Welcome to the Website of Pastor Stephen Matthew ...
It has been my privilege to serve as a pastor, teacher and leader for over 35 years. I now use my experience and skill-set to help Jesus build His church, wherever He wants me, through speaking, coaching, consultancy and writing.
An envelope arrived in the mail that immediately piqued my interest. It was unexpected for a start, hand-written which is unusual these days, and it wasn’t my birthday.
Inside was a beautiful, hand-written thankyou letter from one of my former students who had studied and served alongside me for a few years, before moving on to pastures new some time ago.
Their gratitude for my investment into their personal spiritual journey was moving. It warmed my heart and encouraged me to keep helping others become more like Jesus. What a lovely letter.
But then it struck me, THEY were the real letter. Their life was now being read by the people they did life with and I’d simply had the privilege of penning a few lines in the ‘letter of their life’.
As Paul said of those he’d poured his life into in Corinth, ‘You yourselves are our letter, known and read by everyone, you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Cor 3:2-3).
Our enduring legacy are the ‘living letters’ of people we did life with, writing on them the ways of Christ as we navigated it together. And the ‘writing’ goes on, so let’s do it more intentionally today.
Conversely, we too are ‘letters from Christ’, penned by our godly friends, family and mentors for others to read, for which we are also grateful. Maybe it’s time we dropped them a note of thanks too.
‘Have you put the bins out?’ has been the question on bin-collection day for as long as I can remember. And the answer used to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but those days are long gone. These days it’s more likely to be, ‘Which bin? Green, brown or Grey?’
But the principle remains the same: we need to put our household rubbish out regularly, otherwise we end up with a whole lot of unpleasant, smelly and potentially dangerous problems.
The same is true for the inner life of our soul. Rubbish collects in our heart, mind and emotions, the rubbish of unhealthy thoughts, irrational fears and debilitating attitudes towards others. Unless they are regularly removed, their build up can lead to life-limiting problems.
The Bible encourages us to maintain a healthy soul by speaking out about the rubbish that builds up inside us. In anguish, Hannah ‘poured out her soul to the Lord’ (1 Sam 1:15) and Jabez did the same with his pain (1 Chron 4:10). The Lord’s Prayer is in part, confessional. And many Psalms are vocal expressions of ‘putting the rubbish out’ (Ps 42).
How good to know that ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 Jn 1:9).
So, don’t let the rubbish build up. Regularly ‘put the bins out’ to the Lord and keep your inner world healthy and sweet-smelling.
And if needed, talk to an appropriate person too, so we can pray for one another and find healing (James 5:16).
‘Have you put the bins out?’
Every few months my power washer comes out to blast away the algae, lichen and moss that relentlessly build up on the paths around our house. It’s a long and messy job but must be done if they are to remain safe and looking their best.
It is always satisfying to survey my finished work. But deep down I know that despite my best efforts the grime is relentless, and I’ll soon be doing it all again.
Life without Jesus is like that. We try our best to find a place of lasting safety and to be the beautiful person God created us to be. But things build up – negative, fearful and debilitating things that soil our lives like the build-up of grime on my paths. And it weighs us down.
So, we get the ‘power washer’ of human effort out and make a resolution to change, be better, be kinder, think more positively. We blast the grime away. But deep down, know we are powerless to prevent its gradual return.
Jesus didn’t come to clean you up for a season, he came to give you a brand-new start. He has removed your inherent sin once-for-all time and given you the ability to live free from sin’s stain and the gradual build-up of its poison.
‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Eph 5:25-27)
Faith in the saving work of Christ and the power of God’s Word is the ultimate, once for all time ‘power wash’!
This VERY good book by @jaykimthinks should be read by every serious church builder and leader.
He is PRO digital and PRO analog, seeking the radical middle ground on which to build genuine church community. Like most of us he believes the future is hybrid.
But as Scott McKnight says: ‘We live in hybridity - but hybridity only cuts to the heart and soul if it is rooted in the embodied realities of analog. ‘
A challenging and timely read. ...
The whole point of looking in a mirror is to get a true image of yourself. What you see speaks back to you, it has a voice, it speaks a word. It says, ‘you are looking good today’ … or otherwise!
Whereas a tarnished mirror speaks an unclear ‘word’. It is an inaccurate reflection of who you are.
Everyone is looking for that elusive ‘talking mirror’ in which they see a reflection of their true self. One that affirms who they are, which resonates, because its ‘word’ explains who they are, what they believe and everything they do.
But life is full of ‘tarnished mirrors’ that can never resonate fully with God’s image in us. We look for ourselves in the ‘mirrors’ of politics, social media, celebrity lifestyles, philosophy and more. But all fail to be a true reflection of the person God has made us to be, until we find the only ‘untarnished mirror’ that reflects the true you.
God’s Word, the Bible, and its central character Jesus is that mirror. It reflects back who we are in Christ, our reason for being and the meaning of life. It speaks a clear, life-giving word that explains our human condition to us fully.
So, look into that mirror and heed it’s word. For, ‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.’ (James 1:23-25)
My car has an annoying ‘ding’. It’s somewhere between a ‘chime’ and a ‘beep’ but neither. And every time it sounds, my heart drops.
The ‘ding’ alerts me that a warning light or message has appeared on my dashboard display. So yes, it’s helpful. But my first thought is always, ‘what’s wrong now?’ Quickly followed by, ‘and how much will that cost me?’
Maybe I could turn it off? I tried. But no, as a safety function it cannot be overridden.
Our spiritual life also has a ‘ding’, an inbuilt warning that something is wrong; an indicator that we are out of line with the values we have chosen to live by as a Christian.
Sometimes we call it our conscience. But a conscience can be educated, so is not necessarily a reliable indicator of what God considers right and wrong unless it has been thoroughly educated by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.
Others call it a ‘prompt’ or a ‘nudge’ from the Holy Spirit. He consistently ‘dings’ to alert us when we make poor choices, say inappropriate things or step out of his will. As such, the ‘ding’ of the Holy Spirt is a wonderful guide, protection and blessing.
But a word of warning: you can turn the Holy Spirit’s ‘ding’ down. And if you ignore it consistently, you’ll become deaf to it and be exposed to potential danger.
So, ‘Let the peace of Christ be the controlling factor in your hearts’ (Col 3:15 AMP) and be thankful for his ever-faithful warning ‘ding’.
As the days lengthen and spring sunshine warms the soil, it bursts into life with a carpet of green shoots, each a long-dormant seed that’s destined to become a plant, bush or tree.
But not all those little green shoots are welcome. Some are weeds, thorns and thistles, all of which need hoeing out fast to ensure the plants we really want, have room to flourish.
Life’s a bit like that soil. Left unattended the seeds of bad habits, unhealthy attitudes and poor relationships spring up alongside all the good ones. And the best time to root them out is always when they are small.
· The little weed of a bad HABIT can become a life-dominating problem if allowed to become a deep-rooted tree.
· The green shoot of a poor ATTITUDE left unattended can become a thicket of negativity, envy and resentment.
· Ignoring a tiny RELATIONSHIP dysfunction can leave it to grow and eventually become a significant relationship-breaker.
Nip things in the bud. Hoe the green shoots of any little ‘weeds’ out of the soil of your life.
Determine to be good soil in which the seed of God’s word can flourish, ‘someone who hears the word and understands it’ and as a result ‘produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ (Matt 13:23).
The waves were rolling in and their spray glinted in the warm sunshine as they gently crashed and rolled up the sandy beach towards our toes. Don’t you just love a family beach holiday?
‘Let’s go in’ someone suggested and off we headed for at least a paddle. It was glorious.
With us we had two grandchildren who were experiencing the real sea for the first time. After some encouragement they settled into paddling and jumping little waves. Bliss. Then it hit. A larger wave rolled in unnoticed and knocked them both off their feet!
One child screamed and ran for their life up the beach, while the other emerged from the foam squealing with delight and couldn’t wait for the next wave. What different responses.
Life can be like that. Some days an unexpected ‘wave’ hits and leaves us sprawling in the foam. We can’t stop the wave; all we can do is respond confidently to it, because our response shapes a large part of our sense of well-being.
Thankfully, we are not in the waves alone. Jesus is with us, full of grace, hope and love. And our response must reflect that.
So, if life happens and you find yourself rolling in the surf today, God promises to be with you in the waves (Is 43:2). Don’t flee up the beach, turn and face the wave in God’s strength because ‘greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’ (1 Jn 4:4).
‘Stephen always brings a life-giving word in season … that’s why the church always cheer when we announce he is coming!’
Dave Edwards, Kings Church, Newport
‘We retained Stephen as a Third Party Advisor to the Senior Leadership Team during our Senior Pastor succession process, helping us turn a very challenging season for the church into a strong new beginning.’
Gowan Wheeler, Senior Pastor, London Riverside Church
‘We have been working with Stephen for more than five years as a church coach and external advisor. With his experience and God-given wisdom he has offered valuable input and helped us navigate through the challenges of building both physical buildings and building the church as a spiritual house.’
Martin Lorenzen, Senior Pastor, Alive Kirken, Hillerod, Denmark