Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SPEND LESS (follow up)

On Sunday Night it took me a long time to fall asleep and when I finally did go to sleep I did not sleep well.  There were so many things racing through my mind.  Stats we had talked about that morning popped into my mind.  A thought I couldn’t get past is the blessing that I have to sleep in warm house and in a comfortable bed… and even letting my dogs in to sleep in the laundry room on their soft beds while there are families sleeping in their cars in single digit temperatures.  I must admit Sunday (December 9) was a great Sunday at Paragon BUT it wasn’t an easy Sunday.  A lot of things weighed on my mind as God spoke.  I am not sure if the message shook you up at all, but it hit a nerve with me.
If you weren’t able to make it in or to the service, the message is online in its entirety… but I want to give you a quick overview of what “Spend Less” of the Advent Conspiracy series covered.  You might think from the title, it was all about “spending less money” and you would be correct in your assumption, but it was so much more than that. 

A RECAP OF SOME DISTURBING STATS - Do you realize how much money Americans spend on things that are not as important as we make them out to be…
  • In 2011, Americans spent 470 BILLION DOLLARS on Christmas Gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  That is $714 per person… and even more astounding, over 10 million dollars a minute.
  • In 2011, Americans spent 42 BILLION DOLLARS on their pets alone.  Now, I LOVE MY DOGS, but there is something wrong with that stat… and I said something Sunday about my dogs that may have upset you (you’ll have to listen if you weren’t there) and you may not have agreed with me and may never agree with me but I ask you to understand where I am coming from and please put it into perspective with the OTHER STATS I shared… the ones that REALLY should have upset you.
Listen to this…
  • It would take roughly TWO BILLION DOLLARS to provide clean drinking water to the entire world.  That may not seem like a big deal, but over 30,000 people die every week from diseases caused by unclean drinking water.  27,000 of those deaths are children under the age of 5.  That is hard to fathom because we are not there, we don’t see it, and here in America we go about our regular day with a clean crisp bottle of purified water within the reach of our hands almost 24/7.  Take a second and transplant yourself to a rural village in Africa… sitting in a hut watching your 4 year old cry out because the water he drank gave him dysentery and now he is withering away from dehydration and will probably die by the end of this week.  A very serious question… does the 42 Billion we spend on our pets seem a bit excessive now?
  • Another crazy stat… Every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world, a person dies from hunger related causes (meaning 3-5 people have died since you started reading this).  According to statistics, it would take roughly 30 BILLION DOLLARS a year to end world hunger.   30 BILLION a year is A LOT OF MONEY… but think about the 470 Billion we spend in ONE MONTH on a lot of stuff that we DON’T really NEED (clarify... NOT don’t really want - but don’t really need).   That 470 Billion would take care of world hunger for over 15 years.
What if we would just spend a little less money and a little less time on the wants in our lives?  How could that change the world?  You must know that SPEND LESS is more about not wasting time and money than not spending at all…  When we fully realize what Christmas is all about, realize that it is all about Jesus; it should change who we are and how we live.  It will start with us Worshiping Jesus Fully… That will carry over to us SPENDING LESS on stuff that doesn’t really matter and be concerned with what God is concerned with, having the same priorities Jesus does.

As I close, there are two things I want to share with you..

ONE - The quote I closed with on Sunday from CS Lewis - Mere Christianity (p 86) in which Lewis is talking about what we should see from Christians in the realm of Social Morality…

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard of common among those with the same income as our own, we a probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch us or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

What would our world look like if people of faith began acting on Lewis’s suggestion?  This advent season, let’s give it a try.

TWO - WHAT TO DO TODAY?  Here are a few ideas to consider…
  • Be considerate when spending money.
  • Set your budget and know your limit (try to go debt free)
  • Before you start buying, consider each person you are buying for and focus more on their needs… rather than focusing on their wants.
  • Consider your CORE VALUES and whether what you are buying reflects those values.
  • Buy Less Stuff.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Balloon Fiesta Thoughts

It’s that time of year again here in the 505… the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta.  My family and I look forward to getting up and watching the sky as well as the TV coverage to see all the hot air balloons going up.  There is no doubt it is an impressive display.  Hundreds of balloons litter the view with the sunrise coming up right behind them.  I have lived here for over 10 years and I can tell you the only thing better than watching it from afar is being right down on the Launch Field.

Yes, I know, the crowds can make it difficult, you might have to take more time out of your day and it may cost you a bit more ($7 for a breakfast burrito can seem a bit outrageous)… but when you get right up close your whole perspective changes.  When you are far away, you say, “Oh, that’s pretty cool” and then go about your day but when you are down on the field, you cannot help but experience the rush, feel the warmth, and see the vibrant colors right there.

I think we can say the same thing about God and our relationship with Him.  There is a huge difference between knowing God from a far and knowing Him up close and personal.  We can sit back from far away, look at what God is doing and say, “that is pretty cool” and then go about your day… OR you can get up close to Him and experience all that God is, feel that rush, the warmth, and see vibrant glory.  Sure, it may take more time out of your day, fighting the crowds may be difficult, and it will probably cost you more, but the change in perspective is worth all of that, plus more.
Today, I challenge you to get closer to God and experience Him for who He is.  It will blow your mind how different of an experience it can be from sitting back and watching from a distance.

Baptism Video (sept 16)

baptism 9_16_2012 from Paragon Church on Vimeo.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Men in Black... a fresh start

This Sunday, we continued our AT THE MOVIES series with Men in Black III.  There were some GREAT quotes that come from the movie that I had thought about using to "preach" on...  Listen to some of these

"the most destructive force in the universe... regret"
"the sky's the limit, the future is in our hands"
"the bitterest truth is sweeter than the sweetest lies"
"the truth is the only path" (hmmm, could that be taken from the Bible?)
"to understand the future, we have to go back in time"

Each one of those would have made a great sermon (and may make a sermon someday soon) but this weekend, I went with the idea of using the "flashy thing" mind neuralyzer to wipe out the junk we've accumulated and start over with just the Bible...

Take a listen at www.paragonchurch.com (Men In Black on 7/1/12)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's almost July!

It seems like yesterday that school was letting out... but it has already been a month!  Summer is flying by and we've been busy at Paragon Church.  It has been an amazing June thanks to some great volunteers and a team from First Baptist Church of DeRidder!  Check out our VBS video below to see just a glimpse of what we did last week!

Paragon VBS 2012

Paragon VBS 2012 from Paragon Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We're Alive!

(A big thank you to Pastor Rick Warren for the majority of this content... I made some changes to fit Paragon, but the man is amazing and I am thankful for his leadership and his constant desire to see people saved.)

I don’t want to lead a stale or dying church and I would assume that you don’t want to be a part of one either.  So what does it take for a church to remain vibrant, exciting—and alive? It takes the blessing of God. Whenever God blesses a church, it grows, lives are changed and miracles happen. Churches that God blesses bless people, bless families and bless communities.

That’s what the early church had. God’s blessing was all over that church. If we want to have the blessing of God on our churches, we need to do what the early church did in Acts 1-2.

1.    Pray for God’s power. (Acts 1:3-4, 14) It’s God’s power that makes the Church different from any other organization or group. We have the Holy Spirit. Microsoft, General Motors, and Apple do not have the Holy Spirit. We do. He has also given the church an enormous assignment—to get as many people into Heaven as possible. Like the early Church, we need God’s power to do this.

2.    Use everyone’s language. (Acts 2:5-8) One of the great miracles of the Day of Pentecost was that, as the disciples preached, everyone heard them in their own language.  It was a complete reversal of what God did at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. But we don’t need this miracle today. Today’s Church speaks every language in the world. The Church speaks more languages than the United Nations.

But I believe the people in our church speak more languages than we realize. We all speak dozens of languages. If you involved in IT or a baseball fan or a doctor or a salesperson or a soccer mom, you understand a language others don’t know. Please realize that God has placed you in our congregation for a reason. You have a language that God wants you to use to share the Good News in our community.

3.    Employ every member’s talents. (Acts 2:1-18, 21) The early Church used all of its people in ministry. No one sat on the sideline! Everyone needs to be involved in the ministry of the church. To be the kind of church that God blesses, our church needs to be the kind of church that won’t let people just sit and as long as I am here, that is the kind of church we will strive to be.

4.    Be devoted to God’s Word. (Acts 2:14-40, 42) We should hear it, read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. But most of all, if we want our church to be one that God blesses, we need to do it—whatever the Bible says. When Peter preached the gospel message during Pentecost Sunday, he continually went back to God’s Word in sharing the gospel. No other message—other than the gospel—has the power to change lives.

5.    Love each other deeply. (Acts 2:42). The early church practiced koinonia (which we call fellowship). It means they were as committed to one another as they were to Jesus Christ. The truth is, loving churches grow. Cold churches don’t. The early church was a loving church. The Roman government hated Christians and persecuted them, but even the Romans acknowledged that early Christians loved each other. They protected one another, cared for one another, and helped one another like no one else.

6.    Worship with joy. (Acts 2:46-47) God blesses a church that celebrates Him. People want to be where there is joy! There’s enough bad news in the world.  I think the church should be a place where good news is preached—the gospel. Honestly, I think it should be fun to go to church. God wired us to express emotion. But too many people have been taught not to express it in church. When we let go and worship joyfully though, people are drawn to our church.

7.    Be willing to sacrifice. (Acts 2:44-45) The first church was famous for its generosity. Acts 2 says that the early church shared everything with one another. The early church didn’t just share money. Their generosity was much more radical than that. They shared everything! I wonder how many people the 21st century church would reach if we sacrificed like the early church did.

8.    Reach our communities for Christ! (Acts 2:40-41) The first church reached people for Christ from its very first day. In fact, with 3,000 people coming to Christ, the first church was megachurch from day one! In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands us to be His witness throughout the world. Evangelism is not an option. As long as there is one person within driving range of Paragon who doesn’t have a relationship with God, we’re going to keep trying to grow.

Have a great week!
Pastor Matt

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter is coming...

My friend, Stephen Bonner, sent this to me on Monday and I was very encouraged by it.  Easter is going to be exactly what God wants it to be… but yet I still have small “freak-out” moments as we are preparing for it… This short devotional helped me remember… God’s got it under control and will use us to glorify himself.

FROM “Today’s Turning Point” with Dr. David Jeremiah.

Jesus lived a Spartan life--at least during His three years of ministry. Yes, He came from a home in Nazareth, but His ministry years are best characterized by Matthew 8:20: ". . . the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." His was a life of dependence on His Father--we never see Him packing a bag when He left to journey from one place to another. In the human realm, an example of dependence we might more easily identify with is Gideon.
Gideon was a simple farmer who God called to drive the Midianites out of Israel. When Gideon rallied an army of 32,000 men, God first reduced it down to 10,000, then to 300--and equipped them only with torches and trumpets. Marching against the innumerable Midiantes, ("as numerous as locusts"; Judges 6:5) with 300 men would have seemed like madness to Gideon--and to us. But Gideon learned that victory comes from the Lord, not from human strength or resources.

As the saying goes, God plus one equals a majority. If you are facing a formidable challenge, don't be discouraged by a lack of resources. Be encouraged by the presence and promises of God.

“We never test the resources of God until we attempt the impossible.” 
F. B. Meyer

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The revival starts with me...

adapted from a blog from Jimmy Proulx...

Have you ever been to a revival service?  From what I have seen they are a great way to fire up a community but I must say this… I do not thing that true revival can be scheduled on a calendar. To me, a revival is not a series of church services that take place in a church building over a period of four or five days. Revival can come out of the meetings but are not the meetings themselves.
God tells Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37 to prophesy to the dry bones. Verse 5 says, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live.”
Revival has everything to do with life.
There are hearts in every church that are cold, hard, callous, resentful, bitter, guilt ridden, dry, and lifeless. Outside a move of Jesus upon those people, those people will not come to a state of conviction and repentance. This is a problem that can only be fixed by the prayers of intercession and supplication.
To pray for revival, means praying for change. The change has to start with the person doing the praying. For revival to take place in my community, that person should be me. For revival to take place in a church, community, city, state, etc., it has to start with prayer. I mean real prayer. Not your average minute and a half blanket prayer that you pray to cover your whole life for the day. This goes way deeper.
Prayer changes the person praying. Deep prayer causes you to understand that outside God doing work in your church or community, change will never come.
When true revival comes, it comes with the force of a tsunami. It brings with it the thunder and lightening of conviction and repentance. People will fall on their faces before God to confess and repent of sin in their lives. Lost people will come to know Jesus. People will have a hunger for the Word of God. People will want to become passionate, devoted disciples of Jesus.
The change that revival brings is uncomfortable. Real revival will reach inside you and destroy everything. You will be wrecked with a deeper understanding of the gospel and a more passionate relationship with Jesus. You will be purged of known sin. Your life, as you know it, will change to become more conformed to the image of Christ. The very act of this change is gut wrenching. When revival punches a person in their soul, it begins to remove layers of pain, baggage, guilt, sin and whatever else it needs to bulldoze to get that person in right standing with God.
Many people pray for revival. Many people pray for change. They want things to change as long as it is them that does not have to change. You cannot have one apart from the other.
Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately sick. I know that the closer I come to being conformed to Christ’s image, the more He reveals to me that is in me that needs redeeming.
Do you see? It is my thoughts, my heart, my plans, my desires, my actions, my relationships, my passions, my life that needs to be changed. I need more of God’s redeeming love, grace, and mercy to wreck me. I need to pray Romans 12:1-2 constantly that I may be both a living sacrifice and have my mind transformed by the infallible, inerrant, powerful, purging sword; God’s Holy Word.
When I change, my family changes.  When I change, the church changes.
For a country to be revived, a state has to be revived.
For a state to be revived, a city has to be revived.
For a city to be revived, a church has to be revived.
For my church to be revived, I must be revived.
Revival starts with me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrating new life!

Sorry for the long delay but I would love for you to see this!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What is important?

I sat on Sunday night in disgust of the way the Packers played.  A team that is 15-1 in the regular season comes away one and done in the post season.  How does that happen?  I started looking at the stats to answer that question… THREE fumbles (should have been four but the refs were gracious)… FOUR sacks given up (one of which was a ½ second from being a touchdown)… EIGHT dropped balls (a handful of those that could have been a Touchdown and another few that would have kept the Pack from punting)… and without having to go any further, that right there summed up the loss.

I stewed on that (as if it were me actually losing and I had say in how to fix it).  I lost sleep on Sunday night.  I woke up Monday with it still on my mind and turned on the radio in the car only to hear Mike and Mike (ESPN Radio) discussing all that went wrong.  I headed across town to attend the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Executive Board Meeting to get hit in the face with another statistic… and this one helped me remember what is important.

As I sat in the meeting, Dr Joe Bunce told us about a possible upcoming partnership with the country of Kenya in Africa and the Southern Baptist Convention of Kenya’s Houses of Hope.  Here are the stats that stood out to me from that meeting… Kenya, a country the size of Texas, has 40 million people living in it (census 2009).  Of those 40 million, SEVEN MILLION of them are orphaned children who have lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Do you realize that that is more people than the metro area of Phoenix Arizona… that is over three times more people than the ENTIRE state of New Mexico!  SEVEN MILLION orphans.  SEVEN MILLION!!!  (And I was worried about the Packers sloppy play keeping them out of the Super Bowl)

The reason for the ministry of Houses of Hope is to take James 1:27 and put it into practice… “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  For $400, Houses of Hope builds a house, takes a widow from the area, places her in the house, and put a number of orphans in the house as well – teaches them basic life skills, helps with planting a garden at the house, and a number of other things.

I love sports.  I am a big fan of the Packers (NFL), the Diamondbacks (MLB), the Coyotes (NHL), and Suns (NBA).  I love college sports as well.  It amazes me how wrapped up I can get in my teams performance and how excited or disappointed I can be because of it.  I was heartbroken on Sunday night… but why?  Is it really that important and life changing if “my team” wins or loses?  When the Pack won the Super Bowl last year, did I see any royalties for being a fan?  Did I get to be a part of the parade or go to the White House… and an even better question… did it make any difference in my life (or anybody’s) a year later?  Teams win and teams lose and then it all starts over again next year.

The stats that matter are outside of sports and many times outside of us.  People are dying because they lack proper nutrition, proper medication, and proper protection from insects in their area… and what are we doing about it?

We live in a generation that has plenty and is doing little about distributing it.  We need to focus on what is important and if something is going to break our heart, lets throw the football and baseball aside, and be heartbroken by the fact that 7,000,000 Kenyan kids are orphaned (and those stats don’t get reset at the beginning of next season).

Websites to look at…   Reject Apathy - Houses of Hope does not have a website up yet but there are many other organizations that are connected with them... so just Google "Houses of Hope Kenya" to see more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Its about time... again.

This week, Christy and I were sitting and watching some old home videos we had taken back when Camden was 2 and 3 years old.   It amazed us how much we had all changed over the last eight years… and what was just a funny, was to also see some our friends in those videos that we still see and how they have changed as well.  Each day we get older… our kids grow up and we are one step closer to eternity.  How are you investing your time?

Matthew 16:25 – Jesus said…
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

The possibility of losing their lives was very real for the disciples as well as for Jesus.  Read discipleship implies real commitment.  It means pledging our whole existence to His service.  If we try to save our physical life from death, pain, or discomfort, we may risk losing our true eternal life.  If we protect ourselves from pain and discomfort, we begin to die spiritually and emotionally.  Our lives turn inward and we lose our intended purpose.  When we give our lives in service to Christ, however, we discover the real purpose for living.

As you read Paragon's “book for the month” Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, I hope you will be challenged to understand you ONLY have one life… do something with it.  Don’t be that person that grinds through life and dies without ever asking "why does God have ME here."

I guess it can all be summed up with this quote from the classic 80’s movie… Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  when Matthew Broderick’s character (Ferris Bueller) says
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”