Being who we were created to be


So this week Pastor Rich and Pastor Rudy co-preached a sermon for Easter Sunday as we had a bi-lingual service.  It was a great thing to experience and be a part of.  And although I really don’t understand a lick of Spanish, I am proud to be a part of a congregation that uses the gifts and talents of its people and is trying to reach out more than one people group.

In a way that is what the sermon was about too.  It was stated in the sermon that our lives are filled with meaning and what we do in this life is important to God.  I believe this to be 100% true.

mattGod has given us each talents, gifts, hobbies, things we enjoy and more…and he wants us to use all of that to the best of our ability.  We are created as unique individuals.  God wants us to enjoy this life and bless others while doing so.  Even the things that seem minor to us, sometimes God can use them when least expected.

I experienced that this week.  I was able to go to the Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game yesterday.  As a CRAZY-WACKO SPORTS FANATIC it was awesome to say the least.  Sports is a hobby for me.  It is something I enjoy to the fullest.  Although I am not sure what role God played in making me like this, if any at all, I do believe that He can use it for His glory.

As we were driving to the arena one of the people in the car, all of whom knew I was a Christian, looked over at me and asked if I could pray for a family member of theirs.  I won’t mention the details due to the fact that it was asked to be kept private.  I was a bit shocked at first, then realized how cool of an opportunity that was.  I listened, I affirmed their thoughts, and I agreed to pray for them and the family.  The point being is that having the chance to bless someone else and glorify God in the process can come in the least likely of places and through the oddest of avenues.  My love of sports and being who God created me to be provided that opportunity to be used by God.

Are lives are filled with meaning and even the little things we do are important to God.  Enjoying our life now is a good thing.  God cares about it and so should we.  Because of the Resurrection we have a purpose.  Without it our lives as believers would be a meaningless existence.  Because Christ came back from the dead, we now have a reason to carry on.  That reason is to share the gospel.

We are to share that good news with everyone we know.  It may appear in small forms.  It may take time.  It may be just planting seeds.  But even a prayer for a family member of someone may brighten up their day and they may come to realize that their life has value too.  And maybe even if we enjoy the little things like our hobbies, it will allow the Holy Spirit to use us in ways we never thought possible.


When saying you love Jesus isn’t enough


This week, one of our fellow bloggers, Bob Trube, spoke to our congregation this past Sunday on John 8:31-49.  He brought out a phrase that I have heard numerous times.  “I love Jesus, but it’s the church that I hate.”  Powerful words are they not?  Have you heard that before?  Maybe you have even stated it yourself a time or two.

mattI know it is a phrase that I have said more than once.  Sometimes our view of Jesus and the church can be so radically different.  Jesus is to be loving.  Some in the church can hate.  Jesus is to welcome all.  Sometimes the church denies people access into their “click” because they have different opinions, thoughts, political views or even look different.  Jesus is to be accepting of us just the way we are.  The church tells us we have to be like them or go to hell.

Here is the issue I have with what I have just stated, although some of these statements may be true, they are not true of every church.  I also think that although Jesus is loving, welcoming and accepting of us coming to Him just as we are, it does not mean He will not want us to change.

Mark 1:15 says,  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  (NIV).  These are the words of Jesus.  Notice that He says repent first.  Repent is to turn around.  To do a 180.  To change.  To be different than you once were…then believe.  We often flip these in their order.  When we do so we often never get to the repent part because we think that the belief is enough.  Yet Jesus calls those who believe in Him to a lifestyle change.

In today’s passage as Jesus confronts the believers that He is talking to, they are angry when he tells them that they are not acting upon what they know is right.  He tells them they are still slaves to their sin (v. 34-38).  He tells them that they need to change their ways.  This is the part of Christianity that EVERYONE has a problem with.  If we could all just live the exact same lifestyle as before we came to Christ, then all would be good right?  Yet, Jesus (and the church) demands more of us.  Saying you love Jesus is just one of the first steps in the process.

So are we changing?  Are we being transformed by Christ?  Are we as the church living to the example that Christ called us to?  We are all sinners in need of His grace.  We all need His forgiveness.  We are all no better than another.  Jesus does love us all, desires to welcome us all into His kingdom and is accepting of us just as we are when we come to Him.  I hope you will consider these things if you are a part of the church or not.  But make sure there is more to it.  Jesus does desire us to change and grow.  If we don’t then what is the point?

Do everything in love


Verse 13 has been talked about a good bit this week.  Ben talked about being strong and trusting God.  Bob talked about standing firm in the faith and trusting God even when fear creeps in.  I’ll go into verse 14 today.  “Do everything in love.”

Everything?  Seems a bit much right?  Maybe it’s just me, but is that possible? Can everything we do be surrounded in love?

mattWe live in a world that teaches us to be skeptical of everyone’s motives.  Everyone is taught to look out for themselves and not care about others.  To me one of the ways that I see this daily is at work.  You see, I work in a collection agency.  The minute I make a call, I often have to battle with that skepticism of whomever else is on the line.  Immediately they are wondering who I am and why I am calling them.  But due to third party privacy law and some regulations we have within our company I can’t tell them why I am calling unless they verify who they are first.  All I can say is that I am calling for “insert name here” and it is about a personal business matter.  that person then needs to trust me that I am not trying to deceive them.

It gets more difficult after that too.  If they identify themselves and I disclose why I am calling, then comes the negotiation.  I have learned that love is the key here.  If I don’t show them love by caring about their situation, listening to them, showing compassion, ect…I will lose them.  They on the other hand seem to get to say whatever they want.  I have been cussed out, ridiculed, insulted, hated and hung up on.  This is on a daily basis.  It is not an easy job.  Honestly I would enjoy being able to say something rude back.  But I can’t nor should I as a believer in Christ.  I know better.  I have been taught and told that I need to do EVERYTHING in love.  Everything.

I don’t want to miss the stating the point though that there is such a thing as tough love.  We often hear this  described by parents about their children.  Well collections is the same way.  I have to negotiate.  I can’t just give in to the demands of what the people who owe the bill want.  Because lets face it…they don’t want to pay it.  That’s just fact.  I have to get them to understand that I am there to help them pay the bills they owe and that they are able to feel freedom when they are done.

Point being, I have to show love in collections.  I have to conduct myself as I believe that Christ would.  So what is your life like on a daily basis?  Is everything you do based in love?  Is this possible? What does this look like for you?

Be united


This week’s passage, 1 Corinthians 16:1-12, seems to be a light one in substance.  Paul, the author of the Corinthian letter has been talking about some pretty heavy stuff over the course of his letter.  As he is coming to an end of his letter he has just a few more things to address.  But just because this stuff seems of less importance, or things we just gloss over, does not mean it has little value.

mattIn fact, we as believers need to make sure that we notice what is in God’s word.  It is there for a reason.

I would like to focus on verse 10:  “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.”

The church at Corinth has been a divided group from the start.  Some follow Paul, others Apollos, some Cephas (or Peter) and others say they follow Christ (Chapter 1, verse 12).  How many times have we seen that human beings choose to support particular group or person and then say that they don’t like others just because they are different?  Paul makes the point that Timothy, his young apprentice, is working for Christ just as he is.

This was always an encouraging thought to me as a young believer.  My grandfather was a pastor for many years.   My father has been a pastor and in the ministry for a long time.  For a long while I thought I had to live up to the expectations that others had of me based off of who my grandfather and father were.  However, I came to a realization that I don’t have to live up to others expectations of me.  Just as Paul states about Timothy, they (Timothy and Paul) are all preaching the same message so it should be heard and respected.  The way it is taught or stated may be different, but the basics of “Christ crucified” are all that matters.  The only expectations that I need to worry about are those of God.  What does He expect of me?

I think that Paul wants to make sure that the church at Corinth does not discount what Timothy has to offer because he is too young or different than Paul.  Paul knows that Timothy has a lot to offer and is willing to lay everything down for the sake of the gospel.  To him that is all that matters.

Be united.  Love one another.  Be open to what others have to offer even if it may be new to you or different than what you are used to.

So my question to you is are you accepting of what others have to offer even though it may be different than what you are used to?  How can we open ourselves to new opinions, thoughts or ideas?

Author Feature: Matt Black


Hello all,

My name is Matt Black.  I have been a part of the leadership of Smoky Row Brethren Church since 2008, but my involvement with the denomination goes much further back.  In fact, I was born into it.  My grandfather, Jim R Black was a pastor in the denomination for many years.  And my dad, Jim F. Black is still currently preaching in the denomination at Milledgeville Brethren Church in the state of Illinois.  So this denomination has been my life.

mattBeing raised as a pastor’s kid sent me on a journey that may seem somewhat familiar to many of the same cloth.  I was seen as the “perfect kid” by many adults.  I had my rebellious moments and struggles, but for the most part I did the right thing.  Then I went to college at Ashland University and had to find my own path.  I loved sports and always have.  In fact I have my own baseball blog here:  I didn’t want to really be a pastor so I went into a communication and sports broadcasting degree.

Yet, God has some funny plans sometimes.  Through a great friend and roommate in college, Jason Barnhart, I was drawn back into ministry.  I went to Ashland Theological Seminary, got my M-Div degree, and thought this is what God wants me to do.

Over the years since coming here to Smoky Row I have learned that ministry is so much more than just being a pastor.  It took me awhile to see that, but I am thrilled with where God has placed me.  I am involved in so many different roles at Smoky Row and I love it.

I currently work at United Collection Bureau in Upper Arlington.  I have met so many people in all walks of life and it has been such a blessing!  I love people.  That is it.  That is the basics of who God has made me to be.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Outside of my love for being around people, I love coffee, a good book, and sports.

Death is not the end


This past week I have been pondering extensively over the fact:  What if the resurrection isn’t true?  This weeks sermon passage was 1 Corinthians 15:12-34.  I have heard the sermons at church over the last couple weeks on the subject of the resurrection, had numerous conversations with friends on the subject and even pondered death itself.  One of my friends had to deal with the loss of her grandma this last week.  It was painful to see from afar.  She missed her grandma and wanted her back.

mattSo if this life is all there is and there is no “resurrection of the dead” as we have been pondering, than I have to say this life seems pretty disappointing.  Yes, I enjoy my life.  But if there is nothing at the end that I have to look forward to, than I feel like I have been sold a bill of goods that I would like a refund for.

My friends’ grandma was a believer in Christ and so is my friend.  My friend hopes to one day be able to see her grandma again in heaven.  But if there is no resurrection of the dead than there is no life after death.  Death is all there is.  Death has won.  Christ was not victorious over death and is not currently victorious over Satan in any battle.  If Christ never rose from the dead like He said he would can we really believe anything He ever said was true?

This is Paul’s point to those in Corinth.  “If there is no resurrection of the dead, than not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (v.13-14).  VERY BOLD WORDS PAUL.  Our preaching–everything we have taught or been taught is crap if there is no resurrection of the dead.  Our faith–everything we believe in and have based our life upon is worthless.

Paul goes further….”More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead” (v.15).  He basically calls us liars. He also says in verse 17 that if resurrection is not possible than we are still stuck in our sins.  No salvation.  No cure.  Depressing stuff.

So is there hope?  Yes.  In verses 20-28 Paul makes his case for hope.  He implores those in Corinth (and us) to see that the resurrection is true.  That there is reason for hope.  That our preaching and faith has value.  That Christ has defeated death.  That life is worth living now and it will get better.  Please read it for yourself.  I pray that those words come alive for you.

Ultimately my hope is that in this life we can know that death is not the end.

How do we deal with this?


Ok, so now it’s my turn I guess.  What can I say?  Obviously the one section of the passage of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 that everyone has talked about this week is this one:

matt34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.  35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (NIV).

I can’t pass up that chance.  First of all, let me say that my brother in Christ, Ben, and sister in Christ, Brenda, did an excellent job.  I appreciate and respect both of them in their thoughts and opinions and I agree with them both.

I think that just as Rich pointed out in his message this is a particular contextual situation that applies here.  If some of you have headings in your bibles it may say something like “orderly worship” (NIV), “Order in Church Meetings” (NKJV) or “A call to orderly worship” (NLT) above verse 26 to begin this section.  While those are not in the original manuscripts obviously, I do think they are helpful to point out what we are looking at here.  And I really like the NLT heading personally that uses the word “call.”  I see this as request from Paul, given authority by God, on how to behave in worship.

This was a church meeting or worship service that had gotten a bit crazy.  Paul has pointed this out already in the fact that he has been talking about how the Corinthians’ are to behave in worship since at least Chapter 11 if not the whole book thus far.

So that is why I also tend to agree that this is a particular situation where these women were a maybe a bit too talkative, gossiping, loud, or chatty.

Whatever the situation may be we may never know.  Yet Paul points out two key things in the passage found in verse 33 and verse 40 that we must notice:

1)      God is a God of peace

2)      Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way

If these women were just gossiping, talking, spreading rumors (it could be anything) it was not good.  It was not fitting for a member of the body of Christ to do.  Man or woman.  Paul didn’t like it for sure and he seems to suggest that God doesn’t like it either since it is causing disorder within the congregation.

Just because we have been given freedom in Christ does not give us freedom to do whatever we want in the worship service.  What things in the bible should we see as contextual?  Or what things are hard-line rules?  Frankly we would do well if we do two things:

1)  Love God

2)  Love one another

So on Valentines Day I’d like to end with that.  Love God today.  Give thanks and praise to him for what He has done for you and those around you.  Love one another today.  It is the most common command in the bible.  Period.  And that is something we can all agree is a good thing.

Did the Beatles have it right?


I am a big fan of the Beatles.  I always have been.  The amount memorabilia I own of the Fab 4 makes me proud.  So this past week I could not help but of think of the words sung by one of my favorite bands when Pastor Rich began preaching a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 which is known as the love chapter.

mattIn the song ‘All you need is Love’, (Lennon-McCartney, 1967) the Beatles famously sang, “All you need is love.  Love is all you need.”   The Beatles sang many songs about love and even continued that theme into their solo work.  John Lennon states in the song ‘Mind Games,’ (Lennon, 1973) “Love is the answer, you know that for sure.”  So did they (the Beatles) have it right?  Sort of…

Love is the answer.  But it must be accompanied by action.

In this chapter Paul is continuing his discussion on the gifts of the Spirit.  Many in the church at Corinth are continuing to argue and be divided over thinking some gifts are better than others. Paul tells them the greatest gift they could ever desire is to love well in everything they do.   It is the best way to live.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of angels, and have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1).  Love is not just a feeling, but a behavior.  It should not be just words, but those words need to be acted upon, otherwise they are meaningless.  Love is people in action.

Here is a personal example.  This past Sunday morning I was out scraping the snow off my car and I saw a man walking on the sidewalk.  I could tell he was very cold.  He looked at me, stopped and said, “Do you know how far I need to go to get to CVS at the corner of Sawmill and Hard Road?”  To make a long story short, I told him I was heading in that direction anyway and offered him a ride.  He was so grateful.  Please do not think I am not telling this story to toot my own horn.  I am telling this story to show that at this point this made a choice.  He could have said thank you and left it at that.  But he chose to go a step further.  He decided to put his words into action.  He told me that he cut grass for a living and that if I ever needed my lawn cut to let him know and he would do it for free.  He chose to reciprocate the love that was shown to him.

Jesus gives us the choice to love others unselfishly the way that he loved us.  He gave us His love as a free gift.  We did not earn that love.  Now He gives us the choice to love Him back.  We also have the choice to show this same love people in this world or not.

In a relationship there is a true give and take involved with two people. We can apply this in the context of a marriage or a dating relationship; a relationship between a parent and a child or it may be in the context of a friendship or even someone you don’t know.  You have the choice on how to love others or to love them at all even if it may not be reciprocated at all or in the way you expect it to be.

In what ways can you show love in action today?