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Speaking to Middle School Students - October 9th, 2016
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 05:11:00 +0000
I had the opportunity to share with a group of middle school students recently and it's not been posted on Vimeo, so I'm posting it here as well. I hope it's an encouragement for you!

MSM October 9, 2016 from Bent Tree Student Ministry on Vimeo.

Living Thankful
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:37:00 +0000
A few years ago I read the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Well, I actually listened to it on audio book but it’s pretty much the same thing. Anyway, I was blown away by this girl, the experiences she had in her life, the pain (both physically and emotionally) that she endured and the incredible story she lived to tell to any who would listen. If you haven’t heard of her or don’t know her story, I encourage you to read (or listen to) The HidingPlace.

I bring Corrie up because November is a month where we are reminded to be thankful. We get to have a break from our normal routines, a break from classes, and hopefully a reuniting with family and friends over the holidays. There are so many things for which we can be thankful, but for all who are in Christ, thankfulness is not seasonal…it’s actually not even circumstantial.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  
 Philippians 4:6

Can you imagine living a life of thanksgiving? 

What if you actually gave thanks in everything? 

I have definitely struggled with that thought and struggled even more in living it out!

Back to Corrie’s story, there was a season in her life when she was at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. One of the things she said about her time there was: “Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”

She was put in a barracks that was infested with fleas. These little bugs would eat away at the women in those barracks where they were crammed in so tightly that they were practically on top of each other. I can’t even imagine what they went through (on top of all of the other things they were suffering through at this camp).

When they first realized they were confined to an area with fleas, Corrie cried to her sister, Betsie, “Fleas!...Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” How did Betsie respond? How would you respond?

Here’s a little excerpt from The Hiding Place as Corrie tells the story of Betsie’s response:

“’Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie. “Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”
 “I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.
 “In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.
 “’Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
 ‘Oh yes:’…”Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”
 “’That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her: then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.”

When she looked around, she saw fleas, women packed in so close they could barely move and she smelled a combination of grotesque smells. She and Betsie began listing a few things for which they could choose to be thankful: their Bible, the overcrowding made it so that more women could hear of God’s love…and then for the fleas. Well, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. Corrie? Here’s what she said, “’The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

As their story progresses, they find that during their stay at Ravensbruck, they have unprecedented freedom to lead Bible studies unlike any they were able to have during their time in captivity. They were not sure why, but they were able to openly share from the Bible for all of these women to hear about God’s love and how there is no pit so deep that His love isn’t deeper!

One night, Corrie was getting back to the barracks late and Betsie was waiting for her at the food line. She was eager to see Corrie and tell her of the information she had learned that day.

“’You know, we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well—I’ve found out.’ That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it. “But she wouldn’t. She wouln’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?” Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!’”

The reality of the life that we have in Christ is so much richer than anything we can find in our circumstances! In fact, the life we have in Christ empowers us to be thankful even if we are in the most difficult, horrid and unthinkable circumstances imaginable! This is not a disengagement with the world, this is engaging with God first, then living in total dependence on Him and allowing Him to live His victorious life through us in each and every circumstance.

So, give thanks for the wonderful things in our life. That’s good and right to do. 

I wonder how your Thanksgiving would be if you spent some time in God’s Word and in prayer, asking Him for His perspective on the things in your life for which you think, “I could never be thankful for that!”? 

What are the “fleas” in your life right now? 

Will you let choose, today, to look to God first instead of the "fleas"? 

2013 Ministry Update
Thu, 07 Feb 2013 00:19:00 +0000
Dear Friend of LIFe Ministries,

The faithfulness and activity of God in our lives and through LIFe Ministries over the past 6 years has been astounding to us. We have tasted the sweetness of Christ through a variety of trials, and He has shown Himself trustworthy. Each year has been full of surprises for us as we walk this journey of dependence on Christ.

Six years ago we knew God was leading us to trust Him as He desired to use us in the lives of teenagers. Each year a new dimension has been added to the ministry, but the journey has remained the same – to walk in dependence on Christ. As I write this letter, we are continuing on in this journey as He adds another dimension once again.

In December, I joined Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, TX as the Young Adult Pastor. My primary ministry emphasis will be young professionals, college students, and engaged couples. While this is a major change for my family and me, we are excited about what God has in store for us. Bent Tree has been a place where God has drawn us on several occasions over the past four years, and we are looking forward to this new part of our journey.

As we make the move to the Metroplex, LIFe Ministries will continue but will look a little different. Dani will take over the majority of the operation, and the emphasis will be to continue developing the marriage ministry as well as Be Transformed. Dani and I will do ministry events together, but Dani will tackle the day-to-day duties and organizing events, as well as local ministry to women. I will also remain available to speak at events, but this role will be more limited.

We are excited for the next chapter! There have been several ladies who have reached out to Dani over the past few years, and we are thrilled that she will be able to expand her role in LIFe and walk with women who are searching for Christ.

Please continue to pray about giving to Living In Freedom Ministries as we take this next step of faith. In this new chapter, LIFe Ministries will operate primarily on contributions from supporters. Donations will be used for ministry operation, curriculum development, Dani's part-time salary, and scholarships for couples attending marriage conferences.

Your support is vital for this ministry to continue, now more than ever before. As God leads us in these changes, we are looking forward to the upcoming adventure and seeing how He opens new doors. Please join us by praying for us. Please join us by giving to Living In Freedom. We are grateful for you and look forward to continuing to partner with you as we take another step of faith.

Grace and Peace,

Matt and Dani Smith

Exploring Ephesians
Thu, 20 Sep 2012 18:07:00 +0000
Read Ephesians 3:10-13.

  • How is it that the church can make the "manifold wisdom of God" "known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places"?
    • Look up Ephesians 1:3, 1:20-23, 2:4-7

  • What do verses 11-12 mean for you today in the struggles you are facing? 

  • How do these verses shape your faith-life?

  • If you experience a failure, how might verses 11-12 be of encouragement to you?

  • Read Ephesians 3:13 and 2 Corinthians 1:6. How does this alter how you view the difficulties you face in your life?

Exploring Ephesians
Fri, 14 Sep 2012 16:21:00 +0000
Read Ephesians 3.

  • What is the mystery?

  • What are the other passages where Paul writes about this mystery?

  • How do they all fit together?

  • Which part of this chapter is most meaningful to you?

    • Why?

  • How might this chapter effect how you pray today?

Exploring Ephesians
Thu, 13 Sep 2012 14:04:00 +0000
Read Ephesians 2:19-22.

  • What identity statements are made in this passage?

  • What is the significance in our daily lives to becoming "citizens with the saints and members of the household of God"?

  • In your own life, where do you start: (1) your current citizenship in the household of God being built up together into a dwelling place for God with Christ as the cornerstone or (2) your former citizenship in the darkness, confusion, chaos and selfishness of this world?

  • In what ways does your life reflect the reality (if you're a believer) that Christ is the cornerstone?

  • How might your life look different each day if you started with Christ as your cornerstone and trusted Him to grow you together with other believers?

  • If you are a "dwelling place for God by the Spirit," how might that change your thoughts about the decisions you have to make? 

    • How might that change your thoughts about the temptations that you face?

    • How might that change your thoughts about the struggles in your life?

    • How might that change your thoughts about your past?

    • How might that change your thoughts about your future?

    • How might that change your thoughts about the present?

    Exploring Ephesians
    Tue, 11 Sep 2012 15:36:00 +0000
    Read Ephesians 2:14-18.

    • Who is Jesus to us?

    • In your life today, what is the power of this truth: "he himself is our peace"?

    • What peace has He made for us?

    • If He has abolished the "law of commandments expressed in ordinances," then are you still under the law?

    • If God has created "in himself one new man," how does that impact how you interact with other believers with whom you may disagree?

    • If God can remove the barrier between Gentile and Jew, what encouragement do you have for the struggles in your life?

    • Just in these few verses, what is revealed about what Christ has accomplished for us?

    Exploring Ephesians
    Fri, 07 Sep 2012 16:17:00 +0000
    Read Ephesians 2:10-13.

    • How does verse 10 impact the way you see your life today?

    • How does it impact how you view your purpose in life?

    • If you read that verse with you as the starting point, what message do you get from it?

    • If you read that verse with Christ as the starting point, what message do you get from it?

    • In your life up to this point, have you read this verse with you as the starting point or with Christ as the starting point? 

    Paul moves into verses 11-13 with "therefore" which shows us that he's building off of what he just wrote. The best way I have heard this explained is that any time you see "therefore" in Scripture, you need to always ask, "what's it there for?"
    • How does this section (verses 11-13) build off of what Paul just wrote (verses 1-10)?

    • What does Paul mean when by stating that you "have been brought near"?

    • What are the conditions he puts on this nearness?

    • How does that change your thoughts about your day and your life that you have been "brought near by the blood of Christ," and not by your quiet time, your devotion, your faithfulness, or any other amount of self-effort?

    • How have you lived as if nearness depended on you?

    • How does this change how you approach this day to live in this belief: that you are no longer "far off" from God but instead "have been brought near by the blood of Christ"?

    Exploring Ephesians
    Wed, 05 Sep 2012 13:30:00 +0000
    Read Ephesians 2:1-9. Building off of yesterday, we will focus primarily on verses 7-9 today.

    • What does God desire to show you today?

    • What does He desire to show the world through you?

    • How are we saved?

    • Are there areas of your life where you feel you have the right to boast? If so, what are those areas?

    • If salvation is a "gift of God" and it is only "by grace...through faith," what is the appropriate response?

    • What is the appropriate response in every moment?

    Exploring Ephesians
    Tue, 04 Sep 2012 15:53:00 +0000
    Read Ephesians 2:1-6.

    • How is it possible for people to move from being "dead in [their] trespasses and sins" to "alive together with Christ"?

    • Is it difficult to believe that you have already been set free from the lusts and desires of the flesh? If so, why do you think it is difficult to believe this statement?

    • Why has God "made us alive together with Christ"?

    • Where do you find your life on a regular basis?

    Take a look at verse 6 again. We have been raised up with Christ and are now seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ. Look back at Ephesians 1:3 and then at Ephesians 1:20.

    • Connect these verses together and write out the conclusion you come to:

    • What does this mean for you today?

    • How might this change the way you approach decisions, difficulties, and temptations?

    Exploring Ephesians
    Thu, 30 Aug 2012 16:04:00 +0000
    Read Ephesians 2.

    • What does this passage reveal about Jesus?

    • What does this passage say about those who believe?

    • How do chapter 1 and chapter 2 fit together in your mind?
      • What is a common theme running through both chapters?

    • What verse/part of chapter 2 speaks most powerfully to you today?

      Exploring Ephesians
      Wed, 29 Aug 2012 15:44:00 +0000
      Read Ephesians 1:15-23.

      • What do you think is "the hope of His calling"?

      • What do you think are "the riches of the glory of His inheritance"?

      • What do you think is "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe"?

      • Where is Christ right now and what is He doing?

      • Regardless of what you are facing today, how would you approach it differently if you lived in confidence that all things are "in subjection under His feet" and that He is "head over all things"?

      Exploring Ephesians
      Tue, 28 Aug 2012 16:10:00 +0000
      Read Ephesians 1:11-14.

      In verse 11, we read that "In him we have obtained an inheritance." In verse 13, we see how we are assured of this inheritance as we "were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it."

      • How does impact your day today?

      • How does this affect how you view what you face today?

      • How would describe the relationship you have with the Holy Spirit?

      • When was the last time you were keenly aware of His presence in your life?

      The second half of verse 11 and on into 12, we read again about being "predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory."

      • Why did He choose you?

      • How does this impact how you view your life and why you are here?

      • How do these verses help you make sense of what seems like chaos in this world?

      • How do these verses help you make sense of what seems like chaos in your life?

      • Which things does He work "according to the counsel of his will"?
        • Which things are left out?

      • Spend some time praying, thanking Him that He has chosen you to be one of His adopted children, forever changing your identity, according to the counsel of His will. 

      LIFe Ministries Update
      Mon, 27 Aug 2012 18:34:00 +0000
      Dear Friends of LIFe,

      I've shared in previous updates about events that we've done and how we have witnessed God move in the lives of individuals attending the events and church services of which we have been a part. While we have been involved in numerous events in 2012, there are less public aspects of LIFe Ministries that we do not share about as often. With that in mind, I would lke to communicate more in depth what specifically God is doing in and through LIFe Ministries.

      On a regular basis, I meet with pastors. These meetings vary in content. Sometime it is merely staying connected to friends. Other times, I am staying connected to church bodies, being available for pastors who just need to talk to someone not in their church and providing a safe place for pastors who are really struggling.

      Meeting with struggling pastors is what I would like to write about today. This is such a vital element to LIFe Ministries because it is an avenue God is using to bring transformation to churches. It is incredible to me the things pastors face on a regular basis and the ways in which the enemy attacks them.  I am thankful that God has seen fit to bring LIFe Ministries alongside some of these pastors who are in desperate need of the renewal of Life that the Truth brings. Many pastors deal daily with others turning to them for help, while they are left with nowhere to turn themselves.

      In all of this, I have seen some beautiful things take place in the lives and ministries of some of these pastors. Some of these pastors have moved (or are currently moving) from despair to hope, from exhaustion to excitement, from feeling alone to resting in the arms of Christ.

      When a pastor receives revelation from God that the pressure is off, the life they are invited to live is in total dependence on Christ and the job they have as pastor is to be done totally dependent on Christ, then they begin ministering differently, teaching differently, and living differently. This is the change that the church in America has needed for some time!

      I have thanked God on several occasions the past few months for opportunities to meet with pastors. Jesus has greatly encouraged me through these meetings and the various events where He has led me to speak. I have also thanked God countless times for those He has led to financially support this ministry. It is by His provision through you that I am able to meet with pastors in this capacity, since meetings like this do not provide an income for the ministry.

      In order for us to continue in LIFe Ministries (and to expand it to more hurting marriages, individuals who are searching for purpose and pastors who are in need of a lifeline), we need your help. We currently fall short financially each month. This year, we have actually skipped a few pay periods due to a lack of finances in the ministry account.

      Over the past 5 years, we have not increased our salary, contributed to retirement, nor regularly contributed to our health savings account. Thankfully we have not experienced any major medical issues, but we do not feel it is wise to continue operating at this level. On top of this, this month our health insurance premiums will more than double as our girls are no longer covered by the Texas State Health Insurance Plan, CHIP.

      As the marriage and parenting ministry elements of LIFe expand, there is more of a demand for Dani and me to minister together. This is not feasible for us without more financial support for LIFe Ministries.

      Will you please pray about giving to LIFe Ministries and then give as He leads? We are confident that He supplies all of our needs and we are grateful for how He has done so through many of you since LIFe Ministries began. Partnering with you in this ministry has been a great encouragement to us.

      If you have not given before, or if you do not give regularly, will you consider it? It is humbling to reflect over the past 6 years, as God has used so many of you in our lives by fervently praying for His activity through LIFe and faithfully giving to support this ministry.

      For more information on how to donate, please click here.

      Thank you for joining us in this ministry! We thank God for you.

      Grace and Peace,

      Matt and Dani

      Exploring Ephesians
      Mon, 27 Aug 2012 14:27:00 +0000
      Read Ephesians 1:5-6.

      • What does it mean to you to be adopted into His family through Christ?

      • What does it mean to you personally when you read that "He predestined us to adoption"?
        • Try not to digress into broader theological ideas. Just spend time today pondering the gravity of this reality: He chose you..."according to the kind intention of His will." 

      • Think about what you have on your schedule for today. How might you live differently in each appointment/task if you walked in light of this reality and in confidence that He has chosen and adopted you "according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved"? 

      Exploring Ephesians
      Sun, 26 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read Ephesians 1:4.

      • If you're in Christ, it's because He chose you "before the foundation of the world." How does this truth affect what you are experiencing right now in your life?

      • Being chosen, He has also made you "holy and blameless before Him." What objections would you like to offer to this truth? 

      • Are you willing to believe that Christ has accomplished this in you? 

      • If Christ has made you holy and blameless, how does this impact you when you are confronted with temptations?

      • As you end this time, ask God to remind throughout today that He has chosen you and made you holy and blameless. Write down how He does this at the end of the day.

      Exploring Ephesians
      Sat, 25 Aug 2012 15:12:00 +0000
      Read Ephesians 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

      • What does this verse mean to you today?

      • How do you think your life might be impacted if you believed that you have been blessed in Christ "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places"?

      Exploring Ephesians
      Fri, 24 Aug 2012 17:00:00 +0000

      Read Chapter 1.

      • To whom is Paul writing?

      • What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

      • What does this chapter reveal about those who believe in Him?
        • Look for identity statements.

      • Which identity statement stands out the most to you from this passage?

      • How might your life look different if you walked in faith that what you are described as in Ephesians 1 is true?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 41
      Thu, 23 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      I'm sorry for being late on this one. I thought I set it to publish but I saved it as a draft on accident. I hope you have been encouraged through this study! I'd love to hear from you...

      So, here it is: the last day of the "41 Days in the Scriptures" series. I will start up in Ephesians soon so keep checking back!

      Day 41:

      Read John 21.

      • What does this chapter show us about Jesus?

      • What does this chapter teach us about this life?

      • How has your faith been impacted from these readings?

      • How has this study impacted your view of God?

      • How has this study impacted your view of yourself?

      • How has this study impacted your view of life and why you are here?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 40
      Mon, 20 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read Colossians 4.

      • What does this chapter reveal about us?

      • What part of Colossians stands out as the most powerful for you personally?

      • How does Paul describe prayer?

      Read Colossians 4 over again. Do you find it easy or difficult to "continue steadfastly in your prayer"? What do you pray about most often?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 39
      Sun, 19 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read John 20.

      • What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

      • What does this chapter reveal about us?

      • What is your favorite part of this chapter?

      • Why did John write this gospel?

      Re-read John 20. How have you experienced Jesus in unexpected ways in your own life? 

      41 Days of the Scriptures - Day 38
      Sat, 18 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read Colossians 3.

      • What do these verses show us about Jesus?

      • What does Paul describe as having already taken place (past-tense)?

      • What does Paul describe as currently (present-tense) taking place?

      • What does Paul describe as taking place in the future (future-tense)?

      • How does Paul contrast the "sons of disobedience" and those "chosen by God"?

      Spend some time reading verses 1-3 a few times. Read all of Colossians 3 again. How do you think the first 3 verses set up the rest of the chapter?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 37
      Fri, 17 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read John 19.

      • What does this reveal about Jesus?

      • What part(s) stand out the most to you?

      • What emotions were stirred in you as you read this chapter?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 36
      Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read Colossians 2.

      • What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

      • What does this chapter reveal about us?
        • What identity statements do you see?

      • What does it mean to "walk in Him" in the same way that "you have received Christ Jesus the Lord" (verses 6-7)?

      Read Colossians 1 and 2 together. Which three truths from these two chapters are the most profound for you today?

      41 Days in the Scriptures - Day 35
      Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:30:00 +0000
      Read John 18.

      • What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

      • What does this chapter reveal about humanity?

      • How did Jesus respond to His accusers?

      • What thoughts do you have in your mind after reading this passage and the details of Christ's trial?