About Matthew R. Olson


Posts by Matthew R. Olson:

Being Still and Knowing God

I have had some good discussions since Monday’s posting on Psalm 46:10. One of these was with my dad – who constantly challenges me with what God is teaching him. He noted that one of the ways we really get to know God is through exploring the ways He knows us. Psalm 139 is rich with ways that God knows us. He initiates and we respond in worship.

Psalm 139

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Be Still

Why is it so hard to slow down and be still? I think part of it is the spirit of this age and part of it is our own self absorbed nature. We love to do things because it makes us feel better about ourselves and look better to others. The problem is that some of us never really get to know God. There is nothing so humbling to this flesh than stopping what we are doing—yet it is in quietness and simplicity that we come to know God. Even running through a daily checklist for devotions may even be contributing to our problem because often God isn’t a part of it at all.

We need to learn to slow down and be still, to be alone with Him, spend time with him, and enjoy it. We need to come to the place where we really take the time to glory in His perfections and respond in wholehearted worship—with a thirst for more. The Psalmist said, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (46:10). I feel this needs to be shouted into my life on a regular basis because even after all these years, I can tend to fill up my life with activity rather than with Him.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Taking the Gospel Where it isn’t

Mike and Lisa Redick are being used by God in Southeast Asia! We had the privilege of having them as our campus guests this week and hearing their heart for the incredible need and opportunity in their part of the world. While God has taken us through different experiences and paths we are coming to many of the same conclusions in regard to ministry and focus. This week has been a great refreshment to Diane and me, and to all of us here at Northland. Mike and Lisa challenged us all with the endless opportunities in “restricted access” countries and reminded us that no door is closed when God is at work. Our students have been buzzing about the possibilities and many are hoping to join them in future endeavors. This is an exciting day in ministry!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Upcoming Graduate School Courses

Northland Graduate School recently sent out some communication about a couple of upcoming Master of Ministry and Doctor of Ministry courses.  You can read about the details of these classes below and I invite you to join us for one or both of these courses. Keep in mind that your first resident module course is tuition free!

We are excited about two upcoming graduate courses, and we invite you to consider joining us for one or both of them. Preaching Pauline Epistles will be offered during the eight-week Online B Session (October 22–December 14, 2012). Mr. Brent Belford will be teaching this course, which emphasizes exegesis of the Pauline Epistles with the goal of skilled exposition. Registration is now open and will remain open until October 12. The syllabus for the class is available here.

Additionally, the week of January 14–18, 2013, will feature an in-residence block course entitled The Use of the OT in the New. Dr. Michael Vlach of The Master’s Seminary will open the class, followed by Dr. Doug Brown, professor at Faith Theological Seminary, who will finish out the week. This class will overview and explore specific uses of Old Testament texts within the New Testament, with the goal of helping students develop their own personal approach to the issue. Both Dr. Vlach and Dr. Brown specialize in this realm of study and offer their expertise in assisting students to grow in their knowledge of how to incorporate a proper understanding of the New Testament’s treatment of the Old Testament into their preaching. The syllabus for the class is available here.

Register here to take part in these opportunities to expand your understanding of these important biblical subjects. We hope you will plan to join us!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Looking Ahead

One of the primary reasons I write on a blog is that I feel a great sense of responsibility to the next generation. I believe God in His sovereignty and grace has placed me in a unique position that allows me to help young men and women in ministry. More and more I see new ways I might encourage a generation that really seems to “get it.” I am as excited about this as anything else I am doing right now in ministry.

Today I think a lot about ways we can help move young people forward. Sharing about the things we got right can be helpful, but we also need to be honest about the things we didn’t get right—the things we got wrong. As we look back, we see that some corrections and adjustments are in order. With every generation there is a tendency to amalgamate theology, culture, and pragmatism into one set of beliefs. At first “our own world of belief” seems very natural, but as time goes on the problems are exposed.

This generation is sorting out how a biblical church should look in 2012 and we need to help them process this without protecting “our own world of belief.” I have found that young people really are eager to dig into the Word and find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). They also appreciate a healthy discussion and want to learn from us.

Those who have a few decades of ministry experience now have an incredible opportunity—not to widen the gap with this next generation, but to close it. When we sit down with our sons in the faith, we can take confidence that God’s Word is sufficient to guide all of us from where we are to where we need to be. Let’s be honest, humble, transparent, and elevate the Word with this next generation. Then we can be part of something much bigger than what we’ve ever known.

Andrew & Vivian Haney at Keystone Bible Church

Once in awhile I will visit a church where I feel like I would like to just stay and become a member! Such was the case at Keystone. Every part of what I saw was refreshing and encouraging. Andrew is an alumnus of Northland and I couldn’t be more thrilled with what I saw. My prayer is that we can be an encouragement to families and churches like these.

Pictured above is Andrew and Vivian Haney with their children at Keystone Bible Church in Odessa, FL.

That’s Really Who You Are! (Final Post in “What Matters Most”)

This is the final part of a multi-part series on “What Matters Most.” Click these links for part 1part 2part 3part 4, & part 5.

So then, what matters most to you? I believe I can tell you. It is what you think about, talk about, write about, and fight about. It is what you spend your time on. It is what you turn the conversation to. It is probably what you will die for, and right now what you are living for. These may or may not be THE fundamentals of the faith, but they certainly are YOUR fundamentals of the faith—this is who you are.

What matters most to God should be at the center of our lives. If we focus on peripherals we won’t see the center clearly and soon will develop a “new center” that is not the biblical center—we will just think it is. What should be at the center of every Christian life and ministry is the person of Christ and His gospel. I am not speaking in superficial or simplistic terms, I am speaking of the the full scope of the gospel. “The gospel is the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ, from eternity to eternity, that finds its center in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.” This is how we come to Christ, how we are justified in Christ, how we grow in Christ, and how we are to someday be like Christ.  This is also the gospel we stand to lose when our focus is off.

It really does matter where we begin. If we begin by separating from what is wrong, there is no guarantee that we will get any closer to what is right. If we, however, begin by separating to what is right, we will very naturally separate from all that is wrong. This is the way the Apostle Paul functioned. He began by separating to the gospel (Romans 1:1) and this led him to what he should separate from (Romans 16:17). He is not talking about matters of personal opinion and application. Isn’t it ironic that the people who most often quote Romans 16:17 are the very ones Paul is talking about? He is confronting schismatic and divisive people who don’t get it. They still don’t.

What has happened? As Paul said in Galatians 5:7, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” Many of our gospel-centered, gospel-focused, organizations have been hijacked by people who want to argue and divide over secondary matters. This becomes their new center, their new identity, and their new “fundamentals of the faith.” The fight is on but they are no longer fighting for what matters most—Christ and His gospel, nor are they fighting against anything that would compromise the gospel. They are fighting over their traditions, applications, secondary associations, and opinions. They then go to great lengths to justify their carnal actions with misinterpreted scriptures, logical fallacies, and pragmatic applications. The tragic thing is that these brothers in Christ no longer fight the common enemy but each other.  As Les Ollila has said, “The enemy is coming over the hill but the soldiers are fist fighting in the barracks.” My pastor, Bob Crowley, once told me; “They swing their swords and cut themselves to pieces.”

There is nothing wrong with holding to our local church distinctives and personal convictions. These are necessary and good, but they should not be reasons to go to war with other Christians. We can still have unity in the gospel around what matters most while respecting one another’s differences. In the case of a brother or sister being overtaken in a fault, there is a biblical process for dealing with that—loving restoration (Galatians 6:1). That is the spirit of New Testament teaching. They will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). This should be our primary characteristic (John 17:21).

The political, social, and ecclesiastical landscape has changed, but I am not discouraged. While movements come and go, truth remains. We now have a great opportunity to fill the gap. If we intentionally focus on the gospel through the person and work of Christ as revealed through His Word and by His Spirit, then we will be all about what matters most. We will walk in truth and do what is right. This gospel will once again be what we think about, what we talk about, what we are willing to fight for and die for. We will once again be all about what matters most.

JFK at Clearwater Christian College

I was with Jack and Cathy Klem this weekend at Clearwater Christian College. Jack follows Dick Stratton as the fifth president and was inaugurated on Friday. Over the last ten years we have felt a very strong connection and shared philosophy of ministry with Dick and the people at Clearwater. We have also shared a great love and respect for Jack over the years and are very excited to see him step into this role. His challenge at the end of the service made me want to stand up and shout. He reminded us all that our institutions are here to serve the church. Amen!

Focus Week at Northland with Tim Jordan

Tim Jordan is our guest speaker for Focus Week. He started off preaching in I John and Paul Whitt said after Tuesday morning’s message, “Awesome message! Needs to be preached in every Christian college and school across the country.” I could not agree more. Tim has a unique way of opening the text and driving home the truth in very clear ways. You can find the messages posted at our website.

What Matters Most: Personal Convictions

This is part 5 of a multi-part series on “What Matters Most.” Click these links for part 1part 2part 3, & part 4.

Everything we believe may be important, but not equally so. We draw a hard line around orthodoxy that defines our Christian belief and fellowship. We draw a dotted line around our functional distinctives because, while we may enjoy broader fellowship with other Christians, there are certain beliefs that are necessary for a local church to operate in a healthy way. What about our personal convictions?

Within the context of each local church there will be differences in personal convictions and standards among its members (and this list is just about endless). These differences are not differentiated by lines but by the space we allow one another (Romans 14).

Personal convictions and standards are important to the practical living out of the Christian life. At some point we have to take the commands, teachings, and principles taught in the Word of God and bring them down to where we live. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

While personal convictions may be a good thing, there are also accompanying dangers. There will be a tendency to view these standards as a badge of spirituality, or even to judge other’s spirituality by how well they measure up to our own personal standards. This can lead to a type of Phariseeism that hurts everyone. On the other hand, a disdain for personal convictions can easily push us toward a life that is just as dangerous. Most of the students I talk to agree that this is the greater challenge for their generation. Either way, legalism or license, we miss the point of grace.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.