Tuesday, December 23, 2008

“I am Among You…”

As a child on the island of St. Lucia, I can remember the preparations that were made as the day approached for Britain’s royal family’s visit. The extravagant decorations, garlands and banners were unlike I have ever seen. On the route that would be taken, every detail that would communicate the privilege and honor of having their presence were meticulously attended to. The steel pans assembled and rehearsed, traditional and national dances were coupled by the most festive costumes; our Sunday best or formal wear were selected or bought; everyone would be splendidly attired…oh, what a day it would be for all!

As a centerpiece in many homes, stands the china cabinet. Always a fascinating place, for there one can see the finest in the trade, ornate and handmade are some pieces. That cabinet awaited some dignitary and guests that would not make the round a second time to our home. Grand were the days when we anticipated using those dishes and the silverware that went with them. The care and presentation were done just above a whisper and the ping of touching plates and glasses seemed to bring us music from another world.

In another time and at another place, a man was found beaten and robbed; another homeless; still another in prison; one lay sick and bedridden; one hungry and naked; the woman at the well, had five husbands and the man she presently lived with was not her husband; another would have been stoned for her infidelity. A young bride at the end of her pregnancy, having made the long journey to her native town needed a room. Behind each situation lies a story, some failure, maybe even a crime but each one had a dire need, each conjured lingering suspicion. To what high society gathering would this brood be invited? (I Cor. 1:23-31)

With this backdrop, camouflaged in humility, as an ordinary man, the Son of God, King of Kings, the Messiah would make His entrance. Nothing natural denoted the day. The One who called out Orion, who took the canopy of darkness and lit it with the chandelier of stars; He came, with no human pomp and circumstance but to poverty, sin and a violent world. The route selected for Him was stony, without adulation or adoration but with mockers. Not with the finest stallions in pageantry would he make His way to the coliseum or the acropolis but flogged and barefooted He would make His way to the ignominious mount of sculls, Golgatha.

Hebrews 13:1, 2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Isaiah 7:14 declares that the child born would be called Immanuel, that is “God with us.” To think that we are so geared and taught to make much of the finer things, the noble, to esteem and even give advantage to some classes of people but in the process were taught to align ourselves to the proud and spiritually blind… To think that Jesus’ ministry was most effective among the publicans and sinners and not abundantly among the Pharisees (religiously astute) and those given to the letter of the law… Is it any wonder that He would say in Matthew 25:40 and 45: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me…” Oh, that we would awake and wash off the old and put on the mind of Christ and confess as Jacob did: Genesis 28:16: “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep and said, Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.”

As we close out this year and begin the new, let us review our motivations and be searched out by the Lord (Ps. 139:23,24) and value every soul He puts in our path and be about the Father’s business. For in eternity to come He will show us what we did or how we welcomed Him when He, the Immanuel, visited us daily in the garment of the common man, the betrayed lady, the struggling drug addict and the tender heart of the undiscovered.

Let us meet Him everyday, in the closet of prayer and devotion and in the public thoroughfare of our daily engagements…let’s endeavor to find Him in one another, through the Gospel and in brotherly kindness.

With Great Love and Thanks for your encouragement and support in our call to Puerto Rico…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Year in Puerto Rico!!

Sacrificed or Exchanged Life

I am always intrigued by the exalted place that is given to those who are identified to be living a life that honors Scriptural mandates. While serving in our Greater Grace Church of York County, Pennsylvania with Pastor Duke Horton and his family (1997-2007) we were constantly aware of what “options” seemed to be readily available to believers. Yet it was always clear through the Word that there was a distinct difference between what was supposedly sacrificed versus what reflected an exchanged life. The exchanged life is a Spirit-led life (Gal. 5:16, 25). It is the practical outworking of believing all of the Word and through His operation we experience the life of the Spirit through Phil. 2:13. This always honors all of who God is because Christ is not divided or makes abominations (Proverbs 11:1). Divisions and imbalances happen through my personal supplanting or preference(s) of one spiritual thing/truth over another calling them “options”.

The dawn that arises out of brokenness is inexplicable, ineffable. It is a profound revelation that we belong to a peculiar assembly, the ecclesia of God – a called out one. Brokenness is not confession of sin but the gracious quickening that we have violated, broken and distanced ourselves from Holiness, from the One in whom there is no darkness. Brokenness is the sustained relationship (John 15:4) with the One who has called us out of darkness; drawn us from the miry pit and has now made us to sit in heavenly places in/with His Son. Oh, that I would know that there is no sacrifice that can be given or done by any believer… And none is expected and in fact, it is not possible. He is satisfied with His Son – the Only Sacrifice for which God is well pleased: Jesus, the Lamb: (Matt. 3:17; John 17:4, 19:30, Col. 1:13,14). It is from brokenness we enter the exchanged life.

Sacrifice, readily understood is taxing oneself out of something which could have been kept/used for personal and/or family use and instead turning and offering it up to “God.” But friends that is not what has been given to us freely – Salvation, a right standing with God (Ps. 116:12: What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? :13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD). Oh that we would understand I Sam. 2:8 and live in and walk in our Privileged Priesthood. Upon only one altar God demanded a sacrifice: Calvary – The Cross of Golgotha. No other cross remains, no other altar exists…because God has accepted the Blood of the Lamb. Without spot or blemish—perfect! Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22. Hebrews 10:1-39 is the seal upon the emancipation proclamation of the Christian.

By any “sacrifice,” is heaven made greater, richer, more holy? – impossible! It is appalling to think that we are doing God a favor…or giving Him company by our sacrifice of time to: pray, attend church, availability to evangelism and other areas of ministry. Oh to God that He would have a day or season when He had to get the believer from his/her knees in prayer or from evangelism, or from worship and admonish him/her to go shopping, go do their household chores, seek professional education and other temporal pursuits/security. There is no sacrifice that can be given to cause one to hear from God – the exchanged life cannot live without it… No sacrifice can cause one to be motivated by love and present the Gospel to the unsaved, only the exchanged life can manifest that unfeigned devotion. No sacrifice will cause one to leave father and mother, brother and sister to follow Christ; it is an exchanged life that empowers this response. Galatians 2:20 is this exchanged life… Romans 12:1,2 lest we bring works (a strangled animal, road kill or an animal that died by unknown natural causes: all unacceptable) to the altar. We must note that every sacrifice that is asked of the believer in the New Testament happens as a direct outworking or response to the Holy Spirit’s communion in Christ; the presence and veneration of the Trinity. Our sacrifice then is the unsolicited praise and thanksgiving of the believer as he/she acknowledges God’s work and indwelling life (Heb. 13:15). Let us ask afresh for the Exchanged Life… Will you and I have John 12:3 once and for all or will we keep our “options” open? Break me oh Lord, break me!... Upon the pierced feet, the feet that sought me in my sin and weakness, upon the feet that crushed the head of the Serpent, upon the feet that bears the marks of unrelenting pursuit of my heart; upon the feet of Jesus, break me.


This has been an incredible summer and year! A lot was accomplished. As of September 3rd, we reached our first year on the island. On every side we see the Finished Work of Christ in building His Church. We are so thankful for the Body of Christ's prayers, support and encouragement as we walk forward in the Great Commission...

A miracle among miracles, we were all able to attend our 2008 GGWO International Convention

Cindy's parents in Vermontwith six of the grandchildren. Ron, Cindy's father, has been suffering from chronic illness for seven years and had returned home from a two month hospital stay. During his stay at the hospital, he also fell and broke his hip. Please pray for his health, and wisdom and guidance for the family.

The Matthew kids after many hours of airport stay. Julian Jr. found that traveling on his sister's carry-on bag was more enjoyable than using his own legs. There was a four-hour layover and the flight to PR arrived at 2:30am!!

Some members of our growing Iglesia Greater Grace de Puerto Rico

1st Sargeant Maria and 1st Sargeant "Pancho" Colon (ex-Marines) with Pastor Kevin Cooper. Pastor Kevin covered for me in the month of June, Maria got saved during that visit. Our mid-week services are now being held at the American Legion building as a result of their being added to the Body...

Our first baptisms: Desmond and Immanuel (not shown); Pastor Julian and
Pastor Kevin officiating...

This was a wonderful evening of evangelism...using the beaded bracelets from Christian Farmers, several were led to the Lord. Here Evelyn is leading a lady in the prayer for salvation. Also pictured is Anali.

The intensity of these fathers was great. Christians, themselves, they attend a church in the next town over from Cabo Rojo. With tears in one of the dad's eyes we prayed for one of the boys; he needs medical attention...

Abigail's first day of school. Equipped for the journey, she is on her newest solo mission: to find the tares among the wheat and confront them with truth and the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. --Any comments? we have a section for that!...we are wondering if anyone really reads our blog, now we'll know... :-)

Desmond and his mom, Mary

Peter, a friend to all...

We rejoiced to see so many in attendance; there were thirty of us altogether that Sunday...

The fellowshipping at the Ladies Seminar: (from left to right) Rosa, Maggie and Evelyn

Mary will not be left out...she came out all three nights of the Ladies Seminar. There was a total of 19 ladies attending over the three nights it was held. Thank you Karen Pevac!

All work and no play?... can't do that! At El Faro, the lighthouse, in Cabo Rojo...it was the first time for Cindy and the children. Pictured here are Aliia, Anali, Karen, Julian, Jr., Pastor Julian and Avrynn, (Abigail was at school)...

A small gathering for Julian's birthday in August.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Where I am there shall you be also…

Jer 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me,

when ye shall search for me

with all your heart.

The humility of soldiers may be in the very fact that they have voluntarily submitted themselves to another…they may be misunderstood while in warfare to be proud and full of themselves because they go to the enemy with an expectation to inflict a blow that will subject the offender to a higher authority or rule. With ammunition, a mind and body fit for the charge, comrades and a supply system they go out to the battle. The soldier has submitted his will, personal goals and ambition, geographic preferences for living to the army he/she belongs to. Through them the judicial and military strength of their country is represented. In the battle the soldier’s senses are acutely tuned and therefore able to distinguish the enemy from an ally and appropriate the necessary action when either is encountered. Amazingly, they may not ever meet their commander-in-chief before, during or after their military service…

When taken from a spiritual prospective, all of the above is true for the Christian functioning in the leading of the Holy Spirit expect for the last sentence. We have met the Commander-in-Chief. Through the Word (manual for life, provision and victory), Jesus (the predecessor), the Holy Spirit (teacher), and the communion (the Church) we are introduced to the Way (Acts 9:2, 18:25,26, 24:14). Being born of the Spirit (John 3:6) nurtured and built up (Eph. 4:10-32) we are then given a commission (Matt. 28:19,20) and our theatre (battleground) is the world and its organized system of thought and action. When we understand these things, there are no conscientious objectors in the call for the deliverance of a soul. Why? Because we have met the Commander-in-Chief; the Lord Jesus Christ.

Incredible as it may be, the greatest opportunity every Christian volunteer/soldier has is not to confront the enemy but to meet the Commander-in-Chief… Not in the battle or in royal, military regalia but rather as a Man with like passions and tempted in every point as we are but without sin, its spots or blemishes. His scars visible but alive—resurrected (Hebrews 4:14-16). Greater still is the encouragement of our Commander-in-Chief: that He is with us never to leave us, never to forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and that we are not called to perform in some already fought war nor to strive unto death/blood against things “present or seen” (Heb. 12:1-4). But the battle/war is over (Col. 2:12-15). The battle left is in believing (mental) (II Cor. 10:2-7). And we can simply be renewed in our thinking (Eph. 4:23, 24).

Oh what joy unspeakable to have met the Commander-in-Chief alongside my brothers and sisters: Pastor Duke, Ms. Ruth, Sue and Seth from the York Church, alongside Pastor McFarland of the Clearwater Church, Pastor Kevin Cooper, David, Reid, Joshua, Matthew, Rachel and Catherine from Maryland Bible College and Seminary and GGWO – Baltimore. It has been as the turning of the captivity of the children of Israel in the wilderness: we are as those who dream…

Around every turn in Cabo Rojo, Mayaguez or Boqueron we were able to sense the presence and power of God. We heard His encouraging voice on the campus of University of PR, Mayaguez, at the Fish Festival in Puerto Real, in the home of Mr. Mrs. Flores and Mr. Mantalvo, a terminal cancer patient, at the plaza and with the students at the Christian Academy. From the visitors we have had in the last six weeks, the Lord has given me this statement: “The reward of obedience is the Presence of God.” Oh, let us experience His faithfulness again… And ye shall seek me and find me, seek me when ye shall search for me with all your heart. To all our supporters and prayer partners near and across the waters: Thanks, thanks for allowing us to see Him, the Commander-in-Chief through you.

Here are some pictures highlighting the times we shared with those visiting:

Pastor Duke Preaching...

Go into the highways and byways and beachfronts...

Ms. Ruth and Julian, Jr. getting his daily admonishment...

Ms. Ruth, Sue, Seth and Pastor Duke... Boqueron Beach

Pastor McFarland taking questions at Bible Study/Rap...

Outreach: Ms. Claudia's house...

Stevenson and Pastor Kevin... A Rom. 8:28 t-shirt...

Outreach, what a joy...team is everything...

I owe, I owe...off to love I go..

Pastor Kevin: "He will restore all..." Joel 2:25

Rachel and Avrynn...

Matthew encouraging us to enter the harbor of Grace... Evelyn translating...

Visiting Mr. Montalvo, Carmen, Ms. Flores...

Gill visiting with the team...

At Geraldo and Carola's home...

Future activities: Attendance at International Convention June 23-28

Summer Harvest: Dates tba

Prayer Requests: Cynthia and children’s visit to their grand-dad (still in hospital) and grand-mom (Vermont).

Resuming home-schooling in Puerto Rico (curriculum for new year)

Permanent Church/Bible College extension location

Team members: students requiring practicum, short/long term commitments: Body members/Bible College & Seminary students…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Have Come That You May Have Life and Have it More Abundantly…

I recently spoke with a young man who has a business; for many days I could not reach him. When I did get to him, he confessed that he had been wrapped up in taking an emergency inventory because he had to clear his suspicion that more goods were going out of the business than was being accounted for and his sales were not showing any upward fluctuation in sales. He was sufficiently occupied with this goal that he missed several times of fellowship. His diligence was commendable but the displacement of his priorities by it needed reproof and he received it well. As we look at the publications coming to us as Christians, it is clear that we are all being bandwagon-ed to take some type of inventory or assessment to know what gifts we possess, whether we are using them well and are we benefiting personally by them. Many are distracted and enamored by the self-life and have missed the fellowship that is found being occupied with the Lord in His Church; out of balance we go looking at and for the gift(s) rather than the Giver…looking at “the blessing” and building tabernacles to them, rather than those whom the Lord is giving and are waiting to be blessed by it.
most of the visiting group from Baltimore

Evangelism and the work of the ministry can become another gift that can displace the deeper work that is or should be going on… How many times I have been excited at the prospects of a salvation or disappointed that someone did not get saved (the external assurances), when the Lord in fact would have me see/understand that His entire work through evangelism and ministry is to capture my heart, to deal with areas still imprisoned by self. That today His victory, beautiful as it always is when someone accepts Him as Savior, cannot be minimized when He does ground work of cleansing and purging and making my vessel fit for worship in that given hour I am living in… How many times I moved swiftly to another door, being diligent to present the Gospel, when the Lord was knocking on a door to another area of my heart and was kept out…

I am so thankful that Positional Truths never allow for experiential condemnation but rather, that well again, my eyes may see that His Mercy and Goodness have followed, no, pursued me. Its been great to be here in Puerto Rico because it takes a place like this one, available and tender to the tune of the Gospel, to have me see that God is still about the work of capturing one…and that many times is the one that bears my full name, He is seeking after me. It is not my job to take inventory of God’s goods and services, of the number of laborers that are in His field or the tools/gifts that He provides for my eyes and heart to realize that, “It Is Finished,” but rather glory that I can say fill me today Lord, lead me today, quite me today to hear your voice…

Pastor Scibelli, Pastor Cooper, their wives, Linda and Nikki, Pastor Moises Baldwin, Joe Lavoie, his wife Christine and the group with Latascha Brown brought the dew of Hermon of which the mountains of Zion boasts…it was a time of refreshing and deep pondering. Time did not stop for us only that the Lord gave each one of us a divine ability to abide, hearing the Word preached, reaching students at the university, encouraging students and families at the Christian school and soul-winning. Well laid are messages by Pastor Scibelli such as “God’s motivation is love, His foundation is Mercy and His operation is Grace,” “Having a new heart with a new spirit” and “Doing what we could with what we have.” For every message and to everyone we say, “Thank You.”

This month has been very eventful. We have been holding services in a rented hall (actually a little restaurant) for about six weeks now (before that we were in someone's home and this didn’t allow the liberty to say “come one and all”). Nearly every week we have had between 5 and 7 first time visitors since we started using a public place. Several weeks ago sixteen people came from our Baltimore City church, including Pastor Scibbelli, our Director of Missions and his wife. They were such an encouragement!! We had a rigorous schedule for them and some of them only visited the beach for about an hour all week. We held several campus "forums" at Universidad de Puerto Rico. The attendance was not large, but several students were very touched and moved by the time we had with them. One girl even broke into tears because she had just prayed to God to send her fellowship. We had a concert (singers from Baltimore) at the Christian school where Julian is doing the chapel services. We invited the kids' families (some of them already attend our church) and the attendance was about 90 people! The next evening we held a dinner service at the restaurant where we hold services and about 40 people came (most of our regular church members made it).

Puerto Rico is a precious mission field. People almost always stop to speak with us about Christ and every week there is at least one first-time profession for Christ. We are praying for more laborers to join us. So many times Julian is on his own and there are ample visits and follow-ups to make. Continue to pray for the language issue. We are putting more effort into study, but it's a long haul. We joke that in some of our brief attempts to communicate at someone's door that we think we used our entire Spanish vocabulary right then:) Though many times when we are door-knocking, we find that, although they themselves may be unaware, probably 80% of the people in a neighborhood are fluent in English. The real clincher has been attempting Sunday school and nursery with Spanish-only kids (we don't have other adults who are up to covering this yet, so I do most of it with the help of Abigail)! One Sunday Julian preached in English-only because all the adults knew English.

Pastor Scibbelli relaxing with some of the kids

Please pray for activities for the kids. God has been faithful. The Christian school has asked that we assist with a 6th-8th grade Friday "club" (which will be especially good for Abby) and they have offered to let her join their art class on Wednesdays. We did, however, decide that even as Abby qualified for the swim team, we wouldn't be able to swing it (even more so because of the rigorous schedule and one vehicle--island-wide competitions, practice 5 days a week for 2hours!!--almost all year long!!). She has taken it well, she says that we have to understand why we are here (for the Gospel!). The homeschool group has also been doing a lot of neat things together and there is always a kid for each of them to hook up with at the events. Julian has started bringing the 3 oldest swimming at the community pool to "keep in shape" (6:40am).

Latasha (from Baltimore) and Isaac (from Puerto Rico)

Joe LaVoie and Christine

Julian, Jr. and the bunny

some of our girls with a friend's daughter

We are believing that we will be able to visit the states in June for Convention and for the kids and I to visit my parents in Vermont who have increasing health challenges. (Psalm 145:5-8, 2 Cor. 2:14-15)
our young lady, Abigail

some singers from Baltimore

We are now looking to visits by Pastor Duke and a group from Greater Grace Church of York County, PA in early April, Pastor McFarlane of Clearwater, Florida and another group from Baltimore with Pastor Cooper in late April. Our international convention is in late June and we also hope for a summer harvest here in the southwestern end of the island.


As we reflect on the life of Bob (Sterling) Toomey and the close of his earthly assignment, our family here sends our appreciation and thanks to the Toomey families who have blessed us with their encouragement and love during our team life/time in York County, Pennsylvania. Faithful was each one who stood in the gap for God’s answer for the ministry there. To Nettie, Bob’s wife, we say the other half will be spoken of by the Lord, Himself, of what great a work He did in Bob’s life and each of you who prayed, waited and watched. With great love…the Matthew Family.

Monday, February 4, 2008

“…To give you an expected end.” Jer. 29:11

The days have gone by quickly and the hours faster still…all flowing into weeks and here we are. There are many details but through it all there are enumerable thanks for all who have been along with us these months. February marks our fifth month in Puerto Rico No day nor hour have we not felt the hand of God upon us and your prayers encouraging us that, all is well… The Christmas and holiday season lingered long into January. Here on the island there are several other holidays celebrated during the season.

For each aspect of being here, we have been so refreshed by the preparation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those we have come into contact with. The “Wheel” of God turns effortlessly and from a Finish Work prospective that is what He leads us into when we adventure into the perfect “Will” of God for our lives. So by His grace we are rolling along. We anticipated using a local Christian school for our services but after much review, we concluded that it was best for the present to keep looking out. However, I was asked to provide the chapel services for the school. To that I happily said, “yes and Fridays will be fine.” The response has been so great that the owner/chief administrator of the school has been inviting available parents to come to chapel. Cynthia will be reviewing a program for after school maybe a choir/music classes, a Christian book club, Awana or varied activities.

With some searching and organization with Brent Hillenga and Kim & Ed Murphy we were able to put together the thoughts and dates for having several open forums at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. The first one was held on January 22. I anticipated a small group but the intensity of the time together was for me historic. The students attending were either engineering majors or had been. And from their interest in the presentation it was evident that they are all seeking answers. They are available to assist with the next forum to have a greater number of students attend. Several of our children assisted with giving out invitations on campus.

We are now preparing for the winter harvest group…Pastor Scibelli, Pastor Kevin Cooper and their wives, Linda and Nikki; Latascha and company. We know God will bless the time and expect great additions to the Body here. We had our first Church service at our new location; in the new dining room of a restaurant (Lighthouse Hotel’s)…and it was great… With His patience and your prayers we are marching on… God has so much in store for us here; I am so thankful for the investment and fellowship of our Body.

"Titi"(Auntie) Margarita with Avrynn (Evelyn's aunt, she made the dress for Avrynn)