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Preparing for Our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting

This coming Sunday, we begin our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. This past week, we covered Matthew 6:16-18 where Jesus discusses fasting in his Sermon on the Mount. You can listen to the sermon here. The content of this post is a summary of the sermon.

Matthew 6:16–18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

The context of the entire Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7 is to help us see how we are to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Chapter 6 begins with Jesus looking at three very important spiritual practices in Jewish life: almsgiving, prayer, and now fasting. Jesus’ intention in this teaching is to help his listeners understand that proper practice of these disciplines comes from a humble heart that seeks to honor God, not man. He shows us the contrast between the humble heart and the hypocritical heart. One focuses on God while the other focuses on self.

While probably the most neglected and most misunderstood of the Habits of Grace, Fasting is a helpful gift of grace to help us live in God’s Kingdom.

Toward a Definition of Christian Fasting

In short, according to how the listeners and readers in Jesus’ day would have understood the word, Fasting is abstaining from food. But if we leave it at that definition, then we may be in danger of misapplying what fasting is, much like the hypocrites did in Jesus’ day and how many continue to do so today. 

Let me give you a few definitions of fasting that help us understand what Scripture is saying.

Christian fasting is a believer’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is for believers in Christ, for the discipline must be rooted in a relationship with Christ and practiced with the desire to become more like Christ”. – Donald S. Whitney

“Fasting is an exceptional measure, designed to channel and express our desire for God and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those not satisfied with the status quo. For those who want more of God’s grace. For those who feel truly desperate for God.” – David Mathis

“Fasting is an appetite for the things of God.” – Martin Luther

Martin Luther also stated, “I do not live for my appetites—my physical appetites, my sexual appetites, my material appetites.  Therefore, with self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, I’m going to stop all this incessant ‘nibbling at the table of the world.’ I do not live for my appetites. But much more than that, I live for God and for his blessing.” 

Religious and Cultural Views of Fasting

Fasting is not a distinctly Christian practice. Most non-Christian religions, like Islam, and Catholicism practice fasting. Fasting can also be non-religious. Technically, we fast every night, and why the first meal of the day is “breakfast”. A common dieting practice is intermittent fasting. Fasting is also required for blood work and surgery.  That’s why Christian fasting doesn’t focus on the act of fasting as much as it does the heart of fasting.

In the Old Testament, there was only one time per year when God’s people were called to fast—the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-34) All other fasting was voluntary, as far as the law was concerned. But something changes in the New Testament. And it all centers around Jesus. Let me read a text of Scripture later on in Matthew 9.

Matthew 9:14–17 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” [15] And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. [16] No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. [17] Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (ESV)

Now, the disciples appear to not be following the Pharisee’s way of fasting. Remember, the Pharisees would often create rules and laws and call them gospel. If you don’t keep their man-made rules then you are not truly following God. And remember also, fasting was only required on only one day a year. John the Baptizer’s disciples come to Jesus with questions. If Jesus was truly the Messiah whom John was preparing the way for, then why were Jesus’ teachings so different from John’s on the matter of fasting? 

Jesus answers these questions by saying, there is no need for His disciples to fast because Jesus is with them. They can and will fast when Jesus is no longer physically with them. Jesus helps them see that he is not destroying old practices with something new, he’s ushering something new in. Fasting will now be centered around a dependence on Jesus and Jesus alone. 

What is interesting about fasting is that nowhere in the New Testament is it commanded. It’s expected, but not commanded. Prayer is commanded. Gathering with the church is commanded. Generous giving is commanded. Loving your enemies is commanded. Fasting is not commanded by Jesus, but Jesus expects his followers to fast.

Jesus begins His section on fasting with “when you fast” and like the other examples given concerning Almsgiving and Prayer, he includes teachings on improper fasting and proper fasting.

Improper fasting is self-centered and others-focused. Christian fasting is not about us but is a hunger for God and God alone.

Improper fasting seeks personal gain as the end goal and not God. There will be a temptation to think about the weight you are losing or the time you have redeemed during your fast. Listen at times it is good to lose weight and it is good to repurpose your time, but if that becomes the focus of the Christian fasting, then we are missing the mark.  Jesus’ brief instructions to his disciples come down to this: “When you fast, just be normal”. Take a shower, wash your hair, wash your face. In other words, no one should know you’re fasting. The only person that matters when it comes to fasting is God. 

While the potential purposes are many, Donald Whitney captures it like this: 

“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.” – Whitney

The purpose of fasting is to strengthen our hunger for God and to see how dependent we are on Him. The purpose of fasting is really the reward of fasting.

As a reminder, fasting is not commanded. It is a helpful tool in our pursuit of Christ. We must also understand that fasting is always connected to prayer and Scripture. It is not something we do alone and disconnected from the other habits of grace.

You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast biblically without praying. Fasting is an affirmation of intense prayer, a corollary of deep spiritual struggle before God. It is never an isolated act or a ceremony or ritual that has some inherent efficacy or merit. It has no value at all-in fact becomes a spiritual hindrance and a sin when done for any reason apart from knowing and following the Lord’s will.

As we head into our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, let me answer three questions for us.

What should I fast from?

Obviously, fasting is an abstinence from food. It’s a tangible reminder of how much we depend on God. Every time your stomach growls, it’s a reminder we need Jesus more than food. But I do believe there is freedom to fast from certain things that do not belong to Christ but that have filled and consumed our hearts. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states, 

“Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.” 

So maybe your family goes without electronics for a week because you use devices to numb you, maybe it’s coffee or soda or sweets because you feel as if you can’t function without them. Maybe it’s social media, or exercise, or sports, or shopping, or maybe it’s food in general. Whatever it is you fast from, take the time to look toward Christ.

When should I fast?

Really, it’s up to you. Morning, afternoon, evening, half the day, the whole, a week, 21 days, or 40. I don’t believe it matters. But I do believe the longer the fast, the more we see the dependence.

How should I fast?

When you decide when you will fast, here are five helpful tips from David Mathis in his book, “Habits of Grace”, recorded here in this article:

1. Start small.

Don’t go from no fasting to attempting a weeklong. Start with one meal; maybe fast one meal a week for several weeks. Then try two meals, and work your way up to a daylong fast. Perhaps eventually try a two-day juice fast.

A juice fast means abstaining from all food and beverage, except for juice and water. Allowing yourself juice provides nutrients and sugar for the body to keep you operating, while also still feeling the effects from going without solid food. It’s not recommended that you abstain from water during a fast of any length.

2. Plan what you’ll do instead of eating.

Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God’s fullness. This means we should have a plan for what positive pursuit to undertake in the time it normally takes to eat. We spend a good portion of our day with food in front of us. One significant part of fasting is the time it creates for prayer and meditation on God’s word or some act of love for others.

Before diving headlong into a fast, craft a simple plan. Connect it to your purpose for the fast. Each fast should have a specific spiritual purpose. Identify what that is and design a focus to replace the time you would have spent eating. Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.

3. Consider how it will affect others.

Fasting is no license to be unloving. It would be sad to lack concern and care for others around us because of this expression of heightened focus on God. Love for God and for neighbor go together. Good fasting mingles horizontal concern with the vertical. If anything, others should even feel more loved and cared for when we’re fasting.

So as you plan your fast, consider how it will affect others. If you have regular lunches with colleagues or dinners with family or roommates, assess how your abstaining will affect them, and let them know ahead of time, instead of just being a no-show, or springing it on them in the moment that you will not be eating.

Also, consider this backdoor inspiration for fasting: If you make a daily or weekly practice of eating with a particular group of friends or family, and those plans are interrupted by someone’s travel or vacation or atypical circumstances, consider that as an opportunity to fast, rather than eating alone.

4. Try different kinds of fasting.

The typical form of fasting is personal, private, and partial, but we find a variety of forms in the Bible: personal and communal, private and public, congregational and national, regular and occasional, absolute and partial.

In particular, consider fasting together with your family, small group, or church. Do you share together in some special need for God’s wisdom and guidance? Is there an unusual difficulty in the church, or society, for which you need God’s intervention? Do you want to keep the second coming of Christ in view? Plead with special earnestness for God’s help by linking arms with other believers to fast together.

5. Fast from something other than food.

Fasting from food is not necessarily for everyone. Some health conditions keep even the most devout from the traditional course. However, fasting is not limited to abstaining from food.

If the better part of wisdom for you, in your health condition, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5).


Grace Life, here is why we are taking this intentional time to pray and fast. And it stems from Peter’s moment with the empty tomb.

Luke 24:12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves, and he went home marveling at what had happened. (ESV)

My prayer is that through intentional time with the Lord, we will grow in our awe and wonder of who He is and what He has done. Fasting teaches us to see the glorious splendor of our God.

We fast before the Lord in humility knowing that our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own but belong to God.

If you have any questions concerning your prayer and fasting, please do not hesitate to reach out to either Pastor Ben or myself.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

An update from the Lynn Family (September 2023)

In the book of Acts, we see the church sending out missionaries to take the gospel to the world. This was to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:9. Paul was one of those missionaries. In fact, he took three missionary journeys during the course of his ministry, planting churches along the way. As he wrote letters to the churches, some of which are recorded in the New Testament, he would often include updates on his journeys or send someone to give an update. Paul never left his supporting churches in the dark.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. – Ephesians 6:21–22

Every so often, we receive an update from our ministry partners. We read them in our Sunday gatherings as a reminder to pray for those who have been called by God to go overseas to share the gospel and as a reminder that we too are missionaries exactly where we are here in the United States.

To read the most recent update letter from the Lynn Family in Ethiopia, click here.

Commit to praying for them frequently and be intentional in sharing the gospel with someone today.

How to Support Oversea Missionaries

At the time this blog was posted, Jeremy and Karissa Lynn are heading back to Ethiopia where they will serve and proclaim the gospel to the people outside of Addis Ababa. 

They are returning home.

It’s strange for me to say that because in my mind, Ethiopia is a place they go to for a few years and then return home to see family and to rest. In my mind, they’re just on an extended mission trip. My mind thinks this way because selfishly, I want them to come back home.

But this is not their home. Ethiopia is their home.

Last night we said goodbye. We hugged and cried and said “See you later” even though we don’t know when “later” is. I watched as my kids said goodbye and was heartbroken when my daughter yelled through the car window, “See you when I’m eleven!”

She’s eight. Three years is a long time for them to be away from home. A lot can happen in three years.

But that last sentence is layered with selfishness because, for them, the four weeks here in the United States was a long time to be away from home. Their heart is in Ethiopia. It is where God has called them. It is where they have obediently gone. Leaving everything they know behind to take the gospel of Jesus to people halfway around the world.

This is just a very small glimpse from our perspective as a family of oversea missionaries. 

As Jeremy preached from Revelation 3:1-6 this past Sunday, he made a statement that has burned a fire within my soul. A statement that I am sure will be repeated several times in our gatherings.

“The influence we have today does not guarantee the influence we have tomorrow”.

The loss of our gospel influence occurs when we lose sight of Jesus and our mission and begin to focus either inwardly or allow the outward influence of the culture to infiltrate. The church in Sardis is a reminder that we fight for our influence. We do not give up. We do not give in. We press on as lights of the world and salt of the earth.

For a brief moment, I want to give three ways we can support the influence of overseas families. They are an extension of our church, partnering with us in the same mission to make disciples of all nations. 


Frequently Pray for them.

“Of course, we should pray for them!” you may say. But let me encourage us to put it into practice. Let’s actually do it, as modeled to us by the church in Acts 12.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (Acts 12:5)

When we share the missions update, take the time to pray for them. Set a time each week to take their name to the throne of heaven. Pray for their strength in the Lord. Pray for their encouragement in their calling. Praying for their protection, both physically and spiritually. Pray for their ministry.

As you pray for them, pray also for the disciples and leaders they are developing. These brothers and sisters will be on the front lines of ministry with the missionary family. Pray for their families, for their hearts to be strengthened, and for their joy to increase.


Financially Support them.

In Philippians 4, Paul writes to the church in Philippi, thanking them for their generous gifts in support of his ministry.

And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. [16] Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. [17] Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. [18] I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. [19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:15–20)

Overseas missionaries rely on the generous giving of churches back in the United States. It takes a lot of financial resources to not only get missionaries over there but to help them stay there. Most missionaries go on a religious visa, preventing them from working. Some go on a work visa, which likely means they are going to a place that is unfriendly towards Christianity. Either way, mission giving helps support overseas missions.

Our church supports the Lynn family at $200 a month. This is made possible because of your generous giving. Not only do we seek to be cheerful givers individually, giving what the Lord has led us to give  (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), but we seek to be ten percent givers as a church too. We don’t want to keep the resources just inwardly but use them to proclaim the gospel close to home and to the nations.

One way you financially support the Lynns (and other missionaries) is by giving faithfully and giving directly. If the Lord leads, you can give above an beyond your normal tithe/giving and give directly to the missionary families. You can do so directly in our giving portal. If you need any assistance, please reach out to Pastor Ben.


Faithfully Encourage Them.

Finally, we can faithfully encourage them when we see them or we can encourage them by sending them an email or text. They may not always hear our prayers and money may be the resource that keeps them there, but encouragement is the fuel that often helps them get to the next day.

Some days heavily weigh on them. There are days when it seems easier to quit than to stay. It could be due to a stressful situation in the local market. Or a day where they waited in line for gas for several hours only to find out the pumps were empty. Or a day when the tension of the government runs into the streets. Or a day when the power goes out and you have no access to water.

These are just a few examples of daily life in Ethiopia and why simple encouragement is an incredible blessing to the Lynns. Encourage them to persevere. Encourage them to look to Jesus. Celebrate their service. Tell them you love them.

If you would like to send the Lynns a note of encouragement, email the encouragement to us at and we will forward it to them. 

In the future, we will introduce you to new mission partners. All of these practices listed above are our way of saying to them, “You are not alone. We are behind you. We are praying for you!”

And one day when we are all truly home in heaven, we will celebrate the missional heart of the Father who not only sent His Son for us, but sends us out to proclaim His gospel.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Update from the Lynn Family, Missionaries to Ethiopia (June 2023)

In the book of Acts, we see the church sending out missionaries to take the gospel to the world. This was to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:9. Paul was one of those missionaries. In fact, he took three missionary journeys during the course of his ministry, planting churches along the way. As he wrote letters to the churches, some of which are recorded in the New Testament, he would often include updates on his journeys or send someone to give an update. Paul never left his supporting churches in the dark.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. – Ephesians 6:21–22

Every so often, we receive an update from our ministry partners. We read them in our Sunday gatherings as a reminder to pray for those who have been called by God to go overseas to share the gospel and as a reminder that we too are missionaries exactly where we are here in the United States.

To read the most recent update letter from the Lynn Family in Ethiopia, click here.

Commit to praying for them frequently and be intentional in sharing the gospel with someone today.

What Jesus Did Was Enough

We recently closed out another incredible year of LifeGroups. These groups intentionally center around God’s Word in the context of encouraging relationships for the purpose of cultivating a deep faith in Jesus. This past year we studied through the book of Galatians. You can access this study and previous studies at our ever expanding resource library.

As we closed out, a member of my LifeGroup shared a poem they wrote as a summary of our study in Galatians. I wanted to share it with you. It’s titled, “What Jesus Did Was Enough”. I pray it will be a blessing to you as it was to our group. And be sure to join a group when they resume this coming fall!

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt


What He did was enough

Just as Paul shared on that road to Damascus
The same Good News that saved him was the news that saved us.
We saw what Christ did up on that cross of Calvary
The perfect sacrifice made for our salvation’s eternity

Bound by the chains of our sin
We had to realize the captivity of the flesh we were in
Christ set us free and gave a gift we did not deserve
Grace washed over us as promised in His word.

Sons and daughters we all became
No longer separated but united by His precious name
The Grace that saved us also set us apart
As we grow closer The Spirit transforms our heart.

Situations in our new family can be tough
The burdens get lighter as we share the load with love
This is a love that is beyond compare
Our Fathers love given His church for all to share.

Faith in Jesus is all we must or can do
Believe every word of scripture to be true
No one can ever lead us astray
What Jesus did was enough from then till this very day.

Responding to God’s Word

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. – James 1:22–25

I once heard a preacher who, prior to reading the main text of Scripture of the is sermon, would make the following statement:

“Every time we open God’s Word, we are looking at the mind of God. Let’s see what God is thinking”.

God the Father has made Himself to us through His Son Jesus (John 1:1). We learn of the Son of God through the written Word of God (2 Timothy 3:14-15). And because we have these true and profitable words from God, we know exactly who God is and what he desires for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). When we open the Bible, we are reading about the Author and Finisher of our faith. Here’s what Peter states,

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:20–21

The Holy Spirit used men to record exactly what God intended to say. Which means we should take seriously what is said within the pages of Scripture. It is not man that is speaking, but God. And when God speaks, we must listen.

But listening is not all that is required of us. Listening to God’s Word, whether it is in our own reading and studying or if it’s sitting in a Bible based sermon, requires a response. James writes the verses above to tell us not to be just a hearer, but to be a doer of the Word as well.

In other words, God’s Word calls for a response.

Parents understand what James is saying far too well. We ask our kids to do something and more often than not, we need to repeat it a few times. We’re training them to obey right away. We often ask them, “Did you hear me?” And they’ll respond with “Yes” and we sit and wonder why they haven’t done what we have asked them to do! This is simply disobedience. To hear something from an authority and not to do it is to disobey the authority.

Because the Scripture is our authority, then when we disobey Scripture, we are disobeying God. We are implying that what He says is not important enough to follow, that we prefer to do our own thing, or that His authority does not matter to us.

When we hear God speak, we respond in obedience.

The Bible shows us how to live holy. It exposes our sin and brings us to the light of God’s grace. Just like a mirror shows us who we are, so does God’s Word. We would be fools to hear and not respond to what God’s Word says to us. We would be fools to disobey the good and gracious words from God.

Here are three helpful questions for the next time you read Scripture or after the sermon on Sunday that will help you respond to what you have heard.

1. From the text, what is something you learned about God? About yourself?

2. What Scriptural truth(s) from the text is the Holy Spirit pressing on your heart?

3. If you were to incorporate this truth in your own life, how would the next week and next month be different?

These questions help us read the text for what it says and then act on what it says. We respond to God’s Word because we know God’s Word to be true and good. And when we obey the words of our Father, it produces within us a peace and joy that frees us to continue living in obedience to the One who saved us.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Reading as a Hobby

A few years ago, I was having lunch with a church member, talking about the importance of rest. During the conversation, we began talking about new hobbies and finding something to do that frees our minds to rest and relax from the normal grind of a typical work week. From that conversation, I decided my hobby would be reading. And if you’re around me enough, I’m going to try and make it your hobby in 2023 as well!

Reading is a year-long activity that can be done inside, outside, and even in the car (yes, listening to audiobooks does count as reading). When I graduated from Seminary, I would have been content with never reading a book again. In fact, for a few years, the only books I read were often commentaries. Occasionally I would pick up a book on the church or on pastoring but I had forgotten what it meant to read for fun. Now, I consistently read books on a wide variety of topics and genres and I find it incredibly restful. 

Reading fiction books takes my mind away from the present world and into a different world, allowing my mind to remove itself for just a few moments from the anxiety and pressures of the day. Reading biographies helps me learn from men and women from different centuries and how they navigated their own lives. Reading subjects that help me grow spiritually and personally helps me be a better husband, father, and pastor. 

Like any hobby, reading well for rest requires time, resources, and a plan. Allow me to share how I structure my reading.

I don’t just go to the library and choose a book based on its cover, though I have done this in the past. I follow a specific reading plan that keeps me from wondering what to read next. The plan I use comes from Christian blogger and author, Tim Challies. You can find the 2022 Reading challenge here. The 2023 reading challenge will be available soon. Here’s how the plan works:

The Christian Reading Challenge is composed of 4 lists of books, which you are meant to move through progressively. You will need to determine a reading goal early in the year and set your pace accordingly.

  • The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks.
  • The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  • The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  • The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.

Under each section is a list of topics for you to follow. This allows you to read outside of your typical genre or give you a next step. It’s broad enough and specific enough to work within your interests. Here’s the list for The Light Reader:

  • A book published in 2021 or 2022 
  • A memoir or autobiography 
  • A novel 
  • A book by a woman 
  • A book by a man
  • A book published prior to 2000 
  • A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle 
  • A book with an image of a person on the cover 
  • A book about a current social issue 
  • A book for children or teens 
  • A book about suffering 
  • A book about Christian living 
  • A book of your choice

Following this plan has allowed me to go from roughly 0-5 books a year to 100+ each year for the last few years. 

To read at this pace, I’ve developed a few habits for my hobby. 

  • I read while I’m watching a sporting event on TV. Sports don’t require constant attention and the break in action allows for a few moments of reading.
  • I listen to books through my local library when I’m in the car or mowing my yard or on a walk. These books are usually the bigger books like Providence by John Piper or D-Day by Stephen Ambrose.
  • I read a book as part of my devotions. Usually a chapter a day from a book that draws my heart to Jesus. Currently, I’m reading Thoughts for Young Men by J.C.Ryle
  • I read when I find myself waiting. Instead of scrolling social media, I have a book on my kindle app that I work through over time. Oil changes, haircuts, waiting for people to arrive for a meeting, and waiting to pick the kids up are all opportunities to spend a few moments reading a book.

Reading is also a hobby that doesn’t have to be expensive. The only books I purchase are books I plan to keep and use for resources. Which means, I don’t purchase any fiction books. The local library is an incredible resource available to all county residents. We go as a family every week, we’ve built relationships with librarians, and we’ve saved thousands of dollars (minus the late fees!) on books. Having a library card also gives you access to the Libby app to read via Kindle or to listen to the audiobook.

I also subscribe to Scribd. Scribd is much cheaper than Audible. An Audible monthly subscription usually gives you access to one book a month while Scribd has unlimited access to their collection at a cheaper monthly cost. The best part of audio books is that you can pick up the book you’re reading at home and continue it in the car! I did this a few times this year with a few fiction books.

For the year 2022, I hit 100 books again and I want to share with you my four of my favorite books from the past year.


Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

Many of us have seen the movie starring Tom Hanks but did you know it’s based on the details from this book written by Astronaut Jim Lovell, a member of the Apollo 13 crew? In Apollo 13, Jim Lovell recounts the details behind the entire Apollo program and the entire trip of the Apollo 13 mission. In April of 1970, just a few months after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert launched from earth for another mission to the moon. But due to a cabin fire, they never landed on the moon. Instead, they made a heroic trip around the moon and returned safely to earth. NASA has labeled the Apollo 13 mission as a “Successful failure”.


Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

In this book, Jon Krakauer dives into the history and structure of the Mormon Church. Founded on faulty lies and promoted by sexually perverted men, the Mormon Church grew in Western United States. From the Amazon Synopsis, “Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God; some 40,000 people still practice polygamy in these communities. 

At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.”

Learning about the Mormon church helped me see how I could communicate the gospel with them more clearly and to also critically think through Religious Freedom issues in our culture. It was also a lesson on how easily it can be for people to pervert the teachings of Scripture for their own gain and for the satisfaction of their sinful desires.


Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

This has been the most helpful book I’ve read the last few years and I wish it was written years ago. Jordan Raynor’s book on “learning time management from the one who created time” has helped me better structure my week, my to-do list, and my priorities. I recommend this book to everyone! 

The book looks at Jesus and how He navigated His time management while He was on earth. He knew His calling and therefore, He knew when and what to say yes or no to. He also looks at the importance of freeing your mind of to do list clutter. We know of the projects months down the road, but now is not the time to think about it. He helps create a system that allows you to put off for tomorrow the things that can wait. 

Two things I learned from this book: 1) Do the things that take less than two minutes and do them now. (Need to send an email? A text message? Print something? Just do it. 2) Create a system for future projects. (This has helped me with upcoming events and for my sermon calendar).


Deep Discipleship by J.T. English

The first book I read in 2022 and probably the most impactful. It’s one of the reasons we held a “Gospel for Everyday Life” study over the summer. I love teaching others about the Bible. I love seeing people grow deeper in their knowledge of God. Deep Discipleship helped me think through how to see more discipleship in our church. Jesus gave his followers the mandate to make disciples of all nations. But today, too many people are being “fashioned” outside the churches. It’s time for pastors and leaders to take responsibility for training and growing believers who can be sent to gather in the harvest utilizing three indispensable elements: the Bible, theology, and spiritual disciplines.


Reading is a lost love in our day and age. We are inundated with so much television that we forget the wealth of books available to us! We also need to be warned of the desire of knowing everything (Ecc 12:12). But reading can be and is a restful and helpful hobby. Read a book in the coming year. Take the 2023 Reading Challenge with me. Read with your kids. Maybe you’ll learn something new this year or maybe, like me, you’ll rest from the anxiousness of this world and for a few minutes, find yourself in another.

God our Provider: An update from the Lynn Family, Missionaries to Ethiopia

The very first check we wrote as a church was to the Lynn family in Ethiopia. Early on, before our church even gathered on Sunday mornings, we knew we needed to be committed to partnering with Gospel-centered churches around the world. Global and local gospel partnerships must be a part of our DNA. It’s been a joy to be partners along side the Lynn Family. They have been faithfully serving and making disciples in Ethiopia and your generosity continues to help them accomplish their desire to proclaim the hope of Jesus to the people Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On top of monthly financial support, Grace Life has given them several one time gifts, including $5,000 towards their Permanent Light land and building purchase. We want to continue to be a blessing to them, which is why you should attend Bingo Night and bring a donation with you!

As you read this update from Jeremy and Karissa, will you commit to praying for them daily? Pray they will be encouraged and provided for as they serve the Lord by making disciples in Ethiopia.

Thank you church for supporting and partnering with this Gospel Work! Be sure to check out the video below.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt



When we moved to Addis Ababa, we considered the question, how do you start a church planting movement in Ethiopia? Our desire was to begin by pursuing personal relationships with Ethiopians that lead to Jesus. Ultimately, we wanted to make disciples that could go and make disciples. We also knew it would be important for those who believe in Christ as Savior to have a place to be equipped and fellowship with other believers. Meeting in homes is restricted and renting a property is expensive. Therefore, we began to take the steps necessary to purchase land.

One of the hurdles when purchasing land in Ethiopia is income. The average household today makes, “a per capita gross national income of $890”. With salaries this low, a church that has 100 people giving 10% of their income would have to save for approximately 26 years to purchase land. Knowing this, we began the Permanent Light project and asked churches to join Bethel in pursing this goal.

We praise God for the body of Christ joining hands with Bethel in giving and praying! He has provided land, and we look toward the next steps of being a Permanent Light in Ethiopia. Building, like everything else in the world, is far more expensive than it was just a few years ago. When we began this journey, the cost for the building was around $250,000. Now we face a bill well over $900,000! We shared this with our sending Pastor(admittedly we were overwhelmed with the cost), and he responded candidly that God is more than able to provide. We know we must trust our Provider as we embark on this phase. Therefore, we have made our request known to God and share the need with His bride. Would you ask God what He would have you do as an individual and as a church? May we seek Him first as we trust His provision. Let’s Build Together!

Jeremy and Karissa Lynn



By Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Welcome to the weekly newsletter for Grace Life Church. Every week, we want to give you a midweek reminder on upcoming events, the sermon text for the coming Sunday, and additional content that will encourage you to continue pursuing Jesus everyday. I’m praying the additional content provided on the Grace Life Blog will strengthen your faith in Jesus. 

This is also my prayer for our upcoming summer sermon series on Hebrews 11. 

The book of Hebrews was written by an unknown author to Jewish believers who were likely slipping back into their Jewish traditions so they could avoid persecution. The author wants to instill in them that Jesus is better. He’s better than angels. He’s better than Moses. He’s better than the Jewish sacrificial system. He’s better than the Old Covenant. Jesus is better because He is the fulfillment of every promise God spoke in the Old Testament. He is our perfect sacrifice, our great High Priest, and the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And faith is what God desires for His people to live by. Right before we read through the list of names in “The Hall of Faith”, we see in Hebrews 10:37-39,

[37] For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; [38] but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” [39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)

Christian people are people who live their lives by faith. We’re not people who “shrink back and are destroyed”, but we are people who have a sincere faith that preserves our souls. That faith is in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. It’s Jesus who preserves our souls. And because of who Jesus is, we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. The Chrisitan life is marked by faith. By faith, we believe in the Triune God of the Bible. By faith, we believe that God keeps His word. By faith, we believe Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, ascended into heaven, and will return. By faith, we believe the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Faith is assurance of our hope in Christ and it is the conviction that all things of God are true. And by faith, we live.

But how are we to do this? How are we to live by faith and not shrink in cowardice? This is why Hebrews 11 was written. Faith is a somewhat difficult concept to define and oftentimes is best understood through illustrations and examples. Hebrews 11 describes people who lived out their faith when God commanded them to do something. The chapter is filled with examples of men and women from the Old Testament who have laid hold of their future reward with God. Chapter 11 is intended to deepen our confidence in Jesus, not throw it away. (Hebrews 10:35) 

We see the examples of men like Abel and Moses and women like Sarah and Rahab who lived by faith knowing that without faith, it would be impossible to please God. By faith, we also draw near to God, knowing He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him. 

God has called us to live by faith in Him and though we have not seen Him, we believe in Him, and by faith, we live our lives to please Him. As one pastor stated, “Hebrews 11 is full of men and women whose moral and spiritual failings, depravity, and sin give us great hope that only through Christ, in Christ, and because of Christ are we accepted into the kingdom of God!”

As we study Hebrews 11, may our faith be strengthened in the glory of our Savior and our hearts encouraged to walk by faith in Christ alone and not by sight. 

Here’s how you can prepare for our weekly sermons through Hebrews 11.


Each week, we’ll share the verses that will be covered in Sunday’s sermon. You can find those verses on your Sunday Sermon notes or in the weekly newsletter. The sermon text will be just a verse or two, so do the work and study out the names of the men and women from Hebrews 11. For instance, when we study the faith of Noah, find out what the Bible says about Noah. You can read about Noah’s life in Genesis 6-9. We won’t tell you where to look; we want you to study on your own!


Pray for the Lord to strengthen your faith in him as we study together Hebrews 11. Pray for the preacher, that he will honor God’s Word and encourage us to seek the Lord. Pray, knowing God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11) and His Word is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).


God speaks to us from His Word and when He speaks to us, we must respond. To not respond is disobedience. Throughout this sermon series, respond to the Lord’s leading in your life. Maybe it’s trusting Him more fully or maybe it’s taking a step to serve Him or others in some capacity. Like Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the water, the Lord calls us out and by faith we obey. 

I’m looking forward to studying Hebrews 11 with you and I pray that our faith will be strengthened in Jesus Christ, the One who is at the very center of our Faith.


By His Grace, 

Pastor Matt

Why the Reformation Matters Today

This coming Sunday is Halloween, ending the second largest retail season of the year, only behind the Christmas season. While many people will celebrate with candy and costumes, for Christians, today represents a significant moment in church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of his church. Luther wrote these words out of a deep concern with the Roman Catholic Church’s view on several issues that Luther deemed unBiblical. His efforts lead to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t want to spend this entire post recounting the historical moments that both preceded and succeeded Luther’s actions on this day. If you want to read more about Reformation Day, I’ll provide a few links at the bottom.

What I want to write is how the Reformation impacts us today. Though they were flawed men and women, the stance taken by the Reformers 500 years ago is a model for us today. 

We must take a stand for the Gospel.

After Luther posted his 95 theses, he knew he would have to defend his claims. So he stood before the Emperor of Rome and, knowing he may very well lose his life, stated, “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me, God.”

What Luther was standing for was the Gospel. While the church he served under said salvation can be earned or paid for or you can pay your relatives out of purgatory,  Luther read from the Scriptures that our righteousness was like filthy rags and the only hope for salvation is through Jesus Christ. After years of hating what he was reading in the Scriptures, he fell in love with the righteousness of God. Christ died for our sins and it is his righteousness that is placed on us.

This, among other doctrinal concerns, led Luther to take a stand against the Roman Catholics idea of the Gospel. His influence then is an example for us today. In the midst of so many false gospels, we must take a stand for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The church in Luther’s day wanted to make sinners look good, but as Luther put it: “Sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

While we take a stand for the gospel, it also means we take a stand against false gospels taught by churches. Whether it’s the deceitful prosperity Gospel or a works based gospel, we must take a stand for the Gospel. Taking a stand for the Gospel has never been popular, but if we fail to take a stand, then who will?

We must take a stand for the Scriptures.

Luther’s conflict with the church began when the church’s teachings collided with his understanding of the Scripture. He was a Scholar and when he realized that the church was teaching something contrary to the Word of God, he spoke up. He saw God’s Word as authoritative and should be available to all people.

God’s Word must be the authority in our lives. It’s how we learn about God, his grace, and his forgiveness through Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us daily. To limit it’s authority is a dangerous step towards apostasy. The church must teach and disciple believers on how to read and study the scriptures.  

We also make sure that all we do within the church is founded on the teachings of the Bible. Our traditions, our theology, and our individual and corporate practice must be grounded in the Word of God. Luther stood up for the authority of the Scriptures during a time when the Catholic church claimed to hold all authority.

We must take a stand for God’s Glory.

It may sound odd, but the church today needs Jesus. While Luther’s church may have said “Jesus!”, everything else said other-wise. It was about the church, it was about the Pope, it was about money. It was about everything other than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many churches have become about other ideas other than Jesus.

If programs, methods, or anything else becomes more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed it. If we give over to more lights or more buildings or more “attractiveness” and set Jesus to the side, then it’s necessary to evaluate our churches. The Reformers understood that it was through Christ alone and it was for God’s glory alone. They weren’t out to make a name for themselves or for their church, they only desired to make a name for Jesus. 

Here are a few indicators that a reformation may be needed within a church:

If the worship is about how well done and entertaining the music is and not about who God is, then a reformation is needed.

If the preaching becomes about the speaker’s giftedness or focuses on relative topics and opinions and not about the teaching of God’s Word, then a reformation is needed.

If the church becomes inwardly focused and not focused on the spreading of the gospel to people outside the church, then a reformation is needed.

It’s never been about us; it must always be about God’s glory.

So much more could be said about the influence of the Reformers. Their impact 500 years ago should influence us to take a stand for Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. May we all be reformers in our churches.

Happy Reformation Day.



What is Reformation Day? –

3 Things Every Christian Should Know About the Reformation. –

Here We Stood (a brief history of Martin Luther) –

The Reformation and your Church – (This is a Fall Journal loaded with great articles on the reformation. Save this link and read/watch/listen to everything that is included.


Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Watch this documentary in its entirety to discover the events God used in Martin Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Luther in Real Time – It’s 1520. Martin Luther has been declared a heretic by Pope Leo X, and his books are being burned. How much longer before Luther himself is thrown into the fire?

Enter the German Reformer’s dramatic story with Luther: In Real Time. First released 500 years after the events described, this podcast allows you to walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word at the Diet of Worms. Share this podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.