Do You REALLY See Your Neighbors?

Tonight Danielle Strickland shared an amazing message encouraging us to “Learn how to really see our neighbors.” MAN, what a message. Consider this:

Think to the last time you were at the grocery store. What was your cashier’s name? What about at the deli counter? Do you remember the name of the waiter or waitress from the last time you ate out?

Do you REALLY see your neighbors?

How about this. What color was his or her hair? What about his or her eyes? Ok, it might be strange to look so deeply at a cashier or waitress that you can remember their eye color. But, there is value in looking into their eyes.

When you look at people, what do you see?

In John chapter 9 we read where Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. When the disciples saw this man they saw a blind man. They didn’t se a man. All they could see was the label, the disability. In fact, when they looked at this man they saw sin. They assumed that his blindness was the result of sin, even asking Jesus if it was the man’s sin or that of his parents.

Jesus sees something different.

Jesus didn’t see a handicap. Jesus didn’t see an affliction caused by sin. No, Jesus saw a PERSON. Jesus saw a chance to bring glory to God. Jesus said this about the man’s blindness, “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.”

The disciples  saw disability, affliction and sin; Jesus saw a chance to glorify God.

When you see people do you see the labels that you put on them?

When you see people do you see the labels that society puts on them?

When you see people do you see the labels that they put on themselves?

Jesus sees something different.

“Jesus sees past every single barrier, even the ones you put up, and sees who you truly are and He’s struck with your beauty.” Danielle Strickland.

Jesus sees past the barriers. He sees past the labels. He’s sees past our pain. He sees past our afflictions. He sees inside and He loves us.

Jesus sees something different.

How would your life change if you saw all people as beautiful, as Jesus sees them?

How would your ministry change if you saw all people this way?

How would your church change?

How would your community change?

Today as you see people, TRULY see them. Look at them and consider the labels that might be preventing you from seeing them as Jesus’ sees them. Think about the emotions, thoughts, history, and maybe even prejudice that prevents you from seeing the beauty and value that Jesus sees when He looks at them. Strip away these barriers so that you can SEE them. Try even to look through the barriers that they, themselves, might put up to prevent you from seeing them.

See people the way that Jesus sees them. Then treat them accordingly.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the thumbs tweet.”

“Out of the abundance of the heart the thumbs tweet.” Steven Furtick

I’d love to take credit for this quote, but I got it from pastor Steven Furtick. I remember when I heard it how it struck me as so true. Pastor Steven can’t take full credit for this quote. The truth is he’s referring to something that Jesus said. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In other words if your heart is filled with evil, then evil is what will come out and if it is filled with good, then good is what will come out.

This is true of how we handle social media. When we post on social media it reflects what is in our heart, or does it?

What do your posts say about your heart? Jesus said that what comes out of our math will represent what is in our heart. In this day and age this is also true of what we post on social media. When someone that does not know us reads something we post, they have no choice but to assume that that post represents who we are. This is not unreasonable. After all, if it did not represent us, then why would we post it?

As we post stuff on social media we need to keep this in mind. What do our most recent posts say about what’s in our heart? Take a look back at your most recent posts. What do they say about you? What do they say about your heart? I’m not talking about what they say about your head. I’m not talking about what they say about what you THINK. I’m talking about what they say about how you FEEL. Go ahead. Do it. Read your most recent posts and evaluate them as if you were reading a stranger’s posts. What do they say.

Do they really represent you, or just a moment of frustration or anger? One of the problems with the Internet and social media is that it is too easy to respond without thinking. All to often we read something and instantly type a response. Usually this happens without thinking about how it might affect the person it is addressed to or other people reading it. In a moment of frustration or anger we reply or post something that might not truly represent our heart. Then it’s too late. For the people that might read this reply or post, it is our heart. For the reader it is not something said in a moment of anger or frustration, it is a reflection of who we are.

The truth is our replies and posts may be, as Jesus said, an overflow of what is in our heart. But, that’s not always true. Take another moment and consider your most recent posts or replies. Where they done in a moment of anger or frustration, but don’t really reflect your heart? I think we are all guilty of this at times.

What do your posts say to the heart of the reader? Sadly when it comes to written communication how it is received says much more about the heart, or feelings of the reader than that of the writer. Many times I’ve written an email, message or social media post that I intended one way, but was received differently by the person or people reading it. When we read things, we almost always do so with the filter of our feelings.

It’s extremely difficult to separate our feelings from what we are reading. For this reason, things that we write, that we might intend to be harmless or even funny or uplifting, can become negative. I’m certainly not suggesting that you filter every post in hopes of never offering anyone. That’s never been possible, but even less so these days. The truth is that some people go around looking for reasons to be offended. They look for ways to twist everything into something offensive. You can’t make those people happy. Still I think it’s worth taking the time to consider how what you post or how you reply might be viewed by the people reading it.

Be quick to listen and slow to reply. “Everyone should be read to listen and slow to reply and slow to become angry.” This quote I can take credit for… sort of. Actually, like Pastor Steven, this is an adaptation of a passage from the Bible. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Clearly James is referring to actual speech, but this can also be applied to social media, the Internet and all other forms of communication. We are way to quick to click into reply box and tell people just how stupid they are, or to show them just how smart we are. We are quick to tell people how wrong they are and how right we are. How could the conversations on the Internet change if each person applied the words of James to our online communications?

So, I leave you with these questions:

1.) What do your recent posts say about what’s in your heart?

2.) Do your posts reflect how you REALLY feel or think?

3.) What do your posts say to the people reading them?

4.) Are you quick to listen and slow to speak, or quick to speak and slow to listen?

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

What If We Lived As If We TRULY Believed The Bible Is True?

The Bible is the very basis of Christianity. The teachings and values that are presented in it form the foundation for all we believe. Nearly all Christians, if asked, would say that they believe that the Bible is true. If we don’t believe the Bible is true, then what do we stand on? What do we stand for? How do we know how to live or what to stand on, or to stand for? If the Bible is not true, does Christianity even exist.

The Bible is our source of truth. As Christians, it forms the foundation for the way that we live… or does it? If Christians believe the Bible is true, do we really live as if we believe it? What would it look like if we lived as if we TRULY believe the Bible is true?

I happen to believe that the Bible is true. I believe that it says exactly what God wanted it to say. I also believe that it doesn’t say exactly what God didn’t want it to say. I believe, as Christians, when we have questions we should be asking ourselves what the Bible has to say. When presented with a situation we should be asking, “What does the Bible say about that?” With discussing something with someone we should be asking, “Yes, but what does the Bible say about it.”

Still, I have to ask myself, am I living as if I TRULY believe the Bible is true. What does that look like? What does it mean to live as if I believe the Bible is true? Well, that’s what I want to look at in this series. Each week I will take a verse or passage of scripture and talk about what it would look like to live as if we TRULY believe that that verse or passage is true.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

I May Not Be The Pastor For You

In recent posts I’ve shared some pretty personal stuff.  There are links to those posts at the bottom of this page. The truth is that there are things that I struggle with. Anger, pride, trust, among others. These sorts of struggles are things that pastors seldom discuss. If your looking for the kind of pastor that doesn’t struggle with anything, or at least acts as if he doesn’t, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I have struggled with many things. While there are some things that I do struggle with, there are some that God has helped me to conquer. When I was a child I remember having a terrible temper. I would get so angry that I would lash out at my brothers, often times physically. I remember getting so angry that I would clench my fists, grit my teeth and cry. While I was not even yet a teenager I can remember crying out to God to free me from this anger, and He did. Slowly, as an adult, I have allowed anger to creep back into me. However, knowing that God freed me of it before encourages me. I know that He has rescued me before and can again.

I’d love to say that this is the only piece of my past that I am not proud of. But, that simply wouldn’t be true. If having a past that is less than perfect is too much for you, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I believe the Bible is true, and is our source of truth. It’s not really popular to say so these days, but I believe the Bible is true. When I want to know how to handle a situation or how God wants us, as Christians, to face certain things the Bible is where I turn. When discussing different topics my questions is always, “What does the Bible say?” If we discount any part of the Bible, we must discount the entire thing. When we do that it has no value. This certainly does not make me perfect, or even better than others. It simply means that I am seeking continuously to grow in my understanding of the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives, even in today’s culture. If you don’t want a pastor that believes the whole Bible, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I have opinions that are sometimes not popular, even among Christians. There are so many things in this life that divide us. I’ll be 42 at the end of this week and I truly believe that we, as a nation, are more divided now than at any time in my lifetime. There are so many things that we argue about. Church people argue with people outside the church. Church people argue with each other within a given church. Churches argue with other churches. I simply believe that there are some things that are more important than the many different things that we argue over, or allow to divide us. Sometimes this means that my opinions, ideas, and actions are unpopular among other church people.

Because some of these topics are so sensitive, I will not discuss them here. But, if you want to know how I feel about such things, I’d love to get together for coffee and we can have an open discussion about whatever you want. But, If you want a pastor who’s opinions always line up with the typical “Christian stance” or with the typical “church way”, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I talk about things that good church people don’t talk about. For generations now the church  in America has avoided talking about certain topics. I can’t speak to why these pastors and church leaders chose not to talk about such things as sex, porn, addiction, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, gluttony and many more. But, the truth is that I have been in church my entire life and have heard very few messages on these or other similar topics.

We NEED to talk about these things. How can we complain that people an unhealthy view of so many things when we have never talked about the Biblical standard for such things? If you’re uncomfortable with discussions of difficult topics such as these, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I truly love people, even those different from me. I worked for nearly 20 years in an emergency room. This is enough to make most people stop loving people. Sadly, in that environment we see the worst parts of humanity. We are often treated very badly by the very people we are committed to caring for. At the least this can cause many people to become jaded towards people. Somehow through it all I still love people. I truly do. I really love people.

A few weeks ago I went into the ER that I used to work in to visit my former coworkers. The first and most enthusiastic person to greet me with a hug was a nurse that I count as a friend. She also happens to be a lesbian. She knows that I’m a pastor and guess what… She still loves me and I still love her. In fact, as I write this, I miss working with her.

I’m part of an organization in my city that seeks to promote unity among the people. It’s made of of local pastors, community leaders, business leaders, and city government members. Oh, and I’m often times the only white person at the meetings.

I don’t say any of this to toot my own horn. I’m not better than anyone else. I share this simply to show that I truly do love people. If you are uncomfortable with your pastor spending time with people that look, think, or live differently than you do, then I might not be the pastor for you.

But, I MIGHT be the pastor for you. I don’t share any of this to lift myself up, or to tear anyone else down. These things are a reflection of how God has made me and the course that God has put me on in my life. I also don’t want anyone to read this and think that I’m trying to run anyone off. I certainly don’t want that. Still, the truth is that I am probably not like other pastors that you’ve known. Some people might love me for that. At the same time, it can be difficult for some people.

In spite of all this what I can promise you is that I love Jesus and I love people. I can promise you that I am completely committed to helping people move from spiritual searching to salvation to serving others in the church and in the community. If you like the sound of that then I might be the pastor for you. I don’t claim to be perfect. I, too, am on a spiritual journey. If your looking for a pastor that wants to travel with together with you on this spiritual journey, then i might be the pastor for you.


I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…and I’m Sorry

I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…But, I’m Not Done 

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…and I’m Sorry.

You ever look in the mirror and don’t like the person looking back at you? I’m not talking about the physical. That’s part of it, but I’m talking much deeper than that. Deep down within the shell that protects us from the outside world. Underneath the mask the keeps others from seeing what we are really feeling…and hiding, inside. Behind the walls and barriers that keep people from seeing what we are truly dealing with.

Ever look at yourself, past all that junk and not like the person you are.

I do.

I am not the man I want to be.

Somewhere along the way I picked up some anger issues. I don’t break things or hit people. I’m not that guy. But I am prone to lash out verbally about stupid things. I do sometimes treat people that I am genuinely fond of with less love and respect than they deserve. Some days I can just feel it inside me, burning like the coals left over from a bonfire. Lying there beneath the surface, just waiting for the right fuel to bring it to a blazing inferno once again. To all I’ve done this to, I’m sorry.

The ones closest to me, the ones I love the most…they get the worst of it.

Somehow I forgot how to trust. Or maybe I never knew. My life is a constant, internal translation of what people are saying and what my mind convinces me they are really thinking. Seldom can I take people at face value and believe that what they say, is what they mean. Always there is the feeling, buried deep inside, that there is some ulterior motive. I know that the people around me can’t all be thinking things that are in direct opposition to what they are telling me. I know that every person around me can’t possibly have a hidden agenda where I am concerned. I know these things, but sometimes my heart is not so sure.

I eat too much. This is no secret. Anyone who looks at me knows this. Anyone who has eaten more than just a meal or two with me has witnessed it. I don’t mean to. I sometimes don’t even realize it’s happening…until it already has. I know that I’m slowly killing myself. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s happening all that slowly anymore. I feel the weight…of my weight. As I lie in bed I can FEEL the extra pounds making it difficult for me to breath, or at least more difficult than it should be. Sometimes I wake myself up, lying on my back and realize that I had stopped breathing. Some would call it sleep apnea and try to console me with the fact that many people have it. Still I know that if I lost the 100 or more extra pounds that I have, it would quite likely go away.

Sometimes I feel unloved. Yep, I know, it’s silly. Of course people love me. In fact, there may even be a great many people that love me. Sometimes I still don’t feel it. Even as I write this I am convinced that most people won’t bother reading it. Truth is most people really won’t care enough about me to take the time to read it. At least not all the way to the end. Some may read it out of pure curiosity. They may even tell themselves that they are reading it because they do care about me. They probably tell themselves the same thing when they slow down to look at a care accident, driven more by morbid curiosity than by concern.

I struggle with pornography. Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming. The good news is most people that start out to read this post, will not make it this far. Truth is I have struggled with it most of my life. Just like a drug addict I have felt the shame that comes with it. Just like a drug addict I have found myself thinking about it during difficult times, and even using it as a means of coping. I know that it is not a good way of coping and is even harmful. Still, just like an addict, in those moments it didn’t seem to matter. I know that it has hurt my marriage and, likely many other relationships and I’m sorry. Mostly, I’m sorry to my wife.

Sure, I have set up routines and safeguards to keep myself away from it, but there in the back of my mind is always the question, “have I really beaten it?”

I’m proud.  Not the good kind of pride like what I experience when I watch my son perform in the band. Not the good kind of pride I feel when I see one of my kids do good things for people around them. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the kind of pride that they Bible tells us God hates. I’m talking about the ugly kinda pride that makes it hard for me to take direction or criticism, even when it’s constructive. Sadly this often gets coupled with the anger issues I mentioned before. I know this leads to me hurting the people around me. From coworkers, to friends, to my wife and kids, I know that my pride has caused me to lash out in anger when you were truly just trying to help. Again, I’m sorry.

I make promises and commitments that I’m never going to keep. Oh, not on purpose. In fact, when I make them I am completely committed to keeping them. Then life happens. I forget I had another thing planned. I commit to more than I have to time to do. Sometimes I just get tired and run out of the energy to do the thing I said I would do. I don’t mean to, it just happens. At the same time, all too often, I’m not taking the steps to prevent it from happening.

I have issues with follow-through. This is really the source of the last thing I mentioned. I say I’ll do something and then simply forget. I’ve told my son that he needs to set up systems in his life to help him remember the things that he often forgets. Ironically, I often don’t use these very same systems myself. Technology has made it easier than ever and I’m a total nerd when it comes to these kinds of things. Still, I fail.

My faith is not what I wish it was… and I’m the pastor. Jesus said that with faith the size of a mustard seed (that’s a really small seed) than you could tell a mountain to move and it would move. Most days my faith couldn’t push over a mole hill, much less a mountain. Other days I feel like my faith is on fire. Maybe the truth is that, on those days, I just use faith as an excuse to do, or not do, what it is I really wanted to do anyway.

I make bad financial decisions. I know, I’m not the only one. Still, I have made some colossally bad ones. If I told you the amount of debt we once had you would probably faint. I know how to do it right, but I just don’t.

I’m not as confident as I appear. Yes, I really do believe that there isn’t much I can’t learn to do. My lack of confidence is more in the area of what others think of me. I know that I have said many times that I’m not worried about what other people think of me. Yeah, that’s just not true. I worry about it a lot. I often walk away from a conversation and will spend hours replaying it my mind. Thinking of the things that I could have said or done differently. On the outside I may be acting like I am THE MAN, but on the inside I often wonder if anyone would miss me if I were gone. No, I’m not suicidal, but sometimes I do wonder if I were to die tonight how many, or few, people would attend my funeral.

I talk too much. I know this one is not a shock to anyone. The Bible says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. While I like to think I’m a good listener, most of the time I am way to quick to speak. I do feel that I have something to offer. I do feel that my thoughts and opinions carry some value. But, that doesn’t mean that I have to constantly offer them up. If I’ve done that to you, and I probably have, I’m sorry.

I’m not the man I want to me. When I look in the mirror I want to see a man that does not struggle with these things. I want to be able to look myself in the eyes and not see the pain that these struggles cause me, or worse, the pain the they cause those around me. I am not the man I want to be. When you look at me, you may not see these things. Chances are most people will never see this pain in my eyes. This is partly because of the barriers that I put up to keep people from seeing in. However, I’m not totally to blame. It is also true that most people will never care enough to look past the barriers and safeguards to see the pain that’s hidden underneath. Fewer still are those that, upon seeing the pain, will reach out to try to do anything about it.

Why do I share this? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not to gain pity. It’s not to get attention. Between angry outbursts and jokes, I get plenty of attention. It’s not to guilt the people around me into asking me how I’m feeling. No, it’s not any of that.

I share because as I laid in bed tonight these were the things I was thinking about. Not just casual consideration of these topics, but deep, obsessive examination of them. Going over them time and time again in my head, when I know I should be sleeping, but simply…can’t.

I share because maybe there are other people out three that can identify with them. Maybe someone will read this post, or parts of it, and be encouraged. Maybe my struggles can help someone else realize that they are not the only one.

I share this as an insight into who I really am. Not just for the people reading these words, but for the one that is writing them as well.

I share because I feel the intense need to apologize. The things I’ve listed above have left many victims in their path. To all of them I say, I’m sorry. But, more specifically, I say I’m sorry to my family. They have suffered the most from these. I’m sorry to the many coworkers who I’m  spoken overly harsh to, gotten overly defensive, or just been a downright  jerk to. As the saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Ok, it may have been you a couple times.)

To anyone who has suffered because of these things I say, I am not the man I want to be and… I’m sorry.
Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.