Monday, August 24, 2015

So Long My Friend...

Have you ever had those moments in life that leave you absolutely speechless at the beauty and wonder of our maker? These experiences or encounters in life are ones that you can’t explain, decipher, or comprehend. They leave you in awe, standing in amazement at the genius of God. They give us a brief glimpse of what the Lord meant when he said to Isaiah, “my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Sometimes these encounters come in the form of a person.

Matthew was that person for me and for countless others.

Mathew Thielman was born on July 31, 1972, in Bloomer, Wisconsin. Matthew was born with with down syndrome, and my Grandparents took him into their home at the age of 5, where he spent the rest of his life until he passed away on Friday night August 21, 2015.

To measure the impact of Matthews life would be virtually impossible.

I learned of Matthew’s passing at 4:50 AM on Saturday morning as I was catching an early morning flight back home to DFW. The entire flight I couldn’t help but think of Matthews life & the great impact it had on me. In his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus exhorted believers to, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Allow me for a moment to glorify God as I honor the life that Matthew lived.

1. Matthew loved GOD FIRST.

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). In essence your love for God must come before anything else in your life.

Matthew was the epitome of this verse.

You could not spend 5-minutes in the room with Matthew without knowing that he had a deep love for God. God was first in his life. I remember as a young child at my Grandparents house when he would get so upset at bedtime, because he so desperately wanted to stay up late with the grandkids…and all for a very specific reason. He would stand at the bottom of the steps with his oxygen tank in one hand, CD-Player loaded with worship songs in the other and contest with “Mom” as to why he needed to stay up & worship and read scriptures with his nieces & nephews.

Some of my fondest memories of Matthew include sitting around my Grandmothers massive dining room table as a young child and listening to him read the scriptures out loud to me.

He loved the Word of God.

Matthews life, reminds us all of the simplicity of the Gospel. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, fearing that their minds were being corrupted from the “simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The Gospel is simple, life is simple. Jesus is the answer. When He’s first everything is right, not perfect but right…when He’s not first, we are broken.

Matthew understood this and God was first in his life. He got it right.

2. Matthew was UNASHAMED.

Matthew was a preacher.

He, like the Apostle Paul was unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was always looking for an opportunity or a person to share the good news of the Gospel with.

I remember countless times listening to his impromptu sermons. At various family events, we would all be gathered around outside and he would absolutely insist that we needed to have a “service”. We needed to have a time of worship and then he would preach the sermon. He was relentless about this.

On one such occasion, a few of us agreed to his request and went inside the house to have a “service”.  We gathered around Grandmothers piano & worshiped and then turned it over to Matthew to preach. At the time I was in my late teenage years & felt the call of God to preach myself, and as I sat there listening to him, I began to weep. I wept because Matthews love for God was so pure. It was authentic and real.

The last time I heard Matthew preach was at Special Touch Camp (his favorite place on planet earth). Matthew was given an opportunity to speak in a morning chapel (you would have thought someone had offered him the world!). At that time in his life, due to his health he was very difficult to understand when he spoke. However, when he began to preach it was amazing to see & hear God’s anointing come on his life & speech. As he quoted his favorite verse, John 3:16, his speech was crystal clear. There was not a dry eye in the room that day.

It was a moment that I will never forget as long as I live.

Matthew was unashamed.

3. Matthew defied the ODDS.

Not only did Matthew live longer than anyone ever expected, he defied every odd that society placed on him.

Let’s be honest, with his “disability”, society placed absolutely no expectation on Matthew. ZERO. ZILCH. NADDA. However, only in eternity will we be able to truly measure the impact that his life had on this world. He defied the low expectations that society (and even the Church) placed on him.

Even though Matthew physically passed from this earth on Friday, his legacy and impact will live on for years and years to come. And much like his life on earth lasted much longer than anyone imagined, his impact will do the same.

Matt, thanks for the memories. You will be loved & missed. Save a place for us my dear friend…and get ready for one great “service” that will be way beyond everything we could ever imagine!