pray, I would not pray … And when I heard, and the tear rolled down my cheek, I wiped it away and defied Him to melt my soul. But long before I began with Christ, He began with me."  quoting W. Y. Fullerton, Charles H. Spurgeon: London's Most Popular Preacher. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966, pg. 32

Sunday, June 18, 2017

When Church is Done Right: It is Like Family

When you (plural) do church right, there are all sorts of things that naturally result. One of those things is that it becomes like family.

image source:
There is Biblical Precedent for this:

  • God is our Heavenly Father. (Luke 11:2-14)
  • We are called brothers and sisters. (This is used countless times in the New Testament, one example is here: Philippians 3:13-14)
  • We are adopted in to the family of God. (Romans 8:15)
  • Jesus is our great older brother that we are "joint heirs" with. (Romans 8:17)
But any of us who have truly been a part of a local church, for an extended amount of time, will tell you that this is true experientially as well. 

But listen though... I am not purporting any lovey-dovey-feel-warm-and-fuzzy sentiment here! Family can be tough. We all have that crazy aunt and the funny uncle and the favorite grandpa and the annoying brother and ... well... you get it. But it is FAMILY. You keep getting together. You keep calling each other. You continue to eat together and hang out together and take family trips when you can... and when these things aren't happening, it feels broken. When a rift comes in and separates family, it just isn't right. 

And in the Bible, the Gospel Family is supposed to be together. We are not supposed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). We are supposed to love one another (John 13:34) and care for one another and bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). In fact, Jesus warns that the gospel will break apart many earthly families (Matthew 10:21, Luke 12:53), but as we are adopted into the family of God, we essentially have a new family... an eternal family. And this is why, when church is done right, there is a certain family experience that cannot be fully understood until you are truly committed to that church family. 

There are so many Christians that are missing out on these most beneficial and eternal experiences, simply because they won't commit. They don't know the joy of years of shared experience. They don't understand the deep feelings of love that can only come through the depths and the shallows of ministering together. Many don't even know what it is like to minster together, they have enjoyed being ministered to, but have missed the greatest joys and heartaches that can only come through the mutual burden sharing of the Christian community. They don't know the sadness of when a brother or sister leaves the family because they found another family that they like better. And they will never know the deep communal compassion of one who has not only shared a few Sundays, but has shared a life. 

If you are in a church, become a part of that church. Unless the church goes into an area of blasphemy or absolutely false teaching, commit yourself to them... adopt them as your family. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Digital Heroin

From a NY Post Article:
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.
Read the full article here:

It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Let Me Not Wander...

I haven't done my daily devotional blog since 2013, but recently started it back up for the current study at my church. I'm asking that you swing on by and check out Let Me Not Wander and catch up on Philippians Study. I also encourage you to add your own commentary or questions on each of the verses. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Breakfast Cookies

I don't see what the big deal is... Breakfast cookies have been around for years.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

End of the Year Thoughts...

This is the 17th time I have ended a school year as a teacher. Actually it is my 18th, if you count my student teaching experience. I have spent nearly an equal amount of time teaching at public schools as I have private Christian schools, and there has been a wide variety of types of schools in each of those two categories. I think I may have learned some stuff about teaching, but I still feel like a rookie most of the time: like I still have a lot to learn.

As this year ends, I thought I would share a few thoughts from my years as a teacher (and specifically this last year):

Sunday, May 7, 2017


My wife was home sick, so I set my phone up on the lectern during the service... Horrible angle for the camera... but the sound was OK. I don't start preaching until 38:47.

Monday, April 3, 2017

these people are the Christians, and I am one of them

Quote from last week's sermon...

(A letter from Cyprian to his friend Donatus.)
"this is a cheerful world indeed as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands, you know very well that I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a company of quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not: they are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians,—and I am one of them."
I found this quote in the book,
Christ Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Philippians by Tony Merida and Francis Chan

Saturday, March 4, 2017

none of your trials can prove you to be a lost man

"Certain of my brethren are frequently in trouble. Their whole life is a floundering out of one slough of despond into another. You have had many losses in business -- nothing but losses perhaps; you have had many crosses, disappointments, bereavements; nothing prospers with you ... it is no sign, beloved, that you are not a child of God ... remember that none of your trials can prove you to be a lost man."
Charles Spurgeon, as quoted by Zack Eswine in the book, Spurgeon's Sorrows

Friday, February 24, 2017

How far?

Every generation of Christian must face the question, “How far should I accept and adopt contemporary standards and practices? On the one hand, the Christian must not deny his faith. On the other, he must not deny his membership of society. The cause of Christ is not served if Christians appear as a group of old-fashioned people trying to retreat from the real world. Christians in fact live in the same world as their neighbors, and face the same problems. 
Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation, pg 71-72

plod on

For a whole lifetime...
In the Christian life there are two essentials, the ability to make the clear-cut decision at the crucial moment and the ability to plod on ... on the the Christian way for a whole lifetime.
William Barclay, Letters to the Seven Churches, pg 77