10 Minutes to a Better You

Part of living a better story is taking time each day to better yourself as a person.

We all have a thousand different things pulling us in a thousand different directions. It's easy to just get lost in the chaos of life. It's easy to set the cruise and go through the motions while life passes us by. We miss so much because we aren't intentional with our time.

But I'm convinced that small changes can ultimately create a HUGE difference in our lives, and the lives of others.

Here are 3 things you can do today to better yourself every single day. They all take less than 10 minutes each, so what’s stopping you?
 

Learn a New Language

Our culture is becoming increasingly diverse. People from all over the world have made their home right across the street. That’s never happened before. Never in human history has there been such a melting pot of diversity like there is in our country today.


This invites a great opportunity to experience a new culture right in your own backyard. I use an app called DuoLingo for about 10 minutes a day, and I can tell you from experience it works. It teaches you words and phrases and before you know it, you actually understand what’s being said. You can choose from hundreds of languages, and it’s completely FREE! Why aren’t you doing this already? Go download it now and start your journey to becoming bilingual!

Exercise

I think we all know we need to take care of our bodies. The problem is, we just don’t have time. Right? I mean come on, we’re all so consumed by our schedules and plans that we just can’t set aside time to take care of ourselves. But what if I told you that working out didn’t have to be something you hated?

I’m serious. It can actually be fun. In just 10 minutes a day, you can transform your body. Think about how much better you’d feel if you took care of yourself. Erin and I actually put together a quick 10 minute workout that both of use when we’re just too busy to exercise. You can find it here. That’s it. Put a timer on your Iphone and take back your life.

Read Scripture/Pray

Your soul needs refreshment every now and then. We’re actually wired for it. But it’s hard to set aside time each day to connect with our Creator, and allow Him to direct our lives.

There’s a great app called YouVersion that can literally change your life. It’s a Bible app that has hundreds of translations, reading plans, and devotions. 10 minutes worth of reading and prayer a day can quiet your soul, and create in you a desire to reach out and love people better. Just do it.
 

These 3 ideas only take up a total of 30 minutes each day.

That’s it. You can do 30 minutes.

Give it a shot. For the next 7 days, try it. What have you got to lose?

5 Ways to Live Life on Purpose

Jobs..

Bills.

Schedules.

Stress.

Our lives are busy aren’t they? Sometimes it feels like all we can do is try to make it through another day without drowning in the craziness that surrounds us. But what if we could live better? What if we could wake up every morning with purpose and intention? What if we knew our lives weren’t being wasted?

I believe we can. And I’m certain that we can only do that once we identify what it is we want our lives to be about, and then go after it.

Here are 5 quick thoughts about living a life of purpose.

 

Talk Less/ Listen More

The most common thing you and I do to sabotage our lives is talk when we should stay silent. We live in an age that thrives on opinions, and while we certainly should have them, it’s often times better to keep them to ourselves if we sense it may cause division. Let’s be honest, you know your mouth gets you in trouble. So take a step back and just hear people out before you rush into something you can’t go back from.

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

 

Find Joy in Everything

Life is too short to be stressed about everything. I get it. We’ve got so many things clawing for our attention, and if we’re not careful, we can spend our lives in a constant state of worry, despair, and comparison. But life isn’t supposed to be that way. We aren’t supposed to be so consumed by the things that have no value. The truth is that life is beautiful. Even in it’s messiness, it’s wonderful. Open your eyes to the goodness that each morning brings, and find joy in the little things that ultimately make up our lives.

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

 

Love People

Look, I know people get on your nerves. After all, you get on their nerves too. It’s so easy for us to judge the people around us, and criticize the way they live, or how they look at life. In the chaos of our own agendas, we lose sight of the benefits of true community. We miss out on what love can do. Just love people. It doesn’t matter where they’re at or what they’ve done. You’d be surprised what can happen if you stop living for you and simply share some love.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31

 

Be Here

You and I have a hard time being here. We’re focused on something that happened years ago, and still affects us today, or we’re too consumed with what could happen tomorrow that we miss out on today. The simple truth is that today is all we have. That’s it. The past is gone. It moved us and yet, it’s not here anymore. But you are. Your future hasn’t happened yet. You haven’t earned it and it’s not promised. But today is here. Now is here. So why aren’t you? Stop worrying about things that aren’t in your control. Focus on today. Look people in the eyes. Share a smile. Spend time with your family. Make the most of the time you do have, one day at a time.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
 

 

Do Things that Matter

What are you really living for? Your job? Your status? Your success? Think about it and ask yourself if it’s really worth your soul. What does it matter if we get everything we ever wanted, and yet lose ourselves in the process? As human beings, we all fall. We’re frail. We trip and stumble of the same things that steal from us the very thing they promise: life. Stop chasing worthless things, and do thing that matter. Write that book. Preach that sermon. Give your stuff away. Invest in others. Stand up for the weak. We get one chance at this life, why waste it?


“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;  and give me life in your ways.” Psalm 119:37

 

Life is short. Live it well.

10 Things to Throw Away Right Now

Life is crazy right?

We get it.

It’s so easy to get sucked into our schedules and consumed by our commitments. But we believe that it’s possible to live life on purpose. In fact, we would even say that if you’re not living a life of intention, you’re missing out on all that could be.

So we wanted to share a few quick thoughts with you.

We’ve talked before about how less is actually more, because it allows you to be freed up to experience all life has to offer. “Better is one handful with peace than two handfuls with toil and chasing after wind.” Life isn’t summed up in our possessions. The abundance of stuff actually detracts from what life is all about. It’s time to get rid of the stuff that does nothing but stress you out!

So here are 10 things that you can throw away right now, guilt free!

 

1. Old Magazines

If you’re like us, you’ve got old magazines just lying around the house, just in case you ever decide to read them again. THROW THEM OUT! If they don’t add value to your life, they’re just taking up space.

2. Old Meds/Prescriptions

Take a good long look through your medicine cabinet and toss any expired meds. If you don’t use it anymore, or it’s no good, get rid of it.

3. Clothes

This may be more difficult than the first two. Let’s be honest, our closets are FULL of things we don’t wear anymore, and things that don’t even fit us. If you really want to simplify your life, you’ve got to be willing to honestly evaluate your closet. If it’s not something you wear or absolutely love, give it away.

4. Food

I don’t think that 2 year old cheese wiz will do you any good. Neither will the peanut butter that expired in 2014. I think we’ve all got stuff in our cabinets that doesn’t belong there anymore. Go through your fridge and throw away expired or spoiled food. You’ll be glad you did.

5. Makeup

Ladies...(and maybe a few guys) this one’s for you. Take an inventory of all the makeup you’ve got sitting around. If you haven’t used it in 2 months, trash it.

6. Old Bills/Receipts/Papers

If you’re like us, your junk drawer is piled full of old bills, receipts, and papers. Go through it, and if you don’t absolutely NEED it, burn it or throw it away.

7. Books

Ok, so this one is actually pretty tough for us. We LOVE books, and even though we love to have a library, we decided to only KEEP the books that radically impacted us. Go through your bookshelf and pick out the ones that mean the most to you, then share the other ones with people you think will find value in them.

8. Old Toiletries

Ok, I know we’re not the only ones who’ve had 15 partially open bottles of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner just sitting in our shower. Go through your bathroom and toss any old products you don’t use or need anymore. Say it with us, SIMPLIFY.

9. Old Electronics

We’ve all got old, tangled cords laying around the house. They just sit there in the corner because we either don’t know what they go to, or don’t have any use for them. Throw out anything you don’t use anymore. If you wanna donate it to a thrift shop or sell them online, that’s fine. Just get RID of them.

10. Any remaining Miscellaneous Clutter

Look, we’re sure that the collection of stamps meant something to you at some point, but come on, if you don’t find it useful or beautiful, NIX it! Anything that takes up unwanted space in your home only distracts you from what life's all about.

Now, this is just the beginning. You decide what’s useful and beautiful to you. It’s different for everyone. The idea is that you’ll take ownership of this life you’ve been entrusted with, and make the most of it. At the end of the day, life isn’t about the accumulation of STUFF, it’s about how you choose to impact the lives of those around you.

That’s our two cents.

It’s up to you what you do with it.

 

 

Tombs

Tombs.

They're interesting aren't they?

I mean have you ever really payed attention to a tomb? Some are elaborate.

Some aren't.

Some cost thousands.

Some don't.

And yet all of them have one thing in common: they're  full of dead people.

Weird right.

Now I know what you're thinking. What does a tomb have to do with how I want to live my life?

Well I would say that a tomb has everything to do with how you want to live. The opposite of life is death. Therefore if you're not living for something you're dead.

And dead people are in tombs.

Maybe that means you're in a tomb.

There's this story in the Scriptures about a time when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died. Now Jesus and Lazarus were close. So close in fact that Jesus literally broke down in tears when He saw the rest of the family.

Because by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in a tomb for four days.

Four days.

In that specific Hebrew context, there was a myth that the spirit of a person would hang out around the tomb for three days before it would go. So when Jesus shows up on day four, everyone who thought He could do something had lost all hope.

By this time the decomposition process had begun, and let's be honest, the body stunk.

But Jesus does something crazy. He calls for the stone to be removed from the entrance of the tomb, and then starts shouting for Lazarus to come out.

What? Are you serious? Dead people don't walk.

And like something out of a mummy movie, Lazarus comes out of the tomb wrapped in cloth, and everyone lost their mind.

Now I know what you're thinking. Dead people don't come back to life. I mean it's completely insane to imply that this man actually rose from the dead. Isn't it? I mean, that just doesn't happen does it?

Jesus just stands there with everyone now crowding around Him, wondering what the heck they'd just witnessed.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” ‭‭John‬ ‭11:25-26‬ ‭

Look. If you're still hung up on whether or not this guy actually came back to life, you're missing the point. The point is that you and I all find ourselves in tombs of some kind.

Addictions.

Suffering.

Hatred.

Anger.

And these things destroy us. They consume our lives and cause us to forget what life is all about.

We all find ourselves in tombs.

Caverns of despair and hopelessness, ultimately leading us to death.

But that's where the story of Jesus offers hope. That by embracing His way of living, we can find true life, meaning, and purpose.

And we all want that. Don't we?

Your life is waiting, and the resurrecting God is able to do just that with your life if you let Him. What do you say?

Tombs weren't made for the living.

Stories

Stories.

We all have one. Each of us is carefully crafting our narrative with every breath we take. Our lives form the tapestry of a grand adventure; countless tales simply waiting to be told.

But to us, our stories aren’t adventurous, they’re not even worth telling. Years of crumbling expectations and shattered dreams have taught us that life is nothing like we imagined it would be, not even close.

So we set our minds on cruise control as we wander through the wasteland of our lives. We go through the motions each day, hoping that somehow, someway, we could experience something more.

Because deep down, we’ve bought into the lie that we’re not enough.

Have you ever thought that? Be honest. I know I have. We believe that we’re not enough because we don’t think our story is compelling.

Sure we post our meals on Instagram, and share our best photos with our “friends.” But inside we feel empty, because we know it’s all a lie. We put our best on show for the world to see, while inside we’re struggling to recognize who we really are.

But I would argue that your story is compelling. In fact, it’s one of a kind. Your story matters, because you matter. And that’s pretty great news.

Each of us believes some story about ourselves. We’re all writing one with our lives that has an opportunity to impact those around us. The problem is that you and I don’t always like our story.

Because it’s messy.

It’s broken.

It’s shameful.

It’s lonely.

And that’s OK. It’s OK because everyone has a story. And everyone has a chance to change the ending.

You see. It’s not over. Even when you think it is, YOU matter. You are one in 7 billion, and the world needs YOUR story. There’s always a chance to change the ending.

There’s a story in Scripture that has impacted people for centuries. It’s a story about Jesus, and his response to a woman who found herself ashamed of her past. (I was a pastor for 8 years so these stories are in my blood.)

It’s found in the book of John chapter 8. Jesus is at the temple, where He’s quickly surrounded by a mob who casts a naked woman down in front of Him.

This woman was caught in adultery. Like in the very act of adultery. Can you even imagine what was going through her mind at this moment?

Shame.

Fear.

Regret.

Disgust.

This was the absolute worst day of her life. She had royally screwed up, and everyone knew it. Her story was nothing like she imagined it would be. Not even close.

And as these men throw her down in front of Jesus, they ask Him what they should do. Now, the Law stated that anyone caught in adultery was to be stoned. Killed. On the spot. Executed.

And these men were trying to see if this Rabbi, Jesus would obey the Law. But Jesus ignores them for as long as He can, and simply responds by saying that the person with no sin should throw the first stone.

Ouch.

Dead silence. No one said a word. One by one they started backing away, stones falling from their hands.

And Jesus looks at this woman, terrified and humiliated, and He doesn’t condemn her. He offers her a chance to change the ending.

“Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11

Go and sin no more.

Change the ending to your story.

It’s not over. In fact, it’s only just begun.

For you and I storytellers. Our lives offer hope to those without it. Our experiences and failures show those around us that they’re not alone.

You are not alone.

Your story matters; and even though it’s messy, there’s always a chance to change the ending.

A Life Well Lived: Part 1

Are you satisfied with the life you have right now? Do you wake up every day, and find purpose and meaning in what you do? If your answer is no, then this blog is for you.

Erin and I want to help you live a better story. We want every aspect of your life to be saturated with goodness and meaning. We want to add value to how you live, and help you discover what you’re here for.

So for the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about some aspects of a live well lived. We’ll cover topics on health, relationships, community, and growth. The idea is that you’ll find value in what we have to offer, and your life will be better because of it.

This week, we’re going to share a few thoughts on your health.

The truth is that all of us could be healthier. We could make an effort to eat better, exercise more, and take care of our bodies. But in the fast paced world we live in, it’s difficult to slow down long enough to realize what’s important. If you’re anything like us, your life is full of meetings and housework, hobbies and responsibilities. There’s just no time to focus on our health.


So we go and we go and we never slow down. But if we truly want to live better, we must make time to take care of ourselves. Before we can pour into other people, or invest in the lives of those around us, we must be willing to look in the mirror, and make a decision to invest in ourselves.

“Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

How we treat our body matters. At the end of your life, all the things you’ve acquired won’t last. All the possessions you’ve chased will disappear. What will really matter? Why would we choose to neglect something so important? Without our health, we can never become who we were created to be.

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be some long drawn out exercise. In fact, it can be something as simple as walking the dog or playing tennis. The idea here is not to make you feel obligated to work out. We want you to take care of you body so you can enjoy life more. Only do the exercises you like. If you hate running, then don’t run. If squats hurt your knees, find an alternative.

We only get one shot at life, so why not make the most of it. Why not get rid of everything that’s keeping us from being who we were made to be.

Here’s a quick workout for you to try this week!

 

Values

What is it that you value?
What's important to you?
At the end of the day, what do you want to live for?

I think it's easy to just let life pass us by. We've been tricked into believing that in order to be happy, we must chase after things to satisfy the hunger deep within our souls.

I know for me, I've always wanted to feel important, or make some lasting impact on the people around me. But the more I try to do this, the more I find myself trading the moments I have for a life of constant striving for approval.

Our values determine how we live, and without them, it's impossible to live a life of purpose and meaning. Values guide our lives, and ultimately serve as a compass, pointing towards what really matters.

And what does really matter at the end of it all? I mean, what is it that wakes us up every morning and gives us the motivation to carry on? My fear is that most of us find ourselves living for things that don’t really satisfy us because we’ve lost our way when it comes to our values.

Well, for starters, your health matters right? But how many of us actually make an effort to eat right and exercise? If that’s you then great. But for the rest of us, if our health is of any value, then something’s gotta give.

Or what about our relationships? They matter right? Than how is it our parents live a half hour away, but we just can't find the time to go visit them?

If our goals matter, the things we're passionate about, then why is it we find ourselves slaves to a job we hate?

There is something missing between our perceived values and our actions. An incongruence between what we say is important, and how we choose to live.

But maybe you've never really thought about your values. Maybe you've never taken the time to slow down and ponder about what's most important to you.

If that's you then it's ok! The good news is that you can start right now, today. You can choose to verbalize your values and make sure your heart aligns with your actions.

Life is short, and we've only got one shot at this thing. What we do with the time we have matters. And each of us is leaving a legacy whether we want to or not. Each of us is making an impact on someone, whether good or bad.

What do you want your life to be about? Think about that. How you answer is the first step in determining the direction your life takes from this point on.

Start by thinking of 3 to 5 words that you want to define the way you live. For example, a couple of mine are relationships, generosity, and health. Yours can be anything that you find value in and want your life to be about.

Then, post these words somewhere you can see every single day. The idea is to take a moment each day and align your thoughts with where you want to go. What you’ll see is that when you’re intentional with your life, you’ll suddenly find value in the simple things. These are the things that really matter.

We want you to live a better story. In fact, that’s why we do what we do. You are worth more than you’ve settled for. And thankfully, you don’t have to live like that forever. Maybe it’s time to change the narrative. Maybe it’s time for a better story.

Preview of Wholehearted

Hey guys! I'm so pumped about my new book Wholehearted! It comes out July 15th, and I'd love it if all of you checked it out. I'm so sure you'll like it, I wanted to share the beginning of the book with you. What follows is an excerpt from chapter 1 of Wholehearted...

 

Life is beautiful. It’s drenched with potential, and full of adventure. Everyday is a new beginning. Every breath is a second chance. The souvenirs of a life well lived are the memories that flood our minds, and the passions that fill our hearts. Life is happening all around us. Flowers blossom.

Trees grow.

Oceans roar.

Winds blow.

If you’re not careful, you’ll miss it.  

What are you living for? What stirs your soul? What wakes you up each morning?

Are you experiencing life? Or have you settled for nothing more than a mundane existence of routine, and lifeless activity? I believe that we were created for more.

Deep inside each of us is a desire to belong. A desire to make much of this life. But most of us find ourselves feeling empty. We know there’s more to life than simply existing, but we can’t seem to find it. We’re wanderers on this earth, searching for somewhere to rest; longing for purpose and meaning.  

But what if the key to discovering your purpose wasn’t found in what you do, but in how you live? I’m convinced that life is found in the everyday moments that take our breath away. How we live is key to discovering who we are, and who God is calling us to be. Life is not found by uncovering your purpose; it’s found by realizing that your purpose is to live.  

With our eyes open to the truth of who God is, and who we are in Him, we are able to live a life that’s wholehearted.

Dripping with love.

Drowning in contentment.

Saturated with freedom.

Captivated by adventure.

The greatest stories ever told were written with a heart that’s whole.

 The next few days are going to be a journey that can reshape your life. I believe that God’s purpose for us is to live a life of love, contentment, freedom, and adventure.

I’m convinced that if we do this, not only will our hearts be full, our lives will matter. We can bring hope to this world. But only if our hearts are whole. So I challenge you; live wholehearted. Take this journey with me. And see what God can do when we live for what we were created for.

                                                                                                                                   -Matt Marlow

Less is More

As you probably know by now, we want to help you live a better story. So over the next few weeks we want to give you a few different ways we believe you can live better and do good in the world around you.

We want to post short, to-the-point of articles that will help you become everything you were created to be.

So we're gonna kick things off this week by talking about our stuff.

 


We all love stuff don't we?
We buy and shop and order and get until we run out of money. We spend our paychecks on coffee and takeout, clothes and shoes. But at the end of the day, we look in the mirror and still feel empty.  

What is it within us that always craves more? Why are we constantly searching for the next thing to satisfy us? We chase after the wind hoping we can find satisfaction and fulfillment, but all we’re really doing is wearing ourselves out on worthless things that never truly make us happy.

Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into this idea that the more we can get, the better life will be. But stuff doesn’t make our lives better, if anything it makes them more stressful. Because there’s always more out there. There’s always something we don’t have.  

There was once a very wise man who got everything he ever dreamed of. He spent his life pursuing the next big thing. There wasn’t anything he desired that he kept from himself. And the more he acquired, the less satisfied he felt. It was as if the things he so vigorously wanted didn’t follow through on their promises. He was left feeling empty, discouraged, and worn out. This man wrote down his experiences in a book we know as Ecclesiastes. It contains some of the most practical advice for living that I’ve ever read.  

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6

That’s kinda crazy when you think about it. It’s better to have one handful and be at peace, then have everything you desire and feel empty and alone. I guess for me, I don’t want to get to the end of my life just to find out I wasted it all on things I couldn’t keep.

The lie we all believe is that stuff satisfies us. But there’s a better story out there: one that gives life and offers hope. If we freed ourselves from believing that more is better, we could finally begin to embrace the idea that less is actually more. The less we have, the more we are able to help others.

I guess it starts by identifying what really matters to us. If it’s money, success, or things, then maybe our priorities are wrong. If that’s what really matters, maybe we’ve gotten offtrack. Life is about so much more than gaining material things. At the end of it all, what are we really left with?

But if we choose to have less of what doesn't matter, we’ll realize that we’re free to help others, invest in our family, and make time for the things that stir our hearts. When I think about this truth, I understand it seems a little backwards. It’s as if everything in our culture is screaming for more. Everyone wants what they want right now. But the way of Jesus gives me hope. It was never harsh or overbearing. But it was always counter-cultural. Jesus shook things up. He offered people a better way to live. And He truly believed that the key to finding life was found in giving it away.

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

It makes sense when you think about it. Life isn’t about what we can gain in the few years of our existence. It isn’t found in getting more and more. Life is about loving others, giving to those in need, and showing people what living really looks like.  

So real quick, here’s three ways I believe we can begin to live out this idea of less is more.

#1 Cut back.

Stop spending money on worthless things. Sure Starbucks is nice, but that $5 you spend on a latte could change someone’s whole world.

#2 Clear out.

Go through your closet. If you haven’t worn it in 6 months, give it away. If you haven’t used it since your wedding, someone else could. Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of stuff.

#3 Pay off

We’ve all got a little debt. But it keeps us from doing what we want. Start with the smallest payment and pay that sucker off. You’ll be so much more at peace when you’re not enslaved to your debt.

Lastly, invest in what matters. Life is short, and it will be over before you know it. Do you really want to spend it all on things that vanish? Less is more. Less stress. More life. Less debt. More peace. Less headache. More joy. Live a better story. There’s still time to change the narrative.

 

What is the Bible: Part 1

What is the Bible?

 

People have been killed for it.
Wars have been started by it.
Nations have been founded on it.
And lives are being changed every single day because of it.

But what exactly are we talking about when we talk about the Bible?
Did it just drop out of heaven? Or it's simply good literature?

To some it's the very Word of God.
To others it's just a great book.
An ancient document.
A book of wisdom.

A playbook for life.

A holy mandate.


But what we hold in our hands and keep in our hearts is something most of us simply don't understand, so we end up missing much of what the Bible was intended for.

I want to take the next few posts and spend some time diving into what the Bible is, and what it isn't. Hopefully it will help you begin to understand a better way to read Scripture, and how it's actually applicable to life today.

So we’ll start at the beginning.

Where did the Bible come from?

 

The Bible is an ancient library of writings that describe the history of the nation of Israel. It begins with a poetic reflection of God’s creation of the universe, and follows humanity as they discover who God is, and what He expects from mankind.

It was written by many authors; most scholars agreeing that well over 40 different people are responsible for crafting the pages that have shaped history. These men were called prophets, and they believed that the things they were writing came straight from God.

Now the Bible we have today is actually made up of very distinct parts that were written during very different times, for very different audiences.

First we have the Old Testament, also known by the ancient Hebrews as the TaNaK.

Now, TaNaK was an acronym for the three parts which made up the Jewish Scriptures.

The first part, the Torah, consists of the five Books of Moses, and includes the story of God rescuing His people from bondage, and leading them to the Promised Land. It serves as a foundation for their faith.

Then we have the Nevi’im, or “prophets.” These books told the history of Israel and included poetic reflections and instructions from the prophets, who believed they heard from God directly.

Lastly, there was the Ketuvim, or “writings.” This consisted of books of poetry, wisdom, and other writings that the Ancient Israelites held dear.

These three sections, even though they were written over a period of 1400 years, made up the Jewish Bible. They were compiled because they tell the story of God’s people, and the hope they had for a King to make right all the wrong in the world, and restore shalom.

But this collection of writings stops abruptly. Suddenly the story is left without an ending. Israel finds themselves without this Savior, and ultimately very distant from God.

And during this time of silence and uncertainty, a number of other books were written by contemporaries of the prophets. They were highly respected and viewed as influential to the Hebrew people. But still they didn't finish the narrative arch of the TaNaK.

And that's where the Hebrew Scriptures leave us: lost but hopeful that somehow this God would speak to His people once again.

And that's how we got what we call the Old Testament. In the next post we’ll dive into where the New Testament came from, and why it's included in our Bibles today.

 


Feel free to add to the conversation!

Leave a comment, ask a question, or give us some feedback! We'd love to hear what you think about the Bible, and how it's shaped the way you look at life.

What's the Big Deal about Easter?

What's the big deal about Easter?

 

To some it's just another day to get candy and hunt eggs.

To others it's sacred, set apart to remember an event that their faith is centered around.

But what about you and I?

What does it mean for us?

I grew up with the understanding that Easter was about something much bigger than a bunny. But for as long as I can remember, it was about wearing pastels and going to church. Everyone put on their best face and showed up for a Sunday service that usually consisted of the story of Jesus coming back from the dead.

And if I'm being honest I think it just got played out.

I think people came to expect the same routine. The same explanation for what this holiday represents. And I just think it's time to look at things a little differently.

What is Easter really about?

Bring up God in any conversation nowadays and I'm sure they'll be controversy. This is because we're just not sure what to do with God. For so long human beings have created systems and dogmas, trying to place God in a box. But if this Creator is worthy of any accolades or praise, then rest assured He cannot be contained. He cannot be defined. This God, if He truly exists cannot be explained.

And that scares us.

It terrifies us.

The idea that God won't fit into our ideas, opinions, and doctrines is insane.

But it’s also the truth. And sometimes when the truth runs contrary to everything we’ve ever been taught, we’re left feeling lost.

But what if this God is real? What if He’s so much bigger than we imagined? What if this God who cannot be defined nor contained chose to reveal Himself to us by entering our story? Who’s to say He can’t do exactly what He wants to? After all, He is God.

And if this God really chose to become a man, then that changes everything doesn’t it? In fact, I would say that the claim that Jesus was God is perhaps the most insane, absolutely ridiculous idea that anyone could ever make.

Unless it was true.

And if it was true, then you and I would benefit by paying attention to the story of Jesus’ life.

Jesus lived a life of love. A life that dripped with acceptance and grace. He never found Himself too busy to look someone in the eyes and let them know He cared. Jesus showed us what it truly means to be human. I would even say that the reason Jesus lived was to show us how to do the same.

And if Jesus really lived, then Jesus really died.

The story goes to say that He was betrayed by a friend and murdered on a Roman cross like a common criminal. This Jesus who offered life and lived love suddenly stopped breathing. Just like that, it was over. In a matter of 12 hours, Jesus went from celebrating with His closest friends, to dangling between two thieves, slowly suffocating as the crowds watched this so-called “Savior” breath His last.

And everyone held their breath.

Jesus was dead.

And three days passed. By now the people who followed Jesus found themselves shaking their heads in confusion.

Was it all fake?

Was this really the end?

They believed Jesus would change the world and bring freedom, but now He laid in a cold, dark tomb, leaving the world waiting in expectation.

But Sunday, things changed. His tomb was found empty, and His disciples feared the worst.

Someone must of stolen His body.

Why would anyone do that?

Panic ran wild through the minds of those who loved Jesus.

Until one day, we’re told in the book of Matthew that Jesus appeared to His followers on a mountain top. Now you would expect this to be a crazy experience for those present. Most of them believing this man to be the Messiah, King. But that’s not exactly what we’re told.

Sure, many saw Jesus and fell down at His feet in worship. If He beat death than anything was possible. But we’re told that some doubted. Some just didn’t believe it. Now matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that Jesus was alive.

“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Matthew 28:17

And maybe that’s where you’re at.

Maybe that’s you.

Maybe you just don’t believe it.

It just doesn't seem plausible to you. And I just want to tell you, that’s ok. It’s ok to have doubts. I sure thought I had it figured out. But life has a way of reshaping you. It has a way of deconstructing what you believe and then reconstructing it with a new set of lenses.

For the next two millennia, the followers of Jesus wrestled through their doubts as they gathered each week to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. It was such an occasion, people would end up getting drunk and eating themselves into a coma. There was just something about the resurrection that evoked a response.

And here we are over 2,000 years later, this simple Jewish Rabbi from Bethlehem still transforming the way we think and feel about everything. He’s still reshaping hearts and transforming lives today. And I think what Easter means for us is that we can experience what life really is. Not some future version of life above the clouds where all pain is gone and we experience some trippy out of body existence.

Easter’s about right here, right now, and the opportunity that Jesus presents for you and I to live life fully aware of who God is and what he's doing in our lives. How He’s transforming us and using us on a daily basis with every person we meet, and in everything we do.

Jesus is life. So what will you do with the story of Jesus now?

Are you willing to let it change you?

Even if you don't believe it?

Even if you're still skeptical?

Even if there's doubts? Are you willing to at least try to see if Jesus can change your life?

I don't have all the answers. I thought I did, but God is so much bigger than we can fathom and there's no way we can define him. No way we can put Him in a box. There's no way we can understand Him fully. But one thing I have learned is that this God is good and that He loves us.

And that even though we don't understand everything that happens, there's always a way back home.

There's always a hope that we have and that hope is because of Easter. Because of the resurrection. It's not about the stone that rolled away, or pastels and Easter egg hunt's. Those things are really great and we should keep doing them and celebrating them. But Easter is about something deeper ----- something even more meaningful. Easter is about life. And you and I have an invitation and opportunity right now to experience that life. And it comes in the shape of Jesus.

So what are you going to do?

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Wholehearted: Available April 14th!

We are super excited to announce that Matt's latest book, Wholehearted will be available April 14th! You can email us to order it for only $5! Or you can wait until the 14th and find it on Amazon.com in either paperback, or on Kindle! Thanks so much for you're support!

Comfort Vs. Justice

You and I are living at a time in history where we’ll be remembered for how we respond to the issues that surround us. Never before has there been more hatred, name calling, and finger pointing then there has been over the past few years. We’ve forgotten who we are, and we’ve treated others as less than human.

Like it or not, we live in a world where we’re defined by the color of our skin, the place of our origin, or the God we worship. But these things don’t define us; they simply play a part in shaping who we become.

It’s easy to lose our sense of reality when we’re so concerned with how people view us.

All of us want to belong.

We want to matter,

and we choose how we respond to what’s going on in the world based off of how others will view us. We pick sides because we’re conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. We stay silent about injustice when it goes against our particular camp, and lift our voices in response to trivial issues that ultimately mean nothing.

But I’m convinced that you and I will be remembered for how we choose to respond to what’s happening right now in this world. We will be defined by how we chose to live in what’s becoming a very dark place.

And I guess I have to ask the question,”What is your life about?” You know, there’s just so much we can be living for today. Whether it’s people’s opinions, or our possessions, our status in this world, or something greater. We all have to face that question.

What do we want our life to be about?

I’ve spent so much time in my life trying to figure out who I am. And I think we all go on that same journey of self discovery and adventure. It seems as if more and more people are waking up to the reality that they don’t have everything figured out, and maybe that’s a good thing. Nothing is black and white. Nothing is set in stone. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. We don’t have to be something we’re not. We can forge a new path. We can pioneer a better future. And I don’t know about you, but I think that’s exactly what we have to do.

Our world is fractured. Division and hatred, opposition, and ostracization.

Things aren’t good.

People are hurting.

Children are starving.

Terror is reigning.

And then there’s you and I.

For some reason, we find ourselves here, at this moment in history. Perhaps to simply exist while we watch the world unfold and self implode. But perhaps-----perhaps there’s more. Maybe you and I exist at this point in the grand scheme of things, in order to bring change. To raise our voices to the heavens and declare that we will not stand for this. We will not continue the downward spiral we see the rest of the world headed in. Maybe we’re here to use our gifts, talents, and voices to make the world better. To offer hope and compassion to those in need. To stand up for those who can’t. To speak for those who won’t. To live in such a way that the rest of humanity watches almost in disbelief. How can we live like that? How can we choose to live for something bigger than me and you?

I believe it begins at the end of our comfort zone.

We like ease. We desire peace. And when we feel comfortable, it’s hard for any real change to happen. We’ve got to be willing to take a leap into the unknown, forgetting our past and reaching for a better future. If we truly want to inspire change and live a better story, then we must realize that it will be messy.

It will leave us exhausted and worn out,

broken at times and lost at others.

But in the end, it will be worth it. A life of comfort seems to be the American Dream, but if we want our lives to count for anything, that comfort must be left behind. I know what I’m saying is counter cultural. It doesn’t make sense and there’s probably a part of you that thinks I’m insane. But I’ve chased so many things in my life that have ultimately left me empty and abandoned. I don’t want to live for that anymore. Comfort never truly did anything for me. But it’s been in those moments when I’ve let myself dive into the unknown, that I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve seen what happens when we allow ourselves to be a part of a bigger story.

Second, We must fight injustice in all it’s forms.

You and I are here right now because we’ve been tasked with a holy mandate. A call to stand up for the marginalized and abandoned. We’ve been given all that we have in order to spend it waking the world up to the fact that we all matter. Each of us is unique, and ultimately beautiful. Our lives weave together a beautiful tapestry of hope and life. A mosaic made up of vastly different pieces, together forming something worth fighting for. And if we remain silent, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the future we’re creating.

Racism.

Slavery.

Persecution.

Poverty.

You don’t have to go far to see what we’re faced with. But we have a choice. We can either go on about our lives in blissful ignorance. Or we can choose to fight. We can choose to speak out against fear.

Hatred.

Prejudice.

Injustice.

I don’t know what you believe. Or where you stand. But we cannot ignore what’s happening right now. I believe that God has placed us here for a reason. Maybe that reason is to challenge everything we think we know. Maybe it’s to advocate for justice and equality. Maybe it’s simply to be faithful to what He’s placed right in front of us. But I know for me, I can’t just stay silent anymore. I can’t let how people view me dictate how I choose to live.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to wake up and live. To stop existing and start flourishing. Not just for the sake of an American Dream, or a life of comfort. But for the sake of humanity, and a future that isn’t quite ours yet. What will you do with the time you’ve been given? I’m going to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and I’m going to spend my days convincing others to do the same.
So ask yourself,

“What do I want my life to be about?”

Who are you?

Who are you?

Just think about it for a moment. Because lately, my biggest fear is that we just don’t know who we are.

We live in an age where it’s ok to treat people like trash simply because they believe differently than we do. If someone disagrees with our opinion, we can block them. Honestly we have the freedom to say whatever we want, whenever we want, and I believe it’s caused us to forget who we are.

Social Media is littered with people’s opinions and judgment. Trump Won. I’m sure you’re happy about that. Actually I know you’re happy about it because all I’ve seen is how everyone needs to get over it and accept it.

So you didn’t vote for Trump. I know, because you’ve thrown things and destroyed property and acted like an idiot for the whole world to see.

Both sides are in the wrong. Both sides need to calm down. Obviously, this past election cycle caused a lot of division and finger pointing, and while we are left to deal with the outcome, regardless of how you feel, it doesn’t define who you are.

There’s a difference between standing up for what you believe, and acting like an ignorant bigot. There’s a difference between letting your voice be heard, and stirring up division. And I honestly don’t know if we can tell the two apart.

We’ve forgotten who are, and we’ve allowed the past several months to shape us into someone no one wants to listen to, much less be around.

The truth is, I don’t care how you voted. Call me foolish but let’s be real, does that define us? At the end of the day, what really matters?

People matter. And we’ve forgotten that. Instead of seeing each other as equals, we’ve viewed one another as enemies that need to be silenced. What’s wrong with us? That’s not who we are.

How we live right now, at this moment in history, ultimately determines our legacy. And if I’m being honest, I’m really disappointed in a lot of people. People that claim to follow a God who embodies love, have done everything to prove that they’re not ready to do the same. People that claim to believe in what the Bible says, have done everything but practice what they preach.

If you really wanna follow Jesus, America isn’t your home. You’re not going to agree with Republicans or Democrats 100%. And certainly voting for the lesser of two evils isn’t the right way to approach anything. You can fight for what you believe and claim it’s because God wants the same thing, but until you’re willing to fight for the things that Jesus actually talked about, then sit down and be quiet. All you’re doing to causing more people to think Christians are part of the problem. And maybe they’re right.

I want peace, ok? I really do. But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to start living differently. If you voted for our President, great! Good for you. If you didn’t, great! Good for you. At the end of the day we won’t be defined by who we did or didn’t vote for, but we certainly will be defined by how we chose to live in an age when enemies are made over a Facebook post.

Maybe it’s time to grow up.

Maybe it’s time to wake up, and understand that we don’t have all the answers. True peace cannot be reached unless both sides are willing to sit down and thoughtfully discuss a better future. Breaking things won’t solve anything. And telling people to get over it only makes you look stupid.

We can be better, I know it. This isn’t who we are.

So who are you?

A Life that Counts

    I want my life to count for something.

 

When I look around our world today, I see a lot of brokenness, and it makes me want to bring hope. For the longest time, I thought I was living for something worthwhile. Deep down I desired to bring change and influence people, hoping that one day maybe the world could be better. But life has a way of reshaping us and recreating us. It can strip us of everything we’ve used to build our facade, and pull the rug out from under our feet. Life can hurt. And it can wake us up to the reality that we don’t know anything.

 

Today, our country is divided. Black against white. Republican against Democrat. Gay against straight. We live at a time in history that demands we wake up, and live for something bigger than ourselves. It’s easy to go through life with blinders, ignoring what’s happening around us while the world burns. If we keep to ourselves and always approach life the same way, maybe the chaos won’t touch us. But if we choose to disregard the social and cultural issues that are taking place right now in our country, I’m convinced that our world will only get worse. And at the end, if we remain silent, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

 

How we respond to this moment in history means everything. Our approach to the issues at hand will ultimately define our legacy, and reveal who we truly are. Like it or not, humanity is at stake. The future of our world is hanging in the balance. And you and I must stand up and let our voices be heard. Violence only brings more violence. Disrespect only breeds disrespect. Hatred never makes way for a future we can proud of, and bigotry never solves anything.

 

I believe we can bring change. I believe we can make a better future for this world. But it will never happen as long as we keep choosing sides without considering the other’s viewpoint. We must be willing to listen to the stories of those around us. Those who look at the world differently. We must be understanding, and leave room for dialogue to occur.

 

The social climate we live in is one that encourages opinions and champions division. The line is drawn in the sand, and if we don’t pick a side, we might as well keep our mouths shut. But if we really want to promote peace in an age when it seems all but impossible, we must be willing to disrupt it. Before we can experience true peace, we must make room for it by engaging with those who differ in their beliefs.

 

Like I said, I want my life to count for something. And I think you do too. And while it’s easy to just blend in and lay low in a culture that is growing more and more divisive, I believe that if we truly want to make a difference, it starts by lifting our voices and letting our actions show that we aren’t going to settle for the life that everyone else seems to be fine with. You and I can bring hope to the hopeless. We can make way for unity and acceptance. We can fight for equality and respect. But we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones to do so. We’re alive right now, at this moment in history, for a reason. What are we going to do with the time that’s been given to us? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of spending it on myself.